“The monsoons are about to begin,” Hanalani’s Creator, Jozka, says as she walks alongside Leia near the ocean. The surf roars as the waves crash against the huge rocks. Leia had never lived by the sea. She wishes she wouldn’t have to go back to the desert. Maybe once she became queen, she’d build a massive castle right here where she’d always get to listen to the comfort of cawing seagulls and smell the salty sea air.
“There you are,” Mor says as she skuttles around the women like a spider. As the weeks pass, Leia has grown more wary of her partner in this quest. She wonders if Mor is jealous of her new comradarie with Jozka. “You should retire inside. It’s about to rain.”
Turning to her new friend, Leia says, “She is right, Jozka, maybe we should go back, much as I like it out here.”
“We have plenty of time, sweet Leia,” Jozka says, grazing her fingers along Leia’s arm, making goosebumps in their wake. Turning toward Mor, Jozka smiles. “We are quite capable of figuring out when to go back on our own, Mor Rigan. Is there something on your mind?”
Leia could hear the undertone of a challenge in the woman’s voice. She wonders how Mor will take the subtle threat.
Leia notices Mor’s hands turning to fists, but Mor keeps a calm demeanor. “It’s just that for the protection of our queen, I think she should not wander so far from the compound. It is folly without a guard.”
Smirking, Jozka retorts, “I am quite capable of guarding the queen. She is safe with me.”
Before Mor could respond, Nob hurries toward the women and makes a curt bow. “If I may, Creator. I have urgent news.”
“Yes, Nob, what is it?” Jozka asks.
“We’ve got word Amazons and slaves from all over the empire are streaming into the royal palace. They’re assembling for war. Someone alerted them to the building of our army.”
“Damn,” Leia mutters as pins prickle over her, thinking about her mother preparing to war against her. Although Leia knew this would happen, planning a thing and actually doing it are so different. A part of her wishes to retreat back with Tonai, live a quiet life and never think about Tribe Wahine and the throne again. But she’s gone too far for these silly notions.
“What can we do? We don’t have the numbers to defeat my mother’s original army yet and now with more troops…” Leia says, dread blanketing her like a dark tomb.
Jozka raises her hand, “We’ve predicted this, but not so fast. When will your daughter have our warriors ready, Mor? The longer we wait, the stronger this imposter queen grows.”
Without a shred of worry in her voice, Mor says, “It is a simple thing. Anyone with half a brain would know what to do in such situations.” Mor stares at Leia, implicating that she’s chosen the wrong woman to follow.
Leia swallows and asks, “What should we do then?”
Lifting the side of her mouth, Mor answers, “We simply wait until the quarry settles. Forgets we’re even in the shadows.” She arches an eyebrow. “Then we strike.”
Kanui strips Newlin’s binds and frees him as they stop at the edge of Tribe Wahine’s property. He spies his cousin’s melancholy face and feels a sorrowful pang. He and Newlin never got along growing up, but the man wasn’t truly evil. Kanui feels the punishment was too strong for what had happened. With Lilit’s young adult birthday only moons away, it’s easy for him to wait, but what if it was two suns? He wonders if he wouldn’t have followed the same fate. He believes the laws are too strict. They don’t belong with the liberal rule of allowing intermingling of slaves and Amazons. Maybe the Amazons of old knew what they were doing with separating slave and woman. But now…Kanui feels only misery never getting to see his tribal brother again. He thinks they might have become friends in time once they both matured.
But as the tribe’s Master Slave, Kanui has a job to do. He cannot let his own emotions color his duty. “I bid you farewell, slave. Dare not to tread on these grounds again for I will have to chain you and throw you in the pit of death.”
Newlin doesn’t respond. He only gazes at the beautiful oasis, something Kanui often loved to look at. In fact, he’d come out here not long ago with Lilit, kissing her as the sun set. Kanui realizes this is the last time Newlin will see this scene.
Another pang of regret washes over him. Kanui’s muscles relax and he says, “I’ll miss you, my…friend.”
Sighing, Newlin mutters, “I’ll miss you, too.”
Not wishing to stand there any longer, Kanui turns on his heel, ambling up the hill as the dust swirls in the whisper of the wind. A knot forms in his throat. These are the darkest times for Tribe Wahine. He hopes Newlin will make his way out there in safety. He prays this earnestly to the Maker.
Weeks pass. Newlin has slept in caves, eaten ants, caught fish with his bare hands, and suffered bitter cold winds as he wound his way to his mother’s hut. But finally, he sees the glowing skulls of the entrance welcoming him.
HIs mother had sent him a detailed map and drawing of the place several suns ago, imploring him to run away, but he never would.
And now, the tribe he loved, the tribe he was so loyal to, cast him out so he had no choice. And Kiko will not meet him. He knows that deep in his heart.
Even if he sent a messsage, Kanui would fetch it first from the mail and destroy any communications. It was hopeless. He would never see his love or his child.
“Mother!” Newlin calls as he walks on the wooden deck. It’s strange not to be greeted. He knew his siblings would be guarding the grounds. Surely they aren’t all asleep, leaving this place to theives and vagabonds. No wonder his mother begged him to live with her. His younger siblings must be a spoiled, lazy lot! She needs a proper Master Slave.
He searches every room but no one is here. The place is deserted. An ominous feeling creeps over him. What if they were all killed by marauders. Since they lived in such a remote place, it was a possibility.
Newlin’s stomach growls like a hungry leopard. He had no time for worries. His mother was a formidible witch. There had to be a reason they weren’t here. Newlin is sure she’ll come home soon enough. In the meantime, his stomach has to be satiated. He picks through his mother’s stores, finding some rations that hadn’t spoiled.
Slicing some vegetables, Newlin groans thinking he’ll have to cook for himself, but he’ll gladly do this. He hadn’t eaten anything decent since he left the tribe.
A pain slices through his fingers and he hollars, “Ouch! Damn it!” He grabs his throbbing finger, blood dripping.
“Where the hell is Runoi when you need him?” But even the thought of his former tribe’s cook and mate of his hated sister squeezes his heart. “I will not think about them. I won’t!” he groans at himself.
But as he eats, he sees how dark and dingy his mother’s place is. The feelings of homesickness devour him. Is life worth this? he wonders.