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Author Topic: A Bedtime Story [2018]  (Read 433 times)

Offline Myroria

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A Bedtime Story [2018]
« on: October 14, 2018, 01:55:25 AM »
You've come to me across the steppes of my country to sit with my family and I for supper, and you ask me to relate to you a story from our oral history. Though you are an outsider and a foreigner, I can tell by your bearing that you are a learned person - an "anthropologist". This is why it is baffling to me that you would request such a favor. You know that, even today, as our land is "modernized", we hold the traditions of oral storytelling to be sacred, and to be shared only among our own community. Anything you want to know can be read in a book. You also must know that to ask for a story is something little children do, when the noises of the prairie keep them up at night.

You tell me that in your calendar it is nearly the year 2100, and that the storytelling practices of my people are in decline. You say that my people increasingly settle in cities, and that long nights no longer need to be passed telling stories when other entertainment is available. You tell me that if this aspect of our culture is not preserved, it may be lost forever. Like most foreigners, you tend to repeat what everyone already knows.

You say that in the nearest town you met an old man who directed you to my homestead, where I live with my daughter, her husband, and my grandchildren. You want to know the story of Azizammart's national hero, and this old man told you I am his daughter. I considered telling you that this old man was lying, or mistaken, or senile. But it has only just gotten dark, and you must stay here for the night. You are also polite, for the most part, despite your ignorance of our etiquette.

I will humor you in this, if only because I enjoy telling stories. Yes, I am the daughter of Iziil sen-Tummart, our people's greatest leader. He was a man of noble bearing, who respected others, gave to the poor from his own pocket, and fed the hungry. Your people could stand to learn much from him, even in these modern days.

I will tell you his story, as he told it to me when I sat on his lap as a young girl. It was about eighty years ago when he was called to service, in the late period of the second decade of this century -- as your people date it.

***

In those days the modernizing forces you speak of were already making inroads into Azizammart. Where his grandfather or great-grandfather would take a horse with him on a hunt, Iziil took a four-wheeler. His rifle, which hid father had given him on the day he turned 13, was secured in a rack behind him rather than hung loosely from the side of a saddlepack.

It was on a hunt that Iziil received his call to serve our people. He recalled to me that he laid prone in the waist-length grass that covers the steppe, situated on a small hill that gave him a vantage point at an antelope herd below. I have always imagined his hands, one grasping the grip of the rifle and the other, towards the front of the gun, supporting its weight and steadying his aim. My father had tan skin, marked all over with white patches of vitiligo.

Iziil breathed in slowly, and as he held the intake of air, he fired. He breathed out and looked towards the herd of antelope. They erupted in a full gallop towards the east, with one straggler at the back running more slowly. He was disappointed that he would have to track this animal now until it could be put down.

My father stood up, secured the rifle back to his vehicle, and looked at the herd with binoculars. The stampede, a wave of tan fur, continued to run to the east. The one straggler was now further behind and limping. To the north, behind the whole affair, another four-wheeler drove towards him at a fast clip. It was rare then, and even more so now, to see another person on the steppe unless they were looking for you.

Iziil climbed atop his four-wheeler and drove towards the antelope. As he approached, he saw the animal stop and tip over, disappearing beneath the grass. The other figure stopped by the creature as well, though my father did not recognize him at the time. As he parked though, he saw that it was Battuta Menard, who served with him on the Custodial Council.

I will take this moment to explain to you what the Custodial Council is. The Azizammarti people are guided by their faith in our god, who created the steppe and our people. We and the steppe co-exist and depend on each other, but it is a difficult life. We await a king, guided by our god, who will lead our nation to greatness and enrich us. Until that king comes, however, we are lead by priests, who commune with our god and manage the land. Iziil, a scholar and theologian, was one of these priests, as was his friend Battuta Menard.

My father knew as soon as he saw Battuta that this was a serious matter. His friend was nearing 75, and was much too old for rides through the wilderness. He must have had an urgent message for Iziil to come all this way.

"My friend," Iziil said, "I will speak with you as soon as I tend to this antelope."

My father said this even though he could see the concern on Battuta's face. He could not allow this creature to suffer anymore. Iziil looked down and could see the animal's heavy breaths. He knelt, removed a knife from his belt, and put the struggling animal down. He then sighed, and said a prayer before standing again and returning his knife to his belt.

"Battuta, my friend, what brings you all the way out here? I hope that you visited my homestead and were told where I was. I also hope that you did not have much trouble finding me."

Battuta stepped around the antelope and embraced my father. "Kahena told me where you were, and I did not have trouble finding you, thank you. I am here though because I have some bad news about the condition of Chief Custodian Ziri."

"What is it?" my father asked. He was always concerned with the safety of others and, though he knew Ziri's health had been failing, he could not bear to think that he might have passed.

"Unfortunately," Battuta said, "Ziri died in his sleep last night."

The two men immediately bowed their heads in prayer, then embraced once more.

"This is terrible news," my father said. "How is his wife?"

"She is taking it about as well as one can."

"That is a comfort, at least." Iziil said. He knelt down and prepared to throw the antelope over the back of his four wheeler. He heaved and got the 70-pound animal across his shoulders, then heaved once more and threw it onto the vehicle.

"Iziil," Battuta began, "The election to determine Ziri's successor begins as soon as the Council is all present. When will you be able to make it to the capital?"

Iziil stopped to catch his breath and adjusted his belt. He put his hands on his hips and thought for a moment. "I must gut this animal, but I will be able to head to the capital the day after tomorrow."

Battuta nodded solemnly and climbed back aboard his four wheeler. "I will see you then."

"Wait!" my father said, preparing to strap the antelope to his own vehicle. "Won't you stay for supper tonight?" Iziil was always thinking of others in this way, you see.

"Unfortunately, my friend, I must return to my own home and prepare for the journey."

"Ah," Iziil said. "Then we can catch up in a few days."

***

I am afraid I must stop there for a moment. I can hear the soup starting to boil over, and we must all eat. I can return to this story for you after supper, when we can all share a drink. You are our guest, and Azizammarti custom dictates entertainment well into the night.
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."