When I first heard the chirping, it was already sundown. I had to drop my catch of deer at Tol's doorstep and sprint barefoot to the growing bonfire, where everyone else my age was gathering.
Kamgeshisht. Story-time. This was a special occasion that happened every fifth moonbow. For generations past, since Elder Pobar brought us to Dunaank, discovered the drought kings, and slayed them to release Yegen, the rain lord, our people would celebrate the return of the monsoon with nights of debauchery and ritual merriment. For this, the second night, our leader would return from the peak of Mt. Baslus to regale the children with stories from his own youth.
I seated myself beside Kurak - not because we're friends, but so I could be in front of the Datu as he tells us his next story. Silently, he calls for our attention. Once he hears nothing from us, he slowly lifts his head to face the heavens. The night sky is heavy with the smoke of the baobab firewood. He leans forward, right in front of the fire, and inhales deeply. Very deeply, that I see stray flames touch his nose hairs. They don't catch fire, fortunately.
He holds the charred, fuming gas in, for a moment, as his eyes redden and begin to water. And then, as he had probably practiced and perfected for decades now, he breathes the black smoke all out into the air above us. It catches fire, and forms a bright disk right on top of our gathering. Bumesh is totally amused; he might not have noticed his hairs begin to singe.
"Now, little children, you may be at ease. Tonight, I shall tell you the story of Ka'nayek, the brave scouter, and the adventure of his which led to the discovery of the sacred tuber: ginger."
… Ginger? The plant whose roots we use for spices and medicine? What's noteworthy about that?, I think as all of us lie down on the damp earth, our heads to the bonfire. We gaze into the pyrogram above while the smoke surrounds us, slowly forming images in their swirling mass. The Datu begins to speak.
During the reign of the Second Datu, Loksalbu, precious few crops were planted by our agriculturists in the muddy, barren fields that are now our lush Gingerdomes. Dunaanke's soil dukes had not yet fully adapted to the rain afforded by Yegen, and many of them stubbornly refused his healing of the land. As such, our people had to rely on hunting for food and sustenance. To address this concern, Loksalbu picked five of the village's most honored men, Binash, Alku, Oprot, Salhut, and Ka'nayek, to scour the lands and find a new way to meet the needs of the tribe.