“We’re here!” I yelled behind Mia’s back. She actually jumped a few inches into the air, threatening to tumble off the starboard side of our elegant ship. The sails whipped back and forth so that, combined with the waves, muted all sound. I was proud of myself for managing that to overcome that and still scare Mia.
“Jenny!” she whined. “I can see we’re here.”
“Well, let’s go!”
Felaronia’s port town of Octgard greeted us with colorful banners flapping to the screaming wind. The wetlands made it hard to create a permanent settlement along this part of the coast, so most of Felaronia was inland along the River Nesco. But Octgard held out strong and looked beautiful to me right now. Wooden buildings with a variety of designs, colors, and textures were visible from the docks where we had landed. One in particular caught my eye, a tower that gently curved from wide to narrow as it went up, reminding me a little of a woman’s form. Surrounding buildings didn’t compete with it, but accented its beauty like it had all been planned out beforehand. Nothing like the haphazard stone walls back home.
We got off the ship, filing onto the wooden roads of the docks. I felt a little uneasy, as the ground didn’t wobble as much as I had gotten used to in the last few days. It seemed there were two groups, divided almost by gender. The first were the merchants, mostly men who came on business and knew what they wanted, wasting no time as they went toward the city. The second group consisted of women like us, the immigrants, fleeing the effects of misogyny, false romance, and general injustice. We didn’t know where to go and still marveled at the sight of the mythical city. Sure, there were female merchants and male immigrants, but they were minorities.
As the most noble among our group, I felt it my responsibility to lead them to the shore. So I told them to follow me and mimicked the merchants even as I followed them. Mia caught up to me, looking worried. At first, few wanted to venture out, but the submission that had been beaten into them for so long won out and they lined up behind me. We marched to shore, leaving the vessel of our deliverance behind as we faced our new lives.
A trio of older women greeted us at the end of the docks. One wore her black hair in a bun, another let her long curly hair loose, and another had her gray hair cut short. All three wore robes, black, purple, and white. They folded their arms with amused looks on their faces.
The one with the short hair spoke first. “Welcome to Felaronia. My name is Saphira. This is a place where you find what was lacking in your homelands: value and respect. But to obtain that, you must be willing to work hard for the good of everyone. This is not for the weak, lazy, or spoiled.” Did she cast her eyes on me? “We don’t enslave the men like they enslaved us. They are, however, subservient to us out of necessity. There are those whose ambitions would overthrow our society. If you find any, report them to us and they will be escorted to a country more to their liking.”
The one in purple spoke next. “I am Ynette. We realize that many of you are coming from situations of abuse and at the risk of your own lives. Because of this, you will all be assigned a mentor to help you gradually understand our culture, our laws, and our jobs. Any questions you have, you can ask her.
“If you want to pursue a career, but don’t have the skill, we can set you on the path of education. Also, do not despair because of lack of money. You will live first in the commons houses until your mentor transitions you to a full citizen. Like Saphira said, there is little tolerance for women who will not work.” Again, the look at me. Did they think I was just some foolish damsel? “Some of you might have even had easier lives in your homeland. But hard work will allow you to feel like part of our community. Come along and we’ll give you a tour of your new home.”
Mia clapped. “Isn’t this exciting?”
My mood had dropped a bit, but I still mustered up enthusiasm. I would prove these women wrong. Wiping the hair from my face, blown there by the wind, I nodded.
This had to be better than a forced romance or marriage, after all.