I’m working very hard to get SHIFTY: A BAKER’S DOZEN OF STORIES FROM THE WORLD OF SAGE done by the end of the year.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the stories in it, “How Nerissa Kept Her Head”.
There HAD To Be A Way Out
excerpt from “How Nerissa Kept Her Head”
by Marian Allen
Now, it happened that, on the day her hair had been cleaned and clipped close, Nerissa ran an errand for the Emir’s Least Wife’s Least Cook. She had barely returned when a man padded with both fat and muscle entered the kitchen.
“Lock the doors!”
And this was the reason Nerissa was granted an errand by the Least Cook: On this day, the Emirzade would perform a Domestic Condescension. On the day the Emir’s Least Wife’s eldest son mingles with his lower staff, no one wants to be caught out-of-palace when the doors are locked.
Nerissa gasped and lunged for the exit, but the Least Cook picked her up as if she had been a duck and whispered, “Be still, silly girl! Today, you’ll have a full belly and an hour at ease.”
Nerissa didn’t ask why. She didn’t care why. She only wondered what a full belly would feel like, as she had never had one in all her six years.
As a guttersnipe caught at hazard by the locked doors, Nerissa was lower than even the lowest scullery maid. She was given the same fare as everyone else – for this was the custom from time immemorial – but she ate in a small room set aside for the feeding of low-ranking outsiders.
A belly accustomed to being empty soon fills, although Nerissa was wise enough to stuff her pockets with anything that would keep and gorge herself on what would not.
And then, my children, something happened that often happens to the poor, to the low-ranking, and to outsiders: Nerissa was forgotten. Everyone was so full of good things, they simply washed up and went to bed. When the silence disturbed her, Nerissa opened the door and crept into the kitchen.
She opened another door, relieved to feel fresh air beyond it, and slipped through. One step over the threshold, though, told her bare feet that she had not reached the familiar back alley, but an enclosed yard of the palace. The kitchen door clicked shut behind her. The latch had closed, trapping her in the walled garden.
Night was familiar to her, for she had often been on errands at night, so the moonlit darkness didn’t frighten her. It was the trespass, the being where she shouldn’t be with no way to escape that made her heart pound and her palms grow damp. Her owners had told her tales of Tortoise, who loves to lurk in shadows and take bites from unwary children who wander out of bounds.
She caught her breath and forced herself to think. A palace would have more than one garden, and a gardener wouldn’t go through the kitchen to get from one to another, which meant there had to be a way out of this yard.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character is locked into a place he or she would rather not be locked into.