N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Umami: The Trading Season Part 2

I’ve added one little tidbit this week…a soundtrack.  I have always worked to music, and in the past I’ve wanted to share what influenced my writing but never had the courage.  Recently, I read the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine and she’s included a song list at the back of the book…I figure if she can do it, why not me too?

Anyway, enjoy this installment…and let me know what you think!

A Manifest Destiny

# (Soundtrack: Deadmau5 – Raise Your Weapon)

Olive stood tall and fully aware of the girls staring up at her.  She smiled showing them only confidence, although inside she was shaking.  In front of them loomed the wooden stage, and beyond that stood the families that might be their own by the end of the night.  If they could prove their worth.

Olive’s talent could be considered one of the least.  Telling stories was not going to feed or clothe anyone, but she believed it when her mother said storytelling was the lost art of great power.  Now was Olive’s time to prove it.

She looked around, noting the hunched shoulders and pensive stares of the other girls.  It was painful to behold, and Olive could not let it continue.  One of the smallest girls, a brunette with beautiful dark eyes, tried to slide to the back of the line.  Olive stopped her with a smile.

“You know what they call the last girl chosen from the stage don’t you?”

“No, what?”  The girls fell onto her words like a rabbit into a trap.

“Family.”  Olive smiled.

“And if we don’t sell?” a faceless voice said from the back.  The defiance of the words did not mask the girl’s terror, not to Olive.

“Then you go to a bigger town, a better town, and you find a family there.”  She pushed her pale hair out of her face so they could see the earnestness in her eyes, “Have you ever met a girl that has not been chosen?  No, of course you haven’t, because we are all chosen.  We are treasures.  Now smile, and show them what a fantastic daughter you are going to be!”

Olive felt a tap on her shoulder.  It was her turn. She waved to the other girls and walked out on stage as if she were glad to be doing it.  Inside though, she was still shaking.

#

Olive smiled to herself.  Four dogs!  She’s fetched four dogs, and two of them female.  She’d never heard of a girl going for that price before, ever.  Her mother had only gotten one dog and a mess of seeds, and she’d been the most beautiful girl ever seen during the trading season or so the tale said.  Four dogs was enough to provide for her family for years, even with the trader’s cut figured in.

She looked at the man that had purchased her.  He had no family near him, no wife whispering in his ear, and no eager son looking for his future wife.  It was obvious he was the flock buyer.  Set there to gather girls for those families too powerful or rich to attend a sale.

She had been shocked when he’d first bid on her, this town didn’t look to have need of a buyer.  The shops on the edge of the square didn’t seem to indicate wealth, weathered as they were and in need of paint and repair. The flock had not even begun to push out past their walls yet.  Her hometown already had a neat ring of houses just outside theirs.  No matter, eventually she would be a member of whatever prominent family dwelled here, and would be able to urge these changes.  It wouldn’t be hard to make the town into one of the most powerful on this end of the Big Death, they were positioned well and defensible.  She nodded to herself.

As the other girls were packed off to the guest house or led timidly away by their new families the buyer fetched Olive and she strode, proud as a peacock, through the town square.  The tall, thin black man said nothing to her as he moved through the first line of buildings lining the square.  She tried to mark their bearing and count houses, something she’d always done as a way of comforting herself in an unusual situation, but this time it served a purpose.  This time she was marking her way to her new home.

As a child, Olive has always dreamed of the day she would join the Traders on the circuit of Flocks in the area.  She’s always wanted to learn new stories, experience new things, and a new family was her ticket to that.  Now she was living her dream.  Soon she’d be introduced to her beautiful new house, perhaps the mayor’s own, and the family that would lead her to greatness.

The buyer turned a corner.  In front of them was the church.  It was a tall, white building, freshly whitewashed and impeccably kept but it was a church.

Olive’s feet shuffled to a stop.  The buyer kept marching on toward the home of self-sacrifice and denial.  She tried to convince herself he was not taking her to the Mambo of the town, that he was not going to press her into becoming an initiate.  He stopped in front of the church door, and she nearly wept.

Her life was not to be in service of others, listening to problems and settling petty disputes.  She was supposed to have power, the real power of the wife of a mayor or dogman.  She was going to make this town a proper city, full of culture and brilliance.  Not this.  Not complicated ritual, empty ceremony, and most of all not the charity of the flock.

She shook her head.

“No.”

“Pardon, Miss?”  His brittle, proper voice did little to cover his reaction, and his eyes gave away the rest.  How dare she deny the church.

Yes, how dare she?

“I won’t be sold to the church.”  She balled her hands into fists and threw her shoulders back.  She would not be subjected to this, she would not be chained to this destiny, and she would not give up on all her dreams.

“You have little choice.”

“I could leave.”  It was an empty threat, they both knew it.  The walls in which they hid were the only safety she’d ever known, albeit among another Flock.  How could anyone raised behind those solid planks of security throw them off for a life among the gators and wild dogs and Shamblers.  “I could, you know.  I’ve got rights.”

“That is true, Miss.  Would you have me lead you back to the main gates?”  He consulted the darkening sky, “It is nearly time to lock them for the night.”

Olive glanced up.  He was right, twilight had come upon them suddenly and she could already count the brighter stars.  The gates would close, the town would retire and anything that happened outside would no longer be their concern.  She would have to find a safe space to sleep and food and water and worse yet, tomorrow night it would happen all over again.  She sighed.

The buyer had won.

“I’m coming.”  She dragged her feet toward the church, and a life she never would have chosen.

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