Chanting woke her, from the same two women, as if they were the only two left alive in the entire world. They chanted to one of the other Sleepers. Elynir listened in to find out who that was. The name was Ludyrr, another woman, the fourth Sleeper. Ludyrr was told the same words as Elynir, was also told not to speak.
The sharp-voice came to her. “Do your eyes hurt?”
Elynir did not raise her hand.
“We use two stone bowls with lighted bee wax. I will remove one when I go, and leave the other. You may remove your eye-wrap then. You may stretch your arms and legs, but do not leave the altar. If you fall, you may very well die in the night.”
To have hibernated so long, Elynir thought, only to wake, and not even fully wake, and then to die as the result of foolishness.
The second woman gave her more tea to drink, two small spoonfuls this time. Elynir’s waste came out of her. The old women said nothing as they removed her blankets, left her shivering as they cleaned her, and went through the entire laborious process to set new blankets in place. The shivering was bad, but it brought more feeling to her limbs. The moment the blankets started to warm her, Elynir felt her muscles loosen as if they’d thawed. Her fingers were easier to clench, her arm easier to turn, her toes easier to stretch. She was not so stupid as to want to leave the altar, but she did feel that her body could have done it.
Without the wrap over her eyes, she could see the flicker from the lighted wax. It cast white shadows on the walls at first, telling Elynir her eyes were not seeing normally yet. She would not risk blindness, not when she’d come so far already, and so she set the wrap on her head again.
The next day, Elynir was surprised to hear that the old women had removed her moonstones five days before. That meant her body held the magic better than the others. The expected time to recover from the Long Sleep was three days. Ludyrr’s gems were removed four days before, and so she was second best, with the rest of the six Sleepers set into the waking process at three. She was also surprised that they were all women.
“Women of our people have always been greater magic adepts than men.” The old one said. “You are all awake now, even if four of you are still wrapped. We will tell you our story, only once because we will not bind you to our past, to our fall from the grace of god.”
Elynir could sit up now. She could let her legs dangle from the edge of the altar, and she could push off to the floor, except it was always so cold on her feet that she hurriedly returned to her blankets. The other girl, Ludyrr, was in her blankets, watching her, grinning as if she could not wait to do the same.
Ludyrr. She was taller than Elynir, her head the same general shape except noticeably broader. Ludyrr’s lips were fuller; she had strong cheekbones and large eyelids that gave her eyes a sheltered look. Her eyes were black in the center, gray around, her hair once a rich brown, but now pale due to her long Sleep, just as Elynir’s golden shine had whitened. Elynir could not help but notice that Ludyrr had larger breasts than she, and Ludyrr had noticed that she’d been looking at them. It made sense that Ludyrr would have larger breasts, Elynir thought, because the woman was a good four fingers taller than she.
“I am Rorigg.” The sharp-voice said. “I am your watcher now, but I will be for only a short while longer. The rot of the Great Tree has reached to the edges, and with it a strange madness has come to those who chose to remain, except for a few, like us, who have stayed true to the magic of our god A’ki-en. There are less than ten of us left, half from this village, the others come from villages to the east or west of the tree. They say there is nothing above, and little to either side, and so when you leave here you must travel south. You must leave the tree forever.”
This is what Elynir had come to suspect would happen.
“You are all women.” Rorigg continued. “Our people follow the line of their mother, and so you will begin a new line of our people elsewhere. You must find suitable husbands to create new families with, strong men, fighting men or men of good labor. Men of good character if any may be found in the world. That is all we ask you to do. Live your lives as you wish, where you wish. Do not remember where you have come from, because we are cursed by god, and so you must not remind A’ki-en of your ancestry, or else god’s curse may follow you wherever you may go. But do remember who you are in the present. Remember what you were taught. Practice your skills, become better at them. Do not settle for mediocre men, because you are not mediocre women. You are our best examples, worthy only of the best men.”
“I am Afirnas, granddaughter of Afiruk who is still bound.” The soft-voice said. “It is my task to prepare you for your journey. You are only six, and not seven, because no moonstone was left over for a seventh. We have little food to give you and little supplies. The only materials that are in abundance here once belonged to men: their gambesons and trousers. Their belts and shoes. No clothes befitting the better women that you are. That is good, because men’s clothing is more durable for travel, and you will travel far already, simply to reach the roots of the tree. After this, you will go where you go. May the wind take you far.”
“May the wind take you far.” Rorigg repeated.
Afirnas looked to be over seventy years of age, Elynir estimated. She wondered if the old woman felt resentment because her grandmother was so much younger, they way Elynir’s once-husband had felt contempt about her. Ludyrr looked, at a guess, twenty-five, and Elynir assumed she did also. Were the four Sleepers still bound at the same age as that?
Afiruk was shorter than Elynir, by almost as many fingers as Ludyrr was taller. She had the face of a little girl who laughed a lot: rounded, with large, playful gray eyes, and thin lips that naturally curved up into a mischievous, naughty look. Her hair was colored in light brown, due in no small part to the moonstones. Perhaps a richer brown would return, not only to her but also for the others. Normalcy would cause Ludyrr’s much darker brown locks to look nearly black.
The remaining three girls were about as tall as Elynir.
Endieve had a round face and large eyelids like Ludyrr. Her forehead was broad, her cheeks full, her lips thick and her chin jutting out like Elynir’s. Her eyes were green.
Dinieve, incredibly, was her daughter, with Endieve incredibly happy when told of their relation. Dinieve shared most of her mother’s features, with darker hair and a prettier face, the face of a younger girl of perhaps sixteen or seventeen.
Lastly, Ibagghi had rich brown hair, like Ludyrr, a block-shaped head with soft corners and pale, pale skin with a touch of pink to it. Her eyes and nose showed more symmetry than the rest, thought Elynir, making her the prettiest of the six. Her eyes were open and alert. Her breasts were as full as Ludyrr’s, and this time Elynir felt jealousy because two of the girls were so much more attractive than she was.
It was clear that Ludyrr, Endieve and Dinieve were from the same village because of their large eyelids, and also Elynir, except she did not share that trait, or their hair color. It was also clear that Afiruk and Ibagghi were from elsewhere.
I tried a Dd-Go search for ‘average Scandinavian women’ and got all sorts of odd results: mostly glamour models, male and female, and even some trannies that had nothing to do with Eastern Europe. In the end, I found a before and after makeover site, and I went through it looking for faces that stuck out. Here is the pic for Elynir, who was originally going to be a brunette and definitely not a ginger Red Sonja-type. The face below just ‘felt’ right for her.:
I know I found some pics on Acid Cow, but the link was too hard to get. I found other pics on Funny Pranky. Here is the link:
I’ll post pics of the other Sleepers tomorrow.