Posted by: jolantru | October 1, 2010

Twelfth Branch: The Ridge

We crashed.

This part of my memories is particularly painful. More so than our flight from the City. I find myself hesitant to confront it, because a lot of it involves death, both physical and emotional. I still hurt in many areas, when I think back to this period.

We crashed. The silver fish became a pile of twisted metal. I had to pull Auri out of the pile, her body twisted and contorted with pain. I was not doing any better myself. My old injury, inflicted by Fiona, re-opened and bled profusely. Josh had his forehead gashed, his beautiful face disfigured by lacerations. He knew rudimentary medicine and bandaged my side, while tending to Auri who had lapsed into unconsciousness. She had sustained a head injury. Josh suspected that she might have bleeding inside her skull. Habibah was too far away now, the physician having firmly stated her decision to stay with the caravansari.

It was extremely cold where we crashed. Snow. White ice that bit my ankles, my skin. The wind screamed at my face, tearing at my limbs like some wild creature straight from the stories. It numbed the pain on my body. I could not feel my fingertips. Very soon, we would probably freeze to death. No!

I managed to save the sapling, not that it would survive the harsh cold. I watched Auri breathe, knowing that time was already running out. I placed my hand on my belly, listening while the wild winds screamed their rage.

We created a make-shift stretcher from the wreckage and gently carried Auri to it. We made sure she was bundled up warmly, her extremities protected by whatever warm clothing we could salvage. We wore layers of shawls and scarves, covering our faces and wrapping our feet. With some effort, we started our journey down, snow beneath our feet, hearts heavy.

Each step was an effort. I withdrew into myself, my movements now automatic. I berated myself for not being a good pilot. The silver fish did fly. I simply did not have the energy to keep it flying for long. When Auri took over, we were already losing altitude. We hit a world of snow and ice.

I would give my life to save Auri. Anything.

On the third day we crashed on the Ridge, a passing yak driver found us snow-covered and shivering. He gave us hot fermented milk tea, blankets and administered to our wounds. He took one look at Auri, shook his head and said that he would bring us to the nearest shaman-healer, Dorje Dawa.

I spent the journey on a woolly back of a snorting yak, half-asleep and numbed by the freezing winds. The tiny bells on the yak train, the snorting and lowing of the animals induced a surreal, almost dream-like state. Snow flakes whispered. I thought I heard Auri sing, smiling happily. When I finally opened my eyes, we had arrived at Little Lhasa, a mountain settlement.

On the fifth day we reached Little Lhasa and received the medical treatment we desperately needed, Auri passed away in her sleep.


I have difficulty trying to come to terms with it. Our triad, the bulwark of my life, shattered the moment she fell limp in my arms. Josh wept uncontrollably. I simply held her until she became cold. Oh Auri, I want to hear your voice one last time…

She had told me once, after a long walk beside the beach close to the Eateries, that she wanted to be cremated, her ashes thrown into the sea. The sea, our mother, our goddess. Daughters of the sea. “I can’t leave the sea. It’s in my blood, Mirra,” Auri had said, holding my hand, her eyes gazing into mine. “She sings in me.”

The Little Lhasa folk were more inclined towards sky burials, but they saw to our wishes without question. The flames consumed her body carefully wrapped in burial linen. I screamed her name, my voice tearing from my throat. Auri, Auri, Auri! Someone restrained me: Josh, his eyes red from crying. I would have leapt into the inferno to join her. We watched until the flames had become embers. Now, my dear Auri was reduced to ashes, her bodily essence contained in a pale-blue urn, the color of a bird’s egg.

My body felt torn asunder. A part of me died. All I could do was to sit beside the window, staring out into space. Waiting.

Our child would never see her co-mother.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joyce Chng (JDamask), Shirley Meier. Shirley Meier said: RT @jolantru: Twelfth Branch: #sff #weblit #OPM […]

  2. This hurts to read. Probably because the conveyed pain is so familiar and yet distant.

    I want sparkly lights and sunshine, but I also know that sometimes the dragon wins, or at least gets the upper hand for a while.

    Anticipating the next branch with a touch of trepidation. Very well done.

    • When I wrote this chapter, I was nervous, because there would be character death… of a major character.

      I also want sparkly lights and sunshine. But that won’t be true to the core of the story. The dragon wins… but for a while. Perhaps we all have a bit of Auri or Josh or Mirra in us.

      Thank you for your compliments and for being a faithful reader. I am touched beyond words.

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