Ngali the Gun
by Kevin Wilson

The seafront tavern was dim and stank of alcohol and other, less pleasant smells, but there were voices in it this night filled with the wonder of a child who has seen his first rainbow. A crowd of fishermen and sailors, typically gruff, unfriendly folk, were gathered around the feet of a man with long unkempt hair and dark, rich skin, like the bitter chocolate occasionally imported from the tropics.

A fisherman sitting at the stranger's knee pressed a cup of cider into his hand, and he drank from it gratefully. The man looked around at his fidgeting audience, cleared his throat, and took another sip before speaking in the strange, musical accent that, along with his remarkable skin, had convinced them to hear his tale.

"My name is Ngali the Gun. I am the third child of Kabata and Manu, both catchers of fish. I hail from the island of Kanuba, which I doubt any of you have ever heard of. It was not so long ago that I was terrified of the sea, who we of my island know as the god Nul. Only with the coming of your enormous ships and the tales of the many places far over Nul's back convinced me to go on a sea voyage, so here I am today in front of you."

He paused and took another sip of cider here, looking thoughtful. "Ah, but I have promised you the story of how I got my name, and not the history of my home, have I not?" Murmurs of agreement rustled through the room, and Ngali smiled. Some fish had two legs, but he could catch them in his nets as easily as the rest. "Of course, it would be much easier to tell the story if only that delicious smelling stew were not distracting my empty belly." Quickly, a bowl of stew, and a piece of bread were set before him Unlike his brethren, Ngali liked the Thean meats. He was sure he would miss it when he returned home. "My thanks. Now, to the story."

His eyes, black as midnight, glittered as he leaned them, extending his arms. "My name was once simply Ngali, but three days after your ships landed on Kanuba, my life was changed. I was walking with one of your people along the beach ? a man named Tom when he showed me a strange stick. I asked him what it was, and, he smiled at my innocence, and told me it was a gun. Then asked him what it did, and he pointed at a bird saying 'Watch the bird, Ngali. I will show: you.' Then he raised the stick to his shoulder, looked down its length, and pulled back on part of the stick."

Ngali once again took a sip of the stew. He smiled. knowing that the men liked his story enough to wait.

"There was a clap of thunder, and I looked up at Mata the sky, certain that she was about to kill us with her spears. When I looked back down, the bird was dead. It had a hole in it, and I was confused, but Tom said that the gun had thrown a tiny spear at the bird that I could not see it.

"I gave him no peace then, asking him always about the gun, until he finally gave it to me, saying that I must ask no more questions. Now, because I was the first Kanu with a gun, I became known as Ngali the Gun. That, is my story, and it is true." He smiled at them. "Now, let me eat my stew, and I will tell you the tale of the time Nul drank my father and only gave him back after I shot his waters with my gun." Smiling at the enthralled men, and how simple it was to amuse them, Ngali ate his stew.