Once A King
Part 4: Ionica
(Many thanks to my editor, kenjisato)
Jadzia and Kasia, the coicie that received Ionica into the coicie, skryba; have I not described these formidable women to you? When men of the clan (and ONLY men of the clans, as far as I know) visit the coicie, they do not speak of it. In fact, as far as the men of their squad know, they have gone off to hunt on their own, to rest, or to be quietly sick.
The people of the clan are private and proud. Some of our neighbors find us painfully shy, at least in contrast to our fearsome reputation. If a man or woman is sick, they will disappear into the stypia to heal. If they are not healed, they do not return. It is sad, they are missed, but it is the way and expected.
So, it is with the visits, they are private things. Nik is the only one of our squad who is off by himself when he is not sick, and I knew as the clan died, that he did not ‘visit’ the coicie; at least not in the way other men did. He was our squad’s link to the coicie. Through him, a coicie that wished a man to visit would tell Nik. It could be a specific man or just…”send one of the hunters to me.”
This visit was controlled by the women, and the women that Nik mostly dealt with were Jadzia and Kasia. The others of the coicie would confide in those two, whatever their needs were–men, food, clothing, healing?
Jadzia and Kasia were partners in helping the other coicie. As with the men, there were no leaders, not in the sense of one person or group rules over all the coicie. As with the men, women led as their skills, and their talents suggested. Therefore, there were the garden experts; the ones who excelled in snaring small animals for food; and those who cared for the small number of livestock the coicie raised, a few sheep for wool, some goats for milk and meat, chickens for eggs and rarely meat.
Jadzia and Kasia found over time, as Ionica accommodated herself to her life as one of the coicie, that Ionica had her talent in the raising and processing of flax for linen, not for spinning and weaving, but for the tedious process of growing, rotting and mashing the flax into something the spinners and weavers could use. This had made Ionica into the hardy woman I had stolen from her family.
The language of the settled people was close enough to the way the Eagle Clan spoke, that it was not difficult to communicate. Yet, Jadzia and Kasia were disturbed by how little Ionica appreciated how her circumstance differed from her idea of the myth of sorm uprowadzenie.
Ionica was distraught that she had not YET been treated in the shameful manner she expected. It upset Jadzia and Kasia that Ionica wanted this shameful treatment…that she felt she was being disrespected as a woman!
Skryba has muttered under his breath in his mute tongue, that I have not described the women as promised. I know your bastard tongue, skryba…do not mutter to me! But when a man is right, he is right…even a skryba…I accept your correction because I am a big man…not in stature perhaps, but in nobility…why do you cough, skryba, are you ill?
Jadzia is the oldest of the women who brought Ionica into the coicie. Even though a man (in this case, me) steals the woman from her family, she is not part of the Eagle clan until she is brought into the coicie, usually by two sponsors. What secrets are part of this, no man can know.
Jadzia also brought her partner Kasia into the coicie several seasons ago. At that time, Jadzia was partnered with Kaja until Kaja died in childbirth. Soon after, Jadzia chose Kasia as her new partner, in introducing new women into the coicie.
Jadzia is one of the shortest women in the coicie and perhaps the oldest. Men are poor judges of the ages of the coicie. Her hair is thick black with silver streaks with heavy bushy eyebrows. She has a mustache on her upper lip, that the younger men find attractive and envy. Like all the women, she wears an oversized, homespun shift which disguises her form. Since the shift barely reaches her knees and leaves her arms bare, it is easy to see she has strong brown limbs.
Like many of the coicie, she is a fine runner. Her skills are mainly social and maternal. The new women (I do not know if the coicie has a special name for their new women) are made bursa yabancı escort aware of the traditions of the coicie and the clan at large. From personal experience, I can tell you that many do not take these traditions very seriously, but enough is retained that the coicie survive as a cohesive unit…at least as cohesive as anything can be in our uncertain and fragile survival situation.
Kasia is young enough to be Jadzia’s daughter. Unlike the thick-limbed Jadzia, Kasia is thin and pale. Her shift reveals sinewy and sunburnt limbs. Her hair is thin and fair, with eyebrows that are almost invisible. However, the eyes betray an inner strength in their storm-gray color.
Despite her youth, Kasia is acknowledged as one of the wise women. There is a deep connection in her with the gods, the weather, and important animals. She is not a healer; we have no healer now. As I have said before, there are no successors to roles in the clan; one who has the attributes becomes what is needed. At the moment, there is no one fit to be a healer.
Jadzia and Kasia communicated to me through Nik, that Ionica desired my presence at the coicie camp. Nik conveyed the exasperation of the two coicie–Ionica was not fitting in well with the coicie. She excelled at her flax growing and processing, but she could not be made to understand her true situation in the coicie and the clan.
Ionica believed in the myths of the clan that she had grown up with, more than the reality she experienced. She insisted on seeing the man who had abducted her. I later found she used her tribe’s word for an immature male. That was meant as an insult because by her fantasy standards, I had not fulfilled my role in her teatr. In passing, I must note that the clan has no word for the stage in life Ionica refers to–in our people’s minds, all are children, both females and males, until they are mature and then all are men or women. We have no words for immature males and immature females…our lives are too short.
Again, with Nik as escort, I found my way on horseback to the camp of the coicie, or more accurately the ‘assignation hut’ far from the edge of the coicie camp.
Nik had me dismount and he led my horse away when we were still a longbow shot away from the hut. There was a small fire burning outside the hut, so I was certain that Ionica was there. The night was moonless, but free of clouds. The stars shone brightly in the dark stypian sky.
What happened when I entered the hut was not shameful, but still confusing. Ionica had shed her shift and was standing nude in the firelight. Hers was the first totally exposed female body I had seen. In our culture, this was seen as ideal, a gift from the gods. Indeed, my buc was transformed, as our customs said it should be, by the woman who would (possibly) bear my children. That last was a slip of the tongue. I have been away from the Eagle Clan too long…no man owns children, even the woman who bears the children has no claim on them, they are of the clan.
In the hours that followed, she played the role that she had imagined of her abductor. Her power over the buc…not my buc…now our buc–was absolute. Young men had little knowledge of the female body, and less of the way the buc interacted with the female. Our men were so private, we had no word for the female part in the act of procreation…it was thought enough that we understood that the female had the power to transform the buc.
Now that I have been away from the clan…indeed, the clan is no more, and have experienced other peoples and their rituals of breeding, I understand that much of what Ionica and I did in that hut of assignation over the course of the next few months, could not have caused her moon cycle to cease.
I can see now with the benefit of years of hindsight, that something in her changed after months of what I can see now was experimentation. I am illuminated. Neither she nor I, had any idea on how to breed! We did what was pleasurable to both of us, and finally, maybe accidentally, hit a way that caused her moon cycle to cease.
A few weeks after that, I no longer received messages from her. We are allowed in the assignation hut of the coicie only by invitation of one of the coicie.
Thoughts related to that time with Ionica fade in the day bursa sınırsız escort to day need to provide for the squad, the coicie, and the clan as a whole.
As is our ideal, my buc would not, could not be transformed until I was summoned to the assignation hut. It would not be a long wait. But it would not be Ionica who summoned me.
Once A King
Part 5: I am counseled
So, skryba, am I a father? No Eagle clan man ever knows for sure. The men have little contact with children, so we do not see young faces that may look a little like us. Remember, we were poor, and there were no mirrors on the Stypia. We wash in pools in the ravines, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in reflections; mostly, we are checking that there is no food or blood in our beards when we are summoned by a coicie. Haha! Yes, skyrba, I had a beard then…most young men grow beards when they can…many women like a bearded man.
There are some activities with women that the beard is a disadvantage, and the coicie complain of burns in their tender areas. What, skyrba!!??? Is this unknown to your people? Haha!
As for young men that join as nowe, by that time many of their fathers are dead. Life on the stypia is dangerous, women die in childbirth and other sickness, men die of injury, exposure, accidents, and angry prey. And later, when the clan was dying, at the hands of foreign men dressed in metal.
All was not grim, the clan and I and my squad had several comparatively happy seasons. Life is never empty of sadness and loss, but this time was profitable for the clan.
I get ahead of my story. The next, the first coicie after Ionica to summon me to the assignation hut was??? Oh, skryba, you think me the worst of men, I cannot remember her name!
She was still a young woman as the clan sees these things, not overly attached to any hunter, I guessed…we had no way of checking these things. She summoned me out of curiosity. From her, it was confirmed, not in word but action, that the coicie taught their members as little about breeding as the men taught each other.
It was not disastrous, but funny…she was funny and patient. As a man, I relied on her to lead, to transform the buc…that is all we knew, transform the buc, and??? Well, we had to figure that out ourselves…each couple found out some for the first time, but most importantly, what worked for that couple. For the coupling is what mattered, not what worked for the individuals alone, but the coupling.
So even with my months with Ionica, well–they were irrelevant. There was this new, funny woman, Genowefa!! White wave!! (I DO remember, skryba!) Very pale, but loved the sun too much and was burnt all over, she must have lost her shift a lot when outdoors alone!! Haha! I say alone because except for bathing and breeding, we are rarely naked, there is nothing wrong, just not ‘polite’.
White Wave! Yes, glorious long, pale-blonde hair…when I learned the word from foreigners ‘luxurious’, it described her hair. Long enough that if arranged carefully, she would still appear clothed in a pale-golden cape. Forgive me, skryba, if I describe her in some detail–I hear your grunt…I know you are not displeased!
Most coicie are shorter than the men of the clan and we are short, small men. Genowefa was half-a-head taller than me. I loved seeing her remove her shift in the firelight…her light-golden hair reflected the light…her cycki were large and firm, she was yet young. If she had borne children, nursing them had only enhanced her charm. Her stomach was flat with a hint of roundness above her bush. (yes, we called it a bush, too, skryba…what do you also refer to an aquatic mammal? How strange you are, skryba!!)
This bush glowed magically in the fire. (I can’t imagine a bóbr glowing in the fire!)
Another word from the foreigners–languid. Genowefa was not as Ionica…yes, I know, all women are different…I know, now. Right after Ionica–very different…I was so stupid then…I assumed light-colored women were cooler than those of darker hair and skin.
There was time for touch, and for talk; she signaled her wants gently. If Ionica was the hungry tigress, then Genowefa was the careful taster, a nibble here and görükle escort there, to see what tasted good, to be spit out if it did not (no, skryba, this is not a double entendre as your neighbors to the sunset would say!)
You are always amazed that I know anything, skryba, many things happened to me after the clan dies…I was blown by the winds of the stypia in many directions, learned many things some in ways to kill men, others ways to love women…and once (I am not ashamed) to love a man.
Skryba is scandalized! Haha! I hired you so as not to have the moral judgments of a cleric imposed on me and I will not take it from you, skryba; you will feel my knife blade on your throat and your woman will be in my bed tonight.
Forgive me, skryba, I am a hot-headed, old warrior. We take honor and reputation seriously. You are not a warrior. It is rude of me to threaten you with weapons. Besides, skryba, I need you. I know many things; I can even read, but writing is a thing I have never mastered. Too much time in the saddle. Hands skilled with weapons, not a pen.
You joke about the hours I spent bedding, or being bedded by women!? I tell the truth, so that the world you write for, can understand. The coicie summon us to them…at their pleasure. Both men and women are very busy with life. We are often tired from life, tired, hungry, and thirsty. Often, we are sick. It is rare for a coicie to summon the same man more than once a moon cycle…that is what I learned from Genowefa, some of the ways of women…most things I learned were her unique wants, but this one thing was from all women. They are bound to the moon.
So when I tell you I was with Ionica for months…that meant I may have been invited by her to the assignation hut, three, maybe four times? This was over the course of several seasons. Settled peoples who have the ‘lifetime bond’ sleep together, every night they are together.
The clan is nowhere near as intimately active as the settled peoples believe.
Genowefa shared with me secrets, no man is supposed to know. Maybe all women tell their men that to make them special. More than one woman has told me that men are fools, and that when they want their buc sheathed in a woman, they will believe anything the woman tells them that makes them feel special.
Genowefa shared with me that word, the word that the men did not have for that part of the female we are to breed with. She called it a sheath…why are you laughing, skryba??? Oh, the learned people use the word from the old empire. But it means the same, YES? Yes, Skryba nods. He wants me to feel ignorant…but I know some of the old empire words, too…I prefer ours…the meaning is the same and is clear. It is a rather military word; the old empire warriors used it also as the word for the thing they carried their short sword in.
The biggest secret came from Genowefa in a matter-of-fact manner. We were close both physically and intellectually…you did not think I would use words like intellectually, skryba…you will find me full of surprises. Genowefa and I discussed all the things that interested us in the world. She gave me some knowledge of her work as a spinner and weaver. Perhaps, she had some conversation with Ionica that led her to call me. She never said.
I would talk about those things I knew or wondered about, the way of prey animals, the small deer of the stypi, the antelope. The dangerous ones we avoided…the tiger was rare, but we often had to deal with wild dogs at the site of a kill. There were tame dogs in the settlements, but the clan had none. Some peoples of the stypia had them; they were said to be useful on the hunt, but required a share of the kill…the clan rarely had anything to spare.
It was forbidden for the man to ask after a coicie, even a simple ‘when will I see you again’ was discouraged, as it was seen as an effort to subvert the choice of the coicie. However, Genowefa volunteered that she would not be calling for me…she actually asked for me far more than Ionica…often, well, before the moon turned.
“I will be in the czerwona chata and cannot summon you. It is a place only for women and sacred to women.” She said this with great solemnity and pride. “It is a joyful time Many of the coicie come to the czerwona chata at the same time. It is a thing that often happens with women who are close. Those who do not bleed will care for the children while we who bleed care for each other.”
She said this so casually, and whether it was a trick to bind me more closely to her, I felt blessed by the gods for this knowledge.