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I found him and after he'd given me the memories that held his killer's
face Kakzim's face so I could recognize it. Father was very wise and he was
right to save his memories, but now I remember Kakzim and I remember being
killed. In my dreams the memories are all confused. I want to save Father and
the others, but I never can. It's only a dream, but it makes me sad, and
frightened."
"And your dream earlier tonight it was like that?"
Mantra's head bobbed once, but her eyes never left the dirt. "I remember what
never happened, not to me, but to someone like Father. Someone who's been
killed and holding on to memories, waiting to die. I
don't think I'll go to sleep again while I'm here."
Akashia was grateful that Mahtra wasn't looking at her. "There's no reason
for you to stay awake."
Not anymore. Akashia swore to herself that she wouldn't tamper with Mahtra's
mind again.
"No one's been killed in Quraite," she continued, "not in a long time. There's
no one dying here either."
"You are," Mahtra said as she raised her head and her odd eyes bore into
Akashia's. "It was your voice
I heard in my dream. I recognize it. You told me to remember what came before
Urik. You told me to feel shame and fear, because you felt shame and fear. I
felt what you felt, and then, I remembered what you remember."
"No," Akashia whispered. For one moment, one heartbeat moment, the
loathing she'd been trying to awaken in Mahtra had been awakened in her
instead. She thought the touchstone pattern had protected her. She
certainly hadn't acquired any of Mahtra's memories but, in her
narrow drive for judgment, it seemed that her own had escaped. "No, that
can't be."
"I recognize you. I recognize my lord Escrissar; I remember him as you
remember him isn't that what you wanted? The makers gave me protection. I
couldn't be hurt as you were hurt. Now I remember your pain, but what the
makers gave me won't protect you, no more than it protected Father.
I think Father would tell me that I've made a bad trade. He would tell me to
learn from my mistakes, but I don't know what there is for me to learn.
The august emerita told me that my lord Escrissar is dead. I believe her. If
you believe her, then he can't hurt you again and it doesn't matter that what
the makers gave me won't help you. Is that an even trade? Do you believe what
the august emerita told me?"
Mahtra was a child of Urik's darkest nights, its murkiest shadows, but mostly
she was a child, with a child's cold sense of right and wrong. Akashia
nodded. "Yes," she said quickly, swallowing a guilty sob.
"Yes, I believe he's dead. It's an even trade."
"Good. I'm glad. Without Father, there's no one to ask and I can't be sure if
I've done the right thing.
Your memories will sleep quietly now, and I can leave here with the ugly man
and not look back. Kakzim killed Father. The ugly man and I will hunt Kakzim
and kill him, too. For Father. Then all my memories will sleep quiet."
Akashia rose and faced a corner so she didn't have to face Mahtra. The
white-skinned woman's world was so fiercely simple, so enviably simple.
Mahtra's memories would sleep quietly, as perhaps Akashia's own
memories would grow quieter, if she could truly believe in Mahtra's simple
justice.
"Pavek," she said after a moment, still staring at the corner, still thinking
about justice. "You should call him Pavek, if you're going to take him away.
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He's not an ugly man; you shouldn't call him that. He'll tell you when you've
done the right thing. You should listen to him."
"Do you?"
It was a question Akashia could not find the strength to answer aloud.
"Father said the best lessons were the hardest lessons," Mahtra said
after a long silence, then to
Akashia's heartfelt relief walked softly out the door.
No need to worry: Mahtra could take care of herself wherever she went.
Reclaiming her bed, but not for sleeping, Akashia extinguished her lamp. She
sat in the dark, thinking of what she'd done, what Telhami had said, and all
because of the extraordinary individual the Lion-King had sent from Urik.
Mahtra was like a Tyr-storm, rearranging everything she touched
before disappearing.
Akashia had taken a battering since sundown. She wouldn't be sorry to see the
white-skinned woman leave, but she wasn't sorry Mahtra had come to Quraite,
either. There was a bit of distance between herself now and the yesterday of
Elabon Escrissar.
Akashia still found it difficult to think of Ruari or Pavek. Ruari was
the past of hot, bright, carefree days that would never come again. Pavek
was a future she wasn't ready to face. She didn't want either of them to leave
with Mahtra, but she could admit that now, at least silently to herself, and
with the admission came the strength to say good-bye before dawn, two days
later.
She was proud of herself, that there were no tears, no demands for promises
that they would return, only embraces that didn't last long enough and,
from Pavek, something that might have been a kiss on her forehead just before
he let go. Standing on the verge of the salt, Akashia watched and listened
until the bells were silent and the Lion-King's kanks were bright dots against
the rising sun. Then she turned away and, avoiding the village, walked to her
own grove.
There were wildflowers in bloom and birds singing in the trees all the
beautiful things she'd neglected since her return from Urik. There was
a path, too, which she'd never noticed before and which she
followed... to a waterfall shrouded in rainbows.
Chapter Seven
A trek across the Athasian Tablelands was never pleasant. Pavek and
his three young companions were grateful that this one was at least
uneventful. They encountered neither storms nor brigands, and all the
creatures who crossed their path appeared content to leave them alone.
Pavek was suspicious of their good fortune, but that was, he supposed, his
street-scum nature coming to the fore as he headed back to the urban cauldron
where he'd been born, raised, and tempered. That and the ceramic medallion
he'd worn beneath his home-spun shirt since leaving Quraite.
The closer they came to Urik, the heavier that medallion which he had not
worn nor even touched
since Lord Hamanu strode out of Quraite hung about both his neck and his [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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