Tears of a child -Part of the April Fool’s Project.
It was barely light. A sliver of light appeared over the horizon, heralding the start of a new business day and thereby, the opening of the city gates. Merchants and farmers streamed into the city, bringing their wares along. The guards kept a close eye from their perch on the city walls, noting the drunkards coming into the city, the washerwomen heading to the Upper Cities, and in some cases, small bunches of solid colors moving through the crowd. These were penitents heading towards the Temple District.
The Temple District laid between the Upper City and Inner Walls, separated from both districts through Four City Gates, one in each main direction. It was less of a district and more of a ring around the Upper City. It was, like the majority of the Inner Walls and the whole of the Upper City, paved. Unlike both areas though, it was unbelievably clean (with nary a speck of dust anywhere) and smelt it. The scent of incense was faint, if noticeble at all. It was however, easy to identify the inhabitants of the Temple District; they smelled rather pleasantly of incense.
This was the case with two young maidens leaving a temple. They left a dark granite building as the sliver over the horizon became a definite line. It was still rather quiet, but as they began walking to the Inner Wall marketplaces, there was a growing buzz. People were beginning to awaken and go about their duties again.
There seemed to be no trace of the murders that had caused so many to panic the week before. They seem to have accepted the fact the it had been an unfortunate accident; the headmaster mixed the teas wrongly. Of course, those in the know had been quietly searching for a young woman who disappeared shortly after the incident; these rumors always made their way to the streets.
The two maidens left the temple in high spirits, dressed in the loose, white gowns of Novices of their order. Following them was a tall muscular man who had no other function than to look threatening. He would not lift a finger if they were attacked unless they were attacking the blond girl. The girls had gathered their hairs and tied tight scarves around their heads in the manner of Acolytes under penance, but it was obviously not doing much since they were giggling as they made their way to the doors.
They followed the other servants and novices running errands for the Temples out of their part of the district through a small door. As soon as the doors closed behind them, they were assualted with the rich, multilayered smells of the market. It was already bustling with life, with the peasants and the servants fighting to get the best deals of the wet market. By late morning the wet market would be closed and the rest of the market would come to life.
Most kept a distance from girls, not daring to look too closely at them since their clothes and their bodyguard more or less screamed that they were part of the Alin’sa, the Priesthood of the Goddess of Death. No one noticed that one of the girls had blond hair (as seen from her eyebrows) or her blue eyes as they shopped. They left the orders with each of the grocers with instructions to deliver it in the evening after the Sunset prayers and then walked around the city running errands for the various Priestesses in the Temple.
Once they were done in the wet market, they began walking around the city, moving further and further away from the Temple District. The people they had to see had their own shops around the circular City, away from the majority of the markets. Those in the Upper City had been assigned to another pair; it was the ones in the Inner Wall that they had to cover.
The Inner Wall was not full of slums as some would have expected. The poverty got more apparent the further away they were from the markets and the closer they were to the Main Gates. Streets got more and more narrow, a mixture of old, run-down buildings and newer, slightly taller houses were cramped closer together, creating small paths and a very claustrophobic atmosphere, punctuated oddly now and then by small patches of green grass and bright sun shining down. This made the two girls in white look like angels walking down the street. Of course, when angels are walking, children will follow.
There were more children in this part of the town than there were in the other two districts, and these children were more daring. They followed the two girls openly and soon a small crowd formed behind the girls. They kept a respectful distance from the girls, but they did crowd around the tall man. He found himself stepping gingerly around them; while the girls moved gracefully.
They stopped in front of a building surrounded by three such green patches. The building, though old, had a quiet dignity about it, and the children stayed back. Murmurs of Blue Lady swept them, and the man stayed with the children while the girls walked up to the door. They stayed in the shade of the other buildings while the girls went in, their dresses momentarily reflecting the light. An old woman let them in.
The blond girl embraced the old woman warmly as soon as the door was closed. The old woman returned it, but then she pulled away and led the pair in. Their steps were quiet and hurried. She led them to a room where a sickly young woman lay. The blond girl immediately took off her scarves and knelt next to the bed, careful not to hit the fierce child attending to her.
“Ruka…” she touched the other woman’s hand gently, holding her palm in her own.
Ruka turned towards the young girl kneeling next to her. She was breathing heavily, as though each breath would be her last. Her chest heaved, and showed that she was almost skeletal. The clothes, almost like a child’s, hung on her. Every movement she made cost her dearly; she seemed more like an old woman than a young maid.
“La… dy…” her words were painfully slow and drawn out. “Fly…. He… awakens…” Her grip on the maiden’s hand was deathly though.
“Ruka… I’m sorry…” the maiden did not show any reaction, although Ruka’s hands were white from gripping so hard. “I promised your freedom…” Ruka’s hacking laugh turned into a racking cough, one that threatened to kill her.
“Daughter… exchange….” The maiden understood instantly.
“Your daughter shall be released.”
“No, not defenceless, I promise, Ruka. The line ends with us. I promise,” she kissed the forehead of the woman, before tracing a symbol on her forehead with her thumb. “Be well dearest, and thank you.”
The child looked at the maiden with hostility, but as the maiden traced the woman’s forehead, she breathed a sigh of relief. No one seemed to notice her tear streaked face, or mentioned anything about it as they kept watch in Ruka’s room.
There were no sobs when she passed.
Word count: 1203. 23797 more to go.