This is the story of a very brave little girl and her amazingly incredible journey.
It was just another typical day in the village. People in the market shouting prices, the men at work building the old church hall (it was going to be really, really big) and the children running around playing everywhere with their friends contributed to the life of this little part of the world.
Rinden was a happy place to be.
"Throw it here! Throw it here!" called one of the boys to his friend. The other boy threw the ragged ball in the direction of his friend. The first boy missed and the ball rolled towards a little girl who sat drawing on the ground with her puppy curled up asleep beside her.
"Hey," called the boy. The girl didn't look up once.
"Hey you there. Girl..." he called again.
The girl seemed to snap out of her trance and looked up at the boy. Her bright green eyes contrasted her dark skin. She looked like something out of those special books with pictures that the merchants got from lands far, far away.
He couldn't speak for a moment, he was so captivated by those very green eyes. She dropped her gaze to the ball beside her and then looked back up at him cocking her head to the side questioningly.
The boy cleared his throat and walked up to her to take back the ball himself. He flushed bright red as he did so, murmured an apology and went back to his friend who teased him mercilessly about talking to a girl.
The girl watched the boy walk away.
He had kind eyes, she decided, and smiled a little watching him until he disappeared.
Then she petted her puppy and went right back to her drawing.
"Lucy? Lucy! Oh where is that girl? Lucy!"
Mrs. Porley stood with her hands on her hips in the doorway and called out again.
"Lucy, for God's sake, will you leave that dog alone and come here!"
The girl stood up from where she was entertaining her puppy, Lilyben, and went up to the stout woman. She was stern but caring. Lucy knew this because Mrs. Porely cared for both her mama and her. Mama had told her to be very nice to Mrs. Porely. Not everyone wanted to take care of a sick woman and her daughter, she had said.
"Yes Mrs. Porely," she said beaming at the older woman when she finally came to the door.
"I need you to take this basket out to the market. Go see the green grocer and ask him to give you what I asked for. Then go to the bakery and get me three loaves of barley bread. When you've done that, go straight to the blacksmith and tell him I said thank you. And then you come straight home. Will you remember all that?"
Lucy scrunched up her face and counted off her chores on her fingers.
"Green grocer for what you asked. Baker for barley bread..."
"Three loaves, dear, don't forget." Lucy nodded.
"Green grocer for what you asked. Baker for three loaves of barley bread. Blacksmith to say thank you. And then..."
"Come straight home," they said together. Mrs. Porely smiled and patted Lucy's cheek then turned back and headed into the house. Lucy smiled. If she went really fast, Mrs. Porely might just make mashed potatoes for supper.
Lucy loved Mrs. Porely's mashed potatoes. She knew her mama would too.
So, with basket in hand and Lilyben barking happily around her, Lucy headed to the market.
The green grocer was first on the list. Mr. Lund was a nice fat man with a blue apron, yellow boots and red hat on his head. He always tapped the side of his nose when he told Lucy that he had a special green thumb for growing his vegetables. Everyone agreed they were the very best. Even the healer bought her herbs from him.
He told her a special story about a man with a special hat, only one leg and a banjo and how he had a grand adventure. Lucy listened with rapt attention as he packed up the herbs she was supposed to get.
Lucy loved listening to stories, you see.
Then Mr. Lund handed her two shiny red plums for being such a good listener and sent her on her way.
The baker was next for the three loaves of barley bread. She would definitely remember the three loaves. One for her, one for mama and one for Mrs. Porely.
Baker Trett smiled when she walked into the bakery. He was also very kind to her and mama. Baker Trett was also a fat man but he had a beard and he always wore a white hat and coat. Even at church he always wore his white suit.
Whenever Lucy came by, he made sure he picked out the biggest softest loaves bread for her. It was also custom to let Lucy have one of the small sweet buns his wife helped him make and to give Lilyben a special biscuit to eat.
Today's buns were just as sweet and stick with honey as ever. Lucy savoured it as Baker Trett carefully packed the three loaves in her basket and sent her on her way.
The blacksmith was last on the list. After that, Lucy would be able to go home and see mama and tell her all about the trip she had made. How proud mama would be. Her little girl was making rounds in the market all on her own!
Smithy Rown was a tall man with lots of muscles. He made very fine things of metal so he was always busy. Sometimes, on very special days, someone would be sent from the palace to get one of the swords he had made.
When he wasn't doing that, he was replacing metal jugs and pots and making axes for the woodsmen. Lucy liked Smithy Rown but he didn't like to smile. Mrs. Porely explained that even though this was so, Smithy Rown was a very nice man.
Lucy passed on her message and Smithy Rown nodded once. For the very first time, she saw a small smile touch the corner of his mouth and she beamed. The smile disappeared and Smithy Rown patted her head and sent her on her way.
"After this, Lilyben, straight home!"
Lilyben yipped excitedly and followed her as she hurried down the street.