lacked several minutes yet before actual sunbreak, given that it
was early fall already. Salli eased the front of her right shoulder
into a braced position against the papery bark of the highpalm tree
that sheltered her and tapped the focus on the field-glasses that
she wore, frowning down in concentration at the small Wayfarers'
would have to come out of the dormitory to reach the wash-house,
and they'd have to do it soon. Morning prayers was one of the things
that heterodox and orthodox Wayfarers and Pilgrims
had in common, and no faithful child of Revelation would think of
"opening the mouth to praise the Awakening" with the taint of sleep
still upon him.
door to the long low sleeping-house swung open. Salli tensed. Come
on, Meeka, she whispered to herself, her breath so still it didn't
so much as stir the layered mat of fallen palm-fronds on which she
lay stretched out behind the tree-trunk. I know you're in there.
Come out. I have things I want to say to you.
camp below was an artifact from olden days, four hundred years old
by the thatching of the steeply sloped roofs with their overhanging
eaves. Not a Pilgrim camp by any means. No, this was a Wayfarer
camp, built by the interlopers that had occupied the holy land in
the years after the Pilgrims had left for their colonies in the
sky centuries ago.
leftover, an anachronism, part of the heritage of Shadene and its
long history of pilgrimage to the Revelation Mountains, where the
Awakening had first been prophesied. Shadene, where the heterodoxy
that had stolen Meeka away from her flourished.
before the Awakened One she had a thing or two to tell him about
that just as soon as she could find him by himself, and get
him away from these people . . ..
people first. Three men and two women, heading off in different
directions. The men's wash-house was little more than an open shed,
though there wasn't anything for her to see from her vantage point
half-way up the slope to the hillcrest. The women's washroom was
more fully enclosed. That was where the hotsprings would be, then.
sun would clear the east ridge within moments, and yet no man of
Meeka's size or shape had left the sleeping-house. In fact the younger
people were hurrying out to wash, now, and no adults whatever between
old folks and the young, so what was going on here?
even as Salli realized that she knew the answer, she heard the little
friction of fabric moving against fabric behind her. Felt rather
than heard the footfall in the heavy mat of fallen palm fronds that
cushioned her prone body like a feather-bed. Well, of course she
didn't see any able-bodied men in camp below. They were all out
here, on the hillside.
pilgrim, and it's a beautiful morning. Even if it is only a Dream."
heard the voice behind her: careful and wary. But a little amused.
Yes, they had her, no question about it. She could have kicked the
cushioning greenfall into a flurry in frustration. But she was at
the disadvantage; she had to be circumspect.
much more beautiful the Day we Wake." And what did she have to worry
about, really? Nothing. These were Wayfarer heterodox, true, or
if they weren't she was very much mistaken. But there were rules
of civility. She had had meant to get Meeka by himself, without
betraying her presence; but she had every right to have come here
on her errand. "Say, I imagine you're wondering what this is all
that she was discovered she had no further need to huddle behind
the trunk of the great tree. Salli put her hands out to either side
of her, carefully, moving slowly to avoid startling anybody. She
didn't have any tricks up her sleeve. She wasn't going to try to
would actually seem, pardon the language, obvious." The tone of
voice was utterly grave, but there was no missing the buried good-natured
joke in it. Jelock city accent. Jelock city natives put a lot more
music into their cadence than people from more barren places in
Shadene. "We're accustomed to being watched. No Wayfarer's allowed
into these mountains without leave, after all, even though they
are our mountains." TOP
was a little over-stated, but true enough. And gave Salli her cue.
Salli rolled over onto her back and hiked herself up into a seated
position, so that she could lean up against the trunk of the forest
giant in which she'd spent the night; thinking all the while.
yet what is ever what it seems, in the land of the living illusion?"
was angry at herself for having been found out, and her voice sounded
harsh and hostile in her own ears. She had to be careful. There
was no sense in provoking a confrontation.
her field glasses with an irritated tug at the catch at the back
of her head, Salli rubbed her eyes, squinting up at the man who
confronted her. Men. There were more than one of them, moving so
quietly in the early dawn that Salli had heard no sound to announce
their presence. "What's next?"
it's the pilgrim police," someone called out; Salli knew he didn't
mean it literally. The pilgrim police were nowhere near this camp,
or her name wasn't Salli Rangarold, which it was. Wayfarers frequently
lumped the avalanche soldiers together with the pilgrim police,
out of hostility for both organizations. "She's probably called
the dogs. Let's neutralize her and be away from here, while we still
instead of responding immediately, the man who had been talking
hunkered down on his heels to lock eyes with Salli. He had a square
and somewhat fleshy face, with a mouth gone wrong years ago and
soured there since. Clear blue eyes like so many of the Shadene.
Blue eyes were cold and heartless. Salli suppressed a shudder. She'd
done nothing wrong, even if she was one of the enemy. She only wanted
to see Meeka, and convince him to come home.
she'd called any dogs we've had heard them by now, Farlu. No. Let's
all go down to the meeting-house where we can talk about this. Then
we'll find out "
was coming down the slope toward her as Carib spoke, though, and
Salli's heart turned over in her chest. Made her sick to her stomach
with longing and short of breath at one and the same time.
paused, clearly a little surprised to be interrupted. Salli knew
the voice, if the face itself was strange with a beard and half-wild
about the eyes with the horror that had taken him. He came up beside
her, reaching down to raise her up to her feet, steadying her as
she rose; she knew his hands and his strength, and the smell of
his clothing. Meeka. Meeka, but so strange. TOP
I can't let you make any threats, Farlu, not even just talk. If
she'd wanted to bring the police they'd be on us already. I can
explain this, Carib, there's no problem here."
the look on his face Carib half-believed that he knew Meeka's explanation
already. Salli flushed a fierce crimson. All right, maybe it did
look that way. They'd always been close. But only so close as they
should be, and no closer.
it's not what you think," she said firmly, before Carib could answer.
She was cold and she was hungry, she was tired, and she'd been walking
for days to find her Meeka. To find out what had happened to him.
To shake him loose of whatever baleful Shadene influence had poisoned
his mind, and make him come back. Passion and fatigue made her reckless;
she shook off Meeka's steadying hand and turned down the slope to
descend toward the camp. She flung one final taunt over her shoulder.
is my brother."
Salli shut everything else in the world out of her mind, to focus
on walking not falling down to the camp where the
enemy lay in wait for her. Wayfarer heterodox.
they had taken her brother away.
Avon Eos Science Fiction