Chapter Four

on October 20, 2009 in Evermist

© 2009, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Evermist: Chapter Four

Elias stepped into the commissary and looked around. Narut stood up from a table against the left hand wall and gave a wave and a smile. Elias returned both before stepping into line behind some other conscripts waiting for their midday meal.

At the edge of the table where a server stood ladling food onto trays, a young woman in brown smiled at Elias and handed him an empty metal tray, one that was only slightly bent. It was also quite clean and dry, unlike some of the others he could see.

“What’s on today, Millie?” he asked with a smile of his own.

“Grilled whitefish with greens and potatoes.”

“Fish again?” he couldn’t help but frown.

Milicent smiled crookedly. “Four times a week. Fish is cheaper than beef or pork. But don’t tell anyone I said so. Plus, there’s no rice today.”

“Yes, but I like rice,” Elias said with a smile. He was through the line quick enough and pulled up a chair next to Narut and the other members of L company they’d become friends with. Elias took the seat next to Narut, putting him across from the wiry Fyet with his dark hair, dark eyes and gaunt face. Everyone thought he was ill when they first met him, but he explained that he’d always been small. Fesh had shouted that a few good meals might bulk the man up but Elias doubted it.

Next to him sat Broat on the end, his wide frame taking up most of his chair and the space on either side. His arms were larger than both of Elias’ put together. He was the second son of a blacksmith and the business would only support one going forward, so when the Conscription came to their village, his name had been put in the lottery. His deep brown hair was in curls the first time Elias had seen him in the courtyard. Now it was as close shaven as the rest of them.

The four had become fast friends and took their meals together.

“We were just wondering, why is it that Milie always gives you a smile and glares at the rest of us, Eli?” Narut asked with a smile and a wink to the others. Eli froze halfway into his seat, his tray hovering above the table. His eyes shot across the room to where the flaxen haired Milicent stood handing out trays – she met his gaze and smiled again. Eli could feel his face flushing which only made his friends laugh.

“Actually,” said Fyet, his voice cracking a bit as he spoke. “We were just talking about lightwagons and glowrods.”

“What of them?” Elias asked as he sat and hunched over his tray, glad for the change of subject. He took his first bite of the whitefish and nodded. It wasn’t bad, and he’d never particularly cared for fish. He could feel Milie’s eyes on him though, and that only made him blush harder.

“They don’t exist outside of Valles, and Broat and I wondered why…”

Elias looked at Narut, who shook his head and smiled. “It’s true. We use candles and lamps in Southport, and horse or mule driven wagons.”

Elias thought back to the times he’d visited his Grandparents in Southport, nodding at the memory of oil lamps and candles and how he’d wanted to learn to ride the horses in his Grandfather’s barn.

“You’ve lived here all your life, Eli. Do you know why they only exist in Valles?” Broat asked, his voice deep yet soft.

“To be honest with you, I’ve never even thought about it before. I used to ask my Father what made them work, but he would tell me it was the Magister’s business and none of mine.”

“I’d never seen one til I got here – a lightwagon that is,” Fyet said before a mouthful of food. “Nearly scared the life out of me!”

Everyone laughed at that, including Fyet himself.

“Well – what would you think if you saw something floating down the road where that’s not supposed to be possible?! Scared me to death!”

Elias laughed again, but his mind wandered. Why did the lightwagons only move on the streets of Valles? Glowrods and bowls? Why didn’t they work elsewhere? Wouldn’t it make life easier if lightwagons carried people and goods along the roads? If Sherrif’s in every town carried glowrods? And how many fires could be avoided if people didn’t have to use candles, lamps and torches? These were the kinds of questions his father would tell him were none of his business and to let it lie.

“I once tried to take a glowbowl down off the wall and examine it,” he said quietly. The other’s looked up.

“Did you figure it out?” Narut asked.

“No,” Eli shook his head. “I barely got the cover off to see that there was a piece of glowing glass inside when my father caught me. I had to cut a switch from the rose bush outside the parlor window.”

Everyone winced. Eli shifted in his seat at the memory. As he took another bite of fish and tried to ignore Milicent’s attentive gaze, he wondered if there were anyone aside from the Magistrate himself who might know the answers after all.

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