Princess Meru sat amid plush blue cloth cushions in the impromptu ‘waiting room’. Within the hour she would meet her betrothed, Prince Tinochika ruler of the Island Principality. Nervousness and confusion filled Meru’s mind as she saw the oil clock burned its fuel steadily marking the time. She was conflicted at her core for her attendants reported the Prince being quite handsome and vigorous. He was obviously wealthy and ruled a nation. Yet, she was hopelessly in love with the man who came from the ‘Land of the Gods’, the Montsho Banga.
Meru didn’t know the man’s actual name, but everything about him attracted her! Then there were the things he said to her since that fateful night when the Tenaree attacked Palm City. He’d said, ‘he came to protect his wife’ when she asked why he saved her and her father. The Montsho Banga also said, ‘She would never lay eyes upon the Prince nor share his marriage bed. Instead, she would marry someone undeserving of her but would stand against the armies of all mankind if she asked.’
The declaration had her mystified until he gathered her in his arms for a knee-buckling kiss! Somehow, the Monstsho Banga knew her feelings towards him in spite of her efforts to hide them. Yet, in less than an hour she would ‘lay eyes’ upon her husband-to-be during the official meeting ceremony. A day after that, they would be married and he-who-held-her-heart would be gone from her life as she returned to the Islands with the Prince! She had to know what was to be!
One of the Ladies Attending raised Meru’s attention. She had a guest.
Meru’s eyes brightened for a moment and then her blood chilled as the Amoosu Mjarga entered. Meru saw firsthand the witch’s power when she showed her father what was to come in the impending Tenaree attack. From what Meru could tell, Mjarga wasn’t much younger than her. But there was an air of ‘agelessness’ about her. Meru felt pangs of jealousy towards Mjarga’s open love towards the Montsho Banga’s son, ‘Little Fish’. Then again Meru thought, ‘They were from a strange place where so a strange pair must be ‘normal’.’
The Amoosu approached and at a respectful distance, she bowed. Meru still had to get used to being treated as full royalty. Her father had always been important and a certain amount of respect was given her as part of his house. But since the Royal Family had been murdered, she the daughter of the new Regent was now heir to the Kingdom of Palm! The enormity of it all piled on with the war and now a royal marriage was too much for Meru. She bid the Amoosu to sit and there came an awkward silence.
Meru nervously looked from Mjarga to the faces of the Ladies Attending surrounding them.
“Would you like us to be alone when you ask your question Princess?”
Meru’s heart skipped as the question asked was exactly what she was thinking. With a gesture, the Ladies filed out some with disappointed looks.
“You know what I am going to ask don’t you Amoosu Mjarga?”
“That which vexes me most is; whether I should ask at all….”
The Witch chuckled as only a young woman could and it put Meru at ease.
“Ade Meru. Even I ask that question regularly. I have always ‘seen’ beyond the curtain of time. I saw myself being here many years ago when I was a girl. I did not understand what I saw, or knew why I would be here. I just knew one day I would. I will tell you a secret...if you would hear it Ade.”
Suddenly intrigued, Meru nodded ‘yes’.
“I am glad I am here! To finally meet you, walk among your people and in your home makes me very happy.”
Meru was surprised by the Witch’s state of fact.
“Even with the terrible circumstances we all find ourselves, you still find joy in being here?”
Mjarga’s smile also caught Meru off-guard.
“Oh yes Ade! Even with the coming battle, the days and moments before have filled me with joy. I am glad I was brought here and will do everything I can to help.”
Meru realized they were now holding hands. Mjarga’s pale skin was somewhat darker since her arrival in Sea City. She seemed to adapt to the style and dress of this land quite well. Were it not for her physical appearance, one would think she was born here! The Amoosu’s exuberance bolstered Meru’s confidence. She took a deep breath and then asked her fateful question.
“Amoosu, I must know! Who will be my husband?”
Meru saw the look on Mjarga’s face change to one more serious.
“That is what you wish to see, though you meet your betrothed in but moments from now?”
“Yes, that is what I wish to know.”
“Very well. Look into my eyes, see beyond the curtain of time and behold your destiny….”
The Princess was both excited and frightened at the same time as she looked into the Amoosu’s cedar-colored eyes. What happened next was far from what Meru expected.
Abruptly, Meru stood outside the city walls facing the Palm forest. Flames and billowing smoke rose to the highest point of the sky to drift over the land. It seemed to be early morning as shafts of sunlight fought their way through the thick clouds of smoke.
From the tree-line, three women walked towards her. One was covered in a filthy and burned red shroud, the other a brilliant and unblemished blue. The third woman was barely recognizable, but there was no doubt it was her ‘Spirit-Sister’, the Champion N’Sisi. The warrior was covered in green cloth spattered liberally with blood and her gaze was one who sought nothing more than death! Meru tried to take a step back from the three, but only managed to move forward.
“Who-who are these women Spirit-Sister and why are you here in my vision?”
The Warrior stepped forward closing the gap. Her gaze unchanging that for a vicious grin appearing as she replied.
“Are you certain you don’t know who we are…dear ‘Sprit-Sister’? Can you not see those who have, are and will shape your life? Do you truly want to know all that is to come? You can go back to the Amoosu and say you saw nothing and live without knowing. But you won’t do that will you...sister?”
It had always been a point of contention between Meru and her Spirit-Sister that she could never leave things undone. No matter her growing fear, the Princess took another step forward. Reaching out, Meru pulled the filthy red cloth away from the first woman…and screamed in terror!
“You did not see me with such fear when you visited me in the palace, ‘Princess Meru!’ Now that you have taken that which was mine and shall marry well, you would leave me thus a wretch?”
Meru could not believe her eyes. Despite the woman’s hideous form as a skinless, rotting, yet still living corpse was none other than Zuri, former Princess of Palm!
“By the Mother-Goddess! What did those monsters do to you Zuri?”
The former princess snatched back the cloth and attempted to cover herself.
“The Red Spirit did this to me as so many others! When the walls of Sea City fall, she will do this to you. You, me and all the others who have become ‘vessels’ will be sisters in living death! We will see each other again very soon for your future sisters are coming to reclaim that which was ours in the Red Spirit’s name….”
As her words faded, so did the form of Zuri from Meru’s eyes.
“It seems I am not the only one you have ‘stolen from’ sister.”
Meru turned agape with astonishment towards her Spirit-Sister.
“What do you mean N’Sisi? What have I stolen and from who?”
The Warrior’s expression turned to one of disgust.
“As always, you cannot see what you have taken after you’ve taken it dear sister! You now have that which Zuri was born to.”
Though dismayed, Meru became indignant.
“I did not steal Ade Zuri’s title and position! I was never in the line of succession. I never wanted to be Princess of Palm! It was thrust upon me when my father became Regent. I loved Zuri as I love you! I never would have taken that which was hers.”
N’Sisi’s expression flattened which disturbed Meru far more than her disgust.
“And yet…you wear the gold bands as ‘Princess of Palm’ do you not? You are to marry great Tinochika, Prince of the Islands are you not? After doing so, you will become ‘Queen’ of both nations will you not? All while others will fight and die so that shall come to pass?”
Meru was at a loss for words. These thoughts had been troubling her since her father took the Regency. Though she was born noble at best, she would have been married to a low-level minister as her father once was. The notion of her being a ‘Queen’ was inconceivable for she never had ambitions for so lofty a station in life! Nevertheless, her Spirit-Sister was correct on all points as she stood upon ground if the war ends well, she would do so as Queen!
“You begin to see now don’t you…sister? That isn’t all you have taken is it?”
Meru’s heart skipped a beat. In this place of vision, she realized her secrets could not be hidden.
“You know of my love for the Monstsho Banga.”
“You’ve done more than just ‘love’ him…sister.”
Meru could not be certain whether it was the living N’Sisi or this figment of her vision speaking, but the contempt present when the word ‘sister’ was spoken was hurtful.
“Yes, sister. I have. I gave myself to him willingly.”
The vision of her Spirit-Sister moved beside her with a chilling swiftness and spoke in her ear.
“You allowed him to spill his seed within and now fear it may be growing. What will your new husband have to say when he realizes your ‘gate’ has been breached by another before him? That the life growing within you may well not be from his line?”
Meru’s heart skipped again for she could not be certain of anything at this point. All she knew was her love for the man called, ‘The Black Sword’ who came from the Land of the Gods. The man who would defend a country not his with everything he had.
“That ‘love’ you have given, will cause more grief and bloodshed that you can imagine dear sister. I do not envy you seeing what you have set into motion….”
Before Meru could react, N’Sisi was gone leaving only the woman shrouded in blue.
Of all the women, Meru feared this one most. The cloth was so beautiful, the Princess found it difficult to look directly at it. The woman with features hidden was taller and very well formed. The head turned toward her and Meru flinched.
“Who…who are you? Are you known to me? Have I wronged you as well in some manner? If so, I do apologize!”
The woman remained silent which frightened Meru evermore. There was something about this woman that attracted and repelled the Princess. But as was her nature, she had to know. From beneath the robe, shapely sun-darkened hands reached out to her. The gesture was inviting, but Meru’s heart beat frantically! The warning her Spirit-Sister came back to her, ‘You can go back to the Amoosu and live without knowing….’
In rejection of the very thought, Meru grasped the woman’s hands. There was an explosion of brilliant golden light and Meru was ‘somewhere’ within it. Both she and the woman were barely distinguishable within the glow. They were separate, but one all at once. It was then the once shrouded woman spoke with the comforting voice of both mother and confidant.
“You have not ‘stolen’ from me child. You will ‘give’ my greatest sorrows and joys. You and I will never meet again, but we will always be together and love the same man for all time. Go back. You are not ready to be here…yet….”
Meru found herself covered in sweat and still holding the hands of the foreign Amoosu Mjarga.
“What did you see Ade?”
“Did you not see as well Amoosu?”
“No, I cannot see when sending others to the ‘dreamworld’. I can only be the bridge so you may return.”
Meru was still processing all she saw and then….
“Mother Goddess! I must tell my father and the Monsho Banga what is to come! Please…Mjarga, come with me!”
“But you must meet your betrothed the Prince in but moments Ade!”
Meru wasn’t listening. She merely grabbed Mjarga by the arm and towed her behind as they made the mad dash to find the Regent. The Red Spirit was going to unleash something horrible in the coming battle and her father and love must be warned! The Prince would have to wait. Until she was married, it was the land of Palm which her loyalties and concerns would take precedent….
© 2017 H. Wolfgang Porter. All Rights Reserved.
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