Out of the Woods
Under cover of storm, those who might have been about all secured in their dwellings, Caela walks across the fields in a straight line to her destination.
By the time she got to Toriv's school, the storm was spent. Soggy ground, grey sky, wind and rain now but wistful breeze and mist. A dark wet day for a stranger's sudden appearance. The main house was abuzz with speculation.
There was already much concern about the troop of children Toriv had mysteriously taken in. Some kin of Merin's, a dear teacher to many of them, but still unsettling. These are people who spook easily, do not trust strangers. They are not even on easy terms with their neighbors. They have chosen to live this more primitive style of life, as they see it, in order to be left alone, away from prying eyes and possible recrimination.
"That was why we had to. We had to protect ourselves. We couldn't appear to be dangerous, harboring undesirables, enemies of the state." They told themselves they had no choice. The needed to protect their own noble cause, the preservation of their kind. Toriv kept to himself at the school, apart from them. His concern was his own son, Kirin, and the children he taught; but now these other children as well. "He is not part of their cohesive group, not really. These children aren't either, none of our concern. What are they doing here anyway, needing to be fed and who knows for how long put up with? “It's not that we wish them ill. Of course we don't. They are children. But surely no real harm will come to them. Surely the authorities searching for them have everyone's best interests at heart. They will just send over a couple of city reps to take the children away, probably to quite appropriate and loving foster care. We will be left alone. No one will have any argument with us."
But perhaps this stranger has come to spirit the children away. "Perhaps we were too hasty in our action, reporting the presence here of these controversial youngsters. Oh, we don't know what to think."
No matter. Ripples of forces in motion find their outlets, moving acts and actors into place. Caela hears the chatter from the house as she walks up to the school door. She feels familiarity from those inside. They have been expecting her, without entirely knowing whom to expect. There are others expected soon, by those in the main house, whom Toriv and the children are happy not to see yet at their door. Never mind. It will all play out very soon. First, introductions must be made, brief summaries of stories exchanged, the creation of a bond already in the forming to be acknowledged.
Caela and Lukin touch hand into hand, facing each into shining open eyes, hug solemnly. The children feel as secure as any mother's love could provide. Toriv as well feels that love, allowing himself the relief, the luxury of relinquishing a responsibility he had no idea how to fulfill. None doubted, assured in Caela's confidence, that no harm would now befall them.
The knock at the door was no shock, no surprise. Neither were the officially uniformed pair of large brutes whose entrance their knocking barely preceded. They were the ones not so much shocked or surprised as amazed and disarmed by an old woman from the other side of the deep woods.
At Caela's instigation, she, Toriv and the children were escorted to the official vehicle brought for their transport to an interrogation area.
"You mean to take these children, and the man who has harbored them, to someone with more authority than you for their questioning and incarceration, yes?" Caela had quietly, patiently suggested, clearly eyeing the soldiers. They could but nod, confused.
"Take us all to the supreme commander of your government. We have negotiations to begin." She commanded them as surely as any of those officers they had been trained to obey with alacrity, without question. Also, there was some strange subtly commanding desire they could feel overtaking any objection before it could form in their minds. It did not feel strange at all to do as this unknown woman said. It only felt strange to have any idea to the contrary.
Off they all go to see the Chief Councilor, head of the city's governmental body. On the way, Caela is able to collaborate with Lukin in forming a link of communication with Merin in his cell at the prison compound. He and the rest of the adult members of Sira's extended family are being held, their jailors believe incommunicado, out of sight out of mind of those of the city's populace enraged against them. Unthinking rage, used so easily in political rallying, is not always so easily controlled. None of Sira's political enemies had ever intended harm to the children. They thought the outrage would die down once the maligned adults had been apprehended, sent into perdition for punishment of their insinuated crimes. Yet the people were calling to extinguish this evil subspecies, as they imagined the witchpeople to be, from their lives, utterly, completely, finally. These people had for so long been unhappy, silently or uproariously building up angers over the miseries they felt visited upon their lives from some unnamed foe. Having found a name, they now must vanquish those of that brand. To their rage, it was all quite simple. Anger can be a potent force for action. Once devolved to impotent rage, it is bereft of the solidity of reason and can only, when released, destroy.
Merin, glad for the distraction maybe even more than the hope of aid, fills Caela in on the pertinent history, the players, the games, the scores and strategies, cultural myths, background conditions, that she had missed while living her life on the other side of the woods. He is promised a detailed history of Caela's community once the crisis has passed and there is time for the less immediate.
The Chief Councilor was not a simple soldier. He was not a follower, but a leader practiced in the ways of power. He was a senior politician, used to tricks, manipulations, maneouverings, his opponents' and his own. This was not a man easily trifled with or stared down. This was a man who could be persuaded, only if he could be made to clearly see his own advantage. Caela could do that. She could show him in clear imagery and well placed words exactly what he had to gain, and what losses he would no longer need to fear or calculate. Caela was not a politician, had never seen herself as a leader, or a follower. She knew the human mind. She understood the inner workings of will and desire. Power may think itself an irresistible force. When it meets calm acceptance, wrapped in well-reasoned, irrefutable logic, power can become a sheepish child happy to find common ground, if that power is backed by intelligence.
The Chief Councilor is an intelligent man. He can acknowledge Caela's wisdom, in his own self-interest. In this case, how fortunate, it is enlightened self-interest, a win-win-win for himself, his constituents, and Caela's.
Toriv and the children sit in the anteroom while the principles palaver. They do not feel assured of their fate. Fear, though, mingles with hope, a most potent cocktail keeping them still, locked in their long moments of anticipation.
In the Chief Councilor's chambers, something akin to a miracle seems to him to be taking place. Even before she spoke, this strange, primitively dressed old woman has pulled from him his total attention. He feels he would not be able to turn from her nor tune out one iota of her message even should he be able to form such a desire. So much more than compelling, this is the most immediately real experience he has ever known.
"I am Caela, of the witchfolk." Her words enter his mind accompanied with rich imagery, a gestalt of intent and comprehension.
"You do not need to be told of my journey, nor my history. You need to know that together we can come back from this mess between our people. We can all gain from each other, and become the one people we are meant to be.
Someday, after the immediate wounds have healed, scarred over, my people, the exiles, or your people of this city, or both, will make inroads into the land between. Those of the witchfolk here are few and dwindling. They have shown serious concern to improve their numbers through social experiments designed to increase procreation. I know you have noted and were nervous about this. But my point, they are dwindling. You could round them up or let them be. They would all but disappear over time. Yet the time bomb still exists to your South. I tell you this to let you know I come not as an outside agitator nor advocate for others. I have a stake in this outcome. My agenda is open to you. By the time the people I have been a part of reunite with these of the city, the rift needs to have been healed. The reuniting must come as separated kin coming together in celebration."
Caela's imagery, more than convincing of her conviction, flows, eloquent. Chief Councilor Jorel (proudly named for his spaceship captain ancestor), finds himself to be fascinated, eagerly awaiting what may come next sparking from her intelligence to his.
"Your people believe they want us gone. Whatever the reasons, these are palpable intentions. They are inflamed, and need careful tending lest they explode. This would harm them, and you, more than we would feel it in the situations we are already in." Her voice and manner so sweetly calm. Images merely illustrative, not as inflammatory as what they represent.
This is merely prologue.
Sandwiches and energy drinks are brought in by an aide, for those in the antechamber and the two in the main room. Apparently energy will be needed both for waiting and for negotiations. The aide silently disappears, on to other duties, perhaps speculations.
"Yes, those festering people in the streets, living out their day to days, waiting impatiently for justice, if that is all they think they can get. They don't know we're here yet, do they? Under the auspices of their representative in chief, eating sandwiches and leisurely chatting or sitting quietly in an antechamber awaiting the possibility of freedom. Are we your enemies?"
He could feel implicit threat, but softly gloved because this threat could cut both ways. Delicacy in the balance of shifting forces is not a theoretical concept, but obvious sensation. The thorny, twisty problem is clearly delineated.
"If you but think, you know, at this point of our social history our biologies have mixed so that many of our people are not one thing or the other. In the natural course, this will continue. We are not enemies, but kinfolk. We are human beings upon this planet foreign to our origins, but now the only home we know. All of us are aliens together, making this world our home. We are natural allies, tribesmen, sharing our individual wealth of skills and personal resources in common enterprise, as our ancestor colonists meant us to be."
"That's all very nice and philosophical." Jorel has found his voice. "We have an immediate situation to deal with here, as you yourself point out. It certainly isn't gong to help quell the fears of the masses to tell them you people have infiltrated their very DNA. They won't know who to trust. That could create widespread panic less controllable than what we have now. What can you tell me, witch, that I can use?"
Outside the window of the Chief Councilor's chambers, a crowd can be seen slowly gathering, gaining in numbers and loudness, on the street below. They do not appear to be in a mood of celebration. Their voices are angry. Their words indistinct, but their faces look more pinched and resigned then empowered. This is not a crowd expressing healthy anger against injustice, or grievances for which they expect redress. This is the face of a desperate response to long felt helplessness, ill-use, built out of a poverty of trust, foundations crumbling. Caela feels their surging waves of murky emotion. Disgust, fear, raw rage, harsh bitter brittleness, ready to break. What has done this to a people whose legacy was meant to be freedoms and opportunities far beyond what would have been left to them by the human confusion, pollution, insanity their ancestors had thought left behind on Earth?
Her senses and contexts expanded by what she has learned, accepted, assimilated through her interchanges, gifts now shared with the forest, Caela feels the wounds these people carry, incubate, spread. "Here and now." Her eyes move from the disturbance escalating outside, lock onto Jorel's. "Those abilities within us that you fear, that you covet, keeping you caught up in the belief that we witchfolk are a superior enemy to be shunned and destroyed, that gift is already yours as well. You can learn to find it within you, to access, develop, use your own innate abilities. You can be set free of this mistaken need for hatred which drains your energies, takes from you what you could be."
"But how? Even saying you might be right about some latent witch genetics in some of us, that would just be more divisive. Even those of us with the potential for this so-called gift would have no idea how to make use of it. If they did learn, they would just be more of you, no longer to be trusted." Jorel's attention, divided between that enthralled to the witch's spellbinding charisma and the sure threat of the outside mob scene, is not grasping how to reconcile the two.
"Not some, not witchblood. Human blood. Our people came of yours. What we have is but amplified genetically. The right kind of training could build these abilities from potential within all of you as well."
"If you could get them to take your training, even if what you say were true. They would rather tear you apart then ever look upon you as their human kin. You are not their kin, nor for that matter mine. You are as alien to us in your own way as the natural lifeforms of our adopted home. What do you intend? To simply walk among those angry mobs and break them to your will with a smile?"
Caela smiles broadly. Jorel sneers, not knowing what to make of her, feeling mocked.
"No, I am not mocking you. I do respect your words, your experience, your sincere desire to avoid rampant violence."
Jorel is mollified. He really does like this witch woman, wishes she could, they could, resolve this mess he knows is partially of his making. But if the instigations of his political maneuverings were all that was in their way they would not have such an intractable problem. He had only manipulated a deeply held antipathy, not brought it into being.
"I am sorry." He admits his culpability while regretting the futility of his power. He does not understand why she still smiles, obviously, gently, as a collaborator rather than the opposition.
"I believe you have recently closed and taken control of a school to the north and west, far enough beyond the centers of population to afford privacy. There is enough land for a buffering zone, gardens, basic self-sufficiency."
Unsure where this might be going, Jorel concedes her information. "The Harmony Academy. Several of your people were shareholders in the enterprise. Some as well were prominent faculty. The people had been hearing unsavory rumors about goings on there. Some of your social experiments, group sex, occult ceremonies, dangerous ideas being spread. We arrested several of the major shareholder/instigators. The property is in the hands of the City Council until we auction it off."
"Yes!" Caela seems almost glowing. "A dangerous idea -- but danger can be a challenging doorway to glorious adventure, or the price of a longed for treasure. Sell me this school. I will pay whatever price you ask, over time from my profits. I will start a school to teach our people how to find their precious abilities, along with immediately practical healing techniques."
Jorel is intrigued, more by her thrilling energy than her words, her proposition. The Chief Councilor in him smells trouble, but it has more the feeling of a reflexive defense than a real threat. It's not about a financial arrangement. He has no doubt this witch woman will make good. He fears her power. Yet, somehow, it is a good fear, a call to challenge to his self-image as a brave man.
Or was that the witchery? Was she playing on his sympathies, bewitching his mind, dissolving his strong-willed resolve?
"How would this school help with the immediate situation? Are you going to single-handed convert us all? What could you teach us that would be to our advantage? I am sure you could turn a fine profit and pay your way, benefit the city coffers in return for our protection. Though I am also sure we could not guarantee your safety at any price. What are you offering these people?" He gestures grandly toward the ever greater unrest of the ever larger crowd just outside this governmental edifice. "How will you pay them for your life?"
"With theirs, of course." She laughs, briefly, out of irrepressible mirth. "I am a healer. I have learned long, well and wisely so many methods, so many ways of being ill and injured, how to recover, become a new whole, stronger, better prepared to go forward, healthier, more completely alive. But I have no need to take the whole task upon my self. I can easily train those willing to learn to assist me, more easily at first those who have already developed the sensitivities more natural to we witchfolk. Over time, with longer training, we will be able to expand our pool of potential healers and trainers from graduates of our school, no matter which of our clans they have been born of. Really, it is simple. Together we can make it be. Let us be partners, allies in a wonderful enterprise.
Please, now, arrange for these children waiting for their verdict, and their chaperone, in the next room, to be taken to the school grounds. Make arrangements also for their parents, now held in your prison, to join them there. They can get started putting the place in order for our clientele. Eventually our children can learn together, and from each other, what we need to know to be a successful people together."
Jorel has been enjoying getting caught up in Caela's vision as she spins it out for him. He sees the potential of this fine university of healing arts, including the healing to be found through fine and performance expressive arts, touch, movement, meditations, creative play and experiments in communications, even more spiraling out beyond his imagining. A too good to be true fantasy, of course; but he allows himself a momentary luxury of getting caught up in the beauty.
"My dear Healer," deciding it is well past time to inject reality back into their conversation, Jorel adopts a tone of impatient irony. "I am certain I would be glad to accede to your demands. Just tell me, how am I to spirit your charges away in the face of that?" With an angry flourish, he points to the mob, seemingly just shy of storming the barricade around the building and taking them all by force.
"Have we a deal, then?" Caela responds lightly, as if they've not a care beyond their civilized negotiations. "You do your part, Councilor. Leave the rest to me. Watch and learn why I know my plan will succeed for all of us.
But first, one more favor, please. I will appreciate your arranging for electronic amplification of my voice, and for my live simultaneous broadcast over your communications channels to reach everyone tuned in. I know you will find a way to sneak the others out safely while the focus is on me."
Jorel is aghast. "I'm sure it is quite noble for you to sacrifice yourself to save these children," he begins, ready to plead. She is extraordinary. Perhaps they can figure out some way to ...
"No need to fear for me, Jorel. Just watch. Listen. And do as we have agreed. We are agreed?"
A quality of her voice, her will, commands his full attention. He quickly, authoritatively, arranges for the broadcast and amplification equipment, and transport for both contingents of Lukin's extended family.
A strangely dressed, obviously old, yet regally postured woman appears on the balcony of the City Council Building, arms outstretched as if in benediction. Calmly, serenely, she faces the uproarious crowd surrounding from below.
Caela breathes deeply inward, accessing that bright core she has built from all the loving wisdom discovered throughout her life.
"You can be healed." Her simple statement echoing, reverberating throughout the crowd. Everyone within range of her electronically enhanced and broadcast voice feels profound resonance.
Every one of them feels tender, loving presence reaching deeply into their secret, festering wounds, bathing their pain in beautiful soothing light.
Caela, smiling inwardly in joyful communion with the forest daughter entwining her consciousness, responds to each and every pause of wonder. She sends soothing musical visions with her words.
"There is no shame in pain. There is no cure to be found in blame, regardless of accuracy. There are so very many ways to be wounded, deeply injured, horribly scarred. Our natural desire would be to heal, end the siren signal of pain, the suffering of what has been hidden rather than made whole. It is natural for hurting children to offer up their tears and fright and indignation at their wounding to parents who will make them well again. Hiding, making dark secrets of unhealed wounds, is not our natural recourse. We have mislearned, incorporated guilts and shames where openness to nurture was meant to be. Sharing our pain, our stories of wounding, our attempts to regain wholeness, with caring family and friends is meant to make us stronger, individually and together. Go deeply into your greatest, most intractable, pain too intense to touch numbing wound. Listen, intently, to its story. Succor it as you would your dearest child. Then to the next, and the next, until all your despicable woundings are adored offspring of a closely loving family. Share your family tales with the people you see every day. I give you all permission to allow this vulnerability.
You are not about fear or anger or intractability. You are alive, growing, changing, learning. Learn to share who you are, really. Magical synergy can give us all everything we have yearned for, felt missing in our lives, individually and together.
I don't know when, why, how it began. The social structure meant to house and contain us, safe, snug, happy children growing to become strong, joyful, nurturing families, instead becomes a prison. Structure meant to be loyal friend and servant becomes heartless master, imposing order without thoughtful consciousness, sane flexibility, wise encouragement of playfully creative boisterousness which might lead to inconvenience, mistakes, disorder. We can always pull ourselves together to clean up an inadvertent mess, correct mistakes, make amends, share discoveries. This is gregarious human life's natural course of education. Rote memorization of rules, that is but an exercise in discipline. It is not learning. We feel a need for rules to create a safe structure; but the rules are but tools, not the project itself. What is our project but full, true, glorious experiences of life for each and every? To be full and real, we know there will be pain and wounding as well as love, useful work, private contemplations, fun, frolic, humor, loss, death, sorrow. What we do not need to include is hopeless despair, empty loneliness, unwarranted guilt or shame or restriction of opportunities for restitution and true forgiveness. It's not that we need to avoid breakage, but that we all need to learn the arts of repair, reconciliation, growth that heals and enhances us all.
I am here to help you. I offer you the benefit of what I have learned. I am creating a school of healing where you will always be welcome. We will offer you our knowledge of healing techniques, therapy sessions, consultations and training. You may decide for yourself, and redecide at any point, of what offerings you desire to partake. Those who can will be expected to pay for our services in order to keep our operating budget in operation. Those without funds will not be turned away. We expect that what we teach will then be shared, expanding the resource of knowledge, healers, trainers, interactive healing groups. Very simple. Nothing hidden. Though our offerings may only be able to accommodate limited numbers at first, quickly enough we will grow. You, everyone who so chooses, will help to grow us, together. Ultimately, we will all learn from each other. Together we will be able to figure this out, this living thing. We will learn to live with the clarity and wisdom we create for ourselves. We can learn to embrace the bountiful gifts and wisdom of this planet that is our home. We can learn the blessings of interdependency, of give and take based on honor and respect. We can revel in the enlightenment that reveals each of our own self-interests gets better served when we truly, deeply, wisely know that we are all in this together. Can you sacrifice your despair on the altar of such a realization? We can together will a manifestation, of true possibilities. I offer not a vision of idealized perfection; but a readily obtainable viable answer.
Guiding a flow of unblocked healthy energy toward the beauty of balanced fully realized lives -- this is a mission I gladly accept. Oh, my beloveds, think clearly about what you have to lose, and gain. Feel the compassion, the challenge, the call. Take what I freely offer out of my own great need for connection. We are family, a living interactive system, able together to achieve so much greater happiness and well-being.
You can heal."
Thus will it be.