Tu-Swift regarded his new companion with a mixture of curiosity, pity, and wariness. The boy couldn’t have been more than five summers. Huddled in a corner, the boy shook with fear as he regarded Tu-Swift with a wild-eyed stare. Tu-Swift wished he had some food to offer the boy, but he had none. His own stomach growled. He had hardly noticed the hunger because he was so thirsty. Inventory, he thought. Inventory will calm me. I must have something to comfort this terrified being.
Tu-Swift calmed his breathing and relaxed his body. If he acted calm, that could help the little one calm down too. Animals of all kinds, including humans, reflected the emotional ambiance around them. He forced himself to stop staring at the other boy and instead focused on assessing his situation calmly. Surely, he though, if I can make friends with wolf cubs, I can do it with this boy. I am hungry, tired, thirsty, and scared. But I am alive and not badly hurt. My head still hurts and my forearm burns. Burns? I was shot! Tu-Swift slowly slid over to a spot where he could hold his arm up in the sunlight. His arm was burned but not badly. Suddenly, his memory returned, but it was a broken jar. He slowly and deliberately reconstructed that jar.
He had gone to the feast. He had met with his friends. Many Paths was just joining them. There was an attack. Everyone ran for cover. Tu-Swift had thought he was shot with a flaming arrow. Actually the arrow had not pierced his skin but had pinned his sleeve to the wooden table. But it burned him. He tore his tunic to get free. He succeeded but the feast was being overrun with warriors. He dove under the table. Many strong hands pulled him out. He fought. But someone clubbed him on the back of the head. He lost consciousness. Now, here he was. But he still did not know for certain where “here” was nor why they had stolen him. Recovering his memory allowed him to calm himself further.
Tu-Swift chanced glancing at the boy. Smiling, Tu-Swift put the flat of his hand on his own chest, he tapped himself and said in a dry whisper, “Tu-Swift.” He repeated the gesture. He tried to lick his lips but his tongue remained dry, his lips chapped. He tried again and said it hoarsely and softly. He hoped those outside would not hear and he did not want to frighten the little on. He repeated his name again. The boy looked a bit less terrified and pointed to his own chest and said, “Day-Nah.”
To the ears of Tu-Swift, this name reminded him of the speech of the fierce and formidable warriors of the north. He lifted his hand and waved it then pointed with his other hand. “Hand” he said. He repeated it. The little one said “Hand” and then waved his own hand and said, “Ma-Nu.” They continued in this manner, each learning snippets of the other’s language. These “lessons”, Tu-Swift knew, would also remind Day-Nah that the two of them were not so different. After naming body parts, Tu-Swift pointed out through the slats and said, “Horses.” Day-Nah, nodded and repeated something close to that and then said, “EE-qah.” Tu-Swift became ever more convinced that this boy had been stolen from the fierce and formidable warriors of the north, but he couldn’t be sure. He wished he had paid more attention to the elders who had tried to teach him what they knew of other languages. Tu-Swift now knew that he had been a bit too impatient with himself and with his teachers, yearning to run in the fields rather than learning nonsense words of people he would likely never meet.
Tu-Swift made his hand into a kind of horse and had it “run” along the packed dirt floor. He said, “Horse (pause) Run!” Then, he changed the position of his hand only letting his index and middle fingers run as though on two legs, “Tu-Swift Run. Tu-Swift Run.” He pointed at Day-Nah. “Day-Nah Run. Day-Nah Run.” The little boy nodded. Just then, they both fled back into the far corners of their prison as they heard shouting outside. A heavy bar scraped across something and several guards appeared at the door wielding clubs. Tu-Swift felt sure they were both going to be beaten to death, but a guard simply put a jug and a platter inside. Then, the door shut again and they could hear the bar scrape back into place. Tu-Swift approached cautiously, but Day-Nah stayed huddled in the corner.
Tu-Swift steadied himself, carefully smelling the water and then tasting a tiny drop before deciding it was unlikely to be poisoned. There were so many warriors, they could easily kill the two of them with clubs. Why bother with poison? He knew not to drink too much or too quickly when consumed with thirst, so with great force of will, forced himself to sip slowly. He looked at the little one. He put his two fingers on the ground, and made them go fast like a runner. “Tu-Swift Run Swift!” Then, he made his fingers go slowly, “Tu-Swift Run Slow.” He pointed to the jug and said, “Water. Water – Slow.” Day-Nah Water Slow.”
The boy nodded. Tu-Swift handed the jug to Day-Nah” and thought, this little one is pretty smart. Day-Nah began slowly and then tilted the jug up but Tu-Swift grabbed it away. “Slow! Dah-Nah Water…slow.” He took a very slow, deliberate sip, and handed the jug back. This time the small boy showed a little more self-control. They both succeeded in keeping the water down and then shared the pasty sour-sweet acorn mash. Again, Tu-Swift cautioned the boy (and himself at the same time) to eat slowly.
Two days passed somewhat uneventfully in this fashion, each boy learning a bit of the language of the other and becoming more trusting of one another. The guards left them alone for the most part. On the third day, however, several large guards entered and took away the small boy. Tu-Swift tried to stop them, but one of them struck Tu-Swift across the face sending him senseless onto the floor. Soon after Tu-Swift awoke, they threw the small boy back into the cell. Tu-Swift noticed that the boy was now wearing strange cuffs around his ankles and that these cuffs were connected by a short length of heavy hemp rope. Before he could communicate with Day-Nah, the guards overpowered Tu-Swift and despite his struggles, yanked him out into a nearby courtyard, held him down and put similar cuffs on his own ankles. Now, Tu-Swift could walk, but only in a slow shuffle. The guards unceremoniously threw him back into the dark cell.
Tu-Swift tried chewing on the ropes but made little progress. His jaw ached with the effort. Day-Nah imitated him but made no progress at all. These ropes were thick and strong. At last, the two of them slept. In the morning, they were led by six guards to the place where the horses were kept. As they approached, the horses whinnied and jockeyed around in their pen. They were fettered even worse than were Tu-Swift and Day-Nah. The guards made it clear that the boys were to clean up all the horse manure. It was exhausting work, mostly accomplished by the older, stronger Tu-Swift, but both boys enjoyed the company of the other and were thankful to be outside in the open air. The horses, though fettered and cowed from beatings, were still dangerous and the boys had to be careful to avoid bites and hooves. As the boys continued to discover each other’s languages, Tu-Swift also spoke re-assuringly to the horses and Day-Nah followed suit.
Tu-Swift looked up at the sun and could tell it was mid-day. A half moon also adorned the sky. From this Tu-Swift at last could confirm the directions that he had deduced from the sun’s movement during the day. He remained uncertain of the direction of home. One distant mountain peak appeared to be familiar. If that were indeed “The Old Man’s Nose” they would need to travel almost due south to get home, or at least the home of Tu-Swift. Tu-Swift discovered a sharp piece of stone which he picked up and hid for later use.
That evening, as the sun sank beneath the distant mountains, the boys were led to stables where some of the more “broken” horses slept each in a small pen. Here, the boys were tied up in their own pen, in the vicinity of the horses but safe from trampling. They were given double rations at night and Tu-Swift continued to speak reassuringly to the horses. This seemed to calm the horses as well as Day-Nah, but mainly he did it to comfort himself.
In the morning, the guards gave them a bit of water and double rations. Tu-Swift put a small portion of his own rations on the thick rope that tied his anklets together. He hoped horses liked sweet acorn mash as much as he did. If his luck held, they might just find out.
The first of five essays on SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra-Greedy Swindlers).
The Creation Myth of the Veritas
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