The contestants lined up in a row, holding their wooden lures, carved fish, worked leather goods, and more. Lakisha steps up to each of the ten semi-finalists. A nice split between the two groups, she’s happy to note. At her raised hand each one comes forward and holds their item up high, though all day long folks have been judging the items displayed in a row on blankets. The assembled crowd breaks into cheers and applause for each person.
Mama DePluie beams with pride when Maya’s fish is held aloft, to the cheers from nearly all who watch. Lakisha too smiles at her friend’s popularity. Old Andrew even claps for her.
Once to the end, Lakisha moves to tap the ones who have not made the cut then shifts the makers into a new order. The line now a string of five. Two Theloels and three Creoles. And the process is started again.
Now, on round three, Nanette is first, and Maya is second. Fireblossom stands with her. Lakisha again walks the line. Each girl’s entry held high, and the sound of applause gauged for level. This time the applause causes her to move Maya to first place.
“No fair!” someone shouts. A boy, one of the Engineers. Lakisha freezes, with her hands on her hips. She’s dreaded this.
“Shut-up, Baptiste!” Matthias? An Engineer? Rumbles move through the cheering crowd. A group of boys clusters around the shouting one.
Thundercloud steps beside Lakisha with his club raised. Even though she knew he’s there to protect her, her feet and hands turn to ice. Aza growls low, and the fur between his eyes bristle.
The old lady, Elli steps out of the crowd. Raising her arms, she shouts, “Everyone! Calm down.” Lakisha hears and worries, are her words reaching far enough above the crowd?
Mama DePluie moves into the center, to stand beside Elli, The Healer. One of the Engineers takes a swing at Thundercloud.
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