Mommy kept telling her what to do, but she was bigger now and it wasn't fair. Seya's mommy let her play far away and didn't yell at her like Hera's mommy.
It was cold, but she'd already started walking and she wasn't going to run back home now. Hera pulled her hands inside the sleeves of her red sweater. Mommy said it might be the last red sweater on Earth right now. They traded Seya's family a plucked bird for it, even though Seya was too big for it anyway. Mommy always tied the hood under her chin and Hera didn't like that. She untied it now, then quickly pulled her fingers back inside the sleeves while she walked. Following the trail, she wondered how much longer until she saw... something. Something exciting.
"Where are you going?"
She stopped and looked up. A Two with hair in a ponytail stood in her path. Hera wasn't sure how to answer him. If she said the truth, he might make her go back home. "To my grandmother's house," she said after a moment. Hera didn't really have a grandmother, but one time they'd visited an old blonde lady and Daddy said she was kind of like a grandma. Mommy didn't like that and they argued about visiting her when they thought Hera couldn't hear.
He looked at her, head tilted to one side. "You don't have a grandmother," he said, and smiled with his white teeth. "You're the shape of things to come and you have the name of a false god."
Hera wasn't sure what all of it meant, but it didn't sound nice. "You don't have a name," she told him. "You just have a number."
"True. Though I have a name now." He leaned closer, big eyes watching her. "I have the name of a false god, too. Hermes."
"Oh," she said.
The Two named Hermes turned away from her now and sat down, picking up something shiny that he pressed against a rock. It was a knife.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm sharpening this knife."
"Because when we use it, it gets dull, so we have to make it sharp again. Want to see?"
She stepped closer and watched as he pulled the knife along the rock over and over again.
"This is the whetstone. It helps polish the edge to make it sharp again." He turned the knife over and repeated the same motion on the other side.
Hera sat and watched while he sharpened another knife. "Can I try?"
"Not yet," he answered. "When you're older you can."
Tired of that answer and of sitting still, Hera said, "Will you tell me a story?"
Hermes didn't say no right away. Instead he looked at her for a moment before he finally said, "I don't know any stories for little girls."
She thought about saying that she wasn't really little, but decided on a different tactic. "You could make one up." She gave him her best smile, the one she used when she tried to get Daddy to let her stay up later.
He looked at her again and then nodded his head and put the knife away. Crossing his legs as he sat again, he said, "Once upon a time there was-"
"A girl with a red sweater!" Hera supplied helpfully when he hesitated.
"A girl with a red sweater and a hood draped over her curly black hair."
Hera nodded, and he continued. "She was walking in the woods to go visit her grandmother when-" Hermes stopped and turned his head.
"What?" Hera asked. "What happens next?"
"Do your parents know where you are?"
Now she heard it too-her name echoing in the distance. Mommy and Daddy calling her. Sighing, she stood up.
"You'd better hurry," Hermes told her. So she ran back towards the village, in the direction the voices came from.
She really wanted to know what happened to the girl in the forest who was walking to visit her grandmother.
Hermes had gone hunting. Hera knew because he was dressing the animal. Dressing-that word always made Hera giggle, because it sounded like he was putting clothes on it, not cutting it up.
He turned when he heard her. His fingers were bloody and so was the knife he held.
"That looks really gross," Hera said. "Can I watch?"
Hermes looked at her. "Where are you supposed to be?" he asked.
"No one is supposed to be nowhere," he said.
That didn't make any sense to Hera, but maybe she could convince him to let her stay here. "I can't go home now, 'cause Mommy will kill me."
His lips twitched like Daddy's did when he wanted to laugh. Hermes didn't say anything, though.
"She'll yell a lot," Hera finally admitted instead.
"That may be in the pattern," he said.
"I ate the fruit I was supposed to help sort. All of it."
"How did you know?" she asked.
He smiled. "Your mouth is red."
"Oh." She looked at her fingers; they were red at the tips as well. She wanted to see her face, but Hermes didn't own a mirror. Only two people she knew had them. Mirrors were like magic; they showed you yourself better than a picture or drawing or your reflection in the water.
Hera remembered what happened last time she came here. "Tell me the rest of the story of the girl who was walking in the woods," she said.
"Not right now," answered Hermes. "I have work to do."
"But I want a story!" she said, and started to cry because Mommy was going to be mad and it smelled like dead animal here and her head and tummy hurt and she felt all hot and weird.
Then she threw up and felt a little bit better, even though she didn't like throwing up.
Hermes didn't say, "It's okay, baby," like her mommy did when she was sick. He helped her take a sip of water and spit it out, though, to get rid of the icky taste. Then he carried her back home.
"Sorry I threw up on your tools," she called after him as he started walking back to his home. Mommy laughed and didn't yell at her, though Hera did get grounded. It really wasn't fair.
"Mommy's tummy is big now. Like this." Hera held her hands out wide in front of her.
Hermes nodded his head. He'd been hammering something; now he was bending it into a curve. He didn't say anything, and in frustration Hera told him, "You're not listening!"
He raised his eyebrows. "You said that your mother's stomach is bigger. Round like this." He held up the metal; it was in the shape of a circle now.
"Bigger than that," she told him.
"Mm. So why do you think her stomach is big now?"
"Because she's gonna have a baby soon!" She almost yelled as she said it. Daddy had told her that she would be the big sister, and that she would be the oldest, always.
"A baby." His voice sounded funny and Hera didn't know why. "You won't be the only one anymore."
Hera knew that. That was the part that she didn't like as much. "I'm still the oldest, though," she told him. Ready for another topic, she then asked, "What are you making?"
"I'm trying to make a spinning wheel."
"What's a spinning wheel?"
"It's to spin fibers into yarn," he answered.
"Like a spindle." Hera knew about them. She even had one of her own. She and Daddy tried to use it together but Mommy said their yarn was too lumpy. Mommy had a bigger spindle with a sharper tip and Hera wasn't allowed to touch it.
Hermes said, "This will be faster than a spindle if I can get the pieces right. Then we can spin thread and yarn faster than we can get the fleece."
"Then what will you spin when you run out of fleece?" she asked.
"Certain plants make good fibers. Maybe we'll plant crops of them if we can find a way to make them grow for us."
Hera knew about crops, too. They sometimes didn't grow, and other times the insects ate them up. Plants to make fleece, though-that sounded silly. "You can't spin plants," she told him.
"Some kinds of plants you can," he insisted.
She thought about it. Maybe long skinny plants could make the yarn, but it would be scratchy. "Like straw?" she suggested, and then giggled. A straw shirt would be funny.
"Probably not straw." He smiled back at her.
After watching him work on parts for his spinning wheel a few more minutes, Hera was bored. "Tell me a story," she commanded.
He told her of a girl who made yarn with her spindle, and of a magician who offered her a spinning wheel, and of new babies and how the girl protected them because she was the oldest.
Hera fell asleep on the ground before he finished; she forgot some of the parts, too. She made up new sections when she retold it later.
Mom counted the years. "I always know how many days have passed," she told Dad. It was true. Maybe it was a cylon skill or maybe it was just her mother. Hera was ten years old and her brothers were five and two.
Sometimes Mom let Hera take them to see Hermes. The trail to his little cabin didn't seem so far now that she was older. Too old for his stories; she helped tell them to her brothers while learning how to use the smith's tools. Instead of a girl wearing a red sweater, they told of a boy who climbed up a magical bean plant that grew to the sky.
Hera was old enough to sharpen the knives now. Hermes didn't let her use the forger's fire yet, but she helped carefully trace the patterns of tool shapes onto their precious paper-they sent the patterns to other villages with carefully-written instructions on how to make them.
They worked and talked and looked after Hera's brothers. While the stories Hermes told weren't for her anymore, Hera still liked hearing her name used for the powerful sorceress or the benevolent ruler. She laughed when he told about the girl who ate so many berries that she turned into a berry. Her favorite of the stories he told her brothers was the one where she broke an evil spell cast on them.
At sixteen she told her mother and father that it was time for her to move into her own house. Mother was silent and stony-faced and Dad cried. Hera knew that life wasn't a fairy tale, though. They needed to begin the next generation-too many here died from sickness and accidents to wait to have children.
Besides, it had already happened. New life was growing inside her and she took strength from that.
Tam was a good man. He'd already started building the small stone house that would be theirs. He was a year older than her; his parents understood that Tam and Hera were adults, capable of looking after themselves.
When Hermes learned of her pregnancy, he helped her forge a plow and wheelbarrow for her new family to use. There was no magic in them, like in the stories they'd told. Instead there was hope and perseverance, qualities that would serve her better than imagined magic.
If she could make any story come true, Hera mused, it might be the one with the girl who fell asleep after pricking her finger on a spindle. At least that way she'd get a nap.
Tam came over to where she'd been nursing the baby and gently picked up their daughter to move her to the crib that Hermes had made. Amazingly, Min stayed asleep. Hera put her hands on Tam's shoulders and leaned in to kiss him. "Nice job, Daddy," she whispered. They kissed again, a slow embrace that made her fingers tingle.
"Yuck," said Keir, interrupting them.
"Kisses are yucky?" asked Tam of their son. Keir nodded.
"Hm," said Hera. She didn't worry about correcting that idea-he'd figure it out on his own far too soon, just as she and Tam had.
Tam pulled her close and bent her backwards, kissing her with dramatic flourish and loud smooching noises. Hera kept her eyes open and could see Keir covering his face while his younger brother giggled.
Min stirred in her crib, letting out a tiny wail, and the whole scene came to an abrupt, silent end. They all watched the baby, waiting; she turned slightly and sighed, falling back asleep. After that Hera sent her boys outside to play, laughing quietly to herself.
She usually took her children with her to see Hermes. He still worked at his fire, loud rings from the hammer sounding out at the edge of the woods.
Once she thought she'd be like him, forging and building and inventing. Instead she'd done a little of everything: hunting, planting crops, raising her children and teaching... She still remembered what she'd learned next to Hermes and his fire, and taught some of those skills to folk in the neighboring villages.
Hermes was the clever inventor of practical tools; or maybe he was a re-creator. Her father's ancestors had used these same tools thousands of years and millions of miles ago.
He was telling Min about a girl walking through the forest. Min's eyes were big, intently watching Hermes. "What happened next?" she asked, when he stopped talking to cough.
He was doing that more and more, Hera realized. When he didn't start talking again right away, Hera quickly finished the story herself, watching Hermes sip slowly from a ceramic flask. She refilled it with water from the well then. Following his whispered instructions, she brought him a small clay vessel filled with a powder that he dissolved in the water.
"Cylon lungs," he finally said when he could speak normally again.
She looked at him quizzically.
"Too much smoke exposure. Cylon lungs are more susceptible to it than humans. We weren't built to stay in one body for so long." He shrugged and picked up a tool again.
That night she talked to Tam and Keir. Their son was old enough to help decide, because this choice could make a difference in his future.
Keir went with her the next day and helped persuade him. Hermes would teach Keir his trade; in return for the apprenticeship, Hermes would stay with them when he needed the care.
The tool shop was next to their small house now. Hermes walked to his cabin on the other side of the village each night until a few days ago. He was staying in their home now, with Min as Hera's patient assistant. This freed Hera enough to look after everyone else, especially her youngest child. Tam carried their fourth son in a sling when he could, but Seb still needed his mother most of the time at this age.
"I was a little scared of you the first time we met," Hera told Hermes. She was nursing Seb as they talked. "Of course, it was all the more enticing to visit you because you were a little bit scary," she confessed. He smiled at that, but didn't laugh. Laughing turned into coughing far too often.
The baby finished nursing and Hermes took him from her and carefully helped to burp him. Hera cleaned ashes from the stove and hollered out the door for the other children.
Keir came first, carrying a scythe. Hera was about to shoo him back out with it, then realized he wanted to show it to Hermes. "What do you think?" her son asked. He was taller than her now.
"It's very good," Hermes told him. Keir smiled shyly at the praise. They talked about his technique in sharpening the edge. Hera took Seb back from Hermes when she noticed her son asleep in his arms.
Once upon a time a little girl was walking through the forest. She said she was looking for her grandmother, but instead she found a lone wolf. She knew that wolves had sharp teeth and big eyes to see with, but she also knew that wolves weren't meant to be solitary creatures. So she made him her friend, and he stayed faithful to her family for the rest of his life.
Hera talks and spins fleece into yarn, faster than the younger women can. She turns the spindle and tells her grandchildren stories of treks through the woods and of magical inventions. The tales spin, entwine and then separate, taking on lives of their own, just as this world spins, tilted on its axis. Spring to summer to cold winter nights around the fire. The generations also entwine, human and cylon, until no one knows where reality ends and myth begins.
Once upon a time a baby girl was born. Prophecy declared that she was the shape of things to come. She grew to be lovely, with dark curls and a warm smile.
Hera didn't care about what prophecy said, though. She chose her own path.