January 20 – 1027 YD
Alendae was an interesting and picturesque city hugging the river Noira, with countless activities to offer four inquisitive visitors. Kesia withdrew into her work, delivering her commissions and procuring new materials; Mellena frequented plays and the markets; and Toran gave tours of the libraries and temples to Orla.
The City Square Market ran each Saturday. The party came together to explore its lanes and secrets, and Orla gripped Kesia’s hand with excitement while assuring her that one could find flying opossums in the market if one knew where to look and who to ask! Toran explained that opossums could not fly, and Kesia linked arms with Orla when her face began to fall. A glint of sisterhood kindled between them. ‘Forest-creatures are not to be sold, but I know where we might find them.’ Kesia winked and smiled at the light returning to Orla’s eyes.
__Mellena disappeared into the clothing quadrant, and Toran drifted to the book-sellers. Kesia led Orla through the alleys of stalls, glad of the cloth coverings overhead in the mounting heat, and into the animal quadrant. There cats, puppies, goats, foals, and more dominated their senses—still further they went, wondering aloud if wild things might be bought, and were nudged by hints toward a covered carriage behind the stalls. A man in sage garb whittled wood on the step.
__Kesia made small-talk of the ghost-wood in his hands. She identified herself as Gesulan, and began speaking of its forests, and her love of its animals. Orla lamented never having seen them for she was new to Lenyol, and the man jerked his head toward the door–a curtain of leather–with a wry look.
__Inside they found a selection of cages containing half a dozen species: a common rope-tailed opossum, a trio of hedgehogs, a hare, charcoal lizards, a tree-bear cub, and a pair of kitten-sized opossums with pink fingers, black face markings, and wing-like stretches of skin between their upper and lower limbs. Both ladies melted at the sight of them.
__After an extensive lecture on caring for Léim—so they were called—they departed with much lighter purses, Orla carrying the creatures in a box, Kesia laden with insects and fruit for their nourishment.
The four reunited and secured a table at a food stall in the shadow of Alendae Palace. Mellena and Toran were desperate to see the Léim, but knowing the laws on forest-creatures were strict, Kesia forced the others to stay silent on the subject until they had returned to her rooms.
__Orla’s attention flittered to the palace. Its architecture was ornate; as Toran began gabbling about it being the design of Duchess Someone in preparation for her daughter’s coming-of-age, Kesia followed the lines of its spires to the clear sky above. Talk came to her from a nearby table of fires in the west; she turned her ear toward the speaker, glancing up at the mention of lost villages, stock, and crops.
__She was assaulted by the memory of her father’s body in the funeral pyre, and the dark imaginings of too active an imagination. The charred meat at their table made her stomach turn. She excused herself, claiming heatstroke, and found a place to rest along the edge of the central fountain.
__Water sprayed her back and cooled the nape of her neck. She closed her eyes and rested until the nausea passed. It was terribly hot. The Léim would be smouldering in their box—they must take them to her rooms. She turned back to the others, and noticed Orla subtly observing her.
__Kesia rose and looked up at the palace. A shadow fell on it: yet it was already shaded. Kesia frowned, searching for a source; and another shadow flew along the stall coverings across the market.
__Kesia turned quickly and sought the source again in the sky; and out of its blue fabric broke three black dragons, tearing toward the palace with heads lowered for collision. Kesia screamed and crouched to the ground, drawing a shield of blue energy equal in height to the palace; and she funnelled the north wind to repel them; but the dragons passed her defences like sun through glass. As they flew overhead they appeared transparent, then dissappeared against the palace façade; and before she realised they were only a vision, the gale she had summoned lashed the market, flipping its stalls and wares.
__When the upturned market found its feet, fingers began pointing at Kesia. Slowly the cowering crowd straightened and narrowed its eyes.
Image courtesy of: http://www.bluedoorhotel.com/2012/10/09/souk-open-air-markets/