Part 2 of The Middle Passage continues:
As she got up, a curse escaped her lips. Sitting in the throne room as her ancestors did seem more appealing as a wave of pain washed over her legs. She cleared her head of such thoughts. She was grateful to be given the choice between protecting herself and her people or hiding away till the enemy carted them unto ships that never returned. Since more women have been trained to fight, the Queen, her mother, led them through many battles. They are her special legion. They have struck the chains off a few of their people, but they are not even close to changing the tides of the war.
“Lost in your head again, little sister,” Saye grimly snapped her back to attention,
“Don’t worry I’m not only here to mock your lack of talent. The elders are calling a meeting. Even though you would have nothing to do with the complexities of the politics of the tribe, they cannot move forward without the decision of the Queen.”
“The Queen,” she thought.
Her world tilted a bit. Saye had tried to hide his worry using light-hearted jests, but she had sensed the dread in his voice. There were few reasons her brother would travel all the way to the training pits before mid-afternoon. Since he had long completed training, he only came to taunt his twin and drill with Gonlekpeii every other month. And when he did, his taunts were a lot sharper than what he greeted her with this morning. He didn’t have to say why. The Queen was dead or worse captured, and now she would have to lead in her place.
Her mother had accompanied the new soldiers in her legion to the ocean lands to relieve the troops that had been stationed there for over a year. The turnover would have happened seamlessly without her presence, but she wanted to keep up the morale of those who wouldn’t get to see their families for another six months. Nothing strikes courage into the heart of the Manos like their Queen in full armor. Kou had offered to accompany her, but the capital couldn’t be left without a leader.
Without her brother’s usual chatter, she trailed him in silence. For once Saye had no clever japes to say. Losing father had been more passive. They were six when he was taken. Only fuzzy memories of them running between towering midnight black legs were left of him. Their mother had been their constant, her people’s constant. She had bound Kou’s broken bones and torn muscles from the training pits and knocked her to the dirt in those same pits. She had braided her curls into submission when Kou was first named the Queen’s heir. Her mother had fought every elder that had initially refused the joint rulership with her brother. Now, she would have to face those hard faces with only her twin by her side.
They crossed the Hallway of Faces. The life-sized tapestries of every Queen before her stared into her soul. They all sat at the feet of their brothers with their spouses sitting next to them. At the end of the hall was her mother, who stood with head high in her own seat. Her twin seated to her left and her husband, Kou and Saye’s father, stood at her right. The weavers had spared no talent making her mother’s tapestry. She stifled the urge to kneel as she passed it. Even in two dimensions, the power radiated off her mother.
She stood before the massive council hall doors and waited. She instantly became aware of the red dirt on her pants and her wild curls that made her look like anything but the regal ruler she left in the hallway. She tried to brush the dust off her pants. She wanted to command the council of elders’ like the former Queen did.
“Let them see you have been training in the pits,” Saye interrupted. “The Elders are calling for a full-scale attack on the ships. We cannot deny them. The tribe needs a warrior. You have to show them you’re stronger than me, stronger than mother. They have to see you are willing to fight among the foot soldiers in the dirt to defend our people. Keep your chin up and eyes on our thrones as we walk in.” The guards pulled open the door, and Kou and Saye stepped in.
..part 2 of 3; to be continued
Authored by Whitney Okujagu
Featured picture by LiGerian Optics