Between Two Worlds: Hop and Skip
Posted on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 @ 5:11pm by
Location: Betazed, Temple of Altha, the Gardens
Timeline: ~18 yrs ago
The iron gate stood in the space between Altha’s temple and the outside gardens like a sentinel that Ozanna looked up and up at, it’s piked peaks in the distance above. She pressed her hand on the cool metal and put her weight into moving the hinges. She thought it gave all of a sudden, failing to ascribe the sudden give of the iron to her mother’s influence, having lifted the latch.
A debret gazelle could not have bound away faster than the eager child did over the worn old stone paths, and she was soon well out of sight of her mother, behind hedgerows and bushes, trees and shrubbery. Ozanna checked beneath the Mahagra vines growing thickly on low arched poles. She crawled on her newly washed belly, just to be sure. Months ago she had met another child in there, a strange one with an accent and who kept insisting on being a boy. But everyone at the temple was a girl so that didn’t make much sense. Her argument hadn’t dissuaded the other child who insisted on being a boy anyway. There were boy and girl birds and boy and girl frogs, he had explained, and there were boy and girl people, too. He wasn’t here now.
She made a check behind a bench and around her favorite climbing spot with the great big stones. Seeing no one at the foot of them drove her to scramble to the top to have a good look around. There were three women in robes tending the gardens. She knew them all. Nev was tying camavel to a trellis. Lethe was harvesting herb for cooking, tucking it into a cross slung piece of fabric that made a harvesting cradle, Helene worked a row of Pappelle with a long handled weeding fork. Ozanna knew the tool well, because she had once played with it without having asked permission and hence been chased off with it as well. Some of the sisters only appeared elderly and slow but Ozanna learned not to provoke them.
She realized now that she could not see her mother. Hadn’t she been right behind her? Ozanna turned around but, in spite of the excellent viewing the rock perch lent, her scope was limited by the hillside landscape and the hedges and trees.
She picked her way back down, feeling the empty pit of her tummy and considering returning to the patio of the garden to search out the breakfast her mother had promised before they had come. But first, she had to check the streambed under the footbridge for good throwing stones. She used her robe to collect the shiny wet rocks and then started to throw them into the middle of the stream.
plop! plop! plop!
It was satisfying, especially when the water made a big splash around it. She needed bigger stones for bigger splashes. Rubbing her muddy hands on on the side her white robes, she looked about.
From the corner of her eye, she saw a quick motion over the water. It was like a water skimmer bug, but bigger and faster and her focus was fixed too late to find out if that’s what it was. Then it happened again. Something seemed to fly on the surface of the water, hopping along until it fell in with a soft plink. Her eyes found the source of the skipping stones on the opposite bank. The person seemed especially tall and very unusually garbed. And strangest of all, her mother appeared to be on the other side with the rock skipper.
“Hello!” the voice was gruff and low. When the stranger waved, Ozanna did not.
*Come along, Ozanna,* her mother summoned telepathically. * I’ve someone I want you to meet.*
More out of curiosity than obedience, Ozanna came up from the bank to the footbridge and looked across it. The stone wall on the other side had a door and she’d never been beyond it, not because she had never wanted to, but because it had always been closed. Today it stood open.
Timidly, she crossed the threshold. The trees loomed big and the forest beyond was moss covered and shaded, like something from a story about the Wildings of Fana. She measured her steps and glanced back and forth.
“Come, come,” her mother prompted as she neared. Ozanna paused apart from them, looking between the face of her whole world, the mother who rose like the sun every morning to say prayer and guide her through the day, and the guest, this strange one, with thick hands, startlingly intense eyes, and a face of fur.
“Ozanna.” Her mother knelt on one knee and stretched a slender arm out to draw the little one in. “I have someone I would like you to meet. This man is your father.”
Ozanna looked dubious. “I don’t have a father.”
“Everyone has a father, child, excepting Altha, the great mother. Ernandan is your father.”
“Hello Ozanna.” He tried to say softly. Ozanna watched his beard move with his lips and buried her head into her mother’s shoulder. From the corner of her eye she could see his hopeful eyes dim at her shyness, his big heart a little broken. “I understand.”
The man, who was supposedly her father, bent nearby and picked up a stone. It was smooth and flat. He whipped his arm from the side and gave a bit of the snap of the wrist, effortlessly. Ozanna watched the stone sail like magic, humming over the surface. She counted six skips. She wanted to do that too, but just watched as he continued selecting stones and pitching them. Finally she couldn’t resist and broke away from her mother to find a rock like Eranadan’s. Flat ones, that was the thing. He was beside her before she realized it, handing her a stone.
“Try this one,” he said.
She took the stone out of his palm.
“Like this.” He demonstrated again.
Expecting great things, as if the rock he’d selected might be magic, she gave it a shot, her throw not being sidelong enough, her release too late, her wrist too locked up. Ernandan didn't bother trying to explain the inexplicable. Skills like rock skipping came from observing a pro and sheer trial and error. You had to feel it in your gut. Ernandan put five more rocks in her hand. “Keep trying,” he insisted. “You’ll get it.”
Melel Isuri sat on the grassy knoll watching the outline of her former lover and their child, casting stones on the water in the cool of the morning and asking Altha for the strength to watch the child grow. *She’s not ready. I’m not ready,* she told the goddess.
After quite some time, the child’s rock skipped once and she and Ernandan celebrated.
Altha seemed to speak to Melel’s aching heart. She said, *no one ever is.*