‘New Fire’ exerpt – Crocodile’s Story, Part 1

Night was absolute beneath the foliage and the only cue that Two Sign was there was the sound of his deep, steady voice.

‘This story begins with a happy child and a loving family who live in a peaceful village in a clearing in the woods. This child has two older sisters and an older brother.’

Jaguar guessed that the story was about Crocodile even though his friend had spoken very little of his life before he came to the city.

‘One day, while many of the men were out hunting and only the frail old men and the youngest warriors – like this boy’s older brother – were left to guard the village, a fearsome tribe of warriors swoops down upon them. The leader of this band of warriors was called Stone Monkey, a thin and evil man with one white eye and a lust to kill. Stone Monkey questioned the eldest of the village wanting to know the whereabouts of the fighting men and older women. The eldest told them they were all out, but refused to say anything more, so Stone Monkey beat him and still the old man held his tongue. Now the boy saw nothing of this. He was out, dutifully collecting firewood when these foreigners descended on his village.’

Two Sign let out a deep sigh.

‘Stone Monkey grew angry and stuck a spear in the old man’s stomach and then made him watch while he killed one of the boys who had been left on guard duty, the little boy’s brother as it happened. “I’ll kill another if you do not tell me where the rest of your people have gone!” he said. “And then I’ll kill another, then another.” The old man knew that nothing would spare the people who had been rounded up so he said nothing, concentrating instead on holding down the pain that burned in his belly. He knew Stone Monkey wished to see him suffer and refused to give him that satisfaction.’

Here Two Sign took out a gourd and drank a sip. Jaguar felt a nudge and realised that the Eagle Knight was offering him some water. He took a swig and passed the container back. There was a noise of the plug being turned in the neck of the gourd and then Two Sign began talking again.

‘The boy heard the commotion and the screaming from his village. He wasn’t far away. Returning cautiously to the edge of the clearing where the trees were thickest, he watched as his own brother was cut down. He saw Stone Monkey give the word to his men to burn the houses and watched as his sisters were tied up in a line with anyone else who was fit enough to run. Babies, toddlers and the infirm were butchered in the centre of the village or pushed into the flaming huts.’