The Eternal Song, Part Ten: Lost

Broken sobs woke Wiilu again, finding their way into dreams of fear and pain that dissolved into the heavy midnight air and left only fragments behind.

“The Gods have left us. We are lost.”

Wiilu sat up. Her mother’s gaunt face came into focus, silhouetted in the dim light from the hearth. A jug stood next to the sullenly burning embers, which hissed and sizzled whenever a drop from the leaking roof struck them.

“Mother, it’s all right. We are all here and safe. Let me bring you a hot cup of the calming brew.”

Now that Awiyan’s night terrors had become chronic, Wiilu made a habit of leaving the jug beside the fire every night. The herbs used in the calming brew were among the few useful things that could be found in abundance in the forest. Maybe the Gods—assuming they existed, as to which Wiilu now had her doubts—had indeed abandoned the villagers to starve. But at least it was possible to drug oneself enough not to think about it.

As Wiilu made her way toward the hearth, Tahu-at sighed, rolled over and went back to snoring. Though he was always polite to his new mother-in-law by day, Tahu-at had shown no interest in soothing her night fears.

Reaching for a cup, Wiilu stepped into a puddle and stifled the curse that was on her lips. No matter how much she and Tahu-at patched the roof with thick bundles of straw, it always found another place to leak. Maybe if the rain would ever stop… but that wasn’t likely to happen any time soon. She hadn’t seen the sun for ages.

If only the People could have stayed in the cozy huts in their old village. Those huts hadn’t leaked, and they hadn’t been full of giant spiders and snakes either. Wiilu had woken one morning, not long ago, to find herself looking an enormous green snake in the eye. Tahu-at, when she poked him enough to wake him up, had grabbed his hunting knife and whacked off the snake’s head, gleefully declaring that they would eat well that night. She had to admit that when they roasted the snake, it tasted better than their usual fare of rat-and-tuber stew. Still, she would have preferred to do without the excitement.

Wiilu put the cup into her mother’s hand and waited by her side until Awiyan drank the hot brew and fell back to sleep. Someone was coughing in another hut nearby, perhaps Eldest Grandmother, whose health had been declining for several months. Or perhaps it was another of the elders; the sudden move into the forest hadn’t been good for any of them. Lilaya’s grandfather had died just three days ago, his body laid to rest in wet ground under moss-draped trees, far from the bones of the People’s ancestors.

Along with the others Wiilu had wept, her rivalry with Lilaya long forgotten. It was hard to believe she had once thought of Lilaya as an enemy because they had disputed who could sing better. She’d had no idea of what an enemy really was.

Returning to the hearth, Wiilu poured herself a cup of the hot brew and drank it all down. Its harsh taste seemed a fair price to rid herself of the harsh thoughts it banished.

Continue to Part Eleven

Part Nine: Mountain.
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 06/29/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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