All right, then! Have all bellies been filled? Then let me turn my seat here, and you can all gather around. Yes, on the floor. Because I’m old, that’s why! You have to earn these comforts, you know.
Well. This is a sight. I’ve never had all of my children and grandchildren here at once. It is a blessing that both the cliffapples and the tubers were ready for harvest the same week, to bring you in from your scattered homes, and that Jondahl brought his whole family with him this year to deliver his summerpelts to market. I’ll warrant that there’s not a more favored man among all the Grondahr this night than I am!
Now, I’ve heard that some of you want to hear the story about how your grandmother and I came to be wed, with she a Kryil and all. I daresay that you have all heard the tale before, and most even from me on visits, but since you’ve never all heard it at once, I will repeat it once again.
Now remember, this was back before the Grondahr had broken the Kryil and they became the vanished and furtive savages they are today, hiding in distant caves or lurking under beds to snatch wicked children who won’t sleep when bidden. Ha ha! No, they were then a fierce and depraved people, and made war with the Grondahr continuously. All our young men back then had a duty to fight against the Kryil to keep them out of our lands and waters, to slay the men and redeem the women. They were, and are still, a devious and perverse lot. My own father taught me from the cradle never to trust a Kryil, and he afterward learned the lesson of his own words—he was captured on a raid, and to shame him the Kryil sent him back with his hands chopped off and his manhood split.
What’s that? Speak up, Dahnale. What does “redeem the women” mean? Ah, the fullblood Kryil are a dark-skinned and dark-blooded people, and beyond all honor and decency. But you see, the virtues of a Grondahr are in his blood and seed, and so our duty was to find the Kryil women when we could, after killing or luring away their men, and to force our seed upon them so that, by chance, some children would spring up among the Kryil with Grondahr blood in their veins.
So now, back to the story. No, I hadn’t forgotten. I’m old, but I’m not that old!
One summer’s day, in the full flower of my youth, I was out with a raiding party, with our flints and our ironwood, and we chanced upon a Kryil camp. They were, I think, for trade with other Kryil rather than battle with the Grondahr, but that was no concern. We fell upon them to do our duty. And coming from one of the skin tents, that’s when I first spied your grandmother. She had dark skin and straight black hair, like all of her kin, but her deep eyes sparkled and her red lips were parted in a gasp, and just the look of her shot a flint through my heart. Even among the fullblood Kryil, where no virtue or honor resided, there was still great beauty—I hadn’t known until that day how great…