To ensure that the resources of the city will keep the occupants fed and clothed, the population of Evlantis is strictly controlled by the Quickening Committee. Pregnancies are planned in advance based on deaths in each sector in the preceding year. A special committee maintains genealogical records and schedules quickening appointments. The quickening season begins as Harvest Festival ends, with a grand procession of mothers and mothers-to-be on the first night of quickening appointments.
The events below happened during book two, Sephora’s Revenge, but were cut long before the final edit of the book. The year Sephora laid siege to the city, she re-appropriated quickening assignments to favor those who were loyal to her. This “lost” passage joins the procession to the Quickening Chambers at the close of the Harvest Festival:
Andria had misgivings. Though she lived in the Government Sector, which had remained loyal to Sephora, her true sympathies were with Rachel and the proponents of equality for men. Her daughter had been misused by the High Queen for her own gain. She had tried to talk her daughter out of the quickening rite, but her daughter would not listen. As badly as she wanted to be a grandmother, she wished that her grandchild’s conception would be under different circumstances.
I must take my mind off my worries, thought Andria as they marched toward the sprawling, ancient one-story building in the market section of the Religion Sector. Legend said Mother Eve herself designed the twenty-four room structure. Three main corridors ran the length of the building east to west, while five shorter corridors ran north and south. The four largest rooms measured ten by twelve feet. The smallest rooms were ten by six feet, barely large enough to contain much more than a bed. When the city had been abandoned and the building ravaged by storms and natural decay, much of the rebuilding had been done according to the original design. The building that housed the quickening chambers was one of the few structures re-built upon its original foundation and specifications.
Andria focused her attention on the two mothers in front of her who were gossiping as they walked in the joyful procession from the Palace Hall to the quickening chambers.
“Suffrage, the Goddess of the Poor, has blessed us mightily, I tell you, Berty!” one woman said to her friend.
“You can say that again, and again, Shanice!” Berty laughed. “Pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming. I don’t need to tell you my poor daughter has been passed over for the last six years. I gave up hope of ever being a grandmother.”
“Me, too! Our lines will not die with us, my friend! All this time we comforted each other that there is a special section of the afterlife for the poor. Who would have thought the recent upset in the Queendom would have changed our fortune for the better? As early as tomorrow morning both our precious daughters’ wombs may be carrying the granddaughters of our legacy! This is a joyous night indeed! What a Festival it has been!”
“A short Festival. Are you worried about men being free?”
“Not one bit. There are six thousand women in the city, and only a thousand or so men. High Queen Sephora will set things right again. Why? Are you worried?”
“Not me! My only beloved daughter has her first quickening assignment tonight! I might become a grandmother!”
“Both of our beloved daughters! It is too bad they were assigned the smallest chambers. I got to peek into a royal chamber once on my walk to the third tier. You can’t imagine the wonders in those rooms! Mirrors, furs, jars of precious oils and ointments, flowers, a washtub, shelves full of pleasure toys. I swear to you I saw a costume hanging on the wall.”
“What was the costume for, do you suppose?” asked Berty.
“Oh, it was the definitely the costume worn by Randy, the slave who ended the infant shortage in the play Fertility.”
“No! The boots, cape, and mask?”
“Yes! I swear it on my mother’s and my daughter’s life! Can you imagine? I’d jump into a quickening bed faster than you can say ‘baby’ with any man dressed as Randy.”
“Me too! Oh, remember the glories of those days? The endless nights of mixed pain and pleasure, and the thrill we experienced when we missed our periods?”
“I do. Walking in this procession makes me relive it all again.”
Both women sighed and spent the rest of the joyous procession in silence, lost in pleasant memories and high hopes for their future.
Without the distraction of the conversation in front of her, Andria’s concern for the future of the city of Evlantis took over all her thoughts. She could see no good outcome from allowing only Sephora’s supporters to populate the city. Andria, feeling very guilty as she walked with all the hopeful grandmothers-to-be, prayed to every goddess she could think of for an intercession that would prevent pregnancies this night.