Timber spent the morning asking me an incessant string of questions about the Old Empire. Inifra acted as her interpreter. The two of them shared a good number of giggles that I didn’t understand. Women. Timber is quick to help around our camp, however, and is certainly clever.
She wanted to know about our buildings, so I told her how tall were the Temple Spires, and how grand the halls of the capital. I told her that there were no trails in the Old Empire, but broad roads paved with level stone. I told her that there were no huts, but mansions and castles raised from granite.
She found this all quite excessive, though for all I know her responses were somewhat tainted by their interpreter. Where were our wild places? How could we know the mother trees if we used them instead of respected them? Why would we want to wrap ourselves in dead stone and empty space?
Timber asked about the women of the Old Empire. Were they beautiful? Was their skin as pale as mine? How did they dress? How long did it take them to do their hair?
Ages, I responded to the last question. Timber and Inifra both giggled at that. “Men are the same everywhere,” they agreed.
I told her then of the Festival of Stars during the season of light, as it had so recently passed. How the women all wore things that glittered. They spent fortunes of time and money on preparing for the balls that would be held at its apex. Each of them walked the streets under the light of two full moons, glittering and glistening like galaxies on two feet.
I told her how they would dance with masked men, for no man’s face is deemed worthy of the light of the moons in the Old Empire. Timber liked that. She asked if our women were always held in such esteem. I told her that we believe women to be the highest creatures on earth.
Timber frowned at Inifra’s translation. She said women aren’t treated with respect for long anywhere. I asked her how she knew better than I how women were treated in my own country. She said that any man who wraps his words of women in flowers does so to keep them entangled in the stems. Then she moved away from us and walked on her own for a while.
What a strange girl. She is feisty, and wiser than the children of home at her age. Inifra said Timber was an orphan, and I asked her why she brought the girl along in the first place.
“There is more to the girl than meets the eye.” She said that priestesses were made at all ages, it was the maturity of the spirit within them that dictated when they were ready.
So she was to be a priestess to Infiri? I was more than a little shocked at the idea as Timber’s tribe didn’t even worship Infiri.
“Service to the gods,” Inifra said, “Is service to the gods. This will be her test, and should she pass it she may continue with me until I have deemed her ready.”
As if women weren’t a breed altogether different, make them Nantese and they become complete enigmas.