From the valley that feeds the great river
Beyond the hundred-league Forest of Darkness
He came in the first year of his Roaming,
Seeing then, for the first time, the sprawling city on the coast.
In the shanty-town wedged between spoil-heap and highway
Among streets one could span with outstretched arms
She often did whilst walking alone
And singing quietly in the earliest light.
That they would meet was fore-told
Not in lore or in the words of the old ones,
But in their hearts from their first days
Which each remembered without a specific age.
They both felt the world was surely a place
Bigger than the corner that held each trapped
Collecting only whispers of somewhere, something more
Hoarding words that meant 'bright,' and 'plentiful' and 'freedom.'
His clan's traditions are stronger than the bindings
That held him in his familial servitude.
The mandatory age of Roaming was upon him
And cast out, he at once felt a call across the continent.
But a release for her, from the poverty and isolation,
From the shacks, and filth and futility
Seemed yet as impossible and cruel and forbidden
As it ever had, over all her years before.
Something happened then, on that last day of the rainy season.
With the city still yet across the expanse of a black river
He saw the sun break through a dark-veined sky
As the ferryman took his father's amulet as payment.
The guards of the gate pushed back the planked doors
And he entered through the wet, rough stone walls
Among a dripping hoard of plains-peasants, and traders,
As a distant siren call caught her beneath that broken afternoon sky.
To the central market they both found their way.
She on hard, bare soles slipping on the long soaked cobbles
He on worn and wet elk-hide moccasins
The throngs of the city descending to find daily fare.
Aimless wandering guided them each across the Great Square,
She, tired, finding a mostly-good apple fallen aside the stands
He, exhausted, buying bread with one of his few remaining coins.
Each sat close, yet still unaware, unseen to the other.
Unknown in the city, it was a meadowlark that brought them together.
Alighting upon a thorny shrub near them both
They turned when they, at the same time, threw a crumb.
Eyes like wells, in they both fell, cobbles steaming under a new sun.
A meadowlark brings to each now a gasp of surprise
Alighting upon the window sill.
Five decades gone in a moment,
The memory fresh again as a just-fallen rain.
Here, there are slices of deep-red apples
And rolls of sweet golden bread, and cheese, and wine
That sit on the table between them,
And a fire slowly ebbs in their hearth.