Chapter Two – The Awakening
The time of night just before the dawn was when the silent visitors first arrived. One by one they settled. In a crowd around the front door. One mouse, two mice, twenty mice then a hundred. The mice were gathered in neat little rows around the door where the feathers were laid. An owl called in the night and the tails all twitched in a nervous wave of movement then the crowd stayed perfectly still and waited.
Soundless wings of a saw-whet owl fluttered as one tiny pair of golden eyes perched near by. The owl didn’t launch at the feast right away, instead she tilted her head from side-to-side overwhelmed by the choices of snacks. A sister swooped in beside her. They looked at each other with big blinking eyes then peered at the crowd again.
As one owl prepared to swoop down to snatch a tasty mouse from the outer ring, not a single mouse moved. In that instant a brilliant light sparked in the clearing. It blinded the owls and both clung to the branch rubbing at their dazzled eyes with the bend of their wings.
A curvaceous, beautiful woman with long blond hair appeared. As she stepped out from the ball of light the mice parted and made way. She smiled down at them and from the folds of her skirts she brought forth handfuls of corn and tossed it in two wide arches across the grass.
“Thank you my friends, there will be no owls to bother you tonight.”
The mice scattered and took the corn with grateful squeaks of delight. They moved back and the woman waited as a second light flashed and a woman with lovely brown hair and freckles stepped forward and she tossed pumpkin seeds from her pockets to the mice. A third light brought forth a woman with black hair and beautiful brown skin, she sent a rain of beans to the mice and joined her sisters.
The three sisters hugged and couldn’t contain their excitement when light haired one knocked on the door with a tall staff shaped like a corn stalk.
The owls dared not to approach, they recognized the three women. The three sisters were no stranger to the creatures of the night. The owls saw more than others and they protected the ones who slept. They respected the sisters and instead of flying off, they ruffled their feathers to settle down to watch, as owls often do.
Alice opened the door before she even thought to worry about who was on the other side at this time of night. “Oh?!” She said jumping back, startled by so many mice.
Mukwa jumped up into Alice’s arms and hissed at the unwelcome masses of intruders. The mice sauntered in the door and looked around as though they hadn’t a care in the world.
“Can I help you?” Asked Alice glancing up and down between the mice and the three strange women.
“Yes, we were looking for a warrior.”
“I’m afraid there are no warriors here.”
The woman with the long black hair smiled and stepped forward and as she waved her hand the seven raven feathers rose up and gathered into her hand and with flick of her wrist, they assembled themselves into beautiful fan with a beaded handle.
“I do believe, this yours if you’d like it.”
Alice looked at the three woman and then at the beautiful fan and as she reached for it, it started to vibrate and hum like a dragonfly’s wings. She pulled her hand back and looked at the woman whose face had spread into a wide smile.
“You must be mistaken, I really should go back to bed, you’re all a very lovely and very strange dream, but I’m most certainly still asleep.”
A wave of mice surged forward and one lunched at her feet and left a tiny scratch on the top of her bare foot to which she dropped a terrified Mukwa. The mice scattered just as skittish as the cat that was bouncing around the floor like her paws were on springs.
Alice fell back against the wall laughing. As she wiped tear from her eye, she gestured with a wide arm. “Well I can’t have my guest standing in my front door all night if this isn’t a dream. Won’t you come in? And please, shoo all your friends out the door before my cat goes through the ceiling!”
The three sisters bowed and with a wave of their hands ushered the mice back outside. They quickly disappeared into the grass at the edge of the yard and vanished. The owls who were too busy watching to have noticed the opportunity they might have had to swoop in for a snack while the women turned back to the house. They stepped in and closed the door.
Alice stood in her kitchen as the ladies followed. Mukwa cautiously sniffed at the front door and round the room making sure there were no stray mice.
“Please sit down, and explain yourselves,” said Alice. She crossed her arms expectantly
“Clearly you’re not used to unusual visitors, I am Maandamin Kwe,” said the woman with the fair hair that shone and rippled like corn silk.
“I’m Okosimaan Kwe,” said the brown hair freckled woman with a smile and a nod.
“And I’m Miskodiisimin Kwe.” The dark haired woman, “We three sisters have waited centuries for you to be found.”
Alice laughed nervously, “I’m sorry my dears, but you are most definitely mistaken, I’m just an ordinary old lady with a fat black cat and nothing more. I can offer you a cup of tea if you like, it’s quite late and I think you might catch a chill running around out there with those light dresses on.”
“You see! She is kind,” said Okosimaan Kwe with a clap.
Miskodiisimin Kwe flipped a wave of her dark hair over her should and studied the older woman. She still held the fan that Alice hadn’t accepted and she tilted it from side to side. Alice busied herself with filling the kettle and setting out cups with the honey, sugar and the milk.
“Alice, I noticed the mice didn’t scare you. It that true, were you not scared of so many mice?”
“Aside from tonight a mouse has never hurt me. I’m the scary one. From where they stand, I’m a giant. With my big feet and my fat cat, I’d say the mouse has more rights to be afraid than me.”
At the old kitchen table that seen so many cup of tea, sat the eloquently dressed woman and the little old woman in her night gown. Quietly they each accepted a cup of tea and stirred in honey or sugar and milk. Alice sat back and her shoulders relaxed as she wrapped her hands around her mug and waited.
Maandamin Kwe was the first to get impatient, “We haven’t got all night, sisters!”
“There is always time for a cup of tea,” assured her dark haired sister, “I believe the raven was indeed right in choosing Alice for this quest, but we will not convince her by force. She must choose herself to accept it.”
“Yes, Sister, don’t forget it is because of her quiet that she is chosen.” Reminded Okosimaan Kwe.
“I have nothing to prove because there is nothing to be proven,” said Alice with quiet authority, “I am a kind old lady who will always have a cup of tea should you visit again.”
“Please, Alice, won’t you accept our gift,” gestured Miskodiisimin Kwe.
“I don’t want any magic, I won’t have any trickery or be mislead, I am not a dancer and I don’t need a fan, as lovely as it is, I’m quite certain it’s not mine.”
“It’s not a magic fan, it is a fan of truth and if you hold it and it reveals nothing, you may keep it and have a lovely fan. If it reveals your truth, it will not matter if you believe it or not. And it will not matter if you choose to accept this gift or not because the true gifts this fan offers are already in your possession. The quest will be yours to seek or you may set it aside and go back to sleep. You may indeed believe that we are but a dream, or you may believe that we are more. A week from now, we will become whatever you remember that we are.”
Alice took an other sip and lifted her foot to study the tiny scratch on her foot from the mouse that was trying to prove to her she was awake. Mukwa, finally satisfied that all the mice had fled rubbed up against the old woman’s foot and looked up at her with a look that said, It’s to early to be out of bed.
Alice set down her foot with at thump, “All right then, let me have it.”
Alice picked up the fan with no more ceremony than if it had been a spatula, but the fan… the fan responded to the touch with an explosion of light that threw Alice back in her seat, the fluttering ushered in a wind from each of the four directions and all the loose papers were swept up in the rush of air that wrapped and spiralled around Alice and wrapped her in the most beautiful dress she had ever seen, every layer of the skirt was as delicate as a dragonfly wing in every rippling colour. She had a thick leather belt and a beautiful beaded vest with flowers and vines that seemed alive more than flat patterns on the deep velvet. Across her arm rested a long fringed shawl and a small leather bag that smelled like sweet grass, fresh cut cedar and moss from the marsh in summer.
The three women smiled and clapped their hands with joy as the wind settled.
“How do you feel, Alice?”
Alice, blinked and her mouth hung open as she admired her beautiful outfit. “I think I’d better have another cup of tea to make sure I’m awake.”
The women all laughed and sat back contently. Mukwa was still fluffy tailed from the scary event but she sat beside her owners’ lovely white moccasins and attentively stood watch over the door while the second cup was poured.
Alice took a sip and set the fan back down. “Now, tell me what this is all about.”
The three sisters smiled and took another sip of tea.
“This might take a while,” said Miskodiisimin Kwe.
And so it did.