1736, 1st day of the first month of the early warm period. Fifth day of the week.

With a yawn bigger than ever, I sit up and clear the sleep from my eyes. Placing my palms on the bottom half of the idol, I stretch my arms and legs.

I turn my head to my side and jump when I see the rest of the Rubble Rats silently gawk at me.

“Morning,” I say. This isn’t one of those ‘you’re naked’ dreams is it? My usual dress is in place I’m pleased to find.

“Don’t morning me!” Vivi says. She shoots forward and almost bowls me over.

“What’s wrong?” I inquire as I place my hands on her shoulders and push her away.

“You’ve been asleep for a week!” Vivi says with tears in her eyes. Her lower lip quivers and she hugs me again.

“A week?” I ask, stupefied. Ian and Vora are hugging each other as they stare at me. The rubble rats look happy in general. Vivi must not be lying to me.

“Welcome back,” Bola says. He hands me a small loaf of bread.

Before I know it, I’ve devoured the sourdough loaf. This is the same stale sourdough bread I would complain about not too long ago.

My cheeks flush once I become aware of my voracious appetite and unladylike behavior.

“Thanks Bola,” I say as I give him a light nod.

“No problem, kiddo,” Bola says. He looks at his pocket watch, “Time for lunch everyone. Let’s hit the market!”

The kids dash off and cheer as they go.

Bola and I walk in tandem at a more measured pace. We catch up to the kids with ease because they’re locked in a stare with a circus poster.

Bola leans in toward me, “That’s been there the past two days,” he chuckles, “they have been scheming on how to sneak in.”

Vivi pesters Ralph, she has her hands on his shoulders and bobs up and down on the balls of her feet. Her abnormal strength gives him the appearance of a drunkard who sways back and forth. She’s at least six inches shorter than him, so it’s quite the sight.

“Knock it off Vivi,” Ralph complains as he knocks her hands off of himself.

The poster seems like typical circus fare. It doesn’t interest me in the least until I see an arrow next to it that points to the side. My eyes follow the trails of arrows, until my eyes meet up with a different decrepit poster.

“Exciting Job Opportunity!

Are you a commoner? No problem

Too young or old to work? No problem

No home? No problem!

Take this poster to the Town Archives for more information.”

The bottom right of the poster has a red seal and my mind screeches to a halt and I realize: I can read. When I went to sleep, I could not read at all.

The frayed poster protests as I remove it from the wall.

“Bola, what’s this about?”

Bola’s eyes are on me, and I tilt my head to the side. Is there something on my face?

“Let’s see what you’ve got there,” Bola says. He extends his hand out to receive what’s in my hand. He looks it over and hands it back in under a second. “It’s blank except for the seal of His Majesty the Wise,” he says.

“Strange,” I admit and take the poster from him. The letters are clear as day, maybe clearer. They aren’t written in black ink but appear to shine deep purple. I turn the poster over and hold it up to the light of the sun. Like Bola says, it’s blank when I try to view the letters from the back.

“Where are the town archives?” I ask and notice the group has moved on.

Bola stops and turns my way, “I’ll show you after the kids pick out what they want at the market.”

Huh, he’s treating more and more like an adult than a child. Before I slept for a week, he was handing me a silver to pick out what I want at market. Unlike the other kids who he lets pilfer their preference and then he pays for it.

“Here we are,” Bola says.

The town archives loom before me and I almost fall over as I look up at the stairs. Six levels of thirty stairs. At each plateau, bookending both sides of the stairs are a pair of lions in a sitting position.

The first stair gives me tremendous difficulty: a three-year-old has stubby legs, stairs are difficult!

“You want me to carry you?” Bola says. He holds his arms out as a suggestion to pick me up.

“No, thank you Bola.” I shake my head.

“Okay, well I have to watch the rest of the kids” Bola says, looking at the rest of the Rubble Rats running around the noble square’s central fountain, “or they really will try to sneak into the circus.”

“Okay, good luck,” I offer with a smile.

“Thanks, later kiddo,” Bola replies. He corrals the Rubble Rats and escorts them away. He offers a light bow to the two guards who have started their way and makes a hasty retreat.

Bola really does need luck with those kids.

Over the next hour, I ascend the stairs. The stone guard rails aid me in my ascent. By the final few steps I am at a crawl.

With the final step defeated I lean against one of the lions to catch my breath. Sweat drenches me, despite the cold. I walk toward the entrance and the man standing at the door glares at me. A pressure crashes down on me and my vision tunnels. Darkness takes me as I fall forward.

A dreadful headache welcomes me as I wake. My nose twitches at an earthy smell. With a squint I open my eyes and look around. A bookshelf full of books and cubbyholes for scrolls is all I see to my right, and at my feet.

To my left is an old man who scribbles with his right hand as he strokes his beard with his left hand. With difficulty, I sit up and turn toward him. My hand remains firm against the floor since my head still swims with vertigo.

The old man looks to me and places his quill in its holder. He starts, “Are you okay?”

“Not really, what happened?” I admit as I bring my right hand to my head.

“Overzealous guard,” The old man replies, “He was told to guard the door and was a bit forceful with his greeting before asking you why you were here.”

He was just a little forceful, and I feel like this? Imagine if he were given a reason to attack me for real.

Forcing myself into a more proper posture, I turn toward the old man. The poster was long enough to roll up and tie into a small knot around my wrist.

“I’m here about your posting,” I note as I untie and hand the poster to him.

He raises a thick bushy eyebrow at me. He unfurls it and hands it back to me. “Tell me, what does this say?” He asks.

I read it aloud for him.

The old man sighs, “Okay, do you have any experience with imbuing?”

Imbuing? I shake my head no. It would be best not to tell him that though.

“Do you know what arts are?” The old man asks.

He goes on to ask me more questions, to which I answer all of them with with a no.

On his final question I shake my head no. This may have been a waste of our time.

The old man smiles, “Good, that means you don’t have any bad habits.

“My name is Sir Gerald Orris,” the old man says with his hand to his chest.

As seems to be customary, I place my right hand to my chest, “Anessa.”

“Anessa…?” Sir Orris says with a pause.

“Anessa, that is all I know.” I say.

“Oh,” Sir Orris replies, “Are you homeless, by chance?”

Having no family name is very unusual I guess, and my dirty appearance doesn’t help. He guessed it in one. I nod and look down. My chest and face heats up in frustration.

“I can’t pay you until you can do the job right,” Sir Orris says.

“That’s fine,” I say. “I was more interested in why my friend couldn’t read the poster and I could. If you can answer that, then I will leave and not bother you again.”

“I’ll have none of that, Anessa,” Sir Orris scolds.

Sir Orris’ tone makes me look him in the eyes.

“Think more of yourself, you could see the letters on the poster because of your bloodline.” Sir Orris informs, “More than that, you were lucky enough to be gifted Truth’s Sight.” He points to his eyes, “It’s rare to have such a bloodline. Rarer still to be gifted the sight.”

Sir Orris points to his chest, “I have a similar bloodline,” he waves his hand, “but the gift passed me by.”

Must be a recessive trait. How much does this world knows about DNA? Does what I know even apply?

A note from Allen Clark Copeland, Jr.

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About the author

Allen Clark Copeland, Jr.


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