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Amana pursed her lips. “If not you, then Juxin,” she spat. “Damn, him! What has he done? What have you helped him to do?” Her fingers clawed at his forearms, and her legs buckled in weakness.
Oetho leaned into the fence and held her from falling. He knew he deserved her bitterness; there was a seed of truth in it. Juxin and a small company of his soldiers had called upon their home in early spring, months ago. The gesture was unprecedented; neither man had spoken to the other in over twenty years. Yet, Juxin had sought out Oetho.
Oetho and his wife lived far from the capital city of Vas Kan, far from bustle of society, on a lonely parcel at the back of a wood. They were not accustomed to visitors in any form. Their home was their place of solitude, and it was part of Oetho’s promise to Amana that he would keep it that way, with a simple and honest life.
“You let him into our home, and fed him at our table, and I said nothing.” Amana shuddered. “You talked to him as an old friend, when you could have rebuked him for what he has done to us, and through it all I stayed silent.”
Oetho said, “He sought only my council, and he left with no more than the words that I spoke.” Still he felt that his actions were somehow key to what had befallen. His words may have irrevocably doomed the entire world. “Yet, now is not the time to berate him or me. We must hurry and flee as best we can.”
Amana pushed away from him and drew back with a panic. A kid darted about her legs, disturbed by the storm. “Leave? Go? This is our home.” Tears formed in her eyes.
“Amana, please, I have read the signs. There is no mistake. You can see it all around you.” Oetho raised his arms into the bluster.
A dark shape moved in the air above their heads. It surprised Oetho. Luckily, he ducked in time. The sight of it sent Amana stumbling backward. The uprooted hemlock fell to the ground with a thunderous crack. The land shook.
Oetho rushed inside the pen, took Amana by the hand and lifted her back to her feet. She did not resist. They both looked out to the line of the wood. The trees were breaking, falling, lifting. Dust, branches and mounds of dirt were rending from the floor and bursting through the forest canopy. The destruction was almost upon them.
“Rilla, save us!” Amana shouted. Her voice trailed in anguish. Suddenly, she looked to Oetho in resignation. Her whole body shook. “Where can we go?”
“To Vas Kan,” Oetho said. “From there we can escape the world.”
“But how,” Amana cried. Vas Kan was many days away. “Rilla is calling. She has come for us, finally.”
Oetho smiled. He knew she had not fully understood. He reached into the waist pocket sewn into his cassock and pulled out a golden disk. Even in the gloom of the storm and through the weathering of ages, the amulet still shone.
Continue to Part III