The Eternal Song, Part Four: Midsummer

Awiyan woke screaming before dawn, gripped by terror that had no name. In her dream she had seen the village on a sunny day, with everyone going about their usual work. Then a dark cloud swept into the valley, a formless evil, blurring the shapes of people and trees until all had been blotted out entirely. Nothing remained but the smell of ashes and death.

As the day progressed, she almost convinced herself that it had been no more than a dream. The village looked much as it always did, with everyone bustling about on this Midsummer feastday. A goat had been slaughtered at first light, its heart and head given in offering to the Gods. The remaining meat had been set to roasting, with a boy—Iwai—turning the spit.

This task had fallen to Iwai not as the feastday honor he thought it was, but chiefly to keep him out of trouble. One of the Grandmothers had overheard him telling the other children a preposterous story about killing four settlers. In this version of events, Tahu-at had fought back bravely after being shot several times from ambush with thunder-sticks, and the large bruise on Iwai’s shoulder came from fighting a settler twice his size.

Tahu-at, helping to set up the ceremonial grounds as best he could with his right arm splinted and in a sling, had explained away the injuries by saying that he and his brother took a tumble down a steep and rocky ravine. Awiyan found that story just as unlikely. Perhaps the Healer knew the truth of it; but the Healer’s oath to her God bound her, like all others who shared her calling, not to speak of things learned in confidence.

Several hours into the feasting and dancing, a crescent moon rose in a clear sky. Wiilu and Lilaya came forward in turn, both adorned with ceremonial beads and bangles, to be presented by Eldest Grandmother as women of the People. Then it was time for Awiyan herself to stand before the villagers in the torchlight, affirming her devotion to the People’s service as she took her place among the leaders.

“And now, we honor a young woman who has proven herself worthy in all respects to guide the People with her wisdom in future years.” Eldest Grandmother saw little with her milky cataract-filled eyes, but her voice was strong and carried easily through the crowd. “This young woman has a deep understanding of our stories and traditions, excels at reading and writing, and always shows good judgment and dedication to her work.”

Wiilu leaned forward eagerly, her green eyes wide and sparkling. A few paces away, Lilaya bit her fingernails until her mother gave her a sharp rap across the knuckles. The villagers, crowding closer, waited in expectant silence for Eldest Grandmother to speak the name of the one Chosen.


As the goatherd’s daughter stepped forward amidst the murmurs of the crowd, Wiilu scowled, while Lilaya hung her head and looked almost ready to cry. Riadne inclined her head respectfully toward the Grandmothers and then turned to face the audience.

At this point in the ceremony, a flawless performance of the ritual song would invoke the Gods’ favor. Although Riadne could not sing it because of her cleft lip, Eldest Grandmother herself took up the song, while Riadne began a graceful dance. Where the song spoke of the moon and stars, Riadne gazed skyward, raising her arms above her head. To show the rain that brought water and growing things to the Earth, she moved her fingers like falling raindrops. After a lifetime of using gestures to communicate, she performed the dance as easily and naturally as if having a conversation.

Wiilu managed to get through the festivities without losing her temper, much to Awiyan’s relief. When they left the ceremonial grounds late into the night, she made clear how much she felt slighted.

“It’s not fair.”

“Riadne was in her first year of womanhood. She was just as eligible to be Chosen as you were.”

“But, but,” Wiilu spluttered before getting to the main point of her objection, “she can’t even sing!”

“That does not matter. The Eternal Song flows through Riadne as it does through all of Creation. She sings in her own way.”

Wiilu opened her mouth as if to say more, but then looked down at the ground and scuffled her feet before finally admitting, “I don’t understand.”

Awiyan’s voice was gentle. “That, too, is all right. You will find your own way, as well.”

Continue to Part Five

Part Three: Hunters or Hunted.
Part Two: Rehearsal.
Part One: Beauty.

on 05/11/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Stephanie says:

    Looking forward to the conclusion (which may or may not be coming soon!).

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