A Tale of Giants
Sit and listen, small giants,
for the endtimes have found us,
and I’ve one final story to tell.
Inferno : the best way to describe the fiery thing that rose from the bonfire pit that night. No homes were built, no tools were mended nor repaired, no boats were freed from the fallen logs which conceal them; on that first night, the Monks Tribe – named in honor of the mysterious hooded monks who bequeathed them the valley – danced, sang songs, and celebrated their new homestead. The bonfire pit was dug out in the spot the foreign giants waited, and the stones chosen to line it were of purple and pink hue. By the time the embers gave in to the cold of the night, the tribe was stuffed and slept, and the small giants with five cycles of seasons weathered were all granted their names in proper ceremonial fashion, as was the greater crescent moon valley: this land would be known as Monksville, carrier of the Wanaque River, home of the Monks Tribe.
By the end of that cycle’s autumn, every giant had a hut to sleep in. Vast gardens were tilled along the banks of the river, the hunters memorized the movements of the local whitetail herds, and the leatherworkers were more than busy preparing the insulated winter garments for the tribesfolk. This is fortunate, as that first winter hit Monksville harder than any winter before it, and harder than any winter ever will hit the valley; any except one, that is, but that one is still far off in the future, nothing more than a passing thought in the wandering mind of a certain small giant, a thought watched keenly by the eyes of the puma, never blinking, always shining their leafbud glow through the darkness of his subconscious thought.
The spring of the new cycle brought splendor to the Monks Tribe in far more ways than one. With the surplus of food, more scout teams were able to be sent off without crippling the tribe’s flow of deermeat. One team followed the Wanaque River north and was pleased to report not only that the branching flows rejoined each other again, but that the river flowed far beyond the bend of the trees, all the way into the woodlands at the northern end of the valley. Another team went south along the treacherous path they followed to the valley and happily reported that the Wanaque Reservoir was full again. ‘Twas as though the drought ended with the Monks Tribe’s moving on.
Another such team headed north of the village and made to climb the snowcapped mountain – they returned with the most promising news of all. Though the journey was perilous, a certain kind of magic lied in the mountain, a magic theretofore unheard of: shiny rocks, not unlike the quartz crystals favored by the tribe’s shamans, but not quite like them either. The leader of that scout team, a giant by the name of Hill Climber (never slow to volunteer for scouting work, that Hill Climber), confessed to a bit of intuition he felt about those shiny rocks: were they heated to high temperatures they might be melded and crafted into tools much stronger than the stoneheaded things the tribe had been using up until that point. From young Hill Climber’s intuition came a new profession to the Monks Tribe: metalworking.
Though the Monks Tribe rejoiced around the bonfire that night, they all had a queer kind of feeling about them, as though they heard echoes of a sinister cackle erupting from the starpool, or mayhap even from beyond it. Like the waterfall’s pool at the head of the Wanaque Reservoir, the nighttime sky must be fed by something, perhaps an ethereal river which flows infinitely above the starpool, a torrent of souls both lost and found looking for restful residence with the Great Spirit up amongst the heavens. Surely the spirits of old saw the giants’ progress. Surely their laughter was that of glee.
With metalworking came another new profession to the Monks Tribe, though it is less a simple profession and more of a practiced art: fishcatching. That’s not to say the giants never brought forth a fish from the waters of the Wanaque – on the day they moved on, the wrangler was meant to teach the children how to descale a trout and prepare it for cooking, after all – but it had always been little more than a hobby. Fish are tasty enough when they’re seasoned with the right herbs, but they’re small, nimble, hard to catch; they’re not a proper food source. Real sustenance came from the work of the hunters and the keepers of the gardens; oh, what was that? Littlefoot brought back a smallmouth he speared all by himself? Well that’s great, more real food for the rest of us tonight.
No, fishcatching was never regarded as a respectable occupation for the giants of the Monks Tribe, even before it was granted its proper namesake, but that all changed with the metalworking. Now, rather than taking crap shots at surfaceswimmers with weapons meant for big game, the giants had hooks they could tie to the ends of sinew strings to be flung as far as the flinger could fling them. Before too long, the tribesfolk figured out how to fasten their strings to poles and the lures were flung even farther, and suddenly the giants’ food pyramid gained a whole new level.
As time went on, a certain kind of daily routine began to solidify amongst the tribesfolk. At the crack of dawn, the giants would all wake and drink their morning tea in their huts, all aside from the shamans who would gather early ‘round the bonfire pit and smoke their kinnikinnik. Then breakfast, and when their tummies were full, all the tribesfolk would join the shamans ‘round the bonfire pit and partake in the morning powwow. Then, the small giants scrambled to the schoolhouse and the large giants went to work. The gamehunters took to the forests, the rockminers to the Minelands, the cropgrowers to their gardens, and the fishcatchers to the Res’. The leather- and woodworkers would stay back in the village, as that’s where their craft was performed, and those without a job to do spent their days trying to find a task which engaged them.
They lived out of huts and cabins built around a river. They wore garments of deerskin. They were the Monks Tribe, stewards of the Monksville valley. They lived off the river and worshipped it as a benevolent deity. For many cycles, life was good.
Then, the river began to dry up.
[to be cont’d]
This has been the beginning of the fifth subchapter of the first chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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