When Muriel was satisfied with her viewing through the mask, she slipped it upward onto her forehead and said to Miranda, “We must begin our return home.”
They headed back toward the structure where they had exited from the passageway above the cave.
Miranda nodded toward the cougar who appeared when they turned back to the complex above the cave. “He has a name.”
The women immediately agreed that the cougar’s name was Leonard. They wanted to address him properly as he was integral to their travels around the island and homeward. And the cave did seem to belong to him.
Muriel reminded Miranda that they must try to pick up a few of the blossoms to take home with them to study. She pointed out that they still had the other mask to investigate as well. The women were silent as they walked back toward the structures. Leonard seemed to know he was required to find the narrow passage where they had exited the space above the cave. He trotted along at a steady but modest pace.
Just as the entry to the passageway became visible to them, Muriel suddenly stopped walking and turned to Miranda. “Miranda, I’ve come to believe that what we’ve discovered here is a complete language. If we plant all of these seeds we shall grow out the works of literature in the language. Each tree or plant represents a letter or a feature of the language or a sign used in the language.
“How did you discover that? What about the beings who were writing on the flowers?”
“They are simply evoking the potential that is in the trees. They are working with the trees to produce stories and legends. Each type of tree represents another potential of the language—a type of symbol, a figure of speech. The beings are elaborating on these symbols and figures. They don’t have the complete range of plants in that grove we saw. That grove is just part of the story, so to speak. I believe we have the complete set in our chest. I also believe it’s a language lost to women.”
“Muriel, you’ve brought it back!”
“Only partly. You have to do the rest. You have to explicate it, decode it, make it accessible. That’s your part of the task. I had no idea this was what we were setting out to do but now it’s becoming clear to me. I’m not sure what all the parts mean yet but we’re going to find they fit into this pattern now. Honoba is an old soul who’s lost the meaning of it, the sense of it all. She considers each thing a precious possession of hers and she has no power over the individual items or over the collectivity.”
“Are you saying that we have?”
“Yes, Miranda. We have. You’ve told me about the power you feel when we’re working together or when you are working alone on these things. We’ve managed, together, to contact a source of great power. But I’m only your guide. You are the one who must shape what we’ve found into something others can understand.”
“Quite a tall order, Muriel.”
Muriel smiled. Miranda couldn’t help but smile back. She felt every muscle in her face move in the smile. She couldn’t remember when she had felt all of those muscles. In her heart she knew Muriel was speaking the truth and she almost let herself believe that she could do it. But to write in a whole new language—to bring back from a past or a beyond a way of telling and its special stories. Miranda shook her head. If there was anyone who could help her, Miranda knew it was Muriel but she wasn’t sure that even Muriel could push, shove, prod, drag, encourage, entice, will her to do this task.
When Miranda returned her attention to the present, Leonard was standing at the entrance to the passageway which led into the space above the cave. Apparently, Muriel had entered already. She was not outside.
Once inside, Miranda realized she was alone, except for Leonard, in the darkness of the huge building or room. Miranda hadn’t intended to walk into the building by herself. She thought Muriel was just ahead of her but as soon as the darkness closed around her she had spoken first softly and then louder until she shouted Muriel’s name. No answer came.
Miranda moved around until she saw Leonard sitting at the base of steps going upward. She followed them. At the top she could see a narrow band of light on the floor. She followed it and as she did the band became wider and wider until she entered a brilliantly lit circle. The light was so dazzling that, at first, Miranda couldn’t see anything. Gradually her eyes adapted to the glare and she saw a figure seated on a dais. The figure was seated on what seemed to be a throne under the blazing light. She was wearing a green robe which gave off a golden aura. As Miranda stepped closer, she became more accustomed to the glare of the light and she saw that Muriel was standing in front of the figure. Miranda was greatly relieved to find Muriel but she was perturbed by this awesome figure in the green-gold robe.
Muriel spoke, “Come forward, Miranda. It’s alright.”
The figure was standing and gathering the folds of her robe and gently letting them drape to the ground as she did.
Leonard came trotting in and sat between Muriel and Miranda. He was calm as if he was familiar with this grand figure. The figure clearly saw them all. She seemed to be smiling at them. She stepped down off her dais. She moved toward the two women. The tension in the air and the still-bright light in the space were so great that an ethereal music seemed to be flowing gently from the walls, the ground, the ceiling, flowing over them all and bathing them in its presence.
The figure approached Muriel first, embraced her and kissed her. Muriel calmly accepted these gestures. Then the figure turned to Miranda and did the same. Muriel and Miranda were both silent.
Miranda felt great warmth and compassion flowing from the figure. She wanted to go on embracing the figure but knew she must restrain herself and await the unveiling of the significance of this encounter.
The figure patted Leonard on the head and gave him a little scratch under his chin as if he were a pet cat. The two women glanced at each other and smiled. Muriel gave a little shrug suggesting to Miranda acceptance of the situation though questioning it at the same time.
The figure stood back and smiled at the women and Leonard. She drew up the folds of green-gold fabric and walked back toward the dais. She stepped up and seated herself. She beckoned to the women to come closer. They moved closer. Leonard lay down where he was and stretched out as if he was completely relaxed. Miranda was relieved to see his gesture. She was wondering what they had gotten themselves into but it seemed benign or perhaps . . . what? What she couldn’t imagine.
Once the women were at the foot of the dais, they looked at each other for reassurance. The seated figure still gave off a tremendously bright aura.
The women turned to the figure who then spoke with a booming voice. ”Finally, you have come!”
The women involuntarily stepped back a pace. Muriel composed herself first and replied, “Yes.”.
The figure continued, “I have heard that you have Honoba’s chest. Do you understand the great treasure you have taken?”
Muriel slowly inhaled before answering, “We believe so. We certainly intend no harm. We intend to honour the chest’s contents.”
“Very good,” the figure replied more quietly.
Miranda was brimming with questions but was still constrained by the sobriety of the scene and kept them to herself for now. Muriel seemed to be better at dealing with these strange encounters anyway.
“Honoba sometimes sought my advice. Will you? Where have you taken her chest? I understand you have taken it off the island.”
Muriel replied, “Yes, we took it to our home on another island. We would welcome your advice. May we know your name?”
“I am Irene. You may address me as Irene. You may visit me at any time for advice and support.” The figure seemed to relax down into her seat upon the dais.
The women too relaxed.
Muriel spoke again, “We believe the seeds and all the charts and diagrams in the chest represent or contain a language—a feminine language. We realize this is a great treasure which the inhabitants of this island have maintained but which may be in jeopardy with Honoba’s decline.”
Irene replied sternly, “Yes, Honoba is the last descendant of the line of women who have held the secrets of her chest and fully understood and amplified them. As you observed, her health is in decline. She willingly gave you the chest when you properly identified her. That was the sign she was awaiting. We did not expect the chest to depart this island but perhaps there are good reasons for this. I see that you are sincere and that you have learned much already.”
“I am going on intuition—telling Miranda that the seeds and the trees and flowers represent a lost women’s language and literature. I guess it’s wrong to say it’s lost as your island has preserved it.”
“Your intuition is correct.” With a slight softening of her expression, she asked, “Muriel, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I am Muriel and this is Miranda. I apologize that we did not offer this courtesy to you. We were overwhelmed by the light and your presence and the music.”
“I am not offended. I am pleased to have two women to work with. Muriel you have great gifts. I assume Miranda does as well.” She looked to Miranda for an answer.
Miranda was silent so Muriel replied. “She has but she is insecure and uncertain of her powers as yet. She is my apprentice now.”
“Very good. Welcome, Miranda. I see that you have a great mentor. You are privileged. I wish for you to feel free to seek my guidance and support just as Muriel may.”
Muriel looked at Miranda with a look which said, “Answer her.”.
“Thank you Irene. I am grateful for your welcome and your offer. I am blessed.” Miranda’s voice quavered slightly as she spoke though she tried to be as firm as the other two were in their speech.
Irene shifted slightly in her seat. “I see that you have my mask. Have you found the other one as well?”
Muriel answered deferentially, “We mean no harm. We did not know it is your mask. We did see the other one but were unable to reach it.”
“Honoba wore my mask when she was directing the gardeners and the other workers who tend the trees and flowers. You also will need it for your work. The silver mask has not been worn for generations. It is said to reveal another level of communication. As there are two of you, I believe the silver mask is yours to make use of as well.”
The women both spontaneously bowed their heads toward Irene. Muriel spoke first. “Thank you Irene. This is a great honour. May we maintain the chest on our island and work with the seeds and drawings there?”
“Yes, indeed. Honoba and I had hoped it would remain here. But since you now know how to visit me and Honoba for as long as she is able and since you clearly are the intended inheritors of the legacy, you may work with it in your world, your island.”
Miranda was surprised at the matter-of-fact way in which Irene spoke about something which must be of great emotional and even deeper significance to her.
“Do you have more questions before you return to your home?” Irene asked.
“Are we to plant the seeds and set up the gardens as in the drawings?” Muriel inquired.
“Yes, that is the purpose of the chest. You must maintain it as well. Maintain its contents for the next inheritor.”
“Thank you. I felt that was the intention—the purport of our finding it and of our encounter with Honoba. We are honoured and very grateful to be entrusted with this great treasure.”
“Honoba is very weak now. She lives near the path where you encountered her. Leonard can take you there on your way homeward. Do not be dismayed if Honoba is unwelcoming. She is bereft of her treasure even though she knew that would occur. No matter how she may act she will be satisfied, even pleased, to see two such trusty inheritors of the treasure.”
“Thank you Irene. We will visit her on our way homeward.” Muriel said this despite her instant concern that they had journeyed directly to the cave and not by boat this time.
“You will be able to return to the cave after meeting Honoba to continue your journey.” Irene responded to Muriel’s unspoken, unexpressed concern. “You must take the masks. I see you have collected a few flowers. That is good.”
“Thank you. That is how we will proceed. We will have many questions. We will return.”
“You know where I am now. I will help you. Visit any time. You may wish to return from time to time as the seeds develop. Some are rather slow-growing. It may help you to visit our groves.”
“What will happen to your groves?” Miranda asked.
Muriel glared at her to say that was an inappropriate question.
“It is a valid question, Muriel. Miranda, the trees will continue to thrive as long as there are workers who know their needs. They will provide seeds, of course, for future groves. But gradually the powers will be lost here. You are the keepers of the full inheritance now. I am available to assist as long as need be. Though Leonard and I dwell here in this complex of caves and buildings we are aligned with you now as well.”
Miranda was emboldened. She asked, “Is this Honoba’s theatre?”
Miranda thought she heard Irene chuckle ever so slightly. “Yes, indeed. This is part of her theatre. Muriel wisely carried the key from the chest with her when you journeyed here this time. Your wisdom begins to display itself. Welcome, Miranda!”
Miranda smiled and expressed her thanks deferentially.
Muriel looked at Miranda and back at Leonard and then back to Irene. “We will take our leave now, Irene. Thank you. We are grateful. We are burdened by your trust but this is a burden we embrace with anticipation and joy and excitement. Thank you for your answers and advice.” She bowed to Irene.
Miranda bowed to Irene as well. They stepped back to where Leonard lay. Miranda reached down and patted him. He stood quickly and then stretched out all four limbs and his back.
Irene spoke again. “One thing more. Although you may see the treasure as a lost language of women, the treasure is for all. Keep this in mind in your work. Honoba struggled with this and has suffered as a result.”
The women nodded. Muriel said, “Thank you for explaining, Irene. We will hold this knowledge and this trust for all.”
Irene gazed at them and nodded assent. The women bade farewell to Irene and departed from her chamber.
Once back in the dark passageway, Muriel reminded Miranda that they must collect the silver mask and more flowers before setting off to home. Muriel thought it best that they visit Honoba next. They could collect the second mask and flowers on their return to the cave complex. Now they were reliant upon Leonard to take them to the forest path which led to Honoba.
The simplest way to find the other episodes is to go here. They appear on the linked page in order of publication and recommended reading order.