When the first Northerner came among the People of the Grass they thought he was a yavi, restless spirit of the dead. For he had upon him the skins of the dead, furs and hides bound in bits of dried flesh and bone. The offered him saflifa’s milk and honey, laid before him the burial gifts fit for a Year King, but still he remained. He called to them in a fox’s yips and a brush lion’s yowls, as if they were supposed to understand. Even the Winter King, who spoke the languages of beasts could not pull meaning from his words.
And yet he followed them as they wandered, setting up caves of wood and straw to huddle in each night. Burying himself in Earth like any of the dead.
It was a full moon later when he spoke his first word. It so startled Jonsiah, she almost dropped the basket of ferryl roots, for the dead do not speak to the living. Only when the Summer Queen had been brought before him did the yavi cease following her.
With calm hands, the Summer Queen pulled from him the last remnants of death, so he stood as People should, unburdened before the Sky. Dusting him with the sacred Earth she bound his spirit to the body, sealing off the shadows of death that might seep through the cracks. She spoke the words to bind him to her household, for if he bode ill better that he follow her into death when the Summer Moon died then stay to trouble the People.
He learned slowly, as if reborn a child, and they taught him with the same patience. By mid-Winter he was speaking the words of the People with only a slight growl, and he had given up trying to teach them the language of the dead. They showed him how to dig for roots and gather fruits, that he might bring to the family his own share of life. They led him in the Dance of Tears, and taught him the sacred stories, passed from Queen to Queen and King to King. And when the Summer Moon finally faded to a dark shadow, he stood steady beside the family as she walked beneath the curtain of Tears and into the land of the dead. Some thought he would follow her, returning to the cold dark lands he spoke of in fond memory, but he remained behind.
They chose the new Summer Queen after the dark of mourning had passed, and the household bent to the task of re-dying the woven belts and pouches to match her eyes. For the first seven of her fourteen years he stayed with them, watching, learning, but never quite becoming. They called him Rahha, fox people, for he still yipped and growled when he was mad, and they wondered if all foxes walked the line between death and life as he did. There was no little discussion of this, for if so, foxes could not be trusted. In the end, it was decided that foxes walked the near side of death and were to be feared no more that usual.
When it was explained to him, it seemed to amuse him, which confused the People, but they wrote it off as the humor of the dead.