She was standing in front of the temple, alone. The silence was eerie and unusual. A tingling sense of unease crept into her brain. Where is everyone?
Suddenly, a figure came into view as if just materialising from nothingness.
„Who are you?“, she called out as the figure came closer. It was a woman. A beautiful, dark haired woman who seemed familiar.
„Grandmother!“, she gasped. The woman nodded. „Why are you here?“
„There’s something that I need to show you“, Zaleena said solemnly and took her had. The scene dissolved.
They were looking at the tribe’s compound. Everything seemed normal at first, but upon closer look, she noticed some things were off. The garden was overgrown with weed and the plants were crisp dry from the burning sun.
The outside area was empty and the door of the main house stood ajar. Fear swept over her in a wave. She knew that did not want to go inside, but Zaleena beckoned her in.
„No“, she mouthed and took a step backwards. But it seemed like she had no choice. Without her doing, she was pushed forward into the house.
An elderly lady was sitting alone at the table, staring at a plate of food which was emitting a foul green gas.
„Mother!“, she cried out as she saw the woman. She was shocked. Her mother looked old and worn. „Where is everyone? Why is she eating this foul food?“
Zaleena’s face hardened. „Baato is dead and your mother has told Tahia and Nieva to leave with their daughter.“
„But why? And why didn’t she get a new slave?“, she demanded.
„Who would want to be with a tribe as dishonorable as this one? The word of your shame has spread fast. Your mother thought that Tahia and Nieva still had a chance at a good life if they left as soon as possible. For their daughter.“
She was only able to stare wide eyed. This was her fault?
„But what about me? Where am I? I’m should have come back by now.“
Zaleena shook her head. „You were unable to defeat the champion again. You were bound to stay at the temple as an assistant to the priestess. Your mother was unable to produce another heiress. She was too old.“
She stood in shock. She had lost again? Hadn’t she trained her body so much?
Suddenly, the woman at the table stood up. The woman looked towards the ceiling in a trance like manner. Then the woman dropped to the floor.
„No!“, she cried out and ran to help her mother, but she was rooted to the floor and could not move. Tears started rising in her eyes.
The scene dissolved.
They were at the tribal grounds again, but they weren’t empty this time. A large crowd had gathered at the meeting area, around a young woman sitting on the creator’s throne. Her mother was there too, smiling at the Creator, but now clad in yellow instead of her usual white.
„Who is this person? Why is she sitting on my throne?“, she demanded, still shaking from their previous encounter.
„Your throne. I think not. This is the other you“, Zaleena said as her mother hugged the young woman. „The heiress that would have been if your mother had chosen a different mate. She has won the ritual fight at first try and brought great honor to her tribe. The tribe is prospering. Woman from other tribes are coming to apply for positions or bring gifts.“
„I could do that, too!“, she replied confidently, but Zaleena did not smile.
„Think about your behaviour. Think about what you did and what you are doing to your tribe right now. You say you could do that, too. But can you?“
She opened her mouth to reply, but the words got stuck in her throat.
„It’s all your fault!“, Zaleena suddenly yelled at her. „My tribe, my legacy will fall apart. It’s your fault!“
She covered her face. „I didn’t want this! I only wanted to be respected!“
But Zaleena continued to yell at her, and Zaleena’s face multiplied and closed in on her and shouted over and over again.
„This is your fault! Your fault!“
Kalaya awoke with a start, sweating heavily. Zaleena’s angry face was still etched into her vision.
She remembered every detail of the dream clearly and she never doubted for one second that it was true. She knew it was. Tears came to her eyes as she was shaking from the dream’s intensity. Everything was her fault… her mother dying helpless and alone, the tribe falling apart. Kalaya choked on the thought, she couldn’t bear it. A wave of guilt came crushing down on her and through her sobs she cried out two words.