I am very excited to welcome Clinton Festa to One Thousand Worlds. His book, Ancient Canada has recently gone into print and here he shares his first One Thousand Words with us..
Ancient Canada is a mythological story set in an alternate Arctic that brings us the epic of two sisters, Lavender and Marigold. Lavender has the unusual ability to see life and death in all its forms. It is a gift that leads to her exile alongside Marigold, but it is a gift they will need to survive in the wild. The characters and creatures they meet along the way narrate chapters that link to form the overall story.
If I were to describe my sister in one word, it would be oversimplified. To define her solely by her gift would be equally unfair, although a common and convenient indulgence often taken by some.
To say that this is her story exclusively would also be untrue. It is many stories, each told from the perspective of a different narrator. It is with humility yet convicted certainty that I fill these pages with their words, and those of myself occasionally as necessary to the greater story. In doing so I hoped the word to be, as I am to Lavender, sibling to the deed and not its cousin. In this I also favor the folk tradition believing their lives were the only necessity, and not the experience of their state or trade, yet both will vary greatly from author to author. They may not all qualify as precisely human, and will present themselves in various embodiments. They speak with variety as a result of culture, heredity, environment, trauma, and miracle, but in their diversity each self presents like another, balancing from within the common human mind.
Yet through their words you may, as I have in collecting this document, read various conceptions and opinions which vehemently contradict your own. This may take its form in the decisions of poor boys without parents or the acerbity of a rich one’s frame of his mother and father. Some spout ignorance as dogma, and others whisper their wisdom.
The story begins with my family’s personal remembrances of my sister, prior to her exile. Polaris has proclaimed himself as the religious, military, and otherwise autonomous leader of our people, our country, and its capital of York. With her words and actions, my younger sister was perceived to have challenged him. In pronouncing her story I assume I will be as well.
Succeeding those accounts will be the story of Lavender and my journey bridging much of the known world, through both the bush and domestic, which lasted an entire season of light and into a season of darkness. These encounters will be recalled by view of those we passed throughout our wander, with their preference to share personal backgrounds, beliefs, petitions, and philosophies as they see necessary.
Throughout you will not rely solely on my partiality, but hear many perspectives of my sister. Some may be dispassionate, but unbiased voices were not deliberately sought to share in narration. Any state of opinion they hold toward my sister as a result of encounter is deserved and therefore fair, be it one of praise or criticism. They have directly formed their opinion, and through them you will likely form your own. In doing so, and objectively, you would fulfill my campaign of this document.
Here begins a channel to the past as it progresses into the tales of our journey.
The Account of Heather
I never thought I’d give birth to a goddess. Though I suppose I should be careful calling her that.
I have two daughters, born little more than a season apart. I have no sons. My name is Heather. My elder daughter is Marigold; the younger is called Lavender. I love them both dearly, but there was always a quality about Lavender that was exceptional... even the way in which she entered the world.
I know them best as young women, neither particularly tall or large. Their faces are slender and round, with nothing distracting in skin or structure. If you glanced quickly at my daughters you would first notice Marigold’s hair: long, blonde, never once cut, down to her rump but well-managed. Marigold’s other flamboyant pursuits would likely hold your attention. Each of her garments and even the body language beneath them are voguish but sarcastic.
Lavender’s rustic nature blends into the earth, with her preferring you don’t notice her at all. Her shy posture and the dark cloth of her wardrobe ask to be ignored, hoping you also pass over her short, blackish-brown hair and the way she cuts it to keep it from her eyes. But if you notice her eyes, even Marigold’s hair becomes easy to ignore.
Having raised them slowly, watching them mature at the deliberate human pace, it’s today quite difficult to remember their infant appearances. But it isn’t hard to recall the events of Lavender’s birth, or her unmistakable trait, and the exceptional way she and this trait entered the world together.
Upon reaching a trading post in the most obscure Canadian wilderness, it surprised me not to see a look of shock in the eyes of the lone peddler. I was lost on northern Ellesmere Island, heavily pregnant, several days overdue, and escorted by five weary livestock.
“Oh, thank the heavens I’ve found you,” I began, foolishly declaring my desperation. “If not for your lantern, I might have brushed by your post without notice.”
“What goods do you require?” the peddler said.
“Herbs or paste to relieve the rash of the moosefly, some bread, maybe some fruit, fresh water, and if you have stocked, a warm coat.”
The peddler’s eyes sparkled. “That’s quite a lot. Must be a special child. Though I have everything you request.”
He was nearly forty, a half-generation my elder, and an unkept man with a disappointing appearance. He was overweight, unshaven and smelled unwashed, almost swaddled in brown garments, which I do not doubt he slept in. But he had one remarkable feature: glowing, shimmering eyes, which were green like a celestial flare. I had seen green eyes before but nothing on another living creature quite like this.
When the man declared he had everything I would require, my anxiety tapered and my etiquette came out from behind it. “I am sorry; I forget myself. I am Heather. I am a farmer’s daughter from the rural districts north of York. I have a daughter, Marigold, with a man named Simon whom I am traveling to see. Marigold is with my parents, on the farm. She is not quite one and a half seasons, close in age to her younger brother or sister. Simon is my husband, a soldier in the Canadian military. He is stationed at Fort Alert, and I would like him to see his second child. In case... before he.... ” I sighed. I paused and waited, but the man stared silently until I asked, “What is your name?”