Once, Man left his village, walking North. He paddled across a large river so that he could hunt in the forest on the Northern shore in order to provide food for his family. Man was an excellent hunter, but he was young and careless. In those days, Moon had not yet completed her great works. It was dry and dusty on the Earth, and though the cedar and Douglas fir trees grew up tall, the water they drank lurked deep beneath the ground and so, once Man left the river, he grew thirsty. He stumbled upon a great cedar adjoined by a smaller yew. Nestled between their trunks, perfectly contained by a circular ridge of their combined roots, was a large puddle of clear water. Man knelt down on both knees, laying his simple stone spear beside him on the ground. He cupped his hands in the water and lifted them to his face, alert, watchful as he drank deep. Once, twice, three times he drank of the clear, cold water.
On the third handful, he drank only a sip, then stood and raised his hands above his head, still cupped. He opened his fingers, just a bit, above his head, and the water ran down his forearms and chest and dripped onto his uplifted face, rinsing dust off in little streaks all the way down his body. Refreshed, he stooped to retrieve his spear and as he did so, a short, sharp buzzing vibration filled the air where he had just stood. A basalt-tipped spear, lined up perfectly with his now horizontal spine, scraped right along his back. As it passed above him, it lifted up just the slightest scrape of skin and embedded itself firmly in the trunk of the yew tree on the other side of the puddle. The young men of another tribe, heretofore concealed in the thick brush some distance away, let out whoops as they launched themselves from their hiding places in a dead run towards Man.
Man grabbed his spear and leapt across the puddle, running towards the North. As he flung himself past the cedar tree, his stone tip and the tip of the spear embedded in the tree cracked into each other, sending up a few golden orange sparks. Man, already past the trees and running for his life, did not witness this small miracle, but the original Spear Thrower did and stopped his full-on run for Man while the rest of his tribe continued on, heedless that he had fallen out of ranks.
As Man fled with his pursuers into the Northern forest, Spear Thrower stood back and watched in awe as the sparks flew up from the basalt spear tip nestled into the yew tree and landed, high above the ground, on the trunk of the stringy cedar. The sparks soon grew into a tiny, curling flame, which licked at the trunk higher and higher into the canopy. Soon, other trees around the cedar had caught on fire as well, throwing up a great wall of scorching heat, and Spear Thrower soon fled back towards the river. Spear Thrower's village was on the North side of the river, close to the edge of the forest, but he was forced across the river to the South, stealing Man's canoe in his escape. His people, not knowing of the great danger that approached them, fled in all directions as they realized that Fire had begun to burn around them. Many perished in the flames as Spear Thrower watched in shame and terror from the South side of the River.
Meanwhile, Man continued North as Fire spread behind him. Now, he wasn't just running from his pursuers, but also the implacable flame. Soon, both hunters and prey realized they were all just prey. The tribe stopped trying to throw spears at Man and focused on keeping ahead of Fire, which marched without tiring through the forest, consuming every tree, shrub, and flower until nothing but blackened dirt and burnt stumps remained.
The tribesmen, though, had been far South of Man when Spear Thrower began their chase, and so they passed underneath the cedar just as the upper branches had begun to smolder into flame. They were much closer to Fire, which licked at their heels and gave them no rest.
After three days of pushing forward through the dense woods without rest, without food or water, Man climbed up a mountain peak, above the tree line, far north of two other mountains a bit to the Southwest and Southeast of him, and watched from a distance as the tribe following him so much closer to the advancing line of Fire succumbed to the wall of flame. Their screams echoed off the rocks around him and he shivered, heart reaching out to their souls as they transformed into smoke and sparks.
Soon, Man realized that if he stayed where he was Fire would surround the mountain and block off all routes of escape. He left the barren, rocky peak and continued North, the great Fire at his back.
For almost a Moon he trotted North, far enough ahead of Fire that he caught the occasional fitful hour or two of sleep. Many animals, also fleeing Fire, followed in his path. He could not hunt them, for they were refugees like him, homes burnt up in a cacophony of roars and smoke. His hunger grew, but he pushed it down and filled his empty belly instead with Fire, his constant, threatening companion.
Over the course of the Moon, Man and Fire came to know each other. Man still kept just ahead of the creeping flames, but at night he would find some tree or cave so he could rest for a few hours. He would turn South and watch as the bright orange blaze lit up the night, as the smoke reflected the Moon, as the sounds and smells of burning wood blew on the light breeze towards him. Man came to know Fire as beautiful--destructive, punishing, yet beautiful.
As the Moon cycle ended, Man came across a large lake, running almost straight in a North-South line. Off to the North, Man could see that the lake curved around to the West while the land around it grew up into snow-capped mountains.
Man knew that the water must be very cold, fed as it was by streams running down from the snow and ice, but as he walked into the water he did not shake or shiver. Indeed, his skin, reddened and blistered by so many days in the smoky air, soothed at the touch of the icy water. As Man swam North through the lake he stayed always in the center to keep as much water as possible between him and the now-burning trees on shore. He swam farther and farther North, into the coldest part of the lake, where parts of the surface had frozen. But he was not cold--his own inner Fire spread out from him, creating a pocket of hot water around him that bubbled and fizzed with steam.
After three days, Fire surrounded the lake, burning everything up to the shore, then continued on its way North, allowing Man to see at last what was behind Fire as it moved on.
Man swum to the shore, still burning bright, his skin glossy and smooth, healed from the chafing and blisters by his time in the lake. As he stepped out on shore, the lake continued to bubble and boil behind him, remaining hot with its own Fire.
Man stepped out of the water in dismay. All around him, the once green-thick forest had transformed into a black, alien landscape. Charred logs and stumps were all that remained of the once great cedar trees. The quiet deadness oppressed him. Still, there was nothing Man could do about this disaster. He turned South and headed home, trudging through the char. It took Man three Moons to reach the river he had paddled across so long ago. His steps were slow and tired, and without Fire spurring him on he saw no need to hurry. He worried, too, about the state of his village--had Fire spread South as well? What had become of his people?--and almost dreaded seeing the remnants of his village look like the forest around him.
As he passed the point where he had knelt, so long ago, next to a great cedar and a yew to drink a puddle formed by their conjoined tree roots, Man witnessed a miracle. He had seen no sign of life in his slow trek South, as not even a shred of green blade or shrub had survived the roaring inferno. Yet there, in the circle of blackened charcoal, the smallest of green shoots poked up above the dark soil. In gratitude for this life, man flung himself with abandon down beside the young green growth. As he sprawled out, his spear, which he had managed to hang onto all this time, hit the ground sharply and broke two thirds of the way up the shaft. The shorter piece with the sharpened stone point recoiled as the spear broke and launched into the air. The point embedded itself in the charred and blackened yew trunk, in the exact same place as where Spear Thrower had landed his point so long ago.
Tormented by Fire, roots dry without water, trunk weathered and hardened by the Sun and the breeze, the yew tree fell with a great crash, propelled by these two strikes in the same place so many Moons apart. As it hit the ground, the blackened trunk fell away to either side and revealed a long, slender, pale red stave, smooth and gently curved in the center of the tree.
Taking this strange event as a sign, Man kissed the ground beneath him, hiding his face for a moment in humility and gratitude. Where he kissed the Earth, the blackened charcoal crumbled away to reveal the remnants of the cedar tree's roots, the outer layer peeled away to reveal long, fibrous strands of inner bark untouched by Fire.
Man gathered up these strands and wove them against his knee into a strong cord. He looped his cord around the ends of the yew stave, not fully knowing what he was about. He focused on these tasks for many hours, concentrating on the strength of the cord, it's tautness against the stave, which he bent back into an arc full of energy. As Sun passed his zenith, man completed his task and stood, whispering words of thanks to the yew and cedar trees, and to the little patch of green life surrounded by so much destruction.
As he turned back South to finish his long walk home, a rabbit--the first he had seen in so, so long--burst out from beneath a blackened log, running directly at him from the South, along exactly the same line that Spear Thrower had launched his spear at Man.
Without thought, Man lifted up his broken, shortened spear and fitted the end of the shaft into the new cedar string, the pointed stone tip against the side of the wooden stave. Man pulled back the cord, then released it, launching his broken spear with great power just a few feet South into the rabbit's head.
The spear flew so fast, and with such strength, that Rabbit's soul didn't even notice the penetration of his body. Man watched, startled, as the green glowing blur of Rabbit continued running past him towards the mountain in the North, even as his body fell behind him on the trail.
Man gathered up Rabbit's body, singing of the great blessing that this meat was. Man was hungry, it had been many, many Moons since his last meal, but his Fire sustained him. He was still worried for his village, and he had delayed a long time here next to the remnants of the yew and cedar trees.
Man carried Rabbit and his new yew bow and arrow back where he had left the canoe on the river bank. The marks of Fire followed him all the way to the river, and so Man was not surprised to find no sign of his canoe. He shrugged and walked upstream towards the East a few miles to where the river narrowed enough that he could swim across while still carrying his precious burdens.
Once on the other side, Man noticed that Fire had not managed to penetrate past the river. His village must be safe. He felt a great a burst of energy and jogged back towards the West towards home. When he came upon the village, he was shocked and frightened to see that in the center a great tower of Fire danced, surrounded by chunks of basalt rock. He called out to the villagers, his friends and family, who were all playing, talking, and dancing around Fire. They seemed unconcerned about the great danger in their midst, though they expressed joy and amazement that he was still alive, and welcomed him in to the circle.
The young Spear Thrower from the other village, face shining with tears, jumped up when he saw Man and ran to him, flinging his arms around Man and sobbing in gratitude and astonishment that Man was alive, that Man had survived both the spear and Fire.
Spear Thrower wanted to know if any of his friends had survived with Man. Saddened, remembering the screams, yet still with one watchful eye on Fire, Man had to say that the tribesmen from so long ago who had pursued him through the forest perished at the foot of the mountain to the North. Man and Spear Thrower clasped forearms and leaned in towards each other, foreheads touching as they looked into each other's eyes, Fire to their side reflecting from both. Together, they honored the young men who became Fire.
Man, in turn, wanted to know what Fire was doing here, so brazen, in the center of the village, especially when Spear Thrower explained through his tears that most of his friends and family had been consumed by Fire, and that Man's village had adopted him and a few others when they came begging to the elders, humbled, hungry, and alone.
Spear Thrower understood Man's great fear of Fire, yet knew also that Man could learn. He pushed his hand against Man's chest and felt the inner heat of Fire and explained that Man had already learned to work with Fire, to respect it, to honor both its life-sustaining power and its ability to destroy.
Spear Thrower knelt by the circle of basalt and picked two rocks up. He knocked them together with powerful strokes, producing a few sparks that joined the twisting tower of flame in the center of the rocks. He showed man how the village had dug a pit to keep Fire contained, then lined it with the basalt to ensure that Fire could not spread through the dry Earth. He pointed out how the pit was far from the homes of the villagers, and that a hollowed out log full of water from the river waited nearby to douse the flames, just in case. Spear Thrower suggested that Man skin the body of Rabbit and place pieces of the flesh on the coals, a little to the side of where Fire burned in the dusk.
Man was skeptical of this idea, but his whole village stood around, nodding at points in Spear Thrower's story and encouraging Man to trust. When the bits of Rabbit's flesh had crisped on the outside, their juices sizzling into the coals, Man's stomach rumbled so loudly at the delicious smell that children around him fell over laughing, teasing him for the great roars coming from his belly.
Man, tentative, still a little scared, reached into the coals and plucked out a piece of Rabbit, then popped it in his mouth. The succulent juice ran down his chin and his eyes popped out at how delicious Rabbit tasted prepared in Fire. After he had eaten his fill, he lay on the ground next to Fire, basking in its warm glow as the cool night fell. Other villagers, both his own villagers and some from the one that had burned, came up and nibbled on small pieces of Rabbit, sharing in comradeship and comfort.
Man fell asleep next to Fire with the other villagers, waking every so often throughout the night to pile on another piece of wood and keep the coals burning bright. He was warm and happy, well-fed and surrounded by a circle of his friends, old and new.