Sample of Daughter of the Goddess Lands

19 Nov

Daughter of the Goddess Lands is available in print and Kindle at Amazon. 

 

“But what does he mean?” asked a young woman, whose plaintive tone reminded Kalie of a sheep. “People cannot be owned! Women or men, it makes no difference. Can’t you just explain that to him?”

Kalie sighed, tired of answering the same question, no matter how many different ways it was phrased.

“Well?” demanded the man seated next to the speaker, his arm around her. The meeting was being held in the largest shrine in Riverford, much larger than the one Kalie had met them in the night before. Perhaps eight hands of people were crowded inside, with several times that number waiting anxiously in the courtyard outside.

Kalie looked at the young couple, afraid that if she tried to explain yet again, she would say something that she would regret.

She was spared having to answer by Maris!
. “Whether we like it or not,” the ancient healer said in a voice that belied her age, “we have been called to deal with people who are entirely different from any we have ever encountered. Or imagined. Kalie has explained this notion of ‘slavery’ to us. Refusing to believe it will not change the fact that it is.”

“I will gladly hand over the gold and cloth,” said Yelene. “Even weapons of metal, though I shudder to think of those tools in the hands of such creatures. And as for food, I say give them our honey and wine and every bit of seed grain we have. All of that can be replaced! But I cannot give them human beings! I cannot ask any one of us to even consider such a sacrifice.”

A heavy silence settled over the room. Kalie knew it was now or never.

“There may be a way,” she began. “Yelene is right when she said that material wealth can be replaced. But now that they know of us—of great wealth in the west, held by people who know nothing of war—they will return, and in greater numbers. If the lands of the Goddess are to survive, I believe that the answer lies within Haraak’s demand for slaves.”

There was a roar of protest, but Yelene silenced it with a glance. “How?”

“What I am going to suggest will sound like madness—and it may very well be.” She faltered, suddenly unsure of how to continue.

“It’s all right, child,” said Maris. “The words are in you. Just let them out.” She whispered to the apprentice beside her, and the young woman brought Kalie a cup of something steaming. Kalie thanked her and sipped carefully. A rich, flowery tea greeted her tongue, and while she was trying to guess the ingredients, inspiration struck.

“There is a story I learned while I lived with the healers at Hot Springs.” Kalie’s voice took on the cadence of a storyteller. “Far in the north, where the snow never melts, there lives a bear that is pure white. When it stands on two legs, it is the height of three men, and no spear or arrow made by the hand of man can kill it. But the people who share this bear’s domain have developed an unusual weapon, for such times as when a bear ravages a village, or when hunger makes the people desperate.

“They take a ball of fat, softened by fire, and into it they slide a double bladed knife, folded together, and held in place by the fat as it hardens. They then leave the ball by whatever water source the bear drinks from. The bear usually swallows the ball whole, and goes on his way.”

“And when the fat melts inside his stomach…” Maris took up the story. “The knife springs open and kills the bear—from the inside.”

“A rather cruel way to hunt,” said Yelene.

“Killing is often cruel,” said a man across the room. “As much as we might seek to make it otherwise. But when threatened, all creatures will use whatever means are available to be the one who survives, even if another must die.”

Yelene fixed Kalie with a piercing gaze. “What do you have in mind, child?”

“Haraak has demanded slaves. I say we should give him slaves. Women, willing to sacrifice their lives to save our world from his. We will be the knife swallowed by the bear. We will destroy their world—from within.”

Where there had been painful silence moments before, the room was now in uproar. And while many shouted down her idea as impossible—or wrong—others wanted to know the details of her plan, and, to Kalie’s surprise, many were volunteering to be part of it.

“I do not know exactly what can be done,” Kalie said when order was restored. “Or what things people might be willing to do. We should make several different plans, and recruit those with as many different skills as possible. I know the tribe these beasts belong to is probably the largest of its kind. It is ruled by a man named Ahnaak. When that king learns of our land; of what we have…”

“He will send more of his warriors to ravage our homes,” Karnac finished.

“Or he will lead them here himself,” said Kalie. “And perhaps this time, they will decide not to leave at all.”

Her words brought a new kind of fear to everyone in the room.

“I would risk my life for such an undertaking,” said Valen. “But what, exactly, is it that you think we can do?”

“First,” said Kalie, “our party must consist only of women. Any men we send would be killed immediately.” Before Valen could protest, she continued. “And I think we must remain there for many moonspans, to learn all we can of our enemies; find their every weakness. It may be that simply by killing their strongest leaders, we can sew enough chaos to keep them from our homes for many years.”

“And how are we to kill them?” asked a young woman. Kalie remembered her name was Marika, a refugee from one of the burned villages to the east.

“As slaves, we will prepare much of the food that the men eat, as well as making their clothing. There are poisons that can be added to food, and rubbed into cloth—”

“You are suggesting we ourselves become as these monsters?” a young man asked.

“Only those who are willing,” said Kalie. “And only those who understand the risks: as slaves, our lives will be filled with pain and degradation. We may die in that land without accomplishing anything. I want no one on this mission who cannot fully accept what it means. It may be that I myself am the only one who qualifies.”

“We would not let you do this alone, Kalie,” said Yelene.

“Even if we wanted to, those men will not leave without many more than just you,” said a young priestess. “And now that we have seen for ourselves what is at stake—“

“I will go,” said the young woman beside Maris. “I cannot promise to kill anyone, although I fear Kalie may be right when she says it is necessary. But I will do all I can to bring the light of the Goddess to these men, and to show them that!
there is an alternative to coming to our land as enemies.”

Maris smiled at her apprentice. “My young Alessa speaks the truth. These men are sick, in their minds and in their souls. Yet in demanding slaves, they have given us the key to our salvation—and possibly theirs as well.”

Alessa smiled. “They did insist that we come with them,” she said softly. “So it could be argued that any…change…we bring to their land was at their own request.”

“They are not inviting us to come as teachers!” Kalie said pointedly.

“True,” said Alessa. “But it may happen anyway.”

“We must go to their land to destroy them!” Kalie struggled to keep her voice soft; her tone reasonable.

“I would be willing to slay them,” said Marika. “After what they did to my village and my family, I truly believe, the best use of our lives is to slay their leaders while they sleep—if they are truly foolish enough to sleep beside women they have violated and named ‘slaves’?” She looked at Kalie for confirmation.

“They will do so,” Kalie insisted. “They will do it without fear that a woman could strike back—or even imagine it.” She stood and addressed the room. “What I am suggesting could well mean death for all who come with me. But it may be our only chance to stop these beastmen from destroying the Land of the Goddess! From doing to every village and city what they have already done to—“

“And I believe,” Maris spoke softly. “That our greatest chance lies not in slaying these beasts, but in transforming them.” She smiled at Kalie. “You speak of tricking a beast into swallowing the knife which will kill him. I speak of tricking that same beast into swallowing medicine that will heal him. Yet in either case, it is the women of the Goddess who must be swallowed by the beast for the change to occur. And the future of our world—and perhaps theirs—depends on that transformation.”

“And all the w!
hile, we must seek to reach the women among them,” said Alessa. “For they seem to be victims as well.”

“Then why do they stay with such men?” demanded an exasperated priestess.

“That we shall learn when we are there,” replied Maris. “And perhaps, teach them that they do not have to.”

It was then that those assembled in the temple realized that Maris intended to go with them. “Good Mother,” Valan said slowly, “these men have demanded young women…”

“And they have demanded fifty as well,” said Maris. “Yet when the time comes, I think they will take what they can get and leave.”

“And what, exactly, do you expect the rest of us to be doing, while you risk your lives on this deadly expedition?” demanded a young man, one of the few survivors of the village of Three Hills, two days to the east of Riverford.

“Pray,” said Maris. “And bring word of this threat to all who live in this land. And to prepare some sort of defense in the event that we fail.”

“Perhaps other cities could be rebuilt along the lines of Riverford,” suggested Valan.

“Our city was built this way to keep out floodwaters!” cried Karnac.

“But it has effectively kept out the beastmen as well,” said Yelene. “Perhaps the Goddess guided the hand of those long ago builders, knowing this day would come.”

“If Maris is to go,” said another priestess. “I would ask that Kalie step down as leader, and not go on this journey.”

Kalie’s jaw dropped. “I make no pretensions of leadership,” she sa!
id quickly. “But I must make this journey! I am the only one among us who has lived with these beasts! I speak their tongue, and am the only one who can prepare the others…”

“I was told that when you stumbled into the village of Tall Oak seven years ago, you did not even know your own name!” the priestess interrupted. “Even now, I understand that you suffer from nightmares; that you have never fully regained your memory. To subject yourself to these horrors a second time is more than even the Goddess Herself would ask.”

Yelene nodded. “Truly, Kalie, you have done enough. Remain with us, and complete the Healing you have sought for yourself these seven years.”

Others in the room nodded. Kalie was touched by their concern, but knew she could not remain safely behind in Riverford while others laid down their lives at her urging.

“Kalie must come with us,” said Maris. “As must my own apprentice, Alessa.”

No one seemed willing to argue with Maris. A new energy filled the people in the shrine as, for the first time in days, they had something to do. Under Yelene’s direction, they broke into groups. Some were charged with gathering the ransom goods, while Kalie met with the volunteers willing make up the group of slaves.

Several she rejected at once as too young, too frail or lacking the patience to endure all that slavery would mean. But in the end, she had to accept most who offered, and they still had only thirty women.

When everything—and everyone—was assembled on the highest rooftop, Yelene gazed down at the beastmen, then turned to address those who were about to leave their home, and their world, for possibly the last time.

“Of all the blessings that the Children of the Goddess have known and rejoiced in, going back to First Woman and First Man, perhaps the greatest gift is the power to make our own choices. The strangers who have come to our land, bringing death and pain, live in ignorance of that gift. I can see that now when I look at them. They do not think that we have the power to make choices, once they believe they have made those choices for us. Perhaps that will turn out to be their greatest weakness: they underestimate what free women are capable of.”

Kalie began to feel better than she had in a long time.

 

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2 Responses to “Sample of Daughter of the Goddess Lands”

  1. Clarimonde December 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Really well-done excerpt! It makes me want to find out more about what will happen.It’s true that once word gets back to the warriors about a rich land inhabited by people who don’t know of war – they will think "easy pickings." I can see why Kalie feels she must do what she has to do.

  2. Cathelaine January 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Exciting and fast-paced. Now I’ve read the Kindle preview and this portion, and I have to find out what happens in-between and after!Are you offering autographs to fans who mail you their copies with SASE? Thanks 🙂

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