Two years had past since Oona had taken Hrungnir, a victim of her restless hunger, two years since Sif had lay in her arms on the night the Vendii burned, and in that time no man had dared speak to Sif save when need forced him to her lodge. Twice had she stood in the circle of widows and when her turn came to claim a husband found all the men in the inner circle had turned their backs to her. So it was with a heart as heavy as lead that Sif faced this terrible night and an unwelcome dawn. Oona as usual was with her that night, for often after Uttu set they would sit and chat and chart the course of the Mardii.
"Your people have a custom you know, you may claim a wife."
"Yes a woman may claim a wife, but this has only ever been done after a war, or famine, in a time when no man is available to husband a wife, to raise a family to father her children."
"No man is available to you."
"For the fear of you, dearest. No man of the Mardii is ignorant that you visit my house nightly, they fear taking my hand is simply placing themselves on your table. My dear Hrungnir fell to your kiss after all."
"And you never once said a word."
"My Hrungnir was a brave man, if you had offered to him this choice his blood for the lives of our daughters, he would have given himself to you without hesitation, and wished you good feasting. My daughters live, Hrungnir was part of the price of that covenant but I have never questioned that price."
"You question Giselle."
"Of course I do, she is my daughter, if I could bind you to one promise it would be this, to take me before her, if you hunger is not sated, so be it, but at least I know I have done all I can for my daughter, and if you still take her she will be with me in your dreams and not alone and scared in a strange world."
"Yes, I promise I will take you first, or if my hunger overwhelms me and I simple must have Giselle's blood, I will come straight to you and you will be with her in my dreams. Either way she will not be tiny, frightened and alone in the world of my dreams dear Sif."
"How is it that I love you?"
"You do not fear death, so you do not fear me, you honor the covenant and do not fear my kiss."
Yes one day I will know that kiss.
Oh I do hope so, I would hate to see some accident or act of violence steal you from me. I do long for that kiss, and after my mother feasts in her turn you will be reunited with Hrungnir till the Dragon rises from the Sea.
Why should I fear the one thing that makes this life worth living.
You cry so after each May Day, but you have never truly desired another man.
My daughters do need a man in their lives don't they, who will give Nadia into the keeping of her husband, its not long away now. And I must admit, sometimes in the night I wish I had a man to embrace if only to pretend he was Hrungnir. He need never know, but I miss my husbands arms.
You miss more than that I suspect.
You never where discreet you know.
No, not since long before you where born, my dear.
It is late though I must go to bed dear Oona.
Yes Uttu rises soon, and my hunger pains me, allow me a kiss as you lay down.
Just please restrain yourself a little, as your priestess I am expected to preside over the weddings tomorrow.
So Sif lay down to sleep, Oona lay in her arms, Oona's teeth slipped past Sif's skin, almost as if in a dream. Sif felt Oona gently nursing from her veins, she nuzzled close caressing Oona's thick black mane, and Sif drifted off to sleep.
* * * * *
Already some of the couples where singing together as they would in circle. For though the Mardii had pledged themselves to Tsulsala two winters past now, she was patient, she did not press them to change their ways, their festivals, their songs. Goddess of the New Moon, she left her stamp on the Midwinter's rites, as she had always done, but this spring festival went on much as it had since the dawn of time.
In the very early morning, Young men too young to keep a wife would race through the woods outside the Lodger rapping the trees with sticks. All around the lodge you could here them racing, rapping their sticks and singing shouting, Awake! Awake! Great Lady Arise!
One by one they returned to the lodger, and ended their run with a rap on the great ash at the center of the lodger, where in it was said slept Momma Ki. Then they would mark out the two circles, one for the men, and one for the brides and the couples of the last spring. The men lead the procession dressed all in their best, they formed a smaller circle around Ki's great ash. Then the women and last years couples came clasping hands they formed a circle around the great Ash of Ki.
Then the Mardii would sing, as they had sung for centuries gone by, it was a simple tune, nothing you would hear in the palaces or pubs of Untermund, but the Mardii loved it dearly just the same.
Awake, Awake, Great Lady Arise!, Awake, Awake, her love is our lives.
Three times they would sing this refrain, then the 6th of the nine would call out a girls name. She would step up to the inner circle and offer a young lad a flower. If he accepted it she was his wife, if he refused it he could accept no other wife this spring.
It was generally an open secret who would be chosen by who. So it was that Sifs Niece Kara was the first name called, she came to Nicolas and he clasped the flower by the thorns as was the custom. This small act of courage was expected, for by it he accepted his life with her thorns and all. Kara lead Nicolas to the circle of couples, and the circles danced again.
It did not take so very long for the new brides to chose their husbands, then the 6th of the Nine began to call the names of the widows one by one. At last Sif's turn had come, at the sound of her name the men turned to face into their circle as one. As they had for the last two years. This was their right, and said please don't come to me, she of course could force a man to refuse her flower, but it would be cruel to do so.
Then she noticed a murmur, and could see one figure on the opposite side of the circle was not facing inward, but from this vantage she could not see the face. The figure was rather lithe, and yet the tallest in the circle, and inexplicably wore a hooded cloak, but Sif was lonely and curious and following the line of maidens, made her way around the circle.
As Sif approached Oona pulled back the hood from her cloak and revealed herself. Now Sif understood, she had been bedazzled by a glamour that she should not recognize Oona till now. Oona smiled a knowing smile and said, "Please you have been alone too many nights, accept my hand, be my wife."
"I do not want your pity Oona."
"And you above all others should know I have none...Put aside your doubts and accept my love."
Sif offered Oona her flower, and she took it by the thorns, and squeezed till her black blood did flow.
As with most things the Mardii had a song for this, and gave their approval to the new couple singing.
Wife takes Wife, Life Joins Life, may the love in your bosom chase away all strife.
Soon the last of the couples joined hands, then Sif as first of the Nine formally bound the others to their vows. When her turn came the 6th of the nine read the vows to Sif and Oona. When she said, "Bride may kiss Bride." Oona kissed Sif's cheek softly. Sif smiled, then pulled Oona close and bending her back kissed her hard. Whispering, "My lovely Murian Bride, I will have to teach you to love like a Chatti!" There was a murmured laughter and pride, for it is well known that the Murian carry more water by their nature, and thus are more gifted in Magick, while the Chatti carry more fire, and are blessed with more children.
With this seasons couples handfasted, and last seasons couples married, the Chatti spent the rest of the day in a great festival. Picnicking, Singing, Dancing long into the night. No one noticing should a couple slip out of sight. Others made love under the great Ash to honor and thank Momma-Ki as was their right. We need not invade their privacy, but Sif & Oona's bed was as warm as any that night.
* * * *
Then Giselle gave that most unexpected gift to Tsulsala, and everything changed.
* * * *
"Giselle is with your mother now, she washed away her curse."
"and washed away my curse as well, but what am I to do now? I have not been mortal for 16 Lives of Ara, and how many generations of your people."
"You are my wife, you remain my wife. With Giselle gone to your mother we will need a third for the circle, you must take her place."
"I don't know if I can Sif, I don't know if I can live as a mortal once more."
Sif handed Oona her Anthame, "Go into the forest, if you find your courage return this to me, if not ... I will find you."
Oona paused for a moment, but there really was nothing to say, she took the Anthame into the forest. In the fading light she came home to their hearth and returned Sif the blade. "I will need your courage more than ever beloved."
Later that evening she took Sif aside, "How is it neither you, nor any of the children has shed a tear for Giselle. I am sorry I was selfish earlier, but even I feel so hurt for your loss."
"We honor Giselle's gift, this great gift she has given to us all by freeing your mother from her curse. Of course we will miss her always. Believe me my bosom cries, but it is not the moment for tears."
But of course that time soon came, three days later Giselle's remains where returned to the earth, a black cloth hung on Sif's door, and all with-in cried. Oona tried hardest to be brave, she did not want to embarrass the others. Oh how she had hungered for Giselle as an Immortal, but now mortal once more she felt stricken as she had not in many lives of men.
Sif came to her, "I feel your sorrow through the walls beloved, I know your grief is no cheat even if you do not." She pulled Oona's head to her bosom. "Cry now, cry till you can cry no more." And Oona gave reign to the deep wailing of the Murian Women, which is a sound like none other in the nine worlds.
Oona's voice rent the air deep into the night, and in the wee hours just before dawn Sif woke her. She was dressed In the Green Gown of the first of the Nine. "You must come beloved." she said her voice somehow both caring and stern at once.
Oona donned her own robe a bit clumsily, even the simplest things seemed somehow awkward now that she was returned to a mortals frame. She had known the strength and grace of a Daughter of Kur for 1600 years, now she felt weak, clumsy and awkward. Still she threw on her clothes and followed Sif without complaint.
Fior'de Ki has called for you, she will speak to no one else, but she will allow me to be present when she does. Fior'de Ki, the Third of the Nine, the Midwife to the Mardii. She had aged nobly and was still a handsome woman, but she was also ancient for a Chatti and had been in mid-life herself when she drew Sif from Keegva's womb and into the world. She had wrestled with fever now some weeks, and all her skill with herbs had not been enough to fully quench the fire.
Oona came to her in the dark of her Lodge, its fire burning very low and giving off very little light. She took Fior's hand, and felt at once it was too cold.
Oona? came a rasping voice.
I am here Honored One.
"Oona, I died last night."
In 1600 years Oona had seen may faces of death outside the common fate, she knew the woman before her spoke truth, however strange that truth might be and simply said, "Tell me more."
I have seen a vision, I believe it comes of Isis, and to her of the Dragon. Your Mother has been freed of her curse, but now Set bars the way to the Iron throne of Kur. Now None may cross the river, none may stand before the judges, and so my spirit is trapped in this prison of flesh. As all who die until the throne is claimed will be so trapped.
What would you have me do Honored One.
Giselle was to be Third of the Nine, she is lost to us now. You, you must take her place Oona, can you find it in yourself to fight for life as fiercely as you served death.
I am so weak now, and clumsy, I can barely lace my own robe this mortal body betrays me.
You have the knowledge, the knowledge of every woman who has ever known your kiss is in you, and the Mardii will need that knowledge in the dark days ahead.
I will honor your charge, although I feel inadequate to the task.
We need not your acquiescence, we need your ferocity. You must own this purpose, as you owned your mothers.
I was bound to her curse.
No, there was more, you revealed in your power over life and death. Oldest and Deadliest Daughter of the Queen, you embraced your curse. Embrace life as fiercely now.
I will take up the Green Gown of the Third. I will serve Ki faithfully, but I must tell you, for all my knowledge you are beyond my power now. I cannot pull you back, it is time for you to be reborn.
I know this, that is why you must burn me.
You would suffer the torments of the Abyss.
Better that, than to remain trapped in this flesh, an abomination before Ki. You must free me, and only fire can free my spirit now. The fire will consume my flesh, and it will no longer be able to imprison my spirit.
But you still will not be able to cross the river.
No I wont, but many lost spirits will soon be wandering the world. I can find them, guide them to the river, that we might wait there. This is my task now. Please do what must be done.
And it was ... The Nine took Fiore deep into the forest where her cries would not haunt the memories of the Mardii's children, and there they freed her spirit. It was a horror none present would ever forget. She cried out only once, but it was a sound that might make a Banshee block her ears. Then in the Fire Light of Fiore's Pyre, in the Presence of the Nine. Oona donned the Green Gown of the Third, and entered the service of Ki.
And so began the great trail of Oona's life.
At first no one, not even Oona could comprehend how the world had changed. The Mardii where a hardy people living in a hard land. They where fit to the hazards of the hunt, and the hardships of the fields, they where people used to coping with and mending the bumps, bruises, and minor burns that where just part of their lives.
Now with the Iron throne of Kur empty, Ki fell ill, and with each restless soul who fell into a deathless limbo her fever mounted, and the effects of Ki's Dis-ease rippled through the world. Herbs that for generations had speeded mending, or been the remedy for a given disease, lost their power, or ceased to work altogether. Wells that had long yielded fresh clean water, suddenly yielded a rancid Incor. Wounds where slower to heal on their own, and fevers raged hotter than in the deepest memory.
As the days and moons slipped by Oona found herself healing more and more people, word of her skills spread wider and wider, and people came. At first it was wise women, seeking guidance to help those for whom the remedies of generations had failed, later more and more it was the injured themselves, drawn to the growing power of her name.
For Oona the greatest challenge was not in the care of so many people. She could rely on Sif, her Daughters, and the wise women that where gathering around her to help with the healing work. It lay in the journeys that she alone could undertake. For many of the cures she needed lay in her deepest memory. From a time when the Age was young, and the land still bore many poisoned scares from the great battle between Set and Ra, that had ended the last age of the world. Deep in the memory of women she had claimed, slain, and made part of herself as a young immortal, were the cures she now needed.
So it was that Oona had to go deep inside herself in search of the knowledge she needed to do her work in the world. Immortal no more she could no longer reach into the minds and memories of the women she had slain. Women who had no love of her, many harbored an abiding hatred of Oona, for she who had stole them from their lives, denied them their rebirths, and imprisoned them in her dreams.
Time and again she would have to surrender her body to the will of another spirit. A woman who remembered a cure, the use of a herb, a word of power. Most had not known the taste of the air, the touch of a man, nor the cleansing rain in a thousand years. They were loathe to surrender these things, to return to the half light of Oona's dreams. Most only surrendered when sheer exhaustion allowed them to Dance no more, and Sif had to be ever watchful that some angry spirit would not hurt Oona's body before surrendering her possession.
Moon followed moon, Oona grew ever more weary. Sif too was weary of the demands of caring for Oona, and Giselle now reborn as Celeste, grew heavier by the day. Sif too longed for peace and rest, but the ill and injured kept coming.
The restless dead where everywhere now, haunting the living in their confusion. Sometimes attacking them in their rage. The Goblins, the Gnolls and other servants of Chaos grew bolder as the world grew more and more ill. Oona herself sometimes longed for the peace of death. Envied those who danced in her dreams and longed to dance in the dreams of another. It became ever harder for Sif to rouse Oona when the spirit of one long dead surrendered her possession. Ever harder to draw her back to the land of the living.
In time word of Oona and her strange gift of memory of the Ancient Days, reached Tolz, the great City of the OverLord of the Chattii. The leaves where turning golden when, a troop of riders came out of the North, to the Lodger of the Mardii. They met first with Sif, who brought them to Oona.
"Good News Great Lady."
"What news, has Ki's fever finally broken."
No such news as that, but the Overlord of the Chattii has heard your name. He has sent me to return you to him. You shall he his physician. You will live in the finest apartments, dress in the finest clothes, be attended by the most beautiful maids. Your clients will be only the most noble persons in the land.
The Sick are all equal in my eyes. My wife is here, my family here, the wise women of a dozen tribes have gathered here. If your Overlord is Ill he can come here.
This is not the request of some vagabond Dear Lady, This is a summons, a summons by the Overlord of the Chattii. It is a great honor to be sure, but you must obey.
Sif put her hand on Oona's Shoulder, kissed her cheek. "Perhaps it is best, you are so exhausted. The Court is small and well fed. You have done all you can do here. Perhaps you should go to the Overlord. I fear by the strain of your own labors you should die.
Oona kissed her wife. "Thank you, I know you speak from your heart, from love."
Oona turned to the messenger, she narrowed her eyes. "And if I refuse, what then, would you cut me down, leave me stalk the world one of the restless dead. How will that sit with your Overlord. Is he so concerned with his name that he would have you take me from his people in the hour of their greatest need. If your Overlord will rule wisely he will leave me here."
He is the overlord of the Chattii, you owe him your allegiance.
I am Murian, I owe him nothing.
A Murian yes, but a Murian on Chattii Lands.
This strange Idea, that one can own land, we Murian do not honor it, but I will return to Anar if I must, if I am no longer welcome in Chattii lands.
You are welcome, but you live under the overlords protection.
Do I, does he protect me from the poison in the water, or the Fevers in the air, does he protect me from the groaning spirits, or the restless dead. Or is it not more true he would have me protect him from these things, leaving his people to rot for themselves.
"Enough of this!" said the Captain reaching for Oona.
And she spat out a Word, harsh it was from deep in her gut.
The Man clutched his heart, his eyes bulging, and gurgling blood the rider fell dead from his horse. The two men nearest him slapped hands to their ears and would hear no more. A third screamed with fright as he realized he was blind.
Oona herself sank to one knee, clutching her Bosom, as if Tsulsala's icy fingers had reached into her chest, and wrapped around her very heart. Gasping she spoke to the Knight Carrying the Overlords Banner, "Tell your Overlord what you have seen, tell him he can drag me to his court in chains, but all he will gain from me is the word of Death."
By now the Men of the Mardii had begun gathering behind Sif, with Sword and Spear and Bow.
Sif Spoke, "I am Sif De Mardii, I speak for the Nine. We honor the Overlord and our Allegiance to him, but if you do not leave now, there will be more bloodshed." The Men stood silent behind her, but grim where their eyes, and fierce their intent. The messengers of the Overlord rode off without another word.
"He is Dead, truly Dead."
"Yes and I barely survived."
I spoke Tsulsala's true name.
I am her Priestess, her High Priestess, I never heard such a name.
If you fasted for 9 months, and where told this name in a dream, you might survive, but speak it once and you would surely die. I am Murian, and it almost killed me.
But if Tsulsala is now Narrar, how can her Ancient Name have power.
I do not know, but I believe it means the Queen will reclaim the Iron Throne.
A fortnight passed, Ki grew more ill, The Moaning of her fever was heard clearly in the wind now, groves of trees that were centuries old sickened and died. It seemed soon Ki would die, the heart of The Dragon would stop, and the world would sink into the sea.
Out of the North came a second troop of Riders. An older man, with stern eyes and many scars led them. When Oona was pointed out to him, he dismounted and approached her on foot.
"I am Siguard, Overlord of the Chatti, you slew my servant."
"Who mistook me for a whore, to be bought with pretty clothes and fine apartments. Have you come to seek justice for him, or does another need drive you."
I have paid the Tort to his family. He was young and proud, it was my foolishness to send him.
You seem well.
As well as any in this time, My wife is ill she will soon die, my healers have not the skill to save her.
Listen to the groaning wind, Ki herself might soon die.
This I know, the Nine pray night and day. We have made every sacrifice we can endure. I have done all I can to serve the Ki, I can do no more for her. But you perhaps might save my wife, that we might be together if the Ki should live.
No woman rides with you, I see no carriage.
She was poisoned in the gardens of the citadel. One day the water was pure, the next poison. She has been taken into the mountains, a cottage on the snow line. It is the last clean water in the world I think.
How many will die here if I ride North, to spare you your grief. Its not a choice I can make.
You refuse me.
If I told you, you must tell these good people they must die, so that I might save your wife, you would do so with-out hesitation. That is the Chatti way, you see yourself as Noble, better than the common herd, closer to the Gods. I am Murian, all who live are equally sacred, each woman born an expression of the Beauty of the Ki. I would not abandon the lowest beggar to save a prince, it is not our way.
The man was furious and fumed about, Rounding on Oona he said, "If she should die, my wrath will be Terrible, I will come here with a force of men, and kill all you would save in her stead. I promise you that Murian."
Then Sif intervened, "Perhaps you could fly beloved?"
"Wives Tales about Broomsticks", the man Roared, "I have no time for non-sense, my wife will soon die."
Oona Smiled Weakly, "No, that is not how The Wise fly." the man fell silent and looked at her not comprehending. "A wise woman attends her?"
The Priestess of Freydja.
Turning to Sif, "Does she know her craft, or was her office a gift."
"She has always been thought of as Wise, by those who have wisdom."
Oona retreated to her Lodger, there unseen by any but The Nine she entered a deep trance. A few hours later a woman emerged from the Lodger. Oona, and yet not. She seemed uncomfortable with the size of her Murian frame, and the sound of her own voice. Leaving Sif's Lodge, she came to Siguard. The men of the Mardii where trying to make the overlord comfortable, he was after all their Liege.
"My Liege," The Woman said, in a voice not quite Oona's.
That's better Murian, have you decided to help us.
"I am not the Murian Liege. She is attending Vola now." The mans eyes narrowed. "I am Ilma, daughter of Skadi, Daughter of Frey. I am your Priestess." The Overlord motioned her to continue. "The Murian's spirit is with me Liege, and My spirit is here, to guard her person against the Minions of Set.
The Overlord spoke to the woman privately for some time, asking her things none outside the court should know, certainly the Mardii so many days ride from the court would not know. At last he was satisfied that the spirit of his priestess really was here in the Lodge. Then the Priestess excused herself explaining it was Oona's will that she attend Oona's patience, while the Murian attended hers. The Overlord mused, How very odd it all seemed, but the world was becoming so very odd as Chaos grew more bold.
At Twilight on the third day, Oona returned to herself. "I have done all I can do, and I believe she will live, if any of us live."
If this is true, I will pay you any price in gold, name your purse Murian.
Peace between the Mardii and the Overlord, but as you offer me a price of gold I will have you do this. You will hire brewers and teamsters from your great city. They will go into the mountains with the brewers barrels and fill them with snow, and bring them here. The water from the snow will be driven from here to the lodges of the wise women who have gathered here. All your people need clean water lord. Not just the noble, not just the wise. You will pay the brewers and teamsters the from purse you offered me, say 1000 pieces of gold.
That is a Mighty Purse.
Is your wife worth one copper less, would you name another price?
No, it will be as you say.
That Night, the Moon was nearly new, the sky darkened with clouds thick and black as anyone had ever seen, while Lightning lit the heavens. The Moon lay hidden behind that blanket of cloud, but the wise could feel it as the last silver sliver slipped into shadow. The world seemed to pause. For a long moment Creation itself stood on the edge of a knife, then burst like the sudden exhale of a swimmer who could no longer hold her breath.
A scream, the voice of a woman, the Voice of a Goddess, the Voice of Ki, it shook heaven and earth. A Howling Wind rose, like a great wolf in the east, it was fierce and harsh, yet oddly cleansing. It soothed Chattii and Murian alike as it washed over their skin. The wind swept the spirits from the restless dead and carried them to the river.
Oona's face was beaming, she seized Sif kissing her, hugging her close. Ki's fever is broken! It is done.
As it is told elsewhere, Tsulsala had reclaimed her Ancient Name, and the Iron Throne of Kur. For one bitter winter Ki healed in Tsulsala's womb, and danced in her dreams. The world did not fully heal for a long time, but the worst was over, and the wise women who had gathered round Oona nursed her back to health, then slowly dispersed taking the them the wisdom she had given back to the world.
On her road from Thebes to Kur under a new moon. Tsulsala herself came to the Mardii, only Oona and Sif had the courage to speak with her. "You have served me well sweet Sif, as I have promised you will Dance with Hrungnir in my dreams at the end of your mortal days."
And you Oona, dearest daughter, you will return with me to Kur, reclaim your place at my side.
No, no I will not. I am Murian my place is in Anar, I will return there in time, perhaps with my wife.
"You served me long and well, I will honor this, but you have with-in you much that is mine!" and Tsulsala seized her and drank, till she had drained every last soul from Oona save her own. Not one sweet dancer remained swaying in her dreams. Tsulsala dropped Oona like an angry child abandoning a worn out rag doll, and left the lodger without a backward glance.
In just a few days it became clear that Oona would never fully heal. Instead she was aging a year for each day that past and even given the long life of the Murian she had less than a year to live.
"I love you, and have no fear of death, but I will find no rest if I do not return to Anar."
And so Sif and Oona made the journey to Anar. Oona was frail, and the Mardii came together and built a fine carriage for her in just a few days. It was not sculpted or beveled as fit a Noblewomen, but it was comfortable, and spacious and made with love. 4 strong horses drew the Carriage and two young men accompanied them as drivers for the team.
When they reached the outer most leaves of Anar, the men slid the Carriage from the wheel housings. The Carriage had been cleverly made so the coach could be removed and provide Oona and Sif a small, but comfortable shelter. Taking the cart back to the Mardii, they left Oona and Sif to their privacy. Together they passed the coming days beside a stream, under the leaves of Anar.
As Oona lay in Sifs Arms, Tsulsala entered the Citadel, and approached the Throne of Kur. There before two great Iron Doors Stood, Rul, the shadow of her Father, born in shadow the moment Osiris had been born into light.
You have served your master well.
I have served you well.
If you would have served me, I would still be in Thebes.
That was never your Intent, I have kept to my Oath to serve you in all things. I have kept My Oath to Set as well.
That none should sit on the Iron Throne.
No, then I would have to block your path. I swore none who is unworthy should sit on the throne. Till your return.
I should kill you.
And who would you press to your bosom when you long for Tyr.
I will never love you.
There are worse fates in the Nine Hells, than loving you knowing your heart belongs to Tyr.
Elsewhere, In the still of the night under the full moon, Oona kissed Sif Lightly then released her spirit to the wind. Come morning a six Murian archers came out of the heart of Anar lead by one of the Nine.
Ki has sent us to return our sister, your wife, to the earth.
Sif looked at the woman wordlessly...
"We know her story, she is Murian, she is our sister always, her place is here."
And so were Oona's remains returned to the earth and a new tree planted over her grave. So it is with the Murian that the Spirit returns to the Realm of Spirit, and that which comes of the Earth returns to the Earth.
Sif cried for 3 days beside the grave of her beloved, but at last she knew she had traveled beside death long enough, it was time to return to her life. The next morning, Sif kissed Oona's sister and begged her pardon for the parting.
My Archers would gladly go with you.
"No, this is a road I can only Walk Alone." and Sif began the long walk home.
Ama tu ANKI, BB.
*********** ********** ***********
And it happened that years later a woman in her 61st year appeared at the gates of the Iron Keep of Kur. The Gala's seeing her hale, and whole tried to send her away. But she spoke their true names and dismissed them.
Standing on her balcony looking over the eternally blighted land of her kingdom, Tsulsala felt the presence of her visitor approaching. Tsulsala came to her, caressing her cheeks and smiling a serene smile. "My Darling Sif, why have you come to me so soon, I have seen 10 more years to your life at least."
"I have seen that vision too my Queen, ten more years without my Hrungnir, and I wont cherish a day of it, please fulfill our covenant, reunite me and my husband."
"Go to the kitchens then, they will prepare you for me, tonight you will sleep in Hrungnir's arms."
"I thought you would take on your wolfen form and just gobble me up, my Queen."
"I have looked forward to this feast for 2 generations of men, please allow me to savor you." Tsulsala smiled then drawing a nail across her own flesh, she had Sif drink the blood that flowed. Tsulsala led her to a mirror. Sif saw her self, young and blooming, as she appeared the day Giselle was born.
"I think he will remember you better now."
"Oh thank you."
Tsulsala rubbed her nose, "Oh you'll be the sweeter for feasting, precious Sif." but Sif knew that was not all their was to Tsulsala kindness. "To the kitchen now, this servant will guide you."
* * *
Sometime later as Tsulsala leaned back her eyes closed savoring the bliss of a full belly. She dreamed of a young man showing his bride a small but elegant cottage by a bend in a clear running stream. Flowers bloomed in well kept beds, and fruit trees provided shade from the rising and setting sun.
"Its so lovely." She was close to tears of joy.
"Of course it is, as I lumbered each plank, and peg and post, as I drove each nail, and sculpted each bevel I was thinking of you." He took her hand, drew her into his arms, and they melted into a kiss each had longed for, for two generations of men."
Tsulsala patted her belly, and said aloud to no-one in particular.
"Oh Sif, I am well pleased."
Well I think this story is nearly done now, its taken longer to write than any since Giselle.
I may perhaps return to it, to edit a line here, smooth out a phrase there, but I know her intention now, its pretty well done.
As to the Scene with Tsulsala and Rul, I've meant to put it down somewhere for sometime now, explore and explain Ruls motives in this drama, but I just could not Jam it into "An Empty Throne." Its only a little less awkward here, but at least it now has a home of sorts. Perhaps someday I will sit down, and find a way of stitching the two tales together as one, but I doubt it, they feel like seperate memories of the same great event.
Nuff said for now,