For those of my followers who have expressed an interest in my novel-in-progress, The Bee Singer's Daughter, you are such an encouragement to me. I wish I could give you each a big hug. Since I can't do that, I would like to share with you my newly revised prologue. As for the rest, I will get it ready for publication as quickly as possible and let you know when it is done and where you can get it.
THE BEE SINGER’S DAUGHTER
A fox sniffed along the dry, cracked ground in the village street. A relentless sun beat upon its dull rust-coloured coat. Its hip bones jutted through the fur; skeletal sides heaving as it panted. Flies buzzed around its ear and it snapped at them as a prospective meal. Ravens circled overhead, cawing; a sound of rejoicing that they, at least, expected to eat.
Suddenly a door banged open and he heard the reedy cry of a newborn. The fox tensed and then ran, dashing behind a box in the street. He saw the swishing skirts go passed him and heard the baby’s weakening cry. Perhaps there would be food for him, after all.
He followed the woman at a distance, hoping for an unguarded moment to snatch the mewling creature and bring it back to his den where his mate and kits barely hung onto life. He crouched low, padding on soft, black legs that did not make a sound.
The woman sobbed, holding her baby close to her chest. She kept moving, breaking through the trees into the forest, and continuing her trek until nightfall. She had a bucket on her arm in which she gathered leaves, bark, and anything else she could find that might seem edible. The fox nibbled on leaves and twigs as he watched her, wondering if ever she would stop and lay the infant down.
Finally she stopped and rested on a tree stump. The fox backed up softly and crouched under some scrubby brush at the foot of a tree. The woman peeled back the fabric at her chest, exposing one drooping breast. She held it to the infant’s mouth. It sucked for a moment and then cried weakly when no milk filled its mouth. The woman looked up to the sky, tears of anguish coursing down her cheeks.
“I know in my heart there must be a Creator,” she sobbed. “If there is, and you care about your creation, please help us. Please don’t let my baby die.”
Suddenly a bright light appeared in the sky, beaming down upon the woman’s face. The woman fell to her knees, clutching the infant to her chest. In terror, the fox dashed away.
“Look upon me, Mahla,” a rumbling, but gentle voice said.
Mahla dared to peer up, shielding her eyes with one hand.
There, stepping down from the sky, was a brilliantly white stallion. His mane was like undulating flames of white fire. His hooves shot out beams of silver light. From the center of his forehead a straight silver spiral gleamed with the brilliance of a thousand stars, piercing the night sky.
Mahla cried out in terror, but the magnificent animal blew softly upon her face and the warmth of his touch erased all of her fear. She looked up into his eyes and saw bright blue pools of liquid love. His gaze was gentle and calming, and filled with such love. He nuzzled her face, her chest and then her child, blowing gentle, whickering breaths that filled her with strength.
Suddenly Mahla felt a tingling in her breasts and saw that they were plump and brimming with new milk. The lusty cry of her infant filled the mother with praise. She brought the child to her breast and the baby ate its fill. Mahla wept and laughed all the while, overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. The horse whinnied and pawed the air in ecstasy, reveling in her delight.
With her infant satiated, Mahla remembered her people. Her husband, Veroven, was chief of the village and Mahla’s heart was heavy with their plight.
“Thank you, Great Spirit Horse. I know you are a god. You have shown me such favor, though I am as nothing in your sight. You have saved me and saved my child, but my heart is yet heavy for my people still starve.”
All at once Mahla became aware of a buzzing, a low melodious sound. The horse nodded his head, his flowing mane giving off brilliant white sparks. He nudged her to stand and gently pushed on her back, moving her forward.
Soon Mahla was standing before a hill of some kind. The sky was bare above it and a glowing full moon shone down, brighter and brighter, illuminating the space. The red clay spiraled in etched layers from a wide base to a rounded top, well above her head. The buzzing came from within and Mahla backed away in fright as she realized it was a hive.
The horse whickered in her ear, “Do not be afraid,” he said. “Listen to their song.”
Mahla took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Then she closed her eyes and listened; really listened. She popped her eyes open and looked at the horse. There was a tune, an actual tune.
The horse’s blue eyes sparkled and he nodded his head. Then he blew softly over her upturned face and Mahla knew what to do.
She closed her eyes again and, finding the tune, she began to hum. Her humming grew and the lilt of her voice, joined with the bees, swelled into a rising crescendo and finally into the melody and words of a song.
Mahla sang out praises to the Creator, the Great Spirit of all. She felt the blissful relief of the bees as she gave words to their song. She felt they had been searching for such words since the beginning of time and she had finally brought meaning to their ancient song. Tears of joy spilled from her eyes. Not her joy alone, but that of the bees. She felt their gratitude. They were as grateful as if they had been starving and she had given them the food for which they had desperately longed.
Just when Mahla felt she might burst from sheer joy, the horse dipped his head over her shoulder. He had her bucket in his mouth. He told her to empty it and to take hold of his horn. Mahla dumped out the meager contents of her wooden pail and hung it from her elbow since she held her baby in her other arm. She placed her hand on his horn and her arm seemed to disappear in its silvery gleam.
The horse plunged his horn into the hive, along with Mahla’s arm. Out poured honey, golden and smelling so sweet. It dripped into the bucket that dangled from Mahla’s elbow. She stared at it, amazed.
Soon her pail was brimming full and Mahla wished she had brought more than one bucket. This was not enough for the whole village. Should she tell no one else and keep the honey for her family alone? Were they the only ones to be saved? How could she bear to see the others suffer while her family lived?
“Mahla, my daughter, your heart is pure. You called on the Creator and you were right; he does care for his creation. My name is Philtor and I care for those who put their trust in me. Tell the others about me and come back tomorrow when the moon is still full. You will find that the mud of the hive grows warm and soft when you sing with the bees. Plunge your arms into the hive, one person for each household, and the honey will drip down and into the buckets you hold on your arms. It will sustain you and help you to fight off disease. In time, you will be able to trade it to surrounding tribes for other things that you need and so you will no longer be in want. But beware of greed.”
Mahla rushed home and fed the sweet honey to her family. One by one, they rose from their sick beds. Their cheeks grew pink with renewed vigor and strength. The next day she went about to her neighbours, asking for clean pails. If any were strong enough to accompany her, she took one person from each household that night to the hive. They harvested enough for every family in the village and soon they were all disease free.
Mahla told them about the horse, more white than the full moon and with silver hooves and a silver horn. Some believed her, but most thought she had dreamed it or hallucinated. Finally, her husband Veroven forbade her to speak of it again. He did not want to be known for having a lunatic wife. And so the truth became a story and the story became a legend that was passed down, changing as it went through generations, until no one really believed it at all.
Veroven became a rich man, because of his wife. It was decided that that place would be named Veroven, in his honour, and he liked that very much.
Over time, it was decided that only the women (for it was considered unmanly to sing) would harvest the honey on each full moon and, in just a few generations, only the women related to the Chief were allowed to tend the hive.
So the decendents of Veroven were wealthy and traded the honey, not just with surrounding tribes. The Chief’s own people had to trade their hard-earned goods to him for the honey that was supposed to have been theirs for the taking all along.