Hope mingled with fear in my chest. There was no doubt in my mind about what the scarf clutched in Kiamo’s hand actually meant. Shari had, once again, done what I wasn’t brave enough to do.
I would have liked to believe that honour alone kept me standing frozen on the dais even now, in truth, it was mostly fear. Fear of my father’s disappointment. Fear of the very real threat of being exiled as punishment. Fear of there being some element of truth to the curse despite my own doubts.
I studied my father’s face across the distance. I didn’t need to see his eyes to know the struggle that must be present in them as he looked in my direction.
He now had all the excuse he needed in order to stop the ceremony and spare his daughter’s life. For me, I think that would have probably been enough, but this wasn’t the first time in my life that I was reminded that I wasn’t my father’s daughter. He had something that, as yet, I still struggled to uphold, the honour driven immovable loyalty to our people that had always led him to do the right thing, even if it meant sacrificing his own happiness in the process.
One night, many years ago, back when I had first started out on the long road to becoming ‘Chieftain’s Daughter,’ my father had sat me down beside the fire to tell me the story of his own journey. It began with the death of my grandfather. It was that event which catapulted my, then eighteen-year-old, father into the daunting role of Chieftain. He had been totally unprepared for the responsibility of leading the tribe. He had also been in love at the time, with a Nakaguan woman, six years his senior. I asked but no matter how I pushed him for a name, he wouldn’t tell me because the woman was still living within the tribe. He didn’t want to bring her any further pain.
A neighbouring tribe, The Tamaqua, had been causing problems for the Nakaguan.
Resources on the Tamaquan side of the river had been badly hit by a terrible wildfire, their crops and houses all but destroyed. Their people were starving and when they looked out across the turquoise waters of the Galden, they saw the Nakaguan people thriving under the many blessings of Ziuni and grew jealous.
My father wasn’t blind to their plight. Still young to the ways of diplomacy, he had wanted to help the Tamaqua, but all of his offerings of food and building materials only served to further hurt the deep-seated pride of the Tamaquan Chieftain. It caused him to lash out, sending his best warriors to steal and slaughter Nakaguan livestock. Amongst the tribal nations, this act would be considered an act of war. My father would have easily had the full backing of the tribal council had he chosen to mete out punishment on the Tamaquan people.
He chose to sacrifice his love instead, taking the only path available that would lead to a lasting peace between their peoples. He and his most trusted advisers brokered a treaty with the Tamaqua and in order to seal it, my father took the Tamaquan Chieftain’s eldest daughter as his heart-mate effectively combining the noble bloodlines of both tribes.
This ended the war and brought peace and prosperity to both sides of the Galden. This he had said, was the most important lesson he had ever learnt in his life. As a result of giving up his own happiness to safeguard the safety and future happiness of both tribes, the Goddess saw fit to reward him with his true heart-mate, my mother.
Remembering his words I looked over at my silent father again. For once in my life, I was going to be the daughter my father deserved.