The Plateau - 6. Chapter 6 - Your Life Is Calling
Chapter 6: "Your Life Is Calling"
It was a moment that I really wished that I could spend alone.
Even after buying food for our next meal and getting ready to head home, I couldn’t help but to keep my eyes wide open, hoping to catch sight of Cerian’s beauty just once more before leaving the marketplace. He wouldn’t be hard to find. The grace of angel like him would stand out in any crowd. Even the whispered song of his gentle voice was enough to turn heads, providing a holy promise that what you were about to lay eyes on would be well worth the distraction.
My heart yearned for just another few moments of awkward interaction. So badly, in fact, that it felt as if I could cause him to appear right in front of me through sheer will alone. But Tionna pranced happily by my side on the pathway home, chattering away, completely unaffected by the epic event that I had just been a part of. She was my reality while Cerian remained an impossible dream. How is it that she feels like the distraction right now?
“That little hellion at the market moves pretty fast. But not fast enough to outrun my lashes! Did you see how I caught him? He could have never stolen any silver from us the way he did Versis’ guards! My mother taught me well about how to use both whips together. One to grab or to swing, and one to strike or to blind an opponent. Had it been a TRUE fight, he would not have been able to defeat me!” Tionna bragged proudly, her lashes coiled up around each arm again as she looked upon them with a vain sparkle in her eye.
“He was just a little boy, trying to feed himself.” I said.
“Then he should have stolen food. Not money from the kingdom’s guards. People have been slaughtered for a lot less.”
“And here I thought you were the most Anti-Versis champion in the entire Realm.”
“I am.” She said. “But if you’re going to be a thief...then steal what you need and nothing more. It’s the greedy ones that always get caught.” She said, and I let it go. I wasn’t really in the mood for a disagreement at the moment. All I could think about was Cerian’s smile, and the nearly irresistible temptation to kiss those sweet lips while letting my surprise craving for him carry me away from this place and fly me to another where only he and I would remain. Where only he and I would matter. “You’re still thinking about that pretty pretty boy, aren’t you?”
“Wha…? No.” I said, trying to regain my focus. “I’m not thinking of any...’pretty pretty boy’. I was listening to you.”
“You were listening to me, yes. But you were thinking about him. I can tell.”
“No you can’t. And I’m not.” I said.
“Well, let me see your eyes then. You always hide your eyes when you don’t want me to tell.” She demanded, pouncing in front of me to get a better look. But this time, I was ready.
I put on a pair of dark circular specs to cover up my Quidarian expression, and she gasped out loud the second that she saw them.
“You have LENSES???” She asked. “Where did you get Quidarian lenses from?”
I attempted to hush her up and get her to lower her voice as we passed a few other travelers on the road. Then I aggressively whispered, “I found them at an underground merchant’s table in one of the alley. He was selling them for cheap...so I decided to get myself a pair.”
Her eyes got even wider than they were before. “I can’t believe you did that!”
“What?!?! Quidarian’s wear lenses all the time. It’s no big deal.”
“Only gamblers and criminals wear Quidarian lenses! Your father is going to strike you good if he finds out about this.”
“He’s not GOING to find out about this! And you’re not going to tell him. Do you understand?” I demanded. “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like I’m going to wear them all the time...”
“Just around me then, I take it.” She sulked. “I thought you trusted me.”
“I do trust you, Tionna...”
“Then why do you need lenses?”
“Because!” I said angrily, trying to pull some of my frustration back. “I’m sick of being so ‘exposed’ all the time. Can’t I just have some privacy and maybe keep some thoughts and emotions to myself every once in a while? Is that too much to ask?”
Still pouting slightly, Tionna was quiet for a moment before saying, “Quidarians are known for their honesty. The visible change of eye color is what inspired them to be one of the most highly trusted races in the Realm. Your whole culture is built around it.” I didn’t look at her, I just kept walking. I wasn’t about to let her shame me for this. “There’s something about being exposed, being vulnerable...that makes you humble. It keeps you true to your inner self.”
“I’m not a race or a people or a culture, Tionna. I’m one person. And this feels right to me, ok?” I said, hoping to get her to back off...even if I did begin to feel bad about it. “I’m not trying to ‘hide’. I just want to be left alone long enough to figure out who I am.”
With a bit of a frown, she said, “Quidarians don’t lie. Vengrels lie.”
Even having her mention my mother’s people hurt me to my very core, and I suddenly stopped walking to give her an angry look when she turned around. “Take it back...” I said.
“Orrin...I wasn’t trying to say...”
“TAKE IT BACK!!!”
Looking down in the dirt, her tail submissively curling around her leg, she mumbled, “I’m sorry, Orrin. I take it back.”
“So I’m displaying the worst parts of me, am I? A halfbreed? Go ahead...say it!”
“That’s not what I meant, ok?” She pleaded. “You know me. Sometimes my tongue speaks before my brain has time to catch up. That’s all.” I rolled my eyes and looked away from her, the sting of her comment lingering as I removed my lenses and hid them back in my satchel. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have said it if I knew you’d take it so hard.”
“Only mad because you hurt my feelings, are you? Not because you thought it up in the first place?” I said, and started walking again...right past her. “Now who’s the liar.”
She took a second before following behind me, but what else was she going to do. She had a certain attachment to me that she wasn’t going to get with anyone else. Or at least that’s the way she saw it. Being friends with a Ferran can bring many benefits when you need to hear what they think you need to hear...but don’t ever think that you’ll be able to get away without having them obliterate your pride every now and then. It’s not always welcome. Sometimes it’s just plain rude. I guess I’ve just gotten used to her being this way.
We made our way through the woods and had hardly said much of anything to one another until we were almost back at my home. I could smell the smoke of my father’s controlled fire and felt a bit of a rumbling in my stomach as I knew that supper wouldn’t be all that far off from being finished. However, that’s when Tionna softly asked me, “Are you going to tell Terion that you’re a boy lover tonight?”
“No. I’m not.” I said, resentfully. “Besides, I never really said that I was one, now did I?”
She was quiet for another few steps, and then asked, “That’s why you bought the lenses, isn’t it? To hide how you feel...about him?”
“I wasn’t trying to hide, Tionna. Ugh! Why can’t you just leave this alone?”
“For the same reason that you can’t.” She said. “There’s a huge part of your spirit that needs to know. A question in your heart that has gone unanswered.”
“Well...I’m thinking that today won’t be the day that it magically presents itself, so there’s no reason to get my father all worked up for nothing.” I told her.
“A very dark gray...” She said.
“Your eyes. Dark gray. Turning black. Fear...”
“STOP looking at my eyes! It’s none of your business!” I grumbled, still feeling a bit of the ire I had for her earlier in our trip home.
“Terion won’t turn you away, Orrin. He loves you with his whole heart. Of that I can be sure.”
“Just once, I wish you were capable of taking the hints that I give you. Leave it alone and let me be.” I said, turning to face her. “Do you hear me?”
“Yes. I hear you.” She seemed hurt, but did her best to hide it. Perhaps I had been too unkind but...she goes too far sometimes. She pushes too hard. I don’t need any harsh truths right now. I’m much more comfortable floating on a sea of ambiguity and confusion right now. A place that doesn’t force me to make a choice before I’m ready. A place that I’m going to have to call home for a little while, at least where my deepest, darkest, secret emotions are concerned.
As we approached the house, my father walked outside, wiping his hands with a rag and holding a few cooking utensils that he was prepared to use for the meal. “You’re back. It’s been a while, I was starting to worry.” He said. “Hello, Tionna.”
“Hello...” She said, still a bit pouty after having me disgrace her the way I did.
“Well, that’s not the feisty young lady that I know.” He grinned. But as she kept her word and didn’t say anything more to him about what we had been up to this afternoon, he looked back and forth between us with a touch of suspicion. “Is everything alright? You two didn’t run into any trouble at the market, did you?”
“No. Everything was ok.” I said.
He observed our demeanor for another moment or two, and then said, “Well...good. I’ve seen a swarm of sentinels flying about today. They must be seeking out someone pretty important for King Versis to send them out in such numbers. It might be better for you two to stay close to home for the time being. At least until this whole thing blows over. No need to tangle with the likes of those monsters if you don’t have to.” He looked down at my satchel and asked, “Alright then...what did you bring us?” I handed it to him, and he put it down on the table to inspect it as he pulled each item out of the bag. “Punzasha meat? I thought you didn’t like it.”
With a smile, I said, “I don’t know. For some reason, I had a taste for it today.”
“There was a thief in the marketplace today. HE wanted Punzasha meat. That’s probably why.” Tionna said, and I elbowed her in the side to shut her up.
“A thief, you say?” My father grinned.
“A child. You should have seen him. He was a speedy little scoundrel to behold.” Was I going to have to elbow her again or what? She can be SO spontaneous sometimes.
“Ah well, hopefully he was able to get away with enough to fill his belly for the evening. Hahaha!” My father gave the meat a decent rub, and then reached for some of the spices I brought home as well. “This is a pretty expert cut. Very fresh as well. My cheers to the merchant who prepared it for us. You two have yourselves some fun. Run out all of that left over energy you’ve got while I sprinkle and season this up for a decent feast. A good hour over the fire should do us all just fine. Agreed?”
“Thank you, Father. We’ll be back soon.” I said, and dragged Tionna out of there behind me and away from the house before her brazen nature found a way to embarrass me any further.
“You don’t ever plan to tell him, do you?” She asked as soon as we got out of earshot.
“I wish it could be that easy, but it won’t be.” I said. “I’ll get older, my experience rings will expand...and sooner or later he’s going to want to know why I haven’t chosen a potential bride. Hopefully, I will have found a way to put the speech together that my father deserves to explain why I’m so...’different’.”
Tionna was quiet for a moment, but I could tell it was only because she was trying really hard to bite her tongue on the subject. Instead of challenging my unwillingness to simply spill everything out and tell the whole world what I feel just because I feel it...she said, “That Cerian boy is certainly attractive. Tanzian ears and all. I would like to think that your father would be proud of your choice.” She then added, “He seems nice too.”
This wasn’t like her at all. I worried that my comments to her might have done some damage, and I told her, “I’m sorry for what I said earlier, Tionna. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you either.” She replied. “I was only trying to get you to be honest with yourself. I know it isn’t an easy path to travel for a great deal of people, but...can you really say that you’re happier this way?”
“I am for now.”
“And what about later? Loving boys isn’t as big a menace as you may think it is. Not to anybody who really matters. I’m willing to accept you just fine...”
“You don’t get it, Tionna...”
“Then explain it to me.”
“I’m not LIKE you, ok? Or like those other people who just wear their attractions like fine cloth and hold hands in public without wondering who else might be watching. I need time to process things. I need a barrier to keep people out of the most sensitive and most potentially painful parts of my heart until I’m ready to tell them who I am. I want some sense of control. And how can I achieve that when all anybody else wants to do is either shame me, dissuade me, or encourage me to move faster than I want to go. Nobody seems to understand how difficult it is to not look at life through their eyes all the time.” I said, my mood dampening itself more rapidly than I ever could have expected. “When I figure things out for myself, without having to worry about somebody else’s demands, or disappointments, or frustrations...maybe then I’ll feel more comfortable about this. Maybe then I’ll go out and tell the whole Realm how I feel. But until then, they have no right to influence me with answers to questions that I never asked them for. It’s my life. I don’t live it for them. I want to live it for me.”
She was always stubborn, but she was fair. That’s one thing that I could always count on when it came to Tionna. “I suppose I can understand that. I won’t promise to always be so patient with you...but I will make a warrior’s attempt.”
“Hehehe, a warrior’s attempt, huh?” I grinned. “Whatever that is...I’ll take it.”
“You have no choice.” She grinned back. “You’re dealing with a future Ferran defender, after all.”
I chuckled to myself, and gave her a wink. “It was pretty cool, how you got my practice sword back from the kid in the marketplace. You and your dual lashes.”
“I KNOW! That was insane, right? I’d defend you with my life, Orrin! You should pray for your enemies whenever they choose to pick on you in my presence. I am already deadly, and I’m far from being done with my training. Ha!”
“I don’t think I need defending. I’m getting to be a pretty savage warrior myself, you know?” I said.
“Oh please!” She scoffed. “Savage warrior, and you fall into a heap of crumbs at the mere sight of an Elvish breed.”
“This coming from a ‘strong female warrior’ who gets offended just because I didn’t tell her she looked pretty.” I said. Her mouth dropped open in surprise, but with half a smile.
“I WAS pretty! And you know it!” She said, giving me a playful punch in the arm.
“Uh oh!” I giggled. “Now you’ve done it.” I drew my wooden practice sword and held it out in front of her. “No sneaky tricks this time, Ferran!”
Tionna saw my eyes shifting over to a bright shade of gold, a playful expression that made her smile as she got into her usual stance, low to the ground...legs wide while balancing on her haunches. “I don’t need any sneaky tricks to beat the likes of you. Hehehe!”
“Purr for me, kitty cat!” And with that, she pounced forward to knock me onto my back, causing me to roll over and toss her off of me. She unraveled both of her whips, but I didn’t have any worries about her using them to hurt me. To be honest, her control with those things was way beyond anything that I could ever do myself. I’d probably take out one of my own eyes in the first few moments of flailing those straps around the way she does. Still...I’d never admit that to her.
I’ve got to maintain SOME level of boyish pride, don’t I?
We circled each other for a moment, and then we both leapt forward for a friendly clash. She was so fast, so flexible. It was hard to keep an eye on her for more than a few blurry seconds before she was able to leap over me, slide between my legs, or spin around behind me. Luckily, my father taught me how to defend without even looking so that I could keep her from getting the upper hand too quickly. I was able to duck and dodge and block almost as well as she could, and eventually she got fed up and just lunged at me to tackle me down to the ground in a last minute attempt to win.
Out of breath, we both smiled at one another for a moment, and then I used my hand to gently pet her side until she squirmed away, her whole body vibrating all at once. “Don’t make me purr!!!” She laughed. “You don’t play fair! You cheat!”
I giggled, “I thought everyone cheated when it came to battle? Isn’t that what you said earlier?”
“I said no such thing. Besides...this was different.” She said.
“Sure it was.”
And it was then that her head suddenly lifted up and her tail stood straight up as she sensed the presence of others approaching us from elsewhere in the woods. She nimbly rolled to her feet, this time with a much meaner look on her face as she looked over my shoulder to see what was coming. I turned my head to see three other boys headed our way, and I was quick to sit up once I saw who it was.
“Well, well, well...look at what we have here? The local Vengrel halfbreed and his undisciplined savage of a ‘girlfriend’.” He said. “Fancy meeting you two out here.”
Bolodor. You have no idea how much I truly despise that boy...
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