Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 22, 2013

I have the joy of hosting Friday Fiction this week, made especially nice as this Friday is my birthday. Please enter your link in the Linky Widget following this introduction!

NaNoWriMo 2013 is entering its final week, and “Draconian Responses” is over 58,000 words now, with more still to write. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in writing the stories in this series, is seeing creation through the eyes of the natives of another world. When I wrote the first story, I imagined what it might be like if some of the things in our creation account had happened differently, and how the story might be told elsewhere. On Epsilon Eridanus, or Qi’le as they call it, their account holds that God created the woman first, and then the man, and that it was the man who fell first. Therefore, the man was made subordinate to the woman, resulting in a Matriarchal culture, and a Matriarchal image of God. In this chapter, I visited a bit of their culture and tradtions, while bringing in some hints of events still to come in the story. I hope you enjoy, and for my readers here in the United States, I hope you have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Draconian Responses
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo, 2013

Chapter 18

            G’Se watched out the side windows of the transport as it sped along over the trees. An obvious line revealed where the stream ran through the forest, though in this location, the channel was narrow enough that the trees closed enough over it that the water could not be seen. In several places, the path from T’Cha heading towards the Temple City would be near the stream as well, though that was just as much obscured by the dense foliage.
            A new robe rested on her lap, folded neatly and awaiting presentation to H’Na. She smiled as she thought about it. H’Na’s grandmother would have stood in and made the presentation, and it would have preserved the symbolism of the ceremony just fine. The presentation from mother to daughter signified the lineage of the priestess, daughter through mother, all the way back to the women of Ch’Ma, the first priestesses of Qi’le.
            A narrow, rocky canyon passed beneath them, bringing to G’Se’s memory a journey long ago by klur to the Temple, after a detour to T’Cha. The canyon had made some of the women on the journey nervous, with the open sky above. She had felt strange without the trees, but she hadn’t recalled feeling afraid. She had been a young woman, not yet ordained, but with the Terran devices proving the sky was nothing to fear, she had grown up with a slightly different mindset than previous generations. God created the forests for us, but She also created the plains, and the deserts, and the oceans, and the stars.
            In the very early years of their dealings with the Terrans, it had still been considered odd that any Qi’le would want to go to the stars, let alone a priestess. The priestess B’Tra had gone, of course, but that had been at the direction of the High Priestess, for the purpose of being an ambassador. While it still was not common that Qi’le went to the stars, it wasn’t as unusual or seen as indicative of some kind of mental lapse.
            Their own star shone down on them, providing life and warmth, and sustaining the trees that, in turn, sustained life on Qi’le. She had seen that star from Alsafi, and she had seen it from Earth, and from those places, it shrank to insignificance amongst all the other stars. Some stars stood out in the night sky. Theirs did not. For that matter, the Terran star did not, either.
            What was it, Most Blessed Mother of All, that made these two stars the place where You put Your children? She suspected the Terran scientists would offer long, detailed explanations of the type of star, and the distance between the star and the planet, and so many other things that she did not fully understand, but she went back to what she had always been taught. The Most Blessed Mother of All formed the world, and blessed it, and called forth the trees from the ground, and gave them the power to sustain life. Then She created the creatures for the trees to sustain, and in turn, ordained that the creatures would return to the trees eventually, and give back the nourishment they had taken from the trees. Then She formed the woman, and She touched the woman’s cheek, and the woman lived.
            The Terrans had more complicated explanations for how the worlds had formed and how life had begun, and most excluded the idea of God having been the One responsible. They may have their ideas. I see God in all that She has made.
            “We have arrived in T’Cha, honored priestess,” Peri said. He settled the transport to the ground near the old vessel the first Terrans had arrived in, and sent notification to Temple City Terminal Control of their safe arrival. “You have been so quiet this journey, honored priestess. Have I offended you in some way?”
            “No, Peri. I have just been thinking. I do not believe you would willingly offend me, and I prefer to not take offense to things that are done without intent to offend.”
            He lifted their two bags from the back of the transport, and slung them over his shoulders. “The priestess Se’Ana insists we stay with her, while Emily also has offered us rooms in the inn.”
            “Where would you prefer to stay?”
            “I believe it is better to stay with my grandmother, both because I would not risk offending her, and because I believe Emily will be around to welcome me for much longer than my grandmother. I dread the day I return from a journey, to learn she has experienced the final dream.”
            They walked the worn pathway through the village, receiving and returning frequent greetings from other residents they passed. Peri finally turned towards one door, where he called a greeting. The door opened, and they were invited inside.
            The older man took the bags from Peri. “Welcome home, Peri. I trust your journey went well?”
            “I cannot say for certain, Grandfather. I am told that, following our answers to the Council, the Archipelago entered a state of active war against Alsafi.”
            “War?” Peri’s grandfather switched to English. “There hasn’t been war since the old political systems nearly destroyed Earth.”
            “Alsafi used Empties in an attempt to attack Earth and Earthrise, Grandfather. The High Priestess told us we had saved lives with our warning, but none of us knew the extent. The Colonial Council isolated some of the Empties in a simulator, and gave them the messages from Alsafi.”
            G’Se noted the look of distress on Peri’s face, and placed a gentle touch on his arm.
            “Grandfather, one of the Empties took control of a Voidship in orbit around the Moon, and activated the Plateau Drive to send it crashing into Earth. The Council said if it had been a real Voidship instead of the simulator, the death toll could have been in the millions.”
            The old man nodded. “I would say that I hope both sides know what they’re doing, but it’s obvious that whoever on Alsafi instigated the attack, doesn’t realize the potential consequences.”
            The priestess Se’Ana stepped out of a side room. “If people considered the consequences of their actions before they performed them, many of our actions would never be performed.” She drew Peri into an embrace. “You have done well, child. Pray for all those affected by this, but do not accept the lie that you are in any way responsible. God used you to save many innocent lives, and for that, honor has come to the families of T’Cha, B’qa, and K’Za.” She turned to G’Se. “Honored priestess, enter our home in peace. It is a joy to see you again, G’Se.”
            “Honored priestess, be’tra for your welcome. I am delighted to see you again, Se’Ana. The priestess S’Bu sends her greetings, and bade me to convey her affection to you.”
            “I would that I could go and receive her affection in person.”
            “ Would it not be possible, honored priestess, for you to make the journey?”
            “I have sometimes thought about it, but I fear I am too old to travel the stars again.”
            G’Se cut her eyes towards the younger man. “Peri?”
            He met her eyes and smiled, before turning to Se’Ana. “Even if you were truly ready for the final dream, grandmother, SusAn would sustain you for the journey. Did you not tell me the story many times, of the crew member from Pisces that was attacked and seriously wounded by an animal, and was kept in SusAn until she was returned to Earthrise?”
            The old woman patted his arm. “I would think you were trying to get me away from T’Cha.”
            “You could go if you wished, Grandmother. You said when I was last here, that you were considering passing on the duties of priestess elder to another. If you and Grandfather wish to visit Earth again, I will gladly take you there.”
            “We will speak of this later. Come and sit, and we can discuss pleasant things for a little while. Honored priestess, I will send for the Headmistress of the school, so that we may plan the ordination of your daughter. Your mother offered to stand in for you when the other priestesses in her class were ordained, but she would not receive her robe from any but you, even if you were to be delayed for many years.”
            “Be’tra, honored priestess. I purchased her first robe while we were at the Temple City, so I will be ready to proceed whenever it is convenient for you and the council of priestesses here in T’Cha.”
            Peri’s grandfather remained by the door as the two women settled into their seats. “I will go and inform the Headmistress that the priestess G’Se has arrived, and is ready to speak with her at her pleasure.”
            Se’Ana smiled at the man. “Be’tra, my beloved. Peri, go with your grandfather, please, so that the priestess G’Se and I may discuss some priestess business privately.”
            Peri stood up, looking a bit confused. “Of course, grandmother.”
            When the two men had left, Se’Ana turned to her. “The High Priestess conveyed your request, honored priestess, and I have asked some friends to assist in the effort. I cannot promise, though, that we will find her. My impression is, that she does not wish to be found.”
            “Why is that, honored priestess?”
            “I cannot say for certain, G’Se, though I have my guesses. God, however, has been chastising me lately for slipping into gossip far too often, and I am making the effort to heed Her correction. If I share my guesses, even if they are correct, then I will be gossiping about someone who is not here to speak for herself.”
            “I understand, Se’Ana.”
            “I must ask, child, if you are sure of this path?”
            “I have been sure of very little since the day my husband died, Se’Ana, but of this, I am sure. It seems strange to think of such, but when the High Priestess suggested a path of service for me, it felt as if God was telling me that it was the right thing to do.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 15, 2013

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Vonnie over on her blog, My Back Door. Vonnie writes wonderfully imaginative stories for the young and the young-at-heart. Be sure to check out her writings, especially if you have young children or grandchildren to entertain.

My 2013 NaNoWriMo story, “Draconian Responses,” is now over 52,000 words, with several more chapters of events needing to happen to bring the story to its conclusion. One of the themes of the story is that a dictator has secured the position of “Adon” on Alsafi, a colonized planet in the Sigma Draconis system, by orchestrating civil unrest and controlling the Empties. He also smuggled Empties off Alsafi, and sent them to the Terran Archipelago capitol in the Lunar city Earthrise, to secure employment in potentially vital positions.

The Colonial Council responded to the dictator’s actions by dispatching the Aggressor Voidship Chesty Puller to Sigma Draconis, and in this scene, the commander of the Chesty Puller speaks with two captured members of the Alsafi Ruling Council.

Chapter 28
From “Draconian Responses”

            The woman sat in a chair, secured into it by a strap locked behind her. One other chair was in the room, and Ignatius entered and sat in it. She looked up at him with an expression that seemed to mix regret and relief. “Commander Crane,” she said.
            “I see that I don’t need to introduce myself, then.” He scrolled through the file on his datab. “I see you are Emilia Hendricks, and you have been on the Ruling Council for about fifteen standard years. That would put you having served the previous Adon as well as the current one.”
            “That is correct.”
            “Did you support the current Adon’s rise to power?”
            “But you remained on the Council after his assumption of the position.”
            “Did you support his methods or his programs?”
            “If you did not support his rise to power, or his methods and programs, then why did you stay on the Council?”
            “Commander Crane, have you found any former Council members?”
            “I haven’t looked.”
            “Don’t bother. You won’t find any. When Leonard first presented himself as the new Adon, several members of the Council opposed him. He had one killed on the spot, and those who chose to stand with the old Adon were taken to join him. Do you know what they did to the former Adon, Commander?”
            “Our files indicate he was executed.”
            “He was, and so were all the Council members who chose to oppose Leonard. He didn’t stop there, Commander. He didn’t just execute the Council members. He executed their families. Beretti was the most vocal in that meeting. He had Beretti strapped into a chair, and brought out both his mother, and his three year old daughter. They were stripped naked, bound hand and feet, and both were placed on the gallows with the nooses around their necks. As if that wasn’t enough, Leonard had two twenty five kilogram weights tied to two ropes, through pulleys attached to the ceiling above Beretti’s chair, and under the weights were the triggers that would release the trapdoors under the gallows. Beretti had to hold the ropes, knowing if he let either slip, a family member would die. He had to watch them standing there for hours, until his hands could no longer grip the ropes, and then he got to watch them die. The next day, they brought out his son and his father and repeated the process. The third day, it was his wife and his oldest daughter, only they forced him to watch a gang of men abuse them first, and then they put them on the gallows.”
            “How do you know this?”
            Tears were running down her face. “Because we had to watch it as well, Commander. Leonard told us that he would have no mercy on anyone who stood against him, and he promised us that our families would suffer miserable deaths as well, if we should ever think of betraying him.”
            “How many Council members did he subject to such torture?”
            “Over half of the former Council chose to side with the former Adon, and the torments were different for each one, but each was forced to endure some painful process in the vain hope of prolonging the lives of the people they loved. I have children, Commander. Leonard reminded me of that fact often, and that his Empties were employed as my children’s caretakers. He’d already demonstrated that all he needed to do was speak the word, and the Empties would do his bidding, no matter how heinous. What would you do, Commander, if there was always the implied threat, that all he needed to do was make one transmission, and your child’s nanny would torture them to death?”
            “My job is not to determine your guilt or innocence. My job is to try and determine which council members may have been complicit in the attack against Earth and Luna, and leave the rest to the Colonial Council.” He handed her a handkerchief. “What do you know about those actions, Ms. Hendricks?”
            “We knew nothing of it until your transmission, Commander. The most we knew was that Leonard implied that he had taken measures to sever Alsafi’s ties with the Archipelago. None of us from the previous Council roster approved of the idea of Alsafi Independence. The only Council members that truly agreed with it, were the puppet members he installed to replace those he had executed. The rest of us also suspected the new Council Members were there to keep an eye and ear on us, should any of us start talking sedition.”
            “Did any of you?”
            “I suspect several of us would have, if we had thought we might get away with it, but Leonard seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere. The Empties were his agents, and we’ve figured out that he had Empties programmed that no one – not even themselves – knew were Empties.”
            “Tell me what you know about the Empties.”
            “Imagine a world, Commander, where you learn that, all around you, were thousands upon thousands of people who, with a command, would turn into sociopaths that could be turned against anyone that Leonard chose?”
            “Could he still issue that command?”
            “Do you have him under guard? Is he dead?”
            “Not yet.”
            “With the communications network down, it would be a lot slower for him to unleash them, but all he needs to do is find one or two, give them the appropriate command to go and repeat the command to others, and let it domino out from there.”
            “Where are your children, Ms. Hendricks?”
            “We have an estate outside of Eldorado.”
            He held his datab over to her. “Pinpoint it on the map.”
            She placed a spot on the display, and gave him a look. “Are you going to hold my children hostage against me as well, Commander?”
            “No, Madam Council Member, I am going to send some of my troops to get them away from the Empties, before your ‘Benevolent Adon,’ as he liked to call himself, has a chance to get a message to anyone.” He stood up.
            “How bad was it? The attack on Earth and Luna, I mean? Just how many deaths did Leonard cause in the name of Alsafi?”
            “To be honest, none.”
            “But the attacks? The files?”
            “We were fortunate. The Eridani Rover that escaped Alsafi with the Priestess, had been given information by the Priestess’ husband, and dispatched a drone to the Eridani Ambassador. She brought the information to the Colonial Council, and the Council managed to identify and quarantine the Empties. The images you saw of the Empties operating the consoles were real, but the consoles were in a simulator. All the results were from the simulator. That does not change the fact that your ‘Adon’ ordered the attack, knowing full well what he programmed those Empties to do, would result in possibly millions of deaths.”
            She released a breath. “Don’t let him live, Commander. So long as Leonard is alive, he’s a danger.”
            “My orders are, if at all possible, to return him to Earthrise alive. The Council will decide what to do with him, but the Colonial Charter does not contain a provision for the death penalty, regardless of how much he might deserve it.”
            “I never thought I would say this about any person, but it really will be better if one of your soldiers has to kill him.”
            “I’m not disagreeing, but my function is not to be the judge and executioner.” He opened the door. “One of my people will be in shortly to escort you to a berth. I’m afraid, for the time being, you will have to remain confined, but we will make every effort to be sure you are comfortable. I will send word to you just as soon as I know something about your children.”
            “Thank you, Commander. I don’t know if your soldiers know this, but just before they broke into the Council Chambers, Leonard had given the order to kill all of us. I won’t mind being confined up here. At least, I’m alive.”
            He transmitted the directive for the rescue to the Command Center, trusting Ivan on the Console to route it to the squad best positioned to carry out the mission, and went to the next room. This man had a defiant expression on his face.
            “You have no right,” the man said.
            “You are Cassius Applegate, one of the newest members of the Ruling Council. I assume that means you were hand-picked by the current ‘Adon’ to fill one of the vacancies he created in the Ruling Council.”
            “I don’t have to answer any of your questions. You have invaded a sovereign world, and violated Alsafi space.”
            “No, you don’t have to answer any of my questions. The System has verified your identity, and the files we have from Alsafi confirm the date of your appointment to the Ruling Council. Since you appear to have been complicit with the attack against Earth and Luna, my orders are to secure you in SusAn for transport back to Earthrise, where you can argue your case before the Colonial Council.”
            He sneered. “The Colonial Council is dead. Their chambers were destroyed in the attack. You should know, since you played the files on our media enough times.”
            Ignatius stood up and smiled at the man. “Well, then, maybe we’ll just plan on waking you from SusAn where the Council Chambers once stood, and let you decide whether to remain in your chamber until your air finally runs out, or open your chamber and experience the explosive decompression your attack subjected others to.”
            “The Colonial Charter forbids such actions.”
            “If there is no Colonial Council, then who is going to hold me to the Colonial Charter?” He opened the door and gestured for the soldier waiting outside. “Take him to the secure SusAn compartment, and put him under.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 8, 2013

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by fellow NaNoWriMo participant and talented storyteller, Sara, on her Fiction Fusion blog. Be sure to drop in, read a little, and say ‘hi.’

My NaNoWriMo novel for this year, “Draconian Responses,” crossed the 25K word count threshold tonight. I missed posting an excerpt last week, as I was furiously typing away for the first night of NaNo. I’ve been furiously typing away tonight, too, but decided I can stand another late night, and post an excerpt.

I wrestled with this scene, knowing that it’s not going to sit well with many readers, and for different reasons. Yet, it seemed far too important to shy away from it. One of the plots in the story is that, in the wake of the events on Alsafi from the story, “Empty Threats,” Peri, the pilot of the Rover Vessel “Stardreamer,” and the priestess G’Se are summoned to appear before the Colonial Council, in the Lunar city Earthrise. Following the questioning by the Council, they travel to Earth where they stay as guests of the Qi’le (Eridani) Embassy. This scene takes place their first night at the Embassy.

Draconian Responses
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo, 2013

Chapter 9

            G’Se lay on the bed in the dark room, staring towards the ceiling. She began quiet prayers, each of which burned out before she could finish them, and thought about what S’Bu had said. Where is my heart? Not in S’Po, and not even at the tree where I hold memorial for Solomon. It is not in teaching the children, nor standing each morning with the other priestesses for the prayers.
            Peri was in an adjacent room, and she had heard him return there perhaps half a standard hour before. She took a deep breath, and turned her head towards the door. The lights in the corridor outside had been extinguished, and the Embassy was quiet.
            She threw the bed linens back, and sat up on the edge of the bed. She stayed there for a moment, and then stood to walk to the door. With her hand on the knob, she hesitated briefly, and then stepped into the corridor. A few steps down, and she placed her hand on another door knob, hesitating again. Closing her eyes, she turned the knob, and entered the room quickly. She shut the door behind her, and leaned against it momentarily.
            “Hello?” Peri said. “Is someone there?
            She crossed the floor to the bed, and slid beneath the linens next to him.
            He shifted back quickly in surprise. “Who is there?
            She sang quietly. “It is G’Se.”
            “Honored priestess, this is not proper. You should not be here.”
            “It is not proper, if I take you in the manner that a woman takes a husband. I am not here to do that. Please let me stay, Peri.”
            “I am confused, honored priestess.”
            “Would you call me G’Se for tonight, Peri?”
            “I do not understand, honored priestess.”
            She slid closer to him, and reached an arm across his chest. “Since the day we left Alsafi, I have been nothing but a priestess. Would you speak with me tonight as a friend?”
            “I have been your friend since that day we first met in Su’bui, G’Se, but I still do not understand what you are doing in this bed with me.”
            She sighed at the sound of her name. “I miss this, Peri. I miss being held in the night as a friend. I miss being treated by someone as a friend first, and a priestess second. I miss the feel of falling asleep next to someone who cares about me, and waking up in their arms the next morning. Please do not send me away tonight, Peri.”
            “What if we are found out?”
            “I do not care. I will not take you tonight, and if anyone should believe that I did, it is to their shame that they will not believe me. Will you let me stay, Peri?”
            He slipped his arm behind her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “Be’tra, Peri.” She savored the warmth of his body, and listened to the sound of his breathing for a few minutes before speaking again.  “I was angry at you when we left S’Po and T’Cha.”
            “I apologize, G’Se, if I did something that angered you.”
            “It is I that should apologize to you. I was angry, because you were taking me away from S’Po and Qi’le, and I thought it was so much easier on you, since traveling between worlds is your life.”
            “That is true, G’Se.”
            “I said as much to the High Priestess. She told me of your offering for the completion of the vow to Solomon, Peri. She told me what it could have cost you, and what you said to her when she asked if you would request the price of your vow to be returned to you.”
            He drew a slow breath, and remained quiet.
            “I did not know that your actions could have cost you this life, Peri. I did not know that, when pressed by the High Priestess, you still made the choice to put my welfare and the welfare of Peqa and H’na before your life. When you stood before the Council and took the responsibility for what we had done, I saw again that you were willing to risk the life you love for me.”
            “That should not seem strange to you, G’Se. There are many that would give of themselves in the service of a priestess.”
            “There are many that would take for themselves, as well, the benefits of association with a priestess. When many thought my time of mourning for Solomon should be complete, they began to suggest other men to take his place as my husband. I never felt they were offering to me someone who would take their place beside me as friend, but rather, they sought the prestige of marrying their son to a priestess who had been honored by the High Priestess.”
            “I am the grandson of the priestess Se’Ana, and the great-grandson of the priestess Y’La, both of whom were honored multiple times by more than one High Priestess. Even before we were honored by the High Priestess, there were those who also sought the prestige of joining their daughter to my family. I never wished to be a prize. I wished only to travel to the stars.”
            “Do you fear that is why I am here tonight, Peri?”
            He was quiet for a moment, and then reached his other hand across to her face. With a tentative touch, he placed the tips of his middle and ring fingers against her cheek. “The day we were honored by the High Priestess, when you met me at the Terminal and we went to the Temple, I thought about Solomon. I thought as we walked side by side, speaking as friends, that I was experiencing a small sample of his life, and for a few moments, I envied what he had shared with you. When we stopped in T’Cha before this journey, and Peqa walked out from her ordination, wearing the robes of a priestess, I felt as proud as if she were my daughter, and wondered if Solomon could see her through my eyes. At that moment, I wanted that life, but I cannot have both it and this life. I will not be as my father, and leave my family to grow without me while I travel the stars.”
            “You were the first man to call Peqa ‘honored priestess,’ Peri. Solomon always said he hoped he would be the one to have that distinction for both Peqa and H’Na. If her father could not be there for that, I am at least glad it was you.”
            “I suppose it was a fair exchange. I had wished my mother had come when we were honored by the High Priestess, but it was your mother who blessed me afterwards and stood in the place of my mother.”
            She reached her hand up and reciprocated the touch on the cheek, fighting the urge to use the middle and index finger. She allowed the two fingertips to linger on his skin, and felt a warm flush go through her skin as she struggled with the temptation to place all her fingers on his cheek. I told him I would not take him as a woman takes a husband, but it has been so long. How easy it is to slip from wanting only the warmth of a friend, to wanting the touch of a husband again. With a feeling of disappointment, she returned her hand to rest across his chest.
            His free arm went across her shoulder, and he clasped his hands together behind her. She settled into the embrace, determined to remain satisfied with being held as a friend. “Peri, could we stay here one more day? Priestess S’Bu mentioned a trail through the forest to a lake nearby. I feel the need to find the peace of the trees around me, before the journey home.”
            “I think the priestess and her husband could be persuaded to tolerate us for one more night, G’Se, though if she learns that you came to my room in the night, she might post guards to preserve proprieties.”
            She gave a gentle laugh. “She might force me to marry you, since she considers you as her own family.”
            “My grandmother would be angry, if I returned as a husband, and my wife did not present herself first according to the customs.”
            “The way my mother speaks of you, I believe she would consider that she had already given approval of you.”
            “If you take another husband, G’Se, you should take one that will be a proper husband for a priestess.”
            “Will you ever consent to be a husband, Peri? Or will the stars always be your comfort?”
            “As I said, G’Se, I am a Rover, and I will not be an absent husband. A woman of Qi’le needs a husband that will fulfill all that is required of him, including being there to care for the home and children.” He gave an amused grunt. “If I ever have any B’sela dreams, I will board Stardreamer and leave for the other side of the Archipelago as swiftly as I can.”
            “You would refuse even a B’sela for this life? Yet, you were willing to sacrifice this life for me, Peri.” She rose up a bit, and turned her face towards his. “What if the B’sela were with me? Would you still refuse, even though you have already been willing to give up this life for me?”
            “After three daughters, G’Se, I do not think you still retain the trait required for a B’sela.”
            “I am teasing you, Peri. You have twice shown that you were willing to accept the consequences for helping us. I could not ask you to give up that which you willingly risked for us.”
            “And what have you risked tonight, G’Se? You say that this is not improper, but could this not cost you the robes?”
            “I wonder, sometimes, if it would be better if I just found another trade to practice.”
            “You were born to be a priestess, and I was born to be a Rover.”
            “I do not know what would have happened to us, if you had not become a Rover and come to Alsafi when you did.”
            “I wish I could have brought Solomon with us as well, G’Se. I would have liked to have known more about him.”
            “I have spent many nights wishing he had come with us as well, but I do not believe anything would have saved his life that day, Peri. I believe now that his final purpose in life was to prophesy to the people of Alsafi. The Most Honored Mother of All does not allow judgment without first sending warning, and She did so through Solomon.”
            “Do you believe there will be judgment, then?”
            “Yes, Peri. It was in the words the Council did not say, and it is already in motion. I cannot say how I know this, other than to think that God revealed this, and I pray that I am wrong.”
            “And you think you should not be a priestess? If you think that God is revealing things to you, G’Se, then perhaps She is doing so to remind you of your calling.”
            “Perhaps, Peri, but for tonight, I still wish to just be a friend.”