Purnima: August Ashes

Here is the next part of Purnima (Book 7 of Waldmeer).

The Giant School Stalker

In Waldmeer:

Merlyn had her month of weekend sleep-overs at Tom’s flat, in the city, and weekday sleep-overs at Malik’s house, in Waldmeer. Neither was ideal. Tom kept pushing her away, and Malik’s busy family was all-consuming. She didn’t like Tom pushing her away; it hurt. Nor did she like being taken over by the members of a large, noisy household with three children (Maria being the youngest at fourteen and Michael being the oldest at twenty), two adults, and Odin (who was supposed to be an adult but, on Earth, he ended up more of a dependent). 

It may not have been Merlyn’s favourite arrangement but that’s life, isn’t it? When are things perfectly balanced on the outside? Rarely. And in those glorious moments when they are, it doesn’t last long. The only viable option is to try and balance ourselves on the inside so that we are not pushed around by what happens outside us.

On Merlyn’s final evening at Malik’s house, before returning to her own flat across the road, there was a heated but hushed conversation about Odin.

“Someone has to take him back to Borderfirma,” said Rachael (Malik’s wife) who had now recovered from the illness which precipitated Merlyn working in the Waldmeer Warriors. “He has been here six months, since the end of summer. Odin doesn’t belong in Waldmeer; or anywhere on Earth.”

Rachael wasn’t being mean. Like the rest of the family, she loved Odin. How could you not love someone who was totally devoted to your wellbeing? And therein lay the problem. Odin didn’t have enough to do, so he invented jobs. 

“I do agree,” said Malik reluctantly, “that he is a little politically incorrect.”

Odin was Malik’s link to his childhood home, in the Borderfirma Mountains, and to his mother, Faith-Amira.

“He is not only politically incorrect,” said Rachael, “he is everything incorrect. You know what he’s like in the gym. He treats everyone as if they are his incompetent students in the Great Valley and sends them off to scale trees and drag lumps of wood around. People find him odd. He tells our gentler male clients to man up, our overweight ones that they are fat slobs, and our skinny ones to grow some balls. It’s unacceptable.”

Malik couldn’t help laughing. Although he understood Odin’s style of training (as he had been trained by Odin), it was hardly Earth-appropriate. 

Rachael didn’t laugh. “And you know what he’s like with Maria,” she said. “He can’t accept that she is growing up. He stands at the school fence during the day, like a giant stalker, waiting for her to come out for recess and lunch. Then he watches her like a hawk to make sure no one is mean to her. Maria doesn’t say anything because she’s Maria, but it makes her life difficult.”

At the mention of Malik’s dear heart child, Maria, he sighed and said to his wife, “Your health has greatly improved.” He gently kissed Rachael’s forehead. 

“Rachael can go back to work now,” Malik said to Merlyn, “so, why don’t you go to Borderfirma with Odin for a month? Purnima Passage will be open tomorrow night. You can tell Odin that you need an escort while you are there. That way, he will go. Hopefully, he will resettle and you can return home, alone.”

“Do you think he will adjust after your mother’s passing?” asked Merlyn. 

She hesitated to bring up Faith-Amira’s death, but it seemed best to talk about it. Amira’s sudden and unexpected death was the reason for the abrupt return to Earth of Gabriel and the travelling trio of Odin, Maria, and Rybert.

Malik looked out into his garden and said, “Mum would want us to focus on the gains of the day, not the losses. Do your best to help him.”

Merlyn was not sure that she was up for the assignment, but Malik had his mother’s ability to bring out people’s fighting spirit, so she said, “Yes, I will.”

“One more thing,” said Rachael. “No one tell Maria or she will be back there, in a wink, and I can’t go through that again; not knowing when, and if, she will be home.”

Malik didn’t need convincing on that issue, and looked like the plan to get the giant school stalker back to his rightful home would certainly not be repeated from his lips.

Temple Thief

The next afternoon, in Prana Community:

On the threshold of spring, the late August afternoon was cold but sunny. Merlyn was preparing for Purnima Passage, however, she decided to make a quick visit to Ajna Temple. It was two months since Gabriel’s body had been found there and Amira’s spirit had disappeared. Merlyn hadn’t been back since then. She thought that the temple would somehow seem empty. That’s what happens when you get used to the world of spirits. If they aren’t around, it’s a bit boring. 

Next to the black granite linga, in exactly the same place that Gabriel had been discovered, a marked tin of ashes ceremoniously sat. It was Gabriel’s ashes. Due to the police enquiry, his body had only recently been returned to Prana Community. According to their tradition, he was cremated. The ashes were to stay beside the linga until full moon when they would be dispersed over the sea. 

That will be tonight, thought Merlyn, after the Manipura Dancers perform.

Shambhavi’s Waldmeer Warrior’s dance class hadn’t yet had their opportunity to join the Manipura Dancers because he said that he was waiting for the right full moon. None of the women knew what would make it right, but they trustingly left that to him.

Through the stained-glass window, Merlyn saw the sun slanting towards the western horizon and thought, I better go.

“It’s not only Odin who doesn’t belong here, it’s you too,” she suddenly said as she grabbed the tin of ashes.

Stuffing the tin under her coat, she ran to her car. It wasn’t the calmest approach for a thief, but Merlyn was a poor criminal.

Duos and Trios

That evening, at Twenty Mile Track:

“We’re now the travelling duo instead of the travelling trio,” said Odin chirpily as he stood at the entrance of Purnima Passage.

He was taking his departure so well that Merlyn was reluctant to spoil his mood. Nevertheless, she said, “We are still a trio,” as she pulled the tin out from under her coat.

For a moment, Odin frowned. Then, in an unfamiliar voice, he said, “I know why we are returning to Borderfirma.”

“Do you?” asked Merlyn.

“Yes,” said Odin. “I’ve done a lot of thinking since I’ve been in Waldmeer. It’s the first time that I have had so much time to myself. In the beginning, I hated it. All I could think about was Lady Faith.” 

He gazed at the pulsing round ball of light before him. It had become brighter since they had been standing there. 

“Not by choice, but by circumstance,” continued Odin, “I went through a lot of things in my mind. After a while, I realised that it was helping me. Somehow, the deaths of Lady Faith and my mother didn’t seem as painful anymore. I’m not too proud to say that I even found myself crying, on occasion.”

Merlyn smiled at him encouragingly. Odin, of all people, was changing.

“I am ready to face my fears and continue with my life,” said Odin. “And I think it would be fair to say that Borderfirma is as much Gabriel’s home as mine.” 

Odin listened to a nearby owl who seemed to be agreeing. 

“Truth is,” said Odin, “now that Lady Faith has gone, it seems silly to keep to my old ways about Gabriel. I know it was jealousy. I loved Lady Faith as much as him, probably more, but…”

“But what, Odin?” asked Merlyn.

“I wasn’t good enough for someone like Lady Faith,” said Odin.

Merlyn wanted to reassure him that that wasn’t the case, but felt it best to let life be life.

“So, I settled on serving her,” said Odin, “and protecting her to the best of my ability. I accepted that I wasn’t good enough for her, but I always felt that neither was Gabriel. Yet, she chose to be with him all those years. Why? He did so many wrong things, but something in her loved him in a way she didn’t love me.”

He took the ashes from Merlyn’s hands. She was a little concerned that they may end up being thrown into the dark territory of the owl. Odin felt her hesitation and laughed.

“I’ll look after them,” said Odin. “I’ll do it for Lady Faith. And I’ll do it for Gabriel.” 

With that, he made a grand gesture towards the Passage and said, “After you, Lady Merlyn.”

This is going to be easier than I imagined, thought Merlyn.

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