“She was so small and fine boned, like a bird. That is what Dekra means in the Yactanese tongue. She was beautiful and clever.” The boy laughed. “She spoke enough for me too and had a heart bigger than both of us.”
Tonunda listened on to the description and eccentricities of the girl. Anyone else would have been bored with the infinite detail, but he only heard one singular recurring statement; this boy loved her.
“And then they took her!” the boy said angrily, interrupting his thoughts.
Tonunda shot him a quizzical look.
“Do you know of the Children of Enlightenment?”
He had to admit he hadn’t. Nusallean law permitted religious freedom. New temples of every belief seemed to spring up everyday.
With the pursing of his lips, Tonunda raised his upturned palms.
“Priests and priestesses came, ringing bells and chanting through the streets. I was with them for awhile too. They seek out the bedraggled people of the city. They offered us food and rooms to stay in, continually telling us “they loved us.” But they had some morality that demanded we be separated. I of course, wanted to leave, but Dekra…”
He shrugged, lowering his head and wiping his eyes before going on.
“She wanted to stay on. That hurt so much, my friend. I would have thought she loved me enough for us to stay together.”
I am sorry.
Tonunda grabbed a charred stick from the fire and began to scribe unwelcome words on the floor.
Her – choi…
“No!” erupted the boy, swatting the stick from his hand. “She is held against her will.”
Tonunda contemplated the outburst. He was dubious. No doubt the boy refused to accept the facts.
Footsteps faint; two of them on stone, arose in his hearing. Two people trod at an easy pace in conversation with each other.
The city watch.
Tonunda ran to the window for confirmation. Two watchmen with cudgels hanging from their belts trod the street at an easy pace. He beckoned. When the boy joined him, Tonunda pointed at the watchmen.
“The city watch?! They were no help. They only said it was ‘her choice too.”‘
Tonunda gripped the youth’s upper arms and stared deeply into his eyes.
How can you know she is held against her will?
He dropped his hands as the boy sighed.
“Three weeks ago, she chanted in the streets too, wearing the white robes of a priestess. She looked at me and smiled, but I only saw a stranger in her vacant eyes.”
Tonunda rushed back to the fire and scribed again, this time on the wall.
Dekra – different?
“Aye, her words were slower and she seemed happy in such a way that I found disturbing.”
Tonunda nodded in empathy.
“That is not the worst of it. She told me that she is promised to the grand high priest. That she actually looked forward to being one of his brides.”
“I have approached the temple twice to look for her, and both times the city watch have arrested me. If I go there once more, they will imprison me.”