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Raina and the Water

Thomas Larsen

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Her eyes opened in the creaking darkness of her room, its branches softly swaying in the breeze that sifted through their little grove of homes. Though Raina’s cedar tree was only planted by her great grandfather and was just now considered grown enough to be lived in, it was hers. 


Raina lifted her head from the soft down pillow and looked through the knotty window to the moonlight filtering through the leaves, across the courtyard, and on to her father’s broad, gnarled oaken room. She could see the candlelight bouncing around through the small porthole windows encircling its trunk. Jumping to her feet she rubbed the grains of sleep from her eyes, pulled a small matchbox from a nearby drawer, and lit the candle sitting on the carved-in ledge next to her bed. Rushing to the chest her mother had made for her when she was a baby, and tossing open the lid, she pulled out a warm, knitted shirt and tugged it over her head. Her waxed, woolen overalls hung from a hook by the door and her gumboots sat beneath them. 


Fully clothed and ready for the occasion she rushed out of her little tree, nearly extinguishing the tiny candle with the speed of her excitement, and continued into the courtyard connecting their tiny grove. 


Floating past the ornate stone oven in the center of the trees and through the branching archways of grapes, she found her left foot with the corner of a paving stone and crashed suddenly to the floor at her father’s feet. 


Dano was a broad man with an intimidating build, but his soft eyes and loving smile could ease the trembling heart of any creature. His laugh echoed softly around their courtyard as he leaned over to offer his coarse hand to Raina. Placing her tiny hand into his she flew to her feet.


“I’m ready!” she whispered as loudly as she could, trying not to wake her mother and baby brother asleep in the ash tree closest to them.


“I can see that,” he said, still laughing as he spoke, “but you’re lucky. I was this close to leaving you here” he joked holding his two pinched fingers up to his eyes, “so we’d better get going. I’m hoping we can make it beyond the storm break before sun-up; there’s something I want you to see”


Standing there by the narrow gate with his usual lean, he held open the lichen-laden door with his right arm carrying the morning’s supplies with the other. Raina shot through the gate and down the woodily-hedged path, brushing past the miniature boxwood trees and blackberry brambles that lined the way. She burst out into the quiet moss-covered streets of their little village, across the small, dimly lit square, past the line of Beech tree trade shops, and paused on the terrace overlooking the docks below.


Today was Raina’s first fishing trip on the open ocean, and she couldn’t hold back her excitement. Seeing the familiar hull of her father’s boat she rushed as carefully as she could down the chiseled stone steps, floating softly over the intricately interwoven braids of steel inlaid in the stones. She held to the ornately carved wood and copper handrails as she descended. 


She had spent her first nine years of life playing on these docks by the river that, not coincidentally, shared her name. Every morning her father would leave well before sunrise, and every morning after she ate and studied with her mother she ran to the docks to wait for his return. 


Those who fished from the banks would tell her the story of how she came floating down the river one morning wrapped tightly in woolen blankets and tied to a makeshift raft. How the tiny bundle bumped into Dano’s boat, got caught in the ropes dangling from its side, and began to knock a rhythm against its hull. They told her how Dano came up to see what was making all the noise when he heard a soft cry down in the water below. She always loved being told how he jumped in and tied the tiny raft to his waist and swam back to shore. In their stories the fish-herders – either just a handful or the whole dock, depending on who’s telling it – always gathered around excited and curious as Dano unwrapped the swaddled baby and checked it for harm. Inside the blankets he found a note written in a language he did not know on paper too perfect to have been made in the lands of Arek, but took it to mean the baby had been abandoned and entrusted to the river Raina.


Raina had heard the story a thousand times and loved her father for choosing to raise her as his own. This time, however, there was no one fishing from the bank or sitting and telling stories, and there were only a few other sailors prepping their boats for the sea when she climbed the ladder up to the deck of her father’s boat. She had been waking up early every morning for the last few months to watch her father prepare his boat for his pre-dawn trip out to sea. She had memorized every move and practiced what she could on land. When she stood on deck for the first time, she hooked her little lamp to the mast and immediately began to prepare the boat for departure.


Dano could see the glow of the single lantern hanging from the mast as he limped down the stone path and onto the docks, his finger unconsciously tracing the familiar mirror-worn copper knots in the railing. Climbing the boat’s ladder with one hand, he hauled the day’s supplies up with him. When his head poked above the edge of the boat he couldn’t help but smile seeing Raina rushing about as quickly as she could to prepare everything for him.


Dano tossed the equipment onto the deck, making some noise to announce his arrival. Raina ran over to help him with the supplies. He finished climbing aboard and found his ship ready to sail, just as he had expected. He sent a loving glance to his daughter across the deck of the boat to where Raina stood beaming from ear to ear. 


In no time, they loosed themselves from their mooring and began their journey toward the sea. The river Raina was broad and deep and flowed slowly from their village to the ocean but the current was enough to pull them along. It soon turned brackish as the sea water began mixing in from high tide, so Dano leisurely hoisted their main sail, picking up speed in the brisk morning breeze. The river was lined on either side by thick forests, far less manicured than their own, but no less beautiful. Dark Trees, some natural and some like the ones in which they slept, stood in silhouetted contrast to the brilliant light of the moon hiding just out of sight, but as the river began to bend toward the sea, the moon broke into full view.


Its glorious broken rings looked to Raina as if they were bending to scoop water from the sea, and their brilliant streaks of white reflected endlessly in the tiny waves that scattered toward the shore. Raina had never seen the moon from this angle before and couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful. The moon had always fascinated her, but today it caught her breath in its rays and she was reluctant to draw it back. 


Dano, leaning thoughtfully on the tiller, called over to Raina, “You can’t see it yet, but the sun will be rising soon behind us.” He paused as she looked behind to meet his gaze. Pointing up to the moon he said, “Her rings always glow much brighter an hour or so before sunrise.”


“You mean you see this every morning?” Raina asked in amazement.


Dano laughed at the look on her face. “No, not exactly,” still laughing, “but some mornings are better than others. This one is the best I’ve seen in years.” He smiled, watching his daughter stare off as the largest rings began to disappear below the horizon.


He began to hum an ancient tune as they crossed the invisible but jarring threshold between the river and the sea. Raising both sails to full mast and letting the boom free, he eased the boat into position to begin tacking further out to deeper waters.


Still sitting at the bow of the boat, Raina heard the tune her father was humming and began to hum along, eyes refusing to let go of the slowly sinking moon. Then Dano began to sing.


“She sinks beneath the shimmering, the moonlight on the sea

And waits beneath the waves of silver watching there for me

Her jaws are strong, her body long, she cuts a foamy trail

Her belly fills with all she kills; she is the mighty whale.”


Dano went on humming the tune as he watched 


“Do you think whales are actually real?” Raina asked her father once his humming turned to incoherent grunts.


“Well,” he started then stopped, biting his lip and knitting his brow, “I’ve been on the sea my entire life, sailed far out, beyond sight of the coast and have never seen one myself.” he paused again, “but,” his finger lifted into the air, “the ocean is deep enough for even the largest of creatures to hide, and from our village there have been more than our fair share of fish-herders lost to the sea in my years.”


Raina looked away from her father, squinting her eyes hoping to see their mythical foamy trail in the distance, and seeing none relaxed, leaning into the side of the boat. “If they do exist, I wish I could see one,” she whispered, half to herself.


There was no more singing or humming as Dano steered the ship further from land.


A little less than an hour later Dano called Raina to help lower the sails and throw out their small anchor. The boat stopped.


Bobbing slowly in the calm sea Dano began to teach Raina about the different types of nets they brought with them, the hooks and lines, the baskets for holding, and the different tools he kept on board. He pulled a small fileting knife from his belt, cut off a length of rope and tossed it to Raina, teaching her the knots every sailor had to know to survive. She eagerly soaked in every word that fell from his lips repeating back the most important ones. 


“Clove Hitch. Bowline. Sheet-bend-hitch” she repeated to herself, committing the knots to memory.


Dano worked through his routines with Raina all morning, teaching her how to cast the net, how to hook, weight, and bait a line, and how she must be patient. Patience would be the most difficult of these for Raina to learn though she would do well for her age.


As they bobbed slowly in the foamlessly calm sea they dropped their first deep lines. Dano explained that it was always better to throw out deep lines in the morning and cast the nets out on their way home.


Each line had been hooked and baited with different types of bait at several intervals along the length of the line. The width of the ship had been used to measure the intervals and the bait was specific to the type of fish they were after. Some intervals also had special lures made to attract certain species of fish once the bait further up the line had been taken and the snagged fish began to move the line about.


Starting at the age of nine, Dano too had been lovingly taught everything he knew about fishing, but he from his mother, and she from her father, down the long line of first born children in their family as far back as anyone knew. In the land of Arek the right of fish-herding was passed along this way and had been done since The End. Highly specialized in their art, they knew all there was to know about not only catching the right fish, but caring for and protecting the health of their herds. They knew the size of each herd of fish, they knew their habits and their migrations. They fed and cared for the young, designing special nets to catch only the oldest, returning any breeding-aged fish to their herd. Even those fish who preferred the deepest parts of the ocean were cared for. Generations ago, the village’s glass blowers had invented weighted glass bubbles designed to implode at certain depths, filled with fertility-boosting nutrients specific to the fish at that level, and the artisans of their day still carried on the art. Their village was not all fishermen, but it was a vital export for them and so they had, through countless generations, guaranteed the health and viability of this profession through continual communal efforts. 


As they waited for the hooks and weights, and the lures and bait to work their magic, Dano sat Raina down on a basket opposite him beneath the shade where the holding baskets were kept. The sun was no longer low in the sky but not yet directly overhead. The breeze that skimmed across the ocean kept them cool despite it being late spring, and their long-sleeved, woven shirts continued to be useful for both warmth and protection from the sun’s harsh rays.


“In the beginning was The End, and from The End sprang forth new life.” Dano quoted to his daughter. “Do you know what this means?”


“It comes from the Great Book!” Raina exclaimed in excitement.


“It does,” Dano affirmed, nodding his head, “but what does it mean?”


Raina sat thinking a while before responding. With hesitation in her voice she replied, “I know it has something to do with where we’re from and why we’re here, but I never thought about it.”


“You’re right, it does have to do with where we’re from, but it also has to do with how our world was made, and how our world works.” Dano pulled a small, leather-bound book from his inner shirt pocket, flipped to the first page and began reading.


“In the beginning was The End, and from The End sprang forth new life. And the Great Mother guided all life and shared its will. From chaos came order and the will of all the earth was bent to the earth, and the earth was filled with harmony.” He lifted his eyes from the page to look Raina in the eye. “When I was your age, my mother brought me here, taught me my knots, how to hook and bait a line, how to prepare nets and care for the life of the herds we’ve been given, but do you know what I’ve learned that I cherish the most from those trips with my mother?”


Raina shook her head, no.


“What I cherish most is the wisdom of my mother, the knowledge of the world, and the sea, and the moon and stars, and what she thought about The End, and this new life that sprang from it. What I suppose I really cherish most is simply the time I got to spend talking to my mother. The countless hours at sea let me know her and love her more than anyone in this world. That is,” He paused and looked Raina in the eye, “until you came floating down the river, bumping into this boat.” He cast his eyes to the horizon, turning his head to hide the tear that formed in the corner of his eye.


Raina knew her father too well to not notice the lines on his face growing a little damp. “Please, tell me more about her. I remember some things from before she died, but it’s all just blurry. I think I was too young.” 


Dano cleared his throat and brushed his fingertips along his cheekbones. “She was the strongest woman I knew, rough hands, ground coarse from pulling nets and lines her whole life, and she was more beautiful than the last rays of sunlight bouncing along the waves at sunset. She had long brown hair and green eyes, and her skin was as dark as a black walnut tree, burnt from her time in the sun. I can count on two hands the number of times I saw my mother cry. She let the wind guide her wherever she went. She truly believed the words in this book,” he held up the small leather-bound work in his left hand. “Especially how the Great Mother’s will guides all of life, from the smallest minnow to the greatest whale.” He winked at his smiling daughter. “Including you and I, our family, our village. All the people of Arek, and the rest of the wide world beyond our lands. The will of The Great Mother guides us all, through happiness and pain, through sunny days and stormy nights.”


He lifted himself off the crate he used as a bench, and limped to the railing of the boat. Leaning over, he pointed back to land. “Raina, do you see the outline of the gray hills?” She got up and squinted back to their home. “From the village you can’t see much of them, but I am sure you’ve heard stories about these hills. From here, when the sun is high, and the haze has just about all burnt off, you can see them clearly. More so than you would if you were standing at their base looking up” Raina noted in her mind how the silhouette of the gray hills formed jagged lines low in the sky. The thin spires of iron rock and the empty halls of its gaping caves, open to the skies, stood in contrast to the long and tall, snow-capped mountains rolling along further inland, faded by their distance. 


Dano sat back down on his crate. “In the beginning was The End.” he looked over once more to the gray hills. “The end of what?” he asked, half to himself, half looking for an answer from Raina. “And how does the will of the Great Mother manifest itself in the world?” He looked back over to his daughter and smiled. “My mother and I spent years trying to answer these questions and others like them as we tossed about on these very same waves. I’m hoping that you and I can carry on where my mother and I left off. Do you think you’re up for the task?”


Raina, the ever confident, the ever enthusiastic ball of gum sap uncharacteristically slouched down on her basket for a moment of still contemplation. Arms folded, and after a while, she started, “but I don’t know the answers to these questions. I don’t even know where I came from. I don’t know the Great Mother and I’ve never felt Her will." The tight sadness in her face opened up to a small beam of hope. “But I want to.”


Just then a spout of water shot from the surface of the ocean just a few arm lengths away and a hundred feet into the air as if it had been pressed from the spout of a giant leather canteen. They both jumped to their feet in unison, leaning far over the railing to see what they could just as a giant tail slapped the water. The spout left a cloudy mist hanging in the air that was drifting quickly toward their boat. Just beneath the surface what looked like the underside of a large black capsized ship, covered in barnacles, or perhaps like a shell-encrusted, slick black monolithic rock that sits in the tidepools half submerged, sank into obscurity. In its wake, a foamy trail scattered in the water. 


“Whale!” Raina yelled, pointing with her right hand and wiping the mist from her face with her left. 


Dano did not know what to say, or what to do, or even what to think; all he could do was laugh. Deep and booming, his laughter shook the air around them and filled Raina’s heart with joy. The excitement within her boiled to the surface as she began whooping in excitement, laughing in between her exclamations of pure joy, feeling electrified from the very tips of her fingers and toes to the ends of her hair.


She followed along the boat’s railing as the foamy trail drifted across the bow and got caught along their hull. Behind her, Dano grabbed a handheld net from a nearby crate and reached down into the water to scoop some foam from the sea, flinging it playfully across Raina’s back. Laughing and singing he stomped a rhythm, “Her jaws are strong, her body long, she cuts a foamy trail!”


Raina, clapping along with her father’s stomping, finished the line with him in unison. 


“Her belly fills with all she kills; she is the mighty whale!”


Their laughter and whooping continued on for some time as they strained their eyes trying to find any other signs of the great beast. Leaning far out over the water turned to leaning on the rails, and eventually as the laughter died down, their bodies sore from the excitement, they rested their heads in their hands, Dano with his elbows up and Raina with her arms flat across the railing. They were both still smiling from their unbelievable encounter, looking now only at each other's happiness.


Dano couldn’t help but feel there was something special about his little girl. As she stared back at him with the biggest smile she could fit on that tiny face her deep brown eyes shone honey-orange in the sunlight. “You’re my little lucky charm,” he said. Her smile found a bit more room.


They sat there for some time longer, stunned in their amazement, until Dano finally stood up saying, “Well, as truly exciting as that was, we can’t just sit around all day now can we? We’ve still got work to do!” He held out his hand to Raina who placed hers in his and jumped up by his side. “Let’s start by pulling in the lines on the bow end and work our way back. If you’re as lucky as I think you are, these lines will be heavy.” 


They looped the lines into the hand-reel cranks and began to slowly wind them in. 


The first few hooks came up empty, not just no fish, but also no bait. They continued to reel them in and felt their hopes dwindle as each hook came to the surface, picked clean. The first two lines were drawn in and only a handful of the fish from down deep remained.. As they worked their way back, their situation improved, and more and more fish remained on the line, though still well below an average day’s catch.


Just past midway along the row of lines, Dano began pulling in something lively. He called Raina over to be ready to help him. As the line wound its way up, Raina could see each hook with either its bait or its catch appear from out of the dark murky water, rising toward them at a rapid pace as Dano raced to reel them in. She helped clear each hook while Dano kept winding up the line. As the deepest hooks began to rise, Raina began to see what was making this line so particularly lively. It was a large, yellow-finned tuna, though now it was swimming up in tight circles as it rose to the surface.


“Father, a tuna!” Raina yelled, joy in her voice,  holding on to the railing, tiny white knuckles and digging nails. 


Dano had guessed as much based on its strength, but its movement was odd. Most tuna take the line toward the horizon and try to fight more against the pulls and tugs, but now it was coming up faster than he could reel in. Dano didn’t have time to think this mystery through, however, for in a moment it was made clear. As he tried catching his winding up with the pace of the Impressive tuna, a dark mass appeared beneath it, growing rapidly larger.


“Hold on tight!” was all Dano had time to yell before the whale caught the tuna in its gaping mouth. Breaching the surface of the water, the whale knocked their boat on its side, tossing the cages, nets, and other tools, into the water, and Dano along with them.


“Father!” Raina screamed as she watched her father fly through the air, knocking his head on a large cage as he hit the water. In a panic she watched as his unconscious body began to sink into the murky sea, tangled in the weighted nets that had served him for so many years. She continued to hang from the railing in a vice-like grip, unwilling to let go, her feet dangling over the now-vertical deck. She wished with all her heart that this wasn’t happening as the fear of the moment began to take over her. 


As she hung there, the reality of her situation began to sink in. She was alone at sea, clinging to the railing of a boat that lay tipped on its side, which she had no hope of ever setting right on her own. She was doomed by all imaginable accounts. The water beneath her, though calm on its own, now churned with the debris from the impact. The bait boxes and chum were flung in too, and it wouldn’t be long before the sharks and other more dangerous sea creatures found their way by scent to their boat. She realized that even the luck of tides and winds would pass her by as the anchor lay firmly stuck in the seabed below. 


There was no hope for her beyond the Will of the Great Mother. Realizing this, she began to beg with all the strength that she could muster, to bend her will toward the Great Mother, hoping that somehow She would bend Hers back to Raina. She pleaded for Dano to be saved and that they would make it home today, together. Will-bent she dangled there for what felt like hours, though in reality it was less than two minutes. Not knowing what it feels like to align one’s will with the Great Mother’s she felt no hope, no feeling of confidence or great assurance, but still she hung there refusing to let go of either her hands or her desire to be saved.


The whale rose once more from the deep.


Raina heard the sound of moving water beneath her, opened her eyes and began to yell, “Don’t hurt him! Don’t you dare hurt him, whale! Please, I need him!” her yells turned to sobs. “I can’t do this without you. Please help me.”


The whale reached the surface, slowly this time, gently almost. Raina saw that Dano was lying on the head of the whale, unconscious. The large beast forcefully but intentionally nudged their boat, tiny in comparison, and the mast which was dipping into the water quickly righted itself. Raina came down hard, gasping on the deck in disbelief, still holding tight to the railing, unable to comprehend what she had witnessed. She jumped up and ran over to the other side where the whale sat still, holding Dano just out of the water. She reached her arms over to grab hold of her father. He was out of reach, and either way she never would have been able to lift his giant form, no nine-year old child could have. 


“Please whale,” she pleaded hopelessly, “help me lift him up here, and I will be forever grateful. I can’t sail this boat alone, and will die without him.” Tears continued to drip their path down her cheeks as she imagined her likely fate.


To Raina’s surprise, the whale, as if it understood her pleas, rose higher out of the water and tilted its head so that Dano rolled off onto the deck. In that single moment, as the whale’s great eye and Raina’s met, she knew its intelligence, its compassion, and she knew it was no monster. 


She rushed over to her father and pushed with all of her might to roll him over onto his side, and as she did his lungs released the sea water trapped inside of him in a fit of raging coughs. The whale disappeared beneath the waves.


“Father,” she grabbed his face in her hands, “can you hear me?”


In his confusion he managed to cough out the question,“What happened?”


“You fell in when the boat was knocked to its side by the whale.”


“The whale?” Dano asked as the fog cleared from his mind and the images began to flow back more freely. “The whale.” He attempted to jump to his feet in a fit of rage, as if he meant to kill it. Raina motioned for her father to stay off his feet by steadily pushing her tiny, but strong hands against his chest. 


Then a new thought came to Dano’s mind. “The boat was on its side?” He looked puzzled. “How did you right it in the water?”


“I didn’t, it was the whale.”


Dano didn’t know what to make of this. His mind was clearly still recovering from the fall and the look on his face must have betrayed his confusion because Raina quickly followed her last comment, “I bent my will to the Great Mother and she saved us. The whale pushed the boat upright and put you here, back on the deck.” She motioned to the spot in which he lay. 


“How can that be?”


“The whale was smart, and it understood me, and it wanted to fix its mistake.”


“How can you possibly know that?” Dano asked his young daughter, “How could you even begin to know what a whale is thinking? We didn’t even know they were real in the morning and by midday you know what it wants, that it is smart and somehow compassionate?”


Raina began to cry again, “I can’t explain it, I just felt it, Father!” She shifted her weight to lean back on her arms. “It… it looked into my eyes and I just knew.” she glanced up at her father in time to see his tense face soften back into the father she knew. 


He propped himself up and sat for a while, thinking through the little he knew of what happened. He also thought of the stories he’d heard, the old songs, his time with his mother and everything he had read in the Great Book. “Perhaps it was the Great Mother.” he admitted as he turned his head to catch her gaze. With a loud sigh he said, “There are stories of those who have a deep connection with Her, whose thoughts and hopes and wishes can become those of the Great Mother. Their wills entwined, they act as one. None from our lands have ever been known to have this connection, but it is said that there are those among whom it is more commonplace.” He looked at his daughter, holding in his mind the tiny floating child who drifted into his boat those few short years ago. He painfully started lifting himself to his feet, and as he did he continued, “Perhaps over time we may know for sure, but for now we must express our gratitude for Her aid in this.”


He took the small fileting knife from his belt, rolled up the sleeve on his left arm, revealing a row of small scars just below his elbow and added a small cut to the row. He handed Raina the knife to do the same, grabbed his neck at the base of his skull with his left hand and with his right he covered his eyes and, half singing, recited the lines, “She opened her eyes and all was gone. So she bled to give life from earth to sea and sky. So I see to be seen” removing his hand from his eyes, “And I bleed to live,” squeezing a drop of blood from the small cut, “And I give back what was given”. He let the small drop of blood fall to the ocean beneath him.


Raina repeated the small ritual for herself, wincing at the now insignificant pain of the cut and whispering the lines. Her blood mixed with the water below and she wondered how much blood had drifted from the rivers and streams of their lands and into the oceans one drop of gratitude at a time.


Dano rubbed saltwater on the cut and motioned for Raina to do the same. This hurt more than making the cut, but her heart filled with gratitude for the pain she avoided because of the whale and the aid of the Great Mother. She looked up to her father and smiled.


— —


As the sun began to dip lower in the sky, Dano and Raina worked tirelessly to gather what they could from the sea below despite their overwhelming exhaustion. They had lost some nets, some ropes, hooks, food, fresh water, and more, but managed to gather back some of the tools and supplies buoyant enough to float.


With half their nets gone, and most of their lines lost to the sea, Dano decided that it would be okay, just this once, to cut their trip short. They hoisted the sails and made their way back home. The winds were favorable and got them most of the way back to the mouth of the river without the need for much tacking, which was very good as Dano had worried the weight of the soaked sails might wear out their rigging if they had to work the wind too hard. Raina fell fast asleep in the calm, steady trip back home.


They hit the slow, even flow of the river and Dano noticed the familiar transition from the ocean to the fresh water. He lowered the headsail to slow their progress as they tacked up the river. The bend lies just a few miles downriver from their village, but as they rounded the curve, Dano noticed an unusual cloud hovering over the land. 


The birds were eerily silent, and the rhythm of the bugs sounded off. A pleasant and familiar scent, though ominous in its intensity, lingered in the air, the scent of burning oak, ash, and cedar. Though he was used to seeing the small columns of smoke drifting from dozens of family ovens as he made his way in from the sea, the cloud of smoke that hung over their village was larger than usual.


Dano softly nudged Raina awake and asked her to ready what ropes they had left to tie off at the docks when they arrived. Noticing the smell of fire, Raina asked, “What’s going on? Can you always smell the cooking fires this strong from out here?”


Dano  kept his eyes toward the village. “No,” he said, worrying his daughter with his brevity. 


As they approached the docs they found them empty. Most fishing boats were still out to sea, which was not unusual for this hour, but those who fish from the docks during the day were noticeably absent. Dano began searching the horizon for any smoke that seemed to be too much for the grove ovens to produce on their own. 


When he finally spotted the source of smoke he could see plainly that it had been brought under control, but the direction it came from sank his heart. There were a few small family groves near to their own, but it seemed to be coming distinctly from theirs. 


Dano Steered the boat to its mooring and quickly climbed down to the dock, yelling up, “Raina, throw down the rope.” The small coil flopped over the railing and onto the dock. As he quickly tied the rope into a bowline, fixing it securely to the piling, a young boy came running down the stairs, onto the dock, and up to Dano. 


“Dano, Dano,” He cried, obviously out of breath.


“Slow down, Niko. What is it?”


Niko looked up into Dano’s eyes with a mix of fear, shame, and pain. Before he could say it, Dano knew what he had come to tell him.


“The fire, it was my grove wasn’t it?” Dano asked deliberately.


“Yes,” replied the boy, looking away in pain.


Dano rushed past Niko as fast as his tired, uneven legs could carry him and made his way up the stairs. 


Raina flew down the ladder and onto the dock grabbing Niko by both arms. “Niko, are my mother and brother alright?” 


He stood there unable to speak, unable to tell her what he knew, so he began to cry, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”


Raina pushed past Niko, nearly knocking him off the dock as she ran toward the stairs, but he caught his balance and followed as closely behind her as he could. They ran up along the terrace, past the riverside shops, across the small village square, and along the moss-covered streets toward the family grove she called home.


The small, lichen covered gate lay wide open and the blackberry bushes that lined the path were trampled down. The trees behind the gate stood black against the sky, their branches now bare and their bark stripped of its color. Raina’s cedar was unrecognizable, just a shell of its former beauty. The ash tree that her mother and baby brother slept in was just as badly damaged. Only Dano’s oak stood mostly untouched. 


As she walked in through the gate, shocked at the transition her home had taken in her absence, she found neighbors from the village all around covering smoldering spots with sand, clearing out debris, and patching up what they could. Her family’s belongings lay strewn across their small courtyard, though very little of her personal things could be seen. It looked as though her Cedar had taken the most damage in the fury.


As her eyes made their way in shock around their grove, she found her father lying on the floor next to her mother and baby brother. Dano was shaking as he held his wife and son in his arms. Raina saw that they weren’t moving on their own. She saw that her mother was badly burnt. She saw charred flesh sticking to her fathers woven shirt. She saw that her brother wasn’t lying right in her father’s arms.


She saw that they were dead.


As she stood there, a single thought repeated in her head. It wasn’t a word, or a phrase; no questions, no anxious pleas., no worries, or fears. The only thought in her mind was an image of the candle she left lit in her tree room early that morning.


For the last time for the next twelve years she cried. 


It rained.


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