The Reunion Pact
Ava, now seventeen, twirled in front of her bedroom mirror. She was a beauty for all to behold with hair that shone like the amber fields in sunlight and eyes that captured all of the colors of the sky. King Jonah told her that she was the mirror image of her mother; a Queen so beautiful that her presence stunned the faction to silence when she entered the great hall.
She was readying herself for breakfast when she heard the cries coming from below her window. She ran to the stairs and out the front door sliding to a halt just short of the Kings’ backside.
“What happened?” the King cried, and Ava squeezed past the royal guard to see what he was referring to.
She gasped at the sight that lay before her. The Queen was lying in a heap on the ground outside the palace door.
“I don’t know, my King. She went to the river to retrieve water lily flowers for the breakfast table. She was out of my sight for just a moment when I heard her scream! I ran to the river and found her like this. She was alone,” Colm told him.
“Bring her upstairs to our bed and find the medicine woman!” the King commanded.
Colm lifted the limp woman in to his arms and climbed the steps to the palace trailed by the King.
“I’ll find Calla, Father!” Ava cried.
Calla was child care giver and medicine woman for the Faction of Dove. Ava ran to her home and banged on the door. The old woman answered, clutched Avas’ hand and said, “What’s wrong my child? Have you seen a ghost?”
“It’s the Queen! Something is wrong with the Queen!” the girl cried.
The old woman turned and grabbed her bag, then followed the girl back to the palace.
Ava paced a path in the hall waiting for the elders to let her in to the Queens’ chamber. She wasn’t happy to have the door slammed in her face. She wasn’t a child anymore, after all!
Finally, the King opened the door for her. “Noisy steps for such a little bird!” he said, “Your mother is awake now.”
Ave followed him in to the room and looked down at the Queen who was lying on her bed. A tear escaped the girls eye. She couldn’t bear anymore loss in her short life.
She listened as the Queen described her ordeal.
“I was collecting the lilies when my head began to spin. I fell to my knees and looked up at the Great Mother. She placed her hand on my head and smiled the most loving smile. It was a smile so pure I thought my beating heart would leap right from my chest just for the chance to have her smile upon it. She opened her mouth and her voice boomed in my ears. She chanted in a tongue that I could not decipher and the swirling words made me dizzy again. I tried to keep my bearings but the world went dark and I woke up here,” she told them.
Calla clapped her hands and said, “The Great Mother has given us the most incredible gift!”
“What does she mean, Father?’ Ava asked, ‘What kind of gift?”
The King turned to the girl with a strange mix of joy and sorrow in his eyes. His look confused her and she tried to search his face for an explanation. She wouldn’t understand yet why the King was so confounded. He placed his hands on the girls shoulder and said, “The Queen is with child.”
“A new baby dove! That’s wonderful, Father!” Ava said, wrapping her arms around him.
By the following season, the Queen of Doves would welcome her son. Culver was a perfect dove child with hair the color of pure white down.
It was later the same year when an unlikely visitor showed up at the Palace of Doves. He was a thin and wiry man with hair the color of the earth. Ava was seated on the palace stairs when he made his way up to her.
“Good morning, dove. Are you the one they call Ava?” he said.
“I am. And you are?” Ava asked, peering in the mans’ puppy dog eyes.
“My name is Yutu. I was sent here by my lord and master; the King of Coyote to meet with your father,” he told her.
“Shall I call him for you?” she asked.
“If it pleases you. If not, I shall simply knock on the door,” the coyote boy told her.
Ava lifted herself from her perch and said, “Follow me, Yutu,” leading him up the stairs. He hesitated to cross the threshold and she turned to him, confused.
“We do not tread where we aren’t invited. It’s the law of the Great Mother,” he told her.
“You are welcome in my palace, coyote. Please come in,” Ava smiled, “Wait in the grand hall. I’ll fetch the King.”
She found the King bouncing young Culver on his knee. She hesitated to interrupt such a lovely moment but the Queen say her lurking and asked, “What is it, girl?”
“Father, there’s a coyote boy here to see you. I’ve put him in the grand hall,” she advised.
“Ava! You don’t bring strangers in to the palace!” the King scolded as he handed the baby off to his wife.
“He’s harmless, I’m sure and very polite,” Ava argued.
“We thought our own people were harmless once and what did we get? We lost a royal family save for you!” the King reminded her.
“I’m sorry, father but he’s waiting,” she replied, dropping her head.
Ava resumed her perch on the palace stairs and waited for Yutu to deliver his message. She rarely saw anyone outside the Faction of Dove and wished to look at him again. He was so different from her people with their light hair and multicolored eyes. They were tall and graceful and he was slight and wild. She imagined that he was fast on his feet. Clearly he was built to remain low to the ground and fleet of flight. His exotic looks both pleased and intrigued her.
It wasn’t long before the King and the coyote exited the palace and Ava stood up and straightened her dress as they passed her by. She watched as the King shook the boys hand and offered him a bag of food for his journey home.
She thought the boy would leave without giving her a chance to gaze at his face again but he pivoted in her direction and tipped his head to her.
“It was a great pleasure to meet you, young dove,” he said, ‘I hope to have the pleasure again.”
The King ascended the stairs but stopped beside the girl placing his hand in her shoulder. He dropped his head and she saw that familiar sorrow in his eyes.
“What’s wrong father? What did the coyote say?” she asked.
The King smiled at her and said, “You’re a lady now, Ava. You’re not my little dove anymore.”
Her cheeks flushed at the notion that her Father had sensed her attraction to Yutu but that wasn’t why he was saddened. He’d been propositioned by the King of Coyote. A pact in exchange for his beautiful, young dove.
The King assembled the council in the grand hall. Sephora handed the baby off to Calla and took her seat beside her husbands’ throne.
“I’ve called this assembly to discuss a proposition that I’ve received from the King of Coyote. He’s calling it a reunion pact.” The king said.
“Reunion? We were never united. How could we reunite?” Colm asked.
“The King of Coyote sent his only son Yutu to discuss this pact. As you know, the people of the Coyote are limited in their resources and constantly thwarting off the advances of the Crow who carries away their food stores at every turn. To increase their bounty, they’d like to reach out to the land factions across the sea to form a bond in trade but the Faction of Shark prevents them from crossing the waters. They’ve asked that we fly our spirit animals above the ocean to deliver their proposal to the Faction of Wolf,” the King told them.
“And what do we get in return? Besides the scorn of the Great Mother who divided us for good reason?” Colm asked.
“We get protection from the Coyote so that we may venture in to the forest to forage and a sealed pact in the event that a war with the Crow becomes imminent. You and I both know that the Crow has been encroaching on our lands and it won’t be long before they make a move on our food stores as well,” the King replied.
“But what of the Great Mother? Do we defy our Goddess to please the Coyote and stave off the Crow?” Colm asked.
“The Great Mother divided us to prevent war. I should think that she would be pleased to learn that we were once again the messengers of peace!” the King replied.
“It sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind, my lord. So, tell us, how do we seal this reunion pact?” Colm asked.
“The King sent his boy as the messenger so that he could gaze upon my daughter. We seal the deal by offering Avas’ hand to the Prince of Coyote thereby connecting our factions through the blood of their heir,” he replied, feeling the Queens’ stare burn in to the nape of his neck.
When the council dispersed, the King turned to the Queen. “Speak before you burst, woman,” he told her.
“Ava? You’d send the child off to live with a pack of wild animals?” she said.
“They’re not animals and she’s not a child. You should have seen the way she looked at the coyote boy! It reminded me of your wanting eyes the first time we met!” he smiled.
“But, Jonah! She’s not just our child! She was the child of Callum and Dernin. Do you think they’d be willing to marry her off to the Coyote?” Sephora asked.
“I believe they’d want their child to have an opportunity to rule. She lost that when the Great Mother fixed your womb and gave us our son! What happens to her if she stays with us? We die, Culver becomes King and Callum and Dernins’ bloodline is no longer regal. We need this pact and we need to let her go. It’s for her own good,” the King replied.