~The Market~ pg 5

He smiled as he let her name roll off his tongue. “Fiora.” Somehow, the way he said it – as if it was a precious secret – and the way he looked at her – as if she’d just given him the greatest gift – made her want to jump down and give him her own hug. She shook her head at the silliness of it, but held on a little longer than she needed to when he helped her dismount. She felt a twinge of guilt but his gap toothed smile melted it away. Complete acceptance. That was what he gave her and each of the other women here no matter what they offered him. He even beamed at the woman who had not come down to greet him, though she only frowned in return.

“Ladies,” he started again. “I’d like to introduce you to Miss Fiora. The boys and me saved her just last night, we did.” A murmur of excitement went up from the women. It seemed they were well versed in what saving someone meant. “Fiora, these are the Lynnson Sisters. They are –“

“Bringing another stray home, are you, Demil?” The fourth woman, who still stood on the Inn’s front step, interrupted him with a scowl. Fiora got the distinct impression that she didn’t welcome her presence. “As if we don’t have enough mouths to feed round here. Why don’t you take her back to that privy-hole Kavaccet and let them take care of her.”

“Vera!” Demil scolded her. “Mind yer mouth, woman. Wasn’t too long ago that you were a stray yerself.”

“How can I forget it when you keep bringing me new ones?!” she threw back. Her harsh statement, obviously meant to indicate the other three women, started a heated argument between them all. For the first time since she’d met him, Demil seemed to be speechless. At a loss for words and a loss for what to do.

“Hey,” she tried to get their attention but her small voice was lost in theirs. Stomping her foot, Fiora tried again while asking the wind for a strong blast in all of their faces. “HEY!” It worked. All four women closed their mouths to look at her wavering somewhere between the need to run away and the desire to attack. Before they could do either, she plunged on. “I don’t intend to stay here, or anywhere in Brittner for that matter, so you don’t have to worry about me.” Why they thought she’d want to join a brothel, anyway, was beyond her. Did she really look that desperate?

Vera regarded her from her perch, brushing a stray hair out of her mouth. Her scowl turned to only a tight lipped frown as she stared. Finally she nodded and said, “Good. Don’t need another wind witch around here stirring up trouble.” With that, she turned on her heel and disappeared inside the Inn.

“I’m sorry,” Demil found his voice again. “She’s a jealous one, that. She’s not always so bitter but she doesn’t like to share. She tries to scare all the new comers away.” 

A bar maid? That didn’t like to share? Fiora couldn’t quite wrap her mind around that one. Not that she had long to dwell on it. The other three women surrounded her, admiring her hair and her dress and her ‘wind witch’ abilities. They then each shared how the Birchwoods had saved them from terrible promises. Fiora cringed as they recounted forced labor, drunken tirades, and beatings. She did not say anything to discourage them but she wondered how ‘working’ here was any better. They all seemed happy, at least. Except for Vera, anyway.

The End

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