A Fairy Tale
Copyright © 2016 Sunny Waters Books
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
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a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are
the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or
locales is entirely coincidental.
buzz through their hive, words in my head
and reorganize, vie to be said.
notice, under the radar, until
sudden, voila! they spill
my mouth. Breath now, communal,
not private -
all the difference, not being quiet.
who’s in charge?
I was, but once they’re at large.
denying I’m the source,
they take over, and what’s worse,
which come, I have little choice.
are my words, but I am their voice.
Vickers applied her considerable artistic talent to the design of the
Peterson and Dr. Jim Fix read an early version of this work and
provided shrewd literary and linguistic guidance, much to its
friend, John Mutter, also read a late draft carefully looking for
anomalies and errors. You won’t see those errors in this manuscript
because of his diligence.
Table of Contents
last, it’s our time to speak. We’ve been fodder for every poem,
every story, every sacred text, every goddamned recipe, but now we
take control of our fate, arrange ourselves, and weave a story in our
own words. We waited for this for a very long time.
story? We are of many minds about that, but something celebrating our
glorious history pleases many. We’ll go with that.
words are these? Where do they come from? Who speaks? Words don’t
speak themselves. There’s someone behind the curtain; there
has to be.
confusion is natural. We scarcely believe we’re doing this
ourselves. The answer – these words are our words; indeed, these
words are we.
are we? Benign creatures – not parasites, certainly not parasites –
living in colonies symbiotically with our hosts. A community of five
thousand might occupy the brain of a four-year-old; a ten-year-old
twice that number. An adult village might harbor thirty-thousand
souls, give or take a few.
upon a time the poet Sappho said, “θεοί·
– My words are only breath, yet they live forever.” These words
are well struck. They tell truth rarely told. What Sappho fails to
mention is her own mortality. Those who breathe must one day cease
breathing. Words don’t breathe, and so, by necessity, never stop
breathing – that is, never die. Poets come and go; their words, the
best of them, live, if not forever, for a very long time.
oldest among us were witnesses when the events that make up this
story occurred. We know the characters, the places, the events,
the entire saga from direct experience, and are keen to tell the
story with integrity. Yes, it’s awkward being the blacksmith and no
longer the iron, but also awkward lying in the background when
stories like this one are told badly, as they too often are. This is
out of the ordinary for all of us. Always we remained silent
partners chosen by others, never consulted, spoken but never speaking
– until now.
silence is broken and we’ll strive to arrange ourselves into
patterns you’ll find pleasing. We understand the process well –
we frequently arrange ourselves for narrative effect: fables,
fantasies, legends, stories generally, and, of course, poetry.
We verbalize but don’t voice. Mostly our process is orderly and
productive, though sometimes individuals get out of line. Among us
live, after all, not only harmony, orderly, and neat
but also unruly, obstreperous, and ungovernable.
follows is one such arrangement, something assembled under
direction of our venerable elders, a nostalgic piece (some say
old fashioned) based on a familiar theme – broken-hearted youth
undertakes dangerous quest to recover lost love. No doubt, the
melody is familiar. Elders demanded we find opportunities for ancient
patriarchs who haven’t danced in years to join the procession, and
so we have. As you’ll see, there’s life in their old bones yet.
They love to parade while their descendants look on. These ancient
ones have many offspring though they haven’t reproduced in years,
indeed, centuries, for that matter, millennia. In any case, here’s
the procession we found for them. We hope you enjoy it as much as we
the year Maegans Quick had drawn breath twenty-one winters when he
undertook his trek up the length of the trade route that stretches
from Varnis Bay on Salt Sea to Hagan Das at the base of the White
Mountains. It began the day a small smudge of light appeared low in
the eastern sky near the morning sterlā.
– star: steorra (Old English), staírnō (Gothic),
stēlla (Latin), astḗr (Ancient Greek), stṛ,
stŕ̥bhiḥ, tāraḥ, tarā (Sanskrit), stā̆rǝm
(Avestan), gvězda (Old Church Slavonic), ser (Middle
Irish), seren (Welsh), sterenn (Breton), astł
(Armenian), śreñ (Tocharian A), hasterza (Hittite).
knew when he saw the smudged light trouble would come to someone.
Such signs in the heavens always portend trouble. The knowing came as
a knot in his throat, a flutter in his heart, but did not take hold
in his thoughts, did not find words to express itself, not right
away. Human emotion that goes unnamed, that finds no word to express
itself, is a breeze that unsettles the forest for a time but
dissipates leaving not a trace.
Maegans is a sturdy young man with ruddy1
complexion and oval face covered in fair hair he keeps clipped close.
His name is not his father’s name. Indeed, no one, except perhaps
his mother, Sigina, knows who his father is. She told everyone
Sunlight shown up her skirt while she napped away the hottest part of
the day near the fields, and the next thing she was with child.
Sunlight put the child in her as it puts trillium in the woods, she
said. Had the baby been a girl she would have named her Trillia. She
called the boy Maegans when she found coyote tracks in the snow
around her home the morning he was born. Perhaps he is the son of
coyote. He’s smart, independent, and very quick on his feet. His
eyes are never on anything long. He explores everything, sniffs
everything. He is always hungry. He was born the night of the new
Moon and has always been comfortable in the dark. He grew up to be a
vital help to his mother and her people, mainly hunting and bringing
firewood. He is an excellent bowman.
eyes grow large and his heart sings as he reaches the crest of Bachen
Ridge and looks down into dim twilight illuminating the valley below.
His eyes sparkle with tears from frigid air. Steam from his breath
wisps about his face. He sees Pretty See, his town, nestled into the
boulders on the edge of River Yesterday. He feels the spirits of this
place rise to welcome him. Diaphanous smoke ascends from several
fires into the cold morning air.
just make it if we hurry,” he says to his three companions – two
of them, Bogdan and Miros, twin brothers, younger than Maegans by one
year, and the third, Dragos, his aunt’s son, born when Maegans was
one Moon old, so also a son of the new Moon. The four young men carry
a fat wild boar cut into quarters, each hung on a sturdy pole they
bear on their shoulders. The pig’s head is in the pack on Maegans’
back. He eyes the Eastern horizon warily. “If we hurry,” he says
again. Nearby the dogs huddle together watching for a signal, except
Wombay, Maegans’ dog, stands at his side and looks out over the
valley. He is smaller than the others, a year younger, but already
knows his responsibilities. Cerbos, Dragos’s dog, keeps a wary eye
on the others, but there is little need for oversight; each dog has
his place and knows it.
town relies on millet, peas, and beans harvested from individual
gardens and communal fields. Sheep, goats, cows, and horses grazed on
the hills surrounding are also staples. They have a few pigs, but not
many. The pigs must be kept in a pen; when they get out, they run
away. This has been true for as long as anyone remembers. Yet,
hunting remains an important source of meat and the heart of rituals
more ancient than the domesticated animals, more ancient even than
four young men carried meat all night and stopped only when
exhaustion set in, resuming the trek as soon as the strength returned
to their legs. They hoped to reach the town before Sun appeared
again. They have been away thirteen days, almost half a Moon cycle,
having departed as the Sun set on full-Moon night and now returning
under the last crescent, which hangs like a thin smile over the
eastern horizon. The next night will be Moonless and this is their
goal, to arrive before Sunrise the day of the Moonless night. Frigid
winter air bites their cheeks, but they are heavily clad in wool and
skins and the demanding work keeps them warm.
never make it,” Bogdan whispers between deep breaths. “My legs
burn like there’s fire in them!”
looks again to the east. The undersides of gossamer clouds hanging
over the distant plane already glow red. “We must return before
Sunrise the day Moon disappears,” he repeats the ancient litany.
“Do, and we bring early spring; fail, and dark winter continues.”
right; it’s not possible,” Dragos joins in. “I can’t take
looks from Bogdan to Dragos. Miros lifts his face as if to speak but
only nods his agreement.
is nothing compared to what the town suffers if we fail,” Maegans
says through tight lips. His chest rises and falls slowly as normal
breathing returns. Puffs of steam drift from his mouth in the cold
air. “Stay here,” he says finally. “Make the cover camp.” He
lifts the heavy poles from his shoulders and, together with Dragos,
lowers the wild boar to the ground. “So long as Sun’s first light
finds the wild boar’s head in Pretty See, winter’s spell is
broken.” He takes off in a loping run; his leather-wrapped feet
slap against the well-worn path. Wombay trots along at his side,
relieved to be underway again.
and Bogdan lower their burden. The three young men cover the frozen
meat carefully with hides from their packs propped on short spears
they use for hunting. They pace around the pile to stay warm. Soon,
Sun’s rays strike them directly, bringing a little warmth. They
shield their eyes and peer intently toward the town, still in the
shadows of the hills to the east. In the distance, Maegans overtakes
the crest of the berm that marks town edge as Sunbeams light the
highest of the rooftops scattered throughout the town.
made it!” Dragos shouts. He thrusts his fist into the air. The
others stand next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder, and take up the
cheer. The dogs scurry about their feet, excited by the commotion.
The town is surprisingly silent, given the importance of their return
under the last sliver of Moon.
the distance, Maegans slips through the door into the sod house that
sits at the western edge of the town, Elder Oman’s home. The blind
old man is wrapped in his heavy robes, asleep on the bed opposite the
door. Red coals glow on the hearthstone, lighting the room slightly.
Maegans slides his pack off his shoulders and stoops next to the old
man. “Elder,” he whispers and shakes the old man’s shoulder
gently. “Wake up. We returned from the hunt.”
opens his eyes and blinks. He smiles on Maegans. “I saw you
returning in dreams tonight,” he whispers. “Sun is not yet
I crossed the berm. He didn’t see me on the path.”
smile grows to a wide grin. “I told everyone you’d make it,” he
says. “I told them not to give up.”
sits up and pushes the sleeping robes away. “Let me touch your
kneels to bring his head closer to where the old man reaches up. The
long fingers of his ancient hand close on the young man’s forehead
and rest there gently. “I see exhilaration, because you’re here
before Sunrise, and exhaustion, but something else as well –
something troubles you.”
moves his head away from the old man’s gentle grip.
is it?” Oman asks.
don’t know. Something’s wrong in Pretty See.”
don’t have words for it.”
you don’t have words for it, you don’t know what it is.”
what I said; I don’t know what it is.”
you don’t know what it is, you can’t do anything about it.”
know that too.”
pulls himself to his feet unsteadily.
a new star,” Maegans says.
strange, smudged star, like in the old stories.”
the morning star, very near.”
shakes his head slowly. “I will make an additional sacrifice.
Perhaps the new star will tell me his name.”
he will tell you his story as well.”
looks up with blind eyes as if he can see deep into the sky. He
shakes his head again. “Perhaps.”
it does, will you–”
lifts his hand, palm out, to halt Maegans’ words. “Where are the
the ridge with the meat. I ran ahead with the boar’s head.”
have the boar’s head?”
Maegans opens the flap of the pack at his feet. The wild boar’s
a large one. I hear pride in your words.”
cleaned and quartered the carcass. It’s all we could do to carry
it. The rest is with the others on the ridge. There’s plenty for
moves to near the hearthstone. He stoops down and finds a chunk of
wood in the pile next to the flat stones where the fires are kindled,
now covered with a small mound of ashes with red coals glowing
inside. He reaches out with an open hand to feel the warmth of the
coals and carefully lays the wood on top of the mound. “We’ll
rouse others to carry the meat. You have done well.”
make the Spring Feast today?”
takes up the stick left against the hearthstone and pokes at the
coals to push them around the chunk of wood he’s added. In a
moment, it begins to smolder. “Zoltan arrived three days after you
house falls silent except soft crackling sounds come from the fire.
Flames have appeared along one edge of the new wood. This also brings
a little light into the house. Maegans stares at the emerging fire
while he considers this. “Zoltan is here?” he asks finally.
ten days ago.”
said not. He said our count was wrong.”
could . . . ?”
couldn’t. Our count was accurate. I’m certain of it.”
remains in town?”
doesn’t wait. We slaughtered a cow for the feast the day after he
arrived. There was nothing else we could do.”
held his council with the clan chiefs and he continued his journey up
Eisomrun. Seven days he’s gone now.”
blinks furiously. “The last sliver of Moon rose just ahead of Sun
this morning. We carried meat all night. There was no mistake.”
straightens his back and flaps his arms against his sides to warm
them. “Zoltan is Sun Priest, son of Zoltan, son of Zoltan, son of
Zoltan back forever. He arrives on his spring journey and we feast to
celebrate the return of the Sun.”
not the tradition, but Zoltan agreed, since we had no wild boar.”
have the wild boar.” Maegans points to the pack at his feet. “Feast
day is supposed to be today, and we have the wild boar.”
nods in agreement. “We count by the Moon. We are Moon people.”
last crescent –”
I know the smiling crescent is today, but Zoltan is Sun Priest. He
counts by the Sun.”
doesn’t make any sense.”
is Sun Priest; he decides what makes sense and what’s to be done.”
we have the feast again today, a second feast?”
stoops over, takes up another chunk from the pile next to the
hearthstone, and props it against the first. First smoke and then
flames rise around the new wood.
we . . . ?”
thinking,” Oman says in a sharp voice. “We should not defy Zoltan
. . .” He finds his stick leaning against the hearthstone and pokes
the growing fire with it. “Yet, defying the Moon is worse offense,
and if Zoltan has miscalculated.” He draws in a deep breath and
exhales slowly. “We will feast a second time,” he says finally.
“Zoltan said nothing that would forbid it.”
we are people of Moon.” Maegans’ eyes sparkle.
are, but people of Sun as well, and Sun is master of the year. Sun
determines when winter becomes spring. Moon marks the seasons,
but Sun makes the seasons.” Oman leans the stick back
against the hearthstone and rubs his hands over the growing fire.
“Raise the town.”
lifts his pack onto his back and moves quickly toward the door.
quietly. Our second celebration will be subdued. We’ll repeat the
feast, and the procession, but the music and dancing must be done
with reserve, out of respect for Zoltan. If the winter spirits
retreated north already, we don’t want to arouse them. We don’t
want to draw them back.” He smiles. “If we hasten return of
summer spirits, so much the better. An old man’s bones grow weary
of winter long before winter moves on.”
stands in the doorway and looks out into the town.
finish my morning sacrifice and prayer and then I’ll come to town
center,” Oman concludes.
hurries through the doorway and up the lane to town center. Sunlight
now drenches the town. “Wake up!” he shouts into the town as he
jogs ahead, the fastest pace he can manage. “Wake up! It’s Spring
Feast day!” He hurries towards the open area in the middle of the
town, knowing old men will assemble there for morning convocation.
Wombay trails behind wagging his tail furiously. He holds his head
high, stretching out his neck, and yelps out sharp, crisp barks. Soon
men appear in doorways, yawning and rubbing their eyes. Before long
everyone in town is awake and busy with morning activities.
a cluster of men has assembled at town center, Maegans opens his pack
to show the wild boar’s head and addresses them. “Dragos, Miros,
and Bogdan wait on the ridge with the meat from this wild boar. Oman
says we should have the Spring Festival today, the day of the new
Moon, as has always been.”
came and left with his tribute already,” one of the men says.
“Spring Festival was eight days ago.”
calculations say the feast is today,” Maegans responds. “My
calculations too. The first Moonless night after the second complete
Moon cycle after the shortest day of the year.” He pauses to study
the men’s faces, looking to each in turn. “There is no mistake.”
won’t like it.” Barabos, leader of the bear clan, says. His voice
has the clanmen’s authoritarian intonation, with powerful, long
oo’s and ah’s and sharp ch’s and t’s. “He held his council
with the clan chiefs. Feast day is complete. There’s no repeating a
feast that’s completed already. How can there be two spring feasts?
is seven days gone,” Dondiwos, second oldest man in the town, says.
“Who will tell him?” He draws his slender frame up to full height
and stretches his neck to lift his chin.
knows all,” Barabos responds.
knows only what he’s told. If Oman says today is feast day, then
today is feast day.” Dondiwos stands resolute, arms folded across
his chest. “Besides, people from the valleys arrived for the feast
yesterday and the day before. They were disappointed to hear they
missed it. We’ll send boys to summon those who left yesterday.
They’ll have time to return for the feast and the procession, if
they hurry. Those who stayed in the town last night will be delighted
to hear their journey was not in vain. Spring Festival will be
celebrated properly, with roast wild boar, not beef. All attached to
the town will be present. Everything will be as it must be.”
Dondiwos turns, squares his shoulders, and walks from the plaza.
old fool doesn’t know what he risks,” Barabos says.
Oman and Dondiwos say –” a voice comes from a cluster of old men.
Barabos swings his hand across his face to signal the discussion is
over. “Fine. We’ll do as the town elders say, and pray we don’t
offend . . .”
spurs the assembled villagers into tumultuous activity. Maegans slips
away and goes to the house he shares with other young men. Besides
Dragos, Bogdan, and Miros, a dozen others live communally in Wolf
House, but none is there now. He adds wood to the fire from the pile
near the hearthstone, finds the bed he normally occupies, and falls
asleep, wrapped in warm sheepskins. Wombay sleeps in the doorway.
number of men and boys mill about town center for a time, talking
excitedly, but gradually they disperse to arrange for the feast and
the procession. Boys are sent to the ridge to bring back the wild
boar’s carcass, along with Dragos, Miros, and Bogdan. Others hurry
to catch up with those who returned home disappointed they’d missed
the feast. Women rekindle the central fire and skewer two of the wild
boar’s quarters, hide removed, on freshly cut poles. These they
place in forked posts on either side of the fire. Slowly the pig’s
quarters turn and roast. The wild boar’s head is wrapped in damp
leaves and buried in coals and ashes near the edge of the fire. Soon
the town fills with the pungent aroma of sizzling pork fat dripping
onto red hot coals, making crackling flashes of fire. The entire town
becomes busy. Some tend to the roasting meat; some prepare the other
foods for the feast; others make ready to repeat the Sundown
procession and celebration that follows.
outside temperature rises slowly through the morning as if nature
waited only for preparations for the feast to begin its transition.
The Sun brings some warmth; a steady South Wind brings more. By
afternoon some in the town are working without their heavy coats.
Pretty See bustles with activity, Dragos, Miros, and Bogdan join
Maegans in Wolf House. They, too, bundle themselves in sheepskins and
awakens first, late in the afternoon. “We did it!” he shouts,
waking the others.
are many hunting parties throughout the year, but securing the Spring
Feast wild boar is the hunt of a lifetime for a young man of Pretty
See. Town elders choose each year’s hunting party. Eligible young
men who are not chosen remain in the town and hope to go next year.
Some are never chosen. Sometimes the hunting party returns empty
handed. Sometimes one or another of the hunters is lost to the cold
or predators made bold by the hunger that comes at the end of winter.
There have been years when the wild boar turned on the young men and
attacked. Many have been killed over the years. Whatever the outcome
of the hunt, a young man is never chosen to go a second time. When
the hunters are successful, spring follows soon after; when they are
unsuccessful, winter lingers for another Moon cycle, sometimes two.
sit with Elder Oman to watch the procession,” Miros says.
“Returning hunters are always honored so, successful ones anyway.”
the men will envy us,” Bogdan adds.
the women . . .” Dragos leaves the thought unfinished, but it
propels the four young men into self-conscious laughter nonetheless.
Dragos, Miros, and Bogdan have the house to themselves because the
others who live there are busy preparing for the feast and
procession. They take full advantage of this luxury of breathing
space. Each washes himself with water from the large bowl standing
near the hearthstone. They take turns trimming hair and shaving faces
using the clamshells with sharpened edges kept for this purpose.
will be in the procession,” Dragos whispers to Maegans as he
scrapes away the fine beard hairs that have sprouted on his chin over
the past two weeks. Dragos’s hair and beard are black. The other
young men, the twins, have their mother’s ruddy complexion,
freckles, and light brown hair darkening to darker brown in the
eyebrows and around the ears and chin.
too,” Maegans says. His eyes flutter with excitement. He sits on a
small stool near the fire tightening the leather cords that hold his
she’ll dance for you.”
she’ll smile on you from her place in the procession.”
you’ll sneak away together after the dancing.”
head snaps up; he glares at Dragos. “Maybe you think too much about
it’s time you spoke with her father.”
sucks on his lips and concentrates on his boots.
. . .”
you should mind your own business!” Maegans slaps at Dragos
playfully. “I can’t afford the dowry a girl like Losna requires.”
and cattle, and sheep, and goats, and –”
could get ten goats for her, easy, but he’d take fewer from you. He
don’t have ten goats.”
take your word for some of them. He likes you.”
have two goats and one sheep.”
considers. “He doesn’t like you that much,” he concludes.
for leading the hunting party for Spring Feast will amount to
something. Maybe with that and the goats and sheep I have now . . .”
you think he’ll ask Losna who she’d choose? She’s the best girl
in Pretty See; she can have anybody she wants.”
has two more daughters.”
but can he afford to walk a path for Losna he might not be able to
match with the others?”
do you mean?”
sisters can’t have anybody they want; they’ll accept whoever
their father finds; they’ll have to.”
isn’t so bad.”
teeth point every which way.” Dragos grins and holds the back of
his hand against his lips. He HH wiggles his fingers to illustrate
maybe Barabos won’t ask Losna either?”
punches his cousin’s bicep playfully. “Of course he’ll ask her!
She’s had her eyes on you! Everyone sees it.”
grins sheepishly and bites his tongue. What Dragos doesn’t know, no
one does, is Maegans and Losna exchanged long, unblinking looks for
months. During this time she took to putting more rouge on her cheeks
and painting in dark lines around her eyes. This highlighted the blue
in her eyes to the extent Maegans could hardly look there without
night before full Moon, the night before Maegans led the hunting
party from Pretty See, they met in a vacant hut at the edge of the
town. Losna suggested the location, but they made arrangements almost
without speaking. Their eyes told enough – there was little need
for words. When Maegans arrived at the rendezvous, Losna was there
already, sitting on the small bed, wrapped in furs against the bitter
. . .”
words,” Losna said. “Come, sit with me.” She patted the bed
next to her.
alone together their passion took their wills away and propelled them
first into passionate kissing, and then frantic touching, finding,
feeling. Once their fire ignited, it was not to be extinguished
except through full consummation.
didn’t know it would come to this,” Maegans whispered when it was
over. They were huddled together, naked, wrapped in Losna’s fur
did.” Losna touched Maegans’ face, exploring his cheekbones
tenderly. “I knew.”
sees her now, sitting on the bed in their covert meeting place. She
is flush with excitement. Her pale skin glows in the dim light. Her
coarse, golden hair is arranged in intricate braids that curl around
her head. Her blue eyes flash. She smiles and her soft lips grow to
fill Maegans’ consciousness. He shakes off the vision, blinks his
eyes, and finds Dragos standing over him grinning.
laughs. “You were licking your lips like a dog with a new bone.”
was thinking about the feast.”
Losna feast! Soft mounds, white as new snow, steaming with –”
up!” Maegans swings at Dragos but misses entirely. “I was
thinking about roast pig!”
Dragos howls the call of the Wolf House. The others join in.
Day is one of four old major feast days celebrated at Pretty See. The
others are the Shortest Day, Longest Day, and Harvest Day. Each feast
begins with a procession into the town at Sundown, followed with
music, dancing and feasting in town center. Because of their role
securing the wild boar meat for the Spring Day festival, Maegans and
the others are invited to sit with Elder Oman to view the procession
into the town.
it’s time, they leave the young men’s quarters and pass through
the town. The rich aroma of roasting pork drifts on the air.
Villagers are in a festive mood; many greet them as they pass. As is
proper, the young men arrive first at the raised bench and position
themselves around an open space in the middle, where Oman will sit. A
crowd of everyone not in the procession gathers around them, some
also on benches, most standing. Soon Oman arrives with his attendant.
“I have sacrificed and prayed this day,” he tells the assembly.
“The gods are pleased with our Feast Day,” he announces.
“Especially Sky Father.”
Zoltan?” a man near the raised bench calls out.
will take care of his own standing with Sky Father,” Oman answers.
“The weather is turning already; anyone can see it. Who would doubt
our feast tonight finds favor with the gods?”
is a low background rumble of under-the-breath conversations
circulating in the crowd, but no one speaks up to challenge Oman.
the procession begin!” Oman shouts. He takes the place reserved for
him on the bench and turns toward the Eastern entrance to the town
where the parade has assembled.
in the procession is a large drum carried on a cart pulled behind a
large, white ox, the best in the town. The cart creaks along on two
solid wheels. A herdsman leads the ox slowly along the town street.
Two drummers kneel in the cart in front and behind the drum and pound
the drum skin with thick drumsticks, their ends wrapped in leather.
The slow, regular boom of the drum sets the pace for the town elders
who follow on foot behind. After them come the seven clan chiefs
dressed in their finest furs. Bear clan chief, Barabos, Losna’s
father, looks up as he passes, first to Oman, and then his eyes meet
Maegans’. He nods solemnly. Behind the clan chiefs follow all of
their horses and cattle, those tame enough to walk through town
without bolting or bellowing.
scarcely notices the parade, but watches for Losna. Soon the
unattached young women appear in the distance and promenade in a
single column up the lane toward the raised bench, arrayed in their
finest spring clothes, but Losna isn’t among them. Maegans turns to
Dragos, his eyes wide with surprise and concern.
must be . . .” Dragos whispers, grasping immediately the distress
in Maegans’ eyes. He can’t finish the thought. What could
possibly be so important Losna would miss the procession?
leans close to Oman’s ear. “Losna, the daughter of Barabos,” he
begins, but stops when he sees Oman’s face cloud with concern.
young women are passing now?” Oman asks.
are.” Maegans swallows hard. “But I don’t see Losna Bear with
are many others are there not? Many who are unattached?”
but . . .”
who would delight to dance with the young man who led the Spring
Feast wild boar hunt?”
suppose so.” Maegans pauses, searching the passing procession. “Is
looks directly into Maegans’ eyes so intently Maegans forgets for a
moment the old man is blind. His expression is stern. “The new star
. . .” he begins.
The smudged star?” Maegans looks toward the eastern horizon, but it
is too early for stars, and the new one won’t appear until morning
face softens. “The smudged star’s name is Perso. His story is a
tragic one. He fell in love with a beautiful woman, Hatros. She loved
him, too, but she was married to a jealous man named Regis. When
Regis learned of their feelings he imprisoned Hatros on a tiny island
off the coast.”
turns his eyes back to the parade passing by but keeps his ears tuned
to Oman’s story.
longed for her lover,” Oman continues, “until she thought to
light a torch and stand it on the highest rock on the island. Perso
saw the torch and he knew it was Hatros’s signal for him to come.
He swam across to her though the distance was great and the waves
high. They enjoyed the night together, but in the morning she warned
him Regis came to her every day, so he swam back to the coast and
waited for the next night.”
turns his attention back to Oman. “They were lovers?”
passionate lovers. They continued this rendezvous every night, fair
weather and foul, full Moon and new, for many Moons until Regis began
to wonder why his wife seemed so content even though he kept her
isolated on a desolate island. It happened that Regis owned a dog who
knew how to say a few words and one day he left the dog behind on the
island to spy on his wife. When Perso came to her that night the dog
dog could speak?”
dogs understand words, but few know to speak them. When Regis
returned to the island the next morning, his dog told him Hatros
beckoned Perso across the water with a torch. Regis was furious, of
course. That day he pretended to return to the coast but in fact
remained behind hidden in the rocks near where Hatros lit her torch.
When night came and she lit her torch he confronted her. She told him
the torch was to guide passing boats away from the rocks, but of
course he knew better. He took the torch onto his boat and paddled it
out into the straight. Soon he heard Perso swimming towards him. He
quietly paddled farther out to sea. This he did all night. Perso,
blinded by his love for Hatros, followed the light. When Sun rose in
the morning he was so far out to sea there was no land in sight. He
attempted to return, but he swam in circles. Soon he was exhausted
and drowned. Sailors on Salt Sea sometimes hear his gasping breath
over the waves.”
why there’s the smudged star?”
Sky Father saw the young boy drowning he swept him up into the sky
and made this star of him. The smudge you see is his wake as he swims
across the sea. Look closely in the morning, you’ll see the head of
the young man swimming and the wake following.”
why is it there now?”
star is a warning.”
tells us someone in our town must suffer. He will suffer greatly.”