6.34 New Directions

A week passes and Makana walks around the compound like a zombie. She still can’t wrap her head around the fact that her parents and her tribal friends are gone.

When suddenly, she looks up and sees her grandparents. Heart melting, she rushes over to them and holds them like she’s dangling from a rope thrown over a cliff.

It’d been suns since she’d seen them. Her grandmother, Ysa Wahine, is the queen’s Explorer. Word went out to them and they traveled many miles to come to their daughter’s wake at the temple.

Her grandfather, Aulani, says, “We are with you, dearest Makana, and will not leave until you do not need us anymore.”

It is like a warm blanket having them here. “Thank you, Grandfather. That is a comfort.”

“Be prepared. The queen is coming behind us. She will wish to speak to you.”

Knots form in Makana’s stomach. Although the queen is her great grandmother, she is also a very powerful woman. Makana doesn’t want to disappoint her. She is not ready to see her.

As her grandfather warned, the great Hawika Wahine stands before Makana with her personal guard.

It is nice to see Kandor, her old tribal mate, again, but as he is on duty, he doesn’t look at her. Queen Hawika is ancient–nearly ninety suns old, but she looks younger than her son, Aulani. This is because she is the legendary Firestorm–a queen who rebirths once she grows old. The cycle will never end. She will be the everlasting ruler. And because of this, it gives Makana shivers.

“Makana,” the queen says in a commanding voice, making the girl jump. “It is with a heavy heart I am here under these circumstances. Please. Let us visit in one of your sitting rooms. I have much to say.”

Makana barely hears a word the queen is saying. Why is this happening? Makana doesn’t wish to be the new Creator. She is still only a teenager.

“And so, once the wake is over, I will induct you in as Tribe Wahine’s Creator. We have many enemies, dearest one. Therefore, I am giving you two of my fiercest slaves to watch over you day and night.”

Makana looks behind the queen’s guard at two very strong looking slaves. The taller one is named Aenor and the other Salvius. Both were picked by the queen herself to serve Makana.

“Thank you, great grandmother,” Makana says, overwhelmed by the queen’s kindness.

“Oh, dear one, I am so sorry you must grow up too soon. I assure you I am sending a covert group of hunters to take care of those who did this. Please do not fear. Judgement is coming for them.”

The thing Makana most dreads in her whole life is visiting the Temple of Urns. It is for Creators only. Makana knows the urn’s place for Queen Firestorm will always sit empty, but she never thought she’d come here for her mother before her grandmother, Ysa.

The queen’s guard watches near the Tribe Wahine banner. This section is for their creators’ remains. Only close relatives are allowed to grieve on temple grounds. No other tribal mates are permitted. This means Makana, her sister, Hoku, her grandfather, Aulani, her grandmother, Ysa, and her great-grandmother, Hawika, attend.

Makana views the first two urns–Creator Abra, who started Tribe Wahine, and her daughter, Buffy–both very great Creators who grew the tribe to tremendous heights back in ancient days.

*****

Hawika is aghast at seeing her own very empty place where her urn should rest.

She knows it is her curse that has befallen her tribe. She outwitted death all of these years. The Grim Reaper always makes payment. She was told this many suns ago. Why didn’t she listen? She thought the ten lives she took at the Queen’s Quest would be enough but it is apparent she was gravely mistaken. And now, poor Makana, must suffer for Hawika’s sins.

They look on at Kalani’s urn–many suns too soon for this.

It sparkles in the morning light.

Makana will shed tears for many more suns. She will never forgive those who did this to her tribe. She will seek vengeance herself. She vows this before her mother’s ashes.

******

It is with heightened trepidation that Alena makes her way back to her mother.

If this meeting would pass, Alena would wish it so, but…she must own up to her own folly.

Her mother is cooking up a new potion. She wonders what it is. It smells…rancid.

Then her mother looks up and her gaze grips Alena’s heart painfully.

“You,” she hisses. “How dare you show up without your brothers. Tell me you didn’t leave without killing all of them.”

But words don’t come to Alena’s lips. How can she confess her mistakes? She didn’t have the heart to kill the babes. She is not a worthy assassin.

Her mother senses the despicable answer. She narrows her eyes. “They are alive? And your brothers are dead?”

“I…I killed most of them,” Alena stammers.”Creator Kalani and her mate are dead. I would have killed them all but…their Warrior was too strong and…Newlin, he…” These excuses sound weak even to Alena’s ears.

“And you didn’t kill Newlin?” she asks as if it is an easy thing to kill a brother. Her own child.

Alena is weak. She isn’t like her mother. And although Newlin thought he’d strangled her, even he didn’t try his best because of their sibling bond. “No, Mother, he snuck up on me and with his mana…”

Mor cuts her off, “I do not want to see you again until you hand me the queen’s head. Or I will hunt you down myself and make you pay for your brothers’ lives. Now go.”

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6.33 Aftermath

It feels as if this night will never end. The reality of her parents and her friends deaths are too much to comprehend. Add that to seeing her little sister in pain, Makana is beyond distraught.

At least little Britta is there to comfort Hoku. The two are inseparable. Makana is thankful they broke the rules and left the compound on a frog fishing errand.

And when the two break down crying, Makana’s sadness deepens. Britta lost her mother, too.

Why did this have to happen? Tribe Wahine has always been peaceful.

Her uncle had explained his part in this tragedy. His evil mother, Mor, and his sister, Alena, were mostly to blame. If it wasn’t for him, all her tribe would be gone but he valiantly saved those he could and for that, she will forgive him. But Makana will stop at nothing to see that witch Mor Rigan and her daughter, Alena, drown in the waters of the Pit of Death. A death too good for either of them. Maybe Makana will seek vengeance of her own. And her uncle will help her. He owes her this.

*****

Mist hands Newlin a vial of medicine to give to Kiko. She must run to the tribe across the river for help. They need more stores of herbs and potions if she is to save Kiko. The woman is near death and there’s no time to lose.

Newlin shakes Kiko hoping to rouse her enough so she can drink the green liquid.

“Open up, my love,” he coaxes, pulling on her lips. How he’d missed her in the suns of his absence. Too bad it is almost by his hand that she may lose her life. He will never forgive himself for this.

Shaking her head gently, he hopes she will awaken. “Come on, honey, you must take this to get better.”

Eyes slowly opening, Kiko whispers, “Newlin? Is that you?”

“Yes, sweetheart. I’m here. For how long, I do not know, but…you must get better, my love. I won’t leave you until you are recovered.”

She nods then falls back to sleep–her chest breathing slowly up and down.

Newlin prays to the Maker that she will get stronger. He will drown himself in the Pit of Death if she is taken by the Grim Reaper.

“Newlin,” Kiko says hoarsely, “do not worry. My mana is strong.” She rubs his arm then drifts back into the clouds of slumber.

Her mana is strong, this is true.

But mana cannot save a wounded person who has lost as much blood as Kiko has. It will take a miracle for her recovery. Newlin worries that his sister might return, too. They are like sitting ducks. With only him to guard, the tribe is seriously at risk. They must flee to another tribe. He will speak to Makana about this.

*****

Aley’s world is turned upsidedown. His Creator, the slave Runoi, and most of the women are gone from this world. And he was sleeping instead of guarding like a proper slave should be doing. If only he were stronger!

And now with no Provider, the children are without a caretaker. Aley checks on his baby girl Xenia who is sleeping soundly as if there are no troubles in the world. He moves next to the children’s room.

All seems as it should be.

Aley says a blessing over each child. Slave or no, they deserve better. The tribe is cursed. That is apparent. But the Maker did give Aley a child. A miracle. Maybe he would lift the curse from these babes as well.

First he whispers over Dak, Newlin’s son, “You will become a great Master Slave and make up for your father’s crimes.”

Kissing little Ale, he whispers, “You will be sought after by many tribes and woo the hearts of a multitude of Amazons.”

Lastly, he tucks the covers around Alika’s tiny body. “And you will sire beautiful children and be strong just like your father was–a great asset to Tribe Wahine.”

Tears prick Aley’s eyes. He is determined to do his best for his tribe. He will not fail his new Creator.

*****

Newlin is alerted by strangers trespassing on Tribe Wahine’s land. A woman with kind eyes bows her head and says, “Please, slave, may we have a word with your Creator?”

Perturbed, Newlin answers, “My tribe is under duress, my lady. If you please, we are not in the market to buy anything. Now if you don’t mind, please see yourself off our land.”

Not moving, the woman says, “Your Shaman, Mist Mountain, came to us asking for help. We are here to protect you. I am Creator Simna Altair. My slaves are yours. Please use them. There are none better to guard in all the Amazon. May I present Korinnos the Wanderer?”

She motions to a man who looks as if he is in deep contemplation. An older man. What could he do for Tribe Wahine? Is this woman trying to foist her low hanging fruit on the tribe? Newlin is about to implore her to leave when she points to the other man.

“And this is Grogan the Beastmaster. His two cats are fearsome allies,” the woman explains. “You need not worry about another attack. They will patrol your grounds faithfully.”

*****

Makana seeks after the strangers. Is it time already to meet with other tribes? She’s not even the Creator. Not yet. She has to be sworn in. But who will lead the tribe? All the women are dead except for Mist and Kiko. But Kiko is badly wounded and she needs Mist to tend to her.

Makana feels like screaming, crying out all her pain. She wants time to mourn her loss. She’s not ready to become the leader of Tribe Wahine.

But the people don’t seem to want to leave. Masking her pain, Makana says, “I am the Creator Heiress, Makana Wahine. I kindly ask you to leave at once. Our tribe is not receiving guests.”

“Creator Heiress, I beg your pardon, but we’re here to help. I am Creator Simna Altair of Tribe Safron. We mourn your loss with you.

“Please receive my two slaves as a sympathy gift.” She motions to the men behind her. One very handsome and one who looks very strong.

“I also will help you with any duties you might require. Before the passing of our Creator I was the Gatherer. She birthed no daughters so the Creatorship fell to me. Please, my lady, we are at your disposal for we love your great grandmother, Queen Firestorm, and wish to be of service to her family.”

Then the three of them bow to her.

Makana is blown away at such kindness. How could she refuse such gifts?

Before the sun arose on that awful night, Makana welcomes three strangers whom she will soon call fellow mates of Tribe Wahine.

Thank you to Mrs. Racooney for supplying the very handsome Korinnos the Wanderer for Makana. He will be an asset to the tribe! 😏

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6.32 Tragedy

Warning: violence, blood

Everything is happening so fast. One moment Makana is asleep, the next she’s on the ground looking at her murderer. There is no way out. She’s doomed. Oh why does the Maker hate Tribe Wahine? The curse that has wound its way through generations is upon them. This is it.

The assailant raises her arm for the death blow but Makana isn’t ready. “No!” she cries.

But the strike doesn’t come. Makana hears gagging and some muffled words. Who is her savior?

“It’s no use in struggling, sister. Your mana is weaker than mine, and I’ve got you in my death grip.”

Makana recognizes that voice but is so disoriented. She cannot see his face.

*****

Newlin knew his folly once he stepped a boot on Tribe Wahine soil. He was going to murder the tribe. He had vengeance in his heart. Hadn’t the tribe deserved this when they cast out his mother? And all his siblings as well as him? But staying with Tribe Rigan clouded his judgement. And once he’d arrived at the Wahine compound, he knew which Tribe was good and which should be taken out.

When he approached the children’s quarters he’d heard Kalani’s screams. His sister moved swiftly. Damn it, he couldn’t save her. He would have her blood on his hands for all eternity. He decided he would not survive even if he managed to save most of them. He would make sure he paid for his treason.

His brother, Finn was supposed to wait on Newlin before he slayed any of the babes for fear they might wake up the others.

But instead, Finn raised his knife on the first one and Newlin had to move quickly to stop him.

Sliently, Newlin used the power of his mana to subdue his brother.

Then he slashed his neck before Finn knew what hit him.

And before Finn’s body grew cold, Newlin was shocked to see whose baby was about to be taken.

It was a boy who looked a lot like him. He knew this was his son.

“Don’t worry, little one,” Newlin whispered, bringing up the covers, “I will not allow anyone to hurt you.”

And now he holds Makana’s hands, heart beating in his chest. She has grown into a woman in the suns since he lived here. “I’m very sorry, Makana. I wish I could’ve done more to save everyone.”

“Newlin?” Makana is so shocked to see him. Mixed feelings of gratefulness and confusion pepper her. Her uncle is wearing the same assassin’s robes of the woman who was about to kill her. Why is he here?

And then shouts ring out on the west side. It sounds like Kiko!

Instantly, Newlin rushes away and she follows.

Newlin knows that voice. It is his love. How foolish is he to bring his siblings here on a death hunt. He would never forgive himself.

Makana is shocked to find Kiko–wounded and bleeding.

It looks as if she killed the assassin. She did her job well. But what of her? All the blood rushes out of Makana’s head when she surveys her wounds. Why is this happening?

Newlin races to her side. “Get your healer. Now, Makana!”

*****

As the healer, Mist Mountain, is taking care of Kiko, Newlin wanders through the compound surveying the destruction. His sister moved swiftly. And she’d escaped. When he walked back to the Creator’s bedroom, he noticed Alena had vanished.

He wonders if she kept up her killing spree, but the babies as well as the one slave who had been asleep were unharmed. Unfortunately, Alena had killed all the women who slept near the Creator’s quarters–Elue, Ina, and Lillit. Thankfully, Mist’s quarters were in the basement, so she made it out alive.

And when Newlin arrives in Kalani’s bedroom, his stomach clenches.

Kalani, his sister and Creator, is dead upon the bed, blood oozing from her chest. And Runoi, her mate, has his neck slashed, no doubt he tried to fend off Alena. But he was no match for her.

In defense of Tribe Wahine, Kanui fought valiantly, Newlin could tell, since the evil Simon LeBeoff’s still body lay in the hallway. But unfortunately, Kanui suffered too many wounds and there was nothing Newlin could do to save him.

Fresh pangs of guilt and sorrow riddles through him. He will miss his old friend.

Although they didn’t see eye to eye most of the time, at the very end, Kanui was good to him.

*****

Makana walks through her tribe’s compound in a haze. Is this not just a horrible nightmare? Makana wishes she could wake up. Her insides are screaming and she wants to throw up.

Her uncle would not allow her to see her mother’s or her father’s bodies. But he assured her they were gone to the Maker. She shudders.

No more will she ever see her father’s rich smiles and hear his silly jokes or hearty laughter.

How she will miss their talks even if he is being stubborn. Oh that she would see her parents even quarrel again!

How comforted she was as a child. They both saw to her every need.

And she will never see her father’s talented dancing.

Nor hear the laughter of her tribe at parties.

There will be no more laughter in Tribe Wahine.

Her parents loved each other more than any couple she had ever witnessed.

Her mother only had eyes for her father–a rarity in her culture.

Tears stream down Makana’s cheeks.

Her mother! The sickness grabs at her with this sinking reality.

The best Creator Tribe Wahine has ever seen is gone. How could the Maker take her away from them? She ruled with beauty, grace, and justice. All looked to her and felt secure.

Now all is lost.

Chapter 6.31 Wahine War

Warning: Violence, blood

Shrill cries coming from the Creator’s bedroom penetrate Kanui’s gut. Without hesitation, he dashes over the wooden walkway, hoping he isn’t too late to protect Kalani.

But when he arrives at her doorway, a sinister specter smirks at him.

The evil Simon LeBeoff is back. The man raises his sword.

Adrenaline flowing, Kanui thrusts his sword at the invader with all his strength to strike him down.

*******

It is as Kiko worried. She hears cries coming from the Creator’s bedroom. She must hurry to save her. Oh if only she wasn’t on the other side of the compound! Kiko could only hope Kanui could get there first.

But then a haunting whoosh and a sudden pain in her shoulder stops her in her tracks. To her horror, a large arrow has penetrated her body. She gasps.

Looking up, she sees her attacker. It is as she suspected. Tribe Wahine is under full on attack. Kiko panics thinking about Kanui and what he might be facing . But she will do her best to take down this intruder.

“Who are you?” she shouts hoping to stall another attack of arrows.

“You do not need to know who I am except for your terminator.” The man’s voice is somewhat familiar. It’s as if she’s heard it before.

“You realize you will die today for I can sense your mana is weak and mine is strong.”

“Mana or no, I have a large weapon and you only brandish a sword. Who will be the victor here? You know it will be I.”

Concentrating, building up her mana, Kiko uses all her strength to tear out the shaft.

The use of her mana allows her to bear the pain. She yells, “You will fall today, stupid slave. I will not allow you to attack my tribe and get away with it!”

“My mighty arrow will pierce your heart!” the invader cries, taking aim.

But Kiko is too swift. She knocks the arrow away with her sword and launches her body high in the air. “Aiyyyyyy!” she cries.

Their blades clash, sending thunderous echoes throughout the compound.

*******

All is going according to plan. Finn is beside himself with pride that his tribe is about to annihilate the hated Tribe Wahine. And it’s all due to his brother’s wise battle strategy. Maybe Finn misjudged him after all. Newlin not only has the most mana he’s ever witnessed in a person, but he is wicked smart–someone Finn has grown to admire. He’d follow Newlin anywhere. After this job is done, Finn decides to tell his brother how much he looks up to him. Bury the hatchet and hopefully, they’ll become friends.

The cries from the Creator’s bedroom tells Finn that Kalani Wahine was just disposed of by their sister. And now, Newlin signals for Finn to go to the children’s bedroom and wait on him. Newlin is supposed to slip to the women’s quarters, take out any who were sleeping then come back to finish off the rest with Finn at his side.

Seeing the sleeping children sends rage through Finn. These boys–slaves–are treated like princes. But isn’t that unfair? Finn and his brothers are the real princes for their father is none other than Aulani Wahine–Queen Hawika’s son. Their birthright was snatched from them.

Maybe Finn would wipe out these imposters with his own hand. Retribution for the wrongs done to him and his family.

******

Unholy shrieks wake Makana as she bolts upright in bed.

Heart pounding painfully, dread almost consumes her. Tribe Wahine is under attack. Someone has hurt her mother!

Grabbing her sword and dashing downstairs, she spies an invader rushing toward the slave hold.

Makana’s trained for this moment. Kanui is a talented master. With all the mana within her, Makana’s feet flit faster and faster until she’s caught up with the intruder.

Flying through the air, Makana uses her feet to knock her down, but the assassin whips her body around to block the move.

And instead of Makana thrusting the blade over the invader’s head, the woman uses great strength and pulls her down to the ground.

Makana is helpless to stop her.

In almost a flash, Makana is staring into eyes filled with hatred. Her blade grazes Makana’s neck in threat.

Out of breath, Makana says, “What do you want? Why are you here?”

Searching Makana’s face, the invader says, “Interesting Newlin didn’t mention a Creator Heiress for it’s obvious to me that you are the daughter of the people I’ve just slain.”

Those words pierce Makana painfully. Mother? Father? No, it can’t be, she thinks. Blinking, Makana proclaims, “Stop this madness now. You will be found out and the queen will have your head on a stake.”

“Why should I care what a dead queen thinks? I will be queen soon. I will gain the position by my own hand.”

Makana desperately tries to whip up another way to stall. Where is Kanui? Or Kiko? Are they dead, too?

The evil woman says nothing more and Makana sees her life is about to end.

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6.30 Night of Reckoning

Hoku’s feet dangle off the side of the jungle gym as the cool evening air slips over her skin. She can smell rain in the air and it makes her spine tingle. “Want to find frogs with me, Britta? The glowing ones come out when the stars twinkle.”

“But won’t we get into trouble? We aren’t supposed to leave the compound after dark,” the little girl counters.

“If we leave now, no one will notice. All anyone cares about are the toddlers. I’ve snuck out for the past three nights!”

Although her insides tell her not to, Britta nods and says, “Let’s go.”

************

Chores done, Aley spots the wishing well, glimmering at him.

Why has no one used this powerful tool?

Probably because if the well is angered, curses are spewed rather than blessings. And so it sits collecting dust, ivy, and mildew.

Aley believes this is a shame.

He cannot help himself. Tossing a coin into its depths, he wishes with all his might that he would have a child.

A daughter.

One who would be an asset to his Creator as the tribe seems to be dwindling, swallowed up by Tribal sons.

To his amazement, he’s showered with green and pink sparkles.

A sign!

Could his eyes be deceiving him?

The well speaks in a thunderous voice, “Go to the nursery, slave. Your wish has been granted.”

Heart squeezing, Aley races to the nursery. Sure enough, a beautiful babe with his coloring, cries in the bassinet.

The love he feels for the child overwhelms him. “I will call you, Xenia, which means ‘a gift’. For you are a true gift of all of Tribe Wahine and will bless everyone with your beauty, skill, and intelligence.”

************

The moon rises as the crickets trill in the shadows. Kiko meets with Kanui to receive her orders for the night.

“Have you checked the perimeter?” Kanui asks.

“Yes. All is well, Master Slave.”

“Good. Then take your place by the west entrance. I have word that battle has begun near the palace and we are on high alert.”

The thought of war reaching the queen sends fear crushing Kiko’s heart. Why did some amazons not want equality for all? How could they be so selfish? And now, it has come to this. Woman fighting woman. Weren’t the amazons of old put in charge because women didn’t believe in war?

“Kiko…is something troubling you?” Kanui says, cocking his head.

“I am saddened for all of us, Kanui. These are unsettling times. What if the war comes to us? We are but two guards. The odds would be against us.”

Kanui waves his hands. “This is a silly fear, Kiko. What would the rebels have to gain by fighting us? As you say, we are a weakened tribe. And so far away from the palace. It would be like stomping on a fly when swarming bees are attacking. Do not worry, my tribal sister.”

Kiko nods then gives a curt bow. Running to her post, she surveys the perimeter. Not a leaf is out of place.

Kanui is right. There is nothing to fear. But she will be ready just in case.

*******

Runoi bounces Alika over his head as the child spills out giggles.

How Runoi loves the babies. If Kalani will allow it, he desperately wants another child. “I will woo her tonight for I know she cannot say no to me. Not when such beauty and manly vigor is before her, right little Alika?”

But then a waft of horrific stench overpowers him. Runoi puts the toddler down and groans.

“What is that smell, my love?” Kalani asks, walking behind him.

“It seems that Alika is doing what he knows best. Pooping.”

“You know how to fix that, don’t you, darling?”

“Sadly, yes, but I was hoping my dear, sweet, enchanting, lovely, rosy queen might help me? No? Ah, well…best get to it then.”

Bending down, Runoi asks, “Why must you fill your diapers several times a day, little man? You’re a baby not a horse.”

Once he pulls the offensive diaper off, Runoi quickly disposes of it. “Why must it reek like a pteradactyl monster died in there? Alika, you have achieved the worst stench award out of all the babies.”

After Runoi hands Alika off to Eila to put to bed, both he and his lovely queen retire from the day. It is his last night before he travels to the Royal Slave Army. And although he is happy to be able to fulfill his duty, he also will miss his dear sweet love most of all.

Gingerly caressing her hair, Runoi gives Kalani a tender kiss.

“I love you, Runoi. Don’t ever forget about me after you leave.”

“My rosy queen, I could no more forget you than I could forget about the sun or the moon or stars. You are my everything. I will come back to you. Make no mistake.”

Runoi showers Kalani in kisses as tears stream down her face.

*******

It is in the middle of the night. All are asleep except for the two sentries in which her brothers should have disposed of by now. How horribly inept this tribe is. The Creator’s bedroom is without proper windows. No locks. Just open air wafting in as the palm fronds clatter in the breeze.

How stupid.

And to think this is the tribe in which she would have been born.

Mixed feelings of disgust and and hope swirl within her.

It will be MY birthright. I will become the queen of the Amazons. This first act will secure my place. First I kill the Creator and then the Creator Heiress who also sleeps without windows.

This is all too easy.

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Chapter 6.29 Preparations

Kalani thinks on Makana’s words for a few days. But her insides scream for Runoi not to leave.

Unfortunately, Makana is right. She will lose Runoi’s respect if she doesn’t allow him this wish. For better or worse, she will grant his request.

Kalani strolls up to her mate. “Runoi, are you busy right now? I’d like to speak to you.”

“I am not busy,” Runoi says in a clipped tone.

“I think you’re going to like what I have to say. Please, baby, do not continue with this anger.”

Softening, Runoi says, “I am not angry, my rosy queen. What is it you wish from me? I’ll do whatever you like as is my duty to our tribe.”

Taking Runoi by the hand, Kalani leads her mate to their bedroom. Candles lit, Kalani hopes the ambiance will settle him as well as her.

“I have given the matter much thought, Runoi, and I believe you may join the Royal Slave Army and fight for my grandmother. You are right. All slaves must battle these rebels or all will be lost.”

Eyebrows raising, Runoi sputters, “R-Really? I never thought you’d change your mind so quickly. What happened to entice you to such a thought? I do not want to go if you really don’t want me to, my beautiful precious flower. I am truly sorry for fighting with you about it.”

Kalani shrugs. “Makana talked it over with me. You see, if I don’t allow you to have your way then I’m no better than the Amazons we’re fighting against. Truly. You are within your rights to go, my love. I will not bar you from it.”

Cocking his head, Runoi counters, “Will you not miss me then? No crying fits of anger. No wailing that you won’t have your beautiful handsome mate warming your bed? I don’t know how to take this change of mind.”

“Runoi…are you toying with me? Because I truly am unhappy about this decision. If anything happened to you, I would die inside, I love you so much.”

A great smile sweeps over Runoi’s features. “Of course not…I’m ridiculously joyous that you believe in me and I promise I’ll not die in battle. Mostly, I’ll probably man the fires and cook potato stew for the ranks. I’m sure that’s all Kandor will allow me anyway. Thank you, my rosy queen, for granting me this request!”

Kalani arches an eyebrow. “You know you’ll have to pay me dearly for such a request.”

Runoi draws nearer to Kalani’s face. “And YOU know I’m adept at any pleasurable payment you might require. I just hope you’re up for it, my darling.”

“I’m always up for it,” Kalani whispers, kissing her love with all the passion she can give.

*****

The following morning, Kalani is basking in the afterglow of the previous night as Runoi meticulously rubs the aching tension out of her muscles. “Oh, Runoi, that feels so good. You’re spoiling me. If you don’t watch it, I may retract my previous decision.”

“And I will abide by that decision, my lovely adoration, even if you command me to stay here and rub oil all over your stunning body, it would be my most absolute pleasure.”

Kalani giggles. “You’re being way too tempting, my love. Maybe we need to stay here just a little longer?”

Runoi knows Kalani is teasing but the thought of leaving her and what might happen in the unforseen future fills him with dread. But he accepts what he must do. Making a serious face, Runoi says, “It is with admiration that I’m even allowed to be your mate. Please forgive me of this duty for if it wasn’t so imperative, I wouldn’t step one sandalfoot outside of Tribe Wahine.”

“I know, baby. And I want you to know that I truly am proud of your decision. I have no doubt the Maker will bring you back to me unharmed.”

*****

Mist smiles at the decision Kalani has made.

“What do you think, Kiko? We are in desperate need of your talents and besides, I believe the old ways are wrong with these devastating consequences to one sin done at a young age. With such turmoil at hand, Queen Hawika could hardly blame me in this decision.” Kalani came to this idea as they will be down to only two slaves–Kanui and Alethualpa. With Runoi about to leave, the tribe needs more people to guard them.

Kiko cannot believe what she is hearing. Could the Maker’s face finally be shining upon her? Reestablished into the tribe without a curse dooming her every move? Yes! “With every respect imaginable, Creator, I am without words at your kindness to me.”

“Then it is settled. You will be working with Kanui and guarding our tribe at once as our official Warrior.”

Elation fills Kiko. She wants to jump up and shout to the highest mountaintop! “Thank you, my Creator. I will do my best to fulfill this honor.”

As Makana does every morning, she’s working on her mana so she may be a strong Creator one day. The times she grows up in are very difficult and unstable. She does not know when she may be expected to join in the war against the rebels.

The rain pitter patters behind Kiko, making her even more ready for her workout. “I am here to train with you, Master Kanui,” Kiko says, almost embarrassed that she’s had to take a step back these past two years since her love, Newlin, was expelled.

“I’m well pleased to welcome you, Lady Kiko. Come. Let us see what your mana is made of today.”

Instantly, Kiko goes to work on the sparring machine, adeptly dodging and weaving with the grace of a deer.

Kanui is pleased to have help from such a talented Amazon in guarding the tribe.

*****

Newlin outlines the plan on infiltrating and taking out every member of Tribe Wahine.

While it sounds precise, Alena is unsure she can trust her brother. “What makes you think we know you’ll do your part in this? After all, these people raised you.”

Newlin answers, “You forget, sister, that I ran away, wanting to be a part of this tribe. All ties were broken once I left. You can be assured, I probably hate them more than you do. I was the lowest of the lows in their eyes. Cursed by my birth mother to them. I never could fit in. Nay…you can trust me in this. It will give me glee to watch their blood spill.”

Mor warms her hand by the crackling fire. “Alena…we’ve talked about this. Newlin has the most mana of all of you put together. And he knows his way around the compound. Stop resisting and listen to him.”

“But he’s going to slay the children? Really? I highly doubt that.”

“It is not only I who will do this but I’ll have Finn to help, if that will make you feel better. We will infiltrate the women’s compound with the children as one sector while Simon LeBeouff and Vance will take out the guards. You, sister, will have the honor of killing the Creator.”

“And let me tell you, Alena,” Finn growls, “I will watch him kill at least two babes or it will be his head that will pay.”

Alena almost snorts thinking about how Mother had to fix Finn’s broken jaw with magic–due to Newlin’s mana induced punch, but she says nothing. If Newlin double crosses them, she’ll take him out herself with an arrow. She’s a reknown marksman. Newlin won’t even see it coming. But her mother seems to trust him and she does have her Luminous that can peer into hearts. If his was divided, she’d know it.

Simon LeBeouff stands. “I remember when you were a little boy, I left you to die in the Pillar of Punishment. How can I trust you won’t seek revenge on me?”

“I remember that day and I was frightened, but since have grown to understand you suffered pain at the hands of the tribe. I do not harbor any animosity toward you. I hope to call you ally and friend once this duty is done.”

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Chapter 6.28 Revenge

“Lay one hand on me, brother, and you will pay.” Finn runs up, hands clenched.

“Out of drugs today, Finn. Too bad,” Newlin retorts.

Mana power surging, his fist smashes into Finn’s jaw, bone making a painful snap.

“Don’t let him get away with that, Finn! Kick him!” Vance yells.

But it’s too late, Newlin throws Finn to the ground.

And punches him until he’s silent.

Breathing hard, Newlin watches as Finn groans and writhes in pain.

Newlin growls, “I expect you to do as I say, Finn. You are weak and should know your place. If you EVER drug me again, I will kill you.”

Vance claps then stretches his arms out. “Good one, brother! I applaud your talents! Finn deserved that. It wasn’t my idea to drug you and for that, I’m truly sorry.”

“I don’t know what is worse. The one who plots or the weakling who follows it. You disgust me.”

“I am a follower, Newlin. So be it. But now I’m yours. Is that such a crime? To follow those who are strong?”

Newlin smirks. “For you, dear brother, it is. You decided to follow the wrong man at the wrong time. And you shall pay.”

Moving like a deadly viper, Newlin pounces on Vance, hitting him until he flops to the ground.

“I submit to you, brother! Please stop!” Vance’s pleas die on deaf ears. Newlin will not stop until his message is heard loud and clear.

Pummeling Vance with blows, Newlin says, “Oh now you want me to stop. I’ll do as I please and will not hear anything to the contrary. You had this coming.”

Vance tries to defend himself, but the power in Newlin’s fists are too much.

When Newlin is satisfied, he stands, surveying his handiwork.

Emotion pierces him. “I wanted to be your brother. Your friend. And you gave me nothing but hatred. If all you respond to is anger, so be it. But I won’t be toyed with. I am your Master Slave. You will call me sir and do as I say from now on.”

*******

Makana’s father’s words echo in her soul as the days progress. What should she do? A part of her thinks she should stay out of it. Her mother, after all, knows best. She is the Creator! But then Runoi’s sad face and his desire to fight for what he believes in also speaks volumes. Men should have the right to fight for this important cause.

Makana finally decides she must have a meeting with her mother.

“Now what is on your mind, my darling daughter. We haven’t chatted like this in a long time. It’s quite overdue.”

Makana hesitates. How should she go about this? One misstep and her mother will cease the talk at once.

“I spoke with father the other day…”

Instantly, Kalani glares. “This better not be about your father joining the slave army because that subject is not up for discussion.”

“But isn’t it your mantra that everything is always up for discussion? I mean, if people didn’t talk about things, nothing would ever change for the good. Think about slave’s rights. If Queen Hawika didn’t discuss their grievances, we wouldn’t have Daddy here with us right now.”

Kalani’s face pinches like she ate a sour lemon. “Where are you going with this, child?”

“We are a liberal tribe. You even have said it yourself. Our slaves have rights. In fact, they are a part of our family and should be able to decide for themselves what to do. Otherwise, you are ruling with an iron Amazon fist. Is this not what you hate? And yet, you’re barring Daddy from doing the thing he believes in so much.”

“Good point, my dear, but you’re forgetting the truest thing of all. Your father is not a fighting man. He is a cook. A lover. These were the things he was bred for. Not using a sword. And furthermore, he’s as clumsy as an oxen on roller-skates. Do you really think he knows best in this matter?”

Those words knife through Makana. “Mother, it is a hard thing to think about Daddy fighting, but to bar him from going will hurt him to the core. He will not respect you. He will not respect himself. You cannot do this to him.”

“Makana, I cannot bear the thought of anything happening to your father. I love him too much for that. Besides, we need him here. We are down too many slaves. Who would cook for us? Kanui? He’s awful at it. The answer is no.”

“Fine. But I’ll tell you this. If you don’t let him go then your relationship will suffer. Already you’re not talking. It’s been over a week. Think long and hard about this, Mother.”

With that, Makana stands and strides toward the living area. Kalani gazes after her, thinking about her words.

Maybe there is a way to compromise. Kalani’s tires of fighting with her mate. She will speak to Runoi at once.

******

Alena rushes to report what she’s seen. “Mother, both Vance and Finn are incapacitated. You got your wish. I hope you’re happy now. I think Finn’s jaw is broken.”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Alena. They will be fine. I have a spell that will fix Finn up. Send Newlin to me. I wish to speak to him.”

Cautiously, Newlin approaches his mother. He’s unsure what she’ll say. Will she banish him for hurting her favorite sons? Coming here has brought nothing but folly to him. He might run away. Living alone would feel better than this. “I’m here, Mother.”

“Yes, my son, please sit. I have much to discuss with you.”

Once Newlin settles into a chair, his mother smirks. “Your mana is powerful. I can feel it grow even now. Your brothers will follow your orders without fail. You see what I mean about weakness and strength?”

Newlin nods, so relieved his mother is happy. He feels his bond to her grow immeasurably. It was always his desire to be loved by her. And now instead of being angry with him for beating up Finn and Vance, she’s happy. “I do understand. I’ve never felt mana surging like that before. You’re right about Tribe Wahine making me weak. I’m sorry for it.”

“We shall see how sorry you are. We are allied with the rebel forces. And in order to cut Hawika in half, we are to take out Tribe Wahine single handedly. What do you say in being my general to lead in the attack? And if you do this thing, I promise you’ll be the general of the Royal Slave army once your sister ascends the throne.”

This blows Newlin away. Him? A general? He could only dream to have that much power. And to lead the slave army if he does well. “Take Tribe Wahine out, you say? What does this entail?” His thoughts meditate on Kiko and his child. He would never harm them.

“You will lead your brothers and sisters in the cover of night and like a death plague, kill every last one of them until there is not a heart left to beat.”

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Chapter 6.27 New Revelations

“A financial advisor?” Kalani asks Temon, puzzled.

“Of course, my lady. I helped the slave hold to grow its interests five fold in the few years I handled their assets.”

This slave spoke in gibberish to Kalani. Tribe Wahine has never cared for its riches. To her, it is a necessary evil. “And what do we gain by growing these…assets? We have enough money. Nay more than enough. Why do we need more?”

“To trade and barter with the other tribes. To buy more slaves, if needed. To acquire more land. We are bursting at the seams here with all the babies that have been born. They will sire more children and on and on it goes. Can you not see the future? Seriously, your grace, to have more is always best. It’s for your protection, too. As it is, you need more slaves to guard us from warring tribes. We are but a paltry few as most have run off to defend the crown.”

That makes sense. The children will wish to have their own bedrooms once they come of age and they don’t have enough space for all of them. A larger compound will be necessary in the future. And although there aren’t any threats at present, maybe there will be in the future depending on how the war ends. Temon is obviously a very smart man. “So…what would this ‘growing of our assets’ look like? What would you do?”

“First, we will need a vault to put all of our money. From there, I’ll manage our crops, making sure we get the best dollar amounts. We have the rarest of plants and that should grow our gold. I’ll give you a statement of what we produce every week. I promise you’ll be surprised at how rich our tribe will become if you have a person managing it.”

Mist beams. “I told you he was a genius, Creator. He shouldn’t be in charge of laundry anymore. Maybe we can buy another slave to help with that?”

Kalani nods. “You’re right, Mist. I’ll put Temon in charge of acquiring another slave.”

Lifting her hand, Kalani says, “Very well, Temon. You are our chief financial officiant. Do what you wish at managing our wealth. I will meet with you every moon for updates. And I’ll put Kanui in charge of building you an office with its own vault in the basement. Does this sound good to you?”

Temon is beside himself with relief. There is nothing more exciting to him than checking off ledgers and completing a financial grid. No more laundry! Those words are heaven on earth. “Very good indeed, my Creator. And thank you very much.”

*****

Aley loves his job of taking care of the little ones. And he especially is smitten with baby Dak. What a charmer!

“Who’s daddy are you?” Dak asks as Aley is teaching him his A B C’s.

“I’m no one’s daddy, young man. Well, not yet anyway.” If duty calls, Aley will perform for the good of the tribe. Slaves are scarce these days and fresh genes are always welcome. And besides, he saw the change that came over his love, Temon, when little Meadow was born. Aley would like that special gift of a child, too, one day.

RIsing, Aley says to the toddler, “It’s time for you to play, Dak. Run along now.”

“But Aley, who’s MY daddy?”

Good grief! This child is beyond smart for his age. But what to say? Truth is always best but…how could Aley tell this tot his father is a treacherous lout? And Dak was begotten under the most accursed and scandalous situation.

Aley sighs. “Your father is a…um…a hero, little Dak. He…did his duty at defending this tribe and…risked his life to save…you. So, he’s off defending us as we speak.” Aley’s face blushes as he speaks these lies. He fancies himself a good storyteller and so what if it wasn’t true? Dak will never know the difference as he’s never seen his father and no one ever speaks of the curse that his mother is under in the tribe.

Thinking of how wonderful this imagined hero slave is, Aley decides to write it down. Maybe he’ll create a book of stories to tell the little ones.

*****

Newlin’s body screams at him in pain. His double crossing snake brothers drugged him so he couldn’t defend himself. And they pounded, kicked, and beat him until he almost passed out. Why do they hate him so? He came to this tribe out of love only to find poison. He aches for his home, Tribe Wahine. If only he could go back in time, he would have become the most conscientious tribal son, always happy to help, doing his lowly duties with a smile on his face. He would have waited the two suns for Kiko to ask him to be hers. His stomach stabs him painfully.

But it’s too late. And he’s stuck here. In hell.

Newlin passes out for who knows how long when a woman’s husky voice awakens him. “Get up, brother. I’ll tend to your wounds.”

Alena? Since when has she ever been nice? She had been worse than the twins to Newlin. But his face throbs and he needs help to even walk. Grasping her strong hand, he whispers, “Thank you.”

*****

He must have slept for two days, his body aching. Once dressed, Newlin opens his bedroom door to find Alena waiting on him.

“Good. You’re up. Mother wants to speak with you. Attend her upstairs.”

Mother. Yes! That’s the way to get back at his duplicitous siblings. She always had showed him love and respect. “I will go at once, dear sister. And I’ll bend her ear on what folly Finn and Vance have done to me.”

Waving her hands, Alena implores, “You will not speak of this to Mother. Are you as stupid as you look now, brother? She hates weakness. Attend to her needs and button your lip. Understand?”

“But my face will show that someone beat the hell out of me. I’ll not lie.”

Arching her eyebrow, Alena says, “I promise she’ll not ask you. She already knows anyway. She predicted they’d do something to you. Can you not see the hatred in their eyes they cast your way? You must put them in their place. Running to Mother is not the answer.”

Anger wells within him at his sister’s words. He doesn’t believe her. His mother cares for him unlike Alena or his brothers. Alena wants him to fight and get into trouble. “Thank you for your kindness, sister,” he says with malevolence coloring his voice.

He charges upstairs to find his mother having dinner. He grabs a plate. “Do you know what your sons have done to me, Mother? They should go to the pillar of punishment for this injustice.”

Glaring up at him, Mor hisses, “Who did I put in charge of this compound? Are you not strong enough to keep them in line?”

Not a shred of sympathy? Maybe Alena was right. “B-But…they drugged me. How can I control that?”

“Stupid boy. Tribe Wahine has turned you into a sniveling little weakling. I’m ashamed at the sight of you. If you can’t control your siblings, you have no business being here. Deal with this shame or I will put YOU into the pillar of punishment. Understand?”

Her words were like a lash to his back.

But there is truth in what she says. He feels like a scared little weakling. Maybe Tribe Wahine was too lax. Had he not had the best of comforts? This made him soft even with the gifting of his mana. He never had a chance to use it. But now?

His brothers have no idea how strong mana made a person. Finn and Vance were like little boys playing with a cobra.

He chuckles. “As you wish, Mother.”

Weeks pass. Newlin lays low so his brothers will not suspect the malice in his heart. His wounds are healed but not his pride.

Searching the compound, he comes upon them, sitting by a fire, not doing the chores he’s asked of them as usual.

“Yes, brother? What is it you wish from us?” Vance asks.

Finn smirks. “That look on your face could kill a lion. Come. Sit by the fire. We promise to do our chores tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow will be too late for you two will not be able to stand.” Newlin’s hands grow into fists as the mana’s energy surges through him.

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Chapter 6.26 The Fight

“Let me kiss you, my lovely queen,” Runoi says as he pecks his love on the cheek. His insides are churning, though, for what he’s about to ask her.

But he will do it over a full belly. “Come with me for I have much to say to you, my rose petal. I want to treat you to a special lunch at The Tiki Torch. You know you love the atmosphere there.”

Eyeing him with adoration, Kalani says, “What is all of this, my sweet mate? I love you with all my heart, but I’m quite busy. I have a meeting with Temon.”

Pulling her over to sit, Runoi throws on his charm. “Oh, so you’d rather spend time with that barbaric killjoy than spend some precious time with me? I see how it is now.”

Pumping his arm, Runoi adds, “Look at what you’ll be missing, darling. Need I remind you what a stunning specimen I am?”

“Seriously, Runoi, what’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing at all. I just want to shower you with my love…and my most excellent body later.” He winks knowing the effect it will have on her.

Rolling her eyes, she huffs, “Fine. I’ll reschedule my meeting for tomorrow then.” She kisses him on the cheek, so thankful he still thinks of her like he did back when they were young and he was wooing her amongst all her other suitors.

*****

Unfortunately, no sooner had they finished their lunch, Runoi blurts out his request.

But Kalani takes it exactly as he feared she would. Her eyebrows draw in angrily. “How dare you manipulate me like this, Runoi. You didn’t want to shower me with love. You wanted to butter me up. Well it didn’t work. Absolutely not. You will never leave Tribe Wahine. Is that clear?”

Raising his hand, he backpedals. “Whoa! You’re taking this all wrong, darling. I just wanted us to talk rationally in a private place. I did want to spend some private time with you. This was not about buttering you up. Won’t you listen to what I have to say at least? Do I not deserve that attention after all these suns together?”

Sitting back and crossing her arms, she says, “Fine. I’m listening.”

“Queen Hawika’s situation is desperate. She called for ALL fighting Amazons and slaves. Am I not a slave, my lovely darling? Do I not have muscles that could aid in the fight? Yes, I can cook, but I’ve had a bit of sword training in my youth as well as I am very industrious and can lend a hand in tactical administration. Kandor would listen to my advice and welcome it.”

Setting her jaw, Kalani hisses, “You would get yourself killed. The answer is still no.”

“You aren’t even listening to me. How fair is that?” Runoi spits.

“This is not about fairness, Runoi, it’s about your life. Even Kandor told me to never allow you to join the army. Did you not even listen to him?”

“The situation was different when he left. We are at war now. If the other side wins, I won’t see you or our daughters anymore. Is that what you want, Kalani? Allow me to help and preserve the little dignity I have left as a man.”

Tears welling up in Kalani’s eyes, she shakes her head. Kalani has never had a cross word with Runoi before. This fight stings her at the core.

She’s so upset her mate would even entertain the idea in the first place. And she’s hurt he’d even want to leave. Now she understands Ina’s feelings on the matter. But Horus is a hulking man who would be an asset to the army. Runoi was bred as a breeding slave. They are very different people. There’s no debating this further.

Pointing at him, she declares, “For the good of the tribe and yourself, my answer is no. Drop it Runoi. At once. Do your duty to the tribe and our family. That is your only obligation.”

With that, she jerks the chair back and storms out of the room.

“Good Maker, that didn’t go well at all,” Runoi mumbles to himself. Mixed feelings of anger and helplessness rush through him. How can Kalani not see the desperation of their situation? He is destined to sit back while others fight for a cause so dear to him. It’s unfathomable.

*****

Makana notices something off with her parents. Usually when they’re even five feet away, one of them is either eyeing the other in an embarrassing way or they at least blow kisses. Tonight, they won’t even look at each other let alone speak.

And just now when her mother passed by her father, she glared then looked away.

Catching her eye, Runoi asks, “What is it, princess?”

Sitting on the couch, she pats the space beside her. “Daddy, I know something’s wrong. Did you and Mother have a fight?”

Arching an eyebrow, Runoi says, “Your mother is a very beautiful woman and I love her very much, but she can be so remarkably, infuriatingly stubborn sometimes.”

“I do know how stubborn she is,” Makana agrees. “What happened?”

Shaking his head, he says, “All I asked was to be allowed to join in the fight against the rebel forces. It’s hard for me to sit here and do nothing when others are ready to join in the fight. If our side doesn’t win, our family will be ripped apart.”

“But Daddy, you aren’t a fighting man. What good would it be if you lost your life? That would hurt us worse than if you had to leave. At least then, we’d get to visit you.”

“Makana, there’s an old saying, it’s not the size of the Amazon in a fight but the size of the fight in the Amazon. I have heart enough for this, my dearest daughter. But no one believes in me.”

His words pierce Makana’s heart. He’s right. No matter what happens, he should be given the right to fight if he so wishes it. Obviously, he yearns to help. Maybe she could talk to her mother for him.

******

Knives slice through Mist’s back and through her stomach. It is time. The baby is about to arrive.

When she tells Temon, he is beside himself. “Are you sure? What should I do?”

But she’s overcome by another wave of pain and she bolts to the nursery.

Hours later, their daughter arrives. “We’ll call you Meadow for you are as lovely as the green grass and beautiful wild flowers!”

Temon cannot believe this day has come. And she’s as beautiful as her mother with her shiny silver hair. But she has his dark eyes.

A tingle of pride flows through him. He’s never felt such love for another person in his life. “You will be well cared for, my dear sweet princess. And showered with all my adoration.”

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Chapter 6.25 War Imminent

Before the sun rose in the sky, Makana meets with Kanui for training. She knows she’s in for sore muscles and tired limbs but she’s ready. Makana wants to be a powerful Amazon Creator like her great grandmother Hawika. With war on the horizon, she will need every minute Kanui can give her.

“What is it today, Kanui? Weights? Running?” Makana asks. She’s been training with Kanui for weeks now. He loves to push her until she’s about to drop. It’s the way he was taught by former Tribe Wahine slave Kandor who is now the general of the Royal slave army at the palace.

With a slick smile, Kanui says, “I have something different in mind. I’m going to teach you hand to hand combat. I bought a new machine. It’s from the North Tribe. They made it and it works really well. You can hit it hard without worrying about bruising your opponent.”

Instantly, Kanui goes to battle with the contraption. It is the silliest thing Makana has ever seen– put together with simple parts and tree branches for hair.

But it moved its paddles to hit and Kanui had to duck and weave like going against a real person. Makana guesses it’s fairly good to use but she’d prefer combatting Kanui himself. If she could best him, could she not battle anyone for he is the most muscled man she’s ever seen. She’d heard his father, Tonai, is a large man. No doubt his son inherited his body.

Barely breathing even after a fifteen minute bout with the strange gadget, Kanui says, “Now it’s your turn.”

“Humph,” Makana chides, “this should be easy.”

Makana hits the paddles in succession. “Ha!” she cries.

But the thing catches her off guard and she ducks. “Whoa. Is it going crazy?”

“That’s how it works. Keep going. It’s good to test your coordination.”

Jabbing it in the middle, Makana thinks the round should be over.

But instead, one of the paddles knocks her in the jaw painfully and sends her reeling back.

“I hate this thing!” she yells. “Can we do something else?”

Kanui laughs. “Okay…this was a good first session. Now let’s use the boxing bag.”

Makana’s muscles are so tired now, she can barely move.

“Punch it hard!” Kanui implores. “That’s how you’ll grow stronger.”

But after twenty minutes of pounding, Makana is ready to give up. “No more, Kanui. I cannot lift my arms.”

“Do you not want to be the best Amazon fighter? You must train. Harder. Faster. It is the only way.”

“But how can I go harder and faster when my arms are like wet noodles. No, Kanui. This is folly.”

Smiling like he’s enjoying watching her pain, Kanui says, “I understand, Creator Heiress. I once thought as you did when the great Kandor trained me. I wouldn’t be the fighter I am today without his strenuous tactics. Don’t you want to succeed in your goals?”

Makana hates it that he’s making sense. “Very well, but I’ll remember this day, Kanui. You might suffer one of my painful punches when you least expect it.”

Laughing, Kanui says, “I would welcome it, my lady. Any time.”

Makana goes back to beating the boxing bag, cussing with every punch and hoping this work will not be in vain.

******

Kalani’s stomach drops at the news Horus just shared. He’s leaving Tribe Wahine.

“If I didn’t feel this cause to be most important, my Creator, I would not by any means leave the tribe most dear to my heart, my true love, and my daughter. But the situation is desperate. I hope you understand.”

Her grandmother had sent word out to all tribes that the army needs every available fighting Amazon and slave. They’ve suffered many attacks and a declaration of war from rebel tribes has been formally issued. The main tribe in charge is the hated Tribe Hanalani, the former trecherous queen’s tribe. The rebels want to go back to the old ways, including banning any attachments to slaves, killing tribal sons, and fighting for leadership. Everything Queen Hawika has worked for until this day would be swept away.

Kalani answers, “Believe me, I do understand your plight, Horus, and I will give you my hearty support even though I will be sad to say good bye to you.”

“How can you say that, Creator?” Gatherer Ina counters. “We cannot afford to lose another man! It would be one thing if we had fighting Amazons among us, but we don’t! Tribe Wahine will be at the mercy of any renegade thief or crook. No. I do not sanction this at all.”

“My love, we’ve been over this. If the rebels win, I will never see you or our daughter again!”

“He speaks the truth, Ina.” Turning to Horus, Kalani adds, “You have my leave to go in peace, my tribal brother, and make sure to come back to us for it would grieve us deeply to lose you.”

At this final proclamation, Ina shudders, trying to hide her tears.

Horus is in pain watching her cry. He doesn’t know how to make her feel better.

Wiping her face, she gets up, angrily glaring at Horus as she leaves the council meeting. She cannot take seeing him for another moment. She is beside herself at him wanting to leave her.

Kalani shrugs helplessly at this terrible situation. “I’m sorry for the way Ina is taking this news, Horus. In time, I know she will be proud of your decision. I find it most worthy of your character.”

After Horus excuses himself, he searches out his love. He finds her jerking the fruit off the trees in the garden.

Gingerly, he approaches her. “Sweetheart. Please understand why I must go. It is my duty. I owe it to my fellow slaves.”

Whipping around she retorts, “But you are not a slave, are you, Horus! You would not suffer any of the punishments nor would you have to leave us. We need you here more than ever. First Kandor leaves us now you. Do you not care what happens to your family?”

He shakes his head. “You know this is not true, my love. I would be forced to leave. As a free man, yes, I cannot be put to death but no man would be allowed in the tribe if he does not forgo his freedom. I would become a slave and then because I sired a child, I couldn’t stay. Understand this, please. Think through it logically.”

Pointing at him, she yells through tears, “It is YOU who are not thinking logically. We cannot…bear to live without you. What if….what if you get killed? Then what?”

Grabbing her hands, Horus says gently, “Then it is the Maker’s wish for me to give my life for a great cause. I love you more than anything but how could I live with myself if I didn’t help? Please understand. For me.”

He pulls her into him, kissing off her tears. “I love you, my precious Ina. Remember that always.”

Draping her arms around him, Ina kisses her love, not wanting to ever let go.

******

With news of Horus leaving, Runoi feels the heavy weight of duty and honor gripping him. He knows what he must do but unlike Horus, he isn’t free. Kalani would never agree to allowing him to serve in the Queen’s Royal slave army.

And although he knows it is a long shot that she would consent, he must ask this of her. And he will use all his charms to convince her to allow it. For he would not ever see his two daughters or his mate again if the rebels win. He must go.

“There you are my sweet lovely queen. Could you spare a minute of your precious time for your most devilishly handsome and absorbingly charming mate?”

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