It's Your Job
Tarra and the baby slept and played most of the day with a great deal of learning going on by both. As the news of the birth spread, many visitors stopped by to see the golden child and leave gifts of toys and food. By the third day, the coloration had faded to baby-pink but the story would live on for years that the child was born as a sign of good fortune.
Shadoc pled his case one last time. “I want you to come with me, but I know you can’t. You have your people, and now you have him, but it doesn’t change the way I feel. I still want you to come to my home and be my wife.”
“I’ll come to visit when I can—when he’s strong enough for the journey.” She cuddled her treasure. “We’ll meet again at the gathering next year. You can tell me what you’ve learned and maybe someday we can move to the winter village together.”
“When we’re too old to care about our bond—that’s not much to look forward to.”
“Maybe I can teach someone to take my place and then I can come to stay with you.”
“You know what the scrolls say. You and he are destined to grow strong in the ways of YodHeaVau here in the temple.”
“The scrolls are just a bunch of stories. I’m not the ‘Keeper’. Look at him—he’s not the golden child. We’re just a couple of pretenders who got caught up in a bunch of hooey.”
“You know that isn’t true. You called to me through Yod and I heard you. That’s why I am here, but I’m only a small part, and I do only what He tells me. He told me to come to you, to meet the boy, to learn what you’ve found. I’ll take the knowledge of the sky-temple back to my people, and we’ll strengthen our bond through Him. You can call to me again if you need me.”
“Daddy taught me never to call on Yod for my own gain. I’m afraid it’s a temptation I’ve fallen prey to, and now bad things will come of it.”
“Nothing bad will happen. Tangar and the others of the old school protected those who are too weak from calling on the Spirit for all things. ’It’s a weak mind that calls on Yod for daily bread and then does nothing to care for the grain’. Vau provides for all who will follow the way. You are Yod. You have no need to fear calling on the One.”
“But Daddy said He would temp us, and that no good can come from it, and now I’ve fallen by begging for you to come.”
“Yod embraces the Spirit of both good and evil for His own purposes. If you call on Him with selfish desire, selfish spirits will hear your prayers and draw from you. You didn’t call for me for yourself. You called me to complete the prophecy, so everything will be OK.”
“How do you know that? The scrolls don’t speak of such things.”
Shadoc lowered his voice and looked around for any who might be listening. “Of course not, the elders are very powerful and have spent many years ‘preserving’ the scrolls.”
“Are you saying they changed the writings?”
“No, you remember the scrolls we read, the lost scrolls; they speak of many things that don’t fit the vision of the new-order so the council doesn’t use them. The ‘enlightened’ few select only those verses that give them power over the weak.”
“Then where did you learn all of this? I need to come with you to learn from your master.”
“It sounds of heresy to me.” Chilcoat entered the room and interrupted.
“Yes, it may be—it is what I know, and it has served me well.”
“Well, we’re of Tangar’s ways and have no need for another.”
Shadoc bristled in defiance. “Did Tangar teach you of the child, or the symbol, or of the second coming?”
“No, he taught us of stars and seasons—things that are real. He dealt with spirits and symbols in his own way to keep us from straying into harm.”
Tarra stepped between them. “He taught me of the symbol.”
“He taught you in a dream. You have to keep what’s real from what’s not. This is real,” he gestured at the baby. “This is not,” he grabbed the figurine from the altar. “You’re a mother now, with responsibilities and duties. You can’t spend all of your time playing games.”
“You’re an ass! You have no idea what we’re even talking about. Just get out of here and leave us alone.”
“I’ll not have you listening to this charlatan. You can’t leave us. You have to stay with me.” Chilcoat desperately pled his case.
“Get out!” She grabbed the little statue and threw it at him. “I’ll go with my husband if I wish. You can’t keep me here.” The baby started to cry and Shadoc stepped forward to stand between them.
“We’ll see about that.” Chilcoat tried to save face by stepping back out into the light. The morning shadow was creeping down the western wall and the visiting clan was beginning to assemble on the altar stone. It would soon be time for them to leave and he needed to find some way to convince Tarra not to go with them. All he could think of was to appeal to her sense of duty.
As the shadow reached the designated band etched into the temple wall, Shadoc and his people checked their preparations and left the altar stone. There was much fanfare and celebration as the visitors formed up into traveling pairs. Two of their flock had decided to stay and three families joined their band.
Tarra arrived with Chilgar and was obviously not planning on leaving. Chilcoat breathed a sigh of relief since his only plan was to sic his children on her in desperation. She followed Shadoc closely talking and laughing. Despite the disapproving glares from some of the old women, she let him nuzzle the baby as they neared the scaffolding leading down the face of the cliff. Shadoc spoke softly to the pair. “We’ve had this time together, as we should, and I’ll miss you both. YodHeaVau, please whisper ever gently on their souls.”
He then turned to Chilcoat. “I made this for you. It is a guide stick that leads to the western village; you are welcome to visit us at your leave. I thank you for letting our tribes join in your temple.”
Chilcoat swallowed his pride and stepped back into his political role addressing the group of travelers. “We have little, but you and your people are welcome to visit whenever you can.”
Everyone was saddened as the last face disappeared below the edge of the cliff and the visit officially ended. A small band of hunters accompanied them onto the savanna to be sure they found the trail leading west.
Chilcoat handed the guide stick to Tarra and tried to be pleasant. “I see you made the right decision. I’m glad you are going to stay with me.”
“I’m needed here and nothing more. I would leave if I could, and you couldn’t stop me.” She looked coldly at the stick and headed home. She knew that he was just being who he was and that everything he said was true, but he’s so damn arrogant about it that I just can’t let him get away with it.
Chilgar grew strong as the seasons passed. He was soon walking and getting into all sorts of mischief. Tarra took him along while she tended her plants, and he excavated paths and tunnels in the soft soil. He seldom wore clothes of any sort, despite his mother’s objections, and his skin turned a shiny harvest brown with the summer. She held lessons for him and any of the other children who would listen, and they learned of plants, animals, spirits, and demons. She spoke of YodHeaVau but didn’t dwell on it for the children.
She proved to be an able mother but could only gather a few of her loyalist followers to her meetings. Chilgar attended these sessions, since he couldn’t avoid them, but he generally just busied himself with games and paintings. His paint covered, naked, form punctuated some of her most poignant lectures by sprinting across the ceremonial platform to jump into her arms with squeals of glee about some rock or lizard he had found.
When the weather continued to be harsh, her explanations of Hea’s purification grew thin. They had done everything she had asked, and yet the cycles of heat and rain continued. She struggled with her teachings and found that she couldn’t remember some of what she had learned. A vague jumble of dreams and haunting memories gnawed at her. If I could read the scrolls again, maybe I’d have an answer.
At times like these, Daddy would take a spirit-walk and come back with an answer. I just can’t do that. She had seen her father ravaged by the toxins in the spirit-herbs and she couldn’t do that to her baby, it wasn’t right. It was the job of the Seer, the one who must guide the people, and that wasn’t her. She couldn’t even keep her own son in line much less the whole tribe.
She pulled her ceremonial robes from storage. She hadn’t worn them since before Chilgar was born. They were dusty and creased in places they shouldn’t be. Spreading them on the floor, she crawled over them tugging and pressing them back into shape. She was finally satisfied that they were as good as they were going to get on short notice and pulled some herbs from her supplies to make a thick black gruel that she carefully stirred into a small bowl.
She looked for a moment at Chilgar sleeping quietly in his bed and then stripped her clothes off and stood naked before the little altar she had made for the spirit sticks. She offered the bowl to them and then dipped a single finger into the mixture touching it to her cheek. A single deep blue tear rolled down her face. She did it again on the other cheek and then dipped her whole hand into the bowl and held it up over her head. The dye ran down her arm in purple ribbons that stopped just before her breast. She did it to the other hand and stood transfixed for several moments while the dye dried into a web of translucent blue lines radiating down her arms.
She carefully pulled her robes into place and woke Chilgar. He was groggy but compliant as he dressed for the occasion. He immediately noticed her blue hands and wanted some of his own. She was about to deny him when she decided that he too deserved to join in the ceremony. She showed him how to let the dye drip down his arms and helped him mark his face with three slashed lines on each check. It’s war paint and we’re going to do battle.”
He was more than happy to comply since he often played warrior games with Chilcoat. She tried to get him to wear a shirt, but he refused to cover any of the markings. Her robe fit a little more snuggly than it had before. The sleeves still flowed delicately in wings as before, but now her torso showed the ample cleavage of a mother.
She grabbed the scepter in one hand and Chilgar with the other and they made a grand entrance down the stairway and across the plaza to stand on the middle of the altar stone. The usual gathering of townspeople were milling about waiting for the evening’s job assignments and were somewhat taken aback by their appearance. She chanted the call of evocation and floated around the platform for all to hear.
Chilcoat was busy with one of his old friends when he noticed the commotion outside his shop. He looked out and saw the specter from his past. He was just about to go see what she was up to when he returned to his room and pulled his ceremonial robes on. If she’s going to make a fuss, I’ll show her that I’m still game.
He marched to the platform where she calmly finished the last refrain of her song and ended by submissively offering the scepter to him.
“Anything in particular you want me to do with this?” He whispered to her.
“Tell me why Hea is testing us.”
“Again with the easy questions… I thought you had it all figured out.”
“I do—the Seer must walk with the Spirit.”
“Whoa, that’s not going to happen. You poisoned me for the last time.”
“I poison no one.” Their conversation got louder and started to draw attention from the crowd. “The Seer must talk with Yod to beg understanding. That’s you, not me! I’m just the Keeper, I just hold the word, and you are to see that it’s done.” She pressed her hand against his bare chest and left a blue palm print.
“Can’t we take this inside?” He grumbled under his breath.
“The Keeper can’t hide the word. Everyone should hear what I say.” Chilgar was growing impatient with the exchange and began to pull the scepter from his hands.
“You’ll take this from me soon enough.” Chilcoat raised the staff and motioned to the moon that had just peeked over the fortress wall. “I’ll consider what you say, but for now, we must tend the gardens.”
“The word calls you to action. None but you can see the way.”
“What would you have me do then? Drink some of your witch’s brew or charm some viper?”
“You must speak with Yod. If you can do that without my herbs, you’re a great man indeed.” She sprinkled some incense on the fire, grabbed the scepter from his hand, and pulled Chilgar to her side as she left the platform in a swirl of ceremonial robes and perfumed haze. The meeting broke up and left Chilcoat standing by the fire irritated by her arrogant demands.