© 2012-2013 Iscah

All Rights Reserved

SEVENTH NIGHT

Before the Fairytale:

The Girl With No Name

by Iscah


~o~O~o~

Chapter 2

Unlike its neighbors, the country of Gourlin had the very sensible policy of teaching its children to read. Every child between the ages of six and twelve was expected to attend school at the town hall for three hours, three days a week where they taught three subjects: their own language Western Coastal, basic math for commerce, and the language of their neighboring countries.

Paper was expensive, and books were rare among those who were not rich. Most children practiced their letters and numbers with mud and sticks on thin pieces of slate. So while few adults were great readers or mathematicians, they were still considered very useful skills. It gave the country of Gourlin a measure of educational pride and reason to feel superior to its neighbors.

The girl with no name became a great reader, but she only spent three weeks attending the village school before she decided she would learn better and more pleasantly under the tutelage of her elderly keeper. There was a very simple reason why the other children pelted her with their mud and sticks and cruel words. It was the same thing that had driven her ancestors from the land three centuries ago.

Fear.

The first day of school the teacher asked the girl her name, and she could give him no answer. The children laughed. After some frustration and a few more questions, the teacher settled on calling her No Name.

Children are well known for their ability to turn any name into a taunt, and No Name was ripe for taunting. This was not fear, simply childishness. The children's fear grew because, while the girl had better control over her ability, it was not quite perfect. Several times, while looking at the eyes of another student, hers would become the same color. Her hair might grow curlier or straighter or start shifting hue depending on what she was thinking about.

The children were at first startled and curious about the talent. They asked their parents about it, and while one might hope parents would be less childish than their children, this did not prove true. Their parents made wild speculations and mixed details, which only turned the children's curiosity and concern to fear and disgust. By the third week, they were throwing their mud and sticks at the girl.

The mud washed off and bruises from the small sticks healed, but it is much harder to get rid of words. The cruelest of these was how the children had mixed up the mother with the nursemaid and told the girl her mother had run off from fear of her. Being a stranger to lies, it never occurred to the small girl to question what they had said, and it weighed in her heart.

The old man could have set the story right, but the child never asked. He wiped her tears and washed off the mud and offered to teach her at home.