Turtle Pearls

I found a little short story last night, three ripped out pages stuck at the end of the top shelf of one of my bookcases.  I read it through, and I thought – I want to post this.  I’ll edit it as I type it in, but here is a story I wrote I’m-not-sure-how long ago.

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The council of elders came together on the silvery sand as they did every year.  They had traveled far to get there, but they always did.  The tribe gathered and hushed as the eldest raised her leathery and lined, yet proud, head to speak.

“I have been coming to this sacred place for over two hundred years,” she intoned, “We all know the struggle through the sand, the terror of the first run to the water’s edge, the truth in the ocean of life and death.”

Murmurs of acknowledgement rippled through the assembly.  Heads bobbed in agreement.

“We all gather to bring another circle into being, with the recognition of the firstlings who have survived their first year in the ocean as full members of the tribe now,” she inclined her head to the small sea turtles amongst the group.

“Guided by the ocean, the elders have prepared a special gift of truth for the tribe this circle.  Although we are far flung, we communicate through the waves, and we know the circle of truth.”

The seven elders pulled themselves into a half circle before the assembly, some more slowly and creaking than the others.  The stars shone overhead, and the moon was new, shedding no light on this secretive meeting.

“We, the elders,” stated the eldest male, “Have brought you gifts from the deepest wells of the ocean.”

With that, each elder laid a solitary pearl on the sand before them.  There were seven distinct, beautiful pearls.  Each was a different shade – silver, gold, white, blue, pink, yellow and black.  They shone with an internal, unearthly glow.  The rest of the sea turtles gasped, for never in their collective memories had one of the sea tribes received such a gift.

“These pearls were given to our tribe by the ocean herself,” the eldest said gravely, “She is concerned for us, thus these are no ordinary pearls.  These are pearls of wisdom, and of protection.  They are from every corner of the ocean.  We spent much time this circle seeking out these pearls to bring them back for this gathering.”

One of the youngest turtles shuffled forward to ask a question.

“Yes, firstling, what is your question?”

“Please, Grandmother, but where are we to keep these treasures safe?  For, since they are a gift from the ocean, we must take care for them.”

“Indeed, you are wise already.  We mean to place them in the cauldron which marks the entrance to this sacred place.  From there, they will protect and guide each of our hearts, as they rest at the heart of our birthing ground.  For where is there more truth than here, where the circle is complete?”

The eldest angled her head, listening for a moment to a voice only she could hear, then turned her weary ancient eyes to behold her children, grandchildren and kin.

“Now the ocean calls.  So I must call upon the eighth eldest to come forward.”

A scarred, grey-green, beautiful sea turtle pulled herself heavily forth from the parting crowd.

“Sister, cousin, kin – I am here,” her voice flowed strongly from within her shell.

“Sister, cousin, kin – I greet you.  Take my place as I took my brother’s place.  Help counsel and guide our tribe.  Protect them.  And keep the truth, the circle, complete,” she bobbed her head, greeting and anointing her replacement.

“I will, sister.  May the ocean keep you.  Watch over us from your place among the ancestors.”

“Thank you.  And may the ocean keep you in wisdom and courage.”

The eldest surveyed her kin once more, “And may the ocean keep you all in wisdom and courage, and truth.”

“Sister,” said the second eldest, “Before you go to the ocean, will you take the pearls to the cauldron?  Or at the least, lead us all?”

“I should be honoured, my brother.”

With that, the slow procession solemnly followed the eldest as she slipped into the water and gracefully glided through the darkness, leading them unerringly to the cauldron – a natural hollow in the reef surrounding the birthing grounds.

Each of the elders carefully placed their pearls in the cauldron, and the eldest placed hers on the top of the pile, gleaming silver.  The collection glowed brightly and the tribe felt peace within their hearts.

“Now, I must complete my circle.  Be safe, my kin, my tribe.  I shall watch over you with the ancestors.”

With that, the eldest began her pilgrimage back to the depths of the ocean.

All the assembly meditated for a moment on the completion of another circle in their tribe.  Like a chain stretching back through time, every circle created a new link in the protective line of ancestors watching over the tribe.  Every generation had a circle as well.  With the complexity of a fractal, the tribal lineage could be traced back for thousands of years, to when the Earth was much younger.

The pearls glowed, throbbing like the heartbeat of the tribe, as the sea turtles turned to begin another circle.  The wise firstling cast another long look at the cauldron.  She bowed low to the pearls, honouring the gift of the ocean.  She was turning to follow the tribe when a deep voice whispered to her, “Mark them well, my child, for you will one day have a great task.”

The tribe was protected and prospered over the years.  And every new generation was greeted by the elders, introduced to the cauldron and shown the pearls, which shone just as brightly as they did the first day they were placed there.

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