Eight years have passed since the day Cyrilla saw the tattooed man. Since that day she wasn’t able to hide under the floorboards since the instructors knew that she hid somewhere in that room. Not that she was still small enough to do so anyways. She has managed to keep the book of myths safe nevertheless, only more worn as it continues to be her one comfort. Although it is this night when she may finally be made to part with it.
The room she sits in now is much more well-built than the one of eight years ago. She has been moved to the inner settlement, the part of Echor that ‘matters’. Where the resources are plentiful enough for trade to be made, where even the smallest home is a mansion. Cyrilla is surrounded by the same girls she grew up with, who were trained the exact same way as her. She has never been close to any of them, each of them lost their hope long ago. They all wear wooden smiles and speak not a word. Cyrilla’s cheeks are barely dry from last night’s tears.
A short, portly man enters the pristine room and allows the light to pour in. The girls are revealed, sat among decorated mirrors and mannequins in dresses. “Alright girls!” The man addresses them, “It’s your first day, so do your best to make a good impression!”
He speaks with such delight. Each of the women, including Cyrilla, walk past him and he closely monitors each of them for specks of dust or wrinkled dresses or loose hairs. Cyrilla knows what she is, what she was brought up to be. Not a woman, not an adventurer, but merchandise.
Although she knows it will break her, she repeats what her instructors told her in her head like a mantra.
“It’s an honor to live in comfort. It’s an honor to live in comfort,” over and over again.
She and the other girls emerge to the main room of the store, where they are positioned tactically around dresses and finery. They have been made acquainted with their fellow products, so that they might sell these objects if they are not selling themselves. The store opens and it’s ridiculous to watch the upper class, already clad in their garish outerwear, consider buying fur coats made from creatures they’ve only read about. Cyrilla spends the day staring dead-eyed at an unknown creature’s tusk. It serves no purpose other than being a symbol of status. She cannot watch as her classmates are picked and taken away to become scenery in another person’s life. She cannot watch as they are groped just to confirm if they have big enough busts.
She wants to smash everything up. To pick up that tusk and stab it through someone’s chest, to wreck as many things in the store as possible. Even though she knows it’s wrong, she just wants to wreck someone else’s life before her own is consigned. She realises the futility, what could a tusk do against the upper class’ tomes?
The day is nearly over. Cyrilla’s air of aloofness has kept her out of focus, though she was one of only three remaining girls in the store. Traffic dies down and the portly store owner snaps Cyrilla out of her ivory trance; “Hey! Aren’t you forgetting to stand up straight?! No wonder no one wanted you. At least make yourself useful and start cleaning up!”
Cyrilla nods and begins by dusting off the various shelves. The other two girls stay near the front doorway to greet any last-minute customers, still wearing their plastered-on smiles. It is a young man that next enters that doorway, a teenager a couple of years younger than Cyrilla and the other two girls, followed by his mother. Outside the store wait two guards who must have escorted them here. It becomes quickly apparent the reason for his store visit as he sizes up the two girls who greet him. Then, he catches a glimpse of Cyrilla polishing that tusk and approaches her.
Cyrilla freezes, despite the long day this is the first time she has been so purposely approached. What controls her is the muscle memory built from her training as she stands proper and forces a smile. A beautiful young woman with perfect skin, blue eyes and black hair tied up into a knot. When Cyrilla’s mind catches up with her body, she has to hold back tears. She repeats the words in her mind; “It’s an honor to live in comfort, it’s an honor to live in comfort, it’s…”
“You’re the one I want!” The verdict comes.