Essays, etc.

My name is Diana. I make things but generally not very well. I put thoughts here.

> Ibba and the Grux'nis

Ibba and the Grux’nis

A Shepherd Story

Let me tell you of my ancestor Ibba, by way of a toothsome, fearsome creature that lives around the marshlands of Quailen which precede the Yuliak mountains: the Grux'nis. It lurks in the murk and devours those who come too close, or who become lost in the bogs. Fish, birds, and mammals large and small succumb to its sudden speed and overwhelming strength, and its thick scales rebuff any resistance. Sometimes certain prey give a Grux'nis a taste for certain flesh – for Minot flesh – and they go out to seek it among the herds. They follow the brackish water until it becomes the rivers that traverse the lowland forests and grasslands of the Free Herds. Their eyes do not break the surface as they float placidly with the current, conserving energy.

One such traveler, a long way from its home, found the sister of Ibba at a reedy riverbank. Ibba was not far and charged the predator, thrashing her horns. She held its jaws open with her bare hands and threw it back into the water, where it retreated into the deep of the riverbed. Her sister Olki had been bitten and torn, and Ibba raced to staunch the bleeding, disinfect the wounds, and close the gashes, as the Healing Syndicate had taught her. By the time it was done, Olki had fainted. Ibba carried her back to the herd.

Their herd, they of One Thousand Oaks, did not have experience with the strange reptile. Ibba had been lucky, they agreed. Some of the Grux'nis' jagged teeth, quickly lost and quickly grown, had become embedded in her hands when she kept it from eating her. The herd required new knowledge to resolve this, but the next Gathering would not occur for another three seasons. Ibba decided to travel herself to the nearest herds to see what could be known.

After many days of galloping from herd to herd, she felt a familiarity as she approached they of Vanilla-Wheat Shoots. Someone in their herd knew of the creature, had seen it, had fought it – and lost. A second attack faced a united front that slew the Grux'nis. She saw in their herd-song all the volunteers of the Protector Syndicate gathered at a muddy beach bearing shields and spears and short knives. Hunting weapons.

She protested at the experience of this memory. We have no reason to hunt. We do not eat meat. A reply echoed in the herd-song: when a being finds itself living to kill, to kill you... one finds a reason.

So she met with the Protector Syndicate of this herd, who showed her their shields coated with a slick grease that made the Grux'nis' teeth and claws slide from its surface, their spears with obsidian tips bathed in a powerful sleeping powder, and their barbed knives with deep grooves. The knife was a last resort, they explained. If one found themselves overcome, it was their duty to stick the beast to cause it to bleed out. Ideally, they continued, the sleeping poison would allow them to lay it to rest with peace and dignity. Luckily no one had to employ their knife. A spear that punctured deep had destroyed a vital organ, killing it in seconds. Its dying croak rattled in Ibba's conscience.

She returned to her herd equipped with violent machines, burdened by the thought of them. Creatures die, and some are even killed by the choices of the herds... but usually as accidents. Stampedes. Panics. Self-defense. Is it different to intend? She would have rathered the stranger found another way to live.

But even her herd understood the need. They welcomed her home with feast and festivity: mushrooms and berries, apples and grasses, fire and dancing. She learned the herd had been conserving water and avoiding the riverbank, but deviating from their migration path in search of other water sources was not yet necessary. They awaited her expertise.

Ibba decided to lure the beast herself. The knife would ensure that no more than one more person would be harmed, and she wanted it pacified sooner than their own Protector Syndicate could be trained. Olki refused but her sister insisted. Gently they butted heads, and Olki felt her sister's conviction. She watched her leave. Worry hummed in her wake.

At the riverbank Ibba waited, hooves lapped by the shallows. Day became night. Night became day. She could feel it waiting too. Thinking. But it hungered before she tired and rushed at her from the deeps. It flew from the water, claws skittering across her shield.

Preparing to lay the obsidian spear in its belly, she saw something in its eye: a worm. A worm that affects the mind. A rare worm, known to one of the herds she visited, they of Sundered Pines who treated it with a simple tincture. It changed things.

She thrust her spear at the ravenous predator as it circled her. She wanted to cut it, just enough to put it to sleep. Just enough to administer the tincture. So as it leapt at her again and again, she turned it away with her shield, grunting and bellowing as her hooves splashed, and lashed at the minor parts: the tough hide that the obsidian sliced, the blood that drank the sleeping powder, and the resilient muscle beneath that absorbed the wound in stride. The reptile slowed, exhausted, until it laid down before her and snored.

It awoke bound but clear-eyed. Ibba would not take chances, not more than this chance of knowing a Grux'nis in peace, and though it struggled she watched it. It was nervous now more than hungry, more than vicious. So after a time she brought it to the river's edge and undid the bonds. It fled, disappearing into the river with all the sound of a single droplet. After that there were no more attacks. The relief at violence averted brought great celebration.

Thirty years later, the herd of One Thousand Oaks had followed their migration path all the way back to the fields beside the riverbank. Ibba had become an elder of the Healing and Protector syndicates, and the shield-spear-knife technique was known to every protector, the worm to every healer. She returned to the bank where she had fought the Grux'nis and waited, chewing gently on reeds. Day became night. Night became day. She felt her old acquaintance thinking, there in the deeps, until it came ashore. It did not fly with rage or snarl for blood. It lumbered, plodding one flopping foot at a time over the grit, to her. It remembered.

In the morning gloam they remained together in peace and silence.

January 30, 2020