10 April, 2008
author: Rebecca Ditch-Hammack (aka Dreamer)
|Kenyon headed down the
hill toward the inlet. She watched the path beneath her feet. She knew if she was not
careful she could stumble over the roots that crossed the path from time to time. They
were helpful, making the steepness of the path seem more like ill-measured stairs. Her
basket was heavy today. She was carrying fruit to her sisters. Kenyon really wished they
would grow legs and come up the hill themselves once in a while. She knew it was
All the people were cursed in the past generations for their arrogance. They thought they could be gods. Nature was not meant for man to mess with. The penance for their vanity was now the curse for all the people to deal with. Children were born to them of land and of sea. Those of the sea were never to walk on the land. Instead of feet they had the fins like the dolphins.
Two of Kenyon's sisters were born of the sea. She loved them no less than her sister and brother of the land. Many families still lived in both places. It was hard at times. But they made the best of it..
Kenyon shifted the basket from her shoulder and decided it better to put it down for a few minutes and rest. Today had been a long journey. She reached in and took a piece of fruit from the basket and looked at it for a moment trying to decide if she should eat it. Ah, what the heck she thought. One more or less made no difference. She was hungry and still had a good part of the hill to climb down. She took a bite of the apple. Quickly wiping a bit of juice from her mouth. It had been a bit juicier than she first thought it would be. She enjoyed its sweetness.
She picked up the basket and still holding on to her snack put her arms back through the basket and returned to the trail. At least she was nearing the bottom of the hill. It was less steep here and the roots from the trees did not make such a stepping hazard. Her favorite part of the path was coming up. She rounded the bend and stopped.
She smiled when she seen the view. Before her stretched a long field of flowers. There was not just one kind, but many. The colors were beautiful all times of the years. There were deep rich reds, purples, pinks, and yellows. All nested in a bed of green.
Though it had been unattended to for years it was still wonderful even with the overgrowth of some weeds, which were surprisingly sparse. Beyond the field of flowers was a small lake. Fed by a waterfall from atop of hill she had just come down. The water just seemed to come from no where. Right out of the rock face. It looked to her like the hill was weeping huge tears of some sort.
She stood there breathing in deeply of the fragrant air; enjoying the beauty of the place. She liked to think of it as her own secret place. She knew everyone knew it was here. But for some reason no one ever came here anymore. The people said it was a bad place. It had been decorated in tribute by the elders of the past for their corrupt gods. She found it hard to believe that anything so beautiful could be bad and refused to stay away even though she had been warned many times by her parents of it being an evil place.
She understood their reasons. After all people had been sacrificed to the gods of the sea here. There had been huge ceremonies. Kenyon stood there recalling the stories as she looked across the landscape. If she closed her eyes she could almost see the people in their multi colored robes dancing and feasting in masquerade before the ritual event. In those days it had been a joyful feasting. Thousands had gathered here when the weather changed the tides.
It was here, that the pact was struck with Jungala for the people to share themselves with the land and the sea. They would become a people that would rule both worlds. This was when it started. The newborn became those of the sea.
The chosen, to be mothers, would come down the hill a month or two before they were to become with child. It was said they came to pray and drink the nectar of gods in hopes that he would bless them in an easy birthing and children would be of great intellect and strength. They would then come again two months before the event of birth to pray and have their offspring in the sea. It was said it would ease the pain of birthing. But terrible things began to happen here. Soon the babies started changing. Some would be born normal with legs. But the others would be born as fish. They were called Seandra. Which means, of sea and dry land. Many gave birth to the Seandras. But they could not live on land and had to be let go into the sea.
Some of the mothers were so overcome with the grief of this they would willingly sacrifice themselves to the god Jungala in hopes that he would preserve and care for their child in the sea since they could not. Many women died this way. More and more children were born Seandra. And for almost a whole generation over half were born of the sea. The people began to curse the god Jungala. For they felt he was being greedy taking so many of the children. But those that followed Jungala believed it was because he was going to help build great armies to conquer the seas.
Eventually the husbands forbade women of the hill to come here to pray for the birth of children. Some women would slip away to worship with Jungala. If they were found out, or if they birthed a Seandra they would be put to death.
Eventually the followers of Jungala seemed to disappear and his reign as supreme god was over. With the end of Jungala so ended the killing and sacrificing of women. This place was abandoned and labeled as cursed.
Kenyon opened her eyes as a chill went through her. It was almost as if she felt the despair of the people. The desperate pleas to a cruel god were almost audible to her ears. If she listened hard she could hear the wailing cries of the mothers forlorn yearning to hold the child they had to cast away. She knew it was only a play of the wind against the rock face and the waterfall.
It was a sadness she felt. It was hard to believe that a place such as this, had seen such terrible things. How a place could be blamed for the terrible past that still haunted her people seemed absurd. She silently wondered if it was all just a tale told to the young to keep them away from this place and the cliffs that overlooked it from above. To her it only added intrigue to the place.
Even though she didn't want to believe the stories of the ugliness in the past she had too. There were her sisters. They were living proof of the Seandra.
Kenyon placed the basket back on her shoulder, shifting it a bit making it more comfortable. She cast away the core of her apple, while wiping away the last of its juice from the corner of her lips. She continued with her journey down the hill.
Finally she saw the great lake inlet. It seemed like it went on forever up the sand or at least as far as she could see. It joined the sea just past the archway of rocks, which was almost like a god built fortress. She squinted against the brightness of the sun as it danced on the waves. Shielding her eyes she looked to see if she could see her sisters or any of the others there waiting for her.
They were nowhere to be seen. She walked along the sand for a ways. There they were. She could see them down the way a bit playing in the waves. Kenyon waved to signal towards them. Sherise seen her and waved back. She hurried her pace to the meeting area. She hadnt seen her sisters for almost a full cycle of seasons and was eager to catch up with their lives.
She walked as quickly as her basket would let her towards the end of the sandy area to the rocks at the end. Once on the other side of the rocks she saw the rock shelf. The seawater carved a shallow area in the rock face. It was like a long cave in the low setting rocks. Almost looking like a wave formed of stone. Here the water was calm and never seemed to rise to the point that had once been high enough to carve the space. It was very long and went far out into the water. It reminded her slightly of the wooden platform the men used for fishing on the other side of the hill. Only this was much bigger and much sturdier to the weather.
She walked down the shelf. The curve of the rocks made a great roof. It was better than any tanned hide they had for a roof in the village. It was the perfect shelter for visitors when they came to see their family. Sherise was there, waiting for her with a huge smile on her face.
"Kenyon it is so wonderful that you came. I was beginning to think you would not make it this season either. Sherise jumped up onto the edge of the shelf near her sister with her long willowy tail just barely brushing the water. Her beautiful long wavy brown hair seemed to dry instantly as she left the water as if by magic. She reached out to hug her sister warmly.
"It is great to see you too. Wow! Your fin has really filled out nicely Kenyon teased. Sherise flourished her tail spreading it out as far as she could. She waved it, playfully showing off.
"I will admit I am pretty proud of it myself" She smiled feeling quite happy with sister for taking notice. "Looks like you did a bit of filling out yourself since the last I seen of you"
"Well," Kenyon giggled, "perhaps a little. She blushed slightly moving uncomfortably trying to cover herself. Finding it impossible, she just gave up. So where is Larra?"
"I haven't seen her in a couple weeks" but I am not too worried she left with Jarga. I wouldn't be too surprised if she came back with a whole school of little ones"
Oh, goodness, I hope not. She is such a freewaver" Kenyon smiled shaking her head slightly at the thought of her vain sister with children. "What about you? Anyone special?"
Nah, not so far, But it is a big sea and I am not in a hurry to be a parent"
"I don't blame you there. I'm not either" Kenyon confessed. "So how have things been for you Sherise? It's been so long since I heard anything."
"It's been kind of a rough year. Many perished with the red drift. It was so thick this past year. Very few of the young survived. Those that did had problems with the sharks that have been so plentiful. We just haven't the number or the strength anymore too keep them at bay with all the illness. The strikes have been too deep for the men to help much. I think the sharks are getting smarter."
"Isn't there anything the fathers can do?"
If they cared perhaps, I really think most people are slowly forgetting us. Or maybe wish us gone rather than to remember us with our problems, It is starting to really depressing to so many who remember being visited so often and now no one comes. Sad really, that they dont have a sister like you."
"I would never forget you Sherise"
"I know Kenyon. You are a good sister. Even with those silly legs" she teased trying to lighten the feelings that were overwhelming them both.
"Which reminds me. I brought you something." Kenyon reached behind her where she had put her basket. Pulled out an apple and tossed it to her sister."
"Oh! You most wonderful being. I love you!" She said staring at the apple as if it was a work of art. She bit into it slowly drawing her teeth back our savoring the sweet flavor as it played on her tongue. "Mmmm nectar of the gods" she managed even though her mouth was full.
"I knew you would like them. We had the best crop this year. I couldnt help but bring them to you. Kenyon smiled quite happy with her sisters reaction. She knew apples were her favorite legged delicacy.
Mmmm mmmmmm, this is sooooo wonderful. How many did you bring?
"You don't mind if I share one do you? I have someone I want you to meet she has never had an apple. Can you imagine?"
Nah, They are yours to share with whomever you want. Kenyon was so happy the gift was well received. Sherise slapped her tail flat on the water 3 times hard and made a sound that sounded more to Kenyon like a dolphin than a human being. Then again her sister did seem to have a shared relationship with the dolphin too.
There was a sound of reply to her sister. Sounding similar but not exactly the same in the distance. Sherise returned with another squeak which almost sounded like a high pitched growl. And slapped her tail again. There was a return clicking sound and a slap.
"She's a bit shy. Her family abandoned her to the sea so she doesn't interact with Le'ggeds very much. But she is coming."
"I look forward to meeting her" Kenyon never could understand the language of her sister. She had tried but it just never made sense. When she was younger her sister tried time after time to teach her. But being she couldn't duplicate the sounds anyway she gave up. Her sister was a good translator for her though. The Seandra had a few sounds they made with parts of their body that the Le'ggeds, didn't have. Even though as far as Kenyon knew all Seandra spoke with words well enough to be understood.
There was a splash about 20 tails away as Sherise's friend announced her arrival. It seemed only to take a few seconds for her to swim farther than Kenyon could see. She didn't seem as graceful as her sister in her dive, nor was her tail near as full. Her hair was shorter that Sherises and thin and her skin was shiny and pale. To Kenyon she didn't look too healthy. Her upper body came up out of the water right in front of them and she made a clicking sound towards Sherise. Sherise looked a bit cross at her. Then offered her a hand up out of the water. She seemed to have a bit more difficulty getting up on the shelf than Sherise did by far.
"Colanda, I want you to meet my sister Kenyon" Sherise introduced.
"It is good to greet you" Colanda said rather timidly. She held out her hand. But almost seemed scared to touch Kenyon.
"Good to greet you too Colanda. Don't worry I don't eat fish". Kenyon smiled and winked trying to put the newcomer at ease. The joke seemed to frighten Colanda even more as her eyes got wide in shock.
Sherise laughed. "Oh she's just testing your fin Colanda don't worry she may be finless but she still is flesh and blood. And not a bad Le'gged if I must say so myself"
"She has to say that or I will take my apples back" Kenyon laughed back at her sister. Colanda's eyes lit up at the word apple.
"You have apples? I have heard of them but never had one"
Sherise motioned for Kenyon to hand the apple to Colanda. She thought it might ease the tension a bit if Kenyon gave it to her. All shyness vanished as Colanda held out her hand to receive the precious gift. Colanda looked at it for a moment almost like she was trying to memorize it. She sniffed it and smiled. Then with a naughty child look in her eye bit into it. It seemed to almost instantly add color to her paled face.
"Well?" Sherise asked. "Is it everything I told you it would be?"
"It is the best thing I have ever tasted" She replied. "Even better than the blue squid" she added.
Kenyon squirmed a bit at the thought of eating blue squid. It was her least favorite of all fish. She knew it was a special treat of coupling and mating Seandra. If a man ever gave her a squid in honor of his devotion she would strike him down where he stood. "I'm glad you like it" I will have to try and bring more next time I come."
Colanda savored every bit of the apple taking little tiny bites. She was glad Sherise decided to share her most prized gift with her. Colanda missed so much in life. She was quite a bit older than Sherise. Her mother was one of the Le'ggeds so distraught with her child being Seandra that she took her life after the birth of the second seandra. The first one she birthed she put to death in shame. The second, Colanda, was whisked away and given to the sea by another. Colanda never knew her parents or her family, or if she even had one. Sherise had always felt that Colanda had missed the best part of life and shared as much as she could with her. Colanda spent many years alone before she met Sherise.
Colanda had never tasted anything such as an apple. They were fabled among the Seandra as the food of the god Jungala. Being of the sea they could not get the fruit themselves and as fewer of the Le'ggeds came these days the fruit along with other things once plentiful were getting scarce. Though she had never had all the luxuries of the well loved seandra; she never had completely done without. She had always been a good hunter being able to find the best-flavored fish. Not to mention finding many treasures brought by the Le'ggeds to the sea by their own misfortune. She had been lucky in birth. She was born with breathers. More like the fish she swam with, she could breathe underwater better than most. She knew some of the seandra couldn't breathe water at all. This was her blessing. She could dive deep and bring back things that to others were out of reach. She would trade her finds with the others to get what she desired. But Apples, they were so rare. No where could one find them. They were only given as gifts to those who were loved. Very seldom did they share or part with them. Sherise had always been such a special friend.
In almost 100 full cycles of seasons no one had ever shared such a rare gift with her. She thought that if she died by morning she would die a happy seandra. Colanda clicked with delight.
She was lost in her own little world realizing she had completely ignored Sherise and Kenyon who were chattering away about all sorts of family catching up sort of stuff. She wondered if that was what it was like to have family. She had always imagined that Sherise was her family. Most of the time that was what they told people. To her they were sisters too.
Sherise was like her. She could dive deep and for long periods of time able to breathe some of the water. That was how they met. Sherise had never met another like her. Colanda hadn't met anyone like herself either. They were both almost shocked to find themselves face to face at a nearby Le'gged water accident location. Both were searching for treasures they could trade when they practically ran into each other. Both were screeching in fright.
They had laughed about it so many times after that. They became best friends almost instantly. Sherise's natural sister was a bit put out by it. She had always been a bit jealous of their closeness. Larra wasn't like them. She always thought she was better than the rest flourishing her tail all the time around the males. She was a true beauty long thick dark hair tiny waist with her long the colorful fin. She always adorned herself with abalone and pearls and gold that her sister would find in the wrecks. The last couple years Larra spent most of her time with Jarga. Sherise was lonely without her, but their friendship had made things better.
They could swim away when the red drift came. Getting away from it was the only thing they could do to stay healthy. It made so many sick. Thousands had died. If they didn't die from the red drift itself they got sick from eating what had eaten the red drift by fatal mistake. It was poisoning their world. Then came the sharks. It was like they homed in on the sick and weak ones. Waiting for the death to come so they could take the weak seandra without a struggle. The more that died the more sharks came making everyday a threat.
Many Seandras moved away. To a safer waters down the coast. It was much less a friendly area for the Le'gged ones to come too. Few did. Some Le'gged made the trip searching in hopes of finding a loved one that had been lost. Many of them made the trek in vain. Many Le'gged stayed away hoping that would spare them the grief of loss though it soured their seandra children. Sometimes Colanda thought it was a blessing to not have Le'ggeds in her family for that very reason. She didn't feel the loss because she never had any to lose. The two worlds grew further and further apart each year.
Though it had never been easy for the Seandra and the Legged, it was getting even more distant and difficult. Even the ones that came to take the Le'gged children born of Seandra sometimes failed to come these days. The new birthed laid in wait to die, crying in the sand. The Seandra mothers listened to the sad desperate cries till they came no more. It destroyed their spirit as it destroyed their mothers before them when they cast their young to the mercy of the sea. The sins of our fathers god will never end she thought.
One hundred full cycles of life and Colanda still was saddened by the reality of their lives. She hated it thinking she should be hardened to the pain and the loss. She vowed early on that she would not bring a child into either world to let it suffer the fates. She was beyond baring a child now and had never regret it. Though now that she met Sherise and Larra's sister she thought maybe she had been too harsh in her decision. Sherise seemed still full of love for family. So many had lost theirs. So many learned to hate the people that birthed them for forsaking them in their own fear of finding them lost to the red drift. There were so many generations before her of loss and pain. The wounds of spirit never seemed to heal.
Jungala had never succeeded in creating armies. He had answered man's greedy prayers of ruling all land and sea. In return for granting their wishes he took the peoples dreams. They could not even rule their own lives let alone land and sea. So sad. So very sad. So much beauty lost. So many things destroyed. So many stories left untold. So many things left never to be savored again.
"Hellooooo Colanda, song upon the wind, Where are you?" Sherise elbowed her friend back from her daydream. "Where'd you go?"
"Oh, I was just thinking what a special day today is. For you both ...and for me" Colanda replied motioning with her near gone apple still in hand.
Yes, it has been that indeed Sherise fanned her tail happily making waves in the water.
"I have had a most wonderful time myself" Kenyon added. "It will be getting dark soon and I have a long walk back up the hill. These old legs aren't as easy to move as your wonderful fins." Kenyon smiled.
"Are you sure you can not stay the night" We will stay here with you if you want" Sherise knew the answer but she so wished sometimes her lovely little sister would grow fins and come stay with her forever.
"No, I have to get back. Father would be too worried if I did not come back tonight. He fears me coming here alone past the ceremonial grounds. He thinks they are still haunted by the elders past."
"Don't think they aren't Kenyon. Evil breeds evil, even in places. That place has been the cause of plenty of suffering." Colanda said.
"Well, I guess I have a hard time seeing it that way. I only know it is a beautiful place now, peaceful and quiet." Kenyon stood up. She looked at her sister and her friend. Thinking that they too were part of the beauty from the ugliness of the past. She smiled warmly and leaned down and gave her sister a big hug. She looked at Colanda. "It was a wonder greeting you Colanda. I will come back and visit you both again real soon." She walked over and leaned down giving Colanda a hug too. Colanda was stiff at first, but softened to the embrace that was so naturally given.
"Safe journeys young one" Colanda said. She moved from her perch on the shelf easily lowering herself into the water. She blew Kenyon a kiss and dove away. Waving her fin as she left. Kenyon thought she looked somewhat better now, more colorful than she had observed at first.
"Don't be gone so long Kenyon. I Love you so much and miss you when you are away"
"I promise. Give my love to Larra when you see her.
"I will." Sherise felt the tears in her eyes start to come. She jumped quickly off the shelf and into the water trying to hide the fact. Even though it was clearly seen by Kenyon.
"Don't forget your apples." Kenyon handed Sherise down the basket and Sherise took them putting the basket upon her back.
"I will hide them well" She smiled at Kenyon happily. She clicked several times and Kenyon watched as Sherise dove into the water basket and all. She admired her gracefulness as she dove and swam away. She watched for a moment hesitating wishing she could dive in and follow her to her home. Kenyon turned and looked down to the shelf where her sister had been sitting. She had left her something. It was a pearl necklace. Each pearl was caged in strands of braided gold. It looked very familiar.
Kenyon put it around her neck looking back to the water in the direction her sister had swam. She was e almost out of sight. Sherise looked back at her. Making sure that her little sister had found the necklace. That had once belonged to Larra. Sherise waved. Kenyon waved back. Just before her sister did a graceful glide back into the water, she made a gleeful chirping clicking sound. Then dove under again she slapped her tail twice against the water and was gone.
Kenyon turned and walked back towards the rock barrier climbing easily over them this time. She walked up the sandy shore. She could hear the song of Seandra over the water. Such sweet a song ever sung. She had heard it before but this time it seemed to be singing directly to her. Her heart was happy for the nice visit with her sister. She turned once again looking back over the smoothness of the lake. Fingering her new necklace. She knew that swimming beneath the waves were her people. Hundreds of them maybe thousands, maybe even more.
She climbed the hill and paused once again at the place of ceremonies. Thinking about the blessings and the curses. She closed her eyes listening to the waterfall as it hit the corner of the lake inlet. She listened for the sad wailing of the past among the solitude. This time it was quiet. There were no sounds of desperation crying out. She couldnt see with her imaginations eye the colorful robes or the ceremony and feasting. She looked into the colorful flowers that now seemed dulled by the late afternoon shadows. She brushed away a lonely tear. Turned away and continued her journey up the hill.
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