7 Before Dawn
Dawn was not far away by the time Scarlett and Mimbi were done. A dull headache was settling into Scarlett's head, but the room around her kept spinning. Mimbi, on the other hand,was fast asleep beside her.
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How had they ended up like this?
After the last trial, the rheas were all taken to be fitted for mounts. Scarlett hadn't wanted to say goodbye to Sunu so soon after she had picker her, but everyone was anxious to get the celebrations started, even the rhea breeders.
She had no words to describe the gratitude she felt towards the bird. Sunu had picker her, and not the other way around.
After saying goodbye to Sunu, Scarlett had quickly taken a bath in the pools and then gone to join the fun. Then she vaguely remembered talking to Pakuri after drinking too much ale, Mimbi showing up and interrupting them, and then…
Somehow it started with a kiss, which later led them to run to the barracks and lock the door behind them.
None of them had said anything.
Mimbi had taken extra care in removing Scarlett's clothes, making sure she didn't hurt her where the tiger had scratched her. Soon, her mouth had been on Scarlett's breasts, while Scarlett tried to remove Mimbi's clothes.
They had seen each other's naked bodies so many times, since all the girls bathed in the pools at the same time after training. And back then it had meant nothing. But now, touching her this way…
Mimbi's lips moved downwards, kissing Scarlett on all the scars on her abdomen. One by one she gave them a light kiss, moving down to reach between her legs.
Scarlett had never imagined such pleasure. Mimbi's lips were soft and moist, and she moved her tongue in circles, caressing Scarlett's insides as if she couldn't get enough of her.
Before she could react, Mimbi slid two fingers inside her, using her mouth to pleasure her at the same time. Scarlett had tried to do something other than moan, but she gave up. All she could do was try to keep her moaning controlled, when she really wanted to scream. She had no idea what Mimbi was doing, but the movements of her fingers sent shudders down her spine. Scarlett arched her back, and cried out in release.
Heaving, both girls lay side by side, Scarlett too shocked to do anything other than stare at the ceiling.
After a while, she turned towards Mimbi, wanting to do the same for her. She started kissing her neck, her breasts, placing herself on top of her. But Mimbi stopped her and kissed her again, then moved her to the side. She hugged her, and then almost immediately fell asleep on Scarlett's shoulder.
After that, Scarlett had also tried to fall asleep. But the world around her kept spinning, and her throat was too dry. There was no water in the barracks, so she slid out carefully from under Mimbi's soft naked body, and sat up.
Scarlett looked at her sleeping friend. Was she only her friend now? How would this change the way they spoke to each other?
It wasn't uncommon for the women in the Karai tribes to have multiple lovers. After all, they had decided to live there knowing that men were not allowed inside except for once a year, during the Night of Flames.
But romance among the Karainas wasn't exactly encouraged. You had to be ready to die for your sister, and you couldn't have preference for one or the other. Everyone was the same. You died and fought for everyone equally.
Scarlett had wanted to be a Karaina for so long, that she had almost forgotten that if Mimbi had decided to settle on another profession for some reason, she would have followed her there too. But now they were Karainas, and they would have to adhere by their codes. Mimbi didn't really have a choice, either. As the Great Chieftess' daughter, she was expected to take her place one day.
She got up and dressed herself, putting on the white dress she had been wearing earlier. It looked too out of place in the barracks, where they had spent so much time as trainees. Later in the day, they would be moved up to the main quarters, where they'd get to choose their own rooms. That would be their home for the rest of their lives.
Outside, she could hear that the celebrations were still going on. The music hadn't died out, and there were still cries of joy and multiple songs being sung by both men and women. Come dawn, the men would politely be asked to leave.
Scarlett was too tired and her head was still spinning, so she decided to walk over to the stream. It was closer to the barracks, whereas the plaza was at least a few hundred meters away. Her shoulder was stiff, but it wasn't hard for her to go down the slope. It was dark, for there was no moon, but she knew the way by heart, and the sky was already becoming lighter.
She removed her dress and plunged into the stream. The cool water revived her, almost immediately making her headache go away. She floated on the stream for a while, looking up at the sky that was changing from dark blue to pink and purple. Soon, the sun started showing in the horizon, and the music from the plaza suddenly died down.
She had survived the Night of Flames, and probably made a mess of her relationship with her best friend. But for the first time in ages, Scarlett was content. Calm, knowing that she could finally set aside her fears of not being good enough to join the Karainas.
She was one of them now.
She settled down in the shallower part of the stream, where the rocks formed a pool. It would be long before the sun was high in the sky, and the shade from the trees would cover her at least until noon. The water soothed her aching muscles, so she decided she'd sleep there. No one would be up before midday anyway, so she'd have all the place to herself.
Just as she was starting to drift off, she heard the screams.