Lena and Maya, characters in Empire’s Daughter, are partners in life and work; like many young village couples, they’ve known each other all their lives, moving from playmates to a closer bond. They apprenticed together, and now as adults – which they’ve been for a year, in their world – they work together on a co-owned fishing boat. Maya is six months older than Lena, practical, organized, disliking of change. “Maya needed order and predictability,” Lena thinks. “In our business partnership, her need for stability balanced my impulsiveness. In our personal relationship, it had always cast a small shadow.”
Lena describes herself as a dreamer, given to mood swings and doubts. But Maya sees something else: “You think this is an adventure, Lena?” she accuses. “Something new? Something different? You always want to sail a little further, find another cove, even though the ones we know provide us with all the fish we need.”
Now the Emperor has made an audacious request: will the women of his land learn to fight, to help protect their country from invasion? They’re needed, in his judgment: the men alone cannot win, not without leaving the northern frontier underguarded and vulnerable. It’s a departure from hundreds of years of tradition, an abandonment of the Partition agreement that structured the lives of men and women into distinct roles. Men fight; women fish and farm.
Lena doesn’t admit to Maya that, yes, she sees an adventure in the choice that has been presented. Fishing needs all her wits: the seas can turn nasty in a moment. It should be enough to deal with that day to day. But there’s a drive in her – inherited from her father, although she doesn’t know that – for new horizons, new challenges.
Maya just wants things not to change. Tradition is important to her. She wants her village to refuse the request: it’s the men’s job to protect the land, not women’s. And she thinks if they agree to this, and survive it, what else will change? The idea frightens her, and she’s become rigid in her thinking. “Don’t make up my mind so soon?” she snaps. “I know how I feel, Lena. What Casyn is asking, what the Empire is asking, is wrong. I know that, and so do you. Women don’t fight. We don’t kill or harm others.”
This relationship had some issues before this divisive request. So, readers, here’s your question: even if the request to fight had never come, could this relationship survive?
Empire’s Daughter is available from Amazon.
Featured image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
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