Chapter 3. The Onyx

The Onyx

Year of the Lilies

Torrid Season

The Path to the River


• Mavli•

"IS SHE OK?" Cirok asks me watching Isla as she quickens her steps, her springy hair bouncing on her shoulders and soon disappears from our sight.

I shrug my shoulders. "She's fine." I reply.

I'd do anything for a cold drink at this moment, I can't wait to dip in the river to evade this torturous heat.

"How did you sleep?" Cirok asks with his huge eyes on my face. I wonder what he sees when he looks at me. Frankly, I'm no beauty compared to Isla, I'm very plain. The only attractive feature is the small mole on my upper lip. Here in Kintil we find moles very attractive as far as they are in the right place.

"Pleasantly," I say," I was so tired yesterday after helping my mother at the market and hunting down my sister, I fell into deep sleep the moment my body touched the mat."

Cirok chuckles," really? I couldn't sleep a wink. I stay awake all night."

"That explains the eye bags", I mutter but he hears me and laughs," Is it that obvious?"

I nod. And his eyes crinkle with a smile. Cirok is beautiful. He has a rugged beauty to him; sometimes when I think of getting paired and starting a family he comes to mind. I know he's a potential husband and mother would approve of him because his parents are wealthy and highly respected merchants.

He laughs again. I'm starting to think he's overdoing it, I can't possibly be that funny. 

"When we get to the river," I say to him," you'll bathe downstream, away from me and my sister."

"Of course," he nods. "You said you hunted your sister down yesterday?" 

Now, it's my turn to laugh. "Well, you know how she's always wandering off and spending time by herself?" Cirok nods. "We were looking for her and my parents sent me to find her." I'm sure there are some rumours of my sister's strangeness but if he has heard anything, he doesn't show it.

"Anyway," he lets out a breath," I have a confession to make." His words make me halt in my steps and turn to face him. Oddly, he doesn't make eye contact and looks anywhere but at me. 

"I didn't just happen to see you guys," his eyes dart here and there like he's about to tell me a secret. " I was following you and Isla."

"Following?" I feel my forehead wrinkle and I can't hide the surprise in my voice. Why would Cirok be following us? 

"I'm afraid so," he says.

"But why?" Are we suspects of betrayal? Is Cirok a spy? I doubt that because if he is, he won't be telling me that.

"I'll make it clear to you in a moment." His hands fumble in the pouch of his calico pantaloons and retrieves a folded piece of white clothing. My breath catches in my throat and it suddenly becomes difficult to breathe. 

In our culture, when a folded white piece of clothing, whether calico or silk depending on the wealth of the giver, is presented it signifies a marriage proposal and within the cloth usually lies a piece of jewellery which also depends on the wealth of the giver. The royals and nobles give rubies, gold, silver,diamonds, emeralds or sapphires but the commoners give onyx, topaz, lapis lazuli and platinum.

Tears threatens my eyes but I blink to hold them back. I won't let the tears to fall over and let him know how much I'm hurt. How dare he give me a Proposal to my sister? I turn away and make to storm off but he grabs me by my wrist and twirls me to face him. 

"What is wrong?" He demands not in a harsh way but his tone is soft and his eyes are etched with concern.

"How dare you give me a Proposal to my sister?" I bark.  "Why don't you go to the river and make your intentions known?" My only joy is that the tears haven't fallen, yet. I sniff and turn away from him.

"Mavy?" He places a hand on my shoulder. I resist the urge to shrug him off, I'm over-reacting and besides, Cirok doesn't know about my feelings for him. I can't blame him, no red-blooded male will ever pick me over my sister. She's what most males desire in a life mate.

"I'm Ok, Cirok." I force a watery smile,"it's alright. I'll give it to Isla." I stretch my hands to collect the cloth from him. I notice it's silk, he must really like her. My heart sinks at the thought.

His brows furrow and he opens his mouth to say something but the thunderous vibration of the ground interrupts him. 

The giant stallion comes racing at us like a messenger of death.

My heartbeat echoes the gallops of the horse but I become paralysed with fear. 

Cirok's yell sounds like he's miles away and a second later, I find myself on the dry ground amongst the tall grasses.

Cirok curses and turns to me, he's sprawled on the ground right next to me. "Are you OK?"

I reply with a stiff nod.

He leaps to his feet as easily and lithe as a wild cat and helps me up. I dust myself, trying as much as possible to restrain myself from raining curses and abuses on the rider.

A deep voice breaks out a bellowing laughter and I look up at the sadistic rider. I'm surprised at who the person is.

"Cerric?" Cirok says with the slightest hint of anger. " You scared us half to death!"

The rider, Cerric breaks into another laughter. "You are such a lass aren't you, little brother?" 

Cerric is also the beauty of his family. He's tall and dark and very muscled. Unfortunately, he is paired and expecting a baby very soon. He dismounts his monster of a horse and rubs his beard thoughtfully. 

Cocking his head he asks,"she's your intended?"


I can't believe my ears. My mouth hangs open as I turn to look at Cirok.

"Way to go, Cerric," Cirok rolls his eyes. He turns to me with a coy smile," will you?"

I implore all my strength not to swoon at his words. Cirok is proposing to me? I can't believe my eyes. This time, the tears fall freely and I cover my face with my palms, I don't want him to see me like that.

"You make her cry even before the wedding", Cerric says sarcastically," well-done, brother."

Cirok gathers me in his arms and I sob on his shoulder, clinging onto his shirt so I won't fall.

"She is a young little thing, isn't she?" Cerric mutters," how about her sister?"

"She's the one I want." Cirok replies and my heart is filled with pride and joy. I don't blame Cerric for preferring Isla, I would have preferred her too.

I raise my head and Cirok wipes away my tears lovingly.

Cerric stands stroking his dark brown stallion with so much affection, the beast swishes it black bushy tail.

"I've heard rumours about her, your sister," Cerric says to me without looking at me. "How she rejects Proposal after Proposal." I don't reply.

"Leave Mavy alone," Cirok grumbles.

"Mavy?" Cerric asks with humour in his baritone voice.

"Mavli, that's her name," Ciroc places a kiss on my forehead and the skin there tingles with ecstacy.

"Give her the ring already," Cerric grumbles impatiently," we have to get going."

My pulse increases and my temperature rises like I have a fever, I begin to feel dizzy and my knees buckle. 

Ciroc sinks to one knee and I feel the flutter of butterflies in my stomach. He raises his soulful sees to me and I get lost in a world where only me and him exists. No one, not even Cerric and his arrogant stallion matters to me.

"Would you give me the honour of being my wife, Mavli?" He declares his intention to God above and the creatures on the Earth.

"Yi." Yes. 

He opens the folded cloth to reveal a small ring inside. I try to steady my breathing so I won't pass out before I'm given the ring.

The cold metal stings me as he slips it onto my finger. It's a perfect fit.

The oval shaped onyx stares at me from its platinum setting. 

"Thank you." The words come out choked and cracked.

"You deserve the finest." He pulls me into another embrace, tighter than the first. I hug him back with all my might.

He pries us apart, holds me by the shoulders and smiles. "Tell your parents that my family would visit tonight for our formalities."

I nod. It's the only thing I'm capable of doing at this moment.

My fiance straddles the proud stallion and sits behind his brother.

He gives me on last glance as Cerric slaps the flank of the animal and it whines loudly as it runs the way we came from.

I don't feel sad because I know I'll see him soon. I can't believe it, I'll get married before my desirable sister! What would my parents say? What would Isla say? 

I fear mother might say I'm too young but I'm not; I've started bleeding and I've grown breasts. I'm not too young and I want to be with Cirok. I've spent years fantasizing about him, it's my dream to be his.

Giddy, I start racing to the river not minding the scorching hot sun.

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