Sunday, October 5, 2014

Daughter of the Time to Come: a story for remembering our heroes

In this month of October we celebrate our heroes; we do so in particular in Heroes Week. We remember our designated heroes as well as all the other heroic people who have contributed to the development of our people and our country. We celebrate our  culture and cultural icons. As you can imagine, our history and culture could be the basis for many children’s stories. Remember all the tales we were told of the heroic in stories from Europe when we were children. Do you remember the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke? I can see myself as child, awestruck at the enormity on what he was doing.

 I also wonder about the people who did not get themselves into stories and history books. My story Daughter of the Time to Come is about two such people, each in their own way heroic, each of them human with hopes and disappointments, and hopes again. I had wanted to upload it as a book on Amazon, but the funds just weren’t there. So I’m putting it on my blog. I hope that you will read it. It may seem a bit long for a blog post, but think of it as a story you don’t have to purchase. Let me know what you think, what you would have liked included. For example, should I make her part Taino?  I just thought of that recently, but I really wanted to make her African, to be related to the unsung Nanny heroes.  There was a previous ending to the story before I revised it. See if you can spot it, and say which you prefer. The two endings have quite different implications.

The illustration, which I love,  is by Errol Stennett. When this story was first selected for an anthology  (which never did get published) this was the piece he submitted for it. Perhaps next year Daughter of the Time to Come can be a real book with plenty of great artwork.
Daughter Of The Time To Come
It was the time when the Tainos no longer roamed the forests free. And the Spanish who had brought an end to the Taino way of life, had themselves fled the island from the invading British – for that sadly is the way of humankind, conflict instead of peace and understanding. It was then that there lived in the mountain forests a beautiful girl called Daughter Of The Time To Come.
            No one knew how she had got her name but it was whispered that an African wise man, one who could remember the old ways, had named her. This was taken as a sign that she would be a great leader amongst her people, the Maroons.
            Daughter Of The Time To Come showed every sign of fulfilling this prophecy for she was as brave as she was beautiful. Her skin was the rich colour of polished mahogany, her eyes were like pools of dark secret water, and her short tight black curls framed a face of great sensitivity and intelligence. She was an expert tracker, her long, strong legs carrying her swiftly and silently through the forest. And she was accomplished in all methods of fighting used by the Maroons, those fearless Africans who had been slaves of the Spanish, and who had taken to the hills to continue the fight against the British invaders.
             At that time also there were other women leaders amongst the Maroons who were such brave warriors that the British soldiers feared them, believing them to have special magic powers. Daughter Of  The Time To Come knew she would be one of these, one of those who would lead her people in the defeat of the British in the time ahead.
             One day, Daughter Of  The Time To Come stood in the forest quite still; the breeze whispered through the dense foliage gently moving the vines that hung from the massive trees. She listened carefully for she had heard a sound. She was alone. Normally this would not have been so, but she had chosen this day to scout out the area to see if it was a good place for an ambush.
            There was the sound again. Daughter Of The Time To Come clutched her machete. Was it a wild hog?
            No, it was the sound of men coming through the bush. Closer they came, their boots making a distant noise, however careful they tried to be, as they trampled twigs and bramble underfoot. She could tell that it was only a small party which meant that they were either scouts or stragglers.
             Either way she was in danger for she was alone. Mind you, in a minute she could be safely gone, but if she could watch them, and report to her people on their movements, she would show how clever and fearless she was. She stood, hardly daring to breathe, blending in with the sprawling roots of the cotton tree.
             Suddenly the men appeared below in a little clearing where there was a small stream. They were British soldiers, there red tunics a startling contrast to the green forest. They looked lost and exhausted. They threw themselves down by the stream, drinking and splashing their hot faces with water.
             There were only ten or so of them and there were no sounds of others. Daughter Of  The Time To Come relaxed her tense muscles and waited.
            After a while they got up and went back in the direction from which they had come. And now from where she stood, she could easily follow their movements, as birds fluttered from the trees from time to time as they passed. She would take this news to the camp by nightfall. By the next day the Maroons would have caught up with them.
            For the return journey she would need water. So when nothing else stirred in the forest, she slipped into the clearing, and placing her musket and machete beside her, stooped to fill her gourd from the stream.
            Daughter Of The Time To Come suddenly froze. She knew someone was behind her yet she had heard nothing. She jumped up and whirled around. She was looking straight into the face of a British solder with his sword drawn. The first thing she noticed was that he had flaming hair the colour of the setting sun as it sinks into the sea and cold blue-gray eyes like sharpened steel. Surely this must be one of their devils.
            It took her some time to realize that he was not a man but a boy about her age and that he was as frightened as she was. But even then, he was armed and she could not reach her weapons. Would he kill her?
            The young soldier looked at the Maroon girl and saw the face of a fearless warrior with eyes so dark that shafts of black lightning flashed from them. This must be one of the magic women he had heard about. Would she use her magic powers to disarm him?
            It took him some time to realize that she was as young as he was, and that though she stood proud and brave, she was also a beautiful young woman and she was as nervous as he was. And then he realized that shafts of black lightning did not flash from her eyes, but that they were really like pools of dark secret water.
             To her surprise he addressed her in her own language “You are my prisoner.”
            “How did you know I was here? I was as quiet as the snake while you and your men were as noisy as wild hogs.”
             “I saw you standing in the shadow of the tree,” he replied. “So I hid and waited so that I could capture you and take you back and show the others how brave I am. Though at the time I thought you were a man.”
            “But how did you see me? I was well hidden. And how did you come upon me without my hearing? And how do you speak my language?” For she could not understand how he could be so clever.
             And the young solder was very impressed by the bravery of the Maroon girl. She was not afraid. She only wanted to know how he had outwitted her. “I was born on this island and so I know the ways of the forest as well as you do. And I decided to learn your language.” And he laughed with boyish pride.
And when he laughed she noticed that his eyes were not at all like cold blue-grey sharpened steel, but as light and bright as the skies on a day when the sun is not hidden by clouds.
            “Are you one of the magic women?” he asked.
            Daughter Of The Time To Come lifted her head with pride and replied “Not yet, but I will be in the time to come!”
             “If I take you back as my prisoner, they will believe you are one, and they will think that I am extremely brave” he said with a gleam in his eyes.
             “Yes,” she said, “and then they will kill me or make me a slave. And if they make me a slave I would kill myself.”
             The young soldier looked at her and after a while he said “You are truly very brave. I will not let them kill you or make you a slave. Take up your weapons and go, quickly before the others come looking for me.”
            Daughter Of The Time To Come hesitated only a moment before moving quickly to the edge of the clearing. Then she turned and looked back at the red haired soldier.
            And he lifted his sword in salute and called, “Till we meet again in battle, brave warrior!”
            Daughter Of The Time To Come ran as quickly as she could through the forest, her heart thumping in her ears. She wondered if he would change his mind and come after her, for though she was a skilled warrior she now knew that he was perhaps equally clever. But after a while she knew that he would not.
            And when she reached the safety of her people she did not tell them about the red haired soldier for she did not know how to explain his behaviour to them.
            The years passed and Daughter Of The Time To Come did become a leader of her people, and her bravery was known throughout the island, from the forested mountains to the plantations on the plain, and the British knew her to be one of the magic ones. During this time, although she had not seen the young soldier again, she heard the Maroons speak of a brave Britisher, the Red Warrior they called him. And she wondered.
            One day there was great excitement in their camp. The news had come. The Maroons had ambushed a band of soldiers led by the Red Warrior himself. At last they had caught him. With some of her men she went to the place but when they arrived there was much confusion. They had captured many soldiers but there was not sign of the Red Warrior. Clearly they had been mistaken and he had not been there at all. The Maroons departed but she stood alone in the forest listening.
            She could hear the breeze whispering through the trees. She could hear the call of the parrots. But there was another sound the sound of something breathing. Swiftly and silently she moved through the bushes, and there he was lying wounded. The Red Warrior, the young British soldier, now grown into a man.
             “So we meet again, now that you are truly one of the magic ones. And now I am your prisoner.” He said this with an attempt at a smile but she could see he was in pain.
            She stared at him. To capture the Red Warrior would make her famous even among the magic ones.
            “Will you kill me yourself or will you give me to your men?” he asked.
            “I will not kill a wounded man, nor will I give you to my men. A brave warrior such as you should be able to fight to defend yourself. You should not be killed like a dog or a wild hog.”
             “Then what will you do, Daughter Of The Time To Come?”
            “I must give you back your life as once you gave me mine. Till we meet again in battle, Red Warrior, that is, if you do not die of these wounds before you reach safety,” she replied angrily. But in her heart she hoped he would survive for he was a brave warrior.
            “I will not die of these wounds, I promise you. We will meet again.”
            And Daughter Of The Time To Come left him without a backward glance. Nor did she tell her people what had happened because she could not explain her behaviour to herself, much less to them.
            The years passed, and then one day the wars were over. There was to be a peace treaty between the British and the Maroons, for neither was winning. The Maroons would have their own land in the mountains forever and be their own people forever.
            Daughter Of The Time To Come gathered with the other Maroon leaders to meet the British. She stood tall and proud, the breeze gently moving her African robes and watched as the British leaders approached.
             The Maroons and the British exchanged the gifts that would mark the treaty. Then one of the British leaders approached her, and even though there was grey in his hair so that is was no longer like the setting sun as it sinks into the sea, she recognized the Red Warrior.
            “Daughter Of The Time To Come,” he said, “now that we are no longer enemies, may we then be friends? You are a brave warrior and I have always admired you.”
            But she was overcome with disappointment and could not answer. For although the British had had to make peace with the Maroons, she felt that the Maroons should have been able to drive them from the island.
             And he understood what she was feeling and said, “Daughter Of The Time To Come, your people were brought here long ago against their will, and mine were sent, as soldiers cannot decide where they are to go. This was not of our making. Surely we can be friends.”
             And though what he said was true, and she admired the brave solder, she was a leader amongst her people and they would not want to see her a friend of this enemy. So she shook her head and said, “My people will not like it, nor will yours.”
            He knew that she was right, so he said, “Use your magic powers and look into the time ahead. What do you see?”
             But she could not see, for she was overcome with sadness.
             “I saved your life at one time, and you saved mine,” he continued. “And so without meaning to, we are friends even though we may not meet again. They say your name means you were destined to be a great leader, and so you are. I hope that in the time ahead our children’s children may live in friendship in this land. And so you will have become not only the Daughter but the Mother Of  The Time To Come.”
            And he turned and left her standing under the same cotton tree where he had first seen her long ago.
            She watched till she could no longer see him. And then she looked upwards through the green foliage, up, up into the sky to the place where it is no longer blue, but only white light. Could she see?                        
            And suddenly she saw clearly that in spite of the ways of humankind, the soldier had saved her life because he saw her not as his enemy, nor even as his friend, but as a brave warrior deserving of respect. And she, without thinking about it, had saved his life for the same reason. This then was the answer, to have the understanding to respect another, and then there would be peace and friendship.
Daughter Of The Time To Come knew that two people do not make a world nor could they alone make all the people understand. The time was not now. But perhaps, little by little, there would be others who would understand in the time to come.  
And moreover, the wise ones had explained her name to her at one time. They had said, “You may wonder why you were not called the Mother of the Time to Come, but you see it is the daughters who go into the future and change it. And so there will be your daughter, and then there will be her daughter, and her daughter, and into eternity.
And now Daughter of the Time to Come could look into the far future and she saw them; Daughters of the Time to Come - Time to Come - Time to Come - Time to Come , telling their truths, creating things not yet imagined; leading their  people; forward – forward – forward, in the time to come.
(C) Diane Browne, 2014

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