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Travellers tales part one

by dash123 

Posted: 23 December 2010
Word Count: 9307
Summary: Story of young woman from early to death, based prehistoric society/ies. Part one first seven chapters of total 34.

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The others sat around the fire pit had asked about her background, this is what she had shared:

“‘Home’ was a small community of huts dug into the earth, lined with rocks and ‘thatched’ with the cut turves, on the top of an escarpment overlooking a wide estuary. If you stood at the highest point, you could make out the endless sea on the horizon. A beautiful windblown and wild place; short grassed rocky moorland, dense pine laden forest, plentiful food and cover for the smaller animals and some sweet grazing for the larger.

“Life was good, with my mate and two daughters. The eldest, Bright Spirit, was to be married that season to a young man from the village over the inland moor. The younger, Calm Spirit was to receive her First Rites at the same Meeting.

“That day I had gone gathering in a small party over the moor for foods, both for storage and to take to the Meeting. The earth shook. Cracks appeared over the moor, and our party of four women ran in all directions. I ran towards home, terrified. I saw it all. The escarpment SANK, like a living wall of earth, it rolled down into the estuary like a great wave. Those not crushed were drowned in mud and stones. None had been able to get out, family or friends. Three generations in most houses. Where my friends had gone I do not know; I looked, but they had vanished.”

She took a huge shuddering breath. “We honour the Great Earth Mother, whom we name Danu. She was good to us, until that awful day. I have often wondered since what we had done to make Her so angry, or how the nightmare might be part of Her larger plan.

She sighed sadly. “I stayed briefly with my son in law who now never would be, helping them recover. Their position further inland had been luckier, there
were no deaths and relatively little damage. They willingly offered me a new home, but I could not settle; in my mind I was living in a cold and distant place. It was far too near the sight of my heartbreak and my heart was too heavy.

“I have been wandering, travelling, since. Many seasons, I have lost count, always finding shelter before the harshest. I have seen many peoples - Clan, Others, Mixed. Only those of the Clan have been, shall I say, unwelcoming, but even then I have been granted shelter away from the main cave. I suppose I look too different for their comfort. I have been courteous to all as a traveller should be.

“The last camp I visited, I stayed for more than the one season. I still was not settled though, something was still missing. I left shortly after some, unpleasantness, when one of the men was beginning to, annoy and pester me, after I had respectfully avoided his advances. Why some men cannot understand that not all women would want their ‘honouring’ is a mystery to me. I would have felt very uncomfortable staying under the circumstances, even though it was not my fault.

“I still love and miss Gentle Spirit, my mate, and could, cannot, even think of beginning another relationship.”

Yes, I do indeed still miss my Gentle Spirit - but he is in my heart, along with Bright Spirit and Calm Spirit and always will be so. I now know my Clan Totem/Guardian Spirit and Presence that has guided me safely through many seasons, sending help in many guises - least not the Great Wolf, Ulf.

Ahhh, the memories ……….

Of a young girl, splashing happily in the low waters at the edge of a small shingle and sand break not too far from the great escarpment where home was, overlooking the great estuary that was part marsh, part river and inland sea, nearly encircled by wild dense forest. The small opening in the trees to be seen on the horizon spoke of the open great water that led to other small islands, and thence to the Great Land or Endless Waters depending which direction was taken.

The child had become bored of just splashing - she ran into the waters, quickly swimming when the shingle disappeared from under her feet. She was enjoying herself immensely, and did not notice how she was subtlety being pulled further and further away from safety into the deeper channels.

“Home!” came the cry from across the water. “Home! Turn back! You are too far out!”

The cry was enough to shake her out of her reverie. It was her father, Brave Waters, stood with her young male friend, Gentle Spirit. Anyone else and the young rebellious girl might not have taken a second heed to them. She HATED being told what to do. She waved, turning towards them, putting her energies into deft strokes. She knew she was swimming strongly, but soon knew, to her dismay, that she was making little headway.

She tried to tread water. “I’m trying father, Gentle, I’m trying but I’m not moving!” As she stopped her forward momentum she felt herself ever so slowly slipping BACK!


“Keep moving! I am coming to get you!” She had never heard her father use such a tone before, it was almost frantic.

Brave Waters was indeed becoming almost frantic. His only daughter was in imminent danger of drowning, or being pulled into the stronger current that ran to the outer sea.

The boy beside him was equally anxious. He was extremely fond of his younger friend and did not want harm to come to her.

“Gentle, stay here and do not try to wade out yourself. I am going to get a vine from the forest, we may need it. Try to encourage Home to keep swimming - it should prevent her from being dragged further out.” He turned, and ran, splashing over the shingle and sand into the forest behind them.

Home was horrified to find herself beginning to tire. What a stupid child I am she thought, I have no thought of danger until I’m in serious trouble. She felt a different current of water move behind her, then another. Oh, heavens, Great Danu, there is something in the water with me! She somehow manager to swallow her fear and continued with the swift strokes, hoping whatever it was would not harm her. She heard Gentle calling across the water and felt grateful for his encouragement; he was her very best friend. This had a calming effect enabling her to increase her efforts.

Brave Spirit had run as he had never done before, frantically looking for long tree vines within reach. Ahh, there, AND a great length! He jumped up and pulled with his entire weight. He collapsed under a long heap of vine. Rolling this around his waist, he prayed to Danu that this would be long enough to reach his daughter. Turning, he ran back to where Gentle Spirit was calling to Home, who thankfully seemed a little nearer but still far from safety.

“Gentle, hold this end of the vine and do not let go. I am taking the other out to Home. Hopefully, it will stretch most of the way.” He ran into the water, taking swift and strong strokes towards her. He saw she was tiring and also that there were some creatures with her but he could not identify them. His heart raced.

The vine ran out before her got to her. She was barely making headway against the current. The first little miracle came about. Home felt the something behind her, gently pushing her towards her father. He pulled her into his arms, swiftly turning, but the vine now lay under the water. The second little miracle came about. A short whiskered head appeared a few strokes away from them, holding the vine in its mouth. Brave had barely enough time to register his astonishment and grab the vine, when the head disappeared as swiftly as it had appeared.

Brave looked to the shoreline. Gentle stood there, braced as if he was immobile. Home was weakly helping her father keep them moving. Brave pulled on the vine, legs kicking powerfully whilst still keeping a secure hold on Home. Gentle pulled with all his might. They made shore. Home sank to her knees, breathing heavily. She barely had strength to raise her head to thank her father and Gentle.

Her father looked at her so sternly she wilted even more under the fierce gaze. “What in the name of Danu made you take a swim on the ebb tide?” he curtly asked his daughter, but smiled with relief at the same time. She could only shake her head in reply.

“What was that in the water with you?” Gentle asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied taking a deep breath, “whatever it was, it HELPED!”

Brave shook his head with the recollection. It had looked like a HUGE SEAL!

Home Waters was excited and afraid at the same time. She was in the Camp of Women To Be, secluded away from the main Meeting with five other girls who had experienced their first bleeding since last year. This was to be her First Rites. Although she now knew what to expect she and the others were nearly shivering with anticipation and not a little fear of what would happen that night. What an ‘eye opener’ that talk had been! The Danuva and her acolytes had gone into detail with the girls the previous day to prepare them for what they would experience.

The girls had all been asked privately if there was any particular person they would prefer for this ceremony. Home Waters had blushed deeply telling the Danuva that she considered Gentle Spirit her best friend and soul mate, but that she understood whoever was chosen for her First Rites would be unsuitable to be with her for a full year afterwards. The Danuva hid her amusement well; she had been asked much the same thing by the others but with different boys being named.

The Danuva had smiled at her, and replied this was indeed the case. If she thought of Gentle Spirit as a future mate, then he was unsuitable for her First Rites. She did not say that Gentle Spirit was slightly young yet for this particular ceremony, having his own Manhood Rites only the previous season; but would probably be in demand in the future. She looked at Home thoughtfully, and named some older but not so old men. Home Waters smiled. She named one of these; she would be pleased to be with him, but would not wish to mate with him.

The dark had fallen and the stars risen when the Danuva came again to the Tent. The six girls came to attention immediately - it was going to begin now.


“Take this drink my children, it will help to relax and calm you. Do not be afraid of the Gift you are about to experience. It is Danu’s Gift of Bliss and Comfort to her earthly children and through it we honour her presence in our lives.”

The girls were each given a cup of sweet fruity tasting wine. The chosen men entered the tent and received a cup of wine also. They chatted amiably together of nothing in particular, some taking another cup of wine, before being led to separate partitioned alcoves.

Home Waters felt relaxed and looked shyly at the chosen one. He smiled encouragingly and placed his hand on her inner thigh. She shivered but not with fright, it was something … else …

He gently stripped off his tunic top and then her tunic dress. Her small breasts had come erect at the slight touch. He ran his hands gently from her cheeks to her breasts, before slowly coming to her navel. He kissed her gently, receiving a tentative response, deepened the kiss whilst caressing the small of her back. Her breasts tingled as they brushed his chest and her breath quickened. He was gratified to feel this shy but definite response. His hand slid slowly to her small bushy mound and further. She shivered again, drawing a quick breath. That was, ooooohhhh ….. He stood, loosening his leggings, his proud erection already showing. Oh, my! She thought, will that fit in me?

“Don’t be afraid, Home, this is a wonderful and sacred thing, something you will remember all your life.” He sat again, taking her in his arms and laying her on the soft furs, kissing, caressing, discovering her sensitive areas. She was lost in the unfamiliar sensations, but aching for more …

The initial penetration hurt a little, just as the Danuva had warned, but the pleasure experienced was more than enough to drive the thought away. They had lain, seemingly spent, until she had shyly run her hand through his chest hair. He had looked at her, raised on one elbow, kissing her deeply. She had drawn him to her again - the pleasure was wonderful.

She WOULD definitely remember!

Home was once again excited, but not afraid. The last few seasons since her First Rites had passed quickly. And Gentle Spirit was now much more than her ‘best friend’! He had been more than a pleasing companion, sharing her life, but had never gone further than kissing and hugging her. She had wished he would go further many times!

He had finally blurted out his wishes as far as she was concerned only after having a long mysterious talk with her father and mother. They had obviously given their whole hearted approval. He had hungered for her so badly, but wanted to take her only after they had been Joined. He could not wait one more full cycle for another Meeting. She thought he had waited more than long enough.


Home’s mother called her inside, beckoning her into the small room she used for her crafts. “Home, your aunt’s and I have been working on this secretly for many moons. It is meant for your Joining. We all hope you like it.” Her mother brought forward a beautifully decorated nearly floor length long tunic, made from soft leathers dyed the colour of the deep blue sea; scalloped around the hem, richly covered with small shells and coloured beads in intricate wave like patterns, small sleek creatures frolicking through surf, small birds on the wing encircling the shoulders and top of the three quarter length tapered sleeves.

“Like it? Like it? It is beautiful mother! You must have looked far for the indigo plant and shells. And the beads! They are so fiddly and time consuming to make. I am - overwhelmed.” She threw her arms around the woman, hugging her tightly, fighting back tears.

Her mother hugged her in return, close to tears herself. “That is good, Home. It has been a true labour of love for us all. Your aunt Sky suggested the colour when she came across the plant. And the beads - well, I and your father have done much trading you have not have noticed. Your smallest niece has been busy looking for the ‘most perfect’ shells for many moons!”

Home smiled ruefully. “Has everyone except me been in on this secret?”

Her mother laughed. “Your whole family and more. Only yourself and Gentle have been oblivious it seems. His mother and family have been working on a similar project, and NO, I will not tell you colour or decoration, you both must not know what the other will be wearing until the Ceremony.” She sighed reflectively. “Both our families have been ‘preparing’ for this moment for longer than the two of you can imagine. Be full of Joy, my daughter, he is a good man and will provide for you and keep you content always.”

The tent seemed packed with laughing and happy women. There were twenty couples to be joined this Meeting instead of the usual half dozen at the most from Big Isle. They had gone through many talks with the Danuva and acolytes. Joining was a serious matter and there was much information about joined life to be shared as well as directions for the Ceremonial itself. Home was as surprised and awed as the rest to learn that the Ceremony would not take place by the White Cliff this year. As there were so many couples, and this was a special ten year Meeting, the Ceremony would take place around the headland where the ancient stones stood. This was SPECIAL indeed! Home could not remember this happening in her lifetime, but her parents could.

Danuva had solemnly told them they would be purified at the Sacred High Water Cave, which had been made ready for them, and that they would leave shortly with her to make the short journey.

The snaking procession wound its way slowly down the cliff path to the Sacred Cave. As they entered the high vaulted space, they saw the Danuva from all the other isles spread out in a circle around the Sacred Pool, which was filled with HOT waters. The women were instructed to disrobe and wait to the side. The acolytes moved along the line, gently anointing each woman with perfumed water before soaping each thoroughly. They were then led in a circle to the back of the cave, through the gentle fall of water in the inner cave until the foam was washed away, before returning and entering the Sacred Pool. The women sat in a large circle, bowing their heads as the Danuva moved forward, touching each head in blessing and scattering fragrant petals and herbs into the water around them.

“Great Danu, we request Your blessing on these your children who are to enter the sacred joining with their chosen mates. We pray they will have long and joyful lives and blessing of children so your people continue for future seasons.” The Danuva nodded to her fellow sisters, who intoned their own shorter prayers in muted voices. The sea outside suddenly pounded high against the cliff, causing a spout of water near the front of the cave. “The Great Earth Mother, Danu, has spoken. She is pleased to bless her children.”

The procession made its way back to the secluded tent. Each woman was allocated an acolyte to dress her in her chosen finery. Home could not help but compare her specially made dress with the rest; they were all beautiful in their own way, complimenting each other. She little realised that most of the others especially admired hers and thought it was the best of them all.

The sun was westering fast as the women moved solemnly in single file along the well worn track to the ancient stone circle. They knew the place would be surrounded by family and friends, and that their chosen would be waiting in line just outside the entrance to the circle.

Home caught her breath as she saw Gentle. His tunic was the same colour as her dress; an even deeper blue if that was possible, but decorated with all white shells and animal tails in symbols of nearly all the sea creatures she could think of. His blazing gaze caught hers and she had to lower her lashes, blushing at the intensity.

The Danuva of Big Isle led the women forward and they joined their chosen, following her and forming a circle around the inside of the stones. There was not much room. Each Danuva came forward in turn as each couple from the various Isles kneeled at the centre stone. Home and Gentle were the last to be joined, the host Isle traditionally taking the rear place of honour. Torches appeared from nowhere as the sun set in final fiery glory through the western gate.

I am now Home Spirit, she thought, I am no longer Home Waters. Oh, but I love this man, my mate at last.


The feast was enormous; there were many mouths to feed. Roasted meat specialities from the Isles, fresh and succulent fish and shell fish, with varying vegetables, fruits of the season with dripping honey. There were a mixture of wines and beers flowing freely. When most were enjoying the last they could stomach, the isles’ few musicians gathered with flute, drums and harp. They started slowly, allowing the people to finish eating and let the food settle. A talented singer from Far Isle joined them, and the tempo picked up.

As was tradition, the newly joined couples rose to make a large circle, linking arms, dancing whatever steps they were most comfortable with, but all circling in tandem, faster and faster until one stumbled and the circle collapsed in a tangle laughing on the short grass. Everyone was now welcome to join the dance, and the music played both fast and slow through the darkness, and the wine flowed.

Much later, much too late for Home’s wanting, the couples ducked out when they could escape the wishes and greetings of those gathered; Gentle led Home aside, taking her by the hand he headed for a small group of low trees well away from the festivities. Here he had erected a small platform tied between two of the larger trees, with hangings around and over them, safe from small animals and any mischievous prying eyes. It had not been unknown for some of the younger men, boys, to follow and ‘surprise’ the couples; but this had fallen away in past seasons. No one had followed them tonight.

Home shivered as Gentle slowly and carefully removed her dress, before doing the same with his own garment. Laying them carefully to one side, he smiled at her and took her into his arms. He took his time taking all of her in, exploring every inch, caressing and kissing, lingering all the way. Home was on fire, giving as much as she was receiving. When Gentle finally lovingly placed his hand in the warm space between her legs she almost fainted with pleasure. Her kisses had become almost wild with longing, when she finally felt him between her legs. The feeling as he moved was indescribable, growing with each slow thrust; the climax both felt was ecstatic. First Rites had been wonderful, but THIS ….. !

He made tender wondering love to her for what was left of the night.

Home spirit was more than contented. Life was blissful and fulfilled. Barely had time passed to be looking forward to another Island Meeting, and she had grown big with new life. The new sunken dwelling at the far end of the line was nearly completed, and they would be able to move in shortly. She sighed again as she rubbed her stretched stomach. Not long now, my child, not long now. I wonder what you are, boy or girl? She did not care overly either way, as long as the babe was healthy.

Gentle was as loving and caring as only he could be, but had been away with her father a lot lately on the boats, fishing and trading. Most of the time was spent with her mother or Gentle’s mother too, and friends who came past just checking. The small room where her Joining outfit had been made and hidden was now overladen with baby sized clothes and all kinds of baby related items.

She was restless, finding little comfort either sitting or standing, her nights were full of tossing and turning - the bump letting her know with a pummelling motion if she lay too awkwardly. She felt most comfortable lying slightly curled with Gentle at her back, his arms resting over their child.

“Mother, I am going to take a walk to see the sea eagles. I might be lucky enough to see father and Gentle returning from a distance.” Her mother quietly acknowledged her, admonishing her not to stay out too late. Home assured her she would not be long. Her daughter was restless she knew because the birth was near and she was anxious that the men returned soon.

Home slowly walked in the brisk wind along the rising escarpment, to the point where the cliff proper began and the land rose to a high edge. Off the edge stood a high rock pinnacle, sheer but pitted with many small ledges. These were home to those birds savvy enough to know that this was one place their nests could not be raided save by other feathered predators. In the highest crevice, like a position of honour, lay the nest of the great sea eagles. The female had just landed and was busy attending to the two mouths within the nest.

“Greetings, great sea eagle, I hope my child will be as eager to feed as yours, it will not be long now”, she held her hand over the now motionless bump. The great bird looked in her direction, seeming to give a short cry in answer before turning attention back to the small bundles of fluff in the nest.

She turned to gaze in the direction she had come. This was the best vantage point on the entire horizon. The estuary curled in a great arc from the far forested edge, to the great river that parted the forest from the escarpment. She smiled as she saw small figures trudging towards the slowly winding path to the side of the sloping wall. The tide had returned and the smallest boats were safely overturned high on the shingle nearer the cliff. The great caves at the foot of the escarpment would soon be flooded once again. They were rich hunting grounds for molluscs but of no use for man or beast. Any boat or items ‘stored’ there would be ground into kindling swiftly.

She shielded her eyes and gazed towards the far point where she knew the last boats would appear. Yes, there they were. She waved in welcome. She could not tell at the distance, but imagined the barely seen figures returning the gesture.


The wind shifted slightly, and the curling mist blew from behind her. She shivered. It was well past time to return. Mother will be cross with me again, she thought with a smile, she worries so much.

She turned, picking her way back. Her back ached so much. Another few steps and she felt an urgent need to pass water, NOW! She squatted ungainly in a small hollow to let the flow pass. Whoosh. This was not the small stream she had expected but a small flood. Her back gave another wrenching pain. She rose shaking. Her mother had told her of these signs. Great Danu, the baby is ready to come, and I am out here in the mist when I should be at home where they can take care of me!

Now motivated with urgency and fear, she stumbled through the growing mist as fast as she could, grasping hard under her swollen belly that seemed to have a mind of its own.

“Home! Home! Where are you?!” Her younger brother’s voice came from the mist somewhere in front of her. He was two full years younger, but taller than her already. He would be included with the men next season.

“Deep! Here I am! This mist came in so fast. I think, no, I know the baby is on its way!”

She stumbled only a bare few yards, and Deep was there in front of her. “The baby is coming? Oh my! …… Come on, lean on me. Mother was so worried you were not back. Yes, the mist did fall fast, it is growing even thicker.” He talked quietly to her, trying to assuage both their fears, whilst they carefully picked their slow way back to the dwelling.

“Mother!” Deep called, “Here we are! The baby is on its way!” Home bit back the laugh that rose at his frantic call.

Her mother appeared, ashen faced. “The baby is on its way? Home?”


Home gave Deep a one armed hug for helping her. “It’s alright, mother, the baby is on its way but not that fast. My waters broke as you told me as I was on the way back, and my back ache is now almost unbearable, but I have no other pains as yet.” She grimaced, holding her belly. “No, make that the first pain. Am I allowed some tea? I am suddenly awfully thirsty!”

Calm Waters gathered her only daughter in her arms with a warm hug. “Some tea would be a good idea, Home. All is well now you are back.” She guided Home to her sleeping place, trying not to fuss too much.

She turned to her son. “Deep, thank you for helping your sister, you have been a big help. But now I would like you to do one more thing for me …”

“Yes, mother,” he grinned at them both, “Am I to take the news to Danuva and ask her to attend?”

Both Calm and Home laughed at the youth. He had learned more of the birthing process than was usual at his age.

“Yes, thank you, Deep, also Bright Spirit and your aunt Light Flower if you can find them.” That should be enough for now she thought, the whole community will be here shortly once the news gets around.

Danuva arrived shortly, followed by Bright and Light. She smiled at everyone, enquiring how things were going. “The pains have only begun to happen really, it is early days,” Calm assured her.

“Some babies come quicker, Calm Waters,” she admonished, “especially when the mother has been taken by surprise. Home, we are here to help and comfort you, and to welcome the child to this world. I will stay until the child is safely delivered.”

The child did not come quickly though. It was several hours later when the sweat laden Home felt the need to push.

There was a small commotion outside the dwelling, and Bright looked out to see what was going on. A small crowd of women had gathered, Brave and Gentle to the fore.

Bright addressed both of them. “Everything is going fine, really, go and get the special brew you have been saving for this moment, it won’t be long now.”
The men hastily headed off. The women tried their best to cover their grins - MEN!

Home gave one final long push and felt the head pass. Calm squatted beneath her, deftly catching the infant, handing it to Danuva who wrapped the child in the soft wrapping specially prepared. Home gave a small groan, it felt like another child was coming. The afterbirth appeared and dropped on the soft matting.

Home was helped back to the bed. Danuva placed the infant in her arms. “What name have you chosen for your new daughter, Home?” she asked softly. A girl! I have a Daughter!

Home smiled wearily at all present. “With acknowledgement to my mate, I would like to name my daughter Bright for his mother. If I am blessed with a second, she will be called Calm for mine.” Both women were delighted, and hugged each other in joy.

Danuva wrapped the afterbirth in the matting, swiftly leaving with it. She nearly collided with Gentle outside the dwelling. “You may go in now, Gentle, and greet your new daughter. Bright.” There was a scattered clapping from those gathered, and much back slapping of the man as he made his way to meet his daughter and his mate.

Danuva made the long solitary way to the stone circle. It was dark when she arrived. Kneeling, she placed the wrapped matting on the centre stone. “Great Danu,” she intoned, ”Thank You for the Gift of this community’s newest member, Bright Spirit, and lead her in Your Ways always. May she have long and prosperous life under Your Guidance. I now dispose of this life giving sac at your watery side.” She rose, taking the bundle to the sink hole behind the stones, dropping it gently into the watery depths. It quickly dissolved.

Now, she thought, what can I see in this light to give as a gift to the child?

Making the return journey a feather floated past on the wind, she deftly caught it. A small glimpse of light from the moon in the clouds dropped around her. A Sea Eagle feather! The child’s protector had shown itself already! This gift would be more than appropriate.

The others had tactfully left Gentle and Home alone with their daughter.

“She is beautiful, Home, thank you for my beautiful daughter, Bright. I have a gift for you both, if I may?” He took a small piece of wrap from a pocket. “I went through much trouble to find these, they are rare in these waters. But they will look lovely adorning your ears as sleepers.” Unfolding the thing, he showed Home; she caught her breath at the sight of the two tiny shiny pearls that lay there.

She felt tears on her cheeks. “Oh, Gentle! They are nearly as beautiful as Bright! They are indeed rare. I will wear them for you but only on very special occasions. I shall give them to Bright for her Joining.” He smiled his agreement.
He watched in wonderment as his daughter nuzzled her mother. The sight of the babe taking her first feed was something he would never forget.

Home Spirit sighed much too often, this pregnancy was not good as the others had been. She rubbed her swelling belly, and her back. The pain by the kidneys was a daily ache.

“Is the baby making you hurt, mother?” Little Calm Spirit asked in all innocence. She was the most curious, sensitive, thoughtful child, always more worried about others than herself. Bright was the exact opposite.

“No, darling, mother is just very tired that’s all. All I need is more sleep.”
She felt that all she did lately was sleep. Sleep, eat, keep them fed, aching and pain, sleep. That Danuva had been keeping a careful, if fairly innocuous, eye on her did not help her feeling of well (or un-well) being. The teas that she was offered were definitely more than plain tea, but Home dutifully drank anyway trying not to notice the bitter aftertaste. It did not seem to be doing much good though.

She awoke as the sun’s first rays filtered through the thick thatching of the house in deep pain. This had gone on through the previous day and she had been glad of Danuva’s pain killing and sleep inducing drugs. She had fallen asleep vaguely aware of Danuva speaking in low tones to Gentle and her daughters. She had not been supposed to overhear, but had heard ‘not good’ and ‘very ill’.

Danuva was still at her side, Gentle behind her. “Home, I am glad you are awake. I know you realise that I have been treating you, but maybe not the reason why.”

Home went still through the sheets of pain. “It is the baby, isn’t it? There is something wrong? This pregnancy has never felt RIGHT.”

Danuva lowered her head with a deep sigh. “Maybe I should have done something before now. If I have left this too late I will never forgive myself. Danu will never forgive me. I was so hoping this would right itself.” She sat on a low stool next to the bed and looked Home with a piercing gaze.

“From what I know by feel around your stomach, the baby is not in the right position. I think it is somehow stuck in the opening to the tube that leads to where your ova, your life giving eggs, are produced. I had hoped it would loosen of itself and imbed in the womb. The pain you are experiencing is obvious proof that this is not happening.” She took a deep breath, addressing both Home and Gentle. “If the baby is not removed very soon, both it and you will die, Home. I have to tell you now that this is an extremely dangerous undertaking. I and the other Danuva would have to cut you open and take the child out, sealing the tubes at the same time. If we are successful, you will live Home, but you will never have another child. Either way, the baby is doomed, it is far too early for any chance of survival.”

Gentle was horror stricken. Lose them BOTH? He did not care she would never carry another child. He must not lose her. Home reached for him, holding him, tears of both pain and sorrow now falling freely.

“My mate, I do not wish to leave you. I do not wish to lose the child either, but it is clear that Danu wishes its spark returned.”

He too shed gasping tears of sorrow, “You are right, of course. What must be must be. What must we do to prepare, Danuva?” he cried, turning to the woman.

“Just keep her comfortable. I will arrange everything. My first task is to see if the Danuva of Near Isle, who is as skilled as I, has arrived yet. I do not wish to do this without expert assistance. I am sorry, but I think Danu made me make the call so he would be here in time.”


Home Spirit lay on a raised table in the Danuva’s dwelling, asleep with powerful drugs. Danuva of Big Island and Danuva of Near Island stood over her on either side. Two acolytes each stood to one side. They nodded to each other, and Danuva made the first great slicing cut with the heavier fine blade. Then another, and the final making a large flap that they both gently turned back on itself. A finer blade was used to cut into the birth sac. They both paled at the sight. Not only was the babe stuck in the wrong place, but the whole sac was inflamed.

They stood back a little, looking at each other. “What do you think my friend?” she asked. “I am afraid the entire organ will have to be removed, as well as the child,” he advised. “I concur,” she sadly agreed.

The sorry task took a long time, one acolyte after another bringing them teas to keep up their energy and wiping the beads of sweat from them. The child had been given to an acolyte, who quickly wrapped the pathetically tiny body to keep it warm. The miniature babe made no cry, breathing but one breath.

Finally it was over. They had cleaned and medicated inside as thoroughly as possible, before doing so with the overlaying muscle and flesh.

Although nearly exhausted, the two Danuva knelt with their acolytes praying to Danu that the woman Home would survive. That she would take the spark of the boy child into her loving arms and hold him safely always. They stripped off their bloodied clothing, putting it aside to burn later. Home was moved to the inner recovery room.
Danuva had one more task before she could rest. Dressing in clean clothing, she made her way to the Spirit’s dwelling. Gentle and his family had purposely been asked to stay away.

He quickly rose in greeting as Danuva called in the doorway, apprehension showing in every muscle in his body.

“Your wife still lives, Gentle, but will be asleep for hours yet. She will be in much pain when she wakes, we will do everything we can to keep her comfortable. She will not be able to do much but minor things for moons while she recovers. Overall will be your joint sadness of the loss of your child. I must tell you that you have lost a son, Gentle, and am most deeply sorrowful for you.”

He felt the blow like a heavy punch to the stomach. A son, lost!


Danuva gave Gentle a moment to recover from his shock at the news. “If you will, please come to my dwelling to be there when Home wakes.” She encompassed those present. “All of you, if you will, including you, Calm,” she smiled at the youngest member of the Spirit family.

The recovery room was full of family members when Home awoke. Gentle knelt by the bed, holding the hand that hung over the edge. She instinctively tried to rise, but Danuva swiftly pressed her gently and firmly back down.

“No moving, or as little as possible, for a few days Home. We will tend to you ensuring you recover as quickly as possible; and you must follow our directions.” She was generally known for not following directions when it suited her.

Home nodded weakly. She heard her own low voice as if coming from a distance, “The baby?” It was a forlorn hope; she knew the child was gone.

Danuva’s own sorrow showed in the reply. “The babe was a boy child, Home, his spark returned swiftly to Danu.” Now came the most painful question. “I must ask, Home, what would you have named the child? His body small though it is must be returned to the earth at the Sacred Grove, and must have a name to be accepted.”

Tears flowed down Home’s face; she clutched Gentle’s hand tightly, receiving an equally tight squeeze in return. “Our son was to be named Brave, for my father,” she sobbed uncontrollably.

Danuva laid a calming hand on her shoulder. “Then we will take Brave Spirit’s mortal remains to the Sacred Grove to join those gone before him.” She straightened taking a shaking breath herself. “You, of course, should remain here Home. Even taking you on a stretcher would be unwise at this time. If you will, I would give you some more sleeping preparation to ease you through this sorrowful ordeal. Gentle, your mother and father, Home’s mother and father, and your eldest daughter should accompany me. Others may follow as they wish.”

“No! Do not leave me behind!” Calm Spirit surprised herself at the short but powerful outburst. All eyes turned to the child.

Bright looked curiously but lovingly at her little sister. Taking her small hand in hers, she stated “She shall come with me, if that is acceptable Danuva, father.”

The others shared knowing and grateful smiles. This was acceptable.


The small procession walked slowly towards the Sacred Grove where all the people of Big Isle would eventually lie. Danuva of Big Isle at the head, Danuva of Near Isle behind her, four acolytes; then Gentle, Bright clutching Calm’s small hand; Brave Waters with his wife Calm; Golden Spirit with his wife Bright,. Following were Home’s brothers, Swift and Deep; Gentle’s sisters; Kind and Serene. At a small distance behind them walked other family members, and behind them all of the other older people from the community that could safely walk.

A small pit had been prepared at the edge of the grove and the immediate family stood in a circle around it.

Danuva clasped hands with Danuva of Near Isle. He nodded slightly in understanding. They had earlier taken a small amount of mind enhancing drug disguised as a tea, while the others had been allowed a short refreshing tea to sustain their pilgrimage. They required the brief bond to send the vision to the one who lay in drugged sleep. Joined in mind, they sought the spark of the one who could not be present.

“Great Earth Mother Danu, look upon these your children with love and sympathy in their sorrow.” She raised the tiny bundle high. “Accept the mortal remains of our newest community member, Brave Spirit. Take him in Your loving embrace and let him know that his earthly family will love and cherish his memory always.”

She lowered the small body slowly placing it in the pit, motioning for each family member to place their small offerings of items connected to their protectors. When all had done so, she added two - her own, a small wolf tooth; and a tuft of rabbit fur for Brave himself. The small pit was half filled with earth, a small sapling planted and the pit completely filled.

“May the tree of Brave Spirit grow and flourish as do the others of the Sacred Grove. We will return in remembrance at each full cycle of the Seasons.”
Gentle returned alone with the Danuva to Home’s side, the girls accompanying the family back to their own dwelling. He had been proud of his daughters today. Their tears had flowed as much as all present, but he felt the bond had strengthened between the sisters after Bright had lain her sea eagle feather followed by Calm’s slightly hesitant shy offering of a small beaver claw. They had clutched each other fiercely as if they would never let go.

Home was sobbing quietly in her drug induced sleep. Gentle took her hand, softly squeezing, both for his sorrow and hers.

Home Spirit took a long time to heal physically; she did not think she would ever recover mentally. Her initial surprise at the amount of care, sympathy and help she received had transformed into grateful acceptance.

Gentle held her hand so tightly it nearly hurt on the way to the Sacred Grove, a year to the day.

He looked in surprise at the scene, as did the others. Danuva was positively delighted, beaming at what her eyes showed her. The grove lay carpeted in small blue bell shaped flowers. Brave Spirit’s tree had blossomed in small white and pink flowers, surrounded by a small circle of green clovers.

This was a sure sign Danu was pleased with her people. As they formed a circle around the flowering tree, Danuva began a quiet chant.

“Danu, beloved Provider and Protector of the communities of the Wild Isles, we give praise and thanks for Thy many Blessings. May we grow and thrive under Thy watchful Gaze.” Everyone took up the chant, echoing each other.

“We are here today to remember our dearly missed son, Brave Spirit, who passed into Thy Loving Presence one cycle ago. We pray Thee look kindly on his mother, Home Spirit, and give her peace of mind, for she is still sorrowing greatly of his loss. Look kindly on all who sorrow and ease their troubled spark. We thank Thee for the gift of the flowering grove, especially the quick flowering of Brave Spirit’s everlasting guardian. Know that Your People strive to follow Your Ways and Honour You always.”

The small gathering bowed their heads together waiting a minute before turning to depart. A clear and dazzling light shone over the grove as the sun broke from the rushing clouds.

Danuva had gone for a long walk alone on her return. She did not know why, but her steps had taken her down the winding path to the small beach, not to the cave area but in the opposite direction to the high shingle at the base of the soaring cliff, around the point to where the pinnacle rose in front of her. The birds high above that would usually mock her for her inability to reach them cried out in seeming distress. Danuva felt her whole body tingle with the brush of unseen protectors. Why had she been brought here?

Scanning the ground of broken rocks, boulders, sand and shingles was no easy task. Her breath caught in her throat. Lying hidden behind the largest boulder lay the spread and broken body of the female sea eagle. Great Danu, what terror had befallen this great creature? No answer formed in her mind. She saw no sign of struggle or harm. Well, if it must remain a mystery it must, but she would not leave the carcass here, to rot - or worse, to fill a beast’s belly. The great bird deserved greater honour than either.

She carefully carried the body under her arm, back to her dwelling. Calling her acolytes to her, she displayed her find. This would be a good teaching experience for them both, whilst not dishonouring the creature.

She and they carefully and reverently plucked the feathers, taking the claws and beak. The skin, Danuva decided, would be discarded. She carefully and in detail showed the acolytes the various powerful skeletonal parts, selecting several small pieces to join the pile of parts they would keep. The flesh would be wrapped in the skin and disposed of fittingly.

Seasons came, seasons passed, and Home Spirit had eventually healed in mind as well as body. Her days in dark depression were few and far between now. She felt ever more loving towards Gentle as he reminded her that he loved his ‘harem of girls’ and joked that another male would be unwanted competition for their affections. He actually revelled in the doting love he received from ALL his women.

The small fleet had returned not long ago, and most of the men were casually preparing their catch at the base of the escarpment. The first cave was good for gutting, filleting and cleaning with small pools easily accessible. The men knew they had a few hours before the tide flooded back, making the space inhospitable for all but sea folk yet clearing the waste far out into the current.

Home had readily agreed to join her friends gathering on the inland moor. There was still much to gather for the Meeting and for winter storage. It was a pleasant change from her usual weaving or sewing.

She and her now aging mother had spent many hours sewing. Bright was to be Joined at this Meeting, and another special dress was all but finished. The colour of creamy clouds, it had one large decoration on the entire breast with ribbons of beads and tiny feathers cascading down the front to the hem from the feet of the great bird figure in flight. The two women had debated long over the decoration, all ideas they came up with they had rejected as not fitting enough for the occasion. Danuva had surprised them by offering a largish bundle for the decoration.

“I gathered this material from the dead sea eagle on the day we honoured Brave’s memory. I had not thought of a use fitting enough for the parts. Now I feel it would be more than fitting if you could portray Bright’s protector for her Joining.”

Home had been amazed and delighted. A great sea eagle in flight, made of real sea eagle feathers and parts. The picture formed in her mind in greater clarity, and she could not thank Danuva enough for the thoughtful and very precious gift.

‘You are welcome. Home, I am pleased the materials will be used honourably.’ Home HEARD the voice in her head. She looked at Danuva, shocked, but pleasantly surprised at the same time. Danuva simply smiled widely with an incline of the head, a raised eyebrow, in return. So the labour of love had begun …..


Home and her three companions chattered merrily as they picked their way across the moor, stooping and digging, pulling seeds and low lying fruit from the brambles. Their packs were filling up quickly.

Home stooped to pick some more succulent berries and spied something neatly hidden under the thick branches. Eggs! Six tiny speckled eggs. Their foraging must have scared the mother bird away. Feeling guilty in taking all of them, she pocketed four and left two. There, little mother, I have not taken all your children. May they grow and thrive.

The others came at her call to see the find, jealous they had not been the ones to see the nest. In truth, they had not been looking in that place anyway. It had been a lucky find. Moving apart again, .they spread out to find their own last spot. The earth rumbled.

They looked at each other in shock. A second rumble, followed by a light earth shaking movement. They stood transfixed in fear and panic. A great roar rent the air and the earth HEAVED. The ground around them gave a horrific groan as rents opened in long rivulets across the moor.

Home barely registered the others screaming. She was running, stumbling, screaming in panic as were they in differing directions. Logic or reason played no thought in their headlong rush to get AWAY - anywhere, nowhere, just AWAY!

Home found herself heading towards the high cliff area, earth movements in front of her seemed to keep forcing her away from the direction she really wanted to take - towards the escarpment and home. She was now silent, hoarse with screaming, breathing deeply and heavily.

The ground seemed to still to a low rumble instead of the low groan and she felt herself fall to her knees with pent up relief, heart hammering. Looking up, she was on the short grassed ground some fifty yards from the cliff edge. Taking deep breaths trying to calm herself, she turned at the sudden cracking sound behind her. This was followed by yet another rumble, but different from that the earth had given. Rising, she approached the edge as near as she dared. The pinnacle was not there. In its place was a rising dust cloud, through which she saw new rubble below. The birds wheeled screeching in anger overhead.

Oh, my, if the pinnacle has fallen … Great Danu, the escarpment …

The tremors had spread far across the entire Wild Isles and even to the mainland. The caves under the escarpment went far deeper than the community had ever been able to explore before the tide turned. The whole sloping hill was a honeycomb underneath the homes.

She forced her feet back a few yards, not daring to open her eyes to look. A moving scene from hell awaited her.

As if in slow motion, she watched the waters rise before receding, racing forward again, a great wave of water crossing the estuary; a wave in size she had never seen before, flattening parts of forest in its path, before breaking into foam high on the escarpment, flooding the caves as they had never flooded before. It was too much for the fragile earth, and the caves collapsed in a dull roar. Foam and rock spilled upward before slowly settling. She held her breath …

In horror she watched as the escarpment FLOWED. Fluid and slow, creating its own wave out into the estuary it sank majestically, the tiny thatched roofs disappearing in the dusty mist that formed.

Home Spirit sank to her knees. Through the dawning horror and dread she realised dully that she had seen not one single figure emerge from the homes, nor escape from the caves or path beneath. The rising water had caught those in the caves by surprise, giving no time to wade to safety and in truth the people above were already gone; the dwelling foundations had collapsed into a yawning cavern as the fragile caves gave way.

She turned away from the terrifying sight, running mindlessly back to the moor. Desolation. No one in sight. She called and called her friends names, but the sounds were carried away on the wind.

Home eventually returned back to the nightmare scene, neither knowing what she was doing nor caring. Wandering aimlessly, she curled up in the very spot where her waters had broken many years previously, lying in the foetal position, hugging herself, crying sightlessly and silently; refusing to believe the nightmarish sights that flashed under her closed eyelids in never ending sickening repetition. Dark fell.

The male sea eagle had vanished with the wind. The gulls still wheeled overhead, their cries mourning for all life

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