The railway draws a black, curved line in the stark white snow of the land, and it disappears int the mist at the horizon. Manila can’t see the end of it – but she’s curious. This is her first trip out of the borders of Tanit, the first long period of time she will spend away from the Summer Palace. She closes her eyes, standing in the middle of the railroad, dressed too lightly for the current season and yet feeling the cold winter wind like nothing but a cool breeze, making the peachy veils of her dress swell and her thin blonde hair wave in the air.
She thinks of her father, her tall, sweet, gentle, smiling father. Last night he could sense she would fly away. He came visiting her, he held her in his arms, called her My Little One and recommended her to be safe during her travels, to choose carefully her friends and her enemies. To find herself a good land, a beautiful land, full of promises. “Your role, My Little One,” he said, “Is to bring chaos to still worlds, so that after chaos you can bring them life.” So she will choose a land that’s virgin and without rules. She will find it, and she will wreak havoc upon it. And from the ashes of her first war, a new world will be born. Life from chaos, like his father told her.
She thinks also of her mother, her kind, beautiful, powerful mother. She knew her daughter would leave way before anyone else would. Last week she smiled at her and insisted for her to walk with her on the shore behind the Summer Palace. “Look at the horizon, My Little One,” she said, “What do you see?” Manila squinted, tried to see, saw nothing. “Nothing, Mother,” she answered. Melaka chuckled. “Take a closer look,” she said, and placed her delicate white hand, decorated with heavy rings, on her daughter’s shoulder. Manila squinted again – this time she saw them. Shadows of all the lands existing in the Polyverse. Big and small, wild and civilized, empty and filled with people, cold and warm, isolated and surrounded with more lands. So many places waiting for her to visit them. So many places waiting for her to change them forever. “Your role, My Little One,” her mother said, “Is to bring justice to those worlds. See, they’re all warring, and they all believe there is no end to their fighting. You will present them the fight of all fights, and to win their favor they will fight their last battle, and then they’ll have peace.” So she will choose a land that’s violent and vile. She will find it, and she will visit upon it a war as terrible as it is cleansing. And from the ruins of that war, a new world will be born. Peace from war, like her mother told her.
Finally, she thinks of her brother. Her beautiful, serious brother. Her distant brother. Her beloved brother. He had no idea she would leave. He didn’t sense it, didn’t prepare for it. He kept visiting her in her bedroom, night after night, believing her asleep. He touched her through the sheets, combed her hair, caressed her face. He placed the smallest, most tender kisses on her temples and forehead, he wept, he prayed for his feelings to go away. Last night he visited her, long after her father had passed by to wish her well. He knelt by her bed and, joining his hands, praying her as he would have prayed a goddess, he whispered “My Little One, your role is to travel as far as you can away from me. Find a place that will keep you safe, find people that will respect you, lose yourself, find yourself, have a great time, and then, for all that is good in this world and in the others, for all you hold dear, for my sake, please, please, come back to me.” So she will choose a land. Any land. She will do what she’s got to do – what her blood wants from her, what her magic requires. She will do it fast and swift, she will start it and she will finish it, and then she will leave behind what will come after her, and she will go back home. To her brother. Like he said.