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IC:Tale of Wayhali Namiche

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The old Abayla leaned back from the fire, the smoke making a blue veil before her.

"I will tell you the story of Namiche, the one who led the Chaktawe out of the destruction the Valterrian brought," her voice was worn to a warm perfection.

"You know, of course, how terrible the Valterrian was for all peoples, no matter who or where they were. For the Chaktawe, though, it was particularly devastating. We had always been a simple people, not simple of heart or of mind but simple of life and ways. We had begun to build towards something higher and were cultivating the land, but the Valterrian tore our efforts apart. We were discouraged and afraid, and our leader, Namiche, was young and inexperienced.

Namiche had never expected to become the Wayhali, the leader of the Chaktawe. He was the son of the husband of the sister of the last Wayhali, who himself had three sons and two brothers. But nearly all of Namiche’s family was wiped out in the Valterrian, all save himself, his mother, and his youngest sister. The loss, especially of his father, was devastating, but he could not allow himself to grieve. He was barely a man, but he now bore the responsibility for his entire people. He knew he had to put their needs first.

And their needs were great. The rivers had dried up and the land had turned to dust. His people could not grow food, and though they could go long periods of time without water there was still not enough to sustain them. Many despaired, gave up hope, believing our race was doomed. Others argued that the Chaktawe must leave their lands and find a new home, one where the land was still fertile. And still others said no, they could not leave the lands of their ancestors. If they remained and were faithful, the gods would send aid."

As she spoke, the Abayla varied the pace of her words, gradually speeding up to match the confusion and chaos of the scene.

“Namiche listened to these voices, and the confusion within him grew. In his heart he believed they should not leave their lands, that the gods had not deserted them. But his mind told him they might die, waiting forever for help that would never come. He hoped for a sign, an omen, but every day heard nothing but the clamoring, frightful voices of his people.

So, one day, Namiche gathered his people together. He told them he must leave them for a time, to undertake a Searching. His people were confused, and many spoke scornfully. Namiche was not a child, he was a man. He had completed his Searching a few years before, had received the name of his spirit guide.” The Abayla let some of the emotion through in her voice, the doubt and betrayal. “No one went on a second Searching. The gods would only laugh at him, or grow angry at his forwardness and send them even more hardship. Some even whispered that Namiche meant to abandon them, to run away to other lands to save himself."

Now the Abayla's voice grew stronger, more confident, and she sat up straighter.

“Namiche ignored their words, said only that he must do what he could for his people. The gods and spirits had withdrawn, and he must seek them out lest the Chaktawe perish. When he left, only his small sister came to see him off. The sight of her, tiny and hungry and trusting absolutely in her elder brother, gave him the courage he needed to walk away from his people and into the unfamiliar desert.

For several days Namiche wandered among the sands, across the land he had once known but was now irrevocably changed. Soon he exhausted his small supply of food, and grew nearly delirious with hunger and heat. He thought he would die, and yet he kept walking, to where he did not know. He only knew he must not stop, for if he did he might never resume. If it were just his life at stake, he might not have had the strength he needed, but he felt as though he carried the hopes of all his people with him."

The Abayla lowered her voice, imagining the silence of the endless sands. “Still, one morning as the sun began to rise, he could go no further. Namiche lay down atop the warm sand and closed his eyes. He saw all the people who had died in the Valterrian. He saw his father, lost forever. He saw his people, lost and afraid and slowly fading away. He saw his small sister, and the doom that hung over her. She, and all the Chaktawe, must either die or leave their homelands. Most of them would rather die. Namiche saw these things, and he wept. Despite his thirst, his desperate need for moisture, tears fell from his eyes and wet the sand beneath his head. All his grief and fear poured from him, all the grief and fear of his people.

Then Namiche lifted his head, and he saw the crow. At first he thought it was a vision, a product of his delirium. But the bird ambled closer, pecking at the dry sand, and Namiche could see it was real. And then he heard a voice, the voice of the god Eywaat, as though it spoke right in his ear."

The Abayla hushed her voice, speaking as though she were far away. “You have suffered much, my brother. You and all your people have suffered, have endured great pain. You have come to understand that pain, to embrace it and accept it. Now, you must move beyond it. More hardship awaits you, but you have been tempered in the flames of disaster. You will survive. Your faith, your courage, and above all your understanding will allow you to survive. You are a resilient people, stubborn and wise as the crows."

Lifting her head in imitation of her character, the Abayla let her voice return to normal. “Namiche raised his head further, but he saw nothing but the crow. The voice was gone. Its words had not said what he wanted, did not comfort him. Yet, for some reason he did not fully understand, they gave him hope. He knew that the worst was now over. There was another path for his people. What that path was was not yet clear, but it would come in time. Namiche gave thanks to the gods and to his spirit guide, then he killed the crow. Its flesh gave him the strength he needed to rise, and to slowly make his way back to his people.

When Namiche arrived at his village, days later, his young sister ran out to meet him with a smile of joy. As he walked wearily through the scattering of tents and ramshackle shelters, he saw his people were not so hungry, not quite so afraid. The reason soon became clear. Several days before a flock of crows had descended upon the village. The people had rejoiced in this unexpected source of food, and now they welcomed Namiche back as a hero. They realized that it was his faith and courage that had brought the crows. Watching the renewed energy of his people, the way the hope shone in their eyes again, Namiche knew at last what Eywaat had meant for him to understand. He called together his people, and this is what he told them.”

The Abayla bolstered the tone of her voice, speaking with strength and confidence. “We cannot go back to the way we used to live, that life is gone. We mourn it, as we should. But now we must move forward. I do not wish to leave these lands, and I know you also do not. These are the lands of our ancestors, the place where our people belong. If we are to remain here, we must learn to live in a new way. The good earth has left us and the birds come and gone, so we too must be like the dust, and the crows, riding the back of the desert wind. We must learn to hunt, and to build shelters to protect us from the winds and heat. We must become travelers, following the sands to find what we need. It will not be an easy life, but I know that you are strong, and clever, stubborn and wise. We can learn to change and adapt, while still retaining what makes us Chaktawe. I pledge my life to making this happen.

And he did. As he said, learning to live as nomads in a harsh land was not easy. But we Chaktawe are resilient and proud, and from the depths of our pain and suffering, we make beauty and life. Namiche and his people had faith in the gods, and in their own abilities. They survived, as Eywaat had promised, and more than that they thrived, growing too large to live as one tribe. Namiche had three sons, and when they were grown they gathered their followers around them and led them to different ends of the desert. Each of the three tribes formed its own customs and ways of life, but each considers itself Chaktawe above all else. And every Chaktawe remembers Namiche and his tribe, and the sacrifices they made. For they know that without Namiche’s courage and faith, they would not be the strong and capable people they are today.”

(Contributed by Liriel)