Divine Madness

Chapter 3 The meaning of the thirteenth birthday.

The end of spring was decorated with a beautiful clear sky, pristine blue, and the clouds were barely visible in the distance. A beautiful, radiant sun caressed the farmland with its ever-warm light. The sun was intense but not overwhelming, perhaps not ideal for those working in the fields, but the same could not be said for the crops themselves.

Like an emerald meadow that stretched as far as the eye could see, the green grasslands completely surrounded the small town of palo verde. With only a tiny forest on the side, where the town got its wood, there was no need for more, not for such a small population.

Two or three dozen houses, nestled on one side of farm fields, with a well to draw water from in the center, there wasn much else in town. A small rural town dedicated to cultivating the fields, with no more than thirty families.

There was no wealth to speak of, no comforts or extravagances, but there wasn a single person in the entire town who didn wear a smile.

The Palo Verde people needed nothing more than the gifts of nature and their hard work; their lives were complete with just that.

With the empires policies, as long as the people grew a few herbs in a separate part of the field and gave them as tribute, there was no need to pay more taxes.

Oddly enough, the empire was quite strict on the issue of those two herbs. Yet, they didn put any unreasonable requirements related to the production size. No one in the village could remember a single time when they got into trouble with the person sent by the empire to gather the herbs.

With virtually no taxes to pay, everything the town produced was for itself. This amounted to little wealth since such goods weren very fit for trade, not when almost every corner of the empire was filled with fertile land and people willing to work it.

However, the people of palo verde were happy. Not needing to go hungry even in winter and not having to face any particular danger. People were happy with the few coins they made each year.

Only goods such as iron tools, cloth, or other crafts were of interest to the people of palo verde. Even then, their need for these was not something they could not satisfy.

The town could even afford to splurge a bit on festivals and small religious events. This was because the empire sometimes rewarded the people if they managed to produce or find a magical strain of the herbs they were assigned to cultivate.

And when it came to growing all these important herbs to fulfill the peoples obligations to the empire and perhaps reap additional rewards, the people had their own expert.

Well, maybe calling her an expert was only partially correct. She wasn a scholar, an herbology expert, or anything like that. She just seemed to have a gift when it came to cultivating. The townspeople firmly believed that she was blessed by the mother goddess, the goddess of the sun and life. That would explain her gift…and her beauty.

It was as if someone had taken a piece of the sun and woven it into the girls hair. Her almost golden blonde hair always reflected the sunlight, almost forming a halo on the girl that made her look almost otherworldly. It was as if the mother goddess always kept her guardian light on the girl.

The purest, most beautiful, and brilliant piece of heaven seemed to have been ripped off and put into the girls eyes. Like two precious gems, the sky blue in her eyes was filled with boundless dreams, curiosity, and an appreciation for all of lifes mysteries.

Perhaps, due to her young age, the girl barely twelve years old, she didn have an exceptional figure that would make all men turn heads, but she didn need it. There were simply no words to describe how beautiful the girls face was.

She was beautiful beyond age, race, and gender. She was beautiful beyond lust, greed, and obsession. She was beautiful to the point of transcending what should be possible for mortals, which only reinforced the belief that she was favored by the gods.

But, strange as it seemed, this girl, owner of an almost divine beauty, now had her boots dirty, her dress spattered with mud, and her tender and delicate hands full of dirt. Even her face, which would put any mortal to call himself beautiful to shame, now had a small smear of mud on one of her plump cheeks.

A smile even more radiant than the sun decorated the girl, who wiped the sweat from her forehead without realizing that she only got even dirtier.

The smell of fertile earth, rich in minerals and moisture, surrounded the girl, but she didn seem to mind. With dedication and pride, the girl continued to harvest her section of the field.

Other farmers just watched the girl from a distance while they worked in another section of the fields. This was due to the life cycle of the herbs that the empire entrusted to the people.

The seed of these herbs needed the cold of winter to slow down their flowering while absorbing more minerals from the subsoil to flower during the spring and be ready for harvest in early summer.

As she is in charge of that field section, the girl dedicates herself to the harvest. At the same time, the rest of the town is watering and caring for the rest of the cultivated fields. It might seem excessive to give the girl such a big task, but she insisted on it. She wanted to reap the fruits of her labor this year.

With her young age and small body, the girl did not advance much, but no one could take away the happiness and joy she felt when reaping the fruits of her efforts. And since she was in no hurry to finish the harvest, the town let her be.

She was the towns favorite girl, their little jewel, pride, and joy. As long as it wasn excessive, she could do whatever she wanted in town. What could be done? The girl had earned it. She was not only a beautiful girl with a gift for farming but also the sweetest girl that ever existed.

It was as if she was beyond greed or worldly whims. At her young age, her kindness was already something that could weigh on the shoulders of those who received it. There was not a single soul in the village who did not love the girl with all their hearts.

This had somewhat created its own problems, especially in recent years as the girl grew ever closer to the proper age for marriage. But no one had even dared to bother the girl with such topics. The last thing they wanted was to make the girl worry; even her mother rarely heard about it.

With all said and done, the girls mother had already gone through a lot to raise the girl alone after the death of her husband almost ten years ago.

Although the child had brought her mother much joy and pride, the weight of years and work still took its toll on her mothers beauty and health. Everyone knew how much the girl loved her mother, so no one wanted to make the woman uncomfortable for fear of afflicting the heart of the mother-daughter couple.

As the sun reached the top of the blue sky, the girl stopped, securing the huge basket she carried with her. ”Very good; I have already collected three-quarters of the iron herb today. I even found an iron heart herb. If I remember correctly, the empire raised the reward for the latter to thirty pieces of silver. ”

The girls voice was soft as velvet and tender and sweet as a peach. Her voice had a clear childish undertone, but a serenity also plagued her voice and demeanor. This serenity was like an aura emanating from her, one that was undisturbed even by the clear joy on the girls face.

”This is the seventh iron heart grass I have found this year that adds up to a reward of two hundred and ten silver coins, and the village agreed to give me a tenth of the reward, which would add up to… ”

The girl stopped to think for a moment to calculate the total amount she would be given for her efforts. The strange thing was not that she needed time to calculate; the strange thing was that she could do it in the first place. After all, her home education level was not very high.

The girls mother had only taught her to read and write, as well as the most basic of mathematics, something her mother had learned from her grandfather, who used to be the mayor of the town decades before he died.

Nonetheless, the girl had displayed great intellect ever since she was young. The girl had learned to read and write quickly, and now she was even better at math than her mother.

Part of the reason she was so excited about her earnings was that her intellect led her to desire all kinds of knowledge. But in a place like Palo Verde Town, knowledge could only be acquired from books that traveling merchants sometimes brought, and such things were very expensive.

”Mmm, twenty-one silver coins, barely enough for those herbology books I wanted. Fortunately, the harvest of the breath of summer herb brought its own surprises. I managed to find ten fire-breath herbs in this years harvest. With the prices offered by the empire, Ill be able to earn forty-five silver coins out of the four hundred and fifty that the entire batch will generate. ”

With a blissful smile, the girl calculated the earnings of the summer harvest, eager to get her hands on that precious knowledge that had eluded her last year. But, as was characteristic of the girl, only the smallest part of her earnings was for herself; the rest was to buy things for her mother.

The girl remembered her mother had not had a new dress in years. This was because fabrics, especially high-quality ones, were costly so far south in the empire. The girl wanted to buy some good cloth for her mother.

The girl remembered something her mother had mentioned a few weeks ago. ”I should buy some iron pots and pay the woodcutters to make us a new bed. Mom has been complaining about her back later. It must be because of how old and rickety our bed is. ”

Almost as if she had been summoned by the girls words, her mother appeared at the fields edge. The warm motherly voice of her mother soon reached the girls ears. ”Alice. ”

The girl looked at her mother with childlike love. And remembered that tomorrow would be her thirteenth birthday, the day she would find out if she had a talent for magic or not, she thought with amusement. ”Whenever I think of her, she comes; maybe I have a talent for summoning. ”

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