Prie was happily swinging on the monkey bars next to the training area. She was quite a rambunctious child and was often seen around the training area, impatiently waiting to be old enough to use all the fun machines. But for now, she had chosen the monkey bars as her preferred hangout.
„Look, I can swing all in one go over to the other side!“, she called out as Tahia approached the playground. Tahia smiled at the little girl.
„You’re doing great, Prie, I am proud of you!“, she told her and hugged her tight. Tahia loved Prie dearly. The girl’s cheerfulness brought happiness to the tribe these days,when their problems were greater than ever. But she didn’t want to think about that now.
„It’s a beautiful day. Would you like me to teach you some painting?“, Tahia asked happily. They had gotten an art table for Prie so she could develop her creative skills. It had not yet been decided which role she would take over once she became of age and so Nieva had suggested training all her skills equally.
Prie thought for a moment then grinned, „I want to play with mother! In the garden“, she mused and made a dreamy face as she thought about the huge trees and the colourful flowers, her mother knew so much about.
„But I am your mother“, Tahia objected, feeling hurt. While Prie did know that Nieva was her biological mother, they had raised her together and Tahia thought she was a mother to Prie too.
The girl shrugged. „I guess…“, she said, „Oh, mother said the bananas would be ready today!“, she called out excitedly, not noticing Tahia’s sad face as she ran off. Was she not a mother to the girl? Didn’t she love her like her own child? Prie seemed to think differently and it hurt Tahia more than she cared to admit. But before she could get lost in her miserable thoughts, she saw Manika entering the compound. She looked tired and worn out. And no wonder… Tahia quickly strode towards Manika to greet her.
„Welcome back, Creator“, she said in a solemn voice. Addressing her as Creator always reminded everyone of Kalaya’s shame, „How did it go?“
It was a superficial question, Tahia could tell from the look on Manika’s face that their luck had not changed. And sure enough, Manika shook her head.
„Almost worse than last time. One woman actually yelled at me and told me to – I quote – ‘never show my shameful face here ever again’.“
She sighed. Ever since her – Watcher be damned – daughter lost the fight, women as well as slaves had refused to join Tribe Arayeo. They were in bitter need, Baato was only one slave and he was slowly but surely growing old. But Manika could hardly blame them. Who would want to live with the first tribe to suffer such a shame since the downfall of Urla The Ignited? And though slaves didn’t have many rights, they had the right to refuse to join dishonorable tribes. And dishonorable they were indeed. Manika blamed herself. She should have insisted on her daughter’s training more – she should have forced her. But she had been selfish, not wanting to deal with a rebellious teenager and she had paid the price. The whole tribe paid the price. The only thing she felt grateful for was that Nieva and Tahia were still with her. They, at least, had stayed loyal to Tribe Arayeo. Without them, the tribe would have fallen apart after only two generations. If her mother could see her now, she would have overturned in her grave. She fiercely prayed that Kalaya would realise her faults and train better for her next fight. It was their only chance to restore the tribe’s former glory. And even then, people would talk, they would remember. Manika wasn’t sure how they would ever get out of this mess.
Next: Chapter 49 – Your Fault