Theodora on Cha’Vin
It's as quiet as the din of the great wind over the desert can be while hushed by distance behind the great range of mountains that protect the peaceful valley community. Yet Nature’s barrier cannot fully abate the powerful dragon like breath from howling above, into and across the entire settled vale with its cacophonic canopy of rage. Even the powerful rock cannot resist as the mighty storm of the desert wends its way through every crag, crevice, cave and tunnel to echo out and resonate an eerily enchanting sometimes low murmuring song accompanied by a high soprano’s crystal voice each declaring their undying love in an almost ceaseless opera performed by nature during this ever changing season on the planet known as Cha’Vin.
I'm walking almost alone, which is forbidden through whatever foolishness that the locals have concocted to keep their women-folk in line. And I'd be enjoying myself evermore were it not for the permeating odor of rotting flesh that would be far worse if not for the bit of updraft accompanying the wind-song’s strange susurration while lifting some of the smell from out of the valley.
“Slow down Theodora.” Prince Carlton Taboc lowers his voice, but even so it pierces the constant noise enough for those nearby to hear.
I chide, “You can't order me around.”
“You mean I won't because I haven’t: yet.” His young voice is trying to sound stern and though it is deep, there are inflections that expose his lack of maturity. I think it’s quite cute until he grabs my shoulder to spin me around. “It's not proper for a woman of your age to be wandering the streets unattended. If you keep flaunting your foreign values against my tradition, in public, I’ll be forced to do what I otherwise would care not.” This conversation is old but today the tone has something new in it, some subtle nuance overlaying it all like a veiled threat.
“Yet all around me are young girls in attendance at the booths.” My own diminutive stature alone might belie my true age enough to ask how I should be considered any different, though most are truly children. I begin to wave an arm in a wide arch and find him attempting to lock my arms to my sides, causing me to turn hard into him possibly bruising him with an elbow.
“That’s quite different,” he stammers. “They're not yet of age.”
“I see.” I try to establish a hard line with my eyes as if I see much more than he'd care for me to see. All around are children of freedom until the menarche betrays them and suddenly they become slaves to some antiquated cultural calamity.
“No you don’t.” He steps into my space, a brave move even for someone so tall and large against my petite yet robust frame. I've gained bulk from staying mostly on worlds with a full gravity while the general and the ilk of his kind grow soft flitting throughout the stars. The impetuous nature of Carlton’s stance bespeaks his youth and inexperience as he strives toward that measure of polish, which often eludes a man of his age. In his enthusiasm he’s severely overstepped his own defined social boundaries. I for one like the intimacy that Carlton has fallen into by accident as he loses a moment of personal restraint while trying to suppress me. And he smells rather nice, but then there’s not much in the air to compare with, just now. The last time a man held me like this; well, was never and I should slap him up the side of his face a good one, but that’s really not my point in all of this. Not to mention he has both my arms locked up at the moment. Instead I twist my lips from their screwed rage into a bit of pucker while I close my eyes in false submission. It’s difficult for me to take that stance, but it’s highly affective this time. His hands release me and drop to his sides as he sighs, “No, you don’t and your present display of, whatever, is proof that you never will.”
“Not exactly the girl you want to take home to mo…” I gulp as I cut myself short. It’s too late; darkness crosses his handsomely bushy brow telling me before he might speak. “I’m so…s…” I’ve no idea why I always choke on that word. It’s been such a long time since his mother passed away that I could never have met her or gotten a chance to know her, yet from my own experience with grief it must still hurt at times like this.
“I’ll forgive you for that, because of your own recent loss.” Carlton’s attempted smile wanes. I think his true reason is that he now realizes he’s crossed a boundary and needs to back-peddle.
“Ah, ha.” My face goes flush; my tone contrite, I almost radiate more heat than the evening sun because I’ve forgotten, no avoided, telling him what has been the subject of General Wu’s most recent messages. I turn my blue-gray eyes to look into his to try and determine if this awkward instance will be any better or worse than the next and my heart skitters into its own precious little dark corner. In a way it’s silly because I’ve no good reason to want to spare his feelings. No this is not something about him this is all me. I throw back my shoulders and stand a bit taller, which might put my forehead about even to his massive shoulder. “We should talk.” I look around at the whites of the many tender innocent eyes that now seem focused on us. “But, let’s walk a bit first.” I turn and glance back over my shoulder. If I become a bad influence on these children, it could become something worse since I’ve no intention of staying here to finish anything I start by accident that might upend the social order. “You should be able to keep up. You’re legs are longer and make for a better stride, plus you’re not trussed up like a glittering living mummy in all these silks and veils that cling and bind yet seem somehow to offer less than adequate protection from…anything, except perhaps the lingering warmth of the desert.”
The mumbled sound behind me seems like a chuckle making way through the hand that’s moved from his chin to just over his mouth. His eyes have lost the luster of his smile so it’s impossible to tell what it all is. I’d not want to play poker against him, which is fine because it wouldn’t be proper anyway.
To the east, far in the distance is the flat where the general and I first landed. Between here and there are those wretched trees that smell of the fragrance of death. After having walked through them once, I’ve avoided them as much as possible. Unfortunately so does everyone else and that makes them the best place for us to go for a private, yet public, discussion. So with a heavy sigh I set out in their direction. Not looking to see if Carlton is behind me. Even if he is baffled long enough to wonder what’s gotten into me, he’ll eventually catch up because he’s my keeper for as long as we are both here and despite any objections I might have.