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The Tale of the Stranger- excerpt

By Dona Pratnekar All Rights Reserved ©


Day 0- Where all roads lead to

 The last day of the first awakening:

I bow to all the sleek tall grasses that grow in numbers and dance with the winds.
I bow to all the lone trees standing guard and shelter in the fields.
I bow to little fungi mycelium lighting up our dream way.
I bow to little seeds and roots for the promise of life after death has conquered.
I bow to all life forms, powered by and swimming with the same flow of magic.
I stand tall with my feet in the dust and mind in the skies.
Out of the blissful ignorance we awake, the cosmic consciousness leading us to where we are to go.

Just as the first light dawned in the eastern skies, turning it slightly paler, the birds awakened with their song helping to chase the shadows of the night away.  The gloom under the canopy of trees was dimly reflected in the countless dew drops that had gathered overnight on the grasses and leaves, spider webs glistened like a chandelier dreamcatcher might, and the little flecks of light scattered over the foliage, making the air shimmer.  The many faces in the erratic patterns of the tree bark hummed the melody to the awakening day, eyes on the leaves blinking towards the endless blue sky that began to show through the canopy of trees.

The cool fresh air of the new morning crept silently and slowly through the open latched window of a sometime brightly painted wooden wagon, almost concealed in the dense brush. Inside the breeze swayed a little spider, weaving a thread in the corner and swirling the bright translucent fabrics hanging from the ceiling, making the tiny glassy beads and metal trinkets softly clink and chime as it passed through the narrow cabin. Upward it rose to kiss the warm skin of a naked body lying in a woven hammock under the semi-circular roof. A leg shoved a sweaty blanked on the floor, and young muscles shuddered with delight and prickled as the air dried her back and lured her with whispered hums to meet the sun again. She squeezed her palms a couple of times, felt the sense returning to her limbs and let her hands and legs dangle over the edge. Waking after a proper sleep seemed so much harder than waking out of Dreamtime, with her muscles too heavy to move and her thoughts too sluggish to think. But today it seemed she preferred the time to pass differently, as it sometimes does after a night of heavy drinking. It felt good every now and then to rest properly and it had been long since proper sleep was safe.

It was almost fifty years now, since the second moon began to show on the horizon,  growing bigger and lighter with every turn. It had happened simultaneously all over the Independent Holds; the free lands of farms and agricultural land that encircled and provided for the Inner cities: those massive complex structures that hold the whole mega city inside, suburbs including.  Artisans, musicians, writers, curiosity makers and craftspeople, most of the traveling show makers who refused to live in Inner cities and believe in its cool machinery, suddenly began to gather as if summoned by some unseen piper.  Heading out of the extent of Holds, into the empty, as the abandoned land was called in the cities. Empty of people, that is. Following old, overgrown roads and an unheard call from across the strange landscape of ancient buildings and constructions, crumbling into earth.  Iron, glass and steel. Rust, dust and grass. She had been weeks ahead when she left the last of the oil moors and rust pools behind her and reached the Golden plains with its endless roll of low hills, like the great waves of the open sea. She followed a track of lower grass and patches of dirt, a traveller’s road, winding under open sky through dry slender grasses as she visited that hidden valley and this little groove. And she was still days ahead today, after her almost dreamlike wandering through this natural museum of consciousness brought her into the sigh of Home Valley.

She stretched delightfully and attentively, swinging softly in her bed, letting shivers ripple through her muscles and organs.  Now that the cool morning air had awakened her, she lay breathing deeply, listening to the sounds outside and how the beat of the night gave way to the melody of the day. At the soft murmur of black feathers outside she stretched out a hand towards the window.  As she felt Tinkers’ claws carefully close around her fingers and suspending his weight, she lifted the bird to meet his eyes. He had grown and his feathers are almost glowing. Glowing with the colour of the wise. He still had a leg of his meal dangling from the corner of his beak. No thank you, she laughed. I need to listen again. She lowered her hand and the bird took off, outside the window where she heard Gentle Grey’s steps, muffled by the mossy ground of the circular forest clearing. She swung neatly down the middle beam, put a dress over her head; soft, undyed fabric that was not to make her hot and stepped outside by the back through the curtain of painted wooden beads. Pausing on the ledge, with the sun just about to peek with its deep orange glow over the rolling hills that surrounded the Home valley, she filled her lungs slowly, catching the fragrances carried upon the air. Crow, now perching on the great neck of the tall mule, watched her intently.

Cinnamon and fires that burn in the distance. Enchanting scent, leading her ever since she left the valley what now seemed ages ago. Road is calling again.  To search for hidden gates, overgrown rails and forgotten bends, to find where the end of the road leads.  She departed alone and caring for nothing but what she wore and knew. She was returning as a self-sufficient, independent and mature human, with friends in many realms.  And now they face their last day on the road. She could almost see the trail of sweetwood burning, winding from the village of coloured tents and wagons. They will set camp before the two moons rise again, she thought as she scratched the old equine over his back. Stepping on the edge of the road, she took the dust and dry soil that had gathered at the sides and rubbed it into the skin of her arms, armpits, legs and neck until her skin was smooth and dry. It always brought travellers safe journey, good speed and a warm welcome at the end; the protective layer prevented sweat and bad luck.  As the first touches of new sun peaked over the leaves to warm the ground under her bare feet, she softly murmured her greeting prayer: a very old tune that filled her with light and made the air round her shimmer with old, primal energies that responded to the waves of her chant.  

Thinker shuddered with pleasure in the light and warmth. Tiny spectacles of dust glistened around him as he stroked his feathers, arranging them while standing on one leg. He and that woman together carried a great piece of knowledge back to the Children. He had helped on so many occasions that now he held a strong link in preserving the experience she acquired through her challenges.

She opened one eye slowly and looked intensely at the bird, his feathers shimmering with a dark blue hue that seemed to float over the back of the crow. Opening the other eye they mentally conveyed some mental meanings, answering some question and laughing heartily with some proposals. Dark feathers flapped and the bird was off gracefully, croaking in farewell to the woman and the mule that stayed on the ground. Ever since she found him, cold and naked waiting for death in a pile of broken nest and dead siblings he kept her company, remembering things that slipped her memory and guiding her from above, enabling another perspective of the ground she travelled across. Grazing nearby twigs, DoubleG felt the tiny hands of a human stroke his side, combing fingers through his mane. Softly speaking into his ear, she took him to refresh themselves by the spring of the little creek, one of many that carved their little trails through the green grooves, scattered over this section of the plains. She put her arms around his head and looked into his eyes. He was a good companion; he was not slow and he was not weak, neither fearful nor particularly whimsical. She explained they end their journey today, for some time at least.  She caressed his dark mane: yes, good grasses here but better there; soft and deep green, old orchards for shade in the summer, with buzzing of bees in the blooming treetops, many refreshing springs to swim.  Plenty of food, sweet apples and carrots and open space for people and horses. Human was giving him good thoughts, good lights. Listening intently he released a long approving sigh through his nostrils. Her touch was good and he gladly followed it as she led him to the harness and yoked him with steady, practised moves. She cleaned the site, so that nothing but the laid grass was different from when she camped here last evening. Reins loose, she whistled shortly to the mule as a sign he may start and DoubleG effortlessly pulled the wagon out of the grassy ditch onto the road following eastward. As soon as they were out of the dapple tree groove the sun was already beginning to show its power: dust was rising behind them and the air was getting dry.

She settled comfortably on the front bench with an old- pear like instrument of polished bone in her lap, inhaling the sunny heat of the new day. Grey kept a steady pace and there was nothing to do while she feasted her eyes over the landscape except, to strum a light tune over the beat of his hooves.

As she got closer to her final destination and as her travels had been drawing to an end, she found it harder to reach Dreamtime while she slept, a resting habit she acquired over the years of wandering with the winds and birds. Never fully asleep, but always fully adream.  She had heard the call that resonated through all the combined realms and she retrieved all her minds, little lights gone to learn from distant collective memories of lands, clouds and stars.  She felt them returning over the next few passing nights with one moon hanging low on one horizon with the other crescent in the zenith. She witnessed their tellings, she understood and felt without interfering. Some things had to be done in dark, in sleep, in the deep.  

Last evening, she pulled off the road into a little groove of toplar trees, squeezed between two slopes and with the smell of running water clinging to the dark bark. She camped her wagon early and releasing her friend Gentle Grey to graze, washed herself in the stream and boiled some water over the fire she had built in front of her wooden cabin: taking some dried herbs and root tufts from a dark blue glass jar that she kept in her locker amongst others, all delicately made and containing even more delicate ingredients. Crush them with my hands to release the essence and drop them in a tiny clay pot by the fire. Then she dozed into a light slumber right there on the soft moss. She awoke feeling excited and focused. Her breathing was slow, attuned to the slight breeze that still sought its way over the grassland maze. Water flows where the resistance is the weakest. It is in her nature to do so and to gather in concentration when the obstacle did not give way.  The warm evening air was filled with a tremendous buzz released by the countless crickets and other bugs that sang their tune over the rhythms of the plains. She was happy to sit in their united glow again. Basking in the transcending moonlight replenished her spirit and soul, made every fibre of her body pulse with the rhythmic cosmic vibes. Spreading through the shine of the stars, like the rippling waves from a dropped stone, as the dance rhythm of the song through ears to feet. Easier times, peaceful times were coming now. Soon she will return home, join the circle where the Children will share their joys and celebrate. Pass on what they have learned and found. Add their share to the Web of Knowledge. Strengthen the reality for those who are yet to be lost.

The steady pace the hooved one had kept lasted till the cool shade of another sparse bush lured them to rest through midday. She put off her music and drank a cup of water from the rain barrel at the back of the wagon with slow, delighted swallows. The day had become hot and they still had some distance to cover before they reached the mouth of the valley. The mule stopped as he heard the water trickling, so she filled a bucket and stepped down to the front to water her gentle and obliging friend. Putting it down before the animal and waiting untill he drank his share, she listened to the stillness of the surrounding grasslands. Quietness consisting of many lesser silences within an individual buzz or cricket. This shadow had no creek, only a muddy puddle at the bottom, and the silence between the swarming of flies above the water was the most intense. The kind of emptiness she could use. Here she listened the most intently. She felt a slight vibe entering her body through the soles of her feet. Roots growing. Sap flowing. Leaves breathing. And something else. A slow, thumping sound as if of a pulsing drum deep under the hills. Too regular to be a distant ground shake. Like a distance drumming, the call echoed, under the soft layer of grass far from the heart of the valley, showing the lost their way home. The drumming filled her lean body with excitement and as Grey quenched his thirst, he felt his little human woman suddenly burst off with a grin of excitement, and he knew they were getting close. She brought some apples and shared them with him, then showed him with her hand that he should continue along the road towards the low slopes. Jumping on the moving wagon she cawed to the raven, already mounting the air wave behind them. Returning the cry he flew high up under the sun and his shadow, thrown over the crumbled pavement, grew smaller and smaller. The roads were already much better this close to the Valley and one can cover a significantly better distance on a track that is well used.  Inside her wagon, the shelves filled with books and stones wobbled, sacks of seeds and herbs, the bottles and oils suspended in nets from the ceiling swayed with the motion of the wagon, while she pulled her tunic off in one swift motion. It had become tattered and dirty while she searched through the marshlands and plains and was not fit for being seen any more. She searched her chest, which was usually her table, for she knew she had some proper summer clothing, good clothing she had worn seasons ago travelling with Tribes. Long ago it was. In a distant culture. From the bottom she took a light leather bag- belt containing many useful tools and pockets for other useful tools one might put in, a sandy coloured set of wide cut genie pants and dark green silk shawl that she twisted and tied around her torso.  She looked at herself in the narrow stretch of the dimmed mirror that was nailed onto the wooden wall behind the hanging coats. Her hair could do with combing but otherwise she was presentable. Smoothing out her tangles with an old, mostly toothless comb, she almost tipped over a jar of dyed glass, containing the dried petals she used last night for the tea. With no specific medicinal powers, those flowers were special to her and they reached to her approvingly as she opened the jar to reseal it tightly and put it back on the shelf. She had picked those herbs far away, on the far northern side of the moors, where rocky shores bloomed in late times of the year with many magnificent colours and the cold foreign wind was scented with a multitude of unimaginably pleasant fragrances.  She had used to sit there to gather her spirits before diving into the cold blue vastness, her feet washed by the foam and listening to the waves crush upon the rocks. In time she will train her mind and learn the way, until then the dried petals she kept acted as a strong mental link guiding her there.

Last night the two moons called- both of them, and their call will only increase as the summer arrives in full blossom. Sitting then in the dusking light on the side of the wagon with a cup in her hand, she had let her feet dangle over the ledge and listened to the soft breathing of the heavy mule that slept somewhere near in the night. She took a deep breath, smelling the scents rising from the mug, literally tasting the salty air upon which they had been carried and in the next moment, she found herself there again; knee deep in the weaves with sand and pebbles between her feet. Cold. Both wind and the waves that met the land. But full of life. The breeze stopped and she felt the retreating water become grass again and the pebbles only moist dirt on her soles. She slowed her own breathing pattern and changed it as the effects of her wild blend of summer flowers and mental visualisations began to show. Night had swelled to its fullest; moths with smooth, silky wings glistened in the moonlight and a humming buzz has quieted for a little bit.  She had focused and grew her feet, wet from the grass into the roots of the earth, feeling the warmth still rising from the soft soil. Opening her inner senses; feeling the gravity of the cosmic energies beginning to flow more actively through her. She showed her palms to the sky and the twins there, set to motion all mind channels and stretching her awareness. With a twist of presence, she was back in the water with a scent of wild, wild blossoms in her mind. From here she had let her thoughts and feelings dissolve. Let herself float in the air like visual hallucination, shimmering with depth and colour until the wind carried it away, along with the salty scents and muffled hums of the land. The many coloured land from where the starlight came took her awareness and broke it down into countless pieces, each set free to dance with cosmic currents and explore all seven directions. The stillness of the night gave her mind the space needed to unfold the many maps of all possible courses and patterns that weave the tapestry of Dreamtime, inhabited by self-aware lifeforms.

She was done with her hair, now dancing around her head in alien motion and taskless again, she ventured to the front porch to keep silent but comfortable company with DoubleG. The sun was at their backs now and she peered over the shimmering edges of the skyline into the abyss within. With silences between the sounds she knew where to look for emptiness within her sight. Thinker descended from the winds and landed on her arm to confirm with his own vision that they would not be alone for long anymore. Soon. A smile spread across her face: time travels strange when a mind is engaged in swifter realms. She had felt for others, any of whom she might know as they slowly advanced out of the system, over the abandoned lands and onto the plains, every day more and more. As if knowing there was company out there would make the world grow more solid, and as if the living felt less like a dream and more like a collective reality.

Settling in the shade with the dark raven perched on a beam above, she looked over the back of the mule, over the glinting of the dust, towards the little gap in between the hills, then reached the Grey in his mind and led his steps to the mouth of the valley. She chewed on a piece of wildbread, bits of dried wild fruits, herbs and honeys melted on her tongue.  She thought back, long before she found the valley of the cold misty mornings in autumn, filled with wetness rising from the streams. How delighted she was to find little frozen berries and pears under the brown and red leaves, how sour they were and bitter. But fruits of Nature, wild and pure taught her when she did not yet know she was being taught. She found what she was searching for then, when she gave up ever finding anything she thought worth finding of and now she knew. She inhaled slowly, intentionally.  For a moment she was intensely aware of the silence that surrounded her again: a buzz from the grasses so strong it echoed through her skull until the stomp of a heavy hoof ended the interval. Then another stomp pumped the sequence, and another; slower and slower until finally the next one did not came at all.  Voices in the silence that stretched to eternity. Whispers and laughter. Murmur, reaching her and finally becoming clear. Ground shone with flickering lights, dancing and swirling with every plant, stone and memory they passed along the road. Instantly learning, receiving and releasing energies, positive intentions and experiences the grasslands recognized her as their adopted child and allowed her to enter the Valley at its very outmost border. Soft tinkling of little invisible bells filled the air instantly, grasses bowed a little lower to the passing Child and right around the corner overgrown with bushes, Grey passed under an arch doorway. Purely symbolic, the border did not resist the crossing to anybody either in our out, but rather marked in the language of the old, that this land has a protector: the Children. Only those who heard and answered, who were lost and found, knew it was there and were able to cross. Pale poles, stripped of bark on both sides of the already widened road were connected with a pale strip of cloth that fluttered between. Bells, tiny and small hang in masses atop both poles and the linen banner. Sounds enchanted the grounds that marked the protected land of the Homevalley, a song that as long as the wind blew never ceased to convey the massage.

The entrance to the Valley was well hidden, not to be seen in the thick scrub bush, but those who hear the call have only to follow the winds and whispered advice from the bending grasses.

Those who did not know what they searched for or searched for wrong reasons, never bothered with savage markings and ever failed to cross the mental line. It is not a civilisation of the ancients but a community of the future reborn and materialised. An intention, a process of mental work of a devoted protector gave that archway the right and power to answer the Child’s request for crossing. 

She touched this place last night, while she was peering into the sky and listening to the soft darkness of summer and the whispers within.  Recalling her memories of past, deeds of present and dreams of future, her head bowed slightly once she recollected her new impressions.  Swept with the wave, water bringing her back on the shores and with the rhythm of the heart dance, she awakened from her thoughts with a new sense of the world. That’s how she had sat, last evening before reaching the summer gathering and that’s how she sat now in the sunlight, as if woven into the fabric of dense life within the valley.

In the next few days, the road will crowd with Children returning: barefoot, walking, riding, driving; alone, in pairs, in groups. Not only that, even Children with their children, and cattle and dogs and wagons, chariots, tents and pavilions. Air will be filled with the jiggling of bells constantly, as the cosmic tunnel will never cease to swirl and vortex at the welcome thoughts of passing Children. They all deserved rest from the road, from the battling with invisible currents and quarrelling with people who have long ago decided not to listen.

Her passage has been granted as soon as the border was within her reach and she travelled now in comfortable silence, still grinning from the cheerful chiming and absorbing her surrounding until the sound of a horse gallop reached her from down the road. For a long moment the bells tinkled again as the border was crossed, then two riders caught up with her: a red bearded youth and a dark tanned girl of straight stare and high cheekbones, both with gleaming eyes and broad smiles. Two extraordinary young lovers to be returning together. To find yourself and your love at your search is double luck, although as Children left with more knowledge they also returned more accomplished at the end of their journeys.  This pair travelled light, with no riding gear and with much skin showing, glistening with thin layer of sweat from long run. Only the young man carried a backpack. Their mount was a straw yellow mare, with long, strong legs. As the loud greeting of two animals subdued, the young people smiled to each and spoke the first words of empathic conscious language. As Hoyko recognised her  inner colours and related them to the Willo sitting in front, she understood and they all remembered how Hoyko, a young boy had met her once on the other side, lost in the Dreamtime where souls have no bodies and no physical senses to orient themselves with. She had concentrated herself beside of his lighter body, until he recognised how to make thoughts and awareness solid inside the intervals and how to move on the cosmic waves. He must have been so little back then, already descending into the abyss for a shiny piece of his forgotten dream. Willo liked the woman crouching in the shade of the porch instantly; she helped Hoyko and Hoyko helped Willo by finding what she had lost. She had joined him in her search a year later when she finally found him in solid world and that would not happened if not for that woman. The beardy man nodded and grinned as they all soaked each other’s colours and familiarised them in a brief moment. Suddenly, they all burst out laughing and cheering with excitement of being so close to the source and they all knew they will share a long time together on the warm sand of fire hearth at the centre of everything. As the horses strode alongside of the front of the wagon, the Children passed to each other small, simple gifts of personal thought lines that might prove of use in time. Speaking with the ordinary tongue of words and using them sincerely, they honoured and increased the process of integrating into the world that awaited them. Some may not even realise the change, how subtle it is, and many feel its unwinding rays strengthen in the final days before the festival. But most have fully awakened, and though they may all not how to name the mind tools they use or processes they have mastered they instinctively know how to use them.  And some… well some call it forth. They dive in the wave as it hits and emerge on the other side only to fall into the embrace of next. This pair was one of those, just as she was. Hoyko followed her thoughts: “It gets lonely, travelling in twilight in the absence of both light and dark and it is always good to meet some company, ain’t it?” 

She smiled broadly and responded laughing: “I hope that we will all find me and my company equally helpful. I have no doubt I will learn much from your tales.” They were all aware that the sole length of search or the young age was no indicator of the knowledge one may hold. Some search deeper and some search longer. Both may lead to the same places. As mounts grew restful they parted, honoured to have met in body and with promises of reuniting as the festival starts. And with that the pair sped up along the way, leaving the slower wagon behind in dusty mists.

The western horizons were soaking with their share of the sunny eye and their shadows ran long stretched before them; Grey pulled her wagon up a slope between two low hills, slipping inside the valley. Sun setting at their backs now, it shone a generous golden light inside the valley lighting the way to the camps.

First across the meadows with soft grass and many little ponds and springs where big families with children and cattle usually stayed. It lay empty, with majority of people still on the road and those who guarded the valley throughout the year had their tents and cottages further at the heart of the vale. Now she could smell the fires and food that was being cooked. The warm gusts carried to her happy calls, voices of song and laughter, and she spotted colourful tents and wagons camped low under the toplar woods that sprouted like little isles among the plains. Children were playing, donkeys and cattle grazing nearby, with dogs and even some cats lazily sunbathing in the grass. Grey snorted and bounced his head up and down as some of the horses neighed at their direction. People stood from their chores and paused their conversations, jumping and shouting and weaving to them, while dogs barked with short calming barks. She waved and shouted back, returning greetings and welcomes, but overall the Grey in his eagerness to finally stop, picked such a pace they only hurried past and colourful people soon vanished in the distance. Gentle Grey broke into a dash, winds curving his mane, snorted repeatedly in the dry air blowing mists. Thinker protested loudly from under the roof, but there was nothing to do, the mass majority had decided and they will have to hold through the bumpy ride. The wagon was rattling and squealing, shaking as if falling apart at any moment, but she only laughed at the crazy ride. It was more than nails what held her home together.

Over the rocking of the wheels she reached for the ground, in the stillness between the rattling she spread her senses over the surface around her. Then her awareness followed; spreading like mists over the moor, searching for a site that would serve their needs and senses. They left the entire section where families who needed space and peace usually camped behind and were entering a sparse field of forest that ringed the inner circle. Then they left the road and followed the grassy path that curved around the outer rim of the forest, with open grasslands on the other side. A caravan just arrived across and was about to settle under the slopes of the valley, but otherwise this part of the Valley was unclaimed. She took the reins in her hands and the mule slowed down, then turned toward the inner grounds, followed a long stretch of meadow that cut a wide shadowy clearing into the forest. Gentle Grey pulled their wagon through the undergrowth of a narrowing path. Halfway down, they met a swift creek, whispering softly with the forest; a great motion of many tiny mouths within the leaves, the bark, the roots. Their paths ran together for some time and parted as the track ended and orchard began. As they reached the end of the meadow she showed Grey where she’d like her wagon to stand; among the ferns, where the shadow of the woods would keep it cool.  Only a short distance through the trees lay the final slope that separated them from the collective hearth of the gather. Silence exploded into the world as soon as the groaning of the wood subsided. Speckles of dust, along with cottonseed hung in the air, slowly settling while flies slowly returned to their buzzing. As she took the harness off him, he slowly flexed his neck and legs muscles, then dropped heavily in the dust on the floor and rolled over it happily. Leaving him at that she entered the wagon, opened all the shutters, for there was nothing to fear in the home valley, letting in the cooling air and fresh scent of the forest and then leaned against the frame. She cast a look over the green haven, always swaying in the eternal breath of winds, with bushes of heavy scented herbs about to close their tiny blossoms and low buzzing of bees about to return home. Birds were loud here. Many and many different. She left some peeled hulka nuts on the shelve outside: the light ones may come tonight and delight in this little gift.

The old apple orchard started at the bottom of the meadow and continued almost to the tip where the wagon now rested and she saw her hooved friend heading toward the low twisted trees. Thinker, who had shortly before departed to search for his next meal has returned and now perched on the window, cleaning his feathers.

She took her long hooded blanket, vowed of soft houndwool string and put it around her shoulders, clasping it with a little charm carved in warmwood: a little frog for luck. She glanced at the soft leather sandals hanging by the window and left them. She loosened the wooden bead door curtain, left the door open and descended from the wagon. Pulling her hood up she clicked with her tongue twice to the crow which flapped to her shoulder. As she left the wagon behind, she strode uphill through the mighty tall trees of the old forest into the shadows that started to conjure among the bushes and rocks. She reached the top and threw her gaze at the little fluffy clouds, far away above the plains outside the valley, just as the evening lights began to fade and the big fires bellow her started to burn a little brighter. Yes. Smoke and cinnamon, brewing of sweetbark tea and warm fumes of clerab beer. YES. Gathering of Children. Safety and warmth of so many people, bright people and mature souls with smells and tastes and beats and rhythms.

Broken parts of melody she recognised were carried up to her in slow gusts that found their way among the hill lands. As enchanted, she put effort in her legs that carried her and the always deeply observant Thinker, towards the clearing at the bottom.

I have walked the stranger’s tides and wandered under unknown skies

Where air is dense and water thin I have faced my deepest fear

Now I dance across the plains to bring my light into the caves

Merry making, laugh and song is what this dusty traveller lacked so long

Yes. I followed the light in the distance as I travelled in the dark. And I thanked for the darkness in the sky as I travelled through light. Many faces greeted her smilingly, most of them were sitting around the fires, eating, talking and jousting.  Others were dancing around the drum and fiddle duet, singing and swirling in pairs, in groups, alone.  They parted as she approached, spun around her, raising their voices in cheerful welcome, making the raven flutter as she was hugged and hugged back. A mass of people laughed and danced and sang even more enthusiastically. She laughed and ate and talked with many new siblings, meeting some, reuniting with others. Even Thinker got hold of some crusts of bread and mutton chops. Finally they both curled on the warm floor beside one of the communal fires; with the bird at her hip and her back to the fire, she pulled her cloak around her tight and listened with closed eyes to the murmured conversations, their meanings dissolving in the smoke of the fire and pipes and drowning in the drum pulse of many beating hearts and feet; dancing her down into realm of dreams, where the summer festival was just about to begin.

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Lacey Schmidt: The Trouble with Super is that you can't stop reading it. Mr. Barrett's characters are all to easy to relate to even if you don't have a super quirk of your own, and their plight is both heart-rendingly funny and heart-warmingly sad at the same time. It's a bit like Office Space meets the Matri...

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