It was the day she had been waiting for since she was only a little girl. Her palms were sweaty and her neck itched. Every woman in the village went through it.

But not every woman came out of it alive.

But that wasn’t what scared her. Death didn’t scare the little girl. He came to the village sometimes with the mask he usually wore. She liked him, he was kind to her, and his wings were a beautiful shade of blue-black that was flecked with all the colours under the sun.

As she held her mother’s hand as they crossed the village gates, she understood then why she was scared.

It was not the fear of falling that chased her, like it did one of her friends the week before.

It was not the fear of death, for she was already acquainted with him from the many times her mother brought him home.

Her mother’s hand was rough and calloused. She was the general of the united army of the empire and it was to be expected. Her father had been killed. He was weak, her mother told her while she was growing up.

He was not fit to live in the empire.

That was why her mother’s sword was called Nyaruthra — Mate Killer.

They crossed the Dark Forest with their heads held high. Her mother did not flinch or even pause. There Dark Forest was populated by the most dangerous dark spirits in the land. These were spirits that would pierce your soul and eat the flesh raw from your bones. Spirits that were feared from generation to generation, that had feasted on the flesh of humans since the dawn of creation.

But even they did not dare anger the general of the Amayans.

Nyaruthra had been the end of more than just her father.

Past the Dark Forest, past the foliage, there was a clearing, and at the edge of that clearing, was Willow’s Peak, that height of the whole world, and point of maturity for all Amayans.

And for the first time in the journey, her mother let go of her hand.

“Walk,” she said simply, her eyes on the peak. “Then go.”

It was not the fall, nor the death that scared her, but the mere possibility of disappointing her mother.

She was the daughter of one of the most important women in the city and she couldn’t bear to let her down. And that fear weighed down on her, threatened to bury her.

But, she was an Amayan, and she was strong. She took the first step towards the peak, and then another.

She continued until she was at the very edge, where one step would have casted her down thousands upon thousands of feet to the ground.

“Spread your wings,” her mother said.

She nodded and she did. Her wings were still white, like all the young ones were. But they were strong, they were capable. She hoped.

She looked down at the drop and then back at her mother whose face was concrete, and she swallowed.

Her mother’s eyes caught hers, but they did not soften. “Fear will follow you,” she said, “and it will fight you. But you will overcome. Jump.”

The girl nodded and faced forward, and stretched her arms wide like she had been taught, flexing her wings.

And then, she jumped into the nothingness.

Thank you for reading! This series is born out of me asking my followers on all my social media questions, and writing short stories out of it. You can join in too! Follow me on any platform @AnthonyAzekwoh

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.