I joined the Allied SpaceForce for one reason and one reason alone, I was flat broke and I needed money. After hocking everything I owned at the local pawnshop, or selling it on Craigslist, I was down to forty-three dollars and thirty-seven cents, in addition to the ancient Euro my father had left me as an inheritance.
“What the heck is this?” I mumbled, holding the single coin in my palm, while at the same time, the lawyer was informing my brother, Hank that he was bequeathed everything else in my father's estate.
Granted, Dad was no billionaire. His estate was pretty simple, a modest house in a not-so-great town, in the center of the continent, affectionately referred to as The Armpit. Still, it was worth something, and undoubtedly, more than this useless coin. I mean, a Euro? Europe hadn't existed for several centuries!
“Ha!” Hank had laughed in his annoying nasally voice, gloating over his victory in this final round of the sibling game. Yep. Dad loved him best, and that was now proven without a doubt. I was the loser when it came to paternal affection.
“Congratulations,” the lawyer said to Hank, but not to me.
Hank nodded regally, savoring his win. Had the lawyer not been there, my brother would have left with a minimum of a bloody nose and a maximum of a five month stay in traction.
“I'll just have you sign off on the deed.” The lawyer presented the documents to Hank as I rose from my seat, flipping my precious antique Euro coin between my fingers. “Good luck, Lance. Hank, let me take you out to lunch.” The lawyer scumbag barely glanced in my direction, as I let myself out.
“Good riddance,” I mumbled, not really blaming him. He knew this cow was dry. He'd milk no costly legal fees from me and therefore, I didn't merit even a handshake.
I stepped out into the street, momentarily disoriented by the sudden burst of light. Leaving the dark and overly air conditioned building to emerge into the glare of sunlight, I found myself blinded just as I began to cross the street.
I thought the crosswalk light was in my favor. I thought there were no vehicles on the street and the heat that was washing over me was merely the sun, while that roaring sound was a bus on the next corner. I thought wrong on all four counts. The next thing I knew, I was bouncing off the hood of something, only to end up beneath its wheels. Fortunately, by this point, I wasn’t awake.
Three days later, I was, and less than delighted to discover I was in traction. Karma could sure be a bitch.
When Hank came to visit me in the hospital, sitting by my bedside and describing in great detail the renovations he was going to make on Dad's house, if I could have, I would have reached up and smacked him. Alternately, I would have yanked his tongue from his mouth, or removed his eyeballs from their sockets with my fingernails. As I couldn't lift a finger, and was far too drugged to even spit in his direction, I lay there prone, subjected to yet another round of fraternal gloating.
Six months passed until my back was more or less healed and I was released from the hospital, a new, but not improved, man. I was also totally broke, so much in debt that four lifetimes of delivering pizzas, my previous occupation, wouldn't yield enough to ever make me a free man.
Briefly, I considered stepping into the street again and encouraging another vehicle to roll over me, this time finishing the job completely. That was the only way I could foresee escaping the hospital's payment plan, which as I departed, was detailed on an invoice that would follow me for the next forty years.
Instead, I headed to a local pub where I spent the next day and night drowning my sorrows in beer, drinking up what little remained of my money, which should have gone toward the hospital's first installment. Somehow, and at some point, I managed to stagger home to my flat, where fortunately, the landlord had taken pity upon me during my absence.
Gloria didn't evict me, or toss my things in the street during my convalescence. This could have been entirely due to the fact that no one else was willing to rent that dive. It also could have been because she liked me. Poor Gloria was on the wrong side of forty, nearly twenty years my senior and throughout her life, had a habit of selecting the wrong kind of men. This included me.
I regretted what happened. I became a whore. While I scrambled to pay the hospital bill by selling my stuff and raising money in any way I could, including delivering pizzas at any and every hour, I kept Gloria entertained in exchange for the rent.
Every month, on the first, it went like this. Gloria would knock on my door, usually bright and early, undoubtedly, waking me from a sound and contented sleep that was much nicer than my reality. Groggily, I’d stumble from the sofa, swing the door wide open to admit her and feign surprise at her arrival during this ungodly hour.
“The rent, Lance,” she'd say frostily, holding out a hand, the other knuckled into her side, a foot tapping out an impatient rhythm. “I can't let you go another month without paying.”
“Rent,” I'd mutter sleepily, running a hand across my night's beard. “Oh. Gloria. Yeah, the thing is...”
“I'm a little short again this month.” I’d pat my hands against my hips as if checking inside the nonexistent pockets of my marginally clean and slightly torn boxer shorts.
“Mhm,” she'd mutter, her eyes drawn to my hands, where inevitably she'd find a prime example of morning wood. “Oh. Is that for me?”
“It's all I've got right now,” I'd say, which was followed by the old couch being cleared of my ratty blanket and the even older sleeper mattress beneath extended to its full size.
Then, I did what I did best, because at twenty-four, I was a loser at every other round in this game of life. Gloria left happy, and my lack of rent was forestalled for another month.
Eventually, though, Gloria tired of this game, or maybe, she preferred to play it instead with the guy in the apartment across the hall. At any rate, she gave me an ultimatum. At the end of the month, pay up or get out.
“You got anything else?” the pawnbroker asked, as I stared at the measly number he had written on my ticket.
“Hey, that ring is worth more than that!” I insisted. “It was my mother's. She left it to me to give to my future wife.”
“I'm doing you a favor then,” the guy replied. “You give a girl this piece of crap cubic zirconia and she's liable to throw it back at you and walk out of your wedding.”
“It's not a fake.”
“Listen to me, son. I've seen a lot of rings in my day, and that one's about as real as my tooth.” He proceeded to reach into his mouth and pull out a shiny, white incisor. “Look's nice, eh? Indestructible, too. Better than the real thing, but my wife doesn't wear it on her finger. So, you got anything else for me to look at?”
I would have liked to offer him my fist, but I didn't. Since Gloria dumped me, this guy was about the only friend I had. Putting my hands in my pockets to restrain them, I pretended to consider the paltry offer on my mother's ring. I was going to take it. I had no choice. I was down to my last nickel, or rather, the forty-three dollars and thirty-seven cents that was already promised to the hospital.
“Just this,” I said, finding that stupid Euro coin in my pocket. “Maybe this is a collector's item?”
“Let me see.” The guy dropped his loop over his eye and turned the coin this way and that way. He murmured something, trying to read it. “I don't know what in the hell this says. It's a piece of crap. Not worth a nickel.” He tossed it back, whereupon it rolled the distance of the counter, before falling flat.
Heads. Some dude in a crown looked off across the horizon at the ancient toasters and television sets with orange price tags hanging from them.
“It's an ancient Euro.”
“No, it's not. What language does that look like to you?”
“I don't know. Greek?”
The pawnbroker shook his head and glanced at the door. Another customer had come in, or more likely, another victim of the decrepit economy came to hock whatever he had in order to eat. “Are you taking my offer on the ring, or no?”
“I guess so,” I sighed, studying my not-Euro coin again. “You sure this isn't worth anything?”
“Not to me.”
“That's worth a fair amount in the old Empire,” the new customer interrupted. “Although, it'll cost you a heck of a lot more to travel the ten lightyears to get there.”
I turned to look at my neighbor, only to discover he was wearing a SpaceForce uniform and carrying an old iPad from the twenty-first century.
“I found this in a rummage sale on Darius II. Is it worth anything, Pops?” He set it on the counter for the old man, and then, held out his hand to take a look at my coin. “Yep, this is an old Imperial credit. It’s definitely worth something to collectors around the galaxy. It dates back to the reign of the Great Emperor. That’s who this guy is on the front. You wouldn’t want to sell it to me, would you?”
“I will buy it first,” the pawnbroker interjected.
“No way.” I snatched it back from the spandex-clad spaceman. “You can buy his iPad, Pops. You missed your chance with me.”
Grabbing my mom's cubic zirconia wedding ring off the counter, as well, I left the pawnshop with a new spring in my step. I was determined to take my coin to a place where its value would be appreciated. Worth something could mean several thousand and several thousand would easily pay off the hospital bill. This coin would give me a chance to restart my life debt-free. On the other hand, if I had to take the coin across the galaxy to exchange it, why would I bother coming back?
Unfortunately, the fare on a spaceplane across the galaxy to the nearest port where the coin could be exchanged, cost more than I would have gained selling the ring and the clothing off my back, as well as the old sofa, and the toaster in my flat. The only way to get myself from here to there was to get on a ship that didn't cost me anything.
“The dude's spandex uniform wasn't all that ugly,” I told myself, walking into the SpaceForce recruiting office down the street. “And, I'd get three squares a day, a hot shower, and clean bed without any aging landladies in it.” That didn’t sound a whole lot different than prison, but at that point, I didn’t care.
An hour later, I walked out officially a recruit with a contract in hand, and an induction physical scheduled for the following week.
I wasn’t meant to venture anywhere beyond my little village, and neither did I wish too. Unlike my older brother, who dreamed of adventures on faraway planets, I was content to keep my feet firmly planted on the sunlit ground. The dark recesses of the never-ending night filled me more so with fear than desire to sail among them. Alternatively, I might go to sea. I imagined the slow, calm rolling of the ocean waves would be like a tonic to my turbulent teenage emotions. Gladly would I cast all lines ashore, raise my sails and drift in whatever direction the wind might take me.
My name was Jan, an ordinary, plain, single syllabic handle which should have been simple enough for anyone to pronounce. Like my name, my appearance varied from predominately dull to boring, depending who was judging it at that particular moment.
“Isn’t Jan sweet,” my mother would say, preferring to overlook my unremarkable appearance with blinded, maternal devotion.
At the same moment, my brother, Taul might proclaim my face homelier than his pet frog, a mummified creature which had grown only uglier since it had died several years prior.
I had never understood the comparison to the frog, as my hair was not green but a nearly white blonde, bearing only a hint more color than the snow white cloud of my advanced years. My eyes were also pale, a clear, almost-colorless gray, providing no enhancement to my fair skin, while my body was equally as plain. As a young woman, I had the figure of a young but tall boy, with only tiny budding breasts, flat hips, and a waist, though slim, clearly without curves.
“Makeup,” my mother insisted. “Cosmetics will do wonders for Jan. When she’s old enough, twelve or thirteen, we ought cover her in mascara and dye her hair red.”
Unfortunately, for my mother, I had no interest in enhancing my plainness, preferring instead the loneliness of my little boat, in which I would meander down the river, never quite reaching the sea, chasing the fish as they sought to run from my net.
When I was fourteen, my appearance no more improved than in my preteens, I acquired a friend, a boy much smaller than myself. One day, I discovered him sitting upon the dock, gazing curiously at my little boat. His small feet were hanging just above the water, bare of any shoes, his toenails cracked and dirty.
“Hey, get away from there,” I called, immediately assuming the worst, for orphaned and homeless street urchins were prevalent during those times.
“Is it yours?” the boy asked, turning bright blue eyes upon me, his gaze so intense it momentarily threw me off guard.
“Yes,” I snapped, upon recovering my senses. “Now, get away from it, you little thief.”
“I’m not a thief. I was only looking at it. I wish I had a boat like this. I think I would love to sail.”
“That’s ridiculous.” The child looked no more than eight years old and without a penny to his name, let alone a boat. “Go away.”
I shoved him aside, although I didn’t want to touch the child’s filthy torn t-shirt or the sunburnt skin of the shoulders peeking through.
He shrugged, those red arms drifting up and down, his intense gaze and colorful eyes refusing to leave me in peace.
“How come you have a boat like this?” he asked, the innocent words drifting from lips my Aunt Ailana would have said were both as plump and red as a cherry, as becoming on this child as a woman fully grown.
“It was my father’s,” I replied, doing my best to ignore the little pest, and instead set about preparing my fishing nets, and the single sail which would take me from the shore.
Clipping the sail to the halyard, I laid the sheets where I could reach them with one hand. Since neither my mother nor Taul took to the sea, I had become quite proficient at guiding the tiller with one hand, while controlling the sail with the other.
“Would you like some help?” the boy asked, already rising to his feet, assuming his presence was desired. “I’d like to come, and I can help you sail, or row with your oars.”
“No! Absolutely not. Go away.”
Untying the bow line, I made haste to hurry away from this annoying child. The prow of my little craft swung outward.
“I can be useful,” the boy insisted. “Please let me come with you.”
I didn’t deign to answer as I released my stern line and drifted off. I let the wind and current direct me onward, to the river and the hint of salt-filled air, the brief few hours of solitude, and the peace, as well as the dinner it would bring to me.
Unfortunately, my pleasure was all too brief. Though the sky had been clear at the outset of my adventure, only moments later dark clouds swarmed overhead, accompanied by what would become torrents of rain. Quickly, I turned the boat homeward, now fighting the wind back to my dock, and the boy who sat waiting expectantly, his face inexplicably lighting with joy as I once again sailed into his midst.
“What are you going to do now?” he asked, rushing for my bow line and expertly tying it before I could think to refuse his aid.
“Go home, I suppose.” I climbed on the foredeck and reversed all I had done less than an hour earlier, stowing my sail, and locking the single hatch.
“Oh.” He gazed at me, the raindrops already dampening his hair, a golden mass of dirty wild curls that only made my tresses pale further in comparison.
“I suppose you want to come home with me,” I pronounced, already half way off the dock. “I suppose you think my mother will feed you and give you a bed.”
“I didn’t…” he began, his small feet trailing after mine, two of his steps equaling every one I placed.
“Do you know how many orphaned waifs come to our house every day?” I demanded, not slowing pace, nor daring to look back, and not wanting or expecting an answer to my question. That would only encourage him. If he saw a hint of pity in my eyes, he would think he had won, when in truth, my mother’s reaction to his presence would only result in a tongue lashing for me. “Go away. You can’t come with me. My mother will set the dog on you if you dare approach our door.”
The boy continued to follow me, either pretending he hadn’t heard, or didn’t believe in my threat. It wasn’t real. We had no dog. However, my mother always threatened it, even if she had to fake a vicious growling or barking sound herself. Sometimes, I faked that barking sound, although my rendition sound more like a cow, but it was necessary to rid our porch of wayward orphans and other people of the street.
Most visitors to our door appeared hungry and forlorn, a tiny outstretched hand, and a weak smile, their only means of payment. Others were plump and healthy, sometimes more so than ourselves. Since the coming of the Disease, and the subsequent famine, and now the war, there was more profit in begging than in working for one’s meals.
“Like ants they are,” my mother said. “Give one a crumb and in minutes, the entire colony will appear.”
“What’s your name?” the child asked, still following me, pestering me. “Mine is Dov. I can spell it, D-O-V.”
I don’t know why, but I stopped short right then, causing the boy to bump into me.
“Dov?” I gasped. “How does a street urchin know how to spell?”
“I don’t know,” the boy shrugged. “I just do.” Again, those red shoulders shifted up and down. He blinked rapidly, his lips forcing a tiny smile again. “Tell me your name so we can be friends.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” I snapped, immediately filling with remorse for speaking so harshly.
The rain was coming hard then and I was growing wet and cold. I longed to return home, to the warm fire in our hearth and hopefully, the remains of a hot cabbage soup, the last from my mother’s kitchen garden.
“I mean,” I continued, doing my best to explain in a way the young child would understand. “I am much older than you. It wouldn’t be right. Now, for the last time, go on. Go away. I don’t want you following me, and I can’t give you anything or help you, in any case. Goodbye Dov.” I waggled a finger at the road, before putting my fists on my hips and tapping my foot with impatience.
“But, I don’t want your help,” the boy insisted, refusing to acknowledge my dismissal, while the rain showered us from above. His wild curls became twisted ropes, and his thin, torn clothing clung to his tiny body.
“Then, what do you want from me?”
I never heard his answer. Lightning crackled and flashed directly over our heads sending us scurrying into the doorway of the nearby abandoned building. We were lucky we had done so, for only a moment later, the ground rumbled with a sound akin to thunder as heavy trucks rolled down the road where we had been standing.
“It’s them,” I gasped, instinctively reaching for Dov’s arm. Whether I did this to shelter him or protect myself, I wasn’t certain. In any case, I pulled him down, the two of us squeezing into the furthest, darkest corner against the cracked glass door, hiding our faces and our hair beneath our arms. “Don’t let them see us.”
Dov didn’t move. As far as I could tell, he never even breathed. For what seemed like the longest minute in my life, the two of us didn’t exist.
Somewhere, further down the road, in the direction of the village market, I thought I heard screaming although it could have been the wind and rain. Somewhere, further down the road, I thought I heard the sound of gunshots, although it could have been the lightning, or the crackling of the fire as another abandoned building burst into flame.
On Saturdays, when I was a young woman, I helped my grandmother at her shop. She was a seamstress who spent her days tucking in or taking out, sewing buttons or hems, and occasionally, creating something all new from scratch. Sometimes, that something would be for me, even though most often, I didn't want it.
I didn’t like my grandmother’s creations then, and I didn’t like having to sit next to her and sew stitches myself. I hadn’t the patience to do such work and despite my best efforts, I generated only poor, pale copies of her handiwork.
Furthermore, Saturday was the best day of the week when all the other young people of our village would be resting or enjoying themselves instead of toiling. Yet, there I was, trapped in a dark and musty shop, next to an old, foul-mouthed woman who spent the entire time chiding my lackluster efforts.
“Not like that, Ailana,” she’d snap, and in a swift swipe of a seam ripper, tear out everything I had just done. “You’ll never get a job as a seamstress with such sloppy stitches.”
“I don’t want a job as a seamstress,” I would retort, raising my chin, and thinking myself ever so clever.
“Too fine for such work, are you? Then, you shan’t have this new dress. You are undeserving.” She would hold up the golden gown with the handmade lace collar she had been tatting. “I shall have to give this to your cousin, Embo although she looks exactly like her mother, far too thin to fit it well.”
The issue of the dress decided, I rethreaded my needle and attempted to hem the customer’s skirt once again. It was a black sateen fabric that showed every misplaced needle-prick, too difficult a fabric for a novice such as me. Surely, my cousin Embo would have done a far better job. She always did.
“Your cousin will look like a shiny stick in this.” Grandma sniffed and sigh dramatically. “No amount of lace will make her appealing to a man. She’s as plain and ordinary as a blank page, and this gold color will be dreadful with her pale skin, although I must say, she would do a much better job on that skirt than you.”
“And, where is she today? Why isn't she here suffering with me?”
“She is out looking for a man, no doubt, and having little luck in finding him.”
Grandma would snicker then, and I would do my best not to follow suit. I liked Embo well enough, although I tended to agree with Grandma's assessment.
“You, on the other hand,” Grandma continued, “Would look lovely in this color, for your hair and complexion is the same as this gold thread. Your face and especially, your smile would light it as if it was touched by a single ray from the sun. But, you are a spoiled rotten child, and undeserving of such a treasure. You also do not need it, for you can catch a man with just your face. Make your back stitch tighter, Ailana, or the hem will quickly pull out. Place it closer to the fabric's edge else your stitches will show upon the skirt's face.”
“Yes, Grandma.” I would sigh dramatically, too, and while tightening my back stitch, I’d avoid glancing in the direction of the golden dress.
I didn’t want it anyway. It wasn’t as if I was about to be invited to a palace ball. In this poor village full of those just like ourselves, it would look completely out of place.
“I once made this same dress for the little princess, Prince Mikal’s daughter, although that one had pearl buttons all the way down the bodice here, instead of these plain gilt. Ach, the pearls were so much nicer. Did you know the Empress Sara had the exact same gown, and insisted her granddaughter’s would match it in every detail?”
I did know about that dress, for I had heard this story many times. During the old Empress's reign, Grandma's shop was designated as an Official Dressmaker and a Royal Seal was placed upon the door. It was the only one so honored in our village, a tiny corner of the port city of Farku on the west coast of the continent that was called Mishnah. This was long ago, several decades past, although it felt like centuries to me.
I was born just before the Empress died, right before the beginning of the King Mikal’s reign and the outbreak of the Disease. The Disease was killing many, including my parents, the young queen and princess, the one who had been given the matching dress. Our world was changing then. Some said we were being punished for becoming evil, while others blamed my people, those of us who had emigrated from the motherland, the country called Karupatani.
This was a shock and surprise to my generation for our ancestors had been welcomed here. We were successful. Our people worked hard and grew wealthy. We opened businesses and ran for office, assimilating into the Mishnese society, such that my contemporaries knew nothing of the culture from which we had come.
Somehow, the others concluded, it was because of us that this terrible plague was unleashed. Although it decimated our communities as much as any other, the people failed to acknowledge that. We were confined in ghettos, into villages of just our kind. Only certain jobs were open to us, and likewise, certain schools.
The tide was turning, but I was young and knew no different, so I cared not to follow where it went, thinking only of myself and the life I had yet to live.
“How would you like to be dressed as a copy of me?” Grandma asked, again holding up the dress for me to appreciate.
“I would hate it,” I replied without hesitation.
“As would I,” Grandma agreed. “I am far more beautiful than you. I would feel great sorrow eclipsing your attention by my fair grace.”
Invariably, that comment, which happened one or more times every Saturday, would cause me to erupt into laughter, while Grandma did her best not to display her own mirth. Though Grandma was probably only in her sixties, she was old to a girl my age, her skin wrinkled, her hair coarse and white, her hands freckled with spots.
In hindsight, I realized later, she was still quite beautiful for both her own age and any other, but to the child that was me, she simply could not compare to my youthful splendor.
“The Empress, the elder Sara, was more beautiful than the younger too. The little girl took after her grandfather, the Duke, and while a fine gentleman, and a genuinely kind man, His Royal Highness’s looks were considerably lacking.”
Grandmother’s eyes grew misty as they did every time she thought of her youth.
“It was a different world then. So much hope, so much to look forward to. Ach, not at all like it is now.”
Despite her distant thoughts, her fingers never once stopped their ministrations, nor ever lost a stitch, for she could sew with the same perfection with eyes closed.
“And, how did the little princess like the dress?” I asked. “Was it a success?” Having finished my tasked of hemming a skirt, I rose to take it to the iron.
“Let me see what you have done,” Grandma called sternly, not responding to my question. “Fine. Not your best work, but good enough for this lady. You’ll be able to earn a coin or two from your skills if you keep it up. If you concentrate better, Ailana, you might even earn three or four. A good seamstress is always in demand by the nobility and rich.”
“What nobility and rich?” I scoffed. “They are as poor as we are now.”
“Anyone who has three coins to pay me is rich in my book,” Grandma snorted.
Turning on the steam, I carefully pressed out the skirt by placing it between two layers of special pressing cloth. As I stood there performing this laborious and boring task, I dreamed of future days in the university, surrounding myself with art and music, while discussing theories and philosophies with learned professors and brilliant students. We would sip dark espresso and think great thoughts, while planning how we would save our world and bring equality to all the races.
“That’s all well and good, Ailana,” Grandma would say. “But, if you are not admitted into your fancy university, you best have a fallback plan to feed yourself.”
I had no retort for this. I would be admitted of course. I was saving my money. I could earn a scholarship if I had to.
“It's not the money,” Grandma would cackle. “It never was. It's who you are and where your people are from.”
Certainly, I scoffed at this for the world was about to be born again. My generation was on the cusp of control and we knew better than those who came before. They wouldn't refuse me because my ancestors were of that race or hailed from the motherland a century ago. My generation would release us from these ghettos and return us to the communities shared by all.
“I’ve seen it happen,” Grandma said. “More times than I care to recall. It’s the way of things. The pendulum swings both back and forth. Trust me. It is about to swing again.”
“It’s a new century,” I replied. “We won’t make the mistakes of your generation.”
“It was a new century then, too, and we said the same.”
“King Mikal has everything under control.”
“He is a sad man, scarred by the Disease, and his own woes. The loss of his beloved wife and his little princess makes him long for the eternal rest. I fear our next king shall be his distant cousin, our own Duke, Marko Korelesk and that does not bode well for our people. Weak men always look for another to blame.”
“I am not afraid,” I replied smugly, placing the skirt upon a hanger, and covering it with a sheet of thin plastic wrap. “There is a movement afoot to elect a president instead of a king. We shall select someone smarter, someone caring who can represent us all. After Mikal, we shall be finished with the reign of kings and queens.”
Grandma hated it when I argued for democracy. Like her ire, the color rose in her face.
“People are stupid,” she snapped, impatiently. “Too stupid to elect anyone who won’t proclaim himself exactly that. Go on with you now, Miss University Girl. Go study your philosophy, but take a look at history too. When you are hungry, recall how to earn a coin by placing a stitch. It will feed you more than any art or music theories can provide.”
“That will never happen,” I retorted, already half way out her door.
“Of course it will. You just wait and see, for again it shall be us that are called to blame. Again, it shall be us who will become unwelcome in our homes. For this time, our motherland awaits. The Great Emperor granted it to us for all perpetuity. He knew two hundred years ago that this time would come to pass again.”
“I have no desire to go there.” I let the door swing shut behind me. The motherland, the old ways held no attraction when the future beckoned.
I didn't let Grandma's predictions bother me though, for I heard the same nearly Saturday as she goaded me and ruined my good moods.
Frankly, she belonged in the motherland, not here. She still believed in the teachings of the Old Religion and laws in those silly books. To do this day, nearly two centuries since the Great Emperor had ended the wars and combined the races, she still insisted we were of one and not the other.
But, I was the ignorant one, not my grandmother, for time happened exactly as she foresaw. After King Mikal’s death a dozen years into the future, while I was still a young mother, Grandmother’s prophetic words unfortunately came true.