warning, this chapter contains themes of violence and/or sim death but no explicit scenes.
Manika went back to the breeding chamber to tell Taam the news. Her thoughts were spinning. Her time with Taam had truly been blessed but she still could not believe it would be at an end now.
“I am with child!”, she simply stated.
“That’s wonderful news! I’m sure our daughter will be as beautiful and strong as you.”
Manika’s eyes filled with tears.
“How can you be so cheerful”, she cried out, “You know what this means for us…”
“Manika…”, Taam stepped towards her and held her hand. “We’ve talked this through. I know what I signed up for and I’m not afraid. We are going to have a beautiful daughter and I’m really happy about that”, he told her.
Manika wiped her tears away. “I love you…”, she whispered.
“I love you too. Stay strong”, he answered.
She may have told Taam that she was alright, but she still wasn’t. She tried to take her mind off things with some running.
But it didn’t really work. She still felt weak at the thought of losing Taam. This was not how a strong Amazon creator should behave and she knew it. But her feelings remained.
“I am with child, Tahia”, she told her Scholar the next day.
“Wonderful news, Creator!”, Tahia replied. She seemed genuinely happy. Manika wanted to cry.
“I am unsure about the sacrificial ceremony…”, she began, but her voice trailed off. Surely she should not discuss her feelings with her Scholar. Her Tribal sisters might think her a weak Creator. But Tahia immediately understood.
“The sacrificial ceremony might be hard for you, but it is Amazon law and tradition. It is in place for a reason. Do you want to deny the goddesses blessing to your daughter? You might feel strongly for this slave now, but the passion will fade. Your daughter will be your legacy, not this man. Think about your tribe!”, Tahia explained. Manika knew she was right. She had a responsibility towards her unborn child, too.
Sleep brought no solace that night, as Manika knew what would happen on the morrow. She dreamed of a world where she would be with Taam forever, but as she woke up it was what it was: A dream.
She met with Taam at the Pit of Sacrifice, before the rest of tribe arrived for the ceremony.
“I can’t believe this is happening…”, she sobbed. But Taam took her hands and looked her deep in the eyes.
“Manika…the time I spend with you was the happiest time of my life. If I am to die today I will die as a happy man. Everything you have given me was more than I could have ever wished for. I thank you for that”, he said, “Death is not the end. We both know that. I will still see our daughter grow up and I will always be with you…In your heart. And if you ever feel sad remember that I will always wait for you and we will be together in the afterlife. Stay strong for our little girl.”
Manika still let out a quiet sob, but Taam’s words had calmed her. She might have to wait, but she would still be with him, when her time came.
The other tribe members arrived for the ceremony.
“Taam Slave, you have served this tribe faithfully…”, Manika’s voice almost broke, but she forced herself to go on although her voice trembled, “May your strength and skills go over to the new Creator heiress and may your name be forever remembered.”
She couldn’t say another word. But Taam looked at her encouragingly before he stepped into the pit.
Baato and Nieva were devestated. Baato remembered the first sacrificial ceremony with Daiko. And now he was to lose another friend. Nieva had grown to like Taam and even if she was not the one to breed with him, she felt strongly about his upcoming death. Only Tahia did not seem too involved. She hadn’t known Taam for a long time.
After the ceremony, Tahia ran after Nieva.
“Why are you so sad?”, she asked her, a slight undertone of annoyance in her voice. Or was it something else…
“I don’t know”, Nieva answered, “It’s just sad that he had to die…”
“Did you want to breed with him?”, Tahia asked bluntly.
“No! That’s not it. Was that what you were thinking? I’ve just known him a while longer than you that is all.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to seem jealous”, Tahia felt ashamed at her own behaviour.
“It’s okay…”, Nieva pulled the other woman into a close embrace.
“I am just so glad that in a world like ours… you and I…we, we still have a chance”, Nieva said softly and kissed Tahia’s hands. The Scholar blushed.
“I feel the same way”, she whispered. “Please don’t you ever leave me.”
“Never”, Nieva promised. They stood a lot closer now, and then…
Manika could not stay at the pit. She just couldn’t. As she saw Nieva and Tahia kiss she felt even more sad about her own loss. Had her relationship with Taam not deserved a future like theirs?
Baato sat alone in the slave chambers, staring at an empty bed once again. It was the second time he had to witness a sacrificial ceremony and it was not any more pleasant than last time. It seemed to be his fate to stay and watch his friends go…
And while the tribe members where still engulfed in their own thoughts, the shadow of death fell upon their land…
Note: Please don’t hate me! I just couldn’t figure out any way of keeping Taam alive without changing Amazon laws. I hope that Nieva and Tahia will take your mind off things. I tried my best to describe the tribes reaction to Taam’s death so it won’t feel so cruel.
Next: Chapter 28 – Coping
Also check out: Bloopers – Part 3