Annika at her stall.
Mitzia ran her long sinewy fingers through the short brown tufts of fur that sat atop her head usually beneath the cap that sat on the edge of the apple stall that her mother stood in front of still calling out in her measured squeak to passersby as the Healing Sun of Padaga settled lower in the sky.
She filled her paws once more with dirt and scrubbed them at her face before grabbing her cap and bounding round the carts out from under the pavilion. “I’m scrubbed, mother, but why did I have to now, it’s almost night?”
Her mother stretched out a single hand, halting Mitzia’s progress, “Because tonight is a special night child. Tonight the Healing Sun is setting, and we have to begin our journey to the rock.”
Mitzia crinkled her nose, frowning, “Why do we have to go to a rock?”
“Not any rock, child—the Night of Stories is coming, when all the Parua from across the lands gather together to tell the ancient tales of our people. You’re over a year old now, so you will have to behave like a grown adult, child that you are!”
“But momma! Who will watch our stall?”
“Your uncle Tomas will watch our things while we are gone as he did last year.”
Mitzia stuck out her long pink tongue and batted her tail tuft into the ground at her mother’s answer, “I don’t like Tomas! He’s fat and stinks of seaweed!”
“Hush, child! Tomas cannot help that he smells like that! His people come from the sea. You were but a tiny pinkie when I made this journey last, eyes not yet open, but you will learn much from the stories when we get there.”
“Tomas will steal all our apples and figs mamma!”
Annika swatted her daughter with her long, russet tail, “Not another word! Our fruits will spoil if no one sells them while we are gone—he is welcome to them and whatever money they bring in. That way when we get back our pavilion and stands are still here. We will get new fruits to sell.”
Mitzia shuffled her padded feet in the dust of the market, casting her glittering black eyes downwards, the cotton puff on her cap hanging down by her nose. She batted at it with her long pink tongue.
“Mitzia!” her mother’s voice focused the young Parua’s attention and she suddenly realized her mother was popping open and stuffing the pouches on her belt full with figs, apples, and plums. “We have a long way to travel tonight before we can rest, and we will have nothing to eat but what we find and take with us now until we reach the Story Stone.”
“Travelling tonight? But I’m tired already, why can’t we go tomorrow when Padaga rises?”
“Tradition, child. You will learn that all at the Rock—but we Parua were a people of the night before Padaga gifted us, and many of our kind still sleep away the time the Great Father shows his face and run free beneath the stars.”
Mitzia stuck out her tongue and flustered her hands to close the assortment of pouches her mother had opened. “But we don’t.”
“Humans, Pitr, and Jinn walk the day— we sell to them so we work the market underneath the Sun. It may surprise you to know, child, that when your mother was a younger pup even she ran free and wild beneath the stars.”
“What did you do?” Mitzia looked at her mother’s dark eyes, as they focused in on her own.
“You will have to learn that at the Rock, if someone calls my turn to tell a tale. But know this Mitzia—I was much before I became a fruit seller in the Grand Market of the City at the Center.” Annika’s eyes seemed to gleam as she spoke, her tongue pulling back and her front teeth flashing like knives in the lessening light.
“Why did you ever become a fruit seller then?”
Annika scooped her daughter up into her arms, tickling at the younger Parua’s hips and elbows then kissing her softly on the cheek, holding her close. “Some things are more important than adventures underneath the stars.”
Image by Michael Jaecks.