When, after a week’s deliberation, the people decided to attempt to contact that people of the Veritas who lived beyond the Two Peaks. Tu-Swift was over-joyed. He imagined himself as leading a dozen riders, including Cat Eyes, over wild hills and into unknown canyons and through deep forests.
As Tu-Swift contemplated this image, a smile grew on his face. Sooz looked at his face and hers became a puzzled look. “Shall we go back to the game?” she asked, trying to catch his eye.
“What?” Tu-Swift said absently. His image disappeared. He shook his head at his own foolishness. They only had four horses now and only two of them were sufficiently trained. Why would they choose Tu-Swift? His knee still hurt when he rode and, for that matter, when he walked very far. Besides, Sooz was his special friend, he thought. He sighed, turned to Sooz and smiled.
“Yes! Let’s do that, Sooz! It’s kind of fun. Do you mind if Cat Eyes plays too?”
“Oh, not at all. She will be vital for us to understand this.”
Four of the Veritas had fallen into a habit of getting together for most of the morning to study the game and the many leaves of stick figures that Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer had brought back from the Z-Lotz. These four: Eagle Eyes, Tu-Swift, Sooz, and Cat Eyes constituted the regulars. Many Paths, Shadow Walker, Easy Tears, and Jaccim often observed closely and offered occasional suggestions or comments.
After the initial insight of Tu-Swift that these drawn stick figures represented the initial sounds of words and that the words where the ones signified by sign language, the group had easily noted that there were only 64 different signs. Most of the gestures were easy to guess. A few proved quite stylized and barely recognizable, but within a week, they were satisfied that they knew exactly which sound each of the 64 different signs stood for.
And, then, they were stumped. Each leaf of the recovered sheaf of leaves was covered with a random collection of these sounds. But when people spoke, they spoke one sound at a time in quick succession. Here, they were seeing hundreds of sounds all at once. It would be as though everyone in the tribe were shouting something different. It would be chaos. And chaos is how these stick figures swam around before their eyes.
Just before the mid-day meal, She Who Saves Many Lives happened upon their deliberations. They briefly explained the concept. The Old Leader nodded and said, “Yes, I heard your explanation — very clever, by the way — at your telling, Tu-Swift. And Many Paths mentioned that you were trying to make more sense of it. I doubt I could be much help. Which is the first step of the journey? This one? It seems larger than the rest. And which is the next? This one?” she queried as she pointed to the stick figure next to the larger one. “Or this one?” she asked pointing to the one below it.
Tu-Swift shrugged, “We don’t know. What? Wait. Did you say something about a journey?”
She Who Saved Many Lives smiled, and looked at Tu-Swift, “Yes. When you talk, you can’t say everything at once. You have to say one thing at a time. It’s a journey when you talk so this — I would tend to assume — is also a journey. Or, a dance if you like. Or a tune. But if it’s a journey, I need a map. Where do we go from this — this is for the “Oh” sound is it not?”
Everyone drew closer. Eagle Eyes said, “Yes, that’s for the “Oh” sound but what is the second step of the journey? We don’t really know.”
Cat Eyes added, “If we go this way, we get “Oh” then “R” … then, if we keep going this way….”
Sooz, who generally stayed fairly quiet at these sessions jumped up and shouted, “Orange Man: The Legend!”
Tu-Swift jumped back at the sudden movement of Sooz. He frowned, but quickly saw that Sooz was right. He said as much, and the other two agreed.
She Who Saved Many Lives gestured lovingly to the group and said, “I see you’re making progress. Keep up the good work.”
The four were so busy trying various journey patterns that they almost forgot to give their leave. Very quickly, Cat Eyes said, “Look, it’s here. It’s all here. It goes this way all along this path, then it drops down and you walk your eyes back this way and then, when you get to this side, you drop down again and go left to right again. The whole legend is here, at least in essence. Listen. Greatly aided by her knowledge of the Legend, Cat Eyes painstakingly, and somewhat haltingly took her tongue on a journey guided by her eyes which went first one stick figure over and then she had to think of the sound. As she went on, she grew more agile. At the end of the Myth of the Orange Man, she was speaking like a dog runs on three legs.
When she got to what everyone knew to be the “end” of the Myth of the Orange Man, there were many more stick figures. This was not material known to them and the work was much harder. The foursome completely forgot the mid-day meal, and did not notice the sun sinking into the Northwestern sky. The four took turns reading aloud (no-one had yet realized that one could also read “silently”).
Just as they ended, Many Paths walked up, sensing their eerie sense of excitement tinged with horror. “I just saw She Who Saved Many Lives” and she said you were making progress in understanding how to work with the stick figures.
The four exchanged glances. Eagle Eyes spoke first, “Many Paths, we know how to follow the path. We — this is the Legend of the Orange Man… the whole thing. But then, there’s more. These words … they are horrible words.”
Many Paths was genuinely puzzled. “What? How can words be horrible? What do you mean?”
Tu-Swift bit his lower lip. “We were excited to discover — I think Cat Eyes came up with the idea to follow a path and say the sounds one at a time. They are like footprints of the thoughts and footprints of the sounds in the mind of the person who made these marks. But what we found. It is not a good thing.” Tu-Swift glanced at Cat Eyes.
“It wasn’t my idea,” said Cat Eyes. I think Sooz may have come up with it. But after the Orange Man — and the whole village dies, the words continue. They say that the Orange Man was not cruel enough. That he wasn’t smart enough. The reason he failed, according to this was that he did not have good enough weapons. They say a leader must have weapons that prevent anyone from challenging their authority! What kind of lesson is that? What kind of story is that?”
After a short silence, Sooz added, “I didn’t think of the path idea. I thought it was Tu-Swift. But no-one blames him. The words are what they are. But, instead of making the Orange Man out to be the monster that he is because of his greed and his lying, the words that speak from these leaves say he wasn’t enough of a monster. He needed better weapons to take what he wanted. It’s an evil thing to say, isn’t it? Do you want to make us all … submit to your will … because you have a Killing Stick?”
Many Paths shook her head and frowned. “Of course not! What kind of a leader would I be then? I agree they are horrible words, but we don’t have to accept them as true just because someone made those symbols.”
Cat Eyes added, “There’s more. As I suspected from my time with the Z-Lotz, the actual priests of the Z-Lotz don’t believe the things that they say. According to this, all the rules and laws that they claim come from the Great Bear in the Sky are just … just made up … to help control the people. The religion is just another of the weapons for controlling people. I feel sick. These words make me sick. This … these leaves say everyone should steal from others and it’s just who has the best weapons.”
Many Paths nodded slowly. “I see. You four have made an important discovery. Well, actually, you have many several important discoveries. You understand how to say words that someone far away and long ago has thought. This is amazing. But you’ve also discovered that The People Who Steal Children are even more evil that we thought. They don’t respect us. But they don’t even respect the people of their own tribe. They don’t even respect themselves. Not only do they have Killing Sticks — they believe these Killing Sticks are a good thing. They believe that lies are good. They believe killing easily and without honor or bravery is a good thing.”
The five of them stood in silence for a time.
Many Paths spoke. “Actually, we only know that one among these people thinks these things. Although Cat Eyes lived among them for awhile. Do you think these words reflect the way all the Z-Lotz think or only the person who made these marks?”
Cat Eyes took in a deep breath. “I think more than one. But not all. Some among the Z-Lotz showed me kindness. Most just ordered me about and did not go out of their way to be cruel. But some…some of them…think exactly such things.”
Many Paths nodded slowly. “Yes. We must share these discoveries with all of the tribe and think of what to do next.”
Tu-Swift spoke softly, “Sister, these words make me feel bad. Do you want to share them with everyone? Won’t that make everyone sick at heart?”
Many Paths sighed. “You may be right. I fear you are right. Yet, I am reluctant to keep such knowledge secret from the people. I need to think on how to do this though. We need to take in this knowledge and make plans for what it means.”