The Gift of Fire
~ an original Bush story by Karen Rose ~
Bau followed the movements of the black winged vulture with her eyes. She was floating upwards... lazily rising with the wind.. and then folding her wings and dropping like a rock towards the earth.
"Is there a new born chick in a nest, high up on a sheer cliff ledge, where not even the baboons can climb?" she whispered wistfully. A lonely cloud sailed over the mountain, the warm wind was tugging at its sides blowing their ancestors hair into wispy intricate patterns.
Bau went to find the cave. Two women had dug a hole in the orange glowing embers of a fire and were laying long white roots and purple skinned tubers to cook in their heat. Hunters were crouched by a fire, carving new arrowheads from shinbone. Bau knelt by the coals listening to their banter and chattering and a baby crawled onto her lap.
"Would the golden bird with the wide black wings come down if I fed him?" She asked the baby upon her lap. The baby smiled at her and nodded his head. "Thats what we'll do then" and she stroked the curls on his head.
"Come let us eat..." and a woman passed her softened roots from the coals.
And the image of the black winged vulture with the fire gold breast kept soaring in her heart..
"Tell us a story.. Tell us a story!" the children were crying when all the food had been eaten.
Bau picked up an old giraffe skin from the back of the cave and stealthily collected long marrow bones and wrapped them in the Kaross. Silently she slipped out of the cave and into the wind following the path. She scrambled onto the ledge and watched the giant bird soaring high above in the blue sky. She scattered the bones and they clattered on the rock ledge and then she slid down and hid behind boulders crouching low in the tall thatch grass. High above her the bird was gliding, soaring and I know, I know she is watching...
Bau returned to the fire in time to catch an old woman begin another story. An old wrinkled crone sucked on her yellow teeth, then settled herself comfortably on her protuberant bottom and silently fingered the shell beads in her hair with a far away look in her eyes...
"This is an old old story that has travelled on the winds of time... It has flown from the voices of one to another," she began in a musical clickery voice. Everyone fell silent, listening intently to every word that spilt from the old woman's lips. Only the baby was restless and crawled away from the group and started to rub a stone against the wall of the granite cave. He smoothed off the dust with his plump yellow hand, picked up a charcoal stick and etched upon the wall.
"Long long ago when things were very different from today when the Great God =Gao!na walked upon the earth and all the animals were people, =Gao!na shared with us the gift of fire. For he was the only Person who understood the secret of the Light. !nai snapped a twig and threw it on the bed of coals. A small yellow flame leapt from the embers and licked the wood hungrily...
"One morning /kai/kini, one of the small golden hunters of the early race was sitting outside his cave, sharpening a long thin branch with a stone. He was making a qibi - that is, a new digging stick for his wife..
" I am going to gather berries for supper" his wife called. "Let the children stay with you as the day is hot and I want to return home soon.
The two children settled under a tree in the shade. The young girl collected small pebbles in the sand whilst the boy played with two sticks, rubbing a harder one against the softer one.
Shhuusshhh Shhuussshhhh went the stone against the stick as /kai/kini set about his task. Suddenly disturbed by a crackling noise and his son's shrill shriek, /kai/kini stood up in a fright. "What did you do? What did you do?" Leaping out of the grass were the golden clothes of a powerful god.
/kai/kini stared at the hot flickering flames climbing over the leaves "What did you do?" he shouted at his son as the fire ate the few dried leaves and died.
"I will show you," answered the boy and he sat upon the ground and started to rub the hard stick very very fast against the other. The softer stick produced a wood powder, then pinpoints of brilliant light sprang out of the wood dust. "I know the secret of the fire" roared /kai/kini.
That night instead of a dark and scary cave with no light by which to see /kai/kini and his family slept around warm glowing embers and in the morning they hurried to collect more food to feed the hungry guest.
"I was warm and slept well," said /kai/kini as they huddled around the fire eating their first meal of the day. "Mmmmmmmm what is that smell?"
"MMMMmmmmmm what is that smell?"
"I have changed my meat on the embers," said the little girl.
"What happened next? What happened next?" all the children shouted at !nai.
The old crone uncrossed her legs and grinned at Bau.
"One day the great god =Gao!na visited /kai/kini and was invited to stay and eat. It was the first time =Gao!na had tasted cooked food and he was determined to uncover /kai/kini's secret. Early the next morning he hid in some bushes and waited and watched...
Eventually he saw /kai/kini go to a secret place and fetch two sticks. /kai/kini took the male stick and rubbed it hard and very fast against the female stick. Bright sparks of white light sprang out of the wood dust and then danced into life in the form of a flame. /kai/kini kindled the dry grass and then sat down and began to cook his meat.
=Gao!na crept out of the bushes and went home but the next morning he returned and challenged /kai/kini to a game. Once =Gao!na had taken him far far away from his cave =Gao!na took the short route and slipped back through the trees, stole the firesticks from their secret place and broke them into thousands and thousands of tiny pieces and scattered them all over the world.
!Nai opened her eyes and looked on kindly at the faces gazing upon her. That is how we came to have the gift of fire, she smiled. And =Gao!na was SO cross with /kai/kini for keeping the secret to himself, that he changed him into a ....BIRD.
Bau leapt up from the fire and retraced her steps to the ledge, her small lithe graceful body leaping over the stones. She crouched by the boulders and peeped through the crack in the rock and caught her breath.
Rising from the ledge with a bone in his talon the giant bird climbed into the air. Her smile broke into gales of laughter and she cupped her hands to her mouth... crying out.. Dzuuuuu ku dorba........ Kiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa after the giant bird.
"Scarlet eyes, fire gold breast... white head... ash grey black wings..." Her voice rose with excitement. Even a beard below the beak. He is /kai/kini of the early race. I know... I know... I know..."
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