The Portal In My Front Yard- Pt. II
As we sat over dinner, the conversation fell to everyday things; when to hunt, was the stream drying up, would the harvest hold them through the winter. It was after this that the Shaman rose and motioned me to follow him along a rough, dim passageway deeper into the mountain.
We passed lovely cave paintings, deer rendered with consummate grace, the wolfdogs were chasing a herd of shaggy buffalo closer to hunters, whose every line was taut with waiting.
A group of women bent to the harvest with love and gratitude to the Great Mother. A startlingly real lion snarled from a shadow, so alive I had to pause and admire it further.
“Oh this is beautifully rendered!!” I couldn’t help but follow the lines with a wondering fingertip.
There were small bowls, painstakingly chipped and rubbed smooth from stone, each with a different earth-toned paint in them. I dipped a fingertip in one and drew the eyes of an owl, and then I added the beak, the sleek form of a perched owl, and a sturdy branch for him to perch on.
“Yes, your ancestress painted some of these, and her mothers before her. I see you know of your Spirit Guides.”
“Yes, Owl came to me when I was born.”
“Come with me, I have much to show you before morning. Your familiars have caught up with us, and now they will not get lost.”
I followed him to a small room carved into the stone, just large enough for the two of us to sit cross-legged on the floor with a tiny fire between us. Pye and Skye each claimed a portion of my lap and settled for a snooze.
He began to hum, forcing the air to resonate on his sinuses, I joined in; when my cats felt my humming they began to purr to the rhythm of the Shaman.
I could feel myself slipping into a light trance and I let it happen; the Shaman spoke without words: “For you to continue, you must know how your kind came to be.”
I began to see images, slowly focussing and growing closer. I was on a lovely, large tropical island, and there were two distinct forms of humanoids, there were the cavemen-type, standing straight and proud.
I was closer to the second kind, tall, smooth skinned, and clothed in flowers, grey-blue tattoos and a woven skirt in the shades of a tropical sunset. I wore necklaces, bracelets and anklets made of shells and coral, with pearls scattered amongst them. As I moved through the throngs of people the shells clinked together making a quiet tune to my movements.
We were on the shore, where enormous canoes of tree trunks, woven lashings and tar rode the waves with comfortable grace. They were decorated with garlands of flowers, woven so closely together that the petals of one blossom crowded the next. Their sails were painted with sigils of protection and signs of peace large enough to be seen from a great distance.
I was handed into the largest canoe, with a mixed crew of the cavemen types sitting on either side of me. A great portion of the canoe was taken up by foodstuffs, both for the coming journey and as gifts for the people where we going to. There were living animals tethered in another canoe, and a third was heavy with the handiwork of the people.
Carvings, painted wooden plaques, shell and stone jewellery were neatly stacked along with woven platters, bowls and colourful screens. Piles of brightly dyed, soft, woven cloth painted rainbows in the belly of another canoe. There were some bowls, cups and mortars with pestles smoothed from stone in yet another canoe.
The journey was begun; the crew and I sang songs to the stars as we rowed across an ocean of impossibly blue depths, and lazy swells were pushing us toward our goal. More often than not, the wind was in our favour and we could hoist sail and tend the canoes themselves.
Gradually the weather became rougher, and the water coldly green; we passed a headland and breathed a sigh of relief for we knew the most dangerous part of our journey had been passed. The skies cleared and the water changed again, now a lovely deep green, warm and beckoning.
Soon a smudge appeared on the horizon, after three days of rowing we could see the island, surrounded by an almost impenetrable brackish marsh. We were met by one of the tall, smooth-skinned humanoids, a handsome, passionate man commanding a seemingly gigantic craft of his own. The sturdy wooden sides were carved and painted with complex symbols and the Matrons of the ship were carved, painted and set onto the prow of every ship.
He and I spoke at some length, about the time being short and this would be the last chance for ‘them’ to stay. Those that had come to love the cavemen and their world as I had, didn’t want to leave this world and travel to one we did not know, not even though we had been assured that we would be welcomed.
He agreed, and said that he would gather those that did not want to leave, and they would follow us to the island I called ‘home’. Within two days there was a fleet of some dozen boats, all dwarfing my beloved flotilla of canoes. At last the man that I had spoken with reappeared, with the final two craft.
We spoke again in length, and at last agreed that if the commanders and crew of the other vessels took some of the natives of ‘my’ island to wife or husband, their acceptance would come more easily to his people, by my people.
I agreed, and the men of his people asked how they would need to take my people to wife; I explained that they would need to pay a bride-price to her family and then ‘steal’ her in a ritual that culminated with their wedding feast.
The women asked how they could tell a man of my people that they desired to be taken as his bride. I explained about how a bride’s value was determined by what she could bring into the marriage. A woman showed a man the many things she could bring to the marriage, all of them made by her hand. She showed these to the man she desired, and then, if he desired her, he would speak to her family about the bride-price.
Most women’s’ bride-prices were in goods, servants, and property; a very, very few were valuable enough to merit not only the usual price, but an additional price to be paid to the bride herself in precious stones, metals, and such.
I watched happily through the return journey as my men took the other women to wife, and the women of my people promised to show their goods to one man or another of the shining ones. Soon, the crews were no longer separate peoples, but one crew spanning many vessels.
Through all of this I desired the commander of the fleet I led to my home, the first man that had met us at his island. I did not offer to show him my goods, for I was sure he desired another woman, one both lovelier and younger than I.
Each day I expected to be asked to arbitrate their marriage, which I would do gladly for the love of them and of our people. We were counting the days until we would see my home shining in the sweet seas; the shining ones had nearly ceased to think of themselves as different, and were gradually becoming native in their lifestyle and values.
The first time a shining one was swimming and was greeted joyously by a dolphin was perhaps my happiest day. It was the first time I had seen wonder on an shining one’s face, and the joy on all of their faces as an enormous pod, almost 200 strong, of dolphins led our fleet across the blue waters, were like a heady drug for me and I stood in my canoe, singing to the dolphins in the natives’ language. The dolphins’ easy acceptance of the shining ones augured well for the success of this journey.
My home was a cloud on the horizon when we saw the flames of the shining ones’ people that were returning home, their airships rose impossibly high and then joined the stars in the heavens. Everyone sang a song of farewell as the airships disappeared.
After this we were impatient to reach our home and feel solid ground beneath our feet again. The crew was impatient, and redoubled their efforts to gain the shore soon. As I sat in my canoe, and read the skies for direction the commander of the fleet sidled his personal vessel close to mine and bade me join him in his quarters.
After I had boarded his vessel, and greeted many of the crew, we wthdrew to his quarters; he bade me sit upon his hammock and he sat beside me. He started speaking slowly, with a few false starts; “I hope this will not offend you…” He ran shaking fingers through his hair.
“I have been watching you through this voyage, and now I must ask this of you. Would you tell me your bride-price, that I may win you as my own.”
He opened a small, ornate chest and held a handful of shimmering golden chains, bracelets and suchlike out to me. “This I will pay to you, and everything I have I will offer to your family when we have arrived home.”
My heart sang so that I could not speak for a moment, and I had to swallow many times before I could force any words out. “I am shocked, I had long ago expected you to ask for someone else.”
“Am I not offering enough?” He sounded genuinely hurt.
“It is not that. I have no bride-price, for I have no family to ask it of. I have been an orphan since I was born, and was raised by everyone.” I covered my face to hide my shame.
“I knew your sire, he was the first of us to take a native to wife. He was driven out of the shining ones’ for this, and sought shelter among the natives.” He lifted my face and smiled. “Among shining ones, your bride-price would be one of the highest, for your father was founder of both the shining ones’ island and your island. I only dared ask your bride price because my father also founded the shining ones’ island.”
“I will be honoured to show you my goods when we reach Lemuria.” I kissed both of his cheeks and smiled back at him. We returned to the deck and as soon as the crew saw the chain around my neck they began shouting and cheering.
The next evening we arrived at Lemuria, and everyone poured onto the beach to welcome us. Fathers greeted new sons-in-law and mothers clasped new daughters-in-law to their chest, all of this done with noisy laughter, a great deal of embracing, and more than a few tears of happiness.
I stood on the beach of home and watched my ‘family’ grow larger by the second and I felt I should glow with happiness. When everyone was beckoned towards a feast that was cooking in giant pits of glowing coals and in kettles on the edges of the fire I joined them, laughing, dancing and singing along the path to the village.
The feast lasted until almost dawn, with stories of the Journey being shared and performed around the fire-pit. As many of the people retired to their homes I approached the Matron of our people.
I asked her permission to show my beloved my many goods. I also showed her the golden chain I wore around my neck and told her of the chest full of such things he had offered to me.
“Tell your young man that your bride price will be this: I ask him to send his ships around the world to seed oour people everywhere, but.” She held up a hand to silence me.
“He must remain here, with you, to become the leaders of our people. Together, man and woman as it is meant to be. With you as the next Matron I can go easily to the stars, knowing that my family will be cared for with love and honour. Now. Show your mate your goods, as I saw you come from his quarters on his ship, I could tell that he has already taken you to wife.”
In the years that followed my mate and I watched the population of our island grow great enough for seeding many times. Each time we sent another boat filled with those to seed our world with the children of the shining ones we did so with joyous songs and days long celebrations.
Although I never brought a child to our union my mate and I were happy in the knowledge that we were doing the best for our combined peoples, and our adopted world. We would never know if our ‘seeding’ flourished or no, we could only pray that it was so.
After many years my mate returned to the stars and as I sang his body to the deeps my spirit knew that he and I would meet again one day, and that we would know the joy of our bond once again.
I came back to the little stone room, and felt the tears soaking my face, yet I did not feel sad, but blessed to know my beginnings on our world.
“I need not ask if you saw what you needed to, I can see that you did.” The Shaman reached out, caught one teardrop on a fingertip and kissed it reverently.
To be continued: