Daughter of Benik [Chapter 4 - part 1]

[4]

            Market day at Birrill Shire was perhaps the busiest in the week. Though the population was much lower than it was before the threat of the Order of Beliar, it was still an opportunity for the remaining community to gather to get together, share their wares and swap stories – even if it was for a blissful moment.
            Yuli, dressed in a cream high collared cotton blouse and brown skirt of spun wool. Her long ebony hair was brushed and braided back with a length of ivory ribbon fell down to the middle of her back. With her ocre-toned skin, large slanted eyes, and smooth black hair it was hard for the shire dwellers to not stop and stare.
            Yuli felt colour creeping up her face as all eyes stared at her foreign features.
            “Don’t mind them,” Merl whispered. The two riluds, Douglas on her left, Merl on her right, walked with her like faithful sentries.
            “But,” Yuli began, her words lost the moment a rilud woman shooed her children away as they began to point and stare at her.
            “It has been a long time since they have seen a human in their midst.”
            “Merl, old chap!” said a cheerful voice as Merl nearly fell forward from a suddenly physical impact.
            Yuli saw a rilud with chestnut hair and the most beautiful face she had ever seen.
            “Douglas, dear!” cried another voice, this time belonging to a rilud maid with flouncing golden curls. Yuli watched as the rilud maid attempted to grab her intended, only to miss as he calmly stepped out of her reach.
            Merl eyed his captor with some irritation.
            “Oh, it you,” her voice dripped with disappointment.
            “I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed,” Merl returned the tone.
            Seeing Yuli, Philip let out a low whistle. “Well, well, and whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?” he asked, changing the subject.
            “This is Yuli,” Merl reluctantly introduced.
            “Ah, the one that Douglas fished out of the river.” Philip nodded. “Now I see why Mrs. Bobbid was eager to tell the whole shire about it.”
            Yuli glanced at Douglas, who was looking away to hide his blushing face. She looked back to see the golden haired rilud maid glaring at Yuli.
            “Uh, Yuli, let me introduced to you our friends, Philip Goldbrook and his cousin, Lily Tunnelly,” Merl introduced.
            Lily eyed Yuli up and down, making the poor human girl shift uncomfortably in her spot. “Charmed,” the rilud maid said coolly. Then she turned to Douglas.
            “Douglas, dear could you please save a pair’s duel at Master Caspar’s birthday party?” Leaning towards the rilud, Lily batted her long lashes as she purred her request.
            “We shall have to see,” Douglas replied, with little interest.
            Deciding that the answer was satisfactory, Lily grabbed Philip’s arm and dragged him away. “Come, cousin. You must get me those tarts Belinda White-Willow makes.”
            “What? Now?” Philip gave Yuli an apologetic look. He threw her a kiss as his eager cousin drew them to their new destination.
            Yuli blinked a few times. That was interesting. He must have found me easy to tease. She turned to see Douglas and Merl watching her.
            “Um,” she began, not sure of what to say.
            “Don’t mind him. He enjoys being with the fairer sex.” Merl explained.
            “He especially likes those who are attractive,” Douglas added with distaste.
            Yuli put a hand to her chin. If the one they call Philip likes attractive women, then surely that would not include me. With the whistling he must like to tease plain girls like me. Yes, that must be it. I am too odd and strange-looking for someone as beautiful as him.
            The rest of the day at the market was pleasant. Each shop was different: fruit and vegetable preserves made from locally grown produce; sausages and cured meats from the butcher; sweets made of candied flowers and fruits, of syrup boiled to a sticky taffy wrapped on a stick; farm and kitchen tool repairs; bolts of cloth brought from distant peaceful lands (Merl explained this was one of the things that Lily’s merchant family leave the shire for); fresh posies speckled with morning dew and bundled together with pretty ribbon; and a booth of freshly baked goods from the baker.
            Dinner time approached, so Douglas sat with Yuli under a large oak tree surrounded by wooden chairs and benches while Merl went to get some thing to drink with their meal. Spread on the tabletop between Yuli and her friend were their finds from the market: three mini pork pies, a section of summer sausage, six freshly baked dinner rolls, three apples, a couple of fruit pastries, a jar of pickles, two ripe tomatoes, and a couple of small cucumbers.
            There were a couple of swings tied to the tree as well as three seesaws for the rilud children to play.
            “When we have festivals at the shire this is where everyone gathers to celebrate.” Douglas explained seeing her watch the children.
            “What if it rains?” she heard herself ask.
            “We put up a special canopy over the crowd and continue with our celebration. Rain won’t stop us. It is another thing to celebrate – especially for the farmers.”
            “Do you have a family?” she asked.
            “Once, I did.”
            After that Yuli did not ask any further. The two of them sat together in peaceful harmony, enjoying the cool breeze and welcoming noises of children playing.
            “Sorry for the wait,” Merl interrupted their thoughts bringing a bottle of cold cider and some wooden cups to use. “Compliments of Goldbrook household,” he announced setting his booty with their food.
            Yuli smiled widely. It was indeed a very good day.

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