I was born at the end of the Age of the Goddess, after the war between the Goddess and God and their children, but before any one of her descendants took control of the land of Charn. Seventeen years before, actually. My cousin, Dun (who I’d been betrothed to at birth), was born in that same year, and we were raised together the first six years of our lives. We were the first of the children of the union between the giants (who had been cursed by the Goddess- they lost the ability to have pure blooded giantish children) and the jinn, and when we were sixteen we were married, as was tradition with the jinn.
It was not a passionate and loving marriage, nor was it nice and neat. Yes, we had been childhood friends, and our parents had given us a task- to rule over the humans and build a safe haven for them, a way to protect them from the Goddess’s curse (the deadly cold nights of winter, in which she mourned her husband and the lord of the dead- the God’s- passing into the lang of the dead, the Otherworld) and wild beasts. We were the superior race, and we possess the magic of the jinn along with the strength of the giants.
My mother, Lilith- the princess of the jinn- was very insistent that I learn the arts. I was very accomplished by the time I turned 16 and I was ready for the task at hand, or so I thought. But now I suppose that I should explain what all my babbling is about.
The living conditions differ according to the people group, but the humans have the worst of all. They live in caves, crudely sewn tents, or dwellings made of mud or bones. Some of them don’t even have a dwelling, and sleep under the children of the earth and sky and our cousins- the stars. Sometimes they live with other humans, in clans, but they usually live apart in small families.
If I could bring the humans together to live in a group of dwellings, more sturdy than their present living spaces, then I would have to teach them how to live and care for themselves. The giants and the jinn had been blessed by the Goddess with extreme intelligence, but the humans hate and fear them, so now we, the children of the cursed have to teach them what the jinn know, and have known since the beginning.
My mother insisted on one thing. "You and your husband must rule them firmly, like parents of unruly children. They know little of what is good for themselves, so it is your responsibility to teach them."
She told me this as I was preparing for the wedding ceremony. I was not afraid or even worried about this task, despite her warnings to me. I suppose I should have been, a an old fear and hatred is a hard thing to ignore and a dangerous force to be reckoned with. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Once the wedding ceremony was completed we had a meal, then dancing, songs, and stories of the days when our parents were young, and the rebellion took place. In all the celebration no one noticed the humans surrounding the little village of the jinn. It wasn’t until one of their crude spears pierced the heart of my mother, the first of the jinn, that anyone realized they were there.
No one saw where it had come from, or who had thrown it, but it wasn’t hard to guess. Everyone turned, ready to fight the ones who had killed Lilith. The ancient warriors rose to the surface of this people of mine, who had lived in peace since the rebellion as their penance for rebelling against their mother, and they were ready to fight these attackers. That’s when the humans began their attack.
That battle was the last time I saw any of my people. They were driven from our home- perhaps even to the ends of the earth and beyond- or killed on the way. Meanwhile, I escaped with my friend and half sister, Zika, who had also been married that day.
Our husbands, Ithon and Dun, who were also of our mixed heritage, stayed to fight. Dun was struck down and left to die by the other warriors, while Ithon ran to fetch his wife and I. When we returned to Dun’s side he was alone, a distance away from our village, and looked like he would soon be joining the God, the lord of the dead.
Zika and I had both been trained in the art of healing and we began to work, terrified that we would lose him. I knew what had to be done, and I also knew that I would be useless if my husband died, as I could no longer reproduce with another of my kind.With this knowledge heavy on my heart, I prayed desperately to the Goddess, hoping that she would understand and choose to help me.
"Oh, Goddess, please… pour your power through me and save him. Oh, Goddess, please! I must save him! I must!" Tears began to pour down my face as I helped Zika reknit Dun’s torn muscles. He was struggling to breath and I became frantic. "Goddess, please!" I screamed, throwing my head back. It was then that I felt, or heard, her answer in the slightest whisper.
I will, Child. Her voice was sweet, melodious, and clear, though there was a heartbreaking sadness in it. As she answered, I felt as if I were being brought to life at it’s fullest. Every part of me felt more alive, more energized, more powerful than any being could ever dream to be. The Goddess laughed at my shock over this sample of her strength and spoke to me again. Daughter, this is only a little of my strength. If I sent any more power though your body, you would die.
Then she left me and I fell across Dun, whose wounds no longer existed, my body feeling weak suddenly. I felt like something deep within had been torn away from me, a piece of my heart gone, perhaps.
"Goddess, don’t go," I whispered. My eyes blurred and began to close, but I fought to keep them open.
I am always with you, child. You only became physically aware of my presence when you asked for it. I have saved your husband, like I would have done for mine if i could have. But I cannot allow you to remain with my power. It is too much for your mortal body.
"No, Goddess, don’t go!" I pleaded, repeating myself, maybe a little delirious.
I am with you still, daughter. Then it all faded away.
When I opened my eyes next I was laying in one of the giant’s caves, covered in a fur blanket. A movement from the corner alerted me to the presence of my husband.
"You’re awake!" he said in a whisper, spotting my movement. Then he approached and dropped to his knees, kissing me on the lips. Shocked, I let him, my brain screaming to push him off, though surprise held my arms stiff. When he finally pulled away, I say up and began to question him.
"How long have I been asleep?"
"Two days. This is the second night since the fight."
"Where are we?"
"My father’s cave." his father had been a giant and was actually the chief of giants. However, he had died a few years ago, killed by a pack of the fierce long-toothed cats.
"Where are Zika and Ithon?"
"They’re in the cave that was your father’s." My father was also Zika’s father, and he and Dun’s father were brothers, and mine was dead as well. Now Dun had a question for me. "What happened? Zika said you went into a trance and began to talk to the Goddess as if she was there."
"She was," I said shortly, folding the blanket down to my hips. I still had my wedding clothes on, and I leaned against the wall of the cave. It was a little cool in the cave, but comfortably so, unlike the harsh winter chill. "She poured her power through me, and healed you."
"You communed with the Goddess?" he asked, looking doubtful. "Why would she commune with a daughter of the cursed?"
"I don’t know, but I am not one of the cursed," I retorted, my temper flaring. If he’s implying that I’m not important enough for the Goddess-
"Calm down," he said, resting a hand on my shoulder. "I just find it hard to believe that the Goddess came to you. That’s all. I meant that she hates our fathers-"
"I am not my father, and you may wish to stop talking now."
"Shinia, why are you so prickly?"
"Why are you so talkative?" I asked. "Look, I have a head ache. Can we not talk about this right now?"
"Not now, Dun."
"Shinia, please. We’re married, and I don’t want there to be-"
"By the goddess, what part of I don’t want to talk right now don’t you understand?" I asked, slapping the wall beside me.
"Sorry! Sorry," he said, getting to his feet and retreating to the other side of the cave.
"I didn’t want this," I said, tears filling my eyes. I drew my knees up to my chest and held them close. "None of it."
"If you believe that the Goddess came to you, then you why don’t you tell me, why did she let this happen, whatever it is?" he challenged.
"I don’t know," I said, glaring at him angrily. "She must have a reason. though I’m still asking myself what it is, and why I even bother to save you."
"Keep asking," he snapped, ignoring the last little bit. "She hates us."
"Then you answer me this- why aren’t you dead now?"
"Because you and Zika saved me with your magic."
"You can ask Zika, but we both knew that you wouldn’t make it if the Goddess hadn’t intervened."
"Shinia, this is ridiculous-"
"You’re the only thing that’s ridiculous," I snapped, my temper getting the better of me. "I’m done talking to you." With that I turned to face the wall.
I heard his movements, then felt him sitting behind me. He put his hand on my shoulder, but I shrugged it off. He didn’t move away and I couldn’t resist the urge to probe his mind.
Sadness, confusion, anger, hurt and maybe a little longing were all on the surface. Deeper were secrets, some involving me. I drew back and closed my eyes, what I had seen almost burned onto the back of my eyelids.
"Look, I’m sorry." Maybe it was a feeble attempt at an apologizing, but I had no pity left for him.
"It’s alright. I understand."
"No, you don’t." I was blunt, but it was the truth. "You don’t understand at all."
"Oh." We sat in silence for a while. I allowed myself to probe his mind again. The anger and hurt had faded, but the rest of what I had seen before was still there.
"What is it that you want?" I asked him.
"I don’t know." This was almost a blatant lie. I had seen his mind, his heart, myself, and I knew what he wanted.
"Pleasant company? Someone other than me?" I turned to face him."
"No," he lied again, putting on a brave face. I smiled dryly.
"You don’t lie to a daughter of the jinn and expect her to believe you." He blushed, and I continued. "You wish I had been married to Ithon. You want Zika to be your wife instead, because she’s trying to please Ithon and I’m not trying to please you."
"Shinia,stop, now, please!" he begged, grabbing my wrist with one hand. I wrestled with him for a couple of minutes, then he overpowered me and held both of my wrists tightly. I glared at him, then spoke through my tightly clenched teeth.
"Get off of me."
"Not until you calm down." I stared at him, too angry for words. Finally I managed to speak again.
"Dun, I don’t want to hurt you," I warned in a voice that meant exactly the opposite. He understood and released me.
"Shinia, you’re being-"
"Prickly? unreasonable?" I guessed, hot tears snaking down my face.
"Shinia, all we have is one another. Our parents are dead. We have to work together and not fight."
"I didn’t want any of this, Dun!" I screamed, my temper flaring. I was nearly hysterical. "None of it!"
"By none of it, do you mean this situation in general, or our marriage, or something else that I am totally unaware of?" he asked.
"All of it!" I snapped. He stared at me, hurt by my sharp words.
"Shinia, what do you wan from me? What can I do to help?"
"Nothing," I said, turning away again. "You can’t bring my mother back from the Otherworld, and you can’t change the fact that the humans burned down my home."
"How’d you know about that?" he asked, distracted.
"I saw it when I probed your mind," I said, standing up. "Turn around." He did so, muttering something along the lines of "so that’s what I felt". I quickly undressed down to my thin linen undergarments, then wrapped myself tightly in the blankets, finding a lovely woven one that was big enough to cover all of me. "You can look now." He turned to face me again.
"Why did you make me turn around?" he asked, and I turned to face him. He had obviously noted that my clothes were on the floor, and that i was still covering my body. "I mean, we are-"
"Don’t say it," I snapped.
"Shinia, you can’t change it!" I had never heard him raise his voice before, but he did now. "Don’t you understand? We’re married, and nothing you can do will change that!" He stood up, and I noticed that he was several inches taller than I. This did nothing to improve my temper.
"Fine, then! Do what you want to me! Don’t give me any choice in the matter, just like everything else!" I was crying again, and we were both breathing heavily. Then he stepped back.
"I’m not going to force you to do anything, because I want you to be willing," he said softly. I probed his mind again, suspiciously. He means it, I realized with a shock. I crossed my arms as best I could without dropping the blanket or revealing anything, and turned away. "I may have to wait for years, but I will wait." I took a deep breath, trying to control my emotions, then turned back to face him yet again.
"Dun, I’m sorry," I apologized quietly. It hurt to say that, but I knew that I had to do it- a deep certainty that this was needed. "I’m just so upset and worried. I’m sixteen, and I’m one of the first of my kind. My mother expects- expected- me to teach and help and even rule over the people that murdered her. I just don’t know. I don’t know what to do, or how to do the job she gave us. I don’t know." I carefully sat down and arranged the blanket so that I remained covered. My face was wet and he was staring at me like he had never seen me before.
"I don’t know what to say, Shinia," he said, sitting down beside me and putting his arm around me.
"Don’t say anything, then," I said, leaning against him, feeling safe with him for the first time. "I just have so much I wish my mother had taught me, but now she can’t." He nodded and I began to feel somewhat ashamed that he had seen me like he had. But before I could say anything he spoke.
"I suppose that we can try to figure out how to do the job, if you wish," he said hesitantly. I felt a sudden rush of affection for him, and I smiled up at him.
"That we could do," I said, carefully trying to not get too happy about this development. He’s willing to help me, even after all I’ve said and done! Thank the Goddess. Relief filled my entire being, replacing stress I hadn’t known was there until it was gone.
You’re welcome, Child. The Goddess spoke to me again, this time a little more clearly than before. I smiled, giddy with her power and thrill that she was still there. But, Shinia, I warn you- Dun must become invaluable to you, and you must be a good wife. He is my child as well, though he doesn’t want to admit it.
But, Goddess, he hates you!
I know that, daughter. There is nothing I do not know. However, there has not been a single mother in this young world that can turn her back on her children, and forget them. And surely you must know, the bond between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds to ever exist.
This makes no sense to me.
I love him as he loves you. Because he hasn’t realized his love for me yet, he gives way to his anger at what I did to his father. This is why you must show him, Shinia. Show him my love.
He loves me? But- I don’t understand! I’ve been so cruel to him-
Exactly, daughter. Love him. You will not be alone in this voyage, for I am here.
How? How am I to love him?
You will know when the opportunity arises. With that the Goddess separated from me, and I became aware that I had fallen onto Dun awkwardly, and he was holding me up and trying to keep my blanket covering me, like I had wanted.
"Dun-?" I whispered. He looked extremely relieved, and my groggy mind wondered why.
"Oh, thank heavens. You’re alive. You went into a trance, almost, and-"
"I talked to the Goddess again," I said, things beginning to make more sense now. Some of the groggy feeling left, and I straightened up. Seeing the shocked look and the frozen smile on Dun’s face, I sighed and continued. "Dun, I know you don’t believe me, nor that you’ll think I’m sane for saying this, but she loves you!"
"Shinia, she can’t love me. I’m a child of the cursed. I’m-"
"Her child." This stopped that particular argument. He switched tracks abruptly.
"Then why don’t you tell me why, if she cares so much about us, every time you commune with her you faint?" I knew the answer to this too, but I also knew that he wouldn’t stop arguing.
"When two spirits commune on the level she communes with us on our highest levels of energies connect with a tiny sample of hers. Dun, her strength is amazing, and she’s so powerful and strong! when she meshes with me, I feel like I could do anything, though she can only let me feel a hint of her true abilities. then, when she withdraws, my own energy, no matter how strong I am when I commune with her, seems so pale and weak until my entire being readjusts to my own energy level." He stared at me, shocked that I had an answer to that.
"I still don’t understand how she can love me."
"Dun, I don’t know either, but isn’t it better to just accept her love than to hate her for what she did, which actually is the only reason we were born?"
"I suppose," he admitted reluctantly.
"Then accept it, Dun. Accept her love."