Citlali pulled one last clump of grass from the water and watched as the fish hiding in the roots scattered in a flash of pale tails. Looking up, she decided it was time to head home; the k'allampa was already fading from brilliant yellow to the sickly green that preceded Total Dark and she had promised Nanuq and Rayen that she would tell them a story before bed.
She checked to make sure she hadn't left anything in the grass before swinging her basket of grasses and herbs onto her back and heading for the long narrow shaft that made this cave one of the less frequented ones within a day's walk despite the wealth of herbs that grew there. Opening the gate and closing it behind her, Citlali grabbed the poles firmly stuck in the ground on either side of the access tunnel and lowered her right foot until she found the first foothold. Then, cahuani crystal around her neck to light the way, Citlali began the long climb down the shaft.
Isi looked up as the door opened and sighed in relief when Citlali stepped through looking tired but uninjured.
"I was worried," she said, stepping forward to take the basket of herbs as Citlali swung it off her back. Citlali at least had the good grace to look contrite as she stored her cahuani crystals and stepped forward to accept a hug and kiss.
"I'm sorry, I know I should have come back sooner, but I wanted to make sure I had enough atlinan for the fever season and there was a slide blocking the Mezin tunnel." She leaned into Isi’s arms and soaked into the warmth of her lover. "Are the kids already asleep? I promised to tell them a story."
Isi laughed lightly, pulling back. "You think they would let you get out of that? They're all tucked in waiting for you." With a quick kiss and a playful shove Isi pushed her mate toward the back of the house where their children eagerly waited for their bedtime story.
When she entered their room Nanuq and Rayen were standing in their pajamas attempting to juggle cahuani crystals. When they saw her they grabbed their crystals and jumped into bed, hiding the crystals under their covers and pitching the room into darkness. Citlali rolled her eyes.
“I guess everyone is asleep and doesn’t need a story tonight,” she said, turning back to the open door. The crystals reappeared. Citlali grinned at the twin innocent looks on her children’s faces.
“What story would you guys like tonight?” she asked, settling in the chair between the two beds.
“Shaggy the Aptosaurus!” two voices chorused.
“Well then, Shaggy it will be!” And Citlali settled back and began her story.
"Long ago, before velociraptors stalked the earth, the People lived on the surface and life was good. But then the velociraptors came. Some went below, and became the People of the Caves, and others went above, and became the people of the Air. And some sailed across the sea, and we do not know what became of them. But for a short time some lived in between, in the caves in the mountains and the plateaus surrounding them, and it is these people on whom our story focuses. And in particular, two of these people, Raven and Newt, were…”
“Hey!” Nanuq made his traditional interruption. “I’m not a newt!”
“Yes you are!” Rayen shot back immediately, sticking her tongue out at her younger brother.
“This story isn’t about you, Nanuq, what would make you think that?” Nanuq rolled his eyes and Citlali continued. “Anyway, as I was saying, the heroes of our story are Raven and Newt, a young brother and sister, and their trusty companion Shaggy the Aptosaurus.
One day Newt and Raven and Shaggy were wandering across the high plateaus by their home cave. It was the surface season of winter, which lasted three of our seasons, and was so cold the water turned solid. There was a substance on the ground the People called snow, which was small bits of solid water that fell from the world ceiling. The snow was deep and Newt and Raven were riding on Shaggy’s back in order to move through it more easily. What do you guys think they found in the snow?” Citlali looked between Rayen and Nanuq.
“A velociraptor!” Nanuq shouted.
“They found a velociraptor last time,” Rayen complained. “They should do something different this time.”
“Do you have any suggestions, Rayen?”
“They could go on an archeological dig,” Rayen suggested.
“Aw, Rayen, that’s lame!” Newt complained.
Citlali interrupted before a full-scale fight could erupt. “Ok, I get the idea. We’ll get some archeological or physics in and some action. Here we go. Raven and Newt and Shaggy were wandering across the plateau when they saw someone ahead of them on the plain. As they got closer the figure resolved into an old woman bundled in so many layers of cloth against the cold that only her eyes were showing. At first she appeared to be floating through the air, but as she came closer they realized she rode a triceratops with a hide the same color as the ground. The old woman came to a stop in front of them and swung down off of the triceratops. Newt and Raven climbed down off of Shaggy.
‘Merry meet, Grandmother,’ Raven said.
‘Merry meet, child,’ the old woman said. ‘I have a mission for you children if you are prepared for an adventure.’
‘We are always prepared for an adventure,’ Newt said excitedly.
The old woman looked at Raven until she nodded as well.
‘Very well, your mission, since you’ve chosen to accept it, is to retrieve the Blanket of Peaceful Rest from the Mare Nubium on the Moon, where Fox took it after stealing it from Mother Meadow during his argument with Squirrel.’”
“What’s the Blanket of Peaceful Rest?”
“What’s a squirrel?” Nanuq and Rayen interrupted at the same time. Looking at each other, they giggled.
“The Blanket of Peaceful Rest is a beautiful spirit blanket made of flower petals said to give the perfect night’s sleep to any who touch it. A squirrel is like a furry grey bat with no wings and a long fluffy tail. Any more questions?”
Rayen and Newt shook their heads.
“Very well, where were we?”
“They were going to the moon!”
“Right. After accepting the mission Raven and Newt climbed back onto Shaggy and looked at each other.
‘How are we supposed to get to the moon?’ Newt asked Rayen after the old lady had disappeared into the snow.
Turning his head around, Shaggy butted Newt gently. ‘I will fly you, of course, you silly goose.’
Raven and Newt gaped at Shaggy. ‘You can fly?’ Raven exclaimed surprised. ‘How come you’ve never flown us anywhere before?’
‘Why, because you never needed to go anywhere I needed to fly you before,’ Shaggy replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Which, once Raven thought about it, it was.
‘Now hold on tight and cover your faces, it is very cold between here and the moon.’ Shaggy said, and Raven and Newt did he said. Once they were settled, Shaggy took a couple of running steps and leapt into the air, his long neck stretching in front of them toward the moon above and his tail beating rhythmically behind him, propelling them on.
They flew for a long time. It was cold and the ground grew very small below them, but the moon stayed the same size in front of them. They flew over a tall pointed mountain and then out over the sea where tall ships sailed. They flew on and on, and Newt and Raven drifted off to sleep.”
Citlali paused and looked between Nanuq and Rayen. They both opened their eyes wide and grinned at her. Shaking her head, she continued.
“Finally, Raven and Newt were awakened by a jolt as Shaggy landed. They looked around at the landscape, which did not look much different from what they had left. The ground was still white, with mountains around them, except instead of snow, it was a fine, powdery soil. Jumping from Shaggy’s back, they found that instead of falling to the ground, as they were accustomed, they floated beside him.
‘We can fly!’ they cried.
‘Everyone can fly on the moon,’ Shaggy replied. ‘For the moon is a magical place and different things are possible here.’
They spent some time exploring their new abilities before settling down to confer with Shaggy.
‘Where do we go from here?’ Raven asked. ‘The moon seems like a very big place, and we don’t know where to look.’
‘We must follow the colors,’ Shaggy replied, pointing with his tail at the horizon. Sure enough, across a small section of the horizon stretched a sunset all the colors of the rainbow. Taking to the air, they all began to fly in the direction of the colors. They flew for a long time over mountains and ravines and plains, all the same color of grey, while the colors in front of them bled and changed. Finally they arrived at the edge of a canyon and looked over the edge to where the colors were shining from the bottom.
‘Wheeeee!’ Newt shouted, jumping over the edge. Shaggy and Raven followed with a tad more decorum. At the bottom of the canyon they followed the colors until they found them streaming from the mouth of a cave. In front of the cave, creating ripples in the ribbons of color, was a large white human figure wearing a blue shawl with a red neck tie and a flat white hat. Gathering together into a tight group, Newt, Raven, and Shaggy approached cautiously. As they got closer the figure, its face contorted to a grimace, and it reached its arms out and started advancing toward them. They stopped and backed up.
‘How do we get past it?’ Newt asked.
‘Do you know what it is?’ Raven asked.
‘I do not know what it is,’ Shaggy said. ‘But I do know that you two, together, have what you need to get past it, though I do not know exactly how. I am afraid that from here on you two must go by yourselves.’
Newt and Raven nodded in understanding and each gave Shaggy a hug. Then, taking hands, they stepped forward to face the puffy white man.
‘What do you think we have that will get us into the cave?’ Newt asked Raven nervously. ‘I don’t think we can defeat this creature with words or logic or run past it.’
‘But Shaggy said we have what we need.’ Raven thought for a moment. ‘Perhaps we can fly past?’ Newt shrugged, and together they jumped into the air and headed once again toward the cave. As they approached, the man also flew up. They stopped abruptly and flew backwards as the creature came toward them again.
‘Or not,’ Rayen said as they settled back to the ground at what seemed to be a safe distance.
‘Now what?’ Newt asked.
‘Well, Shaggy said that different things are possible here. Maybe we can do more than just fly.’
‘I don’t know. Maybe we can be invisible, or walk through walls or something.’
‘Maybe we can shoot lightning from our fingers!’ Newt suggested excitedly. Raven rolled her eyes, but grabbed Newt’s hand again.
‘Well, that’s easier to test that being invisible or walking through walls. Though I would rather not kill it if we don’t have to. Maybe your lightning bolts could really be magic nets that tie it up?’
Newt shrugged. ‘That wouldn’t be nearly as fun, but I suppose it would be better.’
‘Good.’ Raven nodded decisively. ‘You show me how to do it, then, and I’ll follow along.’
Newt gripped Raven’s hand tighter with his left and extended his right hand in front of him with his fingers splayed out. Raven copied him with her left hand, and slowly they walked forward together. As the puffy man raised his arms and began to move toward them, Newt flicked his fingers, spraying lines of fire across the puffy man. Raven copied him and five more lines of fire wrapped around the figure guarding the cave, binding his legs where Newt’s lines had bound its arms. The figure topped over and lay twitching on the ground. Grinning at each other, Newt and Raven jumped into the air and flew into the cave. There, draped over a stone bed carved out of the cave wall, was the most beautiful blanket either of them had ever seen. It rippled with every color imaginable, shifting slowly so that the colors seemed to flow from pattern to pattern, but never static.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Raven said in awe. Newt nodded and then gave a big yawn.
‘Maybe we should take a quick nap before we head back,’ he suggested. ‘Shooting lightning ropes from your fingers really takes it out of a guy.’
Raven nodded, yawning herself. ‘Surly a quick nap won’t hurt, and with that blanket it is bound to be the best nap we have ever had.’
Together they went over to the stone bed and lay down on top of the changing colors of the blanket. Almost instantly they fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
When they awoke again they were no longer in a cave on the moon, but in their own beds in their own cave. Newt rubbed his eyes and looked at Raven.
‘Do you remember? Did it happen?’
‘Yeah,’ Raven responded. ‘It happened. Didn’t it?’
Together they went out to the main cave to find Shaggy. They finally found Shaggy curled up asleep on a pile of old blankets and evergreen fronds.
‘Shaggy!’ Newt cried, running over to shake him awake. Shaggy came awake with a snort, shaking his head and blinking his eyes rapidly before glaring at Newt.
‘Why’d you wake me up, I was have the most glorious dream,’ Shaggy complained.
‘Did it happen?’ Raven asked urgently. ‘And where’s the blanket?’ And how’d we get back?’
‘You woke me up for that?’ Shaggy grumbled. ‘I told you things are different on the moon. Go back to bed.’ And with that Shaggy lay down with his tail over his eyes and began to snore.
Realizing they would get no more out of him that night, Newt and Raven did as he said and went back to bed. The End.”
Citlali reached up and closed the screens on all but one of the crystal baskets, which she left cracked. Nanuq and Rayen snuggled down under their covers, and she went to each and kissed them goodnight before closing the door behind her.
Walking through the house, she found Isi in her workroom going through the herbs Citlali had gathered that day.
‘The kids settled in?” Isi asked as Citlali wrapped her arms around her from behind.
“Mmmhmm.” Citlali mumbled into her hair. “We had the further adventures of Newt, Raven, and Shaggy the Aptosaur. You almost done here?”
“Just. Done.” Isi chopped the last two roots off the herbs and dumped them in the basket before turned and putting her arms around Citlali and kissing her slowly. Pulling back she grabbed Citlali’s hand and tugged her towards their bedroom. “The rest can wait until morning.”