My name is Maya and I am seven years old. A lot of people think me younger because I am smaller than most girls my age. That does not matter because Mummy told me that the sweetest things come in smallest packages and Daddy would have said that too if he had been here. Mummy said the angels took Daddy but I know different, he danced on the end of a rope. A lot of men come and see Mummy now but Mummy tells me that if they did not come we would have no coin. They grunt like pigs and I hear Mummy cry a lot. I do not like to see Mummy cry, she always says that she has dust in her eye and tells me not to be silly.
You know, I have a job too. Yes I do! I work in the slave auction and that is where I saw him. The slave auction is not a nice place but I get a shiny coin every week and it helps keep a roof over our heads and food on the table Mummy told me. It makes me sad when I think of him and sometimes I cry. You see. I saw an elf. Mummy told me lots of bedtime stories about the fair folk who live in enchanted forests. She told me they were very beautiful and very graceful and when they spoke it was like the ringing of a score of tiny silver bells.
I remember it had been raining and the street was all muddy, carts were getting stuck and by the time I got to the auction house I was muddy and wet through. Mr Warpole gave me a clip round the ear for being late. He has the biggest belly I have ever seen and the reddest face. He likes his mead and he has hairs coming out from his nose like big black spiders legs. I stuck my tongue out behind his back and whispered a very bad word and picked up my wooden bucket and ladle.
I went about my work, wishing I was far away from this nasty place and it was then that I saw him. I stopped and a man nearly tripped over me. He said lots of bad words. Well he should have been looking where he was going. My elf, I like to call him that sat huddled against the bars of a small wooden cage. There are lots of these cages in the back rooms of the auction. You see the slaves are kept in these before they are taken through to the main auction to be sold. I thought I better tell you in case you have never been to an auction before. He had long pointy ears just like Mummy had told me and long hair that I think if it had not been so dirty would have looked like pretty gold. His hair covered his face but I knew he was an elf, I just knew. His wrists had horrible big manacles round them and I think they must have hurt because his skin looked raw and was bleeding. There was a horrible metal collar round his neck and it made me feel angry. I was used to seeing people chained but this was not right. I carefully put my bucket down and knelt by the cage.
“Hello.” I said, picking at the baddies on my arm. He looked up and Mummy told me it is rude to stare but I did, I could not help it. He had very pretty eyes and they were not like mine, his were shaped like two large almonds and blue. I love summer skies do you? Well his eyes were just like that but they were so very sad, it made me want to cry. His face was more pointed than mine too and he had lots of bruises. You know, he still looked so very pretty to me and I wanted to give him a big hug. He did not look well; he was shivering and looked as if he had a fever. He smiled at me and my cheeks went red, yes they did.
“My name is Maya, what’s yours? You’re an elf aren’t you?”
He began to cough and silly me nearly forgot I had some water. I scooped some up with my ladle and held it through the bars to his lips.
“It will make you feel better.”
He drunk a little and that made me happy. He smiled at me again.
“Thank you Maya.”
I felt my tummy do a summersault. He had a lovely voice just like my Mummy told me.
“Shealar.” I whispered back, reaching my little hand through the bars to take his hand. His skin felt cold and clammy and my pretty elf did not belong in a nasty place like this. He should be in forests of green, like the ones Mummy described. I could not help it but I began to cry. His clothes were all torn and I saw lots of dried blood. I felt him gently squeeze my hand.
“Please do not cry Maya.”
“MAYA……….MAYA……..get yer scrawny ass o’er ere now.” I remember that is how Mr Warpole shouted. He is grumpy. I do not like him. I did not want to leave Shealar, I wanted to stay with him all night. I told him I would be back again tomorrow and I found out that he was not being sold for at least another two days.
I could not wait to tell Mummy and I ran all the way home as fast as I could. Mummy had a man with her. I told Mummy the next day but I think Mummy had been drinking again. I could not wait to see my elf again and you know what? I went to work early, yes I did. My Warpole could be grumpy all he liked. I did not care. Shealar was gone. The cage was empty. He was not meant to go, he should still be here. I went running to Mr Warpole and I was trying so hard not to cry.
“Tha elf is dead. Died a few ‘ours ago. Now get back t’work or I will give ye a sound thrashin’”
I was crying so much I could not see as I pushed my way past people, out the back door to where a cart stood, with a smelly blanket over the top. I knew what was under that blanket, because flies buzzed round, they always did. I wiped my eyes and nose with the back of my sleeve, Mummy used to give me a row for that as I pulled back the blanket. My elf, my pretty Shealar lay with the other dead, his beautiful eyes staring up at the sky. I held his hand for the last time……………