This is a serialized story. Part 1 can be found here.
The most precious and rarest of all women of the Far Eastern Isles was confused, and sad, as if she had failed the trust of her people far away and the expectations of the strange new people of the City of Legend. She felt as faded as the flowers in her hair; creased, then smoothed, then creased again. Was she not the most precious and rarest of all women? Was she not chosen from all the women of the Far Eastern Isles, and was her presence not so desperately wanted that the lives of every girl child, of every important woman of her people were put at risk? The-evening-star-in-Winter waited just inside the towering marble fence, and saw these questions burn a familiar path across The-moon-as-it-is-waxing’s face, as the roots of a burned stump, igniting underground, changing it from hope to insecurity. She did not wish this for her friend. Moon, she called, her back as straight as her resolve, we are leaving. And the storyteller looked up at her friend, and cooled the fires inside her, burning with a fuel she did not know she possessed, and nodded in agreement.