And to the west, we traveled. When we reached the border with the Green Wall, my jaw dropped to see the huge mountains full of trees, flowers, and meadows. The name did it justice.
I don't know when I stopped listening to the strong breeze to only hear the water running between the stones. In the South, there are not many rivers or streams, or lakes. Almost all the water is taken from the grounds.
The Green Wall got its name because if you saw a map of that area it looked like a green line that stood between the South and the two Grenades Region. It looked like a… wall. This is because it is the territory with the most meadows and green trees in the entire kingdom. It is also the region where it rains the most and the most fertile, with more rivers and more fauna. Or so I read in the books.
"Will we pass through the Garden of the Gods?" I asked Delilah when we stopped to rest and put the horse to graze.
"Yes. We are less than two days away. " She answered.
My heart raced.
I had never seen a "wonder". These are what they called amazing structures built before the light-skins reached the continent. Some wonders were destroyed, and others still stood or at least had not completely disappeared, such as the Garden of the Gods, a place full of miles and miles of statues of false deities from the vanished dark-skinned empire.
I was already beginning to smell my own stench. I had been walking or riding under the sun for days and had not bathed. We made a stop so that I could finally take a bath in a lake and the horse could drink as much water as he wanted. Delilah didn't want to join.
Our relationship during the trip was very strange. We had never been so alone as in those moments and even so we had not kissed once. I was in a lake, completely naked and she didn't come near. It was as if she was keeping her distance from me as if waiting for me to take the first step in showing physical affection. Since I didn't, neither did she. She just told me to be careful, because there might be leeches near her.
After my bath and hydrating our horse, I realized that the food was running out. Delilah offered to fish in a nearby river. At some point that day, she must have been bitten by some poisonous insect, as she began to vomit for no apparent reason.
She was very weak but insisted that we not stop the journey because of her.
The next day we stopped to rest in a very little traveled area, due to the amount of insects and poisonous lizards in the jungle, so we dared to sleep without worrying that they would find us.
I prayed to the Saint of travel so that we would not be attacked by any dangerous critters. I had heard that there was a spider whose venom was so powerful that it could kill you in a few minutes.
I was very afraid that if we were not attacked by some of those critters, they might attack the horse. And that would be just as bad news.
Before I fell asleep, Queen Catherine spoke to me.
"Dark-skin, I need to talk to you."
I scratched my eyes and looked at Delilah, who was apparently asleep.
"Okay," I replied, "but elsewhere, Delilah can hear us."
I got up and moved far enough to scream and still not hear Delilah.
"Tell me, Your Majesty."
"Dark-skin, can you tell what you are doing?"
"Doing about what, Your Majesty?"
"That company of yours, your girlfriend, is very dangerous. It is not a bad idea that she accompanies us on the journey, for I see that she is quite skilled with the sword, but once we get to the North, you must get rid of her. "
"Get rid of her? Delilah is not a thing that I can throw away just like that as if she were garbage. "
"Not as if she was trash, but as someone who jeopardizes the plan. If they find out ..."
"I thought we were doing all this so that I would have the power to marry whoever I wanted."
"Yes, with whoever you want, as long as it is a MAN, not an abomination."
"Don't call her that," I protested. "Please, Your Majesty."
The Queen snorted in frustration.
"Dark-skin, listen to me, love is the death of politics. Falling in love only hinders the struggle for power. Seventh rule. "
"Please, Your Majesty, one of the reasons I accepted this was… because of Delilah."
"Maybe ... there is a way that when I am queen ... Delilah and I can ... you know ..."
"No, dark-skin, your people will never accept such an abomination."
"Times are changing, Your Majesty," I objected, "morality is changing. A few years ago, a commitment like Marco's and mine was unthinkable. "
"Yes, but that does not mean that they would also accept two women as lovers, much less married," she replied. "Dark-skin, I know about these things. I studied all my life to understand the people and govern. I assure you that society does not accept more than one radical change at a time. What you ask is too extreme, for now. "
"Your Majesty ... Is there not a single possibility?" My tone was almost pleading. "I accepted this mission in which I put my life at risk for the possibility of living with Dalila without fear. Can I only find denial in the face of the greatest desire of my heart?"
I saw the doubt in the Queen's eyes.
"Maybe ... But it's very remote."
"But does it exist?"
"Let me think about it. I need to organize my thoughts and then I'll tell you what to do. "
I smiled from ear to ear.
"Thank you very much, Your Majesty!"
"Don't thank me, yet."
Suddenly I heard footsteps, I turned around and found Delilah, full of sweat, wielding her sword. She looked weak from vomiting.
"Bachué? What the heck are you doing outside the camp? "
"Um ... I wanted to ... walk a bit," I lied.
"To walk?" She asked confused "More than we have already walked? It's the only thing we've done for days. "
"And who were you talking to?" Delilah asked as she swept the place with her gaze.
"With nobody. With myself."
"So many years and it's the first time I've known that part of you," she said as she put away her sword.
"The one that you speak alone. Like a madwoman, ha, ha, ha," she replied with a laugh. "Don't get too far away, Bachué. You make it harder for me to protect you. "
We returned to the camp and I fell asleep.
The next day we resumed our journey. We rode a rocky trail that snaked through the mountains, which, according to Delilah, was used centuries ago by the vanished dark fur empire.
We went up steep hills. It was difficult to even with our horse, but we did it.
At the top, we can see the field of purple flowers. They were famous because they appeared after the fall of the legendary Mapinguarí beast. Legend has it that when the first Duke Garai murdered this beast, the corpse disintegrated into spores that fell to the ground, and immediately hundreds and hundreds of purple flowers germinated.
As Garai's soldiers approached, the flowers spat out a poisonous gas that killed the men within seconds.
The Duke ordered to burn the hectares of purple flowers, but they were born again. And no one dared to tear them off with their hands, as they could die from the poisonous gases.
So, for two centuries, the flowers continued there.
I found them very beautiful. And I thought how ironic it was that something could be so beautiful and so deathly at the same time. Like Delilah ...
The next day, when night fell we did not stop our journey. I thought I saw lights in the trees. At first, I thought they were fireflies, but then I realized they were red butterflies.
«Not again…» I thought.
The more we walked, the more the butterflies appeared. I looked at Delilah to see if she reacted to them, but I noticed I was the only one who could see them.
And then we arrived. I saw dozens and dozens of statues carved out of rock, stretching to where the earth met the sky on the horizon line.
It seemed the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.
"It can't be ...," I mused. "The Garden of the Gods"
Delilah's mouth was open.
"Wonderful," she said.
"How gorgeous!" Exclaimed the Queen. "Your dark-skins are sometimes capable of the most amazing things."
We walked among the imposing statues. I saw the sculpture of the fallen Mapinguarí beast, in the shape of a huge bear with long, sharp fangs. It was identical to the illustration I found in one of the books. I also came across Camahueto, the horse-shaped beast with a horn on its forehead and fish scales. I found it imposing. I must admit that it scared me.
I got lost among all the statues. I thought that at any moment I would meet Shima Sakari, the last empress of the dark-skins, who had red eyes like me. But among countless monuments, I did not come across her. There were too many!
When I realized that Delilah was not with me, I saw that the red butterflies clustered around one of the larger structures. It was that of a giant snake, with its snout open, with large fangs and a long tongue, and wings behind its head.
"The winged serpent ...," I whispered.
I had read about that sacred beast. It was one of the legendary type, who reigned over the skies. Or so said the books I found in the Derderián library.
Suddenly, I was startled to see a girl in front of the statue.
She was dark-skinned, with long hair, with tails at her waist and a small cloth bodice over her breasts.
"Little girl?" I called.
She turned around and I put my hands to my mouth when I saw that she had a long, deep wound extending from one end of her neck to the other.
She is a ghost, I realized.
The girl started crying and pointed to a spot on the ground in front of her.
"There I died!" she sobbed "I DIED THERE !!!"
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