The moon was a somnolent sickle in the dark sky, basking in the glory of her million glinting companions. Mary watched as slivers of torn clouds shuffled by the pale moon.
She couldn't sleep.
The temperature was much more pleasing in the desert at night - dropping to an almost dramatic level - but nothing could remedy Mary's insomnia. Not after she had heard the words that had passed her mouth earlier that day.
What would Mariqah have said, if she had heard them?
Mary huffed, her breath visibly a cloud in front of her, “Why did You have to take her now?” she whispered, “Why not before, when things were so hard for her? Before me, before my mother and my father - who caused her so much trouble and grief? Maybe she would have loved me a little more, if she only knew me and not them... And why not after? Why not after killing my mother for all the wrongs she had committed?” Mary paused, stifling a sob, “She believed in You, you know. And in justice. And I know it wasn't easy for her to believe in things, the way that she was. The amount of times I've heard her, muttering to herself - did You hear any of that? If you did then... Why... why didn't You give her what she wanted? Why did You give her me? Why...” Mary looked away, her eyes tearing up, “Why did You take her!”
When she received no answer, Mary held back a yelp and hid her face from all the celestial bodies as she cried.
“No measure of tears can change your situation, Mary.”
“Go away,” Mary whimpered a mutter. The last thing she needed was Ead expressing his self-pity.
Ead sat down next to her and said, “Those things you said before Lady Etain... you didn't know you felt them, did you?”
“I said: Go away!” Mary shouted.
Ead paused, gazing at the sky - just as Mary had done only moments ago - before he continued, “Your aunt spoke much when she was imprisoned.”
“Of course she did! She's Mariqah! She never shut up! And now her voice is gone forever!” Mary sobbed even louder after having said that.
“I think its better if you let me do the talking.”
“I vividly remember telling you to: go
“Yes, well, it's clear that I'm not going to,” Ead said, shuffling away as Mary swung a punch at him, “Anyway... Mariqah told me the story of a man who led his people out of the grasp of a powerful tyrant. He did amazing things, you understand, standing up against the tyrant and freeing an otherwise despised people. He believed that he would lead his people to the land promised for them. But his people turned against him and they wandered the desert for a number of years, the man tarried on and on with an ungrateful people - until Death came to him. The man was so shocked that he struck Death and knocked his eye out. Then Death, with the permission of his Master, bargained with the man and said that the man should lay a hand on the back of a bull - and as many hairs he touched, was as many years he would live.”
“I know this story...” Mary mumbled, “but I don't see where you're taking it...”
Ead nodded, and continued, “It was then that the man realised that leading his people to the promised land was not his victory. He had already done a great many wondrous things, but this was not for him. It wasn't his destiny. Would it have been better for him to wander the desert for all those years, and still not receive what he sought? So he succumbed to Death, and the people entered their promised land by a different leader, the man's brother.”
“You can't compare Moses to Mariqah,” said Mary, “I don't even think she would accept such a comparison.”
Ead blinked, “Who's Moses?”
Mary gave him a look, “The story you just told... The man...” after seeing there was no point, Mary sighed, “Never mind.”
“I wasn't comparing the people, whoever they are,” said Ead, a little irritably, “I was comparing the circumstance. Britney's life was not Mariqah's to take.”
“Isn't Mariqah the most deserving of it, though?”
“Wasn't the conquest of the promised land most deserving of the man?”
Mary looked at Ead. How lost he looked... She wondered if he was trying to make sense of things himself.
“We don't choose the things we 'deserve' - they choose us,” Ead said.
“I guess... I guess you're right,” said Mary, “But... are you saying that this was meant for me? My mother's life?”
“I don't know who it's meant for, Mary,” Ead replied, “But we'll just have to wait and see. Won't we?”
“You... you shouldn't think the way you're thinking, you know,” Mary sniffed, “it does me some good, but it probably doesn't do the same for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You're implying that you weren't meant for Aunt Mariqah. But that's the only chance you're ever going to get, right? At love.”
“Ah...” Ead looked away slightly.
“Your circumstance is... it's...” Mary hesitated, “it's just so uncommonly sad, Ead. I don't even know what to say to you.”
“Don't pity me, Mary,” said Ead bitterly, “It doesn't make me feel better in any way.”
“I don't think I have a choice in the matter.”
Ead sighed, “You should go. Before Tostig comes looking for you. Try to get some sleep.”
Mary stood up, “What about you?”
“A man who dreams all the time - knowing that his dreams can never be more than extravagant fantasies - can never sleep, Mary.”