The Elder Speaks

The fire flickers lazily, casting shadows across the tribe assembled. It is a cool evening beneath a clear sky. An ember pops, punctuating the silence of their clearing, while a standing Elder drinks long and deep from his cup. The sky wheels, completing its slow procession above him and even the forest sits silent, intent on hearing his words.

The tribe watches their Elder. There is to be great story this night, like many the Elder has spoken. It would bear a lesson, a message of wisdom and morality. The very world seemed tipped towards him in anticipation.

The Elder begins slowly. Greeting them, he speaks first of his life, his purpose and his travels as an Elder and Shaman of their small tribe. He seeks knowledge so that their tribe will prosper. Their tribe had spent many seasons learning stories in order to grow and learn, seeking the Truth of their world through their Elder’s words. He works as a teacher and a sage, guiding each of his fellow tribe members. The Elder regrets with a humble laugh that he is only one man; his word cannot be law, like that of nature, and though he tries, he cannot always speak Truth. He guides as he can.

The wilderness is a vast place, full of mystery and danger, The Elder says. Sweeping his arms to the wheel of the sky, he speaks of travel, of the natural and spirit world. Both, he says, are vast as the heavens and the tribes number this wilderness like the stars. He describes the varying nature of the tribes; their forms like a complicated weave of fabric. Many have lived by the sun and the moon.

Frowning under the light of this moon, however, the Elder explains that the tale he is to tell of yet another foreign tribe begins as one of great sadness. When the Elder found this tribe, he recounted, he had been a younger man. Theirs was a bizarre nature which had perplexed him and it had been a journey of some terror. It had taken many seasons to understand the meaning of the strange tribe and it was only now that the Elder could communicate their tribe’s message to his own.

A tear rolled from the Elder’s face; he could not contain his sadness for the tribe. While all other tribes in the wilderness knew nature and spoke to understand meaning in their world, this tribe could not speak and so knew no meaning. They sought mystery, not Truth, and so told stories that were not stories. Words with no understandings. The Elder paused to shake his head. It was very nearly an entire world devoid of meaning.

This rare tribe, he continues, had expanded in their wilderness. They grew to be a vast tribe, with many powers. They conquered their world, all of the land, and made nature itself bow to their knee. The laws of nature still applied and yet since they had grown to speak no meaning, they were ignorant of these laws. This, the Elder says, is when he came to meet them.

There was a war within this tribe. It was a war without an end, for they fought for the Truth, yet had grown without seeking understanding. Endless violence with no reverence for life or nature’s laws. Speaking with creased brow, the Elder describes atrocities upon atrocities committed against the tribe themselves. They killed for their words. They killed for their Truth when it is not nature’s Truth. They killed for nature, thinking they were its master.

The Elder’s tribe shuddered. Some children had begun to cry, and mothers went to the work of consoling their young while steadying themselves. The Elder gestured for silence and his movement carried force. The crying children choked themselves to silence, tears streaming down their faces. They looked towards the Elder for the comfort they hoped would come.

After more seasons counted than the trees in their forest, the rare tribe was decimated. They had fought, ignoring nature and it’s Truth, and they had lost in their search for mystery. The rare tribe remained only a handful in number and it was by the mercy of nature that even they survived.

These tribe survivors, however, had changed. They found one day when they spoke, they heard meaning and understood, and when they described there was Truth. They sought out and found Elders among themselves and they grew to realize the strength in stories, the knowledge in myth. In many turns of the sky they had changed and would never have recognized their former selves.

The Elder allowed a length of silence. The very world seemed in wait. This, the Elder finished, was the story of their own tribe’s Creation.