Once inside the capital and its first set of walls, Mi’Raah forced herself to look backward, beyond the rock precipice to take in the full reach and make of the strange island and its water. High up here, where the wealthy resided, it was not possible to observe the dancing-beaches or their caves.
“Afraid you’ll never see that side of the island again? Charlatan?”
She glinted ahead at High Priest Odentalis. Then, a loud wave crashed onto the rocks far below. The horses snorted and picked up pace in that moment, lengthened gait to carry them higher and higher up. Riders used no saddles nor bridles for these mounts, felt no need to restrain them.
“I am so a High Priestess.” Mi’Raah pouted.
“And I’m Arudelle the Pirate King.”
“You should not joke like that.”
“Oh, but I hear told that he jests all the time, calling himself a conqueror, calling himself a pirate. How careless. Arudelle subdued the Wild Tribes on the latter half of the Siren, so what? A great deal many Kings are forced to do the same,” he sucked teeth, “and they build their fleets, sail the seas, discover Jyst all the time. But nobody can discover Jyst or get designs upon its horses when we were here first and all of these belong to High Horse Odeon himself.”
“Don’t you mean that the King and Queen of Jyst own them? Though, I’m pained to agree these are some very smart horses. I’ve never seen cavalry guide so little, and that one, over there, she nearly gave me a very charming bob-cut, now that I’ve been thinking it over.” Mi’Raah blew sweat-sticky hair from her face.
“Odeon is the High Horse. So much of this sandy earth was made fertile and right by his dung, and the dung of his mares…”
Mi’Raah made a face while Odentalis went on to describe more and more about the particulars of a hungry horse god.
“… and before the day is out, you too, will owe your life to him.”
“I cannot be converted to some feckless lesser faith. I am Naah Maah Mi’Raah.”
“Yes, yes, four syllables. Good for you, doing your research into our Hallowed Registry.”
“Your Hallowed Registry, my ancient texts, Sirenian Hymnals, and the cave-paint rituals of the southern Wild Tribes, everything is based on chief revelations that first mothered the mortal idea of the sacred. Therefore, your name, O-dent-al-is and its four awesome breaths are truly based on my own name. Naah Maah Mi’Raah.”
The High Priest’s mare did not want to stop, but he tugged its mane and made the animal do so. Mi’Raah’s captor held her firm when Odentalis circled back around and alongside. Their eyes fixed. “You are clearly another ambitious Trystian. This hair is just dyed with old crushed jeweled dainties of a fallen lady. And I am not surprised to find a woman with the sea stuck round her pupils when so many foolish ones with bells tied to their ankles dance loose on both our beaches and no doubt rut while facing the water with likewise intensity.”
Mi’Raah blinked, unable to get the precise mental image.
Odentalis raced ahead of her thinking, wherever it went, “The King of Jyst is the one who disproves false paths of belief that really seek to take advantage of good-hearted people. If not, then I would throw you over these rock walls myself for cursing the deepest mortal peace which you cannot possibly claim to know. Are you at least several millenia old, Mi’Raah? Ridiculous.”
“And just how old are you?!”
Odentalis ordered Mi’Raah on the stony ground, to walk. Then, he dismounted after her and raised a ceremonial riding crop to strike across the woman’s back. The force knocked her over.
After, gold-shod hooves of the High Priest’s mare plodded forward with the others. Mi’Raah’s lone captor stayed behind.
“I see he was right to hit you,” this rider, a woman, helped her up, “Lookit that striped back. You’ve been whipped before, and that doesn’t happen to holy people often, now does it?”
“What do you know of sacrifice and true faith?” Mi’Raah sobbed, then spat on the ground.
“You should be more wise. I sense that you can’t be from here or any of the islands we know, because the whole known world understands that offending the High Horse Priest or any of the Jystian court is a crime punishable by being kicked to death, by god Odeon’s own hooves.”
Sometimes women commiserate, regardless of foe, when circumstances are about to become so bleak. Mi’Raah saw the three rings in this one’s tongue and the start of crazed blue tattoo over her scalp and feared how terrible things were bound to get, for this stone-heart to help her. “I’m Koriandra. And if you tell Odentalis or my Ride-Captain that we chatted, I’m gonna to pierce your tongue so ever far worse. Thanks for staring; I think that point was well made.”
A final backwards glance at the black crust of the ocean, then their steed passed confidently beneath a stone arch and inside of the palace. As always, Mi’Raah felt a surge of panic, at being shuttered out from the salt-air. Most people adjusted to the change of light indoors but loss of The Sea always sickened Mi’Raah. It overwhelmed her fear of coming to harm, or doing violence.
But no one need learn that, yet.
1, Mi’raah’s Virtue :: 2, The Dancing Beaches :: 3, On His High Horse :: 4, Off His High Horse :: 5, Bottled Message :: 6, Horse Huntress :: 7, Rider Koriandra :: 8, Oh No He Di’int :: 9, Talking Horses :: 10, That Damned Bottle Again :: 11, Believing is Seeing :: 12, A Choice Between Two Lovers :: 13, Last Vortextual Process :: 14, End of the Prose