A storm was brewing off the coast of the island to the north. The wind blew swift through the trees bending the branches and rustling the leaves. Reeds near the rocks of the waterfall pool whistled loudly giving an eerie feel about the island. The pitch of the whistles were heard all throughout the dense tropical growth even though the waterfall was located nearly in the center. The energy that moved inland from the turbulent waters gave a chill down Saira's back. Brushing her wind blown dark brown hair away from her eyes, she bundled the wild long strands into a loose ponytail.
The rain fell fast as the clouds bellowed distant thunder claps. The afternoon that was sunny and beautiful, had become haunting and dark in minutes. The rain fell harder, drenching Saira to the bone. Running for cover under a small hand built roofed structure made of young sapling trees and woven palm frond, she sat there listening to the rain. In the distance, between thunder claps, she heard a faint baby's cry near the cliff. Another loud clap of thunder and the baby's cries were screams.
Rushing toward the jagged cliff rocks, she desperately searched for the child. In a flash of thunderous light she found the baby bundled in white cloth, tangled in seaweed. Gasped, she gently removed the baby from the cold water and rocks holding it close to her chest, “Where did you come from?” she said softly.
Once safely under the make shift hut that was a little way into the woods away from the windy surf, she began making a fire. The baby continued to cry loudly. Keeping her composure, the dry sticks and brush caught flame with a few strikes of the flint stones. Not to build the fire too large, she held the baby on her lap as she undressed it from the wet cloth and seaweed. Surprised, she looked down to see the baby was male. “Who abandoned you?” she asked knowing full well the baby could not speak an answer to her.
Laying the cloth near the fire to dry, Saira found another collection of cloth, a blue shirt in her leather duffel bag, wrapped the baby loosely. Rocking the baby boy back and forth in her arms slowly near the heat of the fire, he slowly calmed in small fits. Within a few minutes, he cooed softly and yawned.
A few hours later, as the baby boy slept near the fire, the storm had finally passed. The clouds were gray; blue making their way south towards the open ocean. Flashes of lightning blinked in the distance as the waves crashed onto the beach. With each passing wave they slowed as though the heart of the ocean was calming itself. The gentle motion of the water calmed both Saira and the baby into contentment, however, the sweet feeling of contentment was short lived. Saira turned her attention to another distant cry on the island.
“Another baby?” scuffling to her feet, sand scattering everywhere as she ran. The sand making her feet work harder to keep balance as she got closer to the source of cries. It was on the other side of the southern beach in the gentle surf. A tattered; sun bleached reed woven basket had dumped its contents onto the sand. Coddled in a white cloth, the baby was found on his stomach breathing in the sand particles. Lifting the child into her lap, she brushed the loose sand off the baby's face. “Why?” she sighed as she grabbed the basket and child back to where the first baby lay sleeping.
Once back to the camp, Saira cleaned this child just the same as the other. Again, she found the baby to be male. His hair was blond and eyes were hazel, not blue like most babies. Once he was cleaned and warmed, she placed him next to the other. Seeing that both fell fast to asleep, Saira went about weaving strips of sapling into slings, lining them with cloth to carry the babies in. Finished with her work, she gathered the two boys in the slings making her way into the island forest.
The trek to the main camp was not easy carrying two little bundles of cooing; snoozing delight. Finding it would be even more difficult, Saira left the duffel bag behind. The boys seemed happy to be feeling any kind of movement other than splashing water. Smiling at them as she carried them close to her chest, she saw the first boy she found earlier had awakened from his nap. His eyes were dark brown. Not wanting to over think the odd situation before her, she smiled at him, stroking his cheek gently.
“Where did you two come from?” she asked again. The little blond one laughed, his hazel eyes staring at her as though he had the answer. Gasped, she came to realize something much more pressing, “How am I going to feed the two of you?” There were no cows. No goats on the island. The sudden realization that the two baby boys would not survive long in her care swept over her mind and poured over her heart. “What am I going to do?”
The sound of a distant waterfall helped clear her dreaded thoughts. The camp was near. Hidden amongst the dense tropical forest growth stood a single wooden structure. The single roof, slanted away from the main wall had bamboo gutters where the rain collected into a single barrel. Long stocks of bamboo cloven in half and tied with sapling strips was the floor. A cloth hammock hung in the corner with rope. Out looking the front of the hut, a path laid before it heading towards the waterfall thirty feet away. Flowering bushes and trees surrounded the camp and waterfall area with splendid colored blossoms with sweet perfume in the air. Birds overhead sang and called out in the high branches of the trees. The two baby boys listened intensely to the sounds around them.
Looking around carefully before stepping into the hut, finding nothing amiss, nothing disturbed, “This will be where you stay for a little while,” Saira said as she placed the babies into the hammock. The swing of the hammock moved gently making the two giggle with delight. “Now, I won't be long. I have to look around the rest of the island beaches in case I missed anything. I hope you boys came with clothes and food.” Kissing them both on the brow, she took both slings with her. With a sprinting start, Saira headed west.
Making her way through the forest as quickly as possible, she came upon the only high peak on the island. It stood before her seeming to beckon her to climb. This day there was no need to look over the ocean at such a height. Having come accustom to the island for so long, she wondered for a moment in the openness of her thoughts, 'If they survive this, I'll have to teach them what I know.'
Finding the path towards the western beach, she picked up her pace. Leaving the two babies alone any longer bothered her to the core. Saira never wanted children, but the sea seemed to give them to her for a purpose. The sound of soft waves brushing against the sand became louder the closer she got. Faintly, but familiar to her ears, the cries of two more babies perked her attention. Running as fast as her legs could carry her, she burst forth from the forest stopping half way down the beach. Right before her eyes lay two crying babies in a cedar box side by side. Like the other two they were wrapped in white cloth.
With a sigh, and gentle smile, “It's all right. I'm here,” holding one at a time getting them to calm down, she placed each into a sling. Inside the cedar box were more white cloth and wrapped inside were five corked glass bottles with clear liquid. Picking one up swirling the liquid, the sun hitting it for just a moment, the liquid sparkled gold. Wrapping the glass bottles in the fabric, she placed them back into the box. With the odd weight of carrying the two new bundled finds in her arms, dragging the cedar box was a struggle. The sand making her lose her footing every so often as she dragged it with one hand up the mild incline into the forest. Nearly falling to the ground, she tightly held onto the babies so not to drop them. Leaving the ceder box behind a bush, “We're almost home,” she breathed, trying to catch her breath.
Once back at the main camp, Saira found the hammock empty. Panic set in as she placed the two new arrivals in the hammock. Before she could speak a word, there she saw the two boys – naked to the wilds of the island standing in the small clearing staring at her as she rushed out of the hut. Her breath was taken away at the moment of seeing them - they were no longer babies. The dirty blond looked to be four years old. The dark haired one looked to have aged five years. Instinctively she knew these were the same babies she had found earlier that afternoon. Looking them over for any injuries, she hugged them tightly relieved they were safe. Puzzled, “Can't you talk?” she asked the oldest, an almost sheepish look on his face. Taking both their hands she walked them to the hut.
“I can't leave any of you alone for a second, but,” she trailed off realizing the supplies in her duffel bag and the ceder box. “I have to get the supplies.”
“I stay and watch,” the dirty blond toddler spoke. The dear voice that graced her ears nearly brought her to tears.
“Yes, please stay and watch over your two littlest brothers for me,” kissing him on the forehead and hugging the eldest child, she headed off in a rush. Heading down the same path towards the west, she found the ceder box exactly where she left it. Lugging it over her shoulder she huffed her way back to the camp. With a mighty groan, Saira relieved the weight of the box off her shoulders setting it gently on the sand so not to break the five glass bottles inside. “One last supply run and I will be back very soon. You boys stay here,” looking in at the two younger babies, she saw they were fast asleep and had not grown as the other two. Kissing them on their brow, she headed back into the forest going south.
All that happened in the last few hours poured through her mind drenching her with fear. All she really wanted was to be alone on the island. Away from everything and everyone. A trek into her soul in the wilds of paradise. Leaving behind all she knew, or didn't know, did not compare to what was in that hut near the waterfall. Ghosts of the future that seemed to beacon a call to her or as it seemed. Pushing the future out of her mind, she moved onward toward the southern beach. What she had brought with her in the duffel bag she knew could help her.
Catching her breath beside two horizontal palm trees she looked towards her left to see the duffel bag roll down the incline of the beach. Mustering up some more strength, she bolted for the bag nearly tripping over in the sand. The waves nipped at the bag coaxing it in with them. Diving for the bag just moments before a wave gathered it into the powerful flow, Saira dragged the half water soaked bag of supplies up the beach. No matter how much water may have added weight to it, she lugged it over her shoulder carrying it all the way in huffs of breath and groans back to the main camp.
The bag seemed to give an air of past anguish on her shoulder. As though lugging a bolder for all eternity and refusing to let it go. Of all her troubles from the past, this did not compare to any of them. It was more a delight to realize her physical strength that she seemed to take for granted on the main land. Doing things on her own gave her inner strength what it needed most and she liked it that way. No more being told what to do. No more being controlled by others actions. This time she was in control of herself, or was she?
The view of the waterfall down the path was a welcome sight. In the distance childish laughter broke melding with the sounds of the water cascading down the rocks. Just before she came into view fully of the waterfall, out from behind the bushes a young boy ran off laughing as he jumped into the pool. Dropping the bag to the ground she stopped, her eyes wide with shock. There were now four children. She ran to the hut finding the hammock empty just like before.
“What's going on?” she fussed, turning back to the waterfall pool seeing four little boys playing. Counting them off by look of age, “Ten, nine, nine, and eight.” Falling to her knees in disbelief she sat their watching them splash water on one another and swim in the pool. Crawling to the leather duffel bag, she untied the top loops and began dumping the contents. Some of her clothes were wet and had to be hung to dry on the clothes line that stretched from the front of the hut to a distant tree. While hanging her clothes, she kept a close eye on all four young boys. There was something very odd going on and she didn't want to miss any of it.
“Auntie?” the nine year old dirty blond boy called out as he walked up to her. His nakedness clear as day.
“Yes, sweetie?” she kept her sights on his hazel eyes the whole time.
“Play is over and we're all cold,” holding his arms against his chest, he shivered. The later afternoon sun was beginning to set as the forest became darker with each passing minute.
Seeing all four boys standing before her, she sighed pleasantly. “I'll make a fire. You boys stay in the hut,” Looking through the bag contents on the forest floor, she found three large bath towels were dry handing a towel each, “Some of you may have to share.”
The fire this time was large enough to heat all of them. The boys, all nearly the same age, started to look familiar to her. She had seen their faces once before, but could not place where. It was strange that only one boy would speak and the others kept quiet as though afraid of Saira or just simply shy. Whatever the case, she couldn't have them all keeping quiet for too much longer.
“Do you have names?” she asked as she continued to go through her supplies. Some climbing rope and clamps. A knife and sharpening stone. Three water bottles and what looked to be a fair amount of MRE food packets of all sorts. One small cooking pan, one small pot, one single plate and chop sticks. There was enough supplies for just one person. Not at all enough for four seemingly fast growing boys.
There was silence. Saira looked to the dirty blond boy in hopes he would answer, but he kept more quiet than the others.
“I'm Saira. Do you know how you got here?” she finally asked as she warmed her hands in the fire.
“We came here for...” the blond was quickly cut off by a sharp gab to the ribs by the eldest. The others glared at him.
“Okay, you can't tell me right now. That's okay,” standing up she grabbed a large torch to light her way into the hut. Finding the large candles from her duffel bag were still in one piece, she lit them with the torch. Seeing how small the hut was, but big enough to house the four boys, she noticed there was no real comfortable place for them to sleep. The coming cool air of the night would surely chill the boys to the bone if she didn't find something to keep them comfortable and warm.
Checking on the blankets and other towels she put on the clothes line, she noticed they were dry quicker than she anticipated. Not sure if the two blankets would be enough, she shrugged her shoulders and began making a bed for them with what she had. Even though the pressing issue was clothing, from what she noticed of them so far, clothing would be out of the question until their growth spurts calmed down. The strange, abnormal growth spurts they all exhibited made her more stressed than she ever had been.
“Come here boys,” she called out, motioning for them. “You'll all sleep here tonight until I think of something better.” The boys clamored for the perfect spot as she covered them with one large blue cotton sheet as they huddled close to keep warm. Fearing she'd miss something in the night, Saira stayed up watching them as she sat by the fire facing the hut. The flicker of fire light danced on their sweet faces. Innocent they were, yes, but there was something haunting about them.
No matter how hard Saira tried to keep her eyes open, sleep did find her as she slowly leaned over to the side falling to the ground. In the fits of her tossing and turning, cries of babies plagued her mind. Screams of children at any age echoed in the emptiness of her dream. There were no faces to be seen as to where the screams came from. She saw nothing. Only pitch blackness. Then all was silent. Feeling her heart pounding in her chest, Saira awoke in a cold sweat. In the quiet stillness of the island, the breeze barely moving the leaves, she heard a faint cry way in the distance.
By fire light, she checked in on the four sleeping boys. They looked so calm as they held one another for warmth. They seemed to not have aged while she slept. The silence of the island helped her hear far into the distance. It must have been an echo somewhere on the other side of the island toward the north. Gathering a knife in case of danger and one of the slings, she found the trail she needed and began her brisk walk. It was still quit dark, but walking the trail by torch light did just fine.
The shadows in the forest danced by torch light. Her eyes shifting side to side keeping focus in the dark. Her head swiveled, looking behind as much as possible. The forest had eyes that night. With every foot fall, with every crack of a small branch that was in her way, she trudged on. In the distance a break in the forest came into view. Beyond lay a large clearing of tall grasses and large black rocks. Standing before the clearing, she listened intensely. The crashing waves against the rocks was the only sound that graced her ears.
'There's nothing out here,' she thought just as she began to turn around a piercing baby's cry broke the night air. Sprinting across the clearing, jumping over rocks, she made her way through the small collection of trees that scattered along the rocky edge of the island. In the darkness, she could see nothing. In between each breaking wave, she could barely make out the cries as they sounded weak and labored.
The climb down to the water's edge was traitorous. With every step, she slipped. The slime of algae made a sickening squishy sound as she slid down a few gagged rocks. Trying her best to keep hold, the algae could not keep her grip as her hands scrapped against the edges mixing blood with the slimy green sea life. Just half way down, she looked back seeing how far she had come. It must have been twenty feet she had climbed, but she was so close. It was then she realized the baby's cries had stopped. In a moment of unrealized thought of time, she was knelt down before the baby's lifeless body bobbing up and down in the sea water. Gathering the baby in her arms, cradling the body into the sling, she looked up moments later to see a large wave heading straight for her.
No time to gasp. No time to scream over fear, she climbed as fast as she could. With every bloody slip of her hands, she found new strength within her. The now surging motherly instinct boiled over fueling her climb for the sake of the child in her arms. Seeing the last few feet before her, her body began to give out. Holding on with both hands, she forced her legs to act on her command to lift her up. In the darkness four figures appeared overhead looking down. Eyes wide seeing the young boys at that very moment.
“Grab our hands!” the dirty blond yelled as the quiet one next to him gave his hand, too. The both of them pulled her and her precious cargo to safety.
Catching her breath barely, she laid the baby on the soft grass. He was motionless. Bruises as black and blue as the night sky. Scratches all over his face and patches of blood still seeming to flow from his wounds on his legs and torso. Tears fell from her eyes as she realized she was too late.
Kneeling down next to Saira, the quiet brunette handed her a large bottle of clear liquid. The torch was still burning on the ground as it captured the light as it passed - the liquid sparkled gold.
“What do I do with this?” she asked in between her sniffles and tears. Looking up at the boy she gasped. He and the others had aged again while she was gone. This time they aged a little faster, five extra years each in order of themselves. The boys were now preteen age.
Turning her attention back to the baby that lay before her, she uncorked the bottle pouring the contents all over the lifeless body. The blood from her wounded palms made it difficult to hold the clear bottle. The blood slick in her grasp as she tried to hold it steady. Within seconds of the liquid splashing the baby, the bruises faded to flesh tone. The cuts and open wounds healed up clean as though they were never there. The color of his body was still pale by torch light though. Checking for breath for a moment, nothing. No chest rises. No breath.
“No, please!” holding him close to her chest, blood from her wounded hands printing the clean skin of the infants back side and back of his head, she cried screams into the darkened night. Placing the baby back in the sling, she stood up carefully. Her legs nearly giving out, the dirty blond boy steadied her. “Let's get back to the camp. Stay close to me.”
The walk back to the camp was in silence. It was as though it were a funeral procession. Ever so often the boys would sniffle. They too felt emotion. They were not just faery children, they were children that had heart. They cried for the smallest child as though they knew him best. Once back at the main camp, Saira laid the baby on a collection of white clothes the previous boys had come to the island in. Loosely she laid the fabric over the body. There she sat rocking back and forth letting sorrow consume her. Seeing the other four looking at her in worry filled eyes across from the fire, she stood up and walked away into the hut.
Noticing she was distracted, the quiet brunette uncorked the same bottle of clear liquid. The bottle had just enough for one last half cup full. Watching if Saira was seeing this, as she was not, he opened the baby's mouth a little and poured.
Turning around, just as she saw him pour the liquid down the baby's throat, “What are you doing! Get away from him!” she screamed rushing back to the lifeless infant. Shocked by her reaction, the quiet one backed away quickly as though he were going to be beaten.
“He meant no harm,” the dirty blond replied.
“He was only trying to help,” the darker haired one with dark brown eyes, added as the second one nodded in agreement.
“Don't go near him anymore! I'll bury him myself,” covering the baby back up with the white cloth, “No, go back to bed. Don't come out of the hut until I say so.”
While the boys sat huddled together in silence, Saira laid next to the infant's body as she cried quietly. Ever so often she stroked the infant's head as though it were only sleeping. In her grief, ignoring her own wounds, blood still seeping down her fingers, she seemed to bless the child with blood socked finger prints and markings as she caressed his forehead gently. No matter how hard she tried to hide the fact she cared not for children of any age, her instincts always came out for all to see. Her time to be alone on this island was over run with children. Even for just a few. Now a baby lay dead. Her tranquil island had become a nightmare in just a day. Having scouted the island many times before, the huts had already been built weeks in advance before she arrived. She had not been on the island for long when she heard the cries of the first infant wash up against the rocks of the south beach. The ship that had dropped her off had long moved away when she noticed the baby – the quiet one. To her there was no explanation she could come up with as to how these five children arrived a few hours after she had.
Moments later, as she wiped her eyes, the morning sun had peaked through the forest. The golden light beamed upon her and the lifeless infant. Even though the liquid that was poured on the body had healed basic bruises, scrapes and small wounds, the baby was still lifeless. Kissing the baby's forehead, the body moved slightly. Backing away a little, she stared. Touching the baby's forehead once more, it moved and then made a sound like a soft giggle. Pulling the white fabric from the face, to her delight, the baby blinked his eyes of blue at her. He lifted his arms towards her wanting to be touched again. Letting him wrap his tiny fingers around her fingers, she smiled and cried tears of happiness.
“Boys! Come quick!” she cried out. The boys came running after.
“He's alive!” the dirty blond boy cried.
“I knew it would work,” the quiet one added.
It was then Saira recognized their voices. She looked at each of them carefully in the face. Gasping, “I know you! You're Lio,” shifting around she looked to the two brunettes, both with dark brown eyes, “You're Darius and Jorn!” Smiling softly to the oldest, “Jyon, I'm sorry. I didn't understand what you were trying to do.”
“Now you can see,” Lio commented.
Gasped, she picked up the youngest, joyfully holding him aloft. The baby laughed with all the happiness around him. “Jove! Oh, sweet Jove!” she called to him, as he giggled happily at the sound of his name.
With her wounds cleaned and bound, Saira put a full pot of water on the fire to heat. Tearing off a piece of white cloth and wetting it, she wiped the blood stained marks off baby Jove's forehead and back side. Squirming as she turned him over to face her, he began to fuss. It had only been an hour since the youngest, Jove, was brought back to life, that he began to cry. All the while she had not let the littlest one out of her sight. Checking for teething, she stuck her finger in his mouth. He clearly had not wet himself either. There were no cows or goats on the island. Clearly this little one was hungry, unlike his brothers.
Looking around the camp, she rallied them to her, but there were two that were preoccupied. Stepping into the hut, there she saw Lio and Jorn pulling at the blue cotton blanket. “Boys! What do you think you are doing?” At the last second the fabric ripped loudly in half. Stopping that moment, the boys dropped their halves. “Great! Just great!” Picking up one corner of the torn fabric an idea came to her mind. Even baby Jove saw the spark in her eyes which made him stop crying. Not caring for perfection, Saira whipped up four pairs of shorts using wet strips of sapling. Now their nakedness would no longer bother her.
“Now that's taken care of, we need to go hunting for your little brother. He's hungry, unlike the rest of you. I don't know what to feed him,” worry swept over her.
“We'll find something, Saira. Don't worry,” Lio soothingly replied, holding her hand.
Heading west the group trudged through the dense forest. Carrying a nearly one year old baby in the sling and trying to keep an eye on four preteen boys didn't leave much room for keeping an eye on herself. Watching the boys move out in different directions in front of her, it was difficult to keep an eye on her own footing. Thinking she had to step over a large root, her foot caught the bend causing her to fall forward. Jove screamed as she fell to the forest floor. Dead leaves lifted into the air as she caught herself just enough with her hand. Seconds later Jyon came running towards her helping her back onto her feet.
“I'll stay by you,” Jyon suggested checking on the baby.
“That's very kind of you, Jyon,” stroking the dark haired boy, she walked onward limping just a little from the bruise the root caused on her lower shin. Sniffing the air a familiar scent caught her attention. “Bananas!” There a few yards to her left she saw a large banana tree full of the berry fruit. Most were quite green, but she knew just how to ripen them. Looking the bundle over carefully, she found a small ripe collection at the bottom. “Take these,” she pointed, Lio pulling off the ones she pointed to.
“How do you know these will be good for Jove?” Jyon asked softly.
“I've eaten bananas all my life, even as a baby. All babies can eat bananas. They're soft enough and easy on the stomach,” Saira smiled, pulling one off the ripe bundle from Lio's arms. Peeling it, and breaking it in half she took a bite. “Oh, now that's a fresh banana!” Tearing off a small piece and mashing it between her fingers she placed the piece before the baby's mouth. Smelling the sweetness, he opened his mouth. Within seconds Jove's face lit up with delight. “See, all babies love bananas.”
“Is that all he needs?” Darius asked, looking at the bundle in Lio's arms.
“Oh, goodness no. Babies have to have variety of foods,” pinching off another piece of banana, she feed it to Jove. “Careful, you might find yourself eating bananas for the rest of your life more than I do,” she laughed seeing how much he delighted in them. “Remember where this banana tree is located, boys. We'll have to come back often.”
Continuing west, the mountain to their left, a small clearing came into view. A large patch of elongated green leaves and purple white flowers dotted the growth on the floor. Saira's eyes lite up as she got closer to the bunch. Digging vigorously at one patch of plants she soon came to the source of why she was so happy. A large, deep orange colored root the size of a human hand lay in the dirt. Next to it a purple root of the same size and many others in different shades of orange to dark red peaked out from under the ground.
“Perfect!” Saira laughed loudly. “Jorn, I want you to dig up enough of these that you can carry.”
“What are they?” Jorn asked, kneeling down to look closer.
“Sweet potatoes,” she smiled as she watched Jorn dig with his hands for the tuberous roots.
“But, Saria, you have food at the camp. Why can't you feed that other stuff to Jove?” Darius asked, puzzled.
“He's a baby. Baby's can't eat full adult foods yet. If my hunch is right, he's not growing up like the rest of you. Something happened to him when that liquid was poured down his throat,” she replied as she fed Jove another piece of banana. “I've never seen the rest of you eat anything or that need to eat anything.”
“Should we do the same – drink that liquid to make this easier?” Darius asked.
Facing all four boys, “No.” she commanded. “There is not enough food to feed everyone. I brought enough MREs for myself for nearly two weeks. There isn't enough for all of you. Besides, looking for emergency foods like this helps teach you about the island. If something ever happens to me, and any of you suddenly are able to consume food, you'll know where to find it.”
At that very moment, Saira's stomach growled. Nearly half the banana was consumed by baby Jove in her arms. Chuckling to herself, she finished off the small amount but noticed that Jove was about to cry. Reaching up to her face with his tiny hands, his blue eyes teared up. Seeing this, Lio handed her a peeled banana. By the time Saira finished half of the banana, Jorn had gathered a large arm full of sweet potatoes of all sorts of colors.
Swallowing the bite, “Okay, onward this time north,” looking to Jorn's bundle of sweet potatoes, “Sorry about that, deary. Hand some off to Darius to help carry them. I didn't think we'd find much of anything here. I think my eyes were bigger than Jove's tiny stomach,” she chuckled, tickling Jove's tummy. The baby laughed.
“What about those large round things by the beach?” Jyon asked.
“Large round things?” she paused puzzled as to what he meant. “Oh, coconuts. We don't need to carry those. They are abundant all over. We'll just get a few at a time as needed.”
Not far off from where they found the sweet potatoes, a small batch of spade shaped leaves caught Saira's eye at the base of a tree. Bending down to exam closer, she touched the leaves rubbing it with her thumb and index finger. A soft smile graced her lips as she broke one leaf in half and smelled the fresh sent.
“How do you know so much about plants?” Lio asked kindly.
“I study herbs and I cook a lot back home. I make it important to know what plants look like during growth periods and harvest time. I like to know what real food looks like and where it comes from,” pulling a few stems off the main plant, she stuffed it into her pocket. “What I just picked, boys, is called mint. It's great for upset tummies and you can brush your teeth with it to kill bad breath.”
“You didn't take the whole plant,” Jyon noticed, picking a single leaf and breaking it in half as he saw Saira do. Sniffing the mint leaf, his eyes lite up in delight.
“We don't need much. I'm going to dry this in the sun and use for later,” seeing how delighted Jyon was about the smell, “You can eat it raw if you want.”
Placing the broken mint leaf in his mouth, within seconds he spat it out. Shaking his head to his brothers the message was clear – the others were very much incapable of consuming mortal food.
“Let's head back to camp now. It's getting to be noon and I need to rest,” with all the wonderful finds in their hands, the troop headed east taking the same way as they came.
With joyous laughter, the four older boys skipped and ran about in front of Saira like the procession of a parade. They leaped into the air like wild satyrs after a marry hunt for nymphs. The laughter echoed throughout the trees heralding the coming of them. Only the sound of the waterfall in the distance muffled their happy cries as the group drew closer to the main camp.
Seeing how energized they were suddenly, Saira kept quiet watching them closely. Lio clearly had a bushel of bananas that must have weighted forty pounds. Jorn, at first had all the sweet potatoes cradled in his arms that must have weighted twenty pounds, if not more. Halving the weight to his brother Darius, how could they be running about while carrying so much food? Jyon had not carried anything on the trek back, but was just as rambunctious as the others, if not more so. Not dropping one banana or a single sweet potato, the boys laid their bundles at the front of the hut on the bamboo floor.
Quietly Saira walked over to the waterfall. The spray from the cascading water kissed her face delicately as she bent down to take a drink from the pool. Squinting in pain from her left shin as she sat down fully dipping her tired feet into the cool water, Jove giggled at her reaching for her face.
Kissing his tiny hands, “You are so precious,” she cooed holding his tiny hands making him lift his arms up and around to help him stretch.
In the distance, the middle youngest Darius watched her play with his baby brother. The sweet, almost sickening attention she gave to the youngest made his mind wander in an unhealthy direction. The happiness he saw in Saira's eyes made him grind his teeth. Closing his eyes for a moment, he pictured the worst he could think of – drowning his baby brother in that very pool. The thought made his face turn hot with anger as he motioned with his hands in a downward posture as though doing the act right then and there.
“Darius,” Jorn spoke breaking his thoughts startled him awake. “What's the matter?”
With a heavy sigh, he stuttered, “Oh, nothing. I'm just tired.” Jorn could tell there was something dark on his mind.
“Are you sure you're okay?” he asked again laying his hand on Darius' shoulder.
“Yeah, I'll be fine,” Darius walked off to the hut and began sorting the sweet potatoes by color.
Moments later, Saira returned to the hut with a very sleepy baby Jove in her arms. “Oh, how nice,” she watched for a moment Darius sort the sweet potatoes. “Jorn, could you go help him. See if they all can fit in the reed basket. Lio, could you hang the banana bunch on a tree. Take some smaller rope,” she pointed to the bound bundle on a wooden crate, “take the rope and tie it as good as you can.”
“Sure,” Lio jumped to the task doing exactly as told. Seeing his brother haul the large bunch of bananas, Jyon helped pull them overhead on the large limb of the tree. They hung the bunch just high enough for anyone to reach without effort.
With the small amount of chores done Saira set them off to play. They did not run off far as they had not known quite as much of the island yet. Baby Jove slept peacefully in the sling against her chest as she began to prepare lunch for him. Picking the smallest orange sweet potato, she washed it in the still half full water pot. Fetching clean water from the waterfall, she began to boil the potato. The sound of laughter and some small talk from the preteen boys, she smiled happily to herself as she watched them.
On the ledge, between two cascading streams, Darius sat watching his brothers. Turning his gaze to the left, he could barely see Saira sitting next to the fire. The jealousy still boiled in his mind. Shaking his thoughts away for just a moment, he slipped off the slimy ledge into the pool just inches below his feet. The water surrounded him in an unexpected calming embrace as he sank further down. Sinking to the bottom, nearly ten feet, his eyes open to the gray blue colors of the rocks under the water around him, he caught sight of a cavernous opening. Looking closely, and swimming into the cave just a little, he noticed his body could fit straight through without any trouble. Coming up for air, he looked around to see his three older brothers were sitting on the forest floor away from the waterfall spray talking amongst themselves. Taking in a deep breath, he dipped down slowly not making a sound.
Slipping through the underwater entrance, Darius swam his way through the path. What seemed endless to how much his breath could hold, only three minutes worth, his lungs began to ache. Groaning under the pressure, he slightly turned back, but it was too late. He had come so far in such a short time that turning back now he would have drowned. Using the sides of the cavern to propel himself faster with his hands, an elevated opening came into view above his head. Coming up to take in the precious air, hitting the top of his head with a good smack he groaned covering his head as he took in a large inhale of the air pocket.
The unexpected twists and turns of the cavern tunnel made him work harder. Ever so often a hidden protruding rock would scrap against his knee or leg. Groaning from the pain of his knee, that now bled, he pressed on. In the distance a light shimmered above. He was nearly to the end of the maze. Swimming faster, which expelled more oxygen from his body, he strained to reach the cavern opening. Reaching upward, swimming with all the strength in his arms and legs he breached the surface taking in a well deserved inhale of fresh air. The gasp echoing in the emptiness of the cavern. Opening his eyes he stood his mouth ajar to the most spectacular sight.
The cavern walls and ceiling were covered in crystal spires and clusters. Tiny clusters and even clusters the size of a toddler. Some were clusters of purple amethyst and orange citrine. Small clusters of emerald peaked in between basic stone and volcanic black rock. Icy blue celestite dotted in their own clusters and even ocean blue aquamarine mimicked the color of the water. The most abundant were clear quartz crystals. A rainbow of crystals all around him with mixes of large and small stalactites on the ceiling and stalagmites on the floor. The echo of dripping water from the stalactites made him look around as though he were being watched. The cavern opening far into the distance brought in just enough light for the crystals to capture. Bouncing off one another to illuminate more of its beauty.
Walking out of the water, looking all around at the spectacle before his eyes, Darius began to cry. The dark thoughts echoed in his mind as his emotions poured through the corners of his eyes. Picking up a fist sized crystal he hurled it against the cavern wall shattering the quartz into many pieces. The crack and shatter of the stone echoed even louder than his labored sobs. He dared not scream his frustration fearing he would be heard not knowing how close he may be to the others. It was then he realized he was lost. He was new to the island and needed Saira more than he realized. To him and his brothers, she was their mother – the only person they knew that cared for them. There he sat on a flat black stone, curled into a fetal position and wept. His shame consuming him like a ominous dark shadow extinguishing the rainbows of light around him. The chill of his body crept into the coldness of his heart as he sat there shivering.
Back at the main camp, Saira was busy preparing the sweet potato for baby Jove. Touching it to be sure it was cool, she cut it into smaller pieces and mashed it all into a medium sized bowl. Tasting the potato, noticing it was a little bitter, she added a teaspoon of sugar. Not knowing when Jove would awaken, she left him in the hammock to see what the others were up to. To her horror, the boys were nowhere to be visibly seen. They were not on the waterfall rocks or in the pool.
Panic seized her throat as she began to scream for them, “Boys!” her voice carrying as far as it could through the trees and dense vegetation. “Lio! Jorn! Jyon! Darius!” she screamed. Turning round moments later, there running towards her was Jyon from behind the hut.
“Saira, Darius is gone! I tired to stop the others from looking for him, but they all ran off in different directions,” he said trying to catch his breath.
“You stay here and watch over Jove. I'll go look for them. You don't know the island like I do yet,” Saira replied.
“What do I do if Jove is hungry?” he asked looking to the sleeping babe in the hammock.
“His dinner is prepared. Just feed it to him in small spoonfuls. He'll let you know with his fussing when he's full,” gathering her climbing rope, clips and knife, “I'll find them. You stay here with the baby. Do you understand?” Jyon nodded as he walked over to the prepared bowl of sweet potato picking up the bowl and sat on the floor of the hut. Looking to Jyon again, “Which direction did one of them go?”
“Lio went east. I didn't see which direction Jorn went, sorry,” Jyon replied shaking his head.
“Don't worry. They will be found,” running off past the hut, heading east, Saira swore under her breath of the mess the boys had now gotten themselves into. Her jaw moved grinding her teeth together as she held her tongue so not to express verbally how she felt.
Elsewhere in the thick forest, Lio had found himself very much lost. He knew not where he was, but all he understood best was to keep heading in the same direction. He seemed to have an adventurous streak that he followed from within. Strong willed. Brave to speak first, his legs carried him forward while his feet did not have the wits to stop their tracks. Good thing he kept going for he was headed straight for the third camp.
Pushing away a dense expanse of plant life away from his sight, peaking just slightly out of view from some trees stood a massive stone structure. His curiosity urging him forward he found a stone stepped path heading upward. A small collection of mountains stood to his right a monstrous slab of protruding rock face at the top. The two slabs of stone were cloven in half with near perfect smooth faces on all sides, inside and out. The top angled stone was positioned just enough to serve as a ceiling. The back of the stone room was much lower in angle, meshing with the floor stone slab. Both slabs were rectangular in shape. The floor slab was perfectly flat and smooth. The ceiling was not so smooth as it had pock marks scattered about as though it were in the process of being queried out by workers. The whole of the room could easily house ten people comfortably.
Seeing that Darius was clearly not here, Lio turned around about to head back down the steps, but just as he did he caught eye of the spectacular view before him. Out stretched were tree tops and far into the distance the large clearing, that from this view looked to be a valley. To the northeast he could see a circular sink hole with remnants of waterfalls that had carved their way through the stone. Memorized by the beauty, he sighed contently, but as soon as he began to have a seat to admire more of the view...
“Lio!” Saira bellowed, her voice echoing in the stone chamber. “Get off your ass right this minute and come with me!” Not speaking a word, he scrambled to his feet and followed her down the stone steps. Ignoring the fact that he had aged once more, this time considerably more to his late teens, she had no time to waste.
“I'm sorry,” Lio stammering an apology.
“Where did Jorn run off to?” she asked halting to a stop and turning about face. Lio nearly stumbling into her.
“I didn't...I didn't see where he went,” Lio stuttered. “I'm sorry.”
Pulling him by the arm her grip tight around his bicep, “Come on!” Briskly the two of them walked back to the main camp. Questions began to boil to the surface of her mind. Having tried to ask a day before and not getting any answers, she held her tongue. Something was amiss in all of this. There had to be a reason why these five strange, curve eared males were here. Something did not seem quite right.
Having left Jyon and Lio with their baby brother at the main camp, Saira moved on. Unexpectedly being thrust into parenthood she had to do what a good parent would do – find ways for the siblings to coexist. As much as she would love that little gem of hope be reality, she knew it was not possible. The five of them may have acted like blood siblings, but they were far from it. What only made them act like family was Saira's doing and nothing more.
Just a few more yards from the entrance to the cave, angry; poisoned words bellowed from the depths as though two dragons raged inside the bowels of stone and gems. From the intense echos of the argument she could barely make out what they were screaming. As she got closer, the echoing bellows came audible to her ears.
“How could you do that?” Jorn cried. Stepping carefully into the mouth of the darkened cave of crystals and other gem stones, she saw Darius wading in the water while Jorn stayed on the semi-wet rocks near the laps of the small pond. “Why would you run off like that!” he paused. “ Answer me!” Jorn yelled as the echos bounced off the cave walls.
Darius turned his back to him wading deeper into the water into the shadows of the rocks. Nearly chest deep in the clear, but eerie waters. Watching closely, ducking behind a large boulder, Saira's attention was caught by a darkening wisp of shadow that trailed behind Darius. The shadow was slightly detached from Darius' real shadow as though it were hitchhiking.
Within the momentary silence of the argument, Darius spoke soft his head turned to the side looking back at his brother from the corner of his left eye, “I hate the attention Jove gets from mother.”
“Saira loves us all equally, brother!” Jorn exclaimed in a sad hardened whimper. “Jove is small. He needs extra attention after what happened to him.”
Turning to face Jorn, his eyes blaring a glare of death upon him, “It is Jyon's fault for pouring the sacred water down Jove's throat!” Darius' voice growled as he continued, “If Jyon had not done what he had done, we would have been rid of the small one!”
“He's your brother!” Saira jumped up from behind the boulder marching down to the water's edge as quickly as she dared. Her wobbly steps on the slippery rocks nearly causing her to twist her ankle into the most uncomfortable position. Whimpering from the small twist in her ankle, Jorn steadied her. “He's your brother!” she cried out again this time tears welting up in her eyes.
“What's happened to you?” before a reply was uttered, Darius stared at him with such rage that Jorn did not notice how swiftly he moved through the water to the wet rocks. Within a few blinks Jorn was face to face with him. The cave became deathly cold. Steam of their breath formed before their face as the two young men stared each other down. Stepping back just a bit, Jorn moved Saira behind him, but within seconds Darius head butted his brother knocking him to the ground. Falling along with, Saira scrambled to her feet to get out of the way.
Grabbing Jorn's arm, Darius pulled him up only to punch him in the face. Having had enough, Jorn lunged after his brother with all his body weight into the other man's chest. There the two scrambled. Scuffled about with blow after blow of tightened fits and grunts of heaved breath. Rocks clamored together echoing in the cavern as their feet slid against the lose rocks.
Having had enough of the blood spilling Saira bravely stepped in between them. “That's enough!” In came a right hook punch, Jorn dodging at the very moment Saira got the full brunt force landing on her side hard. Her already still injured hands from the other night, stung as the sharp rocks dug at her wounds as she braced herself from the impact.
Turning to see Saira fall, Jorn punched Darius in the stomach for good measure. Doubling over from the blow, Darius stammered back a few feet his ass hitting the rocks beneath him. “Saira!” Jorn gasped as he held her in his arms. Blood from her bitten lip dripped down her chin. Holding onto Jorn, she glared at Darius as the two made eye contact.
“Take me back to the camp,” she whispered holding back her anger towards Darius.
Helping her to her feet, “Can you walk?” he asked about ready to scoop her into his arms.
“Yeah,” she breathed, wiping away the blood from her lip. Helping himself up, Darius stumbled to catch up. Hearing his foot falls getting closer Saira whipped around, “You stay away from me!” she commanded, her voice having an undertone growl.
Bloodied, bruised and limping the three made it back to camp to the sounds of a looming argument. Tensions had grown between everyone as though all were in a small hotel room forced against their will to stay. With all the open space around them of paradise grandeur how could such tempers be allowed to flare? Amongst all the yelling between Lio and Jyon as the others arrived, the youngest of the group waled cries of fear and pain. There was nothing physically apparent for the screams from his small form, but as Saira got closer she saw all too clearly what was happening to Jove.
As the four young men argued as to what transpired earlier, Saira watched in horror as the youngest one changed and grew in age right before her eyes. His torso grew longer as his legs and arms followed in equal speed. His face and head changed shape as his hair turned darker, but still on the blond spectrum. Tears streamed down his cheeks as his blue eyes reddened with every piercing scream. The argument had ceased as the four older brothers watched at a distance, slightly huddled together in fear. Silence fell upon the camp. Jove's labored breathing still continued trying to catch itself to stillness. He laid there staring at the broken patches of blue sky between the tree branches fearing he would be writhing in agony again if he dared move.
Crawling to the boy near the now dead; smoldering fire, Saira cautiously approached him. Gently as she dared stroked his forehead and wiped clean his tear soaked cheeks with a clean spot from the back of her hand that was not dripping with fresh blood. Hushing him gently, his blue eyes still transfixed on the sky peaking through the tree branches, Saira slowly lifted his head into her lap. Tears welt up in her eyes as she saw finally the age in which Jove had changed to – twelve years. All the hormones that raged in him had all come to the surface in just a few minutes. She could feel the pulsing strength of his blood filled veins still coursing at high pressure as though the boy would soon have a heart attack.
Wiping away her own tears and clearing her nose and throat she looked upon the others more clearly now. The four brothers were now young adults in their early twenties. “How do you age!” Saira yelled. “Do you feel pain just like he did? Tell me how!” she screamed protectively wrapping her arms around Jove. Through choke filled cries, “What are you!”
Silence on their faces. No nervous movements. No whispered murmured mumbles. Just silence.
From her blurry; tear filled eyes she saw that Jove had finally blinked. Reaching up to catch her tears, “It's all right. Do not fear what you do not understand,” Jove whispered, his breathing now normal. Sitting up slowly, he looked to his brothers, “Why?” he asked, turning back round he walked into the forest away from everyone. Saira watched as the tree branches and bushes covered the direction he was heading. Soon he was out of view completely.
“Jove! No, wait! Come back!” Jyon cried out.
“Why do you want him to return?” Darius asked in a grimace squinting his eyes at him.
“What I did for Jove was needed. I meant no harm to befall him,” Jyon replied as he stepped away from them seating himself across from the dead fire.
“What is in those bottles?” Saira demanded looking at how bloodied her hands were. The wounds having barely closed up even from the last time. The wounds from her hands from every time she touched the rocks her blood seemed to bless the land.
Getting up slowly, Jyon retrieved one of the full bottles of clear liquid. Before he could return to her side, the three brothers confronted him in a rush.
“What do you think you're doing!” Jorn asked.
“You can't!” Lio added as he tried to grab the bottle from Jyon's hands.
“Jyon, come here. Show me. The rest of you be quiet!” Saira commanded exposing the cuts, scraps and open wounds on her palms. Uncorking the bottle, Jyon poured a small amount of the liquid onto her wounds. Within seconds they healed, but still showed scares in the shape of a five pointed star burst with a scattered open circle on the inside. In the center was a deep hole that looked to have not healed hardly at all.
“As you saw with our little brother, the water in these bottles is for healing, but they can't be used all the time,” Jyon added as he corked the bottle closed. “This liquid is rare and precious.”
“Do the rest of you know of this sacred water?” Saira asked while examining her hands closely. Touching the wounds gently, she noticed there was no sharp nerve pain as she thought there might have been. Looking up, they all nodded, save for Darius who walked off away from them. Standing, she called out for him, “Darius, where are you going?” There was no answer. “Great. None of you understand this island as I do. You might get hurt.”
“Just leave him be. I think it's best if we all go explore the island for ourselves,” Jorn suggested placing his hand on her shoulder. “I'll go talk with him in a little while once he cools off.”
“What happened to him before I came upon you two in the cave?” she asked worry in her eyes.
“I found him in the shadows far to the back. I only saw his head above the water. It surprised me that I screamed,” Jorn continued shivering from the moment. “I could barely see his face, but I knew it was him,” he stammered, “but...but it didn't feel like him. There was a dark haze around him. I called out. He turned to see me. The light from the day shown through the darkness of the cave at the back,” Jorn paused, the memory seemed to haunt him with fear. “His eyes were black, but shimmering like obsidian,” wrapping his arms around his chest he shivered at the memory. “Something isn't right, Saira, but give it time. He'll come to.”
With a heavy sigh, Saira turned back to the hut finding that Lio and Jyon had gone. Rolling her eyes, she gathered MRE packet of dried meat before climbing into the hammock. Following her, Jorn kept her company with quiet reserve and manner. Smiling to him at the pleasantness of the company she closed her eyes breathing a comforting sigh of inner strength.
“They'll be fine,” he commented softly as he took a seat on the bamboo floor leaning against the wall.
The afternoon sun beamed down on the island. Sticky humid air made it difficult for everyone to explore the island at their leisure. Even with a medium high canopy of trees to shade everyone and the local wild life, the only place for relief from the sweltering heat was any of the connecting cave systems or near a flowing water source. Having walked away from the main camp, heading southeast, Lio and Jyon were making the best of it.
“Can't you slow down for just a moment?” Lio begged, trying to catch up to Jyon who had picked up his pace.
“Why are you following me?” Jyon asked looking behind to see Lio stopping to catch his breath as he leaned against a large tree.
“I just want to talk to you about earlier this morning.”
Sighing he turned to Lio, “I did what had to be done to save our little brother. What harm was in that?”
Surprised, Lio took a seat against the tree, “What harm? A lot of harm has come of it. It is not noticeable yet, but this is only the beginning.” Lio saw that Jyon showed no shame in his past actions. A moment of empathy crossed his mind. Standing up from the damp soil, Lio hugged his brother. “You know what Great Mother said. The rules have to be followed. But now, even I don't know what will happen next. You caused a great shift in things to come.”
Pushing Lio away, “So what! These rules can be bent. I did what had to be done!”
“But, Jyon, Great Mother told us that one of us would be sacrificed for the greater good for the people of this world. She must have meant one of us – The Five Brothers.”
“It's been done then. We can't go back. It's all been set in motion,” tears began to welt up in his dark brown eyes. “What do we do now?”
Kissing the tear that fell from Jyon's left eye, “We stay the course and remember everything that has happened and will happen.”
“But, what about Saira? She's an innocent.”
“She's no more innocent than ourselves in the grand scheme of things to come. We all have our part to play,” holding Jyon in his arms, he kissed the older brother on the cheek. Whispering into his ear, “We all have our parts to play.”
“I understand,” Jyon added as he sighed pleasure from his breath.
From all the drama that had ensued that humid afternoon, tempers flared in a different way. A heated exchange of passion to cool the rage inside them both. This was their nature that was expressed to all the island's wonders to witness. All the heaven's eyes watched as the two brothers returned the others favor of passion upon their lips. Their arms intertwined around their naked chests as though they were male dryads amongst the trees of the island. All was lost to their senses, save for one another. In the heat of anger towards these fairy children, spawned forth the beginning of something new. A calling for change that was part of the grand plan from the Great Mother.
Breaking their first embrace, Jyon backed up, “Wait, not here,” he looked around and there between the trees he saw a large clearing. Dashing off towards this clearing, Lio followed in hot pursuit. From the medium amount of light in the thick forest, the brightness of the clearing temporarily blinded both men. Wrapping his arms around Jyon, Lio continued his passion.
Kneeling on the soft earth beneath their knees, their hands explored one another with strength and gentleness. Moans of breath broke the solitude of the clearing around them. Groping between Jyon's leg's Lio caressed him. Jyon gasped a moan. Watching his partner indulge in the pleasures he was given, Lio smiled contently at the sight of Jyon's cheeks turning flush. Laying him on the forest floor, Jyon opened his legs to allow his brother and lover to enter him willingly.
Bending down, Lio whispered, “What has to be done, will be done. Mythiora.” Moments later Jyon screamed a few seconds of pain.
Back at the main camp, Jorn and Saira's ears heard that very scream. Getting up in a panic fearing something terrible had happened to one of the young men, Saira dashed off into the direction in which the scream came from.
Running after her, Jorn grabbed her arm, “Worry not, Saira. They will be fine.”
“They? Who is with whom right now? What are they doing?” she asked, frantic wanting to be let loose.
“There are things you are not allowed to know.”
Forcefully removing her arm from his grasp, “Why all the secrets? I'm tired of being left in the dark!” Saira stormed back to the camp, seating herself at the waterfall pool edge. Dipping her bare feet into the water, she sighed heavily as the cool water relieved her from the relentless heat.
Seating himself next to her, he dipped his feet into the cool water, too. “I may go to hell for this, but...” cupping her chin, leaning slightly to the side, his pink flushed lips delicately touched hers just enough for the sight to dip into her mind. Gasped, Saira saw flashes of what was transpiring on the island at that very moment – Jyon and Lio coupled; intertwined in heats of passion. “Now do you see?”
“Why is this?” she covered her mouth to hold back the shock that tried to break through her vocals.
“It is what must be done,” Jorn whispered softly being sure Saira could not hear, “Mythiora.” Standing up, he walked off into the forest quietly being sure not leave a sound of his foot falls. In the distance his voice carried on the breath of the leaves, “Go to Jove. He is alone and in sadness.”
Saira turned around in an instant to see Jorn no where in sight of the camp. Taking Jorn's advice to heart, Saira took her walking stick, a water bottle and the now cold bowl of mashed up sweet potato and a few ripe bananas all carried in one woven sling. Seeing the foot tracks Jove left behind into the bush she followed. The vision in which she saw Jove's transformation scattered her mind to unease. Neither in her wildest thoughts or dreams or even her day dreams had she seen such a sight. A one year old baby grew to the size of a twelve year old teenager in a matter of minutes. Not just a basic transformation, but an evenly distributed growth of arms, legs, torso, head, neck, fingers, and toes all grew at equal speed. The energy that had been expelled at such a rate would have been eminence. The very thought of finding Jove in sever pain and starvation frightened her most of all.
Finding the tracks leading northeast toward the queried stone overlook, she checked there first to get a better view. Running up the stone steps, she looked over the vast treetops and valley in the distance just peaking under the blanket of forest growth Saira caught sight of movement. Running back down the steps she hurried her way to the Moon Pool where Jove was apparently headed. Running to catch up to him, she saw him come into view just before he stood at the top of the Moon Pool edge. The Moon Pool was a thirty foot round and twenty foot deep sink hole made of volcanic black pumas stone. At the top of the sink hole were carved remnants of waterfalls. One across from the other, four in total nearly positioned perfect to the four cardinal directions. From one area at the top of what looked to be carved stairs large enough to allow one person to walk down and up at a time. At the bottom a round collection of water with a round stone peaking through the water. This single stone's surface was polished as though it had been used for ritual many centuries ago.
“Jove!” she cried out, her breath labored as she tried to catch it. Leaning over, breathing heavily, “You...must...be hungry. Here!” Arms out stretched holding the bowl of cold mashed sweet potato and unpeeled banana, Jove moved cautiously forward.
“Are my brother's with you?” he asked his eyes shifting around for any sign of them.
“No, I came alone,” she replied as Jove took the food offering from her hands like a scared; timid creature. Seating herself at the base of a tree, “Jorn asked me to check on you.” Sighing her breath back into order she was amazed how ravenous he ate the sweet potatoes. Scooping out the sweet; soft food, his fingers turning orange as he consumed every last bit. Dropping the wooden bowl to the ground within seconds peeled the banana and ate it just as quickly. Taking a quick drink of water herself she tossed her water bottle to Jove where he drank down the whole bottle within a minute.
Taking a breath, “Well, I'm fine now. You can leave,” Jove commanded throwing the empty water bottle to her.
“Oh, no you don't! Hold on just a minute,” scrambling to her feet Saira stood before him with a stern look on her face. “I'm staying with you until things calm down around here.”
“What things?” Jove whined, folding his arms against his chest.
“Your brothers are interacting with one another. I don't want you getting into what they are doing. You're too young right now,” Saira replied huffing a bit having to express putting her foot down like a responsible parent.
Pointing his thumb behind his shoulder, “Oh, you mean them playing with one another? Oh, yeah, I know about that. That's why I'm over here staying away from them.”
Shocked by his answer, it coming from a twelve year old who's mind apparently was a bit older in form, however, still a teenager at the most, Saira stood there dumb founded. “I thought you were going to do the same as they?”
“Didn't you hear me ask them: 'why'? I was directing the issue to the others. I was asking them why should they act like passionate animals this soon,” throwing his arms into the air in frustration, “and of course they didn't listen to me,” seating himself at the edge of the sink hole he whispered ever so quietly, “I should have died that night.”
“What was that?” she sassed having caught the word: die from his breath.
“I should have died that night when you found me!”
Placing her hand on his shoulder, “Why in the world would you say such a thing?”
“There is an order to all actions of reality. One of us must be sacrificed as the Mother Goddess had told us,” tears welt up in his blue eyes. “How much have my brothers told you about us?”
“Not much. They keep hiding everything from me,” pausing, her face contorted into visible anger, “I hate it!”
“Welcome to my world.”
Taking aback, “What are you talking about? Or can you not tell me cause it's a sin and you'll be punished for it.”
“My brothers don't want to take responsibility for what they say to you. They'd rather be obedient in one form of the Mother Goddess, but disobedient in another – animal lust,” taking a pause he took a good look at Saira's face and eyes. He noted how lovely and soft her features were. Her eyes dark brown like tree bark. Wavy; long hair like the dark stone of the cliff on the south beach. Noticing he admired her delicate features, she smiled softly to him in pleasant reply. “Either way, my brothers' actions will be held accountable. All in good time.”
“Pardon me for asking, are you sure you're okay after what happened? I mean, you grew so abruptly. From my point of view you looked to be in serious pain,” Saira implied, rubbing his back gently.
Wiping his eyes of the tears that nearly fell, “Most of the pain is gone,” Jove looked over the sink hole beneath him. With a heavy sigh he leaned over laying his head against Saira's shoulder. Wrapping her arm around his shoulders she rubbed his left arm softly.
To her, his body felt tense as though afraid that something terrible was going to happen to him again. Slowly, but surely Jove's tension and fear melted away with each passing minute as the two sat there studying the sink hole below them and the foliage around them.
“Why are you and your brothers here?”
“You ask that too much. Just let it all unfold. The answers will come to you all in good time,” Jove replied with a calm; pleasing voice.
Chuckling, “How old are you really?” she blurted jokingly.
“I'm older than you think,” he smiled, the two laughed aloud as the early evening rolled by. The quiet of the Moon Pool gave a perfect atmosphere of solitude for the two. Whatever transpired between the trees or hidden caves of the island could not be heard in their current location.
Looking at Jove more closely as he continued to lay his head on her shoulder, Saira realized he was not joking about his age. The mere mention of the Mother Goddess perked a realization in her mind. A fable her great-grandfather Hammish had taught her when she was a little girl.
“Would you like to see more of the island?” she asked leaning over a little to see his expression.
“Nah,” he drawled, standing and extended his hand to her. “You look a little tired. We should head back.”
Crackling overhead, thunder rolled in over the island. Looking above through the trees, pockets of gloomy gray sky circled overhead. Within seconds the rain fell to the ground in medium collections of drops. Taking his hand, Saira led Jove through the forest to the stone overlook. The thunder clapped ferociously overhead as though it were chasing them.
“Ah ha!” Jove joyously cried standing in a clearing letting the rain cover him. “This is beautiful!” Grabbing his arm and pulling him along, nearly dragging his feet to slow her down, Saira heaved him forward.
The stone carved steps were in sight, “Come on!” Saira yelled pushing Jove up the stairs.
“Oh, it's so refreshing! Let me dance in the rain! Please?” he begged, his arms out stretched up toward the rainy heavens. Taking a few more steps up, the wet stone making him lose his footing, Jove slipped over the edge. One hand catching the edge as he hung there, his legs dangling over.
“Grab my hand!” Saira commanded reaching out for him. Taking her advice, he slung his free hand into hers as she pulled him up over the ledge. Panting, “Be careful next time! Get under the stone ceiling before you get struck by lightning!” He did as he was told, crawling quickly to the driest section of the stone outcrop.
Catching his breath, “What a beautiful sight!” his blue eyes sparkled with delight. His whole face expressed ecstasy of the storm that whirled over the island.
Shaking her hair dry with her hands, “Were you conscious while floating in the ocean?”
“Yes. I wish I wasn't,” the delighted look on his face disappeared the moment he remembered the terrible ordeal of the storm that carried him and his brothers to shore. Chuckling to himself, “And yet I love storms.”
Sitting next to him, Saira shivered. “I hope it won't rain for very long.”
Sliding next to her, “We should keep each other warm.”
“Uh, sure. Of course,” she stuttered feeling a bit uncomfortable cuddling up to a preteen boy. Realizing how cold she was, he wrapped his arms around her. The sky darkened as the storm raged on. Holding him in her arms like cradling a child, she felt his heart beating faster. His face turned flush as she noticed he was staring deep into her eyes. The look he gave was unmistakable – the look of falling into desire. Not quite lust, be innocent crush nonetheless. “Jove, what are you thinking right now?”
“About you,” he breathed lovingly. “Remembering how you held me when I was a baby. The attention you gave. How safe I felt in your arms.” Lifting his hand, he caressed her cheek with his fingers and slowly strung through her wet hair.
“Jove, you're...” before she could finish Jove lifted upward locking lips with hers holding onto the back of her head pressing the kiss further being sure not to break the embrace. Taking a tiny breath, he kissed her again this time a little more passionately. Taking his left hand off the back of her head she backed away dropping him out of her arms. “Jove, you're confused,” she repeated this time more clearly.
“I...I'm sorry. I can't help but feel this way,” Jove stammered reaching out for Saira to take his hand.
“No, Jove. You are far too young in form for me. It's not how my people do such customs to one another,” Saira pushed back a collection of wet hair behind her splayed ears – three pointed medium tips and a slightly pointed, but curved earlobe.
Wide eyed, he stared at her ears that had finally become visible to all. “You! It's you!” he cried standing to his feet. The words he was thinking could not be uttered. He was not speechless, he was sworn to complete secrecy.
“Uh, what are you talking about?”
“Oh, it's nothing,” turning around, rubbing the back of his head stringing his fingers through his dark brown wavy; short cut hair, he began to walk in a wide circle thinking to himself. “I'm sorry. I should have never kissed you,” bowing forward he repeated, “I'm sorry.”
“What?” Saira stepped back. “Why are you apologizing? You're just a boy. There was no harm in kissing me like you did.”
“Yes, there is,” without uttering another word, Jove ran down the stone steps heading south back to the main camp.
Dumb founded, Saira stood there until a distant scream broke the silence around her. The scream continued once more as she ran down the stairs in the same direction. Catching up with Jove, the two racing to the source of the screams, Lio met them half way. The look on his face was sheer terror.
“What's the matter?” Saira asked.
“It's Jyon. Something wrong with Jyon!” Lio cried as he ran back to the direction in which he came. Saira and Jove followed close behind.
In the clearing, southeast of the camp, Jyon lay on the ground holding his stomach rocking his body back and forth groaning in pain. Leaning back, his back arched, Jyon's face was covered in sweat. His breathing was labored. Saira moved closer cautiously. Stepping back in surprise to the sight of Jyon's stomach enlarged half it's size – he was pregnant.
Jove moved closer to look for himself. “It's too soon!” Turning to Lio who was leaned against a large tree shaking in fear, “How could you do this so soon? I warned all of you!” Getting into his face, pushing his older brother hard against the tree, “How could you? It's too soon!”
“What happened?” Jorn and Darius had come running from the west. To both their surprise, Jorn and Darius backed away swiftly against the trees.
“What's going on! Someone explain to me what is happening!” Saira demanded. Seeing that the other three brothers not looking at Jyon's condition, but her splayed ears, she covered them quickly with her long hair.
“It's you!” Jorn cried.
“It can't be!” Darius exclaimed covering his mouth.
“Shut up about that!” kneeling behind Jyon, Saira held his head, “What's wrong with him?”
“He's in labor, but I don't see how this can be taking place right now,” Jove explained. “This wasn't supposed to happen until the full moon!” Glaring at Lio, “You fool! I warned all of you, but you never listen to me! You've never listened to me!”
Breathing heavy, “Jove,...it's okay. I'm willing to take full responsibility for this process.”
“Brother, this wasn't to happen yet. You know the rules!” Jove held the elder brother's hand tightly.
“It's almost the full moon. Just another day and all will be fine,” Jyon breathed, trying to form a smile in between contractions.
“If we can get your contractions to calm down, you'll make it in time by tomorrow night,” Jorn commented.
“How could he have contractions this soon? How far along is he?” Saira asked touching his abdomen.
“This process only takes fifteen hours. If we can get him to calm down he'll give birth by tomorrow night,” Jove replied.
“What about the Holy Water?” Jorn asked as he paced back and forth.
“Oh, now you want to use the Holy Water at a time like this!” Jove snapped.
“Shut up!” Saira yelled. “Will it work?”
Pausing for a moment, Jove thought hard.
“Well?” Saira yelled as Jyon screamed as another premature contraction rippled through his body. “Ah, forget this!” Kneeling in front of Jyon she punched him square in the face knocking him unconscious. His body went limp and the contractions stopped. “Gather him before he wakes up. Move!” Lio gathered Jyon into his arms carrying him the whole way back to the camp.
“You need help, brother?” Darius begged.
“No!” Lio fussed, his breathing labored as he carried the tall; older brother's limp body through the forest.
Back at the camp, Jyon was laid in the hammock left to rest. He had awakened moments before entering the camp, but soon went back to sleep. Saira checked his abdomen finding the baby was still alive. Whatever grew inside Jyon frightened Lio the most.
“Apparently no one of your world taught you about sex. What did you think was going to happen?” Saira stormed out of the hut standing before the four brothers. “For that matter, how is it that a male of your kind is even able to become pregnant? The last I checked, seeing all five of you naked to the world, you were all male!” pausing for a moment, huffing her frustration she paced around the camp. “I don't care if your Mother Goddess punishes you in her own little way! I want answers and I want them now!” she exclaimed stomping her foot down.
There was some mumbling from each of them under their breath. Their eyes shifted from one to the other brother. Shuffling their movements nervously as they tried to not make eye contact with Saira. Their silence was deafening to say the least, but somehow Saira kept her calm as she waited for them to speak.
“We were sent here to start something,” Lio began as he moved slightly forward his hands behind his back and head down expressing a submissive posture. “We are not allowed to tell you anything. All is in motion now. It can not be stopped.”
“What can't be stopped? Am I in danger cause of your actions?” she pointed to Lio the only one at this time she could blame.
“No, you are not in danger. Your people are not in danger,” Jorn added.
“What does this have to do with my people?”
“Do you not know who you are? Didn't your great-grandfather Hammish not tell you?” Darius questioned heavily. His hazel eyes showed curiosity and confusion.
“Who I am?” shaking her head and stringing her fingers through her damp hair she began to fidget as anxiety set in. “I am the Chief's granddaughter! That's who I am. What else is there?”
Leaning over to his older brothers, “She doesn't know. Don't press the issue,” Jove suggested as he looked to the hut seeing Jyon getting up slowly from the hammock.
“Leave her alone all of you!” Jyon cried in heavy breath.
“Jyon, you shouldn't be up in your condition!” Saira cried rushing to his side to help steady him.
“I'll be fine. I just need some water,” Jyon walked slowly out the hut as Saira guided him to the waterfall twenty feet away. As he passed his four brothers, they parted giving him space. “Don't mind them, Saira. They are only following orders like I am.”
Setting him down, he knelt on his knees to scoop the cascading water from the rocks. Sipping slowly as though each drop was precious, the others watched from a distance.
“We are not from your world, and yet we are from your world,” Jyon continued watching Saira's facial expression show she was truly confused now. “We are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are just playing our parts in the future actions of your people. We are of both sex when that time comes. All will be well, Saira. Fear not what you do not understand,” Jyon paused stroking her soft cheek with his knuckles. “The energy inside me has calmed. I will make it to the full moon. Later tonight though, ignore all you hear. This is a time for us. You must leave us to our part. Do not interfere until we ask for your help. You have done so much for us and for that we are grateful, but from here on in it is up to us. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” tears welt up in her eyes, “But why me? Why did this have to happen to me?”
“Because the Mother Goddess loves you,” Jyon leaned over kissing Saira on the cheek. “Now, go on and be calm with yourself. Leave me here to rest. I will call if I need someone.”
Stepping forward, Jove took Saira by the shoulders guiding her away from Jyon. “He'll be fine. Come on now.”
Later that evening, just before dusk, the island became eerily quiet. The trees rustled just a little in the cool breeze. Birds nestled in their perches. A calm before the storm was not what Saira would have called it. Sitting at the edge of the cliff over looking the massive waterfalls to the east, Saira watched the water cascade over the rocks. The falls fed by an immense spring water system under the island deep in the planet's crust, the falls were nearly a two hundred foot drop. The cliff in which Saira over looked them was level with the cliffs across the way. The roar of the falls were not quite as loud as one would expect though.
The mist from the falls cooled her thoughts, but the main thought still lingered – why was she chosen? Nibbling her finger nails just a bit, she looked back to see Jove sitting at the base of a crocked old tree that barely had leaves atop its branches. Motioning him over to sit with her, Jove shook his head. Chuckling to herself, she crawled over to him, sitting at his feet.
“You're afraid of heights?” she giggled, “But the Moon Pool isn't that high. What scares you the most over there?”
“A spirit,” his blue eyes were transfixed on something across the waterfall crevasse. Pointing, “There in the mist behind some trees.”
Looking where he pointed, “I only see trees. A gathering of dark leafy trees,” moving her gaze to his, “Does this spirit seem scary to you?”
“No, but he's watching.”
“Do you know this spirit?” she asked, Jove shook his head. “Then, he means no harm,” standing up, she pulled Jove to come with her, but did not budge from his spot. He kept his eyes fixed on the dark leafy trees across the way. “Do you think it will follow?”
“Yes. The spirit will be gone soon though,” Jove pulled Saira down to sit next to him. Breaking his strange gaze from the woods, “You have to stay with me tonight until it is my time. You go where I go. Understand?”
“Yes, of course,” with in that moment Saira and Jove looked to the northwest of the island hearing a faint cry. With the roar of the waterfall, any sounds that came forth from the couplings of the young men tonight was muffled considerably. Even with the passionate cries muffled by the waterfall, Jove could feel the energies out there swirling around him. Moving away just a bit she finally noticed Jove had changed again. The rising of the full moon broke the dark shadows of his face. All the time she had her back turned from him, he had quietly transformed. Unlike the others growing up to full adulthood while she slept or was farther away from them, this time Jove was a special case. “Are you okay?”
“What?” breaking his concentration.
“You've grown up more. You're face!” stunned, Saira stared at him.
Crawling to a puddle on the stone cliff, he gazed at his reflection. “I didn't even notice. I didn't feel anything.” The stress and passions around the island had amplified his ability to change into a full grown man. He now looked eighteen – strapping young man, medium broad shoulders, medium muscular chest and a medium strong defined jaw line. His short, slightly wavy hair had now turned dark brown.
Saira's heart fluttered. With all the passions going about the island, Saira was conflicted. On one hand she worried for Jyon. On the other, something spectacular was in front of her, but she feared that her body would betray her. Her upbringing taught her to wait for a worthy suitor, but she was nowhere near the main land. All the rules that she followed were about to disappear like the mist from the waterfall below.
Jove looked at Saira the same way he enjoyed the vision of her at the quarried rock face early that afternoon during the storm. This time, however, he could no longer control what he felt. He knew who Saira was and greatly ignored those thoughts with vengeance. If he was to be damned for his actions, he cared not this night. Exhaling a breath, he willed his thoughts to turn back to more stable times as he looked away from her beauty.
“Jove, I know what you're going through. You're not alone on this. Maybe you should be with the others tonight,” she suggested, standing before him while he knelt on the stone ground keeping his gaze away from her.
“I can't be with them right now. It's not right,” he groaned making a fist from the frustration he felt inside. “I can't be with you either. I know who you are!”
“Then tell me. Who am I to you and the others? If you tell me, maybe everything will be all right with your world. Jove, I care for you as I do the others. You know that. You can tell me the truth and I won't say a word to the others. I swear it!” Saira cupped his chin moving his gaze upward to meet hers, but his eyes were closed.
“If I say anything, even the slightest hint, the others will know anyway. We are all connected. After tonight we will all be even more connected to one another than we dare imagine,” the torment in his thinking was seen through his eyes. He wasn't just torn in two directions, he was torn in many countless angles being twisted about inside the soul of him. “I can't do anything with you. It will ruin everything.”
“Will it cause you to be sacrificed? Will you die for such a petty sin as this? How bad could this turn out?” she asked, as Jove stood before her, still his eyes were closed as though if he look upon her again he would be turned to stone.
Inside his mind flashes of the future circled about like ravenous dogs. His closed eyed tightened as each vision played out. What he did not know, however, was the way it had to begin. For what he saw was exactly what the Mother Goddess had intended, but his instincts of who he was pushed him back. The shear torment inside his heart and mind were at battle with one another. Opening his eyes finally, he peered deep into Saira's dark brown eyes not breaking the gaze. The reflection of the starry sky above danced in her eyes. His senses were heightened. The distant passionate cries were muted. All he could hear was his own heart beating and the cascading waterfall below.
Before he allowed his mind to think a second time, he gathered Saira in his arms lovingly embracing her with his lips. All his fears and worries melted away. Saira gave up. There was no fighting what was so natural. She no longer cared who he was or what she knew of him. The man before her was flesh, blood, and bone and smelled fresh like a summer morning rain. Breaking their embrace, Jove lead her to a collection of soft grasses beneath some trees on the cliff far away from the edge. Laying her down, he embraced her once more with more vigour than before.
The island came alive with ecstasy. The trees seemed to glow in the coming full moon light. Flowers blossomed in the evening darkness, especially one particular plant – a pink and white spotted five petaled flower bloomed from a collection of broad leafy bushes. With all the passionate trappings of intertwined bodies in the dark, the island itself transformed into new life. The newly formed pink and white spotted flowers soon wilted away to bud forth small pods of fruit. As the moon rose in the night sky, the newly formed fruit took shape. The enthusiastic sensual energies had helped breath new life into these old lands.
The coming full moon brought with it a guest of the skies of the most rare sight anyone had ever seen. The planet's second smaller blue moon rose right below it's larger cream colored sibling toward the East. The larger moon was nearly to full, however, it's smaller sibling was at full. This brought forth a loophole in the Mother Goddess' plans. Only feeling the energies in which the twin moons brought forth to the couplings of the night, all were awakened even Jyon had awakened suddenly to realize a heralding inside his body.
Breaking her embrace with Jove, she turned to the direction in which she heard Jyon screaming. Seconds later a moan of breached passion erupted on the other side of the island. “What's the matter?” Jove asked, kissing Saira's neck trying to distract her.
Looking to the East at the two bright orbs in the sky, “Jove! Look!”
Without saying a word to her, he held tight onto her as he sat up holding her waist close to his. Pulling her down onto him she moaned as she tried to look upon the two jeweled orbs in the sky. Her thoughts whisked away as her body shivered in fullness. Jove breathed heavy as he flung his head back at the moment of full pleasure. Wrapping her arms around him, her lips found his. Her eyes closed and within seconds she realized what she had gotten herself into, but it was too late.
Again Jyon's screams echoed throughout the island. This time Jove could not distract himself from the screams of his older brother who was in need.
Following the screams to the clearing in which Jyon was found earlier that evening, Jove and Saira found Jyon naked on the ground legs sprawled with the other three brothers surrounding him. They all looked scared.
“Has this ever happened to any of you?” Saira asked as she inspected the laboring man.
“No, Saira. This is the first time,” Jorn replied holding Jyon up into a reclined position.
“Did the Mother Goddess tell you anything at all to at least help me with this?”
Between grunts, “It's just energy, Saira. We are in transition for reincarnating ourselves,” Jyon grunted again leaning forward. “You are the Holy Mother!” With one great scream and lunge a glowing copper crown breached from between his legs. Clutched in his hands, Jyon flung a white cloth to her.
“One more push!” In just seconds the glowing copper infant fell into the white cloth Saira held. Wrapping the infant quickly, she realized there was no umbilical cord nor was there any form of after birth. The infant didn't even have a face, just basic curved features as though there would have been eyes, nose and mouth. No ears either. She had only help birth her cousin into the world and that was nearly five years ago. While Jyon lay there exhausted, Saira looked around to find Jorn and Lio doubled over in pain. She watched in reserve that the same process was happening to them, too.
Reaching for the glowing, faceless infant, “I'll care for the glowing child. You are needed with them,” Jyon breathed reaching for the child.
“Are you sure you'll be all right?” she asked helping him to his feet.
“I'm going to stay here for a while. Go on and watch over my brothers.”
Running off in the direction of the main camp in which Lio headed, Saira caught up with him. Lio's running was difficult as he stammered his way through the darkened forest trying to find the trail to the camp.
Feeling hands upon his shoulder, he jumped looking wildly to his left. “It's okay. I'm here. Come with me.” Getting Lio to the hut, he fell to the ground crawling to the edge of the floor where he sat, his legs spread. Beads of sweat forming on his brow as he grunted. His face nearly turning white, “Breath Lio! You have to breath!”
Running to the ceder box in the hut, Saira fetched a white cloth. Within an hour Lio had given birth to a glowing golden infant. There were no cries from the infant as the other, nor any real features to indicate a face. It all seemed to work out the same for all of them, she thought.
“I'll be back. You stay here,” Saira reassured him kissing his brow.
Amongst the dense forest of the night, Saira followed the trail to the mountain. As she got closer she could hear grunts as though there were a fight. Sure enough at the base of the mountain Jove and Darius were fighting it out. Knowing better than to interfere Saira moved on. She could hear the two punch each other in the face hard. Branches breaking and scuffling in the dirt and leaves. Whatever the argument was about, it must have been something awful. Around the corner on the other side of the mountain she found Jorn leaned over bracing himself against the mountain stone.
“I don't want this to happen!” Jorn cried.
“It's happening rather you want it to or not,” laying her hand on his stomach, she felt the energy shift in him. “Let's walk this off for a little while. You'll feel better.” Not in the state to argue the point, Saira had him lean his body against hers as they walked. “Jyon called me the Holy Mother. What did he mean by that?” she asked trying to distract him from the pain.
Breathing heavy, “Haven't you figured it out yet? You've been chosen for a purpose,” wincing, he clinched his teeth. “You're doing fine helping us out like you have,” he groaned, breathing quickly. Doubling over, Jorn fell to his knees kneeling on all four as a contraction rippled through his body. Jorn let out a mighty scream as his body forced him to push forth the energy inside him. For all of the ones so far having given birth to their energy incarnations for the first time, it was astounding how they were all able to handle it so swiftly. Fairy children that they were, but something beyond them gave them the strength to bare something so natural mostly only seen in females of most creatures of this world.
Within a few minutes Jorn's energy reincarnation dropped into Saira's hands as she vigorously wrapped the infant in a white cloth. This one was the color of dark ruby. Shining its inner light like facets of a cut stone. Like the previous infants – copper, gold and now ruby, Saira began to see a pattern. Holding the faceless child in her arms, she remembered more of a story her great-grandfather Hammish had taught her. She now understood her place in the acts in which she was playing.
Handing the infant to him, “Once you have restored your strength, go back to the hut and stay there.”
Grabbing her hand just before she stood, “Don't interfere with them. You will get hurt.”
“What was with them back there? Why the fighting?” she asked.
“It's part of the ritual. You don't need to understand this,” smiling at the child in his arms, “Be careful.”
At the base of the mountain on the other side, Saira could still hear the fight going on. Behind a large boulder she watched the two grown men wrestle with one another as they were naked to the wilds of the island. The double moon light made the sweat from their bodies glisten like mother of pearl. With one swift kick to the chest, Darius fell back onto a pile of already broken tree branches. The newly made clearing had been created by the two tearing it all apart. Moments later, Darius came to, however, found himself spun around being forced on all fours. Bending over the beaten man, Jove took him as his prize.
Turning around quickly, Saira covered her mouth to quiet her gasp. The moans and grunts of the couple grew louder as she tried desperately to fade the sounds from her ears. Even flattening her hands against her splayed ears did not do the trick. No matter how desperate she wanted to hide far away from all she heard and saw, she could not. She had become the observer of the beginning that she herself was a key player in. Hammish would have never thought that his great-granddaughter would have allowed herself to stoop to such a low in seeing two men have ways with one another. Such actions were kept behind closed doors like any civil grown adult would do respectfully.
As soon as the forceful moans and grunts began, they ceased. Surely the animal lusty actions were over. Peeking from behind the boulder she saw tenderness unfold before her eyes. They looked to have compassion and grace to one another. Watching more closely, Saira could see that it was in fact what Jyon had mentioned earlier. When the time arose the one being mounted was the female as his genitals had transformed into the appropriate form. The way the two partners intertwined on the ground was like poetry in motion. A few minutes more and the deed was done with two very passionate moans of ecstasy. Giving Jove a few more minutes to leave his lover behind for the final act, Saira came out from behind the boulder.
“Do you feel anything yet?” she asked walking up to Darius cautiously.
Startled, “You were there the whole time?”
“I'm sorry. At least I can take care of your needs now. Before, I had to chase the other down,” looking at Darius with concern she sat next to him. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes, for now. It won't be long though,” laying his hand on his belly, within moments his abdomen began to swell.
Nearly an hour or more later, Darius gave birth to his reincarnated form. The color of this faceless radiant infant was a bright green nearly the color of emerald. Wrapping the bundle into the white cloth and handing it to Darius she instructed him to meet her at the hut.
'One more and maybe this will all be over,' Saira thought to herself as she took her sweet time walking around in the moonlit night. Coming to the large clearing, southeast of the hut where Jyon was found earlier that evening in early labor, something caught Saira's attention. A glowing ball of light lay on the ground slightly covered by fallen leaves. The light was shaped like a tear drop – crystal white and shinning pastel colors. Scooping it into her hands, she looked closer. Inside the nearly clear crystal seed a green plant like structure wiggled inside. Spooked by the movement, Saira dropped it back where she found it. Seconds later the seed began to borrow into the soft earth where it disappeared out of sight.
A passionate cry broke the silence. Toward the northeast of the island she heard two men moaning like wolves at the moons above. Running as fast as she dared, she halted the moment she came into view of Jyon passionately embracing Jove. The couple broke free of one another collapsing to the ground in each others arms. Seeing Jyon heading her direction, she hid behind a massive tree. Once he passed her, she looked back seeing Jove laying on the ground his eyes closed. The cool air of the night fogged the breath from his mouth.
'I can't take this anymore!' she thought to herself as she slid down the tree trunk seating herself on the soft; damp earth. 'Holy Mother, how about midwife to five haunting spirits! I should have never come here! Great-grandfather was right!' tears choked her throat as she tried to hold them back, but to no avail. Fear began to grip her as she realized what she had gotten herself into. It was too late to turn back now.
* * *
“Where do you think you're going?” Hammish cried out, grabbing his great-granddaughter by the arm.
“To study! Now let me go, please! The ship leaves in an hour!” feverishly Saira stuffed all she could reach into her brown leather duffel bag.
Grabbing her arm again, whirling her around to face him, he towered over the young woman by three inches more. The shier size of the Chief of his well muscled body gave the impression he was a young man, however, his face showed his age of a well seasoned traveler and leader of his people. A single long braid of auburn hair and striking emerald eyes, the mere presence of him could set anyone into submission, save for his great-granddaughter who took after her mother more than anyone in her family line. “You aren't going to the Isle are you? Please tell me you're not going there!”
“No, my Chief. I'm going to study on another island near the Isle where I can be alone. I'll only be gone two weeks,” pulling away from his grasp finding she could not free herself, “I've studied here enough. Please let me go.”
A warning horn sounded far into the distance outside the royal chambers on the other side of the great wall surrounding the harbor. Hammish let the woman go sighing with a heavy heart. “Where ever you study, don't go to the Isle of Spirits. Please.”
Looking back she smiled, “I'm not returning to the dreaming, Great-grandfather,” with that Saira ran out the door, down the hall as fast as her legs could carry her.
The ship's bellowing horn sounded again for the last time. The harbor was busy as usual with merchants loading and unloading cargo of food, spices and wears of all kinds to the main market city of Delree. Seeing the ship at the dock, the mariners dropping the heavy ropes that kept the ship tethered to the dock, Saira covered her face with her cloak as she pushed her way to the ramp to board. The ship was headed for the second continent to the East.
Looking about the top main deck of this four deck, six mast sailing ship, Saira made careful notion of the six life boats that hung at the starboard and port of the ship. Seeing how busy the crew were, she made her way quietly down to the lowest deck to hide. Finding a dry corner near sealed barrels of grain, she was muffled by a large male hand.
“Don't say a word!” the man whispered as he pulled her down to the deck floor. “When I let go, you keep quiet. You understand?” Saira nodded her head.
Not removing her hooded cloak, “Who are you?” she asked staring at the dark violet eyes that peeked from behind his hooded cloak.
“I am Anton, my lady. We spoke last month of your voyage,” removing his hood slightly, she saw his long dark brown hair tumble down his shoulders. “I'm here to help you off the ship.”
“I don't need any help. I only hired you,” she whispered, “to get me on the ship. I can take care of myself.”
Looking at her with doubt, “You are the great-granddaughter of our Chief and even nobles such as yourself need help. Don't argue with me, my lady. I believe in your cause.”
* * *
A scream broke Saira's memory. Turning around, peeking from behind the massive tree she saw Jove leaned up against another tree not far from her. His belly was large and looked slightly misshapen. The man screamed in pain as his body rippled with contractions. She was not sure how far apart his contractions were, but from the size and odd shape of his belly she knew something was wrong. Hiding behind the tree again, Saira sat there in agony listening to the whaling pains of the spirited man just ten feet away.
“I can't do this anymore!” covering her ears desperately trying to block Jove's cries. It wasn't until Jove cried out her name, that she stumbled to her feet away from the tree. Moving closer to him she saw blood dripping from between his legs. “You're bleeding! How?” She then remembered the gold flaked holy water that Jyon had poured down Jove's throat when he was a baby. The holy water had made him half mortal and with that the basic problems that come with pregnancy and labor. Unlike Jove's situation, the other four brothers had fairly easy labors. It was only reincarnated energies they were giving birth to, not at all like real life babies. But what if Jove was the exception to this rule?
“Help me!” Jove cried, his face turning pale as the pain was getting to be way too much for him. His body was partly transformed female only between the legs, but that probably didn't account to change the shape of his hips.
Fishing in her back pocket of her shorts, pulling out a new large white cloth, she draped it across the dead leafy ground under Jove. His legs wobbled as he could no longer hold himself up. Sliding down the truck of the tree he fell fast against the ground amplifying the discomfort within him. With every slight movement trying to get comfortable the fetus would move violently against his body. Jove screamed again as the energy inside him grew more distressed.
“What do I do this time?” standing, backing away from him she began to panic. “I don't know what to do!”
“Saira, I...” his breath was more labored now, “need...your help! I can't do this alone!” he cried, tears streaming down his face. The shier fear expressed on his face didn't help Saira's nerves either. “Holy Mother, please!” Breathing faster, Jove braced himself for another contraction, this time it came forth with a lot more blood soaking the once white cloth.
Looking closer at him, she realized the energy fetus was breach. Kneeling down between his legs, “This is going to hurt, but I have to do this. I want you to take a deep breath and exhale once my hands are inside.” Positioning herself, she nodded to him. Inhaling, Jove closed his eyes as she moved her hands into the birth canal. “Exhale, Jove.” Feeling the fetus, she slowly turned it in the correct position head first. “Keep breathing.” Slowly taking her hands out, she threw away the blood soaked cloth and pulled out another fresh one. Feeling the back of her pocket, she realized it was the last cloth.
Able to take a break from all the pain, the color in his face returned to normal. “You are more than just the Chief's Great-granddaughter,” panting, he breathed weakly, his words slow as they fell from his lips. “Times change. Why did you come here? There must have been a reason. May it be passion of curiosity or basic childish wonder, you came here for a purpose,” he paused, “I need you. We need you more than ever. Please, don't run. It gets easier with time.”
“I'm afraid of what Great-grandfather will say to me. He does not know I'm here. This island is forbidden. What will become of me when I leave this place?” Worry swept over her mind as she crossed her arms holding her chest as though ready to tremble.
“I don't know, but I know we need you,” reaching out, his strength not yet returned he ached to hold her hand to give a moment of peace to her.
“I pulled you from the waters. I did not know who you were. I did not know why I did it,” cupping his out stretched hand, she held his hand close to her chest as though holding his beating heart.
“That matters not now. You came here with love for all of us even if you knew nothing. We guided you here through the dreaming. You are not going to return to the dreaming again, are you?” his blue eyes watered pleading with her.
“No, I can't do that. I've heard stories of how bad it can be.”
“Then you are strong in your actions. The actions you took that helped me and my brothers. You knew you had to come here even if that risk was great. You came with love. Does that change you? Yes.” leaning forward with a groan, he reached up to wipe a single tear from her cheek. “Does that ruin who you are? No.”
“But I don't know what to do. I wish...”
“Worry not. Love yourself and all will be found on the path in which you need to walk. You are the Chief's great-granddaughter. You are the start of something wild and beautiful.” A moments pause was ripped from him as a contraction pierced through his body. Leaning forward he pushed forward the pain from himself. Looking down, Saira saw a crown of ocean blue sparkling forth from between his legs. Gathering the white cloth in her hands she knelt waiting for the arrival. One more great push with a mighty grunt and yell, the last brother's energy reincarnated form was born. The ocean blue color shone brightly with specks of silver in its light. Wrapping the infant in the white cloth, she held it for a moment gazing at its faceless form. A tiny hand reached out searching for something to hold onto as she handed the bundle to Jove to hold for the first and final time.
Looking upon Jove's jubilant expression, she noticed his face began to show signs of mortal aging. Wrinkles appeared around his eyes and forehead slightly at first, but with every passing second the elder age of him became more apparent.
“I have to get you to the camp. Can you stand?” she asked helping him to his feet. Jove nodded.
The camp was quiet as Saira and Jove, with the new bundle in his arms, arrived at the main camp. Joining the rest of them by the night's fire, Jove sat quietly like the others on the cold; damp ground. The atmosphere was sullen. The five of them were still brothers to one another, however, it was as though each of them came out of their experience of childbearing like the pains and hell of war had happened upon them. A haunting afterglow of something still not changed in them was hoovering deathly close to an end. Slowly, each of them looked upon Jyon waiting for an answer in how to proceed. He was the oldest, but not quite the wisest. Each of them was wise in their own right of how they experienced this world together. Tonight, all weighted on Jyon to make a final decision.
Whispering, his head bowed, “Don't look at me. I don't have the answer,” Jyon held the copper glowing infant close to his chest hiding it almost bending his head over the infant's face. “I don't know anything.”
Delicately Saira made her way closer to them. With every step she was silent in showing respect to their looming sorrows. As Holy Mother, Saira had to guide him in the right direction. Like all loving parents, they wanted what was best for their children.
Kneeling beside Jyon, Saira whispered, “What is it that hurts you so?”
“I can't do this,” Jyon cried softly.
“What can you not do?”
“I can't...I won't let him go,” shivering in the coldness of the night from his naked body, he moved closer to the fire uncovering the copper shining infant. The fire light caught the glimmer of the energy that surrounded the baby making his father glow in a hint of the refracted light.
Looking closer at the brothers, Saira noticed they were all aging quicker by the minute. Catching onto the connection between them of one of their actions, she stepped forward. “You have to let the infant go, Jyon.”
“Why?” he cried, tears sliding down his cheeks. “This creation is mine. It will change like we did. That's how babies are, aren't they?”
“I don't think that's how it works in this case, Jyon. Look around you. Look upon your brothers for the answers you seek,” kneeling behind Jyon, Saira lifted his face to gaze upon them.
Gasped, Jyon saw a darkness looming around them. Age had crept upon them like a ghoul in the night. Wrinkles around their eyes and brow. Their lips thinning. Their hair slowly turning gray. The energy reincarnation infants in which they held so dear to their chests were dimming in light. No amount of fire or moonlight could revive them if this kept going. Letting their children go is what was needed, but the first one to do this act had to be Jyon. He knew this from the depths of his heart, but clung to it like a delicate porcelain butterfly.
Scrambling to his feet, Jyon ran through the forest cradling the infant in his arms. Running after him, no amount of her own running speed was able to catch up with him. He was gone in a flash heading towards the southern beach. The crack of branches. The flapping of broad leaves told Saira the direction in which he ran toward. Breaking through the forest at the beach edge, the double full moon captured a haunting glow on the sand and ocean waters. There by the cliff near the water's edge, Jyon sat upon the rocks in which he was originally found.
His desperate cries echoed onto the rocks beside him. The white cloth that was wrapped around the infant flapped in the breeze as it fell from Jyon's hands. The copper glow was fading. A darkening shadow crept onto Jyon's hands. Not sure if the Brothers could see this happening to them directly, Saira kept the details to herself so not to frighten them. Moving closer to him with each silent foot fall, Jyon held the infant tighter wanting to hide it from view.
Reaching out to touch the infant, Jyon jerked away. “You can't do this to yourself,” Saira urged kneeling before him. Jyon dared not look upon Saira as she spoke, “There is an order that must be upheld. Holding onto this child will do you no good,” looking around at the trees and bushes nearby, they began to darken and wilt. The sand began to turn black like shadow crawling in a looming mist. “All children must leave the nest. You know this. Let the child go with love and all will be forgiven.”
“I can't! I will never see this again,” Jyon lifted his gaze to hers. His hazel eyes were dimming, showing age with cataracts. He was dying. “What will become of me if I let him go?” looking up toward the tree line on the beach, Jyon's brothers appeared with their reincarnated babies in their arms wrapped in the sacred white cloth. Seeing finally what he refused to see, his brothers were in the same as he – aging and dying due to the basic actions of their eternal natures.
Time was slowing, but also speeding forward for them all. Saira could do nothing more for them. The shadow continued to creep onto Jyon as he sat there staring at the copper shining infant. Tears streamed down his face as his breath choked in his throat. The infant's life force was fading. Dimming like a distant star. Jyon did not know much of loving a child, more or less loving himself. Loving onto himself is what he clung to as though trying to hide from death.
Slowly he lifted his head to look upon his brothers who watched from a distance near the tree line. His brothers were aging. Their time had come. They had done the actions of the Goddess like they were told with noble cause. Looking beyond them, he saw the trees and other plants wilting around them. A darkness was creeping ever farther out from their dying bodies. Their reincarnation infants were also dimming in light. Closing his eyes, Jyon took a breath and let the child go. Dropping the baby to the sand, but just before it touched the ground Saira cradled it in her arms.
Looking to Jyon, she could not find the words. Jyon was fading. His form was that of light, dimming with a poetic grace. Standing she looked to the others, they were fading, too, but had enough energy left to give their infant reincarnations to Saira to care for.
What energy Lio had left, he waved his hand in a circle onto the sand. Moments later a large cedar box appeared with the remaining five white cloths. Laying each of the infants inside, still wrapped in white cloth, Saira watched as each of them faded out of sight. What was once flesh and blood; bone fairy men, was now fading drifts of starlight in the evening breeze. Jove was the last to fade off into nothing, but just moments before he began to fade he looked upon Saira one last time.
Kneeling before the cedar box with the infants inside, Saira watched with a heavy heart the last fairy man disappear into nothing. The energy of them all that had scattered into stardust was crystal in color, save for Jove. He faded into a ghost of shimmering silver light, but still faded into nothing like his brothers.
Watching the last remaining glimmers of stardust from all five of them fade into the distance of the night sky out toward the ocean, Saira began to cry. She knew she would never see them again as long as she lived. However, there was a tiny bit of hope left. Smiling at the faceless reincarnations they left behind she knew what she had to do next. It was going to be a long haul up the incline, but she had to get these energies to the caverns for safe keeping.
Bringing back some rope from the main camp, she hauled the cedar box with the precious cargo to the Viewing Pool Caverns. A location in which she never showed the Brothers, she knew they would see this beautiful place by their newer selves someday. The Viewing Pool was west of the clearing and east of the waterfalls. A small cave, but deep enough into the stone of the island, that she knew she could seal it if need be. The interior of the cave was plan in stone structure, but at the floor of it stood five stalagmite pool structures that were large enough to place an infant into.
Gathering each one at a time having them still wrapped in white cloth, Saira placed them in. They're energy bodies were at half the strength in which they were born. The amount of time that lapsed in letting them go had drained them nearly to death. But as she laid each one into their own pool of water, submerging them fully, the infants returned to full glowing strength. Each glowed brightly for a few moments, but then dimmed. Their bodies were still the full color of which they were born – copper, gold, emerald, ruby and blue topaz. The very moment the last infant was placed in its stone crib, the water became still and glassed over like crystal. The light for which each of them emoted had gone dormant. A hibernation to wait out the future.