Tales of the Great Beasts: Ninani’s Nectar

Last time on Tales of the Great Beasts, the Greencloaks won the first global war, and four Godlike Animals were killed and later resurrected. But what happened immediately after the war? Find out after the cut.

No About the Author section today, since I’ve already discussed Billy Merrill for “Yin and Yu”. Instead, you get a link to the story itself, because I’m nice.

At first, all Tepin could see was sky. A warm wind raked across his face, as steady as the pull of gravity at his back. Then he saw what he thought was snow blown from the top of the neighboring mountain. It was white and moved like the fringe of his friend Ifa’s skirt when she danced. It wasn’t until the boy saw the feathers that he knew he was looking at wings. A huge white bird was landing. Right where Tepin lay.

Meet Tepin, a boy from not!Peru. Today he’s dreaming of meeting a giant Godlike Swan and floating down a river towards a waterfall. Sounds like fun.

Tepin woke, feeling startled. It was as if all the fear he should have felt in the dream suddenly flooded his heart and throat. The sound of the bird’s cry still shook in the air as Tepin opened his eyes in the dark, finding it hard to breathe. Tepin had never seen a bird like the one from his dream. Nothing like that lived on the mountain. Only greedy condors and mud-colored partridges came to roost in the thin trees of the boy’s village. And yet Tepin couldn’t shake the premonition that the great bird meant something. The dream didn’t feel like any other Tepin could remember. But there was something familiar about the bird.

Of course, all Trippy Dream Sequences must come to an end, so Tepin wakes up. He initially calls for his friend Ifa, but is only answered by his brother Gobe. Ifa, unfortunately, fell ill earlier and is staying with the village healer. Her spirit animal, a chinchilla named Cachi, isn’t faring much better.

Roused by the bleating of his family’s alpacas, Tepin notices a note from his mother left by the door of his hut. He reads it and learns that he needs to visit Ifa in town, since her condition has worsened. Ifa is staying with Anyati, a healer and the local Greencloak. Anyati recently returned from a war overseas, and has holed herself up at home ever since. The villagers have grown suspicious of her as of late.

Worried that Anyati may be responsible for Ifa’s illness, Tepin rushes to town.

Twice a year, Tepin’s father would take the entire herd of alpacas down the mountain to an animal healer. Those two mornings — and those two mornings only — Tepin and his brother were blissfully free of their chores. Usually both brothers would sleep in, staying in their hut practically until lunchtime. But one morning, only a few months before Ifa got sick, Tepin had woken to the sounds of his father leading the alpacas down the mountain. Try as he might, he couldn’t fall back asleep.

Tepin recalls a day when he followed Ifa up the mountain because he heard her singing. At the lookout point, Ifa tells Tepin about her dream of traveling around the world and selling rugs like the one she’s currently making. Tepin expresses interest in joining her, but Ifa declines his offer, afraid that his parents wouldn’t appreciate her taking him along.

The Greencloak’s hermitage was near the top of the mountain. Tepin thought about that morning with Ifa at the lookout as he hurried up the same steep path. His legs were tired from racing, but when he saw a small orange granadilla fruit in the road, Tepin knew he was close.

Tepin arrives at Anyati’s forbidding home. He only manages to enter the property after recalling how calm he felt during his dream of Ninani. Unfortunately, his calm is shattered when a flock of bats flies into him. The arrival of Anyati, a scarred one-legged woman in a bloody tunic, doesn’t help matters, and neither does the sight of Ifa lying unconscious surrounded by vials of blood.

Luckily, Anyati proves that she’s trying to help Ifa by cleaning up the blood pouring from her nose and nails. She explains to Tepin that Ifa is suffering from an acute case of bonding sickness, an illness that has been affecting the Marked since the war with Stetriol. Nightmares seem to be one of the symptoms of bonding sickness, so Anyati asks Tepin if Ifa has had any recently. Tepin uses this opportunity to ask about his own weird dream from earlier, but Anyati isn’t interested … until Tepin mentions that the bird in his dream was wearing a marble talisman. Anyati identifies the bird as Ninani the Godlike Swan, one of the Great Beasts.

During the war with Stetriol, Ninani allied with the Four Fallen, but didn’t fight with them. Now she seems to be summoning Tepin to the top of a waterfall, where she waits. Luckily, Anyati has a map leading to the nearest waterfall … which is through a treacherous jungle. Tepin doesn’t think he has the courage to make it through the jungle, much less climb a waterfall, but he decides to venture forth after watching Ifa cough blood. He makes sure to steal Anyati’s map while she’s distracted before leaving.

It was dark by the time Tepin found his way down the mountain. According to the map, there was a fork in the road, with one path leading deep into the rain forest, and the other winding up into the neighboring mountains. But Tepin didn’t see a fork in the road, even though he was watching for it. The gravel path simply disappeared at the foot of the mountain, leaving Tepin to find his own way through the wilderness.

Tepin spends the night venturing through the humid not!American jungle, and eventually reaches a river. He follows the river a ways, but is stopped when a strange furry animal jumps out of the water and attacks a snake. He’s so distracted by the fight, he falls into the river and is swept downstream. Tepin is lucky to get snagged by a tree. He passes out immediately afterwards.

“I want you to take it,” the swan said to Tepin in his dream that night, lowering her long neck so that the boy could grab her talisman.

Tepin has another Trippy Dream Sequence, in which Ninani gives him her talisman. She leaves without telling Tepin if the talisman will help Ifa, though.

Tepin woke to the sound of his name being screamed through the jungle. It was morning, and the river was bright with the early sun. He blinked toward the far bank, where Anyati stood in a green cloak, waving. Tonga crawled across the woman’s shoulders.

Anyati finds Tepin the next morning, hanging in a branch over the river. A school of piranha swim beneath Tepin, attracted by the blood dripping from one of his wounds. Tepin tries to distract the piranha by throwing his bloody shirt into the water, but that only attracts more fish. Anyati manages to keep the piranha occupied by having Tonga, her vampire bat, suck her blood and drip it into the water. Thanks to this gambit, Tepin barely manages to make his way back to shore.

Unfortunately, Anyati came to find Tepin so she can deliver some bad news: Ifa died during the night.

It was afternoon by the time Anyati and Tepin finished crossing the river. And Tepin still hadn’t cried.

Tepin reflects on his Trippy Dream Sequence as he and Anyati continue to follow the river. He thinks that he’s responsible for Ifa’s death because he took Ninani’s talisman without asking if it would help his friend.

As they travel, Tepin asks Anyati why she decided to bond with a vampire bat. Anyati explains that the Marked don’t choose who they bond with. However, her bond with Tonga helped her tend to wounded Greencloaks during the war with Stetriol.

Eventually, the party reaches the base of a waterfall. Tepin has to climb up the falls on his own, which is quite daunting for a young boy who can’t even scale the cliffs near his home. Thanks to some timely advice from Anyati — basically, “don’t look down,” — he reaches the top, where Ninani the Godlike Swan waits. After Tepin tells Ninani that Anyati is wating for him below, the swan gives him a ride back to the waterfall’s base.

Ninani then proceeds to infodump Tepin: basically, the war with Stetriol has permanently damaged the bonds between humans and spirit animals, and there’s no cure for the bonding sickness. However, she can help bypass its effects. Ninani places her talisman on the ground, and poof! A flowering vine suddenly sprouts. The swan tells Tepin to drink the nectar in one of the vine’s flowers. Tepin does so, Significant Shit goes down, and voila! He’s now bonded to a tayra, one of those weird creatures he saw during his adventure in the jungle.

The nectar from the plants created by Ninani’s talisman can’t cure an existing case of bonding sickness, but it can protect potential Marked from its effects. And Ninani is awesome enough to give Tepin her talisman and teach him how to make more nectar so he can give it to every single child in the world. Tepin accepts his new role as the Keeper of Ninani’s talisman, and vows to travel the world in the late Ifa’s honor.

——————–

Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above
Proof that this takes place in not!Peru: Tepin and Gobe are alpaca herders.

Tepin is 6 years older than Gobe.

Gobe is the more adventurous / confident of the brothers: he teases Tepin often, and climbs up rock walls to the alpaca pastures. Tepin takes the long way instead because got hurt during his first climbing attempt.

Tepin lost Anyati’s map when he fell into the river. Good thing Anyati found him the next day, huh?

Don’t worry, Tepin’s parents know that he’s off adventuring with Anyati. They’re kinda pissed that he ran off, though.

Anyati refuses to reveal how she lost her leg during the war.

Ninani is glad that the Greencloaks are still around after the war.

This story reveals that the Bile is created by a talisman. You’ll find out which one in The Book of Shane. (I think I may have spoiled which one it is in an earlier recap, though.)

It’s too bad that Ninani’s dream of giving her nectar to all children never pans out. Nobody on Stetriol receives it, and some Greencloaks are assholes who offer false nectar instead.

“Keeper” is the title given to the player character in the Spirit Animals game.

Anyati gives Tepin her green cloak when he becomes the Keeper of the talisman.

——————–

Next time: First Impressions on the next book, Rise and Fall.

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