Long ago and far away, when the Callanthe people had a different name and roamed far different hills, there lived the woman who was mother to the women and men who would not marry. She was called the Goat-Bride, and in her honor, every year, there are those who stand before the gods and swear their troth to their goats.
They will bear or seed no children, save those born to the festivals. Their home is the goat-pasture and the goat-tent. They stand with the herds when everyone else must stand with their family, and they sleep with their spear and their blade.
They serve as the first to fight and the last to fall, they serve as the spine of the people. There is no shame in standing as Goat-Bride or Goat-Groom. But when the first to do so stood there, the times were different.
Kyerzha stood to one side of Stinky, watching the tribe watch her.
“It’s time.” Daryas was one of the strongest men in the tribe. “The people need babies, to give them strength”
“The people need the goats, to give them feet, to give them wind, to give them food and milk, wool and leather.” She turned her back on Daryas.
“It’s time.” Talgub was one of the cleverest hunters in the tribe. “The children are the future of our tribe.”
“The herd is our future, and its kids, as much as our children. The goats need watching when they come to term; they need guiding when they are ready to be bred” She turned her back on Talgub.
“It’s time.” Puhntozh was the oldest and wisest of the tribe. “Every goat must bend its neck to harness and every tribesmember must bend to responsibility.”
“There are goats we do not ride, but set to stud. There are goats we do not use to pull a plow but instead use for milk. There are those we do not use for wool, but ride them into battle.” She turned her back on Puhntozh.
“You turn your back on your tribe.” Kesaku was her mother, and she was angry.
“I turn my back on the road that leads no-where, to the road that leads somewhere fruitful. That is all.”
And that was all, though it took her family many years to understand.
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