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Chapter One - Little Girls and Post Traders
The Citadel was my home, near the northern gate of the Shore Delegation. We lived tucked tight against the Pacific Ocean on the west beaches, that remained after the Big Blast. The North Gate was the main entrance into the Shore and the Marketplace for the Post Traders. People from all over the Delegation and outer regions of the Crevasse would come here to buy goods, view the current trends, and meet for political advances with my father. Our founding fathers The Shore Delegation transformed an abandoned seven- story building into our capital. It was the home of their Delegates and their families and now it was mine. Since that time my home within the walls of the Shore was called the Citadel. The Citadel was the place where delegation meetings assembled, and the place where my father held his teachings of the Old Truth. The run-down cement building had the words, ‘Bentley & MacArthur Law’ engraved into its front wall, and the letters looked worn and faded by the weather. The marble floors that filled its halls and rooms, no longer shined like the way I imagined that they did, over one hundred years ago. The Citadel stood taller than the other buildings in the Shore Delegation, and it was the most heavily guarded, for fears of uprising or attack from foreign assault. On the third day of every month, the Delegates from the Shore and the Hilltop met to discuss matters of regulation and cohabitation. The first floor of the Citadel held a large ballroom that had been molded into a hub for the leaders to argue and send puffed up expectations across the room to one another. The Shore Delegation would align along the north wall. There were ten members present with the Shepherd at the head of his table. My father’s graying features left him looking stoic. The wrinkles around his eyes twitched when he was deep in thought and his wrinkled hands would reach up to smooth out his long smoke colored beard that hung near his chest. The Shore was an ethnically diverse sect of people, so there was no strife behind a man like my father, leading our people. His skin was like the deep color of the hickory that we traded from the Hilltop Delegation. For a man in his old age his features were still soft and refined. Father always said that our heritage ran deep from continents that I learned about as a child with names like Africa and South America. Others in the Shore were from places that had other odd names like, Asia, Europe, and other forgotten lands from the way the world existed long ago. The fight for survival in the Delegations left little room for racial strife and tensions. The ethnic races of our people was the last of our daily worries. As with most assembly meeting, to the left of the Shepherd, was his Scion, his daughter Yoli, which would be me. I would one day succeed my father’s seat as Delegate of the Shore. My apprenticeship as Scion began on my thirteenth birthday, which was a tradition of the Shore people. We groomed our leadership from bloodline and youth. The Delegate would groom their firstborn child as a Scion, also known as their heir. Therefore, it was vital for the Delegate to choose a spouse wisely and it was forbidden for them to take a husband or wife from outside of the Shore. So that left me know room to have a real social life because my father would pick a suitor for me on my twenty-first birthday. There hasn’t been a female to take the seat as Delegate of the Shore in the last hundred years, so I would be the first in many decades. The Shore Delegation was the only one to allow a female to lead so, I had a lot to learn and a lot against me before even taking the seat. Knowing all of this is the reason why my father kept me as close as he could, to arm me with wisdom, military expertise, daily combat training, and knowledge of the Old Truth. At times I felt it was more for my feminine fragility or maybe because I was his only offspring that happened to be a girl. Either way, I hated the way he chose to keep me under lock and key. Maybe it was because his wife, my mother, had been assassinated in a siege when I was only two years of age. I recall no memories of her, and my father only engaged me in rare occasions about her. His plain words never left me with any depth of her as a person, just her bewitching beauty and her sassy wit. The Hilltop Delegation was always at the assembly meetings and they smothered everyone with vast numbers of their entourage and disorderly behavior. Their members would talk out of turn and shout as loud as possible to be heard. So many would come that they lined the halls of the first floor, hoping to get a seat next to their Delegate, Jared IV. He was a callous man and got his seat as Delegate by killing the previous Delegate during an argument. The Hilltop believed that the alpha man should carry the leadership and make decisions for their people. Any challenge to the Delegate’s reign had to end in death to keep the seat. They went through so many Delegates over the years, but Jared IV had held the position for five years, ending the life of many contenders that tried to take it from him. His arrogance would fill the meeting room, he’d always throw his muddy boots on the table and sit back in his chair looking placid, picking thistles from his graying beard. His red hair was always slicked back and greasy, his salmon- colored face was littered with brown freckles and he had bright beady green eyes. He’d sit smug with his heavy necklace made out of Hilltop Bear teeth and his long brown tattered robes. He had no counsel or Scion, just his creepy Magi that clustered around him, whispering in his ear from time to time, and his brood of angry barbaric Hilltop men. Jared IV was one of the worst men I had ever encountered. He would smile at me when my father was distracted, to which I made daggers with my eyes back at him, and that only amused him to laughter. I didn’t like that man at all. Most of the time during these assembly meetings, I sat by Shepherd’s side neutral, taking in all the discussions. When asked for my opinions I gave them with blunt assertion, the way that I was expected to from the Shepherd. From the way that I had been groomed from the womb, many people in the Delegations already had faith in my subsequence to my father. He often told me that, my regal posture at the table required as much an audience as the enrapturing beauty I received from my mother. Hearing that always turned my stomach. I always felt I looked like a carbon copy of my father, except for his height and my vertical challenge. He stood over six feet tall, and I struggled with my five feet and five inches. I was just a few shades lighter with skin the color of a dark golden amber brown. We both shared dark brown eyes full of clout and passion, veiled behind long lashes. They sat above our bursting lips and budding noses. My father could never deny me as his Scion, based on looks alone. As the custom of the Shore Delegation people, as a woman, I was not permitted to cut my hair, so I wore it in a thick rope that paraded down my back. During assembly meetings, I had to reveal my Scion markings on the left side of my neck. Five years ago, at the age of thirteen, I received the gift of the black tattoo symbolizing my Scion bloodline like every Scion before me. Another custom that I never questioned growing up, was that to prove your status and legacy of leadership, you had to bear the Shore Delegation’s Scion markings. Every day since that warm day in the spring, I’ve kept the vivid memory of the agony of that day. The Shore Council was present, and the tattooist dipped his needle in the ink and began hours upon hours of maiming artwork on my body. It took several days to get it all done and even longer to heal properly. My father did everything in his power on those days for me to ease the pain, and as our Shepherd, he gave me a vehement word of caution not to buckle and show my instability to the people. Our scribes kept record of all the Delegates that served before us and at the age of thirteen my name was added to the scroll. Most times, the branches of the tree disappeared under my gowns. The ink started on the left side of my neck, careened around my shoulder, and spill down the left side of my back. My left arm was completely covered, and the tattoo ended right below my wrist. Thinking of that moment always made me remember that I never asked to be Scion, and I never wanted the command and liability given to me. Secretly I sometimes wished that I had been born to a common family with regular lives and happiness. I’d live somewhere along the beaches that I wasn’t allowed to go to, with a mother that loved me, and maybe even a few siblings that looked like me, to keep me company. I was lost in my never-ending daydreaming as the boredom of these meetings set in and I was hit with a question from our Council, snapping me back to the present. Luckily, I had answered correctly out of an arsenal of answers I kept in my brain for moments like this, and I gained myself a look of illustrious satisfaction from my father. It annoyed me and made me feel exalted at the same time. This week the Hilltop fussed over their latest state of emergency. Their Delegation wanted more agricultural resources from the Shore, as the women of their villages had given birth to more offspring at the last turn of the season. They wanted to expand further south hitting the borders of the Shore. Shepherd came to the terms to give them more resources, but in compliance the Hilltop could not expand their boundaries into Shore Delegation territory. They could extend further north if possible, where the weather was colder, and it had harsher winters, or they could go further to the east towards the Pit. Technically my father said that they could go anywhere they wanted, but they were forbidden to push towards the occupancy of the Shore. Jared IV grudgingly gave his words of acceptance to the deal but guaranteed that he would continuously press the issue of his expansion southwest where our people lived. Jared IV ended the meeting with a fierce smile my way, and he flicked his tongue at me in such an obscene way that I wanted to strike him. I knew his time would come, so I ignored him with an eye roll and excused myself from the mind melting assembly. After the meeting, the enclave disassembled, and the Hilltop Delegation made their way out of the Citadel until next month’s gripe session. I tried to avoid my father by mixing in with the crowd, but he just had to have tabs on me at all times. He caught me by my arm and lovingly put his hand on my shoulder. He worried about me constantly and despised having me far from him or the Citadel. “What are your plans for the afternoon?” He asked with his baritone voice demanding in answer in front of his Council that lingered behind him, awaiting their next commands. “Not sure Father but I will remain close to home if that’s what you wanted from me,” I answered, giving him mischievous sarcasm. “It’s not like I won’t have company.” I gestured over my shoulder to my Daily that stood in the hallway beyond the assembly room door. My father squinted his eyes at me but gave me a stiff nod of approval to escape his presence. I darted out of the room and met up with my Daily. A Scion receives a Daily at a very young age. A Daily is a chosen child of the Scion’s same age and gender. They are raised to care for, assist, and protect the Scion. A Daily could also be considered a built-in playmate or servant for a regal family of Delegation. Selah was my Daily. She was strong-willed, outspoken, quite the jokester, and she kept me smiling. She always had my best interest at heart, and her protection of me was her priority. While I learned things like the laws of the New World of the Delegation and combat strategy; Selah was conditioned to be a markswoman and human weapon of war. She was good enough to hold a position on Shepherd’s Military Defense, and she was also promised that it would one day happen if she kept her training and loyalty to the Shore Delegation and her Scion. As I rose in authority, Selah would also rise to her promised position. Selah’s mother and father were of Pacific Islander decent, but they were lost in the same siege from the Pit that killed my mother. I always believed that made our bond deeper because we both shared that longing for the missing pieces in our lives. At the age of three, Shepherd hand-selected her to grow with me and serve as my Daily; instead of sending her off to live with the caretakers, like the other orphans from the siege. We were more like sisters than anything else in life. Shepherd told us that we were petite for our age, and Selah was beautiful with tanned skin, long flowing black hair and deep dimples that poked in her cheeks when she smiled. She had the looks and the fiery personality to match. “Where are we going, to the Marketplace?” Selah asked, grabbing my arms as we walked down the hallway towards the stairwell. Her long flowing hair and cheeky smile always brightened up a room, even if she was giving death stares to all the men from the Hilltop Delegation that were standing there ogling us as we passed by them. “Of course, but I have to change my clothes first, you know I hate these white assembly gowns.” “Yes, your majesty! Let us go forth and change from your royal robes!” Selah mocked in a regal accent and she screwed up her face into a pompous expression and bowed next to me. “Shut up.” I laughed, and we ran through the lingering Delegation members. ~ After a quick change into my ‘street clothes’, a pair of dark colored pants, black leather boots, and a green military jacket, all of which Shepherd hated. I didn’t care about his opinions on the little things like this, because this is how I felt the most comfortable. Anyway, after dodging the Citadel guards that kept eyes on us, we made our way through the hordes of people in the Marketplace that I loved so much. With the backdrop of the sandy beach behind us, you could close your eyes and hear crashing waves in the distance, and the squeal of an occasional seagull floated through the sky. The air was light and salty, and it felt cool and soft, blowing in from the ocean. From the rooftop of the Citadel, you could peer into the dry, barren desert of the Crevasse to the east, and the rolling waves of the ocean in the other. It deepened my appreciation for living in the Shore. Year around we had the most exquisite weather, but this was my favorite time of year. It was the beginning of the summer and I had just celebrated my eighteenth birthday this past spring. I felt like nothing had changed on the inside, but people began to treat me a little different, even here in the Marketplace. In everyone’s eyes, I was less of a child and another year closer to an arranged marriage and the seat of my father. Neither of which, I was in a rush to entertain. As like most days, the Marketplace was buzzing with excitement. It was the place where all the action happened for me and my Daily. The merchants were gracious and sold their produce, cured meats, cloth, jewelry, or anything else that they could sell for livelihood. People in the Delegation worked on a barter system for their wages. In our history lessons, we learned about money and its cascading value to the people generations before us. Yet, in the Marketplace we didn’t rely on ‘money’, and it seemed to be working for our population. I loved going to the Marketplace, to see the new clothes the women would make and trade near the North Gate. Sometimes I’d try to convince Shepherd to barter for them for us, and then we’d alter them into our own styles. On a common day, the Marketplace would be animated with merchants shouting out deals, children running through the aisles, musicians playing their stringed instruments near the Citadel doors, and the ever-present military keeping defense for our sanctuary. Now with that passing eighteenth birthday, the older women would stop me to introduce their sons around my age. Each one hoping that I’d go back to the Shepherd hit with Cupid’s arrow. No thank you... Everyday Selah and I would sit at the trading post to watch the people coming and going out of the North Gate. We sat on top of an old cargo wagon just high enough to see over the crowd of people that assembled waiting to get in and do their business for the day. Many waved to me, and I waved back smiling with greetings of endearment. Some would bow and gently call out ‘Scion.’ Others tried to offer us fresh fruit and other goods, with more hopes that I would go back and tell my father of their good dignity towards us. I tried my best to keep a low countenance, but people couldn’t help but notice me gliding through the crowd with my Scion markings on the neck or arm if I let them show. Shepherd once told me that I was favored among our people and with Selah by my side, well protected to walk among the ordinary people of the Shore. Selah always walked close at my side with her sword clutched to her waist. I could have carried a weapon, but I never felt the threat or the need to obtain one. Although, at night, I did sleep with a dagger strapped to my leg at the request of the Shepherd. We were continually warned about late night attacks and taught to remain on guard for all occasions. If anyone stepped too close to me or spoke out of turn, it was Selah’s legal right to draw her sword against the guilty, to defend the Scion’s esteem. In our eighteen years of life, she had yet to strike someone, but she did have a hot hand and bore her weapon at regular intervals to show her unnecessary authority and loyalty. It kind of annoyed me but, it was her job, so what was I to do? “What’s the latest and greatest from the Hilltop?” Selah asked, eating grapes given to her by a merchant. She flicked them into her mouth two at a time just smacking her lips and swinging her feet back and forth like a child. “Nothing new. I think Jared IV is still whining about the land he’s never going to get from Shepherd.” “Really, lost in your daydreams again? Do you ever pay attention in those meetings?” I just looked at her and shrugged and she rolled her eyes at me. I sighed and peered blankly into the crowd shaking my head. Sometimes I felt as if the weight of the Shore Delegation rested on my shoulders and I thought about what would happen if I just packed a bag and made a run for it. I wanted to know what life was like out there in the Crevasse that my father forbid me to experience. Yet, I was stuck here having to make alliances and remember the history of the Shore Delegation. I had to make sure that I didn’t make the same mistakes as past Delegates. I even had to know the Old Truth and one day lead our people with it. I never paid attention in those teaching sessions either. “Whathagusy wrathagony (what’s wrong)?” Selah asked, in our secret language. It sounded like rubbish and childish chatter to someone that hadn’t perfected the dialect for the past fifteen years. We had too much idle time on our hands when we were young, and before the two of us could speak proper English we spoke to each other this way. And it stuck! Growing up, it agitated my father so much to hear it that he tried to inhibit us from speaking it at all. That didn’t stop us; we just ignored his demands or spoke when he wasn’t around, whatever suited the moment. I think he was just furious that he couldn’t listen in on our conversations. “Just tired of listening to these old men bicker. I won’t be the Delegate anytime soon, so there is no real need for me to be there. Besides, you and I both know, that I don’t want to hold a seat as a Delegate anyway. I’d much rather be out here among the people living life. What I really want Selah, is to leave The Shore. Do you realize that we have never been outside of the Shore walls?” “Yeah, I totally get that,” Selah mocked. “And the Shepherd would totally get it too, let’s go tell him.” That remark gained Selah a nice eye roll. “I hate feeling like I have to be two different people. I have to be eighty percent Scion and twenty percent Yoli.” “Well, this is your life, my noble Scion, so get over yourself.” Selah chanted with sarcasm, as she tossed another grape into the air, but it missed and hit her in the forehead. That’s what she gets... “Shuthuga up, Ithgay hathagaty you! (Shut up, I hate you).” I said, in our private tongue, rolling my eyes at her again. “Look! There he is...” Selah squealed jumping from her seat.
She pointed into the crowd at her favorite Post Trader. Neither of us knew much about him, but Selah was bent on finding out as much as she could about him. She always wanted me to get information from the guards at the gate but, if I asked such questions, they would be sure to tell my father. Shepherd would kill everyone involved just at the thought of me asking about a boy from outside of the Shore Delegation. It wouldn’t even matter if I happened to be asking for Selah. The Shepherd would certainly have my head. The Post Trader that had Selah smitten was tall like Shepherd, he had dark brown skin, with a scruffy tuft of hair protruding from his chin, and a wild mess of locs that hung about a foot long scraping his shoulders. He had tight squinty dark eyes and he always had a big broad smile. He always kissed the elderly merchant women on the hand and charmed them with compliments. The old women would blush and gush over him and give him extra treats from their carts. The children of the Shore loved him because he brought them candied sweets from places outside of the Shore. Selah swooned over him once a week during his trades, and begged me to speak to him, even though she knew the answer remained a resounding ‘no.’ She had nailed his schedule down to a science and sometimes made a scene, when she pleaded with me to talk to him for her. “Quit stalking and go talk to that scruffy boy if you want to Selah.” “You really must hate me, don’t you?” She asked giving me an exasperated look. “You already know that if I didn’t have to remain strapped to your side, I would have been his wife by now. Can we please go now?” Selah pulled me up from my seat and I shook my head in protest. That didn’t stop her from begging me to follow this guy through the Marketplace, so of course, I gave in to my best friend’s request. Slow like honey, we made our way through the crowd following the Post Trader. We watched him stop and talk to merchants, make trades, and spill his charisma on the young desperate women that tried to align themselves in his path. We kept a far distance from him and tried to play coy to this futile chase. I couldn’t understand Selah’s fuss over this outsider because I didn’t have the liberty to become weakened by a young man. Unfortunately, I had to remain clouded by the jurisdiction that ruled my life. I wasn’t allowed to think of such things as love and romance because my marriage would be to an arranged suitor picked by my Delegate. “Move your buns Yoli.” Selah demanded pushing me closer toward the Post Trader. We stood a few feet away from him and waited for him to turn in our direction. When he finally did, Selah stiffened with anxiety. Her face went pale and her eyes started to bug out of her head. I wanted to bust out and laugh at her, but I kept my composure and swallowed my giggle. The Post Trader looked down and bowed quick before me with his luminous smile beaming when he realized that I was the Scion. The women of the Shore paused to watch from the sidelines. They snickered and whispered to each other, giving Selah and I evil looks. My stomach began to turn knowing that it wouldn’t take long for Shepherd to find out about my covert mission. Most people seldom saw the Scion speak to or approach anyone, let alone the enchanting Post Trader from beyond the Shore walls. “Scion,” He greeted me, and my face stayed emotionless and dignified. I nodded quick and then received a nudge in the back from Selah as she anticipated her grand introduction to the Post Trader. I didn’t even have to look at her to know that she had a jaw breaking grin on her face, and she was adjusting her clothes on her nervous frame. “What’s your name Post Trader?” I requested with lacking reciprocity. “My name?” He smiled. “My name is Solomon, but most just call me Post Trader. You know how the people tend to look down upon us lowly folk. My friends call me Solo, but you Scion, you can call me whatever you want.” His demeanor and his answer struck me off guard. I didn’t expect him to have so much arrogance and charm when speaking to the Scion. I smirked and gave him daggers with my eyes. I refused to be entranced by him and moved to the side allowing Selah to step forward into the moment she had been waiting for, and she was just about in tears with excitement. “This is Selah.” I introduced her and I wanted to face palm myself from embarrassment. The Post Trader looked at Selah and smiled again, and he gave me another brief look and slightly bowed to Selah. Then he looked down and adjusted the straps on his big dirty green work bags. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you both. I’ve heard so much about the admired Scion and her prestigious Daily.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I nodded my head and turned to Selah, waiting for her to take over the conversation. Selah’s mouth was fastened shut not uttering a response. She stood in awe of the Post Trader that she daydreamed about, and she stood giggling like an idiot. I felt complete embarrassment rising for both of us. She stood there looking foolish, the people surrounding us were in heated whispers of gossip, and I was seen in the Marketplace talking to the scruffy Post Trader. Ending the emotional torture, I looked back to the Post Trader with a look of grievous surrender. “Same to you, Post Trader.” I said, and I grabbed Selah by the arm and fled the scene, leaving the women of the Shore with a bursting grapevine of news to share. ~ Selah relapsed from her love coma, with her cheeks tinted bright red from her chagrin. She pulled me back to our sitting spot by the front gate, wanting to see her Post Trader exit the Shore once more. She needed to get one more fix of lust to last her until next week. I had a feeling that if this scene got back to my father, there wouldn’t be a ‘next week’ for either of us. We spotted Solomon making his way back to the North Gate, and as he waited in line to exit the Shore with his trades, a guard with a vehement warning stopped him. The guard was big and husky but remained a man of peace, as he pulled Solomon aside and spoke to him with absolute caution. “Keep your distance from the Scion. You are prohibited from having a conversation with her.” “Hey big guy, slow down there, she talked to me first.” Solomon laughed in disbelief of the exchange of words. “Even if she talks to you, Post Trader. You’ve been warned.” The guard growled before turning back to his post. Solomon stalled for a moment and peered over his shoulder up at the Citadel that blocked the afternoon sun from shining down on him. What a mystery he was... ~ Later that evening we avoided my father and ate dinner in my room. He had many Council members to keep him company, and I had enough political talk for the day. Selah sat with me on my bed reliving the heinous moment at the Marketplace. She was sprawled out on her back, running her mouth nonstop. Then with no regard for my privacy, Shepherd walked right into my room and our conversation. Selah jumped from the bed and stood at attention waiting for a command from her Delegate. Her hair was long and loose around her shoulders and she stared directly across the room in a stoic gaze. The same stoic gaze that my father was burying into my face. I did not want to argue, I did not want to defend myself, and I did not want to hear my father’s accusations against me. Shepherd’s disposition was one of disapproval and frustration. His eyes burned over the both of us, for a minute before he spoke. His dramatic pauses were the worst and over the top. “We must have some choice words, Yoli.” He spat clueing me in on the rebuke headed my way. Selah started for the door, but he called her back to her place, and she obeyed and stood steadfast before him. “Father listen, I already know what you’re going to say- “ Shepherd stopped me from speaking with a loud ‘stop’ that echoed through the walls of my seventh-floor bedroom. I jumped from his warning and then sunk back into my pillows irritated with my adolescent temperament. “Selah, you are to keep Yoli from such encounters like the one today in the Marketplace. We don’t allow her to fraternize with anyone outside of the Shore, and most definitely not a Post Trader. You know that and I will not tolerate you forgetting. Your priority is to serve and protect your Scion, not to allow such close calls, and all of it within the eyes of the entire Shore Delegation. You have truly disappointed me today.” Selah bowed in defeat but remained silent. “Father, I think that’s a bit much, and besides, it’s not what you think- “ I tried in defense but received another reiterating ‘stop,’ to my protest. Then Shepherd went on a verbal assault, addressing me with a mixed dialogue of scorn and love. I sat scowling at Selah, letting her know that she owed me big for being her scapegoat... again. I would never let on to my father that it was Selah’s grand idea to talk to the Post Trader, because of my love and loyalty to her. I knew that Selah would receive a far worst punishment than deserved for our childlike behavior in the Marketplace, so I sat taking in every word from my father. “Yoli how many times must I remind you of the obligation you have as Scion? You cannot allow these naïve maneuvers to jeopardize your focus. A future Delegate for the Shore cannot afford such omissions. The next time it happens there will be no regret for your retribution. Have I been transparent enough for you this evening?” “Yes.” I said for the both of us, and I rolled to my side away from my audience of two, but not before shooting Selah another look of soreness. As Shepherd turned to leave the room, Selah bowed to him again, and he gave her a fatherly squeeze on her shoulder. He then looked back at me and hung his head low before exiting my room. Selah rushed to me and flopped next to me on the bed and laid her head on my shoulder and whispered ‘thathaganky you and Ithaguym sorthagarythagy (thank you, and I’m sorry)’ in our private tongue. I didn’t respond; that wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last that I would have to cover for and bite back words, for Selah. That night I had another dream, rather a nightmare about the woman that I subconsciously conjured up to be my mother. These night terrors about my mother came to me often. I don’t remember much about her appearance but in my dreams, she was stunning and she’s always kind and loving toward me. In tonight’s nightmare, I am a small child, and she bends low to hug and kiss me. Then a flash of light falls from the sky and strikes the Citadel, setting it ablaze. She burns in a ball of flames before me, and the heat radiating from her flames are so hot that I feel myself sweating all over. My mother covers her face with her smoking hands and then she turns and runs away. My father appears behind me, and I feel his grip about my shoulders and he’s screaming my name. Then he scoops me up into his strong embrace and runs in the opposite direction. I’m screaming and begging for my mother with my arms outstretched in her direction. I suddenly convulsed from my sleep in Selah’s arms. I sat up quick and tried my best to catch my breath and slow my heart that hammered hard in my chest. I wiped the sweat from my brow and waited for the fog of the dream to clear from my mind. “You’re safe, everything is okay Yoli.” Selah said as she sat next to me squeezing my hand. “Another bad dream about your mother?” I nodded and Selah smoothed my hair back and wiped my tears with the sleeve of her shirt. “I heard you crying out and raced right in here. You good now?” I nodded at first trying to be strong and then I shook my head, and I felt hot tears begin to well up in my eyes. I didn’t understand the wild emotions that followed these dreams. Every time it happened, I wanted to run to this mother that only existed in my head. My longing for her dug a deep well of sorrow inside of me and with each nightmare it grew deeper. Selah walked to the door that adjoined our rooms and closed and locked it. Then she hopped in my bed on the opposite side and turned her back to me. She snuggled into the blankets and almost instantly started snoring again. I sat up a moment longer trying to compose myself. I thought of us back when we were little girls, doing this same routine. So many times, before we played this out, and it became a habit that was as natural as our private language with one another. I would scream from a nightmare, Selah would rush to my side, I’d cry, and Selah would stay close by my side until I fell asleep again. Even at eighteen years old the dreams were as real to me as the first one, so many years ago. I never told my father; I knew he wouldn’t understand. Most times he acts as if she were a historical figure in his distant past instead of my mother. All I had was Selah to be there for me emotionally. She knew everything about me, including the things that haunted me at night.
Chapter Two – It’s The Pits
The Pit was my last trade before I could head back home to the Bottoms. Going to the Pit always got on my last nerve. The people were disgusting swine, and you could smell them in the air miles before arriving at their trading post. Strong body odor, sulfur, and death were always the first things that came to my mind, and it was heavily in the air on this particular morning. I saw the sun coming up from the east and it cast a dark orange glow over the Pit that made it look like a reflection of hell. I only tolerated going to the Pit early in the mornings before the riffraff were wide awake. At that hour, I was sure to miss Santana, their despicable head honcho. I hated him and his outrageous requests that would turn into threats when the other Delegations couldn’t dish out what he wanted. I hated being the middleman for all of his trades or demands. I’d rather get assaulted by the guards of the Shore Delegation then deal with Santana. I pulled my truck up to the main gate and saw the fat man covered in sweat, ashes, and soot. As a matter of fact, that’s what everyone called him, ‘Fat Man the Gatekeeper.’ He smelled like years of not bathing and a thick brown cigar always poked from his face. Those nasty cigars always burned dull and soggy, from his constant chewing on them. His skin was tanned and leathery from sitting in the hot Crevasse sun every day and his shiny bald head was coated with a slick sheen of sweat. This guy had to be knocking on death's door eating cigars for breakfast and sitting unprotected in the heat all the time. “Nice healthy breakfast you got there, my man.” I said patting his belly as he greeted me when I hopped out of my truck to get my delivery for Santana. Fat Man slapped my hand away with an irritated grunt and then he followed me to the back of my truck. “You guys are the last load, so it’s all for you. Everything Santana wanted from the Hilltop was there and some stuff from the Shore too.” “Speaking of Santana, he said he wanted to see you this time.” “For what? You know he isn’t even up yet, so I can just catch him next time.” “No, right now Solomon. He asked for you pacifically.” He grunted, and his belly shook when he pointed his fat finger in my face. I felt my stomach begin to ball up with anxiety, but I wasn’t going to show it. The last thing I wanted was to talk to Santana face to face, but if I wanted to leave this place without a mark for death on my back, I had to go through with it. “Really Fat Man? Pacifically?” I laughed. “Well, I will specifically go see him.” I followed Fat Man through the dump they called the Pit. The people were poverty stricken, and they lived in their own waste. I felt sorry for the children because it seemed like they never had a chance to make it in life. The streets were full of trash, human waste, and random fires burned throughout the alley ways. The smell of open sewage-choked me, all the way to Santana’s little hut on a hill that overlooked what they considered their city. It was a small one-bedroom shack that was guarded by several Pit heathens. The inside was small, and the front room had a big leather chair that was torn to shreds. I had never been in the back room, but I was told that’s where he stored all of his cut of the drugs and weapons that he got from the Hilltop. Santana was the type of guy that slept wherever and with whoever. When I walked into his tin roofed shack, I found him sitting in that beat-up chair smoking a cigar, and there were two half dressed women at his feet like pets. He looked up at me, and a look of disgust fell over his face. Santana had monster like qualities about him that, the kind that crept into your dreams at night and turned them into nightmares. He was tall and dirty like the rest of the men of the Pit. He had a thick scar embedded on the side of his face and a patch on his left eye. I always wondered what happened to it but never had the guts to ask him. He had a mess of matted black hair that connected to his long beard. His ruddy skin was the same color as the sand out in the desert of the Crevasse. “Leave us.” Santana demanded, and the women jumped up quick and slipped past me outside. They smelled as bad as Fat Man who stood at the entrance, ready to ear hustle what his head honcho had to tell me. “You wanted to see me?” I asked trying to keep my composure. I would never admit it to anyone, but Santana scared me; he was a dictator, a captain of war, and an overall tyrant. He always wanted everyone to address him as ‘Man of the New Earth’, but I would never stoop so low. “I need an update.” “An update on what my friend?” I smiled. Santana jumped from his seat and rushed me. He grabbed me by the back of my neck with a tight grip and slammed me down to the floor. Fat Man moved from his place by the door and held me down as Santana rose to tower over me. “An update on what? Boy, don’t play with me, you know ‘what’ Solomon.” He hollered, and spit flew from his lips and landed near my face on the ground. “Okay,” I called out, trying to loosen Fat Man’s grip on my neck, or die from his body odor. This dude was awfully strong for an out of shape, walking bag of flesh. “I haven’t heard anything new; I haven’t found it yet. You’ll be the first to know Santana, I promise.” “I don’t think you’re taking my request serious enough, boy. So, let’s see how serious I am, shall we? I don’t have time for games. RUBEN!” As Santana called out to his ace henchman, I knew I was in for it. I tried to fast talk and plead as Ruben entered the hut. This guy was a Nephilim, and no one could tell me different. How someone like him still roamed the earth after the big blast in the Crevasse puzzled me? He smelled worse than Fat Man, he stood nearly eight feet tall, and he looked like a hairy beast. He had a mouth full of fangs instead of regular teeth and evil slits for eyes. Ruben was all muscle and did most of Santana’s hands-on dirty work, and I knew he was here to put hands on me. I tried to bargain with Santana, but my pleading came too late. Ruben grabbed me up into the air with one arm and tossed me around like a child’s doll, before slamming me back to the floor. From there, all I remember is a swarm of kicks and punches landing all over my body. He beat my face sideways, and I tried to shield it with my arms. With my back kicked into my stomach and my legs pummeled to jelly, I felt like roadkill. After what seemed like hours of torture, Santana called out for Ruben to escort me out of his shack and back to the gate. Ruben drug me all the way back to my truck by my shirt collar. I couldn’t stand or speak from the pain that surged through my body. People had begun to emerge into the streets to see what the commotion was all about, and they laughed and taunted me. They cheered for Ruben like he was their gladiator. Santana walked close behind us; he beamed proudly at his current affair of dirty work. Once we made it to the front gate, Ruben threw me over it, instead of unlocking it, and letting me leave. When I splattered to the ground like a bag of bones and mush, Santana opened the gate and walked out over to me. He took a knee close to my face and his horrible breath filled my nostrils. “Last warning Solomon. Don’t show your face here without what I asked for, and if you never show up, I’ll find you and end you.” I nodded my head to his warning, as blood spilled from every cut on my face and the inside of my mouth. “Get him into the truck.” Ruben scooped me up and threw me into my truck and slammed the door after my body spilled into the driver’s seat. I sat there for a second trying to get myself together before starting the engine. Santana and his crew of minions disappeared behind their gate, and I was left there trying to decide my next move. A few weeks earlier, Santana didn’t ask but commanded that I bring him the records for the Old Truth. If I didn’t, then I had to at least let him know where the Shore Delegate had them stashed. I knew he was serious, but how in the world could I do that? I knew that Santana wanted them for all the wrong reasons and that the death or slavery of many would come from his dark manipulation of the Old Truth. My life or the Old Truth were the options that he gave me. My drive back home to the Bottoms took longer than normal, because I had to keep stopping to nurse my wounds and drink water. My head pounded, and I nearly blacked out a few times from the pain. I took an uncharted southwest trail back to my camp and parked my truck. Then I walked straight south for six miles to the north plain of the Bottoms. It was the longest walk of my life. I stumbled, I rested, and I even crawled at certain moments. Then when I was close enough, I let out a loud whistle. I whistled three times and then paused and then let out one more for our signal. I waited only a few minutes, and then I heard rustling in the brush behind me. “It’s Solomon.” I heard them say, and then everything went black. ~ When I woke up, my head thudded, and my body burned with pain. I was in my tent and woke up to find my wounds dressed. I still had the lingering taste of blood on my tongue and I think Ruben had kicked every one of my muscles individually because each one decided to scream at me all at once. I tried to sit up, and I felt gentle hands come from behind me to help, as I sat up in my cot. “Hey, take it easy Solomon. Here, drink this, it’ll help a little with the pain.” I looked up to see Stacia, known as our Elect Lady for the Bottoms. She was the shot caller, for all of the people here, and she kept all of us safe. She was the reason why we survived the way we did for so long. The Bottoms was a mix of people that were from all over the Crevasse that were looking for something outside of the Delegations. We lived in peace and all under Stacia’s honorable monarchy. She watched over us from a place of peace and love within her heart. She taught us regularly teachings of the Truth, the meaning of community, and integrity. She was a little unorthodox at times, but her actions always made sense in the end. Stacia was beautiful too, and I felt connected to her at the very moment that my eyes laid on her. She was a brown skinned beauty with lips and eyes to die for, and a toned physique. Her roots were a mystery, but her reputation was notorious. Everyone far and wide knew about the Elect Lady of the Bottoms, but no one could ever get close to her whereabouts to conquer her. She kept our camps light and mobile, and we were all used to not settling in one place for too long. Our enemies could never pin us down long enough to bring in an assault. Stacia loved me like a brother and raised me from about the age of six. I was born in the Crevasse, to parents that didn’t belong to any Delegation. They left me one day sitting in the same truck, that I drive today and they never returned. Stacia found me when she was only fourteen, and I’ve been with her ever since that windy day in the Crevasse. She once was a Post Trader and trained me to do the same. I loved her like family because I had no one else. Over time I couldn’t remember my own parents, and I owed my life to Stacia for raising me. It was because of Stacia’s love and guidance that I stopped stressing and wondering why my parents abandoned me like trash almost seventeen years ago. “Santana,” I huffed in pain, taking the cup from her. “I figured.” Stacia sighed and pulled up a bucket and flipped it upside down to sit next to my cot. “What does he want?” “You already know what he wants, and I think he’s serious this time.” I tried to smile but the muscles in my face were hurting. “That’s not funny Solomon. It’s personal when he attacks one of my own.” “Well I can go back to the Pit and tell him to send some men to search the Hilltop Delegation.” “Please,” Stacia huffed out rolling her eyes at me. “We’ll get those miserable souls slaughtered. I don’t think so, Solo.” “Seriously? I mean, it’s Hilltop for crying out loud. No one will miss them.” I surrendered when Stacia gave me the ‘stop playing’ stare down. “Sorry... Well I guess I can get everyone ready to move,” I said, and I tried to stand to my feet, but Stacia gently pushed me back down to the cot shaking her head. “No, I need you to stay in bed for a while until you feel better. I’ll get a hold of Ryan and figure this one out. We’ll plot everything out before we deal directly with Santana.” Just as the words left her mouth, someone called for her outside of my tent. She rushed to the opening, and then I heard her gasp, so I struggled to get out of bed and stumbled to her side. I poked my head out and saw a plume of black smoke smoldering, maybe about fifteen miles away from our camp. “Elect Lady, the Pit is close to camp. We are sure of it. They must have followed Solomon, at least to the truck, because they torched it. We haven’t found anyone near the perimeter of our outer field.” One of our scouts said, with his breath racing like he had just run all the way from the scene of the crime. “This is a warning, and they’ve gotten too close.” Stacia said smacking her lips in frustration, as I leaned against her for support. “Wait, that’s my truck? They killed my truck? You got to be kidding me. All this after the beat down I just took?” I said, and Stacia looked down at me with an annoyed look and shook her head. It was followed by a look that I had seen so many times from her. This look let me know that it was about to go all the way live, around here. She had a plan to lead us away from the Pit’s attack and we all had to be ready at a moment’s notice. She knew our numbers and resources couldn’t go up against such a massive army of heathens. “I want a circle of watch for the next two days; I’m going to need some time.” She said to the scout, and he bowed and took off to make the arrangements. “Solomon, let’s go back inside, it’s time that I told you some things.” The way she handled tight situations is the reason why she was our Elect Lady. She had earned the respect of us all for always staying mentally and strategically ahead of Santana. For the next hour I sat with Stacia in my tent with my butt glued to the cot and all of my sore muscles on edge. Stacia laid down things, I never thought I would hear and how all of her secret past would come back to try and compromise our future. She said that Santana hadn’t left us any room for options or errors, and I needed to know the truth to understand what she was going to do next. I prayed that we could pull off whatever plan she had rolling around in her beautiful mind.
Chapter Three - She Doesn’t Know How
There was a rumor going around early in the afternoon that all the young people planned to gather at the beach for some summer fun. It was hot, and the clouds sat high in the sky like feathers. I could only imagine how soothing the ocean waves would feel crashing against my skin. Selah and I petitioned my father to let us go, and after an hour of harassment, he gave in to our request. He allowed us to spend a few hours at the beach, as long as we had an escort by the Citadel’s security. I immediately reneged on his proposal, and Selah jumped up and down like a child and accepted. Selah wanted to go desperately, and she forced me to change the ‘royal robes’ and put on clothes fit for the beach. Of course, my father wanted no revealing clothes like swimsuits, or anything provocative. We had to settle for wearing some pants we cut into shorts and tank tops. Selah didn’t care what she was wearing; she would have worn winter gear, just to get away from the Citadel and be one with our generation. I was completely perturbed before we got there. Our truck pulled up to the beach, and two guards followed behind us down to the sand. The salty smell of the ocean water was so much stronger than it was near the Citadel. I closed my eyes for a second trying to embed the sensation into my memory, inhaling the air deep into my lungs. Half-naked bodies of the young men and women paraded about as if they didn’t know any better. A few people spotted us and stopped what they were doing to stare and point in our direction. I wanted to turn around and run from the embarrassment, but Selah was all smiles. Before I knew it, more people were staring, gathering, and snickering at us, for bringing the narcs to the party. Selah was the happiest girl alive, smiling, and waving at these people like this party was just for her. Humiliation raced through me, and I found myself wanting to return to our truck. I stood like a statue watching them watch me, and Selah bust out dancing in circles to the music playing just a few feet away. There were some kids gathered in a circle with guitars and little padded drums on their laps. Once our audience became less interested in us, and went back to their activities, I felt less like a foreigner. “Come on Yoli, are you going to loosen up or not?” Selah asked, getting irked by my awkwardness. Her brow frowned up at me and her eyes went hot. “Maybe this was a bad idea.” “Maybe you should just relax and take your Scion pants off for once. Enjoy this rare moment; it’s bad enough we had to bring the guards to the function.” “Just go Selah, I know you came here to have a good time. I’ll sit back with the guards.” I frowned and gestured to the giant men standing behind me. Selah shook her frustrated head at me and rolled her eyes. I thought that I heard her mutter, ‘thank God’, under her breath. Then she walked away adjusting the front of her tank top a little lower. I sighed and closed my eyes with an internal cringe pulsing through my veins. Most times, I would have been frustrated with Selah for her demeanor, but I understood her. She was with me ninety percent of every day and barely had a life of her own to explore. I wanted her to have the time she needed away from me. It hurt that I was left to stand inept to my surroundings, but I felt like she deserved this occasion. “Keep an eye on her but give her the space she needs.” I told one of our guards, and he nodded and headed off to keep range on Selah. I sat in the sand under the shade of my guard. I found a stick close by and drew circles and swirls that curved around my buried feet. As young people walked by, they would eyeball me and murmur to one another, but no one would wave or stop to say ‘hello.’ I wished that I could be more carefree and happy-go-lucky like Selah, but I didn’t know how to do it. I sat there like a lonely lump of seaweed that had washed to shore and Selah was living it up on the other side of the beach. I sulked and she danced. She was making friends and I sat with an armed guard who job was to protect me and not entertain me. So, I sat alone and pretended to be enjoying myself, while I agonized inside for recognition and acceptance. The sand was hot and scraped my skin, but I made it look like it was the most interesting thing I had ever seen. At times, I would close my eyes and just meditate on the sound of the waves rolling to shore, but the sound of laughter from the youth crippled my esteem. They found joy in the company of each other and I felt like I was fighting back tears. After what seemed like days, Selah finally returned to me, and I stood up to greet her. “I’ve got to talk to you.” She said, and she eyed our security, letting me know that the details were juicy and had the potential to get us in major trouble from Shepherd. “Thathagay pothagos trathagather isthagis herthager. (The Post Trader is here.)” “What?” I asked in shock, and I looked up at our guards, who obviously had no clue what we were talking about, and if they did, it would be straight back to the Citadel for us. “Ithaguy nethageedy tothagu tathagak tothagu hithagim. (I need to talk to him.)” Selah said with desperation in her voice. Her big brown eyes gave me the puppy look. “Selah, we can’t, and you know it.” I gave a gentle warning and a weary smile. Selah gave me a look that stopped me dead in my tracks. She looked at me as if I were her eternal enemy instead of the only real family she’s ever had, but I couldn’t give in to her request. I felt defeated, but there was nothing more to be done. “I’m sorry.” I whispered and her eyes burned over my face. Before we could speak another word, her Post Trader interrupted us. He smiled big, but he had healing bruises all over his face, and he had a slight limp as he approached us. He greeted us with a loud ‘hello’. I jittered with nervousness, and Selah was as cool as a clam this time. She smiled back and greeted him. “And hello to you as well, Scion.” “This isn’t a good idea.” I warned him. “You shouldn’t be talking to either of us.” “Dang, a gentleman can’t say ‘hello’?” He laughed at me in frustration, and his skinny body looked frail and sore. “Shepherd would not approve.” I said, and uneasiness took over me. As much as I wanted to rebel and act my age, I didn’t have that liberty. The guards that were standing behind us, were already giving questioning looks back and forth to one another. “Relax.” Selah huffed, looking irritated with me again. Her face was screwed up with tension and her hands slammed into her hips, taking on an aggressive posture. “Scion, we need to remove him.” One of our guards said, trying to interject into this madness, and a crowd of kids hovered about watching the scene. I knew that this moment, called for me to be Yoli no longer, I had to put on my Scion pants, and take charge. I quickly got myself together and swallowed my feelings hard. I knew that Selah wasn’t going to be happy with me, but I had to put down the hammer. “No, we’ll leave. We’re going back to the Citadel.” “What?” Selah protested at the top of her voice glaring at me hard. “Let’s go.” I called leading the way for the guards and Selah to follow me back up to our truck. Solomon rushed forward and grabbed my arm, trying to stop me. I heard the people that were watching gasp, and then our guards tackled him to the ground. He winced with pain, and I felt lousy for letting it happen. Selah stood looking astonished, as did the rest of the kids in the crowd. Once the guards pulled Solomon to his feet, his pain flooded his face. From the way he grimaced, I could tell his wounds still needed more time to heal. His dark brown eyes watered trying to hold back the tears. “Is all this really necessary Scion?” Solomon croaked as the guards held his arms behind his back. “Just let him go Yoli, this is madness.” Selah mustered with anger on her face. I had never felt so much heat from her; it was all in her eyes and her tone of voice when she addressed me. “Let him go.” I commanded, fixing my eyes to stare hard right back at Selah. She didn’t back down from her resentful stance, so I turned to leave the situation behind me. The guards released Solomon, and I looked over my shoulder to see that he was still following close behind us as we walked to the vehicle waiting whisk me back home. The guards quarreled with him, pushing him back away from us and he’d slap their hands away continuing to try and get my attention. Selah fumed with her eyes burning holes into my face. Once we made it back to the truck, Solomon broke through my barricade of security, and he grabbed my arm again. “Scion please, I need to talk to you.” He forced his petition, and his eyes looked desperate and earnest, but I had to remain unmoved. “Talk to her about what?” Selah spat out, and I knew it wasn’t in the way of her protecting me but more of an inquiry from her sudden jealousy. The guards grabbed Solomon again, and this time, they slammed him into the side of the truck. We had a crowd of kids from the Shore following behind us, and the more the guards and Solomon fought back and forth the more people clustered around us. This encounter had turned into chaos, and I had to put an end to it. I already knew I had a murder sentence coming from my father once he heard about this, so the least I could do was hear the poor guy’s request. “Stop.” I called out, and I stepped in between the guards and Solomon. The guards let go but remained right behind me for security. I peered up at Solomon’s smooth brown face that was covered in dark purple and black bruises. “Why are you doing this? What’s wrong with you? Do you know what my father will do to you?” “I need to talk to you in private.” He said, and I looked over at Selah, and her face was bright red with fury. She sighed heavy and stood driving daggers into me with her eyes. I could even see the way her fists were balled up gripping the hem of her shorts like a vice. This was not ‘us’; we didn’t fight like this, and especially over a stupid boy. I didn’t like this guy, she did, and all I could do was hope that she could understand my reasoning later. “That’s not going to happen Post Trader. If you have something to say to me, then speak now.” I said, turning back to Solomon, hoping he’d hurry his speech along. “I can’t, I need to talk to you in private.” Solomon said again, and his face changed from frustrated to serious. “I promise you; I’m not trying to do anything perverted or funny. I really need to talk to you.” I didn’t know what to do... My best friend thought the worst of my character, because the object of her affection was summoning me and not her. The guards were taking note of everything they were going to tell Shepherd, and the crowd around us received a show to share throughout the Shore Delegation. I was a dead woman walking at this point, so what did it matter if I listened to the Post Trader or not? “Stand down... Just for a second.” I said waving off the guards and they stepped away from Solomon, but their hands were on their swords, and they kept eyes on his every move. I looked at Selah, and she backed off as well but moved slow, and I could feel the rage beaming from her body. “What do you want?” “I’m here on behalf of someone very important. I need you to come with me somewhere.” “Right!” I laughed. “Look, I’m not following you anywhere, I don’t even know you, and have you forgotten who I am Post Trader?” “I know exactly who you are, and I’m sure that I know more about you, than you do right now. We need your help. I just need you to call off the hounds and come with me, please.” “Sorry, Post Trader but I can’t do that, I’m not interested. If it’s that important, make a petition to speak with the Shepherd. Otherwise, I suggest that you not show your face around here anymore and that’s not a request.” I replied, and I turned to walk away, and he grabbed my arm for the third time. The guards were ready to pounce on him, but I put my hand up to stop them in their tracks. “You have got to stop putting your hands on me if you don’t want to end up dead.” “Scion...” Solomon said, rooted with many burdens. “I can’t explain everything to you right now, but I promise that you will be safe. I promise you a safe return to your father. We desperately need your help.” “We?” I asked, and he said nothing more and just looked to the ground. “No, I’m not going anywhere with you.” I gestured to the guards and Selah that it was time to leave, and all three of them stood at attention, waiting for me to get in first. Solomon stood silently looking to the ground. The buzzing and gossip from the crowd seemed to grow a little louder. As I was about to hop up into the truck, Solomon called out to me once more. “I can’t give you all the details right now, but I can tell you that I have information regarding your mother. I have history about the Shore Delegation, that could change its future.” My heart jumped, and then it froze in my throat. I couldn’t speak, but I stopped and returned my feet to the ground. I stood looking at Solomon and the crowd watching from afar murmured even louder and pointed judging fingers. How could he know anything about me? He had to be a lying imposter, and I didn’t want to hear from him again. How could he know anything about the Scion, Shepherd, my mother, and the Shore Delegation? He was nothing more than the Post Trader... A nobody... “I know it all sounds like madness, but I'm so for real right now, I’m telling you the truth.” Solomon tried to reassure me that he wasn’t a fraud. “Leave, don’t come back, and if I see you in the Shore, I’ll be sure to have the Citadel guards end you. Last warning Post Trader.” I jumped back into the truck quick, and I told the guards to leave as fast as possible. Selah sat next to me in silence, and she stared out of the window the whole ride back to the Citadel. It was the longest ride of my life. We made it back to the Citadel a few minutes before sunset and when we arrived, Selah bolted from the truck without saying a word to me. The guards couldn’t wait to jump from their seats and run up the steps to the Shepherd that was waiting there for our return. I stood next to the truck watching his sweet, peaceful smile fade into a heavy scowl. His eyes were shooting daggers right into my throat and heart. I was called immediately inside and ushered into Shepherd’s quarters. The verbal lashing aimed at me was the worst one yet, I mean truly meant for history books. My father accused me of being fast with boys and told me that I would never leave the Citadel without him or heavy security at my side. My character had been scorned, and I was now a reproach to my father and our people. I was to make retribution to him for my actions and serve in our chapel until he decided that I had made proper amends. My seat for Delegation meetings had been suspended until further notice, until I showed proper maturity. I would be treated like a child, until Shepherd was good and ready to decide otherwise. I didn’t sulk because of his harsh words. I stood in front of the large table in his private quarters and stared at him blankly. The Shepherd pounded his fist on the table, and spit flew from his lips when he pushed heavy words from his mouth, but I remained sunk inside my cognition. Part of me began to wonder about my mother, and if she would have handled the situation the same way. In my hope, she would have treated me like a daughter with affection, instead of a Scion with consignment. As my father scolded me, my mind raced around wondering what Solomon knew of her. I didn’t bother mentioning any of what was said to me, to the Shepherd. From what I could tell, the guards hadn’t said anything either. They were probably just stuck on the fact that some young guy had approached the Scion. When the Shepherd finished being a Delegate and not a father, I held in all the brewing emotions and then exited his quarters and stepped into the hallway. I closed the doors behind me and looked up to see Selah standing along the wall waiting for me, as she was supposed to, and we didn’t say a word to one another. She looked away from me, and I stepped passed her and walked the long hallway to my room. I held my head high before Selah, and once we made it to my door, I entered quick, closing the door behind me. I heard Selah’s door close with a pound in the adjoining room, and then I sunk to the floor. I slid down with my back against the door and tears dripped murderously over my cheeks. I made my way to my bed and broke into sobs until there was nothing left but a seed of bitterness sprouting green, with each passing moment. My father had treated me less like his eighteen-year-old daughter with love, and more like a law-breaking criminal. Selah, my best friend, my sister; forged a belief that I had insidious intentions toward her feelings for Solomon. I planned on making my silence golden towards them both, in hopes that I would never be a misstep in their lives again. ~ I was jolted out of my dreams in the middle of the night by feeling someone crawling at the bottom of my bed. Before I could sit up to see whom it was, I felt a warm hand grip my mouth to keep me from screaming or biting down on the hand of the enemy. A tight arm wrapped around my waist pinning my arms to my side, and I felt my body lift from my bed. As my body swung through the air, I struggled and kicked but then I felt pain strike vicious to my head and right before everything went black, I heard a familiar voice say, ‘Why did you hit her, man? Dang it, she’s going to kill me.’