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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: Zack astounded the childlike naims by asking them to do the “impossible”: tell different stories based on the same piece of wood!
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“OK,” Zack pressed on, “now bring out Tuber!”
“Why isn’t there another piece a’ rainbowwood?” a nervous naim asked.
“He’ll turn this’n over,” Sniggle explained, and that satisfied them.
But he didn’t turn it over.
“OK, Tuber, for the title of Naimian’s Greaty-est Storysmith…what do you see?” The crowd hushed, not out of anticipation, but confusion. Master Zaggyzim was asking Tuber to tell a story that had already been told. There could be no other because Thistlecress had already told the story, the one that belonged to this piece of wood.
Tuber sensed the crowd’s unrest, but did not know what it meant. He stared into the wood, and then a strange otherness came over him. Zack watched in astonishment as the old naim’s ecstatic vision caused him to tremble. “The morning sun is shining,” he began, “through a great cleft in the sky…”
The crowd buzzed with exhilaration and confusion.
“…for it’s a day when the sun an’ rain an’ wind an’ stars have all arrived at the same time! They’ve begun ter fight over whether it should be night or day, sunny or stormy, an’ a great war has braken out amongst th’ elements, for they can nay longer seem ter live side by side!”
Dozens of Root Naim children ran onto the field, pretending to be wind and stars. They collided with one another, tittering gleefully, knocking each other down.
Meanwhile, on the Leaf Naim side, what had begun as a rumble was becoming a roar. It was different from anything Zack had heard before. It wasn’t the raucous good-natured booing of opposing fans, it was a cry of outrage. Zack looked back at the ecstatic Tuber. His eyes were cast skyward. It reminded Zack of the picture of Saint Stephen in his old Sunday School Bible—just before Stephen was stoned to death.
“Ne’er traith!” screeched an outraged voice. “Ne’er traith!” It was Lyffwin. The phrase meant “falsehood!” More than that, it meant the vilest of kind of falsehood, the kind that purposely attempts to harm others through deception. Soon more Leaf Naims took up the cry: “Ne’er traith! Tuber speaks ne’er traith!”
In response, several hundred Root Naims shouted, “Thistlecress lied!”
“Nay, Tuber lies!”
“Tuber speaks traith! It’s Thistlecress as speaks ne’er traith!”
“Aye!” the Root Naims agreed.
“Lies!” Lyffwin yelled. “All Root Naims is liars, an’ all their stories ne’er traith!”
“It’s Leaf Naims as lied from the beginning!” roared Bulgy, sensing his moment had come. To demonstrate his indignity, he hurled a stone at the Leaf Naims. It fell just a few feet away; the fat little rabble-rouser lacked the brawn to properly demonstrate his ire. But a retaliatory rock was hurled by someone on the Leaf Naim side, someone younger and stronger, and unlike Bulgy’s projectile, it found a target:
A tiny Root Naim girl was struck in the head and fell bleeding to the ground.
Thoughts: Be careful. Not everyone reciprocates with questions. Some use bullets.
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