There are many tongues in the world to tell so many thousands of its stories, and so it was lucky for Mi’Raah to wash up on shore in spectacular fashion: rolled over and left by some wave exhausted with her after-taste, and at gods-obvious noon too, when the sun was its highest. Lazy Jystian men were there, collecting shells for late, breakfast meals or for pleasure (though to be fair, some of them descended of Trystian stock had got up early and were harvesting straight through lunch, to make a living).
Either way, Mi’Raah was also fortunate that this was not the sort of island where men yelled immediately, on seeing nude spectacle.
Jystians began conspiring with one another, from the gut, whether an extra pair of shackles were among them? The Trystians fastened sandals, then raced to offer Mi’Raah fresh water.
‘Never-you-mind the natives’, begged the Trystians, of this odd speechless woman in drenched white robe. Jystian men pried their way in too, handling her more roughly, sucking teeth. More kelp was peeled from her hair and shoulders. Everyone gasped suddenly at how the mane shone, exactly like a local dollar. Mi’Raah stumbled and would also remember coughing blackened sea-water while the sun and sand blazed together, raged at her for surviving.
It was when the men frightened she was bleeding, expelling burgundy thick constantly up from her throat, that Mi’Raah’s fate was decided: a lone, dying woman could not be made into a dancing girl, nor would any hard-working emigrant Trystian marry her.
Some pray for rain,
We dance for gold.
Buy a Jystian girl, and you’ll never grow old.
Secondly, Mi’Raah remembered the smell of their women singing. Wine-spoiled breaths going in sullen octave to emerge half-victorious sometimes, if flat. She wondered, vaguely, if she would threaten to tear their jeweled heads off, but these were not her sisters. Just any old sorts of women. Sitting in a hovel–or was it a stone cave? Passing pipes, waiting for husbands to feed them, or for daughters to come back from the beach with silver treasures (like herself), or weaving. They shrieked joy when gold came, then returned to living in the darkness. Virgins, harlots–Mi’Raah could sense that as well. Interesting, interesting. Someone, over in yonder corner and far from the cooking pot… She was with child and no one else knew. She was on the verge of giving birth, giving up, but no one else knew.
Mi’Raah pointed weakling finger in that direction.
They all stopped their clucking and trying on new bells to their ashen heels, for the night-work. “Weeli?” they called her name, “What ails you, Weeli? She’s bleeding!”
Mi’Raah surged up from the cot, her back arched, but then it felt like the ground moved and she grasped with fingers and toes, like the horrid plank was still beneath her. “It’s an early child,” she ground teeth, Mi’Raah droned, “It’s bound to be expelled… take me closer. Listen, you pea-hens, drag me nearer, I command you.”
So many eyes gone wide like watery, delicate insides of oyster shells. Mi’Raah ignored their shocked terror, leaned meekly on shaking ankles to fall anyway, struck out arms and thrust that heaving birthing woman over. Opened her shoulders, made her lay back and right again.
“No, it’s too late–I already drank the salve, you gray-headed fool, I don’t want it!”
Mi’Raah flashed one canine. “Is that positive? The father is not who you think…”
“What kind of miracle is this?” the Jystian women startled one another, “Telling paternity? Ceasing desperate, abortive passions?”
They watched stain on the young woman’s dress rescind. Stomach gone round and taught like a melon again. Mi’Raah made one final whorl, over the belly with floating hands, then leaned over the reluctant mother’s screaming to whisper in her ear:
“But it’s that handsome Mirkaal.”
A whine, a blown breath, “With the horse? Not his twin?”
“Yes, yes, the rich one. And by the way, as payment, you might point me in his direction.”
The Jystian women praised the shod-god and began clapping. Mi’Raah shrugged one shoulder, rolled it, snatched up long white skirt, ground heels into the dirt floor. Their victorious ankle-bells and musical hollering started early that evening.
For their Weeli, the littlest one, the oft-passed over one, was going to be a mother–a rich and free woman with fields and a horse, by law. Out of the cave, finally married!
Several weeks more, and Mi’Raah was set up in one of the old sacrificial temples on a hill by the beach, and against the aqua sky. Beneath a stone dome, and white columns all around, at the feet of an iron statue, some founding father whose brood mares’ names nobody remembered. But the Jystians swept it clean, just for Mi’Raah.
This time, Mi’Raah spoke with a thumb erect and two fingers pointed, in the prophetic style.
“Let us not lose sight of ourselves, sisters and brothers. We all must do our part.” A sea-breeze pushed her garments but the heavy silver hair stayed set, regally defiant. “If the Jystian woman will dance, then let her. But do not gamble at her toe-tips or seize her stray daughters. Do not shutter out the sun or moonlight while she moves, as if her passion were profane. Also, take care to be clear about your real names–this advice is to her lovers.” Now everyone resettled on reed mats, gently laughing out of the holy moment. “For, thus says The Sea: I am a multitude, I am virility incarnate. You shall not hide yourselves from one another when my love is so vast.”
The people bowed their heads. “From horizon to horizon. Mi’Raah.”
“Mi’Raah,” she nodded, to return reverent adulation.
And she was good at parables too.
“Once there was a Dolphin hunting, what else, but tuna. He was caught up in the fishermen’s net, and these men were hungry as you know they always are… So then, the Dolphin says to the fishermen, ‘Please, free me from this net. I knew not that you were hunting here as well, and I wish not to harm you.’ But the fishermen all put hands on their hips and wondered at a talking creature. Should they listen to it? This Dolphin begged again for his life, “Release me, fellow hunters. If I had known we might cross paths then I would have preferred to avoid hurting you, and so live.” But they began arguing before his black beady eyes, about cutting him up for dinner, you know, whom would get which meat. Still, they would not return the Dolphin to his water. I am sorry to tell you that it died, when they ate him. Quite a few creatures do that, actually.”
A skeptical Trystian among the people asked over her strange story, “Naah Maah Mi’Raah, is that how you like to be called… Are you telling us that a man should fish as much as he likes, keep all that we catch in our nets, even kill the clever dolphins? Or, are you ordering us not to eat from the sea as we are due to, and so let mere water have its way while we starve?”
Trystians believed in goddesses, Mi’Raah had heard told. She supposed that it was, therefore, hard to impress them with a living, breathing woman.
“Think what you may, for you are not of this island and I was not sent for you! But to those of you who are Jystian and care for one another, know that a thousand more dolphins stormed the fish-boat on its next journey. You see, it was a warning, when sea creatures do not know the boundaries of man. The Dolphin with speech had been born out of the mysterious cobalt depths, to warn us. But,” she waved tired hands, “the fishermen did not believe The Sea was anything important. They were stuck begging the many dolphins not to wreck the boat or kill them, but these turned out to be animals not of a proper mind to understand.”
Muttering and astonishment.
“Yes, take care with this lesson. I am from The Sea, Jyst, sent to prepare you for an important coming much like this one. Ignore my preaching at terrible risk. The likes of which could end this… what is this? Island!”
The lone Trystian smacked palm against his forehead and went.
By the time Mi’Raah got onto fire and brimstone, with only a few more paternity spells cast–she wasn’t quite out of those humble woods yet until a proper church with walls could be founded–she’d dazzled an eager discipleship. These people wore all their silver jewelry when they were by her. The women placed fruit and fried scallops at her feet. Or, if she was thirsty, the men used swords to slice off a green coconut and set tiny pink flower in it–no, purple this time, and add a little rum too. Good enough proselytizing to alert the Holy Equine Order.
High Priest Odentalis and more men dressed in red came down to the beach one day, riding upon on very tall mares. Horses so black they were believed capable of really obliterating sunshine. They grazed on holy light at every dawn, in fact. Everyone who watched the white-kissed grass went away believing.
At the moment of his arrival, a set of twin babies was either being circumcised or assigned to two separate and horrified young fathers. Odentalis was almost tempted to wait and see the result. “Aherm, Madam?”
Several of Mi’Raah’s congregation startled to their feet. They waved hands with fright, but not for their miracle woman to stop. High Priest Odentalis was being urged off of his horse, out of his shoes on such sacred ground, and then chastised for not addressing the woman properly, as Naah Maah Mi’Raah.
“Four whole syllables! That’s it, arrest her. There cannot be another high priest–”
Mi’Raah tried for her coconut drink one last time after handing off the babies, but one of the mounted guards had his mare move forward. The she-beast used its mouth to tug Mi’Raah away from her illegal acts by the silver hair. It caused Mi’Raah to crane neck back and drop exactly what she was doing.
“Ow, ow, ow! Do you really train them to be so irritating?”
High Priest Odentalis waited for the guards to disarm Mi’Raah–curious, she did have a dagger all along–and then they threw her over one of their horses before dismissing the distraught congregation.
“Religion is free in Jyst, of course, but this woman is going before the King as a charlatan. It’ll be proven. It’ll be posted, and then you can go back to praising High Horse Odeon in time for the monthly tithe… until some other bumpkin takes three good guesses at paternity on these dancing-beaches, I’m sure.”
Odentalis flashed red cape and his alpha horse took place ahead of the others. Man and mare walked the whole guard into a trot, and, eventually, cantered off with Mi’Raah into the sunset for effect.
And so, the impoverished people of Jyst gathered their woven mats up from sandy grass and grieved quietly over Mi’Raah, The Sea, certain obscure paternities, and now the curious black flotilla of ships gathering on the horizon.
Some dance for rain,
We pray for gold.
Seize a Jystian girl and the world grows cold.
Away, and away, pain cured in a salt-breeze…
1, Mi’raah’s Virtue :: 2, The Dancing Beaches :: 3, On His High Horse :: 4, Off His High Horse :: 5, Bottled Message :: 6, Horse Huntress :: 7, Rider Koriandra :: 8, Oh No He Di’int :: 9, Talking Horses :: 10, That Damned Bottle Again :: 11, Believing is Seeing :: 12, A Choice Between Two Lovers :: 13, Last Vortextual Process :: 14, End of the Prose
(Randitty-O-Meter: 8, Because Mi’Raah worked Maury Povich-style miracles.)
More spun yarns’ll be awaiting ye, up fresh from the gallows of next week. Arrr.