"Chanda," she said, "you are so good with directions, so I suggest this system. It worked for Skylar..."
What Baylene suggested was so ingenious that the Herd's leading males – Aladar, Yar, and Zini – wished they had come up with it.
Baylene said, "Now, Chanda. Your nest is north. The lake is east, the feeding trees west...Your breakfast is right in front of you."
"How marvelous!," Chanda said with enthusiasm, as she felt around for the pile of leaves Omar had gathered that morning, "It takes some getting used to, not being about to see. But I'm getting better at finding my way around the Nesting Grounds. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, either. I think my other senses have gotten stronger since losing my eyesight. I just wish..."
"You wish your mother would be here, giving you guidance and support."
Chanda sighed, "Mom seems to have kept her distance ever since Omar and I were mated. It's as if she's determined not to be a part of my life. That is not what I want, Baylene. I only want Mom to be happy for me, but not smother me as she used to."
Baylene now realized that ladies' confab before the mating ritual, when she and Eema told Vonda to let Chanda live her own life, might have backfired. With some guilt, she said to Chanda, "I think that was our fault. You see, we simply told Vonda not to hover about you so, to let you take care of yourself. After all, you are a big girl and have a much better handle on your health issues. You've accepted the inevitable of your illness, but your mother has not. I believe she wishes you were still little, so she can smother and baby you. And, I do believe, she feels guilty over losing all her youngsters that year, save you and Quintin. Her mate, and she never told you or your brother this, died shortly before you were born. Killed by raptors, or so I was told. So sad, to lose her mate then nearly all her children within a handful of months."
Chanda didn't know what to say. As Baylene just related, she and Quintin didn't know how their father died; their mother never told them.
A tear trickled down her cheek as she softly said, "That's why she fears losing me, because of what happened to Dad and her babies."
"And that," said Baylene sympathetically, "is why you should go to your mother, let her know you still love her. I know she can be a pain sometime, but she does love you so. Please meet her halfway."
Chanda thought about it and upset herself so much she couldn't eat. Baylene saw this and admonished, "Now, my dear. Do not fret so, and don't forget to look after your health. It is not good for you to skip regular meals or get yourself so worked up." She then said, after a brief pause, "You'd rather I speak to her, don't you?"
"If you could, Baylene, thank you. Mom might be a bit more receptive if she heard it from you. She rarely speaks to me these days, especially since I've lost my eyesight."
Baylene smiled. "I'll do my best, dear. Now, you eat your breakfast, and don't forget those little ones. They will need their mother's attention."
Chanda returned the smile then allowed Baylene to escort her back to her nest.
"Aww, ain't that cute. Suri is playing with Chanda's babies, and she's telling Mama which one's which..."
Eema settled under the tree, along with Neera and Sarama, watching the touching scene with Suri helping a blind Chanda. Plio was there, supervising her daughter, aiding Chanda whenever she could. It was not easy at first, what with the blindness coming so swiftly, but Chanda took it all in stride, as if she sensed the disability and didn't make such a big deal of it.
Sarama, noticing how Chanda faced her trials with courage and resolution, said, "You know, ladies, the girl isn't, so to speak, out of the woods yet. There is so much to be done."
"Such as," rejoined Neera, "Vonda finally accepting her daughter's condition."
Sarama nodded, replying, "Yes, and it's not too late for Vonda and Chanda to reconnect. But it must happen before..."
"Before?," asked Neera, eye conveying a questioning manner.
"Before Chanda is summoned home."
In the shadow of the cave, on the hilltop, near the granite wall upon which the remains of the legendary dinosaur Gotoma rested, Vonda stood alone watching her daughter go about her daily routine. How wonderful for those creatures to help out a blind lady. Had any of the Herd ever suffered such a disability? Not to Vonda's recollection, and, somehow, Chanda's blindness sent pangs of guilt throughout Vonda. Why guilt? Because she believed Chanda's illness was just punishment for the mother's sins. But Vonda led a blemish-free life; there was nothing in her past that would remotely resemble "sin". Yet Vonda believed she did something wrong. Why else would she lose her mate and nearly all her hatchlings within the span of a few months?
Granted, she was thankful two of her surviving children matured into beautiful, strong adults, going about their lives as planned. Quintin and Chanda, different in temperament yet so close as siblings should be, fulfilled Vonda's dreams and wishes, but there was still something missing.
"I may lose my daughter," she said aloud to Gotoma's bones. "I hate to say it, but Chanda is far more mature than I give her credit. This illness that has plagued her since childhood...She has accepted it, and its consequences. So why can't I?"
"Perhaps, Vonda, you yourself have unresolved issues."
Vonda jolted, fearing those old bones had come to life, and Gotoma spoke to her from the beyond. She wheeled around to see Baylene lumbering up the hill, the brach's towering height and immense bulk totally dwarfing everything around her.
"I used to come here, Vonda, years ago, when I was at my lowest. It was here," Baylene said, nodding at the cave's entrance, "That I confronted my demons...Apparitions of my long-dead parents, siblings, mate, daughter...All speaking to me as clearly as if they lived once more."
Vonda said nothing as Baylene continued. "You see, Vonda, my dear, I know what is troubling you. You believe Chanda's illness and subsequent blindness is all your fault. That, somehow, something in your past came back to haunt you, and that manifested itself in Chanda. But don't you see? Your daughter has faced her trials with a courage that even I envy. Vonda, let me tell you...But I suppose you know about my family history: How I tried so hard to please my mother; how I watched as my children – save one – slowly died moments upon hatching; how I lost my mate, daughter, and sister within days of each other. I had to counsel a wayward brother who, as I later learned, blamed himself for all our family's misfortunes. And to think that I, in the depths of my grief, somehow caused all that pain myself. But I was wrong, and it took me all these years to understand that misfortune is not our fault. Think of it, Vonda. Look how far we've come since the Fireball. Despite the hardship of that march under Kron's relentless tyranny, we came through it. Why? Because we wanted to live and not give in to some silly notion that it is our fate to die. I was not willing to die before my time; Aladar helped me to understand that. And I see the same in Chanda. Vonda, the girl is a wonder, and you should be proud of her. Quintin wonders whether you would meet Chanda halfway, let her know you are there for her."
Vonda, her eyes filling with tears, finally said, "Baylene, I don't know what to think anymore. When Chibro was killed – less than a week before my eggs hatched – I thought it was the end of the world. Then all but Chanda and Quintin died, and when Chanda's illness manifested itself, I was led to believe it was all my fault. Do you remember Fatossa? That awful busybody who seemed to take a fiendish delight in poking her nose in everyone's business?"
Baylene remembered Fatossa all too well. She was an iguanodon about the same age as Kron, and she fancied herself an expert on everything. Baylene shook her head recalling what Eema revealed about Fatossa, that the imperious dinosaur was a notorious gossip and nag. And she was, at one time, sweet on Kron. That lady met her end during the Fireball disaster; she was one of the first casualties.
Vonda continued, "It was back when Chanda went into puberty, when she began showing signs of her disease. Eema confirmed my daughter's illness, just before Fireball hit, then Fatossa told me I must had to be a bad mother because I had no mate. Oh Baylene, she spread it around that I neglected my 'motherly' duties...that's why Chanda suffered from this unknown malady. From then on, I made a promise to myself that I would never let Chanda out of my sight, always look out for her, let her know her health came first."
"I know Quintin was no problem since he was born strong and healthy. But Chanda...the moment the symptoms showed – the attacks, the unexplained weight loss – Fatossa said it was my fault. If I had insisted Chibro not go too far into the woods looking for food, he would have not been attacked by raptors. She said I had to marked from then on...You know, a female who has no mate and is expecting."
Baylene peered into the corthyosaur's eyes, saying, "Vonda, I had no idea you imbibed this lady's nonsense. Fatossa, according to Eema, had this way of lording over everyone, that she thought she had all the answers. Well, you see what happened to her. My dear, I've watched you care for Chanda, and I know how much she appreciates your love and care. But, as we said to you that day of the mating ritual, Chanda is a woman now, with all the responsibilities of a mother. Look how she cares for her young, albeit with much help from us, but she now carries on as if she still had her eyesight. She is a caring mother because you instilled in her all your love and devotion. She is grieving, Vonda. She fears of not being around much longer, and she needs your love and support. Come with me, go to your daughter, and tell her how much you love her. Besides, you have yet to see your grandchildren."
"Len is north, Tansy is just a few feet south of him, and to the east is Dena; she's standing next to Enda. The other two – Jacy and Jolon – are still in the nest fast asleep."
Plio, Suri, and Eema lent Chanda a hand in watching over the little ones. There were six hatchlings in all – three boys and three girls – and they were as healthy and rambunctious as any youngsters. The ladies used the directions system in helping Chanda locate each and every child, not an easy task since four of the youngsters decided to decided to play instead of sleep. However, Chanda, in her desire not to lean on the assistance of others too much, was able to determine her children's whereabouts, where to locate food and water, even tell who was in her presence. Her eyesight may have gone but the other senses became that more sharpened.
"Wouldn't you know," she said in good humor, "the two who I swore would be the liveliest of the bunch are the quietest. Hmm...I think Jolon and Jacy will be more like their uncle, you know, quiet and introverted, but of quick wit and intellect."
Eema laughed, responding, "Well, be thankful they are healthy and happy...and that they are loved." Then, "You've done all right for yourself, Chanda. Don't know how you manage, what not being able to see."
"I try, Eema, really I do. I'm grateful everyone has helped me so much, and being without my sight isn't much fun, but I'm getting used to it. You know, my other senses have gotten sharper...My sense of smell, touch, hearing, even being able to sense when someone is coming. Such as knowing Baylene is heading this way." She smiled, adding, "No one makes impact tremors like her."
Eema laughed again, heartier this time. "You can say that again!"
Plio and Suri, rounding up the now-tucked out baby corythosaurs, guided them back to the nest. Plio said, "I think they'll sleep now. That Enda is so full of energy. I think she's the leader of the bunch."
"Yeah," said Suri with a giggle, "she's kind of bossy."
"Well, Mom, it's true. Didn't you see her knock Tansy and Len down, like she was getting after them for playing too rough?"
Chanda nudged and caressed each child, noting each one's scent, voice, and touch. "Enda," she said, "I believe Suri is right. You are a bossy one, but I think we can steer that imperious streak into more constructive pursuits."
"She's a lot like your mother when she was little," said Eema. "I remember your grandmother having a time with Vonda. That child was born to command. No wonder she became the corythosaurs' leading female."
"What happened, Eema?", Chanda asked. "What caused my mother to retreat inside herself? I know about my father, how he was killed by raptors before I was born. Mom seldom talks about it."
"I know, baby. And Vonda blames herself for that. Chibro was a good mate, and Vonda grieved day and night. I guess the stress was too much for her, and I believe it affected the eggs. She had yet to lay them...I thought some of them looked a little scrawny when they came. Don't forget that your mother had some other issues going after you and Quinten were born. I won't go into it, but Neera can tell you. Someone said some unkind things to her, and she took it verbatim. No wonder she hovered over you so; she felt she wasn't being the mother she could be...So she went all out overly protecting you when you showed the first signs of your illness."
This was new information for Chanda. She asked, "Who was this one who said cruel things to Mom? Was it one of the Herd?"
Eema said, "Well, ask your mother. She is here, Chanda, and I think she wants to begin anew with you...And to meet her grandbabies."
Copyright®2003 by PRP