Avestine sighed. “I see.” She touched Kami’s chin and smiled indulgently. “Women don’t need to be protected. They need work and pleasure, and I give them both.”
Maybe to a man the sight of blood can mean only death, but to a woman, blood is life. It’s the first thing that tells us we are women. Our own blood, not another’s, is a sign of power. It promises a future.
HE LEFT, AND by the time he returned, she was falling asleep. He woke her and had tea brought. She sat with him at the table, where he set down a very old and weathered…
KAMI LOVED THE water. It caressed her skin like the softest silk she could imagine, and she wished she didn’t need to leave it to breathe. She wanted to become a fish but still didn’t…
Those who understood the path of Essanti viewed Kami’s light among the dimmest, the lowest Emanation a person might follow. But in all of history, among all those Avestine had known or even heard of, no Essanti had displayed the kind of power Kami had.
Seeing her hands gone took something from him, but he couldn’t quite name it. He had no reservations about the importance of the ritual, believed in it utterly. He decided the mutilation itself didn’t disturb him, but how it manifested in her.
She watched the weight of realization fall upon Kami, the memory of who she was and who she was not. It was a cruel thing, perhaps the cruelest yet, to return Kami’s rational mind to her, since Kami’s bestial army had killed thousands of people.
Sometime later, she opened her eyes and wasn’t sure where she was. It had been a lifetime since she had run among trees, danced to seductive drums, and laughed beside creeks. Vague memories stirred in her, and she didn’t know why they were so vague. She recalled pain and realized she felt nothing now.
They had come around the coast. They drove the wild beasts from their path. The web of life vibrated with their reckless passage. Kami could sense where the forest ended, where its bounty of life became like a desert, absent of sounds and smells but for a little knot of arrogant men pressing toward the magnificent artery of the continent.
“Love?” Avestine’s lipped curled as she said the word. “This isn’t about love, Essanti. I own her, like I own you. I’m taking back what is mine, what my brother stole, just like I’ll take back Sahrdon one day.”