Sinagua Skies, part 6
The evening meal was served once more in the same small room. The circumstances were the same with the exception that Hyenta joined them. Parrenís mind wasnít on polite chatter but on Ramorís beautiful daughter, who ate silently while taking quick, nervous peeks at the Sinaguan woman. Hyenta had no appetite because of Parrenís bold stares. She only nibbled at her meal until the tension became too much.
"Why do you stare at me Emissary?" the young woman demanded with frustration. Ramor hissed her name, appalled at her lack of manners.
Parren resisted the urge to laugh but did allow her desire and humor to curl her lips. "It is all right Ramor. Your daughter certainly has the right to question my behavior when it concerns herself." Parren gazed into Hyentaís eyes, holding them captive. "Why does one usually stare at one so beautiful? To not enjoy the view would be a waste and our people are not know for being slovenly."
Shaken by her answer, Ramorís daughter dropped her eyes to her meal, unable to form a reply. She left the room as quickly as politeness allowed.
Ramor found his only child just outside her quarters, staring at the night sky.
"She desires you," he stated without preamble. Hyenta said nothing.
"Tomorrow I meet with the others and I already know their answer. Although we want their knowledge we cannot sell our own. A secret shared is a secret lost. However, there is a possible way to gain what we want without losing our own power."
"How is that father?"
"I will give you to her as a mate. It will be up to you to convince her to remain here in Acha."
"Me? Father, are you mad?" His reply was a sharp slap to her cheek. He regretted it immediately. She would be bruised the next day and the Emissary might believe Hyenta a disobedient woman and not accept her.
"You will obey me daughter. The Emissary desires you. Desire has the ability to cloud oneís judgement. Once her companions leave the city she will be aloneóexcept for you. You will gain her trust and her secrets. Tomorrow you will find ways to spend time with her. Drive her mad with the need to have you but donít allow her to seduce you. Not yet." Ramor sighed then chuckled dryly. "You probably donít have a passionate bone in your body, just like your mother. I had to force her throughout our marriage. At least she did me the service of dying when you were born, the bitch. Now, get some sleep. I donít want you marring the beauty she sees in you."
Hyenta joined Parren in the gardens. The young woman approached the Emissary so her darkening eye and cheek were away from her.
"I must apologize for my rudeness last evening," she said softly. "It wonít happen again."
Something in the womanís voice made Parren twitchy. Hyenta wouldnít look directly at her. Her apology was spoken by rote, not by the true desire to atone. Her own forthright personality stepped forward.
"If you are truly sorry, Hyenta, then why wonít you face me? Or is the ritual of politeness all that matters? Keep your apologies, Hyenta. Your Ďrudenessí last night was at least refreshing compared to the inhuman mask your people wear."
Ramorís daughter turned to face Parren. "Mask? Please explain," she asked in confusion.
Parren saw the bruising. She touched the swollen flesh gently with a fingertip. "Who did this to you? Your father?"
"Yes. It is his right to discipline his family." Hyenta looked into Parrenís eyes and saw not confirmation to her punishment but compassion. It was a rare emotion among her people.
Parren felt a cold chill down her spine. To strike oneís family! The Emissary lost her small measure of hope that the trade would occur. No man who would behave in such a manner had any honor. Both young women were silent for several minutes then Hyenta spoke.
"You didnít answer my question about masks," she chided gently.
Parren heard a change in her voice. A softness of tone that the Trader suspected was rarely spoken. She kept her own voice soft as well. "Masks are the faces worn by those wishing to deceive, to hide true feelings. Your people are so rigid in their behavior, so restricted by rituals and traditions that every genuine emotion is strangled. My people are very much different from your own."
"Tell me about them, Emissary," Hyenta asked, her dark eyes shimmering.
They had spent the entire day chatting. Parren had watched the tall womanís face the entire time, noticing the mask slipping away at times. The woman with Two Spirits saw much vulnerability behind those eyes and believed Hyentaís arrogant behavior was used to hide that aspect of herself. Her society would eat her alive if such weakness was shown.
Hyenta glanced at the twin suns and felt anxious. Her father would return home soon. He would approach Parren about a joining between their families. Her conditioning to obey was strong but she didnít want Parrenís life ruined either. She had to be warned.
"Parren, I need to say something before my father arrives." She watched Parren nod and continued.
"Father spoke to me last evening about offering me to you as a mate. Tell him youíll consider it and then leave tomorrow before the sun rises."
"Why? Tell me what is happening Hyenta."
"He wishes to have control over you and to gain your knowledge through me. They have no intention of giving away their trade secrets."
"Wonít he suspect that you told me this if we disappear?" Parren asked with concern.
"Of course he will. No doubt heíll find a way to punish me. Marry me off to some course oaf or someone he owes a debt to."
"You donít find your own mates?" Parren asked in shock. Hyenta shook her head. The Emissary questioned Ramorís daughter further until her father returned. She would go to the Master Traders after Ramor had retired for the evening. They needed to talk.
Ramor was very pleased. He watched his daughter and the Emissary as they spoke quietly between them. The outsider was clearly intrigued. Things were going well. It was time to speak with the woman about a possible joining. He walked to her side and waited until she acknowledged him.
"Emissary, may we speak?"
Parren looked into his eyes and nodded, "Of course Ramor."
"I canít help but notice the two of you get along well. As her father, I feel I should find her a mate that will suit her."
"You are suggesting Hyenta and I consider one another for joining?"
"Hmm, well, I had not thought to ask her since our acquaintance is short. Perhaps during our stay here we might consider it."
Ramor looked perplexed. "What is to consider, Emissary? Surely your own people join for the sake increasing your assets and to form alliances?"
"No, who we choose to marry is for companionship and children."
"Your family doesnít choose for you?" he asked in astonishment.
"Again, no. We are free to form our own families. I would follow my own customs concerning marriage or not at all. Hyenta will not be forced," she warned softly.
Ramor smiled like the cunning trickster. "From the way my daughter looks at you, I doubt she would object to a match between you," he looked pointedly at Hyenta, "Isnít that so my dear daughter?"
Hyenta looked stunned. She couldnít disagree without causing turmoil. She nodded weakly and tried to look willing.
Her father beamed. "See? Then we are in agreement?" he asked, trying to rush Parren into accepting.
"Not so fast Ramor. If, and I stress if we decide to join, we will abide by my own customs and rituals concerning marriage. You and she will both agree to it. I wonít have some custom or law of yours that Iím unaware of leave me taken advantage of. Will you abide by them?"
"Does my daughter have the freedom of divorce if you mistreat her, Emissary?"
"Yes, our laws are simple. If she wishes to part ways then all she has to do is toss my weapons outside our home. Everything within those walls belongs to her, including any children we share. The wife has many laws to protect her in my society."
"Then I agree. Hyenta?"
"Yes, of course. I foresee no difficulties between us Parren," she smiled weakly.
Hyenta felt a hand clamp over her mouth, waking her in the darkness.
"Not a word Hyenta. Do as we say," she heard Parren whisper. The Emissary wasnít alone. Ramorís daughter could hear others in the room as they dug through her belongings. Parren spoke again as she loosened her hand from her lips. "We are taking you with us. We canít leave you to his mercy in good conscience. If there is anything small you wish to bring with you, find it now," she instructed. In shock but not inclined to resist them, Hyenta did as she was told. She collected her motherís possessions; a brush and some jewelry and handed it to Parren. They stuffed it into a makeshift backpack along with simple clothing that would wear well on the journey. Parren handed her a red tunic. "Put this on. In the dark the sentry at the gate wonít know the difference that you arenít Sinaguan. By the time sun rises we should be miles away."
Hyenta finished dressing and donned her sturdiest boots. Her heart pounded so loudly she was sure the traders could hear it. They walked quietly from the house and towards the city gates. Their footsteps seemed unnaturally loud as they walked along the streets. As the party neared the gate Hyenta saw two guards who were leaning against the walls, dozing.
One of the older Traders cleared his throat about ten paces away to wake them. The guards looked at them warily but only questioned them briefly because of the hour they were leaving. Hanpa shrugged at the guards. "No help for it young man. We need to reach the Hannocks before their festival. Weíll get little sleep until we reach them." The guard grunted and waved them on. Once they were far enough the guards wouldnít hear Parren chuckled.
"Good thing you arenít of Two Spirits Hanpa, or youíd be punished for such a lie."
"True, very true. But if that half-witted guard remembers much they will search east and not south for us."
"You arenít allowed to lie Emissary?" Hyenta asked.
"Well, not after I take my final vows, although I do my best not to used twisted words now."
"And after your vows, if you lie?"
"I would be put to death," she stated simply. Hyenta shivered.
"Then I am free to ask a few questions and get honest answers?" she asked.
"You are," Parren grinned, wondering why she waited until after she was carried off to ask.
"Why did you not do as I suggested? You accepted me as your future wife earlier. Now he will cry foul and demand my return from your people and no doubt they will pay dearly in reparations."
Parren laughed heartily. "No, we wonít. Remember that he agreed that my customs prevailed when it came to marriage in front of my friends. The moment we agreed on marriage it was a marriage in fact. All we lack is the blessing of the priests."
Hyenta felt her stomach jump. She had been a fool to leave with them.
"Why do you look frightened, wife of Parren?" Thrana asked.
"Shouldnít I be? I have left all that I know and told that I am this womanís wife. I didnít think this far ahead when you asked me to leave with you. For all I know Iíll be sold as a slave at the next village."
The Sinaguans laughed. Hanpa patted her shoulder and chuckled. "Hyenta, the women rule the home with our people. You are considered the wife, Parren, the husband. She has little to say on your lives unless you give her permission. It is her job to provide protection and attend the ceremonies required by our faith. Now, there are limits to your marriage as there should be for harmonyís sake. After all, you are companions in life and expected to treat each other gently. Do not fear our young Parren."
The young woman looked at her mate and could almost see the blush that now covered her cheeks that was hidden in the darkness.
The women ruled the roost? Hyenta grinned. Perhaps she didnít make a mistake after all.
To be continued...
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