In a small village, amidst rolling plains and dark forests, nestled into the side of the expansive mountains to the east, the day is coming to a close. A feast is prepared for everyone, highlighting the best that the hunters and gatherers could provide for the day. Laughter can be heard, and if you listen carefully you might even hear the children singing as they dance around the fire. The mood is light, relaxed, but most of all it is peaceful. Not all evenings are like this one, but they are considered normal to the people of this village.
While all of the people look forward to the evening festivities, they are even more drawn to an old man named Naran or, as the children affectionately referred to him, Teller. He was a man of many years, though no one knew exactly how old he was. Martha was the oldest living villager, apart from Teller, and her first memory of the man was listening to him spin his tales on evenings such as this when she was a young girl. She would also tell you, in quite a huff, that he has refused to indulge her desire to know the secret to his sustained youth. Martha has aged, perhaps not so gracefully, but at a normal pace, whereas Teller remains nearly unchanged from year to year.
As the sunlight dipped below the horizon, Teller emerged from his dwelling and the village fell silent. They remained silent, the only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the rushing wind as it kicked Teller’s robe from side to side. He walked slowly toward the fire, his age evident to even the most casual of observers. His robe was simple, black, and unadorned. He also did not wear anything on his head, which set him apart from the rest of the village who took to adorning themselves with a headdress that signified their station. The hunters wore animal pelts, the fishermen wore simple bucket hats with fishing line and hooks attached, the cooks wore soft white caps that could keep their hair contained, and each of the children wore a small black bandana in whatever fashion they deemed pertinent to their activities. Teller was, by almost all accounts, the most plain man in the village. The silence remained until he found his seat near the fire. Then, and only when he had completely settled himself and let out a long sigh, the commotion resumed. The children rushed to be as close as possible to the man, and the adults moved chairs and tables in a circle around him, their infighting for position much more subtle than that of the children.
Teller would wait for complete silence before he would begin. At times he would even extend the silence for what seemed like hours. No one was quite sure why he did so, and they dare not ask him, but they would always wait patiently for him to begin. They also knew that the longer he extended the silence, the more glorious a tale would be told. So, as the silence crept in, the people waited. Every minute that passed built on the anticipation of the story to come. A pine log let out a long hissing sound from the fire, then a sharp pop that made the children jump. Teller smiled, and began.
“What I am about to tell you, has long been dormant in my mind. Today, I found it weighing heavily upon me, much as my years have been of late.” Teller stopped for a moment and let the silence wash over him once again. His voice, to an outsider, would not be counted as anything spectacular. In fact, his timbre had fallen in recent years as well as his speed, but the villagers did not notice. They hung on every word, and to them his voice was the sweetest sound in all the land. He took a long breath, gathered himself, and continued. “I often tell you stories of old heroes, of battles fought, of love and of sorrow. My words have carried you through hardship and have highlighted the greatness of our people. But today, the story must be told of how I came to you, and what is to come.”
The silence up to this point had been from respect, but now the people could not have spoken if they had tried. No one knew how Teller had come to be a part of their village. No one had ever even thought to ask him, but here it was before them. The pause before this story was greater than any of them had ever experienced. Even Martha, who had heard more stories than any of the other villagers, would remark that this pause felt nearly twice as long as any she had heard. The wind whipped through the village, rustling leaves and fabric as it snaked through the maze-like structures. It carried the cool scent of night, mixed with a hint of the strong spices that wafted from the tea kettle over the fire. The people sat, patiently, fighting off the sleep that would so easily have overtaken them if not for the building anticipation for what was to come. Then, as the light from the dying fire began to dim, Teller spoke.