Tiluvia and Uncle Rhurdar worked together to set things up before the market opened. The square was still and quiet with only a few shopkeepers readying their shops. A perpetual white cloud hung in the air, as Uncle Rhurdar carried the heavy sacks of flour from the cart and dumped them in the back of the stall.
After the cart had been unloaded, Tiluvia dusted the stall as best she could and waited to greet the first customers. Calls began to sound around the square, as the sellers did their best to attract the incoming buyers. Tiluvia, with her bright smile and cheerful conversation, dealt with the customers, while Rhurdar dealt with the heavy lifting.
The morning came and went, followed by the midday meal of cold ham, bread, and hard cheese. They had sold most of the flour and things were going quite well.
Tiluvia sat eating an apple, when one of the king’s financial officers stepped up to her. He examined a scroll with an air of serious business about him. “I wish to see the owner of this stall who goes by the name of Rhurdar—”
“He’s in the back,” Tiluvia pointed with a thumb. “I’ll go fetch him.” She disappeared into the shadows, knowing what her uncle thought about the financial officers who walked the towns looking for anyone who didn’t pay the king’s taxes.
Everyone in the kingdom of Miervald was obliged to pay the king to obtain a certificate whenever they wanted to get married, bury someone, or baptize a child. Each town had a sheriff to administer the process. The position usually passed from father to son, but only if Ludis confirmed the heir. The king kept a close eye on the nobles who handled his tax money and kept the peace in his kingdom. They could easily lose the position if they did not fulfill their duties.
However, the common people mostly grumbled about all the taxes they had to pay, blaming officers, sheriff, and king alike.
Rhurdar came out dusting flour from his hands. “What can I do for you, soldier?”
“I need to see your permit for this stall,” the man replied, his tone serious.
“Not a problem.” Rhurdar pulled the document out of his pocket and handed it to the soldier.
The man verified the slip of parchment against his list and, seeing the fee was paid in full, gave the permit back to Rhurdar. “Everything is in order, sir. Good day to you.” He tipped his helmet and walked off to find his next victim.
“Good day to you,” Rhurdar grumbled to himself, as he slipped the permit back into his pocket. “It’s a good day for the king, is what he means, what with all the money he gets from us! Pay a tax for this, good sir, a fee for that, ma’am. If this keeps up, we’ll end up paying a fee to take a piss!”
Tiluvia laughed at her uncle’s reaction, accustomed to these frequent outbursts.
Rhurdar, hands on his hips, turned to her with a frown. “And what are you laughing at?”
“You!” Tiluvia giggled, as she pointed at her uncle.
“I don’t see what’s funny in this situation at all.”
“Maybe you should look at yourself then.”
Rhurdar merely glared at her.
Clutching her midsection, Tiluvia said, “Standing like you are right now, all you need is an apron, a wooden spoon, and a cap on your head to look just like Aunt Gerda.” She burst into a fit of laughter.
Rhurdar, seeing her point, immediately lowered his hands. Aunt Gerda often took that position to scold Hoag for traipsing through her kitchen with muddy boots.
Tiluvia roared with laughter, as tears streamed down her face.
Rhurdar unable to hold back, burst out with a laugh of his own. “Enough, young lady! I think it is time for you to clear your head. Go get us some more customers, instead of laughing at your old uncle.” He waved her out of the stall.
“Alright, but you must admit that you did quite a good impression of Aunt Gerda,” Tiluvia said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Yes, yes, unfortunately I can imitate an old nag—is that what you think of me? Never mind, don’t answer that! Off you go now. In the meantime, I’ll try to salvage what’s left of my pride.”
Green eyes glittering with happiness, Tiluvia made her way through the town square.
She had come to live with Uncle Rhurdar and Aunt Edwina after her parents had died in a fire. Aunt Gerda and Tiluvia had miraculously survived and no one could explain how. Poor Aunt Gerda had been found the next morning, wandering the fields with Tiluvia in her arms, mumbling something about a giant eagle. Everyone thought she had lost her mind.