I place my Keh in your hands. I listen like the
Forest. I know like the Mountain. I speak like the River. I place
my Keh in your hands. I listen to the Truth. I speak the Truth.
I place my Keh in your hands. Here are my words true.
Four nights ago, my dreamwalk led to the outskirts of a wood. Long
limbed ikatans armored in bark strove greedily for the sky. Tens
of tens of tens of the trees greeted me in every direction, and
I could feel the hunger of many more tens of tens of tens behind
them. Splayed in every direction between the ikatans lay grass and
root and flower, a lush and verdant skin which rippled with each
Although I strode confidently up to the edge of the forest, I felt
an awe that bordered on fear. But in my dreamwalk I was helpless
to stop myself as I shouted my name and arrival to the dark and
There was no echo as each word uttered from my mouth was seemingly
snatched out of the air by the ikatans before they even had time
to breathe. The trees' higher branches twisted and bowed in my direction
as if to partake of more delicacies that I might offer. I felt the
urge to tell my Life Tale, as if I was before the Council and preparing
myself the night before a Battle of Honor. But I knew there was
no such Battle forthcoming. I knew I had many more greetings to
offer the sun and the moon before I caught a glimpse of Wharu, and
yet I could feel the words starting to pour from my lips, when I
A group of ikatans in the very center of the forest edge shimmered
and glowed, and the glow coalesced into a fair form before me. Tall
she was, her ears wide and beautiful, and her tusks were magnificent
"I am Tanae," she began, and I thought my heart would burst with
the sound of her loveliness. Her voice was a melody of gold that
soothed my fear, each word hanging in the air like a summer cloud.
But when she spoke, the branches of the ikatans stirred not at all.
"Know that when the Tonk reverberated across the heavens, my eldest
sister was there to hear it.
"Countless moons have passed since the first sound, and many of
my elder sisters have since risen and fell. But I am here, though
none except my eldest sister has seen a world stranger. I am here
and I listen. I hear the chattering winds, I hear the tonk as it
builds the akiekie, I hear the Wharu come and go, a blight upon
me and yours. I hear all. Whisper or shout, secret or tale, truth
or lie, I hear. But what shall I tell you? Volkama is our speaker.
But when Palenqual demands, who is Tanae to say no?
"So listen, Aun Shimauri, listen to the truth of my words. My totem
is loose in the world. Find it amongst your misguided brethen. Three
boons have I laid upon it. The skill of regeneration, for flame
is an ever present danger for me and my sisters, and always will
we grow back after the inferno. The skill of thorns, for we listen,
yes, but we are not always passive. I can be prickly, little one,
so beware your travels in my domain. The skill of precision, for
nothing that I or my sisters do is left up to chance. To you the
forest may seem a random collection of growth upon the skin of our
blessed mother. But I know where every tree is in my forest, every
blade of grass and every flower. These are the boons I have made
for you. These are the blessings for you to take.
"Go now, little Shimauri. Go and spread my word. For others must
do the listening now." And with this final burst of melody her body
shimmered and glowed, and when the light was gone only the ikatans
And then my dreamwalk took me to other places and I heard other
words. Words about me and mine, and perhaps a word or two of you
and yours. But what happened there is not for your ears to hear,
nor the ears of any, until the day you listen to my Life Tale.
Three nights ago, my dreamwalk led me to the base of a mountain.
Immense the mountain was, full of stone and strength and hard, sharp,
jutting teeth. It ascended far above the wispy clouds, and even
the playful breezes,usually full of life and gossip, paid the proper
respect to the mountain. Unlike the woods of the night before, the
mountain did not seem to hunger for my words or for any other thing.
It merely sat there, large and solid, as if it had always been there
and always would be.
This time I could not even muster the appearance of confidence as
I slowly approached the high stone walls. But once again, I knew
despite my fears that I must announce to the mountain that I was
there. And so I did.
Unbidden by any conscious intent, I wondered, as I had wondered
oft back when I was still a childling, what the name of my Mother
had been, before she had beome Puh. My father would never speak
of her, and I long ago learned to stop asking. And then I knew.
I knew her name. And I also knew why she had chosen my father over
his brother, Telakanua, and how their continued rivalry forced her
eventually onto the path that would lead her to be outcast from
the tribe, never more to be seen or heard.
And I knew other things as well. I knew the four sacred names of
the Sun and what had happened to the three names that had been lost.
I knew the answer to the Riddle of Kaleh, I knew why it had still
not been solved. I knew how many people wished me direct harm and
their names. I knew why the moon is round. I knew...
"Enough," a voice rumbled, and the knowledge pouring into my head
ceased. I still knew all these blessed things, about myself and
my people, all these wonderful and tragic things. But I found myself
crumpled to the ground, knees bloody and torn from where they had
dropped to the rock below, tears drying upon my face. I knew much,
but the knowledge hurt. The knowledge hurt very much.
I lifted my head, and there before me stood one of the people, but
his skin was grey and hard like the rock. His eyes were flint, and
he did not smile at me as Tanae had. When he spoke, the words came
out like stone grating against stone, harsh and full of soft thunder.
"Audetaunga is what I am known as amongst your people." And with
each word that he spoke, I knew the where and why of it. I saw the
naming ceremony, and the dance and the song, and my heart lifted
with the sight of my people in a time before the Wharu had come.
"And when the Tonk came into being on the First Day, my eldest brother
was there to know that it had happened, and that it was good.
"The mountains endure, little one. They last far longer than my
soft near-sisters and near-brothers. And this is as it should be,
as it was Spoken, for..." and almost did I know the truth of why
this was, and almost I could conceive of a Life Tale being told,
the Life Tale of the Creator itself. But I felt wetness pouring
out of my ears and my eyes and my nose and when I wiped it away
with my hand, only then did I see my hand covered in my lifeblood.
"I am sorry, Aun Shimauri. I know almost all and yet I forget much.
There is knowledge that the People were not meant to know, truths
and glimpses of truth that are too sturdy and sharp for your fragile
selves. Rarely do I speak, yet for all my knowledge still would
I not deny Palenqual when she comes to me. Know these words, then,
know them to be true.
"My totem is placed onto the world, taken by those who know far
too much and far too little. Three powers have I given the totem
knowledge of. He who wields my totem shall know strength, for one
must be strong to hold all the knowledge of the earth and sky. He
who wields my totem shall know defense against an enemy, for knowledge
one's enemies allows one to avoid harmful strikes. He who wields
my totem shall know speed against an enemy, for knowledge of one's
tools allows one to be swift and sure in their use. These are the
three knowings I have granted to the people. These are the three
gifts from the mountain.
"Go now, little Shimauri. Go and spread my word. For others must
have the knowledge now." Unlike Tanae, he did not disappear, and
so thinking my time here was done, I turned and began to walk away.
I had only reached a few steps when his voice rumbled in my ear
once more. "For the second time I must apologize to you, Aun Shimauri.
I am glad we do not spend more time together for if a Lesser earns
three apologies from an Elder, then will that Lesser and Elder exchange
places, and I am content to reside in my stone and knowing. You
have learned things tonight that you were not meant to know. You
may not leave here with those particular gifts." And I could feel
the knowledge leaving my head. No longer did I know why the moon
was round, and what the answer to Riddle of Kaleh would be. But
surely he would not take...
I screamed. My voice rose and rose and rose and it did not fall.
I held nothing back. Let him hear my pain and anger, et him apologize
to me one more time, and then I would be the mountain, and I would
know the name again. I would never forget my mother's name. But
after a time, my screams fell to silence. I opened my eyes but Audetaunga
And though I did not wish to go, my dreamwalk took me to other places,
and I knew other things. Things about me and mine, and perhaps a
thing or two about you and yours. But what happened there is not
for your head to know, nor the heads of any, until the day you know
my Life Tale.
I would trade all of the knowledge I gained that night for the name
of my mother.
Two nights ago, my dreamwalk led me to the banks of a river. Wide
and sinuous it was, a blue sparkled serpent that flashed as it undulated
from one end of the horizon to the other. At some places the river
was peaceful and calm, its soft pulses chirping with the mischievous
breezes overhead . At other places the river surged and sprinted,
white rapids crashing into stony outcrops on the river floor. There
were fish knifing up through the surface and splashing back down
to the river depths, and large black birds that would occasionally
follow the fish down and bring it back up as an unwilling guest
to a daytime meal. There were dragonflies and frogs and small sea-snakes,
and along the banks of the river there were grasses and flowers
and baby carenzi, and all of them chirping and squawking and burbling,
one large symphony of wind and air, water and life.
I approached the river without cares, lulled to peace by its music
and song. With a joy I had not felt for some time I added the sounds
of my name and greeting to the ongoing melody. I could see my addition
to the sounds and activity of the river swirl around, tossed back
forth between the breezes, then dropped down to a frothy blue tendril
that splashed over and around my name. My name whirled up and spun,
gaining speed, faster and faster, with the river water rising up
and through it, until there was a vortex of water spinning, spinning,
And when it stopped, there stood before me a woman lithe and long.
Her form was supple and showed strength, although she did not have
the obvious beauty of Tanae. And there was a constant shimmer to
her shape that made her uncomfortable to look at for any length
of time. Ribbons of her flesh would flow and loop in and around
her and when the wind gusted she seemed like she might melt away.
But when I closed my eyes the melody filled my ears, intense and
personal, and I could have listened to it forever.
"Greetings and many welcomes I offer to you this day, Shim, the
Aun Shimauri, beloved of my near-sister Wind and of Aun Nuahlauri
and of the xuta Aun." Her voice was the melody and yet also separate.
I could not tell whether the words came out of the melody, or sung
in counterpart. Her voice filled my head.
"I am Volkama, the River, and when the Tonk first sung the songs
of creation and destruction, there my eldest sister was to whisper
and shout the glories of its creation to all of its inhabitants.
We all have our place, Aun Shimauri. Tanae sits and waits and hears
all. She passes on that knowledge to Audetaunga, our brother, who
sifts through each word and story. And most of what Tanae passes
on he records for all time in his strong stone walls. And then he
passes on to me the stories and tales that shall be sung from the
sky to the earth and to all who dwell in between.
"That is my role, young cousin, and I perform it well. And I could
speak to you of many things, you could sit at my banks for tens
of tens of years, entranced by my every word until you lay silent,
a collection of bones. But Palenqual has asked me to be brief. And
though I am the Speaker for us all, when Palenqual speaks, so shall
"I have spoken my totem onto the world, now stolen by those who
can nevermore speak true. Three whisperings have I shared with my
totem. I whispered the word of endurance, for long must I travel
to touch the ears of all in this world. I whispered the word of
speed, for fast must I travel to catch the ears of all in this world.
I whispered the word of skill, for adept must I be to find those
who do not wish to be found. From the beginning it was known that
all must hear the words of the Speaker, and so have I Spoken, on
countless other worlds than this.
"These are the three songs I have sung to the people. These are
my words of power for you to hear. Go now, dear little Shimauri.
Go and spread my word. For other must speak these truths now." And
with that the melody subsided to a whisper, and Volkama lost her
form and softly flowed back into the river. And then the melody
But I found myself speaking and singing when the melody ended. In
this way I was able to keep an echo of the joy I had felt. And then
my dreamwalk took me to other places, and there I sung other harmonies.
Songs about me and mine, and perhaps a song or two about you and
yours. But what happened there is not for your mouth to sing, nor
the mouths of any, until the day I tell my Life Tale.
Last night, before I gathered myself up for sleep, and perhaps another
walk in the realm of stars, I thought about what I had seen and
heard and said. I thought about beautiful Tanae, and how the branches
of her ikatans sucked up hungrily each word that I spoke. I thought
about stern Audetaunga, and the cruelty of not letting me keep my
mother's name. I thought of the gracious Volkama, and what a life
it must be, forever flowing and sharing and spreading joy.
And then...and then I realized what was wrong. Imagine one day you
woke up and saw the Sun. And the Sun was yellow. And you thought
to yourself, "Yes, the Sun is yellow. It has always been yellow.
This is as it should be." And you went on your way and performed
all the tasks necessary for your xuta and yourself. But then some
time passed, and the thought struck you, "But the Sun has never
been yellow. It has always been red. But for some reason I did not
remember that when I saw it this morning. I just thought it had
always been yellow." And you might have been angry at the Sun for
playing tricks on you, although eventually you would realize that
the Sun may do and go and turn colors as it wishes, and much the
fool you would be to offer it challenge.
But three times I had been visited by the gods. And at no time did
I seek them out, or when met did question their wishes. And three
times they had played their tricks on me.
For long have I known the history of my people, and the history
of my gods. And here is the story that is passed on, from my father
to me, and from his father to him, and on, from the very first days
of Ezheret-Hazahtu and the first Tonk. And like any child would
know, I know that Tanae is a man, and Volkama is the son of Mother
Audetaunga. I knew this, and yet in my dreamwalk I knew no such
thing. There Tanae was a beautiful woman and Audetaunga was the
brother of Volkama, not her (or was it his?) mother. And I had never
considered that there was anything wrong with this, although in
the waking world I knew a completely different set of truths.
I pondered this long, until the moons were high in the sky. I could
not discern what had been true and what had been false. Never before
these last three nights had I heard of Tanae as the Listener, and
Audetaunga as the Knower, and Volkama as the Speaker. What was true?
And as I went to sleep, I wondered which gods I would speak to tonight,
and what mysteries would be resolved with the arrival of the Sun.
I did not know how long I had been walking. And although I came
upon many a wood, and mountains, and rivers, I felt no need to approach
any of them. I knew I needed more walking, and so walk I did.
And lost in the walk as I was, with the simple rhythmic pattern
of foot after foot with the thumping of tail, the next time I looked
up I found myself walking in the sky amongst the night lights. Below
me was the whole of Palenqual in all her glory. A diamond of lush
green, its blue rivulets interlaced amongst its grey stony cliffs.
I stopped walking and looked down at the beauty of Palenqual. Long
did I stand there in the sky and look at the face of my land. We
still talk about Ezheret-Hazahtu with the proper respect, but our
children have known Palenqual as their only home. This is our home.
The Hea have forgotten this. They look at this land as raiding grounds,
as spoils of the battle. But it is our home. We will not be going
back to Ezheret-Hazahtu.
I was filled with sadness then. Sadness and fear. I wondered, as
I stood there high in the sky, if I would ever see my people again.
And I could see darkness creeping over my land, blacking out all
the colors and life of my Palenqual. And the darkness did not stop
there, but kept on crawling and seething in all directions, a black
roiling flood that stretched from horizon to horizon. Blackness
overcoming the world. Was this to be our fate? Did our destiny end
here in the darkness?
How long? How long did we have?
"Not so very long." The voice reverberated around me. The blackness
receded from below, slipping over the horizons.
Palenqual's face once more shone beneath me, except now her face
was an actual face. She was smiling. And as I stared at that smiling
face, a face I thought I could gaze at forever, it started to approach
me. And as it did, I realized the face was attached to a head, the
head to a body, and that body, that beautiful body, was walking
towards me up through the sky.
"No, not so long, Aun Shimauri. The darkness will come soon, come
and overcome much." It was hard to hear a voice so beautiful tell
a tale so painful.
Why would this be so? How could she let it happen? Thoughts were
rushing too fast in my head for me to be able to speak. She was
still smiling. "But the people will survive, Little Shim. They will
survive. You have my promise on this. The darkness will come, and
we will be lost and saved and lost again in the darkness. But we
"Four times now you have gone on the dreamwalk. For three of those
last nights you have met my children. And now, here, we meet, as
I knew we would when I was but a small child of molten rock and
hissing steam. I knew that we would meet, and I knew what I would
"But sometimes the game changes. You did not know that, did you?
I have always known we would be here, and I knew my part to play.
But now here we are, and there are things we must discuss that have
little to do with the ways ordained. Remember that, Shimauri. No
matter how well you may think you know your part, sometimes the
game changes. But we will survive.
I had no idea what she referred to. Games? Parts to play? It made
no sense. But her voice, her voice would stay with me forever.
"First, the totems. They were meant for Timaru, for those who stayed
true. But the Hea xuta, they who chose the path of kah, have taken
them from their rightful place. You know enough now to counsel those
who can help you bring them back. And do bring them back, Shimauri,
for though they will not stop the darkness, we shall need all the
power we can gather in these days before the end.
"And now, three final matters before I leave you, Aun Shimauri."
How I wish I could relate to you what those three matters were!
But as she told me, the game changes. The game changes and I must
remain silent for now. But I will help to take back the totems of
Tanae, Audetaunga, and Volkama. I will collect them and let the
people, all the peoples of this world, use them. Oh my poor children.
The darkness changes and the world comes. One day I shall know my