A Matter of Faith


Sophia DeLuna


I would like to thank my friend and editor, Agota, for all her patience and help, her good advice and continuous encouragement. I don’t know where I would be without you.

You are the best!


A Matter of Faith

Yévhíra was sitting on the hard pallet, looking up at the almost full moon that shone through the small, barred window at the top end of the high, dank, stone wall. It was the fifth night already, and the pitcher of water was long empty. Yévhíra wondered if they had somehow forgotten about her. Usually, they should have brought her to execution within a day or two. As far as she knew, the Empire of Zaralahn didn't bother holding prisoners for a longer period of time.

Lying down she smiled at the moon, and said, “I will take this as a good sign, Yárrá. I will do my best to hold on.” And she closed her eyes, and thought back at how all this had begun five days ago...


Yévhíra and her apprentice had been having their evening meal in companionable silence, when they were interrupted by a knock at the door.

As Yévhíra opened the door, a petite female respectfully greeted her with the traditional Yárrávhín greeting,

“Ázáldásh Yárrán rhánk!” - May Yárrá's blessing be upon us! - And she continued, “My name is Selinah. I am searching for Yévhíra. She healed me when I was a child.”

“You have found her,” said Yévhíra and stepped aside. “Come in, please, and be our guest.” Leading Selinah to the table, she introduced her, “Karah, this is Selinah, a former patient of mine. Selinah, this is Karah, my apprentice.”

As they had seated themselves, Yévhíra asked, “What leads you to me?”

“I am now first maid of Lady Kamea, Empress consort of the Empire of Zaralahn. Her daughter is very sick. No healer could help thus far, so Lady Kamea asked me if I knew of a 'special healer'.”

Furrowing her brow, Karah asked, “But aren't Yárrávhín prohibited to enter Zaralahn under the penalty of death?”

Casting her eyes down, Selinah said, “Yes. And the Emperor must not know, as he would never approve.” Looking up, she continued, “But the Lady is desperate. Her daughter has been sick for almost half a moon now, and it is only getting worse. Please, help her. The Lady will reward you royally.” Turning to her bag that she had hung over the backrest, Selinah pulled a rather large pouch from the bag, and said, “I shall give you this if you give me some medicine, or if you come to see her personally. You will get twice as much on top of this, if either you or your medicine succeeds to heal her daughter.”

“Can you tell me about the symptoms?” asked Yévhíra, not touching the pouch.


When Selinah had related all she knew, Yévhíra got up and said, “I believe I know the cause of her illness, but I need to see her myself to be sure. I will come with you, and we must not waste time. I will prepare a few things. We will leave as soon as I am ready.” And turning away from the table, she left the room.

Karah followed her into a large room, and while Yévhíra started packing a bag with the herbs and medicines she thought she might need, Karah confronted her, “You can't be serious! You cannot go there, Yévhíra!”

Looking at her apprentice, Yévhíra said, “I am needed, Karah. I must go.”

“No. Just give her the medicine and instructions for their healers.”

Shaking her head, Yévhíra said, “No, Karah. I need to see her myself to be able to treat her correctly. All the medicine I am packing here is for different illnesses which all happen to appear similar if you are looking only at the most obvious symptoms. However, if it is what I think, then only a Yárrávhín healer can help her.”

“But they will execute you!”

Raising her hand, Yévhíra gently touched Karah's cheek and said, “Have a little faith, will you,” then she turned away, and went on going through the rows of jars and bottles on the shelves.

“Well then, I will come with you,” stated Karah.

Instead of looking at her apprentice Yévhíra opened a drawer, and while she took out a piece of parchment, she said, “No. You will take the payment. And if I am not back by the next full moon, go to Tivallahn. Ask for Yánníra. Tell her I sent you. Give her the note I will write for you. She will help you finish your apprenticeship.” And she started writing in Yárrávhín language.

“No,” said Karah desperately, “Please, don't go,” and quietly she added, “I love you.”

Yévhíra looked up, and said smiling, “And I love you, Karah.”

Shaking her head, Karah said, “What I meant is, I’m in love with you.”

Putting the quill aside, Yévhíra turned fully towards Karah, and said, “I knew this was what you meant.”

Karah's eyes widened when she looked into Yévhíra's twinkling amber eyes, their usually slitted pupils now so dilated in the dim light that they appeared almost human. Then Karah furrowed her brow, and asked, “Why did you never tell me?”

Yévhíra smiled, and said, “It would not have been appropriate.” And reaching for her neck, she took off the necklace she always wore beneath her clothes and put it around Karah's neck.

Karah gaped at the amulet between her breasts, which was of a precious amber coloured stone, and she whispered, “Is this what I think it is?”

“It is my personal Yárrávhín charm. Never show it to anyone but a Yárrávhín,” said Yévhíra.

“But it belongs to you,” protested Karah, “And I'm not even a Yárrávhín. I'm not allowed to wear this,” and she was about to take off the necklace when Yévhíra stopped her. Gently taking Karah's hands in hers, she said, “If I return, you will give it back to me, and I will get you one of your own. But if I don't, then this will be the proof of my faith in you. You are now a Yárrávhín by the bond of trust. Now, let me finish the note. I must hurry.” And she placed a kiss on the knuckles of Karah's hand, and then let go to turn back to the note.

Spellbound, Karah stared at her tingling knuckles.

Yévhíra smiled when she saw Karah's expression in her peripheral view. When she was finished with the note, she folded the parchment and sealed it. Turning to Karah, she gestured towards the charm, and said, “Put it under your shirt, Karah. Don't worry, it will not burn you, it was given freely.”

Hesitantly, Karah reached for the amulet, and when nothing happened, she let it slip under her shirt.

“Good,” said Yévhíra, “And now, stop worrying. I will be back as soon as I can.” And handing Karah the note, she grabbed her bag and headed for the kitchen.

“Wait,” called Karah, and went after her.

In the kitchen, Karah opened a drawer, and took out a headband she used to wear occasionally. Stepping close to Yévhíra, she said, “I have seen you packing Sépassonye. If you are going to disguise your eyes by dilating your pupils, I suppose you had rather disguise your ears too.”

While Karah gently tied the headband over Yévhíra's pointed ears, Yévhíra said quietly, “I did not pack it for this purpose, but thank you.”

When Karah was done, she let her hands rest on Yévhíra's shoulders, and they looked into each other's eyes for a long while, until Yévhíra said, “I must go now.”

Karah nodded, and said, “Take care.” And she gave Yévhíra's shoulders a last squeeze before she let go.

“I will,” promised Yévhíra. And while she grabbed her hooded cloak from the rack, she said to Selinah, “We will rent horses. We need to be quick.”

“I came by horse and brought one for you too. They are at the stables,” said Selinah while she put on her coat.

“Good,” said Yévhíra, and grabbing her bag, she cast a last look at Karah, and they nodded at each other before Yévhíra turned, and left the house with Selinah.


Karah was sitting at the kitchen table, gently caressing the Yárrávhín charm. Four days had passed since Yévhíra had left, and Karah was becoming increasingly worried.

In the morning the neighbour woman had come for a specific medicine, and she had told Karah that the Emperor of Zaralahn had been assassinated, and the Empire was now under the reign of Pentrakh, leader of a large underground movement. Karah had asked her for further details, but the neighbour only knew that there had been great turmoil in the main city, but it seemed it had quietened down now.

Karah had gone to the market in town then, to try to find out more. Unfortunately the rumours differed a lot, causing Karah to worry even more until she talked to the fishmonger. His cousin was a member of the underground movement, and he reassured Karah that Pentrakh and his men would abrogate the ban of the Yárrávhín, thus he was certain there was no need to worry and that Yévhíra would surely return safely.

Nonetheless, Karah couldn't help worrying in spite of this, and regarding the charm in her hand, she wondered, What if she got hurt during the turmoil? What if she got caught before the Emperor was assassinated? Wouldn't she be back by now if everything was all right? And pressing the charm to her breast, she looked at the almost full moon outside and said, “Oh Yárrá, what shall I do? She told me to have faith, and she always says that I'm worrying too much. But what if my concern is warranted? What if she needs me?”


After a restless night Karah couldn't bare waiting any longer, and she decided to ride to the main city of Zaralahn to search for Yévhíra.

When she reached the city gate, she was surprised to find that there were no guards standing sentinel, and inside the city, life seemed to be peaceful and quiet.

She left the horse at the stables and walked to the palace at the other end of the city. At the main portal that led to the palace garden and the main entrance, Karah told the guard, “I am searching for Selinah. She was the maid of the former Empress consort.”

“She still is,” said a voice behind Karah.

“Selinah!” Karah said surprised, “Where is Yévhíra? Can you take me to her?”

Selinah shook her head, “She is not here, Karah. She healed Kamea's daughter and went home the same night.”

Furrowing her brow, Karah said, “But she didn’t return. Could she have been wounded in the riot?”

“There was no riot, Karah,” said Selinah. “It was a peaceful takeover. The Emperor and his highest-ranking officers were captured and taken to the border of Zaralahn. Pentrakh and Kamea are now ruling the Empire of Zaralahn together, and the people stand behind them.”

“But why has she not returned then?” asked Karah upset.

“I don't know, Karah. Perhaps someone else asked her for help.”

“In the middle of the night?” asked Karah incredulously. “Why didn't she stay here for the night anyway?”

“She was offered to stay, but she refused,” explained Selinah, and continued, “She wanted to return home. I have no idea why she didn't, but I'm sure that she will eventually. Go home, Karah. Perhaps she is back by now.”

Karah thanked Selinah and left.

On her way back to the stables, Karah couldn't stop worrying, thus, when she reached the market square, she started asking around if anyone had recently seen a Yárrávhín in the city. Alas, no one had. And as the daylight faded and the people disappeared into their houses, Karah hung her shoulders in resignation and headed for the stable. Regretting that she had wasted the day in vain, she stepped into the box of the horse she had rented. Sadly caressing the mare's head, she said, “I'm tired. I hope you don't mind if I stay with you for the night.” The mare snorted and Karah caressed her a last time before she walked into the corner and lay down below the trough, using her bag as a cushion. Grasping the charm through her shirt, she wondered if Selinah had been right after all, and Yévhíra was home by now. But why then couldn't she stop worrying? Why couldn't she stop thinking that something terrible had happened to Yévhíra?

She had asked people if there had been an execution, but she was told that there hadn’t been one in over a moon. But why had Yévhíra not come home then? And Karah was certain that she couldn’t have missed her on the way here, as there was no town, no village, not even a hut between the main city and their home town, just woods and fields. Thus, Yévhíra would also hardly have met someone in need of help on the way. It would have to have been a person from the main city.

Exhausted, Karah sent a prayer to Yárrá to help her find Yévhíra, and fell asleep.


A few hours later, Karah was awakened by hushed voices talking agitatedly in the stable aisle.

“They are searching for her. You must let her go, man, or you'll get us all into trouble.”


“Then give me the key and I will do it.”

“No! She is a fucking Yárrávhín. I'm not going to let her go. Just keep your mouth shut for a few more days and she'll be dead anyway; if she isn't already.”

“You said you didn't wound her!”

“I didn't.”

“Then she could survive for a moon in that damn cell! If the new Emperor finds out that she was arrested when we had the watch, we are all shish kebab, man. You must let her go!”

“You believe every shit you are told, don't you? Pentrakh is a pathetic wimp. He won't harm anybody. And no one can survive that long without food and water. Not even a fucking Yárrávhín.”

“It doesn't matter. I don't want to lose my job because of your stupid hatred. Give me the key, Barrokh.”

“What's going on here?” boomed a voice from the entrance.

“Nothing,” called Barrokh and hissed to his colleague, “Breathe a word and I'll kill you.”

“Then stop annoying the horses and get your ass to your post, it's your watch now, Barrokh,” boomed the guy from the entrance.


As everything was quiet again, Karah took a deep breath and sent a thank you prayer to Yárrá. Getting up cautiously, she spied into the stable aisle. Everything was dark, and other than the snorting and shuffling of the horses, everything was quiet. Karah slipped into the aisle and sneaked out of the back entrance. Creeping in the shadows of the houses, pressing herself against the wall whenever she heard a noise, Karah made her way to the palace.

Hiding behind a large barrel, Karah watched the guards at the palace portal, and wondered if she should dare to approach them. But what if they were the guys from the stable? She decided she couldn't take the risk.

She was just about to turn around when a large hand grabbed her at the shoulder, and she felt a sharp metal blade being pressed against her neck.

“One wrong noise or move and you're dead,” threatened a male voice next to her ear, and to her horror, Karah recognised the voice as Barrokh's.

“You desperately want your monster-slut back, huh? Well, I'll be kind and take you to her.” And forcing her to turn around, he led her down the alley, back to the other end of the city.

Karah desperately tried to think of a way to escape. And as they entered the watchtower, she finally thought of something. And as he sheathed his sword and fumbled with the lock of the door that led into the dungeon, only holding her tightly at her wrist, Karah seized the opportunity. Quickly but carefully, she pulled the necklace over her head. Holding onto the necklace, she screamed and swung the amulet at his head, hitting him right in the face as he turned around. Using his confusion and pain, she screamed and swung the amulet again. He grasped for the amulet before it hit him. Crying out in pain, he let go of Karah and the amulet, clutching his burnt hand. Karah immediately stepped away from him. At the same time the door to the guardroom swung open, three guards with raised swords storming out.

One of them yelled, “What's going on here?”

“He holds an innocent Yárrávhín captive. And he wanted to get rid of me too,” shouted Karah, pressing the amulet against her chest.

“The fucking bitch wanted to break into the palace,” yelled Barrokh, still clutching his hand.

“I wanted to ask the Emperor for help, because I overheard that you are holding my partner captive.”

“Is this true, Barrokh?” asked the oldest of the guards.

Barrokh was about to protest, when another of the guards stepped forward and said, “Give it up, Barrokh. It's over. I'm not going to cover up for you any longer.” And turning to his colleagues he said, “Yes, it’s true. I told him to let her go, but he refused.”


Yévhíra awoke from the noise of a key turning in the lock.

Slowly sitting up on the pallet, she flinched from the sudden loudness as Karah exclaimed, “Yévhíra!” And Yévhíra found herself embraced by strong loving arms.

“I'm so glad I found you! I'm so glad you are still alive! I was so worried. I know I shouldn't worry so much. But …,” Karah rambled on until she was silenced by Yévhíra, who gently placed a finger on Karah's lips and said, “I am glad you came. Can we go home now?”


A moon later, Yévhíra and Karah were standing in front of a Yárrávhín Elder.

Holding a necklace with a Yárrávhín charm in her hands, the Elder said solemnly, “Yévhíra, you have requested a Yárrávhín charm to be made for your apprentice and partner, Karah. Your request was granted, as you have convinced us that Karah is worthy to be acknowledged as a Yárrávhín by the bond of trust.” And handing Yévhíra the necklace, the Elder said, “You may now put this Yárrávhín charm on your chosen one to seal the bond.”

Taking the necklace from the Elder, Yévhíra nodded and turned to Karah. She smiled at Karah, and as Karah bowed her head, Yévhíra put the necklace on Karah and said, “I herewith welcome you as a Yárrávhín by the bond of trust.”

Karah raised her head, a radiant smile on her face, and as the Elder nodded, Karah and Yévhíra closed the distance between them for a tender kiss.

The End


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