“What of my daughter,” said the girl. “I am her menna. I cannot leave her.”
Great Man said, “She will have the teats of the tribeswomen to nurse her.”
“I will want to see her.”
“No,” said Great Man. “Her blood will be from their milk. She will not tell bad stories.”
She was a storyteller. They cast her from her tribe and into the wilderness to walk the world, to gather up stories, as her menna had, and as her menna before her. She tried to conjure tales. None came. So they gave her a blade to kill her food.
“Your tongue lacks personality,” Great Man said.
“How shall I remedy it?”
The Great Man was wise and knew all. “Relinquish your title. Return to us with tales to amuse us. Take the world into your eyes and lungs and return to us as a woman with words in her soul.”
In the desert of the Glass Sands the sun scorched her skin into a gummy, red mass. It burnt the dress away from her skin, leaving her naked. Despite the bleaching sun, she persevered, as all prophets do.
She climbed the many mountains of Dasril’s Lip, enduring with her bare flesh the blustery wind and powdery snow. Her heart convinced her many times to rest, but her feet did not stop. With several fine thrusts she killed a voorbear, drank its acid bile, and made a vest of its coat.
“Your blade,” Great Man said, giving her a long, thin sword. “For protection and guidance.”
“I do not know how to use it.”
“You will learn,” Great Man said. “Or you will perish.”
She learned very quickly.
Neither heat nor cold brought her stories; the woods and earth, however, breathed with history. The forest stretched on for many, many leagues. The woods would whisper through her and breed fine stories in her.
She shed her voorbear vest when it became too moldy. Her hair grew long. She lived among the wild beasts and the sword became like a rusty claw. She was part of the bark and the soil. When she took in breath, so did the world.
When she was ill the caves comforted her. The roots of the trees cooled her flesh. When she was well she ran amid the flocks and grazing jaah’zoon with their antelope legs and human smiles. Her urine made freshwater rivers and her feces great mounds of food for the tiniest insects.
“You think too hard of your tales,” Great Man said. “Put value in experiences, not in words.”
Great Man had always been wise and she knew well to listen.
The girl became a conduit of the life and soul of the forest. She gorged on plentiful berries and killed too many beasts. She sucked the color from the trees. They faded white like soapy bone. Soon the leaves were gone. The sun turned hot and the girl’s flesh was once again at the mercy of the skies.
Wandering, burned and hungry and alone, the girl found – amid a copse of once-trees – a voorbear and a jaah’zoon sitting beside each other, their fur wet with one another’s tears.
“Why do you cry,” she asked them.
“Because you have killed us,” said the voorbear.
“Because you became a part of us,” said the jaah’zoon.
“I think that I have ruined many things,” said the girl as she sat beside them.
“Yes,” they said. “You have.”
* * * *
Great Man said, “You are a disappointment. You have not spoken any tales worth remembering.”
The girl was not bothered by his words. “Without a family, my tales do not have love, Great Man.”
“Then you must go to the wilderness,” said Great Man, “and learn many stories from the world.”
The girl traveled until she discovered barren wastes with dry trees and soil like ash below her feet. A story came to her.
“In a broken forest, a woman finds three chairs carved from bone,” she told her tribe as they sat before her. “They looked like chairs at first, but had once been creatures, ones with lives and loves and fears. They were a voorbear, a jaah’zoon, and an old crone. My menna. And she never came home.”
The daughter told her story.
The tribe listened.