Title: The Changing Days
Characters: Raven’s daughters ♀
Rating: T (L2 N1 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Bizarre cultural stereotypes, goddesses acting like birds
Notes: So, first off, this has been an exercise in choppy style. They’re birds. They’re like that. But, don’t think they’re bird-brained! The sisters are goddesses, after all, for all that they’re thieving, corpse-eating tricksters. It’s also really difficult to write a lengthy conversation between five characters who don’t have names and can shapeshift. Not the best I’ve ever written them. More of an experiment and a little backstory.
The sisters had no names. Names were something they didn’t need, any more than their father had. He was Raven, the Raven, a raven. They, too, were Raven. All the tricks they played on other gods and even on their people had never required anyone to be able to distinguish between them. Even when they came as teachers and messengers, they were all simply Raven. No one could even be sure how many of them existed, except that there were at least two, since one could never be sure how many ravens in a group were Raven and how many were just birds, unless they spoke.
In fact, there were five sisters — or five sisters who had met. Perhaps there were more sisters, or maybe even brothers, but they hadn’t revealed themselves to the rest of the family. The five Raven sisters were more than enough for most situations.
But, the world was changing. The people didn’t speak to birds, any more. Some of the other gods were falling silent, preparing to rest until they were truly called again, as fewer and fewer called to them. But, some of the gods, the sisters Raven among them, had found another way to reintroduce themselves. They would take the shape of people — their people, the pasty-faced foreign people, the merchant people from the western ocean, whichever people would be most believable for what they were trying to accomplish.
"French! French!" shrieked the sister with the black curls, blue eyes, and gypsum-white skin, waving a book . "Let us be French!"
"Why French?" asked the sister with the dark brown braids, brown eyes, and olive skin. "Everyone knows the Cherokee. Let us be Cherokee princesses!"
The sisters roared with laughter, knowing there was no such thing, but it was still a popular story, and one that would sell well in some communities.
"I still like the railroad girls!" This sister had black hair, brown eyes, and warm beige skin.
"No one trusts the railroad girls," the French sister pointed out, and the other three squawked and fluttered their agreement.
"Spanish!" cried out another sister, affecting dark brown hair, black eyes, and a light-sienna complexion. "There’s a lot of Spaniards here! It’s only fair!"
"There’s enough Spaniards that they’ll know!" pronounced the Chinese sister. And that was mostly true — you couldn’t pretend to be part of a culture in the middle of a centuries-old stronghold of that culture, without someone noticing that you weren’t quite right.
"French," proclaimed the fifth sister, shedding her feathers to take on a similar shape and colours to the first. "It’s fancy! Listen to how they talk about French people in town! We can be rich French ladies!"
None of them suggested taking the shapes of their own people, which would only bring more shame and disrespect upon them. The last thing they needed was to put more eyes on their people. But, they could take the eyes off their people, and point them somewhere else.
The Cherokee sister grabbed the book from the first French sister, and flipped through it. "Ah! Look at these names! ‘Marrrrgrit’!" It came out like a squawk. "‘Annie’! ‘Monniquee!’ How are you supposed to say that? Foolish sounding words! ‘Paheebee’!"
"I think you’re not supposed to say the ‘p’," suggested the Chinese sister.
"Then why’s it in the word! Fools! Fools!" scolded the Cherokee sister.
The second French sister grabbed the book. "Let me see! ‘Ay-lice’? Bugs! Isn’t that a word for biting bugs? Who names their baby after bugs? These people from across the water are crazy. Crazy! It doesn’t matter what we pick! Crazy people won’t know!"
"So many French people to the east," the Chinese sister pointed out. "Are they too close? I heard other kinds of people are further east, further away, like the Cherokee are far. What about English or Dutch?"
"Dutch? I heard of Dutch! Yeah, yeah! They look like this, right?" The second French sister changed again, light-blue eyes and light-yellow hair, moon-white skin with bright pink cheeks.
"Yellow hair!" shrieked the Cherokee sister. "Like horses and dead men!"
Her sisters crowed and cackled, hopping from foot to foot and shimmying in a way that would be a ruffle, if they still had feathers.
"Washed by the sun!" agreed the Spanish sister. "But, look look! They look strange and new! Different is good!"
"Different means they won’t know better!" The Chinese sister caught on quickly. "Different means we can make it up, if we don’t know!"
"See! See!" the Dutch sister crowed. "How long do they live? Thirty years, then we disappear! Then we pick again! Go somewhere new!"
"The more we play, the better we get! The better we play, the more we get!" the Cherokee sister cheered. "Can we trick them into leeeeaving?"
"Too late, too late!" the French sister cried. "If we make a frightening noise, they’ll make a war! Hide their messages, steal their sons! Make their games favour us!"
"Oh!" The Chinese sister fluttered a hand in front of her face and laughed, like she’d seen the town-ladies do. "Just lucky! We play this game at home!"
"Where is ‘home’?" the Cherokee sister asked. "Is it Dutchland? What do they call it, there?"
"I heard a Dutch girl once! She said she was from Bosveyk! I heard it! That’s what she said!" The Dutch sister thrust her chest forward proudly. "It’s a town by the east water! That’s what I heard! Far, far east!"
"We have to learn to talk like the Spanish people, instead of proper words, like our people speak," the Chinese sister sulked.
"Our people will teach us! All we have to do is ask!" The French sister looked confident. "They’ll give it to us!"
"Ah! We have to give a blessing!" the Spanish sister hopped impatiently from one foot to the other. "What shall we give? Who shall we bless?"
"A child! A child! We’ll make them wise!" offered the Dutch sister.
"But, a child can’t teach us the Spanish words!" protested the Cherokee sister.
"A child doesn’t teach us! A mother teaches us!" The Chinese sister nudged the Cherokee sister with her shoulder.
"Ah! Let’s go! ‘Oh, sister, we are from a village in the north, and our people don’t speak the Spanish words! Can you speak them, sister?’ Anyone we ask! They’ll know! If they don’t know, they’ll know who knows! They will!" The French sister shivered and danced, changing to a dark-eyed woman with long, dark hair and rich russet skin.
"We should give little blessings to anyone who helps us!" The Cherokee sister followed, her face just different enough that they looked like sisters, but not twins. "A don’t-look-here stone, a coin that always returns, a feather for speaking well…"
"Yes! Yes!" The Dutch sister tossed her hair, and changed to match her sisters. "Little things! So they know we didn’t forget them!"
"Ah! That Spanish god doesn’t even come here, but our people start to look to him, anyway!" Scornful, the Spanish sister altered herself into the set. "They forget us!"
"They forget us because the ones who remember die faster." The Chinese sister was the last to change. "The memory doesn’t protect them."
"Protecting them makes them remember!" the formerly-French sister declared, sweeping a fistful of desert grass into a simple dress. "Come! Come! Questions to ask! Games to play!"
The other four followed her across the desert, designing clothing for themselves as they went.