"Not this early," Silver says, sitting down and pulling me into his lap, turning me about so he can look at me. "You have not been told anything about this process, have you?"
I know almost nothing. I know women have babies. I know babies emerge from them. I know they come from sex.
"Do I need to know?" I shrug the question. "If it happens, it happens."
"That is one way of looking at it."
I am thinking. Processing. I didn't know this was possible. I thought it would take longer. I thought we were waiting until things were better. I cannot have a child out here, in the dirt and the dust. My mother did that, and it killed her. I grew up wild and vicious and caused a war that took the lives of many brave men.
"Here's another," I say, crossing my arms over my chest. "I am not raising children in the dirt. If I am to have a family, it will be in a place where they can thrive and grow."
The men look at one another. They don't know what I'm saying. Not yet. I guess I have to spell it out for them.
"We're going to reclaim Dallas."
Three negatives don't dull my determination in the slightest. If what Pharaoh says is true, if the spirit of Tore is alive in my belly, then I intend to give it what it is due.
"We could do it," I say. "We just need to be smart about it."
"There are two large city states at war, Trissa. When elephants fight, ants are crushed," Alexios says. "It would be madness to attempt to take Dallas from either one of them."
"It's been months, and Dallas hasn't fallen. We know that. There are no refugees. And the war has not spread. We haven't seen any sign of anything since we left. And if they have been at war, then perhaps it is time someone showed there is an alternative..."
"And how do we do that?"
"Make an example of me. Show them what true conquest really is. Not men in metal suits riddling people with bullets... it's men who have women, who are capable of breeding them. Promise to release the harem to choose their own mates. All the bullets and swords in the world won't change the people's minds once they get the chance to love."
I have been thinking about this since we fled, but I have never dared say the words before, mostly because I could imagine the reaction I would get—the very same one I am getting now.
"No," Pharaoh says firmly. "I don't want to hear another word of that idea. You could be pregnant. You are going to stay right here, and..."
"Raise another person in the same dust bowl I was raised in? No," I declare. "You said that there is life and there is death. Maybe there is death in the city, but maybe there is life."
"If you leave this camp, I'm going to whip you."
Pharaoh's dark hair shines in the sun. It's long now, long enough that he ties it back with a small leather cord. It looks good on him, and does nothing to take away from the overwhelming sternness that is his to command.
"Did you hear me, Trissa?"
"Yeah, I heard you. I'm sitting three feet away from you. What do you think I am, deaf?"
He doesn't like that reply either. He growls something about being a smartass.
Our dynamic is still shifting, even after all this time. In the beginning, I clung to them, afraid to lose them. I dogged their every step, became their shadow. Now, with the passing of even these few weeks, I am beginning to regain my old nature. Being out where I was raised, where I lived alone for so very long, reminds me of who I am, who I was before I was sold. I do not need to ask his permission, but I do need his help.
"We have been here eight weeks," he repeats himself. "You have not bled. That tells me you are likely with child. Tore's. And if you are, we are going to do everything we can to protect you and it."
"Or maybe I'm just not bleeding because stress has stopped my cycle?"
"Maybe. It is early. But it is possible. And something else is possible too."
"What is that?"
"That we begin reclaiming this land. Your father's land. We will build anew here. We will bring in settlers, find more wild people. We will free the women from the Dallas harem and offer them the chance to live here, not as slaves, but as equals."