A Rarefied View at Dawn
by Dave Wolverton
In the sandstone sanctuary atop the mount of Kara Kune, in ancient
times there was only one punishment for men who committed crimes:
the guardian droids, called Valkyries, hurled them from the battlements,
to fall through the cinnamon-colored mists to the jungle below, and live
or die as fortune decreed.
Now Bann and Maya raced along the wall-walk in the early dawn, their
bare feet slapping the smooth sandstone ramparts, the mists boiling
outside the castle like a cauldron while the coming sun silvered the sky.
They were dressed alike, wearing the black silk tunics of schoolchildren
with black skullcaps and golden sashes about their waists. Both had
long dark hair braided down their backs, falling nearly to their knees. Of
the two, Bann was the most beautiful. The girls of the city envied his
lustrous dark hair, his incredibly long eyelashes, and his thin, graceful
hands. He was so small-boned and delicate that he looked as if he were
made of porcelain. Maya, at twelve, was two years older than Bann, and
was developing the wide hips and breasts of a young woman.
Suddenly, Bann became aware that Maya was no longer following. He
turned impatiently. Maya had climbed atop the fortress's smooth wall,
and now sat with her legs dangling over hundreds of feet above oblivion.
Bann's heart thumped in his chest. He called back, "Mara, hurry, the
muysafed said that there will be a surprise for us this morning!"
Maya grinned. "The muysafed often makes such promises, silly," she
teased. "It is her way of making you want to come to school."
I know, he thought. And I'm grateful to her for it. School is so much
better than home. Sometimes his mother's sad countenance weighed on
him, and he hated being there.
"But I think that today she will have the baby chicks," Bann urged. It
was no secret that their teacher had received some eggs from a far-off
fortress, and that she had just been waiting for them to hatch.
"They're just chickens," Maya dismissed. "You've eaten chicken many
times. Let's watch the sunrise."
"But this is different," Bann urged. "These are alive." He couldn't
express how much he wanted to see them. They were, after all, fellow
creatures from Earth, a tenuous connection to his heritage. They had
eyes like other earth creatures, not probas with which to sense magnetic
waves. They had hearts and guts and other organs like humans.