“Your visit amazes me, Karra.” She surveyed the Spokesman’s plump wife with interest. Beside Karra sat her son, crosslegged, Ptolian style as he sipped his tea. You know I am grateful. Please tell me what force, what inner motivation could stir you to risk yourself and your son to save an outcast not even of your own family.”
Her visitor shrugged. “My reasons are complex, interwoven, and not entirely understood even by myself. There is a gnawing suspicion within me that not every Council Law is sacred, that perhaps a beingness of some sort within each of is actually stronger and holier than tradition.
“Nay, you needn’t look so startled. Eventually, others may be found who harbor these same suspicions. Who knows? It could be. As for your mate, Leh Garrhan the Sure–no, I do not spit out his name–was the true mate I desired before Ghian picked me. He walked my dreams almost from birth. Even now he does so. When the mighty Ghian chose me, it seemed right to accept, for one cannot mate with a dream alone and live in this world. Yet when Garrhan made his appearance in this segment, I knew him. It is apparent that mating is far from the reason for my dreams, but can it be we are not limited as all Ptolia would have us believe? For though I would not attempt to influence thy mate in any way, I believe we have never been apart. If this is so, then how could I refuse succor to him and his?”
Neither of them spoke for some moments. At last, Marna questioned quietly, “Does Garrhan know of this?”
“I think not. At least, we have never exchanged words on it, nor given waves to one another that would indicate such a knowledge. Whether he has seen me in dreams, I know not.”
In silence, Marna rose to refill their mugs. Karra’s son’s eyes went wide as he tasted the drink in his steaming container. “What?! What is this?” This was no whotol tea such as he had drunk nearly from birth. It was strange, with an aroma of fresh-cut greenness and flavor to match, deeply different to tradition-rutted taste buds.
“As your mother has guessed, little one, this tea is made from alfalfa. Other than Garrhan and myself, you are the first in all Ptolia to taste such a beverage. What do you think of it?”
Seriously, the boy studied the question. He had been asked to respond, a solemn occasion for any his age. “Since from birth I have heard strong tales of your mate’s ways, it occurs to me that it would not be here in your hut unless it were both necessary and beneficial. Therefore, despite its strange taste, I reserve judgment. Please enlighten me if it is permitted.”
His hostess laughed from the heart, her enjoyment rippling up and down scale, deep, rich, genuine. Karra’s own burst of amusement tinkled and sparkled in harmonious accompaniment. “Young one,” said Marna as soon as her laughter subsided, “you have spoken well. Not one syllable of your reply can I fault. One who can draw such wisdom from the depths of self surely must not be far from earning a name. Regarding alfalfa, you are correct. It does taste strange at first. Yet within a short time, I find it begins to taste positively delightful. Some few of its qualities have been told me by Garrhan.
“It gives strength to bone, lowers high blood pressure, softens hard arteries, and generally balances any diet in providing many vitamins and minerals. You saw my fatigue on your arrival, yet I am in excellent shape compared to other Ptolians forced to do without bluevegs and meat. Such pitiable people are often unable to rise after a mere thirty days of such a regimen, whereas I have so existed for forty-seven days and just now begin to falter. Only to this strange, dark green plant may I attribute such stamina. Is it worth all the fuss, though? I do not yet know. Garrhan has been gone since confronting the Council Trio; we cannot discuss it.
“Still, he is alive, though I know not the mark of his return. He came to me in a dream last night, leaving me with the words, You are not alone. Then he jog-loped away, a blue light at his shoulder. I had a feeling of great danger but, strangely enough, no fear. Today, here you are with food and counsel of comfort. It seems, beyond all logic, that I am a part of each of you, and you a part of me. Is there anything real in the world we knew a mere cycle ago, Karra? I do not have the answer.”
“I feel I do have at least a few of the answers,” Karra admitted. “I know, through my own dream studies, that Spirit sustains all life. Oh, perhaps our lives are mere clouds, not solid things–yet still they are real clouds. Reality exists, whether or not we choose to recognize it.”
Again they fell silent, sharing each other’s presence in a rare and precious communion between Souls until Ptolia’s sun had cast its last ray. As night deepened, three figures in the hut of Leh Garrhan the Sure put finishing touches to a largish bundle. Deep at its bottom nestled several packets, each hiding a double scoop of alfalfa seeds. If it had been dangerous for Karra to come this way bearing sustenance for an outcast, it was doubly so to return smuggling blasphemy itself.
Marna watched her benefactors fade into one-moon gloom, moving at a steady pace. Unless danger waylaid the pair en route, they would be safe at their own hut some several night marches hence.
Visitors gone, she settled down to rest. Within days, the alfalfa seed’s main harvest would be ready. Gar’s main concern had been seed. It did not appear he would return in time to help; it was entirely up to her. Now that she had proper food, it would be wisest to limit her watering activities, rest up, eat well, rebuild her strength for the task to come. Their fields were many, and at her best she had not a Garrhan’s endurance.
Drifting to sleep, her last mental image was a half-vision of a tall Ptolian approaching southern jungle in the near-black of a one-moon night. Garrhan. Funny. She was too tired to care.