So, this is the second chapter of “The Days of Eliora”. I hope you enjoy it!
Eliora perched on the rough brick steps in the shadows.
Today had been her first day of proper work. Her family were set apart in many ways. Eliora had now followed in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps and worked for the royal household. There was no brick making for them.
She could see her own people wearily walking the streets, back to their homes, caked in mud and covered in dusty sand, but she didn’t feel sorry for them. Her life was so much worse than theirs, and now she would be in trouble with her mother all over again.
What else could go wrong today?
She wiped her nose and tucked the cloth back into her belt. Glancing up she saw a familiar person trudging along towards her. She lowered her head, not wanting to be noticed.
He slowed his walk as he approached her. She didn’t look up at him so he sat down next to her.
‘What’s up Eliora?’ laughed Caleb. ‘Someone take your doll?’
‘I don’t play with dolls.’ she sobbed.
Caleb smelt of stale sweat and was covered in the crusted mud and grime of his days work. At least it was finished and he could go home to clean up.
‘Are you crying?’ he asked, suddenly concerned as he bent down and pushed away her thick dark hair from her face.
‘Yes you are.’
She was certain he could see the smudged trails of kohl and tears down her cheeks so she quickly rubbed her face with her hands.
‘What’s the matter?’ he asked gently. ‘Did they work you hard in the palace?’
‘How did you know about that?’
‘Everyone knows that is where your family are destined to work.’
Eliora stared at the dusty ground again. At least news of her first day had remained a secret.
‘I just went to get Mother some fish.’ She finally said quietly.
‘Well, that’s nothing to cry about.’
‘I know.’ She replied angrily. ‘Let me finish.’ She paused, expecting him to interrupt. He didn’t so she continued. ‘I went down to the market and that idiot Kenaz, pulled my hair so that I dropped my money. I can’t find it. Now Mama is going to get mad at me too.’
‘Where did you drop it?’
‘I’ve looked and I can’t find it.’
‘Well show me where, maybe I can find it.’
‘You won’t find it.’
‘Okay, I’ll show you.’
She took him down towards the market, a place they had been together so many times before. The houses were closer here, and sounds of family life were drifting out to them. Mingled aromas of meals being prepared flowed out into the street. Eliora was slowing her pace as they reached the larger open square of the market.
‘It was round here.’
‘What was it you dropped?’
‘Just a small bronze, but it was all Mother had left.’
They searched the dusty floor as many walked past them. Eliora, after a few moments decided it was a fruitless task. The coin was lost to them, and more than likely found by another.
You have a bronze, Caleb.
Caleb was bent close to the ground when Eliora had her back turned to him.
‘I found it!’ he announced holding out the coin.
‘Oh Caleb! Thank you!’ Eliora turned towards him, her face alight. ‘Thank you!’ And she flung her arms about him.
‘That’s alright!’ he said ruffling her hair. ‘Squirt!’ Even though he had used that name, she could see he was delighted to have found the coin.
‘It isn’t the first and I doubt it will be the last time I help you out.’
Caleb was ten when Eliora was born. He had told her she was a loud, scrawny thing, which held very little interest for him. He had been coxed into holding her for a few moments before she began to squirm and scream when she was a few weeks old. He never did that again.
But as they grew up, living in houses that neighboured each other, they saw each other daily. Caleb played with younger brothers and other friends and Eliora had a habit of tagging along. She was annoying, she knew that. She always turned up when they were up to mischief and had the habit of telling everyone that they were to blame. She would beg to join in with their games, and if they shooed her away she would run to his mother crying, which inevitably meant that they were forced to include her.
By the time Caleb was fifteen, and Eliora was five, everyone seemed to see them as brother and sister. They would fight as siblings would but were close nonetheless. Eliora had celebrated her fourteenth birthday only last week. She was now required to work at the palace.
‘Do you need any more help?’
‘No! I’m done with you now.’ Eliora was already rushing off to the fish stall.
‘Come up to my place when you’re done. I have some herbs that will go nicely with your fish.’
‘Thanks Caleb. See you later!’
Eliora didn’t think how strange it was that the coin was warm as if it had been inside someone’s pocket.
Caleb was still trudging back up the road but nearly at home when Eliora caught up and grabbed his arm.
‘Nice fish!’ Caleb complimented as he nodded towards the basket. ‘Come in and I’ll get you those herbs.’
The sweet smell of bread and bitter herbs filled the cool room. Caleb’s younger brother lay stretched out on the window seat lightly snoring but his mother was nowhere to be seen.
Caleb turned to Eliora. ‘Shhh!’ he said with a finger to his lips.
He crept up to his brother and firmly grasped the woollen blanket he was laying on and pulled as hard as he could. The young man span off the seat and landed with a loud thud on the earthen floor.
Eliora began to giggle.
‘Kenaz.’ Caleb greeted his brother quietly.
‘What did you do that for?’ Kenaz raged, red in the face.
Kenaz raised his fist just as their mother came through the open doorway with a bowl of dried dates.
Eliora contained her laughter behind her hand.
‘Stop that at once.’ their mother ordered.
‘He attacked me!’ Kenaz protested.
She raised her eyebrows and looked at Caleb. ‘Really,’ she tutted. ‘I would have thought you two had grown out of this by now.’
Caleb restored the blanket to its original place and went outside to wash.
‘You have got to do something about him mother. Find him a wife!’ And he smiled at Eliora, who stopped laughing immediately
‘Kenaz that is not funny.’
‘Never said it was.’ he mumbled.
Eliora heard Caleb sigh.
‘I’ve got enough on my plate with your wedding.’ his mother said. ‘When that is over, maybe I will seek another bride for him.’
‘No you won’t. You like having him around too much.’ Kenaz complained.
‘Enough. Are you clean for dinner?’
Caleb walked in with a handful of fresh green leaves in his wet hands.
‘So Kenaz, how is Martha?’
‘How would I know? I thought she had been moved to your team today.’
Caleb shook his head. ‘You know, a girl likes to know that you care about them. She was at home, unwell. We had to work her quota today too.’
‘Ill?’ Kenaz asked. ‘What was wrong?’
Kenaz got up, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.
‘You are not going anywhere until you have eaten.’ His mother pointed out.
‘No buts. She can wait until you are fed. I don’t want her parents thinking you are unfed and unable to put food on the table.’ She nodded towards Eliora as if she would appreciate such an important thing.
Kenaz sat down grumpily obviously concerned about his bride. Their mother had been very careful in her choice for each of her boys. Only Caleb was unmatched now but that had not always been the case.
‘I’ve got to go.’ Eliora said breaking the awkward silence. ‘Mother will want this.’
‘And these.’ Caleb said handing over the herbs.
‘Thank you. See you tomorrow?’
Caleb nodded and Eliora left them to their meal.
‘You know what Ma, I have an idea for a bride for Caleb …’ Eliora heard Kenaz say loudly from inside the house.
‘You two are acting like children!’ Their mother shouted. ‘Stop that now!’
Eliora couldn’t help but laugh as she walked home.
You can get the full book here.