19. They Must Be Dethroned
We sat in a circle, but the nerves hadn't left my body just yet. The men still refused to let their women and children leave the shelters, though they looked as if they would fall apart with a gust of wind.
They would only speak to Jakko, though their eyes were glued on me with much uncertainty. Sometimes they would stop their staring, only to continue onto Thijs and Sarn.
Though they had nothing to offer us, they still set a fire and boiled leaves and twigs with the dirty water they gathered from the creek that was a few days walk from here. I cringed, my face twisting into a scowl as I thought of all they were giving to us. Though it was nothing, for them it was everything.
I caught Jakko's face through my peripherals. He sent a quick frown my way, asking what was wrong with his eyes.
This was probably the first time that I was glad I could not speak. I was sure my voice would have cracked, spilled out all the sadness and pity that I felt as I watched them serve us bowls of boiled water and twigs.
"We have to do something." I signed to him, quickly. The strangers watched us carefully, their heads moving form Jakko, to me, to Jakko and back to me.
There were so many thoughts running through my head. About the unfairness of it all, of the painful reality that they lived like this while my parents lived in lavish and comfortable homes. That homes with an s, as in multiple. These people lived in homes that were falling apart, barely even distinguishable from a pile of firewood.
"What do you want to do?" My eyes moved away from the horizon and focused on Jakko, who now stood in front of me, his eyes softening slightly when they saw the sadness in my eyes.
"Anything." I shrugged, standing up when I felt the ache in my chest at the realization that we really could do anything, we could do the absolute minimum and their life would become better. "They need food, water, shelter...and not just for today...it has to be sustainable." I sighed, suddenly hit by the heaviness of it all.
Jakko's jaw ticked bit he nodded slightly, "Thijs. Sarn." He looked over his shoulder, calling over the couple that jumped at the opportunity to stop forcing the dirty water down their throat. They instantly made their way toward us, leaving the bowls forgotten on the floor. Jakko turned to me and his eyes travelled my face, as if reading me like a book, “Are you okay if we stay here a few days more?”
My heart thumped greedily against my chest and I had to bite my lip to stop the surprised, but altogether happy gasp. I nodded, willing to wait days or weeks even if it meant helping these people.
No one deserves to live like this. Freedom, stability and happiness shouldn’t belong to only some kind of people. Everyone should have them. Again, I felt the strong need to stay here, to change the way people are ruled, to make a better future.
My life is here. This is where I can make real change.
“Did you hear that, Aria?” Thijs’ voice broke through my thoughts. I blinked blankly at all of them, trying to find whatever they said in case it creeped into my brain while my mind ran around.
Sarn chuckled, “Thijs and I brought seeds of various plants and foods, we were hoping to grow them in your realm. But we will happily give them up for you.”
I smiled and nodded my thanks, the knot in my throat suddenly had an impact on my signing as well.
“We need to figure out if water flows under the ground, we could build a well...” Jakko squinted his eyes as he scanned the horizon, looking for any hint of running water, though nothing green sat atop the ground.
I tapped in his arm lightly and he turned to face me. His eyes glued to the contact of our skin before I abruptly pulled my hand back. His jaw ticked, but he managed to look me in the eyes.
“There is water runnin through there.” I point to the ground that ran through the middle of the village, my finger shaking. “I can feel it.”
Jakko frowned, no doubt confused by what I meant. Thijs and Sarn only nodded, understanding the significance of the connection I had with the ground, with the air and with everything in this realm.
He nodded gently, as if he denied the confidence I had in what I could feel of this realm. “I will go out and collect wood. They need better shelters, they cannot live in these...these...” Words failed him. He shook his head as he pointed at the crumbling shacks in disbelief.
“I can get started on the well, and Sarn Can prepare the ground for planting.” Thijs nodded at his partner and smiled, “We will follow you anywhere, Aria.” He turned back to me, and my heart jumped again.
It was taking all of my strength to move toward the pool. To return to that almost forgotten home. I would leave. But I would come back.
I had to tule here. I had to be queen here. My parents needed to be dethroned.
They do not deserve to rule.
I nodded my thanks to all three of them “Do you think they will talk to me... trust me?”
Thijs nodded, Sarn smiled softly and nodded. Jakko only narrowed his eyes, “It will take some time.” He grunted, tightening and loosening his fists like a comforting cycle.
With that, he turned and walked away.