Chapter xx:     Dagrolyt's Story

ADAM recorded and translated this conversation with DAGROLYT--
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 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 seen ourselves. "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 the hill. "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 approached. "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 itself. "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 people forever. "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.
I challenged Dagrolyt on that. "Hey, that means technically you're still Impure." "And proud of it," he admitted with a grin.