Weakness is a Tyme story by Terri Pray.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz 3D, Photoshop and Filter Forge.
It was out there, she could feel it, feel the tug that worked its way into her chest and wrapped around her heart. Jada pressed one hand over her heart and closed her eyes for a moment. All she had to do was take a step and she’d feel the pull that told her which direction she would have to move, where her feet would need to place themselves in order to begin her journey.
Then stay, don’t go, don’t leave. They need me.
They would always need her but she was doing this for them, for all of them. Not just her own family but everyone else. Yet she had been the one it had reached out to. Her. A no one. Not even a warrior. Useless according to those sworn to the way of the warrior.
Yes, she’d been called that more times than she wanted to think about. Weak and helpless, yet she was alive, she had children and she’d survived the invasion, even if she had done so without her mate standing by her side.
She swallowed and tried to clear the lump from her throat. The pressure, the summons remained, something she couldn’t and wouldn’t ignore. It called to her and she had to answer, to see what was on the other end of that call before it was too late. She wiped her hands down against her leggings before she turned to look at the door. No, it wasn’t time yet. She could still enjoy the company of her sleeping children.
The thought drew her attention and she looked down at the two cradles but kept her distance from both, at least for now. By the gods, she wanted to touch and hold her children. They were hers, her lifeline in this place, on this world. The proof of her right to exist even if she would never be accepted by the majority of her people.
Without worth. Wasn’t that how they viewed her? Nothing but a breeder and one that even her mate had chosen to abandon in search of someone more suitable, at least that is what she had been told.
The damned man hadn’t even had the guts to speak to her before he’d vanished into the night, something she would never have thought him capable of doing until the morning she’d woken to find herself alone in their shared bed.
What had changed between them that he had found it so needful to leave or had something else happened? If so, who held the answers?
She shuddered at the thought and closed her eyes. Could it be that her sister was behind the loss of Jada’s mate? That her jealousy or her lack of understanding as to why a warrior male would choose her, had led to her mate’s disappearance? If that were the case then she would never know the truth, unless her mate was alive and returned to her.
Dead, he must be dead. That would be the only reason he would not return to see the birth of his children. Our children.
He’d vanished when she’d discovered she was pregnant and the loss of his presence in her life had been… painful. It would always hurt, she was woman enough to admit that. Yet it didn’t change the pain when she looked at her children and understood they would never know their father. Now she would leave them to follow a dream, an idea and what would that do to her babies?
Was this a foolish idea? Was she doing the right thing in leaving her children tonight in search of — of what? A dream? A legend? Something that might not even exist? What if she never returned?
She took a step toward the first cradle and leaned in. It didn’t matter if she failed to return, she had to try. Even if she failed, she would have at least proved that she wasn’t a coward, that she would never step down when she was called, when she was needed. Her children would be safe, she had the paperwork in place that would prevent her sister from claiming them and they would have the right to choose her own path, even leave Mars if they so wished, without interference from family members.
They would be free.
“Sleep little one. Sleep and know that I love you.” Jada smoothed a soft black curl back from the sleeping child’s eyes and let her fingers play over the lock for a moment before she tucked the quilt back in under his chin. She turned to the second bed in the room, her steps silent as she moved to the side and tucked her daughter in with the same care she had taken with her son. Neither child made a sound as she moved through the room instead their sleep remained undisturbed.
What was it like to sleep in such peace? To know, without doubt, that you were safe?
Had she ever enjoyed such rest when she had been a child? Had there been someone who had stood watch over her?
If there had, she had never been told of such things, nor was there one she could reach out to now in order to find out. The only one with any answer would be her sister and that was a woman who would never provide the information. Not unless it was something that would benefit the older woman. That was the nature of their relationship and had been for as long as Jada could remember.
She shook off the thought and slipped out of the room and pulled the door closed behind her in silence. She paused to listen, making sure that neither child had awoken with her exit and only then did she step away. They would sleep through the night, if the gods were kind, and they had done so for several months now.
A soft noise in the main room drew her attention and she forced a smile into place before turning to see the source. Tall, broad shouldered, with a slight scar on her left cheek, the woman stood there, leaning against the door frame. “They’re going to be soft, if you keep treating them like that. It’s not good for them, for any children to be raised like that. Too much love will weaken them. You know it’s not our way. Not the way of a warrior people. How can they be active members of the community if you continue to coddle them? No, you’re raising them to be nothing more than breeders, just like their mother.”
Jada folded her hands in front of her, refusing to let the tension she felt show in her stance. Love, a weakness? It wasn’t something she agreed with but the other woman was set in her ways. It wasn’t worth the fight. Jada took a deep breath and met the woman’s gaze, her voice calm but gentle and submissive. Anything else would start a fight, something she had no interest in, especially tonight. “So you’ve said, sister.”
The older woman snorted, nostrils flaring in disgust. “No fight in you, just like our mother. How you ever persuaded that man of yours to breed with you, is beyond me. Good warrior like that needed a stronger bed mate, one able to provide him with children to train in the arts. No, he picked you. Nothing more than a weakling, worthless to the rest of us.”
Jada kept silent.
“Not even the spirit to fight with words.” Megan spat and shook her head. “I’m ashamed to call you sister.”
“Would there be a point to it, Megan? Arguments would change nothing between us and I don’t recall the last time you named me as your sister to someone outside of this house.” Jada cursed herself for speaking but it was too late, once spoken the words could not be taken back. She clasped her hands before her and half bowed her head. Submissive, meek, those were the things she had to remember around her sister, at least if she wanted to leave and follow the signal that even now tugged on her heart and pulled her toward the mountains. “Forgive me, but I am needed at the temple tonight. I have given my word and I would not wish to let anyone down.”
“And you expect me to listen out for your brats, is that it?” Megan took a step toward her, one hand resting on her weapons belt, a breath away from the butt of her blaster.
“No, of course not. I would not ask you to lower yourself to the duties of child care.” Jada dropped her gaze once more. The very idea of letting Megan watch the children sickened her. Who knows what her sister would do to them in the name of toughing them up? “Lynda is here.” At least she had been only a few moments ago. Had the girl left when Megan had arrived?
“Watching brats is all that blasted girl is good for. I don’t know why we ever abandoned the old traditions. That one should have been left out on the slopes instead being allowed to live and weaken the bloodlines even further.” Megan turned, stalking her way through the house toward the kitchen. Her voice carried back, snatches of sentences, but it was plain that she didn’t expect a reply. “We lost much when we turned our back on the old ways.”
Jada sighed, peering after her sister. Only when she was certain that the older woman planned on grabbing a bite to eat, no doubt from the food Jada had prepared earlier in the day, and then vanishing for the night, did Jada then slip back into her own bedroom. There, perched on the narrow bed, a blond haired teenager waited, eyes wide as she looked from Jada to the door and back again.
“She won’t come in here and once she’s eaten, she’ll be gone for the night.” Jada explained, her voice pitched low. “She doesn’t want to be here, not relegated to the task of childcare.” Jada softened her words with a warm smile.
Lynda nodded, but said nothing, tears shining within her pale blue eyes. Her fingers tangled on her lap and she lowered her head as a soft tremble rn through her body. Every inch of Jada cried out with the need to hold Lynda and tell her she would be safe.
“You’ll be safe. Her words… they’re just that, words. She won’t strike you, not in my house.” Words. They were still a weapon, but one that Megan used with brute force rather than a delicate touch. Everything about Megan was like that. She stalked, stomped, lashed out, snapped, never stopping to apologize. At least, not to anyone of lower rank and as far as her sister was concerned, anyone unfit to be a warrior would always be of a lower rank. “Stay here, if you want. She never comes into my room. There’s nothing here that interests her and you will be able to access the children’s room from here.” Megan wouldn’t remain that long, no it wasn’t in her nature, yet Jada could understand Lynda’s concerns.
The teen offered a thin smile but nodded, lifting her right hand to scuff away a stray tear, the left arm, which ended just above the elbow, remained pressed against her side. “I know, I know you would never leave me where she could hurt me but…” she lifted the damaged arm, “she thinks I’m a waste of resources. She goes out of her way to say so about me or any others like me. We’re weak, worthless, a drain on the people and planet.”
“By the gods, you’re not any of those things.” Yet she’d heard the words herself. “She doesn’t see the beauty you create or the way children listen to you.”
“No, she sees this and believes that I will help raise children who will accept deformities without question.”
“And is that a bad thing?” Jada arched an eyebrow.
“Not to me, but those like Megan, they disagree.” Lynda lowered her gaze once more.
Gods alone knew she wanted to stay and reassure Lynda but the tug grew with each passing moment. She glanced at the door and then back at Lynda. Jada squeezed her shoulder. “If I could stay, I would but…”
“I know, I’ll be fine, really I will. You’re right, she won’t come in here and she’ll leave soon enough. She always has before.”
Courage, one of the things the warriors prized yet how many of them had looked at Lynda and dismissed her? Jada closed her eyes for a moment and settled her thoughts. If she returned then perhaps things would change? Perhaps there would be a better life for those like herself and Lynda? There was only one way to find out and in doing so she would prove to herself, if no one else, that she was far from weak. “I’ll be back as quick as I can. There’s food in the kitchen, three days of meals just in case, but I should be back before dawn.” At least, that was the plan, how well it would all work out was another matter entirely…
To Be continued next week.