Characters: Miina Awenata

Miina was working on re-routing the power relay path for the main systems and trying to make sense of what the Chief had just told her. Another Ranger, responsible for the death of Maenier, was now also responsible for the masked, subdued panic that reigned throughout the ship. Little wonder that Katia had come into the ‘wake’ hours earlier looking like she had seen a ghost. Even though Miina had been wearing the splendid Minbari robe, her gift from Kerel — a vision of blues and greens and delicate embroidery, she had begun to feel once again as if she was invisible, and for someone of her stature, that was quite a feat in itself.

As her hands moved across the circuit transfer-board of the lower hull where she was working, she felt an almost conscious shudder, but she had no time to react. Time stood still and then moved forward in slow motion as she saw the relay housing buckle and the entire power conduit explode in her face. A flash of blinding light seemed to grow until she was standing (or was she lying down?) in the middle of it. Someone was speaking to her, and there were hands on her hands, as if someone was trying to take a look at her injuries, and she wondered if she had been taken to sickbay.

Then she was sitting on someone’s lap and was cradling her head in her hands, and trying to block out the brilliant glare and the stabbing pain. For an instant, the mental image of her tall frame being perched on Dr. Trassano’s lap was enough to prompt a smile, despite the pain. But the voice spoke again, and called her ‘Granddaughter.’ And it was a familiar and beloved voice that she recognized instantly.

“And did the firelight give you a vision, my granddaughter?” Grandfather asked her, as he held her close to him. “Is that what you are trying to hide from?”

“It was so bright…” she whispered, describing explosion. She waited for a response, for another piece to the strange puzzle to explain the jumble of events she found herself in. It was now, but wasn’t it then? Didn’t she remember this happening when she was but a small child? Something deep in her memory stirred, yet happened for the first time, and she was aware of the hands again. They took her hands away from her face, and then, as she knew he would, her grandfather looked lovingly into her eyes.

She smiled, though it was a poor word for the joy she felt upon seeing him again, and she slipped her arms around his chest, and hugged him tightly. Curiously, her arms didn’t meet. Then she drew her knees up, so she could snuggle further into his lap for comfort, and sensed that she was somehow a mere lapful of a child and far from reaching her full height.

“Then gaze on the moon for strength, Miina, and tell me what the firelight has shown you.”

“A g-giant bird, Grandfather,” the child inside of her said, speaking of a dream. As she grasped for the memory, it slipped through the fingers of her mind, but suddenly the child’s voice made it bright and vivid. “A giant bird who dies in a blazing flame, and is born again from the ashes.”

“A giant bird…” he repeated softly. “Yes, I have seen it too. And it will take you far away from here, past the moon, to stars we cannot even see.”

“But I don’t want to go away without you, Grandfather!” the child protested, drawing back.

“Hush,” he soothed. “The great bird will not come for a long time,” he said softly, “and when it does, you will be ready.” The child blinked the eyes that Miina watched through, and nodded solemnly as the last four words seemed to take root in her soul.

You will be ready. The words echoed inside her head and seemed to stretch out in her mind like a well-traveled road linking the past with the present, the present with the future. Miina knew she was not dreaming nor having a vision. She was here, by the firelight, in Grandfather’s arms, both child and woman.

“And when you go, you shall take me with you, Miina Awenata.”

“Then I am glad,” the small child said smiling. The voice sounded hollow in her ears, but she joined the small voice as her memory prompted her to do. “But I will miss the forest,” they said solemnly. “The forest and the streams and the animals, and Tadewi, and the Grandmother…”

But Grandfather only cupped her chin in his leathered hand, and made her look at him. “Then you shall take them all with you.” He paused and looked deep into her eyes, and Miina knew that he was waiting for her to speak, to say the words, like a scene in a well-rehearsed play that moves and twists and arcs, yet is created out of single words. Her next words would once again allow his Nightsong to unfold as it had so many years ago.

“Shall I, Grandfather?” she asked. “Will you teach me?” Then she bent her head down, remembering him stroking her hair, and then speaking to her in the Sacred Prayer Tongue that sounded to her childish ears like both wind and water playing with a prayer flute. Yet now, in the midst of the melody, she found his voice floating atop the water, being blown by the wind.

“You see, my granddaughter?” he asked. His weathered, tanned features formed a warm smile as his hand slipped down from her hair to her chin again. “You have seen everything that makes up who you are.” He paused. “And who you became, and now we shall see it again, and for the first time.”

“But Grandfather,” she said softly, hearing his words and scarcely allowing herself to realize what she knew to be true, “How can you know what has happened? How is that possible?”

He smiled. “The ability to see is always there, but it is a far different thing to have been given sight…” He paused. “All that you see this night shall sustain you…until the darkness has vanished.” And once again, as he had all those years ago, he lifted her to his shoulders, and carried her away from the campfire into the forest to begin a nightlong trek under the starry sky, and as he walked, he sang the wonders of creation all the way along.

Copyright (c) 1998 Judy Caswell. All rights reserved.

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