A Wild Ride to a Lower Level

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Tu-Swift shook his head. “We should all go. You and I are not all that fast either right now. He has knowledge about horses that we need to learn — and about the ROI. We cannot leave them here. We don’t know who is coming, but I doubt it’s a rescue party.” 

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Shadow Walker sighed. “All right. If Jaccim can walk out of here. I’m not carrying him. Nor is anyone else.” 

Though the sun could not be seen, its hidden light from beyond the horizon lit high pink clouds as they tugged aside the heavy door. Tu-Swift, now fully awake, shouted down into the cellar. “Cat Eyes! Cat Eyes! Wake up! We hear war drums afar but coming closer. We should leave. I’m going down to help. Pack up quickly. Can you explain to the others?” 

Tu-Swift, who had lost all fear of the others, began working his way down the stairs. The others were already packing. Apparently, they had no objection to leaving their adoptive slave-home, now in ruins. Tu-Swift could hear the soft yet insistent voice of Cat Eyes talking to the others in ROI. For some reason, it did not sound so foreign when she spoke it. Shadow Walker had also descended. He imagined his strength would be needed to get Jaccim up the stairway. Though if this really were a war party approaching, he doubted they could out-run or out-walk them. Working together, they managed to get everyone out of the cellar with their meager provisions and belongings. 

Shadow Walker began working his way toward the cover of the burned and broken forest and motioned for the others to follow. Jaccim shook his head and jabbered something in ROI. Shadow Walker grew impatient. “We don’t have time to discuss. We can leave him here though I think it would be better to kill him outright. Otherwise, the ROI or whoever it is will force him to say which way we went. Let’s go!” 

“No, no. You don’t understand,” began Cat Eyes. He wants to come with us, but he says we should go another, faster way.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “How? What other way?”

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Cat Eyes said, “He calls it a ‘flume’ but I don’t know what that is.” She glanced at Jaccim who grimaced in pain. It hurt him to move, but he began using sign language to supplement his words. 

Cat Eyes, turned now to Shadow Walker. “He says that beyond the place where they kept the horses there is a branch of the river that was long ago dug to allow logs to flow down to the plane. Even among the ROI, it is not much thought of. But he thinks it will still work. There are still hollowed logs there that we can use to ride quickly down to the plain. If we hurry, and they don’t see us, we will escape them for good. 

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker who stared back and then looked at Jaccim. Could Tu-Swift be right about this man? Does he really feel grateful for the medicine? Shadow Walker thought it would be almost impossible to outrun them anyway with his sprained ankle. “Yes, let’s try this ‘flume.’ They made their way as quickly as possible back to the horse paddock. Beyond that they went toward a small stream. On the far side of the stream, the current had dug into the bank. In that darkness, floated several hollowed out logs. 

Jaccim pointed toward them as though he wanted them to get in these logs. But then, as they approached, he suddenly shook his head and pointed urgently to a nearby large lever, hidden among vines, and signed for them to help him instead. It still wasn’t clear to Shadow Walker whether or not this was some sort of elaborate plot or trick. He kept his hand near his sword and spoke a single word “Caution” to Tu-Swift. 

Jaccim grimaced as he pulled back on the motionless lever. Cat Eyes, Shadow Walker, and Tu-Swift put their backs into it as well. The lever itself seemed to be made of that same material that the swords were fashioned from and the cellar trap door — and the door that Shadow Walker had moved long ago. They all pulled on the lever, but nothing happened. Then suddenly, all four of them fell on their backs as the lever gave way. Jaccim urged them to get into the dugouts now – at once. The lever had apparently been connected to a kind of gate which moved and allowed much of the river to veer off steeply to the right. Shadow Walker got in behind Jaccim. He wanted to keep an eye on him. Two women quickly got into another dugout, each holding one of the wolf pups cradled in her arms. Cat Eyes got into the third and last log and told Tu-Swift to get behind her. 

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The logs felt odd and unstable. They eddied around in the dark pool and Jaccim used his hands to paddle the log. Soon, Shadow Walker imitated him. Working together the log slowly inched its way out into the current. Suddenly, the log began to move quickly. Jaccim immediately put his hands out and grabbed the side of the bank. Then, with Shadow Walker’s help, they turned the boat slightly. 

To To-Swift’s eyes, it seemed the boat had simply disappeared. Directly in front of him, he could see the two ROI women following. Their boat also fell from view. Tu-Swift was tempted to jump out. He knew how to swim but he had never ridden in a boat and he didn’t like it. But Cat Eyes grabbed at the shore and managed to turn their boat and then…whoosh! The two of them were falling, speeding downward. Tu-Swift grabbed Cat Eyes around the waist to help keep his balance. He could see that they rushed through a wooden channel — a kind of artificial river. They fell much faster than he could swim. The long beautiful hair of Cat Eyes streamed into his face making it hard to see. Maybe Jaccim had lured all of them to their death. He began to wonder how he and Shadow Walker could have been so stupid. 

Suddenly, Tu-Swift found himself submerged in icy water. The breakneck flight of the log stopped. It resurfaced and bobbed along gently. Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes now floated together stuck to their clothes and to each other. Tu-Swift noticed that the other two logs floated nearby. He could hear the water rushing into this slow river behind him. Or, was the sound in front. Tu-Swift felt disoriented. In front, he could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker paddling wildly toward the shore. And, now, so did the two ROI women. He and Cat Eyes followed suit, though he wasn’t sure why. They were already soaked. And, this seemed a pleasant enough way to travel. There was definitely a roar in front of them. He could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker scrambling out of their boat, grabbing their things and wadding to shore, holding on to the branches of a fallen tree to help. Shadow Walker tried to pull the dugout along with him but the current dragged it away. It floated away and disappeared. Soon, he and Cat Eyes joined the other four on the shore, all of them soaked. They scrambled up a muddy embankment. From there, Tu-Swift found a higher vantage point and watched the other two logs disappear over a cliff of water. A sudden shiver shook him. Was it the cold, he wondered? Or, was it the knowledge that he had been seconds from being crushed from a fall? 

Tu-Swift began to shiver uncontrollably now. Shadow Walker rummaged through his belongings but all the blankets were damp. He glanced at Jaccim and saw that he lay motionless, apparently exhausted from the effort required by their narrow escape. Shadow Walker felt loath to build a fire after seeing all the destruction and death it had caused, but he knew Tu-Swift especially needed warmth. He was so skinny. His lips were turning blue. 

He glanced about. This part of the forest, far below the Center Place of the ROI had been spared by the great conflagration. He placed a few damp blankets and hides over Tu-Swift and searched for tinder and kindling. He now felt comfortable leaving Tu-Swift, at least for a time. He returned a few moments later to see a strange sight. Tu-Swift and Jaccim lay together.  Both shook with cold but the three women had thrown their arms and legs around the two, using their own body heat to help keep everyone keep warm. 

Shadow Walker created a place to set a fire with reflecting stones around them on one side and a rock behind on the other side. Before he began striking his milky blue-brown flints together though, he asked Cat Eyes to find out from Jaccim whether their fire could be seen from up above. 

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She quickly translated the short question into ROI, but Jaccim’s answer seemed too long. At last she said, “He rather doubts they will follow us. What they see from afar could be clouds from the water fall. Or, smoking remains of the fire. Those are not the war drums of the ROI, but of the Z-LOTZ. They are not actually even war drums but celebration drums. The leader of the Z-LOTZ proclaims that the ROI are now in default of their agreements and all will be made slaves. The drums are calling all the living ROI to come out and be slaves for the Z-LOTZ.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “What agreement?” 

Cat Eyes sighed. “That’s a long story but the main point is, it’s okay to set the fire.” Here, she looked straight at Shadow Walker. 

“Tu-Swift is very cold! Please!” As she said this, she hugged Tu-Swift even more tightly as though to demonstrate her point. 

Shadow Walker was a skilled fire starter. Even so, his own hands shook a bit as he started the fire. 

Soon, Tu-Swift’s color returned. It felt quite nice being warmed by the three women. Especially Cat Eyes. Tu-Swift found her eyes very beautiful to look into. He stopped shivering and the women released him. He sighed and inched a little closer to the fire. He noticed a small stack of kindling laying a ways off. 

Tu-Swift found the kindling — weird. Normally, Shadow Walker stacked firewood in a very methodical way. These sticks lay haphazardly splayed out at odd angles. Not surprising, thought Tu-Swift, because he was in a hurry. Feeling a bit embarrassed by being so cold, and even more by the pleasure he derived from the women warming him, he decided to do something useful and to stack the wood carefully. He sat now still close to the fire, but with his back to it and began to stack the sticks. But as he did so, he felt an odd tingling sensation on the back of his neck. He noticed that his eyes stared fixedly at one little configuration of sticks. And, it reminded him somehow of Stone Chipper who had folded his arms just like that in order to signify…

Tu-Swift clapped his hands together. “The dream! The dream! The dream!

Shadow Walker held up his hand and said, “What dream? What are you talking about?”

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker and asked very slowly, “Did you save the hides with the strange markings? Did you?”

Shadow Walker nodded solemnly. “I did. You just now sat on one such hide over there.” Shadow Walker pointed at the spot where Tu-Swift had just been sitting. “What is going on?”

Tu-Swift glanced at the eyes of his companions. “I think I know what it means!” 

Cat Eyes seemed excited. “The marks? You know what they mean?”

Tu-Swift nodded, “I think so. I have to check. You know the Z-LOTZ tongue as well as the ROI and Veritas, right, Cat Eyes?” 

Cat Eyes. “Yes, I do.” 

Tu-Swift added, “Good! Good! And sign language. You know their sign languages too, right?”

Cat Eyes answered, “Well, yes, but they are the same. Almost identical. Life three leaves on a tree.” 

Tu-Swift eagerly asked, “And do they have the Legend about the gifts of sounds from the animals?”

Cat Eyes considered this for a moment. “Well, I am not sure. I have never heard it whole after I was stolen. They wouldn’t bother to entertain me or teach me about such things. It would take me some time to recall whether I overheard it.”

Tu-Swift, “Yes, yes. Well, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. Here, look at this. You see how these marks are like the arms and forearms and hands? Don’t you see?”

Cat Eyes looked at the excitement on Tu-Swift’s face. His eyes twinkled with the vibrant flames. “So, you think these marks are actually meant to be … pictures … of people doing sign language?” 

Tu-Swift nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes! But it’s more than that too. See? It isn’t just every sign that’s shown. Each sign is for one of the main sounds of the language! See? There is the ‘zzz’ of the buzzing bee! There is the ‘sss’ of the hissing snake! Do you see? Do you see? We can make these symbols line up into a whole story! Imagine!” 

Shadow Walker frowned and shook his head. “That seems like a lot of work for nothing. Why not just tell you?” 

Tu-Swift continued with unabated enthusiasm. “Yes, but — I’m here! But what if…what if we could…what if we could put such marks on a small piece of bark, tie it to the leg of one of the hawks that Eagle Eyes trained and you could … you could send these words to Many Paths! You could tell her we are alive. You could tell her…anything that you could tell her in person.”

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Shadow Walker wrinkled up one eye. “What are you talking about? Are you suffering from being too cold?” 

Cat Eyes had caught Tu-Swift’s enthusiasm. “No, no. He’s right. Tu-Swift’s right! We could use this to send our words. See. I think of a word. I put one of these for each sound. Now, when you look at it, you don’t think of the whole word; just think of the first sound. Now you put them together and it makes the sound of the word. You know which word I meant.” 

Shadow Walker tilted his head. “That might work. Yes. But why not just make a mark for each sign?” 

Cat Eyes began talking while Tu-Swift considered this. “You could. But … I think sign language works well when you are there with the person. It doesn’t take a great imagination, if we are all wet and cold and you gesture toward firewood, we know what you mean. But how would you tell Many Paths, if she were not here, that Tu-Swift and you were both alive, had joined up with four ROI, their village had burned, and all would return by full moon?”

Shadow Walker. “I see. But that wouldn’t fit onto hawk’s leg!” 

Tu-Swift said, “No, you are right. But now that we know such a thing is possible, we might find other uses or other ways to send messages some distance. Remember how we put false marks in the forest to thwart Nut-Pi?” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “How do we know these marks are true? When you speak to someone, you can see the truth in their eyes. How do we know the marks are true?” 

After a pause, Tu-Swift said, “That is a good question. A hard question. But a very good one.” 

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Books by the Author:

The Winning Weekend Warrior – strategy, tactics, & the mental game for all sports. 

http://tinyurl.com/ng2heq3

Turing’s Nightmares. Speculative Sci-FI about robotics and AI that raises ethical issues. 

http://tinyurl.com/hz6dg2d

Fit in Bits describes many ways to work more fun, variety, and exercise into many of your daily activities to become fitter, thinner, & healthier. 

http://tinyurl.com/h6c7fce

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events. 

https://tinyurl.com/y9ajvz9j

The First Book of the Myths of the Veritas. 

The Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas.

https://petersironwood.com/2017/02/25/the-invisibility-cloak-of-habit/

How we can “paint ourselves into a corner” psychologically. 

Four Essays on Social Media, Propaganda, Persuasion. 

Tu-Swift Dreams of Drums

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Tu-Swift Dreams of Drums.

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Tu-Swift’s lids felt heavy. As they fluttered shut, the strange markings on the hides swam before his eyes. In the distance, he could hear drumming. Drumming. Very pleasant. Very nice. Tu-Swift remembered hearing the drumming as She Who Saves Many Lives intoned a long poem for all of the people. It was a poem about animals, and people, and language. Tu-Swift, like all the Veritas had memorized it at an early age. He knew the prose version as well. As She Who Saves Many Lives sung the ancient song, one of the braves, Stone Chipper, used sign language to portray the same story. Perhaps from working with stone, he looked like stone. The muscles of his chest, shoulders and arms writhed as he moved from position to position. It had been hard for Tu-Swift to follow as a child.

Now, in his half-dream state, Tu-Swift could slow the playing of the memory and the memory became the dream. He could see the positions that Stone Chipper used. Then, an odd thing happened (as they are wont to do in dreams). The arms of Stone Chipper became sticks. And every time, he moved them into a new position, he heard the voice of She Who Saves Many Lives saying the sounds of the animals. 

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The sounds. Did we steal them? Did we borrow them? How can we steal them? The snake still hisses. The owl still hoots. The bee still buzzes. And before his internal eyes, Tu-Swift saw the snake and the owl and a swarm of buzzing bees all dancing and playing together. Now, they lined up and came toward him. First, the snake flew toward his face hissing – ‘sssssss.’ Just as it reached him, it opened its mouth, sharp fangs, forked tongue, and then the snake veered off. The hoot owl hooted and stretched for Tu-Swift, talons first. The hooting sound became louder and louder: ‘ooooOOOO OOOO!’ But the owl also caromed away. Now, the swarm of bees zipped toward him buzzing all the while. Suddenly, one of the girls Tu-Swift fancied from home, Sooz, appeared before him smiling. Except now she had cat eyes. She said her name, ‘Sooz’,  and nodded to him just as she had when they first met. Now, she did something odd. She waved her right arm into the crook of her left elbow making the sign for snake; then, she quickly turned her hands outward making them into the claws that signified owl and then her fingertips all moved nervously like a swarm of buzzing bees. Now, she flew away from him and as she disappeared into a bright green cloud, she said, “Remember me. Remember Sooz.” 

Tu-Swift muttered in his sleep, “I will Sooz. I will.” 

Shadow Walker chuckled to himself. He looked down to see the fluttering eyes of Tu-Swift who obviously walked now in the shadow world of dreams. He recalled some of the times that Many Paths and Shadow Walker had spoken of each other’s dreams. He had been dreaming of her, in fact, when something inside him told him it was time for him to keep watch and let Tu-Swift sleep. 

Shadow Walker again turned his thought to the girl with the eyes like a cat. She seemed to be telling the truth even though her tale was amazing, if true. Still, she was definitely holding something back. There was something important that she had not yet told them, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Possibly, she herself had done something against the ways of the Veritas. Although…how could she help it if she were stolen as a child? 

Shadow Walker now heard Tu-Swift muttering again, first about drumming, and Cat Eyes, and language. Like all dream mutterings, it made little sense. He would ask him about it upon wakening. Shadow Walker had found that dreams were easily recalled if they were remembered upon waking but seldom if one waited. 

Meanwhile, quite oblivious to Shadow Walker, Tu-Swift now found himself sitting astride a horse, a giant golden horse. He held reins in his hands and he could control the horse via these reins. Jaccim Nohan trotted alongside on another horse and spoke to him in Veritas. They now seemed friends, but that was not surprising in the dream world. Jaccim’s body turned into sticks of firewood, but he continued to talk…although…it wasn’t exactly talking. He was using his stick limbs to form sign language. Yet, Tu-Swift heard it as words spoken in the voice of Jaccim but the words were not ROI but Veritas. He listened to the words and kicked the giant horse firmly but not cruelly and lightly whipped the reins. The giant horse took off galloping up a hill, leapt up into the sky and Tu-Swift was flying atop his horse — sailing through the sky effortlessly though the steady drumming hooves continued even louder than before. 

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Now, Tu-Swift had fallen off his horse into a pit of giant snakes – squeeze snakes – who were going to squeeze him to death. Where was his horse? He tried to slide the snakes off of his arms but they wouldn’t go. They could speak his name! “Tu-Swift! Tu-Swift! Wake up!”  

Tu-Swift shook his head and came awake. Shadow Walker was shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up! War drums. We must go. Now. Wake up!” 

“What? Whose war drums?” Tu-Swift tried to focus but it was difficult. 

Shadow Walker took Tu-Swift’s head in his hands and stared into his vacant eyes. “I don’t know. But it isn’t Veritas! Wake! We must go!” 

At last, Tu-Swift returned to this world and he saw Shadow Walker quickly putting their things together for a quick journey. “What of Cat Eyes and the others?” 

Shadow Walker sighed. “I think we may have to leave them here. Or at least Jaccim. He is too hurt to travel quickly.”

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Author Page on Amazon

Sci-Fi Scenarios about the Future of AI

Pattern Language for Teamwork and Cooperation: Overview

A Story of Early Work in Human Computer Interaction

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Myths of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy

The Myths of the Veritas: The Second Book

Cats Eyes Shows her Gift

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Shadow Walker sighed and grimaced and ground his teeth. The more he considered the words of Cat Eyes, the angrier he made himself. Meanwhile, Jaccim drew back, afraid now that his “healer” was about to destroy him instead. The women drew back as well, feeling the tension grow steadily higher. 

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Tu-Swift spoke next. “What is wrong Shadow Walker? I think you are scaring our patient. And everyone, actually.”

Shadow Walker looked back over his shoulder at Tu-Swift. “Yes. I will talk no more of this right now, but I do want to learn more about — many things. But first, let me finish administering these cooling herbs.” 

Jaccim soon abated his whimpering and seemed to sleep. A large part of Shadow Walker’s brain remained suspicious. He still wasn’t sure he believed the story of Cat Eyes, but if there were another branch of the Veritas, it would extremely desirable to make contact. He motioned everyone to draw away from the sleeping ROI. He gestured for them to sit in a small circle. They obeyed without question and it seemed to Shadow Walker that it wasn’t just that he was a man with a killing sword. It seemed as though these women … expected to obey. He chuckled as he thought about Many Paths or She Who Saves Many Lives “obeying” someone. Well, maybe he could work this to his advantage, he thought. 

Shadow Path looked to Cat Eyes, “Do the other women also speak Veritas?” 

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Cat Eyes shook her head. “No, not really. We’ve all come from different places. We’ve taught each other a few words of each other’s language, but they won’t understand you if you speak that fast. If you ask me to, I can speak what you say in ROI. We all speak that. All of us were stolen at an early age for … well, as I said, as slaves.” 

Shadow Walker shook his head. “I still don’t see. Why steal children? You have to feed them for years before they can do useful work.” 

Cat Eyes stared at Shadow Walker for a long while. Her lip trembled and it seemed to Shadow Walker that she now looked through him to another place and another time. At last, she said, “Early taken; easily shaken; slaves will see: it is their destiny. That’s not a very good translation, but the ROI, and the Z-LOTZ as well, have such a saying. It means that you steal a child early and train them to be a slave and they won’t expect anything different. If you steal a grown man or woman, they will sabotage you when they can, possibly even murder you in your sleep. You have no such danger if you steal a child young enough.”

Shadow Walker glanced at Tu-Swift whose jaw had fallen open. At last, he spoke. “Can this be true? They steal children young just so they can … train them to be slaves with no spirit?” 

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Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes, I’m afraid that is their reasoning. It does’t always work, by the way. Sometimes, even small children learn how to rebel in small ways. But the ROI and Z-LOTZ believe it. In fact, it’s even one of the sayings in … well, this gift I have. Please don’t ask me about how I obtained it, but I wanted to show it to you. I don’t quite understand it, but I think it’s important.” She pointed to a small bag nearby. “Can I show you?” 

“This is not a weapon, I take it?” asked Shadow Walker. 

Cat Eyes laughed a bit. “No, it’s not a weapon. At least, I don’t see how it can be such. But I do not totally understand it.” She strode off a few feet, rummaged through her bag, and brought out a smaller bag which she brought over the circle. From within the smaller bag, she took out a large skin with many markings on it. There were also two smaller skins, also with many markings. In addition to markings, there were several nicely made pictures of different animals. Several small stones also fell out. 

Shadow Walker frowned. He glanced at the others. No-one seemed to understand. “What is this?” 

Cat Eyes shook her head. “I don’t really know. But it is used by the children of the Z-LOTZ to learn ROI and by the ROI to learn Z-LOTZ. And, each of these. I have seen them use this and when they point at this mark, for example, they almost always say the same thing which is not a word but only a part of a word.”

Tu-Swift tilted his head to one side and looked at Cat Eyes. She did have rather intriguing green eyes. “Part of a word? What do you mean?” 

Cat Eyes replied, “You know the creation myth, of course?” 

Tu-Swift humpfed. “Of course!” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “So, you recall the part about taking sounds from different animals. The ‘z’ from the bee and so on. The ‘z’ of the bee is what I mean by part of a word. It doesn’t mean anything till it’s put together with the sounds of other animals or things.” 

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Tu-Swift bent over the markings on the large skin and stared at them in more detail. “What on earth are these drawings of? They all look like firewood that’s been dropped at odd angles. What is this a picture of?” He pointed to one of the many marks.

“I really don’t know, Tu-Swift. I’m really sorry. I was a slave. My job…one of my jobs… was to watch the children of one of the priests of the Z-LOTZ. I watched them play and every so often my master would come in and watch as well. He seemed very pleased when his children would point to these markings and say parts of words. It was one of the most puzzling things I saw in the giant center place of the Z-LOTZ and there many puzzling things.”

Shadow Walker then said, “Who are these Z-LOTZ and where are they? A giant center place? What do you mean by that?” 

Cat Eyes had been trying to swat away the constant droning questions from her two female friends, but she could ignore them no longer. She quickly spoke in ROI, summarizing for them the conversation thus far. Then, she turned back to Shadow Walker. 

“If our Center Place over Snow Mountain is an acorn, this village you burned down is a seedling. But the Center Place of the Z-LOTZ is a full-sized oak of the forest. I never saw all of it. There is a wall to keep all the slaves inside so we could not escape. It is not too far from here. Perhaps two or three day’s ride.” 

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Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker asked two different questions at the same time. 

Tu-Swift: “Have you ridden a horse?”

Shadow Walker: “Why were you there?”

Cat Eyes looked at one and then the other. “Let me answer Tu-Swift’s question first as it is much easier. No. I never really controlled a horse. I have been tied onto a horse. It is not fun. As for…”

Tu-Swift cut in, “Me too! I agree! I was bruised.” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes. I don’t remember much about how I felt after they stole me. I mean, in terms of bruises. But I was older when the ROI took me to a Z-LOTZ priest for … well, that’s where I found this game. I was there to watch smaller children and … learn other things.” 

Shadow Walker could feel that Cat Eyes knew more but something about her time there was deeply troubling. “What can you tell us about the Z-LOTZ and the ROI?” 

Cat Eyes responded, “They have an alliance but they are quite different people. As different from each other as they are from the Veritas — except that both are quite cruel people. I don’t recall a lot from the time before I was stolen, but I know we were kind people. And you seem kind. The ROI only care about doing everything quickly and making a lot of something. They mainly steal children for the Z-LOTZ. Some, like the three of us, have been used as slaves here as well, usually after…after a time with the Z-LOTZ. The Z-LOTZ — they have elaborate rituals and feasts. They have elaborate myths that everyone is required to repeat word for word. And everyone is supposed to believe them. So far as I can tell, the actual priests of the Z-LOTZ don’t believe any of it. When my master had other priests and their wives over for feasts, they joked about how they used these myths to control the people. I think, in their view, it wasn’t just the stolen children who were slaves. Everyone was.”

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Tu-Swift listened to this with ever-widening eyes. He found Cat Eyes to be fascinating and believed every word that she uttered. Shadow Walker still had his doubts. 

“If you were a slave, how did you come to find out so much?”

Cat Eyes frowned. She appeared to be taking this question seriously. At last she said, “I think I found out so much because they treated me as a slave. They didn’t actually think of me as a real person. As for the Z-LOTZ, I also don’t think they realized how much I understood their language. I had already learned a little of their language before I was sent there. The ROI don’t really talk all that much. They rely a lot on sign language — which is not that different from the Veritas. You were able to make yourself understood just now when you convinced them about the medicine.” She paused, and added, “I may be good at learning languages? I don’t know. But some of us — we did things — bad things, I guess. To get back at them. Some of the slaves though.” Here Cat Eyes paused, bit her lip, and a small tear appeared at the corner of her eye. “Some did not recall anything about their homes and they thought…they thought being a slave was just what they were supposed to do. But I remembered that everyone is not cruel.” 

As she had said all this in Veritas, the other two women began pelting her with questions in ROI so she turned to them and quickly explained that she was just telling what she knew about the ROI and the Z-LOTZ. 

Then, Cat Eyes turned back and smiled at Tu-Swift. “I am glad you didn’t … I am glad you got rescued, even if you had to burn down our village to do it. When you appeared and I heard some words of Veritas, it gave me hope again.” 

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Shadow Walker shook his head. “I need to say one thing. We did not burn down this village. The ROI did that themselves! They meant to burn our small rescue party up with fire arrows. They shot them behind us into the dry grass and the wind blew the fire toward us and the fire nearly killed us all. I am still not sure whether or not all of the others in our party escaped. But we outran the fire, though we could not see very well as we ran and both Tu-Swift and I were injured. But the fire kept spreading into the forest and on to the village. We don’t use fire arrows. Only the ROI do that. As we know from the Legend of the Orange Man, fire, like hatred is hard to control, once unleashed.”

Cat Eyes nodded. “I know. That is why…I am not proud of all the things I did against the Z-LOTZ and the ROI. I was only a child. There were so many of them. I could not fight them in the normal way. I used … other methods. Poisons for one. My mother was a medicine woman and I already knew things that she began to teach me when I was very young. I didn’t kill anyone. But I made many of them just slightly sick in some way. Just enough that they would not suspect poison. Sometimes, I would weaken their walls.  And a few times, I put small holes in buckets so some grain would seep out as they carried it making a path for the rats to their pantries. I put other irritants in their clothing. I taught some others to do the same. We had to be very careful. But they — we never showed our hatred outwardly. They thought of us…they didn’t really think of us as people and therefore not as enemies from within capable of doing damage. But damage — we did do damage. Anyway, what now? You said some of your party are yet unaccounted for?” 

Shadow Walker found her story amazing, but he was still not convinced. He glanced at Tu-Swift and could see that he, at least, believed every word. 

Shadow Walker said at last, “Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but Tu-Swift and I need to hold our own small council for a time. I need to go above and do a more thorough search to make sure there are no other ROI around.”

Cat Eyes looked him in the eyes. “Yes. I think most of the ROI escaped and were heading to the giant Center Place of the Z-LOTZ. We hid out here so we wouldn’t be given once again as slaves. I don’t think there are any left behind as guards. Is there anything up there left to guard? It seemed the entire village was about to be destroyed.”

Shadow Walker looked at her face which seemed so open and honest. “Indeed, there is not much left of your village. Nor have the horses returned. But I did meet one ROI on the way here. He tried to kill me — with this — (here he flicked the newly acquired sword) and I was very lucky to have escaped with my life. I have seen no sign of others — yet. But, one cannot be too careful. We will go and take a look. And, we need to decide on our next steps. We will guard you and search for food. We will talk again when the sun rises.” Shadow Walker stood, bowed, and began to back toward the stairs. 

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Cat Eyes bowed back to Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift. “I understand. You would be safer down here I should think. But you do not yet know me well enough to trust me.”

“I trust you!” said Tu-Swift. 

Shadow Walker looked into Cat Eyes. “I mostly trust you. But it’s a lot to take in. We might be safer down here, but is there any other way in or out of this cellar?” 

Cat Eyes shook her head. “No, just those stairs.”

Shadow Walker said, “Well, it would be easy to move heavy things from the armory across the trap-door and make it quite impossible for any of us to leave. We would be trapped down here to slowly die of hunger and thirst.” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes. But maybe then we should all leave? Except, I don’t think Jaccim is well enough. Maybe, in the morning, he will be recovered enough to travel.”

Shadow Walker said, “Yes. We will — do you think you can lend me all this until morning? I would like to contemplate this more.” He gestured at the marked skins. 

Cat Eyes nodded solemnly. “Yes. I hope you can make more sense of it than I could.” She quickly gathered up the skins and stones and put them back in the small bag which she handed to Tu-Swift. She looked him directly in the eyes now, “Sweet dreams. I will see you in the morning. But before you go, do you mind if I take a look at your knee?”

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Tu-Swift assented and she began to feel his knee and his entire leg. She massaged it gently and at one point not so gently. Tu-Swift cried out suddenly and Shadow Walker raised his sword. Without taking her eyes off Tu-Swift she addressed Shadow Walker. “I am not going to hurt Tu-Swift. I think his knee will feel better in the morning though. You go and ‘guard us’ as you put it. We will reconvene in the morning if you like. Hopefully, you will not pull heavy things over the trap door and trap us in here to starve slowly.” She then looked up at Shadow Walker and smiled at him. 

Shadow Walker looked at her and said, “No, we will not trap you in here. I did think of that when we first came here, but no.” 

Tu-Swift thanked Cat Eyes, for his knee did feel less … misplaced. Cat Eyes smiled back and again said, “Sweet Dreams.” 

Tu-Swift muttered something and followed Shadow Walker up the stairs. They pulled the heavy trap door over the opening and sat on the ground. Tu-Swift immediately took out the marked skins and the stones and begin looking at them intently. Tu-Swift glanced up to ask Shadow Walker a question but he could see that Shadow Walker felt exhausted. Tu-Swift offered to keep first watch and looked at the marks. 

Hours later, when the Starry Hunter was overhead, Shadow Walker awoke and said he would stand watch for awhile so that Tu-Swift might sleep. He immediately fell into a deep sleep and began a strange and wondrous dream.

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The Myths of the Veritas, Book One

The Myths of the Veritas, Book Two

The Creation Myth of the Veritas 

A Tale of Two Nannies

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A Tale of Two Nannies. 

Some decisions are difficult. Some are easy. I’ll let you decide for yourself, discerning reader, which kind of decision this one is. 

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Briefly, I need a nanny for my kids. One is named, let us say, Donna. The other is named, let us say, Serena. 

I didn’t really know either of them personally, but I find out something about each of them. 

Serena came from a good family. Everyone spoke highly of her and of her family. She had worked at the local library and from my casual observations, seemed to get along quite well with children. She was soft-spoken but assertive and articulate. She was also young and athletic. 

Donna came from a crime family. She swore like a sailor. Many people had accused her of various crimes including theft, tax fraud, insurance fraud, obstruction of justice, and pedophilia. So far, none of these had resulted in her going to jail. 

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By chance, I happened to see her hanging out, joking, and laughing with known drug dealers and murderers.

When I confronted her about the shadiness of her background and acquaintances, she pooh-pooh’d it as nothing but slander by jealous bitches out to steal her God-damned job and I had God-damned better hire her or she was going to sue me and everyone else she could think of!!

So two questions. 

  1. Which one should I choose for the nanny to my kids?
  2. Is this really a hard decision? 

 

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Author Page on Amazon

Myths of the Veritas: Book One

Myths of the Veritas: Book Two

Which wolf do you feed? The “bad” wolf or the “good” wolf? Of course, sometimes, decisions involved complex trade-offs, but sometimes we “know” what the right thing to do is and instead do the convenient or selfish thing.

 

 

Finding the Mustard

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{A departure from the Myths of the Veritas, this is just some thoughts while making dinner}

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To the best of my ability, this is the view I had when I poaching salmon for dinner tonight and realized I had almost forgotten the mustard. I spied it immediately.

Then, (while using the mustard) I began to ponder a blog post from a few weeks ago on the importance of making sure that you looked for “the whole enchilada.” But just now, I relied on a small number of cues and it all worked out fine. What’s the difference?

The difference is that I am looking in my refrigerator for something that I know I have. Even in a large grocery store, there are a limited number of products in jars. But in my fridge? Very few. And, let’s face it; much of modern life is like this. We spend time at work, at home, at the gym, on our commute and we are on familiar ground. We see familiar things. We talk to familiar people. So, all these little algorithms we develop *work* pretty well most of the time.

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But — they do not work very well at all if applied to *new* situations, or *new* places, or *new* knowledge or *new* people. If I were to find myself looking in the refrigerator in Italy or Malaysia and relied on the exact same cues, it would be far less likely to work!

It isn’t so much that these little algorithms or pattern recognitions don’t work. They don’t. But so what? The problem comes when we *assume* or even *insist* that they still work. Mostly, they don’t. So, when you are in different situations, you need to slow down and search & ask for help & think & test. And, if you do, it’s mostly all OK.

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But if you insist that your knowledge *should* work in situations where it does not…you are going to make yourself uncomfortable much more than you need to.

Quite apart from the unfairness that xenophobia wreaks upon “others”, it is sad to me that it prevents so much that is interesting and wonderful about living in the 21st century. We have this *astounding* and *amazing* opportunity to learn from a thousand cultures and peoples. Instead, we are ignoring them, or destroying them, or sometimes incorporating a useful piece of technology.

Left to their own devices, people from different places, cultures, races, etc. can generally work it out. But if a rabble rouser preys on your feelings of discomfort and helps you focus on it, they destroy that natural accommodation and mutual learning. Of course, they are doing it to gain power over you, and they don’t care that they are blinding you to a cornucopia of possibilities.

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Once the flames of hatred are sufficiently fanned, you will never be able to see that “other” as a human being who is fundamentally just like you, but whose ancestors and cultures learned different skills and customs in order to survive. You will never see all that you can learn from each other. You will never see that you have been manipulated into fearing, and hating, and even killing so that someone else can become richer, or more powerful, or be able to flout laws that they don’t like. And that is a very sad thing.


Myths of the Veritas: Book One

Myths of the Veritas: Book Two

Myths of the Veritas: Diversity as a Testament to Our Success as a Species

The Whole Enchilada 

Author Page on Amazon

 

The Eyes of the Cat (MOTV)

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When entering a dark place from a very light place, as all Veritas learned at an early age, prudence demanded using caution. The current situation of Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker demanded still more caution. Both had been injured; though not seriously; both felt limited mobility. Beyond that, the three women and one man that Tu-Swift had recounted as the occupants the cellar were all members of the tribe of People Who Steal Children! 

All of these factors and more weighed on the mind of Shadow Walker. He glanced around what was left of the ancient armory. He spied no more swords but there were a few useful spears and clubs which could prove useful. Though they would be heavy to carry far, even had they both been whole-bodied. Still, there is enough weight here that I could prevent them from ever leaving this cellar, if indeed, they are even still in there. Tu-Swift thinks they’re safe, but he is really still a child. 

Shadow Walker leaned close to Tu-Swift. “How sure are you that they are still in there? This could be a trap.” 

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“I am certain that they are still in there.” 

Shadow Walker chewed his lip thoughtfully. “How can you be so sure?”

Tu-Swift smiled, “This twig tells me so.” 

Shadow Walker frowned, “What? What do you mean, the twig…ah.” Shadow Walker’s broad smile now supplanted the frown. “You put an inconspicuous twig on the edge so that if this door were moved you would know because the twig would be moved. Ingenious!” 

Tu-Swift smiled too. It really warmed his heart to see Shadow Walker. “My tribe, especially including you and Many Paths, has taught me well, and for that I am grateful. As to the motives of Those Who Steal Children — of that I am less sure. But these three seemed very … frightened. The man never struck me as personally cruel in the first place. And now, he’s in serious pain and has been for some time. Whatever his motives in the long term, I don’t think he’s likely to attack us.” 

Tu-Swift continued, “There is something else. These people … are … odd. I mean, they never laugh or sing or dance. I think they … follow orders. And, now they have no leader. I think if their leader were here, and he told them to attack us, they would! But without their leader encouraging them to do it … I don’t think so. Their leader though … even though I never saw him … I could feel a kind of cold wind of evil ever blowing outward from him. Or, as though he were a river of evil from another world, flowing into and poisoning our own.” 

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At last, after a long shared look, they creaked open the heavy trap-door — just a crack. The cellar didn’t just seem dark; it appeared to have sucked all the light out of the area. At least they could see that no-one crouched at the top of the stairs ready to ambush them. After some moments, their eyes began to adjust and they could see that the stairway was clear. They could hear the moaning of Jaccim Nohan, and Tu-Swift noted that it seemed somewhat weaker than when he had left.

Tu-Swift descended first. He used his sword now as a bit of a crutch. He greeted the people with a combination of sign language, Veritas (though he thought none of them knew it), and a few words of greeting he had overheard. He tried to explain that his friend, Shadow Walker, was of his tribe and had come with medicine to help Jaccim Nohan. 

{Translator’s Note}: It was indeed a few words — one to be exact. The closest modern American equivalent might be a flat-toned: “Hey.” It seems, so far as we can calculate, by far the most common form of greeting. The ROI rarely went beyond this. But I will render it into the more common polite Veritas expression: ‘How does it go with you?.’ 

Shadow Walker took a quick look around to ensure no-one else was nearby and descended after Tu-Swift. He patted his chest and said, “Shadow Walker.” He held up the leaves and pointed to them. “Medicine. Heal you.” He pointed to Jaccim. 

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Shadow Walker’s eyes had now adjusted completely to the dim and flickering torchlight in the cellar. As he approached these odd people, he began to further appreciate Tu-Swift’s assessment: these folks hardly had the demeanor of warriors. They exuded fear, bewilderment, and confusion; he felt no anger or hatred whatsoever. That, of course, did not mean that there was no danger; not at all. A confused and fearful animal might attack even when the odds were stacked against it. Shadow Walker would continue to be wary, but he definitely wanted to reassure these people, not dominate them. 

Although the Veritas language and that of the ROI were very distinct, there were some similarities. Using a combination of speech and sign language, Shadow Walker gained their confidence enough to approach closely. First, he pointed to his ankle, still visibly swollen. He hopped and grimaced. He applied a small portion of the herb to his knee. Then, he hopped without grimacing.

Eventually, he “convinced” them to try the medicine. He prepared the leaves in boiling water and spun them about to cool them down before applying them. These “burns” were not of fire but moving across too long and too hard which also causes “burns.” Only as Shadow Walker gently lay the leaves did he realize the strangest sensation — as though he were laying these leaves here and now but also there and then. Not only that: he had the distinct impression that he was not himself but a different person. A woman. One that he knew. But the image flickered out before he could place her. How could he…? 

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Shadow Walker returned his attention to the task at hand, the here and now. The more he looked in the eyes of this man, the less danger he felt. Suddenly, he spun around as one of the women spoke from right beside his ear. 

“Thank you for helping Jaccim Nohan. I am called “The Cat-Eyed One,” for clear reasons.” 

Shadow Walker looked at her wide-eyed and simply shook his head from side to side. “If you speak Veritas, why didn’t you say so, Cat-Eyed One?” And now, Shadow Walker could see that indeed, her pupils were as those of a cat. 

“I had to learn whether or not it was safe to trust you. Once I was sure you meant us no malice, I thought I should let you know.” 

Shadow Walker frowned, “But how? How do you know Veritas?”

“I was brought up in a branch of the Veritas over the snow mountains,” began Cat Eyes. 

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“There is no such tribe! Not of Veritas! No-one has survived going over the snow mountains! There is legend of a band trying, but they all perished and never returned!” 

Cat Eyes smiled. “And, if no-one else crossed the mountains and no-one returned, how do you know they all perished?” 

Shadow Walker replied quickly, “Because they would have let us know! That is our way. To share knowledge!” 

Cat Eyes smiled still more widely, “Indeed it is. And that is why I am sharing this knowledge with you. Though you seem rather an ungracious recipient. No, no. Patience, please. I will explain why no-one returned. On our ancestor’s journey, they crossed the mountains and some of that was on a sheet of solid ice. Once we had settled in a fertile valley, far beyond the snow mountains, and were sure that we were secure and not beset by enemies or disease and would survive, we sent a party up to re-cross and re-connect with our center place. But they came back saddened to tell us that the solid ice sheet was no longer solid at all. It was too treacherous to cross. The leader of their band stepped on ice and it broke, he begin to slip through a crack. His hands grabbed frantically at the edge as he slid down.  His friends could hear his screams — which thankfully only lasted a few long minutes — and that scream arose from a place far, far below. 

“After that, people were very cautious and tested the ice and walked with long poles, but the ice never improved. In fact, it got worse every year. I suppose some day, the ice may be totally melted and then we could make our way on dirt or, more likely, mud.”

Shadow Walker listened and began to take seriously this notion that he had close cousins he had not been known about. “But then, Eyes of Cat, how did you get here?”

Cat Eyes nodded and her face grew grim; her voice, quiet. “I was stolen. I was a child. They came on their horses and took me. I don’t really know whether anyone cared enough to try to track me… or… “ Her voice trailed off.

Shadow Walker still didn’t understand why someone would steal children. “But why did they steal you from your own family? I don’t — that’s what happened to Tu-Swift as well. Why?”

Cat Eyes replied, “I recognize Tu-Swift. I knew he was Veritas and that he too had been stolen. But I never had an opportunity — the freedom — to contact him. You see, the ROI stole me to be a slave.”

Shadow Walker sighed. “I still don’t see why they would bother to go to all the trouble to steal someone else’s child. It makes no sense. Can’t they just use their own children? They are called the ‘ROI’?” 

Cat Eyes sighed as well. “Yes. That’s what they call themselves The ROI. Don’t you see? They use us for things they never want their own children to experience. They did things to me that they would never do to their own children.” 

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The Myths of the Veritas: Book One.

The Myths of the Veritas: Book Two.

How Social Media Might Exaggerate Division. 

City Living vs. Country Living. 

Author Page on Amazon

Myths of the Veritas: Killing Sticks

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The pain in Lion Slayer’s arm came in waves. He neither whimpered nor cried aloud, but even in the fading light, Eagle Eyes could see the flashes of pain playing across his face like heat lightening. She put her fingers to her lips to signal quiet. Then, she took her fingers and pushed four fingernails into his shoulder, not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt a little. At the same time, his excruciating burn pain disappeared. She continued the pressure for some minutes and then released it. Lion Slayer braced himself for the pain, but it didn’t come. He looked in her eyes and bowed his head slightly, silently mouthing his thanks. 

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When Eagle Eyes reckoned that most of the straggling band of the People Who Steal Children would probably be asleep, she whispered that they should try to move closer to the camp but not so close as to be seen. Slowly, they crawled through the grass, eager, if at all possible to overhear the campfire, though neither of them spoke the language. Nonetheless, she hoped to glean something from the pacing and the mood. Their efforts were frustrated however. These people had no common evening campfire or discussion. People mumbled here and there but no real conversations took place; at least, none that they overheard. 

Before first light, they receded though a zig-zag path so as not to be discovered with the dawn, which arose in brilliant red. The pain had returned to Lion Slayer’s arm and Eagle Eyes again relieved it with her magic touch. 

For three days and three nights, they followed the People Who Steal Children, each night sneaking a little more closely and each day receding, but not quite so much. It seemed to Eagle Eyes that the People Who Steal Children not only lack all skill at covering their trail but also in seeing one. 

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Each night they also made a farther retreat once the traveling band had gone to sleep. Here they were far enough a way to speak in normal quiet voices, and it was in these quiet normal voices that each day they argued about whether to go back or keep tracking the Children Stealers. Neither was “wedded” to a particular position; each contributed pros and cons equally as they thought of them. Their dialogues often wandered into observations of the Children Stealers. 

Eagle Eyes had just wondered aloud whether the rest of the tribe might either take them for dead or send out a larger search party for them. 

Lion Slayer said, “But what about the eagle?” 

Eagle Eyes replied, “Yes, I hope he takes the message back to the center place, but we don’t really have enough experience to know how likely that is. The hope itself makes me happy though. The tribe might also surmise that we might be injured … have you heard any of the Children Stealers cry?”

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“Why would they cry, Eagle Eyes? Oh, I see. Yes, of course. They just lost their village. And some of their warriors died. They lost their horses, though I know not how much they might care about that. No, I heard no cries.”

Eagle Eyes nodded. “Nor I. And by the way, I would expect that some suffer not just emotional pain but some are likely badly burned as are you.”

Lion Slayer sighed. “It isn’t just crying though. I haven’t heard a really sad voice or happy voice among them. It may seem crazy, but in my tribe, even in the face of great tragedy, the children playing among themselves sometimes find occasion to laugh and sing.” 

Eagle Eyes furrowed her brow. “Why are they doing any of it? If there is no … no feeling? No … experience?” 

“Indeed, Eyes of the Eagle, it seems no life. But perhaps this is how they react to pain and tragedy.” 

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The next day, they tracked the People Who Steal Horses to the largest village any of them had ever seen. There were so many people milling around what appeared to be a gate in a wall, it was hard to comprehend. Their cover had become nearly non-existent. They decided to attempt to reconnoiter the perimeter both to see the extent of the village and look for another way in that might enable them to enter unseen. They waited until twilight and then began their explorations far enough into cover so as not to be seen. Every so often, however, Eagle Eyes would creep forward toward the wall, looking for a way in. 

About half-way around what appeared to be a largely circular wall round the city, Eagle Eyes spotted a postern gate beyond a small trellis maze. It was evening and the light was fading fast. They appeared to have entered an anteroom to some sort of ceremonial chamber. They could see into the brightly lit ceremonial room through a fine wooden lattice, but judged they could not be seen provided they stayed far away from the screen and stay silent. 

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One man sat on a large chair set atop a large platform of polished wood. In front of that man three men knelt on what seemed to be sharp stones. The one on the throne sounded both sly and angry. He gesticulated at the three and then snapped his fingers. At this juncture, one of his guards brought a strange spear over to the man in charge. The man in charge, toyed with the spear and then pointed it at one of the three men kneeling. 

A deafening noise followed and the kneeling man screamed and crumpled. Blood began to flow freely onto the gravel. Yet, the spear had not left the hand of the man in charge! Nor, so far as Eagle Eyes could tell, had the spear touched the man! What strong and strange magic is this, she wondered. 

Another of the kneeling men now seemed clearly begging for his life. He kept saying “Nut-Pi! Nut-Pi!” Apparently that was the name of the man in charge who pointed his magic spear at the begging, cringing man who put up his hands to protect himself. The magic spear made another thunderous noise and this man fell back and soon blood pooled around his body. And yet, Eagle Eyes once again did not see any thrust or throw of the spear! 

The man in charge, possibly named NUT-PI, then seemed to speak to the man remaining alive, whom he called, “BRA-BRILL.” This man BRA-BRILL begged for mercy but to no avail. Yet again, NUT-PI pointed his magic spear and BRA-BRILL screamed and fell. Unlike the others, he did not so quickly fall silent. It appeared that the magic this time had not killed him outright but only severely wounded him. 

BRA-BRILL clutched his thigh and soon his hands were covered in blood. He began crawling away on the sharp gravel. NUT-PI began laughing and sauntered after him. He pointed the magic spear at BRA-BRILL and another loud report was followed by a scream of pain. BRA-BRILL now crawled with his elbows, both of his legs trailing uselessly behind him. NUT-PI only laughed even more raucously. He came up behind BRA-BRILL and pointed the magic spear at one of NUT-PI’s shoulders. That too became injured. NUT-PI now began to jump on the injured parts of BRA-BRILL, each time eliciting a fresh, inhuman wail. 

Wordlessly, Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer sidled back outside. Eagle Eyes peered out into the area beyond the postern gate. She crouched stock still for some moments, looking for a sign of movement. She neither heard, nor smelled, nor sensed anything untoward. She crept out and she and Lion Slayer quickly headed for the nearest cover. Their quest to circumvent the whole wall was abandoned. It only took one look into each others eyes to know that they both agreed. The knowledge of this magic killing stick had to be shared with all the people as soon as possible.

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 ————————————————

The Beginning of Book One, The Myths of the Veritas 

The Beginning of Book Two, The Myths of the Veritas

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration 

The Pros and Cons of AI

Author Page on Amazon    

Thinking Tools: The Whole Enchilada

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Tools of Thought: The Whole Enchilada

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A home made salad. NOT an enchilada.

Do you like enchiladas? I do. I like the combination. It’s much better than just the corn tortilla. It’s better than just eating sauce by itself. And, although I like the fillings, even the fillings are better to me when they are part of the whole enchilada. Sometimes, things only “work” when all the ingredients are present.

Do you think it’s safe to drink and drive? What if I told you that 13% of the drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents had been drinking? Would that convince you that drinking and driving don’t mix?

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It shouldn’t. Not by itself. Not only does that statistic, in and of itself, not show causality, it does not even show correlation! 

What else would you need in order to show that there was at least a correlation between drinking and driving? You would need to know what proportion of people who were not involved in fatal traffic accidents had been drinking. What if that percentage were 50%? What if it were only 1%? 

Let’s take another example. What is the cause of your back pain? Imagine that you went to the doctor and that you had an MRI and it showed that you had a bulging disc or some other back abnormality. Your doctor tells you that you need surgery to fix the bulging disc and that this will get rid of your pain. In fact, the doctor says that 50% of the people who have back pain have a bulging disc or other spine anomaly. What can you conclude from this about the relationship between spine abnormalities and back pain? Nothing. Not yet.

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You cannot logically conclude anything from this statistic in and of itself. You have to know what percentage of people who do not have back pain also have a spinal abnormality. What if it’s exactly 50%?

What if it’s only 1%? If it’s only 1%, it would seem that having a spine anomaly might be a good indicator (though not necessarily the cause) of potential back pain. 

What if 90% of the people without back pain have bulging discs? Then, it might seem that having a spine anomaly is a good thing! 

Once again, before we can even establish that there is a correlation or association between back pain and spine abnormalities, we must know four numbers:

How many people have back pain AND a spine abnormality. 

How many people have back pain and NO spine abnormality. 

How many people have NO back pain AND a spine abnormality. 

How many people have NO back pain AND NO spine abnormality. 

Then, we can test these numbers of find out whether there’s a statistical association between back pain and spine abnormality. Even if we find that there is a statistical association between the two, it would not prove that the abnormality causes the back pain. For example, it might be that some other factor is responsible for both. For instance, it might be that people who regularly run, swim, walk, or otherwise exercise have far less back pain and far fewer spine abnormalities. Conversely, it might be that people who experience back pain exercise far less and this lack of exercise is what causes more spinal abnormalities.

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Or, it might be that older people have both more spine abnormalities and more back pain. It might really be age that causes an increase in both. 

But be careful. If you take a snapshot in time, it might be true that today’s old people have more spine abnormalities and more back pain than today’s young people. But does that prove that age itself is to blame? No. It might be that people who are old today were exposed to more pollutants than younger people. Or, it might be that people who are young today are exposed to many more artificial preservatives and that one of these actually helps prevent spine abnormalities and back pain. 

The point is not that science is impossible. It isn’t. But neither is it trivial. 

Most people who are scientists were good in science and math and they enjoyed it. While most people were struggling through science, some people, like me, loved it. In the first grade, we had a “science text book.” I found it fascinating. But I didn’t stop there. I went to our local public library on Arlington Street, and discovered that they had our textbook on the shelves — but right next to it, they also had the science text books for grades two through six. I read all of them in order and immediately the day I discovered them. 

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My grandfather subscribed to Sky and Telescope, Scientific American, and The Natural History Magazine. I began reading these at an early age. If I didn’t understand something, Grandpa would explain it to me. By the third grade, I was very familiar with much of the simple “nomenclature” of anatomy, paleontology, astronomy, biology. I read 2-4 science books every week during my childhood. Mr. Wizard was one of my favorite TV shows. He was the “Bill Nye” of the 1950’s. I got a chemistry set and joined another “club” that sent a different science experiment every month. 

Most, but not all, people who are scientists today also loved science as kids. And, in high school, they — like me — continued to study and read about science. And most of them took further science and math courses in college. And most of the people who are “scientists” then went to graduate school and studied science for another four or more years. Graduate school  for science is the intense study of science. The grad student doesn’t take physical education or literature courses or “Western Civilization” courses. If they are in a science Ph.D. program, that is what they are studying. Most then do some sort of “Post-Doc” meaning that they get a job, but continue to learn on the job under the tutelage of someone already expert in the field. 

One of the things that I find fascinating about current American society is that a huge proportion of people no longer trust what scientists say. Most folks would never go to a forest ranger to have their teeth fixed. They would never go to a professional golfer to have their gall bladder removed. They would not rely on a car mechanic for open heart surgery. Yet, when it comes to climate change or the safety of vaccinations, they are willing to rely on very rich people with a vested interest to tell them what to think over a body of experts who have devoted their lives to learning about a particular field. And the “arguments” of those with vested interests are generally like the opening example. They do not tell the public all the facts or observations needed to make rational decisions.  

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Let’s now return to our alcohol example. When I was an undergraduate, one of my part-time jobs was as a projectionist. One week I worked all week during spring break for a week-long conference at Case-Western Reserve on the effects of alcohol on driving. It turns out that (as you might expect), there is an association between drinking and being in an accident. People who are scientists not only collected data on this but also studied driving and performance under a wide variety of circumstances. 

This is also crucial to understand. Scientist do not typically just go work in a lab by themselves and come to a conclusion. They present and publish their work so that they get feedback from other experts. Of course, like other human beings, they would prefer that their work be “perfect” but at the same time they welcome feedback from these other experts. They don’t just keep asserting over and over and ever more loudly that they are “right.” A person who insists like that will soon find themselves shunned by the scientific community. 

So these scientists studying the impact of alcohol on driving came together from all over the world in order to get feedback from each other. Each became a teacher and a student. People who are done with school and don’t want to be students or teachers any more should not really become scientists. 

I am very good at finding other people’s typos. I am horrible at finding my own. That’s why I ask other people to proofread my work. 

It’s the same with science. Despite having worked for years as a scientist, individuals do still make mistakes in logic. That’s why the consensus of a large group of scientists means more than the conclusion of one scientist who has come to a conclusion. 

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As for alcohol, some scientists at that conference at Case-Western measured the impact of alcohol on “reaction time” — how quickly a person reacted to a simple stimulus. They measured, for instance, how long it took people to push a button after a light came on. In more “realistic” tests, people sat in a driving simulator and scientists measured how quickly they put on the brakes when a red light came on. In those studies, it turned out that simple reaction time didn’t really become noticeably impacted until the person had three stiff drinks on an empty stomach! 

Someone from the insurance industry who had studied accidents in the real world, however, found that even a half drink significantly increased the chances of being the driver in an accident! That’s quite a discrepancy! 

But scientists do not throw up their hands at this point and say, “Oh, my! Science is hard! Let’s give up and go watch TV.” No. Scientists find this an interesting problem. Why is it that it takes three drinks to find a significant impairment in reaction time, but in the real world even having half a drink causes a significant increase in accidents? So, they begin to tease this apparent contradiction apart with more experiments. 

Does it have to do with particular people? People who agree to participate in lab experiments are not a random group of people from the whole population. They tend to be younger, healthier, and better educated. Could that be part of the apparent discrepancy? 

What about mood and motivation? When you come into a laboratory and people measure how quickly you can respond, you might tend to be in a “serious” mood and typically, in our competitive society, you are motivated to be as fast as possible. When you are out partying, you may be in a much different mood. Perhaps your motivation, especially if you are a teen-ager, is to “impress friends” that you are not “chicken.” So, maybe 1/2 drink might induce you to do stupid things that you wouldn’t do when you are sober. At the same time, if you’ve been drinking, chances are that your fellow passengers may have also been drinking so they may cheer you on in your choice to pass on a curve or engage in a high speed race or chase on the highway. Even if they don’t cheer you on, having friends there talking, laughing, and singing may distract you from your main task which is to keep everyone safe. Indeed, it does turn out that while simple reaction time takes three drinks to show a significant slowing, your ability to switch between tasks and to control your attention begins to suffer immediately under the influence of alcohol. 

What about back surgery to cure your back abnormality? I am not an expert on backs. Here’s a nice summary of things to think about before having back surgery. 

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa6282

And I highly recommend the books by John Sarno. Reading this book completely cured my sciatica. Naturally, that doesn’t prove it will work for you, but you may want to try a $10 book before you go under the knife for $10,000, $100,000 or more! 

For instance: 

https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Back-Pain-Mind-Body-Connection/dp/0446557684

Take-aways: 

Don’t drink and drive. 

Science works. But it’s not trivial. Experts know more than you do. But the knowledge isn’t inaccessible. It’s not some secret hidden knowledge that scientists want to keep from you. You can become an expert in some field. But it will take time, effort, and an open mind. Or, you can take the word of experts. Or, you can decide that you’d really be okay with a forest ranger fixing your teeth or a car mechanic doing your open heart surgery. Or, you can decide to rely on people funded by fossil fuel companies to tell you whether climate change is real. 

Scientists mainly work together to seek the truth. Their “culture” is not to lie, cheat and steal in order to get rich. They get their kicks in other ways. 

If someone tries to imply a causal narrative about A causing X, you have to see the number of cases in FOUR categories before you even have evidence of an association. If they only tell you how many cases are in A & X, they are trying to convince you of something, not in having you see the truth. You need to find out how many: 

A & X

A & ~X

~A & X

~A & ~X. 

Even if A & X are statistically associated, it doesn’t prove causality. Proving causality depends on careful study using a variety of methods to converge on the truth. 

If all your doctor tells you is that you have a back abnormality and you have pain, and that therefore you need back surgery, get a second opinion. 

Of course, it’s a free country. So far. And, if you want to go to a Mexican restaurant, you’re free to order enchiladas and scrape all the sauce out and then scoop out all the ingredients and just eat the corn tortillas. You are missing out though. And if you then declare that Mexican food isn’t that great…? Well, you do the math. You really should have gone for the whole enchilada. 

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Author Page on Amazon.

Introduction to A Pattern Language for Collaboration.

Stories and Storytelling. 

The Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence.

The Myths of the Veritas: Book One. 

The Myths of the Veritas: Book Two.  

Mueller Time?Or Just the First Draft

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In some ways, the Mueller testimony was disappointing. In other ways, it was very damning for Trump, though in a completely undramatic way. Then, I got to thinking: what could Mueller have said or done to change the minds of Trump’s supporters? 

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I really can’t think of anything. He could have said, for instance, “Well, Trump came to me and said that he thought the American public were stupid and it was his right to fool them because they were so stupid they deserve to be fooled. Of course, I got help from Russian! How the hell else could I have been elected. But you ain’t see nothing yet. I’m going to win in a landslide next time. You guys are losers! I’m a winner and I’m going to be dictator!” 

Trump’s supporters would simply say that Mueller was lying; that Trump never said that. 

Suppose Mueller said, “Well, actually there were 5000 witnesses to the meeting. Here are their names and phone numbers.” 

Those people would immediately be decried as part of the effort to “get Trump.” In fact, at least one person on Fox News would suggest they were being paid to say that by George Soros and that they would be better off dead. They would all be seen as part of a vast conspiracy. 

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Amazingly, though people across the earth cannot address global climate change in order to survive, they can all get together in a multi-billion person conspiracy to oust Donald Trump. 

Does that sound too ridiculous? It is ridiculous, but many of the base already think that global warming and its attendant increase in flooding, drought, climate-related deaths, species extinction, sea level rising, worse forest fires, etc. — is a conspiracy — a conspiracy which require millions of people to be “on board” with faking data, photos, eye witness accounts, etc.

These are not just random people either. In tens of thousands of cases, these are scientists for whom truth is the highest value. They have dedicated their lives to finding the truth and yet, somehow, they’ve been corrupted in a single stroke. 

So, I’m forced to conclude that Trumpism has gone beyond a religion to replace Christianity. It is indeed a cult. To me, the distinction is not in the sheer numbers of people, but the extent to which their belief is impervious to feedback from the real world. 

There are many people who hold traditional faiths very much in reverence, whether it is Christianity or something else. But these religions focus on things that are spiritual in nature. The mainstream of such religions do not ask their adherents to believe things that are provably wrong about the physical world. The Catholic church, for instance, does not insist that the Earth is the center of the Universe just because they once believed it. They are very conservative, but they are not impervious to facts — not in the long run. 

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Here are links to some popular articles about religious cults. It would seem that Nazi Germany under Hitler was also something of a giant cult. Anyway, I wonder whether anyone is aware of first hand accounts of people from Germany who initially welcomed Hitler and Nazism and later realized the horrible and horrendous error of their ways. 

https://www.insider.com/most-infamous-cults-in-history-2018-8#members-of-heavens-gate-were-told-that-god-was-an-alien-39-members-died-by-suicide-2

https://allthatsinteresting.com/insane-cults

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/understanding-jonestown_b_8282188

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-a-cult_b_11729868

https://slate.com/technology/2011/05/apocalypse-2011-what-happens-to-a-doomsday-cult-when-the-world-doesn-t-end.html

If video is more your style. 

https://www.aetv.com/shows/cults-and-extreme-belief

Myths of the Veritas: Many Pains for Many Paths

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Many Paths awoke in a start and saw that all around her, there was a rosy glow. Why? Her heart raced when a fire-image crept into her mind. She scrambled up and peered outside. Ah. The rosy glow was merely from an unusually beautiful sunrise. She smiled at herself, happy that the alarm had been false. She looked down at her right hand and noticed the studded club in her hand. She had no recollection of having grabbed it. 

Many Paths, suddenly shook her head. She shocked herself to realize that there was a small part of her that was actually sorry it hadn’t been an emergency of some sort. 

{Translator’s Note}: The Veritas were apparently all taught from earliest years to acknowledge seemingly contradictory feelings and then, when conditions permitted, to track down what was going on. It was considered very important not to be living with contradictions of any kind. Factual contradictions, value contradictions, and even emotional contradictions needed to be sorted.  

Failure to resolve or at least understand such conflicts was thought to almost certainly cause problems. From a contradiction of facts, anything can be “proven.” A contradiction of values can lead to vacillation — which is inefficient — as well as breaking trust with others. The Veritas considered the breaking of trust to be a very serious crime. Their whole society, like any free society, was based on trust. Breaking that trust is tantamount to attempting to destroy society. 

A contradiction in feelings did not mean that the tribe member needed to decide which feeling was “correct.” Though they apparently did not have a modern knowledge of anatomy, they were well aware that many parts of our body have muscles arranged in antagonistic pairs. Often feelings are arranged the same way. They considered it important to understand the origins of feelings and then to choose which one to act on based on probable outcomes.

Many Paths quickly realized that a true emergency, a visible enemy, even a necessary evacuation would allow her to do something. And, doing something, anything, would be more pleasant than this incessant waiting. And there were the mutterings. As the days wore on, people looked at her differently. She did not hear any open questioning of her leadership, but when she drew near, she could tell that conversations fell silent or switched to “pleasant” topics. If she were leading them in active battle, they would consider her a more active leader, and she herself would feel as though she was somehow “helping” her tribe reconnect. And, she especially missed Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift. Not knowing whether they were dead or alive or wounded somewhere — these led to extremely unpleasant images and feelings. 

She prepared herself for her day and let it be known that she wished to have a council fire and dialogue that evening. Rather than pretend that everything was wonderful and that her leadership was unquestioned, she thought it better to encourage others to share their ideas about what else might be done. 

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

The rosy glow of the morning gave way to a sweltering day of hazy sunshine. After her own chores were done, she decided to walk among the people and pitch in with their chores and discover what was on their minds individually. She noticed Stone Chipper and his son, Horse Viewer headed back toward the river where Horse Viewer had been the first among the Veritas to see a person standing atop a horse. She thought it worthwhile to quiz them gently when they were back at the precise place where Horse Viewer had first seen those Who Steal Children. Sometimes, people can recall that which first escaped them when they are once again in similar circumstances. Anyway, it would be cool near the creek and Many Paths knew there was a small nearby lake with Pickerel and Arrowhead. She judged it was likely too early to gather the Pickerel seeds but the Arrowhead tubers could be harvested any time. 

They walked in silence for a time. At last they neared the creek and Many Paths said, “Horse Viewer, can you show me where you stood when you first saw the man on the horse?” 

A large, radiant smile lit the small boy’s face. He loped over to a spot near the outlet to the lake. He turned back to the adults, jumped up and down a few times. “Right here! Here’s the spot! I was looking across to there.” 

Many Paths strode up to him quickly. “Can you do me a favor, Horse Viewer? Can you close your eyes, please?” The boy complied as Many Path continued, “Now, can you picture anything else?” 

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“Well,” said the boy without opening his eyes, “there was a kind of rope or strap coming from the mouth of the horse to the hands of the man who stood atop the horse. Although…he didn’t really stand on the horse. He stood on something on the side of the horse. And, the man…the man was wearing a black, hairy mask on the lower part of his face. The man … the man kicked the horse. I think he kicked the horse with his heel into the side of the horse. That’s all I remember.” The boy opened his eyes and stared at Many Paths. 

“Thank you, Horse Viewer. Your memory is good. Can you think of anything else?” 

The boy closed his eyes again, but opened them soon. “No, not really. Except…I couldn’t really see the man very well, but he was … stiff?” 

Many Paths glanced at Stone Chipper and back to the boy. “What do you mean by ‘stiff’?”

Horse Viewer frowned. “I mean. He was riding so fast! He should have been scared or happy or … something… but his face was blank and his body was … stiff … as though he felt neither joy nor fear in riding such a wondrous beast.” 

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Many Paths nodded. “You are a good observer, Horse Viewer. If you think of anything else, let me or your father know.” Now, help find some good stones for arrowheads. We may need many more soon. Meanwhile, I will also be gathering arrowheads. She smiled and gestured toward the margin of the lake. 

Stone Chipper said, “Many Paths. I also have something to say.” 

“Yes? What is it?” 

Stone Chipper looked at Many Paths and said, “I want you to know that I think you are a good leader.” He paused. “I do not think it’s your fault we were attacked at feast. And I don’t think it’s your fault that our search party has not yet returned. And we all of us thought sending a small search party was most appropriate. I don’t think it made sense to send a larger party. We don’t know yet what we are dealing with. As my son said, these people are not … they are not Veritas … and we do not yet know how they think or what other weapons they may have. They lie. We know that much from Friend of Squirrel. To pretend to trade in peace and then attack? They are not good people, I think. They are a great danger to us all. This is not the time for rash action. When you chip a stone properly, you must turn it this way and that. You must chip carefully or you will break the stone so that nothing good is left. I have made such a mistake of too much haste myself. Then, I must start over. We don’t want to break the tribe. That’s all. That’s what I think.” 

Many Paths sighed, nodded, and smiled grimly at Stone Chipper. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. She took both his hands in hers, looked in his eyes and said, “you are a fine maker of arrowheads, sir, and you are raising a good son. We will see how long it takes me to gather arrowheads and we may or may not walk back to the Center Place together. But for now I take your leave.” She then strode to the side of the lake. She removed her moccasins, and began wading into the cold, refreshing water. 

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By late afternoon, Stone Chipper and Horse Viewer had gathered a heavy bag full of stones to be chipped. Likewise, Many Paths had a large number of Arrowhead tubers. They decided to return together to the Center Place. They had not gone far though when they came across Trunk of Tree who seemed to have been waiting for them though he seemed surprised to see the three of them together. 

“Hello, Many Paths! Have the three of you been collecting stones?”

Stone Chipper answered, “Well, I have along with Horse Viewer, as you now call him. Many Paths has been gathering for tonight’s feast.”

“Oh. Interesting. Gathering food. May I talk with you privately, Many Paths?” 

She glanced at Stone Chipper who shrugged. Many Paths, said, “Yes. What is on your mind.” Trunk of Tree looked back at Many Paths but said nothing until the other two were well down the path and out of earshot. 

“Many Paths, you know I support you totally, right?” 

“Well, thank you Trunk of Tree. I do appreciate that.”

Trunk of Tree, chewed on his lip for a moment. “Well, yes. The thing is, some of the braves grow impatient. They wish to send out a larger party. They say you are afraid to do that because you’re afraid to find out that Shadow Walker is dead. And Tu-Swift. As long as we all stay here, we will never know and you can pretend they are still alive.”

Many Paths drew back. “What? I — no, I do not think either of them are dead, but if they are, I will get over it. I do not counsel sending more people out until we learn more from those who went to discover more about this enemy. I am not afraid of finding out they are dead. I appreciate your support, but …. “

Trunk of Tree stopped in his tracks and turned toward Many Paths, laying his thick hands upon her upper arms and turning her toward him. “If you truly appreciate my support, why not show it?” 

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Many Paths frowned. “I just said that I appreciated your support. You puzzle me.”

“Many Paths, you are beautiful, but unused to the ways of men. I can show you those ways and you will be a better leader for it. I like you. You know I do. But it is time to acknowledge that Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift are not coming back. You need a family. I can provide that family, if you favor me. Let’s just try a handful of kisses and see how we like it. If either of us doesn’t like it, you can find someone else. But meanwhile….” Trunk of Tree tightened his grip on her arms and drew his body close. He closed his eyes and attempted to plant a kiss on her mouth. She quickly raised both hands above her head and brought them down quickly on the thick forearms of Trunk of Tree. She thus escaped his grip, but only momentarily. “NO!” she screamed. “We talked about this already. I am for Shadow Walker. He’s only been gone a short while. He will return. He’s your friend, or so we both thought. What is with you? I thought you were supporting me! Trying to force a kiss is not supporting me!” 

“I know! I know! I’m sorry. You’re just so beautiful. It is hard to resist.” 

“Trunk of Tree, you are strong. You can do difficult things. So you can leave me alone. I do not want to complicate…it would be such an absurdly bad idea. What do you think would happen?” 

“I think you should raise children with me! I am strong and I could be leader but I would listen to you for advice. We could lead this way together. Strength of body and strength of mind together! No-one would then question us!” 

Many Paths lidded her eyes, set her jaw and looked at him with dagger eyes. “I want people to question me! These are difficult times. I want everyone’s input, but I do not in any way want to raise a family with you. Indeed, I don’t wish to have children now! For what possible purpose? So that they can be stolen away by the horrible People Who Steal Children? If you object to the way I am handling things, then bring it up at the Dialogue after dinner and quit trying to force yourself on me. No. No. NO!” Trunk of Tree again tried to kiss her and this time Many Paths swung her elbow across his nose, breaking it. 

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

Trunk of Tree had now grown angry and felt for a moment like breaking every gone in her body. But he saw that Stone Chipper must have heard their argument and quickly head back down the path toward them. Horse Viewer was close behind. Trunk of Tree grimaced and placed what he thought was a bland, pleasant smile upon his face. “Oh, hello, Stone Chipper. Sorry, we got a little excited at the prospect of killing the People Who Steal Children.” 

Many Paths slowly shook her head and looked at Trunk of Tree with great disappointment. “We’re done talking, Stone Chipper. It’s time to go back now so that we can feast on some Arrowheads.” She spun on her heel and begin striding down the path. Stone Chipper looked sternly at Trunk of Tree and let him pass so that he could keep an eye on him.

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Original Artwork by Zoe Colier

   

After a wonderful feast, capped off with herbal tea, most of the tribe gathered for another Dialogue. Many Paths began. 

“As you know, we all agreed to send out a small search party both to find and return Tu-Swift and also to find out more about the People Who Steal Children. They have not yet returned. I am hopeful they will return soon with knowledge and with Tu-Swift. But I also understand that it is frustrating for the rest of us to feel as though we are doing nothing. Let us together once again contemplate what else we might do.” 

Everyone was silent for a time. At last, Trunk of Tree spoke. “I know I speak for many who are afraid to speak for themselves. We believe the search party is dead or captured. We have learned nothing about these People Who Stand on Horses. We can stay here and do nothing. Or we can go and seek our revenge. I am strong and a warrior. I do not like sitting here like women simply gathering food and waiting to be attacked. I think it is time to consider a new leader.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke next. “And who might that leader be?”

Silence.

Trunk of Tree spoke then. “If no-one else will step up, I will do it. I will find these People Who Stand on Horses and will kill them all.” 

Stone Chipper spoke next. “It is not true that we are simply gathering food and doing nothing else. Just today, I gathered many more stones that I can chip for more arrowhead and spearheads. It will take some time, but not a time overly long. And meanwhile, we all know that we have made it more difficult in many ways and in many places for People Who Stand on Horses to attack us. And, now we are all wary. They fooled us before. They pretended to come in peace. We will not be fooled twice. I, for one, stand with Many Paths.” 

There was a general murmur of assent. 

After much talk of many paths and Many Paths, She Who Saves Many Lives spoke again. “I am very curious, Trunk of Tree. Just this morning, I heard you also support Many Paths. Now you speak against her. What made you change your mind?”

“I thought about it more. That’s all!” Trunk of Tree said. 

His voice held too much anger to signal thinking so She Who Saves Many Lives persisted in her questions. “Does your change have anything to do with your falling down and breaking your nose?” 

Trunk of Tree burst out angrily, “I never said I fell! I…I mean.… I don’t know how I broke my nose. It doesn’t matter!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives laughed gently. “I find that a bit hard to believe. I am a woman who has seen many winters. No doubt, I may sometimes now find that a fly has bitten me when I did not notice. But even I would be quite sure to know when and how I broke my nose. If you do not wish to speak the truth in our deliberations, then, do not speak at all.” 

“WHAT?! All right. You want to know the truth? Many Paths broke my nose!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives smiled slightly. “Really? And why was that?” 

Trunk of Tree blushed scarlet. “She tricked me. She got mad because I told her the truth: that Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift are dead. She didn’t like that.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke even more softly. “Have you seen the bodies?” 

Trunk of Tree grumbled. “NO. Of course not. But why aren’t they back? Everyone knows they’re dead!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke again, “I do not think they are dead. What do you think, Many Paths?” 

“I feel very strongly that neither of them are dead. But…I do feel that both Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker have been injured. I do not know for sure, but that is how I feel. I know it sounds a little odd, but when I touch the Rings, I feel as though I can connect with both of them. I feel as though they are alive. But that is not proof. I would suggest that we think about other defensive measures. 

“I think we should all sleep a sound sleep tonight and we can discuss tomorrow whether we want a new leader. As for me, I cannot for certain foresee the future. I do not believe any leader may guarantee what will happen. Not She Who Saves Many Lives. Not Trunk of Tree. Not me. No-one. So, I have to ask myself what does it mean when someone claims that they know what they do not know?” 

A-OC raised another question. “Is it true what Trunk of Tree said? Did you break his nose?”

Many Paths glanced at She Who Saves Many Lives. “It is true that I broke his nose. Yes. It is not true that I tricked him or that I broke his nose because he said my love and my brother were both dead. Saying this did not make me angry because I believe he is simply wrong. And, one day, we will know the truth of their destiny.” 

P-OC next spoke, “Then why did you break his nose?” 

Many Paths stared at Trunk of Tree. “Trunk of Tree: you and I worked together on many things. We are friends, I think. Why don’t you tell the tribe why you think I broke your nose?” 

Trunk of Tree shut his lips together tightly and folded his arms across his chest. “I will tell you what I think. I think I should be leader. I am strong and decisive. I will lead you to a victorious … victory. I will … we will steal all their things and be richer. That’s what I think and it doesn’t matter why I broke my nose. Let’s vote tomorrow morning as Many Paths suggests. Or does she perhaps want to suggest another twenty things we should think about instead?” 

Trunk of Tree stomped off. The rest of the tribe looked back to Many Paths. 

Many Paths looked at each person and spoke softly. “So be it. We shall vote in the morning. Peace be to all.” She raised her voice and cupped her hands aside her mouth as she added, “And peace to you, Trunk of Tree.” 

Stone Chipper added in a loud whisper, “Or, as we may now call him, ‘Trunk of Tree with Broken Branch’.”

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

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Books by the Author. All are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook.

The Winning Weekend Warrior focuses on the ‘mental game’ for all sports: strategy, tactics, and self-talk with examples from golf, tennis, softball, etc.

Turing’s Nightmares describes various possible scenarios of the future of technology — especially robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Fit in Bits suggests many ways to work more fun and exercise into daily activities such as traveling, sitting in meetings, shopping, playing with kids, etc.

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events.

Website with earlier stories, essays, and poems.