Closing her eyes, she gathered all her strength to move some part of her body. She felt her mouth open to scream, and then she flung open her eyes. Instead of the man or the dim city road, she saw earth-toned wall-hangings and a warm light. She moved her head and saw the pyramid guide looking at her with his ugly grin.
“What?” gasped Rhuna, and lifted herself into an upright seated position. “How did I get back here? Where did you go? Why did you leave me alone?” she shouted at him.
The ugly man snickered. “You go many places, eh?”
“Lozira! Oh! I have to find her!” she said springing to her feet. She looked at the guide once more, but when he continued laughing, she spun around and raced up the stairs, making sure she held the guide rope firmly. As she came to level ground, she became anxious about the metal door and what she might find behind it. When she felt its cool metal, she gave it a forceful push as before, and it swung open with barely a sound.
Bright hot light hit her eyes and she stood stunned a while, raising her hands across her face. She was relieved to see daylight, but her mind was still spinning as she tried to orient herself in time and place. Squinting against the sunlight, she moved quickly in the direction of the courtyard which was once again filled with people. She looked in the direction of the shaded seating area and saw a young woman with a coloured scarf on her head.
“Lozira!!” she screamed and ran towards her. Lozira jumped to her feet.
“Oh, Lozira! What happened to you? What did they do to you?” she cried as she lunged towards her daughter with open arms and then pressed her tightly against her body.
“Rhuna!” she heard Lozira’s voice squeal, and it reminded her of the doomed pig. She grabbed Lozira’s shoulders and looked into her face. Lozira’s eyes were filled with horror and bewilderment.
“Oh, my child! What did they do? What did they do to both of us!” she cried out, and then felt hot tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Nothing, Rhuna! Nothing happened! I’ve been eating my meal!” protested Lozira indignantly, trying to squirm out of her mother’s tight grip.
“What?” shouted Rhuna as she looked down at the food, the bag of fruit and pouch of nuts. “What happened?” she demanded to know, taking Lozira’s arms and giving her a quick shake.
“Nothing!” Lozira yelled back in her face. I haven’t even finished my meal yet!” Tears had begun to fill Lozira’s eyes as well, and she jerked her arms free.
Rhuna’s arms dropped to her sides. She stood staring at her daughter for a long time until Lozira asked her what had happened.
“What happened? What happened?” repeated Rhuna feebly. “I don’t know what happened. It was night, I couldn’t find you… and then I saw… Oh!” she held her hands over her face.
“Was it a vision? Did you have a bad vision inside the pyramid?” asked Lozira with fear in her voice.
Rhuna thought for a moment. “Yes, that’s what it must have been… some kind of vision. Oh! Nothing happened to you!” she said with extreme relief, and clasped her hands around her daughter’s face.
“You scared me,” said Lozira at last.
“I was scared, too,” said Rhuna breathing a deep sigh of relief. Then her body tensed.
“That guide!” said Rhuna angrily as she looked around. She quickly recognized him by his walk, coming round the corner from the wall panel with the secret door.
“What did you do to me?!” she shouted across the courtyard at him, but before the last words had left her mouth, the man fell forwards as if pushed by a powerful burst of wind. He lay on his back with jerking limbs, making a gurgling sound as if he were being strangled. Rhuna stood motionlessly as she watched people look and rush towards the ailing old man. Several people kneeled around him and a young man who was standing over them looked around at the gathering crowd. “Is there a Healer here? Quickly, this man is in agony!” he shouted.
“It is perfect!” he said triumphantly, and kneeled down next to the water. “Be seated near me, Rhuna, and observe.”
Rhuna sat down on the surrounding rocks and wondered what he would do.
He removed a small cloth pouch from within his robe, pulled open the draw strings and gently removed a glimmering container about the size of his thumb. Rhuna watched intently as he delicately remove its lid.
He stretched his hand with the small container over the pool of water, closed his eyes as if in deep concentration, then spoke several foreign words that Rhuna didn’t understand while sprinkling some of the powdery contents of the container over the water. The process lasted only a moment, but Rhuna sat mesmerized as she watched. When he opened his eyes again, he immediately looked down at the water and fixed his sight on it.
Rhuna gently moved forward to see what Tozar was looking at in the small rock pool. At first she thought she saw only their own reflections, but then she realized there were three faces, and two of them were Sunshine on the Mountain and Rumble in the Earth.
“What is this, Tozar?” Rhuna whispered loudly. “Why are those two Masters in the water’s reflection?”
“They discuss the making of the statues here on this island,” he said slowly. “Watch and listen carefully,” he said softly.
Rhuna moved closer to Tozar so that she could see the images clearly, and then she recognized the cooking area where she had sat with the two Masters. She watched the three men sitting on the wooden seats talking to each other. Sunshine of the Mountain waved his arms and hands around boisterously, while Rumble in the Earth looked angrier than usual.
“We have received such communication directly from Atlán, and yet you continue!” grumbled Rumble in the Earth as he spoke to the third man who Rhuna had seen making the statues. She was surprised that she could hear them speaking through the small body of water.
“They are far away!” she heard the third man reply, then watched as he dismissed the discussion with a wave of his long arm.
Tozar sat back on his heels and sighed. Rhuna watched as the image suddenly vanished, and the still water returned to its normal colours and reflections.
“They understand what they do,” he muttered as he slowly shook his head. “I had hoped…” Tozar ended his thought and turned his attention to Rhuna.
“However, you are present, Rhuna, and I intended you to see by which means you may access information. Behold, the Gazing of the Waters,” he said as he swept his hand over the small rock pool. “A small amount of water shall suffice. Should your words be correctly chosen and your skills led by wisdom and discernment, the Gazing of the Waters shall reveal all knowledge to you.”
“You mean me?” asked Rhuna astounded. Tozar nodded with a smile.
“I thought only the Masters could do those things that other people can’t do,” Rhuna said feeling puzzled.
“This is true,” replied Tozar, “however, I believe you, also, possess the ability.” He looked at Rhuna intently.
“But… but.. how could I? I’m just a nothing, everyone always says so. I don’t even belong here with my own people and relatives. They all think I’m strange or stupid!” she said despairingly.
Excerpts from "Rhuna, The Star Child"
Excerpts from Rhuna: Crossroads
Excerpts from Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom
(from Part Three)
A rustle of fabric alerted Rhuna of a presence behind her, and she turned to look at the open doorway where an attendant ushered in the prominent guest.
Rhuna watched in awe as a tall woman with intensely dark skin strode elegantly towards them, her bare arms boasting gold bracelets and other glittering jewels. She remembered Shandi’s words, black woman, and let her gaze quickly take in the impressive stature and colourful textiles.
“I greet you,” she said, startling Rhuna with her deep and resonating voice. “I am Uxbana of Zambalu, The Queen of the Land of Ubanti and of the Ubanti People,” she said proudly.
Rhuna stepped forward to greet her in the traditional Atlan way, and a black hand with long, slender fingers reached to firmly grasp Rhuna’s hand. The tall woman’s arm jewellery jingled briefly, and Rhuna sensed both the woman’s outer and inner strength of character.
“You? You are the one they call The Star Child?” Uxbana said with arched eyebrows. “You are so…small.”
“The people of the Land of Ubanti are among the tallest I have encountered,” stated The Reigning One in his usual monotone, and then quickly motioned for Uxbana to be seated opposite Rhuna in a richly decorated chair. Rhuna remembered what she was told about chairs at her arrival in Safu, and still found it amusing that The Reigning One’s forefathers liked to sit higher off the ground than others in order to emphasize their status and superiority over others sitting on the floor.
“Physical attributes are superficial,” Uxbana said as she slowly lowered herself onto one of The Reigning One’s chairs, and Rhuna noticed that she still towered over her even in a seated position.
The Reigning One lifted a finger, and two attendants appeared at once to offer a large platter of food and a choice of beverages. Rhuna watched as Uxbana chose a sample of each food group, and then requested a large drinking vessel of the popular brewed and fermented barley beverage.
“My emissaries have reported to me about the grand stone buildings in this land,” Uxbana said with a mouthful of sweet honey cake. “It is always astute, is it not, to cultivate good relations with one’s neighbours, especially when there is much to be learned and gained, such as the Knowledge of Safu that is becoming famous in the entire world,” she said, and then took several large gulps of her beverage.
“However, our attempts to learn more about Safu have been strangely undermined in various ways,” she added as she took another mouthful of food.
Rhuna felt her skin prickle as she realized that Uxbana was referring to the acts of the Dark Ones.
“Several of my emissaries fell violently ill before reaching Safu, and several others, travelling together on a barge down the Great River, were attacked by both crocodiles and hippopotamuses,” Uxbana continued.
“How extraordinary,” The Reigning One interjected in a slightly elevated pitch, telling Rhuna that the rigid, disciplined man was in fact very surprised.
“Perhaps the lack of rain in recent lunar cycles has made the river animals agitated,” Uxbana suggested, but Rhuna saw from the hint of a frown on The Reigning One’s brow that he dismissed this idea.
“My emissaries have reported to me about curses,” Uxbana continued in a loud and firm tone, looking directly at Rhuna. “But let us not argue about the verity of curses,” Uxbana added with a quick dismissive wave of her hand.
“I have come to acquire the knowledge and ability to make our land of Ubanti like Safu, namely to build pyramids, stone roads, stone block houses, irrigation walls and metal tools,” she stated.
“These things were made with the power only Atlans possess,” explained Rhuna, and the black woman’s eyebrows arched questioningly.
“Transforming sand into stone blocks, or water in the case of the First Atlans in Safu, are exclusively the works of very skilled Atlan Masters,” Rhuna explained.
“My emissaries have reported to me of your grand deeds on behalf of the people of Benshu,” Uxbana said. “You made a city for the common people, all by yourself…”
“I transformed sand and dirt into stone building blocks so that the people could make better homes for themselves,” Rhuna confirmed.
“What else can you do?” she asked sharply, her obsidian eyes gleaming.
“I can transform metals for tools, plating on doors or walls, make glass from sand, soften stone so it can be shaped or cut…and I can also break down big rocks, or cause cracks in walls,” Rhuna said, remembering the unintentional damage she caused during her first lunar cycle in Safu.
“Why should only Atlans have this power?” shot Uxbana with an angry frown and flaring nostrils. “You are not even a pure Atlan!” she spat, as her gleaming black eyes bore into Rhuna. “I have heard about your great feats on behalf of the Benshi people, but you are not how I imagined you,” she challenged.