Chapter 13: Wisdom
Almonihah wasn’t really thinking about his little encounter with Owl Talon during the night when he awakened. The Plainsmen rose with the sun, just as Almonihah usually did. The half-dragon started looking for the Chief once it seemed like the village was awake. He was intercepted by a young Plainsman whose job was apparently to make sure the honored guest had breakfast. He assured the honored guest that he would help Almonihah find the Chief after he had discharged that duty. He wasn’t in any particular hurry to talk with Griffon Heart, so Almonihah agreed.
After a breakfast of bison meat and some simple cakes of wheat flour, his Plainsman guide took him to the Chief, who apparently customarily had people come to him at this hour. He had to wait for a bit while he talked with a woman about something—about her son hunting or something—and then the Chief turned his attention to Almonihah.
“I trust that you found nothing amiss with our hospitality?” He asked.
Almonihah shook his head. “Just wanted t’ talk t’ you about what ‘m going t’ be doing while ‘m here.”
Griffon Heart nodded. “You had something in mind?”
“Yeah. I was thinking about going with th’ next group ‘f hunters you send t’wards th’ North Forest. See ‘f I can teach them about some ‘f the dangers of th’ Forest they don’t know about.”
The Chief nodded again. “Our people do not often venture into the Forest, largely because of the dangers you speak of. However, I am certain that some of our hunters would be glad to learn from you. It will, however, be at least a moon before another hunting group journeys to the north. What will you do until then?”
Almonihah thought for a bit. He hadn’t really considered the fact that he might have to wait for a bit.
Eventually, he just shrugged. “Not sure.”
Griffon Heart laughed. “Well, I doubt that doing nothing would sit well with you…”
The Ranger shook his head. Sitting around doing nothing was not something he’d ever been fond of. Especially after being in Galindakherithan’s lair.
“Perhaps you could observe our way of life for a time and see if there is something you wish to do,” The Chief suggested.
“Might’s well,” was Almonihah’s response.
Almonihah spent the next weeks among the people of the tribe, wandering from place to place. While at first most of the Plainsmen still treated him with superstitious awe, they slowly—with Almonihah’s stubborn insistence—stopped referring to him as the “Great Thunder Spirit”. The half-dragon could swear that some of them were still watching him when he wasn’t looking, waiting for him to sprout wings, fly up into the air, and summon a thunderstorm, or whatever it was a Thunder Spirit was supposed to do, but at least they weren’t doing it while he was looking any more.
One thing the Ranger noted as he wandered the village was that there were many more Plainswomen than Plainsmen in the village. Eventually, he discovered that most of the men were out in one of the tribe’s hunting camps, following the various herds of the Great Plains. Not long after he asked about this, one of the hunting groups returned, bringing hides and preserved meats. There was a flurry of activity in the village for the next few days, and then another group left to hunt, and the village settled back down into its normal routine.
What struck Almonihah the most about the Plainsmen’s way of life was how… different it was from that of the men in the villages along the Gold Road. While he couldn’t quite put his finger on what the difference was, he knew it was there. It was something in the feel of the village…
The last thing that Almonihah noticed was how many times Owl Talon ‘just happened’ to run into him. After what seemed like the hundredth time that this happened, Almonihah just had to say something.
“Don’t you have anything better t’ do than follow me around?” The half-dragon growled at Owl Talon.
The Plainsman laughed his soft, gentle laugh at Almonihah’s question. “Follow you?” he asked. “Whatever gave you that impression?”
“Can’t go anywhere without tripping over you,” was Almonihah’s gruff response.
“It is, as you have seen, a small village,” the old Plainsman replied, spreading his arms out with a bit of a grin. “It would be more of a surprise if I did not encounter you.”
The half-dragon grumbled something under his breath, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort to argue.
Almonihah did find himself visiting Owl Talon more often as time went on. While the old Plainsman’s habit of being ‘mysterious’ did annoy Almonihah, he found that, once he got past that, the old man did actually know a lot. What they talked about most, however, were the stories of the Griffon Tribe.
Almonihah wasn’t quite certain how they first got on that subject, but once it came up, it seemed completely natural that every conversation they had would involve one of the Griffon Tribe’s traditional tales. The first time it happened, he listened through the story without too much thought, just treating it as something kind of interesting, but of no import. It was only later that he realized that there was meaning to the story. Not meaning like some children’s tale that had a moral at the end, but meaning in how the characters viewed and interacted with the world around them. It was a way of thinking about stories that he’d never tried before, and he wondered if it applied to other stories, as well.
There was a particular element that cropped up several times in the stories. After the third time it was mentioned, Almonihah had to ask about it.
“What’s a vision quest?”
Owl Talon smiled in his mysterious way. “Ah, vision quests. I suppose you would not know about those.”
The half-dragon grunted impatiently. It was rather obvious that he didn’t know about them, since he was asking about them…
Owl Talon’s smile seemed to grow just a bit wider, as if the old man was amused by the younger Ranger’s impatience. “You have no doubt noticed by now that the names are children have are different from those the adults of the tribe have.”
Almonihah nodded. He had noticed that. The adults had… descriptive names, he guessed was the best thing to call them, while the children had names more like the ones he was used to.
“When a young man of the Griffon Tribe comes of age, he must go on a vision quest. When he does this, he must leave all the trappings of his young life behind—he gives away his childhood things, and takes only a single weapon with him. And then he must leave the village alone, guided only by the Earth Mother. When he returns, he tells the village wise man—me, for the moment—what he saw and did, and I tell him his adult name.”
Almonihah thought over what Owl Talon had said silently. The old Plainsman, accustomed by now to the half-dragon’s ways, stood up.
“Well, I believe you’re leaving at sunrise, young dragon.”
Almonihah nodded, ignoring the ‘young dragon’ thing. He’d given up on breaking Owl Talon of that by now.
“You’d best go prepare, then. It is sunset now, and the nights are short this time of year.”
Amazing! I posted again! I haven’t forgotten about this! I’ve just had a kind of crazy semester. That, and quite frankly, this is a hard chapter to write. Almonihah’s kind of reluctant to talk about it, and it’s hard to write what he is willing to talk about. Ah, well.