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They mentioned it more than twice around her twin in the following months. Not that Kai'la believed their tale. That is, until word started coming of the Fes'il building new villages on their island. Of the Great House being built around the Sacred Fire that Faida had commissioned. The Seriks were doing what they could to establish life upon the former Isle of Death.

Faida had felt able to breathe for the first time since they left the island. She had prepared for an attack daily from the moment she boarded The Raik and returned home. There were still weeks where she took her ship and patrolled some part of the Fes'il isle, just to remind them that she was watching. Now they had their answer.

In the weeks following, the Seriks had reopened trade with the southern isles, fulfilling their obligations to the Tre'dien and Menoen Tribes. With the Janye, they married five Serik women to Janye men to satisfy the debt. Yet, it took some time for a messenger to come to the Vezhul to ask for recompense.

When the runner came to request her father's presence in the council, Faida rose to her feet and walked with him to the Great House. It was her habit ever since they returned from the Isle of Death. If her father was to be in council, so was she. Today, especially, she would not be kept from it. Word had reached everyone in the village in a matter of minutes when the Serik vessel docked. Faida had a right to know what Chief Zekiir would offer to seal his bond to the Vezhul.

Several minutes passed once they were within the Great House as they waited for others to arrive. Faida wandered a bit in the stone building, her eyes traveling over the statues of the Gods and Goddesses. Perhaps her favorite part was the show of the sun upon the doors leading into the Great House in a representation of Versaile, offering entrance as she offered Life. Carved upon the doors from the inside was the second moon, Terzhul, representing passing from one place into Death.

Stopping at the statue of Ne'Hatma, her eyes traced the warrior maiden with the blade at her waist, the raven on her shoulder, and the spear in her hand. Ever since Faida was young, she knew that she wanted to stand as her Goddess stood, without fear and with full confidence in her abilities. At the age of nineteen, Faida knew she had fulfilled her goal.

At last, the council was called to order and the great doors closed, blocking them off from the rest of the world. Faida took up a place near to her father and watched as a man with long limbs stepped to the edge of the Sacred Fire.

"Greetings, Chief Ak'uin. Chief Zekiir sends his respect," the man said, his voice having a deeper pitch than Faida expected.

"I return it," her uncle said. "What news from the Serik isle?"

"I do not come from the isle of my people but bring news of the Fes'il. My chief thought you would wish to know the state of the isle." With that, he launched into a full report, indicating that several women and children had been returned to the isle. There was a shortage of men, but in accordance to their God's nature, it did not appear matrimony was something they were considering when it came to returning their population to a more sustainable size. Faida smiled a little to hear that they did not wish to accept any help from the other tribes in that regard.

When he was finished, Chief Ak'uin then intoned, "Then it is true that Chief Zekiir honors his commitment to see the Fes'il restored. Does he also honor his commitment to make amends with his brothers and sisters of the Parnon Nation?"

The messenger bowed his head. "Indeed, he does. We have already settled the grievances we have caused upon the Tre'dien, Menoen, and Janye Tribes. Now, we wish to settle our debt with the people of Vezhul." Raising to his full height, the man looked straight ahead as he intoned, "As the Seriks have brought death to your shores, so Chief Zekiir would like to offer recompense to the Vezhul by securing life. If it is agreeable to Chief Ak'uin, he would like to take as his wife one who is of the Chief's blood. Chief Zekiir believes it the only way to be forgiven and to fully prove that he is bound to the unity of Parnon through the will of the Gods."

The first ridiculous thought to cross her mind was that she shouldn't be here. That she should not have heard the messenger's words. She should be ignorant of the Serik Chief's attempt at atonement.

Her second thought was a string of curses. Whether at Zekiir or herself, she did not know. Yet, it explained why it had taken so long for him to approach the Vezhul. He had wanted to find a way that would bring him Faida. As if he had any right to her.

"If we refuse the marriage?" Faida asked, surprising everyone but Kor'ik. She ignored them as her eyes bored into the messenger's. "What does he offer in recompense if we refuse a marriage?"

The man held his arms out. "This is all I have been given to say. It is a strong symbol, to marry the blood of two great leaders, and one he hoped you would rejoice in with him."

She shook her head, barely holding back the sarcastic laughter. It was not a symbol he wanted, nor did he care about their lineage. It was a way for him to put a claim on her. But she was already Claimed.

As was her sister.

There were but two women who bore the blood of the chief. For either one to marry, they would have to first lay down their calling. They would have to forsake their Gods.

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