Chapter III:66

She does not belong to you, this woman of your house. No more than land, that shall remain for long after your day is done. She is of the village, and the people, and worth more than any man. For one man might lay the seeds of multitudes in a day, the land must bear the crops to grow. It is the woman’s inclination to do so, but the womb bears the great burden, however gladly. All sense demands we are fruitful, and fill the land with our wisdom. Should the foreigner wish to claim her, then let them offer token, that they are ally, not conquer, nor brigand. That her great worth be shown some measure of honor, for what in multitudes, might never be repaid.

– The Path of Ascension, circa 70 B.E.

A House of the Plain

It was dusk, and though a village may lay somewhere over the next horizon, it was difficult to tell how far. A man had herded mixed cattle onto the road, but was struggling to get them to cross out of the way. He glanced up to four weary travelers, though looked no less so himself.

“You women on your way to town?” the man asked, and wiped his brow. He seemed both surprised, and shrewd. “That’s a good few hours on… with tired horses.”

“We are,” Kiannae offered.

“Scripture says we should offer rest to the weary, but I don’t have much to offer. Certainly not my own time, to introduce you to the wife. You lot are on horses, you care to help round up the rest? Get them up into the fences? Be a lot easier for you to chase down stragglers. Give me… seven shillings, and I’ll see to dinner, and you can have the barn for the night. A fair price, fairer than you’ll get from the inn, and it used to be a barn any how. Besides, it’s clear out, it’ll be quite chilly by the time you get there, worse if a wind kicks up. I think it might, if you were thinking of staying out on the plans. Daughter’s good with horses, too, for a fair price.”

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Chapter III:65

Where Moon and Sun did come to clash,
there stood two walls not meant to last,

quarried and brought from leagues apart,
built high ‘pon soft dirt, were twin ramparts,

there time did pass and settle old soil,
where guards men marched in futile toil,

passed by through day and night they try,
those men to not see they march eye to eye,

great folly is not that the precious decays,
but that loathed, stands to hold us at bay,

for while a line can well be discerned,
two walls have joined, their name so earned.

– Twinsgate, circa 400 E.R.

Ascension’s Border

Etore pulled a short leather cord from her bag, and grabbed Wren’s hand. She yanked him back into their room before he could leave.

“What?” he demanded.

Without a word she grabbed his shoulders, turned him to a mirror. She started gathering his hair to the back of his head. He glared at her in their reflection with confusion.

“We will be entering Ascension lands today. Men, rarely wear their hair long in those parts, and those who do, tend to wear it back. You’re not going to want to be mistaken for a woman, and found to be otherwise. Trust me, that’s not the kind of attention we need. It’s a long way to the High City, and a lot of pious, spiteful people to slip past. You haven’t proven adept at going unnoticed, yet. Rather, the opposite.”

“Do you really think this is going to help?”

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Chapter III:64

If I did not know the way,
perhaps I’d follow the sun,
that did not stray in course,
not till the day is done,

if I could not rest my head,
not when the night was black,
then on a ribbon of moonlight,
let Laeune guide my path,

if the stars should ever vary,
and all the heavens crack,
then I’d let my heart decide,
and cross the oceans back.

– The Wanderer’s Lament, circa 40 B.E.

The Road Ahead

Estae 20th, 1 S.R.

“I still can’t believe… we just left,” Katrisha mused. She’d stopped to look out over a rolling plain, above the thinning tree line of a forested hillside.

“A few days late to be bemoaning that,” Etore offered beside her.

“I wouldn’t say I was bemoaning, exactly,” Katrisha countered. “I agree, it really wasn’t wise we stay…” She hesitated as Wren trotted his horse around them, and down the hill. It seemed a willful act, to ignore the conversation. She begrudged him that.

“Welcome to life on the road. You make messes, or fix them, sometimes a little of both, and then you move on. Though, I won’t deny you lot go bigger than most.” Etore trotted her horse after him.

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Chapter III:63

What creature bows before me?
Some low child of the Moon.
What purpose does this serve?
Any that you might choose.

What ask you wayward witch?
To walk beside the Sun.
What right have you to go?
But that you grant one, none.

The men do quarrel so,
too many a faithless left.
Give them these ones then,
you will not make them less.

– Songs of the Sun, 32 E.R.

The Pilgrims & the Saou

Estae 15th, 1 S.R.

Katrisha half woke to a nudge at her shoulder. She murmured sleepily, wrapped her arms more tightly around a pillow, and nuzzled into it. Another nudge brought two blinks, and weary eyes turned up. A young woman stood over her bed, with her arms crossed.

“Mother says breakfast is ready.”

Katrisha got up without thinking anything of it. She grabbed her undergarments from where they were folded beside the bed. Those pulled on, she plucked up her robe, and only then noticed a blushing young woman was still standing there.

Jenny turned, and walked out after an exchange of awkward glances.

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Chapter III:62

I shall not bow to the limitations you have known, and rather let them remind me that I must do, and be more. I must not accept second best. I must not let my gift be a crutch, but rather wings. I will not be dim. I will not be less, not even for you, my dear man, who I respect as no other. I hope in this you can find some pride, because you could not cheat. You lay your chisel to the stone, and shaped it so far as it would give, accept what is, is.

– Letters of Sylvia Grey, 116 E.R.

Stone and Water

Estae 14th, 1 S.R.

It had been over a hundred miles to Overlake, nearly a mile in elevation from the lowlands where the capital lay. It was a bit easier traveling down the north side, though at times hard to tell, and certainly no faster. A slow decline, easily lost amidst other variations in terrain. An altogether uneventful few days. Stops only in towns, for doubts of sleeping in open jungle.

The villages of northern Lycia were sparse but friendly, welcoming places. Duskwater, another hundred miles on past Overlake was deep in a river valley. The road had wound down into it for over a day.

Much of the town was built afloat on rafts and pylons across a very wide but shallow stretch. A few high stone bridges permitted waterway access to the south. All tethered together by a maze of floating and stilted structures. It was here the road crossed by way of the main drag, to the north side of the unimaginatively named Long River. There turned a bit west towards the distant North Sea, and the High City on its shores. Easily another three hundred miles farther.

“I’m so sick of that paladin,” said a man behind Katrisha. He was in another booth off a dining hall, sat across from another fellow. They were both dressed in the plain, brownish peasant garb. The sort most in the town seemed to wear, in some combination with white or greens.

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Chapter III:61

Like sunbirds to the flame shall they come,
like fish rise to feed these glorious ones,
know the difference twixt friend and fowl,
know which feed and where to cower,
seek the source but beware the light,
false promises made in err or lie.

– untitled, circa 60 B.E.

Passing Shadows

Etore gave a dark haired woman with an empty scabbard a dubious look. More so for the one she was giving her. It wasn’t altogether untoward, exactly, but quite intent.

The woman stopped before her. “Nothing off the shelf will do, we’ll need to be very sure your new blade doesn’t cut itself free.”

“I’d like to see the blade, first,” Etore protested.

“Humor me?” the woman said with a smile Etore did not like, in spite of how very friendly it was.

“Very well,” Etore said, and the woman began lacing the loop of the scabbard through her belt.

“I presume you’re the apprentice?” Etore asked.

“I wouldn’t say that, not anymore. I’m going by Lady Anaera now, passed my test late last night.”

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Chapter III:60

A flower blooms where men can’t see,
a nectar sweet brings bird and bee,
there hidden proud ‘bove forest frond,
where lurk the ancient hairy ones,

oh there though ‘pon yon daring cliff,
by moonlight’s grace is brought a gift,
basked in tranquil Laeune’s light,
might one catch a shimmer in flight,

what strange compulsion in stygian gloom,
compelled the hummingbird’s bright plume,
oh there north in these summer lands,
where did come forth lady, and man.

– Flowers of Lycia, 160 E.R.

Weaver of Secrets

Etore had been right. The north did become lovely as forest gave way to jungle. The village of Overlake clung along a cliff, as the name implied, above a lake. An inn balcony also rose over jungle canopy, in full summer bloom, above waters shining calm and still.

The white flowers of the trees almost glowed in the moonlight. Katrisha would have called it glorious, if not for the muggy summer heat. Enchanted undergarments had been her fix for hot summer days for over a decade. Sometimes, however, they only helped what they covered. She pulled her robe tighter over her chest against the heat.

Ever so often something would glimmer in the distance. Her spectacles had not helped to make out what it was. They flitted between the trees, darting, stopping, turning another way with incredible speed. She’d never quite seen the like. Not wisps, that tended to spiral, and were fainter. She’d caught a few of those, midst the trees as she tried to solve the puzzle.

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