Thank you for your patience, O readers, as my fiction-writing brain decided to be fuzzy and ornery on this Fiction Friday. I finally had to reach way back into the past to locate an idea with which it would consent to work, a NaNoWriMo concept from... good heavens, was it really 2010 when I worked on this last? I think it was.
In any case, some of you may recall this little set of story-bits, which never really came together from that year's observance of National Novel Writing Month. It's got some good stuff in it, if I do say so myself, and I used a variant of it in one of my stories for A Dinner of Herbs (the short collection I co-authored with Ms. Conall).
So, is it worth pursuing further? What would you like to know more about? Please, enjoy today's little story-bit, and let me know. More fan fiction coming soon, more original fiction coming when I can manage it, and possibly this coming week I'll be able to pick back up on informational blog posts as well! Stay tuned!
Miriam kept her eyes and hands on her work, pulling the thread-thin weeds out of the wet earth around the mistress's herb sprouts, ensuring she had found every plant which didn't belong in her current patch before she moved on to the next. If she finished before the gong rang for lunch at the temple, she could earn a serving of sweets as a reward, and the alignment of the stars was right for the priestesses to have conjured up the soft yellow-orange crescents she liked so much.
Once, she and her sister Jamilla had played together at being defending Heroines when they weeded the herb garden, vanquishing the dangerous invaders of their tiny kingdoms before they could multiply and overrun the rightful inhabitants. Spinning flax or wool into thread, which Miriam considered a boring and thankless task on its own, became a magical means towards escaping a Villain's tower when Jamilla sat spinning next to her. Jamilla had even dared, once or twice, to weave her stories around the sacred mysteries of food, casting herself and Miriam as Questers who brought a fresh spark to a temple whose sacred fires had gone out, or who found a new source of the strange and varied items from field and forest which the priestesses needed to cast their spells.
Now, Jamilla was gone, taken away by the Trainers when they made their twice-yearly sweep of the villages, looking for children who were prettier, stronger, smarter than the rest. Those children, Miriam knew, might someday be seen again by their families, but only at a distance, as they rode past on their tall horses or were borne hastily by in splendid carriages. They had gone to become Talers, those whose lives were not simply enriched by wondrous stories but who lived the stories in every breath they took. Heroes and Villains, Questers and Damsels, Companions and Lackeys, all would have their chance at greatness, whether on their own or reflected from another.
Miriam herself, little brown sparrow that she was, would never be anything but Ordinary Folk.
Her place, as the priestesses had told her through all her thirteen years of life, was to serve her betters and watch them in admiration, to let the glory of their deeds bring a bit of joy and light into the drudgery of her days. Sometimes she wept into her pillow over this, especially over losing Jamilla, who had been that joy and light to her. Sometimes she didn't bother with tears. Tears only solved things in Tales, and Tales were not for such as she.
"But why not?" The words seemed to whisper themselves, as a final stem of grass was plucked from the ground. "Why shouldn't there be a new kind of Tale, that's just for people like me? A Folk Tale, for someone who wants to be a very small and homely kind of Hero."
She would start, Miriam decided, by getting herself promoted. If she worked inside the mistress's house, she could listen and watch when the mistress's fine guests came to call, and maybe learn where the Taler school was, where Jamilla had been taken. After that, perhaps she could volunteer to go there, as extra hands for the extra work when a seasonal festival came around. And after that...
"I'll worry about after that, after that." Miriam piled her pulled weeds into her bowl and started for the compost piles as the gong rang out its warning three strokes. "I've started. That's what matters."
Dumping the weeds out onto the nearest pile, then pulling down leaves to cover them, she smiled.
"Once upon a time," she murmured to herself, "there lived two sisters named Miriam and Jamilla, who loved each other very much indeed..."