Baracus was not a town with many children in it. Despite FACE being the hidden village of bandits and thieves, Baracus was still considered the Rogue Town of the Kingdom. People tended to avoid having children in Baracus, and instead leaving when it was time to have a family. Others still entered when they needed to buy thing such as tools, specialized parts, or even contractors.
It was a very dusty place; it could almost be called it shabby if the buildings had not been so sturdy and well-constructed. That was Baracus’s primary export, skilled labour and craftsmanship. Baracus was a rough town, the kind of place where merchants checked their customer’s coins carefully and were eternally suspicious of newcomers.
Alice had arrived in Baracus after five days, and although she was sure she could have made it in half that time, she had not been in high spirits. Right now Alice was in a wood-built parlour called “The Keeper” that sold syrups by night, and bitter drinks by day. Alice was sipping on her favourite, a pale blue drink called a stipper. She was deep in thought, reminiscing back to those first few days out of Murdock. She had left ninety-eight days before, and she wondered if Finch too was keeping track.
After Alice had split up with Finch for their allotted four years, she had headed west, toward the place which her mother had pointed. When she had first arrived in Baracus, she hadn’t stayed, simply marching determinedly past as if there had been no change of scenery. But, upon meeting the very friendly guards at the gate, she found that the kingdom was currently separate from the rest of the world.
One could not freely enter and exit. The guard had explained that it had been this way for a thousand years. He said that she could exit, but she would not be able to return again.
Alice sighed and turned around. Maybe one day in the future then, she would make this one way trip. She had been headed to the Plainkind Desert, interested in spending her four years in her homeland, maybe finding her father. These hopes were now dashed.
When Alice had returned to Baracus, she had no money and no idea how to get any. Without Batshiva to feed her the occasional leg of mobile moose or entire robbit, Alice was rediscovering the feeling of hunger. It was a feeling that she had come to fear since her mother’s passing.
Predictably, Alice had proven herself an easy friend. In her first ninety-eight days, Alice had not only befriended many adults, but had also been adopted. Her second father was a gruff, widowed construction foreman. Alice figured that she must have reminded him of his deceased son.
When Alice finished her stipper, the innkeeper asked her, “Refill? On the house as usual of course.”
“Nope!” And she jumped off the stool.
Alice had a lot to do tomorrow. She couldn’t stay here all night. As much as she liked people, as a fourteen-year-old, Alice was a little wary of those who had become intoxicated on sugar and syrups.
She ran out of the shop, yelling, “Thanks!” and then headed home.
There, her second father, Jithin, greeted her.
“Hello Alice, how was your free time today?” He asked.
“Excellent! I’m ever so busying myself at all of the times in the day, since now I am being had some lessons!” She garbled excitedly.
Jithin had quickly discovered that this girl had an unusual accent. He learned from an elderly woman named Oritha that the small girl was a Plainkind from the west, beyond the wall. The Plainkind, she explained, had unusual minds and had produced a language with very strange syntax and grammar. Jithin had not understood these last two words, but he knew well enough.
It was actually this woman who had offered to give Alice lessons.
“She’s so very young. It isn’t fit for you to be working her all day! It seems the poor dear has had no formal education whatsoever, and I intend for you to allow me to remedy that.”
Jithin had the suspicion that Oritha was right about working her as a member of his company, but she had become rather excited about the whole ordeal. It was almost by accident that Jithin had found himself giving the small girl more and more tasks at his job. She seemed to enjoy it, finding some form of purpose in it.
Was it really his fault that she had taken on so much work when she had asked for it? Alice had built muscle with unusual speed, and he had the strangest feeling that her torso had broadened to adjust. She was now able to carry more beams than even him!
“Alright little workhorse, head to your bed.” Jithin said.
This was the sort of nickname that was bound to come up in Baracus, especially from a single parent who had no one else to tell him how poor of a choice it was. He thought it fitting, the horse being a mythical beast from the children’s books of the foolish hero Victimus. His colleagues seemed to find it fitting too, and so the name “little workhorse” stuck.
“Although I don’t run shifts on Secast, your teacher would like to touch on a few things. She usually does the week review on the first day of the weekend, right?”
Alice nodded, and then jumped up and down, an action she was much too old and heavy to be doing. The house shook.
“Alright, goodnight. Do you mind if I… Actually never mind. I had better go to bed myself.” He said.
Alice headed up the ladder to her room. It had been storage, and still half of it was filled with all form of possessions. But, Jithin had made enough room for a bed and a dresser, and that’s all that Alice seemed to really want or need. Like the rest of the house, this space was cramped. It was a strict upgrade for Alice, who had been used to living as a borderline homeless youth. She was grateful.
Alice put an X on the grid she had made. It was a calendar, the first thing she had made after learning about numbers and timekeeping from Oritha. Alice had constructed this countdown calendar to cover four years divided up into: nine months per year, four weeks per month, and eight days per week.
Alice crawled into bed. Her final thoughts turned to her old friend Finch. She thought of the 1438 days until she would be able to see him outside of a dream. It did not take her long to drift off to sleep.
And finally, we see what Alice has been up to! Of course, Alice uses different nomenclature for her chapters. That is, two words, an adjective and a noun.