“Kireama, wake up.”
The mountain quaked around us as Isapoinhkyaki, the mother of my father, called out to it, her aged face creasing into a smile repeated as many times as there were wrinkles of her skin. She stood tall despite the years that threatened to bow her back, despite the trembling of her hands as they wrapped around my shoulders.
I was hardly more than a toddler, then, and had begged my “Aana” to take me up the mountain to the “magical place”. She had told me countless stories of adventures as I grew up, of adventures, people, creatures, places, and most importantly, Her. Kireama, the sleeping woman of the mountains who woke when we gave the call.
“Kireama, it has been so long!” she cried out again. “I have brought Tulok, son of my son, here to greet you.”
I gulped in a hasty breath. Was I truly ready for this? I had spent my entire life staring up at the slumbering mountainous form of Kireama, imagining where the grooves and valleys shaped Her closed eyes, nose, and lips. I had reached up to trace the form of the forests and trees that fell across Her shoulders in Her green mass of hair. And I had imagined the sound of Her voice, gravelly and rolling like thunder trapped in earth.
Silence from the mountain as we stood there and waited, our breath lingering with warm puffs in the chilled air.
“Aana, it is cold,” I whispered, none too quietly, as I turned back to gaze up at her. We had left our heavy furs below, for as Aana had said, it wouldn’t do to greet the Mother of the World wrapped up as if we feared Her. Besides, the only snow was at the very tip-top of Her shoulder; far from us.
“Patience, Tulok.” The only betrayal of nerves was the brief furrow in Aana’s brow. Her voice remained serene, and she called forth again. “Kireama! Awake and greet us! O’ sleeping one! O’ Mother of the World! The valley awaits and your people await!”
The mountain quaked once more. A puff of dust shot into the air from further up the slope, and I gasped, staggering back against Aana’s legs. Her grip on my shoulders tightened, and we watched as stone ground against stone and snow shifted and fell. A low rumbling wind whooshed through the valley, disappearing into the sudden opening maw of a cave- no, a mouth, stone lips that parted in a yawn.
She moved slowly, Her grey eyes and grey eyelids fluttering in deliberate blinks as if to chase the remnants of sleep from Her eyes in the form of collected gravel and small rocks. I could do nothing but stare as She rose up and up and up and UP until She towered over us as a mountain upon a mountain, Her legs still folded to the side and a valley left behind where She had lain.
“Isapoinhkyaki,” She whispered, and I gasped, for her voice was nothing at all like I had imagined, settling in our ears and minds like the rush of wind and water, the cry of many voices all at once, and the rustle of leaves settling on the ground. “To hear your call again brings much joy.”
“As it does for me to call you, Kireama.”
My legs threatened to give out, but Aana’s grip once again saved me from falling to my knees in front of this majestic stone woman. Her grey eyes moved lower, and She peered down at me, intrigued bemusement in Her manner. Stone roared as She leaned towards us. I fought the urge to shrink away.
“Welcome to my waking, Tulok,” Kireama spoke gently, even more so than She had whispered to Aana. “I look forward to hearing your call someday.”
I squeaked. There wasn’t much else I could do.
She laughed, a great rolling sound like the toll of a bell that could shake the very mountain on which we stood. And shake it did. Surely all those in the village by now would know Kireama was awake and file out of their houses to gaze up at Her and point. It had been many years since the last time She had awoken; long before I was born. As our family were the only ones who could wake Her, and Aana had been the only one who did it regularly, it depended all on her whims. And for what exactly she would ask.
“What do you wish from me this day?” Kireama asked when Her laughter had faded away and She peered down towards us once more. “The flowers thrive, I see. I am glad.”
I turned and looked back down to the valley at the great rainbow fields. Aana had told me long before that it was the last gift Kireama had granted us, but I hadn’t exactly believed it- not fully until now.
“I wished for only a simple boon this time,” Aana said, her voice raising. “The winter will be harsher than ever before! It is predicted the grounds will be too cold for anything to grow for some time. We would wish warmer soil to tide us through the coming days of cold.”
“And what is the price you will pay for this?”
Aana turned and pointed over east, at some valleys that way and mountains I had never put thought to before. “Over there are villages that have settled on a dormant fire mountain. They raid and pillage those around them. You may take them to feed the warmth.”
Kireama laughed again, for so loud and long, that surely those villages even so far away would hear the rumble and think it was something- a distant storm perhaps, or an even more distant fire mountain belching fury into the air.
“This boon is granted, Isapoinhkyaki. You will have warmth for many coming winters. And so I sleep again.”
With that, Kireama lowered Herself back into the ground and curled up, becoming still and silent but for a few rumbles more.
And then nothing.