The Bonds of Horses and Humans

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The Bonds of Horses and Humans

Tu-Swift awoke in pain. He began to panic. At first he wondered and quickly then became sure that they must have beaten him again. Inventory. “Don’t jump to conclusions.” That’s what Many Paths would have said. Inventory. He quickly realized nothing was broken. No, it was just that his muscles were sore. Although he spent a lot of time running, playing, and working among the Veritas, his ride on the back of a horse and then spending a day shoveling manure used his muscles in new ways. His body was okay. As he thought of the Veritas, however, his heart sank. Up to now, he had secretly thought that he would soon be rescued. Now a new and uglier thought crept into his soul. He took deep slow breaths and tried to calm himself. Day-Nah was beginning to stir and Tu-Swift didn’t want to alarm him by appearing scared. But the truth was, all the Veritas may be killed or enslaved. He might even be the only one to transmit their long collective years of wisdom accumulated. 

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That was the cold, bitter spider of doubt that clutched his heart. Though he had no idea whether or not the Veritas had survived the attack, he had been assuming that they had been alive. But there were many other possibilities. Tu-Swift set his jaw. He had always been one to leap before looking while Many Paths kept reminding him to consider other alternatives. But now — Many Paths was not here. He would have to rely on the Many Paths in his head. And, others. There were other voices Among the Veritas who he could use to help him find a means for escape. Meanwhile, he must keep his spirits up by reminding himself of what he liked; what he was grateful for. Tu-Swift realized that, among other things, he was actually grateful to have this small boy as a companion. Worrying about his small jail mate distracted Tu-Swift from his own predicament and uncertainty. 

Just then, Day-Nah stirred and whimpered. He suddenly sat up and yelled. Day-Nah’s eyes returned to that wild-eyed stare that Tu-Swift had first observed. Tu-Swift patted his own chest forcefully and said, “Tu-Swift! Tu-Swift!” Then, he gestured toward Day-Nah by opening his arms and hands outward toward the youngster and said, “Day-Nah. Day-Nah!” The young boy blinked several times and seemed to recall his present circumstances. His breathing slowed, but he pulled his legs up, wrapped his arms around his knees and began rocking and silently crying. 

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Like most of the youth of the Veritas, Tu-Swift knew how to comfort the young of his own tribe, but he felt uncertain about approaching the boy in this state. Though tempted to hug him, he decided distraction might be a wiser course and he reviewed the language lessons they had already gone through, being a little more particular about pronunciation, both in his attempts to mimic the sounds of Day-Nah and in Day-Nah’s repetition of of Veritas. This seemed to calm the boy and his silent tears abated. Once more Tu-Swift grew both angry and troubled that anyone would steal such a young boy from his family. 

The horses were stirring as well, though it was early morning, judging from the gray light that crept into the horse enclosure. In the distance, Tu-Swift could hear many people stirring and getting ready for the day. Again, he had the distinct feeling that it was like and yet very unlike mornings among the Veritas. There were footsteps, and there were voices. The accent and cadence of the voices was different, but something more profound was different. He heard birds chirping, squawking, crowing, cooing and so on, but some note was missing. Tu-Swift thought of a rainbow and imagined what it would be like to see a rainbow that was missing the blue or the red. But no! This rainbow was missing all color. Why did it sound like a colorless rainbow? That made no sense. Tu-Swift shook his head. He wished he could have a real conversation with Day-Nah, but he knew of no way to try to communicate such subtlety. 

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Three large, burly men came into the large horse room. One of them put down two dishes of food and a flask of water. He grumbled something at them. Tu-Swift noted that none of these people seemed very interested in trying to teach them their language. The other two stood nearby and all three watched as the boys ate whereupon they were led out to an open pit toilet and from there to a large field fenced in with logs. There were a large number of free running horses in this particular field and among them, Tu-Swift could see five foals. Working together, the three large men managed to separate one of the foals from its mother. Tu-Swift could see that the mare stomped around dangerously, whinnied, and that the whole herd seemed agitated. Every horse in the herd, however, shrunk back, terrified of the men and eventually one man managed to tie a rope around the foal’s two back legs and another around the forelegs. Tu-Swift looked to his own legs and those of Day-Nah and saw that they were in much the same predicament. They, like the foal, could walk, but not run or jump. 

Tu-Swift realized how much he loved to run free. He reveled in the feeling and he felt both sadness and anger at being prevented from running. He wondered whether he would ever be able to run free again. He begin to wonder whether he — or the foal — could ever be truly happy if they could not run free. Then, Tu-Swift thought of the snails that he had so often collected from the Veritas gardens. He had looked fairly closely at the creatures. They were fairly cute actually. Of course, as Many Paths would point out, he had no way to tell how a snail felt. But there was no reason to think they wouldn’t be happy. Finding something nice to chew on would probably make the snail happy just as it made him happy. But it was not in the nature of a snail to run. At imagining this, Tu-Swift laughed. 

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Day-Nah tilted his head and looked at the older boy with his brows pinched together. Tu-Swift smiled at the boy and at his situation. How could he explain that he had been imagining a snail trying to run? Then, it suddenly hit Tu-Swift that the “color” that was missing from all the morning sound of these captor-people was laughter — not just laughter itself, but any kind of fun, or enjoyment. So far as he could tell, they did the same things that the Veritas did (except for tying up other creatures), but they didn’t seem to enjoy any of it! What a strange, gray life that must be, thought Tu-Swift. And he suddenly realized that he actually felt sorry for his captors! He imagined telling Many Paths. 

Just then, all three men came over to them and shouted at the same time. Neither of the boys had even the slightest idea what they said and this must have been obvious to the three because they all switched to miming what the boys were to do. They were to do what the three grown men had just done! Somehow, they were to cull four more foals and tie their legs with rope! The Veritas had ropes, but Tu-Swift decided that it was a fair bet that Capture-People didn’t know that. The Veritas were all taught at an early age that those with more power seldom bother to learn even what would be of immense value to them if that knowledge lies with those out of power. The Capture-People had horses — and they had captured one, at least, of the Veritas. So, they would think themselves superior and be willing to believe any lack of intelligence or knowledge on the part of Tu-Swift. 

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He acted quite incapable with the ropes at first, only slowly catching on. Tu-Swift had no idea how the two of them were supposed to accomplish what looked very difficult even for three large men, three who did not have their legs tethered. Cautiously, they sidled into the pen staying near the exit that only they could squeeze through. Oh, thought Tu-Swift, Eagle Eyes will love to hear about that! Although tinged with sadness, he realized that he wasn’t really away from his own village at all! They all lived in his own head! As long as he lived, the Veritas lived! 

Most of the herd headed to the far end as the boys entered, but one mare and her foal chanced nearing. The mare seemed to like their company! Perhaps she could see that they were tethered as they were. Tu-Swift gently tugged at Day-Nah by the arm and positioned him so that the men could not get a clear view of the mare. The mare smelled something nice on the rope between Tu-Swift’s legs. It began chewing on the rope. Tu-Swift admired the teeth and jaws of the horse before him. He spoke to the horse in Veritas though he was under no illusion that the horse would understand him, at least in any detail or words. “I am Tu-Swift. You are?” 

At this point, the horse made a sound like “Kneeeeee -Kwah” 

Tu-Swift continued, “‘eee-qua’ it is then.”  

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“Tu-Swift likes to run. Ee-qua like to run. We don’t like ropes. (Here he made a show of waving the ropes in the air so the three men would think they were making progress.) “We want to run free. Tu-Swift and Ee-qua run free one day. Yes, we will.” 

Tu-Swift hobbled over to the foal and sat on the ground. “Hello little one. We have a predicament. I have these ropes on my legs. I don’t like them, but if we don’t wear them, they will beat us until we do. Your mother, Ee-qua chewed my ropes nearly through. So, I am going to put these ropes on you. But you will be able to run free in a few hours. I know you don’t understand a word I’m saying but maybe the sound of my voice will help you know that I am your friend regardless of how it seems.” Tu-Swift meanwhile, had succeeded in tying a rope around one of the young colt’s legs and “secured” it with a granny knot rather than the square not that the men had shown him. It was chancy to make life difficult for those that seemed to have power over him, but it had to be done; carefully, and never in the same way twice, but each day, Tu-Swift knew that he could find some way to make the lives of the Capture-People less pleasant, just as they were making his less pleasant. 

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Hiding tools, wrecking tools, backing up sewage, polluting water, passing on disease, poisoning — these were just a few of the ways he might or might not be able to fight back. Meanwhile though, he also had to be careful not to be caught and to have a well-worked out and plausible excuse. As Tu-Swift tied more legs with granny knots, he planned that he would feign astonishment and excitedly show his captors how he had tied the knots. He would tie granny knots. They would smack him about a bit of course. But then they would show him the correct way. He would again copy but make a granny knot. The Capture-People would smack him around a bit, so he imagined, and then show him again. He would feign insight and make a true square knot the next time. This would serve two purposes. It would cause them grief, but it would also, he hoped, endear him to them in some perverse way. It would be as though he could learn their tricks — eventually — but being more stupid than they are — it would take him longer naturally to learn to do things correctly. And, then again, he thought, fastening the fourth leg with a granny know, I may never even be accused. 

Just then it occurred to Tu-Swift that the horses could chew threw their own tethers! Why hadn’t they thought of that. Maybe that’s not the sort of thing horses “think of.” Maybe they need to be shown. If they will eat through my ropes — and she could have easily gone all the way through — they could eat through their own, but how can I get food to put on those ropes? 


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Start of the Myths of the Veritas

Dialogue and Discovery

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Many Paths had let the word spread that she wanted to dialog after supper. {Translator’s Note}: In good weather, the people often dialogued around the campfire. In this way, each told of their experiences and listened to the experiences of others during the day and what they had learned. They asked questions, shared insights, and allowed many moments of careful reflection. On this day, however, it appeared that by “calling for” a Dialogue, she was encouraging all to come and to be especially thoughtful. Apparently, though the word was the same (so far as we can tell) there was some linguistic or behavioral marking that emphasized the importance of this particular Dialogue.  

Though the day had been warm, the sun left the sky early at this time of year, and the people wrapped themselves in blankets and gathered around the fire. Only Trunk of Tree and a dozen other braves were absent, serving as guards. Trunk of Tree was still talking with them and trying to understand how this surprise attack had come. As expected, Many Paths spoke first. 

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“So far as we can tell, no-one was seriously hurt and nothing was stolen of value excepting only my brother, Tu-Swift. A search party has been sent but we have not heard from them.”

A woman of the muskrat clan spoke, “Can people stand atop horses?” 

A woman of the deer clan said, “Apparently so. Perhaps this is not so surprising. We have learned to work with wolves and eagles. Why not horses?” 

Many Paths spoke up. “Our guests from the Nomads of the South confirm that at least one tribe to their knowledge does use horses. They call themselves the ROI.” 

A child of the bobcat clan said, “I saw a man on a horse once.” 

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Many Paths could see that the child had struggled to say this out loud in this big meeting and she did not want to scare him off. “Interesting. Please. Say more.” 

“We were camping near the North River and looking for stones four days ago. Stones to make sharp. And it grew dark. So we slept. And I had a dream and awoke. And I looked across the river and I thought there was a buffalo with a tree and I saw it was really a man. A man on a horse. And I was scared I might be crazy. My parents and brother slept. And I didn’t want to wake them.” 

“Do you think this man saw you?”  asked Many Paths.

“Oh, yes. I think so. He and his horse looked right at me. Then, the horse took him away. I’m sorry.” The child looked bewildered. 

“You did nothing wrong. There’s no need to be sorry.” 

“I should have told someone. But I was afraid it would sound odd.” 

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Many Paths spoke gently. “Can you recall anything else about this horse and man as one?” 

The child thought for a moment and added, “They ran fast. Not so fast as eagle falls, but much faster than anyone of our tribe runs.” 

“And…? Anything else?”

“Well,” the child said, “when the horse ran away, it sounded like a drum. The-duh-RUM, the-duh-RUM.”

“Thank you, Horse Viewer.” Many Paths looked upon the people encouraging others to speak with her eyes and her smile and her voice. 

“Oh, Many Paths, there is one more thing,” said Horse Viewer. “Right before they ran as one, the man made a noise like the running horse.” The boy closed his eyes in concentration. ‘Giddy-UP, Giddy-UP!’ he had shouted and off they ran.”

“Thank you, Horse Viewer,” Many Paths said warmly. 

Next, She Who Saves Many Lives spoke, “Many years ago, I heard stories of people on horses, but I had never seen it first hand. Thank you.” 

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Many Paths spoke again, “The Nomads of the South said that these horses were tamed with cruelty, whips, and tethering. That seems a strange way to me, but perhaps it works. I had to use love to train the wolves. At least, I should say, I thought to train them that way. I began by studying them and as I learned more about them, I loved them more and as I loved them and they became used to me, I could arrange things so that they understood me and I understood them. They could see that I was the tallest of the wolves though not the one with the sharpest teeth. This they did not test though.” 

The father of Horse Viewer, Stone Chipper spoke next. “I travel quite often as far as the North River. Only recently did I begin taking the children in order for them to help me find the sharpening rocks and learn to set free the weapon inside the rock. On my many long walks through the forest, I saw many creatures such as deer, squirrels, song birds, and I always speak to them kindly for they were my only friends on such journeys. Over the years, they became quite friendly. I never really tried to “train” them for battle, but gradually, their curiosity overcame their fear. Though not for the bobcats. They stayed wary. I cannot imagine beating an animal to train it though.”

Upon this, they contemplated for a silent, unhurried time. 

“Sometimes, a little one can be annoying. It is easy to swat a fly away and sometimes… as well ,a child. This is always wrong though.” A large, aging man, thick muscled and large boned, like POND MUD spoke. “Eventually, you drive them away so they actually want to annoy you and then you punish them more and they become more distant and you hit them harder….it seems as though it works, because you can get your way at that moment. But the moment your back is turned…you are creating war in your own house.” 

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A tall young woman with dark, penetrating eyes and long luxurious silken hair said, “We must all treat each other with respect.” Here she looked deliberately into the eyes of everyone there. “Especially the weakest amongst ourselves. Cruelty is against the grain of the tree of life. It will cause great damage, in the end. Great damage, indeed.”

Many Paths waited, not wanting to rush the people. After a long silence she spoke again. “It is clear that there is much that we do not know about these people. We do not know why they stole Tu-Swift. We do not know how many of these people there are and we do not know how many horses they have. We do not know how long it takes to train a horse, or exactly how they do it. They seem very confident indeed. But cruel. After all, they stole Tu-Swift. They attacked us at feast. And, it sounds as though they may use cruelty to train these horses. Though we have never trained horses. So, perhaps this is necessary for horses though not for wolves, nor eagles, nor children.”

A-OC of the Deer Clan spoke. “We know that they are capable of speed. And we know they did at least one thing bad by stealing a child. And, they must have some stealth as well because our guards did not warn us.”

Now, her sister, P-OC spoke along similar lines, “Perhaps we can arrange to make our paths more hospitable to those on foot and less so to those astride a horse.”

“Indeed,” said a man from the Muskrat Clan, “though some day we ourselves may learn to stand atop horses.” 

P-OC nodded. “Yes, we should make any such alteration a temporary thing in case we might someday use these horses in such a way as to run so fast.”  

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The people began to imagine various possible ways to do this. AO-C mentioned one idea. “For all but the eldest among us, it is easy to stand but also to crawl and get back to standing. If a tree were bent across a path at about this height” she said, as she drew her hand from left to right across her belly, our runners could easily duck under such a barrier. But I don’t think a horse would have such an easy time.” 

Stone Chipper spoke, “Yes, and a person may turn sideways, and sidle through a slim opening. Horses though are big. There is the cool-place path, near the entrance to the great forest. It narrows between the two cliffs, beneath the raspberry bushes. If we made other paths encouraging others to take that entrance, we could narrow it still more and it would be impossible for horses to get through. Then, our would-be invaders and child-stealers would find this out and have to retrace their steps to approach us in a different way.” 

All the people knew the place he meant. Even now, people would struggle to walk two abreast. Many Path sensed a commotion near the riverbank. Someone approached the edge of the circle. It was Trunk of Tree and he was helping another man. Friend of Squirrel! He appeared hurt. Many Paths said to Trunk of Tree, “What news? What happened to Friend of Squirrel? He seems off, somehow.”

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Trunk of Tree nodded, and said, “Yes. Indeed.” Then he asked him companion more quietly, “Are you okay to tell your story now?” 

Friend of Squirrel nodded. The crowd quieted even more so that he could be heard. They could tell he was not able to shout. “There were three guards and we were posted together at the north entrance to the great forest. We were imagining the feast and tempting the squirrels to approach us for small treats. Suddenly we heard a great commotion. A host of men standing on horses appeared. The first opened his hands to show he had no weapons. He spoke gently though we did not understand his words. He gestures made it clear that they came in peace, and to trade, or so we thought. Several of the men – and I believe they were all men – opened some clothing on the side of the horse and brought out some fine looking skins. We gathered round and that is the last thing I remember. When I awoke, I tried to stagger to my feet but fell back to the earth. I slept until Trunk of Tree came upon me.”

Trunk of Tree nodded, “I am sorry to say that the companions of Friend of Squirrel are both dead, their heads smashed in with a club of some kind.Two other braves are retrieving their bodies now as well, but Friend of Squirrel should rest. I believe all of our attackers came through that path.”  

Friend of Squirrel spoke again, “I am sorry. We were foolish to have been so incautious. They seemed so friendly. And we were taken aback to see such men atop horses. One of us should have stayed hidden with bow drawn. And now, calamity has struck.” 

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“Trunk of Tree, thank you. Friend of Squirrel, go now and rest. What is done cannot be undone, but can be learned from. We are going to make our paths less friendly to horses for now. And, we must learn much more of these people. And, then, we must see what do do about such people that kill without battle and steal children from a feast.” 

The Dialogue continued till the great fire became embers. Many ideas were shared. At last, a great weariness came upon Many Paths. She had only been leader a short time and now, not only was Tu-Swift stolen, but two fine braves had been killed and another injured. Her people needed reassurance and they needed sleep, but they also needed to be better prepared for another attack. This time, the ROI, if that’s what they were, would not have the element of surprise. Or, at least not those surprises. Many Paths supposed if they could run with horses, there may be other surprising kinds of danger they could wreak upon us. She wished she could speak with Shadow Walker now, but of course she couldn’t. She rose and ended the Dialogue though several stayed and continued to discuss how to make it harder for horses to penetrate to their center place. On the one hand, she wanted to encourage such ideas, but she was tired to the bone. She found herself listening but not contributing and even drumming her ring on the side of a log. She wondered how the search party was doing and how far away they were. She worried about all of her tribe and especially about Tu-Swift. But dwelling on that would just make her less effective as a leader. So, instead, she fantasized that she could talk with Shadow Walker. She drifted off to sleep imagining she could. She toyed with the First Ring of Empathy and reminded herself that Shadow Walker had one as well.


 

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Search Party

Shadow Walker quickly organized the search party. In addition to Shadow Walker, Eagle Eyes, Fleet of Foot, Easy Tears, Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah gathered their private traveling provisions. Easy Tears was put in charge of the two wolf pups while Eagle Eyes led the party due to her superior vision while Shadow Walker, the “leader” was the last of the group. 

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Eagle Eyes hardly needed great vision to follow the trail. (The raiders had obviously counted on speed rather than stealth to outdistance any possible pursuers.) However, Eagle Eyes quickly determined that there were only a dozen raiders. “It seems,” she said as they took a quick break to share a meal, “that they were only a small force who relied on surprise and speed to wreak havoc on the feast and then retreat quickly before we could counter-attack.” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “We could have easily defeated such a small force! We should have attacked immediately!” 

Lion Slayer spoke. “I am not so sure. I have never tried to fight a man who rides astride a horse! The horse is a strong creature and very fast. The man on horseback would be hard to hit while atop a horse, but it would be easy for the one on a horse to strike downward.” 

Easy Tears looked skeptical. “You killed a lion, so they say, which is much more dangerous than a horse! How can you be afraid of a horse?” 

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Lion Slayer laughed. “I was very lucky to have two spears nearby to save Hudah from that lion! And, there were others nearby to help so that lion did not know which way to turn. It is likely that lion could have killed me easily despite my spears had I been alone. But do not underestimate the strength of horse. They can kill with a kick according to legend. And twelve of them together could trample a war party quickly.” 

Eagle Eyes nodded slowly. “Yes, horses are built for speed, but they also look to have sensitive ears and their feet are weapons. A warrior on a horse’s back. That could be formidable. At least they are easy to track!” 

Shadow Walker nodded. He looked over at Hudah Salah whose large, dark eyes were hard to read. “How about you, Hudah? Do you know anything about horses?” 

She frowned slightly and silence grew. At last, she said, “Only as husband Lion Slayer has said.” 

“Let us continue then. We have no idea how far they have taken Tu-Swift. He need to make haste or we will be known as Tu-Late.” No-one laughed at his grim humor. 

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Soon the sextet continued alternating a jogging pace with a fast walk through the forest with Eagle Eyes in the lead. 

Fleet of Foot hung back for a time to be with Shadow Walker and whispered out of earshot of the others. “Shadow Walker, there is something you need to understand about the ways of the Nomads of the South. Hudah Salah will always defer to her husband, Lion Slayer. At least in public.” 

Shadow Walker frowned and jerked his head. “Why? What do you mean? Is there something wrong with her?”

“No,” Shadow Walker, “that is just their way. All the women defer to their husbands.” 

As the forest grew less dense, Shadow Walker lowered his voice still further. 

“Really? Does she have a different opinion when you talk with her privately?” 

Fleet of Foot snorted a laugh. “Oh, I have never spoken with her privately, nor do I intend to. And, I advise you not to try! That would be quite dangerous. The men are all quite jealous. I get the sense from Eagle Eyes that the women sometimes disagree with their husbands, but this is all just her surmise from a hesitation or fleeting look. Even to Eagle Eyes, she’s never said anything to overtly disagree.”

“That is truly odd. Can you imagine Many Paths never disagreeing? Or Eagle Eyes?” Shadow Walker chuckled. 

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They walked on awhile in silence. As the forest thinned to scrubby trees and tall grass, they began to ascend a gentle slope. They were out of sight of their compatriots in front, but the trail, to their trained eyes, shouted its direction. 

“I can tell you that the Nomads of the South thought it remarkable that our leader is a woman.” 

Shadow Walker frowned slightly. “Really? What did they say?” 

Instead of answering, Fleet of Foot, asked, “Speaking of Many Paths, will you two become officially paired?” 

“I don’t know. It’s complicated. She is new to her role as leader and…”

Just then, they heard excited howling up ahead and jogged carefully forward scanning for trouble and recalling how they had been ambushed at their own feast. Ambush here seemed unlikely as the cover was slim. Soon, they heard the voices of the others. They sounded excited, but not in danger. They ascended to the peak of the small hill and looked down below. The scrub land sloped downward to a wide river. Beyond it, there lay a much rockier land littered with gravel. The rest of their crew were examining a recent campsite. Once again, the invaders had made no attempt to cover their tracks. The wolf pups seemed excited as though they had caught the scent of Tu-Swift. 

The six descended the plain, walking quickly but carefully, as much of the ground was littered with small stones that could easily turn the ankle of the unwary. At last they came to the bank of the river. Eagle Eyes began to wade in. To her, the water appeared moving, but not dangerous. The Veritas followed suit, but the Nomads from the South hung back on the shore. Fleet of Foot went back to them. 

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“Come on. The water’s cold, but I don’t think it will sweep you off your feet. But if it does, just keep swimming till you get across.” 

Lion Slayer frowned, “You say simbling? Where is simbling?” 

“Swimming! Swimming!” Fleet of Foot made motions with his hands. 

Hudah Salah and her husband frowned and looked at each other. Eagle Eyes sighed. There had been no rivers at the central place of the Nomads of the South. They had drawn their water from wells. “So, do you know how to … how to crawl on the water?” 

Lion Slayer looked more bewildered than ever. “Crawl? On water?” 

Fleet of Foot cupped his hands and called out to Eagle Eyes who was emerging on the other side. “Come back! I think we will need to use rope to help them across. They don’t know anything about swimming.” 

Eagle Eyes looked back at the three still on the shore. She searched her memory and realized they had not seen any swimming at the camps of the Nomads. She turned and strode back into the river. Swimming would not be needed. The water had barely reached above her waist. But the current was plenty strong, she reckoned and might indeed be frightening to those unaccustomed to so much water all at once. 

She encouraged Shadow Walker and Easy Tears to turn back with her. When all six reconvened, she quickly tied a rope around the waist of each. “This will be safer for all of us. In case, the foot of anyone slips on a mossy rock, you will not fall. The others will hold you in place. Come. Now, we will be safe.” As she said this, she felt a sting of guilt. It’s true enough that it would be safer for the Nomads who apparently had no idea how to swim. But for the Veritas, the tethering ropes would make swimming more difficult, not easier. Still, there was no time for other solutions. 

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Off they went, and only Lion Slayer seemed to have difficulty keeping his footing. Three times he slipped, and three times, Shadow Walker and Fleet of Foot pulled on the rope and took his arms to keep him from falling. They reached the other side, shivering in the late afternoon sun. Shadow Walker glanced at Hudah and could not help noticing that she looked much more fetching with her garments wetly clinging to her body. He pulled his eyes away, not wanting to offend the Nomads. Instead, he offered, “When we have found and returned Tu-Swift, we much teach you two to swim.” 

Lion Slayer shivered violently. “Thanks you, but not. Too big water.” Shadow Walker considered waiting for a few hours while all their clothes dried in the sun. It might be interesting to see Hudah without clothes. However, it would take time. Furthermore, based on what Fleet of Foot had said, he strongly suspected that Lion Slayer would not take kindly to such a suggestion. “No need. Let’s jog as best we can, being careful of the rocks. We will warm up quickly.” 

Fleet of Foot noticed that Eagle Eyes had gone on ahead and seemed to be examining a thick-leafed plant of some kind. She jogged back over to the group and spoke while she held out a small leaf. “This is aloe. This leaf has been broken. It’s used to treat burns. One of them was apparently burned…or perhaps it was for Tu-Swift. I do not know. But we should go. Follow me. I will take a path least likely to turn ankles.” Without another word, she jogged off. They all followed single file. Fleet of Foot jogged off next, followed by Hudah, Lion Slayer, Easy Tears and Shadow Walker. 

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Shadow Walker kept scanning in all directions for signs of danger, but also made sure he attended to where he placed his feet. He allowed himself a ray of hope. The most likely person to be burned was Tu-Swift. If they bothered to treat him with aloe, then it would mean he was still alive but also that they probably wanted him for some purpose other than simply killing him. But even if that were true, it can’t be a very good purpose. And, what did it mean that they made no attempt so far to cover their trail? Perhaps their camp was simply so large and well-guarded that they had no fear of reprisals. 

As the sun began to set, the six found themselves jogging into a box canyon. There seemed to be no exit. Sheer rocks rose on every side. Yet, the horse tracks into the canyon remained unmistakable in the fading light, not just to Eagle Eyes but to everyone. The exhausted group made a cheering fire between one of the cliff walls and a large nearby rock. 

Shadow Walker shared his musings with the group. They nodded but could offer nothing additional. Eyes of Eagle spoke next, “I have reviewed in my mind all the signs I saw and followed. I see nothing and feel nothing of a false trail. I see no way that they could have backtracked without it’s being noticed. A single person, with careful steps, may walk backwards in their own tracks. But a horse? A dozen horses? I see no way that they did not come here. But then what?”

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Silence. 

At last, Lion Slayer spoke. “Near our lands, but much farther south, there be places of pure sand. Some people venturing into those lands have disappeared. Such sand can swallow a person. Those lands are not like this land. Even in the land of all sand, a dozen horses and a dozen people? Surely, when first such disappeared, others would turn back, would they not?”  

Shadow Walker asked them to consider and dream of other times when things appeared impossible. “It is dark. In the light of morning, we will search more carefully. We will solve this puzzle. We will find Tu-Swift. Now, let our bodies rest and recover.” 


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Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas

Beginning of Book II of The Myths of the Veritas

 

The Horse Whisperer

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.  

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The first of five essays on SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra-Greedy Swindlers). 

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The First Ring of Empathy 

Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas 

Winning by Cheating is Losing. It is not Winning.

[This is a temporary departure from The Myths of the Veritas which will continue soon].

Newsflash: Winning by Cheating is Losing; it is not Winning.

I would have hoped that this blog entry would be completely unnecessary to write in 2019, but apparently that is not the case. 

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In 2015, I published The Winning Weekend Warrior. This book focuses on strategy, tactics, and the ‘mental game’ for all sports. It says nothing about technique or form. But for many people, continued focus on technique will not help nearly so much as it will for them to rethink strategy and tactics and to improve their self-control. The Winning Weekend Warrior says to never give in and never give up. I like to see a fighting spirit in an athlete and so do most people. But the book also discusses sportsmanship. Winning by cheating is not winning. Most sports have very clear and distinct rules about what is cheating and what is not. 

If you win by cheating, it disrespects the sport. It disrespects the audience. It disrespects your opponent. Most of all, if you win by cheating, you disrespect yourself. 

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America, I am sure you are not surprised to hear, is a very competitive nation. We are competitive in every conceivable place where it makes sense to compete. In fact, we’re so competitive that we even compete in things that are historically and quintessentially cooperative rather than competitive. We have contests about singing, dancing, cooking and dating! We even compete on social media on sociality! 

It is natural for folks to root for their favorite athlete or favorite team. It is not particularly “natural” for people to riot after their team wins! It is not particularly “natural” for people to rejoice when their team “wins” even when they do so through cheating. (See paragraph three above). 

There is no doubt that political “contests” bear some resemblance to athletic contests. They both involve strategy, tactics, performance, metrics, etc. There is one huge difference though. The outcomes of political contests have real consequences in people’s lives. The politicians sometimes try to make you believe that there are consequences that will not actually come to pass. For example, they may tell you that they will greatly lower your tax bill and then actually increase it. Or, they may tell you that they will make your world safer and actually make it more dangerous. Or, they may tell you that they will lower your healthcare costs or “stand up to” giant pharma companies and then do just the opposite. Teams may also make promises to their fans — and then sometimes they break these promises. But the primary purpose of a team is to play the sport, not arrange things for the benefit of various constituents. 

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By contrast, the primary purpose of politicians is to weigh the needs and wants of various constituents and then work to balance various interests, work compromises, help constituents find common ground and so on. The main point of a politician is not to campaign. Yet, today, we find ourselves in the odd position that a politician has “won” and rather than then do any of their duties and exercise their skill for finding common ground, weighing competing interests and proposing compromises, instead, they continue to campaign full time. 

Ordinarily, one might expect that citizens would be up in arms about a politician who fails to do their actual job and instead continues to campaign (and protect their personal interests). Astoundingly, however, the “fans” of the “winning team” continue to root for “their team” even though “their team” continues to campaign on the basis of the same lies that produced the initial “win.” 

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In this case, the framing of politics as a sports contest is really counterproductive. The supporters of the winning “team” continue to support that “team” even though the winning “team” has zero loyalty to its supporters. (It also has zero loyalty to the citizenry in general, by the way. After an election, the “winning party” is supposed to govern the country in the interests of all its citizens, not only the ones who voted them in). 

So, here we have a seeming paradox. The “team” in power is using all its resources for their own benefit. They seem unconcerned with the nation as a whole. They seem unconcerned with continuing to lie and make false promises to their “base” because the “base” is loyal and supports their “team” no matter what. This loyalty has consequences. It means, essentially, that the party in power is not constrained in their exercise of power. They can do things that are against the interests of their “sports fans” precisely because their “sports fans” are not demanding anything in return. It only matters to the “sports fans” that they are on the “winning side” regardless of how horrible the consequences may be for the nation as a whole, for the vast majority of people on that “winning team” and even for their kids and grandkids. 

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In some cases, it seems that those who view themselves as being on the “winning team” are even aware that they are behaving against their own interests but are willing to do so simply because those on the “losing team” will feel even worse! This is a perversion of winning. 

Suppose you can have one of two outcomes: A or B. In A, you get $5000 free and clear but I get $10,000. In choice B, you lose get $5000, but I will lose $10,000. Which one would you pick? A or B?  Astoundingly, some people are filled with so much fear and loathing that they will pick B! It’s $10,000 worse for them, but that’s okay because it’s $20,000 worse for me! You don’t know me. I’ve never hurt you. Yet, you choose to hurt me anyway even if it means hurting yourself too. This is not winning!

In the case of contemporary American politics, it appears that so-called “identity” politics may interact with this tendency to think of yourself as a winner even if you’re actually a loser. If the “me” you are trying to hurt with your self-defeating choices supports gays, or women, or people of color, then you may feel that losing $5,000 dollars will be worth it because gays or women or people of color make you feel “uncomfortable.” Naturally, the “discomfort” is within. What you really object to is something within yourself that you don’t want to acknowledge. 

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To be fair, this is not an issue that applies only those on the political “right” or the political “left.”  When a foreign adversary is out to gain hegemony over other nations, the very best way is to sow political discord in the nation that they want to weaken. Putin, for instance, has certainly succeeded in doing that in the UK as well as the USA. People in America who are socially conservative may hate the left, but Putin is also doing whatever he can to make the left hate the right as well. Unfortunately, since the society itself is so hyper-competitive, both sides tend to focus on “winning.” 

Contests to the death make much more interesting stories than ones where the parties come to a compromise or find a solution that makes more sense than the solution that either the left or the right began with. So, since media are largely incentivized to provide more “engaging” stories, in a hyper-competitive society, this means they prefer a story of winning and losing more than a story of compromise. 

In the realm of sports, no-one I know, myself included, would enjoy a contest where those racing a mile would get together before the opening gun and “agree” to walk the mile together at a leisurely pace! That’s boring! And it doesn’t show us the “edges” of human capability either. I certainly recommend nothing of the kind in The Winning Weekend Warrior. 

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But politics is not sports. 

In politics, the best outcome is precisely that various parties agree. The best process is one that follows the rules; one where people put their actual interests out there on the table and then people work together to find an emergent solution using the best ideas on both sides. Such a process, however, is in the best interests of the politicians only if the “fans” on both sides demand it. If either side, or both sides, instead insist it’s just fine to break the rules provided their side “wins” then only the politicians benefit — not the people. The media also benefits, at least in the short term. When carried to its logical conclusion, “winning at all costs” is a loss. 

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Winning by cheating is a loss for the country. It’s a loss for the world. It’s a loss for future generations. We seem to have forgotten this.

Hopefully, next time, we will at last — at long last — remember.   


 

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Many Paths becomes Clear

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As Many Paths heard the words of She Who Saves Many Lives and took them into her heart, she felt her shoulders relax. She slowed her breathing and took inventory of what she was grateful for as well as what was missing. But the elder leader was right. She needed to keep a cool head. She put out the word that she wanted to dialogue with the elders at sundown. On impulse, she ran over to Shadow Walker and interrupted for a moment his progress in preparing. She held his hand for a moment, kissed him tenderly on the cheek for a moment. She tasted a salty tear. She sighed and turned once again. She could see that her people busied themselves walking competently from one task to the next. Only the little wolf pups seemed to be at a loss for what to do. They sniffed around the camp as though…

Suddenly, Many Paths turned and called back, “Shadow Walker! Take the pups!” 

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Shadow Walker’s frowned. “Many Paths…? Why would we…?” Shadow Walker glanced at the pups. “Of course!” he said, understanding and smiling back at Many Paths. They were not fully trained, but they were strong enough to keep up and they could help in the tracking when human eyes failed with the setting sun and human ears heard only silence. They were already searching for Tu-Swift and could catch his scent far better than any one of the Veritas. 

Once inside the cabin of She Who Saves Many Lives, Many Paths saw that a small fire had already been set and could smell that a tea had been brewing. She sat cross-legged next to She Who Saves Many Lives and sighed a deeper sigh of relief. Her hand drifted to the necklace of rings and she smiled. “I thought I was done with the seven trials. But perhaps they have just begun. I wish they actually held magic as some of the people whisper.”

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“Well, Many Paths, about that…. I told you the truth about the rings, but not the complete truth because I needed you first to focus on the important central truth — that opening your mind and opening your heart is far more important than having the rings. You seem to be doing that quite well now.”  

“What are you saying, Shaman? Is there magic in these rings after all?” Many Paths searched the old woman’s face.

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“Properly conceived, there is magic in all things. By magic, I do not mean that you can rub one of the rings and summon a flying red dragon.” They both chuckled and then She Who Saves Many Lives looked directly into the eyes of Many Paths. “But each plant; each cousin who moves; each stone — each is slightly different from any of the others. These rings are what they are. They are unique. And therefore they have unique properties. Those properties are no more magical than those of anything else. But nor are they less so. Slide the first ring off your laniard and put it in your palm if you would and tell me what you see and what you feel.”

Many Paths was the leader now, but it would be a foolish leader who did not value the wisdom of those with more experience and among the Veritas, She Who Saves Many Paths was the only one yet living who had once been the leader. Many Paths felt a great responsibility as the leader of her people and therefore had no desire whatsoever to be a willful petulant child. Of course, she took off the First Ring of Empathy and put it in her hands.

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“Well, obviously, it is in the shape of a circle. That way, it may slide onto my finger. That reminds me of the circle of Life, I suppose. It’s a circle with me in it. Life encircles me. And the ripples of love or hatred that I send forth will come back round. That is true for everyone, not just me. But I guess … I guess the ring is a reminder of that. A constant reminder. Think what will come back. And that … the moon has phases … but returns always to the same phases. The sun rises and sets. And there is the larger circle of seasons. So… the ring is a reminder? I guess that is magic in a way.”

“Indeed, Many Paths, that is exactly right. What else do you sense? But don’t forget to drink your tea!”

Many Paths lifted the mug and watched the steam cloud upward in a slant of sunlight. She sipped the hot tea carefully. . It tasted of chamomile and linden flower. Her favorite. Of course. She Who Saves Many Lives seemed to know much about every member of the tribe: what they preferred; what they were capable of. She set the mug down carefully and regarded the ring again. This time she picked it up and turned it about. “This stone is pretty. It is clear. It has no color.” Many Paths looked up at She Who Saves Many Lives. “Is that right?”

She Who Saves Many Lives looked back at Many Paths. “You say it has no color. What do you see?” 

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“I see it has no color. Well, it has no color of its own. It reflects what is around it. Right now, I can see twinkles of red and yellow from the fire.” Many Paths reflected on this. “I suppose that a good leader needs also to be clear, to reflect clearly on what really is so that appropriate action may be taken. There is something else odd about this stone though. I noticed it before. When I look through it at something,” she said as she brought the right to her eye, “there are two when really there are only one. Right now, I see two fires, but there is only really one.” Now, Many Paths paused a long time. “I suppose that is a kind of magic, but … I suppose there could be two fires in the future. The nature of fire is such that if you are not careful, it can spread. If I look at a tree…well, that is the nature of life as well. Where there is one of something that is seen, often there comes to be two or even many in the future. Where I see one, there are often more that remain unseen. If these people stole Tu-Swift, perhaps they stole more children. If they stole more children, it will cause hatred against them. That hatred will come back to them, one way or another. But I cannot know that they did that.”

“That is true. You cannot know that. You are correct Many Paths.”

Many Paths sighed. “But perhaps it is more likely than not. It may be natural for me to focus on my own pain at losing Tu-Swift. I have been wondering whether they even stole him on purpose because they know I am the leader. But I suppose…even though we only know of one child stolen…that a people who steal the children of others…will tend to do it again and again.” 

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Many Paths took another sip of the calming tea. Once again, she set down the mug carefully and considered the nature of the ring. “The ring is metal. It is hard. Much harder than my body is. Except perhaps for my teeth. No, it is harder than my teeth.” 

Another long pause transpired before Many Paths spoke again. “I suppose that though my nature is to be open and loving, sometimes, I must protect myself, ring myself, with harder stuff. Then, there is the coldness or hotness of the ring. Although I shiver if it gets cold enough and sweat in the heat of the summer, I stay the same inside. The ring, however… just as it reflects the color of what is around it, it also reflects the temperature. I think metal always does this. If reflects the temperature of what is around it as well as the color. I do not see … yet … how this might help me.” 

Many Paths put the ring on her finger again. As she tried to think of other properties of the ring, she began drumming her fingers on the edge of a nearby log. She noticed that when her ring hit the log, that finger had a quite different feel from the others. Then she picked up a small rock nearby and experimented with drumming her finger on the rock. She not only felt the rock quite differently. It also made a distinctive noise. If she did it quickly, it reminded her of a woodpecker. “So, I see you have given me a very small, very light drum as well! I begin to see your point. This ring is quite magical!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives smiled. “Yes, my daughter, but it is not my point. The point is there for everyone to share.” 

Many Paths laughed. Then, she shook her head wondering how the Shaman could be such a good teacher. She wondered whether she could ever be such a good teacher. Then her mood darkened again as she thought of Tu-Swift and all the things she had tried to teach him. If he were killed, it would all be for naught. 

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She Who Saves Many Lives spoke gently. “And, what troubles you now, daughter and fine leader?” 

Many Paths stared into the fire, took another sip of tea and said, “Perhaps it’s nearly time to start the dialogue. Thank you for the tea.” Many Paths toyed with the First Ring of Empathy which now adorned her left ring finger. She thought to herself, “I must sometimes ring myself with hardness. I cannot always rely on She Who Saves Many Lives. As surely as the sun sets, she will return to the Great Tree of Life as do we all. A circle. And, although I ache for Tu-Swift to safely return, if he does not, my teachings will not be useless. He has already spread his own love and wisdom to others, for despite his impatient eagerness, his is a heart of love. And that already has made ripples and those ripples will have other ripples. Teaching and showing love are never for naught. Many Paths smiled and looked at She Who Saves Many Lives as she spoke. 

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“I am ready for dialogue now, great mother. And, yes, these rings are indeed magical for now my heart is clear. We must dialogue together and see what all the reflections together say to us about what is and what may be and how to get there. For no journey ends without starting another.” 

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Author Page on Amazon.

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The First Ring of Empathy. 

The Start of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas. 

An Essay on Ripples. 

On Finding Common Ground. 

 

 

Many-Paths Constructs her Way

Many-Paths knew that the Veritas needed to respond swiftly to this attack. A people who stood astride horses though! What else did they not know about these people? What purpose did they have in stealing Tu-Swift? Had they known that Tu-Swift was her closest kin? She quickly gathered about her, her closest friends and advisors, among them, Eagle Eyes, Shadow Walker, and She Who Saves Many Lives. 

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Many-Paths noted that others were listening in from a polite distance including the new friends of Fleet of Foot and Eagle Eyes, Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah, were also close by. She had no reason to distrust these new friends. She looked at their faces and into their hearts and saw only a willingness to help. She spoke quickly and calmly. “I propose Eagle Eyes and Fleet of Foot to choose a number of good trackers to follow the trail of these thieves to their origin. If you see a very safe opportunity to recapture Tu-Swift, make use of it. But your main goal is to bring back information about this enemy and avoid capture yourself. Try to determine, if possible, why they did this and whether they have any allies. Find out what you can about how many horses they have and how they manage to stand astride them.” 

Lion Slayer bit his lip and glanced at Fleet of Foot and then back to Many Paths. He tilted his head at Fleet of Foot and looked questioningly at him. Fleet of Foot had learned to understand these gestures and spoke to Many Paths: “Many-Paths, I believe our friend Lion Slayer has something to say.” 

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Many-Paths could see that this was so. She nodded to him. “Yes, Lion Slayer?”

“I believe, though I cannot be sure, that your attackers are a tribe that call themselves the ROI.” 

“Please continue,” said Many-Paths. 

“According to legend, ROI were once a tribe we met with. The many tribes in our region got together. Each year for a celebration, trade, and mate-finding. One portion of land, the many tribes fought over. We decided end fighting. Instead we all agreed to a race to determine who would inhabit that highly desirable place. All tribes chose their fastest runner to compete. But when they returned for the contest, ROI did not have human runner. They used man on horseback. Of course, they won the “race” and won the prize though none of the other tribes thought this completely fair. The matter might have ended there, but the ROI did other things to annoy and challenge all the other tribes. At last, we drove them from their lands. Before doing so, we observed how badly they treated their horses. They tethered them and beat them until their spirits were broken. I cannot say for certain that these were ROI, but that is the one tribe that our wisdom said rides on horses. I had not seen this in person, but my grandfather’s grandfather did.” 

Many-Paths swallowed hard and bit her lip. “So, if they are indeed ROI, as you call them, we know two things. They are a cruel people and may also try to break the spirit of Tu-Swift. And, we know that they have had at least six generations to learn to control horses. Do you have any idea how numerous they are?” 

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“No, Many-Paths. I have no idea how they have fared since leaving our region. The only other thing I know about them from our stories is that they particularly held high value on doing things quickly. They cared far less for making things beautiful or taking pleasure in life. But again – that was long ago and I cannot be certain the attack was from them.”

“You have been very helpful. Thank you. I am sorry to cut your feast short and steal away your new friends for this mission.” 

“I understand, Many-Paths. I meet only small time Tu-Swift, but I like. We value much our friendship with Veritas. If you permit, we will go to aid. To find Tu-Swift. To understand ROI. This will be valuable to know for our tribe as well.” 

Many-Paths appreciated the offer, but she already felt overwhelmed. To trust strangers on such an important mission? This complicated a complicated situation. She glanced at Eagle Eyes who nodded in assent as did Fleet of Foot. 

“We have not heard from you, Hudah Salah. Do you wish to accompany as well?” 

Silence fell. Glances flitted about like mating butterflies. 

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At last, Hudah Salah spoke, “My husband knows my heart, Many-Paths. I will go too if it you allow it.” 

Many-Paths considered reminding Hudah Salah of the dangers but decided this might be insulting. Danger was obvious and she had already said she wanted to go. 

“So be it then; gather provisions as you must and be off. Take two small drums so that you can communicate if need be. This may give away your position but you may also help give away theirs and let us know whether you need more help.” 

Eagle Eyes now added, I may also send back hawks with small maps attached. I believe that they will again come back to me after you find these maps and release them. We discovered that the Nomads of the South have already learned much about training birds and we have all improved our skills. 

“Make it so.” 

As the tracking band quickly prepared, Many-Paths next asked Trunk of Tree to set up double guard posts in case the ROI, if that’s who they indeed were, mounted another attack. She asked Shadow Walker to try to determine how the archers had slipped through their guards and to find the inward path to their center place should that prove different from their exit. 

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At last all the people were preparing in one way or another. Many-Paths realized she was tired, thirsty, and famished as well as deeply troubled in her heart. Would these ROI also use whips and ropes to try to break her brother’s spirit? But she would push all that aside for she had one more task. She needed to dialog with She Who Saves Many Lives and other tribal elders. Their world had been turned inside out and a joyous feast had been instead a time of great fear and disruption. What did it mean that tribes were using other animals in human wars? The Veritas too had done exactly that with hawks and wolves. It had seemed the right thing to do in defeating the Cupiditas, but now it seemed horses were being used as well. Beaten? Tethered? All to gain control over horses. But what might they do to Tu-Swift? How was the world changing? That is why she wanted the memories of those who had seen many more winters. That is why her own needs for sleep and food and thirst must be postponed. 

She turned once again to walk toward the cabin of She Who Saves Many Lives. And there she was! Once again, She Who Saves Many Lives stood only a few feet. Despite everything, or perhaps because of everything, Many-Paths laughed aloud. “How do you do that? Every time I need you, there you are! You are remarkable. I can never be what you are.” 

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“I should hope not! I am me. You are you, Many-Paths. You are not meant to be, nor can you be me.” 

“I just mean…can I be as good a leader as you are? You seem to be able to read minds.” 

“No more so than you, daughter of the tribe, mother of the tribe, leader of the tribe. There is no great trick. You did all this and more when you passed the seven trials. It is not so magical to understand that you are worried about Tu-Swift. You are worried about the tribe. You are disappointed that the feast did not go as planned. You are grateful yet worried about sending two of the Nomads on such a critical mission. You are worried whether you will be an adequate leader. You are worried whether the world seems to be a different place than the one you grew up in. Of course, you would be wise to seek my counsel and I will be glad to give it. And you seek the counsel of other elders in the tribe as well. There is no trick to understanding that beyond opening my heart to your heart and putting myself in your place. We will indeed have a dialogue about all that has happened. First, however, you need to eat, drink, and rest. Look upon this wonderful world and see it again with the eyes of youth. Let your heart drink in and fully enjoy some of the pleasures of life before dialogue. A dialogue based only on fear and, perhaps revenge, will not necessarily be one that results in wisdom. Wisdom need acknowledge both the reality of life and of the reality of death. The true path can never be based solely on one or the other.” 

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Tu-Swift in a Cage

Tu-Swift awoke from a lovely dream of home so vivid he could smell honey-sweetened ground nuts. He awoke to find himself shivering on a bare pounded earth floor. At least his hood had been removed and he could see that he was in a small wooden room. Gaps in the wooden slats allowed some light in. Tu-Swift again took inventory. Apart from some bruised ribs and a large bump on the back of his head, he seemed unhurt. Physically. Where in the world was he? 

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Normally, he would have been peering out from between the slats, but his confidence had been badly shaken. He replayed that scene again, but he could still make no sense of it. No, that wasn’t true. Many-Paths had given him many thinking tools. True enough, he had no recollection of what happened, beyond running into a sapling. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t outline some reasonable alternatives. At the same time, it would be useful to recon the surroundings. Tu-Swift wanted to begin his reconnaissance in such a way that he would minimize anyone seeing him in turn. 

He looked out from the deepest shadows of his small cell. In the distance, he could see a herd of horses. But something was wrong. They were moving very oddly. They all seem to be tethered in some way. Tu-Swift frowned and was rewarded with a sharp pain at the back of his head. It seemed completely agains the nature of a horse to have it tethered. 

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Tu-Swift suddenly realized that he may have been bouncing on the back of a horse! How could such a thing come to be? Of course, there might be other possibilities. He crept with the silent stalking skills of the Veritas. Even though Tu-Swift was in relative darkness, he only moved when the wind moved. Out these gaps between the slats, however, not much could be seen because of another near building. He could still make out the horses, but now he saw a smaller enclosure with three horses and these did not seem tethered. After peering up and down, he discovered nothing else of use. He crept to the opposite side and looked out. 

He could see a group of women sitting in a circle grinding grain on small stone mills. This was a sight he was well familiar with. He had seem the same in the Veritas central place. A bit farther off, Tu-Swift could see a group of braves working on breaking up large logs into smaller ones. These appeared to be for fire rather than building because they were not taking care as to the size of the pieces. Once again, these sights gladdened him because they reminded him of home. The garb was different, but these activities were the same. Except…the men were chopping through the wood at a terrific pace. Also, the corn grinding was going very fast, as though, they were being chased by a wild animal. Perhaps I’ll like this place, he thought and then immediately felt guilty for thinking it. 

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Then, it hit him. This was not home. Nothing like it. I’m being imprisoned for — having done nothing wrong. I was stolen from my home. And those grinders of the corn and the hewers of the logs are not talking. There are no stories being told. No jokes are being shared. No songs. This is not anything like home. And Tu-Swift felt a panic welling up so he consciously relaxed his muscles. He slowed his breathing. He spoke his mantra mentally and began riffing on it. Once his mind turned to improvisational music, he was in a state far from panic. He returned to the situation at hand, which was, nothing more or less than a problem solving task. True, the stakes were likely his life, but that could be true at any moment, whether you had been stolen from your family or not. 

So, Tu-Swift thought, I need a reconnaissance plan and an escape plan. But I cannot make a reasonable escape plan until I learn more about where I am and who these people are. Tu-Swift, still reluctant to peer out the side where the sunlight entered his cell, lest his apparent captors find out he was awake, crept back to the first side. As he did so, he saw several men walking toward the herd of horses. Each held a club in their hand. It was a strange club with thongs of rawhide attached. As they reached the tethered horses, one of them reared up, pinwheeling his hooves in the air. Two of the men swished their clubs through the air and stung the stallion with the rawhide. The rawhide appeared to be weighted at the end, perhaps with a clamped piece of metal. The horse screamed in pain. But one of the men moved in closer and whipped the horse again. 

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Tu-Swift had learned from Many Paths how the Veritas trained wolves and hawks. Indeed, though his own nature proved too impatient to make him an excellent trainer, he had had some success with two of the wolf cubs. The training was mainly based on mutual respect and love. The training of these people seemed to be based on hatred and fear. He wondered whether they taught their children the same way. 

Children! That was the other realization that suddenly hit him. He cautiously went back to view the pounding corn and cutting wood. There were no children. In fact, he had seen no children in any of his views. How would the children learn to do such tasks if they never observed them being done? There was much still to be learned about these strange people. He made no more mental jokes about wanting to stay here. Homesickness for his people and especially for Many-Paths began once more to overtake him. But in his twelve winters, the tribe had taught him what to do when one’s thinking becomes cloudy with fear or anger. 

Tu-Swift calmed himself and concentrated on trying to identify the plants in the distance as well as nearby weeds. Many of the trees appeared to be cedar or pine. The odor of cedar in particular was strong. He felt the rough planking of his cell. It too was cedar. Weatherproof and easy to work, but not very strong for a cage or prison. 

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Tu-Swift wondered whether he might be able to kick out the planks of his enclosure. His captors had stolen his moccasins. Because he liked to run barefoot for the extra speed, his feet were pretty tough, but he didn’t relish the thought of trying to escape back to his tribe — which so far lay in an unknown direction — in bare feet. He would need to find his moccasins or steal someone else’s. Even if he could kick out some planks, he would make such a commotion that he would be discovered long before he could make a large enough hole for his body to fit through. Yet, he realized that someone would come check on him. If they found him awake, they might kill him, or tie him up, or torture him. 

I need a weapon, he thought. Well, his speed was a weapon of sorts. But he would definitely need a head start. What if they had trained horses to track people down and kill them. Tu-Swift knew he could not outrun a horse. Perhaps they had trained other animals as well. He hadn’t heard any wolves howling. The plants he saw led to a conclusion that he was either at a higher elevation or farther north than the Veritas or possibly both. How far had they travelled? He had been unconscious for some of the journey so it was hard to tell. He was hungry and more thirsty than hungry, but he was not yet delirious. He felt the bruise on his chest where he had smacked into the seedling. It was still sore. He must be only a day’s journey from the Veritas – two at the very most. This meant that if he could escape, he could return in one or two days, but only if he were not caught. Once more his mind began to race from one unknown to the next, from one possibility to the next. 

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“Tu-Swift,” he mouthed to himself, “you need to stay focused. Build and decorate your tree.” {Translator’s note}: I might have used the word ‘plan’ or ‘contingency plan’ but the Veritas enjoyed decorating trees and often referred to building their contingency plans as “decorating the tree” by way of analogy. When time permitted, the plans of the Veritas included many branches and side branches — far more than most modern people have. To “decorate” the tree would mean that Tu-Swift would not only make many contingency plans but also “play them out” in his head so that he could react quickly and without hesitation when the time came for speed. Sometimes the Veritas referred to one of their adages, “Plant the acorns; forage the forests” which meant basically that it was a good idea, not only to think of many possible contingencies but to actually practice them mentally. 

If he did escape this enclosure, his tentative plan was to run both downhill and toward the area of greatest underbrush. Shadow Walker had once told him that the only possible way to outrun a bear was to run down a steep hill. The bear, because of its greater size could not achieve top speed in such conditions. Tu-Swift could not recall anyone telling him how to outrun horses. Somehow the idea that they could send horses out after him seemed against the nature of horses. If they send wolves to track him down, he could more easily believe that wolves could be trained to kill. There was so much more to learn. And yet, the longer he stayed here, the greater danger he put himself in. They whipped their horses. Perhaps they ate their children. That seemed impossible. A tribe that cared nothing for the future would not long survive. Surely, every tribe must see that. But these people seemed to be as cruel as the Cupiditas. 

He occasionally heard snippets of conversation. He knew only that they were not speaking any of the tongues he had studied. If he were here for long, he would have to learn their language. That would be difficult. He would have to listen with “broken dishes.” Eyes-of-Eagle had once explained to Tu-Swift that once you learned your native tongue you put all sounds that you heard into one of a series of “dishes.” Every sound that sounded like the wind in the aspen trees would go into one dish and every sound that reminded you of a cracking branch would have to go into a different dish. In reality, every sound spoken was slightly different. But when you “understood” what was said, you had to ignore all those differences and treat each sound as just another example of a category. To learn to hear and speak a different language, you would need to “break all those dishes” and listen to the pure sounds until you constructed a new set of dishes for the new language. That took a long time. 

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He had been turning things over and over in the hands of his mind but kept pushing one thing away. Now, it came rushing in with full force. Where were the Veritas? Why hadn’t Many-Paths, and Shadow Walker and the rest of the tribe come to find him? Tu-Swift was angry. Why had they not followed the trail and rescued him? One possible reason…one possible reason he did not really want to imagine was that the Veritas had all been killed. It was almost unimaginable. But it was also unimaginable that Many-Paths would simply say, “Oh, well. Too bad. Let’s get back to feasting.” Feasting! That’s why he had run into the sapling. He and Many-Paths were racing to the feast of Bel-Tanay. Excellent! Now, if he could see even a few stars or the face of tonight’s moon, he could tell exactly how many days since his capture. 

The hair stood up on the back of his neck. He heard voices. He tried to mentally crack apart all his mental crockery and listen. They were coming closer. He quietly went back to where he had awakened and arranged his body so that he could peer out from under his arm and he pretended to be asleep. He judged there must be at least four men outside his door. They were talking in sounds that made no sense and also laughing. 

One opened a small opening to look inside. He then unlatched something and slid part of one wall aside. They are coming for me, Tu-Swift thought with a sudden panic. Should I make a run for it now? This might be my best chance. Before he could decide, however, they threw a wild animal in with him and slid the door back in place. He still feigned sleep but regarded the animal. It screamed hideous noises. 

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The voices outside receded and the animal, rather than attacking him, huddled in a corner and screamed. It sounded nearly human. Its forelegs were wrapped around its hind legs much like — it was — it was a child. This was not a wild animal but a human child, of perhaps only three or four winters. What? Why would they possibly capture a small child and throw it in a cage? What kind of a people would do that? 

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Books by the same author: 

The Winning Weekend Warrior: strategy, tactics, & the ‘mental game’ for all sports. Enjoy your sport(s) more and win more often.

Turing’s Nightmares: 23 Sci-Fi stories meant to explore the possible impact of AI on business, society, and humanity. Be ready. It’s coming!

Fit in Bits: Suggestions for many ways to incorporate more fun and exercise into daily activities such as shopping, sitting in meetings, playing with your kids, standing in line, traveling, etc. Meant for the very busy person who nonetheless would like to live a long healthy life. 

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then reflects on them in light of current events and issues.

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The creation myth of the Veritas.

The beginning of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas. 

The Myths of the Z-Lotz

The Myths of the Z-Lotz. 

{Translator’s Notes}. Much like other tribes whose myths are here recorded, the myths of the Z-Lotz were mainly passed down by oral tradition for many years before being written down. What is most striking about the Z-Lotz is not so much their myths, but the way that they used the myths in daily life. Most of the tribes at that time told their myths often, and they served many purposes. For instance, many of the stories of the Veritas were used often as a guide for current action. The stories had details and they had central learnings. The Veritas seemed, so far as I can tell, not to be confused about which was more important. To the Veritas, the central learning was the core, the important part to think about and perhaps use as a guide. They felt that these central learnings had been argued about and trialed many times both in imagination and in action and found to be generally sound guidance. By contrast, the Z-Lotz seem to have a different fundamental relationship to their myths. They often seemed to focus on (what I would consider) the irrelevant details of a particular story as opposed to the central learning. We can discern this because, just as many tribes did, the Z-Lotz referred to earlier myths in their later myths. This is illustrated by the short fragment of Z-Lotz mythology translated below. 

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In his wanderings to create the Z-Lotz, Nepec found himself hungry so he walked down to a nearby brook. When he approached however, he saw that many other folks were already fishing and many such fish had already been captured by others. So, its being of the time of the Autumn Moon, Nepec decided to forage for apples. He saw the gnarled trunk that signaled likely apples and walked over. This tree had been picked clean of fruit! Still hungry, he walked over the crest of the knoll and saw in a small hollow below some blackberry bushes. It was likely too late for blackberries but the leaves could be boiled and eaten. So, he picked a large number of leaves and also captured six large grasshoppers who were leaping about. These he made into a stew that satisfied him. He slept peacefully that night and the next morning returned to his journey toward the great Sea that the Bear of the Sky had pointed him to.”  

The Veritas, much as modern folk might, might draw any one of a number of lessons from this such as: “If the first path does not work out, try another.” The Cupiditas might have preferred a story in which Nepec simply took the fish after killing the other fishermen, but if they had heard the story as written, they would still come up with a similar lesson perhaps expressed this way: “When you want something, you must overcome all obstacles to get it.” The ROI would likely take a more rigid lesson such as, “You must try three ways and the third way will succeed.” The Z-Lotz, however, inferred an even more limited lesson: “During the Autumn Moon, Fish are forbidden meat. Apples are forbidden fruit. You must feast in celebration of the Autumn Moon on blackberry leaves and grasshoppers.” 

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Needless to say, in order to survive, many of the Z-Lotz would eat something different during the Autumn Moon, but they would apparently always feel guilty about it. They would try to do it secretly or with only the family watching. While in public, they would make a great show of eating only blackberry leaves and fried grasshoppers as though eating anything else would be disrespectful to Nepec or even the Bear of the Sky. 

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A few scholars (Ara Pologist, 2001; Izzy Rong, 2007) have argued that the Z-Lotz simply found the tradition fun. While that may have been true in the instance of many individuals of the Z-Lotz tribe, it certainly doesn’t explain why people were burned at the stake for eating fish during the Autumn Moon! Nor, does it explain why laws were passed to ban apples during the Autumn Moon when it’s obviously the best time to eat them. It would detract too much from the upcoming epic narrative to digress into a review of all the evidence here, but it seems well-established that, whatever the unknown motives of individual Z-Lotz may have been, their societal mores were based on an unthinking devotion to the literal details of the Z-Lotz myths. 

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I bring this to the reader’s attention now, because some of the decisions that the Z-Lotz made in the following tales would otherwise make no sense. The ultimately absurd decisions evidenced by the Z-Lotz further belie the interpretations of Pologist & Rong in that their alliance with the remnants of the Cupiditas and the ROI were serious decisions for the Z-Lotz, not decisions about the details of a feast. And yet, the evidence seems clear that these decisions were based on the specific details of Z-Lotz myths. (The reader is free, of course, to reach their own conclusions).


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Tools of Thought 

Pattern Language for Cooperation & Teamwork

The Pros and Cons of AI

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The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Beginning of Book Two

Myths of the Veritas: Book 2 – The ROI

{Translator’s Note}: The origins of the ROI tribe are not completely determined but the “story” or “myth” or “history” that I prefer is the premise used in this story. Their language is precise in some ways, but deeply embedded at the syntactic and semantic levels were very rigid framings about many things in life. In some areas that we would consider important, they had scarcely any vocabulary at all! For example, they seemed to view love as something of a disaster rather than as something wonderful. Often it was described as a kind of disease! This is a “disease” that allows us to survive as a species! But for them, things that proved less rigid and less predictable and less quantifiable seem to have been quite confusing and uncomfortable. Difficulties abounded in my attempts to portray what was actually happening until the Narrator told me that it was fine; he would fix it later because he had an omniscient view. 

What follows served as both a creation myth and a daily devotional prayer among the ROI.  

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Long ago, there were many tribes. But our tribe, the ROI, proved best of all. This is what we know: 

“Each tribe had developed a different way of looking at life. Some argued that this was a natural consequence of having spent a long time in a different environment. But we know the truth; we chose our way because it is the best way. It is the way of putting numbers to everything and making very strict rules. 

“Other tribes had different ideas so we devised a contest to see which tribe was correct. We would see who could propel their bodies fastest from the north edge of the common plain of Many Herds to the south end of the plain. All the tribes would go and prepare in whatever way they felt best and we would reconvene in one year to see who would win. 

“Needless to say, all the other tribes interpreted our words to mean that we would have individuals from each tribe race for the prize — a fine parcel of land that stretched to the banks of the Stream of Many Trout. The various tribes went off and had various ways of choosing their fastest runners and having them train and train. Of course, we already had a superior solution: horses. After many years we discovered how to capture horses and then train them with the use of whips. 

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“When the day of the Great Contest came, the rest of the tribes were quite shocked to see someone astride a horse. Some seemed to think the horse would kill the human-astride or that the human-astride might break the back of the horse and kill it. Some felt it highly unlikely that the human-astride or rider would stay astride.  {Translator’s Note: Analyses reveal that there was a shortening of the name as “riding” became more widespread.} Naturally, when the race was run, the ROI won! And, also naturally, the other tribes objected. But these objections eventually became mere glowing coals. 

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“Most tribes wanted to know how to capture and train horses. Naturally, we declined to show them! And, that wanting to have as their own that which was rightfully ours is why their complaints rekindled the fires of war. And, so the tribes worked together to drive us from our rightful home and we became wanderers. And so, we have been seeking another land. We will make this happen and destroy whoever now claims such a land.”  


 

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Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas

Beginning of Book 2 of the Legends of the Veritas

Index to Pattern Language for Cooperation & Teamwork

Essays on “Family Matters”