Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
TITLE: THE INHERITANCE
By mick dawson
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Astoba, like the other women, had tied a rag over her head to both cover her hair, and obscure her features so as to make her appear older.
She avoided the burning gaze of the head steward and immediately set about removing the scraps of food from the table to a serving tray, as she was late. Astoba had to be of course, as she was not employed to be among the cleaning women, taking the further precaution of pushing the bracelet she wore higher up her forearm within her sleeve.
It had no place on her as it was a valuable piece of jewelry, a five carrot silver band with blue opals set in it. In all this time, Astoba had never sold the item as she was informed by the orphanage that it was a gift from her father. Sometimes she stared at it forlornly, as if it were the only bond between her and a father she never knew.
With her head turned, she licked her lips at the feast left behind by the rich. Half eaten joints of beef and chicken lay strewn on the tables along with semi filled bottles of watered wine. All manner of vegetables that were never touched and huge loaves of bread with naught but a single chunk torn away.
So as not to raise suspicion, she quickly put the ingredients of a sumptuous meal on her tray and bowed to the steward as she passed him on the way to the kitchens. More cleaners were busy within, readying the cooking room for the next evening and therefore didn’t notice the scrawny cleaning wench who strolled past them and through the back door to the street.
She turned the corner of the darkened alley and seated herself against the wall to partake of the tasty bounty. With quivering half-starved hands, she scoffed the repast with a loud smacking of lips, endeavoring to consume it before being discovered, then stiffened at the sound of footsteps. Astoba refused to allow herself to swallow until she saw the familiar form of the ragged guardsman whom patrolled the inner city as his personal vigil.
“Forgotten One!” she blurted, spraying small morsels of her meal.
She held up the bottle of watered wine to the guardian of the streets who readily took a long pull on the proffered liquid and passed it back to her.
“Where did you get all this?” he asked her.
Astoba thumbed behind herself at the mansion of Lord Fallow.
“There are a group of women who go in there to clean daily. I just mingle with them and take my pickings of what the rich leave behind.”
“For as long as I have seen you live this way, it never becomes any less painful to me, child.”
Now finished, Astoba wiped her face on her sleeve and embraced him. It was because of this man that she was able to walk the streets of the poorer quarter without fear of being mistreated; she loved him like a father.
“What else am I to do? I have no family to go to.”
“Is that why you have refused my help in the past?” he asked incredulously.
“Aye, it is.”
“I thought you had eaten table scraps out of pride. Follow me girl!” he ordered.
For the next two hours the duo walked the streets of the capital until they reached the doors of the Hall of Heroes. Astoba looked up at the champion as he strolled purposefully with doubled edged axe in hand, to stop before the statue of Zorava, the former admiral of the Nusallean navy.
She recognized the likeness immediately, Zorava was once a pirate from the island nation of Pendara with a sword blade permanently fixed to his arm where his right hand should have been.
“I know of your family; I have always known.” said the Forgotten One tonelessly.
With a flick of his wrist, his axe head caught hold of the guttersnipe’s sleeve, pulling it back to reveal the bracelet.
“Look at his wrist,” he suggested.
Astoba raised her arm parallel to the statues and gasped…the bracelet on the marble figure was identical.
“Zorava was your grandfather,” he said somberly. “I am sorry he is no more; but I have heard that his wife, the lady Samona, still lives by the coast. Let us seek her out together; I am certain that she would be delighted to know that she has a granddaughter.”
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