Told by Poelimo, Child of The Grace, Story-Singer, and Junior Master of The Mind-Libraries
The High One of Waters smiled as she led us to some seats outside the Guest Home and indicated that we should sit there with them. ‘There is much we must say to you, but first of all, since we have only spoken formally as part of the ceremonies, you should know that I am named Nildran Draakia, and you may call me by my name when we are alone, but otherwise you should address me as High One.’
‘My Given-name is Ventron Draakor, the High One of Fire, and you should do the same for me,’ her companion informed us. ‘Now, we need to know much about you before tomorrow’s Judging when you, Master Kearimo will stand to be Judged with Junior Master Bruathimo.’
Seeing the surprise and bewilderment on Keari’s face he hastened to explain. ‘We know you are older than the thirty we said was the oldest age for Judging, but coming as you have done on this Day of Days and proving to have the precious gift of Reading Hearts, we shall depart from custom and present you together. Forgive me that I may not tell you more at this time. I am constrained by the Draake and the Light.
‘So, if you are willing, please tell us about yourselves and in particular your customs of naming, for you will require a Draakean name, and though we have learned much about your people from our friend Poelimo and his colleagues,’ he smiled and nodded at me, ‘we know little of that as yet, and names are of great import among our people.’
So one by one we told our stories and explained our particular connections. I made sure Shan wasn’t left out. ‘One person is not here today, and her connection is to me. Shanure, whom you know, is my Companion of the heart, and we will Join-for-Life when the time is right.’
Finally Mo said, ‘I know I’m not the One because I’ve already been Judged by the Light, so. . .can you tell me why you Shared spirits with me, and why the Draake blessed me?’
‘As Ventron has said,’ Nildran replied, ‘it was because you came on this particular Day. We will tell you more after the Judging tomorrow,’ and she briefly touched Mo’s shoulder, ‘but it wasn’t a mistake, you are each a great gift to us, and the blessings will enable you to complete whatever tasks may lie before you.’
Although this confirmed our earlier guesses, I could feel myself becoming irritated by their continual evasions. ‘Why can’t you just tell us what we need to know in plain words?’ I thought. ‘You’re worse than Bru at his highest and mightiest!’ and he, Sensing my frustration, put a hand on my back and smiled at me.
‘So Poelimo,’ Ventron said, ‘you are each differently connected to Bruathimo.’
‘Yes, except for Shanure. Her connection is to me.’
The High Ones now asked about our names, and I explained our Childling names, the giving of a True name, and the Void of the Nameless Ones. The last horrified them, and I explained, ‘It’s the one overriding fear of any Myldoran, but what we don’t know, and have no way of finding out, is whether the Void exists for us on other planes, and what happens to those Myldorangi who are Lost Beyond our plane, or die alone on another world.’
Keari shivered and Bru put a hand on his arm for a moment.
‘I Lost my twin brother many years ago,’ he explained, looking at Ventron. ‘His fate is unknown.’
Nildran looked us. ‘Our Lord of Fire may know something of this, and we will speak of it to him. For now, knowing the custom of your True names we will also tell them of that, and you will be given Draakean names at the feast.
‘Also, after the Judging tomorrow, we will commence your teaching so that you will be able to make the right use of everything you have received today.’
We hadn’t planned for this, of course, and with a small nod at the rest of us, Keari said, ‘High Ones we thank you, and are honoured by all you wish to do for us. However it will be necessary for me to re-Turn to our home tomorrow. Only for a brief time,’ he hastened to add, ‘because we are expected then, and if we delay they may believe us Lost, and we would spare them the grief that would cause.’
They understood at once, and smiled again. ‘That must not be,’ Ventron asserted. ‘Perhaps it will be best if you all go and then come back to receive our guidance. That question we will also present to the Lord and Lady.’
They rose, and with a promise to see us very shortly, departed on their errands.
‘This is becoming more than complicated,’ Mo reflected. ‘What should we do when we get home?’
‘We’ll go straight to Kira and the other Constellation Elders and tell them everything, and they can present it to the next Elders’ Gathering,’ Keari said. ‘We won’t ask for permission to come back, because we’ve no choice about that. We can’t possibly offend the High Ones or the Draake by not returning.’
Bru agreed with him, ‘We came to find out how we’re meant to help them, and we must come back to do it.’
Mo said, ‘You’re right, and Poeli, you were right about Sensitives. Clearly the fact that Keari and Bru are Sensitives, or Readers of Hearts, is most
Speaking very quietly, Keari said, ‘I Sensed fear under their surface emotions.’
‘Oh,’ I was surprised by that. ‘But at least they know what they’re afraid of. We don’t have the slightest idea what it is, and I can’t see a way out.’
‘Do you want a way out, Poeli?’ Bru asked.
‘No! Yes!. . .I don’t know! I need to understand, and feel we have a choice.’
Bru put his arm round my shoulder. ‘I know how you hate feeling trapped, but whether this is connected with the One they’re waiting for or not; whether we’ll discover what they need from us or not; the Draake said it was for our good and our world’s good as well as theirs; and we can still choose what to do about it.’
Although this time I was the one feeling apprehensive, we’d said all there was to say earlier, so we sat and watched the crowds as they moved around the square, always spiralling inwards to where the Lord of Fire was, and then spiralling out again. Over their heads we could see the same pattern of movement repeated on the other square. No one crossed the river at the Torfun, but there was much coming and going on the other bridges.
As the sun began to sink the square cleared, the Draake departed into the town with the High Ones, and tables and benches were brought out and set up on the levels in preparation for the feast, at which point Mekron and Sustran hurried up followed by two heavily laden acolytes.
‘We have brought what you need for the feast,’ explained Mekron a little breathlessly, ‘and we are to help you with it, and tell you anything you want to know.’
Knowing they wouldn’t, and possibly couldn’t tell us what we really wanted to know, I laughed, ‘Oh, that would take at least the next ten years, so why don’t you decide what we need to know.’
‘We can do that while you dress,’ he said, and led us back into the Guest Home. They waited in the Common Room while we bathed, dressed in our new under-linens and put slippers on to hide our feet, after which Mekron assisted us with the long loose trousers and the fine overtunic of the Draakea, while in another room Sustran helped Mo with her clothes – similar in style to ours, but of a finer material, and richly embroidered.
When she was dressed they joined us and we were shown the correct way to wear our new silken robes, which this time were to be fastened with a contrasting sash; the red-gold with blue-green, and the blue-green with red-gold.
‘This shows you have Shared spirits with both High Ones and been blessed by both our Lord and Lady,’ Mekron explained. ‘And this,’ he continued, pinning a Draake brooch above Bru’s heart, and another on Keari, ‘shows you are the Readers of Hearts.’ His voice trembled a little as he said it and he lowered his eyes. Apparently he was struggling to control a surge of fear and dread. Guessing something of the kind, I glanced across at Keari and knew he and Bru had Sensed it, whatever it was. They glanced towards Sustran and the acolytes and Sensed the same fear there, but also a great hope which, they later told us, they were all fighting to hold on to.
‘Thank you,’ Keari said, breaking the brief silence. ‘We shall do our utmost to live up to the honour you are giving us,’ and he smiled round at them all. We knew that smile well; although it seemed so gentle, somehow it always gave hope and strength to those at whom it was directed, and seeing it they looked more cheerful. The moment passed, but I made sure I would Remember it.
Our helpers now paused in doubt, and I realised they didn’t know what to do about our hair which was still tied up. Keari smiled again, ‘Would you like us to care for each other’s hair?’ he asked. ‘We can do it ourselves if you like.’
Sustran blushed with embarrassment. ‘We were to tell you that you should wear your hair as you would for a feast in your own homes. Now you are one of us, there are no restrictions. We were unsure whether to offer our help because. . .’
‘Because you’ve never seen a Myldoran’s hair let down before, and don’t know how we wear it,’ I said, to help her out. ‘Well,’ I continued, as I shook mine out of its knot, ‘it’s very long because we don’t cut it, and for ceremonials or feasts we men let it hang down our backs, while our women sometimes plait it in decorative ways. Black’s the most common colour now, though some, like me, have touches of dark brown, but Bru’s silver hair has ancient origins, and is very rare these days.’
The others were letting their hair down as I spoke, and at sight of Bru’s silver and Mo’s blue-black, Sustran gasped, ‘It’s. . .they’re all beautiful!’ and then blushed again.
Mekron gave her a slightly reproving look, although we could see that he and the acolytes were also admiring it, and all four watched with great interest as we brushed and combed it out before tying the side locks in the loose knot at the back of the neck, which allowed the rest to flow loose while keeping it tidily behind. Sustran helped Mo with her two side plaits, and then watched in awe as they were intertwined and pinned at the back, still allowing most of it to hang down behind her.
Their hair, of course, was a rich brown, loosely wavy, and not allowed to grow long. Women’s hair was cut at the jawline and held in a wide band, while the men kept it cut about a finger-length long.
Last of all they produced four pairs of embroidered slippers, requesting us to change into them after they had left the room. It was the extreme embarrassment with which this request was made that showed us just how strong their prohibition against bare feet was.
Indeed, it seemed nothing would ever make them accept the idea of our going barefoot. After Bru mentioned it casually one day, Ventron took him and Keari aside and, almost stammering, explained that although we could loose our hair whenever invited to; beyond the age of five years old the sight of someone’s bare feet was considered extremely ‘indelicate’ – a sight only to be shared between lovers and Life-Loves, and never, ever to be talked about. This meant we only went barefoot when we could be sure we were entirely alone, and we took great care never to mention the fact to anyone.
Shortly after we were ready we heard a horn call announcing the feast, and going out were shown to places at a long table set along the upper side of the square. From here we could look down the levels towards the river and see the other tables all filled with the townspeople.
The horn sounded again, the fire on the Torfun roared up afresh, water flowed into the river, goblets were raised high, and amid cries of, ‘Our Lord! Our Lady!’ a toast was drunk and, entering the Square with the High Ones, the Draake came to their places at the table.