Defeated

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"I am sorry, Faida," Kor'ik sighed as they stepped outside.

"Then make him see that this is not possible," she hissed, speaking of his father. "Kai'la and I are Claimed. Neither of us is willing to risk the wrath of our Goddesses to marry a man who was our enemy a short time ago. You know he does not view this as recompense. Your father must demand something else from him. We need not appease a would-be tyrant."

"Calm yourself, Cousin. We will find a way to settle the matter. As we always do."

Following his advice, Faida closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it. "Yes, we will." Instead of returning to her dwelling with her father, Faida followed Kor'ik and Alinah to theirs. Together, the three of them sat around the hearth and tried to come up with an alternate solution. When they had finished, Kor'ik promised to take the thoughts to his father in the morning. Satisfied, Faida made her way towards her own dwelling.

Her father was waiting for her. When she approached, he rose to his feet and waited for her reaction. He did not have to wait long.

"Zekiir wants me. That, we know. But you cannot ask me to do this, and Kai'la would never forsake the Claim."

"Can you think of another solution?" he asked.

"Yes. Tell Zekiir to stand aside and let another become chief of the Seriks."

He shook his head. "We cannot demand that of him."

"But you can demand this of me? It is the same thing, Father. You are asking me to abandon my sacred charge to marry a man who feels no remorse for his actions. A man who plotted for this. Can you stand there and ask that I forsake my Claim for nothing?"

"For nothing?" he asked, his voice sounding stunned. "Do you call the unity of our people nothing?"

"Do not," she hissed. "Do not pretend that this is the only way. That this is the one grand task that I have been assigned. I have done more than anyone to bring this about. I am the reason we have peace in Parnon, and I have every wound and nightmare to remind me of that fact. This is asking for more than I can give. I will not forsake my Goddess to bear that eel's offspring."

It had been so long since last she cried, Faida almost didn't realize why her face was wet. They were not tears of pain, but a mark of her rage. She was burning from it; the bloodlust coursed through her, begging that she take Zekiir's life. If she killed him, it would all be over.

Her father's face became forbidding. "Yes, you have done much in the way of bringing peace to Parnon. You have done more for the service of your Goddess who unleashed her greatest warriors upon our enemies. We all respect you for your services and skills, Faida, but do not let Kor'ik's praise skew your reality. Many people worked together to force Chief Zekiir to consider peace. While you were a part of that, you were not the reason we have it."

"Aren't I? Do you not know what I am to him? Do you not realize that he asked us to the Isle of Death because that was where I defeated him? Don't you see that he wanted the warriors there because he knew I would be amongst them? He wanted to know which tribe I called my own. More than anything, that was why we were there, Father. It was never about the chiefs or a call for unity. I made that happen. I forced his hand. And I am what he wants. He's lost so much to me, Father, that all he wants now is the woman who defeated him. I will not become his wife so that he may say he defeated me."

"Is that what marriage is to you? Do you believe one spouse has gained conquest over the other?"

Faida shook her head, thinking of her parents' easy partnership and the gentle promise in Kor'ik and Alinah's union. "No, but that is what a marriage between him and I would be."

At last, her father shook his head, his features becoming sad. Without looking at her, he said, "When you and your sister were infants, I could not imagine your futures. You were both so small and frail. Even then you combated against one another constantly. When you both made it to your naming ceremony, your mother and I both cried tears of joy and relief. For a brief time, I imagined what it would be like to have my daughters married. And I could think of no one worthy of you, even then. After your naming ceremony, I was relieved that I would not ever have to think of it, for the Gods found you worthy only of them."

Faida felt her spine straighten as she waited for what would come next.

A moment later, he sighed, "Perhaps it was never a question of who, but why. If this is what is being asked of you, Faida, you must ask yourself why it has come to this. You must ask yourself if what you have been working towards is worth being finished by your hand. Perhaps the unity of Parnon is your sacred charge, and perhaps this is how you ensure it."

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