A few minutes drag by as you sit in the heat, fanned by a servant or slave. You’re not sure which, just that they often attend you. As you feel even hotter you fidget and look at Temullgei to see if he’s really sleeping or you can talk to him to distract yourself.

His eyes open as soon as you turn to him so you give him an apologetic smile.

“Lean back and we’ll talk then,” he said. With an even broader smile you settle down next to him and wriggle to get comfortable. Immediately your servant shifts to fan you better in the new position.

“What should I expect to happen when we reach… our destination?” You ask, forgetting what he’d called the place and people there.

“When I present you to the Khaadain?” He says. You nod. “They will talk with you. Ask you questions about where you’re from and then prepare you for the ceremony.”

“What happens in the ceremony?”

“Little to concern you. You will be presented to any Khaads currently dwelling there. Normally the Angel is offered wives, but you will not be allowed multiple husbands. I will speak to the Khaadain about this before the ceremony. You will be given slaves and gifts, male and female and then there will be a feast in your honour. From that point on, you will have the choice to join the Khaadain, if you take no husband.”

“I won’t be returning home?” Disappointment runs through you. You’d already suspected you might be stuck here but a glimmer of hope had flickered within you. He shakes his head.

“None of the other Angels ever managed to leave, although most looked for a way home. You are here with us forever. I hope you can be happy here, Angel.”

“So my choices are to marry or join the Khaadain?” You ask, getting back to the life he was describing for you.

“Not exactly. You could choose neither at first, but I do not recommend you delay the decision.”

“Why not?”

“If you join the Khaadain, you become a devoted mother of all our people. No man may lie with you without breaking our most sacred laws, so you will be safe from all the Khaads. If you marry, your husband will also protect you, until he dies and you join the Khaadain, or choose to marry again.”

“So the Khaadain are women who’ve been married, or won’t ever marry?” He nods and smiles at your understanding before continuing to answer your previous question.

“For the most part, yes, although our eldest men will live amongst them if they grow too old to ride. But if you do not marry and do not join the Khaadain the men may fight over you. Unmarried with no father here to speak for you, you could be claimed by any man from any tribe. I can keep you safe within my tribe, but we would have to leave the Khaadain if another tribe appeared to ensure no man forced you into his bed.” Temullgei’s words had the desired warning. You shiver at the thought of what might happen to you.

“So I need to choose a husband, or become a nun…” This is the first time that being an Angel to these people has had a downside. You like neither option.

“What is a nun?” he asks when you say no more. You chuckle.

“Where I come from, it is someone who devotes herself to a religious belief, never marries and never even has trelair, for her whole life.”

“This is something you will consider?” He raises his eyebrow and you laugh as you realise he didn’t pick up on your sarcasm.

“Very few people wish to become a nun. It would have to be one of my least favourite options. But I also don’t know any of your people well. I’m not sure I could choose a husband right away.” You sigh and shake your head. “Is there really no way I could go home?”

“I know of none.”

“Then how does marriage work with your people? Your men can take many wives?”

“Yes, although a man with more than one wife must treat all kind and provide for all. We often have more women than men and it ensures all are protected.”

“So my husband would protect me?”

He nods and sits up a little, not taking his eyes off you.

“What is expected of a wife?” you ask, wary that their answer isn’t likely to be one you like. The culture around you is primitive compared to your home and you have heard the horror stories of how women were treated in the past. As Temullgei sat up your fears grew worse.

“It depends on the husband. If she is married to a Khaad, she is expected to take responsibility for the tribe as well as the Khaad, especially the other women. If the husband has no slaves she is the cook and does many other tasks, but you will not have to worry about that. All the men who make an offer to you will have plenty of slaves.”

“Anything else?” you ask, prodding for more information. He looks thoughtful for a moment.

“You will hopefully bear children. It is a great honour in our culture to be a descendant of an Angel. Most Khaads are.”

“And what about trelair?” At this question of yours he furrows his brow.

“Of course it is expected. How else would you bear children?”

“I mean. Could I say no to my husband if he wants trelair?”

“Why would you want to refuse trelair?”

“Where I come from, if a wife wants to, she can say no. That way the husband cannot hurt her or abuse her.”

“Ah, you are worried about being hurt in this way?” he asks as understanding finally dawns on him. You nod. “Some men will hurt a wife in this way, but few. Most understand it does not lead to a happy marriage.”

“But a wife can’t say no if her husband is hurting her?”

He shakes his head.

“But many men will not do this. I would not hurt… my wife.” The pause in his sentence makes you glance at him. It seemed a lot like he was going to tell you that he wouldn’t hurt you, but changed his mind part way through the sentence.

“How many days until we arrive?”

“Less than two.”

“And my options once there, are either to marry someone I don’t know, or become a nun?”

“There is another option. We know each other a little more and I would be able to keep you safe as my wife.”

“Are you asking me to marry you?”

He nods and smiles.

What do you do?

Say yes.

Say no.

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