Just like in the village of the Daughters, the children were running around, meeting others, trying different foods and generally just being little girls together. I saw Tatha’s two girls holding hands with two other little girls about their same age. They were swinging their hands back and forth as friends do. The new girls appeared to be twins. Not just twins - identical twins.
“They are so fast to make friends,” Pua said, sitting down beside me. We watched the four of them talking with each other though we couldn’t make out what was said. Four bright smiles full of teeth and their sparkling eyes were enough to know things were going well between them.
“You will be meeting one of their mothers soon,” Pua said, “and it will be good for you to hear their story.”
“You know their mother?” I asked, finishing the last bite of pancake with honeyberries.
Pua hesitated. “In a way,” she said, “in the way I come to know things. I do not know exactly what you will learn from their mother, but it will be good.”
“Mystery upon mystery,” I mumbled, considering how this whole crazy trip had been nothing but unanswered questions.
“Would you have it any other way?” Pua asked.
“Well, yes and no, I suppose,” I answered, “so far it’s not been bad to learn new things. Everyone has been so nice - Isobeau, the Daughters taking me in, now here in Chalcedony, I feel like I am really welcome.”
“But you have a problem,” Pua encouraged.
“Pua, you give out these little snippets of information and I can only guess as to the meaning. I never quite know what I should do with it. What any of us should do with it.”
“If I could tell you more, I would,” Pua said, “but my skill does not work in that manner. At times, I am at a loss as much as you are, as anyone is. Just like when I knew that Toci would be important in the future. Isobeau is very upset by that but she cannot change the fact.”
“Well, she could if she wanted to,” I retorted, “she could ignore you. She could find a way of making sure Toci didn’t come with us.”
“True, she could do that, but she hasn’t,” Pua said, “she has known me long enough to know that all I get are these little insights - directions I call them - and it is up to us to do something with them. Something that will fit all the pieces together. She really has a problem with Toci, but she has an instinct, I think, that what I have said is right.”
“Speaking of Isobeau,” I said, “she really hurt Toci last night when she made moves not to stay in the same room for sleeping.”
“So I heard,” she said, “and I have a feeling that you are angry about that.”
I nodded. I could feel my ire rising.
“This is not for you. This is not your work,” Pua said, “you have much to think about, do not get distracted! This is something that Isobeau and Toci must work out. It will be important for what they will do in the future.”
“There you go again with the future bits,” I scolded, “what? What will they be doing in the future?”
Pua looked at me silently. I could see on her face that she felt she’d explained all she could.
“So I just have to take it on faith?” I asked, “Is that what you are saying?”
“Do you - do we - have a choice?”
It was my turn to sit silently. I shook my head.
“I will go find the mother of the twins,” Pua said, squeezing my hand, “and sorry to say, I cannot tell you why you need to speak with her.” She smiled, a look of empathy on her face.
“Ok, Pua. I’ll go with it. For now,” I said, “I’ll stay here until you find the mother.”
“Thank you, Betty, I know this is difficult, but…” she trailed off.
“Yeah, yeah, but it’s all we know, right?”
She nodded and walked away.
Pua came back soon afterward, a woman with her, hunched over as if she had carried hundreds of pounds on her back miles and miles in a blizzard. I was shocked when I saw in her eyes a woman of much more energy and life, someone whose emotional and physical beings were two different people.
“Betty, this is Mella,” introduced Pua.
Staring, the woman next to Pua slowly extended her hand to shake mine,“I saw you in a dream, but did not know who you were,” Mella said.
“You’ve been seeing me?” I asked.
“A woman with flame hair that I meet in Chalcedony. Any more than that I did not know,” she said, “when Pua came looking for me and said she had someone I needed to meet, I believed that I would be meeting you.”
“I will leave you two to talk,” Pua said, “if you need me, one of the Cryst will be able to find me.”
Pua left with a smile and not a glance over her shoulder.
“I’m not sure what I can do for you, Mella” I hesitated, “but why don’t we walk the halls a little? I’m stiff from our journey here. Do you feel up to it?”
She doesn’t look like she is.
“Yes, this is fine,” Mella said, “Let me tell the twins to stay in the eating area until we come back.” She turned toward where Tatha’s two were playing with twin girls.
Oh! So this is their mother. No wonder she looks so worn out!
“They look like they could be quite a handful,” I said, trying to think of something to get our conversation going.
“They are too smart for their own good,” Mella said, “probably too smart of almost anyone’s good.”
“What do you mean?”
“They are intelligent well beyond their years, and yet, they are still two little girls, doing little girl things.”
“You mean like climbing trees and jumping into mud puddles?” I asked.
“Yes, and making friends with all sorts of animals including skunks and minks. They used to invite them into our home until I told them they were forbidden to bring them into the house. They looked at me so pitifully that I finally made a shelter of sorts near our house where they could have all the friends they wanted.”
“Like a treehouse?” I asked. I always wanted a treehouse when I was growing up.
“More like a den,” Mella said, “in fact, I think it was a bear den that had been unoccupied for quite awhile. It was dry inside, and had no smell. Their animal friends seemed unafraid of entering. So in the end, everyone had their way.”
“So you raised them on your own?”
“I am their second mother,” Mella said, “my sister bore them into this world, but I took care of them.”
“Where is she now?”
“She has gone ahead on the Next Journey.”
“She went on a journey and you had to raise them alone?”
“Not a journey. The Next Journey.”
“She passed, and I cared for the two babies after that. We had no other relatives; no neighbors.”
“Oh my Gaia, that had to be so difficult,” I said, “never having birthed or raised a child, I can only imagine the work you must have had doing it alone - with two little ones.”
“I should have known when I saw the Queen of the Sky that it was a sign of bad times,” Mella said.
“Queen of the Sky?” I asked.
“Yes. She is known by many names. I knew her as Rati, Goddess of Desire,” Mella explained, “and maybe it would be better for you to know the story from the very beginning.”
We found a nearby chamber unlike the crystal rooms and hallways we’d been in before. Small lamps lit the smooth walls which were dark silver stone. I thought it might be hematite, but I wasn’t sure. The path had woven mats - another thing that was not needed in the other parts of the cave. At one end a waterfall cascaded down into a pool, which in turn, spilled over the edge at the other end and disappeared. The sound of water was calming.
We sat on low seats, propping our backs against the stone, surprisingly warm though the surface looked cold. Mella took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, watching the waterfall tumble into the pool, ripples reflecting the lamp light.
‘My sister’s name was Mahi-A. As children, we lived with our parents in a village in the shadow of two great mountains. All the people there were miserable, including our parents who shared nothing with others - not food, fuel for their fires, nor skins for clothing - and no other villagers shared with us. It was generally known that only those who could steal the wealth of the land, or steal from each other, survived.
Our parents told us that for all of history, we - the villagers - believed that we had been cursed by a being called The Mother and that She sought to torture us...