November 24 – Myth of the Stork

NaNoWriMo: Posted November 24@10:24p

Jaith slept on Earth’s beach, as he like to do when waiting for those returning to Earth for Judgment. Every single one made enough racket to wake him. He wasn’t worried about missing anyone. None of the Divine ever came looking anyway.

Today was different.

Jaith rubbed his eyes and the skin around them. His neck felt stiff from sleeping on an unnoticed lump of sand, and he groaned a little as he sat up.

In the air above him flew a pristine white bird with its neck outstretched and his legs dangling. It seemed to soar on the warm air currents as its board wings flapped only on occasion. It carried a bundle within its red beak.

The huge bird landed with a confident grace then walked slowly and steadily toward Jaith. With both bird and man on their feet the stork stood at Jaith’s beltline. It carried a baby but not a newborn. The little girl appeared to be approaching her first birthday. It was ready to climb out of its cloth carrying sling. She cooed, forming mimicked speech and performing basic communication skills to catch Jaith’s attention.

The stork carefully placed the baby on the stand and dropped the cloth from its beck before shaking its long slender neck and puffing out its white feathers. Jaith watched its profound beauty thinking about how Atalans had the myth of the stork wrong. They loved to believe the majestic bird brought families the gift of new life when, in fact, it carried a dead baby to its afterlife and Judgment.

“Doesn’t seem fair really,” he said to the bird, unsure if Earthen storks understood language or not. “The Divine don’t force a human this young to swim in to shore for Judgment. It cannot speak to defend itself there. Yet, they allowed someone so small, who had barely begun to live, the ability to die.”

Jaith shook his head. “I’ll never understand it.”

The stork liked its beak into the air shaking it up and down as if to agree when really it just wanted a fish to eat.

“Going to have to fetch it yourself, my friend,” Jaith said to it as he picked up the crawling baby. “I have an unexpected journey to make.”

As Jaith walked away the stork bill-chattered. The water remained calm until Jaith rounded its far bend. The first sign of lashing burst through the water as was the typical response for newcomers. The bald head indicated a middle-aged male. Jaith didn’t know him but hoped his Judgment Ceremony proceeded on a fair and just path.

As Jaith stepped from sandy soil into the shrub vegetation, another round of newcomer water lashing began. Jaith always turned back to the water to see if he recognized the newcomer. He didn’t know when each of his old friends would return to Earth, but it was his job to gather them all before the one named Gabe arrived.

The newcomer emerged with his back to Jaith showing only his short cut, sandy brown hair. The man’s shirt was dark, but that didn’t mean anything since all dark clothing looked black when wet. What caught Jaith’s attention was the set of suspenders hanging over the man’s shoulders.

“Ban!”

Jaith knew his friend didn’t hear him. No one thought to listen for help. They all are just trying to stay alive…funny idea for being dead. Jaith remembered his emergence from the water. He knew what to expect and even he heard anything but roaring water and his heart beating in his ears.

The bald man had gained his bearing and swam for the shore. No matter what point the newcomer picked the course took them all to the shore line where they collapsed from exhaustion, usually for three days. Jaith let him go, watched him crawl out of the water and crumple into a sleeping ball.

Bankim would be a different story.

He chose to swim a course to the shore that would bring him to an end point closer to Jaith. Jaith took his time returning to the beach. The swim normally took ten minutes once the newcomer picked their path. The baby in Jaith’s arms fussed. There was a reason Jaith left the babies to his brother. Vex had a knack for the things.

Like the bald man, Bankim crawled out of the water and crumpled on the beach. He dropped onto his stomach where he coughed multiple times in a row, working something out of his lungs. Unlike the bald man, Bankim didn’t allow his body to sleep. His left hand dragged in the sand from his side until it aligned in height with his shoulder. From there, Bankim pushed himself up and rolled over onto his side. Another coughing fit began.

He landed onto his back and stared up at the sky, his chest spasming now and then.

Jaith sat down next to his friend and placed the baby on the sand between them.

“Were you ready?” Jaith asked him, wrapping his arms around his bent knees.

The baby cooed, rocked on her knees then crawled toward Bankim with a petite and very clear “Dada” coming from her lips. Jaith raised a brow.

“Is this one yours?” His voice rose with the question, uncertain how he felt about his friend’s reproduction.

Bankim whipped the flat of his palm over his mouth, brushing sand off his lips.

“Sort of.” He smiled when he answered, a break of relief painting his face. “How many other are there?” His question came with a newfound energy. Jaith’s friend sat up and scooped the baby onto his lap. The child fingered his mouth, and Bankim played with it.

Jaith said nothing.

Bankim talked to the baby, cooed when it did, pretended to bite her fingers.

“A bald man,” Jaith finally answered, his annoyance level high.

“That’s it?”

“Who else are you expecting?”

Bankim’s nose crunched up. “That’s it.”

For a while, Ban ignored Jaith, concentrating his attention on the baby.

“What the naraka, Ban. I die and what happens to you?”

“A lot…you missed a lot.”

Bankim picked up the baby and adjusted her to face Jaith.

“I don’t want to see it.”

“This is Tira. She’s Sita’s niece and that bald man killed her. He lifted her above his head then threw her body hard against concrete.”

“Life is a struggle.”

“Some consider it a gift.”

“So is sitting here with me, and we’re wasting it on boring conversation. Let’s go.”

Jaith climbed his feet and slapped off sand. Bankim joined him, lifting himself up with one hand while holding Tira. Bankim knew that leaving Calb behind meant the man would amble his way into the heart of Earth. A Divine Lord would pick him up and prepare him for his Judgment. Bankim couldn’t imagine the Divine allowing him to stay on Earth. He’s be sent to Vitala where there is no sunlight and the darkness is dissipated by shining metals. The same place Bankim was sure his Judgment would send him. Until then, he’d enjoy the moments he had with Tira.

“Should we make our way to Trigger’s?”

Bankim had nearly forgotten about his friend until his mind wandered to the Judgment Ceremonies. Bankim couldn’t imagine the Divine sending Trigger away. The man was too kind hearted for his own good.

“No, although I’m sure he’ll be excited to see you. We need to see my brother.”

“Vex?”

“Yeah, and it’s a long walk.”

Safreen glided by the Guardian known as Kalle, placed her signature tea on the table and took a seat next to Lachlan. Without qualm, Safreen eyed Kalle. He was definitely a handful of years older than Lachlan. His brown hair had red hues, but one could only tell when the light reflected just so. He tried to hide the color by dying the hair black to blend in with the Lynthians. He didn’t think dye his eyebrows. Safreen watched him carefully. She didn’t trust him.

He liked to dress well…too well for his stature, which told Safreen that he merely played the part of Guardian because he had to.

But why was that?

Lachlan sat at the kitchen table in the chair closest to Safreen. He took his pasta meal with a fork. He liked forks. All Lochens did. They made good weapons, but so did the new dagger hanging about his waist.

Staring at Nom blankly as she explained her vision was the herbalist’s second Guardian Toivo. He was the one everyone told Safreen to watch. They were fools. The man had seedy tendencies, but he was a mama’s boy. Safreen could tell by the way he brushed his teeth and covered his mouth when he burped, even if he never excused himself.

Safreen’s aunt slowly walked the perimeter of her secondary house. The one she used for storage until recently. “I think we should prepare this half of the home for twelve students.”

They’d have to do the construction on their own. Supply gathering would be just as difficult even if the wood could be taken from the lagoon’s palm trees.

“I’ll take in a large set to train, as if picking the best of the best to train as assistants. I’m done with the in for a time, out for university students. I need a solid set I can trust. Safreen will make a great cover. She already has wildcrafting and herbalism knowledge. I’ll look in earnest for another while housing a mother and daughter to move out of Lynthia.”

“It’s not going to work,” Safreen chimed in from the table. Her voice soft and sing-song like.

“You sure are depressing for someone who sounds all angelic ‘n stuff,” Toivo grumbled from the table across from her.

Safreen rolled her eyes. “You should separate the students. Women are nosy. You should split the unnecessary girls into this room with me, and you should keep the ones you’re trying to protect in the other half of the house by you.”

“Patients could go into both sides,” Kalle added from where he stood at the door.

Nom slipped her hands over the curves of her waist, eyes looking at the ceiling as she considered the idea. Her chin shifted just slightly to the left, and she nodded. “Good point.”

WORD COUNT: 1718


Copyright ©2010-2014 by Kristine A. Strauss, Amara SuraShakta. All rights reserved.

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