The Way of the World
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It must have been close to morning when I finally left the prince’s room, though the sky was as pitch black as it had been when I left it. I tried to slip into my pallet as quietly as I could without waking anyone. In vain, it seemed, as I could make out Kithia sitting up awake on her pallet as I approached mine.
“Where have you been?” She asked, trying and failing to conceal the worry in her voice.
“The prince’s room. The one with the red hair.” I said, almost as if it had been obvious and normal to return at such an hour.
“What did he want with you?” She quickly sat next to me as I began to undo my tunic. I didn’t know why she was bothering me so much about this one thing. She was not a cold and indifferent woman, but she was far from a dote.
“I guess he just wanted to talk to me.” I replied.
Kithia squinted her eyes at me as if what I had told her was a half-truth at best and an outright lie at worst. “Don’t fool yourself, Tsaveyyo.”
It was my turn to make a face at her, and for a moment I began to hate her as much as the people who had done this to me. Because of all the years I had spent alone and ignored by the wider world, going through the motions of this life of mine that felt trapped between notions of living and dying, there was the briefest of moments where I had forgotten about it all. And here she came to take those precious hours away from me, the way my body and fate was taken beyond my own doing.
“I’m not a fool.” I seethed bitterly at her. If she sensed any change in me, she did not care. And that made me angrier at her.
“Then remind yourself of who we are.”
“You don’t know who I am.”
“You are a slave.”
“I wasn’t born one!”
She was silent for a long while at that, and her face was as cold and unreadable as the smooth surface of a stone. But her eyes said more, and I saw a flicker of the same hatred I felt inside of me in them. Because Kithia, unlike me, was born into this world as a slave, and had never known the simple act of deciding anything for herself.
I was beginning to regret the harshness of my words, for picking at a forbidden scab I knew better than to open, when she began to speak again.
“It doesn’t matter who we were when we began our lives on this earth, Tsaveyyo. All that matters is who we are, and who we will be. And what we are is what they think we are, no matter how much we deny it. Because this idea of ourselves is just that; for ourselves.”
It was silent again in the room. Outside, the locusts continued its shrill nocturnal buzz, and the moon arched across the starry night as it always had, uncaring for the things that mattered and did not matter in the lives of mortals.
“Make your peace, Tsaveyyo. Noone will do it for you.” Kithia said finally, leaving me in my pallet as she made her way silently across the room to her own, laying down with her back towards me so that there was nothing left to say between us. And then, in that silent darkness, I remembered a song she used to sing every evening, her voice daintily soft as she sang to herself privately.
Night veils the Earth in darkness,
As infinite cycles play through Heaven.
Light to dark, and light again shines
When its time arrives.
We raise our voices now,
As light fades from our world,
Lord of Order, ruler of Heaven and Earth,
Comfort us in our fear.
For we shall be saved by your grace;
This is the way of the world.