I am wearing my best dress in my House color. And my favorite necklace.
This is a very special day.
My name is Alanna ni’Tamra, Lishaya ni’Dasaroi, Kithraya ni’Tamra. That means that I’m the leader of House Tamra, and the Lishaya of all of the Dasaroi.
The closest thing to a Lishaya in human books is a Queen. I’m the queen.
At least, we’re pretty sure I am.
With Dasaroi, it’s not like with humans. With humans, the daughter of the last queen is the next queen. With us, there is reincarnation. (I’m pretty sure I spelled that right. Olivia says it’s important, so I studied it.) When the old Lishaya dies, she is reborn. And the child that’s the new Lishaya will have all of her memories and her personality. She’ll be able to access them, I mean. Everyone has their own personality.
So they’re pretty sure I’m the Lishaya, and they tell everyone I am, but I can’t remember everything all the way back to the beginning yet, so we can’t prove it.
Today is a special day, because today we’re going to prove it.
The special gift of House Tarak is the ability to read everyone – to read their past lives all the way back to the beginning. They call it bloodreading, even though it isn’t actually about blood.
(The special gifts of my House are empathy and healing, and I’m very powerful at both, which is part of why they’re pretty sure I’m the Lishaya.)
Today, I’m getting my blood read, even though it’s not really blood. And then we can say that I’m definitely the Lishaya.
It’s Olivia who comes to my room to get me, and I’m a little disappointed, but I don’t let her see that. It’s not her fault I’m disappointed. Olivia’s nice. But I was hoping it would be Jeramie. Of all of the Councillors, I like Jeramie best. He’s always talked to me like a person, not a little kid. And he’s a lot younger than the rest of them. And he’s handsome. So it’s nice just to be near him.
Also, Jeramie makes me curious. It’s like he has a shadow inside him – like there are two Jeramies. But only when he doesn’t know I’m watching. That goes away when he sees that I’m paying attention.
So I was hoping it would be Jeramie. But Olivia’s not bad.
She asks me if I’m ready and takes my hand, and we walk down to one of the conference rooms. I’m happy to see that Jeramie’s there waiting. He’s standing by the back of the room, hands behind his back, and he gives me a nod and a smile, and I smile back. Janos is close to the door, of course. I’m pretty sure Janos is the person who’s officially in charge of me here in Shayara.
My father isn’t here. I didn’t realize that I was hoping he would be til I saw he wasn’t.
Janos introduces me to Brian, the Taraki bloodreader, who looks about Jeramie’s age. I smile and curtsey. A Lishaya is polite. And I sit down across from him.
Brian smiles at me. “Are you nervous, Alanna?”
“A little bit,” I admit.
“Try to relax as much as you can. I’m just going to be helping you remember some things… that’s all this is. Okay?”
“Okay,” I nod. “What should I do?”
“Get comfortable in your chair,” he says. “And give me your hands.”
I pull my legs up under me, biting my lower lip, and offer him my hands. He takes them gently and tells me to close my eyes, and I do.
Father, I’m being good.
I steady my breathing. His hands are warm on mine, and I start to feel a little dizzy… and then I start to see things.
I gasp, because I’ve never seen other memories this clearly before. Before, it was always like dreams. This is like watching a movie. And having a really good seat in the theater, too. It’s so clear.
And so strange. We’re zipping back through time, and I’m seeing things I’ve only seen in books. I wish we could slow down! I hope I can go back to all of this later…
And we stop. But not at the beginning – sometime in the Middle Ages, it looks like.
Brian’s hands move from my hands to my temples, and I feel his power press inward. I feel him try to push back farther.
But it doesn’t work.
That peasant girl is me – and she’s the first me.
I open my eyes. The look in Brian’s eyes is awful. It’s pity. And I want to cry, but Lishayas don’t.
But if that’s the first me –
No. Don’t even think it.
But it doesn’t matter if I think it or not. Because Brian looks over my shoulder at Janos and says it.
“I’m sorry. She’s not the Lishaya.”
My breathing gets funny, and I look around the room for Jeramie. He’s still in the corner. He looks shocked.
“You’re mistaken,” Janos says calmly. And I know that he’ll straighten this out. He has to. Janos is in charge. And I am the Lishaya, I have to be.
“I’m afraid not. I brought her back to about the 1400s, but she goes no farther. She definitely isn’t Tiala na’Roth.”
Something shifts in Janos’s head, and it startles me so much that I jump up. Just in time. Because he grabs Brian by the collar and punches him.
Janos does this, calm cool Janos. It’s like there was a switch in his brain from Dasaroi to animal, and it just got flipped, because he’s snarling, and he has Brian on the floor and he’s still hitting him. I don’t realize that I’m screaming until Jeramie grabs me from behind and tells me to stop screaming, and I can’t stop. My mind is still wide open, and I’m getting Janos’s hate and Brian’s fear and Brian’s pain. “Jeramie, let me heal him!”
“I can’t, Princess.”
“He’s hurting him!”
“Please!” I can heal him if Jeramie will only let me go… I’m still training, so I need to put my hands on him to do it, so Jeramie needs to let me go. And Janos is kicking him, and he’s not fighting anymore, and there’s blood… “Jeramie, please, please let me heal him, please make it stop…”
“No, Alanna,” Jeramie whispers.
It’s all catching up to me. And I’m so scared. Janos is horrible and Jeramie won’t let me help and everyone else is just standing there and watching and making me watch…
I can’t watch. So I twist around in Jeramie’s arms and cry into his shirt, making a teary snotty mess of his dark purple silk – Jeramie dressed up, too – and I’m sure that makes me a coward, not watching, but I can’t watch anymore. And I cry til I can’t stand up anymore. When he feels my knees buckle, Jeramie picks me up. Janos says “Take her upstairs,” and Jeramie does. He puts me down when we get to my room, but I ask him to stay. I don’t want to be alone.
And he sits on my bed, and I curl up and put my head in his lap, and he pets my hair. “Why, Jeramie?”
“Janos hit him, hurt him. Why? Why did he do that?”
Jeramie sighs. “Because he told us that you are not the Lishaya.”
My breathing gets funny again. “But I am. I have to be.”
“I’m… afraid you’re not, little one.”
I’m shaking. I try to keep myself from shaking, but that just makes it worse. “But I… I am Lishaya. That’s what I am. I have to be!”
“If I’m not Lishaya – who am I?” I whisper.
“Just you. Just Alanna.”
“But if I’m not Lishaya… I’m nothing.”
“Don’t worry your pretty head about it, little one. As far as the rest of the city is concerned, you’re still Lishaya.”
I blink, propping myself up on an elbow to look at him. “But you said I’m not.”
“So – there’s a real Lishaya somewhere. And she’ll, she’ll come here…”
He smiles. “If that happens, we’ll deal with it.”
“I… don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not.”
“I know. But you will, little one.”
I look at him, and I understand. “You’ll make me.”
He looks sad, and I know this wasn’t his idea. Jeramie is my friend. “I’m afraid so.”
I sit up and grab his hands. “Stay with me?”
He looks confused. “This afternoon?”
“No. I mean… always. Be my friend always? Stay with me?”
He smiles and pulls me in, and he kisses my forehead. His lips are warmer than Brian’s hands. At the thought of Brian, my stomach does a little jump. “Of course,” Jeramie murmurs, his voice low. I smile back, lowering my head. But then he says “my Lishaya,” and I’m crying again, and it’s a long time before I stop.
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Still with the bodypainting. Is shiny.