Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

Nora zoned out for most of the next council meeting. Now that they had gotten the school underway and it was actually working, people seemed to finally realize that the council was there to help them, not just push their own agendas. The wedding had helped as well. Fawn and Timnere told anyone who would listen that the Council had readily agreed, no matter the risks. Whatever the cause, there had been a sudden surge of people who came with petty concerns and accusations against their neighbors. Most were about trespassing or noise.

Jacques, Atkin, and Sheen were the only ones who actually seemed interested in solving these cases, and only when it was someone from their area. Except Jacques, who was turning out to be the only council member who took his job—all of his job—seriously. Atkin was the most detail-oriented, but he only cared about Kenazians. Sheen was the same way with sneak-elves, which was rather a shame, as she was the best suited for the job. Atkin nitpicked and Jacques was sometimes a little spacey. Zena only ever focused on big picture issues, and anyway seemed to be avoiding people from the Ledges. Or else they were avoiding her; Nora couldn’t tell which. As for herself, she could barely stay awake sometimes.

When she was really struggling to keep her eyes open, she picked another person and studied their face. If they started staring at her weirdly, she switched to another person. In this way she thought she was pretty much an expert on the facial expressions of the others. Which is why she noticed Atkin’s behavior.

First of all, he wasn’t talking. Well, he did, but not nearly to the frequency he usually did, even when the person wasn’t from his area. He’s so vacant, Nora thought, and then wondered why she did. He isn’t zoning out. It looks more like he’s thinking about something else. Huh.


As soon as the meeting was done, Atkin made a beeline for the Pieshop. That morning he’d sent the message via Amalie and Mayze. They should have told the Heads of House to meet in his tent later. Mayze was a little young for message carrying, but she was pretty smart.

And had apparently succeeded, for he found the group of about thirty Heads gathered outside his tent. Actually there were twenty eight, counting Atkin. There had been an even thirty five before the draft, but a few children had had to move in with others. The soldiers had said that any parents could stay behind if there were no caretakers, but they had stretched caretakers to mean any cousins or even close friends you would trust with your children, and the Kenazians, forbidden to lie, hadn’t thought of doing so in order to stay behind.

Atkin invited them formally into his tent. They seated themselves around the fire in the proper order according to rank. Atkin told Amalie to fetch them all purified water, and then began. “I have called this meeting in the sight of the Lords to discuss a matter of great importance.”

“With the good will of the Lords, speak.” The group mumbled customarily.

Atkin paused, unsure how to begin, and then decided to start with the truth. “We all know that we, as a people, have always been seen with disrespect, prejudice, and even hatred by others, particularly the Usomi. We thought that perhaps it had been willed by the Lords, or just caused by an ignorance that we could overcome. In the Council there are good people. I thought perhaps we could reach over our differences and learn to get along. I have decided that it is not so, that old hatreds will not die. There is no future for us here. We will always be the group from the Pieshop, the Irksa.” There was a murmur in the crowd at the word. “I have decided that we should leave the colony, seek out a new home in the other snow mountains.”

“Are there other snow mountains?” was the first question.

“Yes. On the Council map they are listed as unexplored.”

“How did you reach this decision?” A classic question.

“Two conversations. The first was with a traveler who sought hospitality in my tent last night. He spoke of the prejudice he has met everywhere. He was born into the faith. He left it when he was young, and so does not wear the clothes, but met hatred everywhere because of his name and his looks. He joined the army to avoid it, but it followed him there, where they all commit the same acts every day, where they are all asked to risk their lives. In recent years he has wanted to rejoin the faith, but still does not wear the clothes, as he aims to keep it pure. His name is Rouk, son of Jel.”

“Where is he?”

“He is scouting the other snow mountains. He left early this morning, after I told him of my decision. He was willing to see where we could possibly live and hopes to be back later today, by which point I hope we will have decided to leave.”

“You spoke of another conversation?”

“Yes. One I had with Zena, the Usomian Council member. Neither of us wanted to hurt the other’s religion, but agreed that we could never live side by side in true peace. Try as we might, we couldn’t deny the thought that the religion of the other was wrong.”

“She knows you want to leave?”

“No, we didn’t discuss that. No one knows. But I think it should be soon, because it is so calm now. Which is why I think we should vote.”

“If you want, a vote is not necessary. You can decree it.”

“I want this to be a vote. I call all to vote under the Lords.” Nearly all of the young men raised their hands. Atkin counted and then said, “I declare this movement passed.” We’re leaving!


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