New Story with a short timeline! This is Side Quest, a story for Camp NanoWrimo July 2017.
And so it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Tzar Vimyxa that representatives of all the families of the nation should come to Buscontra, in the north, to be counted and taxed.
Raizel was the only choice, when it came down to it.
Her parents still had three children on apron-strings, one on the teat. That effectively tied them to the home, for the little ones couldn’t make a trip like that.
Her surviving grandparents were too frail for such a trip, and her mother’s father had lost a leg some time ago, making it almost impossible for him to try. Of her surviving great-grandparents, surviving was the best that could be said for them.
Her older sister had, proving herself prescient once again, gotten married a year ago and also had a babe at the teat, thus tying up that branch of the family. Her oldest brother had been taken on as an apprentice with a carpenter in town, which tied him to the shop. Raizel, whose apprenticeship was a far less formal one to her parents and her grandfather, was the only child old enough to travel and free of external obligations.
It having been decided that Raizel was going, of course the paperwork was then her duty as well. Raizel needed to find witnesses and signatures for every member of the family, to attest that there were the number of people so declared, and that some of them were either too old or too young for working and thus not to be taxed at that workman’s rate.
That found Raizel going up the mountain to Madam Zalta with her mother’s sweet rolls and asking her to come act as witness for her two surviving great-grandmothers, a task not all that pleasant, as her mother’s father’s mother was not a convivial woman at the best of times, and the weather this spring had gotten into her joints. The task, in the end, was smoothed by the addition of two meat pies — said mother’s father’s mother’s recipe — and an hour of Raizel’s spent clearing brush around the path to the Zalta estate.
Then she had to go down the mountain to the Elder Hoanian, who himself as getting on in years, armed with a tiny miniature clock Raizel’s oldest brother still had home had carved up. Elder Hoanian had, after being encouraged by a bone carving by Raizel and an hour sweeping the porch and walk in front of the Hoanian estate, been convinced that, yes, Raizel’s father’s father and his father were both too old for work, and were both still alive (the second being the harder argument in the case of Raizel’s great-grandfather).
Once all that was done, her parents had signed for the minor children and themselves, and her brother’s master had signed for him, Raizel had to go down the mountain and up again, to the town that sat on what they called Little Hill, and convince the mayor there to sign an affidavit saying that everything in her papers was indeed correct, that the town had received its fair toll from the family, and that the number of people matched up with the town’s records.
This was made slightly more difficult because the Mayor had worked with Raizel’s maternal grandmother on several projects, and had a number of her embroidery projects around her house, and so considered the old woman still perfectly capable of doing piece-work.
This problem was solved by three pieces of embroidery done by Raizel, her mother, and her second-oldest sister, a pile of sweet rolls, and a very nice bone carving done by Raizel herself.
All this done, Raizel completed her chores for the morning, glad she had not ended up having to do yardwork for the Mayor as well, and headed back to the room she shared with three of her sisters.
There she found her mother and oldest sister waiting, her bag packed already, a special pouch set aside, hidden in the lining, for the paperwork and the tax money. In another hidden pocket was a small pile of coins for Raizel’s trip — just enough, if she was parsimonious, for her to get to Buscontra and back in time to pay the tax and be counted without fees.
Raizel did not begrudge her family the money. They had given what they could, and the taxes would take a large chunk out of a budget already made tight. She smiled as she noted the sweet and meat rolls tucked into her bag, the thread and needles should she feel the need to keep her fingers busy, the bone and wood and carving knives for the same.
There was still a great deal of daylight left. Raizel said fare-you-well to her family and walked back down the mountain and up the Small Hill into town.