Willow had been trying to sleep on what these women would consider a bed, when her ears perked up to a conversation just outside of her room. She gradually came around to the 'window,' taking heed of the chain's incessant rattling by picking it up with each stride, and leaned toward the slanted view.
"Don't you get it? Having her kill something young and innocent-"
"NO male is innocent! YOU taught us that!"
Willow just stayed still. Apparently they were having an argument.
"What I taught my granddaughters was to protect themselves against those that have hurt us."
Willow could make out the last speaker's voice to be of an old woman. She was gritting her teeth while expressing every word. The other woman's body was turned, but Willow could tell she was younger, by far. Her voice though, Willow recognized that voice.
"And who has? Who has repeatedly hurt and disgraced us? THEM! IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THEM!"
Ah, that voice.
Willow continued to watch the fray, however at this point she was rooting for the old woman.
"Caranthia, if you continue letting your anger get the better of you, you will turn into one of them," the old lady glared back, "heavens, girl, you are already head strong enough to be one of them."
"If you do not order the Seven Day Sacrament, I will."
"What do you mean?"
"I-I-I," the young girl faltered at the fierce glare of her elder, "I and the other sisters," her voice became stronger, "are fed up with her. She must choose, and soon. She has seven days to mourn her killing, but then she must do it."
"I told you, Tar'airah would never harm an innocent!"
"And I told you, we will not stand her presence here anymore. If she chooses to be the weakling, let her. Let her stay with her chains of inferiority forever more. Banish her!"
"I have NEVER banished one of mine. Nor have any of my daughters ever wished such punishment upon one another before," the old lady spat.
"There is no other way," the girl's voice softened, "this threat will awaken the warrior within her. Don't you see? This will undoubtedly force her to make a choice. She would never leave, that is, if she loves us as much as you say she does."
"This is not love if we shun her."
"Yet it is not love if she shuns us."
The old lady stayed silent. Willow watched intently.
"I will order her to the Seven Days," the lady said slowly, "and if she cannot... if she cannot kill the... captive..."
"She is banished," the girl supplied.
The old lady looked up sharply at the word. Disdain was written clearly on her eyes. Her beliefs, her own words were starting to haunt her. But consent took over the woman's features.
Without saying a word, the she walked away swiftly, multi-colored robes flying in all directions.
The younger Amazon bowed, turned, and as much as Willow could tell, smirked. She walked forward, and as Willow began to move back herself, her chain clanked unceremoniously to the floor, causing her to inwardly cringe.
The Amazon looked up at the hole in the animal skin, and caught a glimpse of a figure moving away from it.
Willow gulped as that same face bored directly into hers.
"She will kill you," came the voice, enjoying every moment of the capture's confusion. She walked away, with a smile on her face.
Willow's brow only furrowed in her attempts to understand the mysterious language of these women.
I wonder what that was all about?
"Tar'airah," came the pleading voice, "please, come out with us to the grove? It'll do you good to get some sunshine!"
"Busy my ass, Tar," came a gruff voice.
"Fa'aithlia, shut up."
"What? I'm just agreeing with you! She needs to get out-as usual. Besides, it may be her last chance and- OW!"
Tar'airah was watching happily her two companions battle to win her over, and as usual, fail miserably. She knew she was treading on a thin line, and yet, she didn't care; what was the point of living a life through the death of another?
She lay their, watching them with an unconcerned eye, while flipping through her journal. Drawings, memories, poems, and recollections were saved in this precious book. She had wanted to write and fill each page until the day she grew old and had no teeth to articulate words any more. But now, it seemed that that dream was coming to a quick end.
"Fa'aith, how many times have I told you, when you're foot's looking for a place to live, put up the 'NO VACANCY' sign in your mouth."
The small blond and her taller, brunette friend had attempted a normal begging session, and as usual, ended up in their ceremonial argument.
"At least I'm not the one sticking foreign objects in my mouth," the brunette said with a smirk.
"If you're implying what I think you're implying you half-witted brute of a-"
"GUYS! Stop fighting!"
The two heads snapped back to the normally quiet blonde. She placed her journal down at her side, and sat up, cradling her elbows in each hand. She didn't have time to explain the delicacies of being tactful around a prisoner. So she settled for being direct.
"I don't want to go out. I don't want to see anyone and I'm sure no one wants to see me. All I want to do is stay away from the world, peacefully, and alone," she stressed the last word emphatically.
"NO buts. I, I can't live in this world if this is all there is. It's as if you're telling me killing one of you," she looked both girls in the eyes, "would make me a better person when I know I'd be miserable for the rest of my life having done it."
"We all have to pass the trials, Tar'airah. We all know the consequences. We honor each fallen sister, it's a time-honored tradition!"
"Fa'aithlia did it! And look, she's not a raving lunatic, well at least, most of the time."
"Hey! I'll have you know, that bitch Yalhuma almost chopped my head off. What was I supposed to do? Ask her to talk it over some tea?"
"Guys! I know we all know the consequences. But I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Who says you would?" came a sharp voice.
"Caranthia, what do you want?" Fa'aithlia asked without turning her back. Tar'airah stayed entirely still, paralyzed to the spot by that voice.
"I merely am sending a message from Grandmother Thea to the prisoner."
"Well then, get on with it. Wouldn't want to interrupt your busy schedule."
"Do you have a problem, Fa'aithlia? Or do I need to sentence more than one sister today?"
"No, no problem at all. I just get a little cranky when pain-in-my-ass season comes around."
Caranthia went for Fa'aithlia's neck, but unsuccessfully with Buf'aneah's steadying arms, separating the two.
"Caranthia, please, fighting one of us was not why you came here. What is the message?"
"The prisoner," Caranthia spat, while glaring at Fa'aithlia, "is to adhere to the Seven Day Sacrament."
"What?!" Tar'airah said incredulously. The Seven Day Sacrament meant she had to endure seven more days, meeting and getting to know her foe before fighting them to the death on the seventh day. The last time she had to go through it she ran into the woods to hide, on the night of the sixth day, crying with each step. She and Xaniathiera had become friends. Friends, for goddess's sake. And they wanted her to kill her the next day?
Her sisters found her almost dead from hunger and malnutrition, soaked from the night's rain.
She would not go through that again.
"Please, do not speak, unless told to do so," Caranthia said curtly.
"You will follow the Sacrament, and then proceed with the ceremonial fight to the death-"
"I'm not doing it. I don't care what you or Grandmother Thea says, I'm not killing one of my sisters-"
"SILENCE," Caranthia bellowed, "you," she whispered, maniacally pointing at the downcast eyes of Tar'airah, "You are lucky to have us, Tar'airah. Without us you would not be alive today, just one miserable drowned babe, unable to crawl from her mother's stomach," she spat. "And now you've been given another chance to fulfill your duty-as usual, lucky," she said becoming more angry by the second, "and this time you cannot slither away, like the weakling that you are. Grandmother Thea has seen to it, personally, that you will fight not one of us, but a heathen, that is, one you can kill."
"It's not a question of capability to kill," Buf'aneah said drawlingly, "we all know Tar'airah's got the best martial skills out of her age group, she even beat you at the last sparing event," she said chuckling a little, but she stopped when she caught the glare of Caranthia.
"That's why Thea chose this one. He is a stranger to us-a trespasser. Surely, after pleading so lovingly for your sisters' lives, you can kill an enemy intruder?" Caranthia said tauntingly.
"You want me to kill an innocent man for you?" Tar'airah said incredulously.
"He is no innocent. He defiled and disgraced the Sacred Seven, and dared to challenge one of your fellow sisters. He deserved death then and there when we found him-"
"Why didn't you give it to him, then?" came the quick reply.
"It seemed Thea wished to inspect him first. And now, the wait has come in handy, for you and for Thea. You are lucky, Tar'airah to have this unusual chance at redemption. You have Seven Days, and on the last you shall fight to the death. Buf'aneah and Fa'aithlia will lead you to and from the cell. From there you will proceed with the ceremonial cleansing, war-painting, blood-lock..."
Caranthia's voice faded out into Tar'airah's mind. She sat there, numb. Grandmother Thea made sure to it that there was an easier path for her. She went through the pains to find her a loophole. Should she attempt this one last time? Perhaps killing a stranger would be easier, a stranger that despises her kind-that disgraced her family and beliefs.
A stranger that was also human.
"What happens if I do not acquiesce to Grandmother Thea's request?" Tar'airah interrupted quietly. Caranthia had been getting carried away, wistfully describing the wonderful preparations before the final kill of the Brehzenia Trial. She looked down, annoyed that yet again she had been interrupted, but decided to concede to the question.
"You will be banished."
Silence enfolded the room.
Goddess, give me strength...