Chapter 19 - On the Eve of the Ghost Tide

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The whole town buzzed with jubilation. The dark cloud that hung over this beautiful people dissipated as though a strong wind had come and carried it away.

Michael had spent the better part of a day and night working with the shamans to dispatch the shadows that had infiltrated the People of the Water. Every tribe member wanted to be touched and taken to the astral plane by the Light Bringer. Those who had shadows attached were cleansed.

He returned very weary to a small bako set aside for guests and slept.

For the moment, there was nothing that could be done about the darkness that surrounded the village outside its protected boundaries. There was simply too powerful, even with the combined light of the shamans and Michael's powers.

Even so, Michael did his best to hide his spiritual burdens though Jaylina saw it never truly left his eyes, nor did its weight depart from his shoulders.

But for her, the euphoric feeling that permeated the People of the Water was infectious. She could not help but smile and laugh with them while they prepared food for the night's feast and danced together in small circles to the beat of their odd and rhythmic music, all in honor of the coming of the Light Bringer, the Left Hand of Light.

Women of the tribe braided her hair, weaving fragrant flowers into it, and sewed patterns into her clothes as much to mend them as to beautify them. The entire time they chatted in a mixture of their own language and Jaylina's, laughing about the village men and talking of own their children. Jaylina discovered her intuition allowed her to translate all that was said with ease.

The festivity itself became a surreal mix of ritual, storytelling and preparation for the long journey ahead. Tales of ancestral heroes and mythological beings delighted the young while the elder tribe members argued about the true history of the events. Jaylina wondered at how similar the stories sounded to so many others she had heard growing up as a child, even though most of these people had never left this island.

Is there a commonality to the origins of every mythology that extends beyond simple cultural differences, perhaps even into the very DNA of our beings?

Jaylina reflected on this epiphany. Perhaps every culture told the same story about the origins of the universe through its own unique lens. The names of the heroes and their deeds always differed. Even the way the world came into being was unique to some peoples. But if one stripped away all the storytelling metaphors, allusions, and imagery, every culture seemed to describe the same thing about the rise of humankind in this world: Chaos or unwelcome order reigned. A hero rose up. At great personal sacrifice, even death, this hero brought some new enlightenment to his or her people. Sometimes she came back. More often, she didn't.

Jaylina studied Michael for a moment while he ate with Dakao as the men exchanged quiet words, Afunakwa attentive at Michael's side.

What would Michael have to sacrifice?

For a moment her smile faded, and she felt cold darkness in the pit of her belly. Then she shook it off.

Not tonight, she chided herself. Tonight is a small victory for the Light. We are here. Soon we will enter the Mouth. Tomorrow will bring whatever it brings. For now, no shadow will touch me.

As the night progressed, the revelry continued, and Jaylina could see Michael was growing tired. She excused herself from her circle and went to join him.

Afunakwa saw her approach first.

"Sister," said Jaylina with a slight nod. There had been little time to speak together since the revelation of their relationship, but they both knew it to be true. Afunakwa acknowledged her with a half-smile.

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