Into darkness, p.9
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       Into Darkness, p.9

           Patricia Scholes
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Exhausted from watching Tadessa all day, Zilla lay back against her pillows, staring past the door of her plastiform hut at nothing in particular. All day she had neglected her duties, which included preparing two young women to become Lorekeepers, watching events in the City, and gathering the ingredients for the Rite of Eswe’in to place one of the Lorekeepers in the Fabric of Life. She needed to search for more Nulls, since it seemed far too many were being born lately. She also needed to regroup the Elders to inform them of her lack of success so far. Every one of them looked forward to finally meeting Khaadi’s Daughter, as did she.

  She found it odd that as close as she had become to the young Lorekeeper, they never once met in person. Through mind speech and visualization, she had taught the girl everything she knew about healing, one of the duties of a Lorekeeper. She included all the nuances of every tapestry in her possession, how to weave barriers, nets of power, blankets of peace. Tadessa learned. Not one thing that Zilla offered did she refuse. Even today, when she insisted the girl come to her, Tadessa tried to obey.

  Tadessa possessed the ability to break free from Prince ba Tir, physically, but not surreptitiously as was necessary. Everything the girl did reflected on her people. If she fled from the obligation soon to be imposed on her, all her people would be seen as rebellious. But if she demonstrated that she was coming into her Time, those around he would be forced to send her to her people for instruction in how to manage her increasing emotions, so Zilla had fed her mind with chaos and confusion, hoping to encourage her loss of control. Unfortunately, the girl, without instruction, squelched her impulses. It was a great testimony to the child’s resolve, but it did nothing to keep her safe.

  In truth, Tadessa was still mooncycles away from needing training in how to safely discharge the energy that built during puberty. Besides, the girl needed to submerse herself in the culture of her people. She had never lived with them. Her father, through a series of unforeseen circumstances, raised her apart from them.

  Zilla’s main purpose, to rescue her from the Xantis Tey royal family, was thwarted by that pompous prince who seemed to possess an uncanny ability to see where the girl intended to go.

  Zilla stood, intending to fasten her leggings and fling on her coat for still another meeting with the Village Elders. They needed to know the Daughter’s status. Instead, she sat back down.

  My place, she sent to Lafwellen. The message was too short to arouse the invaders’ suspicions. She straightened her small home, placing floor pillows around her low table, pinching dead leaves from her small indoor herb garden, starting water for tea.

  Lafwellen arrived a few minutes later. The aroma of a freshly cooked meal greeted her, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. I need to take better care of myself if I expect to see this through.

  Lafwellen chuckled as he walked inside. “Yes, you do. While you’ve been watching, we’ve put together a group who will care for your needs while you do what you can to keep the Daughter safe. We’ll discuss this after supper, however. Right now, though, you need a good meal.”

  Grateful, she sat on her favorite cushion. Lafwellen joined her at the low table. When the water began to boil, he made them some tea. While she ate, they spoke about unimportant things.

  The Elders arrived just as Lafwellen was cleaning off the table and heating water to wash the dishes. He continued working until everyone arrived, not allowing Zilla help with any of it. When he finished, he heated more water for tea for all of them.

  “When does the Daughter arrive?” Lafwellen asked as he sat with the group around her table. His eyes gleamed with anticipation.

  Zilla sighed. “She doesn’t. They watched her too closely today, in case she managed to read a stray surface thought and decided to flee. They’ve saturated that floor with an edge of suspicion that she noticed. She feels like something, besides coming here, is expected of her that she can’t fulfill.”

  “Yet their real reasons evidently escape her,” the youngest, Harbini, said. “The Emperor himself keeps a firm hold on all shields. He’s amazingly Threaded.” Harbini, an extraordinary Watcher, often took Zilla’s place to give her time for her other duties. He often took her place scouring the City for danger, especially danger that threatened their people. “No one’s thoughts escape that floor where she resides. But if I can see that, why can’t she?”

  “You’re watching from the outside,” Zilla explained. “If you were on that floor, your shield would fall under the Emperor’s dominance. However, she isn’t a Watcher. If she ever becomes one, it would be because Simbal, her grandfather, took her through the male Rite of Eswe’in and trained her in that skill. It doesn’t come naturally to her as it does you.”

  Harbini sighed. “I keep forgetting that the Grandfather is her grandfather. I wish our village were whole again. Will she ever undergo the male Rite?”

  “If she is to be the Daughter we need, she must. I was hoping to take her away from all of them and find a way to get her to the mainland so she could locate him.”

  “She would need help. She couldn’t possibly walk that distance by herself. It would take years!”

  Zilla gave a slow nod. “That’s a problem we will not solve tonight. This evening I will need your help. I’m too tired to watch her until morning. They plan an all-night party, and may attack when her mind is at its weakest.”

  “Will they attack her?” Surprised expressions came from several of them.

  “I honestly don’t know. We have never encountered people like these. They look as human as the Irelli, but the way they use Threads is an abomination.”

  Nennet touched her temple in thought. “We nearly succeeded in taming the Nevians in this Sector, and now we get another group even more challenging. I wish we knew how the other Sectors fared.”

  Zilla agreed. She especially wondered how Simbal, somewhere in Sector One, was doing. Soon, probably before any of them realized, Tadessa would need to see him.


  third mistake

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