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  • Writer's pictureMarve Micheal

Firstborn of the Sun (Prologue)




Everyone in the kingdom of Oru is born with agbára – the ability to draw magic from the sun. Everyone that is, except Lọ́rẹ. When the gods call for her best friend's life, the home she grew up in becomes the prison she must escape. The Holy Order sends their deadliest assassin after her, but she just might be her own worst enemy. She must choose who needs saving, her family, her kingdom or herself.

Read on for an extract from Marvellous Michael Anson's Epic Fantasy Novel, Firstborn of the Sun...



PROLOGUE
THE SUN TEMPLE, ROYAL ISLAND, KINGDOM OF ORU
MỌ́RÈMÍ

Nine blood moons and one day.


        That was how long Mọrèmi hung in the balance between life and death.

The cool evening breeze sent shivers down her spine. This was the night she had feared—the one she realised with every passing moment that she was wildly unprepared for. Searing pain washed over her, she shut her eyes firmly, forcing herself to breathe through it until the intense sharp pain dulled into an ache. Thoughts of her mother raced through her mind as she lay on the floor over layers of mats and wrappers, wishing more than anything that she wasn’t miles away from home, scared and alone with only the older midwife by her feet shouting at her.


         Mọrèmi glanced around the empty room. No matter how beautiful, a building was no place for a child to be born. Her child ought to be born into the ocean like she was—like her mother was, and her mother before her. At home, she’d be kneeling in the wet sands at the edge of the sea, feeling the saltwater rush in and out of her, stinging and cleansing, preparing to greet the child whose first cry would be born of the cold, born of water, born of Tutu. When she closed her eyes, she heard the rush of the wind and the crash of the waves on the rocks that her home was built upon. She wouldn’t have been pushing alone. She’d have had the force of the mighty ocean urging her child into the world. She could see her sisters standing barefoot in the sinking sand at the shoreline, singing to her, and she could feel the rhythmic strokes of her aunt’s heavy hand drumming against her back.


Most of all, Mọrèmi could hear her mother’s voice pouring her strength into her. She needed that voice, but with every wave of contraction, it seemed farther and farther away, and a wave of heat consumed her. She felt a sudden tightness in her chest, and panic overwhelmed her. Her lips trembled as she cried for the mother she feared she’d never see again. The other wives of the High Priest had their mothers with them in the days following their wedding. Their mothers followed them everywhere, washing their feet and braiding their hair, and there she was, a stranger in a new world. Wishing that at any time in her eighteen first suns, her mother would have told her how much bringing forth life would feel like death.          


‘Calm down, Mọrèmi. I can’t hear your child’s heartbeat if you keep screaming down the temple,’ the midwife’s shrill voice cut through her thoughts.

‘Oh gods, help me, please!’ Mọrèmi prayed and lifted her gaze to the reddish-brown walls that seemed to close in on her. On them were sand portraits of the women who had given birth in that same room. Their dark eyes peered into her soul. Hundreds of them. Had they been as terrified as she was? Most importantly, had they left that room alive?


A few moments later, the midwife’s eyes locked with Mọrèmi’s, and her shoulders dropped, and she shrunk back, ‘I hear nothing.’ 


‘Ah! Gods forbid! Ọmọ mi ò lè kú—My child can’t die!’


‘There is nothing to be done,’ the midwife’s voice shattered through her mind, and her ears rang, ‘You’ve lost too much blood, Mọrèmi. Let the child come out.’


  Mọrèmi groaned, her chest heaving as she struggled to control her breathing. Unable to move the bottom half of her body, she did the only thing she could think of—the one thing her husband would kill her for. She called upon her gods in the north. 


  The bargain was simple. Her life for her child. She was nothing without her child, so she drew a deep breath and began to chant, ‘Child of my womb, take from my blood, child of my womb, take from my life, come back to me.’ She pitched forward and cried hysterically, ‘Ọmọọ̀ mi, gba agbára à mi—my child, take my strength!’ She’d journeyed south through the sands and storms. She’d lied, stolen, and done everything to carry the High Priest’s heir—this child that’d grown inside her for nine blood moons and would save her people. It couldn’t die.


‘Stop that nonsense,’ the midwife shouted and pried herself out of Mọrèmi’s grip, ‘The gods can’t help you. The sun has long set, and they are asleep. It’s you holding this child back.’ She lifted Mọrèmi to her knees and placed her on all fours, ‘Your child will rot inside of you— it must be born, or it’ll be the death of you.’


Mọrèmi ignored the midwife. Her gods didn’t sleep at night. Her gods didn’t rise with the dawn. She reached for the darkness enclosing the room and allowed the void to fill her mind. Hands and knees on the ground, she cried out to the gods of her people, ‘Ẹ̀yin Òrìṣà àwọn bàbá babá nlá mi, ẹ má ṣe ṣe báyì sí mi—gods of my ancestors, please don’t leave me.’


Mọrèmi didn’t know if her gods would answer or if she could give life to the child inside her, but she was prepared to die trying. She’d resolved in her heart since the day she turned her back on her family and chose this path for herself that there was no going back.


Mọrèmi’s agbára ignited inside of her. The familiar warmth of her magic rose to the surface of her skin. Her pupils turned an unnatural shade of blue. No—not yet. She needed her agbára flowing into her child, not bursting out of her. She shut her eyes firmly until she felt her agbára recede. In the years she’d spent in the kingdom of Oru, she’d never exposed her powers, and she couldn’t afford to now, not when she was so close to the end.


A loud voice pulled her out of her thoughts. Another midwife had rushed into the room. ‘It’s Oyíndà’, she called out from the doorway, ‘Her child is nearly here!’


Mọrèmi screamed, ‘No!’ she turned to the midwife. ‘I’m ready! I’m ready! Get it out, get it out now!’ her words tumbling over each other. If her child was not born first, it’ll all have been for nothing.


She summoned all her strength, the powers of the gods, new and old, north and south. She pushed from her shoulders, from the soles of her feet, her skin prickled, and her agbára forced its way into her eyes. This time, she didn’t stop it.


‘I have the head. Push again!’


With a loud cry, Mọrèmi pushed the baby out, wet and wormlike, into the hands of the midwife crouched at her feet. She crashed to the floor and lay on her side. As soon as she caught her breath, she asked with a shaking voice, ‘Is it alive?’

The midwife was bent over, busy with the baby, using pieces of fabric to wipe off the mixture of fluid and blood that accompanied it into the world. She carefully used her fingers to remove the liquid from its nose and mouth. Then cut off the rope that connected the baby to its mother. Swaddling the child in a cloth, ‘It’s so cold,’ the old midwife said, shaking her head, ‘It’s a girl.’

The midwife placed the limp child in the basket next to her, and without raising her head, she said, ‘You need to push out the afterbirth too.’


  ‘What? What is an afterbirth?’


‘Just do what I tell you.’

Mọrèmi did as the midwife asked, following her instructions. The midwife put her flat on her back again and pulled gently on the cord, kneading on her lower stomach, exerting downward pressure on it. This continued for a few moments until something slid out of her, much less intense than when she’d pushed earlier. She didn’t see what it was. The midwife wrapped it up quickly and placed it next to the baby. She washed her hands in one of the many bowls of water surrounding her and mopping up the blood. Mọrèmi could feel that the midwife was intentionally avoiding her gaze. 

Finally, the midwife picked up the baby and stood up with her back to Mọrèmi.

‘She’s not crying,’ Mọrèmi said, her voice breaking.


The midwife turned to speak but froze. ‘Yo— you… your eyes!’ she stammered and stepped back, ‘You’re not from here. You’re not of the sands!’


Mọrèmi had nearly forgotten how she’d used her agbára to help push the child free. Her eyes still glowed blue.


‘Give me my daughter!’ Mọrèmi winced as she yelled, stretching her arms towards the woman. The people of Oru were utterly ignorant of powers that weren’t of their gods and were taught to fear everything not of the sands and sun, but she wasn’t going to let that keep her from her daughter.

 

The midwife took another step back and glanced at the door, her hand outstretched. Her palm started to glow a deep orange as she drew on her agbára. ‘The child is gone, and a mother can’t set eyes on her dead child—our gods forbid it. Don’t come any closer.’


Mọrèmi struggled off the floor, and every move hurt more than the last. When she tried to walk, she fell to her knees as quickly as she’d gott off the mat. She rose again and was nearly blinded by the light emanating from the midwife’s palm. Even from where she stood, Mọrèmi could feel the heat quickly filling the room.


‘Not a step closer!’ the midwife warned. A moment later, the smell of smoke caught her attention. She looked at the swaddled baby in her hand and glared at the spark of flame her palms had started on the outer layers of the cloth. The midwife cried out and shoved the child into Mọrèmi’s arms. She shuffled to the corner of the room and dunked her hands into one of the clay pots filled with water, and a white mist rose from it, obscuring her sight. She leaned in and inhaled.

A faint cry.

 

Mọrèmi locked eyes with the midwife. 


‘Gods of sun and sands! What sorcery is this? What have you done? This isn’t possible,’ the midwife said.

 

Mọrèmi felt her heart ease, the tightness in her chest releasing her as she realized what had happened. ‘I didn’t do this. You did. You warmed her with your agbára. My child lives. Your Queen is alive.’

The midwife’s face was full of horror. ‘Who…What… Who are you? Where do you come from?’

Mọrèmi held her child closer to her chest.

‘Answer me! Who gives you life?’ the midwife said, her voice warbling.


'Go and tell your High Priest that his daughter lives. Tell him that his firstborn is alive.

Tell my husband that the Queen is born!’


The midwife grew hysterical, ‘Irọ! You lie! This thing will never be our Queen. The Holy Order will hear of the evil that runs in your blood.’

Mọrèmi noticed the midwife glance towards to doorway. She saw the woman’s mind calculating her steps, and a sudden dread overcame her. The midwife would report her and ruin everything. She’d seen people burnt alive for merely saying the names of the old gods, let alone possessing the blue, glowing eyes of Mọrèmi’s agbára—and as a wife of the High Priest, too. The tightness in her chest returned, and when the midwife took her first step towards the door, Mọrèmi launched at her, grabbing her by the arm. Her agbára burst out of her. The warm, prickly sensation flowed through her hands. It happened so quickly that the midwife didn’t realise what was happening to her until the sharp pain of frost bit into her skin, turning it pale and dark. She screamed and fell, hitting her head on the way down.


Mọrèmi stared at the woman sprawled on the ground whimpering, and she could only think one thing: run. The sense of urgency at what had to be done sent a surge of energy through her, and she moved as quickly as she could. She pulled off her blood-soaked nightgown and wore a new Ankara dress from among her clothes. The large gown gave her room to breathe. She tied a wrapper across her waist and tucked loose pieces of fabric firmly between her thighs to stop the fluid from dripping down her legs. She wrapped her daughter in more warm clothes and limped out of the room.


Mọrèmi stopped at the doorway, pausing to breathe. The birthing chamber was in the east wing of the temple—the birthplace of Kings and Queens. She closed her eyes, and tears formed in them again. Her daughter deserved to claim her birthright. The open courtyard before her welcomed in the blood moon’s red light, and she looked up to the sky and wondered if her mother saw the same moon that night. If her mother knew that despite her doubts, her daughter had birthed the next Queen of Oru. 


She raised her baby to her face, feeling the warmth of her breath, and sighed. Mọrèmi used the wrapper she had taken from her room to wrap the child to her back, tying a firm knot across her tummy to hold it in place.  She peeped into the next room, checking that the coast was clear. The room was crowded, but no eyes were on her. All attention was turned to the woman at the room’s heart, suffering through her own birth. Relieved, Mọrèmi made to run, but a loud cry stopped her short. ‘It’s a boy,’ a voice said from inside the room.

 

Mọrèmi watched the other woman cradle her son, wishing she hadn’t revealed her powers to the midwife. Now her only option was to run. Or was it? She’d turned to leave when a thought crossed her mind. Only the midwife had witnessed her powers. If she killed her, she wouldn’t have to run. She glanced back at her birthing chamber; no life was worth risking her people’s survival.


The faint beat of her daughter’s heart and the warmth of her skin pressing into her back gave Mọrèmi more courage than she could have imagined, more will than she thought herself capable of. And at that moment, she knew that the midwife would die by her hand.

  She turned to go after the midwife, but footsteps approached—Àlùfáà Àgbà’s robe dragged along the ground, creating an eerie, sweeping effect as he moved. Despite his age, he remained towering and imposing, standing well over six feet tall. As his lanky frame loomed nearer, Mọrèmi saw the deep wrinkles etched into his skin as the torch flames flickered against his frame.


She drew carefully on her agbára, concealing herself as he approached and stopped a few feet from her. She stood still as a rock, praying for him to walk through the doors so that she could run, but he turned towards her, his deep-set eyes peering into the shadows cast by the lanterns on the walls. Mọrèmi knew that he couldn’t see her, but she also knew that he was one of the most powerful priests in the kingdom, and he could probably sense that something or someone was near him. She heard her mother’s voice telling her how it could go wrong—like she often did. Don’t move an inch. You’re invisible, not untouchable. You can’t be seen, but you can be struck down. Slow down your heart but don’t faint, or you will fall, and the illusion will shatter.


Her energy was slipping away. She was succumbing to the pain from childbirth, her stomach still cramped, pulling in on itself, her muscles were sore and fatigued, and she felt her heart slow dangerously. At any moment, she’d fall.

Àlùfáà Àgbà swiped slowly at the space before him, moving from right to left slowly, only stopping when the new mother called out to him and the courtyard flooded with people, ‘Àlùfáà, come and meet your King.’


Her chance was gone—the midwife would live. Mọrèmi would later think back to this moment so often that it’d drive her to the edge of madness. She’d wonder if she should’ve revealed her child as the true firstborn, if she could’ve used her own rules against them or if her husband’s love for her would’ve saved her and her child. But now, at that moment, Mọrèmi ran as fast as she could, breaking the illusion, she emerged from the cocoon of ice she’d hidden herself in, leaving behind a crash like that of falling mirrors. Never again would Mọrèmi choose restraint when death could be claimed.

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Khione Frost
Khione Frost
4월 30일

SO EXCITED FOR THE RELEASE!! 💗💓

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Marve Micheal
Marve Micheal
4월 30일
답글 상대:

Thank you so much ☀️🧡

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