Copyright © 2011 by Sophia DeLuna
Copyright © 2012 by Sophia DeLuna
I would like to thank my friend and editor, Agota, for all her patience and help, her good advice and continuous encouragement.
You are the best!
The desert wind was blowing harshly, causing the people of the small village to stay in their houses and to close the shutters. Thus, no one witnessed the lone rider appearing on the horizon.
Shevíra was sitting at her worktable, finishing another earring by attaching a golden hook. Placing the earring next to its companion, she closed her eyes and leaned back with a heavy sigh. Usually, she loved her work, but lately everything seemed to exhaust her rather quickly, and having to work with only the light from the oil-lamp was straining her eyes. And that Mharíka had left her was still a sore spot for her, even though over three months had passed since she had last seen her.
But they had been together for over fifteen years. They had overcome the bad times, and shared the good ones.
Shevíra had lived in the next town with her family, and when she was sixteen, she moved to her great aunt’s to do her apprenticeship with her. Shevíra and Mharíka knew each other since they were children, but when Shevíra moved to the village, their friendship developed into more. And when Mharíka's parents moved out of the village, Mharíka stayed with her grandparents, working with her uncle as a carpenter and carver.
When Shevíra's great aunt died three years ago, and Shevíra inherited the house and the little shop, she and Mharíka had moved in together. Shevíra had loved her aunt very much, but Mharíka with her strength and love helped Shevíra to get over her loss. Together they built themselves a wonderfully promising life. The only thing that was missing was a child. But since this wasn't something they could possibly accomplish, they contented themselves with working toward saving for a carpenter's workshop for Mharíka. Nonetheless, Shevíra couldn't completely give up her desire to have a child, and thus, she often sent a prayer to the Goddess for a miracle to happen.
Sadly, Shevíra remembered the day when she was certain that her prayers had been answered. They were having dinner, and Mharíka had just complimented Shevíra on the meal. Shevíra smiled. She had made an extra effort to prepare a wonderful dinner to celebrate the occasion, and she asked,
“Mhm,” Mharíka hummed.
“Our prayers have been answered,” said Shevíra, and finally saying it out loud caused a radiant smile to spread across her face.
Looking up at her partner, Mharíka asked, “Huh? Which prayers?”
Shevíra's smile widened even more, and she said, “We are having a child, love.”
Mharíka looked at her befuddled for a moment. Then her features softened, and taking Shevíra's hand, she said, “Darling, we can't have a child, as much as I would love to. But we need to face reality, sweetheart.”
“No, Mharí, I mean it. I'm pregnant.”
Mharíka had not believed her. She had been especially sweet to Shevíra during the next weeks, trying to help her overcome her 'imaginary pregnancy' until Shevíra just couldn't take it any longer, and she shouted, “I am not crazy, Mharíka! If you can't believe me, let's go to the healer in town. She will attest that I'm not crazy!”
After they left the healer's house, Mharíka refused to talk to Shevíra until they were at home. She marched into the living room, and bracing herself against the window frame, she gazed out onto their beautiful patio and asked, “Who is the father?”
Shevíra couldn't help herself, and giggling she said, “You.”
Furiously, Mharíka swirled around and shouted, “Cut the crap! You've been sleeping around damn it! At least have the decency to admit it!”
Sobering, Shevíra said earnestly, “I have not been 'sleeping around', Mharí. I don't know exactly how this happened. I only know that I have been praying to Shívashta for a miracle. She answered my prayers, Mharí. And I am eternally grateful to Her. Why can't you just share my happiness? I thought you wanted a child just as much as I.”
Mharíka shook her head in disappointment, and said, “Perhaps, I could have accepted you getting yourself pregnant if you had talked about it with me before you did it. Perhaps, I could even accept it now if you would at least admit it. But I cannot and will not accept you lying to me. If you can't trust me enough to tell me the truth, then I suppose our relationship is over.” Again, she shook her head in disappointment and strode past Shevíra intending to leave the room.
Shevíra held her back, and said, “I am not lying to you Mharíka. Do you remember the dream I had five months ago? The one where I thought I had woken up bathed in light, but then fell asleep again and later thought it had all just been a dream? I am now certain that it was not a dream, Mharí.”
Mharíka yanked her arm free and left the room.
The next day, Mharíka left.
Sighing, Shevíra shook herself out of her reverie and looked at the earrings she had created. Unfortunately, Mharíka wasn't the only one who was accusing Shevíra of infidelity. Most of the villagers weren't talking to her anymore, either. Mharíka was one of them. Her ancestors had been the founders of the village, and her uncle, the carpenter, had always been very proud of Mharíka, who, with the touch of femininity in her masterly work, had been a great asset to his business. Thus, now the villagers resented Shevíra for Mharíka’s departure; and Shevíra knew she would soon have to sell the jewellery shop, and perhaps even the house, and start anew elsewhere. She didn't want to move back into town. She liked the beauty of the desert, despite its harsh conditions. And she liked the lavish hospitality and strong solidarity among the villagers. Unfortunately, the very same solidarity had now turned against her, threatening her very existence.
Mharíka was angrily chipping at a piece of wood. She had intended to carve a traditional miniature statue of Shívashta for one of her customers, but when she realised that once again she had carved the facial features of Shevíra instead of the Goddess', she angrily started to destroy the figure. Why couldn't she get the unfaithful bitch out of her head? Why couldn't she just forget her and move on with her life? Because I'm missing her dreadfully, Mharíka admitted to herself, and chipped yet another piece off the wood. “But she cheated on me, damn it!” Mharíka cursed angrily. “And she didn't even have the decency to admit it! Tried to cowardly weasel herself out by giving the lame excuse of a crazy dream!” If Mharíka remembered correctly, Shevíra had had the dream the night after she had returned from her weekend in town. Supposedly, she had been visiting her family, and sold some of her jewellery to a merchant. Perhaps it had been the merchant, Mharíka surmised. Why hadn't she just told her? Why did she have to insist on the crazy idea of divine intervention? It wasn't that Mharíka didn't believe in the Goddess, she did. But truly this was stretching belief a bit too far.
Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Mharíka looked at the piece of wood in her hand. The statue was gone, but what she had unconsciously made of it, caused Mharíka to gasp as she looked at a tiny head with the familiar features of Shevíra. Frustrated, Mharíka chucked the little head in the far corner of the room where it bounced off the wall, fell to the floor, and rolled back in Mharíka's direction, halting just a few steps from her, facing her.
Mharíka shivered. Then she forcefully jumped up, yelling, “This is ridiculous! I'm just having a hard time to get over her, so my nerves are playing tricks on me!” She was about to kick the little head, but then she stopped herself. Staring at the head and breathing heavily, she stood frozen for a long while. Then, heaving a sigh she squatted down. Picking up the head, she looked into the perfectly carved eyes and asked, “Why can't I just forget you?” Slowly, she got up, and cradling the head in her hand, she walked over to the window. Looking at the horizon, she saw the desert wind blowing dust clouds over the country, and she whispered, “I wonder how you are doing?”
The rider approached one of the houses. Only the piercing blue eyes were visible, while the rest of the face was covered by a cream-coloured headdress. Telling the horse to seek shelter, the rider knocked at the door.
Shevíra went to open the door, wondering who was crazy enough to be outside in this weather.
“Shívashta's blessing be yours!” greeted the stranger at the door, with a deep but unmistakably female voice. “I am bringing something for your daughter.” She was speaking in an accent Shevíra couldn't place, and as Shevíra looked at her quizzically, the woman gestured at Shevíra's belly.
Shevíra was confused, but since the desert wind was still blowing harshly, she let the woman come in and quickly closed the door behind her.
While the stranger was unveiling her face, revealing the finely chiselled features of a middle-aged female, Shevíra asked,
“How do you know it will be a girl?”
“Because she is a daughter of Shívashta,” stated the woman calmly.
A shiver ran down Shevíra's spine, and she breathed, “Who are you?”
“My name is Fényara,” said the woman, and untying a pouch from her belt, she took out a small casket and placed it on the table. Opening the lid, she said, “This is for your daughter. It will protect her until she is old enough to take care of herself.”
Shevíra looked in awe at the masterly crafted amulet that lay on a velvet cushion in the casket, while Fényara went on explaining, “And you being her mother, it will provide you with the permission to enter Sentárosha.”
“The Holy City?” asked Shevíra in disbelief.
“Yes,” acknowledged Fényara.
“You mean it truly exists? It is not just a legend?”
“I will take you there if you wish,” said Fényara.
Shevíra thought for a moment. What did she have to lose? She had pondered starting anew somewhere else, anyway. “When can you take me there?”
Fényara smiled. “As soon as the desert wind has settled down.”
“Oh, that is a bit too quick. It will take time to sell the house and the shop, and to arrange a caravan for my belongings,” said Shevíra.
“You don't need money in Sentárosha, and you won't need a caravan either, as you will be provided with all you need. Only take what is of sentimental value to you. I will organise a horse for you,” said Fényara.
“But,” Shevíra protectively laid her hands on her belly, “I don't think I can ride very far.”
Fényara smiled reassuringly, and said, “Do not worry. It will not take long. I would never jeopardise you or the child. Wear the amulet. As long as Shívashta's daughter is still inside you, it will protect you also.”
Shevíra asked Fényara to let her sleep on it, and Fényara agreed, saying she would return the next day. Shevíra offered her to stay, but Fényara declined and left before the wind had even settled down.
It was a restless night for Shevíra, and that the baby was restless, too, made it even harder for Shevíra to come to a decision and to get some much-needed sleep.
Strangely, when she finally decided to accept Fényara's offer, and leave the house and the shop to Mharíka, the baby quietened down. Smiling fondly, Shevíra caressed her belly and whispered, “I'm glad you agree,” and closing her eyes, she fell asleep, exhausted.
The next morning, Shevíra started packing the things she wanted to take, humming a cheerful tune. For some reason she felt excited and energised despite having had only a few hours of sleep.
As she came to her worktable, she picked up the little wooden heart Mharíka had carved for her, fondly recalling the day when Mharíka had given it to her.
Sitting down at the table, Shevíra took a piece of parchment out of a drawer, opened the inkpot and started to write a letter to Mharíka.
My dearest Mharíka,
I wish you could believe me. Strangely, it seems though that these days it is easier to have wishes fulfilled which appear to be rather impossible to fulfil.
Yesterday I received a gift for our daughter, as she is the daughter of Shívashta, and an offer to live in Sentárosha. I have decided to accept. I believe our daughter is content with my decision, as her movements are very gentle since I made up my mind. Even though she is a daughter of Shívashta, I do consider her to be our child, Mharíka, as without you I would not have prayed for her.
Since I will be leaving the village, and I won't need any money in Sentárosha, I wanted to let you know that I want you to have the house and the shop, as well as my savings (you know where to find them).
I will always cherish you in my memory as my beloved partner. And I will tell our daughter of the wonderful things we have experienced, such as when you gave me the little heart you carved, or our trip to the big city where we saw all the amazing things.
I hope that one day
Sadly shaking her head, Shevíra crossed out the last line, and signed the letter, With love, Shevíra.
She had just sealed the envelope, when she heard a knock at the door.
Mharíka hadn't slept for two nights. She just couldn't help missing Shevíra, and she was worrying about her … was wondering how she was doing … the little wooden head of Shevíra was now always either on her bedside table, or in her pocket whenever she wasn't holding it in her hand.
Finally, giving up pretending to be able to forget Shevíra, Mharíka decided to go back to the village and see if her partner could forgive her.
As she found the shop closed, Mharíka went first to her grandparents' house as it was on the way to Shevíra's. Mharíka was quite surprised when her grandmother handed her a letter from Shevíra and told her that Shevíra had left the village. Taking the letter up to her old room, Mharíka sat down on the bed and broke the seal.
She couldn't help the tears spilling over as she finished reading the letter. Pressing the letter to her breast, she felt overwhelmed with regret for not having come back earlier.
When she had regained her composure she went down into the kitchen to ask her grandmother about Sentárosha.
“I don't know, Mharí. The stories about Sentárosha are very old. Perhaps it is just a myth. I know of no one who has ever seen it with their own eyes, and no one knows its exact location as each of the stories places it differently. Some say it is in the middle of the Grand Desert. Others say it lies beyond it. And yet, others state that it is not visible in this realm at all, and that only someone who is invited will be able to see it.”
Sighing, Mharíka said, “I need to find her, grandma.”
Her grandmother gently took Mharíka's hand and said, “I did not want to tell you this, Mharí, but she was not alone. She left with a man in desert clothes. I suppose he is the father of the child. I don't know what she is aiming to achieve with this story about Sentárosha, but if you ask me, it would be foolish to go after her. Let her go, Mharí.”
But Mharíka could not let go. What if this man had tricked Shevíra? What if Shevíra had fallen prey to him? What if he was using Shevíra's emotional instability to lure her away from the safety of the village by telling her the child was a daughter of Shívashta, and he would take her to Sentárosha? No, Mharíka could not let go. She at least needed to know if Shevíra was all right. If she was happy with the man, then Mharíka would have to let go. But what if she wasn't? “I need to find her!” said Mharíka with determination.
And while she organised horses and supplies, she asked several people if they had seen Shevíra leaving, trying to gain a hint as to which direction she should choose. To her puzzlement, everyone seemed to have seen something else. Some said she left with a woman. Others swore she was riding alone, and yet others were in accordance with her grandmother that Shevíra had left with a man. All statements were in consistence, however, that she had left the village south bound.
Thus, early the next morning Mharíka prepared the horses, and set off south bound, Shevíra's letter in her breast pocket, and the little head in a small pouch that hung from her neck and nestled between her breasts.
Shevíra had been quite surprised when Fényara pointed at the tall massive white walls of Sentárosha in the distance. For Shevíra it had felt as if they had just left the village, and she turned slightly in the saddle to look back. However, all she could see was the beige sand of the desert, stretching as far as the horizon. As she looked ahead again, she shook her head in puzzlement, as they were already approaching the huge, richly ornamented gate.
As soon as they reached the gate, the guards opened and nodded in greeting. Inside of the city, Shevíra looked around in amazement. It was the most beautiful city she had ever seen; and most definitely the greenest. Fényara took Shevíra to a beautiful house with a large garden, and introduced her to Yoshága, a kind old woman, who was a healer and a friend of Fényara.
Soon after, Fényara left them, promising to stop by the next morning, and then Yoshága guided Shevíra to a large bathroom where she helped her out of her clothes and into the tub. She gave Shevíra time to relax, and when she returned with fresh clothes, she gently washed Shevíra's long hair, helped her into the clothes and showed her to her room.
Shevíra slept wonderfully well, and when Fényara joined them for breakfast the next morning, she expressed her joy at Shevíra liking the place.
Mharíka had just passed yet another caravan. This one had crossed the Grand Desert, and they hadn't met a human being for over a week. And just as the others Mharíka had met before, they told her it was foolish to search for someone who was chasing a myth, and she had better return to her village. They offered her to travel with them, but Mharíka declined.
For some reason it irked Mharíka that so many people were calling Sentárosha a myth. Shevíra had showed no doubt whatsoever in the letter. Just as she had showed no doubt about being pregnant. And she had been right in this case after all, hadn't she? And Shevíra was a very responsible person. She would never jeopardise herself or the baby by doing something so dangerous as crossing the Grand Desert unless she was certain that it would not harm them. Perhaps, thought Mharíka, perhaps it isn't Shevíra who is lacking trust, perhaps I should rather trust her, however unbelievable all this may seem.
Shevíra spent several days at Yoshága's house, enjoying the beautiful, relaxing surroundings, learning about the life in Sentárosha. Yoshága introduced Shevíra to a few women who were living in the neighbourhood, and Fényara continued to stay with them.
As Shevíra finally held her daughter in her arms, Fényara smiled fondly and asked, “What are you going to name her?”
“Shíványa,” said Shevíra, gently caressing the baby's face.
Fényara's smile widened, and she asked, “May I give her my blessing?”
“Of course,” said Shevíra, and let Fényara take the baby.
Fényara welcomed Shíványa, and then she spoke her blessing in a language Shevíra did not understand. When she finished, she kissed Shíványa on the forehead and returned her to her mother. “She is so beautiful,” said Fényara fondly.
Shortly after, Fényara suddenly got up, and said, “I must go. I am needed.”
For Mharíka the last days had been significantly less pleasant.
She had lost the horses and most of her supplies in the last desert storm, and was now struggling through the hot sand, still south bound in the direction of the centre of the Grand Desert.
As her headdress became loose and she wanted to fasten it, she stumbled and fell. Exhausted, she lay motionless for a while. However, thinking of Shevíra, she pulled herself together, pushed herself up, groaning, and continued walking.
Spotting a rider in the distance she averted her gaze, thinking she was hallucinating.
But the rider quickly came closer, and when he reached her and stretched out his hand, Mharíka was quite surprised as an unmistakably female voice spoke, “Come, I will take you back to your village.”
Mharíka had been about to take the hand, but after this statement, she quickly withdrew her hand and croaked, “No. Thank you. I need to get to Sentárosha.”
“You do not belong there,” said the rider.
“Yes, I do!” protested Mharíka. “My partner is there, and she is going to have a baby. Our baby,” said Mharíka agitatedly, and coughed as her throat was dry, and it hurt when she spoke.
“Here,” said the rider, holding out a water skin.
As Mharíka took it, the rider stated coldly, “She is not your baby. She is Shívashta's and Shevíra's daughter.”
Handing back the water skin, Mharíka said angrily, “She is mine too, even if not by blood. Shevíra is my partner, and I love her. I always wanted a child with her. I just never thought it was possible.”
“You abandoned her,” stated the rider.
Mharíka was about to protest, but instead she admitted, “Yes, I did. And I deeply regret it. Please, if you know where she is, take me to her.”
The rider regarded her scrutinisingly, and then she said, “If you leave her again, you will not be able to enter Sentárosha again, ever.”
“I won't leave her again,” stated Mharíka firmly.
The rider nodded in acknowledgement, and said, “Then come on. I will take you to her.”
“Mharí!” exclaimed Shevíra, surprised.
Mharíka rushed to Shevíra, halting when she saw the baby nestled in Shevíra's bosom. With a look of wonder on her face, she said, “She is adorable.” Looking up into Shevíra's eyes, Mharíka turned sombre and said, “I am sorry I couldn't believe you, and I am sorry for leaving you. Can you forgive me?”
Shevíra smiled, and spreading out one arm, she said, “Come here.”
The desert wind was blowing harshly, causing the people of Sentárosha to stay in their houses and close the shutters. Thus no one witnessed the lone rider leaving the city, and disappearing over the horizon.
“Where is Fényara?” asked Shevíra.
“She went back to where she belongs,” said Yoshága.
“I thought she lived here,” said Shevíra.
Yoshága shook her head, smiling. “No, dear. Fényara is not of this realm. She belongs to Shívashta. She is Her partner.”
Thank you for reading this eBook!
Feedback is always welcome!
You can contact me via my website:
Or send a message to:
You can find more of my books on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, links are on my website.
Return to the Academy