Breakfast For Six
Ishaar’ha awoke rested in the guest bedroom of Uktu’kutus manor. It was large and beautifully decorated: it had an intricately woven, colouful tapestry hanging on the warm orange wall above her bed and had many plants dotted about its space. A wooden closet at her side, its craftsmanship – a masters work of art, with floral patterns carved into the wood across its border, eternally frozen in full bloom. Still in her sleeping gown, she sat up on the bed, looking out the widow at the stars and the sky, a faint draft kissing her neck, blowing through the slits of the window-frame.
The sky during the fifteen and two day slumber was much lighter than that of the true night, as it is called. Mana and Syns rays of light indeed pierced the darkness ever so slightly, creating a silvery golden colour that spread across the expanse above Djaen unevenly.
As she stood upon the carpet, she felt herself lighter than usual, noting the fabric of her gown hover in the most peculiar manner. She exited the bedroom, looking down the long staircase leading to the ground floor and paused as she heard Uhuas voice floating up from below. She crept downstairs and into the dining room, seeing the little girl sitting alone at a grandiose dinner Table.
“Sit.” she said, her voice coated in a tone she had not heard before, as if two spoke within one.
Ishaar’ha sat down infront of Uhua, who stared through her.
“Uhua?” said the woman, somewhat disconcerted.
Uhua placed her palm upon the table, lifting herself up, with one foot now on the chair.
“The question.” she said, continuing to rise, climbing up, now crawling towards Ishaar’ha, her eyes still vacant and her expression even more so.
“If the right choice forced you…” she said, moving forward. “…to let thousands of innocent souls perish, to rid this universe of its foul disease once and for all. Would you grip the blade and pierce each heart and look into their eyes as life fades away… could you do it?” she continued, a blade now within the palm of her hand.
Ishaar’ha felt herself petrified, her being struggling within to break free from this spell. Uhua placed the blade in her palm, forcing her to grip it tightly, leading its tip to her own heart. Her eyes flickering, as she gradually plunged it into her small chest. The life within her abandoning her gaze, now staring blankly into Ishaar’has horrified eyes.
“Could you do it?” She said once more, looking up at the ceiling which was no longer there, replaced by the stars and the sky, and the two suns shining brighlty.
Ishaar’ha broke into tears, closing her eyes, the image before her disappearing. And as she caught the courage to open them once again, she found herself back in her bed, in the room she had left behind. Uhua stood at the bedside, holding the Tar womans hand lovingly, peering into her eyes with an innocent glare.
“Uhua…” bawled Ishaar’ha, embracing the confused child.
“What happened?” said Uhua, softening into her. “You were sobbing in your sleep…”
“I had a terrible nightmare.” she said, wiping her eyes.
“Don’t worry…” said the girl, her soft soothing voice coddling her ear. “A nightmare is not your dream.”
Ishaar’ha sat up, looking out the window, then back at Uhua.
“Uktu’kutu prepared breakfast. It will do you good.” said Uhua, stroking Ishaar’has hair tenderly. “It’s my favourite! Pancakes with strawberries!” she said, pulling Ishaar’ha out of bed, leading her out of the guest bedroom and down the staircase into the dining room, breezing past some paintings upon the wall.
The table was set perfectly for six, a mountain of steaming pancakes at the center and a bowl of strawberries and other fruits beside it. Their noses greeted the smells eagerly.
“The chef and the maid eat with us. Uktu treats everyone in his house like family.” the girl said, sitting down at the table, excitedly plunging a silver fork into the pancakes and placing three on the plate beside her.
“Lets eat! Bad dreams always make me hungry…” she said, taking a large strawberry and eyeing it carefully. “Perfect…” she muttered to herself, sinking her teeth into the delicious fruit, the juice flowing down the side of her mouth as she looked up at Ishaar’ha and smiled.
Watching the girl enjoy the food made Ishaar’ha conscious of her hunger, so she too quickly sat down beside her and began to eat, losing herself in the delicious tastes.
“So it is true, no manners were born of hunger.” said a voice from behind them.
“Oh…” said Ishaar’ha, pausing mid-bite, turning round to be greeted by Uhuas father, smiling handsomely in his brown garb. She eyed the man from head to toe, blushing as she realised she had not dressed for the occasion, sitting in nothing more than her sleeping gown.
“Looks like you two were hungry.” he said, walking round the long table, placing himself upon a chair across from them.
And as Ishaar’ha was about to stand up, Uktu’kutu walked in, followed by a man and a tall, lanky woman.
Uktu’kutu laughed. “It looks like Uhua got you out of bed in a hurry!” he said, pulling back one chair for the tall lady to sit down.
“I hope you are enjoying my special recipe.” said the Chef, a clean-cut, thin man with a shiny bald head.
Uktu’kutu sat at the head of the table and stared at the food in the middle with lustful eyes, before commencing to eat it feverishly.
“Splendid!” he said, with his mouth full.
The girls fathers smile continued to beam across his face, as his gaze jumped from one person to another, before stopping on Ishaar’ha.
“We have not had the time to introduce ourselves.” said he, grasping his fork delicately. “My name is Uhon. I am pleased to meet you, Ishaar’ha.”
“I am Nuite, the household Chef.” said the thin man abruptly, tucking a napkin into his silken shirt. “…and this is my wife, Souzu” he continued, gesturing at the woman beside him, who bowed her head.
“Do not take her silence as a form of rudeness, for she is a mute.” said Uhon, reaching over the table.
“Pass me the juice, would you please?” he said, and Uhua oblidged instantly, but only with one hand, whilst continuing to eat with the other.
“Pardon Uhua.” said Uhon. “She did not even give you time to dress. She was excited to share the meal with you.”
“Oh… its alright.” said Ishaar’ha, hoping her red cheeks would go unnoticed.
“So tell us of yesterevening.” said Uktu’kutu, looking over at Uhua and Ishaar’ha. “I wonder what it is that held you two, the ritual must have been an adventure!”
“It was!” said Uhua, her eyes widened, ardent and eager. And so she told them of how she met Ishaar’ha. Of the priests and the ritual, of the woman whose heart was broken and the three figures in the shadows. And of the old beggar who frightened them. She had however, left out mention of the madman and his voice, for she felt that it was a secret best held hidden from them for the time being. The four listened in amazement.
“Incredible!” said Uktu’kutu, leaning back in his chair.
“Indeed.” said Uhon. “I would have loved to have seen it all myself.”
“The old man was the worst.” said Uhua, frowning. “He was ugly and scary.”
“Now, now.” said Uhon, waving his hand. “Let us not be harsh in our judgements.”
“But he was!” she said, pouting.
“It is true, he was not a pleasure to look upon.” said Ishaar’ha.
Uktu chuckled. “Oh, the difference words make.”
Uhon turned to look at Ishaar’ha “So tell me more of this man, who was he?”
Ishaar’ha thought it best not to divulge the full truth. Speaking openly of the Way within the walls of Nheede was a dangerous endeavour. The Priest King had decreed it a punishable offense after the Tars defeat during the assimilation period, which spelled doom for their heritage. Their history was rewritten. The king made sure no scripture, book, poem or song mentioning this magic existed, infact, few even believe it to be real, except for the Tar themselves.
“It was just an old beggar.” she said, returning to her plate immediately. A blatant lie it was. But she knew the Sorceress meant no harm, for her power was used with restraint and if she wanted to harm them, she would have.
Uhon placed his elbows on the table, locking his fingers and resting his chin upon them. He watched the two for a moment, his eyes narrowing, then smiled.
“Riddles, puzzles and secrecy.” he said, grinning mischeviously, looking out the window onto the street as the crowds of Nheede walked by. He then stood up, bowing, before heading silently towards the archway leading into the dining room.
“Time for work. There is much still to be written.” he said, looking back at the five. “Thank you for the splendid meal and for the great company.”
The door locked behind him as he exited the manor. Souzu and Nuite soon followed, clearing the table before they left, leaving only candles behind.
“Little fox. Go see if anyone needs your help. I know Souzu woke up with quite a headache today.” said Uktu.
Upon hearing the words, Uhua leapt out of her chair with youthful vigour, rapidly rolling up her sleeves and saluting clumsily. “Yes sir!” she said, before rushing out of the dining room, heading upstairs toward the bedrooms, climbing the steps loudly.
“What a blessed child.” said Uktu.
“I must confess, I have become very fond of her even though we only just met yesterday.” said Ishaar’ha.
Uktu laughed. “She is magnetic! Very much like you were… and are!”
Ishaar’ha smiled bashfully, looking down at her gown.
“I must go get dressed and soon be leaving. I am sure you are busy, Uktu’kutu.” she said.
“No. In truth, I must speak with you.” said he firmly, looking over his shoulder and around the room, as if he were to share a great secret.
Ishaar’ha leaned in, her face decorated by an expression of curiousity.
“You must go see the Chief and the Matriarch.” he said, in a hushed voice. “There is trouble brewing, I can sense it. Great change is upon us. Last I visited the slums, I heard rumours… you will not believe it.”
“Rumours?” said Ishaar’ha.
Uktu’kutu nodded. “The Chief and the Matriarch asked for you, specifically. I want you to hear it from their mouths. Know that yet another uprising is imminent, the rest I cannot tell you.”
“An uprising? So soon after the last?” said Ishaar’ha, nervously.
“Indeed.” said Uktu. “However… this time it is different. Go now and return to me once you have spoken to them.”
“…but why me?” asked Ishaar’ha.
Uktu frowned. “You must know why. As the great grand daughter of the arbitrator, it is your duty to revive his legacy. Leave now, ask no more questions until you return.”
Ishaar’ha bowed her head, feeling scolded. It was true what he had said. The news fell heavy upon her heart however. It had only be less than three months since the last uprising, which had ended in nothing more than bloodshed for her people. There was a heaviness in Uktu’kutus tone, so she rose from the table, thanking him for the meal, leaving the dining room and walking up the steps to the guest bedroom, to meditate upon the words she had just heard and the dream, which lingered in her memory.