“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.