The Hunt

Come spring I went on. We hadn’t heard nothing back from my mama and if something came, he’d hold it for me til I told him where I landed.

My hometown had seemed real small after the city around the temples, but that ain’t had nothing on a real city like Lybiv. I’m sure I looked every bit the farmer’s daughter I was, walking off the train. My boss’d helped me put together a portfolio, and I had my savings and the remains of my dowry from the temple. I got myself a cheap room, and a cheap computer, and I went looking for work.

In between interviews that didn’t seem to be going much of anywhere, I saw a lot of the city. I liked riding the trains around, getting off wherever took my fancy. I ate anywhere looked cheap and crowded; I figured that was how you knew it was good.

On a day the maggots was talking real bad about how I wasn’t worth having around, I went hunting out Mara. Big city like Lybiv, ain’t gonna be centered on Mara like out in the farmlands, there’s lots a gods and lots a temples. I found her quick enough, though. Turned out the closest one there was was an old shrine outside the Market, and temple had opened in an empty storefront nearby, with a couple folks inside. There was a big shrine taking up most of the back wall, lots of spare change in the pool at Mara’s feet, and glass cases full of handmade charms and jewelry and whatnots.

“What’s all a this, then?” I asked the fella behind the counter. I’d mostly known ‘Mother of the Market’ as one title out of dozens, but he started explaining to me like I didn’t know a shrine from a swamp, and just when I cut him off an older woman walked in.

She looked at the two of us and laughed. “You insulting the customers again, Mitka, aren’t you? Don’t mind him, he’s just likes to hear himself talk. I’m Katya. What brings you in?”

“I, ah,” I thought I felt myself blushing. “I was looking for a temple of Mara’s and you folks came up the closest to where I’m staying. It just ain’t the kind of temple I’m used to is all.”

“It wouldn’t be, with an accent like that. You’re from up north, am I right?” She put an arm around my shoulder and walked me back to the foot of the shrine. “We get importers and wholesalers who like the Mara of the Fields, and sometimes pathologists or mourners, one guy who got a heart from a dead woman who makes offerings to Mara for the woman who saved his life… but mostly we get people who need the Lady of the Marketplace, so that’s what we cater to.”

“I hate to be rude about it and all but… is this a temple or a business?”

Katya shrugged. “Little of both. We have to pay for the space somehow, and we don’t take much of a commission.”

I looked at the statue of Mara and took a real deep breath. “So you hiring? Or recruiting? Or whatever you call it out here?”

She looked a lot less welcoming awful fast. “You got any qualifications?”

“I trained ten years at the temple in Riga, afore I decided that life weren’t for me. I got six months bookkeeping and a reference who’ll talk me up. I’ll work high days and weekends if you want, don’t matter to me. Any of that worth anything to you?”

Now Katya was smiling again. She didn’t answer me direct, instead walking past me, “Hey, Mitka, you know how you said you wanted me to hire someone to cover your weekends?”

I emptied the change in my pockets into Mara’s shrine right quick, then hurried to follow her.

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