Search
Categories
Archives

Eclecticaton

I was five, I believe, when I met my first Delver. My mother had been reading to me, a tale of far away gods and golden apples, and I insisted on having my own apple right that very moment. With mother expecting a sibling for me, and my nursemaid ill with an ague, it fell to my favorite guardsman to take me to the market. So I was bundled up in gauzy fabrics; light enough for me to stay cool, yet obscure my features to observers.

It is not that I was an ugly child, nor deformed. To be sure, my mother had lit candles to all the spirits asking for a child that was as beautiful and delicate as any royal offspring ever was. And while my hair was all ebon-black curls like my fathers, and my eyes the honey gold of my mother’s, my skin was many shades paler than my parents’, or any of the portraits in the royal gallery, nor of any of my father’s subjects that walked in the sun.

So it was put forward that I had some mysterious ailment that robbed my skin of its rightful color, and must go about in the daytime covered from head to toe, lest I sicken and die. It did not stop the rumors, however. As a child I didn’t understand why I had few playmates, or why it was so hard to find a nursemaid that was not afraid of me. I didn’t comprehend the stares and whispers, the sidelong looks and murmurs. When someone first said the words “Delver’s get.” In range of my hearing, I was confused as to why a guard shuffled them away quickly. My nursemaid will tell me little, only that Delvers lived underground, and not under the golden sunlight like true people.

Out to the market then, my guardsman Hunter in tow, fluttering in fabric like a laundry string in a breeze. I was determined to find the biggest and brightest apple ever brought down from the Northlands. But the determination of a child is often easily distracted, and thus was my quest for an apple distracted by the sounds of children at play. I so often played alone, or with people much older than I, that the childish laughter was like a siren call to me.

Twisting from Hunter’s grasp with a squeal of delight, I scampered through the crowd faster than he could catch up to me. Following the sound of other children down an allyway, I found a group of them taking great delight in the game they had devised. But, upon further examination, I saw that the ‘game’ involved throwing clumps of dirt and rocks at a huddled figure, and that figure was as covered against the sun as I was.

Startled to action by this person so like myself, I drew myself up tall and proclaimed in my father’s best ‘Do As I Say’ voice “Stop this at once!”

It must have made some impression, for the cluster of children stopped tormenting the huddled mass, and turned as one to stare at me. I can only imagine, now, what they must have thought of me. A tall boy, all legs and arms, flanked by a somewhat smaller boy and a solid looking girl stepped forward. Looking me up and down, the obvious leader of the pack chuckled and drawled “I think the little chick said something.”

Like most children, being called ‘little’ anything set off waves of indignation. I stomped my foot, perched my hands on my hips, raised up my little chin (not that it could be seen through my face veil,)and said louder “ I order you to cease tor…torm… (I gave another little stomp in frustration) bothering this poor person at once!”

The motley crowd of children all laughed, making me clench my fists on my hip even harder. The leader turned and smiled at his audience, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “We’ll stop bothering the ‘poor thing’, won’t we?” Nods and smiles and more laughter came from them, until the moment he turned around, a dark look in his eyes, and his mouth in a sneer. “We have a little chick to bother now, instead”.

I think I had my first inkling of fear then, although it warred with confusion as to why they wouldn’t obey. It occurred to me that I should run to find Hunter, when the shadow of my guardsman fell across the leader’s path. Resplendent in his royal livery, one eyebrow quirked upward, his appearance caused most of the children to run scrambling and dashing out of the alley. The leader just stopped and stood his ground, causing Hunter’s eyebrow to push higher.

“Now, lad… I didn’t really just hear you state you were going to lay hand on Her Royal Highness, did I?”