Chapter 13: The Gimonde of Inaccessible

On the northern shore of the island called Inaccessible, a pirate ship was putting down it's anchor.

A landing ship was being lowered into the water on the other side. In it were Edison Carter, Blank Wendy and Blank Alice, and Constance de la Muerta with her chaperone Beatriz.

Edison rowed the boat to the shore. Then small group got out and pulled the boat the rest of the way out of the water.

Following the well-used trail, they soon found the small village of the Gimonde tribe.

Though in that year the word tribe was very rarely used, it fit the Gimonde very well. They were a medium-sized multi-family group consisting of about thirty or forty members. The oldest was in her seventies, the youngest only a few days old and suckling at his mother's breast.

The oldest woman was sewing along with the younger, her hands gnarled but not arthritic as she wove together a garment of feathers, Two feathers, one black and one red, adorned her hair. Across the bridge of her nose was a single swipe of color which looked as though it had been made by dragging a painted feather across her face, which was precisely how it had been made.

She it was who first noticed the strangely dressed newcomers as they approached her.

"Song of the morning," she greeted.

"Song of the morning," Edison replied, hoping he was understanding the custom properly. "We came from across the sea and have need of food."

"You do not need fish," she told him "You can hunt for that yourself. What you seek is the fruit of the earth. The Gimonde have that in good supply this year. But we do not give for free. For fruit you must be willing to trade that which is most priceless."

"We have no gold or precious gems," Edison said.

"There are things more precious than material wealth or fame," the old lady explained. "What is your name?"

"Edison," Edison told her. There was no risk of her telling others. People rarely visited Inaccessible, so there was no danger of her telling someone that he had been there.

"I am Terra," she replied. "I am the oldest member of this tribe, the Gimonde. We have been on Inaccessible for fifty years. My father was one of the first people to settle on Inaccessible back in the twenties. He was one of those who disocovered the method that we use for milking dolphins."

"Dolphin milking sounds very unusual," Edison pointed out.

"It was for them," Terra agreed. "And it must be carefully processed as it is very oily when it is first expressed. There is a circle of women in the tribe to the west that uses some of the ferns found on this island to create strainers. We've found that certain fern leaves soak up the oils and let only the milk itself pass through. Once that's done, we sweeten it with plant sugars."

"How does it compare to cow's milk?" Edison asked.

"I barely remember cow's milk," Terra told him. "So I can't say. You will find out tonight at our gathering."

"Edison, we can't," Beatriz told him. "If Constance's mother found out…"

"We won't tell her," Constance put in. "Besides, these people probably have set times when they harvest the food. And we won't be able to leave here until we get what we came for."

"Which we can't get until we find out what is most priceless," Edison pointed out,

"I will give you a hint," Terra told him. "It is found on leaves and carried by pages,"

"Stories," Edison realized. "You like stories from around the world."

"There are no schools here, Edison," Terra explained. "What we teach our children are survival skills. How to milk dolphins and process dolphin milk, for example. How to sew clothing made of feathers is another thing we learn. Some of us learn the art of feather fishing as we eat only the animals of the ocean and use the birds only for their feathers."

"There are many birds here," Alice said. "Surely there are enough to eat one or two."

"There are not," Terra told her. "It takes the moulting of ten birds each year to make two shirts for one member of this tribe if they are your age. And we wait for moulting before we collect the feathers. That happens only once each year."

"This tribe…"

"The Gimonde," Terra explained. "The name comes from the Greek Gi and French Monde, both words for Earth. We chose it to remind ourselves to respect the planet on which we live. We cannot survive if we do not."

"We will be happy to tell your what stories we can," Edison promised. "We are on our way to Tasmania and have great need of what we ask."

"We look forward to the tales that you have to tell us, Edison," Terra replied. Pointing down the road she added. "We meet for stories in the clearing at the end of this road. Feel free to explore the island in the meantime. If you walk north a few miles you will find a small fresh-water lagoon. You can take water for your journey from there. Another mile will take you to the second tribe. They make the feather-poles that we use for fishing. If you need fishing poles, you may arrange for trade with them."

"Who is the leader of that tribe?" Wendy asked.

"I will not tell you," Terra said, firmly. "Each person must tell their own tale."

"What about fallen warriors, or people from the past?" Alice asked.

"Those are told by their descendants," Terra told her. "We speak only of ourselves, our parents if they have joined the birds, or of the blood of our mothers. We follow the lines of our maternal ancestors because it is from our mothers that we as newlings take our first nourishment."

"You have great respect for your mothers, then," Constance said, realizing that she was starting to miss her own mother. It had been only a few days since she'd left Spain, but she was longing for the statues and the streets of Baja Tecnologia.

"It is they who create the nests in which our souls dwell," Terra said, simply.

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