Say long ago, there be dark people of Africa, dark, free people of wild, magikal natures. Say over the Afrikaans, there be Mount Kenya; de gods, dey knew it as Mount Highness, home of de gods. And from Mount came little god chile, say she be named Pretty, sister of High John de Conquer, and John Henry Roustabout, two mighty fine gods they be. She be hearin' the cries of her Afrikaan people, she flew down the mountain, boarded the ships carryin' the enslaved Afrikaans to America! She become de albatross, fly high over de water to watch her people. Follow them to hard, cruel land of toil, be America. Down South they worked. Pretty's heart tore twice over to see her people like they was. But there be nothin' she could do, 'cept set her spirits whisperin' hope in de people's ears, tell them stories of the magik of Africa, tell them stories to help set them free.
Then de war came, set most slaves free. But still there be hardship; de white people cared not for Pretty's people, torched them, hung them, shot them. De ebony people ran to de woods, 'cept for few vodu women and warrior men, not afraid of robed white men. Those outside people not afraid, they scoff the inside people, those Afrikaans torn long ago from Africa, hidin' inside de tall forests. Pretty, she had with her four spirits, de names of Hodag, Hide-behind, Fool-la-fafa..an' me, de best spirit of them all, be Dwahro.
Dwahro sat down upon a log. Pretty had been walkin' him since de dawn of time, it seemed, and his feet weren't gettin' any tougher.
"Pretty," Dwahro whined,"my feet feel just about ready to fall off."
Pretty's only a god chile, and not that strong yet, but her look could turn you to stone. Pretty slowly turned 'round and glared stonily at Dwahro, who shrank meekly, his hands up.
"Done hurt me, Pretty! I'm sorry I whined! Wait..maybe I could tell you a story?" Dwahro asked, his hands folded in suplication. Pretty relented, her gaze softening.
"All right, Dwahro. You've walked a mighty long time. I figure that a story wouldn't be too bad about now." Dwahro's face lit up, and he smoothed his white suit, patterned with blue moons and stars. He opened his mouth-
"I'm a gone tell you the story of The Curious Monkey."
"Ah, but a good long time ago, deep in the dark shady middle of the forest, there sleeps a Dog. He's all curled up in the ashes from a fire, cozy as can be, and he is the very first dog ever to be in the world. It's hard to say if he is a Good Dog or a Bad Dog, since back in those days, all Dog does is sleep.
Well, that's fine, but then along comes Monkey.
Monkey can't let anything be. He drops from the tree, and scampers over and tilts his head to look at Dog. Looks from one side, then the other. Looks at the head and then the tail. Monkey hangs upside down from a branch to see if Dog looks different that way. All he sees is upside-down Dog. Monkey doesn't know what Dog is, because Dog is the very first Dog in the world. Off goes Monkey to tell the world. Primates just can't keep a secret.
All the animals come to see; nobody wants to get second-hand news. "Well!" says Monkey. "There it is! Anyone know who this might be?" Elephant leans a long way over, looks down at Dog with elephant eyes. "No!" says Elephant, flapping her ears. "Not an elephant, that's for sure!" "Not an elephant!" Monkey says. "Thank you! That's a lot of help!"
Gentle Okapi steps up next. Swings his head with okapi eyes back and forth over Sleeping Dog. "Sorry," Okapi says, quiet and shy. "Not an okapi and not a giraffe."
Up comes Pangolin, covered with scales. Pangolin really takes his time. Some say Pangolin's very wise; others say he only slow. Pangolin looks with pangolin eyes, but nobody hears what Pangolin thinks. After looking a good long time, Pangolin sits and goes to sleep.
Monkey calls on every beast to come and look at Sleeping Dog. One by one they look through their eyes, but nobody says he's one of theirs.
Oh, but Tortoise sits in a tree, and she knows all about the Dog. She's been there since way, way back and she knows just about everything. "Done with asking?" she calls down, and Monkey says "Just about! This thing, though," - he means the Dog - "we still don't know what it is or does!"
"Until you think of a better name," Tortoise answers, calm and clear. "I'd advise you to call him 'Dog'. He looks just like a 'Dog' to me." Oh, but hearing his name out loud wakes up Dog and makes him mad. Pop! he opens his big dog eyes, and looks at the animals all around.
"Who here went and woke me up? Never mind, I'll get you all!" And Dog charges straight at everyone, barking and showing his big dog teeth. All the animals run away, and Dog goes after them with murder on his mind.
All except Tortoise. She only laughs and pulls her head back into her house. "You'll never get me, Dog," she says. "But from this day on, you'll chase any beast your dog-eyes see." And that's how it still is, even today.
That night, Monkey makes up a new Rhyme:
You let a sleeping dog lie.
By then, of course, it's too late."
Pretty clapped her hands, and Dwahro did a little bow.
"I'm a entertainin' man, an' that's the truth o' it!" Dwahro said, laughin'. Pretty laughed right along with him.
"Dwahro, you got any more stories?"
"Got plenty, Miz Pretty! I'll tell you Where Stories Came From!"
Once, a very long time ago, so long ago that it must have been close to the time when the First Man and the First Woman walked upon the earth, there lived a woman named Manzandaba (mah-nzah-ndah'-bah) and her husband Zenzele (zay-nzay'-lay).
They lived in a traditional home in a small traditional village. They had many children, and for the most part, they were very happy. They would spend the day working, weaving baskets, tanning hides, hunting and tilling the earth near their home. On occasion they would go down to the great ocean and play under the sun in the sand, laughing at the funny crabs they would see scuttling along there and rejoicing at the way in which the birds would dip and dive in the sea breezes. Zenzele had the heart of an artist and loved to carve. He would fashion beautiful birds out of old tree stumps. With his axe he could make the most wonderful impala and kudu bucks from stone. Their homestead was filled with decorative works by Zenzele the carver.
But in the evenings when the family would sit around the fire before going to sleep they would not be so happy. It was too dark for weaving or carving, and yet too early to go to sleep. "Mama," the children would cry, "Sifuna izindaba!" (see-foo'-nah ezee-ndah'-bah) "We want stories! Tell us some stories, Mama!" Manzandaba would think and think, trying to find a story she could tell her children, but it was of no use. She and Zenzele had no stories to tell. They sought the counsel of their neighbours, but none of them knew any stories. They listened to the wind. Could the wind be trying to tell them a story? No, they heard nothing. There were no stories, no dreams, no magical tales.
One day Zenzele told his wife that she must go in search of stories. He promised to look after the home, to care for the children, to mend and wash and sweep and clean, if only she would bring back stories for the people. Manzandaba agreed. She kissed her husband and children good-bye and set off in search of stories.
The woman decided to ask every creature she passed if they had stories to share. The first animal she met was Nogwaja (noh-gwah'jah) the hare. He was such a trickster! But she thought she'd better ask him all the same. "Nogwaja, do you have any stories? My people are hungry for tales!" "Stories?" shrieked Nogwaja. "Why, I have hundreds, thousands, no--millions of them!"
"Oh, please, Nogwaja," begged Manzandaba, "give some to me that we might be happy!"
"Ummm...." Nogwaja said. "Uhhhh...well, I have no time for stories now. Can't you see that I am terribly busy? Stories in the daytime, indeed!" And Nogwaja hopped quickly away. Silly Nogwaja! He was lying! He didn't have any stories!
With a sigh Manzandaba continued on her way. The next one she came upon was mother baboon with her babies. "Oh, Fene! (fay'-nay) " she called. "I see you are a mother also! My children are crying for stories. Do you have any stories that I could bring back to them?"
"Stories?" laughed the baboon. "Do I look like I have time to tell stories? Hawu! With so much work to do to keep my children fed and safe and warm, do you think I have time for stories? I am glad that I do not have human children who cry for such silly things!"
Manzandaba continued on her way. She then saw an owl in a wild fig tree. "Oh, Khova (koh'-vah)," she called, "please will you help me? I am looking for stories. Do you have any stories you could give me to take back to my home?"
Well, the owl was most perturbed at having been woken from her sleep. "Who is making noise in my ears?" she hooted. "What is this disruption? What do you want? Stories! You dare wake me for stories? How rude!" And with that the owl flew off to another tree and perched much higher, where she believed she would be left in peace. Soon she was sound asleep again. And Manzandaba went sadly on her way.
Next she came upon an elephant. "Oh, kind Ndlovu (ndloh'-voo)," she asked, "do you know where I might find some stories? My people are hungry for some tales, and we do not have any!"
Now the elephant was a kind animal. He saw the look in the woman's eye and felt immediately sorry for her. "Dear woman," he said, "I do not know of any stories. But I do know the eagle. He is the king of the birds and flies much higher than all the rest. Don't you think that he might know where you could find stories?"
"Ngiyabonga, Ndlovu!" she said. "Thank you very much!"
So Manzandaba began to search for Nkwazi (nkwah'-zee) the great fish eagle. She found him near the mouth of the Tugela River. Excitedly she ran toward him. She called out to him as he was swooping down from the sky, talons outstretched to grab a fish from the river. "Nkwazi! Nkwazi!" she called. She so startled the eagle that he dropped the fish that had been his. He circled around and landed on the shore near the woman.
"Hawu!" he barked at her. "What is so important that you cause me to lose my supper?"
"Oh, great and wise Nkwazi," began Manzandaba. (Now fish eagle is very vain. He liked hearing this woman refer to him and great and wise. He puffed out his feathers as she spoke.) "Nkwazi, my people are hungry for stories. I have been searching a long time now for tales to bring back to them. Do you know where I might find such tales?" She gave him a great look of desperation.
"Well," he said, "even though I am quite wise, I do not know everything. I only know of the things that are here on the face of the earth. But there is one who knows even the secrets of the deep, dark ocean. Perhaps he could help you. I will try and call him for you. Stay here and wait for me!" So Manzandaba waited several days for her friend the fish eagle to return. Finally he came back to her. "Sawubona, nkosikazi!" he called. "I have returned, and I am successful! My friend, ufudu lwasolwandle, the big sea turtle, has agreed to take you to a place where you can find stories!" And with that the great sea turtle lifted himself out of the ocean.
"Woza, nkosikazi," said the sea turtle in his deep voice. "Climb onto my back and hold onto my shell. I will carry you to the Land of the Spirit People." So the woman took hold of his shell and down they went into the depths of the sea. The woman was quite amazed. She had never seen such beautiful things before in her life. Finally they came to the bottom of the ocean where the Spirit People dwell. The sea turtle took her straight to the thrones of the King and Queen. They were so regal! Manzandaba was a bit afraid at first to look at them. She bowed down before them.
"What do you wish of us, woman from the dry lands?" they asked.
So Manzandaba told them of her desire to bring stories to her people.
"Do you have stories that I could take to them?" she asked rather shyly.
"Yes," they said, "we have many stories. But what will you give us in exchange for those stories, Manzandaba?"
"What do you desire?" Manzandaba asked.
"What we would really like," they said, "is a picture of your home and your people. We can never go to the dry lands, but it would be so nice to see that place. can you bring us a picture, Manzandaba?"
"Oh, yes!" she answered. "I can do that! Thank you, thank you!"
So Manzandaba climbed back onto the turtle's shell, and he took her back to the shore. She thanked him profusely and asked him to return with the next round moon to collect her and the picture.
The woman told her family all of the things she had seen and experienced on her journey. When she finally got to the end of the tale her husband cried out with delight. "I can do that! I can carve a beautiful picture in wood for the Spirit People in exchange for their stories!" And he set to work straight away.
Manzandaba was so proud of her husband and the deftness of his fingers. She watched him as the picture he carved came to life. There were the members of their family, their home and their village. Soon others in the community heard about Manzandaba's journey and the promised stories and came also to watch Zenzele's creation take shape. When the next round moon showed her face Zenzele was ready. He carefully tied the picture to Manzandaba's back. She climbed on the turtle's back and away they went to the Spirit Kingdom. When they saw the picture the King and Queen of the Spirit people were so happy! They praised Zenzele's talent and gave Manzandaba a special necklace made of the finest shells for her husband in thanks. And then they turned to Manzandaba herself. "For you and your people," they said, "we give the gift of stories." And they handed her the largest and most beautiful shell she had ever seen. "Whenever you want a story," they said, "just hold this shell to your ear and you will have your tale!" Manzandaba thanked them for their extreme kindness and headed back to her own world.
When she arrived at the shore, there to meet her was her own family and all the people of her village. They sat around a huge fire and called out, "Tell us a story, Manzandaba! Tell us a story!"
So she sat down, put the shell to her ear, and began, "Kwesuka sukela...."
And that is how stories came to be!
"That be lovely, Dwahro," said Pretty.
"Thank you, Pretty, but I'd better save the rest for later."
Dwahro's feet had all healed up, for that's de way of de spirit, to heal quickly. He sprang up and did a jig.
"I'm a feelin' lively as a grasshopper, Pretty. If I could, I'd sprout wings and fly!" Pretty smiled.
"Dwahro, you be happy enough to fly?" she asked.
"I say that, yes," said Dwahro, wonderin' what Pretty was up to. Pretty's eyes were sad, but on her face was a smile.
"Dwahro, de people of Africa are free now. Dere's nothin' left for you to do, I'm a gone set you free!" Dwahro stared at Pretty, wonderin' if she'd gone out of her mind. Pretty nodded, and Dwahro grinned wide, white teeth shiny in his dark black face.
"Whoopee!" Dwahro did an amazing backflip into the air.
"I'm a gone fly to de moon, Miz Pretty! Thank you so much for a-settin' me free!" Pretty watched as Dwahro lifted into de sky, his shape silouhetted against the orangey moon.
Dwahro came to land on a planet far from Earth..one that hadn't heard of Earth for a century at least. Danach, it was called..
"This be mighty fine place, ayah," thought Dwahro aloud. "I think I'm gone explore.." Dwahro smiled to himself, and whistled, turning himself into a shade of a spirit, nearly invisible, a grayish-white mist. In his shade form, he wandered the countryside, and was able to watch Danach's inhabitants without being noticed. Once he got to the center of Danach, however, he was noticed, by a dragonchen mother. The chen flew at Dwahro, and although she went right through him, she tried over and over to ward him off of her nest, a few feet from him, buried in the sand. Dwahro chuckled.
"You'm mighty confuzzled, Miz Chen. It's awful humorous!" he said, holding his sides and bending over. Then he began to get int'rested. He wondered what it was that the maw chen was protecting. He wandered over to a small pile of sand.
"My my,"he sighed, a dreamy look upon his face. "I seem to have come upon a chen nest. What do you think, Mawmaw chen?" Dwahro had apparently guessed correctly, for the mother chen resumed her frantic efforts to get rid of the strange man. Dwahro gazed at her a moment, and then began to dig. Soon, he came upon a pile of eggs, colors black and orange.
"Glory be,"Dwahro said reverently, as he lifted a black egg out of the pile, and covered the rest of the chen eggs. "You'm de most beau-tee-full thing I'm ever gone see." But Dwahro was wrong, for at that moment, the egg began to hatch! The shade became so surprised, that he nearly done drop that egg! But he regained his senses, and cradled the egg to him, watching as an alabaster snout poked out.
"Jumping gerbils!" Dwahro shouted, laughing happily,"I done found me a Pretty!" He smiled at his chen.
"Hey there, Pretty," he said. And Pretty his chen was, a pure shade of white, small and fragile, but strong enough to fly up and land on his shoulder. Dwahro became a spirit again, lookin' like any man whose found himself a treasure of his own, as Pretty nuzzled his ebony cheek. Dwahro kept walkin', talkin' aloud.
"With you here, Pretty, I be lookin' jez like ever'one else on Danach. You've made me a happy spirit, Prettychen."
"Congratulations, it seems you've found the Halloween dragonchen clutch," said a strong, kind voice; the voice of a woman. Dwahro turned around, and saw a tall, middle-aged woman.
"Thank ye, ma'am. Who be ye? I be Dwahro." Dwahro, wishin' he were a man, didn't let on that he was a spirit.
The woman smiled. "I am Baeris. Well met, Dwahro." Her eyes twinkled, and seemed to look right through him. Dwahro squirmed suddenly, for he had noticed that a giant reptile stood before her: a dragon.
"Whew, that sure be a large lizard, standing de behind ye,"he stammered.
"It's a dragon. And she, Dulath, has chosen you, Dwahro, to try to Imprint a dragon at the Halloween hatching, at the Healing Den."
Dwahro gaped, and numbly-but happily-followed Baeris, and scrambled onto Dulath's back, not quite sure what he had gotten into.
Dwahro eagerly patted Tobuth's neck.
"Soon you bein' ready to fly, Tobuth..then we can fly to de Danach moons together."
Tobuth butted against Dwahro's chest, and the two lay in de sweet grasses and gazed up at the sky and the clouds moving past.
Dwahro smiled bemusedly at all the people who had come along with him to sign their dragons up for the X-gender Frenzy. He wondered if they were really that energetic..he knew he had enough stamina, and Tobuth certainly did..Tobuth.
-Ah..good. I was afraid I had lost you in the crowd-
~Nope! But hurry up..~
Then the females began scattering to the sky. The white birds along the shore of the lake huddled down, supressing their instincts to take wing -these huge dragons above were apt to simply scare them to death. A Talor female, Aalyith, soared to the front of a spearhead of wings and claws. Almost three dozen tiny-to-giant dragons took wing into the pale morning sky of Abode. The littlest one, Trick, wove between some of the biggest, and gave off a piercing laugh. Treyeth from Wu was shadowed by Twiseath, and Akaneth dropped below the big cloud of queens to join Yalsith and Tobuth in a slower climb. For the moment, everyone on the ground was silent. Well, every rider. The males were quite noisy.
Within the same minute, the spotted grey-blue female Tobuth danced a beautiful spiral above the trio of males who sought the very unusual dragoness. But the one who she looked upon with more or less accepting eyes was the black Minath whose curved wings carried him quickly up to her side. He had to be careful of spearing himself on the long horns paired along her neck. Far below, the black-haired dark skinned Beena swayed up to Dwahro and purred something into his almost-human ear. "I like your accent," she said, and her brilliant emerald eyes seemed to draw him in.
"Dis be d'way to have a flight, eh Tobuth?" Dwahro murmured to his enthralled bond.
When almost everyone had started eating lunch, Dwahro's raucous laugh came from the tent which he and Beena shared. "She's done gone up a'gin," he said. Beena laughed, and pushed the odd man back into the grass.
It was true, his blue-spotted female chose to rise one last time, just in case one of the males - oh there! One left! And an odd one at that. In fact, she wondered about his presence at all - he had snuck his flitter along for the ride, even though Baeris expressly forbade it. But Arbegarth was an abandonling found, and she hadn't the heart to separate the colorful flitter from his side. Perhaps it helped him see, since he was missing that one eye. Arbegarth and Tobuth joined ruggedly in the air, but then dove into the lake for a much easier time of it. Both of them were quite comfortable in the water.
Tobuth, Air/Water (grey and blue), black Minath and Arbegarth
-Ocean blue Lokkith bonded Chip
-Mist white Jaath bonded Vainia