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Aftermath: Feast & Celebration of Thanks for the Great Tree of Life

beach clouds grass island

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When the Veritas scouts had determined that no rogue soldiers of the Cupiditas remained near the lands where the Veritas roamed, and preparations for a great feast had been made, all the tribe, save a handful of lookouts, gathered at the Center Place for a Great Celebration. The Veritas celebrated victory of battle; they celebrated even more that they have avoided making two of three enemies; they celebrated the teamwork they had experienced both in preparations and in the midst of battle; they celebrated that such teamwork was the gift of many generations of Veritas before them who had fought long and hard to reward cooperation and true communications. The Veritas celebrated as well the plentiful food for the feast which also sprung from the gift of cooperation among the people. They celebrated their venerable leader, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, who once again exemplified her name. 

After songs, and dances; after contests of speed and strength, came the riddling contest. 

  • {Translator’s Note:} Again, the actual myths contain what appears to be lengthy and detailed descriptions of technique and suggestions for such contests. Translating these is virtually impossible. For instance, as best I can tell, the Veritas, when describing athletic contests do not use body parts such as leg, thigh, or quads. I estimate somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 names for body parts and for different states of relaxation versus tenseness, fatigue, resiliency, and so on.  I will make a rather lame attempt with respect to the riddling contest which is the last before the oration of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives. Many of the riddles depend on rhyme and wordplay so they either make no sense when directly translated into English or have no rhyme or rhythm. (In other words, they are from the beginning of Milo’s adventures on the other side of The Phantom Tollbooth. Instead, I give several examples that I constructed for English that illustrate the same general point. 
  • “The more you give me away, the more I stay. Tie me down to make me drown. Let me go and I will grow. What am I?” Love, many shouted as one, for this was a well-known riddle meant to prime the pump. 
  • The next one was more original. “When I take some, it makes me dumb. When I take more, I close each door. At last I hate all, and that’s when I fall. What am I?” Here, the people suggested many answers: greed, Cupiditas, NUT-PI, addiction, bully, ALT-R. The most-favored answer was “Greed.” 
  • At last, there were about 30 such riddles. I won’t translate most of them.
  • Frankly, the last one of the evening makes no sense to me at all. If there are any other Veritas scholars out there who can shed light on it, please do so in comments. 
  • “Most everyone has me, when friend skins their knee. Many forget in peril or trouble, but that’s just when you need me, even double. I’m hardest to find, when angst fills your heart, and finding me then is a wonderful art. If you can see what others see, then, through them, you will all see me. What am I?”

The Veritas feast had been designed by many collaborators and among them were Fleet of Foot and Eyes of Eagles. The Veritas always paid attention to making their food beautiful as well as tasty. This feast lay before the hungry Veritas in a beautiful arrangement of forms and colors and textures. The red of beets and the gold of corn set off the warm reddish brown of seared venison and poached salmon. Wild lettuce and dandelion bordered each plate, each sprinkled with a handful of blueberries.  

steak food

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At long last, everyone was sated of food, drink, and entertainment. The Veritas now wished to hear from their leader, the heart of the tribe, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives. She strode up a short ramp so that she could be seen and heard. 

“Today is a wonderful day. As is every day that we are alive. The people are our part of the Great Tree of Life and we have recently avoided a dreadful fate – being subjugated to the Cupiditas. We were successful in avoiding two great battles and that is saving many lives indeed, but not due to me. What I most happy about is that much of these victories came from the cleverness and teamwork of some wonderful youth among us. Teaching is a difficult thing indeed and three among us took teaching meant for doing good and turned it for doing evil. This is a great failing on my part and for all of us. And, we will spend much time and speak much about this and discover how we might help prevent such in the future. But for tonight, let us celebrate when such teaching does work. Of course, the reason it works, is these students, these acolytes took the learning to heart and even improved upon it. 

“Eyes of Eagle learned from watching such as eagles and hawks how their shape changed according to purpose and thus she began to study shapes in many ways beyond what I could ever teach her. She has added to our learning for all time. And, she probably killed more Cupiditas warriors through her damming and releasing the river through shapes. As well, she took the example of teaching wolves and made a weapon of a bird! She also devised a trap that caused many Cupiditas warriors to lose their footing and fall into that carefully camouflaged death. Fleet of Foot helped to make those traps look to be ordinary terrain. Trunk of Tree suggested using drums to communicate with POND MUD and thereby to the Nomads of the South. And Eyes of Eagles knew just where to place those drums to enable greatest reach of sound. 

“Here is another lesson for all the people. You see how it is with Eyes of Eagle. She has studied shapes and thought much about how shape influences all things. Perhaps she has studied and learned more than any other Veritas. So, she invents things to help us all because she made her knowledge richer than all before her.  

“As you all know, I began seeking a successor and we chose twelve promising from among the Veritas youth. As time went on, it became clear that one among us has a very good heart indeed along with an excellent mind. I believe she will be a wonderful leader among you. And she is of us all. And we are all part of her. And she well knows this. I want to present She-Of-Many-Paths with the Seventh Ring of Empathy and suggest her as your leader should she survive the vision draught of death and life. She shall be named henceforth, She Who Walked Many Paths to Save Many Lives.

She Who Walked Many Paths to Save Many Lives knew this to be her cue and ascended the ramp. Her long black silky hair hung down her back in a long straight line that contrasted with her blue and white patterned dress. He neck and hair were adorned by turquoise beadwork. On the little, ring, and middle fingers of each hand, she wore a ring – one of the Rings of Empathy that she had earned. She knelt before She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, who again spoke. 

“This woman has indeed saved many lives. She has demonstrated that she has a gift of empathy which she continually improves. Moreover, she has demonstrated that she knows to use this gift for the good of all, not just for herself, nor indeed, even for her people but for the good of all who are among and part of the Great Tree of Life. She is still able to use her empathy when many would find their fear or their anger blocked all such ability. She reached out on many paths to foster life when many would have chosen instead a giant wall to keep unwanted feelings out. I therefore bestow upon her the Seventh Ring of Empathy.”

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives gently took the hand of She Who Walked Many Paths to Save Many Lives and lifted it. She placed upon the index finger of the left hand, a ring with three interleaved cords of woven gold; one reddish as fire coals, one white as summer clouds, and one the yellow of goldenrod. Atop the ring was a single large opal that seemed to sparkle of dewdrops rain-bowing in the sun. Then, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives and her protege stood facing each other for a moment before the older woman reached back and took a gnarled wooden mug and handed it to Many Paths & Many Lives Saved and asked her loudly so that all might hear: “She Who Walked Many Paths to Save Many Lives, do you take upon yourself the awesome responsibility to be First Among Us, to lead us in times of peace and times of trouble; to put the Tree of Life ahead of the Veritas, and to put the Veritas before your own interest? Will you lead us, should you survive the sacred drink of Life and Death.” 

“I do and I shall.” She took the gnarled mug and put the cup to her lips. Despite the name, she had some doubt that it might really kill her, but she owned it remained a distinct possibility. The taste was bitter, funky, and even sweet, although in a rancid sort of way. She thought it more likely that the drink would make her ill or even alter her perception much the way tobacco made her slightly more aware of tiny details of color and form. Instead, she felt normal enough, though taller of course; she was much taller in fact. But so was everything else. She began to see that what she thought of as individual people such as Shadow Walker, who she realized suddenly was an incredibly handsome fellow. He really is, she thought. But he’s so tall! We are all so gigantic. We are each tribes ourselves. No, we are tribes of tribes. And, we are all interconnected — to each other — and to our past — and to our future! 


As she looked out upon the crowd of nation-sized people she realized how incredibly different each person was and yet how similar each person was and how similar every living thing is to every other living thing. She could see or imagine how this same ceremony was carried out decades ago to choose She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives and that every leader had done the same for a thousand years. She found herself falling, falling, down a long tunnel, but soon discovered that she was not really falling so much as floating and she could will herself to float up the tunnel as well as down. As she floated up the tunnel, she continued upward until she seemed to be floating high above the Center Place of the Veritas. She could see all the lands where the Veritas dwelled and hunted. She could see the lands of the Cupiditas, the Sabra, and the Fierce and Formidable Fighters of the North. 

She could see other lands and other peoples. The lands became filled with people. There were people everywhere and particularly along the coasts of giant lakes and along the banks of tremendous rivers. These people had campfires everywhere but the campfires did not flicker and smoke. It gladdened her heart to see the people so numerous and prolific. She knew not how she knew, but she knew somehow that this prosperity and reach of the people came from the Veritas, or more accurately, not her tribe of Veritas precisely, but from the spirit of the Veritas that valued the search for truth, the feeling of love and comity, the desire to be fair and foster the great and varied Tree of Life. Then, her heart sank again, for she felt, rather than saw, that the Cupiditas too survived and infected the people with the diseases of greed and cruelty.


 The people forgot the very nature of life itself in their pursuit of more … more what? It didn’t seem to matter! The people were pursuing more of everything and in that greed killing the roots to the tree of life! Birds were dropping from the sky. Fish were dying in the streams. Trees fell and burned by the thousands. The people were destroying the very Tree of Life whose branches they lived in! Surely, this cannot be! Even the Cupiditas are not that greedy! It seemed to her that the Cupiditas had stolen knowledge gained by the Veritas and for some unknown and unknowable reason, had convinced people everywhere to replace the beautiful Tree of Life with some unknown material that was ugly though shiny. The water that people drank contained teeny pieces of this shiny material and it made all the people sick. Yet, they made more and more of the shiny material until it was even in the air that they breathed and this too sickened many people. 

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Now, from far away, she could hear the voice of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, “Daughter? Are you all right?” She turned, and there she was standing again on the raised platform right beside She-Who-Saved-Many-Lives. She looked out and saw the Veritas looking at her as though nothing unusual had happened. “I’m fine. I’m fine.” She had survived. She had become the leader of the Veritas and the people acknowledged her with a mighty roar. She held her arms above her head and spread her fingers outward to make that sign that the Veritas used to signal the Tree of Life. She felt some elation, but also a sense of great responsibility. Though she was now the leader, she wanted nothing more than to speak privately with She-Who-Saved-Many-Lives. She smiled out at the people, holding her hands high once more and once more spreading her fingers widely as though she were a tree drinking in the sunshine. She glanced at She-Who-Saved-Many-Lives and whispered, “I had the strangest dream just now. How long was I out?” 

She-Who-Saved-Many-Lives looked at and into the new leader, and whispered back, “You did not lose consciousness at all, though you shook your head oddly for a split second. It was the same with me.” 

“Later, may we speak of these visions?” Though She Who Walked Many Paths to Save Many Lives was now the leader, she still felt very much an apprentice or acolyte. 

“Indeed, we shall. Now, go among the people and receive their blessings. Later, we will speak of such.”



Herein lies a portal to many worlds.