Gather round young ones, for I shall tell you the story of Neelam the Brave.
Neelam was a young Sildaryn of barely ten cycles, when his adventures began; about the same age as some of you.
You see, he was always wandering about the woods near the hinta sites, as is common for young ones such as yourselves. That is until one day he wandered a bit farther than usual, and he couldn’t find the familiar trees, or any trail marks to guide him back to the hinta.
Neelam was not worried at first, for he knew that foresters and gatherers from the hinta often traveled quite a ways in search of food and other resources, which they brought back for the rest of the clan.
But as evening approached and the night creatures began to wake, long shadows darkened the forest. Unfamiliar hoots and howls erupted from the darkness, as beasts which only moved about at night began to search for food, or prey.
Neelam felt very small and alone, without the safety of the hinta homes. He had no fire to drive back the darkness, he had no spear, he had no club. In fact all he had was a small knife, and a karo fruit he had found to nibble on should he feel hungry.
Neelam thought to himself – What good would a tiny knife be if a night prowler decided to make a meal out of me? What good was a karo fruit against the great serpents which squeezed the life from prey before consuming them whole? Thinking such thoughts made Neelam nervous, and then scared.
As he became more and more afraid, Neelam felt the humid breath of the jungle pressing in on him from every direction. He could hear murmurs, and far off voices calling to him. His eyes beheld faint blue lights, which danced and weaved, inviting him to come join them.
Now, as you all know, there are things out in the woods; older than any Sildaryn; older than the forest itself. And when these ancient ones call out, their voice can be so inviting that none can resist their pull.
Neelam knew that he should not listen, but how could he not; They offered him a warm place to rest, fresh food for hunger he did not feel, drink to quench a thirst he did not have.
Suddenly tired, and hungry, and thirsty, Neelam stepped away from the roots of the tree he was cowering against. His feet slowly plodding forward through the ferns and moss. He began to follow the dancing blue lights which weaved amongst the trees, and vines. Though they were faint, he could still see the path they led him along.
Neelam wondered where they were taking him, if the comfortable bed, food, and drink they whispered about would satisfy his growing needs. He wondered so much that he decided to call back to the voices, and ask them.
“What is this bed? What is this food? What is this drink?” asked Neelam.
And the voices from the shadowed forest answered. “The bed is your grave. The food is your flesh. The drink is your blood.”
These answers were no comfort to Neelam; How could he wake from a grave? How could he eat of his own body? How could he drink from his own veins? As he pondered these questions he realized that he would get no rest, or food, or drink from the whispers. They were not offering him comfort, they were offering him death.
Now we Sildaryn do not fear death, for it comes for us all in time, but neither do we rush to seek it out. Neelam knew this, and he was not ready to die. Certainly not scared and alone, and so small in the night-black forest.
Neelam knew something else; He knew that our ancestors, the family that came before us, our departed loved ones, are never gone, but watch from the trees. They would not want him to listen to those voices, which offered only death. So he called out. “I need no grave, I need no food, and I need no drink. I am Neelam, and I am watched from the trees!”
He threw down the karo fruit from his hand, and stood defiantly, holding his knife out before him. Challenging the whispers, “Show yourselves, or be gone!”
This act of brave defiance of the night caught the attention of kindly spirits. Three came forth from the bushes, trees, and shadows.
A yellow eyed tomka knelt before Neelam, offering its songs of strength to stand beside one so brave.
A bird of the high canopy flew down to rest upon his shoulder, whispering in his ear the song of flight.
And thirdly the very karo fruit he had thrown to the ground burst forth sprouts, which grew up around him in a ring of tangled branches, and as it grew he heard its song in the shake of its leaves, and the creaking of its branches.
Neelam sat down, and the tomka curled around him providing warmth, and comfort. The bird kept watch, and the karo trees provided shelter from the night. Neelam felt safe, he was not alone, and he did not fear the night any longer.
In the morning foresters from the hinta found Neelam asleep in a forest clearing, still holding his knife and clutching a karo fruit to his chest. No tomka, or bird, or tree nearby.
Neelam told them of his night, but they did not believe him, for no tomka tracks or feathers were seen, and the earth about him was not disturbed by any newly grown karo trees.
Neelam said he would prove that his story was true. When they returned to the hinta, he gathered the whole clan together… and he sang.
He sung the song of the karo tree, and the fruit in his hand grew sprout after sprout, taking root at this very spot.
He sung the song of flight, and rose up to seat himself upon the branches we now gather upon.
Thirdly, he sung a song of the tomka, calling out to the beast that kept him warm through the night. And as the hinta watched in awe, a tomka with two cubs walked forth from the forest, to circle below him.
Because Neelam was so brave, and pushed away his fears, we learned new songs.
Now we know to plant food at our hinta sites, so we need not travel so far into the forests.
Now we make our homes up in the branches of the trees, safe from the creatures of the night.
And tomka live beside us, protecting our young, and helping our foresters on patrol.
Listen well young ones, for the forest is full of songs yet to be sung by Sildaryn. Perhaps you will be the first to learn and teach a new song to our people, that we may continue to prosper and live in harmony with the forest we call home.
This is a short tale about a legendary Sildaryn, who became one of the first Dalfyn (Druidic spell-singers) of the Sildaryn people.