I have been here less than a week and yet I feel at home. The communal feast last night helped me to get to know a lot more of the villagers, and my summation of them as a gentle, generous people is confirmed. As soon as my plate emptied, there was someone at hand offering me more. When my mead needed replenishing, it was done before I could ask (and a lovely drink it is, I must say).
When the feasting was over, the villagers – around 150 in all, I would guess – sat around and listened as Jakan, the Treespeaker, told a story. At least, to me it was a story. To the people of the Fifth Tribe of Arrakesh, it is part of their history. I will attempt to tell it here, as best I can remember it. The Arrakeshi use no form of writing. All history is passed down from generation to generation orally, as it was last night.
"In the days before Man walked the earth, or birds flew in the air, or trees shaded the ground, Arrakesh the Creator had a brother, Maganark the Destroyer. Everything Arrakesh made, his brother would destroy. The world was a barren, joyless place because of it. Arrakesh pleaded with him, but it was Maganark’s nature to pull things apart, to uncreate. He felt no guilt at the distress his actions caused.
At last, Arrakesh could bear it no longer. He devised a plan. During a long period of darkness caused by Maganark, he secretly created seven types of creature, which he named collectively the 'jikhoshi'. These creatures obeyed only him and were able to make themselves invisible. Each creature of the jikhoshi owned a sound, a note that it could sing with such purity and clarity that when the creatures sang their notes in harmony, they created a solid, clear wall of music. Drawn to their song in his yearning to destroy it, Maganark became trapped by it. Together, the jikhoshi took him in this prison to Neteknesh, The Place of Darkness. There, they forced him into a hole in the ground that Arrakesh had created, pushing him deep down into the bowels of the earth. Arrakesh sealed the hole, imprisoning his brother forever. Over the top, he formed a deep lake.
Then Arrakesh created a forest to cover the land, with men and plants and animals living in balance with one another. But around Neteknesh, which became known as the Black Lake, not a plant or animal would grow. Still Maganark attempts to free himself, shaking the earth and raging through the rocks. Never has he managed to free himself, but Man must take care to do as Arrakesh wills, not to lose his temper or wish ill on others. For such destructive thoughts give strength to Maganark."
Though the villagers must have heard this story many times before, their attention didn’t stray from their Treespeaker’s face as he told it. Even the children, who would normally have been sleeping, stayed awake, wide-eyed and curious. When he finished, they stood and returned to their cottages without a sound. I looked out of my cottage window a good time later and only Jakan remained, still seated, staring into the dying embers of the fire.