Two weeks passed quickly and the Sky Dancer Clan was breaking camp and preparing to leave. They were nearly done when Cierra and the other council members approached the Clan’s leaders.
Agatha smiled at the group and turned to Cierra. “Came to see us off?” she asked kindly.
“Yes, and to give you something before you leave. Our jewelry maker took some of the gold you brought and made these for each of you. Now, you don’t have to use them as she hoped you might—as symbols of your leadership to be passed on. It isn’t a tradition you have to feel obliged to take up, but she wanted you to have these.” She opened the box that Carey held. The survivalist stepped closer to allow the three leaders to see the contents.
Inside were three medallions made of gold that hung from stainless steal chains. The medallions themselves were identical, each bearing a figure of a woman caught in mid motion as she danced. In one hand the figure held a talking feather. In the other hand she held a dance stick. Agatha gasped and drew one from the box.
“They are beautiful,” said in a hushed whisper. “She is truly an artist.” The older woman wiped a tear that threatened to escape and smiled. “Please tell her we would be honored to make these a part of our traditions. They will be passed from leader to leader.”
The woman gave each of the Napa Clan council a hug and placed the necklace over her head. The two men shook their hands and accepted their medallions solemnly. With that they said their farewells and joined the waiting camp. Everyone waved as they turned their horses and began the journey back to their homeland.
· * * * *
“It’s pretty quiet now they all left,” Jenny said sadly as they sat in the communal building during dinner.
The others murmured their agreement.
“At least Sammy decided to stay. I doubt we’ll see either of them until tomorrow,” JP grinned. The others at the table chuckled. Newlyweds were always prone to good-natured teasing.
One of the craftswomen, Becky, grunted out a short laugh. “You know, I’ve noticed people here rarely play the game. Either your relationship is serious or not at all. No one that I’m aware of hops bed to bed.”
Several chuckled and others nodded sagely.
Jenny spoke up first. “Because there’s no keeping one night stands secret in this place. It’s easy to be a player in the Old World where everyone is a stranger to you. Go to a bar and pick someone up. Go home with her, have sex, leave and forget her. But we know everyone here. It’s hard to use someone when you have to sit across the table from her every morning. Even if you have the brass ovaries to try and pull it off it wouldn’t take much time before you have a rep.”
“That makes sense. I just never really thought about it until now,” Becky commented. “I’m not sure what I thought about it. Maybe I just assumed everyone was a bit more moralistic here by chance.”
“Nah, we haven’t changed that much. Once the populations on Mother Earth increase we might very well go back to ‘the hunt’,” JP said.
The blacksmith spoke up next. “Maybe. Our kids tend watch and absorb what they see. If all they see is committed relationships then that is what they’ll seek as well. But FYI, I refuse to preach anything other than hard work, honesty, and the love of community to the kids. I refuse to bring morals or religion into it. Too many died in the name of religion in the Old World.”
“You don’t think we should practice our faith here?” one of the women asked sadly. “It’s bad enough no one mentions it around here.”
“Nothing wrong with faith Tina,” Maggie said, smiling gently. “But faith is a personal belief you hold inside. I doubt any two people have exactly the same view. It’s when people try and force others to fit their mold or else that I object to. It scares me sometimes, wondering if our descendants might create some religion and start trouble because of it.”
Pam cleared her throat. She saw a fight coming if it wasn’t nipped in the bud now. “I hate to discuss religion at the dinner table myself but Maggie has a point but then again, so has Tina. We’ve avoided the subject too long and perhaps I might make a suggestion. Can I assume most here have some belief in a higher power?”
Many nodded and waited for her to continue. “I’m a member of the Society of Friends, the Quakers. Now, I want a chance to explain all of it before people object. I suggest we form something akin to it.” Pam saw several women who wanted to begin arguing but then kept silent. “The Quakers believe everyone is born with the light of God within them. That includes people like gays. It’s one of the reasons I joined up with them. But getting to the point, there isn’t a set standard of religious practice. They just get together once a week and sit in a circle. Everyone does their own thing silently unless they feel the spirit move them and wish to say something. Quakers even feel other texts ought to be studied, not just the bible. Everyone must seek their own path to God in their own way.”
“No ministers?” Tina asked.
“Nope. Everyone is their own minister although a few of the Friend’s chapters have them. The point is that we just wish to share part of our week with others in a time of faith. The circle is just for sharing quiet time together while we concentrate on our beliefs. We read, pray, or ponder whatever questions we may have. It’s a very tolerant practice.”
Tina seemed to relax and asked several questions. Pam answered as best she could and Maggie herself brought up the conclusion. “Then all you suggest is that we set aside a morning each week to spiritual growth?”
“Exactly. Faith brings comfort to those with it. There isn’t any reason to avoid religion all together like we have been doing. Does it even matter what church you belonged to in the past? There are many houses in God’s kingdom and certainly more than one path to get there. We just accept that fact and stop ignoring religion like it’s a bad smell.”
Cierra looked around the table then spoke. “Alright then. All in favor of having one morning each week set aside for a time of worship?” Almost every hand rose. “Against?” Only a few hands rose.
“Approved. Tomorrow is Sunday, traditionally the day of rest and worship for many people. I suggest that we make a few more sofas from the bus seats and form a circle of them near the ‘library’. Anyone who wishes to attend need only sit and join in. There won’t be any labor on those days either unless they want to work. Agreed?”
· * * * *
The next morning JP picked up her medicine bundle and asked Cierra if she wanted to join her in the prayer circle. Her mate smiled and removed her bundle from the headboard as well. They would get something to eat then join anyone else who might be already there.
The survivalist spent each morning in meditation and felt she could do it among friends just as easily as at home. She and Cierra entered the communal building and nodded at the small gathering as they entered. They broke their fast with bread and tea then quietly joined the women, sitting next to each other on one sofa.
Many women were reading a bible although JP noticed that one woman was reading the Koran. Pam sat next to Eva who had a small incense cone burning on a tiny table in front of her. Eva’s eyes were closed and she had beads dangling from her hands that were clasped in prayer.
Afterwards JP mentioned to Cierra that she felt more connected to everyone after the quiet time together. Cierra smiled. She had felt the same way. Perhaps the Friends had a point. What did it matter what you believed in as long as it brought everyone closer to one another and God?
· * * * *
Several months passed quietly and Mother Nature made it known that Spring would soon break the back of Winter. The days were growing longer and the chill of the days was less severe.
Dr. Sanchez resisted the urge to roll her eyes as Ann protested the prognosis. Several other women were also in the same condition but they had arranged it. Ann stumbled upon it by accident.
The doctor shook her head at the woman’s denial. “Ann, if you play with a loaded gun you can’t bitch if you get shot.”
“Shit! Now what in the hell do I do?”
“Well, for one, let Cierra know you need a house built for you because you’ll need a nursery in about six or seven months. Secondly, I want you to make a tea every morning for the nausea.” Sanchez handed Ann a bag of dried herbs. “Thirdly, well, I can’t think of a thirdly yet but I’ll come up with something.”
“Gee, thanks, you are such a big help. Fuck, knocked up.”
The doctor laughed. “Yup, that’s the usual order.”
Ann glared at the doctor and walked out of the examination room.
· * * * *
Cierra brought up to the council that at least four more houses would need to be built that summer. They groaned, hoping that they wouldn’t have to work as hard this summer as last year.
“We have no choice. Four pregnant women means we need to do more building. We can’t have crying babies in the barracks, that’s for sure.”
“Four? Sheesh, good thing the Sky Dancer Clan wasn’t here longer or it would have been a lot more than that.”
“Wait until after May. We’ll have a few more. We might as well plan for at least six new homes if not more,” Carey piped in.
“It’s all Jenny’s fault,” JP teased. “She started this whole business about wanting a baby.”
“Go ahead, blame it on me!” Jenny pouted as she gave Rissy a kiss. The baby was asleep in the belly pack; her fuzzy head snuggled between the blonde’s breasts. Jenny didn’t look repentant at all. Her spouse just looked smug.
By the end of March the weather had indeed began warming up. Women spent more time outside and the planning for the crops began. They wanted to fertilize and plow the fields sometime in April then begin some planting just before they left for the Rendezvous.
The event also left them with a problem. They didn’t have enough horses and wagons for everyone to attend. At the most only 22 women could go and still be capable of transporting everything they wanted to take along for trading.
“Time for a drawing again,” Robbie sighed.
They called everyone to the barracks and took along a burlap bag full of red and white marbles. Anyone drawing a red marble could attend or give their position to someone else if they wanted to.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to go this year can tell us now and we’ll take out a white marble.”
The pregnant women withdrew their chances, not wishing to travel in bumpy wagons. The rest lined up and took turns drawing a marble.
Cierra drew a white marble but JP got a red one.
“Anyone else want my marble? I don’t want to go without Cierra,” JP offered the crowd. Another woman who had drawn a red marble stepped forward.
“No, Cierra, go in my place. You of all people deserve to go.” Cierra tried to argue but the woman insisted. Cierra thanked the woman and stepped back while people finished taking their turns at the burlap bag. After everyone finished there was a bit of trading among the women. It had already been agreed upon prior to the drawing that those going this time couldn’t go the next two. Many couples didn’t want to be separated for the several weeks it would take.
Of the counsel members, Cierra, JP, and Sharon would be going. Patricia Rutledge would be also going since everyone agreed that one of the doctors should go just in case. Other couples going were Pam and Eva as well as Rikki and Jennifer from Pennsylvania. The other fourteen were unattached. One of the mothers also picked a red marble. The kids would stay with someone while she attended the trading event.
· * * *
Robbie stood next to Carey as they overlooked the newly planted fields.
“Wow, I can’t believe its spring already. This time last year I was in my apartment without a clue all of you were hopping between universes.”
Carey grinned and scratched the back of her neck. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Cyd, JP and me were some of the first ones to come here. Cyd told us about it and convinced us to meet Cierra behind the hotel with rifles. We wondered if it was a huge practical joke, let me tell you. Either that or our friend had completely gone off the deep end.”
“You? I had no clue at all when Cierra jumped me here, I was in shock.”
The survivalist laughed. “Yeah, but you can’t complain about us not warning you. I remember a revolver in you hand and a wild look in your eyes. I don’t blame Cierra for not trying to tell you before jumping. You would have kept us at gunpoint while calling the men in the white coats!”
Robyn flushed. “Yeah, well, would you blame me? I was being kept in the dark if you remember. The only reason I didn’t investigate more was because Tracy and I were getting to know one another and I didn’t want to do anything that might hurt her.”
“Ahh, and you talk about keeping people in the dark? We didn’t even know you two were going at it hot and heavy,” Carey teased as she watched the tall woman grin and shrug.
“It was a game. JP and the other people I knew were always trying to figure out whether or not I was a lesbian so I kept them guessing.”
“Well, now we know,” Carey winked.
“Know what? I never said I was a lesbian.” With that the tall blonde walked away while Carey stood there wondering what that meant.
Continued in Part 6
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