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[Fiction] Ptesan-Wi - Long Winter


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Ptesan-Wi had never thought she’d spend another long, cold winter alone. But here she was, laboring to pull the hide back from the cavern entrance. The snowstorm that had raged through three days ago had dumped massive amounts of snow in front of the door, and the snow had melted and refroze everyday since. The result was a plane of ice with the weight and constancy of steel.


“Damn it,” she muttered, crouching down on her snow disk. It was too large to move right now – she was going to have to wait until it melted. This is the last time I leave without making arrangements for someone from the tribe to clear the snow every day.


“Ptesan-Wi! Lass, you looked perplexed.” Turning, Ptesan-Wi saw the half-goat form of Satyr bounding up the path toward her. His lean torso, much in evidence at the Pow-Wow this summer, was hidden beneath a thick, down coat, just as his horns were hidden by the thick woolen cap he wore. But there was nothing on his legs save his curly brown wool and the vivid blues and greens of his Tartan.


“Satyr? What are you doing here?” Ptesan-Wi waved, then remembered her manners and called, “Hau, brother of my mate.” She couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the joke; ever since the satyr-shaped nova had shown up burnt and shaken at their cave, Wakinyan had adopted him like an over-sized puppy. But no puppy was as cute as the tall man, nor as witty or as charming.


“Gae mornin’ to ye. Ah told Big Brother Ah’d kept an eye on ye,” he said, stopping in front of her, his face nearly obscured by the plumes of white breath billowing about him. His heart-melting smile had no effect on her, as normal, but his honest good cheer was infectious. “And it be lookin’ like a good idea, by the sight of ye predicament.”


“Just some ice,” Ptesan-Wi said lightly, despite her dark thoughts earlier. Quietly, she chided herself in the next instant; false pride aided no one. “Though I could use some help with it.”


“Aye, let me get ye a hammer. Get ye well back from that ice,” he said with a wink before teleporting away. Ptesan-Wi moved herself away on her hoverdisk and waited for several moments, wondering what he had meant. It didn’t make any sense until he reappeared. Or rather, he and his “hammer” reappeared.


For one second, he and the large rock he had teleported remained in the air; then gravity claimed both. Satyr scrambled with his inhuman agility to stay above the rock; before Ptesan-Wi’s horrified eyes, he tumbled off a side. He would have hit the unbroken ice, but the rock got there first, shattering a small area of ice and giving the goat-hoofed nova a slightly softer landing than he would have suffered otherwise.

“Satyr!” Ptesan-Wi yelled, floating her disk down toward him as fast as it would scoot. Setting down on the unshattered part of the ice, she reached out with her telekinesis again, but this time, she was reaching for Satyr. He floated to her and she quickly checked him over. “Stupid… stupid goat-male!” she cursed him, even as his eyes opened and he looked at her.


“Sorry to scare ye,” he said, tucking his hands behind his head and giving her a cocky grin, “but I was just funnin’ around.”


“Don’t,” Ptesan-Wi growled, “it wasn’t funny. I thought you’d been hurt!” She considered dropping him then and there, but settled on dropping him most of the way for the scare value. She got a good reaction from him, which pleased her to no end.


“Sorry, lass,” he said, subdued as she set him on his feet. “I guess me humor ain’t what I thought it was.”


He looked so disconsolate that Ptesan-Wi gave in a little. Bumping his arm with her elbow in a friendly nudge, she admitted, “It was kinda funny.” He gave her a weak smile, but that almost palatable black cloud continued to hang over him. “Satyr, what’s wrong? Something more is going on here.”


Sad brown eyes looked over the frozen Black Hills; the silence stretched, but Ptesan-Wi was patient. She had seen this in the tribesmen before; the need to talk about the pain, even if the desire to remain quiet was there. Pain needed to be released, and novas were no different. “Chloe and Kevin are havin’ their engagement party today,” he said. The worlds of hurt in his voice were clear, and Ptesan-Wi felt the last of her anger fade.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know you liked Chloe.”


“I loved – fook, love her,” he moaned, pressing a hand to his face. Ptesan-Wi let him be for the moment; she didn’t push him for more – not right now, at least. Finally, he said, “Can we just get ye inta ye house? I’m assuming that ye can use that rook to break up that ice.”


“I sure can,” Ptesan-Wi assured him, and reached for the rock with a relaxed smile. Inside, she was anything but relaxed. Satyr was a ball of misery next to her shoulder, watching as she used the telekinesis to break the ice into manageable chunks. Once she started to move the snow away from the door, he helped, balling up snow and teleporting it a short distance away.


Working together, they cleared the cave flap and hurried inside, both snow-covered and shivering. Ptesan-Wi lamented the loss of Wakinyan’s body warmth again as her shaking fingers fumbled for the wood. Satyr gently pushed her aside, joking, “Here, now – I got mittens and I’m wearin’ modern clothin’ designed ta keep out the cold. You’re in buckskins.” With a sigh, Ptesan-Wi tried to push him away, but he said, “Stop it. Ah’ve seen ye let Wakinyan do such things for ye – now, let me.”




“No buts. I’m freezing me hooves off, and ye can be setting up the rest of the firepit while I do this for us,” he insisted. “Conservation of energy.”


Reluctantly, Ptesan-Wi did has he asked, feeling like a horrible host. Still, it got the fire going, and soon she and Satyr were sitting across from it, each under their own buffalo hide. “Much better,” Satyr sighed, edging two grayish-brown hooves a couple of inches closer to the fire.


“Are you staying for dinner?” Ptesan-Wi asked, pretty sure he would. She was already pulling out food for a nova-sided meal when he nodded morosely. Now, how do I cheer up my guest?


But Satyr was inconsolable. He stayed for several days, and most of them were spent silently helping Ptesan-Wi with various chores around the cave. She wouldn’t say so out loud, but she was silently grateful for his presence. The winter was hard and cold, and having even a silent companion around helped take some of the loneliness away.


The only time she saw a marked change in him was when tribesmen visited from Ogdala. Then he would effortlessly slip on a mask of good-natured cheer. It was as if Satyr felt comfortable showing her his sadness, but no one else. She wondered why, and finally found the courage to ask him the day before the Wasicu holiday of Thanksgiving. “Ye already know, lass,” he said simply, shrugging lean shoulders carelessly. “No need ta hide it from ye.”


“You don’t have to hide it from anyone,” she said, tilting her head to the side.


“Lass,” he said, and she blinked when she realized he was speaking perfect, Scottish-accented Lakota. “These are ye people, and ye are their Goddess. Sometimes Ah’m called Kokopelli, which means they see me as a god, here, too. They need ye to be greater than they. They need ye to be their goddess. And Ah won’t cause you to lose that, not by any road. Kokopelli doesn’t get sad, lass; he just doesn’t.”


The next morning he was gone, saying that he needed to return to his coven. He left the cave a little colder for his absence.


He came back periodically, but as the months turned to years, she came to count on one particular visit from him; after the first snowfall, he showed up with a smile and ready to help her finish her preparations for the winter. He was so punctual that the tribesmen began to joke that when he liked to spend his summers in the south with the beauties stripping off their outfits, but when they stopped wearing scanty clothes, he came north so he could snuggle with beauties before the fire.


The problem with the joke, as far as Ptesan-Wi was concerned, was that he wasn’t. He wasn’t snuggling, or seducing or anything. He would flirt and suggest and dance around offers like a champion ballroom dancer, but he wouldn’t do anything anymore. The tribesmen assumed that he was doing his deeds quietly and circumspectly, but Ptesan-Wi had brushed his mind often enough to know that he wasn’t doing any such thing. Nor was he suffering from the lack of sexual activity, as she suspected; he simply wasn’t driven by it anymore.


In the third winter, she finally asked him. And Satyr merely said, “She was the one.” And Ptesan-Wi didn’t need to ask who, nor did she need to suggest that he move on. At least, she thought with a bitter taste in her mouth, he knows he isn’t getting her back. I don’t know when mihinga ki will return. Or if. She was really proud of her missing husband, for taking this hard road, but the winters were long and cold.

And on his visits, he always made time to see his four half-Lakota children. Satyr often brought them up the cave to spend time with him as he helped Ptesan-Wi, and the four grew up revered by their peers; not only was their father a god, but he took them up the sacred mountain, and they came back with stories of her magic and her wisdom.

And it was when the children were five, in the sixth summer since Wakinyan had left, that Ptesan-Wi finally felt a longing that she hadn’t felt before. And it wasn’t until she saw Satyr playing with his children that she understood; she was ready to have children. And Wakinyan was not here to give them to her. With a sob, she turned away from the children; yes, she had cried over his absence before, but for the first time, his absence was a cold, hard reality, and the pain was as fresh as the day he had disappeared. She didn’t even feel that she could have metaphysical children; her search for other Mesmerists had turned up nothing. She hurried into her cave, trying to get away. Satyr’s words burned in her mind; she would only show strength to her people, and that included the children. Sobbing, she sprawled face-down on her bedding, holding her face in her hands.

Before long, she heard the scrape of hooves in the cave entrance. No words were exchanged; he simply sat down next to her and began to stroke her hair. It was the first time he’d initiated intentional contact with her in all those years, and the tender touch made her tears flow harder. But when she was done, she felt better than she had in years, almost giddy with the release of tears.

And they didn’t speak of their moment then or later; it was what it was, and they let it go at that.

In the seventh winter, Satyr came with the first snows as usual, but they were late this year. It was almost Samhain, the Fall Equinox, before Ptesan-Wi saw him. By then, she was comfortable with slipping and running down the snowy slope and throwing her arms around him with a joyous laugh.

Joining her in her happiness, he picked her up and spun her in a circle before setting her down. “When are ye gonnae grow us?” he asked, his arms still around her as he grinned down at her petite frame.

“I am grown!” she laughed, balling up a fist and hitting him gently on the shoulder. “I’m twenty-four!”

“Aye, you’re a woman grown,” he chuckled, smiling down at her. “An’ a very bonnie lass are ye, too.” The moment locked and held, and Ptesan-Wi found herself noticing just how brown and deep his eyes were.

The pulled away together, shuffling awkwardly away in the snow, making half-hearted attempts to mumble the moment away. That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. A door had been opened, and they could not close it.

Satyr left early that year. His coven was having difficulties; internal strife with the members had caused tensions, he said. They needed their leader.

The cave was twice as lonely as she watched him blink away.

He was back for the Pow Wow in July and she was happy to see him. Mindful of what had happened last time, she didn’t offer a hug; they settled gladly for a hand-clasp. But his hands were so strong and sure, and she felt parts of her body tug eagerly toward him. Warm feathers and fur had been gone for so very, very long. And she saw the same tug in his eyes.

They avoided contact from then on. He started to stay in the village at night, using a guest teepee. And she missed having him in the cave, missed the company that he provided. She didn’t want to think about the coming winter, with no charming guest to chase away the silence at night. And so the last day of the Pow Wow, she found him, not fair from a bath house. “Satyr,” she started, “there you are.”

“Aye,” he said, waving a hand at the shower house. “Do ye remember?”

“Showering here?” Ptesan-Wi asked. “Uhh, at least once, though I usually use the pool in the cave.” A pool that had long been cold water only, with no one to heat it in a while and Ptesan-Wi realized with a shock that she was lamenting the loss of a luxury rather then her husband himself. Mihinga ki had been gone for so very long, long enough that she had become used to his absence. He being gone was just a part of her life now.

“Nay, lass,” Satyr smiled, though his tone was almost sad. “This is where we had our first conversation, remember?”

She remembered now. “Wakinyan was too afraid to come talk to you,” Ptesan-Wi smiled fondly, “so I came instead.”

“Really?” Satyr asked, grinning down at the shorter woman. “And then he goes and gets mad at me for flirting with ye.”

“I had just gotten my ability to change my appearance, so I think he was a little protective,” she added, tilting her head. Silence fell and Ptesan-Wi grabbed her chance. “When you come this winter, are you going to stay in the cave?”

“Ah… donnae know,” he admitted, looking down at his hooves, scuffing them in the dirt. Satyr took a deep breath and said, “That thing we had… it’s not good. Ye are waiting for Wakinyan to return and I’m…”

“Waiting for Chloe to unmarry Kevin and return to you?” Ptesan-Wi’s voice was firm but gentle. “It’s been… five years now?”

“Four and a half,” Satyr replied, and Ptesan-Wi could hear the desperate hope in his voice.

“Come stay in the cave this winter,” Ptesan-Wi said. “We’re adults; it’s fine. We’ve done it for years.”

Satyr looked at her for a long moment before nodding. She started to smile, but it was subdued when he said, “I’ll think about it, lass.”

She wandered through the rest of summer and into the short fall if he could do it; and when the first snow clouds gathered, she held her breath in anticipation. The first flakes falling brought a smile to her face, and she began to make a large meal. Even if he didn’t stay in the cave, he’d have dinner with her.

When he arrived, he had a bag with him, which he set inside the door. As they clasped hands, he said, “I’ll stay here, lass, unless we have problems.”

And the thoughts that she had been thinking for months now solidify. “Problems?” Ptesan-Wi asked. “I know that you’re waiting for Chloe, and I’m waiting for Wakinyan, but frankly, we’re waiting for nothing, Satyr. They’re gone or with others; they chose not to be with us. You like me, I know you do. And I care about you. Let’s… not push for anything. Let’s not fight things for the wrong reasons. This is the eighth winter without him. I can’t believe he’s coming back soon.”

“Are you sure?” Satyr asked, running his thumbs over the back her hands. “I mean… I’ve seen ye as a woman since last winter, when I noticed ye. I’d be lying if I said I hadna wandered. Hadna thought about this. Hadna wondered if… maybe, I wasnae just lamentin’ the loss of Chloe.”

“I hear a but,” Ptesan-Wi said, her hands shaking. He dropped them regretfully.

“Aye, you do,” he said, and there was pain in his eyes as he finished, “I canna do that to my brother.”

Ptesan-Wi cried for a while after he’d left, angry that he’d turned her down. She hadn’t really propositioned him! She had just wanted to open the possibility.

Satyr did stay in the cave that winter, but he maintained a distance from her. Ptesan-Wi accepted it the same way she accepted everything else in life: with a quiet resignation. She’d never asked to be a Mesmerist; never asked to be hunted by Utopia; and she certainly didn’t want Wakinyan to leave. But all those had happened, and she endured them.

Yule came, and Ptesan-Wi prepared for the semi-annual ritual. She prepared a large meal and cleaned the cave, making it ready for mihinga ki’s return. Satyr wasn’t there; his coven needed him on Yule. When everything was ready, she sat down to wait out the longest night. By morning, she would know if this day was the rebirth of her life, or just another cold night in her long winter.

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