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“What an amazing sunset,” Fleet-of-Foot said to no-one in particular. His companions, Hudah Salah, Easy Tears, and Day Nah sat close by. 

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Easy Tears noticed that Hudah Salah, who had previously said very little had become much more talkative since their escape from the fire — and her separation from Lion Slayer. Here she was again: “Perhaps the fire in some way joins up with the fire of the sunset. Then, he shines more brilliantly than ever.” 

Easy Tears listened carefully to Hudah Salah, just as she did to everyone in her own tribe. “That’s an interesting possibility, Hudah. Let us think on that.” 

{Translator’s Note}: And, unlike our more “civilized” society, where everyone is judged on being able to respond immediately with arguments carefully crafted to push people into one of two predefined camps, this is what Easy Tears actually did: She allowed herself to think. She did not try to dissect the idea, nor prove it, nor disprove it. She let the idea loose in the archives of her mind. Easy Tears, in particular, did not like to put up walls either between herself and others or within her own memory archives. There was no “Restricted” area. The idea could play around in there as long as it liked. What was the hurry? Their bodies all needed restitution and traveling by night is not always a good way to make things quicker. And, now they were all enjoying the sunset. 

Of course, unlike the Veritas, your translator was brought up in a world where speed is all and if you can’t get your next version of software out the door yesterday, you can go out the exit door for good. So, when I describe things, I tend to phrase things in a much more simplistic fashion than what actually went on in the minds of the Veritas, as best we can tell from the burgeoning field of statistically inferential macro-psycholinguistics. It would be helpful then for you, the reader, to remember that my translations will tend to reflect my own modernistic blinders – and yours. But let’s get back to finding out whether these folks are going to get back to the center place of the Veritas alive and tell Many Paths, their leader, what they have learned about The People Who Steal Children. 

As Easy Tears allowed the idea to roam freely, she did not have to “watch” the idea or “be careful” where it might lead. So, she could just sit back and watch the sunset. The idea conjured a trumpet that sang a song about fire. Most of the various artifacts, people, ideas, places, in the mind of Easy Tears paid little attention to this particular tune. A few however, had their say. Easy Tears recalled how hard it had been to see when they were running through fire. Even when the flames were not an issue, the smoke made it hard to see. So smoke interacted with sight. 

Another memory heard the tune and danced to it. Easy Eyes had been a small child, but one who had already revealed her eye for beauty and design. Everyone who wished to, was encouraged by the Veritas to share designs for patterns on both the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. She had created several ideas in her head and one in particular had caught her eye.  That would be the one! She worked in secret on her full scale project and as it neared completion, she became more and more disconcerted. The design no longer seemed a thing of real beauty. She recreated the small scale version and it still held exquisite beauty and balance.  What, she wondered, was going on? She had gone back to her larger design and it appeared empty and bland. So, the size of something could even change its nature. She had added additional elements to the large scale design and had, in fact, received much praise for her design. This was sincere praise, not just pat-the-sweet-little-girl-on-the-top-of-the-head praise. And, she knew it. So, smoke rises and spreads and becomes more sparse. 

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Easy Tears related these wakened memories to the group and Hudah Salah translated for Day-Nah. 

Fleet-of-Foot, though not quite so open as Easy Tears, also allowed these words and memories free access to his own experience. “For some reason that I cannot explain, it reminds me of skipping stones on a creek or a pond. You want stones that are as round and flat as possible. But, the size of the stones proves crucial too. If a stone is too small, even if it’s flat, it will curve in the air and slice right into the water too steeply. If the stone is too large, even if well made, you cannot throw it fast enough and it will only skip a few times. So, here too, the behavior depends on the shape, or design, but also on the size. 

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“Yes,” added Hudah Salah, “in my experience size matters. And also speed. In our lands, much sand there is and one grain or two — this is nothing. But we have — you and Eagle Eyes — you saw such a storm, during your visit. Much sand coming fast – it can kill you. The nature of much is different from the nature of one or a few.” 

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Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

After a long pause, and when the sunset had faded from crimson all the way to gray ash, Easy Tears said, “We think it may be the case that something about the nature of much smoke together on the ground to be different than much smoke not together high in the air. But sunsets vary so much. We must ask to join with the wisdom of others to decide. Let us sleep. I will keep first watch.” 

The dawn also proved visually stupendous. The foursome broke camp and continued their journey even before the color reached its peak. They saw no sign of their friends nor, thankfully, of the People Who Steal Children. They did see horse hoof marks and that kept them on the alert. 

Occasionally, they returned to the topic of the beautiful sunsets and sunrises and whether it was related to the fire. 

Hudah Salah remarked, “In the heat of the summer, it seems as though the sun actually pushes you down, as though the light is heavy.” 

Fleet-of-Foot turned back to look at Hudah. He smiled at her. An image of them together flickered through his mind. Then, the same idea stole into his mind in words. After all, he thought, life must go on. If Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer are both dead…. Or, perhaps, they just decided to go off together? How could they have just disappeared? We were all running together. Maybe they’re sick of all this fighting. That’s ridiculous. I know she’s okay and I know we will be together. Feed the good wolf, feed the good wolf. 

Easy Tears spoke. “I have a feeling it has something to do with light that reflects or the light that isn’t there.”

Now, Fleet-of-Foot was amazed at Easy Tears. “Light that isn’t there?” 

Easy Tears, motioned to Fleet-of-Foot to come closer. “Look at the bare ground over there. What do you see?”

“Many things. You mean, your shadow?” 

“Yes, Fleet-of-Foot, my shadow. It is lack of light. What color does it appear?” 

Fleet-of-Foot frowned. “Color? No color. Well, I suppose it looks a little bit blue compared with what is around it.”

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Hudah Salah broke in, “Oh, yes, it is blue. It can be quite obvious in the desert. The sun is yellow but the not-sun is blue.” 

Fleet-of-Foot considered. “I see what you mean. But, I’m not sure…”

Easy Tears pointed to the other side of her, “Now, look over there. What do you see?” 

Fleet-of-Foot shrugged his shoulders. “Not shadow?”

Easy Tears laughed. “Don’t guess! Look! And keep moving. My shadows will come with me!” 

Fleet-of-Foot shook his head, frowned, and took another look as he strode alongside. At last he said, “Well, to tell you the truth, you have another shadow on that side but it’s vague and a bit greenish.” 

Easy Tears continued. “Yes. You see those bright red sunrise clouds high in the sky? There is shadow from the light of them as well. 

They strode on silently for a time. 

Fleet-of-Foot said, “You are truly amazing to have ever noticed that!” 

Easy Tears laughed. “Oh, I didn’t see it. I lived for years and never noticed it. Eagle Eyes pointed it out to me. She truly is amazing! Haven’t you noticed?” 

Fleet-of-Foot blushed and hoped the others attributed it to the high red clouds. He cleared his throat and mumbled, “Yes, of course.” 

They continued all day with few breaks. At last they found themselves on the path they had taken on the way out. A few hours later, they were at the same odd door that stymied them for a time on the way in. They had intentionally left it closed in the hope of thwarting what they assumed would be a large group of the People Who Steal Children riding on horseback. Now, their way was blocked by a large heavy door that six of them had had difficulty with. How could they open it with only three adults and a small child. The alternative was to try to find another route but nothing obvious had presented itself. 

The three of them pushed and pulled to no avail. After some minutes, they managed to move it perhaps half an inch. Then it stopped and further effort proved fruitless. The three sat down heavily and looked at each other, trying to catch their breath. They looked around and realized that none of them knew where Day-Nah had gone. 

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Fleet-of-Foot called out, “Day-Nah!” 

“Day-Nah. Here. Help me.” 

Fleet-of-Foot cautiously approached the voice and soon saw Day-Nah pulling at something. Fleet-of-Foot soon saw that it was a thick rod of the same stuff that the door itself was made of. 

Fleet-of-Foot was amazed and wanted to learn more. “Where? Where did this come from? What place?” 

Day-Nah stared at him uncomprehendingly. Fleet-of-Foot thought back to his time among the Nomads of the South. Suddenly, the word sprang to mind. 

As soon as he said it, Day-Nah’s face brightened and he ran over to a nearby hollow log. Fleet-of-Foot thought it an odd place to hide a club, but it seemed to be a good club despite its odd shape and long length. It was made of this hard, heavy material and he was happy to have it. But he could not use it to break down the door. It was made of the same stuff and way too thick to be destroyed with a club. 

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Fleet-of-Foot returned to Easy Tears and Hudah Salam and showed them the club. Waving it slightly, he said, “This may prove useful should we encounter the People Who Steal Children.” 

Hudah Salam looked at him and smiled. She walked directly toward him and for a moment, he thought she might kiss him! 

But it was not to be. She merely, took the “club” from him and walked over to the door. She put one end into the small slit and put both hands on the other end. Then, she braced her feet and pulled backwards. The door moved! 

Fleet-of-Foot laughed and shook his head. “Oh! How not fleet-of-thought I am!” 

His friends laughed too. Easy Tears glanced at him and smiled. “I didn’t see it either. But I suspect Eagle Eyes would have. She’s good at that kind of thing.” 

Fleet-of-Foot smiled. He knew exactly what Easy Tears had meant by ‘that kind of thing’ though there was really no word for it. But there should be, he thought and they pitched in and quickly moved the door. 

On toward the Center Place of the Veritas they strode. After a few moments, Fleet-of-Foot waved the lever and said, “Well, it also makes a good club.” All of them laughed for it seemed to them at the time that the worst was over. 

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Author’s Page on Amazon

The Pros and Cons of AI

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man

The Beginning of the Tales of the Veritas 

The Beginning of Book Two