The First Lesson
Nyasha lay silent and still in her bed, listening to the sounds of the world waking outside her window. The sky was becoming brighter and she knew that soon the first rays of sunlight would come streaming through her windows and she and the others would be woken. The others whined and complained about how early they had to get up but Nyasha was a helper girl and was used to waking up before the sun. She had enjoyed the extra time she got in bed at the Manast, but then the dream had started and now she lay awake each morning, replaying it in her mind.
Every time, she looked for a hint of movement in the face, any sign of what it was, and every time, she saw the same placid mask staring blankly back at her. She knew she had to tell one of the Priates, but tell them what?
Goodday, I’m dreaming about an inanimate face that says things in a language I’ve never heard before…
That would get her kicked out of the Manast very quickly. And once that happened, her life’s path would be set in stone. She’d return home and be a helper in her family’s shop until she was married off, likely to Veilan, and then she’d never leave the town again. There would have been nothing wrong with that, if Nyasha was more like her mother. But she wasn’t.
She wanted to travel all over Harren and meet different people and learn new ways of life. The only way that someone like her could do that was to become a Hand of the Manast, or a travelling bandit. And being a Hand was much safer.
The morning bell rang, bringing Nyasha out of her own mind and back to the world around her. The stone walls were now awash with a warm, yellow light. She pushed the heavy blanket aside and sat upright on the bed, her feet curling away from the cold floor. Slowly she rolled her head from side, then stretched out her arms one after another. Each limb was gently stirred from sleepiness, like the Priates had taught the trainees at First Initiation.
To know The Other, one must first know The Self.
It had been their first lesson, and she had committed it to heart. Everything they would learn in their first cycle all came back to that one principle, and her prefect had said that only those who truly understood that lesson stood a chance to become Priates.
Nyasha stood and walked to her desk, pulled out the chair and sat down. Apart from the desk and bed, the only other furnishing in the small stone chamber was a modest chest of drawers. Trainees were free to arrange their quarters how they wished, and many had moved things around, but Nyasha found the original set up efficient. It was already much more comfortable than any of the straw mattresses in shared quarters she had inhabited in her life.
The fact that the rooms had only thick curtains covering the entrances made no difference to her either. It was more privacy than she’d ever had, and frankly more than she thought she should get used to. On her desk was a large candle, several pencils, a clay ink well and her study journal. The journal was thick, with lots of loose leafs tucked inside. Every trainee was given one such journal at First Initiation and told it’d be more than enough to write down any notes from their lessons.
Poorer trainees like herself took those words to heart whilst richer ones scoffed and bought fashionable thin journals for each different discipline. It makes no difference, in the end you’ll all face the same final tests, her father had said. Nyasha opened her journal and began to write absently. Her hand moved almost of its own volition, imprinting on paper what was imprinted on her mind – gods cannot be killed.