Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

Furious, Zena threw herself back among the blankets on the couch, only to find that Atkin had made her so angry that it was impossible to fall back asleep, especially after what she’d dreamed the first time. She got up, seized her fur hat and gloves from the peg by the door, and stepped outside.

Atkin was sitting next to the door, leaning against the wall. “What are you still doing here?” she demanded.

He yawned. “I figured I’d ambush you in the morning. After I sleep some.”

“You’re really willing to spend the night outside in the cold to get a bracelet back?”

He looked up sharply. “So you do have it.”

“I never said that. Why would I want your dumb string anyway?”

“I don’t know, but you know it’s important to me.”

She regarded him thoughtfully, and then sat down on the other side of the door. “You know I have a nephew inside sleeping? You might have woken him up with your burglary.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Uh huh. And did you also know that I’m not out to get you?”

“Sure seems like it.”

“I think your faith is silly, your customs pokey and your ideals ridiculous. But I don’t cause trouble for you just because I can.”

“Your attitude causes trouble.”

“So does yours. Especially when you break into my house to steal something I don’t have. How did you think you could find something so small in the dark?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“I didn’t think so.” No one spoke for a while. “That isn’t like you.”

“Maybe I was infected by your troublesome attitude.”

Zena had an urge to giggle, but didn’t.

“How come you came out here, anyway?”

“I don’t—to make sure there weren’t any more burglars out here!”

A thought suddenly struck Atkin. “Do you think our religions used to be the same one?”

“You mean…originally?”

“Yeah. We’re more similar to each other than to Laios or Mashomi.”

“There might have been a split…you guys are so strict, and we aren’t.”

“Could have gone to both extremes, huh?”

“Maybe.” They sat in silence, pondering this new idea.

“So if we…” Atkin was hesitant with his question, “if we knew that…do you think…”

“That we would get along?” Zena shook her head in the dark. “No. It’s a matter of principles. You follow rules, we have fun. You fear your lords, and we celebrate ours. You sit waiting for the lords to forgive you, and we carry the gods with us always, already loved.”

“You make us sound awful.”

“How can I not?”

“If we can’t ever get along, what else is there to do?”

“Learn to stand the insults and hope we don’t fall in love.”

“That marriage was not a good idea.”

“I never really thought it was.”

“You and me both.”


When Atkin crept back home, slipping past Rouk and the dead fire, he couldn’t stop thinking about fate. All the Lords between them had a hand in who you were and your fate. When you were born, the Lord you were born under became half of who you were, and the others cast lots to determine how much of you they had. All those elements combined made your fate. Born as he was under Amra, the jealous lord, giver of ambition, Atkin had always known he would make decisions and have power. It was why he wanted to be on the council.

And just as he knew he was mean to be on the Council, now he knew he was meant to lead his people home. The question was where home was. He knew they had to go. Rouk and Zena had said so, if not in so many words. He may have been wrong about Zena and the cord, but now that he thought about it, his rage at Zena had seemed strange and sudden. But it had taken him to have that conversation, where she admitted that they could never get along. Of course she wouldn’t like them leaving. She never agreed with anything. But maybe she would remember the conversation as well, and she would know why. And it wasn’t like he had didn’t have the smallest area in the Colony. They could leave as they wished. He was sure people would follow him. They usually did, and besides the majority were sick of the colony and the prejudice there. They would go, and he would lead them, as he was meant to.

The first thing to do was hold a meeting, a Head of House meeting. That wouldn’t be difficult; most of the boys were his friends anyway and would listen. Tomorrow afternoon. He would gather them himself, if he had to. His siblings would be in school. He’d sent them at the urging of the Council, but he taught them the Holy Works at home, as was normal. He’d thought the school would make people start to see them differently, but apparently Zena didn’t, and wouldn’t.

Leaving is the only way, he reminded himself. Never mind that he did feel some guilt at leaving the Council hanging, and just when he and Zena had finally had a decent conversation…yeah, a conversation about  how we can’t get along. Leaving is the only way.



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