Pilgrimage: Goodbye, the world as I knew it
One week after we caught the Vice Representative’s attention, we were to embark on our journey. Only I knew that it was going to be one with no return. My mother made sure I remained silent. But to be honest, though, after the incident on that evening, I had pretty much forgotten everything already. Instead, I was enjoying life to the fullest again, playing in the streets with my friends. What can you expect from a 6-year-old boy?
During the days until then, my mother had stopped accepting clients and locked herself up in the little cabin next to our house, distilling and compounding dozens of tinctures and powders. People were starting to get worried, but they didn't dare approach my father.
You’re probably asking why mother forced me to remain silent. Wouldn’t it be better if everybody knew and we would be saved? Well, fuck, you guys are right. Looking back, however, they knew that Hawthorn knew what was going on, but even he was in no position to change the situation. And the Vice Representative, upon seeing me, decided to teach my parents a lesson. Nobody questioned her choices.
On the day of the Pilgrimage, we were made to wear really showy white robes. The sleeves were so wide, you could fit another person inside. And the robe was so long, we kept stumbling over it. Every child was allowed to bring a bag with them. While my friends all carried their favorite stuffed toy, sweets, and other things a child of their age would want to have, my mother stuffed my bag with small pillows containing medicine upon medicine. In addition, she handed over a stuffed animal that had several small vials of tinctures sewn inside.
While my mother may be incredibly talented with brewing concoctions, she was a terrible seamstress. Looking at the piece of fluff, I recognized that she intended to create a hen. Its face was created with the help of buttons and awkward long stitches. Looking at me with a suffering gaze, it was begging for me to put it out of its misery. The vials, which have been well-insulated, were the only things that really kept the neck upright and the body somewhat plump. It's actually sad that I never was able to keep it. I really would have loved to show it to you guys.
“Listen, Rowan.” Mother looked at me sternly after she gave me the sad hen. Her gaze was so tense, she could have turned plants to stone. “Under no circumstances must you reveal that you have these herbs. Do you understand?”
I nodded. Back then I was more scared of being found out by mother and then spanked until my butt was sore. She grasped my left arm so tightly, it felt as if my bones would snap any moment. Even though I still hadn’t fully grasped the graveness of my situation, it felt very grave indeed.
“They will take you to a faraway place. When you get there, do not attract attention, do not kick a fuss.”
Again, I nodded. Mother, let go of me already, I can hear people singing and dancing in the streets! They are waiting for me! I wasn't in the mood to feel grave at all.
“The people there will make you eat things that are not good for you. But this is why I put medicine into this little hen.” She pointed at the abomination that she had sewn together.
“Every evening, before going to bed, you need to drink the medicine that's inside, alright? Two drops are enough. Don’t share with anybody else, neither with Lilly nor the other boys. Do you understand?”
Yes, mother. Now, let me go. But obviously, she wasn’t done yet. Looking out the window, I saw a big mule-drawn carriage arrive, surrounded by a huge flock of cheering people. They were singing and throwing flowers all over.
“If you have the chance, then use it to escape. Come back to us. We will wait for you.” Her eyes watered up as she swallowed down her tears. Having already forgotten where I would be heading, I gave her a puzzled look. She hugged me tightly. “We love you so much, Rowan. We love you.” Finally, she let go.
“Rowan! Rowan!” I heard Valerian calling me outside. My friends were waiting for me. Hearing their voices, everything that I had been told a moment ago slipped into the farthest point in my mind. All I wanted to do is have fun with my friends. Taking the bag and pushing my stuffed hen inside, I dashed outside with a bright smile and boarded the carriage. I was the last to join the party.
Everybody was already there, talking and waving furiously at the chanting crowd accompanying us. I waved as well when I noticed that we were being accompanied not only by the Vice Representative but by four guards. They were wearing black, so I didn’t know what Order they were from. What was most striking, however, was that their skin had the same tan as my father and the same blue eyes.
This appeared unusual to me. You see, I had always believed that my father was a descendant of a Celestial, but watered down over the generations. Nothing really special, since there were many who had similar light brown skin and were of a similar heritage. But these people seemed uniform as if they were brothers and sisters. Especially the combination with those blue eyes. I gazed at them, wondering what hair color they may have had. After all, they were all bald.
Every one of them carried two blades with white hilts and blood-red tassels. The steeds on which they rode were as black as their robes. And, by Nu, they were incredibly muscular. They stood in stark contrast to the ee-awing mules that were pulling our carriage.
The Vice Representative herself rode on a golden chariot pulled by two winged lionesses. Their white wings were wrapped around their bodies. If I hadn't seen a winged lion before, I would have thought they were wearing white-feathered blankets.
Ushering them forward, the Vice Representative moved to one of the guards and spoke, “I will travel ahead and make way for the Pilgrimage. Keep the children safe.” With these words, the lionesses unfolded their wings and took to the sky, heading south. Shortly thereafter, the practitioner in charge of our carriage led us out of town, following the speck in the sky.