Naida walked up the long slope to the cave entrance. Sybaris and Temis were somewhere in the complex of caverns… probably their sleeping quarters. It was winter and both the lamia and the sphinx found it hard to stay awake for long periods of time, falling into hibernation. Asteri said he was going out to see if he could fight through the weather to find her ushera. He said he or she should be here by now and something must have happened. He’d also explained that her heart companion wasn’t a bennu because it wasn’t a phoenix as far as he could tell.
She found the different words for different companions confusing and wondered about this bonding thing, since he wasn’t bonded to her and neither of the other two spirit ones seemed inclined to do more than provide her with books and scrolls and paper and pens. Oh, and correct her grammar and her table manners.
The breeze blowing in from the cavern mouth was freezing cold and she was glad of the wool wrapped around her legs and the enormous cloak Syb had found in one of her storage caves. It was far too big for her so wrapped around and was tied in place with a leather belt. She felt like a wrapped ham, but the icy wind in her face made her glad of every fold between her and it.
It was coming up on her third moon flow and she was finding out that she had very bad month cramps. She felt foggy minded and heavy bellied as though she’d swallowed a goat-skin of heated pebbles that sat like nasty, burny rocks between her hips.
Mostly it just made her either lie in the hottest of the water pools or wrapped around a warm stone wrapped in wool. Asteri curled around her and kept her warm mostly.
“Why does something so sacred, so special, hurt so much?” She’d sobbed into Asteri’s shoulder last time.
“There’s a lot of power coiled there inside you,” he’d answered. “It’s meant to be used. Either for creating another whole and functioning being. Or used in the world and spirit world to build creation with your ushera. The pain will go away when your own partner shows up.”
“I hate it!” She’d wrapped her blood belt around both fists and pulled at the delicate and intricate knots she’d so carefully made. It was still mostly white though the bottom tassels were both red now. She’d been surprised to see rubies beginning to form along the first knot. He’d not argued with her but just curled up around her.
“I want my ushera to get here soon!” she demanded to the air, beginning to feel the drag on her abdomen and back and legs, the headache already sat behind her left eye. If her partner didn’t show up soon she’d be having dazzle headaches. Zeno had told them all about them. Like most of the children they’d shrugged off warnings of painful episodes. Their month flows would be peaceful and productive and they’d lie on cushions in the Red House and eat fruit, fresh or dried, and drink wine and pamper each other.
At least that’s what they’d told themselves. Even if Yalenda was a snot, she’d told what inside the Red House was like, though Naida suspected that blood work was a lot harder than she made it out to be. Zeno said so and Naida respected Zeno’s teaching more than Yal’s.
The Afaris had made it to Kuvetala and had actually gone on, to some other island. They’d traded the goats for ship’s passage away from the ruin of their lives. Naida was just as pleased that she wouldn’t see any of them again.
She actually stopped long before the mouth of the cavern because it was snowing again. Snowing so thickly it was like fog, but this snow, like all the snow this year was grey and drifts of sooty fingers reached in from outside. She stood back, looking at the sleet and grit flying around in front of her, not sure if she could even see outside. Asteri had gone into that to try and find her ushera, because she needed it.
Her eyes watered in the freezing wind and she ducked her head. “This,” she said to herself as the monthly cramps began burning across her belly and back. “This was a dumb idea.” She turned herself around and headed back to wash the grit off herself and soak her cramping guts in steaming hot water.