1. Flayed Alive
"From the moment I was born I was told to speak. From the moment I could speak I was told to be quiet. How strange a society that teaches skills then shuns those who would utilise them. Surely that makes us the barbarians? To give a child a gift then punish them for using it. In that respect, the Kaze tribes of the East are the righteous ones. They respect the views of both the men and the women equally. Thus their social structure is far in advance of our own."
Princess Sylphaen of Dragora, daughter of King Toruman the Wise and Queen Emibaru the Gentle, flushed hotly underneath the stony gaze of her tutor, Opthal of Lylan as he recited her essay on Barbarians of the Veil slowly and carefully to the astonished King and Queen. Her tiny fingers trembled under the table and she adorned her best 'meek obedience' expression in preparation for the reprimands to come. Surprisingly it was her mother who was the first to break the flow of words from Opthal's mouth.
"Daughter. Come to me." Sylphaen did so, head bowed, hands clasped behind her.
"Yes mama." She found her voice could go no louder than a whisper.
"Look at me." The command would have been simple to follow if she were not petrified of the quiet rage in her mother's eyes. "Look. At. Me." The Queen gripped her face, forcing it toward her own. Her words were slow and deliberate. "Enough. You are no longer a child. You are to become a woman soon and by that time I expect you to also be a lady. You shall accept your tutelage with grace and with dignity. This is the last straw." She released her face and arose, turning toward the door. "I am burning your books." Sylphaen jolted as her mother began to exit.
"No, mama! You can't!" she yelled. "It's not fair!" She made to grab at the Queen's skirt but was thrown backward, a hot sting on her face. Her father's voice was cold and unfeeling.
"Raise your voice to your mother and I raise my hand to you." The King left the room, left Sylphaen hunched over on the tiger skin rug, silent tears spilling from her face like blood from a wound.
'Papa hit me.'
'Mama . . . My books . . .'
'If only . . .