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“Shhh… we don’t want to startle them. It’s rare that they are this active, and we don’t want to miss it. That would make for a very disappointing first lesson, would it not?”
“Yes Master Swiftword…. can we whisper though?”
“Yes, as long as we are still and try to keep our volume down, it should be alright. Now… I fear I do not know how much you already know… how about, this first lesson, I will just answer any questions you may have? Then I will know where to continue from there tomorrow”
“…”
“…There are no wrong questions. You have not had any lessons yet, it is alright that you do not know things.”
“….umm… why do we haveta be silent? Are they scared of us? ”
“Good question! And, hmm, they’re not scared per se, but they are… shy. Or at least, they do not like interacting with us mortals much, and will disappear if they know we are watching”
“…I’ve seen ‘em before, once, two summers ago. But they’re the only one I’ve seen. Have you met more?”
“Yes, a few more. You know I used to travel a lot, so I’ve seen and even talked to several. I’ve even heard a few of the greater ones”
“Greater?? What’s the difference?”
“Greater are bound to higher concepts. Like love or death. Unlike our friend here, who is only bound to this lake and river”
“But they’re still dangerous right? My Mama told me to not play in the lake or they could drown me. But she said she and Papa could fish ‘cause they pay them”
“That is very true, and your mother is a very wise mare. They and their kin are very dangerous, as they don’t really think the way we do. That is why I am here -to Listen and learn how to pacify them. Our friend is very simple in their requests, only wishing for berries and bread. Some other I’ve met need specific songs and dances, embroidered cloth, or even animal sacrifices”
“Ew!”
“Shhh… yes, but that is just how they work. We cannot change it, only Listen and find ways to interact in peace”
“…”
“…”
“Are there others here? You said you met more”
“No, not here. The Elkwalk Woods has one, but that is over a day’s travel from here. This one is the only one close enough to the village to pose a threat. Except anyone just passing through, of course”
“…where’d they come from? Do they have parents?”
“No, no. Noone really knows how they come to be. There are theories, of course; they seem to appear when strong emotions are involved or important things have happened. Such as this lake -did you know that your ancestors nearly died due to a drought? Eventually this lake was the only thing left which had any water. They weaved cloth which they placed over the remaining pond, to shade it from Celestia’s heat. They kept watch at all times and protected it from wild animals, and they carefully rationed it between all the villagers. Then, once no more water reamined…. the rain finally arrived again. Despite what should have happened, the entire village had only barely survived because they worked together and no one single villager was greedy and took more than their share. Our friend here is said to have appeared just a few months later.”
“…Woah”
“Indeed”
“…so, they’re not Great cause they’re bound to the lake. Which is a thing? But, um…. Pathos is Empathy, so are they Great, ‘cause that’s not a thing”
“Yes, exactly. Very good!”
“…what about Venus? Are they not Great then ‘cause stars are things?”
“Oh, you’re now speaking of the Heavenly. They are quite different, so Greater and Lesser does not really apply to them as it does the others. For one, since they do not exist in our world, we cannot speak to them in person. Nor can they harm or help us directly like the others can.”
“You can’t speak to them at all?”
“You can, just not in person. That is another thing Listeners like I do -we learn how to truly understand them even if they do not use words. The stars move across the sky, the face of the moon shifts in hue, the northern lights dance… some of them can even choose to visit us in our dreams, for in sleep we are as close to their world as a mortal can be.”
“… is it scary?”
“It… can be. But, it’s usually mostly confusing. They are not very good at speaking with mortals, since they don’t understand how we work”
“I dunno… this sounds scary. Do… do I haveta learn it?”
“…If you really do not want to…you don’t have to, no. But you shouldn’t decide that now. You don’t know anything yet, how can you know this is not what you want?”
“…I just… it’s scary.”
“Everything is scary. Does your father and mother not have to fight foxes and wolves to protect their farm? Do they not have to beware of rotten trunks when going out to get firewood? Be careful not to fall through the ice when fishing?
“…”
“Danger is everywhere. That’s why the village needs me -to speak and listen on their behalf, to understand the warnings being given to us by the spirits. That’s why they’ll need you! Or noone will be able to help them once I’m gone. Will you just give up on them before you even started? Because you are frightened?!”
“I…”
“…”
“…Master Swiftword? ….I… I think you scared them away.”
“…Yes. I apologise. I should not have raised my voice.”
“…”
“Still. I do not think you should give up so quickly. I understand your fear, but fear is nothing more than ignorance and listening to your instincts over your head. So once you’ve learned more, the fear will fade. …will you at least try? For a few months more?”
“…yes, Master Swiftword.”
“…good. Good. *Sigh* …there is nothing more for us to learn here, now that the lake spirit has left. Let us go back to to schoolhouse. It’s freezing.”
“Yes, Master Swiftword.”

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