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The First Warrior
"The banda's first mission is to protect."
In their lodges, once a year, on the feast day of the God Etlarei (et-LAH-ray), the ancient banda warriors reenacted the myth of the first banda, the great hero named Siufala:
When Siufala (see-oo-FAH-lah) was a small boy, his father's enemies came. They were vile savages. They came when his father was away, and killed his mother. They carried Siufala back to their hovel. They flung the little boy among the dogs who gathered on the edge of the human space. The little boy struggled with the dogs for the scraps of food the men and their women tossed their way. In this way Siufala grew, and he soon dominated the dogs. He joined them, then led them, in their hunting pack. One day he turned on the men and challenged them for their food, and when he and the dogs attacked them, the men fled.
One day he came across a young woman, dressed in a cloth dress. He had never seen a pretty young woman before. She was sitting on a rock by a stream, just having bathed herself, singing. Siufala had never seen someone so clean before, and he had never heard singing before. He desired her, but she abhorred him and got away. Siufala shadowed her, his fascination persisting. One day a group of young brutish men set upon her and she screamed. Siufala heard her from a ways and came running. When the young brutes saw him they fled in cowardice. Fearing for her safety, she agreed to live with him, but she put a spell on him wherein he was deprived of his power unless she specifically called it forth with a singing incantation. So it was song that tamed him, and the legend states that she taught him to bath, made beautiful things for him, including a kilt of cloth, and civilized him.
Siufala wore this black quilt and had long braided hair. His arms were thick like huge oak limbs and his legs stood like two oak trunks. One day Siufala walked down the Grassy Way. He walked along and found a great godly figure sprawled across a log, wounded, barely conscious. It was the God Etlarei. Siufala took Etlarei to his log and thatch house, which stood on the banks of a rushing river.
After Etlarei regained consciousness he cautioned Siufala, "You found me on the ground because a villainous sorcerer stole my pendant, where my powers reside. So I have lost my powers. Soon my enemies from the regions beyond will track me down and have no trouble killing me. They will kill you if they find you with me, so be done with me " "I'll protect you," Siufala said. But Etlarei said, "You shouldn't bother with me for a second reason as well. It'll be much worse for the world if the sorcerer figures out the pendant's use than if I die here." "Well, but you should live, and so I will remain with you." Etlarei said, "If you do anything for me at all, I insist you hunt the sorcerer. Go," he commanded. Siufala boasted, "I'll return with the amulet before your enemies arrive," and immediately made off to pursue the sorcerer.
Fortunately the sorcerer had not yet figured out how to activate the great power that resided in the pendant, when Suifala finally caught up to him. The sorcerer dropped the pendant during the ensuing struggle, and the hero recovered it. Amazingly, the amulet responded almost instantly to his touch. The power within it awoke and in a red stream poured into him. With this wondrous new strength, the hero slew the sorcerer.
When the hero returned to his home he found that four gods, enemies of Etlarei, had torn the place apart. They had come down out of the heavens in search of Etlarei, and finding him weakened, they seized him and took him to the banks of the rushing river. Suifala arrived to find the four enemy gods on the river bank making the cruelest sport of Etlarei, lacerating him in small ways again and again, taking time to burn his flesh with a heated brand, causing him the sharpest of pains. Etlarei sang (quote Inga Clendenin)
The power of the amulet filled Suifala, and he leapt out and charged the enemy gods. They rose to meet him. One by one they attacked him. The first one came brandishing an itle, the Bergonian tomahawk, and Siufana, never having seen an itle before, recoiled. But another itle miraculously appeared in front of him and he seized it up. He turned and faced the attacking enemy god. Though unfamiliar with the itle, he bested the attacking enemy god and killed him.
The second one came brandishing a sword, and Siufana, never having seen a sword before, recoiled. But another sword miraculously appeared in front of him and he seized it up. He turned and faced the attacking enemy god. Though unfamiliar with the sword, he bested the attacking enemy god and killed him.
The third one came brandishing a spear, never having seen such a thing before, recoiled. But another spear miraculously appeared in front of him and he seized them up. He turned and faced the attacking enemy god. Though unfamiliar with the bow, he still bested the attacking enemy god and killed him.
The fourth enemy god refused to fight him. Instead he grabbed up the faltering Etlarei and made off with him by jumping into the river, and the rushing waters swiftly carried them away.
Suifala gathered up all his new weapons and pursued him over land. He finally found him. But the enemy god mocked him and said, "you see, I no longer have your friend Etlarei. I had the pleasure of finishing him off and then burying him long before you could catch up to me. You will never find his rotting corpse," he jeered. They fought. Suifala used all his new weapons to kill the enemy god, and the god turned into a bat and flew off into the darkness of things.
The power, now like a blue light, passed back into the amulet. The hero instead of keeping it straight-away returned to Etlarei and presented him with the amulet. Etlarei drew power from it as was restored. He then said to Siufala, "You could've kept this power for yourself, but if you had you would've displayed a personality not worthy of it. The sorcerer was not worthy, and the power refused him. But you were, and so the power awoke when you touched it." Then Etlarei proclaimed, "You are the servant the Gods need among men. You shall protect those things here on earth which the Gods inhabit. You shall protect the things they love." Etlarei gave the amulet to the hero, and then with a thunderclap returned to heaven.
The enemy gods returned and attacked Siufala and his woman. When Siufala looked outside their house they saw a vast dark host descend from all directions, and they knew that they were going to die. Etlarei's words about being a servant of the Gods sounded hollow to him now. Siufala and his woman held each other, and they shared their concern about their lack of progeny. Siufala and the woman prayed and then made love. The Goddess Shiefali (shee-eh-FAH-li) (one of the 64) was attracted by their passion, and she entered the body of the woman to experience the love-making and invest it with holiness. Afterwards, filled with the goddess's power, the woman swelled up and gave birth to thirty-two different animals, all male. All thirty-two disappeared into the wilds, into the world where each of them dominated their respective species. The enemy gods came looking for them, but could not find them because they were camouflaged by all the other animals. (Another version says that Siufala had intercourse with a female of each of the thirty-two species, that they came for him on 32 successive nights, or that Shiefali came to him 32 consecutive nights, transformed into a different species each night, and herself gave birth to the animal-sons.) Later, after Etlarei died, there emerged from the wilds thirty-two new grandchildren, all human, but each with the blood of his animal heritage. They founded the thirty-two clans.
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