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{Translator’s Note}: As has probably been obvious to the reader, translation into English from the legends of the Veritas is a non-trivial task; not only is the language different; so are the times, technology, and culture. Nonetheless, these difficulties pale compared with the next translation which mainly involves a different tribe, known to the Veritas as “The Cupiditas.” In what follows, I rely on several sources of scholarship as well as what the Veritas had to say about The Cupiditas. Where the difficulties become nearly unsurmountable, however, are those fragments of oral history passed along by The Cupiditas themselves. I won’t bother to recount all the difficulties, because doing so seems too much like whining. After all, I am well fed, living in a house with central air conditioning and heating and able to avail myself of modern technology. I do want to let, you, the reader, know how dubious these translations are however, not to gain your sympathy, but to alert you to numerous possible inaccuracies. 

First, the Veritas valued truth extremely highly and had developed numerous strategies to preserve the accuracy of their oral history. By contrast, the Cupiditas, as you will soon see, valued power, not truth. As a consequence, every time there was a regime change, those in power revised, re-interpreted, and redacted, insofar as possible, the oral history of the Cupiditas to make out “their side” to be the “good guys” and the powers most recently deposed to be the “bad guys.” 

Second, the difficulty in translating the myths of the Veritas often consists of finding expressions subtle enough in English to handle the many shades of gray that the Veritas routinely used in such matters as “causality” and “responsibility.” Native English speakers, for instance, see nothing problematic in statements such as: “Mary was sad and it was John’s fault.” Is this sadness temporary, permanent? Is it constant, cyclical? Is it really plausible that Mary’s sadness has zero to do with anything other than John? And, what does it mean to say it was John’s ‘fault’ exactly and solely? I may write such a sentence so that English speakers understand it given the current level of sophistication of our culture. The actual Veritas descriptions, however, are always much more nuanced. Causality is always characterized among the Veritas as a web of interconnections and never as a linear set of linkages. By contrast, there are very few subtleties in the language of the Cupiditas. They seldom attempt to use what we would call persuasion. People are arranged in a strict power hierarchy and whenever a person higher in this hierarchy states something as fact it is supposed to be obeyed, retold, and believed regardless of how absurd or wantonly cruel it might be. If, a few years later, violence leads to a repositioning of the power hierarchy, what was “true” before is now often “false” and now people were expected to obey, retell, and believe even the precise opposite of what they passionately believed weeks before. Since most adults among the Cupiditas had experienced several such “shifts” of what was “acceptable belief,” it seems as though either they had become incapable of knowing the “truth” or they had become too jaded to care.  

Third, as I mentioned, some of what follows is from what is certainly the much more accurate and less self-serving oral history of the Veritas. They were apparently even more mystified by the cultural choices of the Cupiditas than we are and that cast some doubt on how much the Veritas descriptions can be relied up. That the Cupiditas were less well off on almost every dimension is borne out by the archeological evidence. Yet, I remain suspicious that even the truth-seeking and empathic Veritas could ever be completely accurate in their recounting what happened among the Cupiditas. 

Fourth, Chomsky notwithstanding, in many cases, the Cupiditas did not appear necessarily to speak or even think in complete sentences. Here, I am not referring to the kinds of ellipsis or implicit commands that occur in English. While eating at the table with you, I might lift up my bread, catch your eye and say, “Butter?” meaning, “Would you please pass the butter (so that I can butter my bread).” This is understood by people in our culture. Among the Cupiditas, however, for an underling to use such language with one of a higher status would be considered highly insulting. Instead, the lower status person would be expected to say something along the lines of: “Oh, excellent one! Would it please you to allow me to partake of the butter and thereby increase my great debt to you?” On the other hand, a person of higher rank might well merely speak the word, “Butter.” In this case, it might or might not be an implicit request to pass the butter. It was intentionally vague and ambiguous. Lesser ranked people would silently pass glances trying to guess upon whom the honor of passing the butter had been bestowed. If too long a time passed, the high ranking person might suddenly grab the butter and smash it against the wall or into the face of a nearby lackey. On the other hand, if someone passed the butter, the higher ranking person, might say, “NO! TELL me about butter, idiot!” In other words, the higher ranking person would be intentionally vague so that no matter what was said or done, the other person would be wrong. One of many Cupiditas leaders who reveled in this game was the one called, NUT-PI.  

Legends of the Cupiditas: NUT-PI’s Plan. 

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Although there were many changes and variations in the legends of the Cupiditas, on one thing these legends all seemed to agree. The rather barren and desolate lands that the Cupiditas lived on now were the result of treachery and trickery on the part of the Veritas. Indeed, nearly all of the many problems that beset the Cupiditas were blamed on the Veritas while only a few were blamed on more distant and somewhat less prosperous tribes. For their part, the Veritas were amazed that the Cupiditas survived at all, given their insistence on warping and even denying the truth. The Veritas had learned long before even their most distant legends not to over-fish, over-hunt, or over-harvest in an area and thus destroy the very things that brought sustenance to the tribe. Moreover, when the Veritas built or hunted or gathered, they were always trying to try out new ways and to improve on how they did things. Usually, new ideas did not improve things but occasionally new ideas were an improvement and these were kept. While the Veritas worked and silence was not demanded by the character of the enterprise (e.g., stalking shy creatures), they talked or sang or chanted. By contrast, the Cupiditas tribe did the tasks of their tribe under the constant harassment and belittling of those in charge and new ideas were generally dismissed out of hand even on the rare occasions when they were brought up at all. This is not to say that innovation was absent in the Cupiditas. Apparently, NUT-PI himself rose to power by inventing a new way of killing. Rather than oust his opponents with spear or club, he poisoned them. He often killed them without their even knowing that he was vying for power over them. In this way, he quickly became the most feared among the Cupiditas. According to NUT-PI, those who opposed him angered the gods and those gods therefore destroyed his enemies, invariably striking them with “mysterious illnesses” causing them to go blind while their tongues turned black and their limbs grew ever more weary till at last they fell upon the ground writhing in pain and soon expired.  

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Previous leaders of the Cupiditas had risen to power through a combination of physical strength and guile. As they grew older, their physical strength began to wane slightly and the younger from among the Cupiditas vied among themselves for power and position until one felt strong enough and skilled enough to challenge the current leader.

Sometimes, the challenger would become the new leader and sometimes they would be killed outright or at least maimed to the point of no longer posing a threat. To the Veritas, such a procedure for choosing a new leader seemed preposterous! The chosen leader of the Cupiditas, always a man, could compel any woman among the Cupiditas to mate with him. Initially, this custom seemed to increase the average strength among the Cupiditas. However, the resulting inbreeding inevitably led to numerous health issues among the tribe. NUT-PI did not particularly enjoy physical combat and instead spent many of his days alone capturing small animals and discovering which plant tisanes had the most profound effect. At one point, he challenged the Cupiditas leader to mortal combat with spears. NUT-PI covered the spearhead of his weapons with an extract of hellebore mixed with datura. 

As was customary, in the rough-hewn stone arena before the “contest” began, NUT-PI offered two identical spears to the leader. As the leader reached for the first one, NUT-PI deftly slashed the hand of the old leader, CHOFM. It was not a deep cut, but sufficient poison leached into his bloodstream to cause weakness, confusion, and partial paralysis. A few quick thrusts and NUT-PI fatally wounded CHOFM. Despite his older age, CHOFM was much stronger, quicker, and more skillful than NUT-PI and would have easily won a “fair fight” with any sort of weapon. The tribe of Cupiditas, however, immediately hailed the new leader, as was their custom. 

{Translator’s Note}: The events described above are one of those many places where the worldview of the Veritas differs significantly from that of the Cupiditas. The legends of the Cupiditas do not distinguish between a contest won by treachery and a contest won by skill or good luck or superior strength. The Cupiditas already had a long tradition of pledging instant allegiance to whoever is the leader without any regard to how they got there. 

After many moons, NUT-PI proved himself to be a ruthless leader, even by comparison to other leaders of the Cupiditas. In order to keep the peace among the tribe, since he offered nothing in the way of true leadership, he roused the Cupiditas to a fever pitch of hatred for all that they had {supposedly] lost to the Veritas. 

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The next year, the winter seemed to last into spring and then into early summer. Hunting proved sparse and NUT-PI feared that the anger he had aroused might morph so as to be directed at him. Indeed, he rightly thought that fighting the far-away Veritas might seem to the people of the Cupiditas to be much more difficult than challenging and replacing their own leader. Also, the Veritas were known by all to be both more numerous and more prosperous than the Cupiditas. An all-out war against the Veritas would have been madness and although they spoke of it publicly as though it would be an easy victory, each of the Cupiditas secretly knew such a war would be hopeless. For his part, NUT-PI kept a close watch for any signs of a youth who might grow strong and skillful enough to challenge his power. He planned to poison any such youth before he became strong enough and confident enough to issue the challenge.

Such a challenge as was awaited by NUT-PI did not come. Instead, after the long, cold winter, the mandatory morning adoration songs for the leader of the Cupiditas were interrupted by two such ones as were not expected at all. By their garb, they were known to be of the Veritas. The Cupiditas thought it both stupid and brave for two such ones to walk right into the camp of the Cupiditas. Of course, the Veritas, while knowing that their customs were quite different from those of the Cupiditas, had no inkling of how heavily reviled they had been by NUT-PI. So, those two from the Veritas did not suspect that approaching the Cupiditas would be particularly dangerous. 

As they walked deeper into the Cupiditas camp, POND MUD and ALT-R found themselves surrounded by more and more of the Cupiditas. Though ALT-R had grown ever more clever at reading and manipulating people, he mainly did so through his words. He was not well versed at all in the language of the Cupiditas and his palms grew sweaty and the throng of people swelled in numbers. Even the much stronger POND MUD though slow and brash well understood that he and his friend were no match for the strength of the entire Cupiditas people. While ALT-R understood only a little of the language of the Cupiditas, he and even POND MUD could tell that the people surrounding them were being derisive and threatening. At last, the tension became overwhelming as many of the Cupiditas hunters jabbed their spears threateningly at the two. So, ALT-R forced himself to speak in a loud, confident voice, supplementing his words with gestures that were common to all the tribes. 

“Oh, great and wondrous people of the Cupiditas, we bring great news to you and wish to speak with your great and legendary leader, CHOFM!” Though fearful, ALT-R made his voice ring loud and clear in the crisp morning air. 

His words brought a much more sudden change in mood than ALT-R expected. Several braves ran off from the group to inform their leader who was lounging in his large, private cabin. The crowd as a whole began chattering angrily among themselves and became even more threatening to the pair. 

ALT-R tried to understand what was going on and wished to choose his next words so as not to further darken the mood of the crowd. He gestured expansively to indicate the whole village. “You of the Cupiditas are a marvelous and strong people. I see many strong people among you. I see many cabins. I see many tents. I see that you are a prosperous and strong people.” The Cupiditas were feeling anything but prosperous and many took the words of ALT-R as sarcasm since they “knew” the Veritas were far more prosperous. ALT-R knew his flattery was not working well but had no idea why. He hated his lack of fluency in the tongue of the Cupiditas and struggled for something else to say by way of flattery. As he scanned the village for inspiration, he saw someone emerge from the largest cabin. This someone was dressed in finer garb than the other Cupiditas and was surrounded by several servile sycophants. 

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ALT-R stared at the man and bit his lower lip. He wondered whether this was the leader of the Cupiditas, for he, like the other Veritas, had always heard that CHOFM was a rather large, older, well-muscled man. But this did not well describe the obvious leader who emerged from the cabin. Perhaps he was ill. That would explain his diminished stature as well as the fawning attitude of those around him. Among the Veritas, such fawning behavior never occurred even for She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives but only signaled someone in a temporary state of great need. Still confused, ALT-R cursed himself for not having chosen a smart, knowledgeable friend who could help him rather than one he could easily manipulate. 

NUT-PI spoke. “I am NUT-PI, the King of the Cupiditas. I am not CHOFM. I vanquished that old man before the last fall harvest, oh, ill-informed one of the Veritas. What gifts did you bring me?” 

ALT-R wished that She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives were here to advise him. Immediately, he pushed this thought from his mind. He hated the leader of the Veritas, who had overlooked him as the next leader and furthermore banished him from the tribe – a rare and terrible punishment. But it did remind him of the Rings of Empathy that he possessed. 

“I am he who is called ALT-R and I bring you, oh, great leader of the Cupiditas, these wondrous and magical rings imbued with special powers by the shaman of the Veritas. My companion also brings his rings as gifts. Though these are magical and wondrous, they are but tokens of our esteem. Our real gift is the gift of knowledge. We have come to show you how to conquer the Veritas, not through superior computations [sic] but through knowledge. We are of the Veritas and know the Veritas. We know where their lookouts are; we know their habits; we know their weapons; we know their strengths and weaknesses. We can show you how to defeat the Veritas. All I need is your word to make me small King of the Veritas to your large King of all in these lands. And, my friend POND MUD, of course. Also to rule under you.”

NUT-PI said flatly, “Show me these rings.” 

ALT-R eagerly fished out his rings and nudged POND MUD to do the same, which he did grudgingly. ALT-R knelt before NUT-PI and offered up his rings. He quietly backed away, head still lowered. He whispered for POND MUD to do the same. And so it was done. 

NUT-PI considered the rings, turning them over in his hand and letting the morning sun play upon them. They were indeed beautiful and well-made, but he was quite skeptical of magic. He had his own “magic” after all, consisting of the poisons he used to keep his power. The Cupiditas may think he was magic but he knew what the real secrets of his success were: poison and ruthlessness. We will see whether your knowledge of the Veritas is sufficient to save your lives. Come!” He turned and walked back toward his cabin, gestured for them to follow and snapped his fingers at his body guards. 

Inside the cabin, NUT-PI seated himself upon an ornately carved wooden chair raised several feet off the floor on a dais. POND MUD and ALT-R were forced to kneel on gravel before him while a score of well-muscled guards pointed their spears at the head, throat, and chest of the two from among the Veritas.  

NUT-PI looked at the two disdainfully. “Speak! Be quick! What do you know of how to defeat the Veritas!” 

ALT-R now found himself having to speak plainly in a foreign tongue about complex things. He was ordered to do so quickly and he was already feeling pain in his knees. Yet, if he spoke in too little detail, he would be dismissed as a fraud. On the other hand, if he spoke in too much detail, he knew that he had no guarantee that the Cupiditas would not kill them both and use the knowledge anyway. He stared at the gravel wondering whether it would ease his pain or worsen it if he tried to shift his position just a little.

NUT-PI enjoyed his obvious discomfort and played the rings in his hand while he started at the two. “WELL?! Do not think to waste my time!” he barked. 

ALT-R decided to reveal the scope of his knowledge first and then delve into ever more detail, vowing to ignore the pain until he could read that NUT-PI was sufficiently impressed. He would also make it clear that it would be necessary for him to accompany the Cupiditas in their raid in person. Thus, he began to reveal the general habits of the Veritas such as the fact that guards were not always positioned in the same place. At the full moon and the empty moon, these posts rotated among over a hundred vantage points that were chosen in some unknown way by She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives. ALT-R knew where the guards were now so he could sneak back into the lands of the Veritas and discover their new hiding places when the moon showed no light. For the guards took no pains to cover their trails from the campsites to their guard posts. Each guard also had a small drum for raising an alarm. It would be critical to sneak behind the guards from the direction of the Veritas, once the new positions were known. It must be done very quietly and with camouflage under cover of rain if possible. Each such post must be taken quickly, the drums destroyed, and the guards murdered. It would not be necessary to kill all the guards initially. The Cupiditas only needed to murder those on the side of the deep forest that bordered the lands of the Veritas. 

ALT-R had never known such pain and yet, he kept reminding himself that he needed to convince NUT-PI of the depth and importance of his knowledge. He also painted a picture of beautiful women to be raped, full storehouses to be ransacked, and many fine artifacts that could be stolen. While it would be possible to annihilate the Veritas outright, it would be far more profitable to take them as slaves, he explained. He and POND MUD could be excellent at being the slave drivers for they spoke the language of the Veritas and knew their customs. They would be well positioned to foresee any uprising or rebellion and destroy any such tree of rebellion while still a seedling. “But of course, that choice remains with you, oh Great One,” said ALT-R fawningly. ALT-R had told a different story to POND MUD and promised him he could have any woman of the Veritas or the Cupiditas once they had become co-leaders of both lands and villages. Dull as POND MUD sometimes was, ALT-R hoped he would have the sense not to interrupt or reveal this now. He had made it as clear as he could to POND MUD to volunteer nothing. 

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At last, NUT-PI grew weary of listening for it was hard work to understand the twisted tongue of ALT-R and besides that, NUT-PI’s stomach growled for among all the Cupiditas he was the last to have a morning meal. So, he put an end to the interview, at least for now. 

“Enough! I will think on this and announce my decision on the morrow. Guards, take these two, denude them, bind them hand and foot in the center of the village upside down so my people may look upon the Veritas and realize they are nothing special and can indeed by conquered. When you have bound them securely, come back here that we may plan our invasion with or without their help. Perhaps they will be of future use as well. Or perhaps we will feed them to the wolves. Or, perhaps we will learn how they are made inside. Arise now and go! After you have secured them, warn the villagers not to kill them before I give the command, though if they wish to hurt them a little or humiliate them, to enjoy themselves. Stress, however, that they are not to kill these two until I give the word. GO!” 

ALT-R tried to stand and found himself struggling like an oldster. She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, he thought, could have come to her feet more gracefully. 

So, it was that ALT-R and POND MUD found themselves in the middle of the camp of the Cupiditas, strapped to large logs, hog-tied and upside down, subject to the taunts and worse of the villagers through the long day and the longer night without benefit of food or drink or privacy. 

Even a dictator needs confidantes and so it was with NUT-PI. Now, these were with NUT-PI to plan. While the Veritas had very detailed maps of the entire area, those of the Cupiditas were far less accurate. Nonetheless, they knew the location of the thick forest that protected one side of the lands of the Veritas. They planned their attack as well as the training and selection of the warriors. One of NUT-PI’s captains obliquely brought up the question of who would be the best slave driver of the remaining Veritas. 

NUT-PI laughed and said earnestly, “Do you think me a fool, INGO RICHES? You can never trust a Veritas. And you can never ever trust a traitor. They are both! Of course, I will choose one of you to be slave-driver of the remnants of the Veritas. These two will both be killed once Victory is assured. Till then, they can serve as useful tools. They will then be killed as slowly and painfully as possible in the middle of the main camp of the Veritas to illustrate to the Veritas what happens to any who defy me. That will be their final gift to me. I will decide later who will have the Veritas to run as they wish, but do not worry, INGO RICHES, you are among the candidates. We must first put all our thought into winning this war for the Veritas are not an easy foe. They are wily and well-trained. We will use these two, but let them grow more humility as they contemplate their possible fates while hungry, thirsty, fearful and humiliated. Besides, I want to know why they came here. So far, this one who calls himself ALT-R had not really answered that question completely. But he will in the morning. Or the next morning. Or the next. Eventually, I will discover the truth. And this I promise you and all the people of the Cupiditas – we will conquer the Veritas and rule the world.”

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