Melor sorted the last of the fish from his net into the different wooden pails on the jetty. His feet splashed around the puddle of sea water that had collected in the bottom of his skiff. Stooping over he dipped his sensitive fingers into the water, sure that he could detect a leak in the craft that his father had passed onto him.
Taking the ropes coiled at either end of the craft he tied them to the jetty posts to prevent the boat sinking any further. He decided that he would boil some pitch when he returned home and perhaps get some of his neighbors to help lift the skiff up onto the jetty where he could caulk the leak.
Clambering onto the jetty, he hefted the largest of the baskets in his thick corded bronzed arms, about to take it to an empty stall. His eyes drifted down the length of the busy street leading into the market place. People swirled before him on their errands, similar in appearance to himself as they were all Quelandi.
Like himself, all were bronzed under the harsh Queland sun with deep brown eyes and crowned with jet black hair. The shocks of black flittered before him as he half dragged the basket to the stall, hoping to catch a glimpse of his adopted daughter.
A fleck of yellow, the same shade as new straw mingled among the crowd, making him smile. The fleck of yellow became the long locks of Lorao, tied back in a single thick braid as was the custom of her people, the Vindavians.
Melor hugged her enthusiastically, kissing her forehead, but suddenly felt concerned as she didn’t give her usual approach that he still smelled of fish.
“What is wrong, little one,” he asked her, his concern growing worse, as she was a beautiful teenaged girl on the verge of womanhood, and would often take the time to remind him not to refer to her as little one.
Her eyes glistened over but instead of giving an answer, she merely nodded in the direction of the crowds behind her.
Melor understood her meaning. She was spurned by the Quelandi, ignored in lines at the markets, pushed aside by strangers, and considered unsightly because she didn’t share the same features as the people of the land.
“Of all the children at the orphanage, why did you adopt me father,” she asked meekly.
“You reminded me of my wife,” he said simply.
“But you told me that she was Quelandi.”
“She was,” he said softly, nodding. “Tell me, which is of more value; a pearl, or a bag of gold coins?”
“Gold… it is gold that is of more value.”
“Not to me,” whispered Melor. “If I were to offer you a bag of gold and then place a pearl on top, the pearl to me would become the most beautiful object as it would become so unique; such was my wife… as are you, my daughter. My wife, Gisora, was the most giving, gentle and loving of all the women I have ever known… and I know,” he said now teary eyed, “that if she were here, then she would love you as I do. She was very different to others, that is what made her a pearl. When I look at you child, I see your yellow locks amidst a sea of black tresses. It sets you apart Lorao; you are the most beautiful of women, like a pearl in a bag of gold.”
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