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The Escalor

The Escalor

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Published by Robert E G Black
Journey Smith faces not only growing up on Midspring Day but the scourge of the Escalor razing the countryside.
Journey Smith faces not only growing up on Midspring Day but the scourge of the Escalor razing the countryside.

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Published by: Robert E G Black on Jun 14, 2012
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06/14/2012

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the escalorrobert e g black Regardless of how extraordinarily it would end, Midspring Day began like most any other forJourney Smith.Mere roused her from bed fore sunup. Groggily, Journey went to Scurf 
s bowl and sprinkledsome feed into his water. Scurf was her gillbug. He didn
t eat much and he didn
t eat often, butshe planned on being gone all day so she made sure he had overmuch to tide him over for awhile. She tapped his bowl to be sure he noticed the feed. Then she looked about for her otherpet, Rimmer. He wasn
t about, but that wasn
t overstrange for him.It was hot. And, hot inside the groundhut meant it was even hotter outside. An unseasonablewarmth, but Journey thought little of the temperature except to head out without bothering to putanything on over her chemise. She left the soil floor of her room, pushed the curtaindoor asideand crossed the stone floored midchamber to the kitchen. Mere had already made some tea.Journey had herself a cup seasoned with some rosesugar. Then, she left the kitchen through thefoyer, up the stairs to the ground level and headed out to row the fields.She didn
t bother with shoes. She almost never bothered with shoes, in fact. She liked thefeel of the natural ground neath her feet. For the Festival later she
d wear shoes, of course. Partsof the Parrygrounds were paved and that was no good on her bare feet.Her pere was already out in northfield, rowing the blackseed roots. Journey grabbed up arake and joined him. It wasn
t easy work; blackseed root had a tendency to grab hold of a rake
steeth and snap them off if one wasn
t careful. But, Journey was used to it. And it was most allher pere knew. He
d been rowing fields and milking dummalo sithence he was a child. And,now, Journey did the same. As soon as she was able to hold a rake, she had been out in the fieldsrowing them. Of course, in her early years, her efforts did not really do much for the crops,though the energy she expended in trying to help made her pere smile and made her brotere andmere laugh. Now though, coming up to her reapday, Journey was overbig to row as much as herpere would in a given day, if not more. She didn
t like the work, but she could do it and, with theyears of practice, she was good at it. If willan took, she
d be a farmer her whole life like her pere.Of course, that wasn
t quite the truth. If Parrow willed it, she
d have a life far from the farm, alife of adventure maybe, or a life in the royal court, not that she bothered with such triflingfantasies mosttime.
Journey, what are you doing,
Pere called from a few rows over.
If your mere sees you,you
ll get a switchin
for sure.
 Journey looked up from her work. She
d barely heard her pere.
What, Pere?
 
Coming out in just your chemise,
Pere replied, shaking his head. Really, it wasn
t such abig deal, though her mere might actually take the switch to her a few times for it. Journey oftendid the morning rowing in nothing but her chemise. It wasn
t like there were neighbors closebyto see her and Pere had seen her in that and less plenty growing up; live in a small groundhut andthe quarters keep a family very close and familiar with one another.Journey rolled her eyes and went back to rowing. She said nothing about the issue or whetheror not Mere would take the switch to her if she saw.Her mere wasn
t overhappy when Journey and her pere came in a short time later to break the fast.
You wash your hands for eating,
she told Journey, as she was wont to do eachmorning, like Journey hadn
t gotten the point after a few years.
And, get some clothes on,
sheadded as Journey went back outside to wash her hands neath the pumpwaters.
 
2
Journey laughed a little; she wasn
t getting dressed until after eating. Not thisday, what withthe Festival coming. It was the Ides of Folgenes, Midspring Day.
I
d probably get something onmy surcoat and get a switchin for sure,
Journey said to no one in particular. All that was nearthe pump was a dummalo and Loke, who, though he
d once been a lively dog, a fine IridianHeeler, was now so far gone in years he probably couldn
t even hear her talking. She finishedwashing up, tossed some water on her face and pushed her hair back, then went back down intothe house.To break the fast that morning, the Smiths had caponeggs seasoned with potherbs, shallotsand, of course, blackseed spice, blackseed rolls and the last of the salted dum. And, Journey hadtwo more cups of tea with rosesugar to drown out the blackseed in everything. The dum she atelast to savor the taste. She knew there was no more in the larder, though she had secreted a fewstrips for safekeeping, and that the last of the herd was not going to be slaughtered for a while.They didn
t even belong to the family, if you took her mere
s version of things. The last sixdummalo, the six spared from slaughter after the oarworm infestation the previous fall, were tobe Journey
s dowry.
I
ve not even had my reapday yet, Mere,
Journey had told her mere.
What do I need a dowry for?
 
You know Plete Carter
s keen on you,
Mere replied.
And, his reapday
s coming soon.With yours not long after Midspring Day there
ll be a Bannday soon aswell.
 Journey put her fist to her chest in mock salute.
Yes, Mere,
she said.Mere slapped her then. It wasn
t anything overpainful but it stung for sure.
Taupish jenny,don
t you start with me. You
re not a child any more, reapday or not. You
ve had your monthliesfor halfyear now.
 
So, you marry me off to Plete Carter and run me out of the house firstthing?
 
I make sure you
re prepared for life, for love, for marriage and happiness.
 
Maybe all those things don
t have to always go together,
Journey replied and she bracedherself for another slap. But, none came.That conversation was a few weeks yester, and there had been several more oversame as thatone sithence. Plete Carter, who Journey certainly liked
 — 
they
d been the best of friends growingup, afterall, and she had even put his name on her wishboat once
 — 
had had his reapday, and withMidspring Day hind her, Journey knew her own reapday was not far off, less a month. She
dalready been working on memorizing the Old Words for her speech for somewhen and couldrecite her speech entirely but not yet fluidly.Of course, Midspring Day was not hind her, not yet othergate. And, to be fair, as much fun asthe Festival was sure to be, she dreaded it a little. She had reason to believe that Plete wouldchoose some point during the Festival to propose. Then, as soon as Journey
s reapday had come,there
d be a Bannday planned and everyone would know of the betrothal. And, the way thingswere for the Smiths, it would be put upon Journey to marry sooner rather than later to join thefamilies and save the farm. Of course, that was just the melodramatic version of events, whatJourney
s mere liked to call silliness.
Your bodice and surcoat are laid out on your bed,
Mere said.
Wimpareren
1
,
Journey muttered.
What?
 
Nothing, Mere.
 Journey finished chewing her last bite of salted dum fore responding.
Do I have a kurt thatwill match? The sides will show some.
She knew she had a dark green one that would match
1
From a girl
s reapday speech, the
Old Words
for, literally,
 prepared woman
.
 
3
 just fine with her Midspring Day outfit, and Mere surely knew she knew, but there had to besome conversation or the two of them might never talk.
Your dark green one will go splendidly with the bright green of the surcoat,
Mere said,smiling.
And, it
ll match your pere and me.
 Pere looked up from his eggs. He hadn
t been paying any attention.
What about me?
 
Nothing dear,
Mere said.
Eat your eggs, then let
s get ready to go.
 
May I be excused,
Journey asked. Her plate was practically licked clean. Mere nodded andJourney took her empty plate to the sink, rinsed it and set it aside to dry then went to her room.The curtaindoor drawn, Journey stripped out of her worn chemise and tossed it on the floor.She went to put on a clean one and noticed Rimmer was sitting on the bed looking at her.Rimmer was her pet gapha. She was the only kid in all of Crale to have one and she liked theidea of that. Most kids were scared to even touch hers let alone get their own. You see, gaphahave a poisonous bite usually. But, Pere took Rimmer to a man in Taven once a moontime tohave him devenned.
A special pet for a special girl,
he
d told Journey the day he brought homethe thing. In the three years they
d had the gapha, he
d bitten none of them and he was quiteplayful when he wanted to be. Journey grabbed a clean chemise from the closet and put it on.
What?
 Rimmer stuck out his tongue and hissed a little.
Don
t hiss at me,
Journey said.
It
s not playtime.
 Like he knew exactly what she
d said, which, Journey had learned from experience, might bethe case, his tongue retreated and he put his head down. Journey picked him up and hugged himclose to her.
Oh, poor Rimmer. You should run outside and play. I
ll be off at the Festival tilldark.
She put Rimmer down and he stood there for a moment, looking at her, then ran from theroom, most likely to do just what she
d said, go outside and play.She put the dark green kurt over her chemise then picked up her bodice from the bed and putit on. She thought she might need a little help tying it but got it done herself rather easily. Then,she put on her surcoat, made specially for the Midspring Day Festival.
Gotta look beautiful forthe big day,
Mere had said. She
d been referring most likely to the prospect of it being the dayPlete proposed, but Journey liked the idea of dressing up nice for the occasion of the Festivalitself, especially sithence this year she was to dance about Parrow
s Pole.The surcoat was a bright green trimmed in crimson. That trim, her mere said cost a prettypenny. She
d likely traded some mulled wine for it rather than spend any actual pennies, of course, but Journey didn
t mention that. As far as official things went, Tailor Smith was a wifeand occasional farmer, not a maker of wines. She did that in secret for the extra money. Perehadn
t liked the idea initially. The stills hind his shop next to the house were supposed to just befor the family. But, when he
d tasted a few of the wine recipes his wife had concocted, he knewthey
d be loved and bought regularly by a few connoisseurs in town.Journey put on her belt and affixed her purse to it. She smiled at her purse, knowing itscontents would draw shameful shaking of the head from Mere if she were to learn what was inthere.
Wimbereit
2
, indeed,
Journey said, smiling. No proper girl would have a knife or a roll of twine with her. No proper girl would carry a tinderbox or blackseed balm. But, Journey lookedforard to a day when, if willan took, all these things and more would come to hand. She slippedher feet into her good sandals, took a moment to look over the map of Gardea on her wall thenwent out into the midchamber to show off her outfit.
2
From a girl
s reapday speech, literally
ready woman
.

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