The Assayer

Every year the rickety old cart trundled into town around the time of the longest day. The horse always differed, but plodded along at the same pace as the prior year. No one quite knew who The Assayer was. They just came by, whispered into the ear of the mayor and came to wait in the town square. The children of the village were then paraded past for inspection.

They didn’t know what the visitor was looking for. Under the tangle of grey hair and thick brown robes spotted with the stains of travel they didn’t know if it was a man or a woman. They never spoke out loud. Just a shake of their head and motioning for the next child to step forwards.

Old Garton was seventy-nine. This made him the oldest man in the county, and even he could recall summer days as a child when The Assayer would ride into town and peer at each child, searching for something in a single look. Over the years it had become a festival day, with stalls gathered around the town square and something of a distraction from the usual chores of tending the surrounding farms.

It was a little different this time. Towards the end of the line of children The Assayer was about to move one on before they stopped. Reaching out, they pulled themselves closer to the child, a single blue eye visible in the mass of hair as they stared at the youngest son of the town butcher.

With a nod, they waved the others in line off.

The party that night was like none that had been seen before or since. Singing, dancing, drinking and feasting kept them up till dawn.

When the sun rose, The Assayer and their cart was no where to be seen. Neither was the butcher’s youngest. They sent out search parties, they posted notices, they eventually waited for the next longest day of sun.

Neither were seen again in the land.

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