Previous Page Next Page

Amina frowned as I said that. Looking around us, she heaved a deep sigh, "You're right. Come on. I'll show you the way."

When I first travelled to Dardun, three years ago, I passed through Vanders. I could not stay there for long. It had been one of our towns once, and the architecture made me miserably homesick. Sadly, the stonework had fallen into disrepair long before the pox settled in. Apparently, Amaya's Great Plan didn't have room for stone cutters and masons. To Amaya's People, it was supremely arrogant to desire such permanence in one's works. To me, the stench of decay on this place was the thick, rancid scent of Amaya. She spread like a pestilence, poisoning everything that she touched.

We reached the edge of the plaza, grass and weeds poking up between its cracked paving stones. We skirted around a broken wheelbarrow, and onto a side road. Amina occasionally slowed, to study one building or peer into a window. "You seem to know this town," I remarked.

"I summered here with my aunt in the years after my mother passed away," Amina said. "It was dumb luck that I wasn't here when the plague struck. My aunt and my cousins were not so lucky."

"Were you close?" I asked.

"Not so much with my aunt, but with my cousins, yes."

"Have you been back here, since..." My voice trailed away.

"Yes," she said, elaborating no further.

The road cut through the trees a ways, before opening up again into another plaza. This one bordered the lake, and appeared to have been a market and park, at one time. There was a boat ramp, and a small fishing pier. It would have been idyllic, were it not for its state of utter disrepair. A statue stood to one side, and I approached it, uncaring whether Amina followed. I felt a surge of emotion as I neared her, in spite of the fact that she had been defaced, nearly to the point of being unrecognisable. I reached out a hand, and touched the carved folds of her robes. It was Riese, the virgin goddess -- she of the moon and the sea. It was she to whom the Maridan sailors pledged their hearts when they entrusted themselves to the waves. She was a tempestuous girl, but we all secretly loved her.

"Stay away from that," Amina's voice came from behind me. "It is a cursed thing. It is probably where the pox came from. They should have smashed it."

I turned to face Amina, feeling a little stung, "Artwork should never be destroyed."

"It's a wicked thing. It offends Amaya," she said, leading the horse past me, towards the water.

"Too much like her, you are," I said, following after.

"Like whom?" Amina said, leading the horse off under the trees, away from all the stone and ruin.

"The statue," I said.

Previous Page Next Page