Chapter Seven – In The Clearing Kira was very alert now. The way Zoosk had reacted about crossing the bridge gave her goosebumps. Her hair was standing on end, and her instincts were awakened. The rocky path seemed to narrow more as they climbed higher, reaching the peak of the hill, but not yet defeating the mountain. The air was chilly and crisp. There was no smell of wood burning up here, only fresh air.
As they came to what appeared to be the end of the path, where brush and weeds overtook any hint of a traveled trail, Aedan stepped into the shrubs and reached out for Kira’s hand. Guiding her along through the thick undergrowth of the forest, they soon came to a clearing with a looming tree and a large boulder in the middle.
Kira let go of Aedan’s hand and kept walking toward the boulder. It had a large crack down the middle, and one side seemed to lean over too far. Kira could see that if you were to piece the two sides together properly, they would resemble a large table.
“Is this Table Rock? The one from the story?” Kira asked, surprised at the scene in front of her.
“It is. This is the place where sacred ceremonies were once held. The village was once not far down the mountain side. As we had to adapt to more farming and less hunting, villages moved further down the mountain. This is a lost place to our people. Not many come here anymore, and those that do are usually just here to hunt. Special ceremonies are a thing of the past.
Kira found herself running her fingers over the rough surface of the boulder. She could almost feel an energy in the air, but brushed it off as just her own excitement. The stories were coming to life. She never dreamed that such thrilling stories had a real tie to her own heritage.
“And this, this is the Tree of Life? The one with a sweet nectar?” Kira gingerly stepped over to the looming tree whose branches seemed to span half of the clearing.
“The Tree of Life, yes. This is a sacred tree that produces a sweet nectar that our ancestors thought to be sacred. It was believed that it aided in the development of one’s powers.”
“Father, what is so dangerous about this place? Why do we carry these scians with us?”
“There are animals here that we do not typically run into down in our village. Wolves, bears… they can be dangerous and aggressive to people who pass into this area, as it has been long abandoned by our kind. We must be careful and alert, watching for danger.”
Kira glanced around the edge of the clearing, looking for signs of life other than the birds, bees, and small creatures she had seen scampering in the tall grass.
Aedan stepped up to the tree trunk, touching the chestnut-brown bark with his calloused hands. Mumbling a few words quietly, he stretched his arms up to the lowest growing tree limb. Barely reaching it, he managed to keep hold while walking his hands to the end of the limb, pulling it down.
One of the branches growing off the end of the large branch snapped off into Aedan’s hand, a yellowish liquid began dripping slowly from the injured tree. Aedan grabbed his small copper cup from the hook on his sack, catching the sticky liquid just in time. Minutes later, there was enough liquid to sip down in one swallow, and Aedan handed the cup to Kira.
“Many years ago, this process would have taken several men a whole day to gather the nectar for the Rites of Passage ceremony. Today, we gather enough for you to sip on and ask the gods to bless you.”
Kira took the copper mug, holding it in cupped hands, peering into the golden liquid sitting at the bottom. Aedan again rummaged in his sack, and produced a silver medallion that was fastened to a dark purple ribbon. The medallion was tarnished and beaten. Kira imagined that it was once gleaming silver, polished regularly to keep it sparkling.
Aedan lifted the ribbon over Kira’s head and around her neck, the medallion dropping lightly onto Kira’s chest. Her heart began to thump with excitement. “We don’t have the proper robes, face paint, or elders to do a true Rites of Passage, Kira. However, you are of age, and this is something that I never took part in. We will do the best we can, so I will have you repeat after me.
Aedan spoke to the gods with his hands stretched up in the air, asking them to bless his daughter with the gift that they chose. Then told her to repeat his prayer.
Bless me, sacred with the light upon me – light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon me like a large bonfire, so that stranger and friend may warm themselves at it.
And may your light shine out of mine two eyes, like a candle set in a windowsill, bidding aimless souls to seek shelter from the storm.
And may the blessing of rain be on me, that the spirits of the gods wash me clean, leaving a shining blue in my eyes, like the sky where the stars guide the way.
And may the blessing of the earth be upon me, that the ground be soft as I journey on the paths you provide, and that the ground be soft for when I need to lie and rest upon it, and that my needs are met by your gifts placed here to nourish me, body and soul.
And may the blessing of the gods be upon me to protect me from those who wish to see your will undone. That you provide me with the powers I need to fight for you, and to fight for me.
So be it, as you will.
Kira repeated each phrase, mimicking her father’s pose, feeling a vibration in her chest growing with each word. The copper mug she held in her trembling hands now rose to her lips, and she drank down the sweet liquid it held. Her face flushed, turning pink and feeling warm and vibrant. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, she wanted to cry because of the beautiful prayer. She also wanted to cry because she felt like her mother was watching her as she completed the prayer, she had heard the familiar humming in her mind.
Aedan also had unshed tears threatening to spill over as he leaned in and hugged Kira. “You are now a woman. And you are now a protector. I must now show you what you are to protect.” He picked up his sack and started for the far edge of the grove, Kira following his footsteps