These are oneshots that came into my mind completely spontaneously whilst freewriting, mostly as development for my other Australia fic. So updating on this fic will be sporadic, if at all: it all depends if more ideas strike me.
Nullah was playing with the fire.
Every now and then he would throw in a little stick, and sit silently, watching the flames wrap around it. Then, quick as a scorpion, his hand would snap out and nip the twig away. As long as he was fast, he could avoid being burnt. But his mind was elsewhere, and he grew gradually more distant, until suddenly his fingers missed the twig, and his hand was in the fire a second too long. He yelped, shattering the night's relative silence, and put the burn to his mouth, sucking it gently.
King George watched him and knew the reason for his distractedness. "You are missing Faraway Downs," he said softly.
"And The Drover too, eh, and Lady Ashley?"
Nullah nodded again. His face was down, staring into the flames; Gulipa watched the fire turn his hair to gold, and ochre, and back again.
"You should not worry," he said, leaning back against the earth, "they will all be there when you return. You will have many happy years together."
Nullah smiled thinly. "You're right, Gulipa."
"Come here," said King George, gesturing. "I will tell you a story of my ancestors."
A little reassured, Nullah came round the fire and sat with his head on Gulipa's right shoulder. Gulipa put a parental arm around him, welcoming the warmth of another human body in the cold wildness of the outback, which he had for so long now inhabited alone. Nullah finally turned his eyes up, and King George gazed back comfortingly.
Then he launched into the telling of the story of Koopoo, the first Kangaroo, who gifted their people with their sacred rituals, and the white paint they used to decorate themselves, and how he had finally fled from the attack of a ferocious dingo, and become a Rainbow Snake. He paused often, speaking slowly and steadily with a powerful, influencing style perfected over years of practice, in much the same way as his father had- and his father before, all the way back as far, perhaps, as Koopoo himself. The influence and meaning imbued by such a style was such that as he finished, Nullah could remember the beginning almost as exactly as he had just heard the end.
For some while they sat in silence, Nullah absorbing the tale and rolling it over in his mind. But King George could still see that his thoughts wandered.
"What's life like for you, Gulipa?" asked Nullah suddenly, "I mean in Arnhem land?"
King George was a little taken aback, but he answered anyway: "Mostly it is the same. Same sky, same land. Same stars at night. The only real difference is that my family are close there, whereas my grandson is far away. But life, you see, does not change with your position in the world. Life can only change from the inside out."
By now he had figured out the reason for Nullah's question. By degrees his voice took on a tone of fatherly authority- it was not harsh, but it commanded attention.
"You ask me this," he began, "because you yourself worry; worry about tomorrow, and the day after. But as a people we do not worry, Nullah, and that you should learn. Tomorrow is no concern, for it will be the same. People change, but the land never does."
"Yet you realise, now you are absent, that we cannot live forever. You see that your life at Faraway downs will someday end, and so also will those of your parents. You worry what will become of you."
The fire had burned down. Rising, King George climbed onto a boulder behind them; in the receding light cast by their fire he was a giant silhouette, a ghostly ancestor, jet-black on a velvet sky.
"You wonder where to go… but look here, and see that you have already arrived!" He cast his arms out, and raised as he was above the seated Nullah, his arm span seemed to embrace the whole vast horizon.
"I can offer you only this, and that means everything around us now. Look on the land- it is not yours, but it is given you to roam, if you choose."
He climbed down from the boulder. Nullah watched him reverently, but the impact of King George's words, and the decision they entailed, showed in his sad eyes. King George continued more softly:
"You are a special boy, my grandson. You have a talent I could never have gained, and that is the ability to understand two lives at once. I cannot understand the white people. I do not blame myself for this, it is simply the way I have become. And equally I know they do not understand me. But you have seen both of them; and loved both of them, no less. And in that sense you are both fully our people, and fully theirs."
Reaching out, he rested a hand against Nullah's chest, over his heart. "You have been given the great gift of deciding which life you will have for yourself. It is for this heart, under my palm, to discover which life it finds most beautiful. And once your heart knows, you must let no man sway you. You understand?"
Nullah, who had been silent throughout, now sat straight up and hugged his mentor tightly.
"Thank-you, Gulipa!" He choked a little, but in his eyes he was reassured. "I feel better now… and I feel I know already where I belong. Would you like me to tell you?"
"No, child," King George told him. "It is not for me to know, nor anyone. It is for you. It is your story."