17. The Unfinished Song

…you, so at least you’ll match.”

“Mmmrrff,” said Dindi, while her mother wiped the cloth over her mouth. “My mother loved dancing too,” Mama said. An old hurt quivered in her words. “She loved it more than me. Shortly after I was born, she abandoned me to dance with the fae. They caught her in a faery circle and she danced herself to death. Her sister had to raise me in her place. That’s why your great aunt worries so over you.”

She lifted Dindi’s chin and inspected her face for any trace of blueberry. Apparently she found none.

“I understand you love to dance. I do, Dindi. You cannot know how well I understand.” She stroked Dindi’s cheek. ”But I would never choose dancing over you.”

“Why can’t I have both?”

Mama was silent a moment. “My mother used to sing me a song. The night before she left me forever, when I was still just a tiny child, she told me it was part of an ancient tama, and if only she could dance that tama, to the end, she would never have to leave me. She didn’t know how the song ended, so she hadn’t performed the tama correctly during Initiation, but she never gave up trying. She thought the fae could help her learn it.... I was too young to understand that she was really saying goodbye. The unfinished the song began like this:

Came a faery cross some kits 
Suckling at their mother’s tits,
Pawing, kneading with their mits;
‘neath these tiny, mewling bits
Ma, content to laze Hid in a row of maize.

Cat and kittens were all a-purr. 
Their mama licked and cleaned their fur.
Cat met the faery’s eyes, demure,
And yet with pride ablaze.
Strange the mood that crept on her,
She watched them in amaze.

To her came her darkest sister,
Put her arms about her, kissed her
Drew her to her in the middle
Of the twisted ways,
Whispered in her ear this riddle:
‘Chose the Windwheel or the Maize!’”

Chills whispered down Dindi’s spine. A reverberating hum of the song echoed in the room for a few seconds after Mama finished signing.

"Raise Ravens" by Bedova Ekaterina

Mama expelled a heavy breath. “Over the years, I have asked everyone I know about that song. No one knows it. A long time ago, a Green Woods tribeswoman, fleeing the Whistlers who ruled the Rainbow Labyrinth tribehold in those days, told me that perhaps the Zavaedi with the Singing Bow would know the tune. But the Green Woods tribesfolk have retreated to the Hidden Forest.” She shrugged. “Perhaps all our worries are wasted. I truly hope you will be chosen to become a Tavaedi. And if not....”

“I’m sorry, Mama,” said Dindi. Her jaw hurt, so hard did she clench it. “I think I’m more like Gramma Maba than like you.”

Mama touched her cheek. “Eat,” she said. “Eat, already.”

* * *  


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About the Artist

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"Part of Nature" by Bedova Ekaterina