Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Twenty Eight

August 25, 2006

Paul has almost taken us to the land he believes he came from. He is traveling with Aema who has taken on the role of teacher and guide, and she has asked several questions, each time giving him an article of clothing to replace his rather worn travel gear.

Gilly was nestled in Paul's arms, eyes almost closed, listening intently. His voice was deep and strong, and the melody in his words seemed to send her into a dream... she could see his journey, hear Aema's voice, feel the air and the movement of the cart as Paul and Aema traveled on through the night.

Paul continued his story...

Soon the walls began moving away from us, the trail broader and better paved.

A few grasses and flowers now emerged from the base of the cliffs, and every so often a small animal -- a hare or small cat-like animal would dart away and disappear through a crack in the wall.

Aema changed her song, and it was as if she sang the sun into the new day.

I listened, fascinated, catching a few words here and there.

The swallows gave way to other birds; and the walls grew white, tinged violet with the dawn.

Finally, on the left there was a small carving, then a placard on the right in the same characters as on the stone piles at the river.

A statue of an elegant person -- I could not tell man or woman -- stood serenely by a pool with a waterfall.

Here, we stopped one last time. Aema took the jenny off the harness and led her into the pool.

Coming out, what had been a tired, thin mule was a handsome, energetic beast.

The water in the pool turned gray, but quickly cleared.

Aema stooped and washed her face and hands. Then she turned to me.

"Paulo, before you enter the pool, you must tell me: Why have you made this journey? What do you hope will result? What is the greatest treasure?"

I looked at her and found the answers to my questions of the previous weeks.

"I made this journey to find out about myself."

"I hope to become a better man for it."

"The greatest treasure is Love."

Aema nodded solemnly, and pointed me into the pool.

I started to disrobe, but she laughed and pushed me in.

Startled, I swallowed some of the water and came up spluttering.

The water was -- sweet? or perhaps just so clean? --

I ducked my head under and walked out, wiping the water from my face, shaking my hair.

Aema was waiting, holding boots and a belt. She smiled approvingly.

"Paulo, you have traveled far, and will journey even further before you have all your questions answered."

"Close your eyes now, and tell me what you see."

I held the boots while I closed my eyes.

"I see -- my home. I must be standing in the middle of the field. I can see the barn, the house ..."

I could feel tears springing from my eyes.

"I see my wife, working in the field with the children, weeding around the small plants."

"There is a large bird above, it must be an eagle. I can't hear anything."

"I see -- that must be the baby... holding tight to my wife's skirt and following in her footsteps. Why doesn't she pull the weeds like the others?"

I could feel Aema's hand on my shoulder.

From far away, came the sound of a song. The image faded and I opened my eyes.

"Oh Aema -- my family!"

And I found myself in her embrace, sobbing.

Aema continued to sing, and finally I was able to look around.

The jenny had walked up and was nuzzling me. Aema gave her a pat on the forelock and led her back to the cart and began to hitch her up.

I pulled on my boots and the belt. Like all the other clothes, they fit without struggle.

Climbing into the cart, I noticed that it seemed a bit smaller than before.

Then I realized that the boots were of thicker leather with heels. I laughed, and Aema smiled.

I ran my hands through my hair and looked at her. She nodded and we began to move on.

Another statue, a tablet with some ornamentation, a bit of stonework at the base of the walls.

The cliffs were receding, leaning backward into the mountains and pulling away from the road.

We came out of the pass and I saw a wide land stretched out ahead.

There were fields as far as the eye could see, with small farmsteads and clusters of houses every so often.

There were larger towns scattered among the smaller villages.

The land was ringed by mountains, with a large plateau in the center.

The plateau was surmounted by towers -- dozens of them, reaching up into the sky.

I turned to Aema, "This is your home?"

She nodded, "Yes, but Paulo -- it may not be your home. Do not get your hopes up."

I breathed in the air -- it felt as good as the water in the pool. Clean. There was energy here; peace and joy and possibility.

"Well," I said, "Home or not, this is where I will look for answers."

A jangling sound from behind startled me, and I turned. Several muscled men pulled up on large horses and saluted Aema.

Aema inclined her head slightly and smiled as one man dismounted and came up. He bowed deeply.

"Aema, we are pleased to find you have arrived. I trust your passage was pleasant."

He stated it as if it could never have been otherwise.

She laughed and the music was picked up by the bells on the horses' tack.

The man turned to me, but Aema made a gesture and he merely saluted and remounted.

They rode on, a few in front, a few behind, and the man who had spoken on the side nearest the valley as we descended.

Occasionally, he and Aema would converse in their language. I could almost make sense of their speech at times.

They were discussing me. I had the feeling that the tests I had passed might be only the beginning of the strange events to come.

But the day was bright and clear, the company of men interesting to watch, and the land grew more and more beautiful.

**back to normal mode**

Paul glanced down at Gilly, who was fast asleep.

He smiled, and gently set her down on her pillow, pulling the sheets up.

He slipped out of bed and quietly opened his trunk. There on top lay a beautifully worked belt and a well-worn pair of boots.

Quietly, he reached underneath and pulled out a small crystal vial on a chain. He put it carefully around his neck under his shirt and got dressed.

The sun was beginning to color the sky in shades of peach and beet-streaked clouds stretched across the sky.

He closed the trunk and tiptoed to the kitchen to stoke the fire. A new day, a new life stretched before his family.

**that's it for today folks, hope it was worth the wait!**