Aamu is dreaming. As a child she was fooled by her visions and dreams, but now she recognises the feeling of being away from her body. The tall woman she sees standing by a pillar with long pale hair and foreign clothes is not really with her, but it does not mean she isn’t real.
The woman carries worry in her shoulders and face. Aamu can read it in the slightest tension of the muscles the way a scholar might read a book. The woman is proud, but she also bears great love. The love warms Aamu even as the room around them chills her skin.
The woman walks a long hallway made of cold stone. There are tapestries hanging between portraits of scowling faces surrounded by gold. The room is cold with great evil and the woman fears it. She wrings her hands and worries, but it is not for her own safety.
Aamu has never had a child, but she has felt the fear of a mother for her child before. She knows what the pale woman fears.
The woman stops by a pillar of swirling marble and rests her hand against it. Under her touch, it darkens and becomes the rough bark of a gnarled tree. There are trees all around them now, and the woman moves deeper into the forest. Figures draped in black robes move in around her. They are completely covered but for snake-like slits for their eyes. They move around the woman, but they stop at the edge of a clearing, while the woman continues on towards a log on the ground.
No. Not a log. A body.
Aamu sees the body: a young man with hair and skin as pale as the woman’s. Her son. The woman stands so tall, and yet Aamu can see her shatter. She drops to her knees by the man’s side but he changes. He is no longer colored like snow. His skin is sun-kissed and his hair is black and wild.
The woman leans over him and he transforms into a bee. She watches him fly off to the sky carrying the weight of all her hopes. Then she looks down at her son’s body, which is once again before her. Aamu sees the tightness of her shoulders as she waits for the bee. She does not move, trying her best to hide her misery. Then her head jerks up.
Aamu looks, too. There is the bee, bringing honey to save her son.
* * *
Aamu knows the story of Lemminkäinen well. It is soaked into her world, in the stories, the paintings, and the songs. Her favourite picture of Lemminkäinen shows him with wavy red hair, but in her dreams he has hair as pale as the fox that paints the sky.
He is coming to her. He is from far away, but like Kauko, he must leave home. He will come to Aamu, but he has already been saved by his mother and the bee. There are other stories about Lemminkäinen. Stories where he wastes his mother’s gift chasing his pride.
The Kauko with hair like snow has a second chance. He can chase pride, or he can chose to heal like his mother. To do that, he must find the bee.
* * *
He has come.
Tuisku barks his greeting to the visitors and Aamu follows. Mielikki is there, her smile warm as her heart. At her side is Kauko. He looks hesitant until he sees Aamu smiling at him and then he smiles. She has waited to meet him. To watch the legend continue.
Mielikki calls Kauko a dragon. Aamu tells her he is Kauko. Kauko says friendly things to Aamu and she is glad to see he has already shed so much pride. His heart and mind are open, and she knows he will make a new legend here.
* * *
Kauko works hard. He is eager to learn, but not greedy. Mielikki tells her of his progress. He watches Antero and listens. He tries some things in their tongue and some in his own. He is following Antero’s path and will be able to heal like him with time.
But he has no honey. He is alone without his bee.
Antero’s words will be enough to ease pain and discomfort, but he will not be able to heal like his mother alone.
* * *
Kauko comes that morning like usual, but he has another man with him. Aamu approaches the new man and studies his face. His hair is wild and dark like the boy in her vision, but he looks different with bright green eyes, open but shielded by glasses. She looks into his face and sees the strength and determination burning there. And the healing. In those lips is a gentleness that speaks of helping others.
She steps back and smiles.
Kauko has found his mehiläinen, his bee. She takes Kauko’s hand and places it over the mehiläinen’s. Harri, she is told. She tells them that Kauko has found the mehiläinen that helped his mother save him and that he will help Kauko save again.
They do not understand. Kauko is from far away, and he is still learning their language and their ways. Kauko will see Mehiläinen when he is ready.
Kauko goes to chop wood, and Mehiläinen stays with Aamu. He takes the seat she offers as she begins to make coffee, but he is clearly uncomfortable being idle while she works. She gestures for the cups and he jumps up to get three and bring them to the table. He needs purpose. He wants to help.
Kauko will need help. Aamu hopes he learns to see it waiting for him.
When the coffee is ready, she sends Mehiläinen to get Kauko from the woodpile.
* * *
Mielikki brings Tuisku home and tells Aamu that Kauko has saved a life. Aamu smiles.
She has seen it all. She still sees it playing in her mind.
Kauko on his knees using all the words Antero taught him to stop the bleeding of a stranger. Kauko is a good pupil, and they are good words, but there is so much blood. Mehiläinen is there beside him, but Kauko doesn’t understand yet. He uses the words. He uses the power within him, but he does not use the power beside him.
Aamu had worried. She knew Kauko could not call down the lady alone. When Aamu was younger, she would have wanted to intervene or wondered if she should have done more. As a young girl, Aamu had given in to regret. But she is wiser now. Her visions are not for her to help. She was too far away to help Kauko, and he needed to see Mehiläinen for himself. Aamu worried, but she waited and watched. That is her role: to see.
To bear witness.
It had been hard to watch Kauko try and fail. His heart has grown so big. She sees him trying so hard. He starts to falter. Mehiläinen is there by his side.
Kauko is tired and the words are slipping away. He is almost overcome when he reaches out and takes Mehiläinen’s hand. Then he uses their power and calls out to Suonetar. There is begging in his voice and strength by his side. He pours himself into his magic and his call, Mehiläinen like an anchor holding him to the earth.
Aamu looks up and sees Suonetar rowing through the sky on her boat. Kauko has called her from the heavens. Aamu smiles, even as she sees Kauko crumple. He has done it. He has found his true strength.
Mehiläinen looks at Suonetar with confusion and awe, but he continues holding Kauko close.
When Mielikki has left, Aamu brings Tuisku his supper. She strokes his fur and tells him that Kauko will leave soon.
Kauko came from far away, his life saved by his mother and the bee. They are calling him back home. Aamu is sad to see him go, but she knows his legend continues in his own land. He must return to his mother without pride. He must see what life he can build with Mehiläinen.
* * *
Two winters pass before they return.
Aamu’s dreams have been of a girl in a village to the west. The girl has visions like Aamu, but she is young. She wants to help and cries when she cannot. She is suffering with her gift, but she has heard of Aamu now. She will come soon, and Aamu will be ready for her.
But first Aamu has two visitors. She sees them in the distance, walking from Mielikki and Antero’s house.
Tuisku picks up his head and turns towards them. He barks and looks at Aamu. She knows he wants to greet his friends, and he runs off as soon as she nods at him. She stays by her door, watching Tuisku bound away. They will reach her cottage soon and she should make coffee.
She places the pulla on the table, glad she made the sweet rolls with raisins and almonds that morning. Kauko and Mehiläinen will be hungry, especially once they chop wood. She knows Kauko will insist and Mehiläinen will move with him like another arm of his body.
Aamu smiles to herself as the young men approach in step with each other. Mehiläinen is holding a pot of his honey, and Kauko is smiling at her through the window.
Sometimes it is hard to bear witness, but sometimes it fills her heart with joy.