"Atem"- common language of the region (English in England, French in France, Spanish in Spain, etc…"
"*Atem*"- unknown language or dialect.
Prologue: Cries of Defiance
August 1, 1790
Cayes-Jacmel, a town of artists, artisans, fishermen, slaves and their slavers. Founded in 1714 by one Cicero Quintus, a wealthy French businessman looking for a place to settle his family. The town started out as a simple port town for traders to do business before quickly growing into a hub for the Triangular Trade. Ships coming from Africa would dock there in order to sell the newly enslaved Africans while buying sugar, coffee, and indigo, the three biggest exports of Saint-Domingue that help make it the richest economy in the world.
Due to the town's booming economy many of its occupants enjoy a good and prosperous life. Unfortunately however, one's life is not based on how hard one works but on one's social status which is decided upon by one's birth. While the French are in control of their territory of Saint Domingue, they hold a caste system which covers both whites and free colored people. These castes divide up roles on the island and establish a hierarchy.
The highest caste, known as the grand blancs, is composed entirely of whites and mainly live in France. These individuals hold most of the power and control the property on Saint-Domingue. They are a small but powerful group. The Quintus family are the only members of this group that live on the colony of Saint-Domingue for reasons unknown to all but them.
Under the grand blancs is a caste of whites known as the petit blancs. These individuals live in Saint Domingue and hold a lot of local political power and have control of the militia. These individuals are all white but are still seen as a lower caste.
The lowest caste happens to be the few people of color who are free. These individuals are mostly mulattos, or mixed race, and control a lot of the wealth and land of the European planters. Although the mulattos hold considerable power, they are still subjugated to racism and a system of segregation. Individuals who are part of the petit blancs and other lower-class whites despise them due to the fact that the mulattos seem to hold so much power in terms of industry.
The final class, lower than the mulattos, are those who are not even counted as people but rather objects and property, the slaves and the majority of the island's population. Under French control, slaves are brutally worked and die so often that new slaves have to be brought in frequently. Unlike the slaves in the neighboring country of the United States, these slaves are not accustomed to the ways of their oppressors and many still speak their indigenous languages. They are able to hold on to their traditions, making it easier for them to revolt.
Under their French plantation-owners, African slaves work so hard that half die within a few years. Most owners however do not care for their dying workforce due to the simple reason that it is cheaper to import new slaves than to improve working conditions enough to increase the survival rate. Because of this, the rate of death of slaves on Saint Domingue's plantations is higher than anywhere else in the western hemisphere.
Sadly the horrible living conditions are not the only troubles that the slaves face. Slaves newly arrived from Africa, particularly women, are especially likely to kill themselves under the belief that in death they could return home to Africa and escape the hellish nightmares that they find themselves in. Pregnant slaves usually do not survive long enough or have healthy enough pregnancies to birth live babies, but if they do, the children will often die young. Food is insufficient, and slaves are expected to grow and prepare it for themselves in addition to their already crushing, 12-hour workdays. It is legal for a slaveholder to kill a slave who hit a white person, according to the 1685 Code Noir, a decree by the French king Louis XIV regulating practices of slaves and slavers. Torture of slaves is a routine occurance. They are whipped, burned, buried alive, restrained and allowed to be bitten by swarms of insects, mutilated, raped, and some even have had limbs amputated. Slaves caught eating the sugar cane would be forced to wear tin muzzles in the fields all day, from dawn until dusk.
On this particular day, before the sun has even risen, one can hear the screams of a woman echo out in the air from a small shed, and one of many, situated upon a sugar plantation owned by none other than the Quintus family. The shed is a decrepit little thing, offering little in terms of protection from nature's elements. Holes can be found in the roof where rain usually seeps in, cracks can be found on the walls where bugs, spiders and other small creatures crawl into, and even the door itself is in extremely poor condition.
Inside of this small, debilitated shed, one can find a group of two women attending to a pregnant woman that lays on a dirty, worn, and bloodied mattress while she is in the process of giving birth. The first attendant is an older African woman with course, short, black hair, and brown wizened eyes. She wears a worn out beige dress and holds a clean cloth in her hand which she positions under the mother's vagina.
"*Push, Sanura! His head is almost through.*" says the woman to the mother before she turns to the second woman, a younger woman who greatly resembles her. "*Get more water for her, she will need it.*" she orders, her frustration made clear by her tone of voice, before returning her attention back to the mother. This was not how birth should be given, at least not from what she was taught by her mother before she died. There are certain herbs that should be used to ease the process while the woman squats to make the baby's exit easier, with a few people positioned to hold the baby once they come out. It might be 'primitive' to the colonisers, but it is healthier and easier than having the woman lie down and push the baby out. Unfortunately, their situation does not allow for such liberties. Not only can the herbs not be found in Saint-Domingue, but even if they could be found the colonisers would not allow them to have it.
"*His head is out! One more push, Sanura!" exclaims the woman as Sanura gathers her strength and with renewed vigor pushes more. She has been at this for more hours than she knows and her strength had begun to fail her hours ago. The process has been taxing and stressful, covering her in sweat and putting her already frail body in a worse condition. Even before becoming pregnant, she had a sickly physique and in fact her name is a result of such a physique since when she was born her cries were more in line with a kitten's mewl as opposed to a baby's cries, earning her the name Sanura, meaning kitten. Despite this she has managed to survive until now, making her believe that the goddess Heka looks down upon her. Unfortunately however she knows that she will not survive this, making her strive to birth her child and focus on his survival as opposed to her own.
With thoughts of her baby in mind along with hope that someday one of the many slave rebellions will succeed, Saruna gives one last powerful push that fully pushes the baby out just as the first rays of sunlight appear over the horizon and seep into the decrepit shed.
"*You did it Saruna!*" happily claims the woman as she slowly lifts the baby up.
"*My son, Adanna. I wish to see him.*" says Saruna as she clings to life through sheer willpower.
"*Of course.*" replies Adanna as she hands the boy over to his mother, a young woman that cannot be older than seventeen with a petite figure, black hair, and beautiful violet eyes. After handing the baby to his mother and knowing that she is not long for
"*My little Pharaoh.*" whispers Saruna with a small smile on her face while she looks down at her baby. As if he heard his mother's words, the boy opens his eyes and showcases his own beautiful violet eyes that are a shade lighter than his mother's. "*You have beautiful eyes, little one. Just like your mother.*" she says as a ray of sunlight shines on her and the baby, making her look up from him. "*Look, little one, Ra is beginning his journey across the sky at the same time as your birth. This must be a sign.*" she says with a happy sigh and a strained voice before looking back down on her son. "*You are favored by Ra like all great Pharaohs before you. Isn't that right, my little Pharaoh, my little King, my little…Atem*" finishes the mother as she closes her eyes and takes her last breath.
As if sensing his mother's condition, little Atem releases a wail that pierces through the air, overshadowing the sounds of the morning's activities and alerting all to his presence. Rushing into the shed, Adanna lifts the boy from his dead mother's arms and proceeds to attempt to calm him down.
"*It is alright little Atem, everything will be alright.*" reassures Adanna as she cradles the boy while gently swaying about. As if proclaiming her words to be lies, Atem begins to wail even louder than before, shocking the older woman. Had she not known better, Adanna would say that Atem's cries are not only the cries of pain and grief, but also cries of defiance. Cries of defiance to his situation, cries of defiance to his slave master, and most importantly, cries of defiance to the world.