Lyla's embroidered silk nightgown slipped over her head as she

and her friend carried on their usual conversation before bed.

But, Kalyke, you can't honestly say that you've never even

considered leaving the monastery." she said as she laced the

bows on the cuffs of her shift.

Kalyke shifted on her bed, "No," she said, "I've thought about

it but never seriously. Why would I want to leave?" "To see all

the things in the stories and pictures for yourself!" Lyla said,

throwing her arms wide, embracing the air. "Don't you want to

see mountains, and snow, and forests, and the ocean? There's

more to the world than the groves and gardens behind the wall.

"Lyla, I'm sleepy. I don't want to talk about this anymore."

Kalyke said, rubbing her eyes. She abruptly ended their

conversation by rolling over so that Lyla only faced her back.

Lyla sighed. This conversation always ended this way.

The stars winked down at Lyla as she stared out the window.

Her room was set in the outer wall of the monastery so she

could stare out across the grassy plain that surrounded The

Dwelling of the Fathers of Silence. Lyla had always been here

within these walls. Father DonnaldeƤn, the monk who had taken

her into his care, told her that her mother had abandoned her at

the gate as a tiny baby. Just like so many other children. The

monks had raised her, taught her manners, given her the highest

grade of education available, and had always provided for her.

She cared very much for them and they for her.

Lyla knew about the world outside The Dwelling only by what

she could see out her window and by the tales the traders told

her. They came every now and again, the traders did, bringing

silks, and sweets, and animals, and all manner of other things to

trade for the exotic spices the monks grew in their gardens.

They showed Lyla drawings of far off places and told her stories

of great heroes and daring deeds. Lyla had been content with

her reclusive safety until recently when she had taken to

wondering more and more of the outside world. She would

stare at it out her window for hours just as she was doing now.

The tall grass rippled in the slight wind. Lyla breathed deep of its

sweet, wild scent. Her hand rested on the cool rough stone of

the outer wall. She felt the overwhelming desire to go out into

that strange, dangerous world beyond. Usually the children

raised in the monastery were given the choice to go or stay on

their eighteenth birthday. They were given an escort and a

ceremony before they left if that was what they wished to do.

But Lyla did not want to wait two more years for that day. It

was now that her curiosity was overwhelming. Perhaps if she left

for just a few days she could see the things that she had always

longed to behold and still come back to the safety and comfort

of the monastery. The more she thought about it the better the

idea seemed and the more resolved she was to do it.

Moving as quietly and as slowly as she could she reached into

the drawer of the wooden night stand carved with images of

twining flowered vines and retrieved a bottle of ink and a piece

of thick paper. By the light of the moon she scribbled a note to

Brother Cadathon a young monk who had become her

particular friend. She told him, in her neat plain handwriting, not

to worry and that she would return. She sealed it with violet wax

and began to move about the room placing clothes and precious

objects in her woven bag. Several dresses of assorted colors, a

second night gown, a wool blanket, her ink and pen,

several clay jars each holding a different spice or balm.

Cinnamon, myrrh, aloe, saffron,and others. She finished with an

ornately carved wood box set with ivory and filled with jewelry.

Some pieces she had bought from the traders with eggs from

her chickens and some had been gifts from her friends or the

monks. One had been left with her by her mother. Lyla lifted the

pack onto her back, surprised by its weight. She thought again

and decided to dress in one of the garments she had packed

and pack her night gown. She attired herself in a blue dress and

on a last thought pulled a black cloak around herself as she left

the room.

Lyla stole through the corridors to the quarters where the monks

slept. The chapel was at the end of the long hallway and she

could here the soft singing of the monks on wake this night.

They made sure that the candles and incense stayed lit

throughout the night and said prayers to Deo, the creator of the

earth. The blackness in the hallway was enveloping.

Lyla counted her steps. One, two, three... She ran her hand

along the wall feeling for doors. First door, second door, third

door- that was it. She felt for the handle and carefully opened it.

Brother Cadathon's room smelled like Jasmine incense and

candle wax. Lyla peered into the semi-darkness. The young

monk had fallen asleep over his manuscript again. His form was

bowed over the desk. His hand still clutched the pen. The

candle burned low. Lyla's eyes rested on his shaven head and

young pleasant face. She found the hand that did not hold the

pen and placed her letter into it. Then she fled.