Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not.
People just don’t know what civilian prisoners of war are.
Empathy is the antidote to shame.
– Brene Brown
Do not fear the Opposites
Who insist upon
A brutish bunch
But angels never die
– Song of the Washer Woman, Verse III
We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.
– Jim Gritter
After traveling into the past, Oracion felt she could now surmise why she had forgotten what happened during the night as a child, the night that she realized Mother had become an Opposite (what most people called in those days, a Dream Snatcher). Forgetting Elements must have been placed in the small hearth that graced Oracion’s bedroom, which had rarely been lit.
For the next morning, when younger Oracion had found herself so ill, and her father injured (but still holding her in his arms, weeping) the room was filled with the smoky evidence of a hearth fire. Dark, curly entrails had already covered and settled into meager furnishings like an obscuration of sheet covers strewn out of thick fog. Father’s clothing was covered with the soot of it, as if in recent attempt to smother it out, and as if he, having arriving much later than the moment he wished, stamped it out with bare feet.
At that time, Child Oracion hadn’t been concerned with the fire that had threatened her or the bedroom furnishings, for she was all concerned for Father, and for Mother, who had been taken.
“Will we get her back?” Oracion had asked.
“I do not know” Father had told her, and she read the pain in his eyes, for certainly even his honesty cost him. “I fear she is dead. So, if you ever see someone who looks like her, be wary, Oracion. Do you understand me? Be wary. So many things in your castle are not what they appear to be, and many persons in this kingdom want you dead, my precious daughter. My precious…my innocent, my much beloved daughter.”
Oracion sorrowed that he was brought to tears once again, sad that now he wept for her, but was also not concerned with the notion that she, as a princess, was the target of many malevolent forces. If Mother could already be dead, Oracion’s grief was all consuming.
Also, it was the time of the Priestly Conferences and the Cases, which coexisted with Stag Hunt. It was early spring.
Oracion had a fear of which she could not let go, that her Noble Beast, due to the unique and genetically rare antler formation upon his head, would get mistaken for a stag and murdered for profit, the priests too busy to notice, or even to care.
She remembered sneaking out to look out the window of her turret bedroom many times during this illness (she had been ordered to stay in bed) watching the hooded prelates below, who scurried busily to and fro, constructing their tents before dawn. They carried with them stacks of darkly oiled, tightly bound parchment, unscrolling them occasionally to examine undecipherable script, by the light of double trikerion lamps, held aloft on gilded swords.
The bright light from these golden sconces and from the priests multiple campfires, had cast an ominously powerful, pulsating glow, and frightening shadows upon the hunters, transforming ordinary men’s faces as they passed through the hooded prelates. The hunters appeared to young Oracion then in a form she would later recognize as dichobots. They were very much like the soldiers they were, but their eyes glazed over with the lure of their own growing, brute animal instinct.
Oracion amused herself then (as a distraction from these cumulative events) by practicing her shape shifting skills, but she had yet to advance from sandpiper, to dove, or even to sparrow.
And each transformation cost her, much like Father’s dutiful honesty revealed, through his eyes, a heartache of monstrous proportion. Shifting seemed to exacerbate Oracion’s illness, weakening her own heart further, and triggered it into random, flittering convulsions, which ultimately passed. But Oracion imagined, in retrospect, this is why Father warned her not to practice warrior skills. She was still too young. Disobedient Oracion none the less felt watching the prelates from the secret vantage of being a bird or by cloaking herself as a mouse, and from the added leverage of height (while remaining tucked up safely upon her own window ledge) was way too entertaining and distracting to resist.
Truly, shifting was the only power she could leverage against hooded prelates, some of whom were even bishops, while gaining a mastery over herself. It seemed like she was prisoner, not a princess, held hostage in her own castle, which was also becoming a place she barely recognized, and had no permission to gain.
Now, when Oracion in the present traveled through time to visit her Child Self Past, it cost her physically much in the same manner that learning shape shifting had cost her then. However, she was a master shape shifter who had long since matured from the days of earlier lessons, and when she time traveled from the present to the past, she was sure to take along her fairy godmothers, Velocity, Alacrity and Joy. Though fairy godmothers were at the same time children, they were companionable and reliable adult guides, especially after Chagrin had transformed herself into Joy. Oracion knew they would never leave her abandoned should she fall ill in journey, for if they were anything (child or adult) – they were ever faithful.
Yet, she wondered oft why this business of gifting “godmothers” to princesses was more like turning princesses into “mothers”, of loving (but at the same time, precocious) children. “Who is training up who?” she had often jested with them, readjusting the woodland wreaths they had merrily woven, then placed half hazard and crooked, upon their own heads. Admittedly Oracion enjoyed watching their innocent, but wild revels in the wood, and their petal-costumed dance. But for a wandering villager to unexpectedly come across Oracion’s dancing nymphs, it would have been more unsettling for them than coming across a moonlit, empty grave, in that rarely traveled, wooded byway.
The Sacred Presence knew Oracion loved and trusted in her godmothers, much in the same manner that she had loved and trusted in Father, Noble Beast, or the madonna that now appeared in the wood, who seemed to prefer and therefore reside somewhere in the thicket that at one time had been Father’s pear orchard.
There was a certain, ever untamable aspect about Oracion’s love for these few. Though there were those she loved with a restrained love, tempered with politeness, nurtured and matured with age, Oracion’s love for her own was a wild and uncontainable thing. For there was a wild and uncontainable thing to each of them. Each would give their very life for the other. And the Presence was pleased that Oracion loved in this manner and trusted the fairy godmothers (or shall we call them fairy godchildren) to protect her.
Oracion knew this was true because this was what the madonna had confirmed.
The pear tree copse (by the power of time) had shifted itself as well, into wondrous trunks and strong branches that now grew to magnificent heights, interspersed occasionally with jade green pine, as if with bold, avant -garde, artistic intent. Oracion and the godmothers would take violet and fern, weaving not wreaths but desiring to cast petals about the madonna’s feet (the godmothers’ idea) while she spoke to them, in that steady and silent, maternal voice. The kindly lady would gently submit to this, the Showering of Petals as Joy liked to call it, so gracious she was, inside and out. She was even more beautiful than Oracion’s own mother had been, and Mother had been an Etherate.
Oracion noticed that the madonna also wore upon her head a crown of more exquisite gems than Mother had ever worn, and it was interwoven with such unusual flowers (that resembled, in best human understanding, roses) that no earthly wreath could really, quite compare.
Therefore, Oracion’s companions had never bothered to boast or insult with a like gift of their own.
The lady’s fair, soft skin had a luminous quality to it that reminded Oracion of the moon. Where she stood the beams of light that cascaded, particularly from her hands, sent shimmering translucent rays upon the pears that still fruited here in abundance, as if she was a spiritual chef sugaring them with a mystical, glittering light.
It was funny how much the madonna also reminded Oracion of Gilda, the washer woman, only Gilda seen in a manner by which Mother Nature had never naturally bestowed. She remembered now she had gone to Gilda for advice as well, in those early days when she had first fled the castle compound, and sometimes Gilda would even sing to her, after her kitchen chores were done, and all the smaller children had been nursed.
But now that the time had come for Father’s Reviewing, the review of his death that is, Oracion was glad she had come to know the Madonna of the Glistening Wood. The anguish at facing this next step in her journeying was intense, and she shed so many tears before the woodland queen, so many shape shifter tears in abundance, that there was no need to cast petals, for wood violets arose instantaneously from the earth by the mysterious lady’s feet, wherever Oracion’s tears had fertilized them.
Finally Oracion begged her (for she had not yet this time heard the madonna speak) “Be with me when I go.”
It was in this moment that the lady gently moved one of her hands so gracefully that a beam of light shifted, and fell upon Oracion’s face. It startled her and dried her tears with its sudden, perfect, consoling warmth, and drew up the ecstatic fairies high, literally – high. They soared up into the air around the lady in a dance Oracion had never seen them do before, but it was as if it had been borne in their blood of fairies ever since the beginning of time, and they were just now rediscovering it.
The lady then spoke to Oracion.
“My child, you know I have always been with you, since before you sought my Son’s grace through your bedroom turret window. One day you will remember it all. Now at least you realize it is you who travel with me (for I take you with me wherever I go) not I who travel with you. But this has come to pass so that thou shouldst ask for my companionship.”
“I don’t want to see him die,” Oracion confessed.
“Nor did I,” she said. The lady paused, her face so solemnly beautiful in this moment that Oracion felt tears spring up again, unbidden, but this time they were for the lady, who was gazing upon her with such perfect love, perfect beauty and perfectly deep sorrow. Oracion suddenly understood that a creature so lovely, could only experience sadness in an equally meaningful manner . Within her solemn eyes lay an infinite profundity, like the ironic juxoposition of sky with earth. There was gravity in those eyes, though not of a fallen nature.
It was the Weight of What she Understood, as it had been the Weight of What Father Understood.
The lady continued.
“But the viewing is part of the warrior lessons he wished you to complete Oracion, for it is only through a father’s death by which all of your kind is born.” She paused another moment, a moment in which Oracion felt the lady was speaking things directly into her heart, that even the godmother’s couldn’t hear, issuing secrets that Oracion would discover there later, when she needed light for a second illumination.
Then the madonna assured her: “Even when you cannot see me, know that I am with you always, for I am inside your soul only to a lesser degree than the Very Presence, which makes up your very heart, very mind, very soul, and even this very moonlit grove in which we now stand together.”
Oracion liked the way the lady called the Presence the Very Presence. She like the feel of it to her intellect, as she had liked the feel of Noble Beast’s fur to her hands, the same way as a child she had liked naming Noble Beast, and in contrast, calling the corrupted shape shifters – Opposites. It felt… True. Who was this woman who was not her mother but her true mother, all at the same time – as if by adoption – and who knew so well the language that the Presence used, and that He was so Very?
“Oracion” she added, as if now in turn beseeching. “My Son. They murdered my Son as well, and burned me at the stake, as they continue to burn me at the stake when they burn all women who speak in my name. Now go. Your hour is at hand.”