06 – Book One – Toll – Chapter Five – Synedríasi

She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. My viewing of so many people is but young, and my comparisons are considerably limited. Nevertheless, I have lived thirteen long revolutions of the moons on Albion and seen much, be they animal, plant or mineral. And now am playing viewer to many different kinds of people all packed together in one pulsing place. But this girl is . . . Special. Unto her own. Like no other. Her skin a darker brown than mine. Her eyes sparkling from afar. Could it be possible they contained glints of gold? I have never seen this before, and know not whether it might be. But I have dreamed. I believe. Her hair is long and lustrous, like a curling dark river at night that shines under the twin moonlight. Her hair falls over one shoulder and meanders down her chest, accentuated here and there with flower ties . . . Primroses no doubt. She is taller than I. Thinner. Long legs. Long hands. Long fingers. Everything about her seems . . . riverine.

And I wish to bathe in her waters . . .

[Break]

Now where on Albion did that thought come from? I feel warmth quickly spreading through me; from head to hip to toe and back. It is the warmth of embarrassment I realize; for the thought I have just had. But why? It is not indecent. A private thought perhaps. Such as touching one’s parts to stimulate and pleasure oneself. Clýstra has talked to me of this before when I was younger. That I was to explore and revel in my body, but to do so in private.

Yes. The warmth I am feeling now is one akin to the other warmth I have felt before. In private.

The girl has no taken her eyes from me. They continue to burn into my core, almost beckoning me.

She appears close to me in age, and I wish so much to talk with her.

I turn to Clýstra, getting her attention.

CLYSTRA: What is it dear?

THYRA: I wish to walk a little around the square. I see a girl I wish to talk with. To learn more of Sinat and its people.

Clýstra casts her gaze around the market and sees the girl who is no longer eying me in the same way. She is now turned towards a stall, studying its wares, but continues to occasionally cast a furtive glance in my direction.

CLYSTRA: Are you no longer frightened? Do you feel confident in yourself in doing this?

THYRA: Yes. And this girl will know of the town and its way. She can help me.

CLYSTRA: Very well, dear Thýra. Remember: I shall remain in this square throughout the day. We will meet for dinner. Understood?

THYRA: Yes. Thank you, Clýstra.

CLYSTRA: You are welcome. Go along now and have fun. Celebrate the coming of May day!

I can’t help laughing as I skip away and towards the girl who is now studying me once again.

[Break]

As I cross the market square, I grow nervous for the first time. Bees in my tummy, as Clýstra refers to it. I lose confidence in myself.

What am I going to say to her?

Does she wish to talk?

Do we speak the same language?

The bees are now buzzing furiously inside me. Clýstra has told me before of the many languages spoken throughout Albion. Right now all I am trying to remember is whether I understood the conversation she had been having with the ladies in the market.

But my mind is a complete blank; wiped clean due to my focus on this beautiful girl.

I feel stirrings within me that  find new and very exciting.

As I draw closer, she realizes I am coming to her. She turns and skips away from the market.

What is going on?

What is she thinking?

Has she changed her mind?

Did she not think I would come to her?

Or is she perhaps leading me somewhere? Somewhere away from the market? Somewhere possibly . . . Private?

I start to wonder if any people nearby might be able to hear my nervous bees.

I make the decision and chase after her. As I move away from the crowds, the sounds change from a noisy market place to a strong breeze shaking the leaves and the many trees. The sounds of the birds and . . . is that actual bees? Yes! I can see the hanging hive.

Then I catch sight of the girl. Her blue dress swooping in the breeze, like a bird’s wing, revealing her long brown legs.

She disappears behind a wide-trunked mighty oak. I do not think I have ever seen such a large tree.

I stop, listening to hear where she is going, but there are no sounds; just the chorus of nature around me.

I begin walking again and step around the tree . . . And there she is, waiting for me, with that vibrant smile on her face.

I stop in my tracks and am rendered speechless.

The silence begins, then stretches between us like a great bird extending its wings . . . Then she speaks in a strong, confident, but sweet voice.

MÆVE: You’re a stranger here, are you not?

THÝRA: That I am. How can you tell? My accent? The way I look?

Her smile changes, becoming something more exciting. That special warm feeling is back, spreading throughout my chest.

MÆVE: Nay. Tis something far more simple than that. I’ve lived here my entire life and have grown with all the children of Sinat. I have also spent much time with its people and in its streets and know well of the many different faces. The Circé you came with I think I have seen before . . .

THÝRA

[excited]

: You know of the Circé?

MÆVE: A little. Just some stories. Long ago when I was small, I believe I saw her face here in Sinat. I’m very good at remembering faces.

Her eyes are locked on mine now. They are flecked with gold, as I thought.

THÝRA: And mine?

MÆVE [Giggle]: No. Your face I haven’t seen before. And I would remember your face. I’m Mæve by the way.

That smile has now made the warmth inside me blossom into a wild fire. I have no idea what is going on.

THÝRA

[awkwardly]

: Oh, my name is Thýra.

MÆVE: What do you think of the town decorations?

THÝRA: They are lovely! Wonderful! I have never seen anything quite like it.

I do not know what I am saying. The words come out, but none are actually summoned from my mind.

MÆVE: Good. I’m glad you like them. It’s my favorite holiday of the year.

THÝRA [Overly excited]: Really?

MÆVE: Well, that’s not completely true. If I am to be completely honest – and you make me want to be so – I’d have to say along with Samhain. They’re my two favorite holidays.

THÝRA: And what would two girls like us do on either of these holidays?

Again, the words are summoned from somewhere I know not. I would prefer my mouth remain closed; my vocal chords still, but then Mæve would think me strange, or lacking something in my being. The words came unbidden, and I suppose for that I am thankful.

She shows me a new smile, a more complicated one.

That smile makes me want things from Mæve. I feel those lips wishing to be kissed. I have never had these feelings before. They seem to be coming from another form; someone not me. But I also know they feel so foreign because they are my true, deep, core desires. Desires I have apparently not felt before, and not given in to fully. Whether I will do so on this day remains to be seen, for I know not if Mæve shares any of these feelings.

It feels like an eternity since I asked her that foolish question, but in reality it cannot be more than a few seconds.

MÆVE: Have no fear, my dear Thýra, there is plenty of mischief we can be getting up to. But let’s first get something to eat and drink, and then we’ll have ourselves a picnic by the river’s edge. How does that sound?

THÝRA: Wonderful! I am famished. Please take me to all the food!

We skip back to the market, laughing with each other as if we are friends of many years.

[Break]

Some time later it feels as if I am in a dream, one that has come true. We sit on the bank of the river, our sandals cast aside, our feet swirling in the cool running waters. Mæve is well known and very well liked in Sinat. But then, given her beauty, this should come as no surprise to me. Payment or trade was not required for any of the items she acquired. The selection of tasty looking foods was astonishing. Some I had tried before, some were new to me. Whenever Mæve had looked to me with her incredible eyes, questioning whether it was a food I desired, I immediately nodded, unable to say no to her.

There are cheeses of many kinds. A number of different breads. Cured meats that make my mouth water. Various fruits. And some delicious looking cakes.

We begin eating. I am starving, and once I see Mæve tucking into the foods with no shame, I soon join her.

[Short break]

A short while later, our hungers somewhat satiated, I ask the question I made earlier.

THÝRA: You said you knew of the Circé. Please tell me what you know.

MÆVE: Ahh, but first I need to ask you a question. I know Clýstra is a sorceress. Are you just a servant girl to her or are you learning the ways of the Circé?

A feel hot anger suffuse my body. How dare she call me a servant girl! Then I feel my anger cool, shocked at my unhinged feelings for this girl I am growing so fond for. Mæve appears to read my mind, comprehending the emotions my body is emitting.

MÆVE: Good. That’s what I thought. I had to be certain. If you weren’t full of fire and passion for the Circé, our friendship would be over. Now, let me tell you what I know. Because, like you, I too am in training to become one of the hallowed sorceresses.