Next to the stables was an inn and a lofty, loud tavern. I paid no attention to them and walked to the stable doors. Opening them, I came to an area with a fancy counter. The room was polished mahogany, and the lanterns lit the room with a warm glow. "Oh how beautiful," I said to myself. A woman coughed and spoke. "Hello, are you here to buy a Kendrinis?" She eyed me and replied, "I guess not, considering you're dressed poorly." I turned to the counter, and the woman was standing behind it. Her face was pinched in a frown, and every piece of her graying hair was tied neatly in a bun. "Oh, I was just..." "Well if you are not buying anything, clear out. I do not give handouts to your kind. Now shoo!" I wanted to say something in reply to her rude comment, but I didn't. Instead I smiled and said, "I was given this note. I think the girl who gave it to me works here." I held out the note to the woman, and she disdainfully took it from me. She glanced at the note and mumbled something under her breath. Suddenly she yelled, "Kareena, come here!" A girl about my age came from a door at the end of the hall. She was very beautiful, and quite tall. Kareena had dark skin, deep black eyes, and even darker hair. "Yes Miss Heather," she asked with a smile. "What do you need?" Miss Heather frowned at Kareena and ignored her question. Instead she asked, "What are you thinking giving this girl a note? Why did you advertise to her, you know that is not our custom." Kareena looked at me, then at Miss Heather. "I have seen this young woman in the shops looking for work. She is very smart; and I think she will serve us well. I gave her the note because I knew she needed it." Miss Heather sighed and looked me over. She peered at my bare shoulders for a very long time, and it made me uncomfortable."Alright, I assume you want the job then?" All I could do was smile and nod. "Yes, I do wish to have the job." "Alright then, what is your name and average pay?" I frowned, and in turn Miss Heather's frown deepened. "My name is Andy, but I don't get payed. The Kingdom is letting me live in a cottage without any taxes until I get a job." "Alright then, Andy was it? What jobs have you done in the past? Have you worked with animals before?" I had worked with fish and dolphins when I was home. But that was a long time ago, and I forgot some of the dolphin's names. My palace was full of them though, so I guess telling Miss Heather wouldn't hurt. "All I have really taken care of is fish, but I adore animals. Kendrinis shouldn't be that hard, right?" Miss Heather seemed to dislike my answer, and she seemed to look at me with disapproval. "Yes, quite. Now, do you have any family that needs help? If so, we can send some of your money to them. That is part of our custom, and we hold true to it." I thought long and hard, and Miss Heather started to grow tired of me. "No. I do not have any family in Raidenthorn or in the other kingdoms." I didn't want anyone receiving my money but me. Besides, Parilla and the others were so mean to me that I decided to disown them the moment I had set foot in Raidenthorn. It seemed right to disown them, because they treated me like a servant. Miss Heather seemed a little startled at my answer, and a little pleased. "Now for the last question, and I want you to answer truthfully. Have you or have you not committed a crime?" I shook my head and silently laughed to myself. "No, I have never committed a crime before." I knew I answered truthfully on the last question. If I lied and someone caught me, I would have been publicly humiliated. Just a few days ago a man was ridiculed and then thrown into prison for giving a false name. It turned out that the man was a wanted thief in seven different kingdoms, including Raidenthorn. "Well then, you will work in the stables. But first fill out this form and hand it in." Miss Heather handed me a piece of rough paper and an ink quill. I couldn't believe it, it was so easy to get work here! I finally have something to help me keep my cottage. what an idiot I was for not coming here sooner! I filled out the form on the parchment and handed it to the lady behind the desk. All it asked was my name, age, gender, my likes and dislikes, my parent's names, and if I had worked in other kingdoms before. I filled out all of them but the last. Miss Heather didn't smile, instead she slowly nodded. "Alright then, I will contact you if we get anything. Many people have asked for the job but I..." Kareena, who had been sitting quietly on a seat, stopped Miss heather and replied, "No one else has asked for this job, and you know that Miss Heather. Please, let her work for us." "Alright, but I hope you don't mind working in the stables themselves. You will help muck out the Kendrinis' stalls, feed them, and also brush out their feathers." Kareena smiled and beckoned me to follow her. "Come on, let's get you suited up." She led me to the only door in the hallway and opened it. The interior of the stables wasn't as pretty as the other room, but it was clean and warm. Kareena lifted up one of my feet, examined my tiny foot, handed me a pair of thick boots, and then opened a closet. She eyed me up and down, shaking her head. "Wow, you certainly are a trim one. I think even the smallest uniform will be too large on you." She handed me a shirt and a pair of overalls. I looked at them and noticed that there wasn't a smudge of dirt on the clothing. "Now get dressed Andy, and I'll come back in. It's closing time, so you can change in here without anyone seeing you." Kareena went out the door and I stripped off my clothes. I never realized how sweaty I was until I felt the clean fabric on me. My clothing was drenched in mermaid sweat because of my running. The clean blue shirt had sleeves that went to the middle of my forearm. It was a worker's uniform, and I knew today was the day that I left my troubles behind me. I pulled on the overalls after the shirt, then I took off my shoes and pulled on the boots. Suddenly I knew I was not alone. I had heard snorting behind me, so I turned around slowly. I finally saw the Kendirins that were staring at me me. Their huge blue heads, big eyes, long beaks and necks were the only things I could really see of them. One of them made a noise, a strange noise which I could only guess was a peacock call mixed with a different one. Kareena came back in with a basket decorated with ribbons. "I thought you'd might like something to eat. It must be hard getting food for yourself." I found it slightly rude of Kareena to say that, but for the most part she was correct. The reason why I looked the way I did was because it was natural. We mermaids tend to be skinny, but I did drop some weight while I looked for work. I knew it to be true considering the ample amount of sweat on my clothing. Not only that, but I did have smaller bones than most people. My thoughts were interrupted as Kareena stood next to me and opened the lid of the basket. In it was bread, cheese, grapes, a few pieces of sliced beef, and a round thing that was deep red. Delicious smells wafted from the basket, and it made my mouth water. I pointed to the strange red object and asked, "What is that, I have never seen it before." Kareena looked at me with a questionable look and asked, "You have never seen a tomato before?" "No Kareena, I have not. I have heard that they are very good, though." Kareena laughed, "That they are. I like them with a little salt on them." She held up a little pink bag and opened it. Within it I could see pieces of white rocks, and I noticed that they looked similar to my crystals I had at the castle. "You eat crystals on tomatoes?" "Well, you can say they are a kind of edible crystal," Kareena replied. I knew that Kareena was acting too nice to me. But why did she act so nice to me when everyone else was so rude? I didn't say anything to her, instead I sat quietly as she gave me a plate. "Here, take as much as you want. I will eat the rest when you're done." I felt a little offended and had to speak my mind. "Look, I appreciate what you have done. But I don't want to be considered a burden to anyone here." Kareena shook her head and laughed a little. "It's alright, you're not a burden. Besides, I thought you might like some food before we muck out the stalls." "You muck out the stalls too?" Kareena nodded as I placed the food on my plate. I never realized that I was very hungry, nor that I ate fairly quickly. Kareena laughed as I ate, and I almost choked when I started to laugh. "Yes, I muck out the stalls as well," Kareena said between giggles. "It's not the best job, but you get used to it." "What exactly do we need to do?" I asked between mouthfuls of bread and cheese. "You'll see in a few moments," Kareena replied. "I don't think I'm going to like this," I replied. Kareena whispered in my ear, and I was startled. "We need to discard their droppings?!" I was appalled at the thought, and almost lost my food because my stomach heaved. "Yes we do, Andy. But as I said before, it is good work and we get a nice pay for it. Besides, I wanted you to have this job and no one else." "Well thank you, but I have never worked with these kinds of animals before. Where I come from, you don't have these kinds of animals around." I couldn't believe I just said that, my big mouth should have stayed shut. Kareena looked at me and asked, "Where do you come from anyway?" Ugh, I knew that I had to tell her something. It was all over her face, Kareena wanted to know where I came from. Well, I wasn't about to spill my guts about my mermaid self. I had to think of something though, anything! I swallowed and spoke slowly, "I am originally from Westgate, where I lived with my father's friend. I wasn't that lonely, she had two daughters around my age." This part was true, but I didn't want to tell her how the three had treated me. They treated me as if I was their personal servant, and in a sense I was. Parilla fed, clothed, and raised me for awhile before I was kicked out. Anyway, that wasn't the point. The point was that Kareena wanted to learn more about me, and I didn't want to tell. I knew I would have to tell her, but the longer I refused, I could feel the distrust gaping wide like am open rift. I will not tell her, not now anyway. "I thought you didn't have family near here?" Kareena said after a long pause. I swallowed a grape and almost choked on it. When it went down, I spoke. "Well, I never considered them my family. They were nice to me, but I didn't feel a family bond with them." I nibbled on the last piece of meat and held up my empty plate. "Oh good, you're done. I shall eat the rest later, but for now let's go and muck out the stalls." I scrunched up my nose and nodded. In the first pen I was still appalled at how much dung there was. I was standing knee deep in it, and the stench was horrid. "I can't believe I didn't smell this before," I said. Kareena laughed and replied, "Alright Andy, all you need to do is shovel the dung out of the stall and put it in this bucket. Don't worry about where the dung goes, we sell it to the farmers that live here. After that we need to rub everything down and then brush out the Kendrinis' feathers." I nodded and asked, "Kareena, how come there are only two of us working on this?" Kareena sighed, "Well, there were only two of us until you came along. The other girl is very sick, so she can't help us right now." I nodded and started shoveling while Kareena worked on a different stall. Tears started to swell in my eyes, but I managed to keep them from falling and turning into pearls. "Look at me," I said without thinking. "I am shoveling dung out of stalls. I am not supposed to be doing this considering I am a..." I stopped as Kareena stared at me. "A what," she asked. "What are you?" "Nothing, nothing. Hey, do you know what the other girl is sick with?" Kareena only shrugged as she cleaned up the dung. "Nothing that others can catch, but it has kept her in bed for a long time." In reply I nodded my head and set to work.