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.”