Year of Illumination
Nlepo, a Wanderer
This scholar, she decided, was much different from the fat, wheezy one she and Senihele had rescued from mud river several weeks prior. This one learned to keep up with Lawkeeper’s punishing pace through the brush, and he always listened when they shared their dreams over the morning fire. The other scholar they had finally managed to rid themselves of when they had reached the Great Eastern Gate, mingling with the traders and pioneers fresh off the Path of Odes, here to settle an already settled land. Scattered amongst these outsiders from Pent were some of her people, the First People, who had reached the Gate, found its Nature, and never left. They disturbed her, because she saw how easily she might do the same. It was common enough for the young people leaving to learn the Nature of Things to never return to their home tribe. Her mother embraced her and her father wept as she set out with the others, but until she had come to the Gate she never fathomed ever finding a Nature that could replace her home, Tahawus, the Cloud-Splitter.
She was glad, therefore, to have someone to distract her, even if this scholar did ask inane questions. “Do all those of your tribe undertake this journey?” he asked one day as he helped her and Senihele pull in their nets. “Mostly,” she replied, “though some never feel the need. Or they do, but only when they are very old.” It had been difficult explaining Natures to someone with no frame of reference. “No, they aren’t ‘spirits,’” she had said, patience running thin. “That’s just the closest word you Learneds could think of, and it isn’t quite right. Everything shapes us. A song your mother sang to you when you were a child. An ancient tree, turned to stone. The death of a sister. All these things make you who you are. Can you be said to be an individual? No, we are the sum of our experiences. That is why we are out here, to find the Nature of Things.”
He was silent for a while, a good sign. “Are all of you like this? A collection of people?” She shook her head. “All except the One-Spirits. They stand alone.”
“Oh,” he said, brightening at the sign of something familiar, “like your Berserkers!”
She sighed. Everyone was always bringing those up. “Yes, but there aren’t just One-Spirits of battle. You can be a One-Spirit of anything.”
“Could you tell me about some of them?”
She knew what story to tell. “The sorrowful tale of Patient Ehamet, One-Spirit of fishing, and how he caught Henget the World-Shaker and calmed the land.”
She finished her story. Ehamet had always been her favorite of her brother’s stories, and she constantly pestered him to tell it even after she learned it by heart. It was the first Nature she had incorporated into her name.
“What’s so sad about that story?” the scholar inquired. “You said it was the sorrowful tale of Ehamet,”
“All One-Spirit stories are sorrowful, for their lives are lonely,” she answered. “They stand alone, never truly a part of the Natures around them. Also, the fish was terrible.”