The Eternal Song, Part Nine: Mountain

The stony ground under Riadne’s feet seemed almost as familiar to her as her lost home, although she had marked no path through the stunted trees and thorny bushes. Where the light tread of her leather boots or the hem of her long skirt disturbed the pebbles, she knew that the wind would soon scour away all traces of her presence. It was always windy up here on the mountain’s high slopes.

Today the wind was in the east, tasting of snow, although the western sky had some clear patches where the afternoon sun shone brightly. Occasional flurries landed on Riadne’s goatskin cloak, melting almost at once. The cloak and matching boots had been a gift from her father, who had slaughtered the goat and tanned the hide, and from the village women who had lined the cloak warmly with down and had embroidered both it and the boots with symbols of good fortune.

At first she had tried to give them back, protesting that they were too fine for her needs and had taken too much of the villagers’ time away from other needful tasks. And surely there were more important uses to which a goatskin could be put? But the women would have none of that, after she picked up a stick and wrote her concerns in the muddy ground.

“You take too many of our cares upon yourself, Riadne. It is not for you to tell us what we may do with a goatskin or how we may spend our time.” Awiyan spoke with her usual directness, in a tone she might have used to rebuke a young girl for poor scholarship.

Ko-ato, his forehead much more deeply lined than it had been just a few months ago, had spoken in a gentler tone to his daughter as he looked at the pinched, hungry faces of the village women.

“Take the cloak and boots, Riadne. There will be more goatskins.”

She was glad to have them now, up here on the mountain’s heights in the chill of late autumn. Under her left arm she carried a new urn, wrapped in a cloth sack with as much care as if it had been an infant in swaddling clothes. She had painted it with glyphs and images showing the events described on the scrolls sealed inside, along with the dates of their making. Unlike the fanciful creatures of myth that had adorned the urns in the temple, Riadne’s images were simple, realistic scenes of life in the village where she had grown up. All too soon, that life also would seem no more than a myth.

Below a steep rock outcropping, Riadne pressed close to the rough granite wall, shaded by a row of fragrant pines on her other side. Although her path appeared to end in an impenetrable tangle of dead branches, she reached for a smooth branch in the center and lifted the makeshift barrier aside, revealing the cave entrance beyond.

She had searched the mountain for over a month before finding this place. Although it did not have a wide natural doorway like the temple in the valley, its small narrow opening could be kept hidden from the settlers. And it was not for her to object if the Goddess demanded that she enter this new temple upon her knees.

Riadne first put the urn inside and then crawled in after it. A straw mat protected her new cloak from the bare rock. Once inside she could stand and move freely; the cave was more than twice her height, and nearly that wide. She removed the urn from its wrappings and placed it beside the right wall, in a neat row with the others of her making, which now numbered two tens plus one.

The afternoon sunlight streamed into the cave through a long horizontal crack in the granite, high enough on the sheer rock face so that no passers-by could see inside. On the far wall, the light struck a clear crystal formation and blazed far brighter than the candles in the old temple had done. The altar, as Riadne envisioned it, would go directly below the crystal. At present it was only an unformed lump of granite. The Goddess statue, her bright turquoise eyes reflecting the light from the crystal, stood alone on the left side of the cave.

With a hammer and chisel, Riadne set about the task of creating the altar. She was no mason, and the work would be rough; but others who came after her could add the finishing touches. For now, all that mattered was that the work needed to be done.

Continue to Part Ten

Part Eight: Forest.
Part Seven: Shards and Dust.
Part Six: Warning.
Part Five: Gifts.
Part Four: Midsummer.
Part Three: Hunters or Hunted.
Part Two: Rehearsal.
Part One: Beauty.

on 06/22/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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