My time with you is nearly over.

Tomorrow marks your fifth year, and it's always on that day, that awful day, that they come, yelling and swearing and laughing. "Akiva!" they'll yell, and I'll step forward like a sheep and hand you over, never saying a word, never stepping the slightest bit out of line.

If tomorrow goes the way I plan it to, that will not be what happens.

A few months ago, I doubted we would ever get to this point. Disease spreads madly in this filthy, small harem overflowing with women and children, and slaves are only sent in monthly to clean it out. I don't know what it was that grasped you tightly, but I held you tightly while your breath wheezed and you cried because you couldn't understand what was happening to you.

It was bad enough that I was willing to beg for medicine, to… to lower myself to them, somehow, in exchange for your life, but they never relented, and the nights went on and on and you got worse and worse. It was only with the help of another woman, young and empire-blond whose body was often gazed upon when she nursed her daughter, that they relented and you even began to improve.

I spent days then trying to ease the pain in her legs from when they decided they were finished with her, but it was the bleeding wound on her head that killed her weeks later, and then her daughter clung to her neck and refused to let go until thrown off by the guards whose faces she couldn't even see.

That girl. What was her name again?

Oh, right. Liraz. They came for her a few days ago, and she stepped forward alone, no mother to hand her over, and there was a sorrow in her blue eyes that I longed to coax out of her.

It's night right now, and you lean against my chest, your arms wrapped around my neck. Your breathing is soft, as it always is, and if I could see your face right now, it would be etched with a peacefulness that never crosses it. You're a worried child, with orange eyes perpetually opened wide with a fear that you never speak of, because even at your young age you've seen things that children shouldn't see.

You've watched children die of preventable illnesses. You've watched women die from wounds they got from protecting themselves. You've watched prodigious guards enter daily and choose the broken women for their day. You've seen the way the mothers never look up from their children, how they hold them close because they're the only thing that can tether them sometimes.

I can only imagine it will get worse. For you, and for all of them. But especially for you.

You're Stelian, and it's obvious on your face. If the dark skin wasn't obvious enough, your eyes burn bright like twin flames, the color that's universally known for our people. And even though no one will mention your race to you, or will even be informed of it, they will realize it, and you will be given grief for it. Already I've been spat at and insulted too many times to count.

It's the one time that my race is my savior: when they sweep the room in the mornings, their gazes always sweep past me. To them, I am foreign. Alien. Untouchable.

But, my son, I have faith in you. I have the utmost faith in you, and I am not afraid for the choices you will make. You will not be a player in the background of this turning world: your role will be important, and will not be forgotten, and you will be so much more than you know.

Those were the words spoken by the mystic that I spoke to days before the capture that led me here, and he has never been wrong once.

I'm not trying to say that it will be easy, because it won't. They will try to convince you that you are somehow subhuman because of the conditions that led to your birth, and there will be pain, and there will be sorrow, and there will be heartbreak beyond heartbreak.

Tomorrow, I will be expected to hand you over and either stand docilely or weep. Either way: submit, and be weak and powerless, as women are expected to be.

I will not.

I will attack, and I will try to kill, if possible. I will not further their misogyny, their views on anyone beyond themselves.

I will attack, and I will probably die for it, but what does that matter, when the alternative is living as a slave meant to produce weapons wrapped in flesh and service ornamental guards? I'd rather die with a fight than live more years this way.

Tomorrow, both of our lives change forever, and you will be taught not to think, not to care, not to feel, that you are a product of the empire and nothing but a disposable sword meant only to kill. And that's false.

You are not his.

You are not mine.

You are your own.