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On the North

under purple clouds

By Negomi Oak RhettsPublished about a year ago 5 min read
Runner-Up in Under Purple Clouds Challenge

‘Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky.’

That was how The Elders had started their storytelling, year in, year out, by the crackling of fires and with the gaze of attentive eyes. But The Elders weren’t here anymore, and their stories had all but drifted into the wind.

The air was crisp and cool. The hilltop, with its woodland of ferns and pine, stood strong; a solid, silent mass. The fading light slipped through the trees, creating loose patterns on the ground. There was no hint of human activity, so unless you looked closely you would miss her.

The lone figure sat nestled between two large ferns at the very edge of the forest. Bundled in a long thick coat, her skin was streaked with dirt and her hair was so thick and matted it reflected the moss-covered stumps around her. Even her eyes had become lost within the trees, dull and with their shine gone. However, underneath they remained focused and alert.

Light was dwindling, turning time over to the night. She waited. She’d been waiting for years; she’d lost count of how many. A few more hours couldn’t hurt.

She shifted her weight a little and pulled her coat around her more tightly. Looking down into the deep valley below, now a rolling blanket of dusky purple and shadows, drawn in by the night, the dark tree line behind her silhouetted against the evening sky.

She could make out the undulating hills and the grooves in the earth where fences once lay, the rubble of stone and mud where homes once stood. The faint remains of life between people and the earth, their bond thought to never be broken.

But humans are curious, and curiosity leads them astray. They pick at new, shiny things and follow them along until the hint of the past makes them turn back, only to find blurred memories. Things once known long forgotten, slipped to the back of their minds like old photographs of past friends kept in nostalgia.

And although much had slipped into the past, she had been the last to remember one important thing. She had been told by the final Elders of her village that the time would come when she would be here alone and that the world would open up, that her world would change, and that she needed to be here to see it through. They entrusted her to be the keeper, the messenger.

As the years went by her village became smaller. Families moved on and friends left, intrigued by tales of exciting modern lives far from the valleys, the forests, and the snowy mountains.

Consumed by ancestral folk law and committed by honour she had remained. She’d watched patiently, never allowing herself to follow the herd. Never allowing herself to stray away.

As the stoic messenger she protected the land she cherished, knowing that the when the time came for her parting, she would leave this place looked after. She had been its loyal steward, bonded forever like a woven tapestry of land and human.

She’d aged and grown into a woman, looking far older than she was. Now she was the only one left and had been alone and waiting ever since.

Her breath hung in the air and snaked between the trees. Midnight drew close and like clockwork the purple clouds rolled in and started their cosmic dance, sending ripples across the peach-pink sky.

Finally, one by one, and filling the sky with a light so brilliant and dazzling, the three moons rose.

This was it.

The Elders had told many tales, many stories of ancestors who came before, remembered for their influence and significance. But there was one story passed on that was for the future. This story was a prediction, and it was why she had stayed. It was her purpose.

The prediction was a series of events that foretold the future, and it began with The Night of Three Moons.

The Elders spoke of this time with a reverence so respectful it rivalled all other faith. This was their most sacred teaching, so the one person chosen to carry it forward had to have the same respect, the same faith. They had to be strong and humble, a loyal steward.

After a few moments, her face tilted upwards and bathed in the moons light, she began to move. First her gaze, then her limbs, uncurling slowly from the ground up.

She took one last long look at the place she knew so well, the hills below and the moons, large and bright above. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and turned to face into the trees.

Deep amongst the undergrowth dim glowing lights were dotted about. The light came from mushrooms, a rare kind that only grew in lunar cycles.

Following their fragmented chain like a pathway between the pines, she walked slowly to the centre of the forest. She knew the ground well and never stumbled.

Coming to a clearing where the mushrooms where larger, she looked around and noticed how their glow creating pools of dull light around the ferns, smooth stones, and the base of the tall pines.

Kneeling in the middle of the clearing she reached inside her clothes to a small bundle wrapped in cloth. She unfolded it and began placing several items on the ground in front of her.

First, a shallow clay bowl with a wick, then a small dark bottle of oil, sage leaves gathered in twine, a hawks feather, some pinecones, and a smooth, flat stone the colour of copper and rust.

Trying not to rush she poured some oil into the clay dish, lit the wick with a match, and then one end of the bundle of sage.

She sat tracing methodical patterns with the sage, creating smoke rings around her head and body that mixed with the sweet-smelling oil burning in the dish. After several rounds she placed the smoking sage on the stone and sat back on her heals to paused for a moment.

She could feel the earth beneath her become warmer, was it pulsing? She looked around at the glowing mushrooms, their dim light rising and falling in waves. The air around her that had been still and calm began to move in a soft breeze.

Then, quite suddenly, the wind changed. It began rushing, ripping through the trees, a loud and fierce roar.

She scrambled to her feet, scooping the ceremony items as best she could back into the cloth.

Her coat was being pulled, her hair whipping around her face. Pinecones and needles scattered down all around her; the tall trees forced to let them go. It took all her strength and will, but she kept her feet firmly on the ground.

Her eyes moved wildly around, searching for what might come next, hoping no branches fell.

In an instant, and with a cannon like boom, a stream of brilliant emerald-green light erupted from the ground beneath her. A column of energy, it lit up the entire forest and shot up into the sky, rushing fast like the wind, it gathered speed and surged outwards.

And then as quickly as it had come, in one great clap it was gone. And where she had stood moments before, there was only the flat red stone in the middle of the clearing and a few speckles of dust, hanging in the air.

FantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Negomi Oak Rhetts

Herbalist & holistic health coach

Ex biodynamic farmer

Amateur poet and short story enthusiast

Self-published author of two free-verse poetry books: Weaving Roots and Wild Sanctuary

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Comments (2)

  • R. J. Raniabout a year ago

    And congratulations on your win!!! It is well deserved 👏👏👏

  • R. J. Raniabout a year ago

    Ah! So much intrigue! I absolutely adore the deep, interwoven connection with the earth in your piece! Will you be continuing this story? I’d love to know what happened to her!

Negomi Oak RhettsWritten by Negomi Oak Rhetts

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