Piece VII - A

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Clover wrinkled her nose at the scent of the damp soil.  Petrichor had wafted into the tents after rain poured an hour ago. She found herself tucked in blankets in her tent, having no memory of what transpired last night. Her head felt heavy but she had to get up already. It was another day of blacksmith training.

        Rowan’s nine-year-old sister appeared at their tent’s entry, one flap was fastened up. She was holding a bowl of porridge and a cup of water. “Mother said to give this to you.”

       “Thank you Rowena.” Clover said as she reached for her breakfast. Rowena giggled softly before hopping away. 

        After finishing her meal quickly, Clover heard Hana from outside.

      “We are going to be late Clover!” Hana and Celia had stopped by Clover’s tent. The latter peeked into the tent and said, “You’re still wearing clothes from yesterday?” 

        Clover blushed at the remark. “Give me few more moments!” She said before unfastening the tent flap.

                                                                              ---

A guard with black feather headpiece stood along the apprentice nook entryway. The mentor wanted a countermeasure in case there would be trouble. However, his presence did not help ease the tension between the Soleil and Greendale apprentices. The former became more distant to them. Even the instructor was wary in his interactions with them. Despite that, the day’s training ended well.

        Celia, Hana and Clover went home ahead of Borin and Leon because they had to clean the nook along with the other male apprentices. The girls decided to wander around town before heading home.

         “Those Soleil folk...” Celia became irritated as she recalled how one student shuddered when she her to pass the tongs. “Her eyes looked as if I’ll harm her with a flick of a finger. I cannot even lift a feather with my mind!”

         “They’re traumatized,” Clover said. “Yesterday, was their first day to witness morphing.”

         “And they were indoctrinated to see those who can morph as evil,” Hana added.

       ‘Evil’ rang a bell to Clover, bogging her with muddy memories from last night: Somebody called some fledglings ‘evil children’. Though, she can’t remember their names neither faces. She was with them. She was with them!

        “Clover?” Hana asked their friend who fell several steps behind them.

        “Do you… do you remember what happened last night?” Clover said.

        “What happened last night?” Hana said.

       “I remember there was a disturbance or something. Then, some fledglings were called evil children.”

      “Are you sure that’s not a dream?” Celia said. “The refugees were melancholic last night because of what happened to Rowan. No one loitered around the community after supper.”

      “Only the arrival of a new batch of refugees broke the silence,” Hana said. “Speaking of which, I need to go to the mines to see my mother.”  Her friends looked at her quizzically as she bid them goodbye and went off.

        “I guess her mother did not make it.” The realization dawned at Celia like a banishment order. She held on her medallion as she thought, 'I would never want this to be confiscated.'

       Clover became worried about her family again but was soon drowned in a flood of mental images. She remembered being dragged to some well last night.

       “Clover?” Celia looked at Clover.  Believing that they shared the same thoughts. She tugged on her, “Would you like to go to the marketplace and grab something to eat?”

        “I don’t have coins.”

        “I have and some to spare.”

        “Will they accept The Land coins?”

        “We’ll see...”

                                                                             ---

In the afternoon, food service was the lively business in the marketplace. A line of food stalls formally separated it from town square. Products sold were mainly bread but there were also nuts, candies, boiled root crops and corn, and grilled meat.

        “There are so many choices!” Celia ogled at the array of foods displayed. She first tried at the grilled meat stall but sadly, her coins got rejected. She went to next, the one selling boiled potatoes, her coins were also rejected. Only the bakery stall at the end of the line accepted the monies.

       “So this is The Land’s coin ei, li’l girl.” The vendor looked funny with the small apron on his rotund belly. 

         “Aye mister. How many raisin breads can those buy?” Celia asked.

        The vendor bit a silver coin between his molars and pulled it out when he bit into something hard in its middle. “These can only buy those.” He pointed at the plain buns.

        Celia did not want another plain bread so she asked, “couldn’t that buy something with... more flavor?”

      Looking at the coins’ embossed patterns the vendor asked, “Are you refugees from Greendale?” 

         “Aye, mister.” Clover said.

       “Perhaps I can give you a pancake drizzled with honey.” he looked at Clover, “And her too. But! I require extra payment.” 

      Celia was about to ask her coins back when the vendor said, “I’ll give the pancakes in exchange for these coins and some information.”

        “What kind of information?” Celia asked.

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