At the height of day, the Darkness came. No one knew why or how or from where, but it came. It last for 10 days and 10 nights. Some went mad. It is even said that some died for want of light.
~ ~ ~ ~
She never considered herself to be special. Not a whit. She was short, scrappy, and loved to read. But she couldn’t talk. She had lost her voice to the Great Night. Her mother used to say that the Darkness scared her daughter’s pretty voice away.
Mayree sat in the cool shade, a scroll opened wide on her lap. Her long black hair was bound up with red yard, the vibrant color dancing against the stark blackness of her tendrils as her head bent over the scroll. She twirls her hair – one long, silky strand- around her finger as she read.
“Always reading, Mayree,” a voice above her drew her out of the world of the pages before her. Standing there was Tal. Beech-tall and russet-headed, Tal had always been there, ever since Mayree could remember. He had always lived in the farmhouse across the creek.
Tal’s smile was bright in his bronzed face, blue eyes shining in the sunlight, and Mayree’s fingers moved.
He was one of the few people who had bothered to learn the little language that Mayree had created with her fingers for herself.
Smiling up at him, Mayree moved her fingers again. “How is your mum?”
“Oh, she’s fine. Her foot’s just a bit sore, though she’s threatened to turn Bell into stew.” The unfortunate cow had stepped on Tal’s mother’s foot two days before while the woman was milking her. No one had known that gentle Anya could swear like a blacksmith before then.
Tal lowered himself down next to Mayree, peering at the scroll in her lap. He could read, never really cared to. Mayree sometimes signed abbreviated version of the stories to him. “Are you ready?” he finally asked.
“Give me a minute,” Mayree signed and rolled up the scroll, hurrying towards the house. She soon returned with a large basket on her arm. “Ready,” she signed, and they were off to market.
The market was hot, dusty, and busy. A myriad of voices clamored to be heard, some offering, some refusing, and others haggling. Mayree pointed to the stalls that she needed and Tal guided her through the crowd.
Quite a few of the market folk knew Mayree after so many years, but she sometime still needed Tal to interpret for her. Market was one of her favorite things, no matter that she couldn’t speak. She was good at it, haggling in market. And Tal always interpreted clearly for her, along with that infuriating smile that said, “I’m just telling you what she told me.”
Some fruits, vegetables, some worsted wool for mother, some more meal and flour. Soon, Tal had to help Mayree carry the basket and there were still coins in her pocket. She split one to buy Tal a hot bun as a thank-you. With the bun in his mouth, he took the whole basket and hefted it onto his right shoulder, grasping Mayree’s hand with his left to weave their way through the afternoon’s crowd. Mayree smiled in her silence, letting herself be pulled along through the sea of people by Tal’s strength; it was one of the reasons that she loved being around him. He always was strong when she wasn’t and it made her feel safe. Soon, they left the dust and clamor of the market behind, heading for the outskirts of the village.