Hmmm. I spent months on this story and I'm still not satisfied with the beginning.
I've finished the entire thing, and I'll update Mondays~ Enjoy~
Even if you hate me as long as you live, I shall continue to be proud.
Even if I die, to have you remember me would be a blessing.
She had missed three blood moons and exhibited signs-the signs- of children. Her stomach was swelling. There was a definite bump on the place above her womanhood.
Probing it, just as she had so many chieftains' wives, she could feel that familiar sensation. Something was in there.
However, she hadn't done anything-with anyone! She ran wild, and she ran free, but never to this extent. She'd never coupled with a man before. This was impossible. And yet, it was happening. Perhaps the Raven had turned into a pine needle again and snuck into her water. That thought amused her.
She was infinitely thankful that the pregnancy started in winter, lasted through spring and ended in summer; her people thought it was representative of the crops, and so paid it no mind. While she trekked through a north-eastern part of her territory, she felt a sharp pain in her huge, swelling belly. Knowing that there was no tribe around in time, she sought out a cave and gave birth there.
She gasped for breath and tried not to scream. She bit down hard on a piece of wood and felt it start to crack. As the morning turned to afternoon and then waned to evening, and the stars and moon shone down, she heaved out one small wet bundle, and at last she lay back, huffing and panting. But she still wasn't done. Her belly was still inflated. After ten minutes of much less agony and much more relief that it was finally ending, the second baby was in the world.
She had given birth to twins. They looked like her-high cheekbones, beautiful mahogany skin, and raven fuzz on their heads-but their eyes! The younger's purple as violets and the elder's blue as a kingfisher. Two little braves, and she knew somehow that they would be the death of her. She couldn't let a frown or tears cross her face while the twins looked up at her so adoringly. She swaddled them with cloth torn from her bag and her skirt, and fell asleep, the two little ones nuzzled on their mother's chest.
She got up early in the morning and ate of her rations, and let the small ones drink milk in exchange for waking up so early. She'd have to stay here for a time, so that the twins could get accustomed to breathing air. That was what her chieftain's wives did, and so would she. They might be something more than human, but the first day of being alive shouldn't require a journey through forest. Not only that, she was still tired from birthing.
She didn't let the twins out of her sight, and tearing more strips from her tunic and skirt, she fashioned slings so that she could carry both while she foraged for food, and by luck found a river. She managed to catch some fish despite the fact the children were squawling. She took them back, wriggling, and set them down. She fed the two again and laid them down on a blanket. She cooked the fish and the smell of good food silenced the twins again.
The twins, the twins. I must name them. She thought. I cannot simply call them 'the twins'.
She looked at them carefully. One was bouncy and gurgled and shouted. The other was quieter and moved less. It was impossible to tell their names simply from that.
I shall call that one Chaska, she thought of the loud one, and that one Mukki, for now.
She was pleased with her names.
The next day, she decided that she could move through the forest again. If she started out at sun's rising, she could get there by sunhigh. She took both babes in their slings and drew her hunting knife, wary of creatures that might decide to take an easy meal.
She had to pause to feed Chaska and Mukki, however, because they woke up to find themselves hungry. No baby-and no person-likes to wake up hungry.
At long last, after sunhigh had come and gone (she was weaker than she had thought, and needed rest) she finally arrived at the camp. Children came with bright eyes to stare at the newcomer and her two strange bundles, while the chieftain was roused from his longhouse.
"Gaho, it is good for you to come." he said formally, not looking once at the bundles at her sides.
"It is good for me to be here, Chief Onata." she said just as formally back. Then she broke into a smile.
"May I please share a meal? I have given birth just two sunrises ago and have not had time to hunt."
The chieftain nodded, a smile on his face too. "That is good, Gaho. Come to my longhouse."
The women talked amongst themselves and the chieftain's wife Denali took her husband's arm.
"Before Gaho is to eat, perhaps we shall see the babes?" she asked politely.
"Of course. Their true names have not been decided yet, but this one-" she took out the elder's bundle- "Is Chaska. The younger is Mukki."
"Such a strange name, Chaska." mused Denali.
"It comes of a tribe far west from here." Gaho said. Then her stomach growled. Denali laughed.
"Come, let us eat. It is not often you visit us, Gaho." She said teasingly while leading her into the longhouse. She gave her maize and squash and beans and some meat from a bear. Gaho ate well that night, and was drawn into the festivities of the village. She ate and drank and told stories of the Raven who was born as a human and stole the sun and moon and stars from the Gray Eagle, and the wise Turtle, and others that she heard from her other tribes. She captivated the children long after the adults had lost interest and told story after story for them, while keeping her own in her lap.
Finally, a small one asked a question. "Why is everyone call you Gaho?"
She smiled. "Because I am mother to you all."
The little one frowned. "That's not an answer. My mother is right over there." he pointed.
The woman he pointed to looked quizzically at Gaho, who shrugged.
"I am the land beneath your feet. I am the sky above your heads. I am the trees that you climb. I am the rivers that are with fish. I am all these things. But I appear as a human."
The children looked at her with wide, wide eyes. They didn't doubt her for a second-how could someone with such old, old eyes look so young? She looked only twenty summers, and yet she talked and was treated like the oldest of elders.
They were only spellbound for a moment. Then they pressed her with stories from the old, old times, when she was a little girl. Gaho gave them more stories of when she learned to fish, the first tribes, and the times when the earth shook so much it felt it would clatter to pieces. She also talked of her first memory- glaciers, majestic ice that moved like canoes and were higher than the tallest of trees.
Finally, however, the fire burned low and the children started nodding off. Mothers swooped down to take them into longhouses.
"Gaho, stay in our longhouse." asked Denali.
"No, it is fine. I want Chaska and Mukki to sleep under the stars."
Denali left them and Gaho laid out a skin, and nestled the two babes in. Then she slept in the middle, arms unconsciously making a ring around the two. Her hair splayed out onto the children's faces and there they slept, starlight and moonshine painting pale patterns on their skin.
After that, Gaho made thanks to the tribe and promised to come again, when the children were braves and maidens. She continued on, to her endless travel around the country. It took many passings of the seasons to go around and through the place, but she had walked the paths since the dawn of time and could do it in her sleep.
She took the summer and autumn months to tramp across the great ice plains and the mountains. She taught Chaska and Mukki the wonders of snow, one time when they were too slow and were snowed in. Mukki's eyes shone to see the snowflakes and somehow she knew that he was destined for the north. She taught them how to blend into the forests unseen and unheard; she taught them how to make snowshoes and tramp lightly across the snow. Gaho taught them how to fish.
Then, the winters and springs she usually spent in the grass plains and the deserts. She painted the stars for them, taught them all the different constellations. She danced on the red sandstone, and told them how to survive in deserts. She howled with the coyotes and they did the same. One time she tried to smooth down their funny tufts of hair with mud and when they washed it out all of the hair on their scalp stood straight up.
She took them to see her sister in the south. Nahuatl was disdainful of her constant wandering and often asked when she would finally settle down make a 'real' nation.
"It is too hard on the little ones to make such a journey." said she, squatting to look at the twins. They were wary of the stranger and hid behind Gaho's legs. Chaska had long since been called Helaku, and Mukki was now Kajika.
"They are Countries. And they are my sons." she said simply.
"Is it not better for you and your children to stay together in one place and have people come to you?" asked Nahuatl.
"No. This way, I can see the sun and stars and the deserts of the south and the snows of the north. This way, I am free."
Nahuatl snorted. She flapped a hand at Gaho and said flippantly "Free or not, it will be my people who outlive yours for they are more organized."
Gaho smiled and hummed a little tune, and went on her way to the center of her lands and then out through the east and the north. It was ten summers before she saw her sister again. This time she was troubled.
"Sister, there are strange creatures that lurk in the water; they have huge canoes with white wings. All of the islands that are south of your shores have been taken."
Gaho looked astonished. She felt a sudden flash of fear as she remembered that only eleven summers hence she had given birth to the twins. Gaho quenched it hurriedly and told Nahuatl that she would go to the point of her land and see if the islands closest to her were infected with these strange pale things.
It was the last time she saw her sister with health in her cheeks and happiness in her eyes, and the troubles that clouded them never went away from that moment.
Gaho means Mother. When I looked it up and cross-referenced, the (few) websites didn't say which tribe it came from.
Nahuatl is actually the name of a group of dialects that are based in Meso-America.
Chaska means eldest son. Mukki just means child.
Helaku means 'full of sun', and Kajika means 'walks without sound'.
Onata and Denali are both Iroquois names.