Introduction Two Guitars Thirty Circles of the Suns 1 Thirty Circles of the Suns 2 The Song of the Solstice Kimmy's Last Journey Snoes (Sweety)

Thirty Circles of the Suns: The Suns shone Brightly

Here you’ll find a fragment from the Caethlyan Legend Thirty Circles of the Suns.The story is enacted in the southern part of the Caethlyan continent Aethya, a barren desert area with small and scattered dwellings near the wells. I wrote the story as a birthday present for an American friend of mine.

Thirty Circles of the Suns is a frame story about the great Althorian magicienne Yanaraia Althaior against the background of the adventures of Zippo the Mythecantor and Synthe the Wanderer, two main characters of the Caethlyan Legende cycle.

This fragment contains the first chapter of the 'canvas' inside the frame. Yanaraia decides to leave her old and blind-alley life.

The Suns shone Brightly

Thirty circles of the Suns,
Shape Body, Mind and Soul,
In a life yet barely begun,
In straying towards its goal

The woman stretched out her arms and let the words fly on the wings of the tones of her clear voice. The sound of the song propagated lightly as a feather through the air and echoed against the sand dunes of the desert.

The suns Anor and Danor shone brightly in the clear blue sky above the desert of Al Ahrb and excited the air above the sand to dance, a dance that was visible in the wavering of the sight of the horizon. A wild dance that caused the view to be vague and sometimes made things appear as by magic, things that were not there.

The light of the suns turned the dry grass on the plains of the north into waving gold. Also here the horizon wavered. But not everything was illusion there. The circle of stones, that jutted out the earth like old and broken teeth, was very real.

The suns reflected silver and gold like and glittering in the small stream that vanished in the sand, the last remnant of the hope of life that started high in the mountains. The stream passed a tiny village, two hours walking southward from here and then disappeared in the desert with unknown destination. The inhabitants of the village felt little need to explore this destination.

How different this river used to be a long time ago! Broad and rapid this stream came down from the mountains in the days after the Second Glacial, when the suns melted the glaciers that held the ridges in the north in their icy grip. Broad, rapid and generous was the river while irrigating the wide lands around that flourished lush and green.

But these days passed. The climate gradually grew more dry and hot and withered the once green lands. The winds blew day and night and carried away the fertile soil, so that the bare bones of the world got visible like the bones in a badly broken limb are piercing through the bloody flesh.

On and on the winds blew, polishing the rocks and carrying away the dust and grinding the sand from its surface. The woods vanished, leaving sparse thickets in grassy plains. The thickets disappeared and the lands turned into savannah with dry and yellow grass. And then the desert swallowed all, flooding it with burning sand.

The plains became barren but for the short moments the rains poured down and turned the lowlands into seas of short living flowers that only lived to reproduce, to pass their lore to the future.

The woman sighed and brushed with her hand through her long black hair that was unbraided. She did not wear the sign of the Second Trentelyane yet, the braid that was interwoven with the golden comb with symbols of the battle between experience and universal wisdom. The wind played with her hair and turned it into an elegant frame for her expressive face. Her dark eyes in her lovely face tried to fathom more than physical reality alone.

Yanaraia was no excessively beautiful woman. It had to be said that she was far from ugly but she did not resemble the beautiful Ahrb girls that were in favour of the chieftains of the Ahrb tribes. She did not appear in the passionate dreams of the young men, dreams that faded away as soon as the suns rose, to leave nothing but a vague memory of lust and a bit of annoyance that the body could not differ between reality and dream and reacts the same way. She did not have the splendour of the women that dwelt in the courts of the Supreme Guide, far away in the magnificent city of Al Theia.

She looked rather sturdy, neither plump nor slim, fit for long walks in the desert and hard work on the arid fields near the small stream.

Fit for long voyages, she sometimes dreamt.

Her mother used to say that her beauty would only be recognised by the ones who felt it rather than by the ones who merely used their eyes. Yanaraia's mother was right, it was not the physical sculpture of her body that made her appearance. It was charisma beyond the physical observation, her glance that spoke from her dark eyes while she was silent, a ray of warmth, compassion or love if she wanted to, clearly visible for the sensitive observer only. But a shallow watcher saw none of this.

Yanaraia felt the heat of the suns on her cheeks and made a decision. She whistled shrilly. A number of excitedly bleating goats came running from the tussocks of high grass that provided their meal and crowded around her.

"Come on, goaties", she spoke to the animals, "the suns are at their highest. Time to look for some shelter against the heat in the shadow."

The grassy plain seemed to border on the desert like the air and the sea are separated. Here and there the sand dunes advanced and only some half buried tussocks peaked above the sand that flooded the grass.

Yanaraia guided her flock towards a thicket of low trees near the stream, that were edged by a few small reed-lands near the banks of the river. There she had a cabin near a piece of grass land with fences. The goats knew the routine and went inside the fences themselves. Yanaraia barred the entrance and sat down on a stub in front of the cabin. The suns cast their rays through the leaves of the trees and left light spots like jewels on Yanaraia's face.

Yanaraia drank a cup full of goats's milk and ate some bread, she brought from home. A home that offered her as much company as she had here. She mused about the things her mother used to say to her. She felt the pain in her heart, she could not suppress.

Sometimes Yanaraia merely considered her mother's statement as an attempt for comfort rather than the truth. At those times she was desperate because she failed to really touch another's heart or because she hopelessly chased an illusion with her own heart so deeply in love that it seemed to drown.

At those times, her mother's comfort was a meagre comfort anyway because in her heart she knew that she was right. Her sensitive side was very strong. It was this very truth that scared people off. Particularly men..

Fa'minha Al Faeryan, people call me, she thought, She Who Talks With Ghosts. They fear me for that.

She sighed and sang the second stanza of the ballad Thirty Circles of the Suns.

Thirty circles of the Suns,
Why have all First Times left?
Just looks like ev'rything is done,
Forsaken by Fate quick and deft.

She had to learn this song by heart for her initiation into the Second Trentelyane, the lore of the Noventale. This tiny group of Ahrbs believed that life was divided in three Trentelyane, phases of thirty Circles of the Suns. The first Trentelyane would start somebody's life and provide all the first times, the building up of basic experience. The Second Trentelyane would see a struggle between the basic experience and the universal wisdom, experiences had to be understood and evaluated in the framework of the greater universe. The third Trentelyane would bring peace in this war, and the heart would know the universal truth before it got carried away with the soul on the final trip home.

Some people said, that a true member of the Noventale would die at the end of the Third Trentelyane, when the soul was ready to go in peace. But not many people lived to see, because ninety circles of the suns was a considerable age amongst the folk of the desert. So most people rejected this rumour as unprovable nonsens.

She continued singing and her words filled the air, mingling with the soft murmur of the rippling water and the rustling leaves.

The Suns shone brightly and clear,
Before your first circle has come,
Unity in Love makes greater than one,
And creates flourishing life ev'rywhere.

Yanaraia tried to remember this love. She couldn't. She had never seen the love between her parents. All she knew were her mother's stories, her memories of the time before Yanaraia was born. She was sure that they would have told her about what bound them together once she wanted to understand this. Remembering these stories she was sure both would have told her about the magic that bound them together. She sighed. How she had liked to hear this! She remembered this longing from the moment she wanted to understand this eternal and wondrous story for herself.

But Alas.. Never would she hear this story of love from both her parents. Her father had died, defending his family against warring and plundering Ahrb tribes and her mother and two sisters just escaped the sack of their home town while Yanaraia still dwelt in her mother's womb, unaware of all this grief.

Unaware?

Yanaraia digged up her memories and felt it again. Yanaraia always thought that she had felt this grief of the last goodbye. She kept an image in her mind of the last time that her mother and the keeper of her heart looked into each other's eyes with a glance that reflected both the pain of a farewell and the promise of hope.

Our love won’t die, my lovely, even if I am not here any more, even if fate may separate us. Somewhere in eternity she will flourish again.

Those were her father's last words before, after a short moment of rest, he speeded towards the cruel and tough battle in the streets, the struggle to deny the attackers what was their own. An uneven combat from one house to another.

Of course Yanaraia had never heard these words with her ears. But she thought she felt them when her mother heard them and cried because of the fear of everlasting separation.

Yanaraia imagined that she had seen the burning of her house through her mother's eyes. That she had heard the laughter and bragging of the hostile victors through her mother's ears. She sometimes dreamt of the frightening fear and the despair of the long journey through the desert, a desperate journey towards escape, towards safety. In her memory it seemed to last forever.

When she awoke on the next morning, the dream always made her afraid and surprised. Wasn't it true, that by that time she could have only slept in quiet safety in her mother's womb, with her mother's heartbeat in her ears and her own heartbeat tuned in to it? But who can tell the bonds between mother and child while they still are as one and the things they pass on to each other without speaking?

Her mother rarely reflected upon their escape and the long road through the desert that led them to 'Finah Al Aqvivan. Sometimes she told fragments of the story on a winter night, when the tempest shook the walls of their home and roared in the chimney with the sound of a sad song.

Finah Al Aqvivan, Yanaraia thought, The End of the Living Water they call this place. But for us -and for me- it was the beginning of new life.

Here in this small village people accepted the refugees and had mercy on them. The Noventale taught them to show compassion rather than enmity and they followed this doctrine even against their better judgement. All Arhbs of Finah Al Aqvivan followed the doctrine and put it in practice. Here in this peaceful village Yanaraia was born.

She took a breath and continued her song.

The First Circle of the Suns,
Carries the first cry of your life,
Just sadness for leaving the paradise?
Or eagerness to start a new life's strife?

Yanaraia's mother and her family -besides Yanaraia she had two daughters, the twins Laëndryan and Thaëse- found rest and peace in Finah Al Aqvivan. The community benevolently accepted them and granted them a small piece of arid land on the banks of the stream for their living. It was not true that these people did not begrudge them some more fertile land. At the contrary, they divided the land as fair as possible. But the simple fact was true, that Mother Nature did not offer more riches on this place. Therefore earning a living in the village was hard. But life itself was not hard, because the Menlin of Finah Al Aqvivan helped each other and assisted in both material and immaterial needs.

Yanaraia's mother and her children farmed the piece of land, irrigated it with water from the stream and their own sweat, and harvested the necessary crop to eat from and to trade with their fellow villagers.

Besides with farming, they earned a living with various jobs like spinning, weaving, sewing and pottery. Thus they enjoyed a reasonably comfortable life without great worries. Of course, the memory of their flight remained, but they realised, they were quite safe here. Finah Al Aqvivan was too poor and too out-of-the-way to be interesting for people who were eager for booty.

No slave trader considered the long travel through the desert worthwhile. Most captured slaves would be killed by the heat, thirst and exhaustion before they even reached the Al-Theia slave market.

No brigand's headman considered the villager's poor household goods and other possessions worth the effort of robbing. The Black Veiled Terror of the Desert rather concentrated on the trade routes that were many days of travelling away. There vast riches awaited the daring, who had the ability and luck to fight better and more cruel than the tough mercenaries of the caravan escorts.

Yanaraia cleared her throat and bent her voice in melody and words again:

A further Circle of the Suns,
Teaches you to laugh and smile,
At a face that radiates safety and joy,
Unaware of what's hidden behind the veil.

A wider Circle of the Suns,
Brings you the ways to talk,
Teaches you how to walk,
Learns you the secrets to stalk.

It was true, that Yanaria's mother had been very silent about their life in their former home town and the desperate escape that ended it. But about Yanaraia's childhood she had told a lot. Yanaraia smiled when memories of past Circles of the Suns came to her mind.

When Yanaraia still was a baby, she slept in a cradle in the shadow of a palm tree beside their land. Once in a couple of hours, Yanaraia's mother interrupted her work, breast-fed her child and looked over the desert that seemed to swallow the little stream between sand dunes in the south.

Yanaraia remembered the look in her eyes of her mother when she told her about that. Her eyes used to reflect softness and remote sadness when she spoke about her thoughts during breast-feeding and the loss she felt when she stared towards the sand dunes with the slowly sucking and half sleeping Yanaraia at her breast. On these moment she badly missed her love, who had sacrificed himself for them, feeling the grim despair of loneliness.

Yanaraia mused a bit. No any other man had ever been able to fill up the empty space in her mother's life. Yanaraia wondered if her mother had been sensible in this aspect. She would have gotten really lonely when Yanaraia would leave home as well, just like Laëndryan and Thaëse, who lived with their lovers for a long time.

I will leave her house that’s mine now, Yanaraia thought ironically, but rather to escape this kind of life, my sisters lead, rather than to follow a lover.

The past Circles, she had had a few moments, she felt guilty about the escape she was planning. She never dared to tell her mother how she felt a growing oppression while her second Trentelyane got nearer and nearer. The sense of guilt about that afflicted her regularly.

She sighed.

I don’t need to feel guilty any more, she reflected.

Then she re-directed her thoughts towards her childhood.

From her birth, Yanaraia's young life passed easily and comfortably in the course of the seasons of the Circles of the Suns and of life itself. The cruel world, she thought she experienced before she was born, returned in a gradually fading way in her nightmares only.

Her mother sometimes recounted how Yanaraia had learned to walk and talk and how she had spent her days in the dusty galleys of the village amidst a band of chattering little ones. Despite its soberness, life was good in Finah Al Aqvivan, and Love with its natural consequences flourished abundantly. That was why there was no lack of playmates. The sound of playing children at the banks of the stream amply drowned the sound of the murmuring water.

Her mother had portrayed how both of them paddled in the stream when Yanaraia could not swim and how she taught her daughter to swim. Although the water was not deep, you can drown in knee deep water if you lack the art of swimming.

When Yanaraia grew out of her toddler years, the peace and the playing were over. Her mother taught her spinning and weaving and the other chores that were necessary for the housekeeping.

When she was ten Circles old, her sisters Laëndryan and Thaëse got married and left home. After the weddings her mother considered Yanaraia old enough and sent her out with the few goats, they possessed. A few hours walking towards the north were the grassy plains, the desert did not swallow yet. There the goats could find their nourishment. There were a few small reed-lands and a thicket that offered some shade and shelter against the heat of the suns. This place would turn into Yanaraia's second home for many Circles of the Suns.

During her eleventh Circle of the Suns, Yanaraia spent quite some nights on that place, together with her mother, while her sisters were working on their mother's land as soon as they finished their own duties. The Menlin of Finah Al Aqvivan aided each other as much as they could. That was why you could always find some help when the circumstances required it.

Yanaraia and her mother together built the cabin to stay the night if necessary and the fences around a little meadow under the trees to keep the goats inside when it was the heat of the day. There Yanaraia learned to recognize the weather, to look for shelter if necessary, and to defend herself against the wild animals. This was necessary because quick desert foxes, the mean yellow snakes and the small but fierce Sand-Cheetah's dwelt there and threatened the goats and their keeper. Soon the wild animals learnt to fear Yanaraia's quarter staff.

At that time, Yanaraia learned to shoot accurately with the bow that one of the men from the village made for her. She learned hunting and searching for food in the desert. She learnt the principles of attack and defence in the wrestling games and the fighting with sticks that the older children did with each other, according to the tradition of the Ahrbs of the desert. An Arhb with his staff may seem unarmed, but an careless enemy will soon find out, that the Ahrb-staff is not merely a support for long travels on foot.

It was not surprising that Yanaraia learnt the art of defence and attack. Although the inhabitants of Finah Al Aqvivan were peaceful and tolerant -just as the Noventale taught them- they were not completely blinded by the idealism of the doctrine. They knew the ways of the world and could defend themselves bravely as soon as necessary.

Fortunately for them their martial art was not tested too many times, because their numbers were small and they could not withstand a concentrated attack very long. The last attack, the men and woman of the village managed to repel, was a raid of a small band of brigands, who got to Finah Al Aqvivan by sheer coincidence. They had gotten lost in a dust storm. The struggle was tough, but none of the brigands lived to spread the rumour of this victory. This was sixty Circles of the Suns ago and since then Finah Al Aqvivan was forgotten. Wild animals turned out to be the most serious threats in present times.

After her strenuous but instructive eleventh Circle of the Sun, her mother ventured to send Yanaraia with her flock of goats alone. From that time she remained in the village.

It had always surprised Yanaraia, that no one else from the villagers went straight north with their goats. Her mother had explained her the reason why. The Menlin of the village were just afraid to walk in that direction. They rather made a detour of several hours to the west or to the east instead of heading straight north. It was told, that the plains in the north were haunted, on that place where the dry grassy plains covered the ruins of ancient dwelling places and sanctuaries along the stream.

Some stated, that the ruins originated from the time after the Second Coming of the Ice, when the hills and plains of Al Ahrb were still green and fertile. But the pride of the Menlin that lived there had changed the lands in the deserts of the present days. That was why -according to the myths of the folk that lived in Finah Al Aqvivan- as an eternal punishment their ghosts were trapped in the earth, that they had abused for foul purposes. Woe to the ones who got trapped in their claws! An unknown but terrifying fate awaited those who were dragged along in the dark dungeons under the sand.

Yanaraia's mother, however, had a practical mind. She was not born here and did not share the superstition of the other Menlin of Finah Al Aqvivan. So she did not mind sending Yanaraia to that place. A few hour's walk was always better than half a day's journey to the pastures. Now Yanaraia could come home in the evening if she left early in the morning and still keep the goats well fed.

The other villagers shrugged. In their opinion anyone should do as he or she liked it and if they would not listen, practice would inevitably teach them wisdom. But nothing happened at all and the goats throve because of the abundant food

And so this place became my dwelling place for many days and even nights for many Circles of the Suns, Yanaraia thought back.

She really liked this place, this tiny cabin in the thicket on the bank of the stream. Here she found shadow and shelter when the Suns burned in their zenith above the grassy plains in their zenith. Here she found a place and time to think and to wonder.

She had reconnoitred the environment, partly out of eagerness to check-out if the stories of the villagers were true in any part, partly out of passion to see what was beyond the horizon. On her short travels she followed the stream in the direction of its source in the high Mountains of Al Ahrb beyond the horizon. Every Circle of the Suns she undertook this journey when the grass in the vicinity of her cabin was grazed away.

That’s how she reached the places that stroke cold terror in the minds of the few in Finah Al Aqvivan who knew about this place. There ancient stones like old worn-out teeth jutted out of the dry grass that had not been able to cover them up. They formed a strange elongated circle, a remnant with unknown purpose from some ancient past. The long axis of the circle pointed at the constellation of the Diamond in the south and the Crown of the Bear Hunter in the north. Within the circle, crumbled remains of walls emerged from the sand, on some places smoothly polished by the sands on the breath of the eternal winds that blew here. Here Yanaraia liked to muse about her life while she was seated on the stones and looked to the horizon across the wide lands.

Perhaps Yanaraia would have restricted herself to staring across the lands towards the remote horizon, because little she knew about the things beyond. But her destination turned out to be different.

An old man lived in Yanaraia's village, most people considered him a wise man, a few -which is quite usual- considered him to be a travelling-sick fool. His name was Therlan and he was a refugee, just like Yanaraia and her family. He originated from a remote kingdom in the east of Aethya. Yanaraia's mother had got acquainted with him and she soon recognised his knowledge and wisdom.

She asked Therlan to teach her daughter and he granted her request with pleasure. He taught Yanaraia practically everything he knew: reading, writing, arithmetics, mathematics, a few languages of the northern folk, the basic principles of the Noventale -they resembled the lore of Mistor the Holy from his home land- and a few other religions of the Aethyan people, knowledge about herbs, spices and other plants and stories from far-away regions and empires.

When Therlan drew maps in the sand and explained Yanaraia all kinds of things about far-away lands, the villagers shot inquisitive and half worried glances more than once and raised their brows when they spotted Therlan and Yanaraia during the lessons and heard the tales of the old man. Little they knew about the realm of Althoriande, the lost city of Arthion and the kingdom of Lyn, Therlan's home land. But nobody considered Therlan's lessons dangerous for the little girl, although they did not understand many words of it.

Yanaiara meticulously redrew these maps with great detail on sheets of papyrus, the writing material the people of Finah Al Aqvivan made from the reed that grew on the banks of the stream. Therlan really appreciated the girl's zeal and learnt her how to use these maps for navigation in the way the sailors from Lyn did this on their world-wide travels. He further taught her how to find her way, using the sun's altitude during daylight and the most important constellations of stars at night time.

Between Therlan and Yanaraia grew a friendly relation that was beneficial to them both. Therlan was very glad with her as a pupil, she was sharp-minded and motivated, while at her turn she found things in his lessons that took her outside the confines of the quiet life in Finah Al Aqvivan and he responded gladly to her eagerness to find out more.

Yanaraia enjoyed these things, that took her mind outside Finah Al Aqvivan. In this way she satisfied the old man's desire to teach and to transfer knowledge. In turn he provided her with knowledge about the outside world and gave raise to a growing restlessness in her heart. She dreamt to leave this place and explore the wide world. But a feeling of guiltiness, that she would have to leave her mother behind without someone to take care of her, kept her from leaving Finah Al Aqvivan, so she stayed were she was.

Long ago, when she asked for it, Therlan had told her something about the place that intrigued her so much. Her thoughts flew back.

"Did you go to that place again?" Therlan asked, "the villagers whispered, that you stayed out this night and doubtlessly would have talked to the Spirits of the Stones again."

Yanaraia changed her pose and shrugged: "I don’t know what they are gossiping about", she said, "what kind of place is this that frightens them so much, that they do not dare to discuss it openly? I looked at the stars for some time and then I fell asleep. I talked to nobody except myself."

A short time after my arrival here, I started to roam the lands around this place", Therlan responded, "I was just curious, I liked some exploring. So one day I arrived at the same place, you sometimes spend your days and nights. I asked some Menlin of the village about the place because I did not know its purpose right away.

They told me many stories and legends. The history of this place is long and rather unknown to us. On that place, the Circles of the Suns are like beads on a very long cord, this place that we call Stones of Eternity."

He spoke with the hoarse voice that was so typical of him.

"Here the curses of the past rest in the black earth, all the misdeeds that were committed against all that was love and holy. Fear roams this place, on the wings of terror. "No one must enter this place", the Menlin of this village say, "because the daredevil who attempts it will surely be seized by this Chill of Death!"

Well, I guess this statement is a bit superstitious. How often the ignorance in the minds of the Menlin turn into fear and superstition? In my home land, we studied history and examined the progress of time, guided by clues from the past. In one of the many libraries in Lyn, I read a book about this region where the Stones of Eternity are.

Rich and lush were the lands after the Ice withdrew for the second time. Many were those, who built the circles of stones. It is said they were descendants of the Aelfin who were allowed to leave the Halls of the Aeldin at last and had wandered southwards to find room for living.

But none of us understands the purpose, they built these places for. A Sanctuary to worship their Gods and Ghosts? An Altar for frightening Rituals of Darkness? A place where they laid their beloved dead to rest, a burial ground? We do not know. Neither History nor Lore are known."

He said, we did not know, Yanaraia thought disappointedly, in fact his story was just as vague and indefinite as the distant horizon of the desert.

In the middle of the day, Yanaraia regularly meditated on that place in the heat of the suns, while the goats sought shelter against the heat in the shade of the ancient megaliths.

No fear afflicted her mind.

Seated on the Stones in the middle of the night, she stared at the stars above until only some embers in her camp fire spread some red-gold light. At that time, the Stones still radiated some of the heat of the day.

No fear held her heart in a chilly grasp.

On this place she experienced the wonders of the consciousness of seemingly endless Circles of the Suns, that Menlin had felt the magic of this spot and had subjected to it.

Here she experienced the contact with What Transcended Her. She felt part of this all when she stared at the myriads of stars in the firmament, of which some distant ones still radiated the light of the Beginning and the Origin towards her. At those moments her heart got filled with a restless yearning. Then the wide horizons attracted her and a silent voice whispered, that she should not stay in Finah Al Aqvivan forever.

On the Stones of Eternity, she experienced her sense for the Unseen for the first time. She saw things that were not of this time, irrelevant whether they originated form a remote past or a far future. She felt the eternal forces that radiated from the planet and that came in from the heavens. Sometimes she felt in focus between them.

Initially, she was afraid when she admitted her mental senses to advance. But she learnt to overcome and forget her fear. Or should she say, she was taught to? In the universe of her mental senses, fright and fear became illusions, shadows that fled like the shadow of the Stones of Eternity disappeared when the Suns were at their highest, straight overhead.

The inhabitants of Finah Al Aqvivan stirred up her restlessness even further. It was true, that they only frowned lightly when they heard for the first time, that Yanaraia was taught by a wise man and sometimes spent the night on the Stones of Eternity. Wasn't everyone free to choose his or her destination? The Noventale taught lenientness indeed. But still.. Slowly things changed because of the fear and the superstition.

Fa'minha Al Faeryan, they whispered for the first time, and I saw fear in their eyes, Yanaraia remembered.

She stared northwards along the stream. The restlessness in her heart raged again. She sang the next stanza:

A darker Circle of the Suns,
Brings you sadness and grief,
Over life that comes and goes,
In the eternal play of fate's woes.

A painful memory cast a shadow over Yanaraia's mind. It happened four Circles of the Suns ago. She knew it was inevitable, life had taught her that much. But "Inevitable" used to be so far away and "Inevitable" and "Willing to Accept" are two things. Her mother had gotten ill and died.

In her mind she went through that last night in the midsummer.

Yanaraia sat in the living room of their little house. She had just shown out her sisters. The twins came to visit them once in two days when their work on the fields was done, just to take a look how things were. They were sad about that, because they knew their mother's life would come to an end soon.

Her mother lay on her bed, deathly pale and sweaty, her eyes closed. She breathed irregularly. The fevers had exhausted her and burnt away the last bit of her life force. From time to time she was delirious and then Yanaraia heard shreds of her memories from the time before Yanaraia was born herself. Then she whispered a name with a loving tenderness that brought the tears to Yanaraia's eyes.

Yanaraia went over to her, affectionately dabbed the sweat from her forehead with a towel and caressed her grey hair. She knew, it was inevitable. But her heart refused to believe and resisted the thought. She sat and watched over her.

When it got after midnight, her mother suddenly opened her eyes. Her look was clear and no longer veiled by the effort of the battle against her illness. She was at peace with the result, winning or losing was no longer of importance.

"Yanaraia, my dear child", she whispered, "my journey in this world is completed. In a few moments I will reach my destination and return to where we all come from."

Yanaraia gasped. "No mother! Your time is not yet due. At least wait until I called for Laëndryan and Thaëse. They must be able to say goodbye as well!"

Yanaraia's mother sadly shook her head: "No, my dear child, that is not possible. I feel my strength and life fade away. It is time for me to go. Don’t be too sad for me, I enjoyed a good life and I completed my tasks. I saw you grow up and reach your adulthood. Now I will return to the Love of my Heart."

Tears sprang into Yanaraia's eyes. The very moment took her by surprise although she knew this was the way things would go. The illness was too serious and could not be cured.

"You must leave and roam the world, Yanaraia", her mother continued with great effort, "I felt it all the time, your heart does not dwell on this place, it wants to search other places. I felt it, but I did not dare to speak with you about your yearning. I was so afraid for the loneliness that would come to me if you acted on the advice, I give you now. Forgive me, I was so afraid. I am grateful to you that you spared me this loneliness, because that must be the reason that you stayed here despite your heart's call.

But now you are free. Fly my lovely little bird and spread your wings! Leave from here before the Rites of the Noventale will chain you to a man, you don’t love and a family that is not your own. My blessings will accompany you, wherever you go.

Then she stopped speaking and closed her eyes for exhaustion. Yanaraia grasped her hand and felt her pulse weakening. Suddenly her mother opened her eyes again. A tender smile lit her face and showed how Love can turn a face in sheer beauty and grace. "You!" she sighed, "I knew, you were right! She will flourish again!"

Then she breathed her last. But the smile, that beautiful loving smile, stayed on her face.

Yanaraia remembered the simple rituals of her mother's funeral. The Menlin of Finah Al Aqvivan had shown warm compassion. But gradually they showed something of instigation as well. She now lived alone and it was not the right thing, that a house remained almost empty and that solitude would remain. But to fill a house, merely company would be insufficient.

A feeling of endless sorrow came upon Yanaraia when she sang the next stanza of Thirty Circles of the Suns:

A brighter circle of the Suns,
Shows you the ways to love,
And being loved in return,
In your heart a wondrous yearn
.

More than once, love brought Yanaraia the surprise and gladness of the spark of the tender beginning and the subsequent expectations of what would grow out of it in both hearts. She smiled when she remembered the days full of sunshine and bright light in which her mind was fully directed to the other. Those were the days, the whole wide world looked small and cosily at one side, but infinitely wide at the other hand, the universe caught within the sphere of two like-minded souls in perfect resonance. Her face glowed with joy when she remembered.

Like-minded?

She felt the pain again. A cloud seemed to mask the sun on her face.

Ultimate love never came. Sometimes she had been overoptimistic about the intentions of the other. Some men sought a quick and cruel satisfaction of their own passion rather than the Everlasting that so many poets sung of in brilliant lines.

Sometimes her assessment betrayed her with a false confidence. Bitter was her disappointment when her confidence got shattered the very moment it became clear to her, that the man of her heart had a greater desire to fill up his own loneliness than to love her, so that he went to another woman to fondle his ego, even if she was away for just a few days.

Sometimes she overestimated herself and got disappointed and frustrated because the other understood this sooner than herself and left her before she could find out the painful truth herself, that going on together with each other was useless.

But the cloud drifted away and her face brightened up. With a smile she reflected on her young puppy loves when she got puzzled and surprised for the first time as a consequence of her interest in the other gender. When she learnt to recognize the desire in her heart and body and a single glance or gesture meant more than many hours of profound talking.

That was a delightful careless period of her life. She did not think about the life thereafter. And what was the use of thinking this way anyway? The "Now" was so beautiful and all-encompassing and the "Later" only extended itself yearning to the next meeting and being together. These were the jewels in her memory, provided she forgot about their pitch black setting of pain.

With a sigh she reflected upon the incomprehension she had sometimes experienced when she wanted to share her growing consciousness and got nothing else in return than a false caress and an attempt to blind passion in order to silence her. She remembered all the times, she had given in for the sake of peace, although she remained with a pain in her heart because she felt that she missed in the relation what really was important to her.

It was in those days, that the other Menlin started to be frightened of her sensitivity and avoided her because they believed she was clairvoyant and that she could read one's deepest thoughts. No Menlin does like insight in his or her private thoughts without having opened the door him- or herself.

The pain in her hart flared up fiercely when she thought back to those times that she really had thought about the life thereafter, a life together. These were the memories that she kept carefully, although the hope had fled for long. But even that rare man, whom she had wished to share her life with, had not accepted her the way she was and had been frightened for her, afraid of her insight that seemed to uncover his most intimate thoughts even before he could express them in sometimes limited words.

She sighed. In those days the choice was still hers. But now her hope was in vain. Now the community would make the choice for her.

If I stay here, she thought.

The unrest in her heart flared. She realised herself that this place might have never been a real home for her. That she was not really accepted here.

Fa'minha Al Faeryan, she reflected, that’s the cause of all this. But that’s the way I am! Why do they bother, for heaven's sake?

A singing bird does not build a nest on a place, where she doesn't feel at home. And if the bird does not do this, why a Menlin woman should do this indeed? Maybe that was the reason, her attempts to get settled and to find a man and a place to live, were all in vain, because deep in her heart she resisted a man and a family that would chain her here in this place.

Maybe she would not permit love and its consequences to enter her life before she found her own place. She shook her head confusedly. This thought was so ungrateful towards the community, that had friendly taken her in and helped herself, her mother and her sisters to recover from the terror of their escape.

But she felt, this made no real difference. It was the way it was, how she felt, and no one was to blame.

She sang the final stanza:

Thirty circles of the Suns,
Thirty leagues on your life's road,
Between sunlight bright and silver moon,
Yet passing by, passing by so soon!

Yanaraia considered the consequences of the Rites of the Second Trentelyane that awaited her.

The Noventale, -the doctrine the inhabitants of Finah Al Aqvivan adhered to- was a quite tolerant doctrine. She did not force her followers to avow hardly understandable dogmas. She did not know a clergy and a hierarchy that would trample purity in a game of profane power.

Only a few Old Wise strove to teach the Menlin of the village, to advise them and to help them answering the questions of life. To preserve and pass on the doctrine, they taught very aspect of the Noventale to exactly one apprentice, a man or woman who felt attracted to the lore and magic of the Noventale. The other villagers provided for their living.

Within the Noventale, the inhabitants of Finah Al Aqvivan found themselves united with each other and nature. They respected each other's free spirit that chose its own ways to reach a destination within what bound them.

How different the Noventale was from the religion of the Ahrbs from the south, who attempted to proselytize everyone to their Holy Fire on the tips of their lances and swords and regularly literally set the fire of their religious zeal amongst the infidels in their Holy Wars. How little the Noventale resembled the lore of the powers of magic, the powers the inhabitants of the mountains worshipped with fear in their hearts. How much the Noventale even differed from the Trinitane, the religion of the people of the Kingdom of Althoriande and the other northern kingdoms. The Trinitane, the ideology of love that was raped by the evil of power as history proceeded endless Circles of the Suns from the religion's foundation.

The fact that the Noventale was different, did not mean that she did not have any rules and conventions. The doctrine formed part of the daily life that imposed specific demands. Some of the initial tolerance of the Noventale was sacrificed to meet these demands of life. The family was declared holy, to be the place where the doctrine was to be carried on in time along the generations. Parents were obliged to spread the Noventale amongst their children.

And children have to found a family themselves to pass on the doctrine to their children, Yanaraia thought and sighed, so founding a family is compulsory, willy-nilly.

Before a man or woman entered his or her Second Trentelyane, the basis of founding a family had to have been laid with a marriage or at least an engagement. That was one of the very few obligatory rules, the Noventale had in Finah Al Aqvivan. The inheritance had to be passed on and everyone in the village had a personal responsibility concerning this. In case someone did not take this responsibility, the community would do it for him or her, at the penalty of exclusion.

Most people in Finah Al Aqvivan did not have any trouble with this rule because many families were founded long before the Second was due. Yanaraia remembered the wedding of her sisters. They got married the same day. "Just like it is suitable for twins", the inhabitants of Finah Al Aqvivan used to say, "they already share their birthday, so why not their wedding day?" Traditionally -of course- some always added: "And the same man?"

Yanaraia considered it a good thing, that they did not share their hearts as well, so competition for the same man was out of the question. Polygamy was not allowed by the Noventale doctrine.

Laëndryan and Thaëse got married when they were twenty Circles of the Suns of age and left their mother's house, thus leaving Yanaraia and her mother behind to live with their husbands. At that time, Yanaraia was just nine Circles of age and was not yet aware of what mutually attracted men and women.

Yanaraia remembered the celebrations on the occasion of the birth of her nephews and nieces who came into the world soon after the marriage of her sisters. She remembered the tender feelings and wonder that the babies called in her heart. Still a child, how could she know what effort and sorrow was further involved in bringing up kids? She baby-sat them and played with them if she did not have to keep the goats in the north. As Auntie Yanaraia she became beloved with the children of her eldest sister.

Yanaraia thought back to the Initiation of Laëndryan and Thaëse in the Second Trentelyane, when they sang the ballad of the Thirty Circles of the Suns. Now she knew these stanzas by heart. The Initiation had been a carefree celebration, because both her sisters entered their Second as the keeper of a family. Their songs had accompaniment.

They complied with their duties, Yanaraia sadly thought, Fate left them their own choice. I have no one to accompany my song and to keep my heart.

With reference to this choice, Fate had not been very helpful for her indeed. So she would enter her Second Trentelyane without life partner and the community would choose one for her. She abhorred this very thought. She could not imagine herself to be bound to a man without loving him or even knowing him. Her heart completely revolted against that.

That was why her decision was a fact. She would roam the world in search of her destination, for better or for worse. Because sharing her life with someone, she did not choose herself, completely went against the grain with her.

Only twenty days separated her from her Second Trentelyane. She realised herself that this time was short. Fortunately she was not unprepared. She had made clothing for travelling. She had cut a robust stick of wood, shaped it into a quarter staff and strengthened it with bands of sturdy twigs. She had made herself a back-pack and a leather water-bag. She had endlessly bungled with a piece of leather to make robust but flexible sandals that would withstand a travel of many days and leagues.

Yanaraia smiled, she remembered the satisfaction when she finally succeeded to make the footwear according to her own specifications, be it at the cost of a lot of growling and stiff fingers for the leather craft.

She had made new black-feathered arrows for her bow. All she did for the preparation of her leave had to be in secret, no one of the village should learn anything.

She knew that her back-pack offered plenty of room for her possessions. The same applied to the few silver and gold coins that made her funds and the jewels, she got from her mother. Her mother had hurriedly taken the silver and gold with her the night they escaped from their burning home town. But silver and gold were of no use in Finah Al Aqvivan. The inhabitants liked the glitter of the metal indeed, but it did not invoke the desire with them that causes so much grief in the rest of the world. They knew other values that made gold and silver superfluous.

It came to Yanaraia's mind, that she had had the opportunity to leave any moment for some time already. Her preparations were completed. Still she had hesitated for weeks already.

To be fair, Finah Al Aqvivan was a good place to live. Maybe she would become happy despite the choice of the community, if only she could get used to it, to be precise the unknown "him". Maybe she could live with it. Maybe the Menlin would accept her, now that she complied with the old customs.

As a matter of fact she did not want to leave her sisters behind. Particularly Laëndryan was very dear to Yanaraia. She was afraid, she would miss the cosy hustle and bustle of Laëndryan's family, the company she sought when the solitude in her mother's house threatened to overwhelm her.

But then she pointed out to herself that her hesitation originated from fear of the unknown rather than from the wish to stay in Finah Al Aqvivan. At those moments of hesitation she got angry of herself. The Unknown was far more desirable than the Unwanted Known after all! If she left, she could at least say, that she had made her own choices.

And that is exactly what I am going to do! Today I’ll take my destination in my own hands, Yanaraia decided, I will leave early tomorrow. Tonight I will say goodbye to Laëndryan.

She felt an immense sense of relief. Then she picked up her things, called the goats with a whistle and left the little hut near the stream behind, bound for Finah Al Aqvivan. The suns shone clearly on the trail to the south she would follow only once more. On her way back north.. out of this place..

***