Chapter 1: Angharad-We Are Not Things
Edited in January 2018. CW for rape, self-harm, and attempted suicide.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Joe will be here soon, Splendid, and he’ll want you waiting on the bed.”
Angharad ignored the foul man who’d forced her legs apart to ‘examine’ her, the one who’d declared her whole-life and therefore a fit bride for the Immortan, and the hateful nickname she already despised. She was sitting on a stool, staring at her reflection in the small round mirror hanging on the wall of her cell, searching for any hint of her former self.
In the dozen or so days since she’d awoken to the sound of roaring engines and the screams of her family, Angharad had been utterly transformed. Inside, she was still screaming, trying desperately to escape from the arms of the strange pale men who had captured her, watching them shoot every single person in her family. She’d only been spared because one of them had declared her to be ‘chrome.’ The external changes were more visible. Her practical trousers and boots, the jacket her mother had so lovingly stitched for her, had been stripped from her, then replaced with useless wisps of white linen. She’d been scrubbed head to toe, the blonde hair stripped from every part of her except her head.
“Old Joe likes his women smooth.” The filth standing before her had said that as he supervised them shaving her. The old women who had cleaned her seemed to be afraid of him, calling him ‘Organic’ with great respect, but Angharad refused to speak or acknowledge him in any way. She had tried to communicate with the others but they seemed too frightened to respond to her.
Seeing that she hadn’t moved a muscle, much less arranged herself pleasingly in bed, the Organic muttered, “Suit yourself,” and left, closing the door behind him. She listened to him leave, waiting for his footsteps to fade away, before reaching inside the flimsy wrappings around her breasts. Her fingers closed around a sharp blade, and she smiled, pulling it out. She’d snatched it during the shaving, when the Organic’s back had been turned and the women were sorting out the scraps of fabric that now constituted as her clothing. When she’d seen it, laying at the edge of the pool unattended, she had grabbed it, hiding it in a clenched fist in until they dressed her and she managed to slip it near her heart. It had cut into her palm, but the pain meant nothing; the razorblade was her deliverance. A few cuts, and she would be free, reunited with her family and safe in a place where scum like the Organic and her new ‘husband’ would never be able to touch her again.
She slid the blade across her left arm, watching eagerly as a thin line of red sprung up. But nothing else seemed to happen; it stung a bit, but she still felt very much alive. Frustrated, Angharad repeated the motion over and over again, until her arm was covered in angry red cuts. She set the razor on her legs, trying to decide what to do next. Although she was feeling a bit woozy, the razor didn’t seem to be working. Maybe if she cut deeper?
She had barely begun to press the blade to her arm when suddenly a warm hand caught her shoulder, and an unfamiliar voice cried, “No, you mustn’t!”
Startled, Angharad dropped the blade into her lap, whipping her head towards the sound.
A woman stood before her, unlike anyone Angharad had ever seen. She was small, with high cheekbones and a delicate face. Her eyes were a pale clear blue, her skin smooth and dark. Her hair fell in two copper braids down her back, and when she stretched out her hands in supplication, Angharad saw that her left arm ended at her elbow.
“Who are you?”
The strange woman smiled at her. “I am the One Who is All, queen of heaven and mother of the world, and you are my dearly beloved child.”
Angharad stared at her, uncertain of what to do. The door was still closed, and the room was too small for anyone to have hidden within it. The elders in her family had spoken of gods, to be sure, but never had she heard of anyone actually seeing one.
After a moment, she found her voice, “Are you Yhi? If you are, then I’ve heard about you.”
The woman gave a throaty chuckle. “I am the Lady of Ten Thousand Names, but yes, one of them is Yhi.” For a moment she glowed bright, giving off far more light than any of the lamps in the room, and Angharad gasped, finally believing.
“Have you come to take me away? To save me?” She started to rise, but the goddess placed a firm hand on her shoulder, gently pushing her back into her seat.
“Beloved, I am sorry, but I cannot free you from this place. I have come to tell you what might be. If you end your life tonight, you will be free, but the false god Immortan’s reign will continue for many years. Hundreds more will die at his hand, and he will steal others as he has stolen you. They will fade within these walls, their spirits broken. But if you choose to stay, to fight him, you can destroy him. Rid the world of his poison for good. As long as you live, as long as you fight, his downfall and the birth of a better world are still possibilities.”
Hope rose in Angharad’s heart. “Tonight? Will he die soon?”
The goddess shook her head sadly. “You will not be free for some time, and he will hurt you, but many times, you break his power and cast him down.”
“Many times?” She tilted her head, puzzled.
“The Rivers of Time can flow in many directions. In ones where you live, most often you are an instrument of his destruction. I have seen it.”
Angharad stared at the goddess, “Does he ever kill me?”
For a moment her strange blue eyes grew hazy, as if she were looking at something far away. When she spoke, there was a note of grief in her voice. “Yes, sometimes. Sometimes you live a long life, and in others, you die violently, painfully. But through you, through your life and your sacrifice, a new world is born. I come not to tell you what path to choose, but to tell you what might be. I will love you always, no matter what choice you make. And if you choose to live, never forget that you are not a thing.”
She said slowly, “I could die happy if I knew he would never hurt anyone else. Will you come to me again?”
“Never again in this form but know that I am always with you. In the touch of your sisters who are to come, I will be there, sharing in your love. When he hurts you, I will suffer too, and together we shall have our vengeance on him. Goodbye, my child.”
Tears blurred her vision, and when Angharad wiped her eyes, the goddess was gone. The only sign of her presence-indeed, that she hadn’t just been a figment of Angharad’s imagination-was a pair of footprints on the floor beside her.
Never forget that you are not a thing.
Angharad contemplated the goddess’s words, turning the razorblade over and over. The cuts on her arms still burned, though the bleeding had stopped. She could ignore what the goddess had told her, cut her arms again, deep enough that her life would bleed away into the sand. It would hurt, but anything was better than his hands on her again. Encouraged, Angharad pressed the blade to her arm again, preparing to cut, but a thought stopped her.
Though she would escape him, there would certainly be others, other women torn away from their families and imprisoned, violated as she had been. What would become of them? Could she abandon them to a lifetime of torment at his hands? And what of those below, the starving masses she had glimpsed as they brought her in? They suffered at his hands, as surely as she did.
As long as you live, as long as you fight, his downfall and the birth of a better world are still possibilities.
She could not cheat the world of its chance of rebirth. Angharad sighed, moving the razorblade from her arm.
She would stay, but she still wanted to hurt him. To remind her that she didn’t belong to him, or to anyone but herself. He valued her for her beauty, not her life. Killing herself would not punish him, not truly, but damaging her face…
She leaned towards the mirror, raising the razor to her face.
“I am not a thing,” she whispered to her reflection as she slid the blade across her right cheek, just beneath her eye. The pain sent a frisson of ecstasy through her, and she cut herself again, lower, repeating, “I am not a thing.” Again and again Angharad cut, slicing ragged lines across her cheek until it was a shredded wreck, all the while murmuring, “I am not a thing. I am not a thing.”
She had started above her eye when the door burst open. Joe stomped towards her. “Splendid! What have you done?”
Angharad ignored him, watching her flesh open beneath the blade and reveling in it. Wanting the world to hear her words, she shouted joyously, “I am not a thing! I am not a thing!”
He pulled his hand back, as if preparing to strike her, but she stared at him calmly, blood trickling down her face. The goddess was in her, and she was unafraid.
She touched the blade to her forehead once more, and he knocked it away, backhanding her for good measure. But Angharad barely registered the pain of her split lip as she rose to her feet, power coursing through her veins. Flowers sprung whole from droplets of her blood as they struck the ground, and he recoiled from her in fear, snarling curses.
Her only response was to spit a mouthful of blood in his face. Roaring, he knocked her back onto the ground, crushing the flowers born of her blood as he ripped away her skirts and forced himself inside her. She fought him with fists and teeth, all the while screaming, “I am not a thing!”
After he finished, he left her there on the floor, bruised and bloody. The air reeked with the smells of her violation and the perfume of the crushed blood-flowers. Yet a tiny smile played on her lips. No matter what he did to her, he could not take away the hope given to her by the goddess, the knowledge that she could bring about his destruction. Though Angharad didn’t yet know how she would end him, her rebellion had already begun-with the simple knowledge that she was not a thing.
In case it wasn't clear, Angharad saw the goddess as an amalgam of her sisters (Toast's face, Dag's eyes, Cheedo's skin, and Capable's hair) and Furiosa (with the amputated arm). I hope you all enjoyed it!
Chapter 2: Dag-Our Babies Will Not Be Warlords
Sorry for the delay, everyone, grad school has been kicking my ass! Without further ado, here's Dag's chapter-I hope you enjoy!
Edited in January 2018.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Many War Boys viewed working in the high gardens as a form of punishment, dreading the repetitive motions of bending and squatting beneath the relentless sun, but Dag adored it. She spent all her time planting and tending her garden, reveling in the freckles dotting her skin and the lean muscles forming in her limbs. Joe had kept them pale and weak, and reclaiming her body was a joyous experience.
However, there was one mark of his abuse that couldn’t be wiped away by a few hours of hard labor; she was around sixty days gone with a sprog, and still unsure what to do with it. Toast and Capable had offered to mix her up an herb drink that would wash it out, but the Keeper of the Seed’s words lingered in her mind. It could be a girl.
But she wasn’t sure the possibility of spiting Joe one final time by birthing a daughter was worth the chance of a Warlord Junior. Her sisters had told her that they supported her either way; it was entirely her choice. She contemplated this as she moved a seedling from a jar to the ground, hoping that the simplicity and purity of the plant would help guide her decision.
She was so lost in her thoughts that it took her a moment to notice the figure standing before her, shimmering in the bright light. Dag wasn’t sure if it could be described as a person, although it had the same height and general shape as a human. She found she couldn’t look at it too closely without hurting her eyes, but what she saw was gleaming and constantly changing shape and size and color.
“Are you real or have I been in the sun too long?”
The thing gave a rich, throaty chuckle that was both masculine and feminine and neither all at once. “I am very real, my child. I am the goddess who made the world. All life flows from me, in this world and the next, and I come to you as Life. But you don’t seem surprised to see me.”
Dag shrugged a bony shoulder. “Always figured there had to be someone out there, listening. Are you the only one, or are there others?”
“Yes and no. Since the beginning of time people have prayed to me by countless names, so in that sense I am many, but I am as I have always been. I am the One Who is All and nothing will ever change that.”
“If you were really listening to our prayers, why didn’t you help us? Strike Joe down, save Angharad? Or are you all just talk?” Dag was fairly sure this wasn’t the polite way to speak to a goddess, but she didn’t care. She had prayed on the Road, to be sure, but that was as much to comfort herself as it had been to invoke divine aid.
The goddess sighed. “The wars that killed the world harmed my magic too, and even though Joe was a false god, his evil drained my power even further. That’s all changing now; I’m stronger now than I have been in many lifetimes.”
“If the world’s dead, what’s the point? Why’re you even here?”
“Because I am the Resurrection, and I believe that the world can be reborn.”
Dag scoffed. “What, like ‘I live, I die, I live again’? I don’t much believe in the ramblings of a dead smeg.” She knelt down to look at a seedling, turning her back on the goddess. It may have been rude, but she didn’t care.
For the first time, the goddess sounded frustrated when she spoke. “I don’t mean rebirth into some empty warrior’s paradise; the world can truly live again. Now, I know you’ve been struggling with what to do with the sprog in your belly. Either choice will make you happy, and both choices are righteous. My hand is upon you, and if you keep it, my hand will be upon your child too. If you do bear this sprog, remember that you are so much more than a vessel for a man’s seed. You are life, and nothing can take that away from you.”
Dag snarled towards the plant, “What does that even mean? It didn’t protect me or my sisters from Joe, it didn’t save Angharad!”
Instead of the outraged divine response she expected, all Dag heard was Capable’s bewildered voice. “Dag? Who are you yelling at?”
She glanced around, but the goddess had vanished. “Sorry, Capable, I was just…talking to myself. What’s wrong?”
“It’s one of the Boys, Dag. He’s fading and he wants to see a plant before he goes…on. They don’t believe that there are green things in Valhalla.”
Descending from the glorious sun-soaked garden to a War Boy’s deathbed was the last thing Dag wanted to do, but the pleading look on her sister’s face convinced her. Although Nux had miraculously-inexplicably-survived the Road without a scratch, many of the others weren’t so lucky, and Capable wanted to ease their passage as much as possible.
Dag would do anything for her sisters, and she knew they would do the same for her. With that thought, she selected a seedling intended for transplant today and rose to her feet. Capable gave her a radiant smile, and grabbed her hand, leading her towards the stairs down.
Dag let Capable lead the way, losing herself in thoughts of her encounter with the goddess. Knowing that keeping the sprog or washing it out were both good choices didn’t make her decision any easier, and she longed for a clear answer, an obvious path.
Entering the former domain of the Organic Mechanic brought Dag from her contemplations; though she had never come here during Joe’s time, she had heard of the atrocities committed here. Although the bloodbags had been freed and the more sinister tools disposed of, she felt a shiver run down her spine.
The sound of the War Boy’s ragged breathing met them as they entered the infirmary, and Capable sped up, her hand still loosely curled in Dag’s. Capable led them into a dark room, with one War Boy lying on a pallet and a crowd of others hovering around him. The Boy didn’t have any visible lumps, but his breathing was labored and his body emaciated. He managed to turn his head towards them when he heard Capable’s soft footsteps.
“Sister Capable? That you?” His voice was hoarse, and as they drew closer, Dag noticed that his eyes were cloudy and unfocused.
Capable sank smoothly to her knees, pressing a hand to his forehead, “Yes, and Sister Dag is with me. She brought you a green thing, just like you asked.”
“Good. I want to see one before I go.” He turned his head slowly back and forth, as if searching for something, and she realized with a surge of pity that he must be blind. He wasn’t able to locate her, because she hadn’t made any noise, and she felt a flutter of horror at the idea of being forever trapped in darkness.
Dag felt a rush of nausea; this dank place with its stink of sickness, the dying War Boy still clinging to dreams of Valhalla, it all reminded her of Joe and the thing he had planted inside her. She wanted to turn away, to flee back to the sun and her plants, but something kept her here. This War Boy hadn’t chosen this life, any more than she had chosen to be Joe’s prisoner, and he deserved peace.
Ignoring the stares of the healthy War Boys-they still weren’t quite used to having the ‘chrome’ Sisters in their midst-she knelt on the floor beside his pallet, and carefully placed the tin can containing one of her precious seedlings beside his limp hand. He lacked the strength even to stretch out his arm and touch it, so she moved it closer, brushing the delicate leaves against his skin. He smiled weakly and whispered, “I’m going to a green place…”
Startled by his words, she glanced up at Capable, who looked equally bewildered. She was sure some of the War Boys had heard of the Green Place from Nux by now, but surely he didn’t really believe in it?
A horrible rattle shook her from her thoughts, and she looked back at the War Boy, who was struggling to breath. He curled one bony finger around a leaf, let out a final gasp, and died. The other War Boys cried out their witness, and Capable placed a steady hand on Dag’s back, but all her focus was on the dead War Boy. Despite his struggle, at the end life had slipped from him easily. Had it been that way for Angharad? Had she breathed her last quietly, unconscious, with her mind already gone to a better place? Or had she been awake and aware of the tortures she was enduring, screaming until the very end? The idea that this War Boy might have gotten the peaceful death her sister was deprived of angered her.
The War Boy’s sightless eyes were still wide open, empty of something that had been there just moments before. She leaned forward, gently pressing his eyelids shut. Her fingers slid down over his rapidly cooling lips, and her entire body surged. It was like lightning flowing through her; she was aware of everything, she felt everything. In that instant she knew a lover’s warm embrace, the thrill of battle, the agony of childbirth, the power of the stone surrounding her and the wind blowing around the Citadel. The sweetness of fruit that had not grown in a hundred thousand days burst upon her tongue, and her nose filled with the scent of fresh-turned soil. She heard the whisper of wind through leaves on a tree, felt grass beneath her toes, and the War Boy’s corpse was replaced by endless rows of green. For a heartbeat, she saw Angharad’s lovely smile, heard Cheedo’s bright laughter in her ears, felt Toast’s protective arm around her and Capable’s warm hand in hers. Dag sucked in a breath, and it seemed as if her skin swelled to accommodate the magic, the power flowing through her. All that ever was or will be was in her at that moment.
She spoke, in a voice that was hers and her sisters’ and Giddy’s and countless others, “I call you to me. I call you by your bones. Come to me.”
Heat flooded her, connecting her to the sand beneath her legs and the War Boy under her hand, and suddenly, he breathed.
As quickly as it had come, the magic left her, and she slumped sideways into Capable’s lap. Dag felt dizzy, drained, yet exhilaration pumped through her veins. She had brought him back.
I am the Resurrection.
Capable stroked her cheek, murmuring, “Are you alright? I’m here, I have you. You’re safe.”
Dag was silent, unable to speak. Capable must think that she had gone away inside herself, gone to a place where nothing could touch her. It was something they’d all done, before, whenever Joe’s cruelties became too much to bear. But this was something entirely new; instead of shrinking, hiding, Dag was transcendent. She felt like she had spread outside the reaches of her body, like she had gone beyond her very self.
In that moment, she knew that she would never be afraid of Joe-or any man-again.
Capable’s eyes were filled with concern, and Dag realized she still hadn’t spoken.
“I’m fine, just returning from an extrasensory experience. Help me up, will you?”
Capable helped her to a sitting position, but kept her arm around her, clearly concerned that she would collapse again. As Dag returned to herself, she noticed the commotion around them. The War Boys were whooping and yelling, darting in and out of the room with wild energy.
“He lived, he died, he lives again!”
“I saw! I saw! Sister Dag brought him back!”
“By Her hand we’ll be lifted up!”
Was that what they thought? That she was some kind of god, like they believed Joe to be? Her head was still foggy, and these were thoughts to be puzzled out alone, not surrounded by noisy War Boys.
She struggled to her feet, still disoriented but needing the sunlight and fresh air. Capable stood up with her, helping her towards the door. The last thing Dag saw before they left the room was the War Boy she had saved, breathing normally and staring at her with huge brown eyes-eyes that could clearly see.
All life flows from me, in this world and the next.
Capable was moving them down the hallway as fast as they could, considering that it was now clogged with shouting War Boys, all exclaiming over the miracle that had just occurred. The Boys they passed offered up the V8, chanting her name like a prayer. News had always spread quickly in the Citadel, and even the collapse of the old regime hadn’t changed that. By nightfall every soul in and around the Citadel would be talking of this.
Dag realized that Capable was trying to lead her to their rooms, and she stopped in her tracks. “I need to be above. Help me back up to the gardens.”
Capable shook her head firmly, tugging on her arm, “You need rest! Sometimes sprogs can make you faint, you need to lie down and have some water-“
Dag cut her off, “It’s not the sprog, I need my plants and the sun and I’ll be fine. I’ll explain later, I promise.”
She saw Capable’s face soften, and then they were on their way.
The instant the sunlight hit her skin, Dag let out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. Slipping free of Capable’s gentle grasp, she drifted towards a neat row of sprouts, the first she had planted, and lowered herself to the earth. Its warmth seeped into her skin, and she felt all of it-the sun, the plants, the vastness of the desert-in her very bones. She pressed her cheek into the soil, and smiled.
As though from very far away, she heard Toast’s anxious voice, “Capable! What happened? I came as soon as I heard…” Dag couldn’t make out Capable’s response, and soon their voices blurred into a pleasant murmur.
Dag wasn’t sure how long she laid there, reveling in the knowledge that she was not a thing, that she was so much more than an object for a man’s pleasure. She had always believed Angharad’s defiant words and thought she understood them, but it was only now that she truly comprehended their full meaning and their ability to give Angharad strength.
After a while, she felt gentle fingers on her back, and she cracked open an eye to see Toast settling down beside her.
“Capable’s pretty worried about you. Thinks you’re spending too much time up here, that the sun is addling your wits. Care to tell me what happened?”
Dag sighed, “D’you remember how Angharad was so sure that we could be free, like it was an eventuality rather than a possibility? Even though we all had doubts, she never stopped believing. Something-someone came to me today, and now I know how she felt that way.”
Toast was silent for a long moment, then said, quite simply, “I understand.”
This was enough to make Dag open both her eyes and sit up, staring at Toast’s calm face. She hadn’t expected such a quick, easy acceptance from her most rational sister, who believed in only what she could see and touch. Then, comprehension dawned on her.
“You saw her too, didn’t you?”
Toast gave her a small smile, confirming Dag’s suspicions and filling her with joy. She was not alone in this; her sister had seen the goddess too.
“I have a question for you-these plants, weren’t they the ones you said were dying? Something about the soil being too dry?”
Dag huffed, “Yes, these alone of all my sprouts are fading. I haven’t been able to rejuvenate them.”
Toast leaned forward, inspecting a seedling. “I’m not so sure about that. These look pretty good to me.”
Dag looked closer at the plant Toast was examining, which had been yellow and wilting just this morning. It looked straighter and taller, and when she reached and touched a curling brown leaf, she felt a familiar flicker of energy. The crumpled leaf unfurled beneath her fingers, and the plant flooded with green.
Toast’s eyes were wide with awe, but she managed a nonchalant tone. “You’ll have to teach me that trick someday. Now, have you thought any more about whether you want to wash the sprog out? Capable says you’ll need to take the herbs soon, if you’re going to, or else it’ll be too dangerous.”
They both glanced down at her abdomen, and Dag murmured, “This sprog is mine, not his. The schlanger that put it in me was destruction but I am life, I am rebirth, and I am the Resurrection.”
Toast bumped her shoulder affectionately. “We’ll raise it to be the opposite of what he would have wanted. Besides, the sprog survived the Fury Road! We know it’ll be tough like you.”
Seven moons later, her child was born in the high gardens, beneath the glow of a full moon. Despite the pain, Dag was unafraid, because her family was with her. Toast held one of her hands, Cheedo the other, and Capable worked between her legs, aided by one of the Vuvalini and a former Milking Mother who were skilled with bringing babies. Furiosa hovered farther back, with the rest of the Vuvalini, Nux-whose gaze rarely left Capable-, and Max. After several hours of agony, the baby slid into Capable’s skilled hands, screaming the whole time. She deftly wiped it clean with soft cloths, inspecting it, then looked up at Dag. Even through the haze of labor, she saw the pity in Capable’s eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Dag. It’s…it’s a boy.”
Another pain seized her-she still had to pass the afterbirth-but Dag grinned. “That pink bit between its legs doesn’t make it a boy. Their name is Angharad, and they will not be a warlord.”
Smiling, Capable passed the baby up to her, and she pressed it to her breast to feed. It was an ugly thing, all wrinkled and red, but she supposed all brand-new sprogs looked like that. Its eyelids fluttered open for the first time, and Cheedo gasped. “Look! It has her eyes.”
It was true; the squalling thing in her arms had stormy gray-blue eyes, just like those of their lost sister. For the first time since Angharad had fallen from the Rig, Dag felt whole, and she understood why. Their lost sister would never return to them, but this sprog was a chance for Angharad’s beliefs-the beliefs she had fought and died for-to live on, to endure. To heal the world.
Through them, Angharad lived in a way that could never be destroyed.
I am the Resurrection.
Thank you for reading! Toast's chapter is up next, and will hopefully be available sometime in the next week.
Chapter 3: Toast-No Unnecessary Killing!
Toast's chapter is finally here!!! Before you read any more, just be aware that there's a major trigger warning for canon-typical sexual assault in this chapter. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter!
Edited in January 2018.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Toast, wake up!” Warm hands poked gently at Toast’s back, and she opened her eyes groggily.
Cheedo peered down at her, looking concerned. “I brought you breakfast, I thought you had just gotten up early to read but you fell asleep with the books again!”
Toast mumbled, “’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
Cheedo set a plate with a thick crust of bread and some greens on the desk, scolding her affectionately. “You’ll ruin your eyes if you keep reading at night, you know.”
Ravenous, Toast crammed the bread into her mouth, and said thickly, “I don’t believe that’s true. I think you and Capable made that up to keep me from spending all my time in here.”
“Did not!” Toast reached out to tickle Cheedo, who danced away, laughing. She called from the door, “I’ll be back in a bit!”
Still smiling, Toast turned back to her books. It was true that she’d spent a ridiculous amount of time reading since their return to the Citadel. During their captivity she had read most of the books in the Vault, but there were others that Joe had kept locked away, and ones that had been forgotten about entirely. She knew her sisters didn’t quite understand why she was pouring through them so frantically, and she didn’t have a way to explain what she was doing. How do you everything that you don’t fully understand?
Toast was flipping through a book about animals who had taken over their farm, with a couple of corrupt pigs in charge-honestly, Old World people liked the strangest things-when she heard the door click shut.
Without turning around, she said, “Cheedo? That you?”
She heard a chuckle, far too deep to be Cheedo, and she twisted in her seat towards the source of the sound.
A person stood before her, someone unlike anyone that Toast had ever seen. She was taller than Furiosa, but had the ample curves of a Milking Mother. Large, luminous eyes gazed out from a beautiful, dark face. Her hair was black and curled loosely around her head, and she glowed. Like a halo, Toast thought.
“I am the All-Knowing, the goddess who made the world, and I’ve waited an age to meet one such as you.”
Inside she was shocked, but Toast managed to maintain her composure externally, “You can sit with me, if you’d like.”
The goddess settled herself on the bench beside Toast. “I must say, you and your sisters aren’t as awestruck by me as most humans are. Then again, you are very strange humans.”
“Well, I’ve read about gods in lots of books, people meeting with them and all that. Sometimes they even turned into animals, or people would make babies with gods without knowing it. One god even worked as a-a carpenter, like a mechanic for wood.”
“And what did you think about them?”
Toast shrugged. “It all seemed so foolish to me. Gods brought out the worst in Old World people, and I didn’t really understand why anyone would believe in something so abstract to begin with. And seeing Joe call himself a god, and knowing it was all lies, made me think it was even more pointless. Just a way to control people. I figured the ones who believed were mad or foolish, to fall for those kinds of lies.”
The goddess didn’t sound surprised at her response, or hurt at the skepticism of her words. “What about me? Am I a fraud or a peddler of lies?”
Toast thought for a while, then shook her head slowly. “I’m not sure what you are, but you’re different. For as long as I knew her, something kept Angharad going, some belief that she held so intensely, even though she never talked about it, that kept her from breaking. I think sometimes she talked to you, and she is-was-too smart to fall for nonsense. She’d be alone in a room, but speak like there was someone there. Thank them, ask for them advice, and when things were at their worst, beg for them to come to her. She cried out for her mother when she slept, and I thought she meant the woman who bore her, but…that was you, wasn’t it?”
The goddess was silent for a long moment, and Toast thought she saw a tear in her eye.
“Yes, I visited your sister Angharad once, when she was first brought to this place, to give her hope. I thought it would help her to know that someone was out there, listening to her, caring for her, but she suffered greatly, as you all did. It’s a difficult thing, being god-touched.”
Toast glanced back down at the book to hide the water in her own eyes. She didn’t like to talk about Angharad, and she retreated to the tried and true defense of sarcasm.
“Sorry if this is rude, but why are you here? Just for a chat, or did you come for the food?” She pushed the remnants of her breakfast along the desk towards her divine visitor.
The goddess tilted her head to the side, her face thoughtful. “What is it you want, Toast? Not just today, but to accomplish with the rest of your life?”
What did she want? When she’d been in the Vault, with nothing to do but sit and think, she spent hours imagining what she would do if she was ever free, though she rarely spoke of them aloud. Before, the only things that had been safe from Joe were the thoughts in her head, and they were as precious to her as guzzoline. But Joe was gone for good; she had spat on his corpse, and it was safe to finally give voice to ideas that had tumbled around her head for hundreds of days.
“I want to know why some people are healthy and others are half-life, and how to heal the half-lives. I want to learn how to grow all of Dag’s seeds and feed everyone in the Wasteland, and make it so no one ever has to go hungry again. I want to understand what makes people love each other so much that they’d die for one another, even people who’ve just met, like Nux did for Capable. I want to read every book there is, raise cities from the sand and build a War Rig so powerful no one will dare attack us. I want to know where the line is between justice and revenge, what killing is unnecessary, and make the world safe so no one else ever goes through what we did. I want to know who killed the world, so I can make sure it never happens again.”
A smile played on the goddess’s full lips. “I have lived since before your Old World was new, and even I do not know the answers to all those things. But if any human could unlock all those mysteries, it would be you, my Knowing. What is it that troubles your heart today?”
Toast drew her knees up to her chin and murmured. “The trial. My sisters expect me to speak for them, but I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The trial of the Organic Mechanic was something that Toast had been dreading ever since their return to the Citadel. When one of the scavenging parties had brought him back from the desert, the Citadel had been abuzz with speculation on his fate. So far, everyone who had submitted to Furiosa had been spared, but the Organic was different. He personally had been responsible for countless crimes against the inhabitants of the Citadel, and many wanted to see him punished.
At first, Furiosa had been all for shooting him or tossing him back into the Wasteland without further ado, but Toast had convinced her to agree to a trial, “That was how it was before, and people need to understand that things are different now, that everyone gets a fair trial before punishment. Even scum like him.”
So Furiosa had relented, and even acquiesced to Toast’s demand that he face a jury, to speak for those he had harmed and decide his fate. The Organic would be judged by four people, with one representative each from the Sisters, the former Milking Mothers, the War Boys, and the Wretched. Initially Toast had argued that it wasn’t fair for the Wretched to only have one representative; after all, there were hundreds of them. But Furiosa refused to budge, saying it would be too chaotic to select dozens of Wretched from the masses, and Toast reluctantly agreed, at least for now. One representative was better than none, after all. And today, they would gather in the Mouth of Madness to determine the Organic’s fate.
“Why do you question yourself, child? You know that this trial is just.”
Toast took a deep breath, staring at the book as she collected her thoughts. “The representatives from the Wretched and the War Boys will likely want to sentence the Organic to death. It’s simple for them: he hurt them, so they should hurt him back. I don’t know the Milking Mother well enough to guess how she’ll vote, but if she votes for life, then my vote will decide. And I don’t know what to do. See, when they brought him back, no one told him that we don’t torture in the Citadel anymore. So he confessed everything, how he cut out Angharad’s baby before she died and murdered Miss Giddy, left them for the crows. I know that I want him to die for that, and for everything else he’s done. He could die a thousand times and it wouldn’t make up for his crimes.”
“It sounds like you wish to vote for death, then.”
“Part of me does, but I know that Angharad would never have wanted that. She didn’t want anyone to die, no matter what they’d done. ‘No unnecessary killing’, they were her words just as much as ‘we are not things.’ So is it right to ask for his death in her name?”
The goddess didn’t speak, but watched her collect her thoughts.
“But he hurt me too, and I want him dead. I want revenge for myself and for my sisters and everyone else he’s ever hurt. I want him to pay. Is that wrong of me?”
The goddess sighed. “When I visited your sister, it changed her, gave her hope for a world without violence. It is a world I dream of, and it is possible someday, but not today. For now, you must determine what violence is necessary for the sake of justice and what is not. Angharad struggled to find the balance, as does Furiosa. Neither of them understood what you do, that justice and mercy must work hand in hand. You know this.”
Trying to keep her voice flat and emotionless, she responded, “I do, but…even though I’m clever and knowing, sometimes it’s hard to remember that. That rotten old smeg used to tell me I was only worth what I have between my legs, and somehow that hurt worse than all the beatings, even though I knew it wasn’t true. Why can’t I get his words out of my head? Out of all the words in this world, those are the only ones I want to forget.”
Cradling Toast’s chin in her warm hands, the goddess turned Toast’s face towards her.
“It may help you to know that he feared you the most of all your sisters. Angharad’s defiance and Dag’s taunts angered him, but you were something else entirely. Your genius was something he could never corrupt or take for himself, and he hated you for it. If it helps, know that in his final moments, he was terrified, because he knew you had won. You may never entirely forget his cruelties-wiping their memory away is not in my power-but they will fade in the wake of your happiness to come. You will heal the world, change it as he never could.”
She broke off and looked upwards at the ceiling, squinting her eyes as if she could see through the stone, then turned her dark gaze back to Toast. “We don’t have much time; your sister Dag needs me too. I have a gift for you before I leave. Close your eyes, child.”
Toast obeyed, waiting.
When the goddess spoke, her voice was changed, thrumming with power where before there had only been only gentleness.
“I am wisdom incarnate, the source of all human thought, and every word that has ever been spoken flows from me. I grant them all to you, my shining Toast, so that you may use them to rebuild this broken world. Learn everything you can, love your sisters, and never forget that your value is infinite.”
Leaning in, the goddess pressed a kiss to each of Toast’s eyelids, and Toast gasped as warmth flooded her body. Something inside of her opened; it was as if a curtain had fallen and she could finally see what had always been before her. Words filled her vision, all the words had ever existed, and she knew them all, felt their meanings in her bones.
For an instant, she saw the universe, and she understood.
When she opened her eyes, the goddess was gone. Toast wasn’t sure how long she sat there, staring at nothing, trying to process what had just happened, until Cheedo returned.
“Toast! Furiosa sent me to fetch you, she wants to start the trial soon.”
She stood on unsteady legs, starting towards the door until a book caught her eye. It was sitting open on the floor, having clearly fallen from its pile. The cover was gone, but it drew her in anyways. She picked it up and skimmed the open pages, not entirely sure what she was looking for but knowing that there was something there, something she needed to see. Something that would put into words the truth she had encountered. A sentence jumped out at her.
Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
The words were unfamiliar but they resonated within her, striking some chord deep within her soul. Her body had been free from the moment she fled the Vault with her sisters, but it was time to free her mind, to make the choices she knew to be right. Toast was her own person, and to truly honor Angharad’s memory, it was time that she made decisions based on her own beliefs.
Cheedo was looking at the book over her shoulder, “What’re you reading?”
Toast felt giddiness bubbling up inside her, and she pointed at the words. “Look at this, Cheedo, isn’t it perfect?”
Her sister sounded puzzled. “I don’t understand.”
“It means that you have to accept being free, being a person in your own right-”
Her brow furrowed. “Where do you see that? I can’t read it at all.”
For a moment, Toast was confused, and she looked back at the page, trying to find the passage again. In its place, she saw other words, strange ones she couldn’t read, but in her heart, she knew their meaning.
Se libérer était une chose; revendiquer la propriété de ce moi libéré en était une autre.
She concentrated, and the words blurred, changing back into familiar ones.
Cheedo was staring at her, awestruck. “How did you do that? Can you teach me? After the trial, I mean.”
“Of course.” Toast stood on her toes to press a kiss on her sister’s cheek and pass the book to her before hurrying out.
She was panting slightly by the time she reached the Mouth of Madness; Toast wasn’t sure she would ever get used to the endless stairs of the Citadel. The Organic knelt on the floor between two guards, facing the other jurors, with Furiosa looking at him impassively. One day Toast hoped she could achieve that same completely neutral yet utterly terrifying expression.
Toast took her place and the trial began, with each person speaking of the atrocities committed by the Organic and casting their vote.
During the litany of crimes, she studied her fellow jurors. The War Boys had chosen a grizzled old Boy named the Ace to speak on their behalf; he had survived the Road and was one of the first to swear allegiance to Furiosa. A man named Knuckles represented the Wretched, and Toast spoke for her sisters. Neither Knuckles or the Ace interested Toast very much, but the representative of the Milking Mothers was intriguing.
Toast had glimpsed the Milking Mothers once before, when Joe brought the Sisters out to parade before his allies, and she’d asked Miss Giddy why their faces were covered. She’d smiled, and told them of Risa, a Milking Mother who had bitten an Imperator with a habit of groping them. The wound festered, and he’d died. Rumors spread that the Milking Mothers had venomous fangs, like snakes, and it was difficult to find War Boys willing to tend them, as dying by bite was considered a soft death. To quell the rumors, Joe had ordered the Mothers veiled. But even the veils could not quench Risa’s fire.
Later, when Furiosa and the Sisters were planning their escape, she had been their ally, passing along information and any weapons she could steal to Furiosa. Joe and his men had seen the Milking Mothers as even less human than the Wives, as nothing more than a pair of breasts. But behind their veils, the Mothers saw and heard everything that happened in their chamber, and knew more about the inner workings of the Citadel than anyone. Risa was also the only one outside the Vault aware of their plan. Angharad had asked Furiosa how they knew she was trustworthy, and Furiosa said firmly, “She and I were in here together.”
It was the only time Furiosa mentioned her days as a Wife, and ever since then, Toast had been wondered about this remarkable woman, who had endured so much but never stopped fighting back.
Risa had not disappointed. She was not much taller than Toast, with shining black skin and keen dark eyes. The moment she realized Joe was dead, Risa had turned on the water and tossed her veil out of the Mouth of Madness. In her Toast saw a kindred soul, someone whose spirit Joe could not crush.
Now, Risa looked at Toast expectantly, and she realized it was her turn to share the Organic’s crimes against her and her sisters.
Her throat was dry, but she forced herself to speak. “This man encouraged the warlord Joe Moore to imprison, rape and beat us. He performed invasive and unnecessary examinations on us, and actively abetted in Joe’s violations. During the Road War, he murdered my sister Angharad and tortured the History Woman Miss Giddy.”
Furiosa looked at Toast, her eyes inscrutable. “What’s your vote, Toast?”
Knuckles and the Ace had voted for his death, which didn’t surprise Toast. Risa had voted to keep him alive, which did. But Risa had said that the cycle of violence needed to be broken, and that killing the Organic wouldn’t undo his crimes.
Toast’s vote would decide his fate.
The Organic flung himself to the ground, reaching for her feet. She recoiled, and Risa stretched a protective arm in front of her.
He babbled, “Mercy, mercy, Toast! The Splendid was a goner anyway, and Giddy died because she was old, not anything I did. Remember when you first came here, I tried to keep him off you! I told him you were too young, not my fault he didn’t listen. And what happened to you kept him away from the little one, your sister Cheedo, didn’t it?”
Toast froze. It was true; when she’d first been brought to the Citadel by a raiding war party, her health and beauty meant that she’d been taken before the Organic Mechanic, to be inspected as a potential wife. Joe had watched eagerly as she’d been stripped of her clothes and ‘examined’ by the Organic’s prying hands. She would never forget the way his eyes shone with greed as the Organic declared her to be whole-life, albeit too young for breeding just yet. As she hadn’t bled, he recommended that Joe stash her in the Vault with ‘the Splendid’ until she was ready to give him a son.
Joe had grunted in response, “No, now.”
Toast, being just shy of five thousand days, didn’t entirely understand what breeding was, but when Joe removed his loincloth and made his way towards her, she had scrambled to her feet, frantic for a way out. But Joe knocked her back, forcing her knees open, and then-
Even more than the agony, Toast remembered her fury, the way she had fought against him with all her might, biting and scratching and hitting. He’d ignored it until she managed to jab her thumb into his eye socket. Joe reeled backwards, howling with pain, then backhanding her so hard she saw stars.
“Organic! Hold down her arms!”
The Organic Mechanic had obeyed, and Joe’s violation continued. One Imperator held down her legs, and another restrained her head after she tried to head butt Joe. Unable to retaliate physically, Toast protested with incoherent screams, crying out her rage until even her voice left her. After he was finished, Joe reached down to pat her cheek, but she sank her teeth into the meaty flesh of his hand.
He let out a bellow of indignation, raining blows down on her face and body. Panting with exertion, he hissed, “You will learn to obey!”
She spat blood in his face, and the beating continued.
When it was all over, one of the Imperators who had held her down dragged her, naked and bleeding, to the Vault. The Organic had made no effort to care for her wounds; his only responsibility to them was to keep them healthy enough to breed, and bruises wouldn’t impede that. Later, Toast realized she must have passed out somewhere along the way, because she remembered waking up in a quiet place. Two faces peered down at her, one old and wrinkled, the other young and beautiful.
The two women bathed her with rags, tending her wounds and offering her sips of clean cool water and bits of food, their gentle touch soothing her. The young one was silent, but the old one explained, in a quiet voice, where she was and what her life was to be from now on, imprisoned in this Vault and repeatedly raped to make sons for a monster. She introduced herself as Miss Giddy, then, placing a hand on the young one’s shoulder, said, “And this is your sister, Angharad.”
For the first time, Toast spoke. “I thought your name was Splendid.”
Angharad turned her head away, and Toast glimpsed the lattice of gleaming white scars marking her golden face. “Never call me that. I’m not his splendid object. I’m not a thing, and neither are you.”
Miss Giddy murmured, “Those are dangerous words, child.”
Angharad scoffed, her voice scornful. “He doesn’t like being reminded that we’re people and I won’t let him forget. That’s why he beats me when I say it, but I’ll never stop. Not unless he kills me.”
To Toast, she said in a much gentler voice, “He hit you because you struggled, didn’t you?”
“Are you telling me that I shouldn’t, that next time I should just lay back and take it?”
“No. You are your own person, and I can’t tell you what to do. I can only make my own choices.” Angharad leaned in and dabbed at a cut on Toast’s forehead, her eyes blazing with conviction. “But I’ll never stop fighting him.”
Toast’s fists clenched involuntarily as she remembered that first day in the Citadel. The Organic wasn’t lying; he had told Joe not to touch her, but he hadn’t lifted a finger when Joe ignored his orders.
The other part of what he said was true too; because the sprog Joe planted during that first violation washed out of her in a torrent of blood, he kept his filthy hands off Cheedo when she was brought to the Citadel. His fear of losing another child, as well as their attempts to divert his attention from Cheedo, had protected her. This was one of the few things that made the loss of Miss Giddy and Angharad bearable; their sacrifice had ensured that Cheedo would never be touched by Joe.
They had saved Toast too. It had been Angharad and Miss Giddy who cared for her that first day she was dumped in the Vault and nursed her through the fever that almost killed her after losing the sprog. Joe had been too angry at the loss of a half-formed boy to waste Old World drugs on her, but Angharad had gone to him to beg for the medicine Toast needed. Angharad had never spoken of the price she paid for Toast’s life, but Toast would always be grateful. They had cried together when the pain was too great, held each other at night to keep the terrors away. Miss Giddy had taught Toast to read, opening up a realm of knowledge she had never known existed, letting her imagine the possibility of a world where she walked free.
They had kept Toast sane. Even if her body had survived her imprisonment, Toast would have lost her mind forever within the walls of the Vault without them. In a world utterly without mercy, they had managed to show love and compassion, fighting only for their freedom. And for that, Joe-and the filth groveling at her feet-had killed them.
The Organic Mechanic cut Angharad open while she still breathed, tortured Miss Giddy, then left their corpses in the desert for the crows.
He deserved to die.
Toast stared at the Organic, who was blubbering incoherently in the dirt, and felt no pity. It was time to claim her freedom.
Risa said in a high, clear voice, “For the repeated violations of those formerly known as Wives and Milking Mothers, the unethical treatment of the War Boys and Wretched, and the murders of Angharad and Miss Giddy, we find you guilty, and sentence you to death.”
Furiosa gave a curt nod, and Toast sighed with relief. She didn’t want to stay for the execution; her role here was complete. Now she could rest, read with Cheedo or maybe visit Capable or Dag.
Turning her back on the Organic Mechanic, Toast walked towards the doorway. She’d only taken a few steps when something collided with her, knocking her to the ground face-first. For a moment she couldn’t move, and all the old fears came rushing back, being pinned down, unable to breathe and hands around her throat, scared and alone-
But things were different now. Without thinking, she pulled her knife from its sheath at her hip and buried it into the soft flesh heaving above her. At that instant, she heard a savage howl of rage, and suddenly, the crushing weight was lifted from her.
Toast rolled onto her back, panting as she pushed herself up on her elbows and took in the sight before her. The Organic was writhing in pain in the dirt, Toast’s knife buried in his side, and Furiosa’s hand on his neck. She must have hauled him off of her, despite her still-healing wound. Capable had urged Furiosa to rest and avoid anything strenuous, but she might as well have told the sun to stop rising in the east and setting in the west, for all the good it did.
Furiosa looked up at Toast, her eyes blazing, as they had on the Road when Joe taunted her with a captive Toast. The Organic had hurt them all, including, yet she still waited for their words, understanding that his life was not hers to take alone.
It took them only a moment to deliberate, and it was Toast who said, “Let’s toss him.”
Furiosa grinned and stood up. Together she and Risa dragged him towards the edge of the Mouth of Madness, only pausing to remove Toast’s knife and toss it to the ground. The others followed, and together, Furiosa and Risa tossed him over the balustrade while the Ace and Knuckles cheered.
After retrieving her knife, Toast retreated into the cool darkness of the cave to watch. As soon as she saw him go over the edge, she began the descent back into the bowels of the Citadel. Justice had been done; her part was over. She heard the joyful cries of those below as they realized what had happened, and smiled.
As she reentered the main tunnels, she noticed how revved up the War Boys were, more so than she had ever seen. The halls were full of them, bumping into each other and crying out in excitement, flashing the V8 at everyone they saw. Even the other denizens of the Citadel were taking part, hurrying past Toast with avid faces.
Several times Toast tried to ask passerbys what was happening, but they barely noticed her in their rush to see-well, whatever it was that had gotten them so excited. Finally, she caught the arm of a big one as he brushed past her, pulling him to the side, and demanded, “Tell me what’s going on!”
Too late, she realized that she had brandished her still-bloody knife at him, but rather than being threatened, this War Boy seemed pleased by her attention.
He smiled at her-and it was an ugly thing, with staples barely holding his cheeks together-and growled, “A War Boy died soft, but one of you bree-I mean, one of your mates, she brought him back, he lives again! It was real shine of her.”
One of her sisters had resurrected someone? How was that even possible?
“Who was it?”
“Don’t know her name, but she’s the color of bones.”
For once, Toast didn’t take the time to defend her sister, but pressed on. “Her name is Dag. Do you know where she is now?”
He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Dunno. But that traitoring filth that was on the Rig with you heading to the roof, so your red mate is probably there.”
The roof. That made sense; Dag spent as much time up there as possible, and wherever Capable went, Nux wasn’t far behind.
Toast flashed a quick smile at him before she turned away, already moving towards the rooftop stairs. She felt his eyes on her, and knowing that he was watching her made her feel something pleasant yet strange in her gut, something she had never felt before, and pushed it aside to puzzle over later.
The new order they had created was strange and different, and even though it was vastly better than Joe’s, it would take some getting used to. As terrifying as the Fury Road had been, in their own way the vast possibilities before them were even more frightening. But in time they would all find their places in this new Citadel, and in her heart she knew the goddess’s words to be true.
Together, they could rebuild the world. And Toast intended to.
The quote that Toast read was from Toni Morrison's book Beloved, in case you were wondering :) Toast is such a wonderful character to write, I just adore her. Also, I am shameless Toast/Slit trash so I just had to include some of that in here :P Anyway, up next is Nux, then Capable and Cheedo. I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
Chapter 4: Nux-He's just a kid at the end of his half-life
I'm sorry for the delay with this, but grad school/work has been overwhelming lately! Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. Originally Nux's chapter was going to be part of Capable's but then I realized that it worked much better on its own. If you want to listen to music while reading this, I would strongly recommend 'Work Song' by Hozier, it's the epitome of Nuxable. Enjoy!
Edited in January 2018.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For as long as he could remember, all Nux had wanted was a historic death, to perish with his fingers wrapped around a wheel and the music of war ringing in his ears. And dying while driving the War Rig was more chrome than any death he could have ever imagined. But now that Valhalla was at hand, he wished more than anything he could live. Capable had made him soft, given him hope for more, something beyond than dying on the Road. But this was his destiny, to die so the others could live.
His eyes were still fixed on Capable’s face as the Gigahorse sped out of the pass. She was safe; his work was complete. With a final stab of longing for what might have been, he spun the wheel just as the fire reached him.
His last thought was that the flames were warm like Capable’s arms.
For the second time in a week, Nux woke up after a wreck, but he knew right away that he wouldn’t be walking away from this one. Everything hurt; his skin seared and he could only draw shallow breaths. An engine plate pinned him to a slab of burning metal, with what he suspected was the floor of the cab above him. Experimentally, he bent his fingers, and let out a gasp of pain. His left arm was twisted at a strange angle and he couldn’t feel his legs. The taste of his own blood filled his mouth and his mates pressed down harder on his windpipe than ever before.
He was, at last, dying.
After years of fighting bitterly to stay alive, refusing to succumb to night fevers or his lumps, it felt strange to lay back and accept death. And he wanted it to come quickly; laying here choking on sand under the smoldering Rig wasn’t historic. Nux shifted as much as he could, trying to make himself comfortable as he waited to die.
He stared at nothing, thinking of Capable and the others. Had they made it? They had gotten free of the canyon, but there were still Buzzards between them and the Citadel, not to mention the wound in Furiosa’s side.
Furiosa. Although she wasn’t fond of him, he hoped for Capable’s sake that she survived. Losing Furiosa so soon after the Splendid-Angharad, he corrected himself, that was her true name-would cut her deep. He hoped Capable wouldn’t mourn for him; he never wanted her to hurt because of him. Nux considered offering up a prayer, for their safety and Furiosa’s survival, but he wasn’t sure who to pray to, now that the Immortan was dead. Were there any gods left? Dag had been praying in the Rig earlier, but even she hadn’t seemed to know if anyone was out there.
Nux was jolted from his musings by the realization that the plumes of smoke billowing around him seemed to be denser. At first he thought the fumes were blurring his eyes, or maybe that they were finally sputtering out-a good sign that the end was near-but then the wisps seemed be solidifying. Gentle blue eyes took form above lips curved in a smile, and a red braid brushed his cheek as Capable gazed down at him with the tenderness she’d had when she found him in the back of the Rig. He squeezed his eyes shut, thinking that this was the end, that Capable had come to take him to Valhalla-but Valhalla wasn’t real anymore, she’d said so.
A finger touched his lips, and Nux’s eyelids fluttered open again. He could barely speak, but he managed to whisper, “Capable?”
Her voice was warm and sweet, “No, Nux. I am the goddess who made the world, the mother of compassion and love; I have no single form but you see me as Capable because to you she is beauty and mercy made flesh. It is well; she and her sisters all carry me within them in some form, and she has my clemency and grace. You are dead, my sweet Nux. This is the way of things; death is the price for being my consort. My love dies, and I search the earth for him in mourning. My tears and my magic resurrect him, so that we may make a child. But since the world died I have walked alone, with no soul worthy or willing to make the sacrifice until you. You rejected the false god’s teachings, giving yourself to death not for your own glory but out of compassion, so that others would live. You have proven yourself worthy, but now you must choose whether you wish to remain here as Capable’s beloved, or escape the pain of living.”
Even though he knew they were wrong, bad, the Immortan’s empty words, he couldn’t help himself. “Am I awaited?”
She ran a cool finger across his brow. “No matter when you depart from this life, you will walk forever in the infinite gardens of the Green Place. You have earned the undying peace of eternity, but the other War Boys-your lost brothers-have not. The false god Joe taught them that their only value was in their ability to perish for him, but that is a lie. They are misguided, broken, yearning for the emptiness of Valhalla. They have not heard the truths spoken by my daughters, and are still ignorant of my boundless love and compassion. But you can save them, Nux. If you stay, you can teach them how to be men without war or violence. Through your example, they will learn to love and care for others, to truly live, and one day, they will reach the Green Place. You have a purpose in this new world you helped create, a chance to live more than a half-life, a life you can share with Capable.”
A full-life at Capable’s side was better than anything Nux had ever dreamed of, more glorious than the thought of riding eternal. He wanted to believe the goddess bent over him, but could he trust her? After all, Joe had misled them all about Valhalla; was this god any different? The Immortan had been nothing but empty promises and falsehoods, a shiny exterior masking a rotten and hollow core.
Yet Nux knew that nothing evil or untrue could wear Capable’s face, because all the goodness and honesty he had known in this life came from her. Above all, he trusted her.
He no longer had the strength to speak, but he was able to give the tiniest of nods.
The goddess kissed his forehead lightly, and then she was gone. The place where her lips had touched him blazed with heat, and warmth spread through him, dispelling the coldness that had stiffened his limbs in place.
His arm snapped back into place, and sensation flooded his legs. Suddenly he was breathing deeply and more freely than he had in years, and when he touched his shoulder, the familiar lumps of Larry and Barry were gone. Nux sat up, reveling in the wholeness of his body, something he had never known. He wondered how long he had been dead.
But it didn’t matter now, because he was alive, more alive than anyone else had ever been.
Pushing the engine plate off his legs, he clambered out of the Rig, squinting from the bright sun. His newly healed legs ached, and his chest burned with the effort of breathing again, but he staggered forward, towards the Citadel and his destiny.
Capable will be up next, and then Cheedo! Thank you for reading.
Chapter 5: Capable-Breeding Stock, Battle Fodder!
Hello everyone! I'm sorry this took so long, finals and the holidays were a huge time suck. To make up for it, this chapter is extra long-over seven thousand words! It also contains smut and references to previous sexual assault, just in case anyone isn't comfortable with that. As a SA/IPV survivor myself, parts of this chapter were difficult to write, but I hope I was able to do the characters justice and that you all enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As soon as they set foot in the Citadel, Capable turned to Furiosa and said firmly, “I’m going back for him.”
Furiosa shook her head, “No, we can’t risk it. You need to stay here, where it’s safe.”
It was true; there were still Rock Riders and Buzzards and who knew what else between the Citadel and the canyon. Capable knew it wasn’t safe, but she didn’t care.
She hadn’t been able to go back for Angharad. Furiosa told her no, and the Rig moved on, leaving her sister’s broken body behind. But she was free now, they all were, and freedom meant making your own decisions, no matter how dangerous they were. She would go back for Nux, even if it were just to retrieve his body.
Suddenly Toast was there, slipping her arm through Capable’s and pulling her close. “She’s right, Furiosa, we need to send out scouts anyway. See who survived, salvage what we can. And it’ll be safer now, before anyone at Gas Town or the Bullet Farm knows what’s happened. I’ll take her.”
Capable squeezed her hand, thanking her for supporting her and making her idea seem rational. It wasn’t, as Capable couldn’t care less about wrecked cars or spilled guzzoline, but Toast always knew how to convince Furiosa.
Furiosa gave a curt nod, and Capable saw how weary she was. Max’s blood had saved her but she was still very weak. “Fine. Take the Gigahorse and be back by nightfall. Iona, will you go with them?”
Iona, the younger of the two surviving Vuvalini, assented, and soon, they were back on the lift, being lowered back to earth, to Nux’s fate.
They sped through the Wasteland in silence; the adrenaline had worn off and they were all exhausted. Capable watched Toast’s calm face as she drove the massive vehicle with the quiet confidence of someone born to the road. Toast had told them that before she was snatched from her family and taken to the Citadel, she practically lived behind the wheel of a car.
“I’m impressed that you remember how to drive, after all those years of not practicing.”
Toast eased them around the wreckage of a Buzzard car as she spoke, “I thought about it every day we were locked in the Vault. I imagined that one day I would kill him-shoot him with his own gun, strangle him, drown him in the pool, something-then grab a wheel and steal a car before anyone noticed we’d gone. I’d have to drive fast to get away, so I couldn’t forget anything. Every day I would close my eyes and remember it all, how to change gears and the best way to turn real fast without the car rolling. I reminded myself what it felt like to be free, and promised that I would feel that again someday.”
She gave Capable a tiny smile. “Of course, it was easier when it was just me and Angharad and Miss Giddy. Once you and Cheedo and Dag came, I had to plan on stealing a much bigger car to fit us all. But that would’ve made it much easier to run over anyone who tried to stop us.”
Capable laughed at the idea, Toast stashing them all in the back of some beat-up clunker and tearing out of the garage, mowing down War Boys and Imperators alike on her path to freedom. Then she remembered Nux, with the Rig and the Doof Wagon and all the metal in Joe’s army rolling over him, and she felt a stab of nausea.
Toast must have sensed her distress, because she reached out and caught Capable’s hand. “Capable, whatever’s left of him…it might not be something you want to see.”
She swallowed. “I know, but he gave us all our lives. I owe it to him to say goodbye and bring him back, if we can. He deserves more than to be food for the crows.”
Toast looked uncertain but said nothing, just giving her fingers a reassuring squeeze.
In the end, it didn’t matter. They were a few klicks from the mountains when Iona, who was perched on the back of the Gigahorse, called, “I see something!”
Her heart in her throat, Capable leaned forward, eagerly scanning the horizon. “Where? Where?”
She told herself not to get her hopes up, that there was no way he had survived, but she couldn’t help herself. Could it be him?
Toast craned her neck, then exclaimed, “Over there! It’s definitely a War Boy.” She pointed, and Capable saw a speck of white moving towards them, growing larger every second. It was too far away for her to see his face, but the figure was tall and lean. She sat on the edge of her seat, gripping the dashboard so hard her knuckles ached as they drew closer and closer.
Finally his face came into view, and Capable couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, couldn’t think. It was Nux.
Toast gasped, “It can’t be…”
Finally Capable found her voice, and she whispered, “Stop, I need to get out.”
Toast brought the Gigahorse to a halt while Capable struggled to open the door with shaking hands. She slid out of the vehicle and ran to him as fast as her legs could carry her.
She had only a moment to register the surprise on his face before she flung herself into his arms with such force it knocked her breath away. He caught her and together they sunk down onto the sand, locked in an embrace.
His familiar scent flooded her, the smell of motor oil and guzzoline and sunshine, and tears burned in her eyes. He was alive. The solid warmth engulfing her was real, and it was Nux.
His voice was hoarse and ragged, but she still understood every word. “I told you I would follow.”
Capable wrapped her arms around his head and pressed his face against her chest, and all she could do was murmur, “How? How?”
Nux looked up at her, his bright blue eyes heartbreakingly earnest. “You saved me.”
She held him tight, too full of joy to speak but unwilling to let him go, and he clung to her with equal fervor. By the time they rose and returned to the Gigahorse hand in hand, the sand where they had knelt was wet with tears.
Nux’s survival of the crash, dirty but unscathed, proved to be only the first of many miracles in the new Citadel. A few weeks after their return, Capable was still reeling from the day’s events as she readied herself for sleep. Toast could suddenly read all the books written in languages Miss Giddy said were forgotten, and Dag had resurrected a dead War Boy before her very eyes. And they had both spoken of their encounters with a being who claimed to be a goddess, the maker of the world, encounters that left them with their newfound abilities. Capable used to such strange pronouncements from otherworldly Dag, but the reverence in Toast’s voice as she spoke of a beautiful woman who had shown her the universe was something entirely new.
Capable wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the situation. She believed them, of course, but she wanted to know who this goddess was, why she had chosen to appear to two of them in the same day. Dag and Toast spent hours recounting their experiences to her and Cheedo, and by the time they finished, they wanted to sleep. Capable had so many questions, but she decided to save them for later.
Heavy footsteps startled her from her thoughts. She saw Nux standing in the doorway, freshly stripped of his paint and wearing the clean pants Capable had designated for sleeping. Every other night was spent with Nux, on the condition that he bathed beforehand and didn’t climb into bed wearing his workpants.
Shyly, he pointed to the comb in her hand and asked, “Can I do that for you?”
She smiled, shifting to make room for him on the narrow bed and offered him the comb. He sat beside her and began to gently untangle the knots that always seemed to form in her hair, despite her braids.
“Dag gonna be alright?”
“Yes, she wasn’t sick or anything, just…” Capable trailed off, unsure how to explain this to Nux. Toast and Dag hadn’t exactly asked them to keep their divine visitations a secret, but even Furiosa didn’t know the details yet.
After a long pause, Nux said simply, “They saw her too, didn’t they?”
“Saw who, Nux?”
He continued running the comb through her hair, undeterred by the surprise in her voice. “The goddess. The one who saved me.”
“What-how?” Capable spun around to face him, shocked at the thought that there was not only a deity walking the Wasteland, but one that visited War Boys too.
“She came to me after the crash and healed me. Sent me back, said there was more for me to do here.”
She stared deep into his guileless blue eyes, wondering how this could possibly be true, but there was nothing there but his usual frank honesty.
“What did she say you needed to do?”
“Teach the other War Boys, show them how to be good like you helped me, so they can go to the Green Place when they die. And to be with you,” He added hastily, “But only if you want me.”
As strange as it all was, it certainly made sense. Nothing short of divine intervention could explain how Nux survived the crash without even a bruise and the way Larry and Barry had shrunk away to nothing. If this goddess could make Toast read in long-forgotten languages and Dag bring back the dead, why wouldn’t she be able to save Nux? And this talk of an eternal Green Place…suddenly she remembered Plug’s final words, temporarily forgotten in the chaos after his resurrection. If Nux was telling his brothers about a new paradise waiting for them after death, then the dying War Boy’s whisper that he was going to a green place made sense.
But why had Nux kept this a secret? They were together almost continuously, and considering his habit of sharing whatever popped into his head, Capable couldn’t understand how she hadn’t heard about this before. Whenever anyone asked him about his lumps or his miraculous survival, he refused to say anything, and they had all given up questioning him about it.
She touched his scarred hand softly, “Why didn’t you tell me when you first came back?”
He flushed, seeming embarrassed, and glanced down at the bed before returning her gaze. “Didn’t want you to feel like you had to be with me…wanted it to be your choice, because you wanted me.”
There was something almost unbearably tender about how he placed himself so trustingly in her hands, leaning eagerly towards her as if she was the source of all his happiness. At the same time, Capable realized how close they were, suddenly feeling aware of Nux in a new way.
Despite all the teasing and jokes from her sisters, they had never done anything beyond his quick kiss to her cheek. On the Road he had been too sick, and survival had been her priority. Even after their return, she and Nux slept chastely in the same bed, no different than it was with her sisters.
But what she was feeling right now-this was different, something entirely novel to Capable. This intense wanting, a desire to know him completely and have him know her as well, was frightening yet more exciting than anything she had felt before.
Not knowing exactly what she was doing, Capable murmured, “Nux…can I kiss you?”
His eyes widened, and she heard the eagerness in his voice. “Yeah, yeah. If you want to.”
Trembling with anticipation, she closed the distance between them, and gasped as his cool lips touched hers.
Her body tingled, and even this small touch made her want more; without thinking she deepened their kiss. Nux moaned into her mouth, and she reveled in how right this was, his large hands resting lightly on her hips as she drew him in closer. Capable had never done this before but it seemed as natural as breathing. Something thrummed inside her, a sense of rightness, like this was the way things were meant to be, and she realized that this contact wasn’t enough. She moved forward, sliding into his lap until she was flush against him, her legs folded around his back. Her fingers slid down his bare spine and he shivered beneath her.
Capable wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, wrapped together, only breaking the kiss to explore other parts of each other. She learned that kisses to her neck made her tremble, and that even the softest touch of her mouth to Nux’s ears elicited gasps. Though she was aware of his hardness pressed pleasingly against her from below, it barely registered in comparison to the pleasure flooding through her.
When she drew his lower lip between her teeth and gently bit down, he let out a ragged groan and thrust up against her. Suddenly memories from before, of being held down and that monster moving inside her, suffocating her, came rushing back, and she remembered what that thing between Nux’s legs could do. Panic overwhelmed her and she scrambled backwards, moving away from him as fast as she could.
Nux had recoiled in horror, hands hovering apologetically, and he stammered, “I’m so sorry, Capable, I didn’t mean to-“
She was still quivering with fear as she climbed off the bed, moving towards the door separating their room from where her sisters slept. “It’s not your fault, I just-I can’t.”
The last thing she saw before she stepped into the welcoming darkness of her sisters’ room was Nux’s crestfallen face, with eyes full of guilt and lips reddened from her pleasure.
From their quiet, steady breathing, Capable could tell her sisters were asleep, for which she was grateful. She couldn’t imagine explaining this to them, how bliss had so rapidly turned to terror. Sliding into bed beside Cheedo, she tried to breathe slowly and calm down. She was safe; Joe was dead and no one would ever hurt her like that again.
Cheedo’s warmth should have been soothing, but it was a long time before Capable stopped shaking. It was even longer until she slept, after she came to terms with the bitter realization that Joe had stolen yet another thing from her.
The next morning, Capable awoke before her sisters and slipped back into her room with Nux, hoping to still find him there so she could explain what had happened the night before. But unsurprisingly, he was gone.
She scoured the Citadel for him, looking in the garages and even the now-empty Vault before being directed to the fighting pits by a War Boy barely old enough to wear paint. There she found Nux leaning up against a wall, eyes shut, surrounded by sleeping-or maybe unconscious-Boys. She felt a pang of worry at the bruises mottling his bare skin, although she was comforted by the fact that he looked much better than the other pummeled Boys.
Capable knelt beside him and gingerly pressed her hand to his cheek as she whispered his name. He awoke instantly, his eyes shockingly bright against the blood and grease smearing his face. She tried to smile reassuringly, but he recoiled from her touch, grunting, “Stay away-don’t want to hurt you-”
“Shhh, it’s alright. You won’t.”
He stilled, staring up at her with wide eyes, guilt etched into every line of his face. She leaned in so close that their lips almost touched, and whispered, “Last night, when we were together, I got scared because I remembered how things were before. It reminded me of what Joe did to me, things I’ll never be able to forget. But my fear wasn’t your fault, or mine. It’s only his. I know it will be difficult, but I want to learn how to be with you. Do you want…do you want to be together? In that way?”
He nodded eagerly, and she pressed a quick kiss to his lips. She still wasn’t sure he entirely understood how difficult this would be for her, learning to be intimate without fear, but he was willing to try and that was all that mattered for now.
Capable gave him a small smile. “Now let’s get you cleaned up.”
She grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet, then led him from the room. As they began the journey up to the Vault, she asked, “What happened to you last night?”
He still sounded a little bit ashamed. “I was real upset, revved up in a bad way, so I went down to the pits to fight. Thought if I got shredded it would make up for hurting you.”
Whenever she started to forget that he was a War Boy, he would say something like that, something so painful and broken that it made her wonder if he would ever truly be free of his past. How would she teach him not to hurt himself just because she was sad or scared? That more violence couldn’t undo the damage Joe had already caused? And if Nux, who had heard the truth of Angharad’s words and believed in them, was still trapped in Joe’s toxic ideology, was there even any hope for his brothers?
They reached the Vault, stepping through the empty hole where the door had once been, trapping them inside. Toast had devised a way to rip it out of the wall so it could be melted down for scrap. The Vault would never be used as a prison again.
Nux kicked off his boots right away, but when he began to pull off his pants, she turned away to give him privacy.
“You can look if you want,” he said shyly, “I don’t mind.”
And the thing was, she did want to watch. Feeling his warm, hard body last night had sparked a desire to see all of him, and although the idea of seeing a naked man was a little frightening, it was also incredibly exciting.
When she looked back at him, the flush suffusing his cheeks sent a thrill through her. War Boys had no conception of shame when it came to their own nudity, so she knew it was because she was watching him. She drank in the long, clean lines of him, the sharp V of his pelvis and his smooth back.
Nux slid into the pool, hissing as the water touched his wounds. As he bathed, Capable looked around the Vault at Angharad’s defiant words scrawled in white paint and wondered what her sister would think of her now, watching a naked War Boy splash around in their pool.
He followed her gaze, and asked, “What do they say?”
Most of the War Boys-Nux included-couldn’t read or write anything beyond their own names, but they were eager to learn. Nux had asked Cheedo to teach him to write Capable’s name first-something that made her melt inside-but he still struggled with reading.
She read them aloud to him, pointing at each one in turn.
We are not things.
Who killed the world?
Our babies will not be warlords.
They were all things he’d heard her and her sisters say before, but hearing them in the place where they had first been uttered seemed to affect him differently. There was something distant in his expression as he murmured, “They were her words.”
Capable nodded. “They’re our words too. We have to carry them on for her.”
The thought sent a trickle of unease through her. In the world Angharad had dreamed of, the world she had died for, was there a place for her and Nux? Was wanting and, perhaps, loving this War Boy a crime against her sister? When they found him on the Rig Angharad hadn’t let Furiosa kill him, but that didn’t mean she would approve of Capable using her newfound freedom to bring War Boys into her bed. She wrapped her arms around herself, wishing she could talk to Angharad about this.
The troubled look on her face must have set something off in Nux, because suddenly he struck himself hard in the face with one fist, then another.
She flung herself across the room to the edge of the pool. “No, stop! Stop it.”
Nux raised his hands to hit himself again, but she caught them, pulling them against her. He stared down at her lap, shaking. Capable knew he could break away from her easily, but he wasn’t willing to risk hurting her in the process.
She said softly, “Nux, tell me what’s wrong.”
He looked up at her with an utterly desolate expression. “I…I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I am anymore. I don’t want to do war, I just want to be with you. But what are War Boys with no war? She sent me back to love you, make you happy, and to teach the other Boys not to fight, and I can’t do either. I hurt you yesterday and then I fought all night. I failed. I’m rust, I’m mediocre, just like-” He stopped, knowing how much she hated hearing Joe’s name.
In a way, she understood his confusion. Since their return, no one really knew who they were anymore. This was an entirely different Citadel, and they were still carving out identities for themselves in this new order.
She remembered Angharad’s words before they tossed Nux off the Rig. Breeding stock, battle fodder! For as long as she could remember, Capable had been told that she was a breeder, a Wife, and nothing more. And for Nux, he was only allowed to be a War Boy, had never even considered anything else. Who were they now, in this world born from Angharad’s sacrifice, a world where no one was breeding stock or battle fodder?
Capable stroked his face gently, running her fingers across his scarred lips as she had that first night on the Rig. “We have to learn how to be new people together, Nux. And you don’t have to stop doing war or fighting completely, that’s not what made you a War Boy. Furiosa and the Vuvalini do war, and they aren’t War Boys.”
He kissed her fingertips affectionately. “How’s what they do different?”
She had to think about that for a moment. “D’you remember what Angharad said, when you first got on the Rig and Furiosa tried to cut your throat?”
“No unnecessary killing?”
“Right! When Furiosa and the Vuvalini do war, it’s because they have to, to protect themselves and the people they care about. Not for glory or guzzoline. And they don’t kill or hurt people for fun.”
“So…if I do war to keep us safe, then it’s alright? Because it’s just necessary killing?”
“Exactly!” He beamed at her praise, and she continued, “It’s difficult but we’ll figure this out together, Nux. We can help each other.”
He gave a hum of contentment, and for a long time they sat in comfortable silence. Then she remembered a question she’d thought of the night before.
“Nux, when the goddess came to you, what did she look like? Toast said she was a beautiful woman with black hair and dark skin, and whatever Dag saw was shaped like a person but was always changing form.”
He looked up at her, and in his eyes she saw the quiet, intense devotion of someone who had found their purpose in life.
“I saw you, Capable. Everything good I’ve known in the world came from you.”
Capable knew many words but none of them could tell him how much that meant to her, so she settled for pulling him up for a kiss. She had never thought she could love anyone besides her sisters and Miss Giddy, but in that moment, Capable knew that she loved Nux too.
When the Sisters had been imprisoned in the Vault, time passed slowly, each day much like the last. Their lives had been an endless cycle of lessons and reading, with only dreaded visits from Joe breaking the monotony. In the new Citadel, things could not be more different; their lives were a whirlwind of activity. Dag tended her gardens, surrounded by green things as her belly swelled with child. She gave birth among her plants, and thereafter worked with her baby on her back. Cheedo taught the War Pups and Wretched about numbers and words, and she walked with a new boldness to her step. Capable’s days were spent in what she now thought of as her hospital, treating the sick and wounded with a compassion never before known in the Citadel. Furiosa presided over it all, aided by the Vuvalini and Toast, who was bursting with ideas on how to improve life for everyone in the Citadel. She was everywhere, helping Dag plan a system for fairly distributing food, developing better ways of educating the masses with Cheedo, working with Capable to convince the War Boys not to smear themselves in toxic paint. Toast even spent a few hours every day with Nux, working on cars and practicing her driving.
Much to Capable’s amusement, Toast’s presence amongst the War Boys had not gone unnoticed. One day she was reading quietly in the infirmaries when she noticed a hulking War Boy lurking nearby. She wasn’t afraid; most of the War Boys were in awe of them, believing Toast and Dag to be immensely powerful and able to transform them into plants or strike them dead. Her sisters encouraged this perception by muttering nonsense under their breath and tracing strange shapes in the air whenever gullible Boys were nearby. Even if the threat of magic wasn’t enough to protect her, Capable had a wicked knife tucked into her belt.
After a few minutes of awkward silence, during which the War Boy would stare at her when she was reading but look away whenever she tried to make eye contact, Capable realized that he was unwilling to speak first. With a sigh, she asked, “Can I help you?”
His voice was low and raspy. “Need help with your mate Toast.”
Capable saw the gleam of metal in his cheeks, and realized with a start that this must be Nux’s old lancer, Slit, who had assiduously avoided Nux since their return. “What about her?”
He kicked at the ground, seemingly embarrassed. “How do I make her like me?”
Capable bit her lip to keep from laughing at the thought of her tiny, fiery sister making this massive War Boy nervous. “Well, you can’t make anyone like you, they have to want to.”
“I know, but how? I shred the Boys who don’t listen to her and give her all the chrome things I find, but it’s not working!”
That solved the small mystery of Toast’s ever-growing collection of assorted engine parts and bits of weapons; when Dag had asked her about it, she flushed and changed the topic. The fact that Toast bothered to save the scraps this enamored War Boy presented to her made Capable think that she must be at least a little interested in him.
With that in mind, she smiled encouragingly at him. “That’s a good start, but Toast really appreciates knowledge. Tell her interesting things she might not know, about weapons or the Wasteland or anything like that.”
He looked vaguely disgusted by the suggestion. “But that’s not shine at all!”
Capable gave him what she hoped was an enigmatic shrug and walked away, trying to conceal her smile.
Despite his initial reluctance, Slit apparently followed her advice. A few dozen days later, Cheedo reported going to visit Toast in her study and finding her with a ‘big, ugly’ War Boy leaning against her legs as she read to him aloud. Although there was a lot of good-natured teasing, Capable was happy for her sister.
As for Capable and Nux, they grew closer every day, both emotionally and physically. They spent hours talking, sharing stories of their lives before each other and the Road, as well as planning the future they hoped to share. Their nights were spent tangled together in a bed full of laughter and love, and at times, the terror of her life before the Road seemed like only a bad dream.
And yet, Capable couldn’t shake the feeling that it was wrong to enjoy life so much while her sister’s body rotted somewhere in the Wasteland. At times, the guilt was overwhelming, as if every moment of joy she experienced was a betrayal of Angharad.
She knew it was irrational, but she couldn’t help herself. And on days where she felt particularly ashamed, she would go to the Vault and sat beneath Angharad’s words, as though she was doing penance to her dead sister for the sin of being happy. She also found herself there on days when she needed quiet or time to think. Although the Vault was open to everyone, few people besides the sisters ventured within, seeing it as a sacrosanct place.
Today was one of those days. Capable was laying facedown on Angharad’s bed, breathing in her lingering scent as she thought about her situation with Nux. They both desperately wanted a baby but she still wasn’t able to have the kind of sex that resulted in sprogs. He could pleasure her with his mouth and hands for hours but whenever she tried to take him inside her, she panicked, all the old fears flooding her mind. The memory of Joe’s violations still lingered, keeping her from what she wanted so, so badly.
And although Nux accepted it, telling her that he didn’t need a sprog or to be in her, he just wanted her to be happy, Capable was furious. Even though Joe’s corpse had been picked clean by the crows, he was still taking things from her, keeping her from living the life she wanted. Even worse, she sometimes felt conflicted about her desire for a child, wondering if it would make her the breeding stock she had fought so hard against being. She wished more than anything that she could have just five minutes to speak with Angharad.
A soft hand touched her back, and Capable sighed, assuming it was one of her sisters coming to check on her. She rolled over and gasped.
Angharad was sitting beside her, smiling.
“You can’t be real….”
Angharad shook her head. “You’re right. I’m not Angharad, but I am the Mother of the World, Lady of Ten Thousand Names, the One Who Is All. Your fallen sister sits at my right hand, stronger now than ever, and you see me as her because she was my avatar, my messenger, my hand on earth. As are you and all your sisters.”
Capable knew she should be shocked, and yet she wasn’t. In a way she had been waiting for this day ever since Toast and Dag had been visited, but instead of being overawed by the presence of a deity, she just wanted to look at her sister’s face, unscarred and smiling, happy as she had never seen it.
“Why are you here?”
The goddess took her hand. “I felt your conflict, and I knew it was time for us to speak. You are ashamed of your happiness, particularly the joy you have found with Nux, because you see it as a betrayal of Angharad. She loves you, so much, and all she wants is for you to be happy. She died so that you and your sisters could be free to make your own choices, to live your own lives, and she will never resent you for that. You love easily and deeply, because you carry my infinite love within you. Love for family, for a lover, for people you’ll never know, all of these are yours. Your compassion and ability to love can change the world, as surely as Toast’s books and Dag’s seeds.”
And even though she knew she wasn’t speaking to Angharad, not really, Capable felt tremendous relief. To know that her sister truly wasn’t angry was like having a massive weight lifted from her shoulders.
The goddess continued, “It’s not wrong to want a baby. The false god called you breeding stock but you are more than flesh, and any child you choose to make with Nux will be born of love.”
“But I still can’t lay with him, whenever we try all I can remember is how it was before, and I would do anything to avoid feeling that again.”
The way the goddess’s eyes flashed with anger was something Capable had seen countless times, whenever Angharad raged against Joe and his lies.
“What he did to you wasn’t sex, it was rape, and it breaks my heart that his violence is keeping you from the happiness that is rightfully yours. I can never make you forget what he did, but there is a way I can help you overcome your fears.”
Part of Capable was skeptical; it was hard to believe that anything could wipe away years of fear and pain. But this was the goddess who had given Toast all the words that had ever been and allow Dag to bring someone back from the dead. Surely if anyone had the power to help Capable, it was her.
“When Nux sacrificed himself to save you, he proved himself worthy of being your lover and my consort. My love and I have been separated since the world died, and the land has suffered. If you allow me to share your flesh, you can experience sex as it is meant to be, without fear or shame. My love and I will be reunited, and the world blessed. But it’s your choice.”
It may have been selfish, but Capable wasn’t thinking of the world when she said yes. She thought of Nux a little, of how happy being a father would make him, but mainly, she thought of herself. The years of suffering and pain she had endured, the marks of violence that still lingered in her heart. She deserved this. She deserved to be happy.
So in the end, her decision was easy.
“Yes, I’ll do it.”
The goddess gave a wicked grin, the kind Angharad would flash at her whenever they bested Joe, and took hold of Capable’s hands. She gasped, feeling warmth surge through her as the goddess spoke.
“I am the One Who Is All, the source of life and love. I have lived and died, but through my child Capable, I will live again.”
Magic flooded her, filling spaces she never knew existed between her bones, under her skin, and in her blood. Her body felt electric, the way it did when Nux touched her, and she began to tremble with want.
When she opened her eyes, the goddess was nowhere to be seen, and Capable knew
a sense of potent urgency. Now. Now. Now is the time. She needed Nux.
On feet made light by excitement, she hurried down to the garages, finding Nux working on his vehicle’s wheels. His face lit up when he saw her, and she ran into his open arms. The feeling of his lean, hard body sent a thrill through her, and Capable felt an overwhelming urge to push him back onto the hood of his car and have him now, in front of everyone. But she knew that wasn’t right, not this time, and so she stood on tip toes to whisper in his ear, “I saw her, Nux. The goddess came to me and she’s in me now, and I’m ready. Do you want me?”
His entire body shuddered, and he pressed his mouth to her neck in an open, desperate kiss. “Glory, yes.”
She led him up to the rooftop gardens, wanting to be under the open sky, and then pulled him in for another deep kiss. Her hands slid down his chest to his pants, and he broke away, gasping.
“The Green Thumbs…” Dag’s workers were everywhere, but they hadn’t seen any so far.
“I don’t care. Let them see.” She pulled off her shirt, with her boots and pants soon following. When she turned back to Nux, she was entirely bare, yet she didn’t feel exposed. There was no fear, no shame, just desire and love. She wanted him to see her.
Nux’s jaw had dropped, and he was staring like the sun and moon shone from her.
“Capable…you’re a goddess.”
She threw her head back and laughed, giddy with the power flowing through her. “Yes, I am. Come to me.”
He obeyed, removing his clothes with shaking fingers and stumbling towards her. She met him with a kiss, pulling him down to the ground on top of her.
Nux’s hands and mouth were everywhere, her neck, her breasts, her belly, and Capable found herself mumbling words of praise at his adoration. He was worshipping her, all of her, the woman and the goddess who was in her, as a man who loved her and the divine lover she’d waited an age for. As he moved down her body, her breathing became ragged, and when he kissed just below her navel, she parted her legs eagerly for him. He dove eagerly between her legs, lapping at her like she was the source of some divine aqua cola. The air was filled with her moans and the incoherent sounds of bliss he was making. Her orgasm came quickly, and she shuddered with pleasure as he licked her through it. Nux made a disappointed noise when she pushed him away, and a part of her wanted to let him stay between her legs, but she knew she needed more.
“Get on your back.”
He rolled over eagerly, his arms and legs splayed, chest rising and falling rapidly as she moved to straddle him. Capable hung over him, watching his face. There was hunger there, but it wasn’t grasping or greedy. Nux wanted her like this, happy and in love and desiring him with every fiber of her being, and he would never ask anything of her that wasn’t freely offered.
She slid down onto him slowly, reveling in the sensation of being filled and the dumbfounded look in Nux’s eyes. The goddess sharing her skin hummed her pleasure, and she knew how right this was. This was something entirely new, as different from what she had suffered at Joe’s hands as these gardens were from the Wasteland. What she was feeling now was the thing she had been waiting for, what she had always wanted, and none of Joe’s crimes could taint her bliss. Slowly they began to move, settling into a rhythm, and Capable ran her fingers over the V8 on Nux’s chest, murmuring endearments about how good he was, how strong, and how much she loved him. He gave a desperate cry, his thrusts becoming uneven, and she knew he wouldn’t last much longer. With shaking hands he reached up, stroking her breast with one hand and between her legs with the other, so when he groaned her name and finished, she wasn’t far behind.
The magic inside her swelled as her orgasm built, and she reached deep inside herself, taking hold of a power older than the world and mastering it. She blossomed, all the love that had ever been flowing through her, knowing a lover’s kiss, a sister’s embrace, the movement of an unborn child beneath its mother’s heart, and she was whole.
As Capable came down from her climax, she felt the goddess leaving her, and she slumped forward onto Nux’s chest, exhausted yet still exhilarated. He stroked her hair, holding her as she returned to herself, became mortal again.
Suddenly she felt dozens of tiny pinpricks striking her back, but when she turned to look up at the sky, Nux flipped them over, hovering above her.
“What’s wrong? Why are you on top of me?” She tried to sit up, but he wouldn’t budge, his long body entirely covering her.
“Dunno what this is or if it’s dangerous, and I didn’t want you to get hurt if it’s bad.”
As he spoke, she finally realized what was happening and laughed with relief. “Oh, Nux, it’s just rain. You can get up.”
He rolled off her, asking, “What’s rain?”
Capable stared up at the sky, feeling the cool rain hitting her face. She’d never seen rain before-no one had, not in over twenty-five thousand days-but she had read about it while in the Vault.
She rolled over onto her side, smiling at him. “Rain is when water falls from the sky.”
Nux gave her an incredulous look. “It’s aqua cola? Didn’t know it came from anywhere but underground.” He stuck out his tongue, trying to catch a drop and grinning when he succeeded.
“Before the Water Wars, it rained all the time. But the world became too sick, and the rain stopped thousands of days ago. I guess this means the world is getting better again.”
Miss Giddy told them that rain had died with the world, and in her heart Capable was sure it meant something, the return of rain on this very day, when she finally threw off the last shreds of Joe’s poison and took Nux as her lover.
“Getting better? That’s real shine.”
In his relaxed post-coital state, Nux had lapsed back into some of his old War Boy speech patterns, but Capable didn’t mind. She felt suffused with an inner sense of peace, and by the way Nux was looking at her, she had never been more beautiful. Her skin glowed, and her body still thrummed with the aftereffects of being the goddess’s vessel. Yet she didn’t feel like a thing. All of her sisters carried the goddess within them-her infinite knowledge and wisdom dwelled in Toast, while Dag was rebirth and life itself. The goddess had not told Capable what Cheedo’s role would be, or what part of her had lived in Angharad. But Capable knew she was the embodiment of the goddess’s boundless love in all its forms: the love she felt for her sisters and Furiosa, for Nux, for all people of the world. She was utterly in control of her own body, her fertility, and no one could take that from her.
Capable ran her hands down her body, reveling in the utter serenity she felt. Nux’s eyes followed her hands, and when they reached her abdomen, he gave a start.
“Glory be! D’you think it worked? Is there already a sprog in there?” Nux bent down and pressed his ear to her belly, eagerly searching for signs of life.
She giggled, pulling him back up to lie beside her. “It’s too early to know yet, it’ll be at least two moons before I can be sure.” But Capable remembered the feeling of magic inside her, as surely as Nux had been, the way her womb had opened as rain clouds gathered above for the first time in almost a century, and she knew there would be a child.
I live, I die, I live again.
Cheedo's chapter will be up next, then Furiosa! Would people be interested in reading chapters for Valkyrie and Max? Also, my tumblr is le-temps-viendra36 if you're interested in Mad Max, general fandom stuff, and feminism. Have a happy New Year!
Chapter 6: Cheedo-Who Killed the World?
Hello everyone! I'm sorry that this chapter took so ridiculously long, real life has a sad habit of getting in the way of writing. I really hope you enjoy this chapter, and please leave a review letting me know what you did/didn't like about it! Trigger warning for attempted rape.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ever since their return to the Citadel, Cheedo tried to do one thing that scared her every day. At first, it was small things, like talking to a War Boy who wasn’t Nux or letting Valkyrie give her shooting lessons. She felt herself getting braver and braver; she went out among the Wretched and visited the garages without her sisters, and even rode out with Toast on scouting missions. And today, she was facing her fear of the winding tunnels that crisscrossed the Citadel.
Even though they had been back in the Citadel for more than seven hundred days, Cheedo hadn’t been able to bring herself to venture into the tunnels alone. But she didn’t want to be scared anymore; she wanted to be brave like her sisters and the Vuvalini and Furiosa. Someday, she told herself, she would go below, down into the darkness.
After finishing lessons with the War Pups for the day, Cheedo needed to see Capable in the infirmaries. Her sister, whose belly was so large she couldn’t comfortably sit, stand, or lay down, should have stopped working a dozen days ago. But she refused, saying she felt fine and was too busy to lie around doing nothing.
Toast knew it was impossible to convince Capable once her mind was made up, but she still worried that Capable would birth her baby in some hallway, alone and unattended. So she’d charged the others-Cheedo and Dag, of course, as well as Nux, Risa, the Vuvalini, Furiosa, and even Max-to check on Capable whenever possible. Cheedo decided to take a shortcut from her classroom to the infirmaries, which cut through the tunnels. The War Pup who told her about the path had offered to come with her, saying that there were rumors of something strange down there, but Cheedo politely refused. She needed to do this alone.
And so here she was, by her reckoning about halfway to the infirmaries, and feeling pleased with herself. Aside from being startled by a skittering lizard-and honestly, anyone would be-she wasn’t afraid. The reassuring weight of the lantern she carried helped chase thoughts of what might lurk in the dark from her head.
Cheedo wasn’t afraid of encountering creatures from the Wasteland or rogue War Boys below. Since the moment she set foot in the Citadel after their return, she felt a strange, inextricable pull to the tunnels, a voiceless call that tugged at her insides and wove through her dreams. Initially she just thought it was leftover fear from their time on the Road, and expected that it would fade. But the buzz under her skin only grew stronger as the days passed, thrumming through her like lightning in a sandstorm. And when Toast and Dag were visited by a goddess, she began to think that what she was feeling was not of this world.
For the first four hundred or so days after the Road War, only Dag and Toast encountered Her, and Cheedo wondered if she and Capable would ever see Her. Part of her was afraid, to come face-to-face with such power, and thought she could learn to live with the call if it was her only alternative to meeting the goddess. Then one day, during the first rain in thousands of days, Capable and Nux came staggering down from the rooftop gardens together, soaking wet and joyous, and Cheedo recognized a strange new look in Capable’s eyes. It reminded her of something she had always seen in Angharad’s face, and now with Toast and Dag. The way she spoke when she told them she was pregnant-joyful, of course, but also with the calmness of someone who expected this-confirmed what Cheedo suspected. Capable had been visited too. Which meant that Cheedo was next.
Dag had received her gift in the gardens atop the Citadel, Capable and Toast within it, and somehow Cheedo knew that her destiny was in its deepest recesses, with the same surety that she knew her own name. When she went down into the tunnels, she would not emerge as the same person who entered. And now, with every step she took into the darkness, the pull within her grew stronger.
So when the thrumming within her flared so bright she trembled with it and a figure folded out of the gloom ahead of her, she was startled but not really surprised.
What did shock her was how young the apparition before her was. The person looking her up and down with a tiny smile was a girl, more than a head shorter than Cheedo with a delicate frame that belied the power rolling off her. Her hair was dark and short like Toast’s, swaying gently around her ears as she walked. Her olive skin and black, seemingly bottomless eyes shone even in the flickering light of the lantern. And although her face was smooth and unlined, Cheedo knew she was in the presence of something older than the world itself.
The goddess was walking in slow circles around her, close enough that her flowing black robes grazed Cheedo’s bare arm, making her shudder.
“Are you afraid, my Cheedo?”
For a moment, Cheedo thought of denying it, but why lie? “Yes.”
“You shouldn’t be. I am just as much a part of the dark places of the world as the light, and the part of me that dwells in you rules the shadows.” Her voice was surprisingly deep for someone so small.
She shook her head. “The darkness doesn’t scare me. You do.”
The goddess paused, then cocked her head to the side, confused. “Why? You are one of my most beloved children, my vessel, my hand on earth. You of all people have no cause to fear me.”
“When you came to my sisters, you changed them. And I don’t know if I want to be changed.”
“Are they not happier? More fulfilled?”
Cheedo considered this for a moment. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t different now.”
The goddess hummed in agreement. “A reasonable response, but rest assured, I won’t do anything to you without your consent. Do you know who I am, dear one?”
“The goddess, mother of the world.” She remembered something that Toast had said. “The All-Knowing.”
“Those are all names I have been called, it is true, but I am known as the Lady of Ten Thousand Names, and one of them is Kore. Or Persephone, if you prefer. Are you familiar with that tale?”
Cheedo thought back to her time in the Vault, when all she did was read and sing and hope Joe’s eye wouldn’t fall upon her. “Persephone was the earth’s daughter, wasn’t she? And the god of death stole her, took her away to the underworld, because he wanted her as his wife.” Cheedo felt a chill as she remembered the first time Toast read her that story, and how closely it mirrored their old lives. “But her mother grieved for her, and made the earth cold and dead, until the god of the underworld had to give Persephone back.”
The goddess scoffed. “Humans never get my stories right. You see, I am very old, and once there were many like me, some stronger than I. Before I made the world, when I was still a girl, I was stolen by one of the older gods. He saw me in the forest that was my home and he took me. Gods are no different than humans, when it comes to cruelty and greed. I was free and he wanted to destroy that, simply because he could.”
“And you couldn’t defend yourself?” This being had given Dag the ability to create life, surely she was capable of taking it away too?
“My magic wasn’t strong then, and his was ancient, as he was one of the very first of my kind.”
“Was he the god of death?”
The goddess snorted with laughter. “No, nothing so dramatic as that. Our true natures are too complex for many humans to understand, so to them, he became lord of the underworld. As if such a place existed! But he was the god of dark places, of evil and chaos, and the desire to cause pain. I suppose how, to a human mind, that could be confused with the simpler idea of death.” She was silent for a moment, and Cheedo wondered at being so old that the concept of death seemed easy to comprehend.
“So in some ways, my story and the version humans like to tell are alike. I was a girl dragged from my home to a cold prison by a cruel god who desired me. But unlike the Kore of human tales, I had no loving mother to protect me, no one to save me from my captor. Some of us are born to parents, as humans are, or from a single parent. Others, like me, create ourselves. I exist because I willed it to be so.”
“Do you have-did you have any children?”
She gave Cheedo a secretive smile. “You’ll have to ask your sister Capable about that. But back to my story. The dark god had stolen me, was using me, and I knew I needed to escape. It wouldn’t be easy; he kept me in a cell without windows, and a door with only one key. That-to borrow Dag’s colorful word-smeg loved my pain, but he wanted me to pretend to be happy. He was always telling me to smile. But fortunately for me, he was also a fool who thought I was so afraid of him that I would stay in the prison he created for me. So I plotted, waiting for my chance. One night he came to me, and instead of fighting, I behaved as he wished me to, smiling and flattering him, lulling him to sleep. I couldn’t believe it worked, but it did. I stole the key.”
“And you escaped?” In her mind, Cheedo felt like she could see it, the young goddess slipping silently on bare feet from a prison that looked remarkably like the Vault.
Something dark crossed her face, and the magic in the air intensified, making Cheedo gasp. “Not quite. Whenever he hurt me, I grew angrier, and as my rage built, so did my magic. He didn’t know that every finger he laid on me only increased my power. By hurting me, he made me stronger than he could have ever dreamed. So I consumed him. I ripped him to pieces, and ate every last one, to make sure he would never hurt anyone else again, and I smiled for every moment.”
The goddess smiled and licked her lips with pleasure, as if savoring the memory of the taste. Cheedo felt a wave of revulsion, but could she really judge? After the Wretched destroyed Joe’s corpse to shreds, many of them tore into the pieces with their teeth and eaten him.
“When I was done, I was so full of magic, I thought I would burst. I knew it had to go somewhere, but instead of destroying, I wanted to create a place without violence or fear. From my suffering, my pain, your world was born.”
She reached out and took Cheedo’s wrist into her cool, dry hand, and Cheedo felt the goddess’s fingers trembling.
“I didn’t know this at the time, but when I killed him, the evil that lurked inside him was set free, and entered the world I created. I tried to recapture it, but it was too late. So to protect my new world, I left the realm where I dwelt before, to make Earth my home. When the time came, when the right people were born, I would bestow upon them gifts that would allow them to protect their world. I waited for billions of years, until humans finally appeared, and then promptly began to destroy the paradise I had birthed for you. From time to time, ones who were worthy would come along, and I would appear to them as you see me now, and give them my blessings. But his evil lingered too, inspiring cruelty and hatred, dwelling in countless humans. My messengers were outnumbered. Inevitably they were struck down by the darkness, their lives cut brutally short. And then, as the old world began to die, there were no more. I despaired, believing that there would be no humans worthy of my gifts, and as the evil grew stronger, my magic dwindled.” “He-,” she snarled the words through bared teeth, “-was winning, and when he took form in the false god Immortan I feared that it was the end for me. I was almost gone when I felt your sister Angharad. Her fury reminded me of my own sufferings, so long ago, and I knew the time had come. I visited her, watching over her as her strength grew. When you and your sisters were brought here, I knew that you too were worthy, but I was too weak to come to you. But you gave me hope. And when you began to plot your escape, I believed that perhaps my enemy could be destroyed once and for all. But then…” She broke off for a moment, and Cheedo was surprised to see her eyes gleaming with unshed tears. Could goddesses cry?
“When Angharad fell, I thought…I thought I had failed. But she is greater now than her killers could ever have imagined, reigning in eternal glory at my right hand. And you persevered, casting the false god down into the dust, and now, the world can be reborn through you.”
Even though she’d already heard much of this from her sisters, Cheedo felt her mouth drop open in surprise at the thought of carrying this immerse burden on her shoulders.
The goddess continued, “All of you carry some part of me within you. Toast has infinite wisdom and all of my knowledge. Dag is the Resurrection, a life-giver, provider of food for my children. And Capable is the vessel of my infinite love. Angharad carried within her my rage, my defiance, my refusal to be a thing. And you, dear Cheedo, are Death.”
“How? I’m not strong enough to be death, or anything, all I am is-” A rush of shame filled her as she remembered trying to leave her sisters behind, how her fear and grief over Angharad almost sent her back to Joe, “-all I am is Fragile.”
The goddess dropped her wrist and began to pace back and forth. “Fragile does not mean weak! The filth Immortan called you that because he feared you and your power, as he did all your sisters. He tried to break you down and turn your kind soul into weakness rather than the strength it truly is. You feel acutely, you weep for the empty violence of war and every drop of blood that is spilled, the poison that taints the earth and kills my children. You are compassionate, and death must have a gentle heart.”
Confusion churned Cheedo’s stomach, and she took a step back, alarmed at the goddess’s agitation. “How can I help the world, help anyone, if I’m death? Angharad always asked ‘Who killed the world?’, and I won’t become what she hated!”
The frenetic movements of the goddess paused, and she slowly turned her head towards Cheedo. “Death is not always evil or pain. If my tormentor is allowed to reign freely over death, he corrupts it and makes it so, but death can be mercy and peace and quiet. Death can be justice, and it does not have to mean fear. And if you choose to embrace the part of you meant to rule the deep places of the world, then you will never be afraid again.” She extended her slender hand towards Cheedo, waiting.
Cheedo stared, unsure what to do. Unbidden, memories of those final terrible moments of the Road War flooded her mind. The Vuvalini scattered, Max gone, Toast taken by Joe and Furiosa bleeding, the life draining from her side as she tried to crawl onto the Gigahorse to end it all. Cheedo had never been more afraid than in that moment, but more than her fear, she remembered her rage, rage and a determination to protect the people she loved, whatever the cost.
That resolve was what made her call for Rictus, both to distract him and so she could help Furiosa. The thoughts of crossing from the Rig to the Gigahorse while they were moving, of letting Rictus touch her and being within arm’s reach of Joe again, were terrifying, but she loved her sisters more than she feared anything. Nothing-not Rictus or Joe or the prospect of going under the wheels like Angharad-would keep her from Toast and Furiosa.
In that moment she felt the same ferocious wave of love and protectiveness that had propelled her onto the roof of the War Rig, and without another thought, she took the goddess’s proffered hand.
A slow smile spread across the goddess’s face, and she tipped her head back, fingers tightening around Cheedo’s. “My child, you are already stronger than you know. You are Death, but death is a beginning just as much as it is an end. In you, I will live forever.”
Cold swept over Cheedo, and she felt the cool stillness of the Vault, the early morning chill of the rooftop gardens, and the icy fury that bloomed in her heart when the Polecats snatched Toast, dragging her out of Cheedo’s arms. Her lantern sputtered out, and even though the tunnel was plunged into darkness, she could still see the gleaming eyes of the goddess, timeless and savage yet brimming with love. “You don’t need me anymore. You’re ready.”
Suddenly the pressure on her hand was released, and the goddess was gone. Cheedo gasped as the cold receded, realizing that she’d been holding her breath, and the lantern flickered back to life.
The tunnel was empty, with no sign of the goddess or anyone else. For a moment Cheedo reeled on her feet, overwhelmed by the emotions swirling through her. Fear and confusion warred with a sense of elation, the triumph of finally having the life-changing experience as her sisters. Bursting with the urge to share her news, she set off again, hurrying to the infirmaries.
The rest of her journey was uneventful, but doubt began to creep into her thoughts. From what her sisters said about their encounters with the goddess, this seemed…different. Would they understand? Cheedo loved her sisters, trusted them more than anyone else, but this darkness inside her was something entirely new.
And so when she entered the bright, clean infirmaries-Capable had done away with the gloom and filth of the Organic Mechanic-and saw her sister’s smiling face, she decided not to say anything. She needed more time to think, to process what happened to her, before she shared it with anyone.
Capable tried to wrap her in a hug, but impeded by her massive belly, settled for a peck on the cheek. When she pulled away, she gave Cheedo a concerned look.
“Are you alright? You’re pale.”
Not feeling ready to discuss her encounter with the goddess, Cheedo replied vaguely, “I’m fine. I just came to check on you, is there anything I can help with?”
Capable rolled her eyes. “Honestly, you all act like I’m made of glass. The sprog will come when it’s ready, and until then I want to stay busy. But yes, you can help me.”
She set off down the corridor, talking as she went. Cheedo followed behind, listening attentively. “This War Boy, Coil…he was in a bad wreck a few weeks ago. We had to amputate his legs, and he’s not...he’s not going to make it. His driver Sprocket didn’t make it back, and Coil’s given up.”
“So what do you want me to do?” Cheedo felt sorry for the dying War Boy, certainly, but if a skilled healer like Capable couldn’t help him, what could she do?
Capable stopped just before a doorway and said softly, “Just sit with him, talk to him, maybe. He’s sleeping now but I don’t want him to be alone if he wakes up. Sprocket was the last of his crew, so he doesn’t have anyone left.”
Cheedo felt a pang of sympathy for Coil; their crews were the closest thing War Boys had to a family, and to be the last left alive when all their crewmates had gone to Valhalla (or the Green Place, as some now referred to it) was considered the deepest dishonor. And despite her bright voice and quick steps, she could see how exhausted Capable was. She could sit with a dying War Boy if it helped her sister.
Capable gave her a grateful smile and guided Cheedo through the doorway. After checking again to make sure Cheedo was alright, she left.
Coil was asleep on a thin mattress, a blanket covering his lower half. Cheedo seated herself on the cool stone floor beside him. It felt odd to just sit there, watching him sleep, but that was what Capable had asked her to do.
But she had only been sitting beside him for a few minutes when he stirred, looking at her with hazy blue eyes. She wasn’t entirely sure if he could even see her, but he was certainly aware of her presence.
“My name is Cheedo, I’m one of-”
Coil cut her off, “I know who you are.”
“Did you come to one of my classes?” A surprising number of War Boys came alongside the Pups and Wretched, eager to learn to read and write. Cheedo tried to remember all their names but it was impossible, there were simply too many.
He shook his head weakly. “No. I saw you before. At the wreck.”
His words startled her, because she was now certain that she had never seen this War Boy before in her life. “You must be thinking of my sister Toast, she sometimes helps with rescues. Or Capable, she’s the one who’s been taking care of you.”
Coil shook his head again, emphatically this time. “I remember your face. You took Sprocket. He was burning up…screaming…and you came for him. You smiled, put your hands on him, and he went away. You’re Death.”
Cheedo felt her heart drop into her stomach. What was he saying? Could he somehow know about her conversation with the goddess? Had he really seen her take his driver to the afterlife?
She started to rise, but he reached out to her, agitated. “No! Take me like you took him. Too late for me to die historic, just let me die. Please. Please.”
Part of her wanted nothing more than to flee the room, but the agony in his voice gave her pause. If he was right…if she really had the power to end his life, as he so desperately wished, was it wrong to grant him that? And even if she couldn’t help him, would it be so wrong to give him the comfort of human contact?
Slowly, she sank back to the floor and touched her fingers to his trembling hand. At the contact, something grew within her, the way a fire flared up when you added kindling, and Coil sighed with relief.
Cheedo realized with alarm that his breathing was becoming more and more shallow, and she leapt to her feet, calling for Capable. But it was too late. By the time she heard her sister’s footsteps, Coil gasped, “Thank you.” His eyes fluttered shut, and Cheedo knew he was gone.
She stared down at her hands in horror. Had she done that? Was she able to kill with a touch?
Angharad’s words popped into her mind-“No unnecessary killing!” and “Who killed the world?”-and she felt sick to her stomach. What had she become?
She screamed for Capable, unable to tear herself from the sight of the corpse, even when she heard her sister running to her.
“Cheedo?” There was something strange about Capable’s voice, so utterly unlike her normal calm self, that it made Cheedo turn from the dead War Boy to look at her sister.
Capable was standing in the doorway, staring down at the puddle of clear liquid between her boots with both hands on her belly. “I think you’d better send for Nux and the others.”
Capable gave a wordless scream, crushing Cheedo’s hand with her own as she bore down on the sprog trying to be born. Cheedo wasn’t sure if Nux’s face was pale from Capable’s surprisingly strong grip or the sight of blood gushing from between her legs, but he looked whiter than when he wore war paint. Toast and Risa were working between Capable’s spread legs, urging her along and speaking rapidly to each other in low voices that Cheedo couldn’t quite catch. Dag was behind Capable, offering her sips of water and murmuring words of comfort in her ear. Earlier, when Capable was still been able to speak coherently, she let Dag paint her belly with whirling symbols that Dag said would help the baby come easier.
Now Cheedo found herself staring at the blue and green swirls marking Capable’s swollen belly, trying to tune out the smells and sounds swirling around her. She was been there when An was born, but it was nothing like this. Cheedo’s own body ached, as if it was suffering sympathetically along with Capable, and occasionally she noticed Dag or Toast wincing as well. Was this a side effect of their magic? She had always felt a special connection with her sisters, being more comfortable with them than anyone else, but this was different. It was as if bits of them were inside her skin, and she was in theirs too. She wanted to ask, but in all the commotion, she still hadn’t told her sisters what happened to her early.
Capable groaned with pain, and cried out, “Angharad!”
Alongside the stab of pain that came whenever anyone mentioned her dead sister, Cheedo felt something jerk inside her, a pull deep in her belly, like the feeling that drew her to the tunnels in the first place.
She looked up and saw her. For the first time in hundreds of days, since her sister went under the wheels, she saw Angharad.
But although the figure now standing next her wore her sister’s face, it wasn’t her. It was a shade, a shadow of the woman who saved them all. Was this really her gift, her magic? The ability to take away life and see strange shadows of the dead? How many more shades would she encounter in the Citadel? What if…what if Joe’s ghost was out there somewhere, waiting for her?
A combination of revulsion and panic flooded her. These thoughts, the smell of Capable’s blood and her cries of agony, was overwhelming. She couldn’t handle it anymore. The goddess had told her that this gift would make her unafraid, but all she had felt since their meeting was uncertainty.
The ghost seemed to sense her distress. She smiled at her, her sister’s beautiful, warm smile, and mouthed, “Go.”
Cheedo dropped Capable’s hand and darted towards the door. Dag asked if she was alright, and Cheedo muttered that she needed some air. Not believing her, Dag started to question her further, but a fresh howl from Capable distracted her, and Cheedo slipped from the room. As she closed the door behind her, she saw that Angharad’s shade had taken her place at Capable’s side.
A row of anxious faces awaited her. Furiosa and the Vuvalini were spread out on the stone bench carved out of the wall, with Dag’s sleeping child sprawled across Valkyrie’s lap. Dag thought that Angharad was too long a name for a child, and so they were called An. Max lingered nearby, tinkering with an old radio Nux had found, and the War Boy Slit-who tried to follow Toast into the room and was firmly ejected by Nux-seemed to have appointed himself sentry, standing at the end of the hall and glowering at anyone who tried to peek in.
Cheedo answered their unspoken question, “No sprog yet. She’s doing alright, I just needed some air.”
Iona gave her a comforting smile and scooted over to make room for her, and she settled down next to her. “First babies are always the hardest, but she’s young and strong.”
If only concern for Capable was the only thing on her mind. Cheedo was trying desperately to remain calm, to distract herself from Angharad’s ghost and the man she had killed earlier with a touch of her hand.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat there, lost in her thoughts, physically close to the others yet feeling as alone as a wanderer in the Wasteland, until Raisa stuck her head into the hallway and called, “Cheedo, she’s asking for you.”
Cheedo hurried back into the room, trying not to look at the carnage between Capable’s legs. Angharad’s ghost was still at her side, unable to touch Capable but still trying so hard to support her.
Toast said authoritatively, “You’re so close, Capable, I can see the head! Just give me one more push.”
Capable reached for Cheedo, catching hold of her with a sweat-slick hand. “I can do it now-Cheedo’s here.”
She squeezed Cheedo’s fingers hard, and Cheedo gasped, feeling something throb inside her. She was there, with Toast and Dag too, all of them connected in the final moments of Capable’s labor, sharing their strength with their sister. Their magic-Dag’s life-giving, Toast’s knowledge, Cheedo’s mercy-poured into Capable, building her up.
With a final shout from Capable, the sprog slid into Toast’s waiting hands. Risa deftly snipped the cord, and smiled up at them.
“It’s a girl!”
Capable collapsed back onto the pillows, exhausted, but she was grinning from ear-to-ear. Even as they wiped the baby clean, Toast and Risa were smiling too. Dag was laughing, and Cheedo felt a smile on her face too. For a moment, all her confusion fell away, and all she felt was joy.
Nux was sobbing, hunched over Capable in the bed, pressing his forehead to hers as he murmured endearments and praise. Toast settled the baby on Capable’s breast so she could nurse.
Once the baby was fed, Capable passed her to Dag so that Nux could help her get clean and dressed. Dag, Toast, and Risa cooed over the baby, taking turns holding her. But when Toast tried to give her to Cheedo, Cheedo refused.
Capable’s sprog was perfect, from her tiny toes to the tuft of red hair on her head. Her eyes were bright blue, like her father’s, and even though Risa had proclaimed her perfectly healthy, there was something undeniably delicate about her. She was brand-new, barely a part of this world, and Cheedo was terrified that if she touched her, she would suck her life away, as she had with Coil. But she wasn’t ready to tell her sisters about her fears, not yet, so she feigned sleepiness and said she was too shaky to hold the baby. Dag shot her a probing look, but Toast had just admitted the others to see the new baby, and their arrival allowed Cheedo to dodge her question.
With the Vuvalini, Furiosa, Max, and Slit now squeezed into the room, it was a bit overcrowded, but the joy in the air was palpable.
Furiosa, Valkyrie, and the other Vuvalini bowed their heads and clasped a fist to their chests, then extended their arms towards Capable and the baby. As one, they opened their hands and Capable smiled.
Dag whispered in Cheedo’s ear, “What’re they doing?”
Cheedo responded, “They’re welcoming her into the Many Mothers, taking her into their hearts and giving her the spirits of those who have died. They did it when An was born too, but you were still passing the afterbirth and didn’t notice.”
The simple gesture, the mirror opposite of the Vuvalini farewell to a member of the tribe, sent chills down her spine, although not the bad kind. So many had died to bring about this moment, where a former Wife and War Boy welcomed their child into the world but in the end, it had all been worth it. Their deaths had led to this tiny, perfect moment of happiness. This sprog was the embodiment of their sacrifice, a new beginning arising from their ends.
Furiosa stepped towards Nux, her arms spread in an unspoken question.
Nux passed the sprog to Furiosa with the utmost care, and started to explain how her head needed to be supported and to kneel if she felt like she was going to drop her, but Furiosa silenced him with a sharp look, although her tone was teasing. “I know how to hold a baby, Nux.”
Cheedo wasn’t surprised to see Furiosa handle the sprog with her usual deftness; she wasn’t quite as mad for babies as Capable but she always enjoyed playing with An.
Holding the baby with her prosthetic, her face softened into a rare smile. “What are you going to call her?”
Capable and Nux exchanged a glance, and Capable said, “Actually…if it’s alright with Max, we wanted to name her after him.” They both smiled at Max, who was standing off to the side, behind the Vuvalini.
Nux added, in his usual blunt way, “I wanted to say sorry for using you as a blood bag, and Capable wanted to thank you for your help on the Road, and we thought this would be nice.”
Cheedo bit back a giggle at Max’s startled expression and the way he instantly looked to Furiosa for guidance. Even though he was more than a little strange, she’d grown to like him. She never imagined that she would consider a feral from the Wasteland as part of her family, but he was, and she was glad that Capable and Nux wanted to acknowledge that.
Furiosa looked down at the squirming bundle in her arms thoughtfully before she turned her gaze to Max. “She looks like a Max to me.”
Max’s lips twitched up in a small smile, “’S alright with me, then.”
Handing the baby back to Nux, Furiosa walked out the door, calling over her shoulder, “But the next one better be named Furiosa!”
Max gave Capable and Nux his version of a smile, then followed Furiosa from the room.
Capable shifted in bed and winced. “Let’s wait until this one is a day old before we start planning another sprog.”
Dag chortled. “Better you than me! I’m glad An has a cousin now, because they’re certainly not getting any siblings from me.”
The next morning, Cheedo awoke before Dag or An, too restless to stay in bed or try to go back to sleep. After dressing quickly, she left, moving silently through the sleeping Citadel. At first she wandered aimlessly, but then she found herself moving towards the tunnels, feeling drawn to them. It wasn’t the strong pull of magic that had brought her there the day before, but something more gentle, the thought that she would find answers in the place this had all begun.
This time, when Angharad emerged from the darkness, Cheedo wasn’t afraid. She didn’t flinch or flee back to the light. Instead, she asked a question.
“Why can I only see you now? Where have you been, all this time?”
Angharad shrugged. “I’m always here, in one way or another. Capable called to me, and so I came. But only you can see me, because you’re not entirely of this world anymore, and neither am I.”
“The goddess told me you were with her, in…wherever she is. Was that a lie?” The possibility of another false god tells lies, using her and her sisters for their own purpose, was almost too much to bear.
She shook her head. “I am with her, in the eternal Green Place, but part of me lingers here. I’m afraid that I’ll be forgotten, and I cannot rest until I know that will not be.”
“We could never forget you, Angharad. Dag named her baby after you, and I tell all the Pups in my classes about you.” Cheedo rarely discussed Angharad with Furiosa or her sisters-it still hurt too much-but she thought about her every day.
Cheedo noticed Angharad’s hands curling into fists, a familiar gesture when she was enraged.
“I know that I will live forever in your hearts, but what of the others in the Citadel? What do they know of my words? Everyone but you fears to enter the Vault, and most of them only know me as that lying old man’s dead wife. They still call me his name, the Splendid! I want to be remembered for who I was, not as someone’s property.”
Her voice broke, and she turned away, clearly anguished. Cheedo put a hand on her shoulder, wishing she could reassure her. But it was all true. Even though Cheedo and her sisters actively discouraged the War Boys from calling Angharad by her hated title, most of them still hadn’t broken the habit. And they had seen the other sisters up close, worked alongside with them for hundreds of days, so they knew them as people and not just legends. Not so for Angharad. Nux was the only War Boy who had ever seen her, and most of them only knew her by rumors of her magnificent beauty and violent death.
“How? Angharad, tell me, I have all this power-this strength that I don’t understand, and I don’t know what to do with it.”
Angharad’s face was alight with conviction.
“Make them remember my words, not my face. Then I can be at peace.”
But how? First the goddess, now Angharad, giving Cheedo these seemingly insurmountable duties but no guidance, just an increasingly heavy burden and sense of guilt.
Suddenly, a scream broke the early morning silence. Cheedo’s head jerked in the direction of the sound, and when she looked back, Angharad had gone.
Pushing thoughts of Angharad and her words out of her head, Cheedo ran down the tunnel in the direction of the sound. She rounded a turn and froze.
A girl, wearing the tattered rags of the former Wretched, was pinned to the floor by a group of men. One held a knife to her throat while the others ripped at her clothes.
Cheedo’s first instinct was to run and call for Toast or Furiosa. The fear in the girl’s eyes was something she had seen countless times, whenever Joe dragged off one of her sisters, and it pierced her heart as surely as the blade of a knife. But there wasn’t time to get help; either she would save this girl, or no one would.
A roaring sound filled her ears, and Cheedo did not run. She hadn’t been able to protect her sisters; she was too young, too scared to know what to do.
But she wasn’t afraid anymore.
“Hey!” She called, her voice seething with anger. “Leave her alone!”
The men turned to look at her, and even though they were newcomers to the Citadel-they must have been, to be so flagrantly violating their laws-one of them clearly recognized her, murmuring to his companions, “It’s one of the Immortan’s wives, the youngest one.”
The one with the knife leered at her, saying, “Looks old enough for breeding to me.”
He moved toward her, brandishing his weapon menacingly. From the floor the girl cried a warning, and one of the men restraining her slammed her head against the ground. The resounding crack made Cheedo flinch, and the men laughed.
They clearly were not afraid of her, because she didn’t have a gun on her hip or a hulking War Boy at her back.
It was a mistake.
The leader was still advancing on her, a cruel grin on his face, and when he reached out to grab her arm, she caught his wrist in a grip of iron.
Cheedo reached down inside herself, grappling with the rage and fear and helplessness that she had carried for far too long, and mastered it. She took all of that pain and pushed it into this man, this instrument of the other she was meant to defeat. A wave of cold swept her and she laughed with the thrill of her magic as the hand that sought to touch her against her will shriveled. The man screamed as decay crept up his arm, his flesh withering and dying. When it reached his shoulder she released him, letting him fall to the floor.
The others had abandoned the girl, staring at Cheedo with a combination of awe and fear. She snarled, “Kneel before Death!”
The deadly strength of her voice sent them all to their knees, none of them daring to look into her eyes.
Cheedo stepped around the man who tried to touch her, still writhing in agony on the ground, and went over to kneel beside the trembling girl. She pulled off her jacket and set it on the girl’s bony shoulders, and gave her what Cheedo hoped was a comforting smile.
“You’re safe now.”
She stood up, placing herself firmly between the girl and her attackers, and addressed them in a cold voice.
“Leave the Citadel at once. If you set foot in my home again, I will strike you dead. Wherever you go, share what you’ve seen today. Let every person you meet know that there is life to be found here, all the water and green a person could ever want. And tell them that Death walks the deep places beneath the Citadel and all who live here are under her protection. No matter where you are, if you ever harm another human being again, I will know, and I will punish you.”
Cheedo cast a meaningful glance towards the wasted arm of their leader, letting them all know exactly what she was capable of. They shrunk beneath her gaze, their fear evident, and she smiled. As word of her power spread throughout the Wasteland, it would protect the Citadel and those she loved more than any army ever could.
With that, she gently pulled the girl to her feet and took her hand. Seemingly dumbfounded, the girl allowed Cheedo to lead her away. Neither of them spared a look for her attackers.
Once they were away from the men, Cheedo expected the girl to recoil from her, to drop her hand, but she did neither. She seemed perfectly content to follow her, trusting that Cheedo was taking her somewhere safe. For a while, the only sounds besides their footsteps were occasional sniffles from the girl.
Finally, Cheedo broke the silence. “My name’s Cheedo.”
The girl gave her a watery grin. “I’m Mulga. Where’re we going?”
She was glad that the girl was showing an interest in what was going on; it meant that she wasn’t entirely in shock. “I’m taking you up above to get some food and new clothes. Do you have a family or anyone looking for you?”
“Just me. I got lost in the tunnels and they found me.”
Cheedo made a mental note to talk with Furiosa and Toast about posting more guards below, because she was certain that this hadn’t just happened to Mulga. “Well, once you’ve had time to rest, we can find you a place to work in the gardens or infirmary. Or even the garages, if you’d like.”
Mulga didn’t respond. Instead, she gave Cheedo a quizzical look and asked, “Why did you save me?”
Cheedo thought of the years her sisters had spent reading and thinking, developing ideology that had driven their escape. It was far too much to explain at once, but it all boiled down to a single idea, summed up by four words, beautiful in its utter clarity.
We are not things.
So she said simply. “Because you’re not a thing to be used. None of us are. We are not things.”
Mulga pondered this for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. “We are not things. I like that. Did you come up with it?”
Cheedo smiled. “No, but my sister Angharad did. They were her words.”
After taking Mulga to Risa, Cheedo knew it was time to return to her sisters. When she quietly entered their room, Dag was sitting on the bed with An on her lap, trying to coax them into eating vegetables. Capable and Toast were curled up on the floor, talking quietly as Capable nursed baby Max.
Upon her entrance, they all looked up, and she saw from their expressions that they knew that the goddess visited her. But none of them spoke, giving her the chance to talk when she was ready. Dag scooted over to make room for Cheedo, who leaned against her.
For a moment, Cheedo breathed in the soothing scent of her sisters and An’s sweet baby smell, letting their solid warmth bring her back to herself.
Dag asked softly, “You ready to talk about yesterday?”
And Cheedo found that she was, but not quite yet.
“Yes, but first I need you to do something for me. Give me her words.” She pointed to where Miss Giddy’s old tattooing kit sat, one of the few things they had taken from the Vault after their return.
Her sisters understood her instantly, and Toast passed the old leather bag to Dag, who handed her a fussy An in return. Dag twirled the pen in her fingers.
“Where should I put them?”
Cheedo extended her left arm, running her fingers over the smooth skin below her wrist, where Angharad’s scars had been. “Here.”
It hurt, Cheedo supposed, but the pain barely registered. She felt calm, transcendent. The fear was gone for good, and in its place was the unshakeable knowledge that she belonged to no one.
When Dag finished, she pulled back and admired her handiwork. WE ARE NOT THINGS blazed across Cheedo’s arm, proud and defiant. The words were swollen and red now but Cheedo knew they would be perfect once she healed.
Ignoring the stinging on her arm, she asked Capable, “Can I hold the baby?”
Capable nodded, placing the baby carefully in her arms. Little Max was warm and soft, and when Cheedo went to touch her cheek, she caught her finger, squeezing it with her tiny hand. She wasn’t afraid to touch the baby anymore; there was death in her, it was true, but there was also life, and the possibility of new beginnings.
This version of the goddess was based on the main character from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which is an excellent film that I highly recommend.
Chapter 7: Max-We Aren't Going Back
I'm sorry for the long delay, there really is no excuse for this kind of wait! Without further ado, please enjoy Max's chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
His world hadn’t always been fire and blood.
He had been a cop for ten years, a husband for eight, and a father for all of six months when the first bomb struck.
Max had grown up in the final days of the Old World, when the struggles for control of water and oil were still something that most people chose to ignore. They were considered problems, to be sure, but no one ever thought that the world would run out of water, or that people would be reduced to murdering friends and neighbors for guzzoline. The willful ignorance of those days was still astonishing, even to someone who had lived as long as Max. Around four decades in the Old World plus a century roaming the Wasteland-he wasn’t too sure of his age, anymore-and Max had yet to see foolishness even approaching the mass delusion of those days.
As time passed, he remembered less and less of the time when his family and friends and everyone he had ever known died, and the world crumbled around him. Memories of chaos and suffering violence blurred together, until all he saw whenever he closed his eyes was pain and the limitless cruelty that humans could inflict upon each other.
Yet one memory always remained crystal-clear, tearing through his mind with brutal sharpness. In a moment of despair, as the Old World took its final breaths, he had taken his old police gun with shaking fingers and stuck it in his mouth. Everyone he loved had been taken from him, and if he was going to die, it would be on his own terms.
But when he tried to pull the trigger, the gun gave a hollow click and misfired.
And the voice came, the first of the many voices that would come to populate his head.
He heard it as clearly as if someone was whispering in his ear.
Max Rockatansky, your time is not yet finished. Your world is lost but there is still hope, a possibility for redemption. You will not be the instrument of my return but only you can help my Hands make the earth whole again. Find them, Max. Seek them out, aid them in their mission, and you will have peace.
And so he wandered the dead world alone, seeking the ones he was meant to help, trying his best to protect the innocent. But he failed, over and over again, and soon other voices joined that first one, a constant reminder of those he had failed. Yet through every failure, he survived. No matter how much he bled or how hard he was struck, he always woke up, still firmly a part of this world. Slowly, he realized that he couldn’t age, couldn’t die.
The voices piled up inside his mind, drowning him in grief and regrets, and by the time he circled the Rig and set eyes on the Five Wives for the first time, it was all but forgotten.
Perhaps if he had remembered that voice, remembered his calling, he wouldn’t have pointed a gun them or shot Angharad. Maybe if he had done what he was meant to, Angharad would have lived. He would carry the guilt of that failure forever.
After the events of the Fury Road, he tried to resume to his feral life, yet he found himself called back to the Citadel, not by any voices but by a need in his very bones to return, to see Furiosa and the others. And so, after a hundred days or so, he found himself back on the lift, rising towards the women he had abandoned without a farewell. Yet he was greeted with cries of joy from the four Sisters, not to mention Nux, who had somehow, miraculously survived the crash. Furiosa hadn’t joined in the celebration but the soft look she had given him confirmed that he had made the right choice by coming back.
However, as the days passed, Max realized that there wasn’t really a place for him in the new Citadel. The Sisters and Nux were all busy with their various duties, and although Furiosa was not the ruler, she was involved in most of the crucial decisions made. So he spent his days trailing after them, sometimes assisting but often just watching, waiting. He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, but when it came, he would be ready.
Today, Max’s goal was simple. Since some time after Max’s return to the Citadel, Toast had been engaged in a long courtship with the War Boy who had tried to behead Max-something he still hadn’t entirely forgiven him for-but today Toast had announced that she and the War Boy would be taking up residence together in their own room. Thus far Max had generally ignored Toast’s paramour, but he had decided it was time to let him know what he would face if he caused Toast any harm.
Even though Toast’s War Boy was both taller and stockier than Max, he had no problem coming up behind him in a dark hallway and pinning him against the wall.
As the other man struggled, Max twisted his arm behind his back and hissed in his mangled ear, “If you hurt her I’ll make you wish you died on the Road.”
Before Toast’s War Boy-Slit, Max thought he was called-could reply, Max heard the soft brush of a boot on stone, and saw Furiosa watching them with an amused expression. Hastily he released the other man. He didn’t think Furiosa was likely to haul him in to be judged by the ruling council of the Citadel for attacking another citizen, but it wasn’t wise to blatantly break their laws in front of her.
After shooting him a dirty look, Slit hurried off, and Furiosa began to walk back towards the more populated part of the Citadel. Max followed her, and for a while they walked in companionable silence.
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about with Toast and Slit,” Furiosa remarked dryly. “She can certainly handle herself.”
Max gave a grunt of assent. What Furiosa said was undoubtedly true, but that didn’t lessen his protective feelings for Toast or her sisters in the slightest. He had pointed a gun at them and shot Angharad, and he would carry that guilt with him forever. He could never take back the wrongs he had done to them, but he could try to help them be safe and happy.
Furiosa added, “If he does something to her, you’ll have to wait in line to kill him. Her sisters told him they would curse him and make his cock fall off, Nux threatened to beat his head in with a wrench, and Val may have said something about strapping him to the front of a vehicle so she can use him for target practice.”
“And you?” Max had to admit those made his threat sound much less intimidating.
Furiosa smirked. “I’ll be the one driving the Rig while Valkyrie shoots at him.”
He thought that was an excellent plan, but before he could respond, something caught his attention.
There was a flurry of motion to their right, and out of the corner of his eye Max saw a man rushing towards Furiosa, a knife gleaming in his hand, and the voice that had fallen silent for so long whispered, Now.
The choice was easy, and without a second thought, he dove towards Furiosa, angling his body to shield her from the blade.
He felt the knife slide into his side, and no matter how many times he was shot or stabbed, it never stopped hurting. But the pain was worth it, because there was nothing he wouldn’t endure to keep her safe.
The pain woke Max like a kick to the gut, ripping him from blissful unconsciousness. He was somewhere warm, laying flat on his back, and he groaned. Where was he? What was going on?
Suddenly, it all came back to him. The assassin, the knife, Furiosa-
He opened his eyes and lurched forward, trying to get up, but a rush of dizziness hit him and he fell back, staring up at the ceiling. When he tried to roll over onto his side, he realized there was a plastic tube in his arm, giving him blood. Following the tube up, he saw Nux, sitting above him in a chair hooked up to the other end of the tube. He was dozing, with his and Capable’s baby perched on his lap. She was wide awake, staring at Max with large, thoughtful blue eyes.
When Capable entered, he realized he must be in the infirmary. She gave him a warm smile, and said, “Max! I’m so glad you’re awake-”
“Is she alright?” His throat was so dry he could hardly speak, but fortunately, Capable knew exactly what he was talking about.
Kneeling beside him, she pressed a cup of water into his hands. “She’s fine, thanks to you.”
Relief swept through him; he hadn’t known if there had been other attackers, or if the one who had stabbed him carried other weapons. He took a long, deep drink from the cup, and Capable continued, “You were very lucky, the knife only grazed your hipbone. I cleaned and stitched the wound; you’ll have a scar, but I don’t think your mobility will be affected at all. You’ve lost a lot of blood, and Nux insisted on donating himself.”
Nux gave him a sleepy smile. “’s the least I could do.”
“Furiosa said when if you felt up to it to bring you to the interrogation, but I don’t know…” Capable looked at him worriedly, clearly not believing that he was well enough to leave the room.
But Max was determined to see Furiosa with his own eyes, to be certain she was okay. Capable took one look at the stubborn set of his jaw and reluctantly had Nux help him into a rickety old wheelchair. They wheeled him through the winding maze of tunnels that ran through the Citadel, Max trying to hide his winces every time the wheelchair hit a bump. Finally, they reached a small, dim room, where Furiosa stood with the other three Sisters. When Max saw that Furiosa was fine, albeit watching him with a strange expression, he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Although he didn’t think Capable would lie to him, he needed to see Furiosa for himself before he would feel at ease.
Furiosa’s gaze flicked away from Max, and he noticed a dishevelled man, tied to a chair, behind her. This must be the assassin…Max hadn’t gotten a good look at him before, and he was surprised at how small he seemed now.
Toast said to Furiosa, “Let us talk to him.”
Furiosa nodded, and Max saw the would-be assassin sag with relief, not bothering to hide his satisfaction that the Sisters would be his interrogators, not Furiosa or Nux. For a moment, Max saw them through this stranger’s eyes: four young women, one with a baby on her hip, another one standing barely shoulder-high to everyone else in the room, and the other two clinging to each other, hands intertwined. He clearly didn’t fear them, which Max knew to be a mistake. Even though Furiosa had nearly beaten him to death one-handed on the Fury Road and he’d watched Nux gleefully chop off the hands and the head of a man who harmed Capable, he would take his chances with either of them over the Sisters any day.
Capable passed their sprog to Nux, and he left, casting a final glance at the man in the chair. The four women stepped forward, surrounding the prisoner as they inspected him, moving as one. All the while they spoke in rapid fragments, constantly starting and finishing each other’s sentences, in what he had realized was more or less their own private language. It was difficult for Max to understand in the best of times, and now he only caught snippets.
“See the marks on his arm?”
“He’s had a blood bag recently, must be from one of the settlements-”
“-but which one? Who’s willing to risk their shipments of water and produce?”
“Probably thought if Furiosa was dead the Citadel would be easy to take-”
“-then whoever they are, they’re crazy smegs. As long as we four live, our home will never fall.”
“How do we know Furiosa was his only target? Maybe he was meant to kill her, then strike us down too.”
“He might not even be the only one, could there be other assassins?”
“It still wouldn’t work, the council would rule the Citadel even without us-”
“-and it would take more than a measly blade to harm Her hands on earth.”
“See that grey dust on his boots? Could be lead, maybe he’s from the Bullet Farm.”
“Or we’re meant to think that. Whoever did this wants to destabilize our relations with the other settlements.”
“Before we consider the broader consequences we need to know whether he acted of his own free will or if he was coerced-”
“-because we can’t punish him if he was forced.”
As suddenly as it had started, their quiet conversation stopped, and Toast stopped in front of the bound man.
She asked the man firmly. “Who sent you?
In reply, he hissed, “Never gonna tell you anything, breeder!”, then spat in Toast’s face. As she recoiled in shock, he threw himself forward, driving his head into hers and knocking her onto the floor.
The room burst into chaos. In a flash, Furiosa had pulled him and the chair off Toast, then pressed her knife to his throat. Dag lunged at him, snarling, while Cheedo caught her arm and tried to pull her back. Capable immediately crouched beside Toast, wiping the spittle from her face and checking on her.
Max tried to get up, to help Furiosa, but he was barely halfway out of his seat before a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him and he slumped back down. Why was he still so weak? Blood loss had never affected him like this before.
From the floor, Capable said, “It’s alright, Max, you stay there.”
But it wasn’t alright, they were in danger, Furiosa and the Sisters, and he was trapped in a chair, unable to help or do anything but watch. He felt helpless, the way he had on the Road, when Furiosa looked at him desperately through the chaotic battle, life draining from the wound on her side, and he had battled his way through hell to get back to her.
“Give me one reason I shouldn’t open your throat right now.” Furiosa, looking as if she wouldn’t bother with the knife and would use her teeth instead.
With her fingers pressed to the bleeding cut on her forehead, Toast said, “We need that information. Kill him after, I don’t care, but we need him alive for that.”
“You heard the scum, he’ll never talk,” Dag muttered from Cheedo’s arms.
“Furiosa,” Cheedo’s voice was soft after all the commotion. “Let me try.”
Max saw the reluctance in Furiosa’s eyes, her hesitation over letting Cheedo come into such close contact with this man. He understood that same instinct, to want to protect her and her sisters, but they were their own people, and neither Max nor Furiosa had the right to tell them what to do.
Cheedo continued, “You know what I can do. I’ll get the information and he won’t be able to hurt me.”
Furiosa gave a curt nod, then moved back.
Toast, now leaning against Capable, called, “Give him hell, little sister.”
After giving Dag’s hand a reassuring squeeze, Cheedo set her eyes on the prisoner, walking until she stood directly in front of him. Cheedo sank to her knees in a single smooth motion, her black skirts pooling around her.
“Do you know who I am?”
Attempting to intimidate her, the man looked her up and down lasciviously, then grunted, “Don’t know why I should be scared of you, you’re just one of the Immortan’s whores.”
The quiet hum of magic always surrounding the Sisters intensified as their faces hardened, making the hair on Max’s arms stand up. Apparently oblivious to the danger he was in, the man smirked at having upset them. He opened his mouth to speak again, but Cheedo leaned in, her great dark eyes fixed on his, and he shrank back into himself, finally seeing the ancient power he had angered.
When she spoke, it was not with the frightened voice of a girl wondering if Max would come with them to the Green Place. Nor was it desperate, like when she had called for Rictus to move her onto the Rig, or triumphant, as when she announced Joe’s end. There was something ancient about it, older than the stones of the Citadel or anything in the Old World, and its strength seemed almost too immense for Cheedo’s slender frame.
“I am Death. A person can spend their whole life lying to themselves and everyone else, but when they face me, they cannot hide the truth.”
She lifted a slim brown hand to hover beside his head, and took a deep breath.
“I see it all. Your fear…they told you we would force you all to worship us, in exchange for water and food. A lie, but one you were willing to believe, because you hated us anyway. Hated us for destroying Joe’s regime and for our power. You don’t trust us, or our goddess. If you hadn’t tried to kill Furiosa and then hurt Toast, I might feel sorry for you, so unwilling to accept Her love.”
Max could see the fear in the man’s face as Cheedo reached into his mind, moving through it as easily as she would turn the pages of a book, but he felt no sympathy for him.
Cheedo, seemingly thinking out loud, continued, “So you did this because you wanted to. But who sent you?”
The air went cold as the other three sisters focused their energy on the man, pouring their strength into Cheedo. Her presence seemed to swell, power rolling off her in waves, filling the room with the smells of fresh-turned earth and paper and blood and sex, the scent of their magic. Every dream and nightmare, all the fear and hope and love and rage that had ever been, was theirs, and they turned it all on him.
Cheedo’s brow furrowed with concentration as she channeled their power, and Max raised a hand to shield his eyes against the bright light emanating from them.
Then the man must have cracked, because the room suddenly relaxed and Max was able to look at the Sisters again. They were mortal once more.
Cheedo announced, “He’s from Gas Town. You’re right, Toast, they tried to make us think he was from the Bullet Farm so we’d waste our strength fighting them instead, after he assassinated Furiosa. But thanks to Max, that didn’t happen.”
All four of the Sisters flashed grateful smiles at them, and for a moment he basked in the pleasure of their approval.
Then Toast said, “Furiosa, I think we’re all done here. How about you take Max back to his room while we get him to the cells?” She cast a dirty look at the prisoner, just in case any of them were unclear as to what she meant.
And so Max found himself being wheeled back to his room by a silent Furiosa. When they arrived, he found himself reluctant to return to his bed, so he stayed in his chair, waiting for Furiosa to talk.
For the first time since the assassination attempt, she spoke to him directly.
“Why’d you take the knife for me? You could have just pushed me out of the way. Would have been easier.”
Max shrugged. It wasn’t even that he knew he could survive it. Quite simply, in the heat of the moment he had forgotten about himself and his own survival, because her life was all that mattered. “Seemed like the right thing to do.”
Furiosa nodded, a strange look on her face. “Once you’re healed, I understand if you want to move on.”
“Hm?” The comment took him entirely off-guard; he hadn’t even contemplated going anywhere else. Was she casting him out of the Citadel?
She sighed. “You seem lost here, just following me and the girls around all day. Settlement life must not suit you. You’ve gone grey since you came back.”
For a moment he was confused, then he remembered that hair lost its color as a person aged. That fact was one of the many little things that slipped from his mind during those long decades in the Wasteland; before meeting the Vuvalini, he hadn’t seen an elderly person for thousands of days.
But what was she talking about? He hadn’t had grey hair when the Old World fell, and aside from scars, nothing about his appearance had changed since then.
And yet…he hadn’t seen his own reflection since returning to the Citadel. Was it possible…was he finally aging?
“Mirror,” He grunted, “Need a mirror.”
If Furiosa was confused by his strange request, she didn’t show it. After rifling through Capable’s bag of medical supplies, she produced a cracked old hand mirror and handed it to him.
Holding it up, he studied his reflection intently. His face was the same, but the hair…
She was right. Threads of grey ran through the light brown hair he remembered, and he couldn’t suppress the surprised chuckle that burst from his lips.
Deep down, he wondered if Furiosa had suspected something. She knew as well as him that no human should have survived losing the amount of blood he had given to her and Nux. On the Road, he had kept the hand injured during the first chase bandaged to avoid any awkward questions, but he had regained full use of it within a few hours. Max doubted that its rapid recovery had escaped her sharp eyes. And no one could see the things that the Sisters did, see who they had become, and not acknowledge the existence of magic in the world.
Furiosa quirked an eyebrow at him. “Like what you see?”
He looked at her, still smiling. He had finally fulfilled his purpose. Furiosa and the Sisters were safe, the new world they would build together guaranteed.
The blood he had given her on the Road was necessary, yes, but now his task was complete.
And even though he was free now, he felt no urge to leave the Citadel or Furiosa’s side. His place was here, with her.
With his family.
“If it’s alright with you, I think I’ll, uh, stay here for a while.”
She smiled and squeezed his hand, and Max knew that she understood all those things he felt but was unable to put into words.
There was no going back to the Old World or the person he had once been. Those were utterly lost to him. But now there was hope, the possibility of a new world, and a new Max. Not a cop, a Road Warrior, a feral, or a blood bag, but Max as a person. That Max, perhaps, could attain some kind of peace.
And by moving forward, he would find redemption.
I hope that was worth the wait! I promise that the next chapter won't take three months to write :P Valkyrie will be next, and Furiosa's chapter will be the final one. Also, if you're interested in reading more of my writing while waiting for the next chapter, I've written a bunch of other Fury Road oneshots, including 'His Words', a Nuxable oneshot set in the Words universe. Thanks for reading!
Chapter 8: Valkyrie-Seven Thousand Days
Happy first birthday to Our Words!!!! I've really enjoyed writing this fic, and I'm so grateful that people are reading it and enjoying it :) Also, I am SO SORRY at how late this is, five months is way too long for a chapter. I'm pretty nervous about this one and I really hope you all enjoy it, though!
To (hopefully) enhance your reading experience, I've come up with a playlist for this entire series (Her Words, this entire fic, His Words, and Revenant), so give it a listen if you'd like!
Thanks as always to my wonderful friend, bluebeholder, for being a great friend and listening to all my Mad Max rambles and letting me bounce ideas off her.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Once, in a green place, two sisters were born within a moon’s turn. The first entered the world under the light of a harvest moon-an auspicious time for a birth, the elders agreed. Her coming was easy, a relief for her birth mother KT Concannon, who had lost several babies before. She was plump and healthy, and the tribe rejoiced at her arrival, for she was the first living child to be born to the Vuvalini in over three thousand days. And when one of her mothers-as she had many-saw her keen bright eyes, she declared that this child would called Valkyrie, for the Old World goddesses who searched battlefields to carry off the souls of deserving warriors.
That night, she slept between KT and her mother’s wife, Mary Jo Bassa. As Valkyrie stirred against Mary’s pregnant belly, the child within responded, kicking and turning, and their mothers smiled at one another. After so many hardships, these children were a living embodiment of possibility, the hope that their people would endure.
The second child joined her sister some days later, when the night sky was dark and moonless. She slipped into the world howling, waving her tiny fists and feet. As soon as she finished nursing, she began to scream again, and was only quiet when placed beside her sister. They curled together, as though they recognized one another, and the new baby calmed instantly. Mirrin, the eldest living mother, had been helping sprogs into the world for longer than anyone else, and she remarked that she had only ever seen twins behave in such a way. Even though they were born from different mothers, they were as familiar to each other as two babies that had shared the space beneath their mother’s heart for three hundred days.
The same mother who named Valkyrie-Linnaea, she was called, the name-giver of their people-took one look at this infant, already screaming her rage at the world, and said, “This one’s angry, alright. We’ll call her Furiosa.”
That night, when KT and Mary laid their daughters down to sleep, KT said to her wife, “There’s a reason the Mother blessed us with two children after so many years. These two were meant for each other.”
With each day that passed, KT’s words showed themselves to be more and more true. Furiosa and Valkyrie were inseparable, and their mothers joked that the brief span between their births was the most time they had ever spent apart. Their early days were blissful ones, spent basking in their mothers’ love.
Regardless of the parts between their legs or whose body they came from, all children were beloved by the Vuvalini, and no child was raised by a single mother. As soon as they could walk, they spent their days working with the various clans, learning what it meant to be one of the Many Mothers. And of course, Furiosa and Valkyrie began their training together, walking proud and tall as they began their first day of work under the gentle instruction of their tribe.
Despite this, the two sisters were still different in many ways. Furiosa excelled with machines, the guns and vehicles and agricultural devices so lovingly preserved after the Old World fell, and could drive before she was three thousand days old. She found her clan easily: the mechanics and drivers, Clan Swaddle Dog. As her birth-mother Mary could not stand as initiate mother as well, her heart-mother KT became her initiate mother too.
With her mothers and sister in Swaddle Dog, the rest of the tribe expected that Valkyrie would join, but she surprised them all. Although she was a better shot than most, and not a bad driver at that, she lacked the deep affinity for metal that Swaddle Dog initiates possessed. Valkyrie’s heart was in living things: tending the fields that sustained them, caring for the sick and injured with the clan known as Harvest Snake.
It was well, the elders said, and Valkyrie began the process that would lead to her initiation as a full member of Harvest Snake.
Later in life, Valkyrie understood what had been intended for her and Furiosa. They were being groomed as future leaders of the tribe, with Furiosa at the head of Swaddle Dog and Valkyrie guiding Harvest Snake. Their mothers desperately hoped that these two miraculous children, goddess-given in the twilight days of their people, would be able to forge some kind of future for the Many Mothers out of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles they faced. Although the adults never spoke of it to them-and Furiosa did not seem to notice-Valkyrie was aware of their myriad troubles-that their soils of the Green Place seemed to produce less and less every year, a problem supplemented by the dwindling supply of clean water. How their tribe itself was shrinking-the older members were dying off, and Furiosa and Valkyrie were the only Vuvalini younger than ten thousand days old.
Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if she and Furiosa had grown to adulthood together and taken command of the tribe, as they were meant to. Would they have been able to find a solution to their increasingly bleak situation? Had there ever been hope for the Green Place to survive?
It was fruitless to dwell on what might have been, Valkyrie knew, and in the end, it was a future not meant to be.
Just after Valkyrie and Furiosa marked their five thousandth day, everything changed.
Mary and Furiosa had ridden out before dawn on a routine patrol, and after bidding them farewell, Valkyrie had gone about her day. When the sun reached its zenith and they still had not returned, she felt the first trickle of unease, and went to tell KT. Her mother tried to act as though nothing was out of the ordinary, but Valkyrie heard the fear in her voice as she assembled a search party.
The knot of anxiety in Valkyrie’s stomach grew as the afternoon passed, and when her mother finally returned after dark, with tears streaking her face, she knew something terrible had happened.
She only heard fragments of the conversation around her-bike crashed, strange tracks, bullets and blood everywhere, no sign of them-but it was enough to bring her world crashing down around her.
For the first time in her life, Valkyrie was alone as she laid down on her pallet to sleep. Usually her mother KT slept on one side of her, with Furiosa on her other, and Mary shielding Furiosa’s back from the wind. But KT, maddened by grief, had gone out alone, asking Mel to keep an eye on Valkyrie. As for Furiosa and Mary…
More than likely, she would never feel Furiosa’s comforting warmth in the night, or be woken up by a kiss from Mary. That part of her life was over, stolen from them by some threat lurking beyond their borders.
The thought of never seeing them again, of a life without her mother and sister, hurt more than anything Valkyrie felt before.
She cried herself to sleep that night, desperate and unbelieving, unable to accept that Furiosa could be gone from her life.
She was dreaming, but it felt nothing like any dream she had had before. Valkyrie was alone in one of the fields, the soil warm beneath her bare feet. The soft leaves of the plants brushed against her ankles as she stepped forward, and she trembled. Although it were identical to the planting she had worked in that very morning, stripping insects from the tender seedlings, she felt certain that she was somewhere else, somewhere strange.
The sky above her moved, into night and day and night again, almost faster than her eyes could follow. She watched with horror as the Green Place shriveled and died around her, the rich black earth transforming into grey mud, and suddenly she was in a new place, somewhere unfamiliar.
Sand surrounded her, more than she had ever seen before, piled up in great heaps.
Where was she? This wasn’t the Green Place, or like the flat stretches of wasteland she had seen in her brief forays beyond their borders.
She closed her eyes, wondering if she could wake up, but when she opened them, she was still in that strange place. But she was no longer alone.
Dozens of people walked slowly around her, and although she felt their gaze on her, none of them would meet her eyes. She was not afraid; by their clothing, she judged that they were members of her tribe. Some were familiar to her, yet most were the faces of strangers.
Their voices filled her ears, as if all the Vuvalini, past and present, were speaking as one.
“You’re the only hope against what is to come, Valkyrie. Only through you can the Vuvalini survive.”
Her mothers stepped forward from the crowd, with smiles and words of encouragement, but one by one, they disappeared, until she was left standing all alone.
“What’s coming? What could destroy the Mothers?”
An army of vehicles, more than she had ever seen, filled her vision, bore down on her. The earth trembled at the roar of their engines, and she threw her arms up to shield herself, certain that they would run her down.
But they vanished, replaced with great towers of stone looming above her, pointing towards the sky, dotted with green and swarming with men painted white. At the center of it all was-she supposed it must be a man, but he was seemed different, almost inhuman, with a strange mask covering half his face and a horrible wheezing sound whenever he breathed.
She felt a surge of revulsion, a deep and instinctive hatred for whoever, whatever, he was.
Fortunately, he disappeared, and her vision became blurred as a series of images flashed before her: bolt cutters, a man hanging upside down in a cage, a skull blazing red-hot, five young women running through the desert, a massive wall of storm clouds-
Abruptly everything changed once again, though this time she was in a familiar place: one of the watchtowers on the far eastern border of the Green Place. The wind was harsh on her bare skin, but she barely noticed as a flash of movement caught her eye.
She saw a woman, tall and hard, walking to her through the sand. Her hair was cropped short, and her clothes were odd, with wisps of stained white fabric covering her upper body-nothing like the sturdy garments worn by their tribe. With every step she took, a hideous metal skull hanging between her legs swayed back and forth.
Her arms were stretched out in supplication, in greeting, and Valkyrie realized that her left arm ended at the elbow, with a gleaming prosthetic taking its place.
The stranger looked her straight in the eye, and Valkyrie felt a jolt travel through her. Despite the unfamiliarity of her appearance, there was no mistaking the eyes. This was Furiosa.
“Watch for me, Valkyrie. I will return to you from the west.”
“How long? How long will I have to wait?” She cried to this unknown figure with the eyes of her beloved sister.
“Seven thousand days, plus the ones I won’t remember.”
In the days that followed, her mothers watched her closely, ready to offer words of comfort or dry her tears, yet there was no need. She did not cry, nor did she speak of her lost sister or mother, but kept all her pain inside. When she was five thousand days old, Valkyrie took on the burdens of the tribe, training alongside Swaddle Dog as well as Harvest Snake. She was determined to be both Valkyrie and Furiosa for their people, a warrior as well as a healer, the savior who was their only hope.
The years that followed were a haze of pain and loss. KT never recovered from the abduction of her wife and daughter, and grief caused her to fade away, lost in her mourning. One by one, her mothers died, and when KT didn’t wake up one morning, it was almost a relief for Valkyrie, to know her mother was in a place beyond heartbreak.
It seemed to Valkyrie as if the Green Place died with its inhabitants, the water turning sour in the places it didn’t dry up, and the crops withering and dying.
She did not think her heart could break any further, but it did.
On the day they abandoned their homeland for good, moving to the dunes beyond its borders-leaving behind the ashes of KT and all the Mothers who had passed from this world-the sorrow inside her opened a chasm in her chest, threatening to consume her.
But she remembered that childhood dream, the words she knew had been a message from the Goddess, a promise that she would see Furiosa again, and never gave up hope.
The day that her sister returned started like any other, and Valkyrie took her position atop the watchtower. Even if she hadn’t been the only member of the tribe still agile enough to climb to the top, she would have volunteered anyway; she liked being the one who kept watch. And a part of her always hoped that this would be the day that Furiosa came back to her.
Yet when she spotted the vehicle approaching from the west and began her false distress cries, it didn’t occur to her that her sister could be one of its passengers. So when the massive rig rumbled to a halt in front of the tower, and an aching familiar woman climbed down and began to call out those precious words, names that Valkyrie thought she would never hear again, it took her breath away.
Valkyrie let out the call not used for thousands of days-a joyful announcement that a member of the tribe had returned home-and scrambled to climb down from the tower.
She pulled the coarse dress over her head with trembling fingers, her heart pounding with excitement.
She ran towards her sister on feet made light by happiness, the years of loss falling away with every step. When she paused a few feet away from Furiosa, she drank in every line of her sister’s beloved face. She saw pain there, the suffering she must have endured, and knew that Furiosa must see something similar in her own eyes, but for a moment, none of that matter, washed away in the joy of their reunion.
Furiosa said, in a soft voice that sounded so much like Mary’s, “It’s me.”
Without hesitating, they rushed into each other’s arms, pressing their foreheads together in greeting. Valkyrie cupped the back of Furiosa’s shorn head as Furiosa’s fingers tangled in her own thick hair, and choked back a sob.
One of Valkyrie’s earliest memories was Furiosa’s smell, the clear, sharp scent of fresh water. In the hard years after her abduction, as the wells of the Green Place soured and dried up, the memory had faded, and Valkyrie thought she had forgotten entirely how her sister smelled. But when she pressed her face against her sister’s neck and inhaled, it all came rushing back, and for an instant they were children again, together in the Green Place, shielded by their mothers’ love.
As she held her sister close, Valkyrie swore that nothing-not war or famine or even death-would ever separate them again.
Seven thousand days had been stolen from them, and Valkyrie refused to lose any more.
I hope you all enjoyed it! Up next is our final chapter, Furiosa! I will probably finish Revenant first, then post Furiosa's chapter, and then I have plans to write a multi-chapter fic about Toast set in this universe. Thank you all for reading (and extra thanks to those who leave kudos and comments :P) !!!!!
Chapter 9: Furiosa-We're going to the Green Place of Many Mothers
Wow, almost a year since my last update! This is the final chapter of Our Words, although Knowing (which is set in this same universe) is still ongoing. I've also updated the Words playlist to include the music for this chapter, but if you listen to it as you read this chapter for the first time, don't read my paragraph explaining which songs go with which scene (it's spoiler-y), just listen to them in order.
This chapter has been a work in progress since January 2016, and I'm so glad to finally share it with you all. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Angharad’s bed in the Vault was really too small to fit two people comfortably, but for Furiosa, it was the only peaceful place in the world. Angharad was dozing, and although Furiosa was tempted to let herself drift off too, something about this moment was too precious to lose to sleep.
But then the thing inside Angharad kicked, causing her to wince and open her eyes, and Furiosa stiffened. She hated it for what it was, a constant reminder of Joe’s violations, never letting them forget who they belonged to.
Sensing her unease, Angharad gently guided Furiosa’s hand over the swell of her belly, twining their fingers together.
“We’ll raise this sprog together, in the Green Place of Many Mothers.” She was so sincere, so utterly set in her convictions that it broke Furiosa’s heart all over again. Angharad didn’t understand how badly things could go out there, on the Road, and Furiosa wondered again if this was really the right thing to do.
The uncertainty must have been apparent on her face, because Angharad squeezed her hand reassuringly and said, “It’s a good plan. Dangerous but we’ll be free.”
“Freedom doesn’t mean anything if we’re all dead.”
Suspicion crossed Angharad’s face. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“There’s no use in fighting back. Joe won and life will be easier if you just accept that.” Unable to bear the expression on Angharad’s face, Furiosa climbed off the bed and began to dress.
“You know that’s not true. A few weeks ago we saw someone try to escape, from the western tower,” Angharad said fiercely.
Furiosa hadn’t witnessed the event herself, but it was the talk of the Citadel. Some feral had slipped his chains and killed a few War Boys before they finally recaptured him.
“It didn’t matter, he’s in the Blood Shed now anyway. All he did was cause himself more pain.” She was trying to avoid looking at Angharad as she slid on her boots, but Angharad had moved in front of her.
She shook her head angrily, as if trying to shake off Furiosa’s words. “That’s not the point, at least he’s trying to fight back! And if he can, why not us?”
“You know it’s not the same.”
“Why not? Why can he fight for his freedom but we can’t? Are we too valuable? Breeding stock only push out babies, we don’t get to make our own choices, do we?” Angharad snarled.
Furiosa ignored her, stepping into the main room of the Vault. They’d had versions of this argument countless times, and she refused to have it now. She needed to be calm and focused; even the slightest distraction could ruin their plan. Besides, she knew how it would end. Neither of them ever won, because Angharad refused to let the harsh realities of the world change her beliefs, and Furiosa didn’t see much point in challenging the injustices of Joe’s society with words. They wouldn’t change anything, only action would.
They had compromised on some things, though. When planning the escape, there had been a lot of discussion on how much killing would be acceptable. Furiosa didn’t like the idea of killing her crew yet felt that bloodshed was unavoidable, but the Sisters had disagreed heartily.
Toast was the most reasonable, saying that only War Boys who tried to directly interfere with their escape should die. Dag thought only the Imperators, Joe, and his sons should be killed-the ones who made the decisions, not the brainwashed masses of Boys. Capable and Cheedo thought that, once they were free of the Citadel, the War Boys should be given a chance to change their allegiance instead of being killed immediately, and of course Angharad opposed killing of any kind.
Ultimately they had decided that there would be no negotiations-most War Boys were too far gone to even consider acting against Joe-but War Boys would be dumped off the Rig alive if possible, and killed only as a last resort. None of them were happy about it but it was the best agreement they could come to.
As she walked across the Vault, Angharad followed her, softly taking hold of her arm as they reached the door. Furiosa looked at her, trying to keep her face impassive.
Only Toast was sitting near the pool-the others must have been upstairs with Miss Giddy-and although her eyes never left the book in her lap, Furiosa was certain that she was watching them closely. It was strange, how the other four women trusted Furiosa with their lives, but not with their sister. They were all fiercely protective of one another, in a way Furiosa could never understand. She supposed it was because they weren’t able to protect one another from the only one who could truly harm them-Joe.
When Angharad spoke, the anger was gone from her voice, and she sounded almost pleading. “This is our chance to be free. Our only chance.”
Angharad leaned in, but not to kiss her, as Furiosa thought she might. Instead, her lips brushed Furiosa’s ear as she whispered, “If something happens on the Road…if you have to choose between my sisters or me, choose them.”
“Angharad, I-” She tried to pull back, but Angharad caught hold of her chin, forcing her to make eye contact.
“Promise me!” Her voice was still low but her eyes were blazing in a way Furiosa had never seen before. “If you love me, promise you’ll protect them, no matter what!”
“I will-I do. I promise you.” Before she could question her further, Angharad kissed her, and Furiosa lost herself in the stolen moment of sweetness, hoping it would not be their last.
Angharad’s words followed her as she walked back to her own room. If they were ever going to leave-if Furiosa was ever going home-it had to be now.
Time was their enemy. Although Furiosa’s skills as driver and warrior were unparalleled, every time she went on a run, there was always the possibility she would not return. Without her, there could be no escape.
The others were living on borrowed time. The sisters lived in a state of perpetual fear, waiting for their monthly bleeding to begin. There was no good outcome; a missed flow was just as dangerous as one that came.
Before, when Furiosa had been a breeder, discarded wives were passed on to the Imperators. But as Joe aged and became increasingly paranoid and violent, the women who displeased him were cast out among the Wretched or killed outright. Capable had yet to catch a sprog, and Joe often hinted that there was no place in the Citadel for breeders who couldn’t breed. Sooner or later, if her belly remained flat, he would throw her out or kill her. The longer they stayed, the more likely that Toast would fall pregnant again. Her first pregnancy had nearly killed her, and Furiosa suspected that she would find a way to end her own life before she risked it to give Joe an heir. The same with Angharad and Dag-Joe’s wrath would be terrible if they lost their babies, and if either of them had a healthy boy, Joe would keep them under even closer confinement.
And if Cheedo bled…nothing would keep Joe away from her. Only the reminder of Toast’s lost son, the one he had put in her when she was first brought to the Citadel, had protected her so far.
Yet escape was just as dangerous, maybe even more so. Even if they got through the mountains before Joe began to pursue them, they had to dispose of her crew and get through hostile territory-and that was a best-case scenario. It was possible that they would be discovered before they even made it to the Rig.
She felt like she had an impossible choice to make, because staying was as intolerable as leaving was potentially deadly. The other women were willing to risk their lives for freedom, but could she bring herself to put them in harm’s way?
She didn’t have a real bed in her room, just a stone bunk carved out of the wall, but at least she was alone. Knowing that she should try to get a few hours of rest, she laid down and shut her eyes, turning over the decision she had to make over and over in her mind.
“Furiosa.” The word was soft but it startled her, and she wondered if she was dreaming, because the voice speaking her name was that of a woman, and she was the only woman in this part of the Citadel.
“Mother?” The word fell involuntarily from her lips, because her initiate mother, KT Concannon, was smiling down at her. The half-forgotten details she had cherished came flooding back in full force. The dark sheen of her hair, entwined with feathers in a long, thick braid, the lines at the corners of her eyes as she smiled, it was all the same as she remembered from the golden days of her childhood.
But this wasn’t her mother. She was someone-or something-entirely unfamiliar to her, and that meant she could be dangerous. Just because this apparition wore her mother’s face did not mean she trusted it.
Not for the first time, Furiosa wished she had a weapon in her room. But Joe, ever-paranoid, even when it came to his Imperators, would not permit it. Yet her hand clenched into a fist as she spoke, ready to strike out if she had to.
“Who are you?” She sat up slowly, not liking being in such a vulnerable position.
“I have borne a thousand names and a thousand faces, but your people called me the Goddess and the Mother. I am many-named and the deathless savior. I am the One Who is All and the mother of the world. I caught the sun and set the stars in their proper place. I nourish my children in life and in death. I am the queen of rivers and winds and seas, I am the queen of war, I am the queen of the thunderbolt. I am the lady of darkness and light and everything in between. I am all that ever has been and ever will be, and I overcome fate. And no mortal hand, even one as skilled as yours, can harm me, so I would suggest you relax.”
Even seven thousand days spent under the self-proclaimed god Joe had not entirely erased her memories of the religion of her mothers and the Great Mother that they worshipped. Yet she had not thought of this goddess for a long, long time.
“That’s what Joe says too. Calls himself a savior and redeemer.” Even if she was truly the divine Mother, there was no place for true gods in the Citadel.
Her face hardened. “Don’t confuse what I am with him. This world was born from my blood and tears, and he is only its tormentor. But you could put an end to him and put this broken land on the path to healing. You can still find your redemption.”
Anger flared up in her, because this goddess was making her choice seem so obvious, so straightforward. But Furiosa had served Joe and aided him in his crimes for the majority of her life, and she knew better than anyone how he punished those who opposed him. They could die if they stayed, but death was almost certain on the Road. If they were recaptured, Joe would have no mercy, and she couldn’t be responsible for their deaths. They would hate her for refusing the escape, but she would rather have them alive to hate her than dead on the Road or at Joe’s hand.
“The escape isn’t happening.” She said it in a flat voice, hoping that would be the end of the conversation. But it wasn’t.
“Do you have faith?”
Furiosa gave a bitter laugh. “Faith in what? The gods are dead. Joe rules here.”
“You know what I am. How could you not believe?”
“My mother believed, and you let her die.”
No one had loved the Goddess more than Mary Jo Bassa, who prayed to Her twice a day and taught her daughters all the proper songs and words for Her worship. But her faith hadn’t saved her when the Organic Mechanic’s predecessor had examined her and declared her too old to breed or give milk, and she was taken away to die. Her last words to Furiosa had been, “I love you. Trust in Her, she is your mother now.”
Fool that she was, Furiosa had believed her, for a time. She had trusted, and waited-waited for the Vuvalini to descend upon the Citadel and liberate her, waited for the Mother herself to lay waste to Joe and his armies with divine fury, then carry Furiosa back to her people. As time passed, she began to pray for another form of deliverance: the release of death, to escape her living hell and be with her mother once again. Surely the merciful, all-compassionate Mother would extend Her hand and take Furiosa’s soul away, even if her body could not be freed.
Yet through torture and rape and countless battles, against all the odds, she survived.
Her self-amputation of her arm to free herself from a wrecked rig was the stuff of Citadel legends, the glorious act that had raised her to the status of Imperator. No one knew that, delirious with pain, Furiosa had done it in an attempt to take fate into her own hands and end her life. But she hadn’t bled to death, infection hadn’t set in, and still, she lived.
After that, Furiosa stopped praying. She tried not to think about the Mother anymore, because even if she did exist, it seemed obvious that she did not care.
She hadn’t spoken of her birth mother in so long, and now that she had started, she didn’t know if she could stop. “You took her from me and then left me here, alone, for seven thousand days. Why should I believe that you’ll help me now?”
“I never left you, Furiosa. I suffered with you, I felt it all. I feel every act of violence, every last atrocity, that Joe commits against my children.” For a moment, Furiosa saw blood and bruises bloom over the Mother’s skin, her body a canvas for the cruelty of humanity. “As the world died and his power grew, I become weaker and almost vanished. But your rebellion has given me strength. If the false god is destroyed, then you will can in peace and begin to fix what’s broken.”
That was what she wanted, more than anything. Joe dead and to be free. Although she was beyond caring about the rest of the world, she knew that the others dreamed of casting down the hierarchy of the Citadel and building something better in its place. But was that dream worth risking their lives?
“Will we survive the Road?”
The Goddess looked away. “I cannot say. You could all perish on the Road, yes, but you could also live, and the world could be remade. If you stay, you might live or die, but you will undoubtedly be broken. The wheel that crushed you will continue to turn, and Joe’s victory will be absolute.”
It was a non-answer, and it frustrated Furiosa. Would it be worth risking all of their lives for only the possibility of freedom?
The Mother continued, “You know better than anyone that there are fates far worse than death. You must decide yourself what to do, and know that although my magic is not what it once was, I will help as much as I can.”
KT’s lean hand brushed hers. For an instant the sharp fumes of guzzoline burned her nose and the Rig’s wheel vibrated beneath her fingers, and she saw a wall of storm clouds, massive beyond imagining, rolling across the desert. It was a storm capable of swallowing an army whole.
Then she was alone in an empty room, wondering.
All that could have gone wrong with their escape had. The army pursuing them meant that Joe must have noticed that she’d gone off road immediately, and that Miss Giddy had not been able to kill him. And even though the Buzzards had helpfully picked off her escort and most of her crew, the Ace had managed to hang on, so she would have to kill him herself. But then she saw something that took her breath away.
It was the storm from her vision-so enormous it filled the horizon and blocked out the sky.
She leaned forward, not believing what she was seeing. This was a storm out of legend, something that hadn’t been seen in her lifetime. And this one had simply appeared out of nowhere, with no warning.
“I overcome fate.”
Suddenly Ace was back at her side and asked, “Why can’t you stop?”
She didn’t respond, wanting to put this off for as long as possible. She didn’t want to kill this man who had become a friend to her, someone she knew was loyal and more worthy of respect than any other War Boy.
“What have you done?” He shouted, grabbing her throat, “What have you done?”
The gun was in her hand, it would have been so easy to shoot him, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead she slammed it into his head, hoping he would fall-
But he clung on until she slammed the Rig into one pursuit vehicle, and then he was gone, and it was just Furiosa and the storm.
KT had survived one as a child and told her, long ago, the only way to survive a storm like this was to drive straight through, and hope your vehicle was heavy enough not to be swept away. She doubted most of her pursuers knew this, and even if they did, their vehicles would not be able to withstand the winds. Joe would be forced to pull back if he wanted his army to survive.
This storm might buy them the time they needed to get beyond the mountains, to safety.
Perhaps She really was looking out for them. And despite everything, the thought gave Furiosa hope. She remembered something the Goddess had said.
Fate had made them Joe’s property, but by the grace of the Mother they could be free.
Furiosa accelerated, racing towards the storm, embracing it like a lover.
The storm had served its purpose, sweeping away their pursuers, and Furiosa had managed to destroy the one vehicle that got in front of them. But the storm showed no sign of ending, and she wasn’t sure how much more the Rig could handle, winds buffeting it from all sides and making the wheel shudder beneath her fingers. Could she try to outrun it? Or stop the Rig altogether and wait out the storm?
But before she could make her decision, a flicker of movement within the cab caught her attention. Angharad was at her side, and Furiosa started to shout at her to get back into the hold, but something in her face robbed Furiosa of speech. She was Angharad but also something so much more; ancient and strong, so terrible and great that Furiosa could scarcely look at her.
Angharad didn’t have to shout to be heard, because she spoke with the storm. “Do you believe?”
Furiosa tried to catch hold of her, but Angharad brushed her aside easily with unworldly strength and leaped out of the still-moving Rig into the storm. Immediately Furiosa abandoned any thoughts of trying to outrun the storm, they couldn’t leave Angharad behind. As soon as the Rig had fully stopped, Furiosa heard a clattering in the hold-the others must be trying to follow Angharad-but Furiosa pushed the hatch down, not wanting them exposed to the storm in their flimsy clothes. She looked out and saw Angharad, walking slowly but resolutely away from the Rig, somehow still on her feet. Climbing down from the Rig, she tried to follow Angharad, but the wind was so strong she was forced to cling to the side. How could Angharad bear the stinging sand on her? Even with her heavy scarf and goggles, the wind was tearing at Furiosa’s skin.
Yet even as she watched, Angharad spread her arms wide and planted her feet in the sand, standing strong against the tempest howling around them. And then, Furiosa felt rather than saw her breath, drawing the storm into her. All of it-the lightning and the winds, the terrible and untrammeled power of the magic that had created it-disappeared inside her. She looked at Furiosa, and for a moment she didn’t seem to be a human, made of skin and bone, but some strange creature, the Wasteland itself made flesh.
Furiosa peeled off her goggles, struggling to believe what she had seen. The sun seemed unnaturally bright, and she had to blink a few times before her vision returned to normal. Angharad was coming back towards her, a little unsteady but entirely herself again. Furiosa had so many questions, but before she could even begin, she heard Capable call Angharad’s name, and Angharad shook her head. For whatever reason, she did not want to talk about this now.
And even though Furiosa knew she needed to get back to the Rig and clear out as much as the sand as she could-the storm had bought them precious time but wouldn’t keep Joe away for long-it took her a moment to get to work.
The storm alone would have been strange and wondrous enough, but to witness Angharad absorb it, tame its fury, and stand before her unharmed-
It had to be a miracle.
The cab was tense and silent as they drove, Furiosa watching their attacker from the corner of her eye. If it had just been them, she would have tried to use her hidden knife, the one weapon he hadn’t found, but it was too risky, with the others sitting within his arm’s reach. What she needed was a diversion, something to take his attention away from them long enough for her to sink her blade into him.
Just be quiet until I can figure out how to kill him. Toast’s sharp comment as they climbed into the Rig, that he had harmed Joe’s favorite, was deliberate. She was reminding him that they were valuable and not to be harmed, and if they were lucky, that would be enough to keep him from shooting again.
But what worried Furiosa was that one of them would say something rash that would anger him. Toast and Capable were too smart to goad him, and Cheedo too shy-it had taken weeks before she would speak in Furiosa’s presence-so it was Dag and Angharad she worried about. Angharad was brave to the point of recklessness, and Dag hurled insults at Joe to his face, so Furiosa doubted she would hold her tongue now.
It made her so indescribably angry that she still had to think like this-how to act around a man to keep herself safe, how to rein in her feelings and hide what she really thought-that she didn’t even notice right away when Dag cursed at the man and the Sisters began to talk amongst themselves.
They spoke in that strange, rapid-fire style of conversation that was only meant to be understood by them, and Furiosa was grateful. If she could hardly understand it, then certainly it was beyond the comprehension of the wild man in the seat next her.
Then the Rig started shaking, and she moved to climb out-reluctantly, she didn’t want to leave them alone with the feral, but they had no choice-when, to her surprise, the man offered to go instead.
Angharad slid into the front seat as he hauled himself outside the Rig. As soon as she was certain that he couldn’t see, Furiosa slid the bone-handled knife from its hiding place, intending to use it as soon as he returned. But as soon as her fingers curled around the hilt, a vision swept over her, just as intense as her first premonition.
A terrible battle raged around them and pain tore through her like never before, but she was staring down at the stranger, clinging to his leg with her metal arm, knowing to her bones that she must not let go-
And then it was gone. She slid the knife back into its sheath and forced herself to focus on the task at hand.
They were nearly out of the canyon, and Furiosa thought they were going to make it.
Somehow over all the noise Furiosa heard Angharad’s cry of surprise as she slipped, and then-
Capable and Dag shouting her name, and Capable grabbing at the Fool, demanding that they turn around, but he wasn’t stopping. She knew what the man thought, that Angharad was dead or dying, but he had to be wrong.
Every fiber of her being was screaming to go back for her, because she wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be. She was Angharad, burning brighter and stronger than the Gas Town fires or the sun in the sky. The storm hadn’t touched her, so how could a fall have harmed her? The Mother had shielded her from the storm, surely She would have protected her now. She would be chasing the Rig now, trying to catch up, so they needed to turn around and get her-
But something about the Fool’s expression made her think that he had seen something she could not, that Angharad was not running behind them.
“Did you see it?” She struggled to keep her voice from breaking, a hysterical bubble of laughter rising in her throat as she pictured Angharad, bloody and broken in the dust. Dead, just like all the others-like her mother and her crew and oh, Mother, why didn’t you take me instead?
“She went under the wheels,” the Fool mumbled, and something inside Furiosa broke at the words.
“Did you see it?” Furiosa asked again, not wanting to believe.
He repeated his words, and she remembered that final conversation, how forcefully Angharad had made her promise to protect her sisters. If they went back now, Joe would capture them, drag them back and never let them go. He would kill her, too, but she hadn’t feared her own death in a long time.
Neither had Angharad. But she would have gladly given her life if it had freed her sisters from Joe.
If she had loved Angharad any less than she did, she would have forced him to turn back. But she did love her, more than anything, so she yelled, “We keep moving!”
When Capable protested, Furiosa swung around to face her and shouted it again. If she softened at all, she would be putting them at risk, and she couldn’t let that happen. She hadn’t been able to protect Angharad but she would keep her sisters safe at any cost.
The Rig was filled by the sounds of grieving: Capable wailing in agony and raging, Toast and Cheedo arguing about the Green Place and then sobbing, and over it all, Dag’s keening cries, growing louder and louder.
Furiosa forced herself to stay silent, because she knew if she gave voice to her pain, if she allowed her agony free rein, she would never stop.
She had been so sure that once they reached the Green Place, they would be safe. And when she saw Valkyrie again, felt her in her arms, she let herself relax, certain that their ordeal was at an end.
The joy of her reunion with her sister was so overwhelming that it had taken her far too long to realize what the others were saying. Their words were too painful, too abhorrent, to be true, and her mind longed to reject them.
But if you came from the West...
...you passed it.
The crows. The creepy place with all the crows.
- We had to get out-
-We had no water-
- The water was filth-
It was poisoned.
It was sour.
And then the crows came.
We couldn't grow anything.
Where are the others?
The Many Mothers.
We're the only ones left.
She wandered away from the others, aimlessly climbing the dune. The ever-present pain from her prosthetic, which she was so accustomed to that she barely felt it, was suddenly agonizing. She unfastened it, letting it fall into the sand, not caring what happened to it or her.
The Green Place was gone. The Vuvalini were all but gone. Her dream was dead.
All that she had suffered was for nothing. Her crew-they trusted her, and she had killed them all, for this. Angharad had died because she believed that Furiosa could take her home…
She had done this. She had led them to their deaths. And for what? So that Furiosa could return to a long-dead home that had vanished into the Wasteland.
And what would happen to the sisters, now that the Green Place was dead and the Many Mothers dwindled to a handful of wanderers? Had she dragged them out into the desert to die from starvation? Or would Joe recapture and kill them?
Why hadn’t the Mother warned her, back in the Citadel? Why hadn’t she told her that the Green Place only existed in her memories? Perhaps she hadn’t known, or simply didn’t care.
Part of her wanted to be angry, but anger seemed too small for this encompassing, transcendent grief. Everything she touched, every person she loved or cared for, crumbled to dust. There could be no redemption for her.
Joe was dead, and Furiosa was dying. She had come so close to it over the years, and now, finally, this was her end.
And now she understood the terrible urgency in Angharad’s words, when she made Furiosa promise to protect her sisters. The thought of leaving the world wasn’t so terrible, but leaving the ones you loved behind unprotected was. Furiosa knew she was beyond protecting them, but she would not leave them alone in the world.
Her own mother had entrusted her to the Goddess but Furiosa would not place all her faith in one who had let her suffer so much.
Instead, she forced herself to focus on the Fool’s face. She could barely speak, but he had to know, he must succeed where she had failed-,“You need to-need to get them…home-”
His face faded, but Furiosa’s vision did not go dark. She saw-
-Her corpse in the sand, the Sisters captured by Joe and returned to their prison-
-Herself as a girl, sitting behind her mother as they drove across the dunes, smiling and unafraid-
-Toast, Capable, Cheedo, and Dag together, surrounded by green, with children in their laps and joy in their faces-
-Angharad catching hold of Dag’s hand at the last moment, being pulled to safety inside the Rig’s cab-
-Standing beside Valkyrie in the Green Place of their youth, but as adult women, their mothers smiling as they swore the vows making them leaders of the tribe-
-A rich green carpet spreading out from the Citadel, life flourishing where for thousands of days there had been only dust. Water gleaming, jewel-bright, as it flowed through canals, like the ones she had helped dig as a child. Abundant food and water, smiling people, a world without war-
What could have been and what might yet be, the promise of a life where Angharad lived and the Green Place flourished, swirled around her, threatening to draw her in forever. It would be so easy to let life slip away, stay in this place of infinite possibilities, never having to feel loss again, but-
“Max. My name is Max. That’s my name.” The fool’s voice-no, Max, his name was Max-cut through the haze, coming from a place that was messy and flawed and full of pain, and yet, it was real.
Then another voice, one she had never thought to hear again. She heard Angharad as clearly as if she was whispering in her ear, “Go back, my love. The world isn’t done with you yet.”
Yes, and she wasn’t finished with the world either. Furiosa had suffered so much and fought so hard to destroy Joe’s cruel world and bring about something better, and she wanted desperately to see it for herself. In her last vision, she had seen a Green Place, not the one where she had been born but one that was yet to be, one that she would help create. Her redemption.
The Mother had told her that she had to decide what to do, and so she made her choice.
She went home.
Thank you all for reading and commenting, this fic has been my baby and it makes me so happy that you all have enjoyed it. Originally I just intended to write the single oneshot Her Words, because I didn't think anyone but me would really be interested in this weird mythical little story, and from that one fic it's grown into a 50,000+ word universe, largely due to all the amazing support and feedback I received. Imagining and writing this series has helped me a lot, and I really hope it's done good things for you all too. I started this fic during my first semester of grad school and I'll be graduating in December (fingers crossed), and it's been a huge part of my life for the last two years. So thank you again for all the amazing support along the way!