A caravan of twelve Nomads stopped in the deep snow on a small rise above the bend of a river. Here they buried one of their own, an aged and wizened woman. They dug as deep as the snow and their crude shovels would allow. They laid her atop tanned buffalo hides and covered her with woven blankets.
Nakoma, her granddaughter placed a turquoise stone that had been given to her at birth over the womanís heart. The color of the stone looked as if it had been chipped from a summer sky. It was beautiful. It was precious like the grandmother she was to leave in the ground.
The stone had been a gift from her grandmother and when asked why she gave it back, she answered it was because she loved her and to give her light in the darkness.
They covered her body with snow and earth, then, as one, having done all they could, the caravan left and headed south to warmer weather and more plentiful food.
As they trekked over the frozen land, it became nightfall. High into the mountains they found a cave and made camp. Here, in the sparse heat and light of burning kindling, Nakoma asked her father of the spirit of her grandmother.
He took her to the mouth of the cave to watch the night sky and listen to the north wind as it pulled daylight behind the distant hills. He told her he did not know. That death was a terrible enemy and they were helpless to defeat it. He then left his daughter that he might attend the weak fire behind him. He left to allow her to think and accept his words.
Nakoma continued to watch the night sky. Soon, pin-points of light appeared and a moon rose, pale and full. Her grandmother had said the lights in the night sky were the campfires of her ancestors left to wander forever in darkness; and she believed her.
The wind whistled in hollow whispers in the valley below her feet. A blue vapor rose as a river between the mountains. It was still and frightening in its reach and power; and yet, like the turquoise stone she had placed over her grandmotherís heart, it was beautiful.
Over the mountains, to the east, a single night-sky fire seemed to shine brighter than the others. Its distance was too great to bring warmth; but somehow she felt its light could defeat the darkness that held her family captive.
The wind shifted and carried with it the sounds of the night, hooting owls, crying wolves, whispering trees. The sounds waxed around her, soothing her in a lyrical lullaby, comforting sounds laced with the tender voice of her grandmother. Like a nighthawk in pursuit of its prey, the song chased fear into the shadows.
The night-skyís campfire grew bolder, and with it, its mystery. It filled Nakoma with a bold comfort; and she raised her hands in joy as if to hold its light in her hand. And, as her hands were raised, an ache binding her heart broke and its freedom caused her tears.
Moments later, a new day broke over the cold mountains and beneath the mysterious night-fire. In this new morning, she saw all light overcoming all darkness, even death. The light burned into her heart, branding it with certainty. Filled with an unspeakable joy, she dropped to her knees in praise and awe.
A song of thanksgiving burst from her lips, its sound awakening her family still sleeping in the darkened cave. They did not understand her words, only the melody as it spoke of unseen promises like the scent of spring carried in winterís wind. They listened in wonder to her song of the night fire and longed to know more.
Anno Domini began; a journey of faith and hope born upon the sighting of a fire in the eastern sky and an ensuing truth that became written upon all menís hearts everywhere. A journey from darkness, to light - from the grip of deathís cold oblivion to finally be held in the loving, eternal embrace of the one who made the fires in the night sky.
Centuries would pass before a whole understanding of that mysterious night came to Nakomaís people. And, as a gentle spring rain falls upon all without affinity, it blessed them without cause. And for this grace, they gave thanks in return, offering one to the other gifts without explanation, as had been done for them.
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