Market Day
 
It's funny how circumstance can change one's perspective. Once, Eloise had regarded market day with utmost dread; spending the journey cramped on the stinking wagon and all day under the burning sun, hawking crops to the rude masses of boys whose gaze too often strayed from the goods for sale, the grimey older men whose hands did the same -- it was a contemptible, ugly thing. She'd hated it, through and through, from the first days of her taking part; no more, though. Not since the King had called her brother, Gert, and so many more men both young and old to the front lines of a burgeoning war.

It was a twofold thing, this change; fitting, given the nature of conflict. Firstly, home life had shifted dramatically in Gert's absence. Without his strong arms and dutiful efforts around the farm, Eloise had been made to take up many more responsibilities. Standing beneath the sun to sell was now a respite from the strenuous activities of farm life. Not that she hadn't been made to work before, of course, but picking up Gert's slack was no simple task, and every day she broke her back beneath the ever-present threat of life as she knew it crumbling away. So it went, and so strengthened her body and her resolve.

The other side, the simpler side, was that the call to arms had pulled many leering faces from the market streets. Bent on being the heroes about whom songs were song, bright-eyed and simple-minded boys and men marched off to heed the King's orders. Most of them would find themselves strapped into ill-fitting armor and pushed towards the front; the more fortunate might find they had a mind for strategies or a talent for mystics and be put to less-dangerous uses. She wondered, sometimes, where Gert stood amongst the teeming masses. Word from the distant reaches of battle was scarce but often hopeful, telling of victories and well-fought skirmishes out among the mountain ranges where things less pleasant lurked.

The city -- if it could be called that, so devoid of half its life -- was a muted place, the market quiet even when the streets were filled with those who remained to keep life at home moving onward. One always hears tales of those who stand bravely against evil, of those who march to battle in defense of the realm, those who forge new destinies in blood and steel. Not often told are the tales of those like Eloise; those for whom war is a distant threat, who keep the realm that soldiers defend alive and breathing. If the King's army and the heroes that lead it are the body of a realm, then these are the soul of it; without them, there is no home to return to at war's end, no lover's memory to drift across the dreams of fighting men.

And so, market day became a rest from the more strenuous parts of farm living, and Eloise found herself looking forward to each new trek to the muted city and those who stayed behind while brasher souls set off in search of glory. Maybe hers was a tale none would hear at the tavern, but it was still hers; that was all that she needed to keep herself afloat amid the roiling uncertainties of life.