For generations after her death, she is spoken of reverently by e’Silean women. She is called the greatest Slave Trainer of all time. She is celebrated for her ingenuity and wisdom. e’Silean Loyalists claim she answered the call of the goddess and formed her country under the Natural and True Order. Yet, her greatest achievement had nothing to do with slavery at all: she was a loving mother to five beautiful children…
“Come,” Penny called to her daughter, beckoning. “Come here, Taylie. Tell me why you’re crying.”
The child was wrapped around her own knees, weeping piteously into them. Alone on the beach, probably seeking the sanctity of lapping waves and shining moonlight, she had come to cry alone. Penny understood that urge; that was usually the reason she came to the beach at night. Taylie was certainly her child.
Taylie did not come. She turned her face away from Penny, toward the sea. She had always been Penny’s most private child, but this was more reserved than usual. Penny was not blind. She knew her daughter had been pulling away over the past few years. She was not a baby anymore, and had stopped needing her mother to rescue her from the “weepies” and “grumpies” a few years ago. Due to the new laws just put into effect on the island, it would still be many years before Taylie could move out of the temple, but in some ways she did not belong to Penny anymore.
Penny went to Taylie. Her instinct was to simply wrap herself around her daughter and protect her from the pain. But she sat beside her instead. She pulled one knee up to her chest and hooked an arm around it. She settled in to wait.
The e’Silean sky was big and full of thousands of stars. The citizens had taken to renaming the constellations recently, and Penny had had to negotiate a couple disputes over the names. The silliness of it struck her as she sat beside Taylie looking up at the sky. It was not as though anyone owned the stars or had a right to name them. Penny certainly had no more right than anyone else to declare a name, and yet her citizens took her judgments as law. If she pointed out three stars in the sky and called them The e’Silean Triangle, that’s what they became.
Her eyes went to the “Sword of the Goddess”, a cluster of stars that Taylie had named several years ago. It had been one of the first constellations Penny had declared when the stars became a topic for Council discussion. It wasn’t truly a weapon, Penny decided, looking it over with discerning eyes. It was a whip with a coiled end. She sighed, because Taylie had probably been sarcastic when she had named it.
“What?” Taylie asked, mistaking her sigh for impatience. She glared up through her hair. It had been fairly blond at one point, but had darkened as she blossomed into womanhood. “What do you want, Mama?”
“Nothing, Baby,” Penny answered, speaking softly as she usually did with her children. She spent so much of her day using a firm tone or a powerful one. At home she wanted her children to experience gentleness. “I was lamenting how much you have grown.”
Taylie wiped her face with one hand, pushing hair out of her eyes. She lifted her chin.
“I’m much grown but not a citizen, because you effectively blocked me from pursuing my fortunes.”
The law of temple rights. It had officially been passed by Council, and Taylie was not the only young woman upset by it. The stipulations of the law were not complex. It gave the Temple Keeper rights over her charges, and did not allow them to seek out their own careers without permission of their Temple Keeper. From Taylie’s perspective, Penny could see why she was upset. She was well-grown and ready to find a career for herself, but now she had to have Penny’s permission to seek out an apprenticeship.
“Is that why you’re upset?”
Taylie scoffed. “No, of course not. I learned to roll my eyes at the Council decisions years ago, mother. If you want to make laws to keep your children in your temple, why should I complain? It suits you better to keep us here so you don’t get stuck alone with Cav after all these years of treating him like property.”
It was colder than she usually talked, but Penny let it pass. She ignored the mention of Cav being treated as a slave, and the guilt that accompanied any serious thought about what had become of her former husband.
“Then why is it, exactly, that you are sitting on the beach crying in the middle of the night?”
Taylie turned her face away, looking out toward the waves. Penny clenched every muscle in her body to keep herself from trying to shake information out of her daughter. She waited.
“Why AM I crying?” Taylie whispered at last, but it was a question for herself rather than her mother. “Why? All is lost forever and tears will do no one any good.”
“Taylie?” Penny was alarmed now. “What is wrong?”
When Taylie looked back at her, the Sword of the Goddess shone above her head in the sky, like a crown. Her eyes blazed with both passion and terror. She was young, but she was a woman now, with her own convictions and intentions.
“I think I’m a Fatalist. That’s what is wrong.”