Just Desserts

Why do we do this?"

A group of girls, young women, really, stood in front of the village elders. All of them as yet unmarked with the scars of their adulthood ritual.

"We scar your faces so that men will not be overcome with lust for you." The elders, all older men save for one lone old woman who sat at her own table, below and to the left of the men, nodded in concert.

"It hurts. We talked to the older girls. It hurts, and it makes it hard to see, sometimes to breathe." The girl in the fore still had the long flowing locks of her childhood, and more than one old man eyed her burgeoning curves.

"Girls get infections and die." Another girl, this one slight, standing straight in spite of the complicated brace intended to bend her frame away from beauty.

"We hurt you a little now so that men will will not hurt you more in the future." The sole old woman spoke. "It was done to me, and to my mother before her."

"We don't want it." The girls narrowed their eyes, and produced weapons from the voluminous clothing forced on them at puberty. "We can protect ourselves."

"But if you harm a man, you will be punished." One of the older men gasped. "The punishment for..." He trailed off.

"For fighting back? For defending ourselves? We know what you do and why." The girls hissed like angry geese. The doors to the council chambers opened, and more girls, younger, older, scarred and not, walked into the room. Older women, mothers, grandmothers, missing eyes, parts of noses, ears, hobbling in pain, all bearing weapons, some of them bloody. The guards lay on the marbled floors outside, thick, unpleasant men who often held the girls for the ceremonies, pools of blood surrounding them.

"We will not submit." The women spoke as one, butts of spears and pitchforks striking the floor in unison.

"If you surrender quietly, we will see you get a fair trial." The girl in the lead spoke slowly, enunciating clearly. "It's more than you gave any of us."

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