Wednesday, June 11, 2014

28 - The Hippifrei

Mariush sank down on her divan, clutching Homa to her, carefully so as not to wake the toddler.  “She’s asleep.”

No need to ask who ‘she’ was.

The zardukar in their private rooms all had their veils off, and some had even shed tunics and were scattered around the couches and the floor, some spreading bare skin against the stone, looking like they’d just collapsed after a battle, spread over the field.  Even the teachers and the Milari zon were worn. The Nadumon didn’t look worn but they all sat, eyes closed, asleep where they sat.

“The Hippifrei are surviving in such barren conditions that they have no kind of sweetness at all and it was her first taste of honey that undid her.  She’d already been hit with fresh bread, which they don’t do, except as a kind of sun-roasted grass seed that is their staple grain that is usually eaten dry and by the handful.”

Mariush accepted a cup from one of her attendants, smiled at the girl and looked at the rest of the team that had coalesced to control Alissa.  “She cried when she tasted honey.”

Shashi finished wrapping up the warning code they’d wrapped around the outside of the shield they had on the Hippifrei little girl.  “So it might be that she’s less a monster than we think?”

“I’m not judging her.  I mean, we never knew that the Hippifrei tap their horses for blood… they drink it, with mare’s milk, coagulated as food.  They eat the grass seeds before the dust grass blows away every year and when they die, they bequeath their bodies to their families to be eaten.”

A shudder cringed through the room.  “So… they’re all like that.”

“Well.  Forced into it by the need to survive free.  They are fiercely, fiercely independent and I have come to the conclusion that it was preferable to salaaming to Prime, or even the Lainz Emperors.  Alissa is very well versed in their oral history songs.”

“So did they split off from the Lainz?  Or from the Milar? Or somebody else?” Mariush didn’t see who asked but she smiled in that general direction.

“I asked for their story from her… They apparently stole some kind of device from Prime himself and settled in the grass plains around the same time as Gregor and Petra and their people were fleeing as well.”

I was trapped up at the cottage for an extra day from over the weekend and had to get caught up today. There's no internet at the lake so no Monday post. 

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