Blessings of the Ancient Leaders
Greer woke from a sound sleep. In the underground cavern, she could not see day or night, but her internal clock told her it was not yet dawn. She lay still and listened for a sound that could signal danger. She heard nothing troublesome.
Lying on her side, Greer watched Lord Zephyr sleeping, his chest moving up and down with each deep breath. Oh, how she loved him. Greer lifted her head to see Zeus lying next to Star’s wooden cradle as they both slept. Life couldn’t be any better. She had a family she loved dearly, and in only two years Greer’s life had transitioned from dreadful to fantastic.
When Greer laid her head back on the bed, she looked at Lord Zephyr and realized he was awake. Greer smiled. “Morning, love.” She ran her fingertip along the special skin on his cheek and down his neck. Lord Zephyr was a handsome, muscular male with his golden eyes and raven hair. A streak of gray ran from the top of his head to the end of one of two ponytails wrapped with strips of animal hide. Greer was still in awe over the fact that he was nearing two centuries but looked to be in his mid-thirties. Greer smiled and gazed into his golden eyes.
Lord Zephyr smiled and leaned in to kiss her. His hand slid to her waist, and he pulled her closer, then ran his hand back to cup her butt, turning her and sliding on top. Lord Zephyr sat facing her. His two long ponytails wrapped in animal hide fell across his chest. Except for the special skin, Lord Zephyr reminded her of an American Indian warrior.
Greer reached to touch his erection. He didn’t flinch but lowered his head and kissed her neck, moving down to her breast and taking one nipple and then the other into his mouth, moving his tongue over them. Raising her hips, she moaned, and he slid into her. Greer gasped, and he moved to lie on her, thrusting in and out until he moaned and she cried out in pleasure. After they were both satisfied, Lord Zephyr moved to pull away from Greer.
Greer slid her hand to his back. “No, stay in me until you slip out. I love you inside me,” she whispered.
Lord Zephyr chuckled and stayed on top, not moving away. When he slipped out, he moved off her and lay facing her, and they fell asleep, their arms around each other.
As Greer slept, she dreamed of happy times with Lord Zephyr, Lord Wilder, Star, and her extended family. Waking with Lord Zephyr lying next to her, she felt content with her life and her family.
She slid out of bed and walked over to put more wood on the fire, not wanting Star to get cold. Greer peeked into the cradle, and Star looked up at her with lovely golden eyes. Greer picked her up, holding her close. “You must be hungry, little munchkin.” Greer’s dad had called her little munchkin until first grade when she’d told him not to call her that anymore because she was too old for that funny name. She knew Star would say the same thing to her someday.
When Lord Zephyr woke, Greer was sitting near the fire breastfeeding Star. He brought her a cup of tea, setting it on the wooden table beside her. “Thank you, my love. I tried not to wake you because you were so peaceful.”
“Yes, I was content to sleep later after loving you. How is the little one this morning?”
“Star is a happy baby, and she’s hungry this morning.”
Lord Zephyr sat in the chair next to Greer and watched them. Greer smiled at him and said, “So, did you give me another baby this morning?”
“No, we will not have another child. Star will be our only child, but you will have more children.”
“What, no more children with you? How do you know?” Greer asked.
“I know what I know,” Lord Zephyr said, grinning.
“What does that mean?”
“It means we will not have more children. But Star is special, and I am not sad she will be our only child. Remember, I only had one child with my first wife, and she is the Grand Lady.”
While Greer had always thought they would have another child together, she knew enough of Lord Zephyr to know he spoke the truth. She watched him, her heart thumping in her chest, and wondered what else he knew, but she didn’t ask because she didn’t want to know. Greer had never been one to follow astrological predictions or visit psychics. She didn’t want to know what the future held; she only wanted to live her life as it evolved. But Greer knew life imparted both happy and sad events because it was so for everyone.
After staying the week with Lord Zephyr, she was back to her own homestead with Lord Wilder and the girls. Even though her homestead was full of activity, it was a peaceful family racket, and Greer could sit by the fireplace, drink tea, and welcome the noise.
Greer held the teacup with her right hand and admired the star. When Star was born two months ago, the star had formed on her hand. She’d tried to conceal the star at first, but the next day she’d showed it to the Grand Lady, Lord Zephyr, and Lord Wilder. Now the tribe knew, and they’d planned a celebration to introduce two new leaders: Greer and Star.
Having never dreamed the star would come to her, Greer feared she couldn’t be the leader the tribe deserved.
In deep thought, Greer didn’t hear Mistress Avian ask her a question, and she continued to sip her tea and stare into the fire.
“Lady Greer, is something wrong?” Mistress Avian asked again as she walked forward and laid her hand on Greer’s shoulder.
"No, I’m fine. I was only relaxing,” Greer said, not ready to tell Mistress Avian of her fears even though she often shared confidences with her. Greer smiled, turning to face her. “Come sit down and relax with me.” Greer suspected that Mistress Avian knew there was something bothering her. Sometimes it suggested she knew her better than she knew herself.
Mistress Avian sat in the chair. Her green eyes studied Greer as she twisted one long dark auburn braid between her fingers. Greer had noticed this habit of Mistress Avian’s when she worried, which hardly ever happened. Instead of worrying about her problems, she would ask Mistress Avian what was bothering her, but she knew it was Mistress Emma.
Greer asked, “Is something bothering you?”
“Mistress Emma’s baby is due any day.”
“Yes, she is going to be fine. Since this is her first baby, she will be in labor for a while, but let’s make sure we watch for signs of labor that she may not recognize.”
“I know she is nervous, but she trusts you,” Mistress Avian said.
“I’ve tried to talk her through the stages of labor to help her understand how her body will react.”
“And you have done a superb job. I know you must have been a wonderful children’s doctor. You have empathy, and that is important.”
Greer beamed. “I loved being a doctor and taking care of children. I started my specialty as an obstetrician and delivered many babies. When I thought about getting married, I wanted time to spend with my family. Doctors who deliver babies are away from home day and night. That’s when I decided to be a pediatrician.”
Greer thought back to her time in San Francisco and her marriage to Thomas. Now she was happy with her child and her husbands, but before the betrayal of her husband had devastated her. Looking back, she couldn’t have been happy with him. He hadn’t wanted children even though she did. Each person had a right to be selfish sometimes, but it hadn’t taken Greer long to know it was all about Thomas. Who in their right mind wanted that type of relationship? Life was too short to be unhappy. Marriage was a give and take, but it was worth it when both people wanted the same things and respected and loved each other. Her life here was rich with promise and offered her many opportunities: to be a wife, mother, friend, and leader.
Curious about the celebration of the future leaders, Greer turned to Lord Zephyr and asked, “When do the people celebrate a future leader? It’s been two
months since Star was born.”
“Our celebration begins on the summer solstice,” Lord Zephyr replied.
“Isn’t that coming soon? Do I need to prepare?”
“Yes, the beginning of the celebration starts tomorrow, but you have nothing to prepare.”
Greer looked at Lord Zephyr, cocking her head. “You haven’t told me anything about the celebration. Is it a secret?”
“No secret, but it is sacred for our people. We have not celebrated a new leader since Grand Lady Demara was a baby. Our tribe has waited many years for a future leader, and now we have two.”
“Everyone is so secretive about the celebration. I thought they would include me in the preparations.”
“They will include you. Tomorrow night we begin. You, Star, and I will meet with the Grand Lady and begin the ceremony in private.”
Not knowing what would take place, Greer followed Lord Zephyr, carrying Star along the dark, damp corridor. “Where are we going?” Greer asked.
“We are going to the star cavern, where we will meet the Grand Lady.”
Greer followed in silence, but it was difficult because she always wanted to be in control. She couldn’t help herself; it was part of who she was, and it made her uneasy when she didn’t know what was to come. But she followed, even though she wasn’t happy about not knowing.
They turned a corner in the corridor and stopped at the entrance of the star cavern. The Grand Lady stood below the open part of the cavern where one could climb up and admire the sun during the day and the moon and stars at night. She smiled and motioned for them to enter.
When they walked toward the Grand Lady, Greer noticed a large log that had been hollowed out into a wooden trough directly under the opening of the cavern. She studied it and wondered if it was part of the ceremony.
The Grand Lady handed her a wooden bowl, then handed one to Lord Zephyr and held one herself. She said, “We will fill these bowls with fresh water and pour them into the hollowed-out log until we fill it up.”
They filled their bowls with water from the stream running through the cavern and poured them into the trough until it was full. Greer looked to the Grand Lady, confused. “Now what?”
“The water will absorb the light of the full rose moon tonight, and we will come back tomorrow to finish the ceremony. Have patience, my dear. Tomorrow you will learn the truth of our sacred ceremony,” the Grand Lady said, then left the cavern.
Still frustrated and in the dark, Greer kept quiet, understanding she should not know any more than she knew now.
The next morning after breakfast, Lord Zephyr said, “It’s time to go now.”
“To the ceremony?” Greer asked.
“Yes, to the ceremony,” Lord Zephyr replied. They left his homestead with Star, and Zeus followed.
As they approached the star cavern, other people from the tribe joined them. When they got inside the star cavern, it was full of people, and they walked in and stood by the wood trough. The Grand Lady motioned for the people to form two lines spread apart by about six feet. Greer stood on one side, and Lord Zephyr held Star and stood across from her, but back from the wooden trough. The Grand Lady stepped next to Greer.
Zeus walked forward and drank from the moon water, then stepped aside for Zudy to drink from the water. Zake, the third guardian, who had not appeared for years, walked through the entrance. He stepped forward and drank from the water.
Greer watched, confused. She looked to Lord Wilder, Mistress Avian, and the girls as they watched the guardians drink. Though full of people, the star cavern was as quiet as the wings of a butterfly in flight. Greer stood steady, watching in anticipation.
The guardians formed a circle, sauntering and then moving at a fast pace. They moved so fast they became a circular blur, as if they might disappear. Women stepped out of the blur one by one. Some were older, and others were young. Their clothing ranged from long flowing robes to one-piece form-fitting garments. None were the same, but they all shared the star on their right hand.
The Grand Lady leaned into Greer and said, “The ancient leaders come now. Watch for the girl with the giant red feathers tucked into her braids. She will bless me, then you and Star, then move to the outsiders. She will give a special blessing to the first outsider she touches. You must watch for who receives the special blessing.”
“Why does she choose an outsider?”
“She has no descendants, so she will choose one female outsider who has not transitioned to be her progeny. It will please her to choose one this time. There has never been a female outsider not transitioned during the blessing ceremony. My mother said when they celebrated me, the girl with the red feathers left forlorn.”
Greer whispered back, “I will watch for her.”
Hundreds of ancient leaders came and walked between the two lines of people, and the Grand Lady said, “Welcome, ancient leaders. Come and bless the two future leaders of our tribe.”
The ancient leaders took turns blessing the Grand Lady, then they moved to Greer, kissing her hand and touching her face and arms. They were as real as she was. Greer looked to Lord Zephyr holding Star; they were kissing her star and touching her as well.
One elegant woman stepped forward to Greer, and she had a familiar gray streak running from the crown of her head to the end of one of her braids. The Grand Lady said, “I want to introduce you to my great-grandmother, Grand Lady Zilea.”
Not many words were spoken by the ancient leaders, but Grand Lady Zilea leaned forward and kissed Greer’s face and said, “Thank you for loving my grandson and bringing Star into our tribe. As a leader, you will face a challenge, and your only chance of success will be with the help of your family and friends. Do not forget my words.”
Greer’s eyes widened as she held her breath, then she exhaled and said, “Thank you for the warning. I will not forget you or your words.” She took Grand Lady Zilea’s hand in hers and squeezed it gently. Greer watched as she stepped across the aisle and blessed Star and Lord Zephyr, staying with them longer than any other blessing.
The star on Star’s hand glowed with bright colors of green, purple, and blue. Greer held up her hand, and it glowed as well. She knew the history of the Zakota people—the good and the bad—as if she had lived it. They welcomed her as one of the future leaders of their people, and their ethereal support honored Greer.
A young girl stepped toward Greer, and she wore her raven hair in long braids with giant red feathers tucked into them. Special skin covered her face, and her golden eyes shined with joy. She had a slight build, but Greer felt a powerful presence. She kissed Greer’s hand and ran her delicate hands down Greer’s arms, all the while smiling. Greer smiled at her and reached to touch her face, feeling the electricity of the special skin. The girl with the red feathers was as alive and vibrant as any living being.
Greer was standing amid a magical phenomenon. A chill ran through her body when she realized that someday she too would come to bless the future leader of this miraculous tribe of Zakota people.
The girl with the red feathers winked at Greer, then she walked away to bless Star. Greer watched her, wanting to know who she went to next. Would it be Mistress Emma or Mistress Tien?
Greer held her breath in anticipation until the girl with the red feathers reached for Mistress Emma. She grasped her hand and held it to her lips, kissing it. Then she touched her face, laid her hand on her growing abdomen, and leaned in to hug her close. Greer glimpsed a single tear fall from the eye of the girl with the red feathers as Mistress Emma held her close. The girl pulled away and reached up to remove a single large red feather from her braid and hand it to the pregnant girl. Then the girl with the red feathers leaned forward and whispered something in Mistress Emma’s ear.
The girl with the red feathers had blessed Mistress Emma. It didn’t surprise Greer because the fairies had already blessed Mistress Tien, and if anyone deserved a special blessing, it was Mistress Emma. She had suffered the betrayal of the people who should have protected her. But what would this blessing bring to the young girl? Greer would ask the Grand Lady.
Time stood still as the ancient leaders moved among the living for a short time. Then they faded away, a whisper of flesh and blood. The guardians came into view, slowed their pace, and stood side by side.
Turning to the Grand Lady, Greer asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because words cannot describe the blessing of the ancient leaders. You must experience it for yourself,” the Grand Lady said, reaching out to grasp Greer’s hand. “Now you know.”
“I’ve just experienced the most amazing day of my life. Do the ancient leaders come again?”
The Grand Lady cupped Greer’s chin and said, “Yes, we each see them again when we die. They come to take us home.”
Greer smiled. “I’m glad I will see them again someday. What about the blessing of the girl with the red feathers? She blessed Mistress Emma.”
“That is different. Mistress Emma has a special bond to the girl with the red feathers. She is the only one who knows how to call her. When she calls her, she will come with the powers of the great red bird.”
“What is the great red bird?” Greer asked.
“He was a giant magical bird who lived on Mars thousands of years ago. He was the last of his kind, and the legend says the girl with the red feathers gave her life to save his. She was a brave young leader, and he honors her and her descendants with his special powers. That is why she has chosen a female outsider with no tribal ancestors to be her descendant. It is a great honor for Mistress Emma.”
“She deserves the honor. The girl with the red feathers has chosen wisely,” Greer said, turning to look at Mistress Emma, who held a giant red feather in her hand.