In the first cycle find a companion,
in the second cycle seek dominion,
in the third cycle learn humility,
in the fourth cycle become yourself.
(a mnemonic to recompose the Wanderings of Daie)
The Wind Hoarder speaks of his yearning for Keddar
That young man with skin honeyed gold, that boy
with hair like heavy flax ropes, eyes of amber,
fingers like caged nightingales, mind like a thrown knife—that young man
who poured sherbet for me when I was thirsty,
who saw me when I came, wind-wrapped, carried through the air
by my power, the power that obscures
and reins the whole world in storm's harness—that youth
who whispered to me gently, who knelt
to ask after my comfort, that boy
he belongs to my sister—
twirling shadow, long limbed, dancing death-dance, Journeymaker,
adviser to dust kings, diviner of roads stretched under the ground, pointing
to where power aligns with the earth, sprouting
cities above ground.
you had never been greedy,
never sought consolation from strangers, or an army; alone
you traveled, following the desperate prayers
choked in mid-word: the weeping of men,
mothers' stunned silence—
I should not begrudge you
the young man who brought me sherbet on a hot day, who knelt
to ask after my comfort.
Keddar reminds the Journeymaker of the First Cycle
You say we've always been together
since you first walked among us, at the dawn of time;
you taught us to spin wool, and to fight
with two swords; how to forge iron
and raven feathers into nightsteel. You pulled
fire from the burning sun, tricking the gods,
and gave that fire to us. You stitched
a land that is good to wander, and taught us
to braid hair. In return,
you asked for nothing. We asked
to appease you. You asked
I lived first then,
a boy among others, a youth
with skin nut-brown from wandering
the unrelenting steppe, a youth who had smiled
readily, in that first cycle. I do not remember much—
how the grass whispered, caressing your calves when you walked
wise as the dawn and as quiet, away
from the camp, away
from my people
The Journeymaker tells Keddar about his betrayal
I wear obsidian leathers
and a belt made of spun sun.
I sang for myself
a sword, blue as the whistling thrush.
I stitch for myself
to where I am most needed.
From war to war I walk, my blade hissing skin
off my enemies, for those who pray to me
trapped desperate in silence, when the heartblood leaks
grief begotten by mothers, and is soaked
into the fabric of the earth. There, at the dawn of time,
I stitched these lands together.
No, I can't wash the war off. I only can
quilt over bewildered grief. When I journey, the land
whispers of violations,
new wars over old unhealed hurt.
Nobody hears but me.
Nobody hears. You think it's too much
to ask for your obedience? Come then, I will show you
where in the Second Cycle
your greed disgorged crows,
when, born the second time,
you turned the bloodswords I had sung for you
out of my blundering heart
against these enameled cities
their walls anointed in myrrh—the three
cities where I found respite. Now look,
these are not ruins, desolation
restful under my brother's breath—no, they stand—
the once-radiant cities crawl with vermin,
their enamel peeled, children bathe in filth,
artisans are uncaring in their craft, poets
scream raw under the burden of crippled enormous words.
Two hundred years, Keddar, two hundred years,
How am I ever to quilt this right?
You do not remember, you say? How you tore from my path
joyfully—you do not remember. Only how the blood
sang in your mouth
how the blood
Why, how convenient.
Keddar to the Journeymaker: first song of the Third Cycle
If I hold very still
folded in the bedclothes of the night,
I can hear the world breathing. Trees inhale
darkness through serrated bark. In my father's house
stones groan against the freezing air. Maids snore, and noblewomen
warm under goat-wool, snore. The whole kingdom
closed in by the Wind Hoarder's prison guard, draws
breath after pacified breath—except yours,
yours is missing.
You had lived here
stalwart by my side, guiding my steps as I grew.
I thought you couldn't speak, but now I wonder
if you refused to speak to me. We called you Raven Woman.
Harsh and shining, you would caw no fate
at my birth. You frowned
at my mistakes; but when I looked
quiet through slitted eyes, feigning sleep, I saw you
look down at me, and a smile
folded your face into softness.
Please, I can no longer sleep
under my father's roof. The herons
ruffle their chests against each other; outside, the primrose
confides in the juniper. Stone with stone,
page by illuminated page, and sword against sword,
lover to lover, the world clings together. Only your
breath is missing.
The Wind Hoarder to Keddar, of when they first met
In your kingdom, women embroider
blue eyes upon red ribbons
a ward against my thievery. They came,
giggling behind plump fingers, to watch you dance
the two-sword with your Raven Woman
and you intent only upon her; sweet beads of sweat
on your arms reflected her. When, arrayed
in screeching feathers, she left you, you lay sick
day after spurious day in the stone fortress. Hurt
seeped through your pores with the sweat.
You took to the knife one morning, slashed
dozens of ribbons from the women's garments,
summoning me to harm you. And I, a fool,
laughed, for you didn't seem to know
your name, or how you betrayed her,
or that she was my sister. I lifted you
by your hair, thick and braided into ropes; brought you
home with me to the wandering steppe of the air
to my wind-yurt, to my fur-bed of flurries.
I should have made you stay
forever in the bondage of my arms
above the cloudburst. Instead, I gave you
words to know yourself: your three rebirths,
your name, and hers. I gifted you a wind
to guide you skydown to her. When your lips pressed
warm upon my palm, I should have known. Alone
of all men and women under Skyroad, you called me
kind, you thanked me
with bashful words. A fool,
why did I let you leave? I should have known
how dear you are to me.
The Journeymaker to Keddar
There was a wood once,
a copse blue with pines,
berry-rich under the benign dawn. A small people
passed through the forest every summer. They took respite
from the scorched steppe
and drained the sweetness of the birch,
and wrote their hearts on bark. When I came among them
belted in the sun's brightness,
No, not in desperation—they sang to me
simply because I existed.
I riddled to them secrets—how to spike milk,
how to stitch hides, and to make shelter
against the onslaught of my brother's regard—but still they slept
braided to each other
beneath the benevolence of the sky.
They changed. The world changes. Why did you have to change?
What joy is there in conquest? Your people did not need it
back in the dawn of time, when the leaping trout spelled
the syllabary of the stream, when the steppe
feathered in pink blossom. Remember to me
how you made your life into that song
just because I exist—
and I will no longer
go without. Who else but you, how else
to darn these deeds of yours, quilt a new journey
out of our ravaged truths? My heart
I should have kept it safe
inside the strongbox of my loneliness; I let it change
just like the world, when you
returned to me.