By the time the communal evening meal was being served in the cave, Aja had become despondent. She seemed not to hear or see those around her. Instead… the visions of her bloody past seemed everywhere. Every child she saw reminded her of the small ones… bloodied and headless. Every female who hovered around her… reminded her of Gael or of the other females whom she had slain. Every male reminded her of D'Jann. All males… but Kaval. The greeter… the only one of her kind in this place… was still hoping to recreate the world as it had been. He sought to deny the slaughter. Aja closed her eyes. The slaughter could not be denied… it needed to be remembered. If those that remained denied it… then it would happen again and again until all the people were dead.
She began to focus on the fire before her and noted the embers rising in the heat of the flames. Rising… not falling as the fires of heaven had fallen time and again. If embers might rise… could balance be restored? What was needed? What more did she need to do to make things right? The answers eluded her.
Suddenly the sounds of the Others about the fire, the heat of the fire, the closeness of Kaval, sitting closely beside her were all too much. Aja angrily rose and raced out of the cave into the cool night air. She stood on the stone shelf and breathed in great gulps of cold air until her chest ached.
Glancing heavenward she saw the streaks of the fires as they fell to earth. A sob escaped her and she screamed in pain. Hearing a step behind her, Aja wiped the tears from her eyes and reset her placid expression.
"Is there a way for me to help you first daughter?"
Aja closed her eyes. It was Kaval. He wanted so to comfort her. Should she allow it? Would coupling with him ease the loneliness in her heart? Would the act bring forth Havron's thoughts where now there was only the wall he'd built between them to sever their unity?
Turning swiftly she grasped his face in one hand and pressed her lips to his. His mouth opened slightly in surprise and she inserted her tongue to begin the exploration and to make certain he understood that she was responding to his invitation.
Almost immediately his lips pressed hard on hers and he clasped her to him tightly. Aja stepped even closer and rubbed against him, already feeling his physical response… so eager was he. He lifted his lips from hers and groaned as he looked about. She pushed him toward the exterior cave wall and then began to run her tongue over his chest… tracing the patterns of the People. Kaval shivered. Aja hopped onto him… wrapping her legs about his waist and feeling him within her. Back and forth they rocked as he struggled to maintain the position while standing.
Aja focused eagerly on him… opening up all she had in an attempt to feel anything. But despite her best efforts… it was only going through motions. There was no feeling in this coupling… Havron was not here. Nor did he seem to care what she did… or how she felt. Her left hand remained cold and dead. Her heart remained a block of ice. Her soul wept for the loss of all that had been.
When she felt Kaval finish she dropped free of him and turned away. He moaned a few times and then reached out to her. He obviously still needed something. Aja stood quietly while his fingers traced patterns on her that did not inflame her. She remained passive as he moved his mouth and tongue over her in desperation for a response that she did not feel. Finally he met her gaze… the questions looming in his eyes.
"It means nothing anymore," Aja said sadly.
"It must. Even with our mates dead… surely it would mean something. It did even before we were joined."
"Not for me. You are not my mate. We will never be joined."
Kaval shook his head as if not understanding her. "We must try. If we are to recapture what was…"
"It cannot be done," she said in little more than a whisper.
Aja slowly took in a cleansing breath. It was time to tell him… time to make him understand. "When the slaughter began with your people… you said they killed your mate."
"Yes. She sought to reason with them. She was the judge of the People… Marran… whose word was law."
"Why did you not try to help her?"
"They would have killed me?"
"When they began to slaughter the small ones… what did you do?"
"I ran for my life. To stay would mean I would die. A great madness took all that killed. I did not wish to fall to the madness."
Silence followed his words. Aja pulled out the flint knife tied to her waist and held it by his neck. Kaval's eyes widened in fear. "On the day of the slaughter… I was one who participated. I know what it is to call forth the living fire of the Source of Life that fills the People. I have basked in it… and been ever eager for more. Have you ever eaten a honey-cake that was so sweet and moist… that you wanted more and more?"
Kaval's head barely nodded… his eyes watched the knife.
"That is what it was like. With each head I took… I felt for a moment the unity of creation… and then it faded and I had to have it again… and again… and again. At first it was only the People who began to die. We pursued them if they pulled back… we tossed the great sword between us and used it until it was stained red with their blood and we were so covered with blood that it was as if we would never be clean again. We reveled in the carnage that such a thing was possible… that the People could die. That they who were unchanging… could die and feed us their power." Aja laughed.
"You should see your face. Even now you fear to die… fear me… fear the knife at your throat. What? You don't think it can take a head? It can… I have taken many with it in the days since the slaughter. But that day… I found it on the body of one of the others I killed. We turned to killing them… curious if they would feed us as the people had. They didn't. They were lumps of flesh… cattle to be slaughtered… things in our way. One of the small ones crouched holding tightly to the body of one of the People we'd slain. I pulled him up and rammed the knife into him before his time. I waited to see him re-enter life and then I sliced away his small head. The power was there. At that… I began hunting them."
Kaval sobbed and tried to turn away. Aja grasped him tightly and pushed him against the wall and leaned in… tracing patterns on him with the knife.
"Understand first speaker… I was in a trance… I wanted more and more… and more. Small one after small one I killed to assuage my lust. And it still did not fill me. The unity was sparse as if it were incomplete. Finally I did the unthinkable. I noted the small one of my household hidden within the arms of my mate. I knifed him and pushed him away from her… and killed her. When she awoke… I took her head. It was only after her power died away that he awoke screaming and I began to come to my senses. My Leila… the joy of the people was dead. I had killed her in an attempt to feel and know her joy… but I did not feel it. I felt only a horror as I began to look around the Standing Stones and see the blood splatters everywhere. I saw the bodies of many of the People and knew that I was one of those who'd slain them. I saw the bodies of the Others and knew that those whom we were to protect had been slain by my hand. I saw the bodies of the small ones and knew that I had betrayed the trust of my guardianship and had robbed them of life. I saw the mutilated body of the last of them… my Leila… my joy… the small one of my household… she whom I had loved. And I saw the face of my mate. He knelt next to her and sobbed. Then he rose and took from my finger the ring he'd once had crafted for me and closed his heart to me. He lives Kaval… but he is dead to me. He turned his face from me."
Aja's voice had slowly risen with each statement. She could see horror and dismay on Kaval's face. He was shuddering in fear of her next move. The patterns she'd carved had already healed. She smiled. "We are each of us… alone now. All of the People who live are the same. We cannot trust another one of us. We can kill without the sword. We can kill while sleeping beside one another. We can kill… while coupling. Nothing else matters… but that we feel again… however briefly… that moment of ultimate unity."
Kaval slipped to his knees… moaning.
Aja leaned over him, whispering in his ear. "Can you ever trust me again?"
Kaval met her gaze as he shook his head.
"Go then," she finished. "Before I change my mind."
He scrambled to his feet. "I will find others like me."
"Then you will die in your ignorance."
She turned to watch the night, hearing him retreat into the cave. Sometime later he emerged, with staff in hand, and with his journey bag slung over his shoulder. "I take my leave of you," he said to her.
Aja shrugged. She'd known he would flee. He was not Havron who had dared her to kill him before he would surrender Leila. He was not Havron who had tried again and again to stop the slaughter. He was not Havron who'd remained within the stones to burn the dead and cleanse the holy place. Kaval was a coward who sought only to continue and to have things as they were. So frightened of her was he now that he would rather chance a night journey than remain here one more night.
Aja let him go.
Once she no longer heard him she returned to the fire and the odd glances of the Others who wondered what had happened. She smiled and nibbled at the offered food… wondering where her path lay. That night, once the screens were drawn, she pulled from her bag Gael's Stone of Seeing. For so long it had shown her only scenes of the slaughter, that she'd feared to look into it. She chanced it now… seeing the day to day tasks of the Others… both these and those she'd never met. Aja sighed. It would seem that she might begin her true journey and atone for her past by offering her gifts to the Others. If she could teach them the way of balance in creation… perhaps one day Havron would open his heart and soul to her again.
By dawn she'd laid her plans. She could not manage to make a covering of animal skin… but she wove one of the grasses so that she could cover her body and be one of them. By the time the screens were withdrawn she was ready to begin this first day of her new life day by working with the females in their food preparation tasks… slowly and carefully showing them the way of the People. She did not know how long it would take. But she would try. She would work with the ones here… and then move on to other groups. One by one… the Others would learn the balance of creation… and the toll it took on they who inherited it. And one day she would find again the joy of the People and Havron would forgive her. On that day, perhaps she and Havron would be one once again. While she worked… she began to hum one of the old songs.
Once when our hearts were singing
I was with you
from Fallen Embers, lyrics by Roma Ryan
The Symbols of the People
1. -- 2. water (cradle of life)--fire (instrument of change)
3. -- 4. earth (the sustainer)--air (the unknown)
5. -- 6. light; day--darkness; night
7. -- 8. love--hate
9. --10. life--death (rebirth) (Omar'le)
11.--12. promise, trust--betrayal
13.--14. (Aja, first daughter); guardian--(Kritis, first-born); craftsman; builder
15.--16. (Methos) scholar, knowledge-- warrior, (Darius)
17.--18. (Gael) healer--outcast; liar; lies (Nestor)
19.--20. (Morannon, Marran) judge; balance--champion (MacLeod)
21.--22. (Ko'val, Kaval) creation (meetings, beginnings)--destruction (endings)
23.--24. chaos--order; patience (To'val)
25.--26. loss; despair--comfort; gain; hope; joy (Aella, Leila)
29.--30. (Sofaer) compassion--indifference
31.--32. desire (hunger); the devourer--fear; avoidance
33.--34. (O ro' dred) friend--enemy
35.--36. home; destination--journey
37.--38. (D'jann) seeker, questions--answers; truth
39.--40. (Nin) vengeance; consequences--mercy
41.--42. (Havron)prophet; vision; dreamer--speaker, teller of tales; holder of memories (Phillip)
44.--45. Now and for all time---all things are one
Once, as my heart remembers,
All the stars were fallen embers,
Once, when night seemed forever
I was with you
Once, in the care of morning
In the air was all belonging.
Once, when that day was dawning
I was with you
How far we are from morning
How far we are
And the stars shining through the darkness
Falling in the air
Once, as the night was leaving
Into us our dreams were weaving.
Once, all dreams were worth keeping
I was with you
Once when our hearts were singing
I was with you
lyrics by Roma Ryan
The above lyrics are from Enya's CD A Day Without Rain and are used without permission.