BFF 243 : Roots
The sky was as black as Gerome had ever seen it. The stars seemed to twinkle and smile at him. After cooking his dinner, he allowed the fire to burn down to create a solid bed of embers. He stoked the fire now. Sparks crackled and skittered across the sky nearly out shining the stars. The crescent moon hid behind a small gray cloud, peeking from time to time as if reassuring itself that all was well. The rain clouds, from earlier in the day, seemed to have moved out of the area, as if a great hand reached out and swept them away.
Gerome fashioned a seat for himself, between the fire and the river. Carefully placing the feathers on either side of the seat, within easy grasp he settled onto the seat he had fashioned. He intended the feathers to inspire him for the stories he was about to tell. He sat down to await his audience.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark, the “fish” began to jump. Bright colors reflected from the firelight all iridescent and glittering with water drops. Flashes into the night’s ebony sky seemed like the fireworks at Harvest Festival.
A sound not unlike a flock of sand heron filled the air. Gerome looked up as if in protection of these beautiful marvels, he would repel any heron who thought they might swoop in for an easy meal. He quickly realized this was the sound of their language. The language of the water Nymph was new to him.
So enthralled was he, he nearly missed the assembly near his feet. Sitting on smooth river rocks, were the apparent leaders of the water Nymphs. Full regalia, they wore headdresses filled with all types of feathers, gems and other trinkets which had been cast aside by others. Pottery shards, bits of lace, sea weed, and other items found at the river's bottom adorned not only their headdress but their bodies as well. Noticeably, the importance of the individual was designated by the size of their headdress, the ornate decorations and the amount of items that glittered in the firelight.
Clearing his throat as he held up the first feather, Gerome signaled he was ready to begin. Pausing for effect, the first feather was a bright red; a Cardinal’s feather. He spoke of the significance and what the red feather as well as the Cardinal represented; courtship, fatherhood, understanding the power of the wind, finding your soul song and of course the cycle of power.
Next he held up the feather of a Loon. Running his fingers up the spine of the feather, he spoke of great deep lakes, lifelong partnerships of male and female, of territorial hunting and of migrations among friends.
With great ceremony and flourish, after each story, the feather was then accepted first by the most important who with his own flourish would brandish the feather off to one with the next largest headdress and so on until one would spin as they dove into the waters only to be lost from Gerome’s sight.
Finally, Gerome held the largest of his horde of feathers for last; the Albatross. He stood to tell his last story, giving it emphasis and importance. “As you can see, I have withheld the largest for last; the Albatross. As I began this story of the feathers, with the Cardinal who signifes twelve, this is the twelfth and last of my stories. The Albatross is known for taking several years to court his lover, often leaving her for long periods of time, only to return and continue with the same dance at the very location they had left off. The Albatross epitomizes eternal pacts of relationships and friendships. All the while soaring above the earth and only alighting upon earth at sight of the one it has made the lifelong pact with.” He again ran his hands up the length of the vane, spreading the individual barbs, and was flicking the calamus. “Every feather found is a gift, whether it is a direct gift or an indirect gift. It holds the magic of flight, it holds the magic of the bird that grew it, it holds secrets of the root of all flight, and it also holds the magic of the sky it has flown through. To own these feathers brings much power to your people; People of the Water.”
Listening to the sound of bodies returning to the water, as though handfuls of stones had been hurled across the surface, Gerome was certain he was again alone. “I didn't even get their names. I should have demanded names first, names are important, names are powerful and I didn't get them.” He berated himself soundly.
Throwing more wood onto the fire, he started to make his way to his blanket, when he saw her. One lone Nymph stood at the edge of the firelight. It was the same beautiful eyes that captivated him before. Those eyes he felt he could drown in. Remembering something he had been told as a child about one of the war tactics of Nymphs having the power to mesmerize in order to drown, he quickly looked away.
Slowly, she moved closer. Speaking, she suddenly realized she had spoken in the tongue of the Nymph. Blushing, she began again, “You are fortunate indeed, to have been traveling with feathers to barter with the Potamide. And fortunate you are that you stayed out of the waters until after the bargaining was concluded, they would have taken you to their abode.” Her speech was so matter of fact that for a moment Gerome was stunned.
“They would have drowned me?” He asked incredulously.
“Actually no, not you, you would have been safe on this trip. But, for the others, they would have perished. We knew you would be here, there is more to this bargain that you first thought.”
Gerome began to hedge away from her and closer to the fire, knowing she dare not “dry out”. The Nymphs had to be hydrated and preferably wet. He nonchalantly picked up a stick and poked at the fire.
“I will be the guardian of the river while your Lordship is at the river side. Then you will take me with you when you leave.”
“This was never spoken of. This was never even impressed upon my dreams.” Gerome knew he could not rebel against this Nymph, she held the power to cause great harm. Besides, how much trouble could she be away from the river?