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The Great Sorrow

(Realm of Elysia)

Twin pups slept on their backs, sandwiched between parents, small feet moving as they dreamt. Light at the burrow’s entrance inched down the tunnel until it fell on their dad’s face, long whiskers twitching. Finally, unable to resist the dawn’s greeting, his large brown eyes opened.

Stretching, he stood on all fours, barely a foot tall, arching his shiny, reddish-brown body. Moving up to the burrow’s entrance, he emerged, sniffing the crisp air. No, nothing unusual, he thought, sitting. His home, dug into a bank of red earth, overlooked the forest below. Above him a granite mountain rose high, snows feeding streams, one of which trickled near his front door.

Then, like an invisible pressure wave from the east: Sorrow. Not just any sadness, but a great, deep sorrow. Could it be? he wondered, After all these years?

The last of the white hairs

He thought back to his great ancestor, the leader of his clan, the last of the white hairs, a collar of white hair around his neck against brown fur, signifying distinguished service during the great sorrow. Whenever the full moon shown, he told of a time when God called all Rundseys to a great task. He remembered, as a pup, listening to white hair’s story of danger and sacrifice. All his clan, indeed all his kind everywhere, had answered the Great Spirit’s call. But that was so very long ago. No one had felt that call in generations.

Returning down the tunnel, he nudged his pregnant wife. Groggy, she opened one eye, reprovingly. As he nudged her again, she rolled over, wanting to sleep. Chirping and snorting, he nudged her again and again. Snorting herself, she turned, wondering what was so important.

After some moments, feeling it too, she slowly accompanied him outside. Both standing on their hind legs, together they sniffed the gentle breeze, both coming to the same realization.

Their two pups peered out of the den, wondering what was going on. His mate’s eyes meeting his, understanding flowing, she nudged him forward. For a moment he resisted, not wanting to leave her so near the time of younging, but then, feeling the great sorrow wash over him again, he touched her nose, turned and set off.

The mists of dawn

Above the forest, golden beams filtered through the trees. Walking the underbrush, he sensed the journey would be long. Birds chirped to one another, peering down on him making his way through the meadow. A vast carpet of blue, yellow, and purple bell flowers moved slightly in the mists of dawn. Passing into a stand of ancient conifers his pathway, lined with ferns, led towards the great water. Though treacherous, he knew he must ford it.

Appearing at water’s edge, he spied three moss covered rocks, staggered across the stream. With his father he had made this crossing many times, but never alone. “The third and last rock,” he remembered his father saying, “is always slippery.”

A Leap of faith

Backing up, he jumped, landing on the first rock with no trouble. Then the second, as he’d done so many times before. Looking at the third, then down at the white water, he hesitated. He wished his father was beside him to boost his confidence, but alas, he had passed five summers ago. Standing on the rock in mid-stream, he felt, “Father, I miss you.”

Summoning all his courage, he leapt for the last mossy rock, right hind leg slipping as he did. Briefly airborne, landing slightly askew, he scrambled to hold on. Chirping, clawing at the wet moss, he slipped into the cold water, panicking as he went under.

The swift current immediately caught him, sweeping him downstream. Tumbling into rocks, white water and bubbles everywhere, his legs instinctively swam. Almost a hundred yards down stream, he broke the surface, barely catching a breath, before being pulled under again.

Last chance

Fighting, lungs burning, he struggled to the surface again. This time, though, he managed to stay above water long enough to spy a tree and branches looming downstream. Bobbing in the water, he lunged for the passing branch, fighting the current’s pull, hanging on for dear life. Panting, he pulled himself out, scrambling up to the tree trunk where he clung, wet, cold, and exhausted.

Finally, and carefully, he made his way to the opposite shore, grateful to feel firm ground again. Shaking himself, water flying everywhere, he shivered. Glancing back on the great water, he sniffed the air again, then set off once more on his journey.

Shopping in Elysia

Manu and Bren meandered together among the shops, Bren feeling nervous. It felt wrong to simply ask for what she wanted without having money to pay. All her life she’d known poverty and want. Never having quite enough, her parents scrimping and scraping for practically everything. For Bren, as young girl, a fresh roll was a rare and heavenly treat; yet here, everything was hers simply for the asking.

Manu, on the other hand, felt no hesitance asking for anything that caught her eye. Her first purchase, at the nominal cost of a please and thank you, was a gossamer pink scarf that complemented her dress nicely. Next, she asked politely for a jeweled necklace, full of what looked to be diamonds. The center forming a constellation of jewels ending in one large sapphire.

She knew each shop owner by name, chatting with them about their life as if they’d known each other forever. Bren simply followed her about, marveling at the cornucopia of lovely trinkets and clothes on display, all of it fit for royalty.

See anything you like?

“See anything you like?” Manu asked.

“Well, yes, there are so many lovely things,” Bren replied.

Looking at her, Manu said, “I can see this is difficult for you, but you do the artisans a great honor when you ask for something they’ve made. Every time somebody asks for something, it tells them they’ve heard God rightly.”

“What do you mean?” Brenzel said puzzled, thinking, What does hearing God have to do with giving away gifts?

Picking out a matching bracelet for her necklace, after thanking them, Manu continued, “Every artisan prays about what to make for the festival. They create only what they feel led to make, no more, no less. They do it because they believe God is leading them to make it for a specific person who has need of it. When the person it’s meant for asks for it, they feel satisfaction because they heard His voice correctly.”

It makes them happy

“So it makes them happy?” Bren concluded.

“Yes, very. In fact, the only time they feel sad is if they take anything home with them after the eighth day.”

Considering Manu’s words, Bren thought to herself with excitement, okay, if it’s that important.

Going back to the jewelry stall from which Manu received her necklace, Bren selected a beautiful string of pearls she’d admired in an ornate box by saying, “Please, may I have this necklace?”

The lady smiled broadly, saying, “Of course, I am honored dear. You know, I had a feeling you’d come back for it. Turn around, I’ll clasp it for you.”

Feeling her fingers deftly fit the clasp and the way the pearls lay on her skin, Bren unconsciously and from her heart said, “Thank you so much,” a warm feeling flowing through her body.

Arranging her hair for her, the woman said, “You look beautiful.” Like a little girl again, who’d just bitten into a fresh roll, Brenzel beamed.


Stopping for a light lunch, snacks really, Brenzel began to relax, asking for what she wanted. Whenever she received a new gift, she said thank you, seeing the genuine delight on the face of the giver. Realizing how her act of asking blessed the craftsmen, she felt a profound sense of joy.

Towards evening, Bren and Manu drifted towards the music area. Entering through the marble gate of the concert arena, Bren heard instruments tuning. A great, descending semi-circle of of multicolored stone steps focused upon a central stage.

“It’s beautiful,” Bren said.

Drums of thunder

Manu, grinning, took her hand as they found a place to sit near the center front. Two attendants brought soft seat cushions, asking if they would like refreshments. Bren tried to describe lemonade by saying it was a mixture of water which sparkled, juice of lemon, sweetened with honey. After looking puzzled for a moment, one said, “I think she’s asking for a sharizin,” to which the other nodded. More people filed in, some stopping to talk with Manu and Bren, as the seats filled around them.

Sipping “sharizin”, Bren asked, “Do you know what’s next?”

“Oh yes, it’s Desere, the spirit dancer.”

What the….”

Suddenly, the beat of large drums exploded like thunder, drawing everyone’s attention to the stage. It was dark, except for a flickering torch at the center. To the right, a shrill instrument, like a piccolo, ran furiously, rising and falling. Then on the left, horns, deep and longing, played a low note that swelled like the sea. Suddenly, the flickering flame extinguished and everything went dark and quiet.

Spirit dancer

Bren waited, eyes straining in the dark, looking, searching, trying to see what would happened next. Then, in an instant, a woman enveloped in green fire, stood tall, arms outstretched. Drums beat as the dancer began to weave and dip, emerald fire following her movements, lighting up the whole stage.

Her skirt, made of some type of flowing strands, shook and shimmied with her gyrations. Watching her move, Bren felt her stomach sway sympathetically with her.

Six similar fires lit on the periphery of the stage, other women joining her, as music, primitive and alluring, became ever more demanding. Scenes of oceans in the moon light, luscious mountains rising out of the sea, troops of dancers, male and female, flooded Bren’s mind.

Visions of Aukum

The seven dancer’s legs, arms, and upper torso moved, telling a story of eons past, when great winged monsters battled warriors on fantastical ships; beautiful women, with just a knife strapped to their waists, diving deep beneath the waters to retrieve pearls as big as a fist; turtles, larger than a boat, ferrying people from one island to another beneath emerald sunsets; endless white beaches lined with exotic trees filled with birds calling to one another.

With one great thud reverberating throughout the theater, the drums and other instruments abruptly ceased, breaking the vision. Opening her eyes, Bren looked at the dancers, who bowed low as people clapped and whistled throughout the amphitheater. Rising with them, Desere smiled, turning and raising her hands to heaven, as the seven fires rose through their palms into the night, disappearing into the sky.


Turning back towards the audience, Desere blew kisses as Bren felt her own belly move. Heart beating fast, she had the odd sensation that, if possible, her spirit would leave her body and run to the woman on stage. Trembling, she held Manu’s hand tightly, her friend studying her in surprise. Unable to take her eyes off Desere, Brenzel could have sworn she smiled back, staring directly at her.