Chapter Fifty-Eight – The Decision
Meral stood less than a meter from Sefani as both women stared at each other with hatred in their eyes while they prepared to fight to the death. Sefani’s hazel-green eyes filled with tears of anger as she looked at the woman who had caused so much pain and anguish with her vile ways, and now with her cruel words. “Fight, you berserker whore!” she snarled, as she lunged at Meral, leaving an angry open wound on the queen’s thigh. “Your words are lies,” she screamed, parrying Meral’s sword blow with her shield.
“They’re not lies, child, they’re the truth! Deep down in your soul you know it.” Meral laughed as she dodged another vicious sword blow a split second before it crashed into her shield. Again, the sound of sword blows echoed back and forth across the empty ground between the two camps. Goran watched his daughter and mother fight like hell cats in the blazing sun. For nearly three hours, the two female amazons searched for a weak spot in each others defences. Sefani was equal to Meral in every way in the vicious close combat they were both engaged in. Finally, it was stamina, not technique that ended the fight. Meral stumbled and fell on her back, winded by a blow to her ribs from the flat of Sefani’s sword. She quickly swung again; slicing Meral’s left leg in two above the knee. Meral screamed in agony from the shock of the amputation, as her life blood pumped out onto the hot dusty ground from her severed stump. She knew her time had come as her granddaughter stood over her, ready to end the fight.
She could have struck back, but her cruel words had done far more damage than merely killing the beautiful young woman who had appointed herself as her grandmother’s judge, jury, and executioner. Meral dropped her sword and shield as she looked up to where Sefani’s blood soaked breasts heaved as her lungs sucked in oxygen. Holding her reversed sword in both hands above her head, she stood ready to drive its double-edged blade into her grandmother’s prone body. Meral’s insane smile showed itself for the last time as the cold steel smashed its way through her chest, piercing her heart, ending her tortured existence. Sefani dropped to her knees in tears as Meral’s final breath signalled her death.
The remaining female berserkers turned and headed back unchallenged to the northern coast of Atlan and left never to be seen again. Talia committed suicide by jumping from the high cliffs to the rocks below. Sadly, Neit had also died in the struggle on the cliff top to stop Talia, when she slipped and fell to her own death trying to prevent Talia from jumping. Goran and Max returned heartbroken to the northern end of Gozo, taking grief-stricken Sefani with them.
For days, those who had witnessed the fight and heard the cruel but true statement delivered by Meral, wandered about dazed and saddened over the loss of Geb and Neit. Ausar finally called a meeting of all who remained in Marsaxlokk. “Sefani must leave Atlan; there is an evil in her that cannot be allowed to infect others. You, Shaila and Tihke, and your son Melos, are welcome to remain with us. Max and Goran may stay if they wish. None of you is to blame for what Sefani has become. I know she grieves for her mother and my son Geb, but she cannot stay here. Is there anyone here who disagrees with what I say?”
Tihke stood briefly and opened his mouth to object then quickly sat down beside Shaila, sadly shaking his head. Melos stood up. “Ausar, I’ll go and tell Sefani. We grew up together; she’s like a sister to me. Let me go to her – please?” With Ausar’s approval, Melos found Max and Goran and informed them of the community’s decision. Goran’s heart broke for the second time. First he’d lost the woman he loved more than life itself, now he was to lose his beloved daughter as well. Max held Goran close as he broke down in tears of frustration and anger, pointing in the direction of his god-daughter’s favourite glade.
Melos found her sitting in the sunlight with birds feeding from her hand, returned once more to the sweet young woman who everybody loved. Melos held her, gently wiping away the tears rolling down her beautiful face, after he told her of the harsh decision to banish her. He kissed her forehead and cradled her in his arms while he sat with her, until she fell into a tearful, exhausted sleep.
Goran made the journey back to Marsaxlokk to plead his daughter’s case, but Ausar and the rest of the community were adamant – Sefani had to go. He found an ally in Neit’s son Nehket, who showed Goran scrolls in the library about the rumoured existence of an ancient and wise being living in the mountains across the ocean south west of Atlan, which Goran spent days studying. I must admit dear reader; I had never thought of myself as ancient – learned, yes… Goran went to Ausar with the sketchy information about my whereabouts and pleaded once more for Sefani to be allowed to stay, at least until the following spring when the weather no longer whipped the ocean into mountainous deadly waves. Besides, he needed time to build her a boat that would survive the journey. Ausar consulted the other elders and delivered their answer. “She can stay. But she must remain in the north with you, Goran, until you’ve completed the construction of the boat, then she must leave!” Goran thanked Ausar and the elders and returned north.
During the months of winter Goran and Max, occasionally helped by Tihke when he visited, spent every waking hour constructing Sefani’s boat at the northern end of Atlan, cutting down trees for its construction, from her favourite spot above their home. Melos stayed with Sefani throughout the construction of the boat, sometimes accompanied by Nehket, when he could manage to sneak out past the guards placed to ensure Sefani never again set foot in Marsaxlokk.
Nehket and Sefani were drawn closer together during those long months. Despite what she had become that day in the heat of her anger, Nehket was not afraid of her. He knew that she had simply avenged the death of her lover Geb, nothing more. He knew in his heart that the elders were wrong to be fearful of her. I, on the other hand, was not so sure, dear reader. If the Nephile still had some of their equipment to alter DNA, they could have reconstructed her, removing any vestige of the angry side of her nature.
Nehket had made up his mind to go with her blinded by love. He leaned across to where Sefani sat, completely overwhelmed by her beauty in the winter sunshine, watching her feeding the birds from her hands full of corn, and gently kissed her cheek. She turned and gazed at him with her bewitching hazel-green eyes, drawing his head towards hers in her slender hands. Their pent-up physical need for one another triggered by their tender kiss, shut out the world around them. For the rest of the day the lovers remained in the glade, locked in their passionate embrace. Nehket sat with his back against a tree, embracing sweet Sefani as she lay with her back against the warmth of his chest in the golden hour before sunset. “When you go my sweet love, I go to. No matter what happens we’ll face it together.” Sefani turned and looked into Nehket’s dark brown eyes. She smiled her sweet smile, cradling his face in her hands before kissing him again, then wrapping her arms around him, she lay her head on his chest and closed her eyes.
Next time – Chapter Fifty-Nine