6.12 Back Home

Ever since Kiko came home from training in the jungle mountains, she’s been acting very strangely. Ina wants to get to the bottom of it. “What truly happened at the falls, my daughter? I’ve heard rumor that you have been seeing Newlin in a romantic light. You do realize your young adult birthday is suns away. It’s not time to choose a mate.”

At this, Kiko burst out laughing. “Oh, Mother, you do jest! Newlin? I think of him as I would any slave whom I grew up with.”

Blood rushes to Kiko’s cheeks. She hates lying to her mother, especially when only yesterday as everyone had gone into the local village for supplies, Newlin talked her into having a romantic time in the spa.

As Newlin slipped off Kiko’s top in his sexy way, Kiko cried, “Newlin, we cannot be like this at our compound. It’s folly. Someone will catch us.”

Caressing her chin, he tutted, “You do realize there is no one here. All are adventuring at the village market. I personally watched the lot of them, saying I would keep a careful watch of our grounds. Now will you stop worrying, darling?”

He wrapped himself around Kiko, sending flurries through her. “Just worry about me.”

And as usual, Kiko gave into him, hating herself for falling so hard. But she couldn’t help it. He had a way that always made her feel special. She truly loved him with all her heart.

Coming back to the present, Kiko giggles even more trying to squash that memory and says, “You’re being a silly worry wart, Mother. Newlin is my training partner. Nothing more.”

Ina eyes her daughter, not sure if she should believe her, but she hasn’t witnessed anything more than friendship between Kiko and Newlin. Maybe what Eila heard wasn’t true. Her daughter, Lilit, was apt to make up idle stories and create drama. “Very well, if you say so. Come, let’s sit and chat then. Tell me all about your trip.”

As Kiko tries to talk about everything EXCEPT her romantic escapades with Newlin, Horus walks up to them.

“Hello, Kiko! Are you ready to spar with me? I heard from Newlin that you’re almost as good as he is.” He winks.

At this, Kiko jumps up and starts to laugh hysterically. “Oh…hee hee…me? As good as Newlin? Ha ha…he must be joking…ha ha.”

Ina is even more surprised by this reaction. “Kiko, that wasn’t a funny comment. Why are you laughing? And Horus, my love, why are you joining in with her?”

“Because, sweetheart, her laughing is making me laugh.”

Kiko doubles over, laughing even harder, bewildering Ina even more.

*****

On the other side of the compound, Newlin is playing with Hoku. He loves his little niece–she’s so full of spunk. Even more than her sister, Makana, was at her age.

“Would you like some juice, little Hoku? Uncle Newlin can get you some if you’re thirsty.”

“Juice! I want juice!”

“Please?” Newlin reminds her of her manners.

“Pwease?”

“Your wish is my command, princess. Come then and hold my hand.” As Newlin waits for Hoku to get to her feet, his sister, Kalani appears.

“Newlin, you’re so sweet to watch Hoku for me, but Kanui needs you in the slave’s quarters. There’s a toilet that’s exploding right now.”

“Of course there is,” Newlin mutters under his breath. He plasters on a smile and says, “It would be my pleasure. The little princess is all yours.”

Kalani adds, “And could you fetch Lilit for me? She can take over babysitting duties. I have to get ready for a ceremony. Sadly, we must say good-bye to Kandor this afternoon.”

Newlin bows in reverence then trods off in search of the silly Lilit. He knows just where to find her. She is usually either in the kitchen eating, bothering Kanui, or snacking in a lounge chair on the deck.

As he predicts, he spies Lilit wolfing down some grilled cheese near the pond.

“Dearest Lilit, I hate to break you away from all the hard work you seem to be doing, but our Creator wishes for you to do your mother’s job in watching over Hoku. She’s in front of the compound.”

Lilit cannot stand Newlin and his tone makes her want to spit venom, but she knows Creator Kalani would not welcome a fight in the middle of the compound. Instead of lashing out as she wishes, she glares at the impudent slave and says, “Of course,” through gritted teeth. “I’ll come at once.”

The cute girl was playing in the road. Not a good place for any toddler. “My goodness, why are you out here, little one?” Lilit picks up the princess.

“Would you like to play in your playhouse?”

“Yay!” cries Hoku.

Lilit smiles. “That’s what I thought.”

*****

Kiko is not feeling well. Her stomach queasy, she worries something is wrong with her. But what could it be?

And then the words of their Shaman Mist rings in her ears. She gave a speech when Kiko was ten suns old. “It is forbidden for any amazon to couple with a slave until it is the time of her choosing. For with it, you could bear a child and that is taboo until your young adult birthday. Beware, young Kiko. Do not get too close to a man until then.”

Kiko grabs her stomach as she walks down the Hall of the Creators. Each pair of eyes seem to stare at her as she passes them.

“Oh dear Maker! Please don’t let it be so!” she prays.

As she makes her way to the training room, her insides prickle at the sight of her lover. Not wanting to face him, she slips past, hoping he won’t notice her.

“My darling, is it time for training already? I will meet you later, dear. I must wrangle a toilet at the moment.”

At the sound of Newlin’s voice, Kiko breaks down. “Newlin. We must talk.”

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6.11 Surprises

Kanui sighs, thinking about Kiko in the arms of that brat Newlin. The couple made it very apparent their excitement for one another over the past few weeks, and Kanui has no doubt Kiko will ask Newlin to be her mate. The contest for her heart is over.

“Why should Newlin always get what he wants?” Kanui asks the Maker in a little prayer. He never does what he’s supposed to. When chores are to be done, Kanui is constantly needling him to finish. When special ceremonies occur, someone must find Newlin and beg him to come. When Runoi cooks a delicious dessert, Newlin is first in line for his portion. Why do evil people always succeed while someone like Kanui gets the leftovers.

It isn’t fair.

Speaking of leftovers, before Kanui can finish his internal rant, Lilit settles in next to him, giving Kanui a jolt.

“Hello, handsome. Waiting to go to the temple?”

Kanui cocks his head. “The temple? I thought we were doing that tomorrow. It’s a little late at night, my lady. There are jungle creatures that prowl in the evening.” That’s a bit farfetched, Kanui knows, but he doesn’t want to spend most of his night listening to Lilit’s incessant flirting and constant babble.

“Nonsense, slave. It’s barely dusk. We have all night!” She grasps his hand and bounces out the door, chattering about all the treasures they might find.

Kanui tries hard not to roll his eyes. He decides to renew his attitude. Maybe he could have fun. He does like interesting artifacts and myths. And he’d been putting off going to the temple for two weeks when finally he acquiesced that day to do it the following morning. A few hours earlier isn’t going to change anything.

The temple turned out to be the most interesting building Kanui had ever seen. The ancient amazons were a superstitious people, believing in supernatural powers from the darkness, something Kanui had only heard about from campfire stories the slaves would tell each other at night.

“What do you think this does, Kanui?” Lilit asks, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“I wouldn’t touch that, my lady,” Kanui warns.

But Lilit being Lilit, she doesn’t listen to him. “Fibblefobble, Kanui. There’s a perfect hand sized hole here.”

“What’s this?” she cries. “Is it going to give me treasure?”

The obelisk moans, spewing sand at Lilit. “Oh no!”

Kanui laughs, he cannot hold back. The look on her face is priceless.

“Do you not know it’s impolite to laugh at one’s folly, Kanui?” Lilit chides.

Arching an eyebrow, Kanui retorts, “I was not laughing at you, my dearest lady. It’s just…your face was too charming. Try it again!”

“You wish me to fail anew? I think not. But I believe there are more treasures to be had. This one blunder doesn’t have to be my last.”

Kanui laughs again. To his surprise, Lilit could be quite funny.

Bowing, Kanui says, “After you, my lady.”

And she was right. She did fail again.

“Lilit, back away from that thing,” Kanui yells. “Its red face means doom!”

“Oh my Maker!” Lilit cries, shuddering.

Kanui rushes over. “Are you well, my lady?” He didn’t see anything come out of the statue, just red light.

Lilit rubs her face and says, “I think I’m done with these ancient creations, Kanui. They just don’t like me.”

“I don’t think it has anything to do whether the things ‘like’ you, Lilit. They’re probably meant to ward off thieves.”

Waving an arm, she says, “That’s not true. My mother told me of a time my father went to this very spot and was blessed with many treasures. But I am not blessed by the Maker. I’m just an unlucky, ugly girl with no special qualities. I know you’re just here with me because I made you go with me. You’ve made that very clear. But I thank you for putting up with me. In the future, I won’t bother you anymore. Let’s go, Kanui. I’m done with this place.”

Guilt pricks Kanui’s heart. She is right. She did force him to come, but he never gave her a chance in the past. “Lilit, I’m sorry. I’ve been a horse’s ass. I promise I am having a good time, and I’m delighted with your company.”

Her eyes widen as she fiddles with her fingers. “You…are?”

Nodding, he says, “Come. Let’s leave this foreboding place. I saw a nice quiet area near a beautiful pond in the gardens.” Taking Lilit by the hand, they hike down a few flights of steps and then Kanui stops as the sun sets behind the clouds. “Does this place make you feel better, Lilit?”

Flopping her arms around Kanui’s shoulders, Lilit gives him a sly smile and nods.

“Lilit…” Kanui says, heart pounding. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to kiss you, silly. Pucker up!”

Kanui chuckles to himself, not believing he is actually falling for Lilit’s charms.

*****

Breathing hard, Kiko has just defeated Newlin in a battle match for the first time in all these weeks of training. Her mastery of mana is growing stronger with each passing day. She feels she is ready to become the Champion of her tribe, and she has her love to thank.

Without a word, Newlin jerks his head for her to come near him by the roaring falls.

Once she meets with him, it’s as if the air is filled with electric fire. The two cannot hold back any longer. His lips are more urgent than Kiko has ever felt before–fierce, pressing like he’s wanting her as much as she wants him.

She feels the smoothness of his neck, smells the rich, musky scent of his skin. He pulls her closer until they are body to body.

Fear creeps into Kiko’s heart because she knows she’s already gone too far.

But she doesn’t care.

There, in the cover of darkness, with the mist of the waterfall raining down on them, Kiko’s heart is filled with her lover. She would not think about the consequences for all she desires is Newlin.

*****

“I did it, Mommy!” Hoku cries, waving her hands in such a cute way. Kalani wouldn’t trade seeing this for all the tribes in the Amazon.

“You sure did, sweetheart! We must tell Daddy.”

“I’m a big girl now.”

“You’re an Amazon princess who can go in the big girl potty. I’m so proud of you.”

“Wee!”

Most Creators would never sully their hands training their children like this. That was the Provider’s job, but Elui was not herself ever since she lost her mate, Ricci, and honestly, the Creator Heiress, Makana, was left to her own devices without much supervision when she was little. Kalani was not going to make that mistake with Hoku. She wanted to find a new Provider but couldn’t do that to Elui. She’d served this tribe for so long. Hopefully, in a few moons, she’d allow Elui’s daughter, Lilit, to step in and “help” all the while Lilit would actually be the “new” Provider and Kalani would find another position for Elui to fulfill.

Placing Hoku with her toys in the living room, the mouth watering scent of blackened fish drifted through the air. “What are you cooking, my love?” Kalani asks.

“Horus went to the stream this morning and caught our supper. Wasn’t that nice of him, my rosy darling?”

“I never knew Horus to be a fisherman. I thought he liked only his plants.”

“Well, I gave him a rod and reel and he couldn’t refuse me now could he? I’m hard to resist when I’m demanding.” Runoi shot her a sultry look which only made Kalani laugh.

“I won’t disagree, my love,” Kalani says, eyeing Runoi with adoration. “You are indeed hard to resist.”

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Chapter 6.10 The Choice

It’s as if flies whine in Kanui’s ears as Lilit drones on and on about the height of the trees or the ambiance of the jungle flora. Kanui doesn’t care for such things. Nor has she asked him one question to take him out of this boring stupor.

His thoughts instead drift to Kiko and what Newlin is up to with her. No doubt he has conspired to wriggle his serpent ways to charm her. She had been Kanui’s pupil in the art of combat, after all. Yes, Kanui isn’t the best in mana, but he isn’t awful. Why did she allow Newlin to talk her into his training? It feels as if she’s slapped Kanui in the face. And now, he’s just a tag-a-long, stuck with a neverending chatterbox.

“And so I think you and I should find the temple. It’s not far, Kanui. Probably only a half day’s trek.” Lilit smirks. “I hear there’s a potion of ecstasy given as a reward to those who make the journey. Wouldn’t you like that, slave?”

But all Kanui registers from her words is “slave”.

Slave?

Oh, that’s him. “Um…yes…quite.” That phrase always fit whatever the daft woman was saying.

Pumping her fist, she blurts, “Then tomorrow it shall be!”

That outburst wakes him up. “My lady?” Kanui asks.

Wiggling her eyebrows, she says in a sultry voice, “We’re going to have fun on our journey, Kanui. Just you wait and see.”

This proclamation squeezes Kanui’s stomach, not realizing what he’s gotten himself into, but with Lilit, how is he to refuse? Unless Kiko has something else for him to do, he is honor bound to fulfill the wishes of any Amazon of his tribe.

Wanting to get out of there, he raises his finger. “Um…my lady, I’m in need of a restroom. If you don’t mind?”

Lilit gives a giggle and says, “Of course, Kanui. You don’t have to ask my permission, silly.”

Happy to be rid of Lilit’s annoyance, Kanui makes for the outdoor restrooms when he spies two people walking into the village.

As he steps closer, he realizes the couple is not the normal tourists who come from all over the Amazon to enjoy the spoils of the jungle and its myths, magic, and treasures.

It is none other than Newlin and Kiko.

And Newlin has his arm coiled around Kiko like the snake he is!

“Good Maker, what’s going on?” Kanui mumbles, glaring.

Hand in hand, Newlin says with a smug look, “Hello, Kanui. Why are you waiting here like a sentry ready for battle? As you can see, Kiko is quite safe with me.”

“Sorry, but it looks as if she’s anything but,” Kanui retorts.

The two glare at each other like bulls ready to fight.

Kiko is shocked by this, but it also makes her smile inside. She didn’t realize Kanui was this protective over her. What Amazon doesn’t like slaves fighting for her notice?

Swiftly, Newlin takes Kiko’s hands and says, “It’s been a wonderful night, my lady. I hope tomorrow’s lessons will be as…fruitful?”

Lessons? Oh yes. But they’d only kissed by the rushing waterfall, under the bright moonlight. She would need to be more careful with him the following day. For they only had a few weeks until they needed to return home.

As Newlin kisses her hands, flutters tingle through Kiko, making her cheeks warm.

And then Newlin walks away, but not before he gives a glowering look at Kanui.

Guilty feelings course through Kiko and she stammers, “H-How are you tonight, Kanui? Did you and Lilit have fun together? The village market usually has many interesting things for trade. Did you pick out something special?”

But instead of a friendly answer, Kiko is met with a critical stare. “What exactly happened between you and Newlin tonight?”

Taken aback at his tone, Kiko says, “I don’t see how that is any of your business.”


Kanui tries his best to quell his anger, but a little mars his voice, “You do realize it’s forbidden for you to mate before your young adult birthday.”

Indignation courses through Kiko at these words. “Are you accusing me of something despicable, slave?”

Standing his ground, Kanui answers, “No. But I don’t trust Newlin.”

“I think you should trust me,” Kiko counters. “And it hurts me deeply that you would think so little of my judgement.”

Pumping his fists by his side, Kanui hisses, “He’s a snake, Kiko. You shouldn’t even be as close as you are to him. If you go on like this…” Kanui stops himself before he says something unforgiveable. Instead, he pleads with her, locking her eyes with his. He wants to be her choice. Why can’t she see it’s folly to seek out a man like Newlin?

But he knows he’s gone too far when he sees anger wash over her features.

“You would do well to think about yourself and not meddle in the affairs of others, Kanui. Good night.”

Sliding past him without another glance, Kiko stalks off toward their accommodations. Kanui knows he’s lost her, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

*****

A week goes by and Newlin has given much training to Kiko, more than Kanui ever did in the moons she’d spent in his tutelege.

“You’re strong now, Kiko,” Newlin says with pride. “My little dragonfly is becoming a real dragon. Unfortunately, I’ve gone easy on you up until now but that will be no more.”

Kiko is confused. “Have I not given my best, Master Newlin?” Newlin insisted she call him “Master” during their training times. She understood this and didn’t mind giving him this title as long as the title ceased once training stopped. Amazons should never be under the lordship of a man.

“You have, but now I want you on your GUARD!” Jerking his leg toward her face, she instantly moves to block him with hers.

“Yaaah!” Kiko cries, feeling the shock of Newlin’s large leg crash against hers. Pain erupts on her shin and she bites down on her lip stopping any cries.

“Breathe deeper! Feel the mana! Otherwise, I’ll best you in two minutes.”

Newlin comes at her again, but Kiko is quick and blocks this as well. Mana is hard. The most difficult art yet. It is not something one can obtain except through serious concentration. He didn’t give her enough time! “It’s not fair, Newlin. I wasn’t ready!”

Kicking her until she bows before him in submission, Newlin cries, “Will you say it’s unfair when someone ambushes you? Your enemy will not be fair. You must have mana within at all times. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master!” she yells, holding up her hand to receive yet another blow. “I understand!”

Kiko’s heart pounds painfully in her chest. Why is she so foolish? She doesn’t understand how to wield mana like Newlin does. Or how the great Queen Hawika Wahine did when she faced all those highly skilled Amazons in the ring for the quest of the crown. “I’ll never learn. You might as well give up on me.”

Dusting off his hands, Newlin drops on his back. “Oh no, little dragonfly. I’ll not let you off that easy. This time, you’ll use your mana to escape me even when it seems I’m weak.”

Confused, Kiko says, “But that makes no sense. If you’re laying on the ground, you’re finished.”

“Never underestimate a weakend enemy. They might be more powerful than you can even imagine. Now COME!”

Lunging toward Newlin, hoping to land a blow to his face, she feels a sickening jab to her stomach.

“Oomph,” she groans, hoping she doesn’t throw up.

“Dammit, Kiko, use your mana, not your head! AGAIN!”

Breathing deeply, Kiko feels a surge of warmth riddle through her. She is part of the air, the trees, the rocks, the ground. She sees the moves Newlin is about to make.

He punches at her face, but instead of a mere parry, she is more than ready for him.

*****

After the training session is over, Kiko’s muscles feel as if they’re screaming at her. Exhausted, she flops to the ground. “Why is mana so difficult to learn, Newlin?”

Shrugging, he says, “If it were easy, more people would master it. But only a few…a very few…are dedicated enough to learn its ways.”

“Is that why Kanui isn’t good at it?”

Cocking his head, Newlin says, “I believe in addition to tenacity, mana is also a gifting passed down. My father was talented in the art as was my grandmother, Queen Hawika. Although Kanui and I share the same grandmother, he was not given this gift for I do believe he has the inclination.”

Sadness caught in Kiko’s throat. “What if I don’t have this talent? Maybe this is all a waste of time.”

Draping his arm around Kiko and honking her nose, he says, “Do you believe I’m such an imbecile as to waste my time on an untalented oaf?”

“Newlin, stop!” Kiko cries.

“No,” Newlin squeezes Kiko closer to him and kisses her head. “You, my dragonfly, are gifted beyond measure. You will be a great Amazon Champion for our Creator Heiress, Makana, when she grows. Mark my words.”

The roar of the waterfall thunders behind them as Newlin speaks more words of affection in Kiko’s ear. She hopes he’s right and that she can be of use to the new heiress when it is the proper time.

*****

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Chapter 6.9 A Change of Power

Suddenly, Kiko blinks, trying to pull herself away from the slave.

“What am I doing?” she whispers.

“Kissing me, darling,” Newlin breathes, teasing his warm lips on hers.

It was like some unseen force has put her in a trance, making her forget all the infractions he’s done against her when she was young. She’d loved him so much when she was a child but he used her abominably, playing tricks on her.

Now, she only thinks of him as a friend.

Recoiling, she cries, “No!” and pushes him backward.

“Darling, what’s wrong?”

Kiko can still feel his lips on hers. She doesn’t want to admit she liked it. There is something about Newlin she’s always been attracted to even when she was little. “What have you done?” she accuses. “Put a spell on me? This place…it enhances mana but does it do other things, too?” Her heart speeds up.

Cradling Kiko in his arms, his warmth surrounds her and she caves, leaning into him. He brushes her hair away from her neck and whispers, “I am not my mother. I don’t need spells. And no…it only enhances mana, not romantic feelings.”

Kiko’s skin prickles with goosebumps. She curses herself for not getting away when she could. “This…this is not what I want. I don’t…like you like that.”

“You don’t, hmm?” He sighs, leaning over her. “You probably should update your body about this decision, sweetheart. She’s not listening.”

Kiko shivers at his touch, hating herself for enjoying it. “I…you…you’re j-just using tricks. It’s this place. It’s a…lie.”

“The only one lying is you, darling. You’re lying to yourself.”

“No I’m not. I’m…” Newlin cuts her off with a warm kiss, his tongue tenderly intertwining with hers making her dizzy. Mmm…she wonders why they’re there? Training?

Caressing her shoulders, Kiko is swept away like the rushing waters behind her. And she doesn’t care.

*****

Leia curses in her head. She knew this plan wasn’t as easy as Mor made it sound. A slave from Tribe Hanalani stops their entrance. “What is your business, strangers?”

“I am Mor Rigan. I’ve messaged your queen. She is expecting us. I bring her Creator Leia Wahine, the rightful heir to Tribe Wahine. We have business to discuss.”

The slave arches an eyebrow not moving. “Why was I not notified then? I am Master Slave Nob. I know about all visitors to Tribe Hanalani.”

“See for yourself then,” Mor continues. “Leia has the queen’s look about her. Bright blonde hair, blue eyes like the sky. They are quite famous, slave.”

Leia almost laughs at this statement. She did not realize how renown her family had gotten over the years.

The slave eyes Leia and grunts.

Mor switches tactics. “Do you wish punishment today, slave? Your creator will be quite displeased by your actions. Let us pass.”

Another slave walks up, saying, “I think she tells the truth, Nob. I recognize Creator Leia Wahine as Queen Hawika’s daughter. She came to our slave hold when she was a teen before I was brought into this tribe. I was but a child then but she looks very much the same.”

Unsmiling, Nob relents. “Fine. But only you and Creator Leia will pass. Leave the rest of your company here. No slave is to enter our compound or they will be sent to the Pillar of Punishment to die.”

Leia likes the way this slave is obedient and loyal to his tribe. Could she run the Amazon with obedient slaves like this? Would Hanalani Tribe help her embrace the crown?

“Very well,” Mor agrees. “Lead the way.”

Leia follows the slave into the warm yet haunting compound. Tribe Hanalani is one of the most fearsome tribes. Very rich. They are known for breeding the strongest women who sometimes grow taller than men. She wonders if they are not walking into a trap.

Nob bows before his creator. “Your grace, this woman insists upon meeting with you. Says she is Leia Wahine of Tribe Wahine.”

The creator lifts her mouth in a sly smile. “Thank you, Nob. You may take your position. I will meet with them.”

Leia feels a tingle of unease as she surveys the glaring women of the Creator’s court.

One of the women shoots daggers at Leia. This is all a mistake. They shouldn’t have come. What if they hand them over to her mother to die by drowning in the pit of death at the temple?

“I see you’ve made good on your promise, Mor Rigan. I am quite shocked by this but pleased.”

Mor nods, saying, “You see, I’ve brought her here and we are willing to make your tribe great, second only to Tribe Wahine. This is our vow to you as you well know Queen Hawika has tainted your tribe for all eternity. In spite of this harsh reality, the Maker is shining His face upon you as we speak.”

The creator winces at the name, Queen Hawika, for she killed her mother when she was but a babe. “I have always wanted vengeance for the death of my mother who should have been queen. Queen Hawika used magic tricks, defeating death in a most wicked way. Yes. I am here to help. What is your plan, Mor Rigan?”

Now is the time for Leia to take control. If she will be queen, she must not be Mor’s puppet. She speaks before Mor has a chance to explain, “I am here to say we must rid my tribe of all evil doers. We will be in contact with Mor’s son, Newlin. He will no doubt help us kill everyone in the compound. Under the shroud of night, we will come in and take over when all is quiet. They will not be on their guard. The one they are worried about, Simon LeBoeff, will give himself up and before they can cast him in the pit of death, we will attack.”

One of the women asks, “How do you know this Newlin is on your side?”

At this, Mor responds, “Newlin is my son. We correspond faithfully. He does not like his ill treatment as the lowest ranking slave and hates all the slaves who are not even born of the tribe but rank higher at the whim of Creator Kalani. Kalani is the daughter of a Tribe Wahine Tribal son–a slave–the son of Hawika. Not born of a Creator. This is heresy. All should die for this injustice.”

“Creator Leia,” the creator says, “will you allow me the status of second in command if we succeed in overthrowing Queen Hawika?”

Leia cocks her head, worrying for Mor. Wasn’t that her position? But what could she do? She needed Tribe Hanalani and their fearsome Amazon warriors. “Yes. You will be my royal council Shaman.”

The creator gives a confident look. “Then contact this Newlin. Tell him we will surround Tribe Wahine when he thinks their defenses are down. I am excited for this new journey with you, Creator Leia, and proclaim that you be the rightful queen of all the Amazon. I swear this by the blood of my ancestors it will be so.”

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Chapter 6.8 New Beginning

Newlin is not happy to be saddled with the bubble headed Lilit on this trip as well as Kanui. Kiko made it very clear to Newlin of her preference for the irritating Master Slave. But he would be on his game, making sure they separate for training.

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“Aww…isn’t he cute?” Kiko bends down to pet a stray boonie dog. Newlin hates the pests. The creatures would nose through their food stores, sometimes depleting them if they weren’t watching. But Newlin knows to keep these thoughts to himself. Kiko is an avid animal lover.

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Turning toward Kiko to distract her from the dog, Newlin says, “I do hope you’re ready to venture to the falls tomorrow, my lady. Training should begin immediately in the morning.”

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Beaming, Kiko answers, “Of course I’m ready. Why would you think otherwise?”

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“Maybe because you seem to be obsessed with a flea bitten mongrel instead of currying your mana.” Bloody hell. Newlin curses himself for allowing his disdain for the yelping nuisances come into full view. What will Kiko think of him?

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Pushing him, Kiko says, “Oh, come on, Newlin. Lighten up! I believe the jungle humid air is getting to you.”

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Surprised by her joviality, Newlin answers, “So, you will be ready then?”

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To say Kiko is frustrated would be an understatement. Newlin is already sucking all the fun out of this day. Kiko wants nothing more than to relax by a fire with Kanui, roast hot dogs, and tell scary stories. Why is he all work and no play? “Fine,” she grumbles. “I will be ready, if you must know.”

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His features relax and he says, “Good. I expect nothing less than obedience from you in the future. You are, after all, my pupil.”

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Kiko glares, even more infuriating feelings burn within her. “You do realize I’m the Amazon and you’re the slave. Correct?”

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Newlin’s eyes pierce Kiko making her stomach flutter. “I am always at your mercy, my lady.”

She nods with satisfaction at this answer.

“Except during training. Then you will be at mine.”

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*****

“Hee hee hee!” Lilit laughs incessantly. “You always say the funniest things, Kanui.”

For the love of the Maker, Kanui wonders what possessed Creator Kalani to entrap him in the jungle with this giggle factory. Lilit has made it clear from the time she could talk of her crush on him. He worries she will ask to be bonded with him or at least mate once she comes of age. And he also wonders if the Creator has had these thoughts as well.

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Arching his eyebrow, he states, “Um…I merely said what a nice night it was…?”

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“Yes, but you say it with such inflection, I can’t help but laugh. I’m soooo looking forward to our time together, if you know what I mean, Kanui.”

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He nods as a stone sinks within him. “Ah, quite.” Hoping to speak with Kiko and rid himself of Lilit for a little while, he spies Newlin chatting with her. He makes plans to sit next to her when they create a fire later.

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Unfortunately for Kanui, Newlin made a fuss about Kiko needing rest, so they all retreated into their rooms for the night. Fire absconded along with any mischievous thoughts of a romantic time alone.

The following morning as Kanui was about to ask Kiko to go on a hike, Newlin thrust his body in between Kanui and Kiko, saying, “It is time, my lady. It will take us all day to venure up the mountain to the falls. We must make haste at once.”

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“We will go with you then, Newlin,” Kanui says.

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“Sorry, dear friend, but the trails are haunted by a mean spirit that will only allow two through at once. Unless you want to try vexing the spirit, be my guest.”

Lilit smiles at Newlin.

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Turning to Kanui, Lilit says, “Newlin’s quite right about that. Oh drat. I did want to see the falls. Maybe when they get back you and I can venture forth?”

Defeated by an age-old legend, Kanui sighs. “Lovely.”

*****

Newlin wasn’t kidding when he said it would take all day to hike to the falls. Sweat pours down his face as he rips jungle vines from the old, creaky fences enshrouding the tribal trails.

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Kiko has to admit, the exercise enhances Newlin’s looks–brawny and strong, it is as if she’s just noticing Newlin for the first time.

The sun sets in the distance, displaying the beautiful violet and pink tones in the sky. “What is it, my lady?” Newlin asks.

Kiko’s cheeks color. He caught her gazing at him before she could look away in time.

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Stammering, Kiko recovers, “I-It is noth…I mean…isn’t this a beautiful sunset, Newlin?” Her eyes lock onto his and her insides dance as though to the tune of a new favorite melody.

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Newlin gazes upon the girl he so wishes to bond. Could his luck have changed? Does Kiko have eyes for him after all? “The sunset is lovely, dear lady, but not as beautiful as the light in your eyes.” Newlin stifles an urge to kiss at least her hand, but he knows it is not time.

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She smiles hoping to change the subject. She does not know what has come over her. One minute she delights in Kanui and the next, Newlin. She doesn’t like her fickle heart. “Oh w-well, it seems we are here at the falls, are we not, Newlin? And right on time, too.”

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The sound of rushing water roars in the mist. “Breathe in deeply, my lady, for your mana must strengthen before we begin.”

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But instead of moving to position or even breathing deeply as he commands, Kiko merely watches the horizon.

She thinks about Newlin in a whole new way. How he only has a desire to make her a better warrior. And he was the one to lead her to such a place as this. Plus, he’s a prince with royal blood in his veins–not from an accursed line as Kanui. Why did she not think of Newlin in a better light before?

“What is wrong, my lady? Are you well?” Newlin asks, perplexed.

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“I am blown away by the majesty of this place, Newlin. Can you feel it? The power? You were right in taking me here.”

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And before Kiko knows what is happening, her hands are caressing Newlin’s warm chest as his soft lips sweetly kiss hers.

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His kiss deepens as Kiko longs to tell him all the thoughts buzzing through her mind. All desires of Kanui are lost in the wake of Newlin’s touch.

This is the man she’s been longing for all this time.

It is Newlin she will choose for her mate.

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Chapter 6.7 A Proposition

Little Hoku is growing leaps and bounds. Runoi is so proud of his sweet daughter. “You want to play with your tribal sister, Britta, my rosy flower?”

The tiny tot nods. She’s so bright, too, he thinks. A worthy princess. He is so glad Hoku  has a little agemate in Ina and Horus’ toddler, Britta.

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But Runoi cannot find Provider Eila to take Hoku for the day as Runoi has duties to gather tomatoes and onions for tonight’s supper. “That woman is never about,” he grumbles. “Ah, well…” Runoi places Hoku on his back and cries, “Where did my sweet Hoku go? I’ve misplaced her!”

Giggling, the tot says, “Here, Daddy!”

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“She’s not in the corner! She’s not on the bed! Oh, goodness, what’s a daddy to do without his lovely rose petal to play with?”

“I’m here!” she says, laughing. Runoi could hear her tinkling bell laughter all day. He praised the Maker for blessing him richly–beyond his dreams. Two beautiful Amazons to fill his days with joy.

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*****

Newlin sets to work, trying to convince Kiko she should spar with him. Already, she’s been training with Kanui for weeks. He waited until this moment because he knows he has more to offer than Kanui, and if she’s already experienced his inefficiency, she’ll be ready to shift to him. All he needed to do was put some doubt in her head, then maybe she’d listen to his plan.

“Might I have a word with you, my lady?” he asks formally.

Bright smile beaming from her face, she says, “Of course, Newlin. What is it you wish to speak with me about?”

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“I want to offer you a proposition of a far superior training regimen than Kanui is doing with you. If you wish to be the Grand Champion of Tribe Wahine, you must be proficient in all areas, including martial arts, swordplay, and archery. Kanui is not a master in any of those fields.”

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Stunned at the truth of his words, Kiko asks, “Will you help me with that, Newlin? What do you propose?”

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“In order to get you in the right frame of mind, your mana must exceed what it is now. The way to do that is to journey to the ancient temples of Rosa. There, you will achieve the most heightened mana and I will be able to teach you swiftly.”

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“B-But that is all the way to the east, in deep jungle. The Creator would never allow it.”

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“But we will never be allowed to unless you ask. Do this, Kiko. I am sure the Creator will see its sagacity.”

But Kiko does not wish to leave Kanui’s tutelage. With his warm smiles and baby blue eyes, she was in heaven whenever in his company. When the time comes, she hopes to ask him to be her mate. And with the coming changes in the Amazon, she more than hopes she will pair bond with him and make him hers forever.

“Well done, my lady. You are stronger than ever today,” Kanui encourages, sending pangs of joy through her. She wants to feel his strong arms wrap about her.

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Unfortunately, she gets lost in these thoughts and stumbles. She picks herself up and starts punching the bag again.

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But as the sweat on her forehead dribbles down her face, Newlin’s words pierce her to the core. He is right. She’ll never achieve mastery worthy of a Champion if she only works out her arms. She must know martial arts and weaponry.

As much as she hates to admit it, Kanui is not equipped to help her in this realm. She will have to leave his strong arms, if only for a little while. Newlin was a good friend to her. And once the training ends, she can come back and flutter her lashes at her one true love, Kanui.

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*****

Newlin cannot believe what he is hearing. It has been moons since he made the suggestion to trek to the ancient temple. He thought Kiko forgot about it, but to his surprise, Kiko has just asked the Creator to journey with him on this venture. His plan is working!

He can see it now. The setting will be gorgeous and the timing right. He will woo her up on top of the mountains by the mist of the great waterfalls. She will be his and he will be hers. His joy cannot be contained.

“Make sure to bring a chaperone,” Creator Kalani says. “I know…I’ll send Kanui and maybe one of your tribal sisters with you. Will that make you happy, Kiko?”

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Warm sensations spring through Kiko. Kanui will be coming on the journey! “Oh, yes, your grace. Thank you so much!”

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*****

Leia cannot believe the audacity of the plan Mor and her daughter have come up with.  “And what if we are imprisoned as we enter the Hanalani throne room? What is to stop their Creator from giving me over to my mother for similar favor?”

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“Why, you forget who you’re talking to, dearest Leia. I am powerful. Full of magic. Do not fear. We will conquer.”

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And so, Leia’s heart leaps as the journey to the Hanalani throne room finally comes to an end. It took many moons, trekking to the south until the famous skull protectors entered her view. Feelings of great foreboding course through her. Was Leia making a grave mistake?

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Chapter 6.6 Plans of Revenge

Leia has never met such a fearsome Amazon as this. She is the biggest woman she’s ever laid eyes on–almost like the notorious Hanalani sisters of old whom her mother barely won against in the Quest for Queen Trials. If it wasn’t for her Uncle Hagan’s Sixam tricks, she would have lost.

Thankfully, Mor sidles beside her daughter and wears a tight smile. “It is fine, Alena. These are friends.”

The blonde woman lowers her sword but does not change her countenance.

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Leia is not happy by this cold greeting. “I wonder why you did not inform your children of our arrival. You did send your slave to fetch me, did you not, old friend?”

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“You know as well as I do times are dangerous,” Mor answers. “One cannot be too cautious.”

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“Then, if we are welcome, why does your daughter look ready to fight?” Leia is very confused by these mixed signals. Mor is not one to be trusted. She must have an ulterior motive if she wants to help Leia rise to the top instead of herself.

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Commanding her daughter as if she is a grunt in her own personal army, Mor barks, “At ease, Alena.”

The daughter obeys quickly.

With a smirk on her face, Mor explains, “You see the power of my children? They have been highly trained in the art of war and they will follow you wherever you go as your own personal guards. Are you not impressed?”

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Gazing at the warrior, Leia nods. “I would be happy to have such a guard as her. I’m quite shocked my brother produced such a beast of a woman. He is not a very tall man.”

“Ah but it must be the blessing of the Maker that made her so large. She does look like Aulani.”

“She does. May I be formally introduced?” Leia does not like how Mor treats Alena–more like a slave than a precious daughter.

“Of course. Creator Leia, this is my dearest daughter, Alena Rigan, and her brothers, Finnegan and Vance.”

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Alena gives a curt nod as the boys bow before Leia.

“Please come in and let us get more comfortable,” Mor simpers. “We have much to discuss.”

Vance places food and drinks on the table but not for the slaves Leia notices. She has never seen such ill treatment of slaves. It is of the days of old–when women ruled the Amazon with iron fists. Slaves cowered before their domineering women and never ate with them nor sat among them. But Leia wishes Tonai to stay with her. Since their departure from their almost certain death at her mother’s hands, their love has been rekindled and all has been forgiven and forgotten between them. He is her partner for life now.

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“Did Simon inform you of my plan, Creator Leia?” Mor asks.

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Leia shifts trying to grow warmer by the fire. She is not used to the cold mountain air. She is a child of the desert and would not wish to stay here for very long. She wonders how Mor can stand to wear no sleeves.

“He stated you had a plan to overthrow my mother and put me in the place of queen and my daughter, Leilani, as Creator of Tribe Wahine. This must be a most ambitious plan. My mother’s Royal Amazon army is renoun and we’d have to kill all the Wahine Tribe members as they are loyal to Kalani and my mother.”

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“Not all Tribe Wahine members. I still have a son who lives among them. He would be your ally. As for your mother’s army–her liberal leadership will be her undoing. With each moon, she passes a new decree giving slaves even more rights which is playing right into our hands. I am in contact with the Hanalani tribe. They have other tribes who are in support of you, Creator Leia. All we need to do is meet with them. They want to see you as well as ask a favor if you would be ushered in as queen.”

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“The Hanalani Tribe?” Leia almost laughs. “Why would they help me become queen? They’ve always wanted the crown for themselves. Sounds like a trap. I wouldn’t trust them.”

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Mor arches an eyebrow. “Many tribes were incensed at your ill treatment and want you as queen. They do not trust the Hanalani Tribe either. Without you, that tribe is powerless. This is your moment, Leia. You must seize the opportunity the Maker has laid before your feet!”

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“I’m not sure how I feel about civil war. Amazon killing Amazon. And what of Tribe Wahine?”

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For the first time, Alena speaks with an undeniably deep voice for a woman, “Allow me to share of this, Mother.”

Never looking at her daughter, Mor says, “Very well.”

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*****

Before Newlin can say a word to Kiko and tell her what a beautiful creature she is, Kanui blocks his advances.

“What is that you’re reading, my lady?” he asks. “Wicked Slaves in Wicked Times? I thought that was banned suns ago.”

Cheeks flushing, she giggles. “Stop it, Kanui. You know such a tome does not exist. It is just a fighting manual. I’m going to be Tribe Wahine’s new Champion. At least, I hope so.”

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Newlin is outraged his cousin jumped in front of him like that. He is too old for Kiko as a mate. Nearly five suns older!

Kanui sits next to Kiko and says, “Allow me the honor of helping in your training. I was taught by Kandor and you know he’s the best.”

Fluttering her eyelashes, Kiko says, “I would be delighted if you would, Kanui.”

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That brat, Newlin thinks. Well, two can play at that game to win Kiko’s favor. Newlin is much better at martial arts than Kanui or Kandor and that is what Amazons specialize in since their muscles are smaller than a man’s. And he is an excellent archer. This should be no contest. Newlin will help Kiko and then she should come around to him.

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Chapter 6.5 Birthdays!

 

After a long arduous night of labor, Kalani is rewarded with another daughter!

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“What should we name her, my love?” Kalani asks her mate. Her heart squeezes with joy just looking at him cradle their newest baby.

“My, another rosy beauty. I’m quite touched by the Maker’s blessing on us, my delicate flower queen! I wish to call her Hoku for it means star. Is she not going to blaze among us like the stars in the sky? I know she will. Yes, dear one, you will be second only to your sister, and I will have to beat the slaves away from you, indeed I will.”

Makana loves seeing what a wonderful father Runoi is to his children–something new for this generation of tribal women. Kalani hopes there will be no war. How could women be so narrow minded to take away a man’s right to be a father?

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*****

The tribe is bustling with the news of a new tribal daughter being born. Hoku Wahine has arrived and it is time to celebrate. Kanui feels for his cousin who still lingers in the Pillar of Punishment. Even if Newlin has only been in there two days, Kanui believes he’s learned his lesson by now and should join in the festivities of the tribe.

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*****

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the compound, the Creator Heiress sobs for all have forgotten her birthday with the addition of her little sister. Although she is glad to see the  wailing babe, she feels as if no one cares for her. Even her father forgot to make the cake he’d promised.

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She cries bitterly into her hand. This isn’t how she should be treated. Surely?

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Suddenly, she looks up and sees her Uncle Newlin smiling upon her.

“Hello, Creator Heiress! I’ve been away, I’m afraid. I forgot to wish you a happy birthday! Was it everything you’d hoped for? You sure have grown and look ever more the part of a princess!”

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Makana giggles. She’s always been so close to her uncle as he often would take care of her during the day when the simpleminded Eila would forget about her duties as Provider. She never understood why the other slaves didn’t like him. “Hello, Uncle. I’m very well now that I’ve seen you. Now my birthday is complete!”

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“That is good indeed because I made you a special gift. Come with me and I’ll show you.”

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Makana loves her uncle so much that she wishes he was the Master Slave instead of Kanui. When it was her duty to become Creator, she wonders if she’ll have the power to appoint a new Master Slave. This is something she will ask her mother when the time comes forth.

*******

After Newlin gave Makana her gift–a wooden horse which she held like it was made of glass and wrapped her arms about him in a wonderful hug, he makes his way into the family room to take a look at the newest member of the tribe–princess Hoku. He loves Makana like a daughter and feels very protective of her. He wonders if he’ll feel the same way toward Hoku.

But then he notices someone else had a birthday while he was locked up. Kiko grew into a teen–and more than that–she became very beautiful indeed.

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Isn’t he lucky she already holds a crush for him? This would be too easy. And he thinks if he could be a mate of one of the tribal sisters, he would not have to do all the menial tasks. Being a mate held more status than being a mere son of the tribe. This is a new decree that was passed only four moons ago, something many conservative tribes grumbled against. In suns past, the law said only Creators were allowed this privilege.

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As it is, Newlin is the lowest ranking slave in the tribe. He constantly did all the dirty, disgusting duties.

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It is time to throw on the charm.

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Chapter 6.4 Rumblings

Newlin cannot believe he’s stuck in the Pillar of Punishment. The last time he was here, that awful, evil man trapped him in there when he was just a kid.

The violent, Amazon painting seems to scream at him from the wall, too.

Kanui went too far this time. Newlin didn’t do anything that horrible. Why is he being treated like a common criminal? Surely, this Master Slave is too full of himself and doesn’t deserve the right to lead the slaves of Tribe Wahine. “I’d never put my cousin in this hell hole,” he grumbles to himself as his stomach gurgles with hunger. How many days has he suffered in here?

“Insufferable man,” Newlin thinks. “I’ll never forgive him for this outrage.”

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*****

Aulani and Ina come to say farewell to the Creator. “It is time for your mother to go back to the palace. She is desperately needed. There are murmurs of unrest and decrees must be decided on.”

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Kalani’s heart squeezes. “But Father, I’m about to have this new baby. Can’t you wait just a little while? At least you should stay.”

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Ysa interjects, “I am in need of your father’s protection for the journey back. These are unsettling times, my daughter.”

Aulani shrugs. “Please send Newlin to us if he gives you any more trouble. He might need a change of scenery after his punishment.”

Chuckling, Kalani says, “He’s going to be angrier than a hornet’s nest that’s been upset by a bear. But never fear, Father, I know how to handle my incorrigible brother. His displeasure will not last.”

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*****

Many weeks pass and Kalani is very near to the birth of her second child. Kandor comes with tidings of leaving her as well. “Might I have a word, Creator.”

“Of course, Kandor. I’m always available to you.”

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“I feel a bit unsettled about leaving Tribe Wahine at this time. Are you sure your grandmother needs me?”

Kalani shakes her head. “I wish it were otherwise, Kandor, for I, too, do not wish my strongest slave to vanish when we are under such threat of that wicked killer, Simon LeBoeff, but what can I do? It is by order of Queen Hawika that you go. In due time, you’ll be back with us.”

Kandor gives a genuine smile. “Well, if it of great importance then. That is the only way I would be able to go even if it is only for a little while.”

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Kandor went on, “The Queen had mentioned in her letter to me that she fears civil war. If that is the case, I want to implore you not to send Runoi.”

“Why would you ever think I’d send my mate?”

Kandor cocks his head. “Because he stated to me not long ago that he wishes to fight for the rights of slaves, and if need be, pick up the sword himself and enlist in the growing Royal Army of Slaves second only to the Royal Amazon army.”

Knitting her eyebrows, Kalani wonders why her love never mentioned something like this to her. She flips her hand, swishing that thought away. “That’s absurd. You may mark my words, Runoi will not be allowed to go even if it is his grandest wish.”

Kandor nods. “You are wiser than your mate, of course. He is lucky to have you by his side, my lady.”

Kalani spies a glimmer of sadness etch his face.

Scooting back from his chair, the slave bows then walks toward the kitchen where Runoi is busy making a cake.

“What is it you’re making there, Runoi? Someone’s birthday?”

Runoi glibly nods. “But you know very well it is the Creator Heiress’ birthday, Kandor. And you also know I heard everything you said to my rosy sweetheart. Do you think you have more power than I? If I truly wish a thing, it will happen.”

Kandor laughs. “Think what you like, Runoi, but our Creator will do what she knows is for the good of the tribe. Having a breeding slave like you fight in the army is not wise.”

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“Really now? You think I cannot handle a few swords? Watch this!” Runoi spins two kitchen knives with finesse. “If that is not talent, I do not know what is.”

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Kandor shakes his head. “I will not argue with you, my friend. This is all up to our Creator, but on this point, I know you will lose.”

“Would you like to wager me, Kandor? Am I not a man? Does my sweet rosy angel not adore me more than the moon and stars themselves? If I make an ardent request, she will allow it.”

Just then Kalani, frought with pain, waddles up to the men. With quick breaths, she moans, “Runoi…it is time.”

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Panicking, Runoi spills the cake bowl on the floor. “Do not worry, my love, I am here to serve you in your hour of torture. We will do this together!”

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All through the night, Runoi rubs his love’s back as the Creator goes through the arduous journey of labor.

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Chapter 6.3 Brat Prince

 

Horus cannot not believe his eyes.

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He is the father of a beautiful Amazon daughter, Britta Samai.

“Do you need any help, love?”

“She just fed, so I think we’re okay,” Gatherer Ina Samai said. Thank you for checking on us.”

Ina had been up all night with tending to his little princess. Horus is beyond ecstatic with how things turned out. Originally, he vyed for being the mate of Kalani Wahine, the Creator of this tribe. It was between him and Kalani’s mate, Runoi.

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He thought undoubtedly she’d choose him, a prince and a free man, but she didn’t.

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And although he was crushed, he feels so differently now. He is part of the strongest tribe, loves the best woman, and is the father of the most beautiful daughter. How could the Maker bless him any more than this?

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******

Going to the side yard to observe Newlin’s progress, Kanui is surprised to see most of the boulders gone and Kiko chipping away at the last one.

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“Miss Kiko, may I ask what you’re doing here?”

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The Master slave never ceases to force nervous jitters in Kiko’s stomach. Swallowing, she answers, “I am clearing them to make way for the Creator Heiress’ playground.” Was he cross with her?

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“Did Newlin put you up to this?”

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Her heart leaps at the mention of her crush’s name. She cannot wait for her teen birthday which is only days away. She hopes one day she will make Newlin her mate. Arching an eyebrow, she says, “Yes. He wished to give me a gift of his Amazon Delights if I would do him this favor. It is not a problem at all for me and I adore those candies.”

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Kanui should have guessed Newlin would try to wriggle out of work, but this is unconscienable. Newlin will be punished for this infraction. “I’m very sorry, young miss, but Newlin ate all his Amazon Delights moons ago therefore he cannot bestow this payment to you for your hard work.”

Eyes narrowing, Kiko retorts, “You lie, Master Kanui. Newlin would never do that to me.”

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Waving an arm, he says, “I wish it were not so but I watched him eat the last of them myself. I promise, Newlin will be thoroughly punished for his callous behavior.”

Kiko barely hears this as her face heats up and tears spurt from her eyes. Her heart is broken. How could Newlin be so mean to her?

Anger courses through Kanui as he watches the poor girl cry. He will find Newlin and put him in the Pillar of Punishment for this outrage.

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******

Searching all over the compound, Kanui cannot find the impudent slave anywhere. He asks Horus and Kandor for their help. Finally, he finds Newlin across the way.

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“Get up, lazy slave,” Kanui orders. “You’re coming with me.”

Newlin has just settled down in a comfortable slumber. How dare Kanui interrupt his nice nap? “If you’re worried about the task you set, I finished it up. Now leave me be. All my work is done.”

Kanui cannot believe Newlin’s boldness. But soon, he’ll find out what happens when Newlin tries to cheat.

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“You made Kiko cry with your lies, Newlin. I will not tolerate this behavior. You will get up now and come with me.”

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What did that silly girl tell him? “Good Maker, Kanui, you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Kiko wanted to help me. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to my break.” He closes his eyes again.

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With malice lacing his low voice, Kanui orders, “Get up now or I will have no choice but involve the Creator and you know what that means.”

Kanui is an overbearing brat. Newlin rolls his eyes. “Fine. But mark my words, Kanui, I will be sure to interrupt your nap next time for this.”

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“How could you hurt Kiko like you did?” Kanui erupts. “You lied and told her you would pay her for her services. Have you no shame, man? You will come with me to the Pillar of Punishment. And if you give me any trouble, you will stay there for three days.”

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“You must be joking, Kanui. I did nothing as bad as that to suffer in the Pillar. Surely. I would have made it up to Kiko. She’s a good girl.”

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“I am not joking, slave. You made one of our tribal sisters cry on top of forcing me to find you every day to do the work you know must be done. I’ve warned you.”

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Now Newlin is getting angry. Crossing his arms, Newlin spits, “Make me.” Although Kanui is larger than him, Newlin is very skillful in martial arts. He knows he could win in a fight.

Kanui snaps his fingers. Instantly, Horus and Kandor comes to his side. “Very well.”

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Newlin’s bravado seeps out like air in a popped balloon. “Shit.”

*****

After a fortnight of traveling, the skies grow darker and the air cooler. Leia does not like the foreboding she feels in her bones. But she is determined to hear what Mor has in mind. She hasn’t seen her friend since she was cast out of the Amazon by her own mother. Sentenced to a dishonorable death, Mor bravely used her magic to spirit Leia, Tonai, and Mor away from threat. The Queen then sent a decree, which granted her exile rather than suffer from the many bounty hunters that would have found her as well as her personal slave, Tonai.

“Mother,” her daughter, Leilani moans, “this is a very creepy place. Must we go here?”

“Do not fear, my dear one. Mor is a great friend. We will be quite all right.” She hopes.

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As they move toward what looks like the entrance, surrounded by glowing skulls, Leia has to remind herself of this fact. Everything here seems steeped in evil.

Just then, guards stop their path.

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A huge, menacing Amazon snarls, “Take one step further and you’ll lose your heads, trespassers.”

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