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Ame's Favorite Gift

By Shima

The hunting party was delayed. Shima, Halban, Seelee and Valash were long past the time of returning. The sandstorm that roared through the desert the past two days had kept them pinned in a cave. They were okay but would not be returning until the tempest passed. Ame had brought Akan, Sasha, and Jardan together. With sweet cakes in one hand and warm cider in the other, she attempted to get their minds off their missing parents with a story. The Winter Festival was fast approaching, so Ame told them a tale about her favorite Festival present.

This story takes place during a past winter. Before we returned to the Great Oasis, during the time the tribe wandered from place to place. We did this because we were afraid to stay still for very long. The constant moving was hard on everyone but especially on myself that year. For you see, two years earlier another Winter Festival wish had come true. Kaze, my Lifemate for over 500 years, and I Recognized one another. Now the child that union blessed us with was due to be born any day. Onsha was hoping to find a reliable source of water so the baby and I could recover before pushing on.

The slow moving caravan was caught by surprise by a sudden sandstorm. Much like the one that delays the hunting party tonight. There was no real cause for concern. We had weathered many storms just like it. Without shelters we just bunkered down beside runners or zwoots and prepared to wait the storm out. Many hours passed and darkness approached without any reprieve from the sand or wind. It was around dusk when the first pangs started, warning me of my child's arrival. I wasn't concerned, sure that I had hours before the actual birth. Then the pain accelerated and the realization dawned on me. My child wanted to brought into this world and she wanted it done now!

Kaze sensed it too and called out for help. Elves abandoned their safe havens and struggled to find their way to me, through blinding sand. Kigen joined us first, then Vindra, and then the rest of the tribe. First the men tried to set up a tent. The unrelenting wind would not allow it. Then Soran tried to form a haven with his rockshaping abilities; again the wind and shifting sands hampered his attempts.

As the tribe struggled to find shelter for my child and me, I had to fight my own struggle . . . convincing the baby to stay inside me until a refuge could be found. I lost that fight. With Kaze on one side, Kigen on the other, and Vindra playing mid-wife, my child began her journey into the world. I was terrified of what the sand would do to the baby's tiny lungs.

Then the sand that pelted against my unprotected face unexpectedly ceased. I could still hear the wind but it no longer tormented me. Looking around I saw why. Circling me were my friends. Onsha, Secca, Halban, Nirene, Valash, Zardesh, Soran, Mordok, Tyar . . . they all stood using their bodies to shield me from the blowing sand. Dune Dogs huddled at feet, sealing off the small openings around legs. Overhead the others held a tarp in their hands to form a roof. It was in the fellowship of such loving friends that my daughter was born.

Afterwards the storm left as quickly as it had come. The tribe went about setting up camp and I was left alone, for a moment, with my newborn daughter. High up in the sky the star of the Festival shimmered like a jewel. And in my arms I held my own shimmering jewel, my little Shima.

Ame laid a soft quilt over the sleeping children. Onsha had already informed her it was okay if the little ones spent the night. The storm had finely lost its edge and a calm hush blanketed the desert. Stepping outside she quickly found the bright star of the Festival in the now clear sky.

** Mother? ** Shima's sending was like a soft whisper in her head.

** Yes, kitling? **

** Your empathy is strong tonight. The whole hunting party can sense your happiness. What are you thinking about? **

** The best present I ever received. Even if you were a little early for the Festival.**

** I love you, Mother. **

** And I love you. Return safe, and may the winds guide your way. **

** I don't know about you, but I'm kind of sick of the wind right now myself. **

** Okay, then may the stars lead you all home to us unharmed. ** *

* They always have, Mother. **

Ame smiled and watched the shimmering star in the sky for awhile longer before returning to her tent.