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Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories

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The Story of Echo

Once there was a tribesman named Echo1. He was not a bad man but he was mischievous and there was something wrong in him that made him mimic people2. When he was out hunting with others in his tribe he would hide from them. When they noticed Echo was missing they became worried and they would call out his name and search for him. He would mock them by imitating their voices repeating everything they said while still hiding from them. "Echo", they would call, "where are you?" "Echo", he would repeat, "where are you?" This annoyed the hunters and kept them from the important work of finding game. Sometimes hunters would even get lost or get into danger while hunting for Echo and following his voice.

This had been going on for quite a while until the other hunters finally refused to go hunting with him. When this happened he would follow hunting parties out and continue his old tricks. "Did you see that doe", a hunter would say. "Did you see that doe", Echo would repeat. When this happened the hunters caught him and made him swear never to bother them again. He agreed and began to bother the women instead. "Do you know what my man did yesterday?", a woman would say. "Do you know what my man did yesterday?", Echo would repeat. This angered the women and when they caught him they threatened him with refusal of their food and their favors.

Echo stopped bothering them and began to bother the children when they were playing. "Catch the ball", a child would call. "Catch the ball", Echo would repeat. The children complained to their parents. Angered, their parents went to Echo and demanded that he stop bothering the children. He pretended to agree and stopped for a while but the wrong part in Echo was just too strong and he began mimicking them again. The whole tribe gathered and held a meeting. They all agreed that unless Echo stopped bothering them they would banish him from the tribe. Tribes people grabbed Echo and dragged him before the tribe3. They warned him that they would banish him, denying him not only companionship, shelter, food, water and fire but his very existence4.

This scared Echo very much as he feared like any sane tribes person would to be all alone in the world. For many seasons Echo behaved but the wrong part deep inside him craved to mimic and tease the tribe. He resisted and resisted but the wrong thing was too strong. Finally he broke down and began to tease tribes people again. The elders and the tribal council met and decided that Echo was to be given one final chance. Echo was good again for a while but the wrong thing was too strong for him. He was careful to only tease lone individuals. Resentment against him began to rise again but nothing was done giving him a chance to mend his ways. The waiting was all in vain and one day his teasing calls led a small boy to fall to his death from a cliff. No one was around to heal his wounds so the boy's soul returned to the ancestors. The sinwists5, fearing that Echo might have been involved asked the boy's spirit to return to tell them what had happened to him. The boy's spirit told the sinwists that he had been following a voice that seemed to be calling him when he fell. The elders and council met again and they agreed that this was too much and they decided to take the serious and irrevocable decision to banish Echo from the tribe.

The whole tribe gathered for the ceremony of banishment at their winter hearth6. At night on the shortest day of the year they held the ceremony7. Echo cowered in the middle of the gathered tribe and wept and pleaded for mercy throughout the ceremony. No one paid him any heed. A large fire had been built on the sacred hearth which Echo cowered beside. First the members of his hearth from the youngest to the oldest walked up to him and said, "I know no one named Echo and I will never again share of myself with such a person." Echo seemed to shrink smaller and smaller as his former hearth mates rejected him. Then his parents took his tent and breaking the poles and ripping the hides cast it on the fire before Echo saying, "Thus we deny the one we no longer know shelter." His hearth mother and the chief hunter of his hearth came to him saying, "We cannot feed one we do not know." The hearth mother cast a handful of grain on the fire while the hunter cast a piece of meat. Echo burnt his fingers trying to grab the food out of the fire but to no avail. Then a small boy came forward with a skin bucket full of water and poured it on the ground before Echo saying, "Thus do I deny the one I do not know of water." Then he cut a hole in the bucket and threw it into the fire. Finally the hearth mother came up and poured a handful of sand on the fire uttering some spell and then saying, "Thus do I deny fire to the one I do not know.8" The fire went out leaving the tribe and Echo in the dark. The tribe turned their back on Echo and said, "Thus do we deny the one we do not know." Echo gibbered and howled. He went all around the circle of turned backs begging them to acknowledge him and give him one more chance.

No one acknowledged him and finally he fled out of the winter hearth. A fire was quickly kindled and the tribe stood silently. They heard Echo say, "Who's there?" A mocking, cold voice replied, "I am." Echo asked, "Who are you." The voice answered, "An old friend of the Votanki who is cold and hungry9." Echo screamed like the lost soul he was and then the tribe heard him running, stumbling in the dark with something huge crashing after him. They heard him give a high, sharp scream before the sound of breaking and crunching bones. After a time of chewing they heard nothing else. Everyone shuddered and huddled close to the fire. Nothing was ever seen of Echo again. From that time lone hunters and travellers have heard a voice mimicking them which they know to be Echo's voice as that was all that the Old Friend of the Votanki had left uneaten.

1. The specific tribe Echo belonged to varies from tribe to tribe but he is always said to be from a tribe that the storyteller's tribe considers to be their enemy.

2. Having "something wrong" inside is a common explanation for anti-social behavior among the Balazarings. They don't specify what "something wrong" might be or where inside it would be located but it's definitely there. "Something wrong" is not equated with being possessed by an evil spirit as the sinwists (Balazaring shaman /priests) would be able to detect such.

3. Actually seizing hold of an individual is extremely rare among the Balazarings as violence within the tribe is normally shunned.

4. Banishment from the tribe to this extent is normally unheard of.

5. Sinwists (sing. Sinwist) are the shaman-priests of the Balazarings. The men start by following Foundchild but when they reach a certain age they turn to the worship of Votank and become shamans as well as priests. Worship of Votank is much like the Praxian worship of Daka Fal or the various forms of worship of Grandfather Mortal practiced elsewhere.

6. All the most important tribal ceremonies are held at the winter hearth.

7. The longest night of the year is a particularly dangerous time of the year according to Balazaring belief. Evil spirits are abroad and most tribes people cower in their winter hearths or citadels while the sinwists and hearth mothers cast strong magics to keep the spirits away.

8. Putting out a fire on the sacred hearth is one of the most serious things a Balazaring can do especially on the longest night of the year. This just goes to show the seriousness of Echo's crimes.

9. An old friend of the Votanki who is cold and hungry is a reference to Cannibal who was never a friend of the Votanki but is always cold and hungry. Cannibal is never mentioned by name if it can be avoided as the Votanki believe using his true name draws his attention.

Copyright 1998

Last updated September 26, 2016

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