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Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20


Beyond the steel walls of the Harras Maximum Security Prison, Gregory Buchanan escapes into the freedom of dreams. Again the African sun warms his bare skin. Again the laughter of the Baoule women stirs his blood. In dreams, he again allows the curiousity of his desires as a young man to become his downfall. He knew his actions were wrong. He knew he violated the most sacred of Baoule traditions. Still, he could not resist.

Day fades into evening, and the Baoule men retire to their huts, leaving the women to their rituals. All of the men remain inside. Any man who dared to disobey incurred the wrath of the strongest power in any village: a woman's body.

A Baoule woman was the bringer of new life to the village. Through her, the tribe appealed to the god of the earth for good harvest. Through her, the tribe sought protection against disease. Any man observing the naked women performing their rites desecrated the sanctity of their gathering, and sentenced himself to death by his actions.

He tries to stay inside. A half-hearted gesture at best. But the steady beat of drums, the women's voices rising in pleasant unison to the heavens, the glimpses of gleaming skin flashing past the cracks in the hut walls, overwhelm his senses. He catches a brief, teasing glance of Raoua's smile, brilliant under the moonlight.

Behind him, his father remains deeply involved discussing the disease which has infected their tribe. Smallpox. It is the reason they have come to this neighboring tribe for aid. It is the reason they call upon the power of the Baoule women. It is the reason Gregory slips unnoticed from the hut.

A moment, no more. The briefest instance when Raoua's eyes meet his; when Gregory's heart quickens in response. Sudden gasps from the other women as his presence is discovered. Cries of outrage which are soon answered by the Baoule men emerging from the huts. Imminent disaster until lightning flashes from the skies, momentarily blinding the men while the women frantically scramble for their robes.

Ororo, living goddess for the Baoule, descends in thunderous fury. Tense silence falls over the tribe. Her steely eyes freeze Gregory's blood. He cries out as her winds pull him from the earth, then slam him onto his knees before her. She speaks, her voice vibrant even above the strong winds and thunder.

"What is to become of you now, curious one?"

Gregory stands, squaring his shoulders as he meets her direct gaze.



Raoua's cry sends another gasp through the tribe. She runs forward, falling onto her knees, then respectfully bows her head to Ororo's feet. Ororo's heart softens. She is not much older than this young woman whose kindness and courage quickly earned her Ororo's deepest affection. Still, she cannot absolve this man completely. His impulsiveness has seriously compromised traditional beliefs.

Ororo remains silent, considering the situation. To the Baoule, their goddess is merely showing a moment of benevolence, allowing the young man and woman their time for goodbyes before he dies. The moment passes. Then another. A sob escapes Raoua's lips. Her tears dampen Ororo's skin. Hushed whispers buzz through the tribe, questioning why the goddess has not struck this man dead. The whispers increase annoyingly.

"Be silent!"

A final clap of thunder and the winds still, the lightning ceases. Ororo rests her hand on Raoua's head.

"Rise, child."

Raoua stands. Her dark eyes shine with unshed tears. Ororo forces herself to turn away and concentrate on Gregory.

"Were it not for my intervention, you would have destroyed the sanctity of this tribe. By the Bright Lady, the women and their ritual were not defiled. No, little one, you will not die."

Cold disdain creeps into her voice.

"You have not earned the privilege of joining your ancestors. In truth, you are more of a child yet, than man. For three passes of the full moon, you will be returned to the tribe as the child your actions reveal you to be."

Gregory flushes. He has only recently endured the rite of passage into manhood. How can he return to his village knowing that he will be watched over, followed, kept from Raoua until he again passes the rites of maturity? To have this witch condemn him to childhood, by mere words, is more than he can bear. Thoughtlessly, he pulls back to strike her. Instantly, Raoua moves between. His blow lands hard on Raoua's cheek, knocking her to the ground, unconscious.

Ororo cries out, stunned. She eases Raoua into her arms, checking her carefully. The other Baoule women hurry to her aid, respectful of Ororo's status. There is no thunder this time. No deafening crash. No blinding flash of light. Only unnatural quiet. No one speaks on Gregory's behalf now. Ororo's judgement is quick, definitive. A single word spoken in barely controlled, angry whisper.


Gregory pales. One by one, the Baoule turn their backs to him. He seeks his father, grabs his hand pleadingly. His father shoves him away.

"You shame me."

Slowly, Gregory gathers himself and takes leave of the tribe. As he passes through the village, he turns again to the one responsible for his loss. His heart hardens against her, vowing that one day she, too, will understand what has been lost to him this night.


Continued in Chapter 9


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