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“Your fists were a little bigger than my thumb when I got you. The grief of losing my first born to a sickness that forms little boils on the skin and burns the body up had not sunk in. No other child in the village had it, it came for my son. Only him. It came and in seven days it went with him. I did not cry. I sat in my hut, his body in my arms. That was when Nene came in with you. She took him and put you in my arms. Your eyes sparkled like dew on a newly opened leaf. You sucked your fist, your cheeks dimpling. I knew whose son you were; you had the half-moon on your cheek. When you cried I rocked you, yet you sniffled till I put a nipple in your mouth.

“The days flew by, days became moons and moons became harvests. Do you know your mother didn’t want you? She knew your father without knowing who he was. She let him lie with her for a string of corals. Nene tells me that she was struck with a sickness that had her bed ridden till her belly began to swell. Then the sickness disappeared. Her kin thought she had the forbidden. But her skin glowed and her breasts swelled. She sat at the crossroads for days cursing the stranger that had given her a child. All she remembered of him was the half-moon on his cheek.

“She would have eaten herbs to force you out if the old women had not warned her that your life was tied to hers. Her pains began the same day the men went to the fields to begin the harvest. As soon as you were born, she cast you aside as did all of her village. The child that had to be born was what the old women had called you. That harvest was the worst they ever had. Tubers brought up rotting. Animals disappeared from the forest, fishes from the river. So they sent men to find your father. And find him they did. The day they brought you here was the same day my son died. I have watched you grow into my husband, your father, long of limb and deep of voice. I wiped the snot from your nose and the dirt from your head. I prepared the sacrifice for your coming of age rituals. I cooked your favourite meal, spiced with pepper.”

The queen paused, taking the cold hand in hers.

“The poison had no taste. You, the child whose spirit killed my son will not take his place as king. The gods said you had to be born. The gods never said you had to live.”


I am a huge fan of The Devil’s Dictionary, so in addition to the regular posts I’ll be defining a word each day. You can suggest words in the comment box. Cheers

Death: The thing that kills you.