Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Wandering (Part 3)

“Oh!” I said, flinching back. The woman glared at me. It was weaver Cinna.

“Watch where you are going, blighted daughter.” She spat. I immediately sank to the ground, my face buried in her moccasins.

Silent, I trembled, waiting for her to move. As I breathed slowly, Ryia began to cry, not happy with being suffocated against my chest.

Cinna sighed.

“Solame. You bring bad luck here,” She said, in an impatient tone I had grown to be wary of.

From my place on the ground, I tried to speak.

“I am searching for Paqia to nurse Ignose's baby,” I said to the dust.

“Oh, get up here,” Cinna said. Deftly she knelt, hauling at my arm, pulling me upwards in quick irritated yanks. “I can't hear you if you're groveling. There is no harm done, I didn't see the baby.”

Ryia began to wail louder as I stood and dusted myself off as best I could with two arm full of a baby and a load of clothes.

Cinna tisked. “Paqia has headed off for the quarterly hunt. She will not be back until the blue sister falls to kiss her alabaster twin.”

I bit back a grin. That was two weeks! Ignose could have her baby! By the time Paqia returned, her milk would be dried up. She could not nurse Ryia.

“Another wet nurse will have to be found,” Cinna said, clicking her tongue. “Since a cursed maiden cannot raise a moon-daugher...Hmmm. Oai and Paoe both have sucklings at the breast, and six more in the hut are due in 2 hands...”

I studied my toes. My feet longed to be back on that path to tell Ignose the good news.

“I know,” Cinna said, her grip on me softening, “I could nurse her. My son nurses still at the breast, and more milk for a mewling would flow after a few nights.”

I stopped breathing. Paqia was one thing, but Cinna was another.

“I was wondering, sister...” I said slowly, hoping my face did not look flushed, “If there was any bad luck on nursing a cursed one's child?”

Cinna sucked in her breath. I held mine.

“I do not know,” She said carefully. I studied her moccasins again, with their soft hide flaps and blue and white beads. Finally she continued.

“The baby is better being suckled by those who are not blighted. I will nurse her.”

I did not move. Ignose hated Cinna. She would never forgive me if I left her daughter with her. I knew also that Cinna did not care about little Ryia. She would mistreat Ryia. A picture of Ryia, dead, laying on the rocks beside the sea flashed though my heads. She would leave the baby out on the rocks where the cursed ones were left to die. She held no love for Ignose, so why would she want her baby?

“Ogna May told me to leave the baby with Paqia, moon-sister. I must obey the Ogna,” I said, bowing so low while trying to rock Ryia and quiet her. Is I swayed and bent, I felt something fall from my bundle. I watched in horror as my washing-stone tumbled out and split in two against the stony ground. A lump formed in my throat. Ignose had traded many things for that stone. We used to take turns scrubbing backs in the sauna, and I had many fond memories of our time there. And now I had broken it.

I reached out to grab one of the pieces, but Cinna swiped it out of the way with her moccasin, and it clattered to the side, hidden among the short grass underneath the working-huts.

“You are clumsy, cursed daughter.” She said. I remained bent over, while Ryia screamed, and tears pricked the edges of my vision.

“I told you to stand up.” This time Cinna yanked me so hard I almost dropped Ryia. She tightened her grip on my arm and hauled me to my feet, then slung back her hand to slap me across the face.

I blinked as it stung, sucking in my breath and swaying on my toes. The light spun.

“What is the meaning of this, moon daugher.” It was the Ogna's voice. In one motion, she plucked the angry Ryia from my arms, and turned to face Cinna, sweeping me behind her. I flattened myself against the earth.

“The cursed daughter brings her bad omens here. You should not have sent her.” Cinna said. With my eyes to the dirt, I spied the other half of my washing stone, and flicked out my hand to tuck it back in among my clothes.

“Solamae was bringing the baby in to nurse. Ignose has been blessed with twins,” Ogna May said. “I instructed her to do this. You forget yourself.”

“Paqia has gone on the hunt,” Cinna said “I will nurse the baby. Yet Solame refused. She should not speak so to her moon-sister. She should not speak back to an elder. She is cursed.”

I felt Ogna shift above me.

“I just heard of Paqia's departure. That is why I came after Solame. I have sent Yegj to run after Paqia. You are still nursing your boy, he has not left your breast yet. You know we do not suckle men and women on the same teet, it is an abhorrence. He must be suckled for the full 2 red moon cycles.”

Cinna mumbled something, but I couldn't catch it with my face in the dirt and my ears ringing from being slapped. I lifted my head a little, but only saw the back of the Ogna's bare feet, calloused and brown against the rocks.

Time passed. I'm not sure how much. My stomach rumbled. Eventually the Ogna knelt down and I felt her gentle hands on my back.

“There, there, little Solamae.” She said. I realized then she had somehow made Ryia quiet. “Ryia will be fine with Paqia. Do not worry youself. Ignose will be okay too. It is for the best. Go and bathe.”

I turned and fled. I had failed.


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