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Standing at my window I watch the sun rise, my time in this life slipping from my grasp like sand. Soon our queen Thema will breathe her last and Mosi will ascend the throne. That same day at sunrise I would die. It was the way of things, no matter what love my mother felt for me. Long ago the Gods demanded a sacrifice to appease them, to make our world safe. The royal house stepped forward and my ancestor Oba died. He was the first of us, the third son. Now at the coronation of a new ruler the third child dies. Before that we are nothing we do not make of ourselves. I was trained to be a warrior, fighting the enemy in many wars. For safety is only as good as we make it and as people we crave what we do not have.
Moving I go to the bed and look down at the sleeping form of my husband, protector, jailer. Asim frowns in his sleep and I already know why. Assigned to protect me, it is also his job to make sure I do not run from my responsibilities. He has been by my side for years, first as a companion then as a lover. When our son Bes was born he wept with the knowledge that he would grow up without me. I didn’t feel anything, it was destined to be. From a young age I had been drilled with the duties I was born to. It is a part of me so ingrained, that for anyone to suggest I go against it is unthinkable. Smiling softly I place a kiss on his brow before walking out into the sun.
As one of royal blood I live in luxury, in rooms grander then that of the heir. It doesn’t bother her, I knew, because she had a full life ahead of her. Me, I was surprised that my mother’s health had lasted so long. Many said I wouldn’t live past my fifth year, now I was nineteen. Heading towards the stables I retrieved my favorite mount. Leading her out into the forest I let her run, feeling the wind grab at my hair. The feeling of freedom was exhilarating, a burn coursing through my veins. Together we left the world behinds us.
Upon returning a servant waits for me, leads me to a room I hadn’t seen since becoming a woman. There on a bed that could easily fit ten or twelve lays my queen. Bowing low first I approach to kneel by her right side.
“My Queen,” I whisper.
Her head turns slowly, but I can still hear the bones cracking from the effort.
“My daughter, I am dying,” her voice was barely a rasp, “And then you too will join me. For this I beg forgiveness. Atsu has begged to take your place but all know who came first.”
“It is my honor to appease them mother, it is our way,” I was gentle when I take her hand.
“Yes, but it is not a good way to live, giving up your child to death. My father died crying, my sister Amun was four.”
There was silence as she gathered her strength, I waited. This was a side of her I had never known.
“Run child, take your son, husband and go to another land,” she begged, “Live your life as you should.”
“What of the people? Do I just turn my back on them?” I was shocked at her words.
“Yes, for if our Gods truly care for us Oba would have been enough. If they do not then it is our time. We are too greedy, wanting what others own,” she said, “leave them to their fate. Promise me!”
Her grip was firm for a moment before relaxing. I smiled at her, kissing her dust dry hand. To ease her pain I would do anything, even lie.
“I leave this night my mother,” I swore, “For you.”
She smiled eyes bright with tears as I left her. Walking back to my room I sat at the desk to write.
My son, I sit writing down these last words while you sleep in you cradle. Do no hate our people, it is tradition. The Gods demand it of us, to make our home as beautiful as it is. You will grow my son, to know my twin Atsu, born before me by seconds. He will love you enough for both of us, as will your father. Enjoy life my child for you will never know when it will end, that is my gift to you.
When I put the letter where Asim would I find it I looked up to see a servant near. He informed me of what I already knew, the queen was dead. Thanking him I went back to bed to spend my last moments lost in the pleasure of the body, wanting to stop thinking.
The days of mourning passed quickly, I, spending them with my family as every else prayed. As the sun rose on the day of the coronation I stood by my mate hands clasped before me. The pyre burned high sending Thema’s soul to the land beyond.
“Stay with me, leave this place,” Asim begged tears falling.
I shook my head sadly, it was too late. At least mother had died thinking I would be far away from this place. That bit of peace I had given her easing the burdens on her spirit. When Mosi came forward I followed to where a priestess waited. Dressed in full battle wear, I felt invincible. I didn’t look back as I knelt before my people Mosi, our queen, beauty personified, wrathful, and cold standing behind me. As the blades came down I smiled, my last thoughts going to my son and husband. I was Kakra third born of the royal house of Anatarul, warrior, mother, sacrifice.
I was going to die; it was what I was born to do.
Trust where earned, love well, live free.