KAMI LOVED THE water. It caressed her skin like the softest silk she could imagine, and she wished she didn’t need to leave it to breathe. She wanted to become a fish but still didn’t know how. She rolled and dove, skimming the gleaming blue tiles along the bottom before kicking herself back to the surface. She broke through the shimmer of silver to see the sky and clouds and low-hanging branches fat with ripe cherries. A breeze chilled her, so she sank lower, leaving only her head above the waterline.
She listened to the trickle of water as it fell from a miniature staircase of rocks at one end of the pool. The salamanders seemed to like it; three of them clung with suction feet to the side. The lapping of the waves against the tile was exceptionally beautiful, so she closed her eyes and listened, but the music didn’t remain steady. It deepened before it sped up, a melody joined by another and another. She rose above the rim and peered around, trying to discern the origin of the sounds that were more beautiful, even, than water.
She climbed from the pool, barely noticing the chill as water streamed from her naked shoulders. She padded along the gravel path toward the palace, not taking the robe left for her. A palace servant in the first corridor jabbered something at her, but she ignored him as her ears sought the beautiful sounds. She paused at several junctions, and by the time she found the right one, an attendant had caught up and tossed the robe around her. She smiled at him and warmed herself as she arrived at an audience hall.
The attendant said something to the guards who stood before a double-wide door, and they cracked one wide enough for Kami to peek through. The beautiful sounds overtook her like a swift current. Giddiness swept through her, and her eyes rolled back into her head. She felt faint, but the guard’s arm steadied her, brought her back to her senses.
“I must go in,” she said.
“My orders are not to interrupt the performance.” The guard seemed to be talking to the attendant rather than Kami.
“Let me get Essanti Rook.” The attendant slipped around the guard, who closed the door.
After a short time, Rook emerged through the doors. “You can listen from the balcony.” He had the attendant accompany them. They ascended a staircase and entered a dark room with a row of seats.
Kami went to the railing and leaned forward, ecstatic to hear the music without obstruction. Rook sat down behind her and they listened as the Avjakar ensemble finished the pastoral piece that had made them famous.
After the performance, Rook escorted Kami to Avestine’s room. He was about to leave, when Kami asked him to stay.
“You should rest,” he told her.
She gestured for him to sit with her on the bronze lounge, as she curled up at one end. She propped an elbow on a white cushion and rested her chin on the stump of her bare right wrist.
Rook sat at her feet. “You don’t seem the same.”
“I feel like…” she looked up at the ceiling.
He followed her gaze to the clerestory at the center of the room. The draft drew a column of smoke from the dying fire.
She looked back down. “A lake.”
“A lake that was frozen but has thawed. It’s the same lake, but everything about it is different.”
“Yes, everything is different. You’ve received your gift. In time, you’ll learn to use it correctly. Maturity will give you self-possession, and with that, you’ll find you can manage—” he looked away.
“I don’t know. You belong to Avestar.”
Rook’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “But he took your hands.”
“Raret helped me escape from Avestar. He helped me see the choice was mine.”
“The Avatar of Katan.”
“Rumors. Myths.” Rook rose to his feet. “I don’t know what you’re telling me, Kami. I can’t even hear your thoughts anymore, just noises. Don’t you realize what you’re talking about is the End of the World?”
“It was never meant to come true. It’s a myth. It’s a warning, not a reality. Avestar has tricked you.”
“I thought you were a believer, Rook.” “I am. I believe the gods have many ways to guide and teach us, including speaking in riddles. I can show you a book. I can explain it better with a book.”
Published in Darklaw |
Copyright © 2017 Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved. |