In an ancient land, in an ancient time, when there were no cities or roads, when no ships sailed the sea, when all animals ran free, before presidents, emperors, tyrants or kings; in this age of time before time the world knew nothing of war. The people were many an odd and motley crew but from one to another flowed a spirit of peace and love and understanding so that no matter the difference between man and woman, or white and black each had a clear knowing and love of one another. Each man was a brother and each woman a sister and no one fought, for who indeed would fight their own family?
So it was, and the Spirit flowed freely from one to another.
But we know that this did not last, and the ancient age came to an end in a bitter winter filled with storms. Many grew ill and died and many more disappeared in the darkness of those days. Fear of the darkness overcame all things and all the people of the earth struggled and fought. Their reasons were many, but in the end, they fought and hurt one another because they feared on another. They feared perhaps this person brought the storms. Perhaps this person will steal my bread. Perhaps this person will steal my wife. Perhaps this person will hurt me first.
And the Spirit no longer flowed freely.
So it was that a woman was born in the hours just before sunrise called Imenah, which means “Dream” because her parents had long dreamed of having a girl child. Hers was a quiet spirit more fond of watching and understanding than of talking or acting. She delighted in games that other children called boring, and listened to the old tales as if preparing to retell them in turn. It was on the day she celebrated her 18th birthday, in the hours before the sun rose from its rest in the distant east, that Imenah awoke from a dream. She was so frightened by the dream that right away she rose to speak to her Mother and Father. She cried out to them as she ran through their home and they sat together while she told them her dream. When she had finished her father spoke.
“Such visions are beyond our understanding. Not even Cuinn the oldest and wisest could understand such a thing. You must travel north and find ancient Seanachan. He will help you to understand your dream.”
Now Imenah was very afraid because no one had traveled north to see ancient Seanachan since the days of her grandfather’s grandfathers, and the tales told of that time were of wolves the size of bears that would eat anything. There were Ravens so large that their wings would blot out the sun for an entire day. Vultures perched on trees, and the foxes outnumbered the ants. It was too much and she decided not to journey north.
But the dream returned the next night in the hours just before dawn.
And again the night after that.
And again the night after that.
Finally, after seven nights of the same dream, Imenah resolved to travel north.
“You are brave to listen to such omens,” said Father. “Take my knife with you as you go so you may protect yourself from evil.”
“You are wise to listen to such omens,” said Mother. “Take my cloak with you as you go and it will hide you from every evil.”
Imenah took the knife and cloak and set out. As she was on the edge of their village Cuinn found her. “Your mother and father have told me your tale and where you go. Your father saying you are brave has given you a knife. Your mother saying you are wise has given you a cloak. I say that there is power in you, you do not know. So I offer you my staff, do with as you must.”
For five days Imenah traveled north guided and accompanied only by the distant stars, and her dream which would visit her one day but not the next to remind her of her purpose. As if aware of her journey, every creature and spirit kept away from the path she walked, fearful that they too might get caught in the river of her footsteps. It was as she traveled at the end of the fifth day that Imenah began looking for a place to rest that she heard a terrible cry. It was the long, low, and wailing dirge of a creature in pain and close to death. At first Imenah was afraid. What if it was a trap? What if a giant wolf had injured the animal hoping to bring something else to eat closer? What if the animal wasn’t really injured but trying to lure prey close?’
But her fear did not last long in the face of the animal’s cry. So carefully, and as quietly as she could, Imenah crept towards the sound of the hurting creature. Her heart beat wildly against her ribs. It could still be a trap, but she couldn’t ignore it. So she crept closer. And closer. And closer.
Thmup thump. Went her heart.
And then she saw him. It was a dog with reddish brown hair. It seemed something had attacked him, but he had gotten away. But he had been badly hurt and could no longer walk. Imenah, no longer fearful for herself but for the dog ran to him.
“Poor creature, what happened to you?”
“I was attacked by a wolf.”
“Hold still, little brother, I will help you.” Imenah looked around for the plants she knew, and saw them. Using these she made a poultice and bandages for the wounds. Then she covered the dog with her cloak while she used the knife to cut wood for a fire.
“Thank you,” the dog said as Imenah built the fire. “I would be walking the star path tonight if you hadn’t come.”
“You are welcome little brother. What happened to the wolf who attacked you? Was it one of the giant wolves?” Imenah was suddenly afraid again.
“No,” the dog said. “It was just an ordinary wolf. It got distracted by a herd of deer and decided to leave me alone.”
Imenah’s heart quieted.
“You travel a strange road Sister.” The dog said. “Why come north?” Imenah told the dog her tale, described the vision to him. When she was done he spoke again. “Your parents are right. Ancient Seanachin is the only one who could tell you the meaning of your dream.”
“Do you know Ancient Seanachin?” Imenah asked. “Do you know where he dwells?”
“Indeed I do. I shall guide you there, and I shall follow you all the days of our lives for if not for you I would be dead.”
“If so, then I shall call you Sadeki, which means faithful.”
That night, Imenah did not dream and awake in the hours just before sunrise.
Sadeki and Imenah journeyed together for three days when they decided to rest free from the cover of trees in a flat and grassy place. They had sat only for a moment when a shadow fell over them. Imenah looked up and saw the wings of a great bird descending on them.
“Run!” she shouted to Sadeki. “A giant raven comes!”
Her heart beat in fear against her chest, faster and faster and the bird came closer and closer. Sadeki did not have enough time to respond before the talons came down on Imenah. But she did not scream in pain as if attacked, and the great bird did not continue on it’s way.
Imenah had take the staff up and held it between her and the bird so that the talons locked around it, instead of her.
“Girl!” the bird cried, “Let go the staff and give it to me!”
“What use has a raven of a staff?” she asked.
“I am not a Raven!” the bird said. “I am Hashlyn the Hawk, most noble and grand of all my flock.”
“Well then what use a Hawk for a staff?”
“What use? To build a nest of course! There are no sticks large enough for me to make a nest on the ground.”
“If all you need is some sticks for your nest, then I shall cut some for you. Now release my staff.” Hashlyn did as she asked, and perched on the ground. “Wait here while I fetch you a few sticks.”
Imenah went into the forest with her Father’s knife and cut twelve sticks the size and weight of her staff to bring back to Hashlyn. She was very pleased to receive them.
“I shall have the grandest nest in all the north with these.” Haslyn said. “I owe you many thanks, and an apology for attacking you.”
“You are of course forgiven Sister Hawk.” Imenah said. “Tell me, does Ancient Seanachin live nearby?”
“Yes. I can get there in one day’s flight, but for you who crawl on the ground will take at least two days.”
“Thank you. And what dangers are here?”
“Dangers? None other than you would not have at home.”
“But are there no wolves the size of bears and ravens that can block out the sun? Aren’t there vultures that fill trees like leaves, and more foxes than there are ants?”
“No.” Hashlyn said confused. “Why would you think such things?”
Two days after meeting Hashlyn, Sadeki and Imenah came to the old northern forest where Ancient Seanachin lived. It was said in those days, that the northern woods were more fearsome than the land between it and the rest of the world. It was said the trees themselves were alive and would take careless travelers with their roots. It was said that evil spirits wove dreams for those who slept there so horrible that the bravest of men went mad. Otherwise they wove dreams so pleasant that the dreamer never awoke and their spirit was forever trapped.
But it was the only way to get to Ancient Seanachin, so Imenah and Sadeki entered.
There was no noise in the wood. It was as still as the hours before a storm, as if all the creatures and spirits and the trees themselves waited. They watched.
“I feel the eyes on me.” Imenah said.
“Let us hope,” Sadeki replied, “It is only the eyes you feel and not the tooth or claw.”
And they walked on in the silence, not afraid to speak, but unwilling to break the silence. It was as if to break the silence would awake every evil and wretched thing that watched or slept nearby.
“Welcome.” The voice was loud in the silence though actually very soft. Imenah screamed in surprise and Sadeki yelped and hid behind her. “I’m so sorry to startle you, but I did wish to welcome you Imenah and Sadeki.”
“Who are you?” Imean asked. “Where are you?”
“Forgive me. I shall come down.” From high above them, in the tallest part of the tree, a spider the size of a house lowered himself on a silk rope into the clearing. Imenah did her best not to scream for she was afraid of spiders, but Sadeki barked in happy recognition.
“Ancient Seanachin!” Sadeki shouted. “You shouldn’t scare travelers like that. You should know better!”
“This is ancient Seanachin?” Imenah asked. “But he’s a spider.”
“Yes, I am a spider. Who else to interpret the twisted weave of a dream but another weaver? Now tell me, child, what is the dream that haunts you.”
“I dream that something chases me. I look over my shoulder to see it but it is dark and shadowy and I cannot see it. It chases me into a valley with no way out and I turn to it. It is no longer shadow but a great beast, deformed in face and body. Unable to run away I run towards and it shatters into a million pieces leaving behind it’s heart that continues to beat and bleed.”
“But my daughter,” Ancient Seanachin said. “Do you not realize you have already interpreted the dream? The shadow is fear. The same fear that made you hesitate to come here, the fear that almost left Sadeki to die, the fear of Hashlyn when she came for your staff. And the beast is the ugly controted thing that fear makes of humans. But you have defeated it and in doing so you can now see all those who’s heart bleeds from fear. Now you must go and heal them.”
“And how shall I do that? Tell them to undertake the same journey as I?”
“No. But you will heal them, although you do not know how you do it. It may be the words you speak, it may be a touch of your staff, but you will heal them.”
“Touch them with the staff? Speak to them? But how? What shall I say? How can the staff-“
“In the ancient times a great Spirit moved from on to another and there was no war.”
“I know this,” Imenah said.
“That same spirit is in you. It gave you compassion to save Sadeki. It gave you understanding to help cut sticks for Hashlyn. And it will guide you. Go share it, and bring healing to people. Drive out their fear.”
Ancient Seanachin’s words weighed heavy on Imenah’s heart, but after some days she did as he said, and together with Sadeki had many adventures. But these are other stories for other days.