"But Mama, who won the war?" Jobek asked. His brother held his hand and nodded.
Abida stroked the dark heads of her little sons. They looked so like their father, except for Zalek’s eyes--green, like hers. "We did, of course, my darlings. Do you not see the beautiful home we live in, all the servants who answer to us, the great lands that your father owns?"
"Yes, Jobek. The Tovrans won." She kissed them each on the forehead. "Now go on. Your father is waiting." She watched them run off down the hall, holding tightly to each other's hands, then turned and reentered the nursery.
"Mama," Beri, her oldest girl, said immediately, "you didn't finish the story. Who won the war?"
Abida drew the two dear heads to her--one dark, one fair, but they both had her green eyes. "The conquerors did, my dears," she said in her own language, the language she had learned from her mother and her nurse. "The Tovrans. That's what the word means."
"But, Mama," said Sima, the only one of her children with her pale hair, switching languages as well, "aren't we Tovrans?"
"We have Arite ancestry," she said, twining a lock of Sima’s hair around her finger. "And you're old enough to learn, girls, that women are never the conquerors, never the winners. In the world we live in, the only way to succeed is to never give up everything."
"It wasn't always that way," the nurse said from the corner. She was an old woman, who had been Abida’s mother's nurse once, and was now the nurse for her children, no matter how much her husband complained that they needed to hire a younger, more energetic nurse. "My grandmother told stories…"
Sima ran eagerly to the nurse's knee. "What stories?"
"Of the days before the Tovrans came," the nurse said, setting down her darning. "When Arite women were warriors as much as the men, and no one could tell a woman what to do if she did not want to be told."
The nurse raised her eyes to Abida, asking permission; Abida nodded and gave Beri a gentle push on the shoulder. "Listen to nurse's stories," she whispered. Beri nodded and walked over to sit next to her sister, ready for her lesson.