The Girl and the True Tale
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The Girl and the True Tale
Kanila loved stories.
She was the most enthusiastic girl in her tribe, the Hope Tree. When other children got bored, she still listened. She already knew the Tale of the Mother Sky, the Tale of the Father Earth, and the Wonders of the Rainbow. The Storyteller loved Kanila more than any other child. He believed Kanila could be the next Storyteller after he’s gone. The old man told Kanila more stories than anyone else.
That was their secret.
Kanila was too young to listen to the True Tales. Tales that people lived through and written down. So they should not forget and repeat the mistakes we made.
The Storyteller wasn’t always an old man who taught young people about right or wrong. Once, he was a fearsome warrior. The best fighter in the tribe. He fought at the Battle of Grey Mountain. He defeated the evil Moon Tribe and retrieved the Sphere of Hope. A mystical object with a lot of untold secrets.
Kanila’s father and mother were just children when the battle was fought. They remembered the Storyteller, whose name was Akura. Or “Moonbane Akura”, as other old people called him.
So Akura unfolded her the days of the battle, as it were a tale.
But this tale didn’t have a happy end. Kanila was stronger than she looked.
She enjoyed and cherished the True Tales.
“Aren’t you scared, little girl?” asked the Storyteller.
Kanila shook her head.
“I love these tales more than the rest, Storyteller.”
“Why? The True Tales are bloody, full of hurt and the ending is never happy.”
“But they’re real.”
Her words surprised the old man. Even the adults found the True Tales horrifying. They’ve said: “Hard to digest”. Like some food. But Kanila was different from the rest. She listened to every True Tale, and her eyes shined with concentration. She had such a calm mind and a warm heart. Akira always told her parents: “Be proud of her! There’s no other child like her.”
But Kanila wasn’t just a good listener.
She was a born adventurer. Kanila climbed trees faster and ran longer than the boys. She was braver than any child in her tribe. One day she decided to visit the Grey Mountain herself. She was curious about how it looked. It was nothing special. Just a bunch of big rocks. But! She found the entrance of a cave.
She carefully sneaked in. She feared no insect nor snake, but she knew well: “If you notice furry animals bigger than yourself, leave them alone! If they notice you, stay calm! If they run at you, run to safety!” And so she did.
There was no danger as far, even if the cave had gone darker with every step. However, there was something unusual. On the wall, she saw light. Blue light, coming from the walls. And all was covered in some substance similar to ice. She saw her reflection on it. A little, long-haired girl smiled back at her. It looked like ice but it was much cleaner. Smoother. The blue light above this ice-like thing illuminated the cave around it. And, after some time, something even weirder happened.
A man looked back at her from the ice.
Kanila almost cried loudly but covered her mouth with her hands.
The man was an adult and covered in scars. He looked young, but his eyes were deep. When he spoke to Kanila, his voice was much deeper, than what she expected.
“Hi there, little girl.” said the man. He tried to smile, but it made him even scarier.
Kanila felt the urge to run away, but her feet didn’t move.
“You don’t have to run away from me. I wouldn’t hurt you, not even if I wanted to. I’m a prisoner here.” he said and pointed at the ice wall.
Kanila tried to calm herself down. She was still afraid of him.
“Who are you?”
The man thought for a few seconds as if he had forgotten.
“My name is Sinta. May I ask your name?”
Kanila did not respond.
“It’s rude not to introduce yourself. Your parents would scold you for that.”
Right, she thought.
“Kanila. My name is Kanila.”
“Nice to meet you, Kanila.” said the man, and bowed to her. “Welcome to my humble home.”
Kanila looked around.
“Can’t you just… you know…”
“Walk out from this prison?”
“No. I would love to, but I’m trapped here.”
Kanila was confused.
“How long are you trapped here?”
“Too long. Since the Battle of Grey Mountain.”
“Did you… fight in the battle?” asked Kanila curiously.
“I did, little lady. I did. May I ask how you know about the battle?”
“From our Storyteller.”
“Is that so?” asked the scarred man, and he closed his eyes. He felt relieved. “Thank to the Endless Spirit! We are not forgotten.”
“Who is “we”?”
Sinta’s eyes flashed with fear. It was so sudden that Kanila jumped. As the man looked around, breathing heavily. He looked like a rabbit, recognizing the circling wolves around it.
“My tribe… The Moon Tribe.” said the man, and slowly looked at Kanila. “You are not from my tribe, right?” asked Sinta, then answered his own question. “No, you don’t. Then, you must be…”
“Hope Tree Tribe.” said the girl. She felt awkward. The Storyteller told her that the Moon Tribe was no more. Now, there’s a man trapped inside the Grey Mountain, who was the member… maybe the last member of his tribe.
His face was flushed with emotions. Kanila saw hate, anger, fear, sorrow. And in the end, grief. Sinta finally sat down and kindly turned to Kanila.
“May I ask you to tell me about the Battle, Kanila? Please tell me it, as you heard from your Storyteller.”
And so she did. Sinta never interrupted her, though she saw how angry he was at some parts of the True Tale. When she finished, he just stared in front of him. Sinta looked like a statue. Didn’t move, not even a blink. Kanila didn’t know what to do.
“Excuse me, but… are okay?” asked him cautiously.
He answered by shaking his head.
“No,” he said. “There’s a lot of lies in your story. I have a guess who might be your Storyteller. Is his name Akura?”
“Moonsbane Akura, as my parents called him.”
“Of course. He was the man who defeated my tribe and became the hero.”
The scarred man almost spat the words. Looked and sounded very angry. Kanila didn’t dare to talk to him. But when he looked at Kanila, his features softened. A small smile appeared in the corner of his mouth.
“You seem to be a fine Storyteller yourself, Kanila. You told this story interestingly. Do you like stories?”
She nodded. This time she smiled.
Sinta crawled closer to the wall as if he wanted to tell a secret.
“You know, this Tale has another side. A side only I know. Would you like to hear my version of this True Tale?”
She liked to. And so, he told her his version of the Battle.
Kanila was furious and confused at the same time.
“But that is… but that is…”
Kanila was in shock. She walked around the cave, trying to make sense of what she had heard.
Sinta crossed his hands in front of his chest and waited patiently until the girl digest his story.
“But that would mean you and your Tribe… Your revenge was justified from the very start.”
“Just as you said.” nodded the man. “I would use the word avenge. Akura robbed me of my right.”
“But why? He’s not a bad person. He should’ve known you better.”
“He was a warrior. He just did what he had to. I’m not angry at him because he protected his Chief. I’m angry because he denied my right to the Challenge.”
“So it was not the Moon Tribe who started the conflict? Our Chief just wanted to get his hand on your Hope Sphere?”
“Yes. He kidnapped my daughter to provoke a fight with my son-in-law. I wanted to organize a rescue mission but he was reckless. He and two of his warrior friends decided to take matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, they failed. I lost three good men on that night. Also, they murdered my daughter. I wanted to settle it with one final duel. Chief against Chief. It was an old tradition, as old as the Spirits themselves. But no. We sent our messenger, but he never returned. The only one who visited us was Akura with his warriors. And… but I told you the rest.”
Indeed, she thought. It was hard for her to imagine the good-willed and kind-hearted Storyteller as a murderous creature.
She came back to Sinta multiple times in the next few days. She still listened to the Storyteller’s tales, but she was not as enthusiastic as she was earlier. After she found out about a different version of the Battle, Akura’s story made lesser and lesser sense. Sinta told her much more interesting tales. Mostly about the glorious days of the Moon Tribe. How just and merciful they truly were. How good their Storyteller was. As the days passed, Kanila felt deep inside her heart, that Sinta was telling the truth.
“Is there any way I can help you?” asked the girl.
“In theory, you can free me with the Sphere of Hope. I think it’s still in your village somewhere.”
“I will get it for you!” cried out Kanila. But there was something that troubled her.
“If I give back your freedom, but… You have to promise me to keep away from my people. I know you have the right for… avenging, but things changed. My parents were born after the battle, and they did nothing wrong. Neither am I. Please, leave my people at peace.”
Sinta shrugged again.
“My tribe died out a long time ago. Everyone is gone. There’s nothing left to be avenged. Or, I should say, no one left to avenge with. Also, your Chief probably died since that fateful night. So don’t worry. I won’t spill the blood of your people, little girl. I promise.”
The scarred man’s smile was sad, yet honest. Kanila believed no one should suffer the way he did. Yes. She will help him.
She will free him herself from this weird ice prison.
It was not too hard to steal the Sphere from the tent of the Chief. On that night, everybody slept. The Chief didn’t have guards around his tent, since he was well-loved. There were no enemies around the village, and they had a peaceful relationship with other tribes in the Valley.
She took the glowing object easily and sneaked out through the gates. She knew a lot of secret routes to the Grey Mountain. For her own sake, she was very careful to not make a fuss. Kanila was silent as a cat. When she was far enough, she started to run. Ran like the wind, she easily found her way to the ice prison.
Sinta was surprised to see the girl and was more surprised when the girl showed him the Sphere of Hope. His eyes went wide. His throat felt dry, even if he couldn’t feel thirst.
“I haven’t seen the Sphere for ages,” he said, mesmerized by the ball which suddenly started to glow.
“How can I free you with this?” asked the girl.
“You have to touch the wall with the Sphere. Then, it will open.”
Kanila nodded but when she started to walk to the wall, a familiar voice stopped her.
The girl shivered. The source of the voice showed itself.
It was the Storyteller.
Sinta recognized and smiled at him. It was not the smile he gave to Kanila. There was something malicious about it.
“Well, well. If it isn’t the Moonbane himself.” said the scarred man sarcastically.
Akura held up a bow and aimed it at Sinta, while walking closer to Kanila.
“Don’t give it to him! He’s lying.”
Sinta crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Kanila recognized the change in his pose. He seemed very kind before, but now he radiated confidence and had a predatory smile.
“Oh, like I would be the greatest liar here,” he said with a biting tone.
“How did you know?” asked Kanila with a shaking voice.
Akura replied to her while still aiming at the prisoner.
“You were less interested in my stories. You did not act like yourself in the past few days. Besides, the others told me you’re visiting Grey Mountain a lot. They may believe your clumsy lies Kanila, but I won’t. And I can’t just stand by, watching how that snake tries to turn you against your own tribe.”
“He won’t hurt anyone,” said Kanila. “He made a promise.”
“Is he introduced himself as Sinta?”
Kanila nodded but felt confused.
“I knew it. He lied to you from the very second. As he did to my son and daughter, before hunting them down.”
Kanila looked back at Sinta. The scarred man stood still but didn’t look in her eye.
“Is that true, Sinta?” she asked. Akura answered her question.
“Of course. And don’t call him like that! His true name is Oorhuun. And his a cold-blooded murderer.”
“And what are you, Akura?” asked back Oorhuun, which sounded like a snap of the jaws. Surely, there was some snake-ish in his attitude. “You killed my men in their sleep. You acted mercilessly. You cut down those who were not even warriors!”
“What did you expect, you filthy worm?!” cried the Storyteller. Kanila never heard him as angry before. His voice was full of hate. So as Oorshuun’s. “You did dirty to us, even before you committed treason!”
“Treason?” asked Kanila.
“He was one of us before. Before he joined the Moon Tribe. He betrayed his fellow warriors and led them into a trap set up by the Moon Tribe. This is why our Chief denied you the right of the Challenge. And you know he was right.”
Oorhuun kept his mouth shut. But his eyes were glowing with contempt.
“Why didn’t you kill him, Storyteller?” asked the girl.
“Oh, I wanted to. I still want it, believe me. If not for my oath, I would tear his lying tongue out of his mouth. With bare hands. But my Chief wanted to prove that we are different. So he used the Sphere to create this prison. He must suffer through the Tides of Time. A simple execution would have been too easy a punishment for him. He has to live forever. Alone and forgotten.”
Kanila looked at the Sphere, then the prisoner. Oordhuun kept his eye on his old enemy.
“I will never be a memory, old fool,” said the traitor. “One day, your magic will end. And I will get my well-deserved revenge on your descendants. I will punish everyone. I will kill every one of your tribe. I will turn everyone against you and your teachings. The Moon shall cover the Sky, as it was prophesied many ages ago. I will –”
“Shut up!” shouted Kanila at the scarred man. Suddenly, he looked a her for just one moment. But in that moment, Kanila saw everything in his eyes. The hate vanished when he looked at the girl. Oorhuun hated Akura. Maybe everyone else in the world. But he cannot hate Kanila. Not that sweet little girl who listened to all his tales. All his lies. He seemed like that sad man, whom she had met a few days ago.
But Kanila felt different. She shuddered with hate.
“You lied to me! Why did you lie to me? You would have killed me, don’t you? You never cared about me! You’re an evil man! The evilest of the world!”
Oorhuun looked away. He stayed silent. Words were unnecessary at this point.
Akura kindly took the sphere out of her hands.
“Come on, Kanila!” said the Storyteller. “We should go back. We have to give it back to the Chief before he starts a search.”
Kanila nodded while fighting with her tears.
When they started to walk to the exit of the cave, Oorhuun said:
“Cherish that girl, old goat! One day, she will be the best Storyteller of all the world.”
Akura just grunted as an answer. Kanila didn’t say anything.
“I just… I’m sorry, Storyteller. I just wanted to know the whole True Tale.” said the girl, when they were close at the village gates.
“I know, little one.” said the old man. “But you have to understand something: the Truth Tales are never complete. They tend to change their shape based on the Truth of the Storyteller. And some Storytellers would like to shape it further. Until the tales turn into lies.”
“How can you know which is which? ”
“You can’t” said silently, with a painful honesty in his voice.