The Heroes of Loudwater
An elven lass apart from her tribe seeking a deeper meaning…
The young elven maiden was sitting in the small cave with the elder shaman anxiously awaiting her final spirit walk to receive the spirits blessings on her becoming the new shaman of the tribe. Though the elder shaman would fulfill the role for many more years, it would allow her to learn the deeper secrets and step into his shoes should something happen to him. Deep into the trance she fell…deeper and deeper….a lifetime she lived….married….had children….died…....was born again…..relived her life till the moment she was in the cave for her final test…...became a famous huntress….married ….......had children…........died…..was born again…....relived her life till she was in the cave for her final test….became the midwife’s assistant…....lived alone…....died…...was born again…............and so on.
Though most of the dream state was lost to her after awaking, she felt sure she had been accepted and was giddy with joy. The joy soon disappeared as she realised the elder shaman was not there. This was not only unusual, but from what she had been taught to this point, unacceptable. With trepidation she slowly got to her feet and ate the herbs of awakening and drank the water of replenishment. She sat for a moment regaining her strength and wits and then sung the song of contemplation. With the ritual all but complete, she stood up and began to look for the elder shaman…he should have been there the whole time she was entranced. Beginning to believe she was in the midst of another round of her life-vision, she slowly walked out of the cave to get on with her life.
As she walked down the mountain she saw a bear. It was sitting quietly staring at her almost as if in contemplation. It then rose up on its hind legs and walked over to her like an elf would. It called her name….her full name…. and told her not to worry. She replied that she wasn’t concerned. It said that her shaman mentor would arrive shortly but that she could not go to her home. She asked why. The bear spirit said all will be revealed in time but that she must make haste to the other side of the mountain and through the valley of the forbidden ones. She complied.
The next few weeks she lived off the land and dreamed strange dreams about her spirit guardian, the bear. Sometimes it would show her horrible things happening to her tribe, of which she remembered very little, if anything at all. Other times, it seemed to block her view of events that were happening to her tribe, seemingly crying as if in sadness and pain. Still other times she saw her guardian fighting against something evil that seemed to swallow all light and goodness near it. The guardian always was severely wounded and forced to flee. She remembered little of the dreams, but always awoke with a sense of trueness and horror that told her it was all real.
As Shaalia sat washing her hair in a stream, longspear by her side watching for a fish, she heard a voice call out to her by name. The voice seemed familiar yet somewhat distant. Shaalia got up and turned to be greeted with the sight of her tribes Elder shaman. He smiled familiarly at her as joy rushed through her at seeing him. she then quickly realized that he was quite transparent. He laughed at the look on her face and said hello.
As the weeks passed, she learned more from her shaman teacher and felt foolish for not having noticed all the help she had received. The weeks before her mentor had arrived, the forest spirits had provided her with everything she needed to survive. Despite her training and awareness she had not once noticed the trees bend to shelter her and drop branches for her fires, the fish jump onto her long spear, or the winds blow storms away from her. She saw all this now and laughed at her own foolishness. As her training came to an end, her teacher reacquainted her with her family and tribesmen in what seemed like a procession that lasted days or weeks, but merely hours. As her teacher left he said two things:” you are as trained as any can be, but will spend the rest of your life learning my child.” and “as I depart, know that I and your tribesmen are but a whisper away”.
The naming conventions of the tribe are as follows: The first name given unto a child is rendered at birth by the parents. It is considered part of the true name of the individual and is only shared with family members and trusted friends. This usually includes most of the clan and many in the tribe but rarely outsiders. Shaalia is her given name.
The second name is found through life, many outsiders call this a nickname. It is acquired through many and varied means. Anyone that does not acquire a common name by the age of 11 meet with his parents, the clan leader, and the shaman and discusses what his common name shall be. After a short time of discussing and debating a name is selected and the common naming ceremony is setup. This is a semiformal ceremony where the common name and child are presented to the clan and tribe in song and dance. After the ceremony is a night of revelry and celebration. Most members of the tribe have a common name before the age of eleven but this occurs frequently enough that these celebrations are roughly an annual event. The common name is used among strangers and children are taught from a young age not to use any name but the common one or none at all when in carefree play, so that none may steal their truename or any part of it.
The third name is the name of the clan. This is usually the name of a famous ancestor. Once a clan has a name, it never changes it ( though a clan that starts to get too big may splinter into two clans and one may acquire a similar, but different, clan name). This name is usually only used within the tribe, but may be revealed to friendly outsiders. It is considered rude to use the clan name around outsiders unless the clan chieftain does so first. This is why Shaalia never uses her clan name. When being introduced to another tribal member it is usually either as common name and clan name, given name and clan name ( if trusted and no common name has been chosen yet), or given name common name and clan name.
The fourth name is the tribal name. This name is used when outsiders are present. When introducing yourself or others to outsiders it is always the common name and tribal names that are given. Only if a clan leader or a tribal leader denotes trust and or worthiness is clan name used and even then it is still up to the individual to reintroduce themselves with the clan name. It should also be noted that outside the tribal territory a clansman can introduce himself with the tribal or clan name but is encouraged to use the tribal name over the clan name, even if the individual is considered to be a friend of the tribe. They are not allowed to give their clan name if they are not allowed to give their tribal name, and they are not allowed to give their tribal name outside tribal territory to those that have never heard of the tribe. Only the tribal leader, or an envoy of the tribal leader sent forth with his permission to contact another group or tribe, may break this rule. Traditionally tribal territory is anywhere three or more members of two clans make a semi-permanent residence and is not part of the claimed territory of another group of creatures that can use clothing and make shelters and tools. This is why Shaalia never uses her tribal name.
The fifth name is the truename. At the age of thirteen, the shaman leads the youths through three personal spirit quests. These quests reveal to the youths information about themselves that allows them to make good choices about their future spouses and their tribal roles. It also reveals their true names and if they should return for more spirit quests. Those that come back for more spirit quests are usually special and destined for terrible or great things. The spirit guardian of each individual is also shown at these quests. The guardian reveals and guides the young sprits through their quests and reveals their true names to them at the last quest. The shaman is with them through protecting their bodies and watching the spirit quest with their spirit vision and songs. Though the shaman sees most of what the quester sees, he does not see it all, nor does he see the truename. But the shaman does know when the quester sees his truename or if the quester needs to make more journeys through the spirit realm. Shaalia did not see her truename until her fifth spirit quest…which is highly unusual. Shaalia saw she was destined to be the next shaman at her first spirit quest and her training began right away.