La Palabra rose from her seat and the others at the table followed her lead, standing with their backs to the table as she came to stand in front of them. In her hands was an empty bowl, delicately carved from the finest wood of the forest. She held her arms out and Eolas approached, instinctively knowing what the vessel was for and so pulled his bundle from his back, reaching inside to retrieve the precious gift he carried all the way from Foirfeachta. Golden firelight danced across the smooth skin of the fruit as he placed it gently inside the hollow. It was a perfect fit. Of course it was, he thought, carved just as the drawing in the scroll had depicted. So long ago it had been made and left near the edge of the clearing, just as the bows, arrows and tools had been given in the earliest cycles of the females’ life on Domhan. La Palabra kept it safely hidden until this very night, this most perfect moment. At last it, as all things do eventually, would know its purpose.
Palabra smiled at the Hunter and returned to the table, placing the bowl and fruit in the center. She could feel Ella’s breath on her arm, coming in short bursts, as she leaned over the female, the fruit passing just in front of her face. La Palabra whispered to her favorite of the females, “Do not forget to breathe, my child, lest you lose consciousness and miss him altogether.” She gave Ella a quick glance and a wink and found her place, standing behind the others. After what seemed an endless moment to those present, La Palabra raised her medicine rattle high and beckoned the males of Jinetes.
Worthy companions of Jinetes, who have shared our land and waited along with us for the patient hand of Eternity to bless us with the knowledge of Creation. Come, share our food, drink our teas, and raise love’s song so that your soul’s desire may answer! From this moment of recognition you shall no longer walk alone. Your hearts, your hope, your celebration will be shared as you continue this journey of life as one!” La Palabra closed her eyes, lowered her arms and the females waited with bowed heads and eyes closed, knowing the blood moon was meant to awaken the non visual senses. There was silence but for the soft sound of the river flowing beyond the trees.
The wind caressed their flushed cheeks while a soft, low whistle began, the notes clear and sharp as it hung in the air between male and female. A lilting strain had been lifted and then allowed to fall away. A long pause followed, the moment suspended as a delicate strand, until the first female stepped forward and, with eyes still closed, lifted her face to the light of the moon. Quietly she began to sing the same notes that had come from the instrument of her beloved. It was glorious to watch, as natural a dance of companionship as all other of Creation’s rituals. Her voice clear and perfect, once the singing ceased, they opened their eyes to gaze at one another and the male approached, extending his hand. She placed her own hand within his and they returned to sit at the table. Again and again, the ritual played out as each male played his own song and waited to have it returned to him by the voice of his chosen companion. Before long the table was filled with couples, bodies warm with excitement and sheer delight on their faces.
At last there remained a single couple, still and quiet-waiting, wondering. With eyes closed, Ella had no way of knowing who had been thus far paired, for not a word had been spoken; and she fought back the invasive tendrils of fear that threatened to taint the precious moment. Still, she held the vision of her beloved in her mind as she waited for his call. Would it be as she prayed? Her heart was a wild beast against her breast, waiting, her ears aching to hear the song again-his song, her body poised to join him at the table, her soul longing to be connected.
“How long will he torture me this way!,” her mind cried.
When at last he lifted the clay instrument to his mouth, the Warrior could scarcely play, so fearful was he that he would not be able to duplicate the melody, so certain that even though no other female remained, that surely this would prove a mistake-Ella would flee the table, frightened of him, wanting him to be someone else. He remembered the stones he held close to his body, reminding him he was not alone. He glanced at Eolas. A quick nod from his friend relieved him of his fear and stilled his heart. His mouth seemed too dry to open but he managed to wrap his lips around the clay and began slowly blowing the notes, shakily at first, and barely audible. He watched Ella standing patiently, her hair caressed by the night breeze; and his body took over, accomplishing what his fearful mind seemed unable to do. From deep within him the necessary breath came and the song was played, almost as though independent of his will; and with every note, the music grew stronger, louder and clearer-over and over the melody drifted across the clearing to pierce the ears of she who longed to hear it. Ella swayed, her knees nearly buckling under her. Loach froze, unable to play. He moved to go to her but Eolas and Palabra lifted a hand of warning to the to the Warrior to remain where he was. He was confused. Was he to do nothing? How could he watch her fall? He waited, wondering why she was in distress, uncertain if it was disappointment or fear which paralyzed her. Ella’s chest rose and fell, again and again as she steadied herself. Her lips were full and soft in the red glow of the blood moon; and as they finally parted, the lilting tone of her voice drifted over the clearing to a very grateful Warrior. She returned every note of his song perfectly as he stood, mesmerized, in her presence. He thought he could stand there forever, if only she would keep singing to him.
Suddenly she stopped and the world fell silent. Ella knew she would have to open her eyes, so what was she afraid of? She recognized his song, had returned it, had known in her heart that Spirit would bless her life, and still….. Slowly she forced her eyelids to obey, opening them to the beautiful sight of her Warrior, Loach, standing with outstretched arm and open hand. If only she could get her legs to work without stumbling she would go to him, would run to him if she could. Instead, she raised her hand as he stepped forward and gently grasped it within his. Her knees betrayed her at last, buckling even as she needed to be strong; but Laoch pressed against her body, becoming her legs with his weight until she could stand on her own. He smiled gently as they moved to the table of ceremony and took their places there. She wondered how a single moment could move her from independent, fierce Huntress to an immobile, speechless creature; but it felt wonderful, so she pushed the thought away.
Palabra motioned to Eolas to join her. The Hunter marveled at the new ritual he had witnessed, amazed by the perfection in it. Not only had there been a perfect match of the males to females, but the addition of Loach to the group had not thrown the number out of balance. How was it possible? It was yet another wonder to accept without question, as seemed to be the case more and more within their unfolding lives.
La Palabra motioned for the essence bowls to be lit as she filled the pipe of Celebration for she and Eolas to share; and they shared heartily, soon laughing and finding much to talk about. The others chatted softly to each other, at first in uncertain tones; but soon the sound of excited voices filled the night sky above Espera as they grew more familiar.. They sipped the teas, brewed specially for the occasion, and were soon feeling giddy from it, having fasted since the previous night’s meal.
Eolas spoke to La Palabra about the new writing he was creating for recording all events on their world so that they could keep the word of Eternity for generations to come. The wise female was impressed but not surprised, for after all,. that was as it should be. She admired the Hunter very much. There was a calm certainty about him, and she inquired about his life companion. He was thrilled to speak of Eagna; however, a deep pang pierced his chest at the mention of her name, a reminder of how much he missed her in that moment with other souls coming together on their world. He looked around at the new bonds forming between the lovely humans he had come to know, and his words were caught in his throat.
“Mother Palabra, my beloved-my Eagna-waits for me back in our land. It was too far a journey for one in her new condition. But she would have loved to be here, of this I am certain. I am missing her very much tonight.” He looked at his cup of tea, thinking that Eagna would have been the one to brew it had she been with them for the ceremony. It was suddenly so difficult for him to concentrate on anything else.
“But why should you have to miss her?” Palabra asked. Eolas brows knitted in confusion, bringing a burst of gentle laughter from his host. She was amused yet saddened to think how often humans had to be reminded of Eternity’s miracles. Her gifts of intuition were keen; and the herbs in the pipe only served to enhance it. She smiled at Eolas and touched his hand . “What I mean to say, my new friend, is that you should invite your companion to join you here, right now. This night is for all companions on Domhan, not just for those who are in the state of new discovery.” When she could not discern if the look on the Hunter’s face revealed doubt in her mental stability or sheer curiosity, Palabra tossed her head back and laughed out loud, then turned to him and demanded, “Do you doubt the power of Spirit?” It was a direct question and there was only one way the Hunter could answer.
“Absolutely not,” came his reply. And he lifted his cup to his lips, downing the remaining drops. “You will help me to bring her here?” La Palabra nodded and squeezed his hand.
She stood and motioned for the females to stoke the smudge pots, raised her arms, palms up, and began to chant, her voice rising through the darkness to the crimson moon over their heads. After a few moments,every voice at the table joined her, the females first, followed by their male guests. The chant became a chorus, pulling Eolas to join the call, as he felt his heart open completely to trust, holding the vision of Eagna standing beside him-with him. He had not forgotten a single line of her body- the curve of her chin, the turn of her head, the sound of her laughter; and soon he felt her energy there beside him, moving through him. Like a watery dream she stood near the table, naked beneath the blood moon, with arms outstretched, just as La Palabra. Just like his Eagna. Naked? He wondered as he reveled in the perfect moment.
La Palabra’s chanting ceased as she began calling to the Realm, the rest at table falling silent. “Blessed Mother, you who breathed life into our bodies, must hear us now. We call to you from your world, the face of Domhan, as was decided at the moment of our Creation. In the name of Great Spirit we have followed your instruction and come to you in ceremony that the union of our tribes will be blessed with Light, with love and much fertility. May each soul recognize its purpose in this dream-your vision of love through us, your Children. We ask that you join us now, that we might be sanctified before we lie together, blessed and full of the Light of Eternity.” Again she raised her voice in song.
The fire pits that had crackled softly moments before suddenly blazed, reaching higher and higher until the orange tips licked the low hanging branches at the forest’s edge, lighting the gnarled faces of those silent. They all gasped anxiously; but Palabra motioned for them to join the call to Eternity. All around the table, with clasped hands, they raised their voices, raising the song higher and stronger, sending a prayer of hope to the blood moon. Within moments they heard a soft fluttering, distant at first, but growing louder, ever more intense as they chanted, until the clearing became alive with the sound. It seemed as though every winged creature on Domhan had joined them.
But there were no birds. The fire blazed against the starlit black sky, a dance both hypnotic and alluring, finally parting like tall grasses for the beasts that roam; and in the black wedge of night that remained there, the glowing embers danced and popped, taking shape as figures hovering over the fire. As they became more distinct, the familiar forms of those known as the family of Creators were instantly recognizable. The great plumed bird, the wide-eyed night owl and the gently sloping form the of the mourning dove. None present was surprised by this, although each would keep the vision as a miracle within their heart.
They were with their children at last; but Mac, Inion and Bandia, knew their energy on the physical world was fragile and the moments fleeting. Wisdom dictated they be expedient; and so they spoke all as one voice, reaching into the minds of the celebrants.
“Our precious Leanai, you have brought pleasure to the Realm on this night of the blood moon, proving your faith, strength and fierce dedication to the prophecy. If it is our blessing that you seek through this ceremony, you may tarry no more. Take the vision of Eternity’s Light with you when you lie together, remembering that our love is ever with you, even when you can no longer see us this way. Carry our essence within your souls, for it is there that we truly exist. We are but a small part of the All That Is, and through your creation you increase the measure of existence.” Scarlet flames lapped at their bodies as the fire threatened to swallow them up but receded, allowing them a final word.
“Call upon the name of Light whenever you need us. There is always enough love for even the least of our creations. Do not run from darkness if it visits your dwelling. Invite it inside in the name of Love and accept its role in your being; for the more you resist its presence, the more you work destroy or deny it, the greater will be its desire to be known by you, to be accepted. You must never walk in fear. For there is no fear in Perfect Love, our Children. There is no fear in Perfect Love..” In a flash of brilliant embers they were gone, leaving those at the table to wonder in amazed reverence. There were no other words heard from those who had dreamed them into being. The fire roared up into the darkness then fell silent as though a mighty breath had blown it out. Once more the embers crackled quietly, flames flickering gently in the night breeze.
La Palabra drew in a deep breath of damp air, heavy with the perfume of the flowers that lay, languid on the tables and hung from the trees surrounding the village. Indeed, Servia had outdone herself. Indeed, all of her Daughters had proven themselves worthy of this celebration. She hoped their efforts would be as noble in the playing out of their lives in their world-this walk no longer to be taken alone. She raised her arms and shouted, “Thanks be to Spirit!” There was complete silence for a single moment before a collective answer rang out, “Thanks be to Spirit!”, followed by much shouting and laughter as the food was passed and the drink poured freely until the tea pots were completely emptied and every belly was full. The words flowed, the smiles were abundant, and many tender and private secrets would be revealed between the couples before the morning sun began their new life.
“We have done well, my friend,” Mother Palabra leaned towards Eolas, who was stuffing his last bite of meat into his mouth, savoring it as he thought of his next meal with Eagna. He shook his head emphatically in agreement as he swallowed the food. He knew what was left to be done. Quietly La Palabra signaled for the remains of the feast to cleared, the chosen females tossing the remains into the forest for their friends within it. There was one very important event which remained. All eyes were soon fixed on the fruit nestled in its wooden cradle, waiting patiently for its performance. They knew of the tree in the Garden-the tree of Fertility, of Life. They were more than ready to have their creative spirit awakened. Some shifted nervously on their stools. More than a few giggles were heard; but a stern glance from La Palabra in their direction reminded them that this was a sanctification and a solemn time. Still….a smile wiggled at the corners of her own mouth; for she knew what longings the fruit would awaken withing their villages that night.
She took the gift and placed it before Eolas. He nodded, took out his stone knife and began to cut it into small chunks, returning them to the bowl. Syrupy dew dripped through the holes in the bowl and ran in sticky rivulets across the table. Soon, there was a golden mound before him and he rose, taking it to the far end of the table. He passed the bowl to each couple, all taking a small piece in turn; but none put it to their lips. Not until Palabra gave the word. When he reached the last couple, Laoch and Ella, he looked at his dear, giant friend and gripped his muscular shoulder. He felt his friend’s quickened pulse through is skin. What a genuine soul, Eolas thought. And how lucky for this female to have found him. Eolas returned to his place beside Palabra, whose face was glowing with perspiration in the dim light of the fire yet shadowed by something else. For a fleeting moment she seemed crestfallen, overwhelmed by some unspoken sadness. Eolas opened his mouth to inquire; but as quickly as it had appeared, the look faded and she smiled, giving the word they were waiting for.
“With great Love were you created. In greater Love are you joined here this night. May all that you bring forth into Domhan be an increase of that Love. Eat, my children. May your love be expressed throughout all your lives..”
Some devoured the fruit whole while others nibbled the flesh slowly, savoring it like nothing they had known or would know again. Some fed their pieces to their companions, allowing them to lick the sticky dew from glistening fingertips. But none hesitated. Laoch gave his portion of the precious fruit to Ella, for he had already been awakened what seemed so long ago and far away in the light of the future unfolding for him. This experience would never be matched. It was decided that half the newly formed tribe would inhabit the dwellings that stood in Espera, while the other half would go back to Jinetes. The arrangement would likely bring sadness and tears for those females who would be leaving their friends behind, but tonight they knew only one sensation, one emotion; and it drove them from the safe haven of their homes and into strange and tantalizing new adventure. After everyone left for their rooms, only a few remained to clear the remains of the sticky, sweet memory. Ella fetched a bowl of water while Laoch damped the fires, leaving only small pits to burn through the night, as was their custom. Eolas and Palabra sat with heads together, sharing their hopes for the future of Domhan and their deep concern for the new unions that were being forged in this place and elsewhere on their world.
Ella, finished with cleaning, approached La Palabra to say her farewells. It felt like something so much larger than goodnight; and she was filled with mixed emotion. Her heart felt the overwhelming sorrow of leaving behind some kind of innocence, some part of herself that would never return; but her desire was stronger to move forward with the Warrior, to retire to the mystery of union. She had remained busy so as not to allow her heart the freedom to express itself, for surely it would have burst from the fullness of it all; but now there was nothing left to do but move on. Palabra took Ella’s hand in her own and looked into the female’s dark eyes.
“My daughter, you have made me proud ever since we came into being. Tonight has been most glorious.. The song you raised to heaven could tease the very stars from the sky above.” Ella flushed. What would Laoch think of this praise? Her question was answered when she felt his strong arm gently slip around her waist from behind, his hand cupping her hip.
“Thank you Mother Palabra. My only wish is to never fail you-or Spirit. Truly this is the greatest moment any of us may know in the dream walk that we share. May we now…”
La Palabra released her hand and laughed, “Go, go, go now! Be true to the fruit. Your labor will come later. And labor you shall.” She laughed again. Ella wasn’t quite sure what to make of the declaration, but she didn’t care to ponder it in that moment. There was so much more she desired of the night. Soon La Palabra would be very far from her thoughts. Just the nearness of Laoch had begun to stir sensations that were both intoxicating and alarming to Ella. As they stepped into the quiet dark of her home, the anxiety began to grow. Who was this male she was about to submit to completely? What did she know of him really? How well would they live together? She wondered why these thoughts suddenly plagued her.
Laoch felt strangely exposed in Ella’s home. There were no rock walls or floor as in his caves. There was no male companionship, and no open sky above his head as in Jinetes. Had his emotional desire overcome his sense of reason? His mind chattered, but the smell of her body as she stepped in front of him, the feel of her hair as it brushed across his skin, silenced the voice of doubt in his comfortably numb head. He was intoxicated by her presence. Or was it the fruit? Or the tea. Or all of it? He didn’t care. He looked around at the room. In his home there were only necessities. Tools. Weapons. And his instruments for celebration. His clay flute, his drum. Now his eyes fell to the animal skin that lay across her bed. It was beautiful and yet how he did not even know how she came to own it. Small clay pots cradled burning incense, and there was a low table with some small boxes on top. How could he ever make her happy in his homeland? In his stark cave… Would she even want to leave this place? His thoughts were ended abruptly as his skin was seared-her hand on his cheek.
“Where are you now, my companion?” Her voice was soft and inviting. He felt he could lay his soul before her and know it was safe. Still, he found it difficult to speak from his heart just yet. He hoped this would change soon. Then he remembered something. The gift! He had been working on it since before the sunrise. He pulled his pouch from his shoulder, and laid it on the bed atop the soft animal skin-he definitely wanted to know the story behind this hide-and sitting down he hastily emptied its contents. The Warrior was not expecting to see the lovely stones-Naofa’s gift- that tumbled onto the bed of his new companion. Their bright colors cut accusingly into his heart like a knife, but he was not certain why. He quickly swept them back inside the pouch and out of sight, and withdrew the object he sought. A small, flat bag of woven grass was what he held in his hand. It looked so insignificant there to him; and he briefly thought perhaps he had been too hasty in the selection of the gift. Ella let out a small excited gasp at the thought of a gift from her companion, and he could not now disappoint her. This was all the encouragement he needed to stand and take her hand, placing the treasure within it.
“Laoch, it is so beautiful.” She spoke his name. It felt like rain upon dry hard ground to his soul and filled him with new enthusiasm. He laughed nervously.
“This is only the cover. The gift is within.” And he gently helped her to lift the edge of the small bag and spill its contents into her other hand. Out tumbled two wooden hoops, one larger than the other. They had obviously been carefully selected from wood limbs, cut and smoothed. Lovely as they were, she did not understand what they were. She looked quizzically at Laoch as she lifted the delicate circles from her hand. He smiled at her uncertainty for it made the gift seem much more fine to him then. He took the grass pouch, laid it on her table and turned to Ella, taking the smaller hoop in his own fingers. He hoped he had calculated well. Taking her left hand, he spread her fingers slightly and proceeded to slip the hoop around the one next to the last. He held his breath as he slid it gently but firmly down the length of her finger, hoping it would be a perfect fit. Another tiny gasp from Ella sent his heart into manic rhythms. He had to find his words now-it was so important.
“Ella, I do not say that all knowledge is mine. Often I feel I am without knowledge or wisdom. Your people believe we are great. Truly all that is created is great; but my friends and I have been given a task, as Light Bringers, to keep the vision of Love alive on Domhan. Still, we are humans, just as you are. I would like to promise that our life together will be all that we envision it to be. But there are forces beyond our understanding, even in the Eternal Realm. What I can tell you now is that I vow to keep you safe, and my desire is to give you all that I can without forgetting my purpose. No matter what happens in the cycles ahead, you must remember that at this moment, my heart and soul is yours. The hoop is an eternal thing, you see? No beginning and no end. This is why I chose it as my gift to you. I hope you remember my words every time you look at it.”
His eyes were so full of truth that Ella could scarcely breathe. Pulling herself from their depths at last, she smiled and looked down at the remaining hoop, now understanding what to do with it. She took it up, gently grabbed the Warrior’s hand and spread his fingers, just as he had done hers. It slid into place as easily as if it knew where it belonged. Ella always had a way with words but at this moment her tongue seemed glued to the inside of her mouth, and her brain was fuzzy with emotion.
“I will make you a promise, Laoch. I will go with you wherever this dream walk may take us, will make a home from rock and earth, will prepare your food, go with you in the hunt, and warm your bed at night. All I ask is that you be ever truthful with me. If we have nothing else perfect between us, let it be that we live our lives as the truest of companions.” Tears pooled in her dark eyes as she spoke, soon spilling onto her cheeks. Seeing the furrows crease the Warrior’s brow she quickly assured him. “Joyful spilling of tears is common among us here in Espera, I am afraid.” She laughed softly as he wiped them away with clumsy thumbs. “You must know that the others will want similar gifts to exchange.” She smiled and touched her hoop, pulling away from him. She turned, taking him by the hand, and led him over to the bed where they sat together in silence for a moment. Loach lifted her hand and began to trace a soft, slow line from the edge of the ring gently, deliberately down her wrist and back up her arm. Ripples of pleasure flooded her skin as he continued the path across her shoulder and down to the place where the beating of her heart was centered. His slight brush against her breast as he passed over set her insides to flame. He put his free arm around her shoulder as he pressed his wrist to her chest, so that now she felt his own heartbeat along with hers. Together they felt like drums in the night, beating a chant of private celebration. She leaned into him and lifted her face to his as she took his hand and moved it to where the ache called to her, beckoned him.
The blood moon was huge in the night sky that soon was filled with the cries of all living things on Domhan, joining in creation across the world. Ella arose to put out the single fire that still burned; and when she returned to the bed, she removed her tunic, exposing all that she was to the Warrior. Shadows enhanced the curves of her body in the dim light and Loach could not believe he was so blessed. His body silhouetted against the open window enticed her; and, just as in Naofa’s vision, she climbed on top of him, tossing back her head as he explored every soft curve of her skin. She hummed softly, the lilting song of the ceremony, as they danced beneath the stars of Domhan wildly, passionately, adding their own voices to the cacophony of union that was newly awakened in the world. Lost in the free fall of desire, neither noticed the stones that again tumbled from the safety of Laoch’s pouch now lay strewn across the of the table. They didn’t notice the glow of the red one as it pulsed with their movement; nor did they hear the low snarl of the dark furry form lurking outside their dwelling watching, waiting….feeling.
The blood was draining from the moon at last, leaving it a soft pink. But it glowed red in the eyes of the Watcher who dipped a pale and wasted finger beneath the surface ot its dark, watery window of visions. It longed to feel the warmth of union, for the sensations that he was feeling were only second hand remnants, after all. “Alas, it is better than nothing,” mused the dark god. And in those moments there was enough second hand ecstasy for Ar’tine to pretend it was real.
to be continued…..
I appreciate any and all comments, thoughts, ideas. Thanks as always to those of you who have been sharing my story.