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To ameliorate his impatience with the slow, ankle-sprained progress he made in his search for Tu-Swift, Shadow Walker entertained himself by thinking through the ways to be a more stealthy warrior. 

{Translator’s Note}: I used the expression “entertained himself” because from what we can tell, the Veritas very much enjoyed learning from others and from oneself. Such improved skill might well save his life. In our culture, we would therefore perhaps call it “practical” and it would be irrelevant whether it would be entertaining. But they thought that most things were at once practical, entertaining, and educational. 

Shadow Walker’s internal dialogue continued. I have my eyes of course, he thought, and it is much harder to see in the dark. But besides that, I see differently in the dark. More like a cat. It’s hard to see color. And, I’m more sensitive to movement. Not everyone sees as well as I do. And, some, like Eagle Eyes see far better. At this, Shadow Walker’s logical flow diverted. He began to wonder yet again about all the missing members of the search party. He and Eagle Eyes had worked through the trials for the rings of empathy together. And, though he only knew him a short time, he had come to like and respect Lion Slayer. Still, he felt his main priority was to find Tu-Swift. Though already quite fast a runner, he was still relatively small and inexperienced. Eagle Eyes was an experienced fighter and possessed excellent vision. She would see an enemy coming before that enemy saw her. Probably. But it all depends…and he returned to his considerations of how to make himself stealthier with respect to sight. 

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He explored this theme for a time, going back in his own memories about how various factors affected his vision. He recalled from the empathy trials that a person’s state influenced what they saw. If they were hungry, they would tend to see things more as food. If they were thirsty, they would see things more in terms of moisture. And so on. It occurred to Shadow Walker that the beautiful symmetry in the clothing that adorned so many of the Veritas actually made them much more visible as targets. A more random pattern like fallen leaves…

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Shadow Walker smiled at the recollection. When he was about six winters old, he had been playing in some autumn leaves when one of them suddenly jerked upward in a buzzing flight! The Praying Mantis is a fairly large insect and it had seemingly appeared from nowhere and startled him greatly. So, color and pattern as appropriate to the back ground would help. Masks. Yes. The face was the most distinctive and obviously human part of a person. Now, it occurred to Shadow Walker that perhaps the ceremonial masks that they sometimes wore had once been part of a camouflage outfit. Perhaps once such masks had been necessary for hunting or war or both. 

All the Veritas were trained while stalking to wait and move only when the wind moved. But perhaps there was more to that skill as well. He had noticed that the wolf pups had far better hearing than he did. And sense of smell of course. But now, Shadow Walker thought about the ears of horses. They moved like those of the wolves and were also large. A horse could probably hear the slight snap of a tiny twig much better than a human could. If the People Who Stole Children still had their horses, he would have to be very careful indeed not to be heard too soon. 

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With another flash of insight, Shadow Walker realized that if these People Who Steal Children were going to insist on being enemies, it would be well for the Veritas to learn much more about the ways of horses. It seemed to him, in their brief exchanges before the fire had separated them, that Tu-Swift had already begun down that path. Perhaps it would be necessary to make friends with horses as the Veritas had done with wolves, eagles, and many plants. To encourage plants to grow, it was necessary to learn what each plant wanted. Some wanted much water; others less. For some, planting a small fish nearby seemed to help them. Others had to be groomed of pests. Maybe it was the same with horses? 

Shadow Walker reminded himself to stay alert to the task at hand. At last he reached the edge of the burned forest, but the “cover” there was hardly better than in the burned out field. After only hobbling a few hundred yards in the remains of the burned forest, he noticed odd indentations in the earth, spaced an arm’s length apart. He had never seen a track like this. He bent down and picked up a small piece of charcoal. He twirled it in his fingers and it disintegrated. Then, he looked at his hands and noticed they were smudged with ash. He decided to pattern his body and clothes like a fawn, dappling both with black splotches of varying size. 

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Ahead of him, the wolf pups were excitedly sniffing at a large black blob. As he limped closer, he saw that it was the charred body of a deer. He peered at it and realized that something had turned it and examined it, perhaps for edible meat. There was none. The destructiveness of fire was complete. Shadow Walker thought of the legend of the Orange Man who, through his own greed, had destroyed a complete village and himself as well. Perhaps the People Who Steal Horses had done the same. Perhaps they were all dead. But perhaps not. He smiled, realizing that it was Many Paths more than anyone else who had taught him to consider a wide variety of alternatives before taking action. 

Suddenly, a wave of love and longing for Many Paths came over him. The image of her smiling face floated before him. He sighed. Why would people come and steal Tu-Swift? And, Dah-Nah too for that matter. They are a cruel people! He began to fantasize some particularly nasty tortures for them. Then, he realized that he himself did not want to become as cruel as they are. He did not want to feed the “bad wolf” within himself. It would be easy right now to feed the “bad wolf” within. Those people astride horses had done so much damage to the Veritas, to the fields, the trees. The “good wolf” seemed to have gone for a moment. Then, he noticed that the two real wolves right beside him both stood rigid, their ears turned, their nostrils flared. They stared behind him. 

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He spun around in time to see the flash of a sword. His ankle gave way as he ducked and spun. He fell hard against the blackened deer carcass. As the warrior stepped forward, Shadow Walker shot his good leg out and swept the warrior’s forward leg out from under him, causing the warrior to fall and yell out, perhaps warning others. Shadow Walker’s powerful arms pinned the warrior’s arm behind him and he twisted it hard. The man struggled mightily, twisting, turning and falling onto the sharp triangle of a burned tree stump. The stump shot clean through the man from belly to back. He began to scream and tried to free himself. Shadow Walker twisted the sword from the man’s hand and lay his own weight atop the man thus further impaling him. For a moment, he found himself enjoying the sound of the man’s ripping flesh. The screams soon became a weak bubbly burble. 

Shadow Walker scanned the forest remains, alert for more warriors who might be drawn by the screams. He saw nothing. He heard nothing. The hungry wolf pups were much more interested in lapping up the spilled blood than anything else. They seemed quite unconcerned about further attack. Perhaps this had been a lone survivor and perhaps not. Shadow Walker remained crouched down for several minutes. At last he became convinced that he was not in immediate danger. He stood up and began to examine the sword. It consisted of something not earthly, yet familiar. This, he suddenly realized, was made of the same stuff as the door on circles that they had encountered on the way here. What was this strange metal? And, how could they have made a sword this smooth and even? 

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Perhaps there was more to be learned from this enemy than the training of horses. They seem to have better weapons as well. The wolf pups began tearing at the flesh of Shadow Walker’s would be killer. It occurred to him that it might be a mistake to let them taste the flesh of humans. It was too late to stop now. He wanted to examine the warrior more closely, but did not want to have the wolves think he was attempting to “horn in” on their “kill” but soon they had their fill and he examined the corpse. In the dead man’s tunic he found a small leather pouch which contained three circles of gold. 

This is odd, thought Shadow Walker. Why make gold into a circle? The disks also had strange markings on them and the image of a face. These are a very odd people indeed, thought Shadow Walker. He secured the sword and the pouch with the gold disks around his waist with leather thongs. Then, he began making his way toward the village. Again, the forest seemed completely deserted. Yet, he remained wary. He followed the odd track. It seemed to him that it could well be the track of someone using a make-shift crutch or cane. It might be Tu-Swift. But it might be another warrior from the People Who Steal Children. 

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Soon, Shadow Walker could see clear spaces beyond the edge of the charred forest. In those clear spaces, the burned remnants of the village of the People Who Steal Children stood. Fire, he reminded himself, was not something to be toyed with. He had to admit that he had felt a strange wave of pleasure wash over him when the heard the ripping sound of flesh. That fire of hatred and cruelty must be contained or it would destroy him as thoroughly as the forest fire had destroyed the People Who Steal Children. Shadow Walker moved cautiously; moved with the wind; moved from shadow to shadow, as his eyes searched the open spaces for signs of life. 


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The Legend of the Orange Man

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