Sonkezi Begs Minonba

A Winter Solstice Tale

And in the first heart of the new year, Sonkezi sent out all of the peoples of the Ni'kashiga. "You have shed the old year," he said, "and now you would to gather the supplies for the new." And he waved a yellow hand and scattered them into the landscape.   And first they tugged on Nan'htan Sha'ge, the earlobe, and they listened for where the seeds had sprouted. And then they crossed Opxan Sha'ge, the fading green, where the Elk Peoples had begun to run from winter. And then they gathered Su' Sha'ge, all of the seeds and fruits of the fertile North, before the frost would claim them.   And Sonkezi watched as they tugged their ears, knowing they were growing in wisdom. And Sonkezi smiled as they moved into the distance, knowing they were growing in number. But then, though he could hear the rustle of their movements through the forest, he could not see his children anymore.   And for all his warm weather wandering, Sonkezi was a loving father. He worried for the peoples of the Ni'kashiga, when he could not hear them anymore. He was too cold to travel, so he paced the sky in worry, his circles growing ever smaller.   Finally he could not be still any longer. Sonkezi crossed the frozen river of the heavens, and came to the doorway of Minonba. He stepped across the threshold, tracking glimmering water onto the floor.   Minonba did not like to be bothered, but this mess made her hurry to greet the visitor. But she stood and saw Sonkezi, whose light reflected from the puddles at his feet. Furious, she raised her scissors, chasing him from her step.   Sonkezi ran back into the river, but stopped. He cared too much for his children to leave them in the cold. He knew only Minonba could move in the In'shtanha' Sha'ge, to call their names.   So Sonkezi crossed back to the threshold of Minonba. Each time she rushed him, pulling her dark robes behind her faster and faster. On the last folding sa'ke, he grabbed her and held her close, desperate.   Minonba's scissors pierced his shoulder; in her grief she still could not forgive him. Sonkezi spilled light upon the floor, and his willingness to shed blood made her pause. She looked to his face and saw that he wept, the tears illuminating her house.   "I am fearful for my children," he cried into her dark hair, the salt turning it bright. "They have scattered under my direction, and I cannot find them," and his running blood made her hands shine. "I beg you to help me call them home."   And Minonba saw that he was earnest, and her cold heart grew to mirror his warmth. "I will seek them and give them your message," she said, "but you must go." She cared for his wound and sent him home.   Minonba then dressed and stepped out from her home, still shining with his light. His blood still bright to her hands, she combed her fingers through the forest. When she found a Ni'kashiga people, she lifted them up to speak with them and give his message.   "Your father bids you return to his house. He paces for you and his circles grow wider. Return to his doorstep and bring him what you have found."   The peoples knew that if Minonba brought the words, the message must be true. Minonba saw the trusting eyes of these children and she took pity on them. With each, she touched their tongues with her glowing fingers, the blood of Sonkezi filling them with light.   "The path will be dark, but you will understand the darkness. You may take a spark of our story with you, and it will keep you warm. When you return to your father, you must kiss his cheek and return the piece to him."   And the children of Sonkezi moved against the forest, feeling their way out. They descended back to the river, and to the places where they lived with Sonkezi. As they gathered in number, the heat they carried would warm the land.

Summary

This tale of the winter solstice - of the narrowing of days culminating in the longest night - provides valuable insight into the timeline of the Dual Faces of Coyotl and Corvus.   As the primary legendary Long Face Folk represented in Ni'kashiga story tradition, the Dual Faces are known for being complimentary opposites whose moments of struggle and reconciliation bring balance to the world.   In this tale, we hear hints of Coyotl's polyamorous nature, and the subsequent rift caused by his immature explorations that eventually separated him from Corvus. The Ni'kashiga named here are the seven illegitimate children born from those unions, but it is in this tale that Corvus begins to show pity, beginning the eventual process of adopting them and their descendants into her own family. Coyotl's willingness to brave winter and to sacrifice his own light in love of others begins to convince Corvus that love, like water, may not be merely a singular nourishing flow, but part of a larger and interconnected system.

Historical Basis

Within the larger timeline

In this tale, it is notable that Corvus is referred to, not as Hpaze Hkaxe or as Hkaxehtanka, but as Minonba, the moon. This solidifies the timeline as occurring prior to the events of Corvus Carves The River, as it references the mottled white of her feathers as they shift with the monthly cycle and her own menstrual orders.   Likewise, Coyotl is Sonkezi, or "Yellow Dog," the ritualistic name denoting him as the Sun, rather than as [toolltip: "Coyote," the name used prior to his exile from the Citadel]Sonminhkase[/tooltip] or Sonminhkasihtanka, which identifies the events as prior to the exile from Ochi Hoh, and where Coyotl is still seen as a major spiritual figure rather than an exiled legend.  

Other References of Note

Other areas of interest in this story describe the "frozen River of the Heavens." Referencing the Milky Way - a band of light frozen in the night sky that divides the land into two - the river is also trued to its earthly mirror, the Kkaxe River, the middle river which divides the continent of the Inbound Lands, and at whose threshold Corvus is said to dwell within a simultaneous place that exists as both celestial and physical.

Variations & Mutation

In subsequent tales, the events that happen after vary.   Among the Followers of Coyotl, the seven children return to Sonkezi, and kiss his forehead. The tales spring back into his mind, and are later spread as seeds when he begins to wander the earth again. Forgotten then by Coyotl who has left them behind, the seeds of tales grow wild, but are come upon by the people as they forage, and are harvested, eaten, and digested by the peoples, who begin to regain memory of the original stories.   Particularly among Followers of Corvus, the seven children kiss Sonkezi, but they kiss his hands. The tales ultimately remain in their tongues. However, each of the seven only hold a piece of the story, and do not know its fullness unless they are all gathered together to tell it. Once they separate again, however, they eventually forget all but the piece they hold.   In other, darker tellings, the seven children send their children to kiss their Grandfather, but do not kiss him themselves. Their children retain his heat, but none of his knowledge. The seven Elders retain the knowledge, but the heat grows hard inside of them, where it eventually burns a hole. From this hole, the evils of lesser Long Face Folk are able to claw out into the earthly world. They sit inside the distended stomachs of the Elders as false eggs, and make them sick, and are eventually coughed up by the Elders to escape into the world.

Cultural Reception

In the tale, Corvus is described as placing her blooded fingers upon the tongues of the Ni'kashiga she greets. In the act of doing so, she transmits not only light left behind from Sonkezi, but a "fragment of story" that will serve to warmth them from the inside.   Other tales of storytelling teach that while truthful tales may be told at any point in the year, it is only during winter that it is the appropriate time to tell fictional tales. Though it is important to note that for the Ni'kashiga, the line between "truth" (academic fact present in nonfiction) and "Truth" (universal understanding present within certain kinds of fiction) is considered a fluid, liminal state of being, and that this duality makes space for fictional expressions of "truthful" tellings (such as myth or story), the tradition of winter tales circles specifically around "Fiction," or stories that are known to be untrue. These tales explore alternate worlds, future speculations, or supernatural expressions that have no correlation to the real world.   As such, during the month of In'shtanha', which contains the date of the winter solstice, it is common practice to exchange books of Fiction. Given as gifts, they are often accompanied by jars of red fruit jellies and/or with candles, symbolically representing the first gift of Corvus.   After the solstice, it is also common to gather with loved ones and hold storytelling sessions in the comforts of ones shelter. Though these sessions can and do recount the tales of the past, they are most commonly used to collectively imagine the potential tangents of the future, to envision the desired outcomes and "bring light" to those paths. Circle Tales - stories built line by line through a chain of participants - are popular collaborations, and this is an auspicious time to begin outlining and cowriting stories with others.   Among lovers, the closeness of winter is often an opportunity to begin cowriting their own futures, and often provides a safe - that is, a "speculative" space - to feel out new modes of a relationship. As the tales being told during this time are "known" to be "untrue," lovers may propose an idea without judgment or long-term repercussions, thus providing a socially-protected space to approach difficult or emotional concepts and find avenues of accord.  

Surrounded by candles, Lida smiled, appreciating how much the small lights seemed like countless stars. She was cozy in the blankets of the nest she shared with Ethon, their bellies full from a lazy dinner and their eyes full from the pages they read.   Lida paused, considering the moment, and then clasped her book to her chest to sigh wistfully at the window. Ethon lifted his eyes, looking to her inquisitively.   She smiled, and shook her head a little. "Oh, I was just thinking," she explained, shrugging a little to feign embarrassment.   "Oh?" Ethon set his book down, tilting this head to her, the rightward angle a promising sign of his interest. "About what?"   Another shrug, but a smile: "This nest is a perfect size for just two of us now, but it is too large when you are away on journey."   Ethon smiled mischievously, waving his fingers in a teasing gesture. "Perhaps you should get a roommate? Someone nice, and I could visit you both when I am home!" He nipped at her neckline, his book forgotten.   Lida laughed and shook her head, pushing away his affections. "I can barely live with you! How could I get used to someone new, especially when they could only be a scratched mirror to what dim light you bring?"   "Fine, fine! Be alone then!" Ethon laughed and withdrew, then paused, looking down to trace the filigree of bookcloth. "Perhaps....perhaps it is still the perfect size if I were to choose a post closer to home. What would you think of that?"   Lida grinned, her own look teasing this time. "Maybe it's too small then! Having to walk around you all the time? Your long legs, your loud voice! All of it would fill this place so! I would circle around you too much, trying to make space for myself."   Ethon paused, and looked to her, tongue tasting at the edges of words. He sat up, perched at the edge of the nest. "Then...Or...."   "Or?"   "What if I left a part of me that didn't take up so much space? That..." Ethon paused, not meeting her eyes, perhaps afraid to see her answer. "That only took space with you, and then space right here, before it left to become its own?"   "An...An egg?" Lida blinked; she had, admittedly, expected to have to bring it up eventually, but had not expected him to offer such a pairing outright. "I...I think I could put up with that. She took his head in her hands, lifting it so that she could give a smile to him.   "Though, I suppose...." His returning smile wavered tentatively, unsure at her words. Lida tossed her head, as if shaking off an idea. "...I wouldn't want it to clash with my decor! It depends on what color you think it might be."   Ethon's smile broadened, and he lunged, nipping at her neckline again, sending them both tumbling back into the nest and into laughter. "I suppose you'll have to wait and see, my love, you'll have to wait and see."



Cover image: Kkaxe River banner by M Kelley

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