Anja shifted uncomfortably. She sat cross-legged on the hard-packed earthen floor and her bones ached despite the softening effects of the tu?pa hair-filled pillow beneath her. She knew her daughter, Mynn, had noticed the discomfort, but the younger woman tactfully remained silent. Anja was becoming stiffer as the days went by, lamer with the weeks and feebler. Once, she had been lithe as a mountain cat, graceful as the deer that fed along the woodland streams. Now, age was taking her, as it takes all of the Mother’s living things.
Wise, this daughter Mynn, this fruit of Anja’s body. Wise and gentle and strong. All a mother could wish, and welcoming to an old woman come near to the end of her days, come to her daughter’s house to spend her last weeks and to die.
Anja sighed, laughing softly at her foolishness. She had lived her life and honored the Mother all of her days; had worked in Her fields, laid offerings on Her altar. Each day she sang to the sunrise, each night honored the coming darkness and the moons that rose above the hills on their journey across the sky.
So much to learn in a life, so much to do. She had learned; and she had done. Now she passed that legacy on to her daughter, grown strong and tall and wise in her own right.
Mynn lifted her head at her mother’s laugh, her fingers stilled over the intricate stitching in her hands. A pattern grew on the fine linen, a pattern old as life itself, bright as the sunlight, stitched in colors of the dawn, colors of the forest, colors of the sea. Bands of color and design wound round the neckline, hem, and sleeves of these festival robes. With diligence, the task would be complete by the time of the Spring Moon Coming, providing a bright note in the dark time of the year, a reminder of the promise of spring, new growth, and life.
Anja, too, looked up, and the women shared a moment of pure understanding, pure delight each in the other.
"I am proud of thee, my daughter," Anja said after a moment, her eyes gleaming in the dusk. Where Mynn sat, nearer the doorway, a late shaft of afternoon sunlight slanted onto the fabric she held, its embroidered colors shining bright. "These eyes are old," Anja continued, "and they have seen much. Never could I have wished for one such as thee. The Mother be pleased with you, daughter."
"I am glad," Mynn replied, a wistful smile touching the corners of her eyes and bending her lips up slightly. "What I am is due to you, and to Her teachings. You both have taught me well."
Anja shifted again. Old bones were delicate these days, and yearned for ease. Wordlessly, Mynn passed over the leather flask. Anja accepted it, removed the twist of grass that plugged its mouth, raised it to her lips and drank. After a few moments, she let out a nearly imperceptible sigh and passed the flask back to her daughter. The drug was strong, and swift; the pain eased for a time.
"Aye," Anja continued. "But have I taught you enough? What was true for me and mine may no longer be true for you and yours. The times change, daughter, even as we speak. We see it in the market square, in the lads that gather in the fields, in the games they play on the greens. The Mother is no longer in ascendancy; she begins to wane, pushed aside by Her own Brother/Son, the warrior god H?lal. He is the rising star, His the way the world will follow for a time." Absentmindedly she rubbed the hollow between her breasts where once her Tan had been. Long gone now. Gone too the companionship, the sense of completion, the sense of wisdom provided by two as one. After that loss, any wisdom Anja had gained, she gained on her own.
"Don?t misunderstand," she continued. "I regret nothing. I would not have followed other than the old ways, but these new ways frighten me with their violence and their ascendant manhood. I and mine needed no such reminders of the Mother’s power."
"Young men actively seek Him," Mynn replied, laying aside her stitching and rising in a single, smooth motion. "Come," she said, reaching a hand to her mother with a smile. "It is time to honor the moon."
Beyond the door, the sun had sunk below the trees; above them to the east, the sky was darkening, marked by a single star that winked weakly in the gathering night. Soon the first moon would rise, nearly full this night; and shortly after that, her sister. Tauka and Manu, the twinned moons, sisters lost to the sky when the earth was born, or so the legends told. Leaning on Mynn’s strong arm, Anja hobbled to the doorway then out onto the hard-packed earth of the mound beyond. There, she stood wavering, raising her hands and voice in the evening honoring song.
For a woman so old and frail, Anja’s voice was surprisingly strong. It rose clear and pure, singing the moons into the sky.
Neither woman could know that it was to be Anja’s last moonrise.