Tu-Swift dreamed of one of the childhood games he most loved. In the game, the children stood in a circle and one, the “beater” tapped out a complex and complicated rhythm, typically just hitting one stick on another. The “caller” then called out a series of moves. The “dancer” then had to perform the moves in time to to the rhythm. The rest critiqued the performance. Generally, the “dancer” had to repeat the moves several times before perfecting the timing. Tu-Swift almost always “got” the correct rhythm immediately. Indeed, he often added various embellishments for “style.” His only fault was sometimes performing a movement one beat too quickly. Indeed, it was this, rather than his running speed, which first encouraged his clan-mates to call him “Tu-Swift.”
Now, he had returned in his dreams to these pleasant games, but as he viewed the dream children, they made longer and ridiculously complicated rhythms. The children in the dream grew old, morphing into Veritas adults such as Shadow Walker and Fleet of Foot. The tempo accelerated and even Tu-Swift had trouble keeping up. The game had gone all wrong and they seemed to all be drumming much too quickly to follow.
A snake slithered toward the drum. Its giant fanged mouth opened wide and it reared back ready to strike. Tu-Swift heard a scream and awoke. He shook his head in the dim early light of day. He was puzzled that the children and the adults had all disappeared. He realized he had been dreaming and that the scream was his own.
Day-Nah face furrowed into a worry gully. Tu-Swift smiled and spoke reassuringly to the younger boy. Though Tu-Swift realized the youngster understood very little of the tongue of the Veritas, he hoped his tone would communicate enough. It seemed to work. The boy no longer looked frightened.
Tu-Swift realized now that a nearby woodpecker tapped out the complex rhythms he had heard. They really were complex though. He frowned. Something was not right about this particular woodpecker. It had too many variations and the sound was too “bright” yet not loud enough to sound right.
The phrase “On the northern side” suddenly came to mind. Then, “Are you okay?” Tu-Swift began to wonder whether he was still dreaming. “Where are you?” “Answer when you can.” I am not dreaming, Tu-Swift thought to himself. Those are drums! Well, not exactly drums, but this was the drum-style of Shadow Walker! He was out there pretending to be a woodpecker and sending him messages. They had come for him!
Just then, he heard the the voices of the captors talking amongst themselves and drawing nearer to the building where the horses were kept, and where he and Day-Nah now made their home as well. Soon, the two boys were untied from the pillar and led, their feet still tethered, to the paddock where the same three burly men gestured and shouted that they were to further separate the foals from their mares. The narrow passage that Tu-Swift had engineered worked pretty well, but a few of the foals had not yet ventured into the narrow passage and would have to be encouraged to enter it. Such “encouragement” might be misinterpreted by the mares who might, in turn, smash the small boys with their hooves or give them a nasty bite.
Tu-Swift grabbed two sticks from the nearby woodpile and walked over slowly to a point outside the fence near where a mare and her foal foraged inside. He spoke gently to them, as he always did, as he approached. Now, he took the two sticks and banged them together. He glanced over at the three burly men who seemed to be more concerned with their own discussion than they were in directing the labors of the boys. Tu-Swift hoped the Veritas were still nearby for the paddock was near the northern end of camp. He tried to use his drumming so that the three who stand atop horses would think he was trying to scare the horses into separating, but meanwhile, he tapped out: “I am here. I am OK. There is a small boy here too. Horses will soon escape. Come back after dark. After moonset. We are tied at night. I can untie. We will be in large building with horses.” He repeated the message again and managed to scare the foal into the small side pen. The foal’s mother was furious and wild that she couldn’t get back to her foal and slammed her hooves into the fence. For a moment, Tu-Swift thought she would destroy the fence. But all that sound and fury, even though it came from his mother, scared the small horse further into the corner.
The burly men now came and tied the two boys back to back against a small elm tree while they threw other loops of rope around the foal and led it somewhere unknown. The mare grew frantic as the three men dragged, pushed, and scolded the foal into another place that the boys could not see, nor presumably could the mare.
Tu-Swift wanted to tell the small boy about the rescuers and the drum messages. But Day-Nah’s understanding of Veritas remained minimal. Without being able to use his hands, he didn’t think he could explain how their situation had changed. As he thought about it, Tu-Swift considered than perhaps it was better not to explain the situation. Day-Nah was almost as helpless as the foals that he had just helped capture. Who knew how he might react to such news. Tu-Swift had himself struggled not to let any joy escape his heart and make visible camp on his face.
Soon, the men returned and “freed” the two boys so they could separate another pair. Tu-Swift again wielded two sticks and repeated his message. In due course, the third and final pair were separated. Now, the boys were returned to the barn, provided a meal, and tied to a pillar so that they could move about five feet in any direction.
Shadows grew long and the evening air grew chill. Tu-Swift busied himself teaching Day-Nah some simple commands that could prove useful if they got the chance to escape. It occurred to Tu-Swift on several occasions that they could simply leave the boy behind. But each time he considered it, such an action, while recognizing its convenience, he had no doubt whatever he would be feeding the “bad wolf.”
Tu-Swift noticed that his mind always offered plausible excuses when such cowardly thoughts arose. “Let his own tribe come and save him.” “He will just slow us down.” “He’ll give away our position.” “Maybe he’ll be happier here. Who knows?” Tempting, but like the other Veritas, he had been taught at a very early age to understand that such thoughts were “Poison Ivy seeds.”
Many Paths had used that analogy showing Tu-Swift that, as is the way of many plants, poison ivy could spread by vine growth but also did sometimes sprout flowers and these flowers made white fruits which would fall to the ground and if conditions proved favorable, new vines could grow. Such seeds were poison to eat or even to touch, Many Paths had explained and so were easy rationalizations of selfishness.
The knocking of the “woodpecker” returned and tore away his reverie. Shadow Walker’s drumming continued and repeated. “We will come for you just after moonset. Be awake. Be ready.” Tu-Swift took out the small sharp stone he managed to squirrel away and tapped out his response against the pillar to which they were tied. He hoped it could be heard, for there was now much stirring and moving about in the camp as they prepared for dinner.
“Ready. We are in large building with horses. Take me to horse fence. I will set them free.”
Tu-Swift had still not found a way to communicate any of this to Day-Nah, and tried to hide his excitement. He made sure Day-Nah understood Veritas for “fast,” “slow,” “quiet,” and “hide.” After it seemed that the people who steal children were all asleep, he tapped out his message again. He hoped it sounded enough like a woodpecker not to arouse suspicion. He tried to recall whether he had ever heard a woodpecker at night but he wasn’t sure. Soon, the moon would be setting. He again emphasized “quiet” for the youngster. Then, he tried to explain escape. He had been worried the boy might shout for joy, but there was neither a shout for joy, nor, so far as Tu-Swift could see, the slightest understanding of “escape.”
Well, he either would understand when the time came or not. Tu-Swift took his sharp stone and rapidly shredded the remaining bonds on his feet, weakened earlier by the hungry, eager teeth of the horses. Each foot still sprouted a long length of rope, not ideal for running through underbrush to escape a people who stood atop horses. He had no time to cut through all the ropes but tied the loose ends as tightly as he could around his ankles to make it less likely they would trip him. Then, he began cutting through the bonds that held Day-Nah’s from full strides.
Tu-Swift saw the youngster’s eyes grow wide in the dim light. Day-Nah whispered the word for “escape” and smiled. Day-Nah’s bonds at last were also cut through and Tu-Swift tied each of the loose ends around first one and then the other of the boy’s ankles. Now, they waited. Tu-Swift listened but no drumming came. The frogs were certainly noisy tonight though!
Then, the image of Shadow Walker came to his mind. Shadow Walker had once spent an evening talking with Many Paths and Tu-Swift about snakes and frogs and made a very realistic frog sound. It suddenly hit Tu-Swift that Shadow Walker was talking to them! He was hiding his voice in the voice of the frogs! What was he saying? Of course! He was instructing them to go outside if they could and sneak back to the paddock.
After the first night, they had always been tied to a pillar at night. He had no idea whether there were nearby guards, but he had not seen or heard any evidence of such. He again emphasized to Day-Nah that they must be quiet, quiet, quiet. Just as the last moonbeams sunk beneath the forest of firs, Tu-Swift lay along the ground and looked out into the large open space next to the barn. Seeing nothing, he wriggled a bit further as the wind blew. “Patience, Tu-Swift, patience” he told himself while imagining Many Paths saying that to him.
Essay on Feeding the “Good Wolf”