38. A Long, Cold Morning

About halfway to Godossas, Stellia stops at a brook to let the mare rest.

They both drink their fill of the cool fresh water. But while Phylia happily grazes on the grasses that grow by the brook, Stellia has nothing to appease her own growling stomach.

They reach Godossas well before sunrise, and rest again in an olive grove overlooking the village. From where Stellia sits, she can see Uncle Ezriyon’s house clearly. Godossas is smaller than Phoros, and although the grove is well outside the village, she can make out even the houses on its far side, where the road exits Godossas again and snakes through the wooded hills to she knows not where. North, at any rate. At times she imagines that she can spot two riders on the road, leaving the village under the dark blue sky with its last twinkling stars.

By now, she is ravenous, and although the night is mild, quite cold, as well. A lively stream of smoke already curls from Uncle Ezriyon’s chimney. But she cannot yet knock on his door. She knows very well why her uncle has lit his fireplace at such an early hour, and the reason for it is the worst thing to think of, hungry as she is: Uncle Ezriyon is the village baker.

Try as she might, Stellia cannot stop herself from dreaming of the fragrant loaves of bread he must be pulling from the oven, fresh and warm with a thick crunchy crust, to say nothing of the sugared rolls with aniseed that are his specialty, and the delight of every child in Godossas.

But if she wants him to believe the explanation she means to give for her being here, she has to wait, and starve, for a few more hours, until the sun sends its first rays over the horizon. Even though the cool morning breeze is blowing in the other direction, she can smell the mouth-watering fragrance wafting from her uncle’s ovens. Perhaps it’s just a memory.

It is going to be a long wait.

NEXT: Warm Rolls and Lies


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