The Brorigrig Clan of Druadan Forest were holding a naming ceremony. Sticks clacked together in a lilting rhythm, underset by the soothing throb of water-drums, and accompanied by resonant chants spiraling above the silvered treetops to the winking stars. The Brorigrigun were celebrating the fifth-summer of their chief father’s son’s life. More important than just a birthday, the fifth year was when a child became more than a baby, and told everyone so by revealing his name. A name, to the Wild Men, meant responsibility. It labeled a person, showed who he was. A name was a statement of being, and of doing. A person had to live up to his name.
The chief-father’s son waited in shadows of his father’s tree. He blended in perfectly, his sun-browned back pressed against the bark, his hooded eyes not even glimmering in the brilliant moonlight. A white streak traced the sky afar off. The Brorigrigun didn’t see. The chanting swelled slowly, becoming faster, calling out to the new identity to claim itself. The boy was going to call himself Gibrut, “hiding,” because he could camouflage as well as the silent rabbit, or the wildcat stalking its prey.
The chanting and drumming stopped, and only the steady tapping of two sticks continued. A man stepped into the moonlit clearing. Ghan-buri-Ghan, the headman of his clan. He stretched his arm out, palm up, beckoning to the son of his old age. He could not see the boy in the shadows under the maple that was his home. Ghan smiled.
There! A shadow moved. The young lad was nervously stepping forward. Ghan waved his hand in the grey light, encouraging him. “My son.” Ghan announced solemnly as the boy’s small form slid into the clearing.
There was a rumble in the sky-fields, but no one heard as they cheered the five-year-old.
The boy looked around at the smiling faces of his family. Old and wise, young and strong, mothers and fathers and children, all were ready to welcome him into the clan by his new name.
Tigol, his mother, came to him and put a garland of fragrant leaves around his neck. Many children brought him handfuls of flowers.
Then, the moment came. Silence fell as he walked to the enormous stump, the dead-log, in the center of the clearing; not perfect silence, but few noticed the shaking of the trees in their excitement. The boy lay the flowers on the dead-log before him. straightening his shoulders, he took a deep breath to speak.
Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of angry red light and a roar as of mountains collapsing in the sky. All eyes turned to the heavens, and moans of fear erupted from the hearts of the people all over Druadan Forest.
A star had lost its place in heaven and was streaking towards the land in a furious ball of flame and brimstone. The greatest fear of the Wild Men is fire, and tortured cries of “Ilg! Ilg!” filled the clearing.
The boy stood still, entranced. The greatest beauty of terror and light raged before him. A star was here, on earth. It pulled at his heart, it consumed his mind. He could feel the star. The pillar of fire shot into him through his sight and clawed at his mind; he forgot everything but the intense light, the drawing heat, the swirling, snapping tongues of flame.
And after that it had left his sight, dropping down below the tops of the trees into the river. But he never forgot it, and though he still had a wariness of fire inherited from generations of Wild Men since the beginning of things, he loved it also. The boy called himself “Bror-gibimpik,” Star-Walking-The-Earth. This was a strange name for a Wild Man. Most people called themselves by a verb form, describing what they most liked to do, such as Ghan, “thinking,” or Duhbip, “eating.” Indeed, Star-Walking-The-Earth was soon shortened to just Walking, “Mpik.”
Mpik grew up to be a strong, muscular man with many great attributes. He remained the best at blending into the forest, and he was one of the mightiest hunters the Brorigrig Clan ever had. He killed his first wild boar at seven years old, and wore its tusks around his neck ever after.
Ghan-buri-Ghan was a very old man, even when Mpik was born he had been old. He was wise, and very learned. He knew all the world-stories, about the Beginning, and the Trees, and the stars, and the sun and the moon, and the Elves, and the Men. Mpik was in awe at the lessons his father gave him, and he always wanted to learn more, more.
Ghan laughed at his youngest child, so bright and eager for knowledge of things. “When Boklim, the teacher, comes, then you will learn more.” Ghan told him. “Look for eagles, for signs in the sun, then will Boklim come to us again.”