THE QUESTION ANSWERED PART TWO
FROM PART ONE
Malaa smiled wisely. “Good. I am glad that you still retain some of your faculties.” She placed her hand softly under Oerip’s chin, lifting it. “Child, you have grown strong within this environment. True, you have not been permitted the joys others your age take for granted, but it was done to insure that you would possess the emotional strength and purity needed to successfully complete the ritual.
“But the Rings Malaa? I shall cease to be no matter what the outcome.”
Malaa looked deeply into Oerip’s eyes. “Hmm…as I surmised; you have tasted its sweetness, no?”
Oerip’s face became a deeper shade of blue. “I do not understand?”
“Juran is his name, true?”
“How…?” she stammered.
“I have been with you since birth. I know everything about you, even more than you know about yourself. And though your intelligence and resourcefulness has allowed you to circumvent the instituted safeguards, this is old Malaa who felt your biological urges for some time. You are in love,” she smiled.
“What made you suspect when others did not?”
“Small signs: tasks finished early, circuitous routes taken when more direct ones would
suffice. Shall I go on?”
Oerip smiled sheepishly. “No. Are you the only one?”
In that specious moment when the old woman’s eyes avoided hers, Oerip knew. “Malaa, who?”
“They…are painfully aware of your condition’s duality,” she replied sadly.
“I don’t understand?”
She brought Oerip to her breast and hugged her. “Child, you have been nurtured to undergo the Atlalaa Ritual. To force you now, after tasting one of life’s greatest pleasures would end in abject failure. Malaa looked at the ceiling and fought back the urge to cry.
“What will they do with me, Malaa?”
Malaa looked deeply into Oerip’s dark eyes. “Augment your indoctrination, your training until your feelings for Juran have been eradicated.”
Oerip’s new regime left no time for matters of the heart, yet, as each day passed the chasm between Malaa’s duty and her loyalty to Oerip widened. As her tutor, Malaa’s sworn task was to insure Oerip’s training was complete, the very thing that would end her corporeal life. She knew peace must survive, but to drastically alter such a beautiful young life, one she loved above anything else, tore savagely at her emotions until it overwhelmed her logic to the point she had arranged surreptitious meetings between the lovers.
Having learned of Oerip’s love trysts, the Doctrinizers had but one remaining option. To demand the Ritual take place now would be an anathema to their moral code, but, as others countered, would not a greater abomination result if one’s good superseded that of the whole?
Oerip cared little for their logic and even less for their moralizing, her abhorrence to the ritual reaching fruition in the clandestine plans to flee to one of the external moons with Juran.
Forewarned, the Doctrinizers intervened, promising Juran’s clan riches if they ended the affair. Cfirian culture had eliminated violence but not its desire for wealth…and Juran’s clan proved no exception to this.
Her head resting on Malaa’s lap, Oerip stared blankly ahead. “Dear Malaa, what am I to do?”
Malaa continued to gently stroke Oerip’s soft, iridescent silver hair. ”I do not know, child, nor will I pretend to understand what you feel. Rest now and think not of the ritual, precious one.”
Oerip continued to stare ahead. “You are wrong, dear Malaa. It is all I think of. I will embrace it warmly and fail. They have taken Juran and for this they will lose the Azcuut Cfir. Denial shall match denial.
For the next three training segments Oerip was deliberately dull-witted and temperamental, frustrating even the most sympathetic and devoted of her entourage, including Malaa.
Seated in her room, Oerip heard the chimes outside her door. “Come, “she said softly.
It was Malaa. She was holding a small ring, the type used for personal messages.
“May I enter, child?”
Oerip stood quickly, smiled. “Of course. You are always welcomed, dear Malaa”
“You must hear this,” she said, handing the ring to Oerip.
It was from Juran. He had not wanted wealth but was forced to accept it or face permanent exile. Tears rolled down Oerip’s cheeks; earlier, her despair, her hate, had made the choice to fail an easy one, but now, with Juran vindicated, even if she survived, she would never again see him.
She stared coldly at Malaa. “They’ve betrayed me! Tell me why I should risk all for these Pharisees! I am ashamed to be T’Ming!”
“I feel your anger, your pain, child. They have soured your sweetest pleasure. I can offer only this: you must decide between the rage within and the duty that insures all good and decent T’Ming lasting peace.”
The planet’s second sun had slipped below the horizon. A mournful wail signaled the beginning of the ritual. A huge opening materialized on the hall’s gemsteel wall.
A cold chill raced down Oerip’s spine. She shivered. Dear old Malaa, how I could use your company now. Summoning her courage, she passed through the opening, turned abruptly and entered the final corridor.
High, long and dimly lit, she walked its bleak expanse until she reached two massive, opaque doors. A deep, source-less voice shattered the corridor’s ominous silence: “Child of the T’Ming. Enter!”
The huge doors slid effortlessly aside.
Horizontal lights pulsed rhythmically from the walls, bathing the chamber’s numbing confines with a red-incandescent hue. In the middle of the chamber Oerip saw the ritual platform. A metallic glint overhead caught her eye. She looked up. Suspended over the platform was the huge and menacing transmutor. “So this is what sets destiny in motion.” Oerip stared at the tentacled device. “But it will be I, the Zacuut Cfir, which chooses life over death this day.”
Again, the deep, source-less voice commanded; “Child of the T’Ming…come forth and engage!”
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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