Content Warning: Discussion of the effects of rape
“We can rebuild,” said Lavena. “We still have the land; that’s what matters.”
“For how long?” Mave called from the storeroom, the echoes of her voice bouncing off the stone walls. “They won’t stop with us. We’ll be slaves in our own country soon.”
She returned with two of the bowls filled with beer and set them before her sister and step-mother. “There. It’s weak stuff, but all they’ve left us.” Going back to fill the third bowl, she added, “Better get used to it.”
Lavena frowned again as she pulled the needle through the edge of the dress. “This was only my second time wearing this.”
“You’ll have many more opportunities,” said her step-mother. “They’ve taken or burned nearly everything else.”
She picked up her bowl and drained it, then sat down at the table across from Lavena, who cast her an aggrieved glance. “Not much good, with a huge tear all the way up to the ass.”
Her mouth twisted again as she fought with a sudden upwelling of tears, but she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I should have spent more time learning to sew,” she added as she resumed her task.
“You’ll be glad you didn’t soon,” said Mave, returning with her own beer. “Shooting is better than housekeeping for what we have in front of us.”
“We’ll be slaughtered,” said Lavena. “There are too many—endless numbers of them.”
“Better fifty of our free folk than a thousand of their mindless soldiers. More like machines than living men.”
Mave lowered herself slowly onto the bench next to Lavena, spreading out her own torn skirt and wincing as her flesh met the planks.
“We should muster all our tribe,” she continued, taking a draft from her bowl. “If they haven’t already been attacked, they will be. We should push these invaders from our land—or, better yet, use their blood and bones to feed the ground. There’s only so many soldiers. Most of them are old, or women or children.”
“Innocents,” said her step-mother.
“They’re here, aren’t they?”
“They’re here,” said Lavena, “And thousands more of them are just across the water.”
Lavena stood up and pulled her dress over her head, then twisted around to look at the back. The stitching stood out, marring the finery of the dress, and she sighed as she sat down again.
“Our gods and our strength will keep them back,” said Mave, paying no attention. “They can’t stop our sacrifices, and our songs. Heaven will be our might.”
She slammed her empty bowl onto the table and rose. “Mother, what do you say? You rule the clan now—shouldn’t we drive away the foreigners from our land, the land we’ve held for generations? They can only withstand us for so long.”
“How many attacks like today could you withstand?” demanded Lavena, her voice growing sharp with the memory of earlier panic and terror, but Mave waved her into silence.