It Only a Dream Can Be
It might seem strange to some how calmly I accepted my place. Honestly, the only mistreatment was in my mind, or really the minds of those who would force me to believe I was not living properly. I might have complained about my attire if the weather had been unpleasant. During the middle of the day I actually would have appreciated wearing less than I was. One might point out that I was already wearing little, but the important parts were covered. A man might get ideas about my physique from watching me, but I would allow my mind to consider things hidden by the garments of men. I was a woman doing honest work, and I did not find it strange at all to allow each day to calmly pass as a member of this society.
There had not been any problem with me learning my place. I came upon this world suddenly, and got caught up in a situation before I could acclimate myself. During the process of being a captive, I learned enough about this society to associate certain behaviors with my gender and apparent age. I actually had seen movies of cultures of this type, and with those memories I managed to mimic enough actions to gain an acceptance.
Seeing others kneeling, I knew that someone of importance was passing. Without any concern for who might be moving along the corridor I paused in what I was doing to show my acknowledgement of being inferior. I however found my mind coming alert sensing the lady stop, then bend over to connect a chain to the band around my neck.
“Inchell, you are to attend me. Rise.”
I rose keeping my eyes directed at the floor. I really did not need to look. The building was kept extremely clean, so I did not need to worry about running into things. Paying attention to the legs of the one holding my chain was usually enough to let me know in which direction to walk. The lady however did not move, but I felt a hand come under my chin and lift my head so she could peer into my eyes.
“Inchell, how old are you?”
While a question of my age, it came from another lady. “Seven hundred thirty-six.”
“I don’t even believe the thirty-six.”
Worried about further questions, I felt a need to go ahead and make my case. “There is no reason for you to believe, much less ask. I do my work without complaint. You and your husband were gracious the one time I sought a liberty. I am not being a problem.”
“Something is happening, and my husband says that you are probably the reason. He told me to do something with you. I will, but I am adding my own requirements.”
“You both have the authority.”
“It seems we don’t. That is the reason for his commands to me, and I am going to say the reason for mine. Inchell, name one gratuity you would desire.”
That statement was unexpected, but I felt my answer would not challenge any graciousness being offered. “Access to your library. I would like things to read.”
There was silence for a moment, then the lady said, “You are indeed something to fear. I want you scared as well, so my command is to take advantage of my vanity. I want you gorgeous. I am going to have some ladies work with your hair, and I will see about getting you better clothes. The rest I expect you to be able to do.”
“No, my lady.”
Being as demure as possible, I said, “I was a soldier. I never really was one who played dress up and tried on make-up. I wore lipstick just to protect my lips. I painted my nails to add a layer of protection to them, although usually broke them anyway. As for being attractive, I considered a healthy body to be enough.”
“You do have a very wonderful body. Do you dance?”
I was not happy about admitting, “Yes.”
“A soldier who reads. Not a normal soldier.”
“I’m not going to tell you my story. Attempting to fill you in on over seven hundred years of history would put you and me in a relationship that would not be proper.”
There was a pause, then the lady said, “I assume you told things to that man you sought to spend time with.”
“Did not need to. All I have to tell certain people is one thing. After that it is just pleasant conversation.”
“He appeared old.”
That comment was unexpected, but I replied wondering if this lady would actually lower herself to holding a conversation with me. “I came to believe looks were deceiving in his case. In talking with him, I gained the impression he did not want to be old.”
“I doubt any of us want to be old.”
“No. There are a number of people who find wisdom, grace, and a sense of accomplishment in reaching old age.”
I have a story that I do not tell. When immortality was offered, my mother went to have her body processed while my father did not. I pleaded and begged for him to accept immortality, but he would not. He was with me the day Empress Straekin came through our town, and joined me to go meet the lady. When we had a chance to approach her, he spat in her direction and told her that she needed the benefit of gaining old age and wisdom if she was going to rule Davelda properly. To this day I remember her words very clearly.
“I fought to gain immortality for all. If I do not go through the ages with them, then I fear having a world of immortals spitting on my grave.”
Until his last breath he told me to honor him. I assured him I would. I also told him that I would keep a watch on Empress Straekin and spit in her direction should she become a dictator. She never did. For centuries I would go to the grave of my father and tell him that he was wrong to have done to the lady what he did.
I believe the lady that presently had authority over me sensed some of my thoughts, as she said, “You have seen a lot of people die.”
I simply replied, “I said that I would not attempt to go over my history with you.”
She pulled on my chain, then began walking while saying, “I will take you to the library. What type of book would you prefer reading?”
“Whichever one is at the front. I will methodically study each text in turn.”
“You feel you have the time?”
I was not going to get into an exchange of petty statements concerning my age, so simply replied, “I feel I need to take the time. God is in the details.”
While I found the response interesting, I only replied, “It’s just a statement, an adage. Where I am from, we are known for them. The children… the children have definitely made us aware of that.”
“After hundreds of years children are again being a part of my home. It’s a complicated subject, but certain truths have come out. I knew what I was doing when I came here, and I really don’t need for anyone to come rescue me. I believe I can win on my own, although I am finding just how risky my own plans are.”
“You want children? I thought you were barren.”
That told me the lady had heard things of me from the men, and wondering what her plans exactly were for me I said, “I told you it’s a complicated subject. Still, there are now children on Davelda. I have hope.”
“Here? They got them from us?”
“No. What I am looking for is a fishing problem. Those that find fish tend to collect others also wanting fish, so the fish go away. They are either eaten or they flee. Your world has yet to be fished, so I think I can find what I am looking for.”
She stopped at a set of double doors, unlocked them, then had me enter. I saw the shelves, but no writing stating any organization. I hoped there was one, or that I would be given the freedom to develop one. She locked the doors, then announced what I had already determined for myself.
“This is our library. For all I care, you can live in here.” She moved to open up a door, then announced, “There are futons in here, as we have used this room as nap place for children. There is a toilet over there, as some people actually enjoy a lengthy constitution with a book. There is a break room, but I would ask that you move to our dining area to eat.”
I looked at what she presented, then said, “Actually, this is better than where you had me. Thank you.”
“How could you tolerate being treated like that? Being immortals, your world must be fabulous.”
“The children call it boring, and call us petrified pieces of wood. Honestly, though, we have been through a lot. It is as we do things like this that they realize our true value. Slowly, we are finding the children to respect us.”
“Are you expecting one of the children to rescue you?”
I was actually surprised the lady made the suggestion, although did reply with the truth. “A grandchild, actually. The man that came knew a grandchild of our empress.”
“And what is his name?”
I smiled, as the wording allowed me to be evasive. “I can’t say. You will know the person, I assure you. You recognized peculiarities about me, and the one who comes will be more than peculiar. I am speaking of being unique. I can guarantee that you will not find that one so demure.”
“You haven’t met the one who is to rescue you?”
“No. I caught rumors and stories of the imperial family.” Hoping to settle the issue, I added, “I did need more than one meeting with the man to assure things.”
“Ah, yes, so you did.” She went to unlock the doors, then came back to me holding the item out. “Here is the key to the room. Consider it yours. To avoid any problems, I will put you down as our librarian. Please try to act the part.”
I was impressed. Being given the key was remarkable. Having an actual job title I almost considered a miracle. Of course I thanked her. She merely nodded, although I was concerned when she asked another question.
“We don’t have a God. Do you?”
I answered, “Yes. A Goddess. Her name is Munulva. We doubted Her existence as well, but She revealed herself when a child arrived. What we learned was that She had been there all the time, but we were just not noticing. I would say you fall into that category.”
“I see. Well hope to speak more with you.”
After she left, I moved to lock the doors. I then fell to my knees and began a prayer until my Goddess. I knew to thank Her, but not what to ask for. All I could do was pray that I would have further reasons to praise Her. With my words done, I moved to begin my time as a librarian.
And a clue is recognized about what needs to be done.