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Fic: And Anemones Bloomed, R

Title: And Anemones Bloomed
Author: caitri
Rating: R
Pairings: Sam Kirk/Miramanee, Kirk/McCoy (at the very end)
Word Count: 6,826
Summary: An STXI mashup with Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Sequel of sorts to Love As Thou Wilt, prefacing my current work in progress and true sequel, Heaven is Bloodless. Or, the story of Miramanee, daughter of Goro, and Samuel Kirok. Written for heeroluva.
Warnings: Underage sex in a historical context.
Disclaimer: I know this may come as a shock, but I am not, amazing as it may seem, Gene Roddenberry, J.J. Abrams, Paramount or Bad Robot. Just so you know.
A/N: Because a vague disclaimer is no one’s friend: I’m liberally rewriting the TOS episode “The Paradise Syndrome” by Margaret Armen. One of the (many) problems of this episode is the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans/indigenous peoples. (Their planet is called Amerind if that gives you any idea how it goes.) Anyhow, in this rewrite many aspects of Powhatan culture and history are being adopted as background for this story.



Miramanee, Goro’s daughter, wakes from a sound sleep to the sensation of the earth tilting beneath her. Frightened, she’s on her feet and calling anxiously for her closest brother before she’s fully awake. It is early morning, and the sky is grey outside the longhouse.

Pamouic is less than impressed by her summons. “What is it?” he mumbles. At fifteen, three years older than she, the left side of his head is newly shaven, and pressed to his sleeping mat he resembles a very large infant. “Go ‘way. ‘M sleepin’.”

“Wake up, wake up!” Miramanee insists, pushing at him imperatively. Their younger half-brothers, Nantaquas, Parahunt, Pochins, Tatacoope, and Taux, ignore them, either asleep or feigning it well. “Wake up!”

“’Lright, ‘lright.” Pamouic blinks unhappily as he sits up, the long length of his black hair falling over his right shoulder like a crow’s wing. “I’m up. What’s the matter?”

“I—” Now that he’s listening to her, Miramanee isn’t sure what to say. “I—” I had a dream seems foolish. “I—”

But she doesn’t have to finish, because he’s staring at her in dismay. “Miramanee, your dress!” She looks down, shocked at the dark smears emerging through the fine doeskin.

“I’m bleeding,” she says, shocked to her core.

This is how she becomes a woman.

~

This is how she becomes a priestess of Okee and the Sun God's Own.

Pamouic takes her back to her mat in her father’s house. She is Goro’s favorite child, so she has a partitioned part of the Chief’s house all her own, with sleeping mats dyed in pretty colors and a fox pelt on her pillow. “Stay,” he tells her, “I’ll be right back.” He leaves, but returns within a few minutes. He brings back a clay bowl wrapped in wicker branches and a jug of water carved from dried gourd. “Wash,” he instructs her. “I will get Mattachana.”

Mattachana is their elder healer. Her long hair is white, worn loose to the waist, and her dress is brightly colored with patterns of swimming tortoises across the breast and shoulder. Her magic is very strong, and she knows the roots to chew when pregnant women are afraid of losing their babies, and what tree fungus will make smoke to keep the black flies away. Everyone loves her just as much as they fear her.

Maybe more.

“Go,” she orders Pamouic when she takes one look at Miramanee, who has embarrassed tears drying on her face. Pamouic holds his palms up in silent acquiescence, then leaves without a word. Mattachana hums a soft song to herself, walking around her thoughtfully. She is missing teeth, and her cheeks are sunken in. Her face is round, and the wrinkles in it remind her of the bark of an old oak tree. “Tell me the story of Kisisoke.”

Miramanee gapes at her, then obediently recites the story as Mattachana continues to pace around her. “Once there was a little boy who always started to cry at sunset. His parents asked the Sun Woman to cure him. She looked him over and told the boy’s father to bring him the colors of the sunset. ‘How will I do this thing?’ the father cried. ‘Journey twelve days, then twelve more, then twelve more. On the evening of the last day you will come to a lake. It is the home of the Sun, and at its bottom are the Sun’s many colors.’ ‘I cannot do it,’ said the father, and the mother frowned and said ‘I will do this thing.’ So the mother nodded to Kisisoke and kissed her little boy and kissed her husband and got in his canoe. She traveled for twelve days and twelve days and twelve days more, and as the Sun Woman had told them, she came to the Sun’s lake.” Miramanee pauses as Mattachana peers close to her, eye to eye, close enough to smell the peppermint on her breath.

“Keep going,” Mattachana says.

“When she got there, it was almost time for the Sun to go back home, so she knew she had to hurry. She jumped into the water and swam as fast as she could, but she found that the Sun’s colors were guarded by a fierce pollywog. He had a great big belly and an even bigger mouth!” The old woman made a huffing sound; Miramanee wasn’t sure if that meant the old healer was pleased with her or not, but she kept going. “The pollywog tried to call for help, but the woman was too fast! She glued the pollywog’s mouth shut with sturgeon glue before he could make a sound, then grabbed the colors. She swam back to land, where they turned to powder in her hands. She gathered some of the powder up, but she could see the Sun drawing closer and closer, and she knew she had to leave.

“She hurried back home, twelve days and twelve days and twelve, and when she got there she showed the colors to Kisisoke and her son. The little boy laughed, for he held blue and pink and yellow in his hands, and he never cried more. The Sun was angry at the pollywog for having failed him, and wouldn’t get the glue out of his mouth, and that’s why all pollywogs have iddy-biddy mouths, and why only women hunt for our dyes.” Miramanee swallows when she’s done; her mouth is dry and her stomach hurts, and Mattachana chortles.

“Very good, you,” she says. “Now tell me how to find the Bear Head in the sky.” Miramanee explains which seven stars make up the Bear Head. “Now tell me how to tell if it will be a cold winter or a warm winter?”

Miramanee gapes, and feels tears welling up again. “I don’t know that!”

Mattachana laughs. “And that’s why I will teach you!” the old woman says with glee.

The healer takes her home with her. Her only son, Selash, lives in her longhouse with Mattachana and his wife, Amonute.

Over the course of several long months, Mattachana tells her the secret things only women can know, like how their courses come and go with the moon, and how to collect soft leaves to catch the blood and where to bury the filthy ones. She teaches her the songs of root and leaf, and Miramanee learns the name of each herb and its properties. She learns the ways of bone and blood, too, though she is too young to touch people; instead, she practices with small animals, gathering little friends to herself: a fox called Sano, a raccoon named Meeko.

When summer’s heat is on them, Mattachana takes the sharp edge of a shell and makes a series of cuts around her upper arm in a pattern like waves, and fills them with blue dye. When the cuts heal, the dye remains, and Miramanee’s calling is written on her skin.

She is a woman and a healer, and this is when the ghost men come.

~

Tales of the ghost men travel along the river before ever they see any. The first stories are from a band of Cayuga hunters. They tell Goro of these things as they sit at the fire at night, amid the steaming hisses of crabs and oysters cooking in their woven pots on coals. Miramanee sits at his feet in her accustomed spot. Occasionally Goro pets her head affectionately, but when the Cayuga tell their tales, he stops, listening with a deep frown of consternation.

“They have pale skin and eyes like the dead. They smell of filth. They wear metal shells like turtles and their speech is like barking dogs,” says one of the hunters, and the others nod in agreement.

In the morning, they gift Goro with a pair of soft rabbit pelts. He gives them to his newest wife, Mataoka, who beams with pleasure.

Like a tale, it is twelve days and twelve days and twelve more before they see the strangers themselves.

It is Pamouic who sees them first.

Her favorite brother is on a hunting trip with Opichapam and Kekataugh. They are taking a long circuit in their canoes, going as far as the Chesapeake Bay before turning back. They are almost home when their paths cross.

The white men are in two canoes, awkwardly built and slow. They stare at the Powhatan hunters. Then a man in a metal shell and the odd blue leggings they favor raises a hand and calls to them.

“Greetings! We friends are!” he says, his words tripping over one another like pebbles in a stream, slow and light. “Peace we give! Trade have?”

Through a series of signals they agree to meet onshore. The ghost men are patient as the hunters survey them, taking their time. They do smell, but that’s more from the thick, stained clothing on their bodies than anything else. Some of them have brown eyes like people, but the man who speaks the most has eyes the color of sky and hair the color of afternoon sun.

“How do we know you aren’t ghosts?” Pamouic is more dubious of these newcomers than his comrades, though Opichapam and Kekataugh are older than he. Kekataugh smacks him on the back of his head for his rudeness, but the sun-haired man laughs. “Name your people!”

“I Captain Samuel Kirok, me, son of George,” Sun-hair says slowly in their tongue—or what passes for it on his lips, rather. “Me show you I live.” He takes a knife from the thick belt at his waist and scores his thumb with it. Red blood wells up as he shows it to them. “Pleased?”

“Welcome, stranger,” Opichapam says, convinced they are human after all, and Kekataugh slaps Pamouic on the back of the head again. “What are you trading?”

Kirok smiles at them brightly, and gestures for his men to open up several bags. Inside are brightly colored beads made of something hard and cold called ‘glass’, several small knives, and various other metal items. Opichapam and Kekataugh confer between themselves, conspicuously leaving Pamouic out of their conversation.

“You youngest, you?” Kirok asks Pamouic. Pamouic grimaces in answer, and the ghost man laughs. “I had little brother one time. You maybe his age. You he, I no let you speak either.”

“You will follow us,” Opichapam interjects. “We will take you to Goro, our Chief. He will decide whether to trade with you.”

They return to their vessels. Still hesitant, they exchange several men: Kirok rides in a canoe with Pamouic, while Kekataugh takes the white man’s place in their bigger canoe. The rest of the trip is spent making awkward conversation.

“Where is your little brother now?” Pamouic asks after a while.

Kirok is silent so long Pamouic thinks he’s not going to answer, but he finally says, “Me not know.” He changes the subject then, asking about various animals they hunt, and Pamouic proudly tells him about the smoked deer in the depths of their canoes, as well as about the splendid antlers that are his trophy. “I will give them to my father, who will give them to our wise women, or perhaps the elders, and they will make fine things of them. Perhaps a bracelet for my little sister, and a gift to the healer who is her teacher.”

“Little sisters always have nice things,” Kirok says, teeth white in his white face, which is turning pink in the sun. “Is good.”

~

Miramanee stares at the strangers avidly when they come to Goro’s longhouse and present their goods. Pamouic kneels next to her, their other brothers to the side. Seven year old Taux blinks heavily, ready for sleep after the evening meal, but eleven year old Nantaquas is as eager as Miramanee to see the odd things the ghost men have brought. Their father is impassive, listening to Kirok’s words patiently. When he is done, their Chief is short. “Your words have all the sense of a babe’s, with your talk of great canoes and great water and great lands none have seen. What am I to make of these things?”

Kirok’s men inhale, sensing the insult in his voice if not in his actual words. Kirok himself only smiles. “Make it you like. Babes tell truth like men. Babes learn better words too. It take longer time. Me take as long as need.” He bows at the waist, spreading his arms wide. “You keep me, you teach me. I show no child am, me.”

Goro is silent for a long moment after that. Placing a head on Miramanee’s head, he says, “If you do wish to learn, you may do so. This is my daughter, Miramanee. She will teach you how to speak like a man.” His nose wrinkles, and he glances at Mattachana. “Perhaps our healer will teach you how to clean yourself.” Kirok nods politely, but it is clear he does not understand all that is being told to him—which in this case is just as well, Miramanee supposes. “The cold season approaches. If you stay with us, we will see if you prove yourself a person, or not. What think you of this?”

That Kirok understands, jerking slightly. He frowns, then turns to the rest of the ghost men. They talk—argue, really, from the sounds of it—but finally Kirok bows to Goro once more. “I stay will,” he says. He glances at Miramanee, and for the first time she sees how his eyes are the brilliant blue of summer sky, and something quivers in her belly. “I learn from daughter.”

Miramanee rises to stand next to the ghost man. He is very tall; her eyes are level with his breast, and she tilts her head back to look directly into those light eyes, which flicker with amusement. “I will teach you,” she says very slowly for his benefit. “I am Miramanee, daughter of Goro, Priestess of the Sun. You will listen to me for twelve days, and twelve days, and twelve more, and beyond that. Yes?”

All traces of amusement vanish from Kirok’s face, but his lips twitch slightly in a hint of a smile. She thinks it would be nice to see a full, real smile from him. But he is earnest when he answers, “Yes, Priestess Miramanee, daughter of Goro. You teach, learn, I.”

And this is how Miramanee becomes the little shadow of Captain Samuel Kirok—or, more accurately, he becomes her shadow. After the first few days, it’s hard to decide who is, after all, following who.

~

She teaches him to talk like a civilized person, slowly—so slowly. It is worse than talking to one of the babes still in arms, she thinks, for they at least make sounds like a person. Kirok tries, he truly does, but as often as not words leave his mouth like badly dressed meat, ragged and raw. He obediently follows her as she conducts her chores, weaving baskets to hold the supply of dried corn over the winter, in gathering nuts and roots in the forest. He is polite when she solemnly introduces him to Sano and Meeko.

“Your pets have odd,” he says, and she corrects him.

“You have odd pets,” she says. Then she grins widely, unable to keep her smugness in. “You are the oddest of all!”

He frowns at her sternly, but she knows he is only pretending. “Miramanee,” he says very seriously, “I no pet am!”

The tribe grows used to them together, but Mattachana eyeballs him the first time Miramanee brings him to her longhouse.

Kirok smiles at the old woman, blue eyes very bright in his face. “Good day, Mattachana,” he says very slowly, but pronouncing each word correctly. “May I listen to Miramanee’s lessons?” His right thumb is tucked in his belt, his other arm hanging lazily at his side. Miramanee is learning that when he looks most at ease is when he is most nervous. It seems that he is, if not exactly afraid of the healer, at least wanting to impress her. “I would thank you for this thing.”

Mattachana huffs, then blows air out of her mouth in a delighted cackle. “Your ghost is a puppy!” she says to Miramanee, but to Kirok she says, imitating his careful, exaggerated slowness, “You sit there. Listen, and do not speak. These are her lessons, not yours.” More rapidly, she continues to Miramanee, “Men always think we’ll be glad to have them whenever and wherever they deign to show up. Bah! Tell this one and your father he may attend once a week, but the rest of the time he needs to find something else to do—elsewhere.”

Kirok blinks in incomprehension at these interchanges, but keeps that same polite smile on his face. “Stop that,” Mattachana tells him slowly, “if you’re not careful your face will be stuck like that, and where will you be? Much better,” she says when Kirok’s smile falls in astonishment.

“She always like this?” Kirok asks softly when Mattachana excuses herself for a moment, retreating to the back of the longhouse to retrieve a basket or gourd or some other object embodying today’s lesson.

“Sometimes she is very blunt,” Miramanee allows, and the ghost man’s eyes widen comically. She smiles to show that it’s a joke, and he relaxes infinitesimally. Mattachana returns, and the day’s lesson begins in earnest.

Miramanee asks Pamouic to escort Kirok when she cannot; Nantaquas, ever eager to follow his older half-brother about, joins them. Eventually Kirok’s men leave, ready to journey back to one of their great canoes, where they will winter in the cold months. The autumn season is long and warm and dry; winter comes abruptly, with days of rain and then snow, turning the ground wet and soft. In the long, dark days, Mattachana tells the old stories of Kisisoke the Sun Woman, when prompted, Kirok tells odd tales of his lands, including the fierce Master of the Straits, some sort of water god who tormented men and their canoes.

When the snows melt, Kirok’s men return, bidding him to return with them.

“Don’t worry, Little Mischief,” Kirok promises, calling her the name her male kin give her. “We’ll return soon enough, I promise you this.” He hugs her goodbye, and with his absence, her days seem emptier.

~

In the thick heat of the summer that follows, Amonute dies giving birth to Selash’s son. The babe is healthy and is given to Goro’s third wife Matoaka, mother of little Taux, to suck, and he is named Apachamo. Mattachana is fond of her grandson, and he becomes Selash’s world.

In the new cool of early fall, a fever passes through the village. Miramanee brews hot medicines and grinds herbs and does everything that the healers bid. When the fever has passed, Death takes only one.

It is Apachamo.

Miramanee knows it isn’t anyone’s fault, but because she was in the healers’ longhouse, she feels like she bears some of the responsibility, too, somehow.

It is a very dark winter.

~

She hopes Kirok will return in the new spring, but he does not. Instead, more ghost men come; they wear dark clothes and the men have long dark hair growing on their faces. Their leader is a man with grey eyes like clouds, and he says his name is the Rebbe David Francis. “We wish to share the holy words with you,” he explains to Goro. He holds a rectangular object filled with sheets of the finest hides Miramanee has ever seen, and she bends forward to look more closely. “Go ahead, my child,” the man says in passable Powhatan, closing the thing and putting it in her hands. She opens it again, not sure what she expects to see but nonetheless disappointed to find that the hides are painted only with tiny black speckles.

“Are your gods all so small?” she asks him in Alban, continuing to flip through the thing. She can hear several of the ghost men exhaling in surprise, but she’s too confounded by the black marks to look up at them.

The Rebbe chuckles. “There is only one God,” he replies in the same tongue, “and He is great enough to be both tinier than the tiniest mark in that book and larger than all of creation.” He gingerly picks the thing—the book—up from her lap and turns it around, and pats one finger against each set of marks as he speaks. “’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.’ There now. Repeat after me.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God,” Miramanee repeats obediently, and understands that the black marks are the ghost man’s magic. It is perhaps not as powerful as her own, she decides, but it has its own beauty to it, too.

~

The Rebbe David spends three years with the tribe. Others of his friends come and go, but he himself becomes almost human as he determines to become accepted by the tribe. Pamouic teaches him to make small snares to capture game, how to dress and smoke the meat and cure the hide, or else how to preserve the pelt. Miramanee is as fascinated with his book magic as she is the hidden colors that Mattachana teaches her.

When she is sixteen, the Rebbe leaves to go back to his home across the sea. “I shall return, my children,” he promises the sons and daughter of Goro, all of whom are particularly sorry to see him gone. “You won’t have time to miss me, you’re growing so quickly.” He beams at Miramanee. “You may well be wed when I return!”

Miramanee flushes, looking away from the glance of Selash, who has grown very fond of her of late. “Mayhap,” she concedes. “If my Chief wishes it so.” She bows her head to Goro, who laughs and pets her head like she is still a child. Another time this would gall her no end, but now it is comforting in a strange way.

Within a month of Rebbe David’s departure, Samuel Kirok returns.

~

Miramanee has spent the last three days hunting for dogwoods suitable for harvesting. The bark, once boiled, creates a blue dye; the fruit, a dark green. On her way home she finds blackberry bushes and fills a gourd full; half of them can be treats for her little brothers, and the other half she will give to Mattachana to make a dark red. The colors will adorn the warriors at the harvest festival, including Nantaquas, who is now old enough to stand with them himself.

As she comes closer to the village, she pauses. She strains her ears, and listens from within to the radiating warmth she has come to trust as Kisisoke’s way. This is why, when she takes two steps to the left and spins, she isn’t surprised at the man following her, only at who it is.

“Miramanee? It is you!” Samuel Kirok makes a sharp hooting sound of glee, taking her by the shoulders as she continues to stare and spinning her around. “You’re—you—”

He doesn’t look any different, she thinks shakily. Well, that’s not quite true, she realizes: His hair is a little longer, the edges of it brushing his tunic, and he has a new scar on his chin. But his eyes are still that deep, uncanny shade of blue…

“Miramanee?” Kirok’s voice is questioning, like he’s not as sure of himself—which is all but preposterous, as he was never anything but sure before.

“K-Kirok,” she finally says, stumbling on his name and feeling unbelievably foolish, her face warming. “I—it has been too long, my brother,” she says formally. She feels she ought to give him a hug, and knows that even a year gone she would have done so without hesitation, but now she is keenly aware of a heat in her stomach, a tightness in her breasts. The odd sensations radiate throughout her as he smiles at her.

“I’m a bit late. I have so many adventures to tell you—we traveled all along the coastline! Here, let me take that for you,” he adds, taking the gourd of berries from her hands, which now feel useless, so she rubs the damp palms of them against her dress. “What have I missed?”

She tells him about her friend the Rebbe teaching her to read, about her cousins who have married, and her half-brothers who are learning the ways of warriors now. “My father is seeking an alliance for Pamouic. A Cayuga woman will be ideal, he thinks, perhaps Hehshai daughter of Deskaheh.”

“And will you be marrying soon, yourself?” he asks, and she stares at him. He flushes pink and looks away, embarrassed.

Miramanee feels obscurely disappointed. “That is for Goro to say, not me.”

Pamouic and Nantaquas greet Kirok with delight when they return to the village, and she shares the berries out to Parahunt, Pochins, Tatacoope, and Taux. Pamouic and Nantaquas look manfully self-sacrificing as the younger boys take their treats and run away, but when she hands them each some of the fattest ones she had set aside, they whoop with pleasure themselves. Kirok grins and accompanies her to Mattachana’s tent, where Selash says little as she removes the bundles of bark from her otterskin pouch. She feels his eyes on her though, and Kirok tenses with indignation.

It is nothing, she thinks in bewilderment, even as a small part of her rejoices in the ghost man’s protectiveness.

Mattachana appears with warm fresh cornbread wrapped in leaves, looking smug and pleased with herself. “I heard one of Miramanee’s pets had returned,” she says, breaking off a piece and giving it to Sam. “Here, you eat more than Sano and Meeko do.”

“Thank you, grandmother,” Kirok says politely, munching the bread happily. Selash frowns and leaves without a word. Kirok swallows. “Something I said?”

~

Kirok sits next to Miramanee at the evening meal that night. Goro nods and welcomes him back formally, but his attention is focused on a discussion with Kekataugh and Opichapam, which Pamouic and Nantaquas listen to eagerly. They eat from the same bowl and talk lightly of nothing in particular, and afterwards Kirok asks her if she’d like to go for a walk in the twilight with him. It feels very warm in the longhouse, even more so after having spent the last several nights by herself in the woods, so she is breathless when she says yes.

They walk in companionable silence, past the upraised logs demarcating the village proper, down the hill to where honeysuckle blooms in profusion, the air sweet with its scent.

“I have missed you, Kirok,” she blurts at last, because it has been building in her and she can’t help it. She’s honestly afraid he’s going to laugh, but he doesn’t.

“Call me Sam, Miramanee,” Kirok—Sam—says, and he puts a hand on her cheek, drawing her close for a kiss. His lips on hers are warm—surprisingly so. Somehow she thought they would burn once they touched hers, but they don’t. He tastes of the cornbread and squash and venison they had eaten for dinner, and his hands where they settle on her hips are firm and possessive, holding her in place. “You’re shivering,” he remarks as he pulls back from their kiss.

She is, too, she realizes. The spring air is far from cold, but she’s quivering all over; her nipples are hard, pushing against the soft doeskin of her dress. She’s even sweating a little, as if it is mid-day and not well into the evening. “Do I have a fever?” she blurts.

Sam stares at her, then bursts into laughter. “What?! No!” He brushes her hair back away from her face, kissing her again. “You’re just—” He pauses, then seems suddenly awkward. “Miramanee, have you ever, ah, kissed anyone before?”

“No,” she says honestly, feeling herself growing warmer still. His hands, which had been tracing delicate patterns along her hips and thighs, pause abruptly. “What?”

“I—we shouldn’t be doing this. This is a bad idea. I’m sorry.” He turns around abruptly, taking her by the hand. “This—we shouldn’tve—I don’t know what I was thinking!” He sounds angry now, and Miramanee is pulled along after him, but at that a deep well of fury unlocks within her, and she pulls out of his grasp.

“What you were thinking?” she echoes. More than anything, she wants to slap him. “You left, and were gone, and then you came back—”

“I can explain all that,” Sam—Kirok—starts, but she is louder than he.

“—and you act like nothing has changed, like I’m still a child—”

“Miramanee, you are so not a child,” Kirok says dryly, but she can barely hear him because she is talking too rapidly, saying things she had barely even been aware of.

“—and I missed you and you were gone, and I didn’t know what to do, and then you come back and you’re all”—and she imitates the low, deep tones of his voice—“‘Oh, Miramanee’ and—” She breaks off, because he’s kissing her again. Her anger evaporates, and she’s barely aware of anything beyond the beat of her heart and the warmth of him.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I really am.” He holds her close to him, so that she can feel the long lines of his body against hers, the rough cloth of his Alban clothing scratching against her bare skin and through the soft doeskin of her dress. He takes a deep breath. “Alright, let’s try this again.” His breath is warm on her lips, her cheek, her neck. “Miramanee, I am sorry for being an idiot. I missed you too—sincerely,” he hastens to add. “Just not—”

“Not the way I missed you,” she finishes for him. But she has to smile ever so slightly, because, in fairness, she hadn’t quite understood herself, until this moment.

He gives her a small, slightly crooked grin back, running his fingers through her hair once more, and she leans into his touch. “No, but I did miss you.” He kisses her again, and the warmth floods through her as he pulls her close.

~

After Sam’s return, the days and nights melt together as far as Miramanee is concerned. The days are too long, too warm. She is aware of the Sun as she has never been, and when she arises in the morning and says her prayers sleepily, the heat of the morning mixes with the memories of the night before. She wonders what the Rebbe David would say, with his odd One God who spends rather more time peeking into people’s beds and demanding worship rather than keeping the stars aloft, or the colors in the sunset.

One afternoon, as she and Mattachana grind together herbs for the coming fever season, Sam stops by, Nantaquas on his heels. “We’re going fishing,” he says. “Shall I bring you back anything in particular?” He grins, tugging on a curl of her hair teasingly.

Miramanee rolls her eyes. “If you can teach him to catch crabs, I’ll be in your debt,” she tells her younger brother, who nods as he represses a laugh.

“You say that like you doubt me,” Sam complains, touching his lips to her briefly. “Watch me,” he informs a bemused Mattachana, “I’ll bring her back all the crabs she can eat. See if I don’t!”

They leave then, just as Selash enters. The healer frowns deeply at her. “You should watch yourself, daughter of Goro,” he says sternly, before retreating back outside as if appalled beyond words.

Miramanee frowns after him, unsure of how to respond. She turns, staring at old Mattachana, trying to gauge her reaction. The old priestess returns her gaze evenly. “You are Goro’s daughter, and should remember this is so. But,” and she holds up one hand firmly, “you are also Miramanee, Priestess of the Sun, and as such are accountable only to Him.” Then she turns away, making a show of working with her herbs and powders, and Miramanee feels her spirit lighten.

That night, after Sam does bring her crabs and she laughs as he presents them to her at the evening meal, after they go for their walk and Sam draws her into the quiet, enveloping embrace of the woods, after Sam makes to pull away as he has been wont to do when he’s decided they’ve had quite enough exploration, she pulls him back to her.

His exhalation is warm against her neck. “Miramanee?” he asks, a whisper.

“Shh,” she says firmly, drawing him close.

~

It is like the Sun’s own warmth on her skin, inside and out.

~

“It didn’t hurt much, did it?” Sam wants to know as they lay together, after. His fingers float along her side sleepily. “I’ve never—” He leaves the rest unsaid.

“A little,” Miramanee says honestly, and he kisses her cheek and forehead, pulling her to him firmly. “But not much, no.”

“Good,” he mumbles against her skin, kissing her shoulder. “I never want to hurt you.”

~

Weeks pass like this. The days are work and chores; the evenings, love play. Miramanee is careful, measuring herbs and balancing the days until her moon’s blood comes.

Life is pleasant and happy, and then one day—it isn’t.

~

“I wish to speak to you, my daughter,” Goro says, entering Mattachana’s longhouse. The women look up from their work, tying plants into bunches and hanging them to dry. Miramanee blinks, exchanging a glance with the old priestess, before following him outside.

Her father is usually busy during the day, and she tries to push away the sense of unease that unfurls in her belly. His honor guard of two warriors, red paint glistening on the skin of their cheeks, follow behind them discreetly as they walk to the fields beyond their longhouses.

“I have received two offers for your hand, my daughter.” Goro looks into the distance as he says this; for the first time in her life, Miramanee thinks he looks old. Silver is liberally streaked in his black hair, and though his arm muscles are yet defined beneath his decorative coat of deerskin and raccoon tails, he does not stand so tall as he once did. “What think you of this?”

Her mouth is very dry. “Who asks?”

“Selash. And Mangopeesomon. He would make a fine alliance,” Goro says, looking at her now.

Miramanee licks her lips. “No,” she says. “I wish neither of them.”

Her father frowns. “You are my only daughter, and I treasure you, but you must make a match.”

The Sun’s own fire burns within her. “I am Miramanee, Priestess of the Sun,” she declares, voice ringing out. She is vaguely aware of the guards flinching, and even Goro looks taken aback. “I am Okee Sun God’s Own, and no other’s.”

She feels taken out of herself, looking down on all of them from above: The Chief with the pair of feathers in his long hair; his guards, the left half of their skulls bare and gleaming in the bright light of mid-day, the long black rivers of hair falling over their right shoulders. She sees herself in the brightly painted dress that is her right as a priestess. She is aware of her people throughout the village like small flames of light, but for Sam Kirok, who is like—not an absence of flame, but a flicker, like one not fully born.

Okee Sun God has not claimed him for His own, some distant part of her thinks. He is not one of us. Not truly.

The part of her that is only Miramanee, Goro’s daughter, flinches from this knowledge, and she is abruptly back in her own body.

Her own body, which bears a flicker within it, as well.

“As you will, my daughter,” Goro assents, and he and his guards leave her be.

She remains tall until he is out of sight, and then she falls to her knees, shivering in the heat of the day.

~

I was careful. I was so careful! she thinks when she walks back to Mattachana’s in a haze.

“Are you well?” the old woman asks, frowning.

“Yes, grandmother,” Miramanee answers. She forces a smile. “Yes. Perfectly—fine.”

“Mmmph.” Mattachana is doubtful, and she cannot blame her.

~

“I have something to tell you,” Sam says when they come together that night.

“Oh?” She strokes his cheek, looking into those dark blue eyes, seeking—something. “What is it?”

“I need to leave soon,” he answers. “I—I want you to come with me. It’ll be perfect,” he continues as she stares at him, mouth agape. “You should see the rest of the world with me, Miramanee! The hills of Alba, the orange orchards of Aragonia. There’s so much out there to do, to see—”

The cold inside of her grows. “I can’t go, you know that.”

Sam stares at her, uncomprehendingly. “But, Miramanee, I—I love you!”

Miramanee feels the ridiculous urge to cry at that. “And I you. That changes nothing. You know that.”

Sam frowns; his hands on her arms are hard. “No, I don’t know! Come with me, Miramanee! You—I need you!”

“If you need me so much, then stay,” she says. She can feel the Sun warm inside her—but not warm enough. “If you can go without me, then go.”

Sam looks at her for a long time, saying nothing. He kisses her lips, and leaves.

~

Miramanee is the Priestess of the Sun. She is the Okee’s, and Okee is hers. That is all.

~

Miramanee, Goro’s daughter, feels like dying could be easier than watching Sam go.

~

All is quiet in Mattachana’s longhouse. The only sound is the reassuring rhythm of mortar on pestle as she grinds herbs into the mixture she needs. The old woman peers over her shoulder, frowning at the combination in the bowl, knowing the hidden meaning they spell out through her woman’s magic as easily as if they were written in the Rebbe’s little black letters.

“Only men ever value women’s blood,” Mattachana says after a moment. “Blood from sex, blood from birth. To us, it is life, and necessity. To them, it is proof of their own virility.” She takes the herbs from Miramanee, finishing them herself, adding them to the water boiling in its clay jug on the hearth. “They forget that we always choose our blood, when to shed it, when to nurture it.”

“He doesn’t know,” Miramanee murmurs. “Didn’t. Doesn’t.”

Mattachana squeezes her shoulder. “You are your own. Drink, or not, as you will.”

She leaves, and Miramanee watches the tea brew.

When it is cool, she drinks it.

Her moondark comes in a sevenday.

~

Time passes.

Goro says no more of marriage.

Mattachana’s time comes, and she passes easily in the night.

Selash remarries.

More and more ghost men come to their shores.

The Sun burns.

Miramanee doesn’t know if He is displeased with her, or with them all; with the ghost men, or the people.

She is Okee’s priestess.

This is what she knows, as time passes.

~

The earth tilts under her, drawing her awake from her dream of great waves rocking beneath her in a great canoe. The Sun is warm inside of her, and she hears a sound like wings. She sits up, breathless.

They are coming.

The words are clear in her mind. She wishes she knows who “they” are, but the warmth of Okee is reassuring inside of her.

All will be well, little daughter.

This is not the first time she has heard Him, but He has never been more clear. He laughs, and she is comforted.

~

Jim wakes up in an instant, eyes wide open. Their cabin has no windows, so it’s impossible to know what hour of day it is. But something feels different, and he recognizes it immediately. He sits up.

Bones is still half caught in slumber. Without opening his eyes, he asks, “Whazzit, Jim?”

“The ship,” Jim says. “We’re here. We’ve reached Terra Nova.”

Blessed Elua smiled upon the arch-herald, and turned to his boon companion Cassiel, asking the loan of his dagger. Taking it, he scored the palm of his hand. Bright blood welled in his palm and fell in fat drops to the earth, and anemones bloomed. "My grandfather's Heaven is bloodless," Elua told the arch-herald, "And I am not. Let him offer a better place, where we may love and sing and grow as we are wont, where our children and our children's children may join us, and I will go." The arch-herald paused, awaiting the One God's response. "There is no such place," he replied.
-- Earth Begotten

Comments

( 12 comments — Add your .02 )
sail_aweigh
Aug. 30th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, bb! This is beautiful! So utterly perfect for Miramanee. OMG, if Jim and Bones weren't together, I would want her for Jim so bad. Or Bones. Either! Sam, I liked Sam, but he doesn't deserve her, he couldn't see her. ♥♥♥
caitri
Aug. 30th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
*G* Sam has a hell of a lot of growing up to do, still. Don't worry, the boys will give him hell later!
avictoriangirl
Aug. 30th, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
Poor Miramanee. *pets*
caitri
Aug. 30th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
Fear not. Just wait 'til she meets the boys. *G*
blue_jack
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:25 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness, bb, you are such a world-builder, it's so freaking impressive.

As for Sam...grrr... She can do so much better, hmph.
caitri
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, Sam has a hell of a lot of growing up to do. Not to worry, Jim and Bones will make sure it happens!!!! *G*

Also, you have an Alex icon now!! <3
weepingnaiad
Sep. 1st, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, my! This was gorgeous! I loved, loved, loved Miramanee and her strength and how vivid you made their culture! It was wonderful to see that episode rebooted and have all the implied imperialism and white man saves natives removed from it!

I'm glad that Salesh wasn't a bad guy, too. I did want to smack Sam, though. Hopefully Jim and Bones will take care of that!

Glorious, bb!

caitri
Sep. 1st, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
*G*G*G* I'm glad you liked it, bb!!!

I am about halfway through the epic proper! I am hoping I can beat it into submission over the semester!!! :)

(And yeah, Sam has a lot of growing up to do. The boys will take care of that.)
suddenlyswept
Sep. 3rd, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
I'm a little bit in love with Miramanee's voice.

Okay, I'm a lot in love with it. Just wonderful, bb!

<33333
caitri
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
*squishes you epically* I'm glad you like it, bb!!!!!! <3
eldritchhobbit
Sep. 3rd, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
Beautifully done. Truly. You've given Miramanee such a compelling voice.

I loved the way you've turned this on its head. Of course, I found particular delight in this: "She teaches him to talk like a civilized person, slowly—so slowly." Wonderful. ;)

I also really liked how you handled Salesh.

And this struck such a perfect note: "This is not the first time she has heard Him, but He has never been more clear. He laughs, and she is comforted."

Great writing and great world-building!
caitri
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
Yay yay yay!!!!!!!!!!! I'm glad you like it!!!!!

Now I just have to finish the REST of the epic saga. *sigh*
( 12 comments — Add your .02 )

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