19 Jun

A rich girl, or had been before the conflict. Her steady gaze before the Master, the generous spoonfuls of expensive saffron on the cakes, told of a life lived in expansive comfort; her smooth, unsteady hands as she moved to clear the tray showed she was unused to work. I watched her with detached clarity as the Master bent her attention on another acolyte. Mornings at this little self-appointed enclave, the Fountain of Al-Ramba, were always busy as syncophants and orderlies sought audience with the lord of the realm.
Strictly speaking, Master Ayra was no lord. The old lord had perished fighting for one of the Kings-over-the-Sky and the genetics of the heirs were much in doubt. For the time being, while the heirs skulked and postured awaiting their High Court day, the land deferred to Master Ayra, and she kept a heavy if doubtful peace.
The girl knelt before me, gathering the aluminum cups filled with coffee. I stared down at her, seeing the white of her scalp through the severity of the part in her hair. A small mole on her neck, three earring-holes in the left ear. I did not know enough of Keem society to know if that meant anything. No rings of course, or any other tell tale signs status – she was little more than serf now. She looked up and her eyes met mine.
Wordlessly I held my cup out. Then I wrapped my robe around me to hide the weakness in my knees, and watched her leave for the kitchens with her slow, careful gait balancing the tray of discarded cups. Hopeful, fearful, desperate: I’d seen eyes like that before. Every time I looked in the mirror these days.



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