The moon was full, I recall, when we found the old man at the ring of musestones. We had been walking for days, across hills and valleys, sometimes spotting other tribes on their own treks. But this one was different. We saw in his face many days of life, and at first we thought him dead, sitting there so still. But his eyes were as clear as the still light of the moon, and when we approached, he bid us sit before him.
"You are too young," he began, "to remember the elder lands. You think you sit upon firm earth, but no...no...you sit upon a shard. A shard of a world."
"When the Song was young, that world was whole, not shattered. I was young too, like you, and I wandered the land. The hills were taller, the fields were richer, the seas were deeper...much like this shard, but...more. So much more. A man's life could be spent merely trying to cross such a great land. Maybe it was indeed too great..." he said, drifting off.
"They were there too," he started again, gesturing broadly to the horizon. He surely spoke of the great and terrible beings that walked the earth with us, who shaped it beneath their feet. "The 'uhane were there too, yes, and for a time I even walked with one! My brothers and I, we delighted to hear the great 'uhane's tales of far off lands. Our lord spoke of trails and tails, of mallets and bowls, of hearts and hopes, and of the origin of the world." The old man chuckled. "I admit, I did not always understand...but what does it matter now?" Here, his voice grew grave. "Those lands are gone now."
At this, the old man went silent, and we stirred uneasily. Why did he ask us to sit here with him? What purpose did the old man have for sharing these old memories? I peered at him, listening if perhaps he had fallen asleep, when suddenly he spoke again.
"Some said it was a star that had landed on the ground. Its light shifted and flickered like the stars. When we got closer, some said it was a beacon. 'A beacon for what?' we asked, but no one knew. Closer still, we felt the land shake beneath our feet, and felt the wind brush angrily against us. The wind was trying to push us away. The wind...knew," he said quietly.
"I do not know if I was asleep when it happened. You laugh! but I do not know. It was like a dream, it was. Perhaps it was the Dream. I stood on the grass and watched them shatter before my eyes, all those lands the 'uhane had named. I was encircled by the Chorus and they laughed embers of ice into my eyes. They hummed and screeched and sang their warnings, their dire tidings for those who would desire a return to greatness. My fingers grew and stretched and bent until they held the hills that spilled from them like sand. I could not breath or speak or scream. My hair was woven into the harsh shapes of these shards, symbols I had seen my mother once weave. And the Chorus drank my tears and my blood until I was empty, and then I...fell? I woke up."
His eyes were wet and his face was red from this telling, we could see it even in the darkness. Was he mad? He seemed calmer now. "And now I sit here with my tormentors. Surrounded by their stone bodies. They took my home from me and dashed it to pieces, singing. That is all I know to tell."
I was the first to stand up, and approach the old man, after he had gone still. It was a strong omen, to return to the Dreamer among the musestones. The old man would be at peace in the next life. We stayed there by the stones for a day or two afterwards, and when we left we did not dare disturb his body.
Now, like him, I am grown old, and it is hard to tell whether I dreamed that moonlit night. Perhaps in dreams there is truth, as there is in Dream and in Song. When I fall asleep each night, I touch the grass beside me, and wonder if the old man did the same with his elder lands. His firm earth.
-- The Old Man's Tale