Rated: E · Short Story · Folklore · #1926645
Another in the series of short stories about the Storyteller.
|Scene:100 years in the future where a ragtag group of people sit around a communal fire on a balmy summer’s eve.|
An ancient woman, with long, long grey hair is sitting on a fallen tree that the clan uses as a bench. The fire burns brightly, the leaping and dancing tongues of flame reflecting off the faces of the twenty five people gathered there. She’d been to this place before, but it had been many months since her travels had brought her this way. She noted several newchildren and smiled at the gangly youngones who had grown taller in her absence.
One she remembered, Angel by name, stood shyly looking at the great staff that the Storyteller kept by her side.
“Storyteller? Why be there a face carved into your staff” the girlchild asked softly.
“He be carved into the willow-wood so that I can remember. He be one who was once my reason for being. He has long ago journeyed to the stars, but when I hold me staff it is as if I can still touch him.”
“Did he live in the beforetimes?”
“Nay, but his father did and it was he who told me the old tales so that I could tell others so they not forget that way it once was, back and back—“
“And back! I remember that from when you were here before. You told us about angels and putergods back when there be tricity.”
“Yes, child.” The storyteller readjusted her boney frame on the hard and uneven log.
“We be liking your stories and we tell them even when you be beyond the hill trekking to see the others. Do you have a new one for us?”
There was a hush around the fire as everyone leaned in to hear the storyteller’s answer. She already told them of the other clans she’d visited, of the big fire that had chased one of the clans all the way to the mighty river where most of them drowned, of the tribe up north that didn’t make it through the cold time several moons back and of the hacking sickness that she’d heard about from another traveler. She might just be too tired to tell them one of her stories this night. Ah, she thought, but their faces looked at her so expectantly, she couldn’t disappoint them.
“I be thinking,” she began, “of a time when members of a clan once walked on the moon up there in the sky.”
“Nobodys kin fly!” said a young voice at the end of the log.
“How could someone get there?” asked one of the elders.
“More importantly, why would they want to?” asked another.
“Because someone once had a dream,” she replied.
“You mean like the nightpictures?” asked Angel.
“No. I be meaning like a bigger dream. The clans once had m’chines that could shoot into the sky, and yes, they flew all the way to the moon.”
“What’d they do there?” came a voice from the other side of the fire.
“Pretty much like what you’d do if you went for a long trek somewhere you’d never been afore. They looked round, picked up bits of the moon and came home.”
“Sounds like they be doing a lot of work for nothin’.”
“They thought it be important. And it was so because they had thoughts and ideas and found a way to make it happen. It be somethin’ that we need. Dreams be a thing that make us wonder what be over the hill or what lies beyond the mountain or what be on the far side o’ the water.”
“Me Da once went beyond the mountain,” chimed in a tow-headed boy with vivid green eyes. “He said there be naught but more trees and more mountains. They jest goes on and on.” He father, sitting a bit behind him, nodded.
“That may well be. But I too have been beyond the mountains and seen the cits that once be full of clans. Hands and hands and hands of clans. They had huts as big as the trees hereby and lights all the way to the tops. That was afore the badtimes when the plosions hit and the sickness came to call.”
“The way things were,” Angel paused and looked around the fire expectantly joining in when the youngones all chimed, “back and back and back.”
The storyteller smiled. “Yes. Now two hands of moons back, I was many days east o’ here, far beyond the trees that,” and she smiled at the tow-headed youngling, “jest go on and on. I be at the edge of the farwaters, the ones that go forever on. And jest what do you be thinkin I sees comin’ out of the clouds and mists?”
“A fish?” asked one voice.
“A bird?” asked another.
The storyteller smiled, arching her back to work out the kinks in her tired muscles. “No, twas a big, big boat. It be bigger than this whole clan-gound. It came from cross the waters from a place called Inglund. There be many clans on it and they be talkin’ like us but not liken us. They took trees apart and put them back together only different. They has skins of animals flattened hanging from tall trees on the boat and they be so big the winds pushed them all the way here. They have a way of listening to the stars to find their way here. Seems folk over crosst the waters wondered if there still be peoples here. A man had a dream and he built the boat from drawings he founded in a book.”
“You done tol us ‘bout books afore,” said Angel, ”but we hasn’t never seen one.”
“Be they dangerous?” asked the clan leader. “This be our land; we need no clans comin here from elsewhere. They needs go back across that farwater.”
The storyteller paused, thinking. “It is the way of things, after all. Change be always going to come chomping through the trees. Sometimes it comes gently, slithering like the striped snakes the youngones like to catch; other times it crashes through like a rafter of turkeys coming in for a landing in the trees.
“But jest like those who once walked up on the moon, they didn’t know what they might find there, now, did they? So they be all cautious-like til they be know they be safe. These outlanders, with their big boat, be maybe able to teach you things you not be knowing. Mayhap, you can help them. They be friendly nuff. They be tellin’ me of how life in their Inglund be not much different than life be here. But over there, they gots people called kings who rule all the clans. They be happy to hear tell that there be no kings here, jest the clans.
“Now once upon a time…” she paused, waiting expectantly.
“Back and back and back…” came the response.
“There be a clan who came to this place from this Inglund. The peoples who were here and the newcomers had a great war. When it was over, they decided to work together. Then they decided they wanted to be their own place and the olden place started another war They fought with firesticks and had big iron m’chines on their boats that threw iron balls to crash into the clans.
“Wars be never good, I’m thinkin. These new folks remember all too well the last war. They be callin it World War Three. Once, back and back and back, there be a man named Imstine who be a very smart man. He said he wasn’t sure what World War Three would be fought with, but the next war would be fighted with sticks and stones.
“These newones be far, far away and they be friendly like. They do not want to hurt anyone. And while they be in the way of knowin’ bout boats and crossing water, they not be knowing about what we grow here, and how we trap and snare our food. They be willin’ to trade and they wants to stay.
“I be telling you stories of the before times…”
“Back and back and back…” came fewer voices as youngones dropped off to sleep.
Tonight the Storyteller’s voice was different and it made her uneasy. Oh, she sounded the same, but there jest was sumthin’ there, thought Angel sleepily.
“But we needs be careful that we jest don’t do it all the same. Times and times again peoples feel the need to take what others have sted of working together. And what gets built up falls and here we be. Needs be a better way, I be thinkin’.”
“Stortel?” Angel had crept close to the old woman and was now leaning on her knee. “Do ye think we can be better way?”
“I hope so, child.”
“I hads me a dream,” Angel said softly. “I saw a golden man come through the trees. He smiled with his eyes, not jest his mouth like Ferdy from Riverbend. He had kind, strong hands and he wanted to build things like afore but different. He said his name be Lion Davin, or somethin’ liken that. He showed me drawings. One be a man with four arms! He said we needed to remembers why the olden ways went flat and hows the new ways needs go round and round. He said there be a place where there mighten still be books but we needs to learn to read them so we don’t go where we went afore. Kin you read, Stortel?”
“Yes, I can,” said the old woman quietly. “And just maybe we needs to find a way for the clans to learn how to do that agin and get the treasure the books hold. If we can find them. There’s no goodness to finin’ them and not knowin’ what to do with them, is there?”
“You coulds teach us?”
“Mayhap so, child.”
“I want to learn,” said Angel. “I wants to know about the golden man and makin’ pictures. Maybes the newfolk will help us and we kin help them. Liken when the clans work together to take in the corn.”
The Storyteller looked out across the fire. The clans people were talking softly amongst themselves now, and there was no more talk of the ship people being sent home. Now there was talk of trade and better, friendship. The Storyteller smiled.
“Stortel? Kin I go with you when you be leaving us? I wants to learn and I kin help you help me.”
The Storyteller looked down into the earnest face of the youngling. Angel was a smart girlchild and times were changing. Angel had no true clanfolk to call her own and, truth be known, she could use the help. Sh looked over to the clan-leader and he nodded.
“Yes, Angel. You can come with me. I will be after teaching you to read and we be finding them books. Perhaps you will seek out your golden man and he will lead us into what will be. And jest, mayhap, you will take my place someday.”
Angel smiled thinking about that night many years ago now. She had traveled far and wide over the years, first with the Storyteller and then, sadly, on her own when her friend had gone to live in the stars. Other peoples had traveled across the waters in their big boats and now there were towns and trading places and life was slowly getting better. She thought of the new rules to guide the many peoples and wondered why, back and back and back, that it hadn’t been done before. She looked at the youngones sprawled at her feet and had them repeat the rule again: Do to others as you would have them do to you.