Sondra stepped out of the car and Maris woke up. She watched sleepily as Sondra mounted the freshly swept steps to the porch. The large front door swung open and a swath of brighter light fell across the snow. An attractive, mature woman beckoned her in. Sondra stepped in with wet boots before she noticed that it was a genuine afghan carpet she was standing on. The woman took no notice of it. In the bright foyer light Sondra could see that the woman was very attractive, wearing a light tan buckskin dress with long, swaying fringes and beautifully beaded trim. She was a native woman who’s steel grey hair hung in a heavy braid from the nape of her neck down her back to her waist. She swung the door closed and turned to Sondra.
“The mister has gone to his study for the evening,” she said, her ruddy face expressionless. “My name is Rainbird. Mister asked me to welcome you – with his apologies – and to make you comfortable. Accommodation for you and your camerawoman will be in the small, stone house across the pond. The house has been made warm for you. We did not know your precise arrival time so my son has stayed there to keep the fire going. There is a fully stocked kitchen for your needs, and if you do not find all that you require, please just inform me. There is an intercom for you to reach the main house. Your meals will be with the mister, here, if that’s suitable for you.”
“I hope you don’t mind that I’ve arranged it this way. You are the first guest here in many years, and I thought you could be more comfortable in the stone cottage than here in the main house. I’m sure you must be tired now, after your long drive. Tomorrow I will have my son, Darkwater, refill your firewood rack. There is electric heat, but it’s always pleasant to warm a house with the fire when it’s been unoccupied for some time.”
“Thank you,” said Sondra. She turned to leave, then turned back. “So I’ll know what the work schedule will be, is it normal for Mr. Garrison to go to his study so early every evening?” RainBird looked at Sondra for a long moment before she spoke.
“No”, she said, and opened the large front door. “Please drive over to the stone cottage. Darkwater will take your things in for you and show you around the house.”
Sondra returned to the car to find that Maris was yawning crudely.
“What’s up?” Maris said when Sondra got behind the wheel again.
“Garrison has gone to his study… whatever that means,” Sondra said. “We get to stay in that cottage across the pond. This woman’s name is Rainbird. She seems to be a native servant or housemother or something. She has a son who’s waiting at the cottage to help us unload and get us sorted out for tonight. Apparently he has an even more unique name than his mother does. He’s called Darkwater.”
“Hmm,” Maris mused. “That’s a rather threatening name.”