Under Blue Skies

They came together, elders and children, men and women, from every homestead in the vale. The Sun was cresting on the horizon, and the first of the evening stars began to appear on the eastern horizon. What little twilight remained bathed the people who stood huddled in their blankets as they converged on the Great House.

A fire was burning within. The open hatches in the roof permitted sparks and plumes to escape into the darkening sky. Once inside, the villagers were met with the familiar aromas of wood smoke, stone bread, dried meat, and fish. On the grand tables, bowls teeming with these foods lay prepared after hours of preparation.

Many looked upon the preparations longingly, the sight and smell fueling the rumbling in their stomachs. Alas, it was not yet time to partake. Before the feast, the people needed to pay their respects to those who had come before. Their Elder Stories needed to be told, the young needed to learn, and those in-between needed to bear witness.

And so they formed many concentric rings around the firepit, where countless generations had sat and shared the tales of the Ancients before. For the elders, wooden seats, stout and worn, were arranged while the younger generation rested at their sides, and the grandchildren sat at their feet.

When all were assembled, Elder Snowmane began the ritual. As always, this began with the account of Creation and how the children of Bluesky came to be.

“Once, the world lived in darkness. There was no heaven above, no earth below, and no oceans, rivers, or streams to divide them. No life walked freely under a bright Sun nor slept peacefully under skies of blue. All was quiet, except for the labors and actions of the ancient Gods. In those times, the Gods wandered the heavens, moving place to place in the skies.”

Snowmane paused for a moment to gather his breath and his thoughts. The story was one he’d told countless times “But then, the Gods came together and decided that they were lonely.

“And once creation lay finished at their feet, they returned to the heavens to wait and watch over the land.” Snowmane gestured to the canopy above their heads. All looked up. Only those who sat beneath the open hatches could see the eyes of the Gods looking down at them, but all knew their gaze from looking up countless times before.

“The gift of light followed, which would warm their children during the day, grow their crops, and allow them to navigate land and sea. But at night, the Gods look down upon us, as a reminder that they are our creators, and we, their progeny.”

The stories continued, from the first dawn and the first children of the land to the gifts of speech and kinship; of wood, bone, sinew, and leather; of stone, sticky grass, bloodroot, butterseed, copper, and counting knots. And the many creatures the Gods had sired and made available for their Children to love, tend, herd, and hunt.

“So great was the land’s bounty that the Children of Bluesky thrived.”

Snowmane paused. A shadow fell over his face, and not just because the candle that brightened his features began to die.

“And then there came a time of darkness, when the Children of Redsky came upon these shores, wielding their weapons of iron and shouting in their guttural tongues.”

Snowmane waved his arm above his head and shouted. The children all screamed and clung to their parents for protection. The moment of terror faded, and many smiled at each other in recognition of Snowmane’s theatrics.

“Though these children and their Gods were cruel, the Children of Bluesky learned their ways and adopted them as their own. From the marauders, we gained the gift of iron, of Rune, the gift of sails. In time, the Children of Bluesky fought and thwarted the invaders, sending them back across the Great Sea to their Redsky lands.”

He paused again. The mood inside the longhouse had reached a crescendo, riding high on crisis, battle, and victory. Now it needed to be brought home, so all could see the hope for the future and the need for vigilance.

“Some say the Redsky folk will return. And that we must be ready for them. And so we keep our eyes to the skies and sea, diving in the messages from the heavens and watching for their sails.”

Amid Snowmane’s final words, a bold young child stood and asked a question.

“Do you think they will come back someday, Elder?”

Snowmane smiled benevolently at the child. “Perhaps,” he said. “Or perhaps we will go and find them.”

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