Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm going to finish this if it kills me!

I"m very afraid that I've lost the plot. I think I may add some scenes, but this is what I have so far. Just this lifetime, and one more!


“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Natael whispered to Mide as the Selidians stood in the central auditorium of the town Hall. “Everyone will be here soon, and then there’s no going back. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Mide straightened her robes, and nodded. Her hair was piled on her head in the intricate braids of the ancient Suktisian fashion, and her face was painted with thick gold paint. “Do I want to do this? No. No, I have never wanted things to be this way. But what I want has little to do with what is. This land will burn, and in all our studies we have found no way to stop it. But our actions today can save many; if we perish, we perish. But I do not think that will be our fate. You’ve listened to my stories of my life as Madak too often. More likely, they will simply not listen. We are a curiousity, and I doubt we will be little more than that. They will come to see our quaint ways, and our painted faces, and marvel at our apocalyptic words, but they will not see the end until it is upon them.”
Natael smiled, as the first of the Kedonese began to file into the room. “And here I thought that I was the cynical one.”
The higher classes of Perzelsis quickly filled the room. There were several hundred men and women present, all attired in rich fabrics and brightly shining metal ornaments. Mide had tried to insist that some of the lower classes be present, but Heildon Maktsi refused adamantly. There were few enough of the nobles who could fit into the audience room, he explained, and when word got out that some of the rabble of the streets had got a space when nobles had been turned away, he would not be able to prevent an uproar. Mide had finally given in, but had sent two of her company to meet with some of the poorer people, to tell them as well.
After a little while, the nobles were all seated, and Heildon Maktsi stepped to the center of the room. “Good people of Perzelsis! Today is a historic day! For millennia, we have heard stories form our mothers and nurses of the fair folk of Suktis, who live alone on the islands at the edge of the world. We have fancied ourselves to be past the need for such bedtime stories, but today we have found that the stories are true. The fair folk have come, and they are here to speak to us. I present to you, Mide of the Selidians.” He bowed, and stepped backward, leaving the floor to Mide.
Jeda Maktsi could not take her eyes off the young woman in front of her. The afternoon sunlight glinted off Mide’s gilded face, and she stood with back arched gracefully, looking out at her audience.
“People of Kedon, you have heard of my people for tens of thousands of years, without seeing or hearing anything from us. We have kept our silence, making our penance for sins that you cannot now understand.
“You will not understand much of what we will tell you in our time with you. You will find us quaint, and think of our ideas as antiquated, even tribal, unevolved. But we will do what we have come to do.”
She paused, and looked out at the audience. Her heart sank as she saw the noble women whispering to each other behind folding metal fans, but she lifted her chin, and continued.
“In one year, perhaps two, your land will be in flames. Three great upheavals are coming upon you, and you are not strong enough to deal with them. One comes from the earth below your feet, another will come from among you, and the final one will come from the sea.
“We wish we could prevent these things, but there is nothing that ccan be done. Your world will die, and you way of life will be gone. There is only one hope for you. You must become yourselves. You must find out who you are, and you must become strong in that knowledge. When you are scattered to the four winds, you will take your world with you in your hearts and minds. “
A rumble of dissenion murmured through the room, as the people shifted in their seats. Mide held up a hand for silence. "I know that this is not what you wish to hear. What did you want us to say? Did you want us to be impressed with your bright machinery that fills the air with a choking haze and fills your streets with an ungodly clamour? Did you want us to become entranced with your factories and mills? We learned the laws of mechanics many years ago, and your ways are not new to us."

Natael stepped forward, and continued the speech, as Mide stepped back into the group. "We are not here to judge you. We want to help; we want to preserve as much of your culture as we can. We have several ways in which the preservation might be accomplished, but we will do nothing without your co-operation. Will you trust us?"

The question hung in the air for a moment, then a gentleman in the back of the crowd began to chuckle. In a few seconds, the entire crowd was laughing. The Lord Mayor looked uncomfortable, and glanced at Mide and Natael, shaking his head slightly.

The crowd began to disperse and soon Heildon Maktsi and the Selidians were left alone in the chamber.

"I told you that this would be the likely outcome," the Lord Mayor said. Mide nodded. "I know. But we had to try. And we will try other ways, as well. But it would have been wrong not to try to tell all your people. Some of my men and women are out among the poor as we speak; I think they will perhaps be more receptive. And your daughter, Lord Mayor, may be able to help, as well as Suka Loedi. We will not give up hope until the very end." Though she could not smile through the thick paint, her eyes sparkled. "If there is one thing that the children of Suktis know, it is that there is always a remnant. Lord Mayor, may we remain here for a little while? We would very much like to say some prayers for your people and lands."

Heildon Maktsi nodded. "Yes, I would appreciate your prayers very much, even if my countrymen do not. I will leave you in peace; you may find me in my office afterwards, and your carriage will be waiting in the usual place." He turned and exited the large stone room. He walked rapidly down the corridor, and shut himself in his office, locking the door behind him. He sat down at the large wooden desk, and rested his head in his hands.

"Natael, why won't you tell me what will happen to Perzelsis? You all go around, talking about the coming destruction, 'destruction from the air, the land, and the sea,' but you won't tell anyone what will actually happen." Kedi spoke angrily to the young man who stood by her side in the garden.
"I wish I could tell you. I wish I could tell the whole city, believe me." The acolyte looked frustrated, and ran his hands through his hair, making it stand on end. "The hell of it is...I do not know what will happen. Or, to be more accurate, I do not know what causes the coming events. I know that there will be fire, and destruction, and that there will be nothing left of Kedon. I know that destruction will come from the air; I have seen the city lying in ruins; and I have seen the docks fortified against something coming from the sea. But I cannot see any of it."
Kedi studied him with her wide blue eyes. "They said you could see the future. Were you lying?"
Natael shook his head, and crossed his arms. "No, it's the truth. But I don't see everything in the future. It's like...It's like backward memory. Think about your life, the important dates. Think about....your last birthday. What do you remember?"
The young woman thought for a moment, and closed her eyes. "I, on my bedside table that morning. I remember that my corset pinched more than usual that morning, and I panicked because I thought I had gained weight during the night. I remember my friends sitting down to dinner, and Suka dropping her salad fork. She couldn't bend over in the corset, and a servant had to get it for her." She smiled, and opened her eyes.
"But those are odd things to remember, aren't they? You didn't mention any of the gifts you received, or even what order the events happened in. That's what my gift is like. I remember things that I haven't seen yet, but I don't see everything. I do not know what will happen to your people. All we know...all I that everything that remains here wil be lost."
Kedi sat down on a metal bench to think. The day was warm and pleasant; she could hear cicadas singing in the trees, and the idea of wide spread destruction seemed impossible.
"I don't know what to think, Natael. Our astronomers watch the skies, our ships are strong and faster than anything on the seas, and it is hard to believe that anything could move the solid earth of our land. I have come to believe in many strange things, but this is more difficult."
"Please, I beg you, do not back out now. Just a few days ago, you were eager to come back to the Selides with us. "
Kedi sighed, then rose and began pacing the green lawn. "Yes, yes, I know. But a few days ago, I understood that you and your people knew what would happen here. Now that I see that even you are uncertain, I have no real reason to leave here." She paused, then raised her eyes to meet his. "However, the daughter of Heildon Maktsi does not go back on her word. I will continue to study and memorize as much of the Kedonese literature as I can, as you have asked. When I see signs that the destruction you promised is coming, then I will board one of the ships. That is what I can promise you."
Natael opened his mouth to protest, but saw that her will was resolved. "It is not what I had hoped, but perhaps it is all that I had any right to expect. Thank you for all that you are able to give." He bowed,. and took his leave.

"I wish I ha dbeen present when our distinguished visitors spoke in the Lord Mayor's hall," a woman's voice echoed slightly in the wide hall of the hotel. Mariok sat at the bar in the lobby, and listened to the conversations without much interest.
The woman continued, talking gaily with her companion while a waiter stood by, notepad in hand to take her order. "Oh dear, I am sorry, I didn't mean to make you wait. We will both have your wonderful fish platters, you know, the ones with the sauteed eels. Yes, and a glass of wine for each of us. Thank you, that will be all. So, Kepika, did you hear what the Selidians said? Oh you must have, it's been all over the streets for days! Apparently, they were not satisfied with making an announcement before the best of society, they even went into the streets and started talking to the destitute!" Her laughed sounded like fingernails on metal,and Mariok gritted his teeth, wishing that her meal would come quickly so that she would stop talking.
"Well, apparently they showed up in the most outlandish outfits, almost barbaric, you know, I don't think I've seen anything like that since the Astaldaki ambassador had that display of traditional dnacing from his country, but they were all dressed in white robes, and the leader of the group had her face painted with gold, so she looked like a statue. I've seen her walking to and from the Lord Mayor's hall once or twice, and she gives me the chills, I declare. So cold, so unfeeling! Anyway, apparently, they stood there, and after all this great uproar surrounding their appearance, what do they do? Proclaim some outrageous destruction, and say that we are all doomed!" Her laugh rang out again, and even the bartender cringed.
Mariok summoned him over, and handed him several large coins. "Please, send a drink to that lady's companion. I am fairly certain that she needs it."
The bartender smiled, and sent the drink with a passing waiter. He began drying some glasses and setting them on a shelf behind the bar. "I am sure the lady will appreciate your kind gesture, sir. And what is your opinion of the 'distinguished guests'?"
Mariok shrugged slightly, and got up from the bar. "I'm afraid that I haven't yet had the honor of meeting one of them. When I do, then I shall make up my mind. I have yet to meet anyone who takes their words seriously, but then, I rarely meet people awake enough to see what is going on around them, so perhaps they are right." He left a generous tip, and headed back out into the street.


Suka stood under stars, looking up into the sky. She wasn't sure, but she felt as though she couldn't see as many of the stars now as she could when she was a child. Perhaps the lights of the city had grown brighter, or perhaps she merely remembered wrong.
She looked out on the eastern horizon, over the black waters. There seemed to be fewer stars there, all pale blue in color. A story flickered through her mind, about souls flying up to join the gods among the stars and she sighed.
The waves rolled in, crashing white on the sand; the foam almost seemed to glow in the moonlight. Suka's eyes widened slightly as she realized that there was a form in the surf, dressed in white, that seemed almost to blend into the water. Almost without being aware of it, she slipped down the sandy cliff that overlooked the beach, and fell ankle-deep into the sand, a few yards away from the white-robed figure. The woman who stood in the waves turned to look at Suka; her ginger hair was loose, and blew around her shoulders. A faint smile crossed her lips as their eyes met. "You never did like to jump into the sand, Tsuda."
Suka shyly returned the smile, and stepped toward the waves. "And you never could resist it."
There was a long moment when the entire world seemed to revolve around the two women, the waves, and the stars.
Then with a swiftness that surprised both of them, they embraced, tears streaming down Mide's face. "I have missed you, Tsuda," she whispered. "I have been without you for thirty years, and I was beginning to be afraid that I would never find you again."
"Mede.." replied Suka, pulling back slightly. "Are you even called Mede now?" She laughed, almost hiccuping with emotion.
"I am called Mide, in this life. And you?" Mide felt the ocean tugging at the hem of her robe, and turned to walk back up the beach. "Can you imagine, it has been several thousand years since we stood in the ocean together? The stars seem strange to me sometimes, I remember their old patterns, on the other side of the world."
The two young women sat down in the sand, backs against a dune, and looked up at the stars. "Me--Mide, do you still believe what you told me all those years ago?" Suka looked over at her friend. "About souls taking flight and going up to live with the gods as stars?"
Mide nodded. "I believe it now more than ever. I can remember more now than I did before. I remember Suktis, and Kedon as it was, and the islands of the Astaldi. I remember building the temple on that little island..."
Suka finished, "With the trees that Judak cut for us. You said the first blessings. I did not become a priestess until later, even though everyone remembers my life more than yours." She shivered in the chilly night air, and Mide sat up.
"It's cold out here, and your family will be wondering where you are. Go back to your house now, and I will send for you tomorrow." The light from the two moons made her teeth shine in the night, and Suka could see that she was smiling.

"But how will I explain this to your mother," Heildon Maktsi shouted, pacing in his daughter's sitting room. "That the Selidians want to see you, that they will likely ask you to be one of the few Kedonese to be taken to their lands. No-one knows when or even if you'll return."
Kedi sat on a small couch, quietly practicing her sketching. "I do not know. but I am not afraid to go. I trust them, and I want to go. I do not know how you will explain it to mother; she will not be pleased. She was very much looking forward to my presentation in society, but I suppose she will have to be content with the fact that the scandal of her daughter will make her very well known indeed." A faint smile crossed her father's lips, and Kedi set the sketch aside. She rose, and took her father's arm. "Truly, I am happy that they have asked for me. You know that it will likely be months before we set out, and mother will enjoy herself greatly when she realizes that I will need an entirely new wardrobe for my new role.”
Heildon nodded absently, and continued pacing. The Selidians had scheduled an audience with the people of Perzelsis in a few days’ time. He wondered what the response would be, and whether anyone would believe what the Selidians had to say.
He rubbed his forehead, and for a moment, wondered if he himself believed them.

Kedi looked out of the window of the mechanical carriage. Her mother had taken her into the town for the day to find a new dress, but she first wanted to stop by the Lord Mayor’s office, and speak to her husband. Ostensibly, Jedi Maktsi wanted to consult with her husband about an important party that she would be hosting for the Temaltan ambassador soon, but she only barely admitted to herself her real reason for visiting the town Hall that day: like everyone else in Perzelsis, she wanted to catch a glimpse of the Selidians who had arrived the day before. Only the Lord Mayor and one or two trusted stewards knew where they were staying, and few had yet spoken to them. Heildon had mentioned that he would be meeting with the newcomers several times over the next week, and Jeda hoped that they might be at the Hall when she stopped by.
Kedi waited in the carriage, also hoping to catch a glimpse of the newcomers. She had found several stories in her books about the fall of Suktis. The survivors had fled in all directions, with several parties landing in the Astaldak lands, ane one boat even purportedly making it to Kedon. Most of the survivors, it was agreed, had made their way to the Selides, and settled there, preserving their old ways and beliefs. One story had told of a sailor, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, who had washed ashore in the Selides, and been cared for by the people there. They told him that they were the inheritors of Suktis; they had honey-colored skin, and warm white hair, with purple eyes. They had built beautiful stone temples there, and many had joined with the native Selidians. They prayed for fallen Suktis, and kept themselves secret from the rest of the world. When the sailor was well, they took him onto one of their ships, and took him out into the waters near Kedon, and lethim into the water on a raft. He was instructed never to try to find the Selides again, and the raft was released into a current that would take him near the shore. When he landed on Kedon, he wept because he knew that he could never find the beautiful islands again. Kedi could picture the sailor living out his days on Kedon, and spending every evening looking out into the waters at sunset, longing to return.
As she imagined the poignant scene, she saw a flash of white out of the corner of her eye, and looked up. A small group of white-robed people were exiting the Hall by a side door; escorted by a steward, they made their way to a large carriage with shades drawn over the windows. She felt a shiver run down her spine; their skin was pale, and several of them had warm white hair. One of the group, a young man with reddish hair turned, and looked at her for a moment. As their eyes met, she felt that he was looking through her, and turned away.
When she looked back up, the door to the carriage was closing, and the mechanical vehicle pulled away from the curb with a jolt. Kedi watched it rumble down the street, and out of sight.
“What is it Natael,” Mide asked, seeing the acolyte pause just before entering the carriage. He climbed inside, and settled himself in the last empty seat.
“I don’t know. A girl was watching us from another carriage.”
“Well, that’s not unusal. We’ve been seen by a few people, despite the Lord Mayor’s precautions.”
“There was just something about her. She was obviously Kedonese, by her skin and hair, but her eyes were the brightest blue I’ve ever seen. I think she was an old soul, too, though I couldn’t be sure without getting a closer look at her eyes. She felt…” he thought for a moment, thin frame fidgeting as the carriage rocked along. “She felt blue,” he finished.
Mide looked at him carefully for a moment. “Blue eyes, you say? Hmmm. It is possible. I wonder why she is here…Perhaps she has more to learn than I thought. We are still looking for the one with purple eyes, though. I must find her before this world falls into flame. I do not even know if she is in this city, but this is where we must start. I can hardly believe her soul would come back here after last time, but perhaps she must learn to love these people again.”
Natael fingered the metal ornamentation that ran over the interior of the carriage. “How will we explain to them, about why we are here? They won’t believe much of it, and they will like it much less. No one wants to hear that their civilization will crumble soon. And they will never believe that we are searching for a girl you knew five thousand years ago, in another life.” He pulled the edge of a curtiain back and peered out of the window surreptitiously. “And they won’t believe me, either. As far as we know, no-one in Kedon has ever shown telepathic abilities, or synaesthetic senses. If I tell them that I have heard the cries of their people a year before there is any sign of danger, they will assume that we are either crazy or possessed.”
The woman laughed, and rose from her seat as the carriage came to a stop. “They do not believe in possession anymore, Natael. I do not think that they will accuse you of such a thing. And we don’t have to tell them how we found out about the cataclysm. What we must do is prepare, so that when the time comes, we can save as many as possible.”


Nekel walked around the library, examining the titles. “I see very few history books here. Is there somewhere that can provide them? I need general history, specifically Astaldi, Kedonese, and Temaltan history. Most of my books were lost in the ocean when the storm hit; I may have to send to Temalta for those, but I’d like to get as many here as possible.”
The book dealer’s clerk looked up at the bookshelves, making notes on a lined pad. “I think we have a few titles that would interest you. We have the largest selection in this region, though I think the Southern Island might have one book dealer that handles more volume. We may even be able to work through them; it wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be far cheaper than shipping form Temalta, especially now, during the stormy season. The ships from the south sail close to the shore, and there is very little loss of property. Let me take these notes back to our store, and see what we can put together.”
Nekel nodded, and beckoned to one of the novices to show the man to the door. “Well, I thank you for your time. I look forward to dealing with your firm in the matter of these books.” The young man bowed, and left the room. The pale ambassador scanned the shelves again.
“It’s a shame that no-one thought to keep the house stocked with books. These focus too much on science, the arts, biographies of famous Kedonese men. None of these would interest anyone from Temalta,” muttered one of the novices, who stood on a ladder in the corner, cataloging the titles.
Gelek’s voice echoed off the stone floors. “Well, you can hardly blame them. Most Kedonese have never seen a Temaltan monk, and all of those have met them in travels overseas. We have not had a presence on Kedon in nearly ten thousand years, and that was when we were here as conquerors and judges. They know practically nothing of us. These books were a gesture of friendship, trying to tell us something of themselves.” The assistant to the ambassador walked into the large library, and looked around at the bookshelves. “It’s a good thing that they left plenty of space for your own books, Ambassador. I take it that you will need it.”
Nekel thumbed through a worn volume, and replaced it on the shelf. “Yes, I certainly will. How much do we have left in the treasury? I fear that I will need a great deal of it to purchase the volumes I need. “
“That’s what I came to speak with you about.” Gelek held out a small black book. “I did the inventories you wanted, and made note of all your accounts, both personal, and those that have been set up by Temalta for your official use. There is a good bit of money left, but you’ll need to be careful. I would recommend making careful investments here; perhaps in Amalgamated Kedonti, or one of the airship companies. I hear that soon the airships will be able to take ten or more passengers at a time, and that they will be a major form of transportation, and I do not think it is too far-fetched.” Gelek held out the account book for his employer to peruse, and turned to the bookshelf himself. “I have never seen a personal library this large. When I was training, the only library was the one at the temple, and it had perhaps half as many books. Most of what I learned was on the field, or from the mouths of the teachers themselves.” He seemed lost in reverie, but soon noticed Nekel’s eyes upon him, and smirked slightly. “I apologize, sir. I tend to drift off into tangents at times. Please, look over the account books and let me know how to invest the funds, and I will be happy to arrange it for you.”
He gave a slight bow, then turned on his heel, and left the room; several of the novices stared after him for a moment, then quietly returned to their work. Nekel pondered Gelek’s words. Rather unorthodox thoughts, for an adept of the monks of this time, unless his own records had been seriously inaccurate. Perhaps Gelek’s love of books could be put to good use once the books arrived. Or, even better…Nekel smiled. If he was capable of a love of books, instead of the blood-lust and religious fervor of the other young monks, he might be convinced of the reality of mind-travel and the importance of Nekel’s real mission.
“Sir!” He heard a shout at the door, and whirled around to see one of the young monks running toward him.
“Slow down! Where is your calm, your composure? You must not let yourself get excited like this.” He held up a hand to stop the monk’s mad rush, and the younger man skidded to a halt on the stone floor. “Now, catch your breath, and tell me calmly what is going on.”
The boy gasped for breath for a few moments before calming himself, then turned back to Nekel, and said quietly, though with great intensity, “A ship has just landed.”
Nekel scoffed. “You come to tell me that a boat has landed? My dear boy, we live in a major port city; boats land and cast off ten times an hour. What boat is it that has you so worked up?
“I did not see the name of the ship, but I saw the group that got off when it docked. There was a group of young men and women, dressed all in white robes; but at the head of the group was a woman, so pale and beautiful that I almost thought she was a statue. Her skin was almost as white as ours, and her hair was like the color of the sun at sunset. When she came ashore, she stood and spoke to the people for a moment. She said that the isolation of her people was at an end, and that they were making themselves known to the world again.” The monk glanced around at the others in the library, and lowered his voice. “Master Nekel, she said they were from the Selides.”
Nekel started, almost dropping the book in his hands. “Are you sure,” he hissed. “The Selidians have not made themselves known to the world since the fall of Suktis. Why, after twenty thousand years of secrecy, would they make themselves known? Why here? Are you sure?”
The young monk swallowed hard, and nodded. “Yes, that is what she said. Their ship was not any design that I have seen before, and several of the members of her group had the white hair and purple eyes of the Suktisian survivors. She herself, and her acolyte both had the pale skin and ginger hair of the native Selidian line. I think she is telling the truth.”
Why now, Nekel wondered again, and why here? Was it simply because Kedon was the nearest land mass to the Selidian isles? He noticed the young monk shifting nervously, and turned back to him. “Quick, gather up several of the other monks. I want only the most reliable. We must find out what the Selidians are doing here, and why. I want you to find out where they are staying, and if they intend to establish a permanent presence here. Stay only as long as it takes to find out that information, then report back here immediately. But do not come back without that information, do you understand?”
The young monk nodded, and walked swiftly out of the library. The Temaltan ambassador looked around the room; all work had stopped, and most of the monks were staring at the door that their comrade had just exited. “Well? Are you lacking for work? Don’t just stand there idly! No, no more books for today. I want you all to go out to the courtyard; practice your martial arts for a full hour. I want to make sure that you are all in prime condition.” Several of the young men glanced at each other as he added, “Your battle skills may be needed before long. Let us make sure that they are up to the task.”
Mide stood in the antechamber of the lord mayor’s office, and looked around at the building. She was glad to see that the Kedonese had begun to shake off the influences of the Temaltans; their discovery of science had helped greatly. She smiled slightly, and the young acolyte Natael spoke up. “Why are you smiling, my lady?”
“Oh, I’m sorry Natael, I was just distracted. I was remembering the last life I spent here, and thinking how unlikely it is that this one will end as bloodily as that one did. The Kedonese have come quite far in that time, and I do not think that they believe in witches or water spirits anymore. Whether they still believe in anything is yet to be seen.” She stood calmly, not moving but yet projection a sense of readiness and action.
Natael's brow wrinkled slightly as he thought. "I'm not sure I like this place. It I never liked orange, it always seems to go with things that are unreal."
"It's a legitimate response to Kedon. I am not sure that they have ever been quite themselves. First they were ruled by the Temaltan monks, who repressed their natural joy and strength. Now that they are free, they spend too much time building things that simply distract them. I hope that someday they will rise up and discover who they truly are."

Footsteps echoed on the floor for a moment before the doors at the end of the hall opened, and a well-dressed gentleman came out to meet them. "I beg your pardon, madame, sir, but your arrival has thrown us into a bit of a tizzy! The Lord Mayor is ready to meet with you now, and he has cleared his schedule for the rest of the day, so he is at your disposal. Please, if you will come with me!" He bowed deeply, and the two white-robed Selidians walked behind him into the corridor.

He escorted them to a large wooden door in the side of the wall; the door looked heavy enough to stand up to an invasion, and it was highly decorated with metal scrollwork. The steward opened the door, and bowed the Selidians through. He watched their white robes whisper across the floor, and marveled again at their presence. They looked eldritch, as pale and distant as they had been depicted in the stories his mother read to him in the nursery. Who would have imagined that these fair folk from the pages of distant legend would have entered the modern world again?

The Lord Mayor tried not to appear unnerved by the appearnace of the Selidians. He stood calmly behind his desk when Mide and Natael entered the room, and moved forward to greet them only after the doors were closed. "Welcome to Kedon, madame and sir! I am afraid I don't know quite how to address you; we have so little knowledge of your people, and what knowledge does exist is mostly in the realms of myth and legend. Please, please, have a seat." He waved to the thick leather seats before his desk, and sank into his own chair again.
Mide studied the man behind the desk with keen brown eyes. He was a tall, thin man, with the bronze skin and dark hair of his people. He was dressed in a somber black suit, but his dark green waistcoat added a touch of levity to his appearance. He appeared very flustered, and she wished she could do something to calm him. Any move she made, however, would likely only make him more nervous, so she sat quietly in her chair. Natael did the same.
"We realize the impact our sudden appearance must have. Your airships have appeared several times over our islands, and we knew that we could not remain secret much longer. Soon you would be sending exploratory ships to the Selides; we would prefer for that not to happen, so it was decided that we should come to warn you. Do not send ships to the Selides, or to the sunken ruins of Suktis. Your machines are marvelous, and quite powerful, but there is a power in the Suktisian lands that must not be awoken. We have done all we can for twenty thousand years, and the secrets of Suktis have, fortunately, remained a secret."
The mayor rubbed his face wearily, and leaned forward. "You are asking me to tell my people that you have showed up, straight from our books of fairytales, but that none of them can ever see your lands? My people are curious and they will not appreciate being instructed like children."
Natael leaned forward, and shook his head. "And we would not ask that of you. We have made ourselves known to the world, and we do not expect to be left to ourselves anymore. We will be happy to show your people our lands, but they must come with us, and not on their own. On a simply practical level, we know the ruins of Suktis better than anyone, and are the only ones who can safely navigate ships through those waters."
Mide looked at the deep lines on the Lord Mayor's face as he sat in his chair, thinking. Her heart ached for him and his people; none of them could know how short a time their way of life would last. Only another year, perhaps two, and everything would be gone.


“Mother, Kedi has sent me an invitation. She would like me to come over this afternoon, and stay for dinner with her family. May I go?” Suka stood quietly in the entrance to the sitting room, and held out the slip of paper to her mother, who sat on the couch, reading a book. Kisa Loedi peered up at Suka over the top of her glasses, and smiled. Suka loved it when her mother smiled—which was often—because her face wrinkled in delicate lines all along the sides of her mouth. She thought those wrinkles were more beautiful than the smooth faces of many of the girls her own age. Kisa set down her book, and stood. Walking over to Suka, she smoother a few wrinkles out of her dress where the corset pressed against it.
“Well, that is very kind of Kedi! Yes, of course, you may go! Have Dakon drive you over, and please be back by nine at the latest. Oh, and tell Jeda Maktsi hello for me. We must have them over for dinner some evening soon.” She sat back down, and resumed reading as Suka left the room, but let the book fall to her side as she watched her daughter’s retreating back. Kisa sighed, wishing for a moment that Suka was still the little girl in pinafores and hair ribbons that she had been not so long ago.
Suka rang the bell at the Matksi house and listened to the echoes sound in the house. After a moment, a servant came to the door, and recognizing her, smiled, and ushered her into the sun room where Kedi was waiting.
The younger girl turned towards her guest with a smile. “Suka! I am glad you could make it so quickly! Please, have a seat! Kemon, please tell Heka that we will take our tea in here when it is time. Thank you.” The two girls settled themselves onto the sofa, and Suka turned to Kedi.
“You told me that you had something you wanted to show me? What is it?”
Kedi held up the thick blue book again. “You didn’t see some of the more interesting things in this. Take a look at page 308.” Suka flipped the pages to the correct place, and Kedi scanned it. “Ah, yes, there. Read it starting there.”
“ ‘On the Mythology of the Astaldi. The Astaldi have gone through several major paradigm shifts over the course of their history; most of the earliest records indicate a sort of monotheism, and jut prior to the invasion of the Temaltan monks, the primary religion was a distinct polytheism. However, for last several millennia, one mythology has come to dominate. At some point in the relatively recent history of the islands, a movement began to bring back the religion that was believed to have been practiced on the fallen island of Suktis. A cult sprang up around a charismatic leader, called Sulan, who taught that all life is cyclical, and that each individual must live through various lives until their soul has learned the meaning of life, and can now go live with the gods in the heavens.
“From this point onward, Astaldi religion began to be focused around the idea of reincarnation; the veneer of Gnosticism from the Temaltan occupation quickly dropped away, and temples were built in most towns. It took some time for the Temaltan monks to be driven off the islands, and this theme of a great battle between light and dark pervades much of the surviving Astaldi culture.”
Suka let the book drop to her lap; her mind was overwhelmed with memories.
A troop of monks, dressed in black, making their way inland by moonlight.
The flash of arrows, the whiz and thump as they hit their marks
Blood pooling in the sand, flies settling on still-warm flesh
The first temple, on the small central island that few ever saw. The first young men and women coming to join them. The trading ship that landed, with a young woman aboard. The young woman, the daughter of an ambassador. Those bright blue eyes…Kaedti.
Suka looked up into her friend’s deep blue eyes, and saw tears welling there. “Kedi? You remember it, too?”
The young woman nodded, and sat down on the couch. “I found it just before we left the ship. I didn’t believe it at first, either, but then I started having dreams…remembering things…” She ran her hands through her hair. “I’ve spent most of the week in father’s library, trying to read anything I could about Astaldi history. I know that I have never heard any of these things before, but I remember things that I could have no knowledge of. I think that’s why the story of the Ersan princess struck me so deeply. She wasn’t a princess, she was the daughter of the Ersan ambassador. But I remember being locked into a trunk, and being loaded onto a ship…I remember walking on the island, and convincing someone…” her voice trailed off as she saw Suka begin to tremble. “Yes, I think it was you. I think you must have been Sulan, the sculptor who started the revival of Astaldi culture. I remember convincing you to let me stay, you didn’t want to let me…”
Suka nodded, remembering the anxiety she had felt for her friend. “But this seems so impossible,, that we should meet here when we knew each other there. Perhaps certain souls must travel together to learn their lessons. But then…I remember a girl with ginger hair…And not just from Sulan’s life in the Astaldak lands, but from somewhere else, too. I think perhaps that she and I have known each other for a verty long time. Where is she?”
The boat cut swiftly through the waters, and Mide stood in the prow of the ship, watching the ocean stretch out ahead. Only one more day, and they would be standing on the shores of Perzelsis. She smiled slightly at the though, knowing that her friends would be waiting. It had been a long time.
“My lady?” She turned around, and saw a young acolyte standing behind her. “Yes, Natael, what is it?”
“We will be in Perzelsis tomorrow, and the captain wants to know if we should alert the docks that you are aboard. Diplomatic vessels have special privileges, including priority docking, swift passage through customs, and reliable transportation to your new residence.”
Mide thought for a moment, and shook her head. “No, I would not like the Temaltans to know that we are coming. I fear what they may try to do to prevent us from reaching the shores of Kedon.”
Natael’s lips quirked in a brief smile. “I don’t believe the Temaltans have the technology to reach us this far out from the shore.”
“No, I don’t believe they can, either. But they have enough money to persuade others to reach us. The Kedonese have the technology to blast ships out of the water miles from shore, and their airships can easily reach any vessel within three days’ travel. I would rather not swim in to shore, if it’s all the same to you.” Natael smiled, and returned to deliver the answer to the captain.
The Selidian lady turned back to the waters, and looked out to where she knew the shoreline lay. Soon.


“Ambasador, today you are scheduled to take a tour of the most advanced and efficient factory in Perzelsis. The Amalgamated Kedonti factory has been a major landmark in our city for fifty years, and their production is always of the higest quality. They manufacture our wonderful mechanical carriages, as well as cookware, corset rods, and a line of farming implements. “
The Temaltan struggled into his waistcoat, still finding the metal rods constricting. “And why, exactly, am I scheduled to visit a factory? Are we planning on sending diplomats there? Or establishing trade with the factory floor?”
The young monk, Gelek, standing in the doorway sighed, and wished for the hundredth time that the elders had sene fit to send someone else to liase for Nekel. The ambassador hadn’t seemed so bad at first aboard the ship, but after the storm…well, perhaps he was just still in pain from that.
“The Kedonese are eager for you to see their mechanical prowess. The factory is a great symbol to them, more so than perhaps anything else in this city. If you want to learn about their culture, and make yourself accepted here, then you need to visit places like the factory.”
Nekel shrugged into his overcoat, and buttoned it across his waist. “Yes, yes, I know. Well, best to get it over with as soon as possible. Send for the infernal carriage, I’m ready to go.”
He strode out into the bright sunlight, and climbed aboard one of the gleaming carriages, gritting his teeth as it began its lurching way forward. The driver was skilled, and kept the jolting to a minimum, but Nekel found himself wishing for a simple desha to ride. The trip seemed to last for hours, but he doubted it was really more than thiry minutes. The carriage finally halted in front of a gate, and Nekel got out. Gelek quickly paid the driver, and stood beside Nekel. “I believe that the owner and the factory manager are waiting for us. Shall we go inside?”
Nekel nodded, and the two men walked through the gate. There was a small crowd waiting for them inside the factory grounds, and a man in an impeccable red waistcoat stepped forward to greet them.
“Hello! I am Jedan Keli, the owner of this fine factory. Gelek I have already met, since he set up this visit, and you must be Nekel, the new ambassador!” Jedan Keli was a large man, broad in the shoulder and waist, and taller than Nekel by at least a head.
“Yes, I am Nekel Verni, lately of Temalta. I am qujite eager to see your legendary factory. Who are these other people who have gathered?” Nekel tried to make his voice as pleasant and interested as possible, but he had always had a difficult time feigning interest where he had none.
“This man here to my right is the factory manager, Kan Bitali. He ensures that everything keeps moving, and that the merchandise keeps rolling off the factory floor. He has even managed to convince the workers to work longer hours, and increased productivity by fifteen percent!” The short man smiled slightly, and gave a subtle bow. “And here on my left we have Vaski Lejit, the head of our development branch. He has quite a few wild ideas, but he has also come up with some of our best-selling products. He is quite the innovator, you know! And hre behind me, we have the heads of our various departments: production, research, advertisements, shipping, sales. Everyone was so eager to show you around our factory! We had heard that the men of your order were less than amenable to mechanics and machinery, and so we were rather surprised when Temalta informed us that they would be sending an ambassador to Kedon. But we are very pleased, and highly honored! Please, if you will follow me, we will step inside and begin our tour.”
They walked into the nearest building, and Nekel clapped his hands voer his ears. The noise was deafening; the machines threw up an infernal clatter, and the voices of the foreman could be heard amidst the din, shouting instructions.
“This building houses our cookware line,” shouted Jedan, gesturing to the factory floor. Huge machines rolled out metal, pressed metal, cut metal, and workers sat in their stations, performing the same actions again and again. As Nekel watched, the routine was absolutely mesmerizing. Each piece was exactly the same, and the routine never changed.
“This is where it all starts,” Jedan explain, gesturing to a large machine which fed sheets of metal onto a conveyor belt. “The metal is delivered here in stacks, and this machine feeds it out on to assembly line. The automated valves here determine which belt it is delivered to. There are five main routes, each consisting of at least three separate lines of products. Let me show you!” The group moved to one of the long belts, and watched the sheets of metal come off the feeder. The little valves flicked open and closed, and a sheet came down the line that they stood by. A man slid the piece quickly into a large press, and pulled a lever. The top of the press slammed down and quickly opened again; the metal had been cut into a precise shape. The worker repeated the process five times, until no more pieces could be cut from the sheet, then tossed the scrap metal onto a belt that moved just above the floor. As Nekel watched, the scraps were picked up by a abother worker on another adjoining line. “What is he doing,” Nekel shouted in Jedan’s ear.
“Oh,” the owner replied, “He will be cutting smaller implements from the metal. That’s why each lines consists of at least three belts. We want to make sure that we use as much of the metal as possible.”
The pieces from the first press were making their way to the next worker in line, and the small group moved in for a better look. This worker, a young woman, pulled one of the pieces into alignment with her machine, and pulled a lever. The machine slammed down, much as the first one had, and lifted quickly. The metal was now no longer flat, and had a rather complex shape.
“These are facades for our line of ovens. The other belts on this line produce pots and metal cups. We sell quite a few of those to the military every year, they’re one of our best products!” Nekel’s ears rang as he listened to Jedan, and he wished that they could move to someplace more quiet, but it was nearly a half hour before the tour moved back outside.
The Temaltan shook his head slightly, trying to clear it of the noise, but he could see that there were at least three other large buildings that must hold more production floors, and groaned quietly.
“Is something wrong, Ambassador?” asked Gelek quietly. Nekel massaged his temples with gloved fingertips, and replied, “Yes, my head is killing me. There must be a way to cut down on that noise! I am prepared to endure discomfort for the sake of our mission, but I see no benefit in going deaf in the process.” Gelek nodded, and hung back for a moment to speak to the factory manager.
“Are you enjoying the tour, my dead ambassador,” asked Jedan Keli, and Nekel forced a smile and a nod. “Yes, indeed! I have never seen anything like it before, and neither has anyone else from my country, I believe. You see, we believe that matter is irrelevant, and has nothing to do with the soul. Consequently, we have not devoted very much time to the pursuit of the physical sciences. We still create by hand those few things that we need. We are happy in our ways, though. We have few needs, and know how to be content with little. When death calls one of our number, his soul floats away easily, and it is not weighted down by earthly attachments.”
“That is very fine indeed! But tell me, do you and your countrymen never long for a little more ease in your life? I know that the northern islands are vrery cold and it is difficult to grow food on the rocky soil. Even a few of our Kedonese machines could triple your crops, and feed your people better. Why do you not develop your own machines, or buy some of ours? Surely it would be of benefit to you?”
The Temaltan monk smiled noncommittally. “Would we like soft beds to sleep in, and mechanical carriages to drive us everywhere? Perhaps. It would certainly make our lives easier. But if we were to accustom ourselves to such things, we would lose our ability to sleep on rocks, and walk twenty miles if need be. Our life is not pleasant, as you would count such things, but we are happy with our lot, and we have no need of an easier life.”
Jedean Keli nodded pensively, thinking about the ambassador’s words as they entered the next factory floor. “Ah, here we are! I know that you say that your people have no need of thse things, but even you cannot deny the gloriousness of this floor!” Nekel once again winced at the deafening sound, and looked around the factory floor. At the beginning, it looked similar to the other factory: sheets of metal being cut, pressed, painted. But at the assembly stage, he realized what was being constructed. At the far end of the floor, gleaming new mechanical carriages rolled off the belt, and were driven away.
“Impressive, isn’t it? This factory is still the only one to make the carriages used by the cities of Kedon. Of course, any private citizen is free to purchase whatever type of carriage suits their needs, but most of them chose to buy an Amalgamated Kedonti carriage. We hope to have a new model available early next year, but Vaski is still working out the details. Eventually, every man and woman in Kedon will own a mechanical carriage, and we intend to be the ones that make it affordable to everyone here!” Jedan’s face was crinkled in a wide smile,a nd Nekel could tell that he truly believed in the value of hbis product.
“And you don’t worry about making such machines so readily available to so many people? You really want your country overrun with loud clattering machines?” Nekel tried not to smile; no matter how many machines Jedan Keli produced, it would all come to a grinding halt within the year. But of course, he had no way of knowing such a thing, and Nekel was not about to let on that something might happen. If that knowledge slipped out, it could cause a significant change, and he had no desire to end up split between two futures.
“Why should we worry about it,” Jedan laughed. “Right now, it is easier than ever for people to travel. Families formerly separated by large distances are now aable to come together every week if they wish, instead of once or twice a year. Goods from all over Kedon are delivered fresh to the markets, and public transportation is cheaper and faster than ever. And there is noise, to be sure, but little more than the incessant braying of the deshas, and our machines are getting quieter with every new model. It is one of Vaski’s main concerns. He thinks that the next model may cut down on the smoke as well.” After ascertaining that his guest had had enough of the noise of the production center, Jedan led the small group back outside. The noise was sstill quite loud, but not nearly as deafening as it had been inside the building.
“Your aide, Mister Gelek, has informed me that you are still recovering from the terrible accidne that occurred on your voyage, so I will end the tour here, and allow you to return to your house. We have been greatly honored by your visit today, and we hope that you enjoy your time here in our country! If there is ever anything the Amalgamated Kedonti can do for you or your people, please do not hesitate to let us know!” Jedan Keli, bowed low, and shook Nekel’s hand firmly.
As Gelek closed the door of the carriage, it pulled away from the curb, bearing th two men back towards the ambassadorial residence. “Thank you, Gelek. I do not think that I could have endured another moment of that noise. The clammer in the streets is bad enough as it is; I shudder to think of what it will sound like with hundreds more of these carriages. They make the very air itself stink.”


Kedi and Suka walked side-by-side, their escorts walking sedately behind them. The hallways were mostly empty, since most of the passengers were still at lunch, or up on the decks of the ship.
“My mother is visiting this afternoon, and will probably not return until after dinner,” Kedi said, unlocking the door to her quarters. “I would love it if you would like to stay with me for awhile! We have not had much time together since we set out, and I miss seeing you!”
Suka laughed, “Yes, of course I’ll come!” She looked over her shoulder at the escort, and informed him of her plans. He bowed, and headed back down the hall with Kedi’s escort. The two girls entered the suite, and made their way into the sitting room.
“Kedi, can I see that book that you were telling Mr. Luser about? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Astaldi poetry before, at least, not a whole book of it. That story you told sounded…well, almost familiar. I’m trying to figure out where I might have heard it before.” Suka settled herself gracefully on the couch, wishing she could loosen her corset.
Kedi nodded, going to a low bookshelf that sat in a corner. “I thought so, too. I keep trying to think of something that would give me a clue as to why it seems familiar, but no luck so far. Once I get back home, I’m going to go through all of the storybooks that my nurse read to me; it might be mentioned in there somewhere.” She pulled a thick blue volume from the shelf, and handed it to Suka. “Here it is. There’s lots of things in there: poetry, stories, even a book of religious writings. The book itself is about a hundred years old, I think it was published when the Astaldi ended their isolation, and let traders and explorers through again. I think anything Astaldi was selling then, so they just shoved a random collection of literature in a book.”
The young woman paged through the book; the pages were brightly illustrated, and the text was rather ornate. “No, none of these sound familiar…wait. The Life of the Blessed Sulan, by Mei Nevrekti? The Book of Sulan? I can’t think where I’ve heard of them…” She flipped through the pages until she found the first entry. “The Life of the Blessed Sulan, recorded by her loyal follower Mei Nevrekti, in the year of Ersada -------, under the light of the great god Su. The blessed Sulan began her life in this cycle under a different name. She was born to parents who lived on the island of Mei, and grew as many young women did.” She fell into reading silently, eyes scanning the page rapidly. Kedi watched from the adjoining sofa; her friend’s face grew very pale, and her breath began to come in short gasps. After a moment, her hands began to shake, and the book fell unnoticed to the floor.
Wisps of ginger hair blowing with the sand
Blood running across paving stones
Colored lights play across temple walls
Stars spin slowly overhead
“Suka! What’s wrong?” Her friends voice sounded far away, almost as though it were underwater. As Kedi’s hand closed on hers, she looked up into those blue eyes: it was as if Kedi was out of focus. The eyes were the same, but sometimes she had the bronze skin of the Kedonese, and at another instant her color was as pale as the Ersans. Suka looked down at her own hands; they seemed to shift between her own pale skin, the broze of the traditional Kedonese, and the dark brown of the Astaldi.
The moment passed, and Suka sank back into the cushions of the couch. Kedi shrieked, and dashed to her friend’s side. “Suka! Suka, what happened! Are you alright?”
Suka’s eyes fluttered open, and she slowly sat up. “Oh my…”
Kedi slipped her arm around her friend’s shoulder, and helped her sit up. “Here, let me loosen your corset, you need to breathe.” The metal slid back, and Suka felt the air fill her lungs. “Oh, yes, that’s better.”
“What happened? Why did you faint?”
“I…that book…I started remembering it…and remembering more things, more details than it gave. I knew names and places before it mentioned them. I…” She shook her head. “No, it’s insane. This can’t be happening.”
The younger girl fidgeted on the couch. “It’s alright, you can tell me. Even if it’s crazy, who would I tell it to?”
Suka laughed quietly, and nodded. “Fair enough. Kedi…I think I lived through these things. I think I was one of these people. That sounds so mad, doesn’t it? It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would happen in this day and age.”
Kedi shrugged slightly. “I don’t know. Maybe your imagination just got a little overactive today? I think maybe you had best lie down and rest for a while. Here, you can lie down on the sofa; my mother won’t be back until later, and she wouldn’t mind anyway. We can turn the lights down, and you can just rest for awhile.” She carefully turned down the lights, and settled herself back down on the sofa.
Suka let herself relax, and tried not to think about the images that had flowed through her mind. As she drifted off into sleep, the last thing she saw was a pair of green eyes, floating above an open sea.
The ship Perzelsis pulled into the dock four days later, and the passengers began to disembark. They were chatting gaily amongst themselves, skin and eyes bright from the fresh air and sunshine.
Suka and Gehne arranged for their luggage to be sent to the house, and Suka made her way through the crowd towards Kedi and her mother.
“Kedi!” Suka waved above the crowd, and saw an answering hand a few yards away. After a moment, the two girls stood together, trying not to be jostled apart by the mass of travelers.
“Suka, can you come over to my house sometime this week? I found something that I think you should see!” Kedi had to shout to make herself heard over the babble of cheerful voices, and Suka nodded. “Yes, just send me a note, and let me know when to come. My mother will want me at home for the first few days, but I should be able to come for a few hours later in the week.”
“Alright, I will send you a message as soon as I can. I really enjoyed the trip!”
Suka nodded, as she began edging her way through the crowd again. “Yes, I enjoyed it as well! I will come see you soon!”
When Suka arrived back at the cart which was now laden with luggage, Gehne signed to the porter to load their baggage onto a mechanical carriage. “Come along, Suka, your parents will be waiting. I’m sure they’re very eager to hear about the trip; they were so excited to be able to send you.”
“Miss Loedi, a moment please!” a shout boomed out over the dun, and Suka looked up. Mariok Luser was making his way across the plaza, and waved to her. “Miss Loedi, thank you for waiting, I was afraid that I might not catch up with you. I just wanted to extend my thanks to you. I very much enjoyed meeting you, and your young friend. I am going to be staying in Kedon for some time, I believe, and I hope to see you again soon.” He bowed formally, and Suka returned the gesture.
“Thank you for your kindness, Mr. Luser! Kedi and I both greatly enjoyed the dinner, and I know that we will both be quite happy to see you in the society circles here in Perzelsis.”
Mariok boomed out a laugh, “I am afraid that I do not often go to society events, since I find it rather difficult to remember all the rules. However, since I now know that you and Miss Makti will be present, perhaps I shall find the courage!” He gave a final wave as Gehne and Suka stepped into the mechanical carriage, then turned and disappeared into the crowd.
As the carriage jolted along, Suka peered out of the window; the crowds walked past on the sidewalks, as traffic wove through the streets. As they entered one of the residential sections, the streets were quieter, and trees grew from the yards, providing a welcome shade to the street below.
The carriage pulled up in front of a large house; a wide green lawn spread out in front of the building, and a garden lay off to one side. The house itself was almost regal, with a columned porch and many windows. As the clattering of the machine died down, the front door of the house opened, and a large man came rushing out. His skin was the bronze of the Kedonese, and he wore a thick curling beard, black as coal.
“Suka! You have returned! And without the slightest hint of a tan, yet again! Ah well, perhaps your mother is right, the paleness fo your skin suits you.” He embraced his daughter warmly, then held her at arm’s length to exmine her. “Now, most importantly, did you have a good time on the trip? I stillm wish your mother and I could have joined you, but I just arrived back into Perzelsis the day before yesterday, and your mother didn’t care to go without me. Was it a pleasant voyage?”
Suka laughed, and nodded. “I do swear, father, sometimes you talk even more than I do! Yes, I enjoyed the trip, but I do wish you and mother could have come with me. The ship was as lovely as everyone says, and I met some very wonderful people.” She linked her arm through her father’s, and walked slowly with him into the house. Gehne summoned a servant to unload the bags and bring them into the house.
“So, you made some new friends on the trip. Anyone that I should know about? You didn’t secretly marry a dashing young explorer, did you?” Mukti Loedi’s voice rumbled through the halls, echoing slightly.
“No, father, I didn’t get married secretly, so you don’t get out of saving up for a dowry. I met several very nice ladies my own age, and an airship captain twice my age. Do you know Mariok Luser, Father?” She looked up at him, trying to read his face, but it was inscrutable behind the beard. “Gehne warned me that he might be a little…odd, by normal definitions, and that he was, but he seemed nice enough.”
After a moment, Mukti nodded. “Yes, I do know him, and I was never wuite sure what to make of him. He strikes me as a man without a home, a man who can never settle down and live on the ground. He’ll always be sailing away somewhere on that ship of his.” He looked intently at his daughter, his black eyes bright and serious. “I trust that there is no special affection between you? I do want to see you happily married, but not to someone like that. “
Suka smiled, and squeezed her father’s arm. “No, nothing of the kind. I enjoyed talking to him very much, and I hope to see him at some of the events while he is here, but I do not think that we could ever feel that way about each other. I do not think that he is exactly in the market for a family.”
Mukti seemed relieved, and quickened his pace a bit. “Well, I am glad of that, then! Now, I understand that your friend Kedi Maktsi was on the trip as well. Did the two of you get to spend any time together?”
Kedi ran her fingers over the worn spines of the books on her bookcases, eyes skimming the titles. Finally, she found the titles she wanted, and pulled them off the shelf with a quick gesture. “Fairy Tales and Far Away Places,” she muttered, “A Child’s Book of Stories, and A Collection of Tales. If it’s anywhere, it’s in here. “ She sat down on her bed, and began reading.