"I have been the fire long before I spoke to it." - Zakor Iwo, Earthspeaker

This site features excerpts from the first book in a series by writer, artist and musician Jorie Jenkins.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bry'e and Lonna : The Leaf

“You really can't go back,” Lonna said, abruptly, “Can you?”
Bry'e sighed. “Even if I could, I would not want to.” She raised her eyes to Lonna now, who recoiled from her just enough to reveal her deeper feelings; she still didn't trust this strange, tribal creature with feathers the color of blood, who was obviously stronger and faster, and perhaps even more intelligent. “I frighten you,” Bry'e said openly.
“I just don't understand – what you are. Where you come from...”
Bry'e understood what Lonna meant, and picked up a leaf from the forest floor. It was ovate shaped, simple and unremarkable. 

“The common leaf,” she began, “tells in its shape and vein an old story, a story so old no one knows who first said the words. Note the shape,” she said, “the paths the leaf takes away from the stem. The stem is origin. It represents the span of time when all living energies arose from a single source, a nameless power which has never revealed itself, but which flows through time, through the stem, and into everything the leaf becomes.”
Now Bry'e traced the right edge of the leaf with her index finger. “This edge which breaks away from the stem on its own path, is Nature, Mirico. This edge,” she said, tracing the opposite, “is Iridia, Man. The stem down the middle,” she said, her gray eyes twinkling, “is me.
The veins, bridges between one world and another, are my arms. With one hand I reach into Nature, and with the other I reach out to Man. Right now, the world is here,” she said, pointing to the section of the leaf where the edges were furthest apart. “Man has gone far from the source – in fact, he is farther away from Nature than he has ever been before. So here at the widest span of the leaf, the bridges between are longer and harder to cross. Here again, the leaf tells a story, but not about the past... It is the story of the future.”
Lonna sat closer, intrigued, and in some way it seemed the explanation Bry'e had given had made some barriers fall away within her.
“Just as all living things have a common origin, we also have a common destiny. So here,” she said, holding the leaf up for Lonna to see, “at the tip, is where once again Nature, you and I come back together. But to do this we must make the distance between Man and Nature smaller and smaller, until once again we are all the same. It is my responsibility to reach out to Man, and to bring him back to the source from which He comes.”
“But why had I never heard of you before?” Lonna asked, in a hushed whisper.
“Many human tribes throughout your deep time made pictures in stone or painted creatures with the bodies of man and the faces of animals. The Ambassadors have always existed, as guides and friends, as ways back to the old world. But some people have chosen not to see us – some have turned away from us because we were seen as heathen gods, or as dangerous creatures.”
“Your tribe didn't seem like it was out to help people,” Lonna said darkly.
Bry'e sighed. “This is why I left. Some of the Ambassadors, Amnamar and others, gave up on human beings, and became lost in themselves – we were given great power, possessing many natural gifts of awareness, and being able to speak with nature itself – we are above many of the creatures, having the intellect, language and structure of higher beings.”
“Not to mention an opposable thumb,” Lonna said dryly.
“Yes,” Bry'e chuckled. Her voice trailed back to sadness again. “Some Ambassadors turned against humans and sought them out to eliminate them, or to cast them out of their lands. Amnamar was one of these, and it was this way which turned me from my kind long ago. There is something in me, something which responds to the voices of Earth, which are always speaking. The further I go away from the Amnamarandhi, the louder the voices of earth become. In a way, my clan made me become much like man – I was so far away from what I am that I lost my source, and now I am crossing a long bridge to go back to it.”

Lonna processed what Bry'e had said for a moment. "If you were limited to the tribe you came from, how do you know all this about 'the leaf' and the past and the future, 'Ambassadors' and - all that?"

Bry'e absorbed the question, reading in Lonna's slight sarcasm that she believed little of what Bry'e had explained. The Amnamaran chose her words carefully. "For most of my life I went away into the deep jungles around my home; no one else in the tribe did such thing alone. It was there that I first met the Dharak, an old ascetic of the wilds. A true Ambassador, having learned both the ways of Earth and Man, and protecting and educating both. He taught me the language we are speaking now, and told me many things important to an Ambassador. He spent many beads in Iridia, and in the palms of his mind he held much knowledge about the lands of your people. His hand's grasp on Earth Speaking was of equal if not greater, power."
"Was he - from your tribe?"
"No - he and his forefeathers are similar, but they remained so close to the purposes and energies of earth that it is believed they are part bird and part tree. Going back further than any of the elders can remember, our tribe has looked to his small clan for shamanic guidance - he received visions and what is the word...?" She tapped her beak intently, squinting.
"Dreams?" Lonna offered. 
"Hm, no -" Bry'e concentrated. "Revolutions?"
"Revalations," Lonna corrected.
"That is the word. The revelations that came to him and his people served Amnamar in many ways, and allowed us to remain protected - though this, again, was part of what turned my hearts against my own people. It was our duty to reach out and to risk much. But instead we turned inward, and our only concern became ourselves. It is now my thinking that for many beads the Dharak knew what I was, but he would not make me see it. I believe he only hoped I would find it, and that once I did, I would be brave enough to grasp what I am with both hands,” she said, now making a bridge in the air with her outstreched arms as though she held both edges of the little ovate leaf.
“So is that why you helped me -” Lonna sniped in a whisper, “- because you had to?”
Bry'e blinked, her shoulders caving in a little. She seemed to fade in spirit at the question for the briefest of seconds, and then Lonna saw a resurgence of light kindle in her.
“No.” Bry'e answered in a gentle voice. “I helped you because I wanted to.”

* * *

“When we were about to jump, you...” Lonna faltered. “You called me something.”
Bry'e nodded. “Tsukenna.”
“Tsu,” it means 'good', doesn't it?” Lonna asked, grimacing a little. She was uncomfortable with the words that seemed to just rise up in her, foreign but familiar at the same time.
Bry'e nodded. “But in this case it is something more. 'Kenna' is grass. Putting the 'Tsu' before it, it becomes 'happy', or 'laughing'.”
“You called me 'Laughing Grass' when we were about to jump 300 feet out of a flying tree?”
Bry'e chuckled softly, rubbing a soothing paste onto the insect bites covering Lonna's ankles.
“I have visions... While I sleep,” Bry'e admitted hesitantly, keeping her eyes down on her work. She massaged Lonna's calves and feet gently. “Sometimes I think I see things that will happen. Sometimes I see things I fear, and other times I see things that already have been.” Bry'e kept her eyes low. “The night my tribe captured you my visions saw you,” she went on, “standing in a field of waving grasses, under a sky like this one -” Bry'e said, gesturing to the gathering twilight above them. “A boy and girl ran to you, and all together you danced. You may have cried rather than laughing, but the grass knew your tears to be joy, and it laughed.”
Now Bry'e looked up at Lonna, and huge tears ran fresh down the woman's cheeks.
“Did I see something true?”
Lonna nodded, her chin quivering.
“When we were in the tree,” Bry'e explained, “I took from my thoughts the place where I had seen you happiest, and tried to give it back to you.”
Lonna sobbed softly, but smiled through it. “I think you're the strangest friend I've ever had,” Lonna admitted, and Bry'e took Lonna's hand.
“Better?” Bry'e asked, having evenly spread the tincture of mossy paste on Lonna's legs.
“Well I look like the Incredible Hulk and I smell like a sewer,” she sighed, and shrugged. “But I'm not itchy.”

Bry'e turned, and for a moment they both stared out into the eveing light. “Do you have children, Bry'e?”
The bird woman went down on her haunches, elbows on her knees. When she didn't answer, and instead looked at the ground between her feet, Lonna sensed she had struck a nerve. “I'm sorry,” she offered. “I shouldn't have asked -”
Bry'e sighed, “Shesht,” she said calmly, as if to say it was nothing. “The ways of my tribe said that I must... accomplish some things before I bore the tomorrow of the clan. One of those things, for example, was to take your life. My tribe expected me to do this.”
Lonna fingered the ends of her hair, where Bry'e's ritual blade had cut through it. For an instant the wild, tribal fury of the Amnamaran clan flashed back through her memory, and she shuddered.
“Why did you not kill me?” Lonna asked, in a whisper.
Bry'e looked out into the far distance, exhaled, and simply said, “To kill another is to die yourself.”

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