Chapter xx: Dagrolyt's Story
ADAM recorded and translated this conversation with DAGROLYT--
"I grew up near the Sleeping Volcano (Mount Baker, Washington),
living in a bakhl tucked inside a great hollow tree. We were my
mother, my little brother Dabronat, and our Danat, who was
my mamama's master. They were very close, and he was usually good
to us, but also a stern believer in the Atli.
"Even as we grew up there the Nokhontli were cutting into our area
and we knew that we would have to leave before too long. We could
hear the screams of what you call chaynsawz and chrux getting
closer every day.
"So I had seen Nokhsos many times, although usually at a distance.
We came upon them everywhere, driving their car-skesk-things,
walking in the mountains, camping and fishing at rivers. I always
thought they were rather fascinating, but it was forbidden to make
contact with them.
"Still, I thought they were interesting to observe at night--some of them at
least--Dabronat and I often sneaked up on them sitting around
campfires, so that we could get much closer to them without being
"Once we saw a NokhSo family very close up, but they were dead. I was
just a boy, half as tall as I am now, and was walking in one of
the forests that has since become a NokhSo logging site. That was
happening everywhere, it seemed.
"There was a logging road that cut across the top of the hill we
lived on. Dabronat and I were forbidden to play anywhere up there
for fear of skesk-things that the NokhSoli use to kill and maim
little Nokhonlihem like us. However we never saw any Nokhsos come
down to where we lived.
"But one day Dabronat and I went higher up the mountain anyway,
closer to the road than our Mamama would have liked for us to be.
We had heard an interesting sound up there the day before, a great
violent crashing and smashing, as of some skesk-thing being
destroyed, and we wanted to see what had happened.
"We climbed the hill more cautiously the closer we got to the road,
not certain how dangerous the Nokhso devils could be. We were both
old enough to be as big as most Nokhsos ever get, so we were not
quite so afraid of them anymore. But we did not have to go all the
way up to the road, for the skesk-thing had fallen quite far down
"It was a speed-bakhl (a car), which had rolled off the road and
smashed all the smaller trees in its way down the mountainside until
it met a tree that was big and solid enough to stop it. It was bent
part-way around such a tree.
My brother and I were fascinated: we had seen those things pass along
the NokhSo trails with the speed of birds, but had never been so close
to one. This one was clearly ruined, and would not be moving any more.
We watched from a distance for a while, there was no sound, so we
"We touched the strange mineral skin, very nervous to be so near
such an unknown thing. We touched one of the round legs that the
thing rolled upon, now free of the ground, and wondered at how
smoothly it twirled. When we came around to the side we saw that
the bakhl was crushed, and that there were people inside. We almost
ran away, but saw that they were not moving at all. And there was
blood, dry and black, staining the bakhl and the ground beneath.
"We were horrified. Neither of us had ever seen a dead person before,
but since we were curious young boys on an adventure we simply had to
look. There were three NokhSoli inside the crushed Bakhl: a man, a
woman and a child, all dead. They were so strange, besides being dead,
and we studied them with interest. It was too bad they were dead, of
course, but they weren't really people to us, if you know what
I mean, so we looked them over.
"They were so little and pale, so helpless looking. Their bodies were
covered with resk-skins instead of hair, and they wore deadskins of
some animal on their feet. As boys often are, we were delighted to
be disgusted about that. The machine they were inside smelled of
poison and dirtiness, as well as burned herbs and some odd spices,
naked sweat and day-old blood. The smell almost made us sick, but we
looked around in the car as long as we could stand it, then each of
us took whatever we could find out to the clean air to investigate.
"I had found a small skeskhm of great interest: a cutting-thing
made of a shining mineral. It was small and opened out a sliver of
itself that could cut things very cleanly, much better than pounding
with sharp rocks. I wanted to keep it.
Dabronat had found a small shiny mineral thing too. His was a mystery
until he pushed on a loose part and it spat out a tiny flame.
Dabronat dropped it as if it were the very tail of Ysg'gkhaskatat
"We looked at it on the ground, both afraid of it and everything it
meant. But desiring it because of everything it meant.
"Fire is the privilege of the Sha-haka, of course, forbidden to any
others. It would be forbidden for us to have either of those skesk-
things, but it would be SACRILEGE to have the fire-thing. So of
course we HAD to have it. I handed him the knife and picked up the
lighter, very carefully, afraid I might set it off.
"I learned how to turn the fire on and off. So easy, so much power!
I could now make a fire at night, for light, to cook herbs-- why,
that made me virtually a Sha-haka! All I had to do was learn which
herbs to cook, which at that time seemed to be a rather unnecessary
part of being Sha-haka. I was only interested in the prestige, and
I already had that with the power of fire at my fingertips.
"Dabronat did not desire it, he was afraid of it. We both knew that
if misused, it could bring the forest blazing down upon us. We also
knew that our Datat would never allow us to keep either one of the
skeskhm if he knew we had them. He was very strict about Atli
and law. Mamama too was quite old-fashioned about such things. Both
of them had grown up before anyone had ever seen the flying skesk-
things all over the sky, as now, or heard the scream of the chrux.
They still believed we could remain isolated from the small NokhSo
"So we took everything we wanted from the wrecked car and hid our
treasures a long way from our bakhl, where the grownups would never
find them. Oh, we had a collection of really neat stuff. There was
a cluster of square leaves with visions upon them, and squiggly
looking patterns of black marks. A deadskin bag with many amazing
things in it: a circular reflecting device-- we could see
our own faces! --a coloring-red thing, small disks of shining mineral,
soft greenish leaves with identical visions upon them. We ended up
with a pile of goodies, which we kept hidden under a fallen tree.
"The dead Nokhsos we left alone. When we looked again some time
later, the vehicle was still there but their bodies were gone. I
wondered what NokhSos did with their dead.
"We often played with our treasures, or just looked at them. Some
things wore out. Luckily for both of us, the fire-thing was one
of the first to die.
"We had made several small fires in safe places, inside a cave we
knew, where we had played Sha-haka, taking turns with the Power of
Fire. It was stupid, we couldn't control the smoke. We could have
been seen by agents of the Alutna, or Mamama, or any passing
stranger--or even a Nokhso. If we had been caught we could have
been expelled from our mlønoli, never to see our Mamama or any of
our friends, maybe ever again. But one day the lighter quit living,
we never knew why. Relieved, we buried it in a safe place, where I'm
sure it still lies.
"But we were caught by our Datat with the other things. He was very
wrathful, beat us and starved us and cursed us for half a moon. He
loved us both, but was a stern man and this was really scandalous:
trafficking in skesk-things, soiling our very souls by contact with
Nokhso ideas, lying to our Datat and Mamama, disobeying the sacred
Atli..and on and on.
We were lucky, though, our Datat didn't tell anyone else, neither the
mlønoli nor the Alutna, so we didn't have to go through Purification.
Dagrolyt told me what it was like to grow up in the Nokhon world,
with the strange frightening NokhSo folk all about. I'll try to
translate his words so that you can get the flavor of his story,
but short-cut through some of the confused perceptions.
I challenged Dagrolyt on that. "Hey, that means technically
you're still Impure."
"And proud of it," he admitted with a grin.