It was Josie who stopped us this first time. To most Josie and Salome were a quiet pair seldom revealing their thoughts. But when Josie chose to talk she could produce quit the babble and twaddle. She has the unique ability to make one laugh even when she was being serious.
“Alright. I feel like I have just been besieged by robbers! I am too much in shock to even realize what has been taken. I almost feel naked for that matter. Yes, dazed and naked, that's it!”
She was standing up in her stirrups pointing to the clear blue sky. I laughed for a moment while Salome had a shocked, yet timid, look on her face. A slight warm breeze began. Perhaps it was the breath of the Goddess laughing. Josie was beautiful with her hair moving with that wind.
“What do you think? I love adventures but this one sure seems beyond anything I have experienced before. I know that Aja had gone on a few for over a week before but has there been one like this that may be forty days or more? And the Vates can not even tell us what will happen there.”
I looked at Salome and she simply shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes indicating she had nothing to say. I thought about an answer for just a moment because I completely identified with what she was saying and I was sure Salome did also. I tossed back my hood and ran my fingers through my hair, tossing it back because the wind was blowing it into my face.
“Well I do understand what you are feeling. But my initial thought is it must be the right thing to be doing because I have total trust in the Vates and Magu. Besides, this seems like we can have a very good time being away from studies and the temple for a while. The three of us, as free as the wind that is blowing. That is until we find Grigori. That in itself will be worth a trip, don't you think?”
“Well I guess there is that. Grigori is as interesting as any teachers we have. And his presence alone at times make me feel as powerful and peaceful as any rituals. He is so good at boosting a person's spirit with his complementary manner.”
“Well Josie, I suggest we keep moving for now and we can talk more when we camp and have a few miles and thoughts between us and the temple.”
She agreed with a simple nod and we all kept on riding. As suggested we did not push the horses and kept a steady walking gait. It was unspoken but we made it a goal to find the first camping spot knowing we would have a lot to talk about once we were there and going through our bags for the first time.
In another hour the old road with its signs that read US 87 opened up to a valley and the mountains were on both sides of it. The ride was pleasant with its diverse landscape. Being an area that was once rural farmland there was little left of civilization except fallen down houses and barns and rusted machinery. This contrasted with the beauty of the rebirth of the grasses and bushes with stunning
patches of wildflowers everywhere. We rode uneventfully for about six hours and decided to stop while we still had plenty of light. The area we came to had abundant wild grasses growing, a small stream flowing nearby which ran into lake. We decided to camp a distance from the lake itself to avoid mosquitoes and other such creatures.
We were fairly proficient at setting up a camp as we had done it many times in training. We worked on this with still few words passing between us. I dug a pit, starting a fire with flint and stone and branches from nearby brush. Josie and Salome unsaddled the horses. Together we started to go through the saddlebags to assess just what was there. The first thing we were looking for was something to eat because we had not stopped to do that. Just before we left the temple Lethe handed us some small leather bags that contained food for breakfast that could be eaten by hand without plates and utensils which we ate while riding. But now our stomachs were rumbling.
Another thing we wanted was a stimulating hot drink and were please to find good sized bags of our favorite beverage. It was a strong mix of roots and dried berries that we drink nearly every day. We call it simply the brew. It is one of the few things we actually make ourselves, The Whitter collect the ingredients while Daughters mix it. Another thing we found was salted dried fish, also caught by the Whitter in rivers and lakes near the temple. This fish is a staple of our diet. There was also dried fruit in abundance. I found a note in my bags and stopped to read it out loud after I had read it first.
“Daughters. We know you have been taught many things to assist you on this journey. We believe that water will be in good supply for you and the horses. Try and make this food last. We suggest that you supplement it with insects, grubs, worms and animals you may wish to capture and eat along the way, always being honoring and respectful if they give their lives for your sustenance. Your herb lore will be also tested and I suggest if you see a useful herb along the way to collect it and not wait until you are in need. Wild fruits and edible greens will be abundant also we believe. Finally, in this case, I and the other Vates give our blessings for you to use your magic whenever you judge it useful. So travel well and may the Gods and Goddesses guide your path and keep you safe. Manu.”
My sisters listened intently and went back to work without a word. We had cooking and eating gear. Each of us had been supplied with flint and stone and a steel blade knife in a sheath for cutting. There were various cords for tying things up. One of the more interesting things was found in my bags. It was a set of binoculars. This was very special because the Daughters had only a few of these. In training it was almost a fight to see who was next to use them. Attached was a note from Daughter Nissa, who was one of our teachers, saying this was a gift from her. I am sure my mouth fell open when I came upon this wondrous gift. It thrilled my sisters also.
We were all pleased with the efficiency in which we set up camp. The horses look happy and were actually on the ground asleep. We had a very good meal finishing with cups of the brew. The sky was full of stars and the air was pleasant. The moon was waxing and near three-quarters full giving us a good supply of light.
Uncharacteristically it was Salome who spoke to us first.
“Sisters, I have a secret to share. I have one major regret in being chosen for this journey. I had decided a while back that I did not wish to continue studies at the temple but rather I wish to be a simple citizen. One of the reasons is I have met a man among the Selamlic named Sinjin and I think I may be in love with him. We both understand that to pursue this we must each give up our vows. He to the Selamlic and I to the temple.”
This was quite a moment and very brave of Salome. But unknown to her Josie and I suspected as much. We had seen her with this man Sinjin and watched them pass communications with there eyes to each other when they thought no one was watching. We had also seen them steal behind a wall and kiss before. Salome was very surprise to see our reaction was just to smile.
It occurs to me that I have written mostly as if you know what I am talking about in some cases. One of those is the Selamlic and Whitter. Understanding who the Selamlic and Whitter are is very important. It goes into basic structure of our world.
In our world we are based on a matriarchal structure that was modeled after ants and bees. Because ants live underground like we do they are the symbol we have chosen for our society. For reasons unknown, those who survived the turning of the Great Wheel were mostly women. It was not long after this that our ancestors realized that if we were to survive as a people we needed men to help us bear children. So in the beginning warrior women went off and captured men specifically for this purpose, taking them to the Daughters Wyrd.
We realized that there were different men who fulfilled different purposes more or less proficiently than others. It was decided to separate them into different classes and give them different duties. Out of that was born the Selamlic and Whitter. The Selamlic were men chosen to work as helpers directly with those in the hierarchy of women and to protect them. The Whitter were chosen to be for the most part laborers. Then there was a third group which are called Telos. They are the group chosen to fulfill the main plan, sexual function. The Telos were men chosen for their strength and intelligence. A combination of both were necessary to be chosen Telos and the combination was much rarer than the Selamlic and Whitter were. Telos were directly the property of the Goddesses and teachers in the temple. They were all treated well but the rules and roles were paramount and men were punished for disobeying. As time went on men became by choice to be workmates and helpers.
In the beginning our first Queen chose the name Durga after a powerful Warrior Goddess from a land called India. Durga is regarded with much reverence among our people. She led our warriors into the mountains and desert to capture men and bring them to the temple. Her armies were called and such a army we still call Marabunta. The terms Selamlic, Whitter and Telos are used when addressing these men. For instance when speaking to Lethe the proper way would be to call him Selamlic Lethe. But the times have changed greatly since the days of Durga and these class separations and roles are not adhered to in as strict a manner as those early days. There are also women Whitter we call Nyonye. They raise the children, help gather the food and supplies and help maintain the caves, temples and homes. The Nyonye in theses times may chose to be this way and can choose their mates. Those who live, work, teach and live in the temples themselves are addressed as Daughter. To maintain an order we still are a matriarchal society and women have the most power.
“So dear friend Salome! Do we now call you Nyonye Salome rather than Daughter? That will take a lot of getting used to and powerful magic like turning lava into gold.”
There was a note of sarcasm in Josie's words but Salome seem to be ready for this and remained serious with us. Sometimes Josie's sarcasm was hurtful but seldom her intent.
“ I have thought hard about becoming Nyonye and giving up the privileges of being a Daughter. Sinjin and I have weighed the good and the bad of this and have come to the conclusion the final outcome lies with me. He has no hesitation. The hardest thing I have ever done is to hide this growing love from everyone. The burden weighs on us both. But each kiss is like that perfect blackberry picked in fall, leaving me with desire for more.”
Salome is the poet between us and as she said this last line she look up as in a dream and I saw the stars and moonlight sparkle in her eyes.
“Sister, I am happy for you! Perhaps being away from those blackberry kisses will be good for you. Perhaps the Fates have created this journey for you to examine your heart in a logical way undisturbed by emotional concerns for a while. We know that there must be balance in our lives to create the fertile ground we build it on. I believe that if Magu was sitting around this fire with us she would not judge you harshly and agree. She may scold Josie for her sarcasm though as she often does.”
“Yes Salome, I am also thrilled for you and my sarcasm was not meant to harm. I am working on that but it is as hard as trying to reweave a spider's web!”
The three of us laughed and said we would talk more about this. Josie and I told Salome we would always have ears to listen to her about Sinjin. Conversation pivoted to what an amazing turn of events had occurred that day. Solome said she had just enough time to write a note to Sinjin and give it to a Nyonye who promised to give it to him.
All in all we felt good and were ready mentally and emotionally to accomplish our task. Soon we curled up in our sleeping bags as the fire dimmed. Before we drifted off to sleep we heard the howling of coyotes in the distance. It was not fearful but more of a mother's lullaby and indeed it was our Mother's Lullaby. I thanked the Goddess for her blessing.