A Dark and Stormy Night

The fire burned brighter, sticks tucked into the glowing heart to fuel it as a talisman against the night. The walls around them were filled with images of hunting, of fat animals that came with the grasses and filled their bellies. They seemed to run across the walls as the fire licked at the fresh wood.

Sasa sat wrapped in a deer hide, holding her baby brother on her lap. She was held in thrall by Eo, the shaman woman who seemed able to perform miracles as dust from her fingers causing the fire to burst for a moment then settle back. She fed it plants which filled the air with a sweet smell. The bones at her neck and wrist clattered with each movement she made.

“When the strong winds blow, and the skies grow black, and the fierce call of the sky god sounds like the tumbling of rocks down the mountain, then you know that Raddan comes, spitting fire before him.”

Sasa remembered the first time she had seen the blinding fire flash, heard the terrifying sound that came as it passed overhead, but Raddan himself she had never seen..

“But what does Raddan look like?”

“Would you defy the sky god, young one?” Eo asked, then laughed at the child’s innocence and put a hand on her head. “I will show you this, and more, if you wish to follow in my ways.”

Sasa had long desired to learn the magic that Eo wielded, to be a wise woman and healer of the people, and to not be afraid. Sasa’s mother had not lived beyond her brother’s birth. Eo had nourished him at her breast instead, but Sasa was nourished by Eo’s teachings.

“I want to follow you,” Sasa said. “I want to know what you know.”

Eo smiled. She had hoped Sasa would follow her, for she had lost her own child and had no other to train up.

“I will show you all the hidden knowledge of the world,” she said. “How to find the dust that burns, and the plants which heal, and to know when to move with the birds, and how to stand against the dark.”

Then she took a bone on a strap of sinew from her neck and placed it around Sasa’s.

“I will show you Raddan. And you shall grow strong.”

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