Return of the Maca
Chapter 1: The Kenning Woman Speaks
The Ab woman, Di, stood between the merchant stalls located close to the waterfront’s walkways and piers in the city of Bretta. Her massive fists were clenched and her eyes a vacant stare. The wind tore at her long, thick, chestnut-brown hair. Her short, brown kirtle flapped against the muscled thighs. Her body quivered while her mouth drew in and blew out air in short, quick gasps. At first some in the crowd had jostled against her, but others backed away, unsure of what held that magnificent Thalian body enthralled. Soon members of the Sisterhood in their black warrior uniforms, Abs in their brown garments, the Tris of Betron in their light green summer outfits, and Krepyons (derogatorily called Kreppies) in their green uniforms gathered around her. A sturdy man child of about five held onto her left leg and looked upward. He was shaking her leg to draw her attention, but nothing could break her concentration. Finally she turned to the crowd, her eyes cleared, and she pointed to the people directly in front of her.
“Thalians, Abs, Tris, people of the Houses, and Krepyons listen to me. I am the Kenning Woman, and I have a message.” Her voice was as strong as her body, and it rolled over the crowd.
“Llewellyn, Maca of Don, will return. With him comes his laddie, the blind-eyed Laird of Don. Together they will restore Don and their House will be alive with new people. The false prophet will be destroyed. Beauty, Counselor of the Realm, will be forced to honor her debt to him.”
Her voice rose as she pointed a finger at one from each group standing before her. “The Tris will supplant the Abs, and the Sisterhood is doomed.
“Ye Krepyons will rue the day ye stripped Thalia of her wealth for ye will be crushed like the chalk from the cliffs of your planet. The Justines will rule no more, and LouElla will be avenged!”
She stooped, picked up the wee laddie and strode through the hissing Abs, the growling Kreppies, and the smiling Tris, her long legs eating away at the tarmac. A desire to hide and sleep overrode any desire to explain away her outburst. What madness had possessed her? There was no Kenning Woman for the broken land of Thalia; none for almost eighty years. She was Di, the magnificent Ab, once the Handmaiden to Martin. Now she had damned Martin as the False Prophet and there would be retribution from that bitter, aging man. She hugged Wee Da closer.
“Ye must go to the Laird of Don when he comes,” she whispered to him. “He will be your fither and your protector.”
Di knew she must find Is. He would guard them while she slept. She unlimbered her legs and began to run. She disappeared from view among the broken storefronts of what once was the proud city of Bretta on the continent of Betron.
She found Is in the old inner district as he returned from a day of scrounging. He was dirty, unkempt, but unbowed. Since Martin had decreed he was not acceptable to the other Abs until he proved he would do the menial tasks of Abs during the work season, he was denied the rations and the safety of Martin’s House of Abs. The House of Ishner still managed to get supply packets through to him and his condemned younger sister, but he had given the last packet to his renamed sister, Il, who was allowed to remain with Martin. The Handmaiden claimed she would protect Il, but Is wondered if that were possible. At least his sister had a place to sleep, but she was having difficulty adjusting to the life of an Ab, the loss of her name, and the security of the House of Ishner.
His bag was slung over his shoulder and he was congratulating himself on his take when Di ran up to him.
“We must hide. I spoke the vision.” Her light brown eyes were wide with distress.
Is gaped at her. “Ye did nay.” Horror was in his voice.
“Aye, and I named Martin as the False Prophet. Take my Wee Da and hide him.”
Wee Da, however, had a firm grasp around his mother’s neck, and she could not remove him. Is shook his head.
“Nay, we’ll go to this new place I’ve found. Quickly.” He turned and sped up the broken street with Di loping behind.
They were in a part of Bretta once lined with small craft shops and Tri housing overhead. Before the Justines had enforced their rule with Krepyon guards, Tris and members of Thalia’s Houses would fly in on their flivs, the four-seat vehicles of Thalia, and park at the padports for a fee on a celebration day or to shop. The rounded buildings of concrete and Ayranian alloys were deserted; the padports vacant. The remaining Tris had left this area for the waterfront where food was distributed. In the back of one building, Is had found a door that opened. For over one hundred years the owners never returned to lock it, nor was it likely that they would return now. The three disappeared within and Is blocked the doorway with a carved statue of a wild elbenor raised on hindquarters showing fangs below the snarling lips.
“Come, we’ll go upstairs. The furnishings are quite good. Ye can rest there and Wee Da can play. I’ll prepare the meal.”
Di bounded up the steps. “Will they nay see the light up here?”
“I’ve blocked off the windows, and I’ve been outside at night to verify that nay light escapes. We are safe as long as Martin’s minions nay ken where I rest.”
Di spied the long couch and then the hall leading to the still furnished sleeping areas.
“Dear Gar, a real bed. Is, tis perfect.” She swept into one sleeping room and set Da on the bed, pulled off her brown, ankle boots, and collapsed.
“I must rest. Wee Da, be good for Is.” She closed her eyes.
Is set his bag down and looked at the child. Wee Da regarded him with a smile and started to run. Is shrugged and ran after him. He did nay mind watching the wee one, although he kenned it was Troyner’s get. At present Troyner, Maca of Troy, stood in the docket before the Council of the Realm. Is doubted if Troyner could fend off the Sisterhood much longer. They would bar Troyner from House and make him Ab. Damn the Sisterhood and their strict obedience to the rule of the Justines and the Kreppies. Only once had a Justine died on Thalia since the war ended and that had been in Ayran, deep in the mines, a dangerous place in the best of times.
Di woke with shadow light enfolding her and Wee Da patting her cheek and saying, “Mither, tis sus.”
She sat up and her vision of the bulky Maca of Don and his handsome, hard-faced laddie with the strange grey, blind eyes faded. She hugged Wee Da and sniffed. The smell of food and the burning of oil came from the front area. She pulled on her boots, swung Da onto her hip, and walked out into the front.
Is had devised some sort of lamp from a slender-necked ceramic vase by filling it with oil and inserting a wick twisted from an old mat. A golden flame from the wick wedged into the vase stood above the neck. The improvised light cast a glow over the table. At least there was bread and a spread for it made from onions and some sort of shriveled red vegetable or fruit.
Is smiled at her. “I sorrow that there tis nay milk for Da, but I had nay anticipated guests.”
“Tis all right, Is, he still drinks from me. Tis there a working lav here or must I go outside?”
“Tis best to go outside. I’ll help with the door and the guarding.”
As they went down the stairs, he asked, “Did ye sleep well?”
“Aye, but I dreamt the vision. It will return. The Sisterhood will come for me.” She turned to him.
“If they take me, ye must see that Da gets to the Laird of Don when he arrives. The Sisterhood canna hurt Da then.”
“Ye worry too much. They will ignore ye.”
“Nay, they are already angered. Twice I have almost been House, and the Sisters have noticed. Ayranians hate me for luring their Maca into my arms. They believe I coaxed her into a life as an Ab as the Handmaiden to Martin. The Sisterhood found out I was safe with Troyner of Troy. They mean to control his House and see him reduced to Ab or dead. My time with Rocella of Rurhran does nay count for Rocella would nay defy her Maca.”
“The Sisterhood goes after any Maca that tis male. It has nay to do with ye.” Is held the door for her and they went outside. Di handed Da to Is before scooting around the corner of another building.