[I've found Baba Yaga! She's been hiding undercover as the Rejectionist's land lady all along! Why I oughtta...]
Summer dredged on. Days of gathering water, tending to horses, gardening, and sorting were weighing me down. I had yet to figure out what it was that made Yaga so anxious. The further into Summer, the more crabby she became. I tried my best to stay out of her way and just do as she asked me without question. Sometimes I'd wonder what drew me to her hut in the first place.
Every day I worked myself to the bone. As a reward, Yaga always had a grand dinner ready after I washed up. I'd stuff myself and beg to go to bed. But it was mandatory that we spend at least an hour together. I took this as a sign that she was trying to get to know me better. This stranger that had just wandered off and shown up at her door.
Our night hour together was always enjoyable. She reminded me of the Elders in my village. She'd tell stories, play her flute, try to teach me how to knit, (to no avail). My favorite though was the first time I learned how to play "Seven Violets". A card game, which Yaga had learned from her Elders.
"Seven Violets" was simple as far as card games go. Each player was dealt a hand of seven cards. Each card had numbers in the upper right and lower left corners, and each number had a different picture in the middle. All the cards started out looking exactly the same. Hand painted. Red ink on heavy white paper.
The purpose of the game was to be the first player to have seven violet colored cards. If two players each had a hand of seven violets, then the player with the higher numbered card would win the round. After the cards had been dealt, each player would lay down a card face up. The ink would either remain the same, or turn to purple, with the illustration in the center turning into a violet flower. If no one had won by the time all the cards had been laid out, seven more cards would be dealt to continue the process.
At first I had thought the game to be rigged as the old woman kept winning. She giggled at my accusations. "I just listen to the cards better than you do. They tell me which to lay down first and which to save until later." I'm still not convinced she wasn't cheating...