Episode 3—The Blind Moon
The old shaman blinked his dim eyes. The Crystal City sighed under Buraindomun, the Blind Moon, and the blue veins that usually pulsed through the stone slept.
Kyran stared at the Soul Tree, at the final pulse of light that hung in the fruit. On this night every year the shaman told the same story while his people waited for the pain.
“My children,” the shaman’s hands unfolded from the sleeves of his silk robes, “on this night of the moon’s rebirth, the crystal returns to the sea and we must remember.” He waited for the words to settle in the garden.
He’s good at that, Kyran frowned, waiting until the silence pulls on your insides and you can’t breathe.
People shifted in the grass. A child, one of those born every few hundred years among the Soul Seers, leaked out a whine that was snipped off by her mother’s hand.
The shaman reached for the child, a small girl with her black hair bound into a single braid. Her mother set the girl on her feet and pushed her toward the old man. The girl stepped tentatively forward, then tripped and fell on the grass. Before she could cry, Kichi lifted her onto the shaman’s lap where she clutched at his silk robes.
“You are new to us, child,” the shaman said in a soothing pitch, “a new soul to fill the place of one who has returned to the sea. I am an old soul, and I remember. I remember how it was before we became the children of the Healing Mother a thousand years ago, and when I die, another child will be born to replace me. That is the balance of the young and the old, life and death, healing and pain.”
Kyran had been three the first time she sat with the people around the Soul Tree, a stranger to the Soul Seers and the caves. She had sat on the shaman’s lap just as this little girl, her eyes wide with the unknown.
The night of the Blind Moon was a night when the people remembered and forgot. A night when the veins of crystal went dark and then flowed red. A night of pain and blindness.
For Kyran, it was a night of sitting still so long that her legs cramped and the small of her back ached through to her belly button, a night of screaming and nightmares, but she knew it mattered to her father and to Kichi, to the people who had tried to be her people. She sat still and kept her eyes on the fruit.
I wonder if this little girl will have nightmares, too.
“We are the children of the sisters, of Senso no Haha the Fighting Mother, and Iyashino Haha the Healing Mother. We cannot see, but before the Islands bled for us, we were blind. We followed our Fighting Mother through the deserts and the mountains. We fashioned weapons and we fought our brothers on the mainland. We killed. We raped. We severed families and burned the land. We brought pain into the world.”
With the shaman’s careful words, the last of the blue light in the fruit gave up and faded to black. Kyran took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
The shaman continued, his voice hypnotic. “And we watched. We saw the blood. We saw the trees twist and scream in the flames. We saw the empty eyes of the dead and the soulless. I remember.”
Kyran could almost feel the old man’s voice on her skin, like silk threads. The last two words rippled through the people as a murmur, even though, as far as she knew, the shaman was the only one left among them who had been alive those thousand years ago.
“We saw, but we were blind. Healing Mother wept for our pain, and her tears drowned the flames of Senso no Haha, and the Fighting Mother fell into the sea of her sister’s tears. Iyashino Haha caught Senso no Haha’s hand as she sunk into the water, and the Healing Mother fell, too, but with her other hand, she caught the shoreline of the dragon and the fish, and still she holds them there, both sisters lying in the water, one blue and one red.”
The child whined again, and Kyran understood. She was still a stranger to this ritual even after thirteen years of sitting with them around the Soul Tree, a stranger to the cleansing pain that came with the crimson glow in the veins of the stone. The child did not know why she was terrified, but Kyran knew, and her heart ached for the little girl.
It is to purge the pain, little one, Kyran wished she could speak to the child, gather her in her arms and carry her to the cliffs where the water rushed against the shore and the wind blew the screaming out to the sea. But the little girl was a Soul Seer, and the pain was part of the cycle of healing. In time she will understand, but the thought did not offer Kyran any comfort.
The shaman took a deep breath, “The Healing Mother opened her heart to the children of the Fighting Mother. We passed through the Mists and became Iyashino Haha’s children. We laid down our weapons and entered through the Gates of Peace, the waterfall that guards our caves and our Soul Tree. The blood of the Healing Mother, the blue crystal, runs in our veins as a gift so that we may welcome the children of the Fighting Mother and restore peace to their souls. We traded our fighting eyes for the eyes of the soul. We cannot see, but we are no longer blind.”
“On this night of the Blind Moon, the Healing Mother stops the beating of her heart so that the red blood of her sister may flow through our veins. When it flows back to its mother under the sea made of Iyashino Haha’s tears, it carries with it the grief and torment we have eased from the souls of Senso no Haha’s children. We laid down our weapons and chose to heal, and in exchange for this gift, we endure this one night of pain. That is our balance.” The shaman’s voice rose with tense expectation.
The first hint of red started at the base of the Soul Tree. Kyran did not need to open her eyes to know that it was there. She had seen it before, she heard the people’s restlessness as crystal the color of blood flowed through them and shone in their eyes. The little girl whimpered as the people tensed and sucked in their breath, steeling themselves for the onslaught of a year’s worth of relieving pain from others. Kyran found the darkness in her soul and fed it, letting it fill her and wrap around her like a cloak. As the darkness closed in around her eyes, she caught a glint of crimson through her eyelids.
And as she knew it would come, as it came every year on the night of the Blind Moon, the screaming began.
What do you think of Kyran and the Soul Seers? What should I call they world that holds their Islands?