Perditea was in Mazir's arms, his chin resting against the top of her head. The small bed they were laying on was barely big enough for the both of them. She was lying up against the edge, her knees hanging off the bed. Even though the bed was small it took up most of the room, leaving only enough space for a small wooden desk up against the wall underneath the window. The desk was covered in all Mazir had brought with him; the desk was a mess, Perditea wasn't allowed to rearrange the things on there. The rest of the room, though, was clean, she made sure of that on her frequent visits.
The window above the desk was open to the night sky, the blue, thin, curtains waving in the wind. The chill wind flowed into the room, bringing the smell and sounds of the sea with it, and it brushed up against their bodies causing Perditea to shiver. She didn't mind, though, because every time she shivered, Mazir would wrap his arms around her tighter. Perditea unwove from his arms and rose up off the bed, walking towards the window. She moved the curtain aside and stared up at the souls resting in the sky.
One soul was brighter than the rest, almost as bright as the moon shining beside it. According to Mazir, it was the soul of Staela, the most beautiful women to ever live. The night they arrived in the capital he prayed to her. He had already rented out his room in the small inn outside of the market called Vetitium, the name meant fruit in the old language. A fact the innkeeper had told them the night they arrived. After moving in all of Mazir's traveling things, they had tried to sleep off the wearies of their travels. "Young couples in love, never sleep" her grandmother would always joke. She never really believed it was true, until the day they arrived in the capital.
That night Mazir had moved the desk from window and kneeled underneath it, letting the sea air blow in over his head. He looked into the land of souls and was muttering something. Perditea had let him finish, she knew never to interrupt somebody in their prayers, her father had taught her that.
"Who were you praying to?" she had asked when he finished.
"I wasn't praying" he laughed "I was thanking Staela."
"Who is Steala?" she was confused, she had never heard that name before.
"Come over here and I'll show you" She got up off the bed; the sea wind blowing cold against her skin. She knelt down beside him, looking up at the sea of souls above them. He pointed up towards them. "See that bright one, next to the four that make a cup?" It was easy to find, being brighter than all the rest. "That is the soul of Staela, she was the most beautiful women in the world. I was thanking her for blessing me to find you." He looked her in the eyes, his blue eyes betraying his nervousness. She didn't know what to say to that, so she had just kissed him.
Perditea slid on her traveling clothes before she left the window and walked back over to the bed, sitting back down next to Mazir. He kissed her on the forehead, running his hands through her hair. His breath always smelled like the nectar of night fruits, a drink he had taken to since arriving in the capital. His face grew serious. "Perditea, I have something I need to say."
"And I will listen to anything you have to say" she replied, touching his face trying to rub the seriousness out of it. He lightly grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away. He intertwined his fingers with hers, stroking the back of her knuckle with his middle finger. "So what is this you so desperately need to say" she teased.
"I" he stopped to think, biting his lower lip while he stared at the floor. "I'm not who you think I am" he blurted out quickly, as if he tried to say it slowly it would get stuck in his throat. "I'm not who you think I am" he said again, this time with more confidence.
"What do you mean?" She could feel the nervousness reverberating in her stomach. She could feel her throat tightening around the air that was stuck inside it. Is he a man of the faith, she thought, does he know I'm a sister? His hands gripped hers a little tighter, he had stopped rubbing her knuckle. He grabbed her other hand holding both of them tightly. The nervousness had ceased rumbling in her stomach and was now filling and, stretching it, causing her to want to lean over and cover it with her hands. "What do you mean?" she squeaked out again. She took a few shallow breaths to try to get her throat to release its grip on the air inside it.
"I'm not a traveler, I was sent here." The nervousness died down. Thank the source, he didn't find out I'm a sister, she thought.
"You were sent here?" she asked, "Are you a merchant?"
"No, I'm here…."
"Are you a sailor?" she asked cutting him off.
"Perditea just let me finish" he said wearingly. His hands clenched hers harder. He slowly released his grip until his hands were almost limp in hers. She just stared at him, his eyes though were stuck on the floor, and when he was sure she wasn't going to talk again he said "I'm here to kill someone."
Perditea felt confusion, fear and rage all at the same time. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, she could feel her muscles tensing. "You're here to do what?" she asked a little too loudly, getting up off the bed.
"I was sent here to kill someone" he repeated. She started to run to the door, her heart beat filling her head. "Perditea stop!" he yelled, standing up, "I'm not going to kill you….I love you." She stopped, her hand still on the door knob. She turned around, her heart was still drowning out everything else.
"Then who are you going to murder?" she spat murder out, trying to make him realize he was going to commit a crime.
"I was chosen to kill the speaker" he said " not you, I could never" Thoughts clouded Perditea's head. Why would he want to kill the speaker? The speaker was a great man, he was kind to the people, understanding of the problems of the poor, but most of all he was the Speaker, the only person of the faith that could commune with the Source.
"Why the Speaker?" she asked. She had relaxed a little, her heartbeat ceased to fill her body, and her muscles weren't clenched. Her hand, though, was still on the doorknob.
"I was chosen" he said
"Chosen by whom?" confusion filled her, nothing was making sense.
"The Elder chose me" he said "He said I have to do this to save my people." Mazir walked away from the bed and began putting on his clothes. Perditea had heard of the elders before, she just couldn't remember where, and then it all clicked. A thing her father once told her came to mind.
"Perditea the world is bigger than our little city, you know? Her dad had said "Out to the east are the traveling people, people that send their brightest individuals away on boats, heading north, seeking some promise land. They don't recognize that the Source has already provided them a promise land here. To the south along the coast are the fishing people. The gears that run our society, without them the Fidream could not exist and would not run." His voice grew tense "and to the south are the uncivilized. They deny the existence of the Source and worship a mockery of entities. Their village elders sacrifice animals and children asking for rain, and good seasons, they are a stain upon our world. And how do we drive this stain from our land, Perditea?"
"By not doubting the Source" she replied quickly.
"Why do we not doubt the source? He asked
"Because with doubt comes weakness and with weakness comes defeat" she replied, just the way she had been taught, just the way she had done hundreds of times.
Mazir stood before her, his eyes on the floor again. "You're an uncivilized" she quietly said.
"I'm a Premea" he corrected. "Only you call us that." His voice sounded confident, but his eyes betrayed him. They were filled to the brink with discomfort.
"You can't do this" she blurted out, even surprising herself. He lifted his eyes from the floor. She left the door and walked up to him, grabbing his hands. "You can't get to the Speaker" she started again. "He's the most powerful man in the world, you'll die."
"I have to do this, I was chosen" he responded
"Please, she pleaded, blinking tears away "Just give this up. Leave the capital with me. I know the coast. Let's run away and leave this all behind."
"Perditea, I was chosen, my people need me." He wasn't looking at her anymore, his eyes were glued again to the floor.
"How do you know they need you, how do you know you have to do this? She asked loudly, grasping his hands tightly.
"My elder told me, he told me I was chosen by our ancestors to save our people. To save the people, I need to kill the speaker" he said never looking at her.
"I'm telling you, you will die!" she yelled, grabbing his face, forcing him to look at her. Tears were gathering in the bottom of his eyes. He blinked trying to hold them in. She dropped his head, and his eyes sunk back down to the floor.
"I have to do this, he said quietly. "Even if I die trying." He paused. "I know I'm doing the right thing." Perditea stood by the door for a few moments, her mind blank, before she opened it.
"I don't know you" she whispered as she walked out the door, shutting it forcibly behind her. As Perditea walked out of Vetitium, ignoring the innkeepers goodbyes, and down the Nocta weaving between people it came to mind that maybe she didn't know either of the people that were in that room.
Her body was trembling, trying to hold in her heart that was trying to escape her chest. Her face was heated by the tears streaming down her cheeks. I gave up so much for him she thought. I broke my vows for him, I was willing to run away from my faith for him. I gave up everything I ever knew, for him. I was wrong, the faith is all I need. She walked down the Nocta towards the market that was still busy even in this time of night. There is no way he can kill the speaker she thought, remembering the story of the Speaker her father would tell her.
He would say "Perditea I'm going to tell you a story told to me by my grandpa, and told to him by his grandpa, and so on and so on. This story is older than anyone alive today. So old that the names of those involved have been forgotten." He always started his story this way, at least the dozen or so times she heard it. He would always follow with "Perditea, before the awakening, men didn't worship the Source. They didn't abide by the rules he has set down, they didn't even acknowledge his existence. Then the Source finally revealed himself to the world of man, choosing three people to travel past the souls harbored in the sky to meet him. They came back years later in awe of the power of the Source, and within the year all men called upon the Source for his wisdom. The Source granted his wisdom to man, but only to one man. And that man became the Speaker. It became the duty of the Speaker to teach the messengers, and it was the messenger's duty to the sisters" At this part he would always ask her "What is the duty of the sisters?"
And she would always respond "To never doubt, because with doubt comes weakness"
"And with weakness comes defeat" he would always finish.
Perditea walked down the Nocta still full of people heading to and from the market. She would usually pass through the Market on her way from the College of the Faith to the room Mazir was staying in. If she wasn't seeing Mazir, Perditea spent all the rest of her time at the College. The sisters were in charge of cleaning and polishing the shrines, as well as teaching all who wanted to learn of the source. Perditea was able to escape the college most days, though, she was charged with teaching the incoming and outgoing sailors at the dock. She knew nobody would miss her there, because all the other sisters despised the smell of rotting fish that forever hung over the port, and sailors never wanted to learn the faith, they had other less holy things to do in the city.
She walked into the market and lost herself in the yells of the merchants and their customers. She sat down on a bench resting her head in her hands. How could I have been so ignorant? She thought. I can't love an uncivilized, they're dirty unbelievers. She yelled at herself. They're the enemy of the faith. But Mazir had been so different than the stories her father had told her. Now that she looked back all the clues were there, and they seemed so obvious. The night Mazir, thanked the souls, no normal person did that. How he had entered their caravan on the brown white horses only seen on the southern plains. She felt so stupid for having missed it all. She remembered her father's words that she had heard since she was a child "You're going to be a sister, you're expected to never doubt the source" he would say "Because always remember, with doubt comes weakness, and with weakness comes defeat"
"With doubt comes weakness" she repeated under her breath standing up from the bench. Knowing what she was about to do. She began to walk through the busy market towards the House of the Speaker, when a short, fat, dark skinned man walked in front of her. He was holding two night fruits in his hands.
"My beautiful lady!" he yelled through an accent "You know on a night as hot as this one, two juicy night fruits would be the perfect thing to cool you down." She stared at him confused, merchants weren't supposed to try to sell to sisters. It was known by both parties. Sisters had no interest in money, or material goods, the faith and the source provided all they needed. She realized then that in all her anger and haste she had forgotten to sneak into alley off the Nocta and slip into her robes hidden in her travelling pack.
"Sorry Sir, I'm a sister of the faith, I'm just taking a stroll without my robes, they are really quite stifling."
"Sorry for tempting you sister" the merchant said customarily, bowing his head, and taking his sales elsewhere. She walked through the rest of the market, lightly sweating by the time she reached the other side. She slid into an alleyway outside the market to slip back into her robes. No one ever bothered to look down the alleys, so no one over got a glance of her changing in and out of her robes as she pleased. She walked out of the alley and started up the stone street towards the House of the Speaker.
As she walked up the hill towards his house, the other house around her began to get nicer. They were made of cleaner granite, the windows were larger, and they were taller than the houses on the other side of the market near the inn Mazir was staying at. As she got closer to the house, her stomach began to tie itself in knots. She kept thinking about Mazir, and how he had no idea who she was. Yes he had lied to her, but hadn't she lied to him also? The Speaker needs me she thought without my strength the faith will die, if I doubt I will fail she reminded herself. "I cannot fail" she muttered to herself as she trudged further up the hill towards the house.
The house of the speaker loomed above her, to her disappointment I didn't radiate up close like it did from far away. The house was four stories tall, and each story had four smaller windows and on large window cut into the granite. In front of the house the yard was covered in grass that under the light of the moon looked almost blue, it was also spotted with at least twenty night fruit trees, whose purple flowers were open now that sun was set. The whole house was surrounded by a black gate that was at least twice as tall as Perditea, and on top of each bar of the gate there was a white orb, the symbol of the Source. Outside the entrance to the gate stood two tall guards still as stone, everything but their eyes covered by helms, they both had their eyes on her, following her as she drew closer to the house. I can't do this she thought, her heart was sitting in her throat again. Do not doubt another part of her thought. He deserves to know who I am she thought. But instead of turning around and leaving she stopped in front of the guards and said "I need to see the Speaker, I heard of a plot to kill him."
The guards without saying a word grabbed her by the arms and brought her through the gate and up the white steps into the house. Her heart was pounding. The inside of the house was just as wonderful as the outside. The granite was the same bright white, and the whole house was illuminated by candles sitting in golden stands. The Speaker was sitting in deep purple chair, reading a book under one of the candles. His hair was a deep brown, matching his tan skin. He stared at them as they entered. Perditea could feel the weight of his stare on her. His eyes were a deep blue, surrounded by lines of wisdom and age. His purple and gold robes covered most of his body except his arms below his elbows, where he had the robes rolled up. One of the guards walked over to him, while the other held on to her tightly. The guard whispered something I the Speaker's ear, and he listened without emotion. "Come sit sister" he said his voice strong and radiating. She walked gingerly to the chair before. She sat down in it as the Speaker set the book he was reading down in front of him on the table between them. "So tell me, how is my life in danger?"
She told him a story she had been working on while walking up the Nocta. She told him almost everything, how she had traveled from the coastal cities, how Mazir had joined their caravan, even the inn Mazir was staying in. She left out the parts about breaking her vows of course. She said that when they had finally made it to the capital she had helped him move his traveling gear into his room, like a good sister shoul; and when she had closed the door she heard him talking to his gods. He said he was planning to kill the speaker. She told him that she ran from the inn, but in the market she had seen him following her, and for fear for her life, for the last week she had done her daily chores and learning as usually to try to fool him into thinking she had heard nothing. The Speaker listened to all she had to say without emotion, just weighing her down with his stare. And when she was done, he just played with his thumbs. After a few minutes of this he finally looked up at her and sighed. "Sister, I think you are lying to me" he said staring at her "tell me the truth now, sister."
The fear rose up inside her. She could feel it turn her cheeks red. She tried to hold her hands to keep them from shaking. His stare was unbearable, it weighed on her like bricks; it dug into her finding and picking at all the wrong she had done, all the secrets she had hidden. She finally broke, and blurted out everything. She told him the full story again, but with the parts about breaking her vows, about doubting the source. She told him it all. She finished the story on an exhale, and stared at her feet, she couldn't bear to look him in his eyes again. "Sister I'm disappointed in you. Usually a doubt on the faith as large as yours should result in banishment from the Fridream. But at the same time you did good by letting me know of this evil plot on my life. And for that you'll only be banished from the faith. Please take off your robes, you'll find no support from the Source anymore. " He stared at her as she got up off the chair and slowly walked out of the Speaker's house. She slid her robe over her head at the door and dropped it at her feet, revealing her traveling clothes underneath. She could feel the disgusted looks of the guards on her back. I'm free, she thought. I feel so light, so different. She walked through the yard with a slight smile on her face. On one of the trees by the path a night fruit hung from the branch, she quickly snatched it up and brought it to her mouth. She smiled as the sweet juices ran down the sides of her face and down her hands as she pushed the fruit further against her mouth, trying to get ever last bit of it. After she was done, she didn't know what was better, the taste of the fruit, or the freedom of eating it.
She walked past the gate confused on what she was supposed to do now. Everything she had known was gone, but it all felt okay. Then her thoughts changed Mazir! I need to warn him. She started running. She ran through the market, finally empty. She ran past the alley where she had changed her character so often. And as she flew around the corner, she stopped so quickly she almost fell over. Vetitium was destroyed, the windows were broken and the door was kicked down. As she slowly walked Inside she saw the bar stools were thrown all over, most of the tables were cracked. The food from the kitchens was all over, behind the bar and in the common area a pot of stew was in a puddle on the floor still steaming, how did they beat me here? She ran upstairs to the room Mazir was staying in. The door was broken down as well, half of it still hanging on the hinges. Inside Mazir was nowhere to be found, his maps were ripped and torn into small pieces, thrown all over the room. The window over the desk, now closesd, had a circular hole through it, letting air from the sea blow in. The bed they had laid in was destroyed, the feathers from the mattress and pillows slowly shifted on the floor.
Tears were streaming down Perditea's face. She had no idea what to do, or where to go, everything she knew was gone, and this time it didn't feel okay. She had nothing. No faith to turn to, no person to protect her. She collapsed into the mattress, half feathers half cloth, and laid their lettings the tears stream down her cheeks. Eventually she fell asleep from exhaustion.
She awoke the next morning to the sound of a crowd moving outside. She rolled over trying to sleep, but started and couldn't stop thinking about why a crowd this big was moving in the streets this early. She hurriedly left the inn, stepping over all the destruction and joined the flow of the crowd walking in the Nocta. The crowd was rushing towards the market square. Perditea started to jog, trying to beat the crowd there. In the market the crowd was gathered in a circle around the middle of the Market, where the selling stands used to be. But now, instead, there was stage raised about five feet off the ground, and connected to the right of it was a smaller stage. The smaller stage had a bar that was hanging over it with two thick ropes hanging from it.
On the large stage stood the Speaker, radiant in his purple and gold robes, his eyes scanned the crowd, as a large smile crept onto his face. Behind the Speaker stood his two guards, still standing like rocks, and between them stood the owner of the Vetitium and his wife their faces beaten and bloodied. On his knees near the front of the stage sat Mazir, his hands tied behind his back, his eyes focused on the floor beneath him. Perditea worked her way to the front row, staring in horror as she realized what was happening.
The market began to rumble as more and more people squeezed in, each trying to get the best view possible. Then out of the nowhere the guards stamped the butt of their spears on the stage, and the crowd went quiet. The Speaker stepped up between the owner and his wife and raised his hands towards the sky. "We thank the source, for allowing us to gather this day and convict these felons" he said as he pointed to his guards to raise up Mazir. They stood him up, he struggled to stay up and almost fell over before he steadied himself.
The whole left side of his face was swollen and covered in dried blood. His eye was forced closed, purple and puffed-up to the size of a small fruit. I'm so sorry Mazir she thought. I'm so sorry. She could already feel the warm tears running down her face. I need to save him. She started to walk toward the stage. But then the Speaker looked at her. His deep blue eyes stared at her, freezing her in place. He continued to stare at her as she slithered back a few rows escaping his eyes. With doubt comes weakness she thought. She had been defeated and she knew it. "These villains" he began again "Have threatened our faith. This excuse for a man was sent here by the uncivilized to kill me, and an attack on me, is an attack on you, my people. An attack on my people, I will not let stand" his voice grew louder. "These two citizens" he said pointing to the owner and his wife "Have fallen to doubt. They housed a criminal, a crime unallowable by the faith. A betrayal of the faith as big as this can only result in death. A death to release their souls to the source!" The crowd shook with the excitement of what was to come. Perditea could only feel disbelief. No she thought. They knew nothing! They're innocent!. "But these citizens were members of the faith, and the source has told me he has forgiven them for their terrible crimes. So I will allow them to die peacefully" he paused "at the gallows." He finished with a smile. The crowd thundered. The two guards dragged them to their feet. The wife sobbed loudly, Perditea could just barely hear her pleading with the Speaker.
"Please, let me go. I didn't know who he was, I didn't know!" The Speaker just stared straight ahead. The owner stared out into the crowd. His face was stern and without emotion. The guards brought them two stools, about two feet high, and one guard stood on a stool behind them and slid a loop of thick, rough rope over their necks. The wife continued to sob. Perditea had no idea what do to do, her mind was empty, this wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
"The source has forgiven you" the Speaker yelled "may I hope you find him." The guards kicked the stools out from the underneath them. The crowd roared as they swung in the air, the wife kicked her feet swinging her rope side to side, after what felt like forever, for Perditea, she stopped. The owner never moved, Perditea never knew when he actually died. The Speaker raised his hands slowly shushing the roaring crowd. "They've joined the souls" he said "and we forgive them. Now for this animal" he said "The crime for attempted murder is execution. But this man not only attacked me, he attacked all of you. He attacked our Faith! A normal execution isn't enough for him. I've decided that I will allow all of you to pass his judgement. He attacked you, so decide his punishment." The crowd was quietly excited; people lightly pushed on Perditea trying to get closer to the stage. The Speaker motioned to his guards pointing at Mazir. Mazir just stared at the wood stage beneath him. No she thought Please. She had no one to hear her pleads though.
One of the guards walked up behind him, and shoved him the back, pushing him off the stage. With his hands tied behind his back he was unable to catch himself, smacking face first into the stone. Perditea swore she could hear the crunch of bone. I'm so sorry was all she could think, it just kept on repeating over and over in her head. It drowned out all her other thoughts, It dominated her mind. She tasted the salt from her tears on the side of her lips. I'm so sorry.
The crowd was silent, confused on what it was supposed to do. One of the guards lightly jumped off the stage and raised Mazir to his knees. His nose was broken, blood flowing from it. His one open eye nervously scanned the crowd. "Pass your verdict!" The speaker yelled. The crowd was still silent. Then one woman, a sales woman by the look of her clothes, walked up in front of him. She stood in front him, staring at him.
"You're nothing but scum" she said barely audible. She smacked him on the left side of his face, hitting him in his swollen eye. He fell to the ground, laying there. She kicked him the stomach. The crowd was so silent you could hear the air fly out of him. He cried out in pain. I'm so sorry. The saleswoman kicked him again, and he cried out again. She then left walking back into the crowd.
Another person came up, passing his judgment on Mazir. Perditea closed her eyes, but she couldn't block out his cries. Then another, then two more, and before she knew it the crowd was moving toward Mazir lying on the ground. Perditea lost sight of him. All she could here was the yelling of curses, and insults. I'm so sorry. She looked at the Speaker standing on the stage, he was laughing. She turned and ran. "Remember Perditea" her father constantly said "With doubt comes weakness"
"And with weakness comes defeat" she repeated through gasps of air.