Yesterday the world had been simple, much, so much simpler than today.
It had been hard, too, yes. To find enough food, to find enough of what they needed to weave clothing. To keep the gardens and the little herds secret enough to keep them out of sight of the Garthim - and there were always, always Garthim. To get everyone hidden when the Garthim came, and keep babies and children quiet enough not to give them away. To keep quiet until the Garthim had finished with their destruction and gone away, hopefully (oh, hopefully) empty-handed, not taking anyone of the Clan to the Skeksis, to be enslaved or (some people whispered) devoured.
To mourn and move on, and carry those more deeply wounded in heart, when not everyone in the Clan escaped the black claws and the basket-cages.
But it had been simple. It had been Mother-Father-Kira-Clan, familiar and whole and the same way her world had been since she could remember clearly. She had known the rhythms and the shapes and the boundaries as well as she knew how to call for the nebrie.
Now it was no longer simple at all, and Kira's head rattled, full of the memories that were half lost in mist, and more terrible for it. Memories of the other-mother, the first one, the one who's half-remembered face looked like Kira's: thin and narrow and sharp, instead of round and full and soft.
Gelfling face, not Podling face. Like the face of the boy in her boat. The silly, rather hopeless boy who fell in the mud. The boy she rescued. The boy she dreamfasted with - accidentally, and so easily, when she always had to work for it before: it had come with just the slightest brush of her hand - and the boy whose memories were in her head now. The Gelfling boy.
Because of him, Kira felt like a sudden wind had blown her out of the sky and then tumbled her down a mountain-side to lie at the bottom, leaving her lost and bruised.
Except it was a happy kind of bruised?
The memories in her head felt good. Like they were meant to be there. And she who was Kira, beloved daughter of her Clan and so capable of everything (she knew, she knew she learned fast, she knew she was good at things that were hard for even the Clan's elders and they were proud of her for it), she didn't know what to do. Or what it meant.
That was why she was bringing him home, she thought. Then her mother could tell her. A little girl's thought, that: too young for her. But still what she wanted. Look, Mother. I found a boy, like me. What do I do now? When what she meant was make the world make sense, Mother, like you always do.
Jen sat in her boat and looked awkward. He didn't know how to paddle, how to guide a boat. The food in his little satchel was running out, and as far as Kira could tell, he had no idea how to find food, or decent shelter, or how to protect himself in the wilderness. She knew from the dreamfast that the urRu had taught him things - but as far as Kira could tell, they'd all been things from ancient, strange wisdom, and nothing to do with living at all.
Really, it struck Kira as amazing that Jen had made it this far without being killed or captured (which was, in the end, the same thing for Gelfling). Maybe that was the prophecy, guiding him. Or maybe it was just luck.
Father told her never to discount luck.
But Jen, who was a Gelfling like her, and who was a boy, and who was very, very strange - Jen sat in her boat and didn't seem to know how to talk, to make conversation. Then again, neither did Kira. So they sat in silence that tottered on the verge of unfriendly. And that - that would be wrong.
In the end, she began to sing because she didn't know what to say, and because she always did, here on the water. None of the dangers, the enemies she had (Garthim, always, always Garthim) could come at her on the water, and if they threatened on the shore she could always change her course to put in somewhere else, somewhere it would take them hours to get to, and she would be well away. So on the water she sang, like she thought maybe Gelfling had always sung before the Skeksis killed them all.
Though it might be that she made that up. It felt so hard to tell what was memory, little fragments from before the Garthim, before the Skeksis, before the Podlings, and what came from wishful thinking, from a time before she was the only one and alone even as she was loved.
Except, it seemed, she wasn't the only one.
But she remembered her first mother always singing. And the songs Kira sang were bits and pieces of what she remembered: no words, never words, but fractured shards of songs. Her voice was pretty, she knew that: Mother and Father said it often. So she sang and guided the boat and used it as an excuse not to feel awkward or uncomfortable that she and Jen couldn't seem to find something to say to one another.
It almost threw her, when he took out a little split pipe and put it to his lips. It looked nothing like the Podlings' clay pipes: more slender and split like a wishbone, with no ornament that she could see. It didn't sound like the Podlings' pipes either, when he began to play, but it -
It felt familiar. And safe. And beautiful, the way it twisted around her voice and made a harmony in a way she hadn't heard before. It built a warmth in her chest, just near her heart, spreading through the bones of her ribs, moving from marrow to skin.
She wished she knew the words to the song. She thought, just for a moment, that it would be even more beautiful if she did.