FAIRY TALE AT FIRESIDE
"Gramma, tell us a story," the small child begged me.
"OK, lil-one. But not now. You gather your friends and I will tell you a story at Fireside tonight. Now I must make paita, or we will go hungry." I gave my firstborn's youngun, Rama, a smile and returned to my daily task of making the dough that served as a wraparound for the squirrel that her daddy would bring home from the hunt.
There was such an abundance of squirrel this year, and the big game hadn't made it back sufficiently yet, so hope for some venison or moose was out of the question. The Long War had really destroyed much of the animal kingdom or at least rendered many close to extinction.
During the day there was a lot of work for everyone in our tribe. Thirty mouths to feed and care for kept us all busy. And at night, as always, there would be Fireside. Fireside was always observed, passed down from mother to daughter, nurtured like a child itself. The men and boys were invited to attend Fireside, of course, but it was the female that had the honor of carrying the Fireside torch forward into time to reconstruct our failing race. And it was the females that ruled the tribes and who sat in the Willowbough Chairs of Firesides across the New Nation. After all, it was the female who finally pulled the human race out of near extinction itself and who gave birth to the new race that sprouted up in tribes all around the ruins of Old Earth.
But that was another story and, after evening-meal was shared by all, we gathered for Fireside around the circular firepit that squat in the center of the house. Elizbeth, my firstborn and the chosen chieftess of our tribe, sat in the Willowbough Chair modestly covered with fox fur and called Fireside to order.
Rama wriggled in impatience beside me while the older women of the tribe discussed tribal matters that needed attention that day.
Gardener Rosa informed us that the tribal gardens were plentiful this year and that we would have extra to take to the inter-tribal market. By next week we would all be needed to harvest the peas.
"Hunting is still limited to rabbits, rats and squirrels," said Erica, our wildlife protector. "The deer herd is growing larger, but we need to let them establish more. Our hunters are now able to take some fish starting tomorrow, so that will improve our diet some."
The men sat respectfully nearby and added information when asked to speak, but I could tell they were just being polite. Charlie brought us up to date on the construction of a shed to store our produce for the winter months, and Pete answered questions about the hunt that day.
Life had been a long, hard struggle, but this year seemed to finally be the turning point. Perhaps our careful planning was panning out at last.
Finally Elizbeth turned to me and spoke. "Maman, Tribal Storyteller, do you bring us a story from the great Fireside Spirit tonight?"
I stood up from my floor cushion and shook my tamborine. The younguns sat up taller in readiness for the tales I'd tell. All was silent as I looked up through the opening in the roof high above the firepit and searched the stars in the black night for guidance in my Fireside story. Throwing nine pinecones into the fire, I performed the Ritual of the Fallen Nations. It was important that we did not forget the lessons taught to us in the past. Our near extinction was too painful, and the road back to any comfort at all was a long journey. We watched the sparks flutter skyward as the cones crackled and sputtered, and I began my tale of years long gone by.
"Once upon a very long time ago there were mighty nations who ruled the world with great magic. The people had an abundance of riches. They could speak to each other over long distances. There were lights in the walls and ceilings of their houses. There were machines that carried people along the ground at very fast speeds. And even faster were the sky fliers. Indeed, there was such magic that should have made the people very happy, and yet they were very discontented."
Rama's eyes widened in wonderment, as did those of the two girls sitting next to her.
"At that time there were only a few women that ruled. Many of the rulers were men, and in some parts of the world women had no more rights than the dogs that we tie up at our front doors."
I could see the women around our circle frowning .
"It was in one of these parts of the world that black magic prevailed and nearly defeated the white magic. Man hated man and went about killing each other. They even killed women and younguns who didn't do anything to harm these evil magicians who ruled their tribes with hate and fire weapons."
There were gasps from the two women seated at my right, and the others leaned forward on their cushions.
"The tribal leaders fought over the land they owned and defended their property with silly laws. Even though they had flying machines that could take them anywhere they wanted to go, they were not allowed to go or live anywhere they chose unless they were granted permission by these magicians.
"Some of the leaders were jealous and afraid of each other. Not trusting each other, they blamed the other for their own wrong doings. They fought and killed and yet forgot the cause of all this hate."
I shuddered at the pictures flooding my mind. The Holy Fireside Spirit was not sparing me tonight with his revealings. I was overcome with deep horror, and speech failed me.
"Come on, Gramma," coaxed Rama in a whisper. "Tell us what it is you see."
I stirred the fire with a stick nearby and gathered my courage.
"An evil sorcerer lived in this faraway land and made secret plans to destroy the good magic. Across the ocean from this madman was a large and prosperous land of great magic where man strived to be free - and women too. It was this Freeland, although no longer so free, who tried with gentle hand to persuade the evil sorcerer to recant his evil ways. But the Evil Sorcerer only went deeper into his evil mind and caused a great darkness to cover the land.
"In that Freeland was a great city where a great many people lived crowded together in houses different than our tribal house, and in that great city there were two great towers that rose high into the air, higher than the trees and as high as the eagle flies. These towers bound all nations together in trade. Deep in the heart of the Black Sorcerer lay a festering hate that drove him to destroy. And it was the brotherhood of mankind working together in harmony that the twin towers stood for that this evil man plotted to destroy.
"Taking four young devotees, he twisted their young minds to steal control of four great flying machines. In the morning as menfolk and womenfolk had started work, two flying machines crashed into these towers at great speed. To everyone's horror the towers collapsed killing thousands of people. People all over the land watched it happen on magic black boxes that allowed people to watch things that happened a great long distance from where they were. Everyone was shocked, and many were crying in that land and in many lands around the world.
"Although the harvesting season was upon the people of the Freeland, it was not the thanksgiving rituals that they celebrated that year but a deep mourning for all the loved ones lost and buried deep beneath the pile of rubble that had once been the proud twin towers."
Sobs of grief were threatening my composure, and I fought to keep them at bay. The story had to continue. A Story Teller had to pass on what was revealed by the Holy Fireside Spirit.
"Then what?" prompted Rama.
Deep silence and dread settled on the tribe at Fireside. All waited for me to continue.
"You would think that this would be enough destruction to fill the needs that hate had demanded. But this was only the beginning of the Long War. The Evil Sorcerer was only a pawn for the Lords of Darkness to invoke their black magic of misery on the world.
"It was at this time that black magic was at its peak, and the wicked sorcerer penetrated the land stealing young men and women. He persuaded them to attach exploding-fire to their bodies and to kill themselves in crowded marketplaces and gatherings. Thousands of innocents were killed by the exploding-fire, and the blood flowed dark and freely in the streets.
"Within many hundreds of moons the fighting had blossomed like some poisonous flower to cover the entire world. It was at this time that a young woman with gentle good magic was touched by the great Fireside Spirit as she stood watching the great city of Nu Ork going up in flames. She vowed never to rest until she gathered the good sorcerers together to put an end to this hate and destruction.
"Together as a united force they fought evil with good. It was a long and arduous task with many failures."
My eyes flooded with tears, but unashamed I held my head high and continued.
"The peoples fought for a long time through the lifetime of this young woman and into the lifetime of her daughter, and when the last great city had fallen into rubble, there was sudden quiet over the entire world. It seemed the evil magic had snuffed itself out at last. But the daughter of our first Woman Sorcerer saw that her work was only beginning; she had to build a whole new world and carry forward the dreams of her mother.
"The great magic had been destroyed - good along with the bad. She would need to nuture the tiny flame of good magic that was left and turn it into a great garden of beautiful flowers. She began the first Fireside with twenty survivors of that last great fire.
"And it is at the Fireside that we commemorate this humble beginning of New Time that she began as she watched that last great fire gobble up the remaining great Magic in the land.
"So I have spoken for the Fireside Spirit. So ends my story."
I sank to my cushion before the Tribal Fireside. All sat quietly - too stunned to move.
Rama turned to me and whispered, "Was that a fairytale?"
"I don't know," I whispered back. "I am only the mouth for the great Fireside Spirit."
"I hope it wasn't true," she whispered.
"Me too. But in all Fireside stories there is a lesson to be learned, and so it is with this one."