New from the Sky Road.

This part of Ren and Laban’s story never made it into the final text of “Guardian” but now, on re-reading it in preparation for book 3, my heart, and the water leaking from my eyes, tells me that it deserves to be told.

Endings.

An odd, sombre moonlight illuminated the forest, touching the tops of the trees with silver, but never quite reaching the mossy floor. Siann knelt in the doorway of the Grey Lodge carefully wrapping a small half-formed body, sprinkling fragrant herbs between the layers of green cloth. Without thinking she found herself crooning under her voice, singing the old cradle-songs Matra had sung for her as a baby. She tenderly picked up a strip of birchbark and tied it into the cradle she was weaving. Each strip that she used had been carved by the child’s parents with a word or phrase of blessing, they had been gifts for the child’s birth, meant to speak purpose and destiny into the little one’s life. Now they were reminders of all the things that would have to wait until the next turn of the Stars. Finally finished, Siann picked up the wicker cradle with its tiny occupant and stepped into the silent camp. It was late, the camp was asleep. There would be no public ceremony for this little one, no friends reminiscing or telling stories to lead her back to the Road, only a quiet goodbye, and the realization that all those memories would never happen.

Siann walked away from the camp with her sad burden, finding Ren and Laban waiting for her at the lightning stones. Gently placing the baby on the makeshift altar in the middle of the clearing, Siann stepped aside to allow Ren and Laban to say goodbye. Ren looked almost eerie in the moonlight, her normally sharp features pinched and fragile, her hand reaching convulsively for the small hand she would never hold. Laban looked broken, eyes empty, strong hands idle at his side. Siann looked at him and knew that he could not do this, it was not in him to send his daughter onto the road.

“Shaman” she said in a whisper. “This is not a task you need to do, Please, let me carry at least this part of the burden.”

Laban’s eyes were haunted as he handed her the Staff of Lightning, the symbol of the Shaman’s power. “Please,” he choked, “Tell her to wait for us on the Road. We will find her.” Wrapping an arm around Ren’s waist, leaning as much as supporting, he led her away from the clearing and back towards the camp.

Blinking away tears Siann raised the Staff over her head and began the ritual to start the little one on the Road to the Elder Stars. “I stand for the people,” she said, “for all those who Walk in the darkness of this world, dreaming of the Elder Stars.” Scrubbing her tunic sleeve across her eyes she continued, voice thick and husky with emotion. “This little one came from you, she returns to you. Welcome her and protect her for us, until she can rejoin the People on the Sky Road.” We name her Yali, pure in heart, and loved by her People. She will not be forgotten.”

The great crystal in the staff flared a brilliant green and suddenly the small byre was empty. Nothing to bury, nothing to mourn, just a beginning that never began.

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