Malina-Deprassi was a world of extremes. There were the Big Men and their Wives and Sisters. Everything about them was big. They had big houses that were filled with furniture and ornaments of every kind. They owned big acres of land in which thousands of workers toiled and laboured. They had big closets filled with many fine clothes and shoes. They ran big factories in which many workers hurried and huddled. They had big parties that their many servants had to prepare big feasts for. They had big libraries in which towered big shelves full of books. And they had big houses of worship filled with big statues to their gods. Amanini, the sun. And Omonapati, the moon.
Amnini the sun and Omnapti the moon were the gods of the Small People. Omnapti was the guiding light of the darkness. The love and resilience and hope that got them through their pain and suffering. Amnini was the guiding light of day. The love and harmony and hope they dreamed would guide them once the World to Be became.
The Small People had small huts they crowded into, made of clay and of straw. They had small meals that didn't give them enough nutrition. They worked themselves to the bone in the mines and factories and mansions and fields and building sites of the Big People. They had clothes with worn threads and shoes with worn soles. But they had each other. And from each other they had hope that was vaster than the skies and deeper than the seas. Hope made with love. Made with spirit. And other things that can never possibly be tangible and therefore existed beyond size.
Ardofresi was a Big Man. He was a powerful man. He had a fortune which he had spent his whole life amassing. He had certificates and honours from the most prestigious of academies. He had a great booming voice with which he said many things. And he had a great many people who had to listen to that voice. He slept in a bed of the softest silk and velvet. And he ate meals of fine, expensive ingredients.
Pirunia was his Wife. She had stern, dark eyes and an upwards pointing nose. She wore dresses of fine fabric and jewels with shining stones. She read a great many books and poems. She played a great many fine instruments. She had her servants plant roses in her garden of every colour. She helped her husband ensure his workers were giving their blood and breath and bone marrow to their jobs.
She and her husband owned a gold mine together. They did not mine the gold. They did not go down into the tunnels and chip and chip and chip away at the rock until their bones and muscles and joints ached. The did not walk through the cloying shadow and suffocating heat. They did not carry crates through unstable tunnels that could collapse at any moment. They did however write many papers and give meagre coins to the Small People who worked the mines.
They lived on a swathe of land they called Ovalaki Estates.
Inama was a spirited girl. She had lost loved ones to the mines she now risked her own life in. She had a big heart and a rebellious spirit. She was headstrong and heart sure and believed in the prophecies of the World to Be. She was exhausted and angry and she felt as though she were living her life while drowning. She was built with the type of hate that was borne of love and the type of love that was fuelled by hate. And the two mixed in her the same way that winter mixed with summer at the edges that were spring and fall.
Akepo was a kind and caring boy. He was self-sacrificing. And he was quiet. He was quiet because he was listening to the silent whispers and the aching groans and secret promises of the world as it moved around him. He loved to hear Inama talk and he loved the way she understood him so well. He loved the unbreakable rebellion in her heart. He loved his people, and he wished that he had the words to express it. He did not expect to live long. He didn't fear death. He welcomed it as peace. As did so many of the Small People who knew that they would find no peace in life. But he feared losing Inama. He feared losing his family. His family by blood, and his family by bond. He knew would always be with to his family by spirit. His family of every other Small Person that had ever existed.
Inama and Akepo had so many people around them. Ties of blood and bond and shared experience and shared humanity. Every Small Person was an aunt or uncle or titi.* They had so much pain around them. Pain and loss and grief and degradation. They had to hold on to what they had with all they could. And they had to tell each other that they had each other.
They could not get married. A wedding at the Big Cathedrals cost more money than anyone ever had. And they couldn't get Water-Bonded. A Water-Bonding needed to be done with the whole community and their community unequivocally found them too young to make such a decision. But they could and they did find secret holes in the twisted maze of huts they lived in.
And so it came to be that one day Inama walked into a hut where her mothers and aunts and uncles and soul-siblings were and announced with trepidation that her cycles had been stopped for two months. Her loved ones were supportive. But finding a way to feed a growing young one was no easy task.
But they survived. Always they survived, collectively.
It was right around this time that Pirunia also came to expect a child. She got extra portions of the finest most expensive and flavourful foods prepared to support her growing appetite. And she got a nursery full of the most beautiful toys and dolls prepared. Ardofresi was feeling proud to have an heir to pass his name and legacy onto.
And so it came to be Wednesday, the day of rest and of prayer for the Big People. Ardofresi and Pirunia went to the Cathedral and they sat in rows on the polished benches with the dozens of other worshippers dressed in fine clothes.
The Priest got up to give the sermon. But suddenly a strange glow overtook him. His eyes went black. And from his mouth came a sound like a thousand different voices speaking at once. It gave the prophecy. And the prophecy was this:
The babe that is born to the ones who helps the miners shall play a key role in bringing forth a new era of prosperity and glory. This babe that is born on the land that is known by the name of Ovalaki Estates shall be feared by their enemies and loved by all else. The babe that is first born on the fourth day of the fourth month under the unfiltered light of the full moon shall bring forth the will of the gods.
Pirunia and Ardofresi were beyond elated. They bought the softest bedding and the best food. They paid for the most esteemed doctors. They subtly bragged to their neighbours and friends.
They claimed that they gave the miners their gruel in the mornings and in the nights. They paid for the roofs over their heads and the clothes on their backs. That nobody helped the miners as they did.
In the meantime Inama and Akepo continued doing everything they could to give their fellow miners hope. To let them know that all the suffering would end and the pain would be over. They continued making sure everyone in their community felt like a community, felt seen and heard and understood.
The community loved these youths and they loved their community with the force of a thousand supernovas. People ensured that Inama got an extra helping of gruel, or an extra sip of water. They taught Akepo how to hold a baby and how to fold a nappy. They promised the pair that they would help mind the child when they could.
And they loved the soon-to-be child immensely. Because of this they were immensely pained to be bringing the baby into a world of suffering. They would much rather leave the child in the Spirit World with the gods. But they would give the new soul as much joy as they could.
Joy and suffering can coexist and often do. But that doesn't make the suffering lighter. But that doesn't make the joy less bright.
In Ovalaki Estates the Big People were clamouring for the approval of the couple of the prophecy. Ardofresi and Pirunia were buying all the best of everything for the baby. There was joyous boisterous music and there was sweet food and intricate stories and beauty.
Empty pots made of heavy metal can feel full.
And the picks and hammers and shovels that break rock are hard. Inama still continued to work through her pregnancy. She had no other choice. To not work was to go without pay was to starve. Not that she wasn't tempted to do just that. She choked on the heavy, hot air of the mine. She strained in the darkness. She kept working through screaming, aching muscles and she stood and walked for hours on end on swollen feet. She fought through the tired of her body, the tired of her mind, the tired of her soul. She squeezed her growing body through tight mine shafts. And she wept at the thought of her child having a similar life to her. But she endured.
Pirunia sat in soft chairs and lay on plush beds and walked in the garden among the flowers. She held her head up high. Knowing that she would be the mother of a prince. She got her servants to move her bed next to the largest window that faced where the moon was predicted to be in the sky.
It was a few weeks before Inama's due date that the Small People all over the lands started having Tied Dreams. People all over Malina-Deprassi were having the same dreams. Multiple people at once dreaming of the same thing. Every night there were people who had Tied Dreams in the silence of their sleep. Some people had dreams about a great storm raining down over the lands. Some had dreams of a raging fire burning through a forest of dead trees. Some had dreams of fresh plants taking root and reaching their roots down into the ground. Some had dreams of a little girl pulling fruit from a tree. Some had dreams of large looming stone walls cracking and crumbling under the frosts and thaws of the seasonal cycle. And still some had more dreams. Until everyone had had a Tied Dream to tell their community of. People passed around the dreams like sweet, rare apples. And they discussed and relished in them until they were able to stand a little bit taller, until they were able to lift their eyes with hope.
One day Inama was about to walk home when Ardofresi in his fine clothes and upturned nose stopped her. She'd had been working though it was very nearly her time and she wanted nothing more than to go home. He looked at her but did not see her. Did not notice anything about her, including her pregnancy. He only saw that she was a miner and he was her boss, and he could tell her what to do. So he demanded of her that she transport some expensive fine silk linens from the marketplace to his house. She did not want to walk such a way and be so far from home when she was almost at her due date. But she knew she needed this job. And her community needed her to be in good graces with the bosses. Because without money there was only death. So she had to.
She did not go alone, however. She explained her plight to two of her coworkers and they went with her to keep her safe. Their names were Shenaba and Otolia. So it was arm in arm with two women that she walked towards the marketplace and then walked towards Ovalaki Estates, struggling her way through cramps and pains.
It was the fourth day of the fourth month. The air was cool and dry with winter. The sun shone brightly in the sky. Pirunia waited in her bed as she felt the pains wash over her. She had changed the glass on the window so that it was made of the finest most clear material available. And she cut down all the trees that the window looked over so that the moonlight could reach it undisturbed.
It was sunset by the time the three ladies arrived with the fine silks to the estate. They crossed over the large sprawling grounds, over the rolling crop fields, to deliver their packages to the lady lying on the silk bed. They were sharply rebuked for being late by the Big Man who met them at the door. A relative of Ardofresi. The three then went back on their way, Inama hanging onto the two women's shoulders as they supported her.
It was by the time that they reached a sparsely wooded thicket near the edge of the estate that Inama could not go on. It was her time to bring new life into the world. Neither Shenaba nor Otolia were the midwives for their communities. But they had helped at many births and they knew that they had to help this baby come out into the world.
They supported Inama until they found a wide moonbeam in the thicket to lay her under, so that they would have light under which they could work. She lay there on the ground, in the cold evening air, screaming in pain. Shenaba and Otolia washed their hands in the cold clean water of a nearby stream. Otolia sat between Inama's legs and Shenaba sat beside Inama clutching her hands.
They gave her all the strength they could. Bringing a child into the world is a heavy, emotional task that requires an incredible amount of strength. And the Small People have survived thus far because they draw strength from each other.
Inama looked up to the moon and the moon looked down towards her. Omnapti also gave her Their strength as They did with every single Small Child born under the light of the moon.
Inama pushed an pushed through the pain while Otolia encouraged her and told her what to do, holding the child as she emerged. Shenaba let Inama clutch tight to her hands and she prayed to the gods with everything she had, low melodic voice adding rhythm to Inama's piercing screams.
Finally the baby was born into the world, crying loudly into the cold night air. Otolia quickly passed her to Inama. And Inama clutched her tight to her chest. Shenaba also wrapped her arms around the baby, providing as much protection as she could. And the three of hen stayed huddled there while Otolia whispered the prayers that were said when a baby was born.
Inama regretted having brought a child into a world that was filled with so much suffering. She briefly wished the child would die before shy got to have a chance to understand how underprivileged she was on the scale of things.
But Inama remembered the Tied Dreams that her people had been having. And she had hope that maybe the World to Be would become sooner than she had thought. Then she had hope for the child.
She named the child Aminichaya, which means the hope within the destruction.
She feared what would happen if the four of them were found still on Ovalaki Estates.
And hour later Pirunia and Ardofresi's child was born with the best doctors in the land in attendance. He was named Javeshen, meaning powerful one, and he was placed in a crib lined with fine cloths.
The next morning a Small Man came pulling a heavy wooden cart piled with crates of fresh fruit which he was delivering to Ovalaki Estates. Shenaba asked if he could carry Inama and the child back to the part of the land where there were the huts of the Small People, and he agreed.
All around the houses of the Big People there was music and dancing and festivities celebrating the birth of the new leader.
A mother sat on the hard wooden floor of a cart being pulled along a bumpy road. She was aching from having just given birth. Close to her chest she held a tiny baby girl.
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