A cautionary tale among our race, the story as recited by loremasters and told by parents to their cubs varies significantly from the more detached, fuller account gathered by Master Historian Hoev and Lore-gatherer Hu-Haekel in 198 AK. Attached is a transcript of the tale as told by Loremaster Hemev at the Spring Council meeting of 405 AK.
A comparison with the account available in the archives of Hoev and duplicated in the second-century library will demonstrate that despite our racial prohibition against the alteration of true tales, shift over centuries does occur. In no ways is this shift comparable to the rampant embellishment and variation seen among tales told by humans, yet it is real.
Third-year student Hu-Hovingen Hu-Hana-daughter
Two hyarmi and their four cubs once lived in the sixth district. When the tenth birthday of their two youngest birth mates drew near, they made a choice that set folly into motion. And this is the way of it.
Then, as now, most parents participated in the custom of teaching our offspring the true name of the Defender of Life at their tenth birthday. For then the cub has grown enough to remember and understand the gravity of such knowledge, while parents rest easier as their young become more independent, knowing they have another protector.
But this is not so for all. Horanu was the most reckless, mischievous cub to ever run through the forests of the sixth district. His parents pondered delaying the ritual of learning, fearing him unready, too immature to understand the weight of that knowledge. His elder brothers had learned the Defender’s name on their tenth birthday. And his sister Hu-Haekel, as quiet and thoughtful as Horanu was brash and impulsive, should hardly be denied the ritual on her brother’s account. Yet to tell one birth mate and not the other seemed an unkindness. So when the day arrived, they imparted the Defender’s name to both cubs, with stern warning to only call it at great need.
Only three days later, Horanu slipped out into the hushed forest of a hot autumn afternoon while his family rested and went down to the stream.
“Defender! Defender!” he called, though of course he did not speak that word, but the Defender’s true name instead. “There’s a bear in the forest!”
Now the Defender heard his cry and asked Horanu where he lived. Through the marvels of Traveling and swift flight, he reached him within a matter of minutes. Horanu stared in delight and wonder as the ava landed on the far side of the stream and sprang across.
“Where is the bear, young hyarmi?” the Defender asked. “Did it try to hurt you?”
“No, I never even saw any bear,” Horanu replied.
“Then why did you speak falsehood to me?”
The foolish cub drew himself up. “I did not speak falsehood. There must be a bear in this forest somewhere!”
The Defender, displeased, made no response to that. Instead, he asked, “Didn’t your parents tell you only to call me in great need?”
“Oh, they did,” Horanu replied, “but I wanted to see if it would work.”
“You have seen for yourself that it does work,” the Defender said. “Now return to your parents and tell them what you have done.” And with those words, he vanished.
Horanu did tell his parents of that summons, and for it he received many scoldings. His family watched him more closely, not letting him stray alone. Yet two weeks later, before dawn, the irrepressible cub crept out while his siblings slept.
Back to the stream he went, then along its bank for nearly half a league, feet splashing through the chill water, so he could not be easily tracked.
“Defender! Defender!” he cried. “There’s a wolf in the forest!”
The Defender heard him, of course, but he hesitated. “Many wolves live in the forest, young hyarmi.” With those words he replied to Horanu.
But this only excited Horanu further. “It stumbles as it runs, Defender!” he called. He remembered his parents’ warnings of rabid beasts and used that knowledge now. “Sometimes it hits the trees. It seems maddened with pain. There is froth on its jaws, Defender!”
The Defender found him more quickly this time. Horanu gazed with reckless eagerness into the savage fire of the ava’s eyes, bright against the shadows, and saw the glimmer of power that wreathed his form.
“Where is this wolf, young hyarmi?” came the ava’s question.
“It runs in a forest, a forest in a story, Defender,” replied the stupid, stupid cub.
The Defender regarded him for a moment, until Horanu trembled under the skewer of that fierce gaze. “If you were not in peril, then why did you call me?”
The foolish cub beamed. “Because you are strange and strong and unlike anything anywhere and I wanted to see you again. Because I can make the most powerful creature in the world come at my calling.”
Anger flared in the Defender’s eyes now, and to Horanu the air felt charged with lightening. “Do not abuse my friendship, cub. I am not your cat, to come running for a bowl of milk. Now tell your parents what you have done, and do not call me again save at great need.”
Once more he disappeared. Horanu crept back to his home, and again he told his parents what he had done. A rash fool he might be, but even he did not consider disobeying the Defender.
His parents, furious and mortified, set a tight watch around him. Horanu became abashed, and though he thought often of his two encounters, and spoke often about them, he refrained from uttering the Defender’s true name.
Months passed, and winter crept down from the north. Like most cubs, Horanu loved the first snowfall. Again he slipped out, under the brilliance of a full Sister, to witness the gleam of blue light and cold sparkle and the filigree of tree shadows across shallow drifts.
And the Defender, far to the south and west where twilight still lingered, heard the cub’s voice once again in his mind.
“Defender, Defender! There’s a man in the forest!”
The Defender set his work aside but hesitated, pondering. As he paused, another cry rose in his awareness, the voice of a mage who had just uncovered the lair of a dark mage she had long hunted. She called him, seeking his aid before the dark mage could flee her once more.
“Defender, Defender!” Horanu cried again. “His eyes are bright! Oh, help me!”
Only a moment’s thought, and the Defender turned away from Horanu’s call and sought his friend, and together they trapped the dark mage and destroyed that evil one’s power. And doubtless children live today whose parents would have perished had that mage run free.
But when the work had ended and the Defender of Life turned his thoughts once more to the reckless cub, he perceived only silence, and this not the silence of sleep. He Traveled to the sixth district, perturbed, but hid himself, so Horanu would not see his coming.
Yet no one saw him. For he followed tiny prints to a clearing beneath the trees where the glittering snow lay torn by signs of struggle, hemmed about with the marks of vanished mage shields, and stained with splatters of blood.
Of Horanu and his captor no trace remained, nor were they ever found, and great was the grief of his family.
And the Defender mourned him.