A burned flame

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Mom keeps her arms crossed in front of her and makes sure there is a distance between her and the man.

She told me to keep hiding in the closet and not make a sound. But through the lattice i see the man. He is an intense looking man red hair taller then mom but not that much in length. But the way he holds himself he seems like a giant. Then again i am five and everyone seems tall.

They are talking in hushed tones first. But i can see mom is getting a bit frustrated.

"Look what can i tell you these things happen. You weren't there, miscarriages happen, and you had suddenly left. What was i to think? It is not that i could call you!"

The man stays more composed and i can't hear what he says. But i know if i stand closer to the door i might make a sound.

The discussion goes on mom is not happy and seems afraid.

She moves a bit making sure she stands between the closet i am in and the man.

I can hear them both now.

Mom sounds angry and nervous. She is a horrible liar and she knows it.

"I don't know who or what you really are. But you are not from here. And with the new rulers things have gone more tense. Anyone standing out... the consequences are dire."

The man tries to get closer to mom but she steps back as he steps towars her.

"I can take you away from here. I can give you a better life then this. Rose, come with me."

He reaches out not to grab her but to offer his hand. Mom steps back and almost makes the mistake to turn to me. 

Mom sighs and waves his hand away "Just go, go away from here. Leave me live my life. You have been just a disturbance a small fling. A mistake. "

With her arms crossed in front of her she turns slightlt away from the man. The man now clearer in my field of vision.

His eyes turn to the closet door, i hold my breath, could he see me? I am frozen in place. It seems ages before he looks away. Though it just might be a few seconds.

What is that last look? Before he looks back.

When he speaks i dare to breathe again.

"Fine i will leave you be. I have never seen us as a mistake Rose. I am sorry to let you go."

He leaves but before he does go through the door he asks.

"You could have reached me. I told you how with the cards."

My mom spits back.

"That is heresy! Don't speak of such things! They will have you and me burned."

The man frowns looks outside.

"I've really lost track of this place."

With that he leaves.

To this day the man has never returned. Just as mom said he shouldn't.

The rulers are still in place. And with standing out being a punishable offense by being burned in the square.

It is best he never returned. Mom and i still live in the same house. We keep it up and live happily without men in our house. That is really pushing our luck but seeing we are the only ones being able to make the high quality fabrics and rich colours the nobles and priests want. They let us be our extraordinary selves.

We are a bother to noone. And we always finish our work in time.

We have the sweetest neighbors. An older couple with some animals which they have for food and keeping the land.

When i have time i help them out. They have no living children. Their son got chosen for fighting off in the wars of the drakes in the farlands. He has never returned.

The neighbors are very caring over me. She often tells me me and her son would be such a good match.

That it might be better seeking a man. I always refuse. But still she insists then she washes my hair, my face my hands. At my hands she always sighs.

My skin is permanently discolored due to the dyes we use for the fabric. After years it just sita so deep it doesn't come off anymore.

Years pass. Mom and i are happy. But i see her health declining.

When it comes clear she doesn't have long we speak about my future. Her wishes for me. And i try to reassure her that i need nothing else then the life i have.

That i am happy. And as long as i stay dutiful to producing to the needs of the nobles and clergy i will be fine. And have a good life.

Mom doesn't know that i have seen her but i have. When she thought i was asleep i saw her pull up a box from under one od the floor boards. She stares at ir for an hour sometimes before putting it back again.

I won't ask. I don't want to bother her not now. She has had enough worries and stress in her life.

It was a year later that mom died. In her sleep. The last days she was muttering weird things. How she wanted more for me. She shouldn't have lied. How i could be a princess.

I just smile wipe her forhead and make sure she drinks water. Then she was gone.

I had already a shroud ready for her. I worked on it myself. As her daughter i could not have given her much. But at leasy she would enter the afterlife with dignity.

The clergy came and collected her body. I was allowed a grieving period of a week.

Then the first orders were expected again. Little did i know i would be pestered by others now i was alone.

Another fibre worker told me flatout that without mom i would not be able to keep working. I should join his operation. He would gracefully take me in and take all my stock and goods over.

I refused. Every time he came by, i refused. After a while my neighbors house burned down. Suddenly in the middle of the night. They died in the fire. Their animals mostly died. A day later the man came again.

Saying it was such a shame what happened. That a fire could just happen. And i should join him. The bastard i know what he had done.

Small mishaps happened wrong deliveries, angry people, gossip, losing customers.

It is okey though i still managed and kept my head up high.

Then one day. I smelled that horrible stench of burning wool. NO!

i stood up from my mat and saw my storage in flames it was already going to the dye baths. Some things were flamable.

I run towards the fire wanting to put it out. But the heat is to great. I can't do anything about this anymore.

So i run back inside. Grab some clothing and wanting to run out. Then i remember the box mom stared at so often at the end of her life. I can't leave that. I had nkt looked at it yet. Just didn't feel ready. But can't let it burn. Wrapping it in my clothing i cough and stumble outside the fire is spreading fast.

Some of the farmers who live nearby already came out to see if they could help. But my house is gone.

My work gone.

I fall to the ground on my knees staring at my life going up in flames.

A blanket is wrapped around my shoulders and in shock i am led to one of the farms.

When the shock dissipates i thank the family who gave me shelter but i had to build up again.

Seeing my fabrics were the best around i would request a loan from the noblehouses.

The family made sure i was fed cleaned and had some decent clothing before I would make the request.

With only a sack with the box and some extra clothing i travelled to town.

However you travel, you will pass the square. It is not as much a square as it is a figure layed on the ground. It is made out of metal lining which functions to slowly let flamable oils flow towards the center of the figure. When the oils reach the slightly indented center the person shackled there will burn.

It is believed if the gods have mercy they stop the flow of the oil and replace it with water. If not then your guilt is true and you must repent by dying in a horroble blaze.

Almost every month someone is burned. Sometimes more sometimes less. But it never stops.

Praying for the lost souls i then continue to the noblehouses. At the gates i put in my request with my small explanation of things that had happened.

I was told to wait right there. Oh and if you are told to wait right there you better wait, right there. If you leave or move to far they see it as recalling the request. Nobles like to play with the commoners.

It is only a full day and night until an answer comes.

They will see me. In a few hours. I am to wait inside the gates now.

I am pointed to a stone bench to the side. I sit and wait.

A few hours pass and i am called in. The masters have looked at my request and wish to speak with me.

With eyes down and a silent pace i follow and step inside where the heads od the nobles houses sit. The usher puts me a bit forcefully on a spot in the room and it feels like a they are grading the quality of meat. It disgusts me.

They repeat, after a while of staring, my request. And then ask questions. I asnwer them as far as i can without betraying the other weaver.

They agree i should continue business but to protect such a quality of fabrics and skill i am to work in their sise of town. I will be assigned a servants lodging and a shed to work from. I will now only solely produce for them or to whom they allow.

Not what i wanted but it is safer and it is at least something in capable and willing of doing.

I live now for a few months here in a small shed where i have a my looms spinningwheel my dyes and i have convinced the head of the household stafg that i rather sleep in the she made a hammock for myself.

The cooperation seems fine. I can work, do not have to fear the clergy as the nobles hold more power. They have a crazy power symbiosis. I have shelter and food.

I knew something would happen though. I was delivering a few samples to one od the nobles their wives. Upon knocking on her door I heard stumbling noises and when called in i immediately saw the mans underwear on the floor. With a flick of her feet she pushed it under her bed but she saw that i had seen it. I just acted like i knew of nothing and offered the fabric samples.

We discussed what she wanted changed and i asked permission to leave and get back to this assignment. With a harsh look she nodded.

A day or so went by and an ominous feeling came over me. These women are like rabbid animals. They will stop at nothing if they feel threatened in their position.

I look at the stack of tools where i have the box hidden. Maybe.... no that would be crazy. When i went back to work only a minute passed and the head of staff barged in head red as the dye i was working on.

"How dare you," he hissed "Don't you know they hold your life in their hands... they can take it as they wish! How dare you insult the lady of the house."

Calmly i look up from my work a slight confused look on my face.

"Insult? Oh i surely do not know of what you speak. Last lady of the house i saw i only showed samples asked for her wishes and asked permission to take my leave and work further on it. "

The headservant stands now near me and strikes me in my face with the flat of his hand.

"Pray to the divine they will forgive."

With that he storms out.

I know the nobles are not known to forgive. They never do. It would diminish their power they believe. They want full obedience.

Well shit first i finish my work for the day then at nightfall, and after a tray of food has been brought with the message to stay in the shed and tomorrow someone will get me, i grab the box and open it for the first time.

There are some stones in it a piece of parchment and a few cards one of them has the image of the man talking to mom when i was hiding in the closet.

On the parchment a placement diagram is shown.

I know this will end badly for me. Tomorrow i might end up in the square pleading and praying for my life.

I follow the instructions on the parchment and look at it.. now what.... I start to stare at the diagram i decide to pray... that i know how to do. After i don't know how long it almost seems the image of the man is moving.. "what the...." i wipe with my hand the stones and cards on the ground shocked. If they find out about this is will surely be burned.

That night i don't sleep. The cards and stones are back in the box except the one with the image of the redhaired man.

That card is laying on the blanket in front of me. I don't dare touch it again or stare at it for a longer time.

The light flows in from the small window in my shed. It shines on the card. As i follow the light with my eyes i see clergy men in heavy black robes commingy way... yeah they don't forgive. In a last desperate attempt i grab the card pretend to be sleeping under the blanket and stare at it... "if you really loved my mom Rose... and if you really care... help me.. i don't want to die."

I hear the small door opening and with a tap of a staff against the hammock i make waking sounds.

Sitting up i have hidden the card in my clothing.

Seeing the clergy i lower my eyes and simply nod.

They seem not pleased with the situation but like i said crazy power symbiosis.

Silently i follow them. The people have already gathered at the square. I can smell the pungent scent of the oils.

I don't fight. If i fight it will just hurt more as they will beat me down and shackle me anyway.

Bound by wrists and ankles to the stone ground i try to listen to the ridiculous accusations but i can't focus feeling the card against my skin i just pray that the man was not lying. That there was a better place for mom.

The oils are poured in the imbeddings in the ground. My eyes start to tear from the smell. The start of the path is lit and i can now only see the smoke around me. Coughing and crying i start to pray. Not to the divine... no to the red haired man on the card. I take it in my hands and just look at it rocking back and forth praying as hard as i can. "Please be real please please be real." I stare at it as long as the smoke and heat allow me to.