My clan has something of an origin story (or a “myth” if you prefer) that we like to tell whenever things feel hopeless.
In ancient times, before the Minmatar Empire, before the seven tribes of Matar, the followers of Sebiess lived in very small clusters (rarely more than ten people) in the mountains and caves of Mikramurka. A winter of particularly harsh storms kept them in those caves long enough to go stir-crazy. In the cold and dark, where the fires burned dim and lukewarm, it was hard to keep everyone motivated and cheerful and unstabby.
One cluster decided to venture deeper into the caves. They were led by an unscrupulous fellow with expensive tastes. We’ll call him Jim-bo.
For days and nights on end (not that anyone was wholly sure what the difference was), Jim-bo led his cluster among the stalactites and the narrow crawlspaces. They carried the last of their fast-dwindling supplies with them.
On the last day of their rations, they came upon a very bright cavern, within which a small but meaty creature was being roasted. The brightness came from a very tall campfire, with flames nearly licking the spit, higher and warmer than Jim-bo’s people had thought could be built in these caves.
The cluster gathered around this fire were more numerous than Jim-bo’s, and they were laughing and joking around before they spotted their visitors.
The leader of the fire cluster waved to the visitors. She was called Katsuro.
“Welcome! Please warm yourselves here,” Katsuro said, her tone and words soothing like the light. “I’m not sure this small friend will yield enough flesh to feed us all, but we’ll share what we can.”
The kin of Jim-bo inched toward the fire with wary, mistrusting steps.
“You were lucky to find even that tiny beast,” Jim-bo remarked.
Katsuro chortled. “Luck had nothing to do with it! We scoured these caverns, friend. But these creatures are crafty. They stay on the move and protect one another. Sometimes we find rams, which make for a much better meal. Even caught a whole anhanguerid once.”
“In the caves?” one of Jim-bo’s kin exclaimed before he could stop himself. This was Fariz.
“Better believe it!” Katsuro grinned. “Fed all the neighbors with that one. Shame we hadn’t come across you good folks yet.”
“We even found a place where the soil isn’t so frozen,” a sister of Katsuro added. “We’ve been growing legumes there.”
The visitors grew more comfortable, and they chatted with Katsuro’s people for many hours, sharing in their meal. Soon it was time for sleep, and everyone stretched out around the fire for a light doze. A couple of Katsuro’s people stayed awake to monitor the fire.
Jim-bo stayed awake as well to chat with the guards.
“Yeah, the garden’s just around the corner from here; you take a left at that strangely phallic stalagmite. And if you go to the right and pass through three rooms, you’ll reach the place where we found the rams,” the guards explained in response to Jim-bo’s questions. “We gather wood from up the mountain and dry it out a bit before we use it. Say, what’s that you’ve got behind your back?”
“Nothing at all,” Jim-bo said, shifting the dagger into his other palm. “I just like to stand this way.”
“You’re weird. But that’s okay,” the guards said. “So, how have you and your folks been surviving in here? Any tricks to share?”
“So many tricks,” Jim-bo replied. He went on to explain how he’d told his cluster that only he knew the proper way to build fires and how difficult it was to do in caves because oxygen or whatever, and how he’d been keeping his own rations for himself to make his people think they were starving, all to make sure they would continue to follow him.
“Oh. We follow Katsuro because we like her,” the guards said. “She takes care of us. She tells great jokes. And she makes bat stew like no other. Don’t ask us what we do with the guano, though. Trade secret.”
“Maybe I’ll pry it out of you,” Jim-bo said, winking.
Katsuro suffered from a curious form of insomnia wherein she could not sleep if there was a lying, ignorant pissant threatening her kin.
“Hey,” she said, sitting up, “it’s been nice chatting with you and whatnot, but I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to roll out. Your people can stay if they want—“
Jim-bo lunged at Katsuro dagger-first. She bitchslapped it out of his hand. His grip was weak.
“Like I was saying,” Katsuro stated, and a cold breeze chilled even the fire for a long moment, “it’s been real, but you gots to press on.”
Jim-bo awoke his people and informed them that Katsuro was kicking them out due to spite. His folks looked at him. Then at the fire. Then at Katsuro.
Katsuro shrugged. “It’s a long story. But he’s the only one who has to leave.”
Everyone was quiet. The hush was broken by a tiny voice. “I… think I will stay.”
This was Fariz.
“You’re a weakling anyway,” Jim-bo said, shrugging. “We’re better off without you. The rest of you, let’s go wreck their crops and rams.”
“Oh no,” the guards said.
No one followed Jim-bo to the phallic stalagmite.
“Fine! Be that way!” Jim-bo roared. “See what happens when I claim this garden! Then every single one of you will follow me!”
Jim-bo marched around the left corner, and he found a garden of sorts. This was the room where Katsuro’s people repaired their hunting traps.
When the nasty weather let up, Katsuro led her cluster and their neighbors back onto the land. They built a village that became a town. They became known as Clan Ramijozana, or roughly “they who wield power through grace”. Katsuro and Fariz married, and my family line was born.
Jim-bo reappeared years later, still limping. He was accepted into the clan. Later on he got cannoned into the waters off the northern coast, but that’s a story for another time.