2020- Spring - Full Moon Entry
Explosions - 1. Danger
“Go away. I wish to be alone.” The seated man did not need to turn to figure out who had clambered up the rocky promontory and dared approach him. Only one clan member felt comfortable enough around him to disturb his solitude.
Basilios ignored the dismissal. “Your son needs you.” With the familiarity of long-time friends, he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder and gently shook it.
Alketa remained affixed to the stone bench he spent many hours on each day. Its desolate location assured his seclusion most of the time. Staring at the small islet in the bay spread before him provided a distraction from the pain. Heartache, not a physical ailment, kept him from the active life he led the first thirty years of his existence. He had distanced himself from everything and everyone in the months since his mate had died. Her loss weighed on him every waking moment.
“My son needs his mother.” Long, chestnut hair cascaded down Alketa’s face when he lowered his head. The length identified him as clan leader; shorter tresses were the norm for everyone else—males and females. “And so do I.”
“She’s gone, my friend.” Basilios kept a hand on his leader as a sign of support. “She’s gone, and she’s not coming back. No matter how much you stare at Temple Island, or how much you pray to the gods. I think they may have forgotten us. However, you can’t ignore your child. Or the rest of your people.”
The spit of land Alketa kept his gaze fixed upon was in view from most of the big island’s west side. It housed places of worship consecrated to the many deities the Atlanteans venerated. Established so long ago details were scarce, the original founders of Atlantis were unknown. However, the settlement in the large body of water they called the Atlantic was a magnet for diverse people.
Although the past few centuries had seen the influence of settlers from a land to the east--called Greece--grow, the society’s egalitarian nature decreed everyone was welcome. They had fair-skinned individuals from the northern reaches and dark-as-night ones from the great land mass to the south. Each diverse wave of settlers brought their own gods; all ended up woven into the religious fabric of the community.
“He’s better off with the women looking after him.” Alketa’s tone was despondent.
Over the years, Atlanteans had learned their crescent-shaped home, the small spit of land in the bay’s upper section, and the countless, uninhabited rocky outcrops in the archipelago were the crests of underwater mountains. In places to the north and south, fumaroles in those barren protrusions occasionally spewed hot gases. At times, the surrounding sea boiled, and the sizzling water and poisonous air killed any life in the area. Fishermen learned to recognize the signs and avoided any section experiencing such turmoil.
Earlier in the year, for the first time the elders could recall, the ground had shaken beneath their feet. Since then, the frequency and severity of tremors had increased. A few weeks before, the intensity of one rattled the island sufficiently to damage structures. A tumbling stone block hit and killed Alketa’s wife.
“A boy needs his father, and a clan needs its leader.” Basilios sat on the bench and stared at the same spot his friend did. “The elders believe our situation worsens. Some of the younger ones, like Tejan, clamor for action. They demand you do something or step aside.”
“It was a mistake to turn that man.” Alketa shook his head. “Ever since he was bitten, he’s wanted to take over my position.”
The clan’s origin, shrouded in mystery, was the subject of legends. Some claimed the wolf people came from another land and colonized the isolated paradise. Others suggested Anul—the Moon Goddess—gave them the ability to shift from human to wolf simply for their animal voice. When the nighttime orb was full, howls of praise filled the night. A symphony that delighted their divine patron.
Basilios shrugged. “What’s done is done.”
Lycan, as some old stories referred to them, could transform others by a process begun with a painful bite. That was how Tejan became a clan member. The man claimed to be the fourth son of a Mandinka tribal chief. With three brothers having a higher claim to succeed their father, Tejan took to the sea and, in time, settled in Atlantis. When one of the clan’s females fell in love with him, she demanded Tejan become one of them. She insisted on it even though she and everyone else knew he spread his seed amongst quite a few others. The elders consented, and Alketa reluctantly acquiesced. The muscular, dark-skinned Mandinko exuded arrogance, and he would one day cause trouble. Of that, the clan’s leader had been certain.
“What would you and the others have me do, my friend?” Alketa sounded defeated. “I fear the gods have abandoned us, as you suggest. I’m not sure there’s a path to follow that can save us.”
“Go to Temple Island next time the moon is round in the sky. It’s the only time our goddess will speak and then only to you, our leader. Maybe she hasn’t really forgotten us. Implore Anul for assistance. Make her see if we disappear, she will lose loyal subjects.”
“What makes you think she’ll listen?” Hopelessness was so entrenched in him, the jubilant, intrepid Alketa of old had become a pessimist. “She didn’t when I implored for help when my mate laid in my arms bleeding. Dying.”
“She has to! She has to listen to you and act. Unless she would prefer to join the old gods whose temples now lie in ruins. I refuse to believe she would welcome that sort of oblivion. You must convince her to help us. She can guide us. She can save us.” Basilios paused and took half-a-dozen short breaths.
“But you must act, Alketa, You must once again become the man of action I grew up with and love. Do it in memory of your mate. Do it for your son. Do it for your people. Do it for me. And do it for yourself. Find the will to live. So that the rest of us might.”
Over the subsequent three weeks, Alketa slowly crawled out of the dark melancholy enveloping him since his mate’s death. One by one, he resumed his duties as leader of Atlantis’ Wolf People. He would travel to Temple Island at the appropriate time and visit the Moon Goddess’ shrine, offer a sacrifice, and seek her assistance. Most of his followers met the announcement with gratitude.
On a more personal level and of greater importance to him—based on the spreading belief they were all doomed to die soon—he chose to spend as much time as possible with his boy, Akai.
“That was excellent, son.” The two had jumped off the side of the cliff into the ocean and were now at the shore shaking off water. “In no time, you’ll reach first turn. Then you’ll know the joy of shifting mid-air.”
The onset of puberty activated whatever special feature lycan had in their bodies; it was then they could at last shed human skin and embrace their wolf. If Akai was anything like his father, he would reach the momentous occasion at an earlier age than his peers. However, it was still a couple of years away.
“Will my wolf be like yours?” As a small child, Akai had ridden atop his father’s back and each time his eyes shone with delight. At night, when he would not settle down, Alketa would shift, the boy would curl up against the furry wolf, and quickly embrace sleep.
“I’m sure it’ll be similar, but you know no two wolves are alike. The color of your hair is lighter than mine.” Atlantean diversity meant hair colors amongst its people ran from coal black, to fire red, to yellow so pale it appeared white. “That’s something you inherited from your mother, so your fur may be a different shade.”
The boy sat on a rock next to his sire and stared at the horizon. “Are we going to die, father?” The calm manner in which he asked surprised the older man more than the question.
“Why do you ask?” The father suspected he knew the answer but sought confirmation.
“It’s what others say. They claim Mother Moon and the rest of the gods have abandoned us. That their spirits no longer dwell on Temple Island, and that a big earth shake’s coming that will bury us.”
“I don’t think so, Akai.” Alketa accompanied his words with an arm around the child’s thin shoulders. “In three days’ time I’ll be at Temple Island seeking assistance. Mother Moon’s protected us since the beginning of time, and she’ll do so again.” He tried to banish the doubts assaulting his thoughts; a renewed love of life, of his son, drove him to eradicate negativity. Convincing their patron to rescue them would be his crowning achievement as father and leader.
“Want to go for a swim?” Alketa sought to change the subject.
“Of course! One other thing I look forward to is swimming as a wolf. I’ll be so much faster!”
Over time, Atlantean wolves developed certain features to increase their chance of survival in the surrounding marine environment. The ability to hold their breath underwater for extended periods allowed them to fish the ocean around them. Seafood was an important component of their diet due to the scarcity of meat on land. Further assisting their aquatic activities, they also developed a clear inner eyelid that improved their vision under the surface. Finally, webbed toes on all paws increased the efficiency of each paddle while swimming. The wolves of Atlantis could be as ferocious and deadly in the water as on land.
Although Alketa was a metal worker, like everyone else in Atlantis he felt comfortable riding waves on a boat. And like most others, he owned a skiff used for bay fishing; larger vessels were employed when trawling open ocean. The approach to Temple Island was fraught with danger; he had to thread his way through a narrow approach between reefs hidden just below the surface while battling a strong current. The roar of waves crashing at last drowned out the kid’s bleating. The animal was an offering.
Inside the temple, the polished slab of rock showing embedded seashells reflected sunlight penetrating the roof opening. The brightness was blinding, and Alketa stumbled on his way to the altar. Recovering, he laid the animal out. Using a sharp knife, he slit its throat in one swift motion. There was no point in making it suffer. Once dead, the man moved it to its back and cleanly sliced the carcass from one end to the other.
As its blood drained, he gathered kindling and started a fire using the sticks and cord he carried in his satchel. The indentation beside the altar had been charred black over the years; ritual sacrifices were performed at regular intervals, although the present one was different. Instead of accompanying a litany of gratitude, it was meant as an incentive for their goddess to grant assistance.
The odor of charred flesh assaulted his senses as fire consumed the animal; the goal was for nothing but dust to remain. Rain would wash away the blood and ashes. As smoke tendrils climbed towards the opening above, an ephemeral shape appeared amidst them—the face of a woman. Alketa faced the apparition and bowed.
“Welcome, my son. Your appearance and your sacrifice please me.” Anul’s words reverberated inside the human’s head, leaving him unsure he had heard them or if they were simply in his mind.
“Thank you, mother.” Alketa’s voice wavered; the apparition left him unsettled.
“Do not fear, my child. I am aware of your pain. I have heard your prayers, but the death of your mate was preordained. There was nothing anyone could do. She did, however, leave you a son, an heir, you must treasure. He will one day take your place as Alpha of your people.”
“It is the first letter of the Greeks. And it signifies the person who bears the title is above the others while still being part of the community. I’ve also heard your people’s cries for assistance.”
“My people are scared. The earth shakes beneath with more force than ever before. The water boils in more places than in the past. And we’ve lost count of the number of spots spewing poisonous gas. All of Atlantis fears the end of times is near.”
“It is not.” The goddess’ three-word reply was a balm for Alketa’s roiling emotions. “However, a cataclysmic event approaches that threatens Atlantis and everything alive on it.”
“How can I help the wolf people, Anul? I implore you.” The revelation of a possible cataclysm instilled fear in Alketa. “Help me save them, please.”
“I shall. But I’m unable to on my own.” As the smoke diminished, Anul’s ghostly appearance became dimmer. “Return with your clan when the moon is full again. The Sea God has agreed to assist me then.”
Alketa was unable to ask for an explanation of the cryptic message; the image of the Moon Goddess dissipated before he could. He at last stood, confused but hopeful salvation was within reach.
Night’s darkness enveloped Alketa when he left the shrine. His soul, however, felt light. Anul’s promise of help buoyed his spirit as he untied his small vessel and pushed it into the water. The full moon and a sky bursting with stars illuminated the froth of waves crashing against the rocks. He felt no fear when he steered through the narrow channel. Rowing back home, lanterns on night-fishing skiffs pointed the way.
Basilios waited for him on shore and helped beach the boat. “How did it go? Did you speak to Anul? Will she help us?”
The worried tone struck at Alketa’s heart. Lost in his misery, maybe he had underestimated the fear enveloping his people. “I did, and she will.” He placed a hand on Basilio’s shoulder and slid it downward until it grasped his friend’s biceps. “Anul has promised salvation with the help of the Sea God.”
“Thank you for making the trip, my friend.” The shorter Basilios wrapped his arms around the clan’s leader and rested his head against the man’s chest. “You’ve saved us.”
“Not yet, but I trust our patron will see us through this crisis.” Alketa rubbed his friend’s back, enjoying the feel of the hairy chest against his own hairless body. It was a feeling he remembered well. Times spent together before he found his mate were a fond memory.
Two years older than Alketa, Basilios experienced puberty and the accompanying first shift at the same time his friend did. The childish explorations they engaged in while growing up became more then. Within a fortnight of their initial change, they met in the same cove they were now at and discovered the joys of sex. Their intimacy stopped when Alketa found his mate, but their closeness did not diminish. Staring into Basilios’ eyes while comforting him, Alketa felt the old fire reignite.
His skin felt warmer and so did his companion’s. When he felt a hard, flesh cylinder stab his groin, he knew they were both of the same mind. Lowering his head while Basilios raised his, their lips met. Passion enveloped them. Ripping off the little they wore, they dropped to the sand. Moans mingled with the sounds of the sea as Alketa extinguished the lantern Basilios had placed on the ground.
Lifting the lid and dipping his fingers inside, he used the oil to lubricate them. It had been years since Alketa had been inside his friend, but it felt as if no time had passed. Tight warmness enveloped him, while his lips silenced Basilios gasp. Their copulation was frantic; Alketa had been celibate since his mate died. Sooner than he wanted, he felt the end approach.
Both began to shift, Alketa grew inside Basilios, and within moments their explosion was simultaneous. The howling of two wolves filled the night. Morning found them wrapped around each other on the same spot. They had fallen asleep after the third time.
The encounter with Basilios further lightened Alketa’s mood. If not entirely his old self, he came close. Jokes, encouragement, and promises of salvation peppered his interactions with others. Later that day, he called a meeting of all the wolf people. It was time to deal with the impending danger.
My deepest thanks to all who helped me to make this a readable work. And to you, the readers, my gratitude for spending time with me. Your reactions, coomments and reviews are welcome and appreciated.
2020- Spring - Full Moon Entry
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