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2011 06 07

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[THIOT: Runesong of the ErilaR Masters]
BOOK ONE Thiot: Chronicles Of The People

Chronicles Of The People

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“I will participate in the game [of life].
It is a wonderful, wonderful opera ~ except that it hurts.”
Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth

Shoo

1

             Dorchester Shoo was a scrupulously honest man and an accomplished liar. His entire reputation rested on his unfailing truthfulness. He did not need to lie ~ certain questions were never asked of a man like Shoo, but on a matter of crucial importance he would lie baldly and be believed.
             “Life is cowardly,” he was saying. “If you beat it more than it can stand, it flees.” In his mind he saw a white forehead with a small round hole from which a tiny plume of smoke casually curled. Life had fled from there, he knew.
             “Life demands courage. If courage fails, there is no life. If people suffer, give them courage and they will rally. If people prosper, take their courage and they will decline.”
             He stood up, walked around the desk where his listener sat looking up at him.
             “You’re a senior officer. I must demand of you as a regional inspector an appreciation of the political aspects of the situation. At last count, there were forty-one squatter settlements in the Northern Region. There is one in your sector.”
             “The northern regions are difficult to police,” said the inspector uneasily.
             “Yes, well, let me assure you that it is political dynamite to have so many people out of effective government control.” He put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I know your difficulties ~ other sectors share your problem, but some progress must be made.”
             Shoo sat down heavily on a leather couch.
             “Inspector, I’d prefer not to use force, but some of these settlements have been there for decades. What keeps the people there? What is it that sustains them? Discover where they find their courage. I’ll expect a report from you . . . ,” he glanced at a calendar, “. . . in three weeks. A report that will recommend a clear line of action designed to remove these people from state land.”

             In due time, Shoo received a two-centimeter-thick REPORT: 1NR55?94s7KA, which he returned unread with the instruction to “reduce this to five pages or less.”
             Next day, it arrived on the desk of Shoo who, characteristically, turned first to the last page:

SOCIAL UNIT (POPULATION 200PLUS?MINUS) RESIST SYSTEMIC INDOCTRINATION. TWO-DAY DATA TRIP RESULTS ECONOMIC: EXTENSIVE GATHERING, TRAPPING, HUNTING, FISHING. CROPS/PRODUCE: GRAINS, POTATO, LEGUMES. LIVESTOCK: FOWL, CATTLE, GOATS, SHEEP, HORSES, MOOSE.
2
             Bare feet, tangled flows of hair, bright sun-touched faces turned skyward. Curious eyes watched the flyer descend. Harvest time: grain pulled by hand, bundled and stooked, by mostly naked villagers. Hands had touched the seed for a brief moment before it tumbled to the earth, was buried. Voices sang the new seed home. Water, fire, air, nourished the plant. The fruit was touched by hands again.
             “That’s the regional inspector’s seal.”
             The flyer landed by a patch of sorghum. The pilot leaped out of the cockpit, two burly aides out the sides, followed by the Regional Inspector for Sector W11/01?20/SN. A few naked bodies pulled on some clothes. A woman darted up the hill where stood their round-house.
             “We were in the area,” said the inspector, “and decided to stop in and meet some fellow citizens.” He took off black uniform?coat and vest, and for several hours worked and sweated with the astonished villagers until the clanging of a meal bell.
             The round-house, named Gimle, built of stone, logs, and timbers, rose massive over the circle of tables laden with the best of food and drink. Fires blazed at the center. Children laughed, a baby cried, men and women watched as the inspector sat to eat. The head-man and head-woman, sitting on his either side, listened as he spoke:
             “You and I know this is not just a social visit. You people have been here a long time. You knew this day would come.” He looked around, noted the children playing carefree around the tables. “None of these children have universal coding. Your actions are depriving them of the opportunity to participate in society, and at the same time denying the state access to its young citizens. There is great concern about this in high places.”
             From the shadowed perimeter of the round?house stepped a young woman. Her delicate olive features were topped by a white woollen cap, complementing knee-high boots of the same material. She wore blue-dyed britches, knitted sleeveless sweater from which arms of a bright-orange bodice flowed to long-fingered hands.
             “I am Jaine,” she said, stepping into the flickering light of the fire. “I have been instructed in the prophecy of the approaching monstrous winter, which is to bring destruction everywhere. It is followed by an everlasting spring. And who is ruler then? Neither warrior nor priest, but the tiller of the land.”
             “Who are you?” asked the inspector. “Are you the leader?”
             “We have none for we are all of equal authority.”
             “You must recognize the authority of the government, serve your country, and receive the benefits of citizenship.”
             “We shall never submit to anyone at all, agree to any servitude, nor accept favors from anyone. That benefit pleases us best that we have won for ourselves. These are our teachings.”
             “Tell me what faith you are of,” asked the inspector.
             “We believe in our own strength,” was the reply.
             From Jaine’s mouth then came a harsh song, taught by the ancestral mother as she instructed her children in lore and learning of the past. As she sang, a multitude of voices shared the recital ~ rousing their courage. From the tone they shouted, they inspired or felt alarm. It was not so much an articulate sound as a general cry of valor. They aimed at a harsh note and a confused roar that reverberated from the walls and roof, swelling into a full and deep sound.
             The regional inspector had half risen from his place. His two aides abandoned food, drink, and data, as they rushed to his side. The pilot made for the nearest door.
             And none would give their children to be micro-tattood.

             The regional inspector awoke the next morning with a start. The guest?house was gray with pre-dawn light. Outside, the walls of Gimle swirled in early morning mist and a plume of smoke rose stately from one of its many chimneys. Children’s voices, breaking the crystal stillness, tumbled through day’s first light.
             “Children’s voices?” he thought, then saw them: clambering up the hill, skipping along the trail, laughing as they went, and entering, in small gay groups, the great round-house. Following them in, the inspector found them seated at the tables, gathered around the fire, eating tidbits and drinking from steamy mugs; and talking, talking.
             By the fire a man rose. Though not large, he was a striking figure with ageless features, and great manes of flowing red hair and beard that was tied in numerous braids. He was clothed in hide trousers and moccasins, and a woollen shirt over which he wore a short cape woven of split spruce-roots. A dyed design of great beauty on the back of the cape depicted a hammer?like T in a circle. With an elaborate gesture, he faced north, and raised a sing? song chant that drew the young to circle him and join voices: Shining Mane draws the day in for Elf Beam to light.
             A child asked a question and he spoke softly in reply. A boy of about ten made him walk to a great and smooth stone wall and with a hunk of chalk write several large glyphs.
             “What does it mean, Radendr?” The boy turned to face the man.
             Radendr smiled. “What does it mean,” he repeated. “Runes are magic and mystery. Each has its own story.”
             “Tell us one, Radendr.”
             “Yes, tell us a Rune story.”
             And he commenced with sweeping gestures, thundering voice and lowest whisper, a long tale with much quoting of ancient verse that had the children enthralled.

Heavens arching above me, made of Ymir’s skull.
Rime-cold ice giant, slain to provide us all.
Of his blood the seas,
of his bones the mountains,
of his hair the trees,
of his brains the clouds.
Woden set the sun and the moon and stars
in their places in the heavens.
The sun began to shed its rays upon the earth.

Things started to bud and sprout,
the earth blossoming out.

Gods walked in the color of a new-created world.
Seemed to be lacking
people, beasts, and birds.
Embla, the woman,
made of an elm-branch;
the man, they called him Ask,
of an ashen spar.
Woden gave them life and soul.

             “Every day at dawn, Radendr comes up the hill, and the children, of themselves, come to learn.”
             “Jaine.” The inspector turned.
             She stood there smiling. Bare?headed now, her open shirt showing silken neck.
             “Jaine,” he said again.
             Said she: “We have returned to the ways of our ancestors. It is what makes us strong.”
             As she walked the regional inspector through the settlement during the morning, he found the people, the tribe ~ ‘Thiot,’ as she put it ~ living scattered and apart just as a spring, a meadow, or a wood had attracted them. They had not arranged their village with buildings connected and joined together, but every person surrounded their dwelling with an open space.
             The dazzling afternoon brought them back to the round?house where he noticed for the first time Runes cut into the door?mantle, and Jaine quoted to him: “Many are then the noble driven to evil employment. Best is then to be in Gimle in heaven. Everything noble is there that seems delightful to the soul. Set on a certain mountain, it is nourished from the red gold. Ever after shall good people dwell in the sun.”

3
SOCIAL UNIT PREDOMINANT MYTH OF EXCESSIVE LIBERTY SHAPES AND DEFINES IT. REMARKABLE USE OF RUNES (ORIGINATED IN STONE?AGE SCRATCHING CONNECTED WITH MAGIC AND MYSTERY). HEADMAN, HEADWOMAN, NO REAL AUTHORITY. WOMAN JAINE CHIEF INSTRUMENT IN TRIBAL MYTH.

             Inspector General Dorchester Shoo sighed. There was no real recommendation in the report. These people had mythology as the basis of a social organization that let them survive their circumstances. He moved to a console, keyed in some data and scanned the read?out while fiddling impatiently with a computer device.
             “Sir.”
             Shoo looked up.
             “The convener has commanded a consultation of the full board at 0600 hours. That is in ten minutes.”
             “Thank you.” Shoo wearily made his way to where a bank of holoscans rose from the floor. He sat in front of his transmitter in a heavily padded chair, peered around its high back. “Oh, Major, take a look at that sector report.” He waved vaguely to his desk.
             “Yes, General.”
             Then Shoo was alone again, staring at the five cylinders before him, waiting for them to light up with the images of the other members of the Board of Six. A time signal from the monitor station in the heights of the Cordillera de Andes materialized in the America cylinder ~ the Director of Monitoring Activities was ready. The Convener’s seal flashed from the universal city of Beijing, where the member at large maintained the administrative complexes. One by one, the indicator lights came on with a slight bleep. All transmitters were on stream. Shoo pressed his own control, spurring electronic messages around the world: to Kalimantan in darkest Borneo and the fortress of the High Commander of Armed Forces, governor of the Equatorial South. To Africa’s Universal Coding Comptroller in the depths of the tropical Congo forest. All at once they were on holograph. Four men and two women who ruled the world.
             The convener stared sourly out at Shoo. “My command for this full board consultation,” she said, “is issued by authority of the budget at the request of the Coordinator of Space Missions.”
             From the spaceport in the vast wastes of the Golodnaya Steppe in Eurasia, the coordinator’s voice wheezed through the receiver.
             More money for the black hole probe. Shoo’s eyes glassed over and his mind wandered. He had heard this before.
             “Antimatter meeting matter releases energy in the following ratio,” said the coordinator. Mathematical formulae illustrated his words.
             Like all of the Board of Six, Shoo was the final government authority in his region. From his headquarters in Svalbard, ‘the cold edge’ (once also known as Spitsbergen), he controlled the vast Northern Region from the boreal forest belt, through taiga and tundra, to the Arctic pole. Like all of the board members, the Inspector General also had a world-wide responsibility that was confined to a specific function. The Convener represented the triumph of bureaucracy. She was the overseer of the world’s administration centered in one complex in the megalopolis of Beijing. Forty million people in the service of portfolios, files, and forms. Her word was command to the Board of Six. Hers the final decision. The convener’s regional authority, however, was limited to the city.
             “Anti-protons held in a magnetic field . . . ,” said the Coordinator of Space Missions.
             Anti-socials held in a mythic field, thought Shoo.
             The Coordinator governed Eurasia, the most advanced of the five regions, with 84.4 percent of the population urban, . . . in Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, Shanghai, Seoul . . . , producing the finest crafted work. The people were closely watched by the Office of Monitoring Activities whose director was perched like the American condor on his lofty Andean mountain. His gaze took in the citizens of all the world. His was the last word in police ~ secret and otherwise. His was their on fist that controlled social upheavals. Real military power, however, was under the control only of the High Commander of Armed Forces, almost unapproachable in his remote Kalimantan strong-hold. The other woman of the Board of Six was the Comptroller of Africa. She was in charge of universal coding, and was fate and future to the world’s peoples ~ micro-tattood on the left inside fore-arm at birth.
             Shoo was in charge of social manipulation. He could send a million desert nomads to the great Arctic river delta if the need was there. Or reprogram the religious doctrine of a denomination. Abolish unemployment. Every human cog in the right place. Still, the squatter settlements remained.
             Being a northerner, Shoo knew the mythology that had been carried ever northward by the convictions of personal law and religion. It led ~ by the creation of the allthing, the united parliament ~ to the establishment of the first free republic in the European world: Iceland, the final refuge of a profound liberty. A thousand years or so later, Shoo was only a flyer-hop-and-a-skip north.
             Did that ancient tribal belief still exist?

*

Jaine

1

             It was a movement, they said. ‘Back-to-the-land’, they called it. The land, the people’s common treasury. The indispensable, absolutely necessary and essential factor of human existence. The earth, in its intimate relationship with all things, provides sustenance to all its life. It is drawn from the soil, either directly or indirectly. Free access to the land provides the means of producing the essentials to survival: nourishment and shelter. The animal, vegetable, and mineral of the planet give humans food, medicine, tools, clothing, and housing.
             It was a code of ethics, a philosophy, in which the small diversified family homestead was one place, at least, where individual freedom and communal self?sufficiency could remain protected. They thought of themselves as the new peasantry. Together they came to realize that self?sufficiency was essential to freedom, and that the only ethical response to the times was a withdrawing from society.
             Learning. Going back to the land, the only real seat of learning. They’d learn from the land all they’d need to know ~ all there is to know. If they stayed there long enough, they’d learn that they are the land.

2
             They had squatted on government land and against large odds survived five years of struggle. Struggle with the environment, with bureaucrats, and with themselves. Then ~ a tragic punctuation in the community’s short history, a fire destroyed all they had and more. Seven children, four women, and a man, left their lives in the ashes of the communal dwelling they had built.
             Jaine was a young girl adolescing into womanhood. The fire was the heat that caused her bud to unfold. She first felt the fire in herself hours before. In an innocent conversation with a young man, a sudden passion stirred her and intense erotic power lept from her genitals to his ~ linking them, for a moment, with vibrant tension. She dashed away into the bush, blushing and confused, and aroused. She ran through the shade of the spruce-wood until she reached a lagoon. Amid the calls of redwing? blackbirds, she walked through grasses luscious with seed to the rushes and cat’s?tails at the water’s edge. There, in the hot sun, she waited for a long time, silent and still, to watch the muskrats swim. At the forest’s border, in a thicket of willow and swamp?dogwood, was a flat rock. Jaine stretched naked on the stone, a palm pressed into the soft lips of her thighs, while fire burned and throbbed at her temples.
             When the sun waned, she dressed and left by a little?used path. She walked slowly, stopping often to examine plants and search out small animals. It was dusk when she came to the communal house ~ a large ramshackle lumber structure of built?ons and additions that had been dubbed: the Plywood Palace. Most of the communards, some thirty people, lived in it together. The house was full of the sounds of women at work and children at play. Jaine entered by a side door where she found a man repairing a propane oven. She sat on her heels, leaned against the door?jam and watched him work.
             The man struck a match, put a hand in the oven. The stove exploded, tearing away the wall behind it and collapsing part of the ceiling. The broken wood was instantly ignited. Every window in the building shattered. He found himself trapped, unable to move. He screamed for help but no?one seemed to hear. Craning his neck, he watched as the fire from the stove began eating its way toward him.
             Jaine had managed to crawl out of the debris but realized that the man, whose head and arms jutted from the wreckage, was trapped. She began to tug wildly at him trying to free him before the flames closed in.
             “Pull, girl, pull,” he said. “Pull me out if you have to break my legs.”
             The young girl, weeping and shouting, put all her strength against his pinned body but it was useless.
             Seeing the flames less than a meter away, the man reached up, embraced Jaine, kissed her, and said: “God love you, girl. Now go!” He threw her backwards only moments before the flames surrounded him.
             Jaine found herself lying outside on the ground in a weird twilight. The house was a blazing inferno. The glare from the burning building threw red flame and shadow about in which figures moved like ghosts. In the intense heat, two men sat and stared. Uncomprehending, people stood and merely watched. Surrender was complete. Cinders were falling about Jaine, at times setting her clothes on fire ~ just little tinders that smoked and went out. They hurt her face and she used a kerchief for a veil. Someone dragged her away and wrapped her badly burned body in a blanket.
             The fire was shooting out tongues of flames as oil-lamps exploded inside. A woman appeared at an upstairs window. She was pregnant and alone. She had heard the explosion, smelled the smoke, and panicked. Mad with fear, she tore her hair and ran from window to window with flames licking her gown. She leaped screaming down and broke her back and right arm. Her child was born dead a few hours later. From the house came the most terrible cries, piercing Jaine’s soul. One voice rang in her ears long after. That of a child who kept crying: “Won’t someone let me out?” The last Jaine saw was a woman staggering through a room, her clothing on fire. As she lurched toward a window, several men grabbed her and rolled her on the ground to put out the flames that crackled along her back. The woman was taken to a house where she died of her burns.

3
             In a delirium of wet brow and flushed cheeks, Jaine opened her eyes. They were tranquil pools both dark and deep. She spoke of fire. Not of the killing inferno, not of the blaze of fever, nor of the heat of passion. She was laid on a bed in her family’s little house, her body uncovered from the abdomen up. She remembered the burns scorch her living flesh, felt the heat in her bones, saw the flames with her mind’s eye.
             “I see the fire,” she said.
             The eyes of her mother, Le An, filled with tears. “Yes, dear.”
             Jaine saw fire jumping from mountain to mountain, plunging into the sea, saw great columns of steam come bursting from its depths, flames licking through it as they rose.
             “Oh, mama.”
             Lightning flashed within the clouds of steam, and in the sharp-blue flickers of light a man flailed an ancient sword against an unseen enemy.
             “Radendr is fighting,” she said.
             “No, no,” said Le An. “Radendr isn’t fighting. He’s here to help you, he has medicine for you.”
             Radendr had entered the house quietly. His great red manes were tied in a knot at the back of his head. He moved quickly beside Le An at the bed, leaned down to Jaine, and looked into her eyes.
             Jaine saw flames leap to the sky, saw stars come hurtling down to the ground where smoke rose pungent with human flesh. A wind blew in from the north. It cleared the smoke, and Jaine saw the smouldering hole where the house had been. A hall began to materialize, shimmering through the smoky haze. It appeared from its foundation up, each stone set in place, each log and timber laid up one by one. It was revealed to her to every shingle on the huge span of roof, she knew each peg and joint in the timber rafters, saw all the planks that formed the floors. She felt the fires that were blazing in their many places of the main hall. And she knew how this great round-house was named.
             “Gimle,” she said.
             “It’s the fire,” said Le An.
             “The fire,” came another voice.
             “Yes,” said Radendr, “but not that burned her flesh today. Those are not earthly fires she sees.” He removed the contents of the hide parcel he carried. At the foot of Jaine’s bed he placed a plain wooden totem in which he had carved three Runes. Each was painted with Radendr’s blood. From unopened red rose?buds he had distilled the volatile oil which he dropped sparingly on a small charcoal fire in a little cast?iron jar. The room filled with a sweet odorous vapor, soothing to Jaine’s burning flesh. He had prepared an infusion from the seeds of stinging-nettle and lifting gently at her head made her drink of it to help fight the fever.
             Turning to Le An and her husband, the young girl’s parents, and speaking also to the others who were fearfully gathered there, Radendr said: “Now pray.” As they fell to their knees: “Not to some god for mercy on this child. Pray to her, to Jaine. Pray to let her use your spirit for the strength she needs this day.”
             The room fell silent. Souls prayed fervently, minds in bitter concentration. Jaine, on her pallet, felt the tumult in her body but she journeyed far above it.
             Radendr took the totem in hand, fingered the Runes carved on its surface, and recited them one by one: “Kaynosh,” he said. “Fire; the torch. Needish,” he said. “Need; distress.” He touched the last reddened symbol of the arrow pointed up. “Tiewash,” he said. “The Shining.”

4
             The fire seared Jaine’s chest. It pinched off her left breast, leaving her like an amazon able to pour strength into her left arm. The fever broke that had burned her girlish body and her burns healed ~ with the help of Radendr’s goat?fat ointment of comfrey?leaves ~ but the fire did not leave her. Her burnt skin came off in hard, leathery shales, leaving pink young skin sensitive even to the touch of air, but the flames never stopped their leaping in her mind.
             Fire purifies. It drove away the weak, left only the strong and committed. The turmoil occupied all the senses and left spirits infertile to the seed Jaine had been instructed to sow. The stricken community of souls was unable to share her vision. Who could believe her? Who could believe a teen-aged girl? Come from the flames single-breasted, lean, and fiery-eyed. She tearfully exhorted them to rally, to build the great hall of Gimle.
             Radendr recognized in her one of the chosen who see signs of the prophecy, to share truth with other initiates. He went with the girl to search out materials for the round?house. Up a south?slope stood stately spruce, killed by fire ~ bare?branched, blackened bark in great flakes hanging from the trunks. The wood, hardened by fire, stood sound and dry on the stump. On a hill was a rock quarry with boulders and great slabs of a colorless, white, or yellowish stone, with everywhere in it various colored crystals and streaks and splashes of red, brown, and black melded into its porcelain sheen.
             And Jaine was instructed by Radendr in the traditional knowledge. Radendr was one of the songsmiths who were named after their mothers and reckoned their descent through a female line of wise-women ~ the deep-minded, who kept poetry and magic together since times of yore. “The Wise Woman alone plumbs our lots,” he said to Jaine. “The Awesome Sage himself was instructed by her.”
             And he revealed to her the ancient script.
             “Certain is that which is sought from Runes,” he quoted. “Runes hold the mystery of magic spells. All that can be known by people is contained within them.”
             Through the years a growing group gathered with Jaine, and Gimle slowly rose above its foundation in labors of love. Jaine and her band of followers went into the hills and recited certain incantations over and over into the surrounding stillness. Slowly the recitation took on meaning and unfolded to them. The unknowable unknown is a presence and the knowing of that presence became the only revelation to Jaine and hers who learned to allow the unknown to operate directly on their minds. They found the knowledge imparted to the mind by the Runes not a formulation but a cosmic energy, a mysterious power that pervades all nature.
             The great triangle of the continent’s interior plain tipped the Arctic Ocean, shouldered shield and mountain; glacial lakes deposited clays there to form fertile lands and, in the north, bogs and muskegs, rich green forests, foothills rolling to a lake. In many places quite shallow, in others over thirty meters deep, the water brown after a storm or gray before it, sometimes a deep blue, shading to light?green, or a muddy ochre, it was the refuge of many kinds of northern fish, and of geese, ducks, pelicans, swans. Mists rose up the surrounding hillsides where the pines, and the wolves, coyotes, moose, deer, bear, and the wily lynx, reached back to the Rocky Mountains where the cougar roamed. The vapors bathed poplar groves, the birches, the willows, alders, and the boreal tamaracks and spruces that gripped the dark gray soil, as did all the other plants that grew there: rose and nettle, grass and grain, berry and flower with every bright color in the eye’s palette. Eagles and hawks ruled the skies, and when the cranes flew hearts also soared. The very winds whispered soft meaning, taught a song of place: ‘I am simply of the Earth. Need I be afraid?’

On the road of life I once met an old woman.
Spoke to me from out a toothless mouth.
‘Young girl,’ said she,
‘you cannot see,
wash out your eyes.
Lend and ear
for to hear
your own muted cries.
I offer you
what is true,
for fear that it dies.’
Mother, have mercy on me!
Deep in her eyes
burns a fierce flame.
To my surprise,
she said my name.

On the road of life I once met an old woman.
Reached for me with a trembling hand.
Into my chest
her fingers pressed
a burden divine.
I’m reeling
with the feeling
of knowing it is mine.
The weight
is too great
for powers as mine.
Mother, have mercy on me!
Inside her palm
she holds a stone;
into my calm
it shone and shone,

and left a melody:
‘Shining Mane draws the day in for Elf Beam to light;
dew drops fall off Frost Mane, from east brings the night.’

On the road to death I once met an old woman.
Magic wisdom of the other I:
‘Fire is
the fairest gift
for those of our name.
To see the sun
for everyone
is power to tame.
Sun turn black,
Earth crack,
life?feeding flame.’
Mother, have mercy on me!
Inside her womb
she has a race.
Is it a tomb?
Each has its place.

On the road to life I once met a wise woman.
Prophesied of an ancient tree:
‘Futures past,
known at last.
Wisdom is mine.
Sky has scars
where hot stars
blazed for a time.
Fire hot:
when it’s not,
icy cold rime.’
Mother, your mercy is me!
‘Now I do see
the earth anew,
rising all green.
And left to you

is this melody:
Shining Mane draws the day in for Elf Beam to light;
dew drops fall off Frost Mane, from east brings the night.’

*

Shoo Again

1

             The regional inspector had taken very seriously the instructions of his general and, some weeks after his own visit to the squatter settlement in his sector, dispatched several of his officers to induct the children into the system by having them micro?tattood. They arrived at the village with two agents of the Office of the Comptroller for Universal Coding, in pursuit of the old strategy of the separation of generations.
             “Get the children,” said the inspector, “and we won’t have to worry about the elders.”
             The elders, however, confronted the little group of officials with little regard for their presumed authority, turned them on their heels, and saw to their departure with considerable loss of face to officers and agents.
             Universal Coding headquarters in the Congo, when advised of this, ordered a force of twenty out to the scene, which prompted the regional inspector to assign an additional twelve officers. This not inconsiderable force again flew to the village by the lake where their flyer landed on the grassy slope above the round?house that stood silent, shuttered, and locked. Of the villagers, the young, the weak, and the needed, were camped at a bush homestead, sufficient and unseen among the trees. Armed men and women were positioned in strategic places. Three uniformed figures detached themselves from the machine and made their way to the round?house. Unable to effect entry, more agents and officers were disgorged who, through the hours that followed, dispersed into the far-flung community to make search.
             Four village men, with stealth and quick blows, overpowered and disarmed the guard left by the flyer, and trussed the two officers inside. Three of their number retreated to ambush, taking with them the guard’s arms and a small item vital to the operation of the flyer’s propulsion unit. One climbed atop the vehicle and sat displaying a white flag. When the government men returned, he demanded of the commanding officer that they surrender their weapons, saying the flying machine had been disabled and they were in ambush. At a wave from him, several high casements opened in Gimle and arms were shown from all sides of the government party. One of the officers made a lunge for the villager who stood near the flyer. A quick burst of gunfire sounded. The villager fell mortally wounded. A figure in uniform lay dead, others wounded. A savage voice from among the trees commanded the huddle by the flyer to disarm, and unarmed they left, plotting revenge, and report to the regional inspector who, in turn, had to take word of the fiasco to his general.
             Shoo was not pleased. “Damn it, man,” he barked at the regional inspector through the video, “I don’t want universal coding involved. I don’t care how you do it, but stop the agents from reporting to the comptroller ~ she’d get the directorate of monitoring activities into it. This must remain an internal northern matter.”
             “Yes, sir. Just a minute, sir,” said the regional inspector and, employing another line, transmitted Shoo’s order to an underling, hoping it was not too late.
             The man had bungled, Shoo mused. Allowing twenty UC agents to take part in the mission had pushed him into committing the action to force. Well, it was too late now. Seeing the inspector return his attention to him, Shoo said: “Go back in force ~ don’t take any agents this time. A company ~ two-hundred men, flyers, all-terrain vehicles, the works. Set up a base camp far enough to make access difficult from the settlement but close enough for us to get there with equipment in minutes ~ ten kilometers or nearer should do. I want that woman you named in your report. . . .”
             “Jaine,” said the regional inspector.
             “Yes, and whoever is in command of this resistance operation. This may take a day or so. Meanwhile get a couple of their men, any way you can, and grill them.”
             “Yes, General.”
             “And keep me fully informed.” Then, gruffly: “That is all,” and switched off the video. Immediately it lit up with the code: W11/01?20/SN. Already? thought Shoo, and punched the console. The worried features of his regional inspector came on the screen.
             “General,” said the man, “it seems the UC agents were transmitting a message to the Congo when I relayed your order. They were cut off but there is no telling how much was sent.”
             “Well, no sense worrying about it now,” said Shoo. “Send any queries from the comptroller’s office direct to me. Thank you, Inspector.” The screen went blank. Shoo got up briskly, straightened his rumpled black uniform absent?mindedly. In truth, he was worried. There were too many squatter settlements in his region. A final solution had to be found.

2
             “I cast it away. My body.” The power of the song came from the total integration of words, meaning, rhythm, and movement; the chant was whole ~ its effect on the mind, not the ears, as the village prepared for battle.
             The landing of the officer force was observed, and Jaine said: “I am going to the place of the soldiers. I saw myself there, and a dog made me its prey.” For many years she experienced fleeting loss of her ordinary eyesight, in a visionary state of continued deja vous ~ the already seen of the twice-sighted, always arriving instants after the event in which she acted. Now, Jaine knew she must face her lot and overcome the dog.
             She began to walk to the armed camp. Soon she met with a small patrol of four young men and one young woman ~ independent fighters in the old tradition, whose leader won obedience by skill proven in hunting, games, and now perhaps in combat. They carried arms at the ready and walked under cover at speed with the least noise ~ it being the best method to avoid detection or cause surprise. During a short rest, Jaine studied one of the men. He sat quite still ~ just a slight vibration in his foot revealed tension within. Suddenly, the single scout, some fifty meters ahead, was seen wrestling with a black-uniformed officer. The party bore down on them running, and as they drew near the struggling men it seemed to Jaine as if they were fighting like dogs.
             “I am leaving you now,” she told the woman. “Don’t follow.”
             She ran from them, then walked for hours until she stood silent among scrub willow, observing the goings-on in the armed camp. She gathered herself and leisurely walked toward it. There was a shout as she was noticed strolling by the corner of a large tent where she came face to snarling snout with a guard-dog straining on a short leash. Her self-assured inner authority made her the first person in the camp, a fact that was reluctantly but quickly acknowledged through the ranks to the camp’s commanding officer.
             “Take me to your leader,” were Jaine’s first and last words, until the regional inspector was summoned and came.
             “I’m in charge here,” he said, pleased to find Jaine in his possession so soon after the general’s orders. “What do you want.”
             Jaine studied the regional inspector and found him wanting. Where was the dog?
             “I want to speak with your superior,” she said finally.
             “Impossible,” was the answer. “What about?”
             “This situation.”
             The regional inspector tried to assert his authority by using the force of his officers. Jaine reached behind and drew an invisible sword. With the finger of her right hand she traced in the air ~ as if inscribing a blade, twice Tyr: the victory Rune of the One-Handed Battler. With a mighty sweep of her strong left arm the sword knocked down three unhurt before she sheathed it in its unseen scabbard.
             The fevered report of this impossible event was to the inspector general an irresistible lure. When Shoo and Jaine came face to face, the only thing Shoo noticed was a peculiar small leather pouch she wore by a cord from her neck. A deep drumming throb seemed to suffuse Shoo and he produced an identical pouch, opened it, and placed a finger-thick slab in his palm which he held out to her. One side of the piece ended in a rude break, and it was in fact only half a token of which Jaine produced another out of the pouch she wore. She placed it on Shoo’s outstretched hand, fitting the fractures precisely together to unite a delicate carved symbol of a T inside a circle.
             “Thiot lives,” said Jaine.
             “The tribe lives,” Shoo also said, but for him it was the astonished gasp of one who sees realized what has long been expected yet secretly disbelieved.
             “It was told,” he said. “But the tribe is nothing but scattered remnants who know nothing of themselves. They live without the strength of the common bond that once held them together. The only thing all people want is power,” said Shoo. “Whatever is wanted is wanted for the sake of power.”
             “With a more penetrating knowledge, power is satisfied in self-control rather than in subjugation of others,” answered Jaine. “We will not have your slave morality,” she cried. “The resentment of those denied the deed, who compensate with imaginary revenge, and live shriveled, hollow lives. There is an exception to every rule,” said Jaine. “Is it not so?”
             “Hmmm.”
             “We except ourselves from your rule. And if not us, who is excepted?”
             Shoo stared at her.
             After a very long time, Jaine said softly: “You are on the wrong side.”
             The flash of recognition kindled an immediate rage in Shoo. Jaine looked into his face and knew she was about to die. She watched him raise the gun, saw his finger tense on the trigger. She was vaguely aware of the others, standing at black?uniformed attention ~ like chickens when a crow flies over. The place filled with sounds that emanated from inside her own head: a powerful drone and shrieking war cries. She saw the explosion of the gun as a slow?motion volcanic outburst. Fire spurted from the barrel streaming elegant arcs of light, a cloud of smoke curled and billowed majestically, and a lead bullet emerged ponderously ~ moving its head slowly from side to side like a clumsy dog after its prey.
             Shoo watched impassively as her body slammed the wall with the impact of the bullet, then pitched forward to the floor. He knew she was dead. He bent to tear the pouch from her neck. With an impatient gesture he holstered the antique pistol.
             “Get rid of this body.”
             “Yes, General,” answered three voices, but he had already opened the door and walked into the cold dark night.
             “Commander, prepare an assault group. At dawn we’ll move in and clear them out by force.”
             In the night, however, the general received startling military news that told his presence (and that of the two?hundred?odd commandos) was more urgently required elsewhere. Just before dawn, in flaying northern lights, there was a general exodus of aircraft from the area ~ an exodus that was observed with delight in the rude village seven kilometers away.
*

Le An

1

             “They’re going, they’re going! Jaine did it. She’s made them leave.”
             From where she sits by the fire, Le An hears them outside her house. She sits bent over as if struck by a heavy blow, for she knows. Knows! Jaine is dead. ‘Did you see the northern lights, mom? I did that.’
             Outside her door now there are many voices. They are jubilant: “They’ve gone. The army is gone.” They prepare to send out a party.
             Le An knows she must tell them. She opens the door, stands outside.
             “It’s her mother.”
             “Jaine is dead.” Again she sees the bullet’s path ~ hears it strike home. The sudden burst of living flesh. Fleeting moment on the threshold of death’s door. She feels the door-knob in her hand, sees the pale faces of the people staring at her with wide frightened eyes. In the bare light of a frost-laced morning, a stumbling run across the common yard takes her into the strong embrace of her man. “She’s dead. He killed her,” she sobs.

2
             Some of the men brought Jaine’s body back, and some of the women cleaned it up. Now it is laid out in the house of Le An who escapes into the forest. It is early winter ~ fog-moon month. The afternoon sun shines through naked branches bright on the dust of snow. It feels warm on her face. There is a great silence among the trees, and from the silence comes a man.
             “I’m glad you have come, Le An,” he says. It is Radendr. “Come sit down.”
             She sits like a child at his knee. Silent, for long moments. Finally, she raises her head, looks into his face, and is warmed by the compassion in his steady gaze.
             “Who are you?” she whispers.
             “Who are you?” is the reply.
             “How did I know?” trembles her voice.
             “In the manner all things are known,” Radendr says. “From the unknown all knowledge derives. Suffice it to state that you knew.”
             “What do you want with me?” asks Le An.
             Radendr utters a short laugh. “You know that as well.”
             “Do I?”

             Years earlier her swollen belly gave a gentle uneasiness in her back. Now is the time for this child, she thought. A surge of strength flowed through her, caused her to tremble, as she strained and pushed with the pain and joy of the first time. In a rush of amniotic fluid, blue and hardly breathing, Jaine was labored into the world.
             It was a cold and stormy month near the mountains. The winds howled across the plateau, whipping bitter snow into the valley and the commune where Le An had gone to have her child. An old truck was fired up, the new-born wrapped in blankets, and Le An helped into the cab. They headed into the snow and dark. It was twenty-five hard kilometers, and the baby was near death when the old truck pulled up to the emergency entrance of the sisters of mercy hospital. They went up to the desk and quickly explained to the nurses.
             “Do you have any medical insurance? Name? Address? Occupation?”
             “Look, you don’t seem to understand! This baby is dying.”
             “Please, sir, don’t raise your voice. We’re not responsible for this. People trying to have births at home. The doctor is out on call right now but he should be back in a short while. Since you don’t have any medical coverage, it is our policy to request a show of financial ability before a new admission. It’s just a formality. You’ll have to pay fifty dollars before we can examine your child.”
             “What are you talking about? This baby is dying and you are asking if we’ve got money.”
             “Sir, I’ll have to ask you not to raise your voice. If you’d just wait.”
             “My god, I don’t believe this. Sisters of mercy and you won’t take a dying baby because we can’t pay you right now ~ is that what you’re saying?” He picked up the cold bundle. “Come, Le An.”
             Back into the howling night. Past the statue of a merciful sister stretching eager arms to a haloed babe. Sixty kilometers south through the hills on winding roads. Another hospital.
             “They take anyone. It is especially for poor people.”
             At the commune, a peyote meeting had been called. The medicine circle had been cleared of snow, the teepee brought out, the poles put up and, fighting wind and freezing hands, the canvas pulled into place. When a fire was made, an earnest voice was raised to “ask for help for Le An and the little one.” Peyote was passed around.
             “I’d like to ask a blessing on that little girl, great spirit, maybe there is some way you could help.”
             “Heya now, weh hey, yah whey!”
             The chanting grew stronger. Everyone focused on the fire. Outside it was extremely cold. Time for midnight water, brought in and passed around.
             The teepee-flap opened and seventy-year-old Little Joe came into the canvas circle. He had walked several miles across country, wrapped in his small blue blanket. It seemed warmer immediately he sat in the road-chief position. He exuded calmness, smiled like a child, chanted a prayer:
             “O, Great Father, hear my voice. I lift my prayer feather to you. Let this smoke bring my prayer close to you. These people need your help, Great Spirit. Little baby is dying. They need that baby to grow strong. Help them out at this time. Maybe you could give them a little hand.”
             In the hospital, they laid mother and child on a table. The doctors and nurses were kind, said there was little they could do. The baby stopped breathing. The pulse could not be felt.
             Little Joe raised his head. “Thank you, Grandfather. Thank you for this way.”
             The babe sucked air in tiny shallow gasps, opened her eyes on a new world. Le An lifted her shirt, and Jaine reached for a breast.

             “What of the man?” asks Radendr.
             “Wes.”
             Weston D. Shulman. They had been at university together; he in political science, she in social work. Both had joined a volunteer company of the peace army. Social action brought them close. They saw each other frequently as they travelled on assignments. He was Le An’s first love They had intercourse of the mind as well as body for which she took a daily pill to prevent conception, but she wished for his child and, while he was away for a month, stopped ingesting the drug. She was fertile and waiting for Wes on his return. Laughing with happiness she told him at last they could make love ‘for real’. Love and lust and biological impulse combined for one single night of ecstasy for Le An. Wes left the following morning. She never saw him again. There were rumors he had joined urban guerillas.
             “What has it to do with me?” Le An implores Radendr.
             “It has to do with the child and with the man,” says he.

3
             The head on Jaine’s body bobs to the rhythm of the music as it stands propped in its coffin leaned against a wall of Le An’s house. It is the wake, and there is dancing and laughter, and food and talk. Talk of Jaine:

             “I was angling down at the dock. I hooked a big fish, a real fighter, but I got him up on the rocks and pulled him on land. A great big Jack.” He spreads his arms far apart in the classic fisherman’s pose. “You were there. You seen it!” Several people nod. “The hook broke just as I got him in a hole. I thought I had’im, but that snake jumped up with a tremendous twist of the tail and slid back into the water. Jaine was there, she saw the fish escape, jumped right into the water after it, wrestled it like an alligator, and brought it back in.” He laughs uproariously. “Haha, it was funny! That Jack must’ve had half-a-dozen hooks in it and probably felt it could get away again, but Jaine said: ‘You get this close to a catch, it’s got to be yours.’”

             “She lived in a teepee up on the ridge for a few years and everyone would go to visit. Sometimes there would be quite a little camp up there. I went to see her on an evening when she was away and fell asleep between the hide coverings of her bed. When Jaine arrived, much later in the deep of night, she stripped her clothes and glided naked between the covers. I awoke; she fell sound asleep. Mercifully, it was not long til dawn when I got up. As soon had I left the tent everybody was asking me: You slept with Jaine. How was it? I was so wide awake the whole time that every bit of me tensed to make me tremble; I didn’t realize until I got up and felt my tired aching limbs.”
             Eyes turn on the corpse to see the still remaining beauty, remember the passions.

             “We was huntin’ one time, me an’ Jaine an’ old James. We seen a big bull come out from the lick up in the pines. Just hoofing it north, looked like he was going for the muskeg. We sent old James after it, and me and Jaine went up the big cutline. Figured to head it off. We had to really travel til we came to that pipeline right?of?way where we went real slow and careful to the intersection. First we looked one way and then the other, and there we were face to face with a big sow. She stood up on her hind legs and lifted up her paws, and me and Jaine both dropped to our knees and raised up our rifles. That bear was big. Not a grizzly, but a real monster just the same. There we were, not movin’ a muscle, and her towering over us, looking down with a mean glint in her eyes and just a?growlin’ real low. It seems we were like that for a long time. I could see her wicked claws, saw the teeth sparkle in her jaws. I swear she drooled right on the barrel of my gun, she was as close as this. Then she turned, dropped on all fours, and walked away. Right there, Jaine gets up and talks to her! ‘Chickenshit,’ she says. I thought I would die. That bear turned around, come back like it was pissed off, and stood on her hind legs over us again. Just growling from deep inside her chest, and her huge hairy arms over her head ~ over our heads. I just pointed my gun and crouched as low as I could get. I don’t know what Jaine was doin’, but it must’ve been much the same. Finally, the bear dropped and walked away again, and ~ a few steps from us, she kinda looked back at us over her shoulder. Well, sir, Jaine didn’t say ‘Chickenshit’ again.”

             “After I had Jaine I moved to the city. Got married. Had more kids. Lived there for years. People would ask me: ‘Why isn’t Jaine playing?’ She never played with the other kids, you know. Never was active. Just wasn’t interested. She would as soon watch a flower. She never fit in. Had a hard time of it, poor child.”
             Le An’s voice continues but she knows not what words she speaks, for in her mind’s eye is another scene: she realized the child was fever?filled when she picked her up. As she held her close to herself, the heat surged from the child into her body, massing angrily in the pit of her stomach. Someone took the child, and she stumbled away several steps. She tried to sink to the floor, but fell awkwardly and spewed foul vomit on the floor between her feet, while moans loudly came from her mouth. She huddled, afraid of the sound in her head, until all that was left was a dull spot deep down in her abdomen.
             “Even after we moved here she never really found herself, . . . until the fire.”

             A man long silent says: “When I think of her, it’s by a riddle she told me when she was a girl fresh from the fire:
             “Footsteps white as snow,
             carry into the burn;
             high is seen below;
             sweet to salt does turn.
             “She was so young and it seemed so simple, but I’ve never forgotten, and I have yet to learn its answer.”

             The sky truly wept. The evening of Jaine’s wake the rains came, soaking up the little snow, creating huge puddles within an hour, and poured with undiminished force until her body was buried in a water?filled hole in the clay, when of a sudden the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the moon shone on the grave.
             The coffin floated and had to be weighted with stones. “Bring more rocks.”

4

             The day following Jaine’s burial, some men came across two officers who had been left behind, captured them, and counseled vengeance. The two prisoners, bound hand and foot, were left outside Gimle where they attracted an abusive crowd.
             Le An sees, calmly enters the throng (she knows no hesitation), serenely unbinds them. Then she leaves them standing and turns into dark Gimle.
             “It doesn’t matter what they did. We have our own honor to uphold. Let not your women be ashamed of you. Charge your children with righteous valor.”
             She takes the prisoners to her house where they are bathed and clothed in the best apparel there.
             “Wear my clothes,” she tells them.
             The while she prepares food.
             “Eat this food,” she says.
             People stare into Le An’s house by the windows and the opened door through which steps Radendr to sit down and eat with them. Slowly the room ~ then the house, fills with people until, at last, they spill outside to a fire in the damp and cold afternoon.
             “I have seen prisoners black and blue from head to toe,” cries Le An. “Give your best, not your worst.”
             And everyone eats together.
             Finally, one of the officers says: “You have killed the hate in me.”
*

Radendr

1

             Who are you, Le An had asked, and what could he have told her? I am Radendr, reason and riddle. I read the mysteries and offer counsel, foretelling in ancient proverbs the remedy by which the people may govern their affairs. I am Radendr.
             Sometimes pain reached for Radendr and he would bend his power to transcend the agony of confusion to reach the calm certainty of truth eternal. Radendr pursued myth from the mystic state, like a fighter in training, in renunciation, meditation and mental culture. The ability to contemplate is what defines the human species. For eight?thousand years and three?hundred generations, initiates maintained a tradition that helped Radendr gain an insight into perceived and ultimate reality: the I am of being and existence. There are those who worship gods, those who worship the visible nature. Radendr sought the wisdom that can release the human spirit.

             I once mingled with the great;
             I left my pleasure in their palaces and temples;
             I saw the rulers and their power, and they took from me my envy.
             An old and tired man said: ‘Give me your regrets,’ and he walked away stooping with the burden.
             The people clenched an armed fist in revolt against an unjust ruler; though I did not touch a weapon, there I left my contentment.
             To a person ~ beautiful within as without, I gave my love;
             it caused a horrible transformation to a monster with yawning jaws; into its fiery throat I cast my hate.
             Demons of the dark devoured my fear;
             I slit my throat, hope flowed from the wound; the world ended.
             A child stood by the holocaust and I pressed my innocence into its trembling hand;
             I gave my pain to the tortured child, and my pity when it died.
             At last I came to a vat so large it reached the far corners of the directions;
             it held a foul-smelling brew;
             into this I put my guilt ~ carefully lowering it not to splash.

             Under the shelter of a leafy-branched lean-to, Radendr sat in a sea of shavings ~ thin curls and slivers of spruce in great mounds where it had fallen from his simple tools. Out of a bucket, he took water?soaked spruce?roots, removed the bark, and split them with his teeth. Behind him, dozens of slats leaned against his house, others, bent and tied in horseshoe-shapes by his hands, hung on branches. On an earthen platform, a canoe was partly assembled of spruce-wood gunwales, thwarts, ribs, and planking, and sheets of birch-bark, stitched with spruce-roots, that he had harvested from the forest. But not without a solemn offering and a turning of the mind on the beings that occupied the trees. He had stood under the towering forest canopy that always taught him metaphors of life: ‘A wind blows upon my soul and exposes my weaknesses, like an old tree is gale-stripped of dry branches’. He had tapped the spruce for pitch; four years to fill a pail. The straight and branchless lower trunk of a black spruce had been cut down. A likely white spruce had been selected, the ground under it prodded with a stick, the long, tough, pliable roots followed to their ends, and dug out. He had tested a number of birch trees by making a slight cut in the bark and bending it back to view its characteristics from the inside, and had taken bark free of knots and with a minimum of the typical horizontal markings.
             “I have lived here always. I have travelled from this place only as far as can be walked in a mere nine days, yet I know of the mighty mountains to the west and of the great sea beyond, for the warm winds that blow from there to temper the ice and cold of winter carry their odors; and when I walk among the trees of this land, I see in them all the various trees of the good earth. Where I look she shows herself as she does everywhere: the grass beneath my feet as green, the sky over my head as blue.”
             Radendr had worked on the spruce log. The lower end was sawed off. He spat in his hands, took hold of his axe, and set to work splitting the log with the aid of wedges cut from a small poplar. When it was split at last, and he examined the wood?grain, he exclaimed satisfied. Then he split the two halves to make quarters. He split rough slats from a quarter-log by making a cut at the end of it with the axe, and carefully working the blade down until a handhold could be gained on the slat. Then it was pulled off with great care not to cross the grain and lessen the strength. The other end of the log he hewed until he fashioned a timber that he then ripped into nine boards of lumber. He had made a shallow hole in the ground. Sheets of birch-bark were placed one on top of the other in the depression. A board weighted down with some large rocks was put on top to flatten and store the bark until it could be used. The moist earth prevented it from drying prematurely.
             Radendr put the spruce-pitch he had collected in a basket of root netting and threw it into a container in which water was boiling. The netting retained all the pieces of bark, moss, and twigs that had fallen in, while he skimmed off the pitch to spread over all the stitching, and every place where it seemed a leak might develop.
             Radendr smiled. He was a craftsman and a seeker. The early morning mists drifted over the water as he launched the canoe. The water was a translucent green, reflected from the land ~ beatified and beautified with the song of thunder: the voice that fixed fertilizing nitrogen in the soil the evening previous. He had fasted and sweat. He knew the time to be auspicious. He smiled, for he was a craftsman and a seeker.

2
From time to time
I say my line,
even if it isn’t very good.
But when I’m lying
there’s no denying
it has the ring of truth:

Tree reach to the sky,
Sun is in high.

The grass is growing,
the wind is blowing
upon the mountain top.
In the shade,
a mountain glade,
springs bubbling up.

Life giving Sun;
protective Father Moon;
Mother Earth nurtures;
forest spirits guide;
owl has a tale of fortune.

Tree reach to the sky,
Sun is in high.

3

             ‘In the present, lie past ages,
             In the now, what’ll come to pass . . . .’

             Cleaning game. A fat ruffed-grouse.
             “Does that mean it will be a cold winter?”
             “No,” said Radendr. “It means it ate well; it was a good autumn. To speculate on the future by the evidence of events is very uncertain. The same fact, however, does show clearly its past. The past can be seen in the present. The fat of the grouse shows the abundance of summer clover and autumn cranberries. When the past is seen, the present can be understood. So our ancestors’ heritage is part of our present lives. The history of human activity shows ~ through laws of state, rules of society, maxims of humanity, a glimpse of the ultimate principles preceding it. What our forebears gave us: the ability to live independently on small plots of land, this too is what we must give to our children.”
             In the main room of Radendr’s log house, there were books everywhere ~ spread on sturdy chests, packed in solid ranks on window seats, and piled on the floor. His own works were scattered about too, along with the materials for making them. On a huge, rough wooden work table were stacked sheaves of paper, some small, others large, and rulers, triangles, curves, compasses, pens of all descriptions, pencils, brushes, and all the paraphernalia of reading and writing. There was a litter of objects, the gear and tackle and trim of dozens of trades that signified Radendr’s insatiable and wide?ranging curiosity. Scattered among the books were various lenses, crystals, and prisms for examining the refraction of light, a beaded abacus, gleaming brass alidades and astrolabes for watching the heavens, white skeletons of animals, and the flasks, crucibles, and retorts of the practicing alchemist.
             His was the study of chemistry, the natural sciences, mathematics, medicine, and above all, experience ~ which had revealed to him the secrets of nature, the curative arts, celestial phenomena. He disdained nothing and would blush if he found a layman, an old woman, a soldier or a worker, better informed than himself in matters that concern each. To cast and forge metals, to manipulate silver, gold, and all minerals, to invent instruments and arms, to make a science of farming and husbandry, to seek truth in the charms of the sorcerer and the artifice of jugglers ~ this was his life’s work.

             Life nurtures the work, while
             Day burns until evening’s dark; when the rays of
             Dawn strike clanging on the mountain, ruinous
             Hail fades. Ancient power of
             Ice; the sign of
             Algiz protects the deep
             Lake’s sacred waters, where
             Uruz, mighty yore-ox, awaits to proffer
             Wunjo and fill my world with bliss.

             Radendr spoke to Le An: “As in the autumn season the forces of winter are already showing their influence, conditions are such that the dark powers favored by the time are advancing. Winter cannot be averted, and in retreat success is achieved. This is not to be confused with flight, for the forced flight of the weak person means saving oneself under any circumstance. Retreat is a sign of strength when taken at the right moment while in full possession of power and position. Then the signs of the time can be interpreted before it is too late, and to prepare for a provisional retreat instead of being drawn into a desperate life?and?death struggle. The field is not simply abandoned to the forces of the dark; its advance is made difficult by showing perseverance in single acts of resistance. In this way is the counter movement prepared.
             “Retreating in their own thoughts, adepts keep the negative elements at a distance. Not angrily but with reserve, and not with hatred for then they would be bound by that hatred. In this way are they in accord with the time, for it is vitally important to hit upon the moment when retreat is called for. The meaning that lies hidden in such a time is important.
             “The essence of life is the unseen. The unseen within the human shell. What it is really that goes on inside myself, I don’t know. I simply accept it and go along for the ride. I follow my thoughts as best I can until, expressed in action, I do something. I am not rash (age has tempered my haste), and I know the law.”
             “But why me?” asks Le An.
             “I don’t know,” he answers. “Perhaps you are the mother of a nation.”
             “But I’m not like them.”
             Radendr wears an exasperated smile. “Race is not what defines a people, race is a biological statistic. What determines the form of society is its predominant myth ~ the common bond of shared comprehension. The one I follow is but one of the thirty-five sages whose teachings will lead us out of the age of chaos. Then will be seen the unity of all nations. Til then help these people with the wisdom of their fathers and mothers. These are your people, aren’t they?”
             She nods.
             “With your nose so squat and low, cheekbones broad and high, and your long straight black hair, your skin of yellowish-tan, and that inside fold over the corners of your dark-brown almond eyes?”
             “Yes, of course,” Le An cries out forcefully, then adds in a softer tone of voice: “They are my people. But why me?”
             “Do you have any choice? It is a cow’s death to die without wounds.”

*

Return Of Shoo

1

             Svalbard had been hit by a bomb attack. From the flyer that carried him back to his headquarters, Shoo saw the damage. After landing, while behind him the commandos disembarked, an officer briefed him. None of the main buildings had been hit and only superficial damage had been inflicted by what apparently had been intended as a show of strength by a terrorist organization. Once Shoo had again resumed command of the situation from his place deep inside the bunkers, the urgency became clear to him as each new piece of information was conveyed in the clipped tones of his officers: beside Svalbard, eight major world complexes had been hit at precisely the same time with conventional bombs by a combative terrorist group located in Australia. The group claimed a standing army and nuclear capabilities. It demanded a place outside the control of the Board of Six ~ possibly northwest Australia.
             Within hours of the bombing, the Director of Monitoring Activities had proclaimed a state of apprehended insurrection. After the High Commander of Armed Forces refused to commit troopers, five-thousand members of monitoring activities were moved to Australia where they suffered heavy losses in fighting the terrorists. The director demanded nuclear force be employed by the armed forces, but the commander again refused him. The convener declared the director’s actions constitutional and called on the full board for a decision.
             Shoo sat in front of the bank of holoscans.
             He mused on the fact that human societies for the past several thousand years had emphasized competition and suppressed mutualism. The result had been continual conflict. Mutualism, he thought, must be the dominant tendency in world society. A high energy civilization cannot afford the frictional waste generated by competition for wealth and authority. Shoo had never anticipated any basic change in environmental and social circumstances. To be in complete accord with the technological age meant to expertly organize and manage industrial resources for the good of the whole world. The aim is the reduction of human drudgery, the betterment of the human material condition, the protection of all against insecurity. There are people with personal problems and worries, but these problems are not of an economic nature. No-one wanted for a place to live, or for clothing, food, or health care.
             The commander’s grey hologram face strained. “The use of nuclear force against the rebels. . . .”
             “Terrorists,” interspersed the director.
             “. . . Is absolutely ruled out.”
             “I’ve had over four-hundred members killed,” the director protested. “My people estimated the enemy total at better than ten-thousand ~ mostly rag-tag, admittedly, but led by a disciplined military force. They will attract revolutionaries from all over the world. They must be stopped before their force grows.”
             “Madame Convener,” said the commander, “we have at our disposal the use of the greatest project in the history of mankind ~ bigger than the wall of China, the pyramids, or the Suez Canal. I sit here in the Borneo jungle at the center of a forty?thousand square kilometer complex that has six?thousand kilometers of railway. There is more concrete here than in the megalopolis of Beijing. It has cost at least three times as much as the space probe the coordinator proposes. We have here the most powerful armament of all time, and we cannot use it. The insurrectionists. . . .”
             The Director of Monitoring Activities flinched.
             “The insurrectionists claim nuclear capability. I believe them. They have the required radium ore, they derive uranium by the phosphoric acid process, plutonium by reactor, and may soon breed fusion. Yes, Director, and I’m surprised you didn’t know this. It would be very unwise to attack an unknown nuclear quantity to possibly set off a fission reaction we may be unable to control.”
             “But perhaps they have nothing,” sputtered the director. “Maybe they need time to develop their arms.”
             “They escaped detection by your agency,” the comptroller’s voice cut in. The woman’s hologram eyed the director’s sharply. “Escaped for a good many years. Then they hit ~ when they were ready. Very professional. They bombed each of our headquarters at the precisely synchronized moment. They used non-nuclear bombs, damaged nothing strategic, and killed only four faceless unfortunates. I believe them as well.” She nodded to the commander.
             “But surely, Commander, you must commit troops!” This was demanded by the Coordinator of Space Missions. “I understand your reservations about the use of nuclear force, and certainly we must not allow them to use it either. But they must be stopped. We can’t give away Australia. This definitely calls for troopers ~ but with conventional weapons only?”
             “Yes, there will be troopers committed. However, we don’t want to be drawn into a long guerilla-type conflict with heavy demands on men and materiel. No, instead I propose to use the occasion for a test. My own research division has developed an invisible craft ~ that is, not quite invisible perhaps, but practically non-detectable, at least. In excess of eighty percent of its component structure cannot be seen by the human eye, the materials having a frequency primarily outside the range of normal vision. We have such a vehicle, which operates by remote control, ready for action. The weaponry by which we propose to arm it is the photon-laser, a working prototype of which now reposes,” and here the commander’s image turned with some amusement to Shoo, “in the northern region ~ and I’m surprised you didn’t know it ~ at the Stockholm Technate Institute.”

2
             “The moon rocks are growing!” The young adjutant said it excitedly with a flush in his cheeks. He held out a report from the technate institute in Stockholm from which he was a messenger.
             A warning came into Shoo’s mind. A warning from the Hopi at Old Oraibi: ‘Earth and Moon should never touch.’ It had been delivered many years earlier, in the infancy of the exploration of space, to the government of the day. After the first astronaut had made his ‘giant leap for mankind’ and rocks from the surface of the moon were taken, the old Hopi read their prophecy and mournfully predicted that the rocks would grow.
             The technate report stated that no change in the rocks had been observed until the floor joists began to crack. When it was attempted to move the rocks, they were found impossibly heavy. The rocks, said the scientists at the institute, were increasing in mass at an apparently accelerating rate. The material now weighed about fifty kilograms per cubic centimeter and had a density about fifty times that of water. (The largest rock, measuring roughly eighteen centimeters in diameter, was estimated at over one-hundred tons.) Further, the scientists reported, the surface temperature of the rocks was increasing very slowly, but at a rate that did not correlate with the change in mass. Another, more curious correlation was with time. In the vicinity of the rocks, watches ran slower (tests with biological specimen were underway to test the effects on metabolism). Increasing in direct ratio to the surface temperature, the effect of time slowing was more severe when nearer the rocks, but was also extending spatially ~ now having reached a detectable broadcast area of one-hundred meters.
             Calculations based on Einstein’s special theory and the Lorentz transformation indicated that the ‘rock phenomenon’ might be slowed, stopped, or reversed, by subjecting the rocks to a tachyon bombardment. These particles/waves have a speed greater than light, creating the conceptual difficulty of arriving after the event and disappearing before they exist.
             It is customary to express the equivalence of mass and energy (though somewhat inexactly) by the formula: E=mc2, in which c represents the velocity of light; E is the energy contained in a stationary body; m is its mass. The energy that belongs to the mass m is equal to this mass, multiplied by the square of the speed of light. Altering this last enormous factor in the equation even slightly, the scientists pointed out, would greatly affect the mass as well as the energy of the rocks. Lorentz’s calculations showed that a body’s relative speed can never exceed lightspeed. That is, the sum of the speeds of two bodies moving in opposite directions can never be more than lightspeed. As the speed of tachyons is as constant and predictable as the law of transmission of light, mass and energy must by the formula E=mc2 readjust to the new value of c.

3
             Board of Six Deliberation 194.0/001
             Order of Proclamation*

             a] deployment of troopers:
                          affirmative - Am, NR, Af, EA
                          negative - ES

             b] nuclear commitment:
                          affirmative - Am
negative - ES, EA, Af, NR

             c] light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation:
                          affirmative - ES, Am
                          negative - EA
                          abstentive - NR, Af

             Option c] - laser test - CONVENER-AUTHORIZED

*legend
             Af - Africa, Comptroller for Universal Coding
             Am - America, Director of Monitoring Activities
             EA - EurAsia, Coordinator of Space Missions
             ES - Equatorial South, High Commander of Armed Forces
             NR - Northern Region, Inspector General

4
             Shoo brooded for days, then ordered a communication with the coordinator of space missions.
             “This is extremely irregular, General,” was the first the coordinator said when, after fifteen minutes, his image appeared.
             “Yes, Coordinator,” said Shoo, “but only the convener is prohibited by law any communication with the members outside of formal board deliberations. Irregular, yes ~ unlawful, no. The matter is of some importance. I noted you cast the only negative vote on the laser test. As you remember, I abstained ~ for I have some reservations with respect to the effect of the laser. . . .”
             The coordinator made no answer.
             “Why did you oppose?”
             “I cast EurAsia’s vote in the interest of space missions, as is my duty.”
             “Yes, but I’m in need of information, Coordinator.”
             “General, I will be very interested to see the results of this laser test for it gives my people a chance to study the ‘black hole effect’, but the technology would be more usefully applied in space, I made that clear during our deliberations.”
             Shoo interrupted. “Black hole effect?”
             “That is what we call it: an implosion effect that distorts mass beyond the critical point.”
             “In Australia?”
             “We believe it will be confined. There simply will not be the necessary energy clustering chronology. Still, space would be better.”
             “This is too dangerous,” Shoo said suddenly. “Coordinator, I need you to achieve the necessary two votes to call on the convener for a review of the deliberation in question.”
             “That I cannot do. I must serve our own interests.”

             Shoo’s influence over the lives of people in his region, and in the world, was no longer an individual accomplishment: to gain, to have, and to hold the power to seize the destiny of an entire race is the most exciting challenge life offers. If there is a price, . . . must it be paid? No. No! But it could not be stopped. What to do? Where to go? The tribe. The tribe lives!

5
Brothers of all nations,
man the battle stations;
sisters, sound the call,
tomorrow is the fall;
children, heed the warning:
love is in the morning.
Life is everywhere.
Dandelion seeds of hope floating in the air,
find a fertile spot somewhere.

Brothers of all nations,
man the battle stations;
sisters, sound the call,
tomorrow is the fall;
children, heed the warning:
love is in the morning.
Life is everywhere.

Ask me tomorrow, not today.
Never listen to what I say.

Brothers of all nations,
man the battle stations;
sisters, sound the call,
tomorrow is the fall;
children, heed the warning:
love is in the morning.
Life is everywhere.

Good things everywhere.
Good things everywhere.
Good things everywhere.

             An insistent knocking on her door brings Le An to open it. A man stands on the step. She looks into his face. She sees the explosion of the gun as a slow?motion volcanic outburst. Fire spurts from the barrel streaming elegant arcs of light, a cloud of smoke curls and billows out majestically, and a lead bullet emerges ponderously ~ moving its head slowly from side to side like a clumsy dog after its prey.
             Shoo looks her earnestly in the eyes.
             “Come in,” says Le An.
*

Darkness Was Not Known

1

             The shrieking sounds in Jaine’s ears increased until it filled her consciousness and there was nothing but sound. Then there was nothing. Not as emptiness, but liberated from the senses it became fulfilled as pure knowledge of being in which everything became nothing and nothing was everything. Jaine knew the bright shine of the blazing mountain from which lightning flashed. There came helmeted beings in bloodied armor, carrying spears from the points of which stood beams of light. They chose death for people and determined victories. They always rode to say who fall and to cast their spells. The choosers of the fallen lifted Jaine. Thus her soul ascended to become one of the adopted children.

2
             The village accepted Shoo as a man with many useful talents and a hard worker. Some time after his arrival, he walked rapidly up a trail when confronted by the figure of a woman clad in a heavy cloak with a hood that concealed her face. She dropped to her knees before him, placed his hand on her bowed head, and clasped his legs.
             “Who are you? I don’t know you. What are you doing?” He bent down, loosed her arms from around his legs, and urged her up. She turned her face up to Shoo. He looked into features contorted by a terrible emotion he could not comprehend. A raw red wound appeared in her forehead and the hood fell off revealing the back of her head as a horrible bloody mass. Shoo stepped back gasping. Without a word, she pulled the cloak around her and turned away. He vainly reached for her with one hand as she strode from him with large determined steps.
             “Who do you think you are? Don’t just walk away. What are you doing? Speak to me.”
             The cloak fell from the woman’s nude figure, she stopped, turned a perfect unwounded head, and from darkling eyes gazed serenely back at Shoo.
             “Jaine!”
             She broke into a jogging run and disappeared among the trees.
             “Wait. You must. . . .” He ran after but couldn’t find her though he stumbled on for long. He walked til he came to a house where Le An stands at the gate. She smiles painfully at Shoo who sits on a bench. It is cold but Shoo doesn’t notice.
             “You are always alone,” says Le An.
             “There have always been the crowd and I,” he answers. “A small congenial group yet too restricting ~ even the family. I have had a woman’s love; I found it possible to live without.”
             She takes his hand and leads him inside into her bed where, in the naked sexual embrace, he inserts a finger into her nostril, and she bursts out laughing. Woman perpetuates the race by giving birth and then surviving; man helps, protects, and impregnates; but Le An is too old to conceive and Shoo is a murderer who later eats bread in her kitchen, then suddenly says: “We all get our wish, but it must be made in ignorance. As a boy, I wished to eat bread with butter thickly smeared.” He laughs bitterly. “Now, I do.”
             Le An turns away.
             “I could have wished for greater things. For love. It is wonderful to be loved ~ but I have no love.”
             Silent tears trickle down Le An’s face. “Love but everything,” she says softly.
             “You don’t understand,” says Shoo. “I have nothing to give.”
             “Why, after so many years,” breathes she.
             Surprised, Shoo faces her.
             She looks through tear?misted eyes at him. “Wes,” she says.
             Weston Dorchester Shulman. The name had not been used since (like many in the movement) he had changed it to signify the new beginning. Now his past confronts him in this, his last refuge; brings him full circle to his first battle, his first conquest, his first love, and a strange delight fills him. It is not of sexual origin although his body still tingles from the passion of Le An’s bed.
             “How is a man to be told he killed his own daughter, his first-born, maybe only, child? My child. Our child! What have you done?”
             Shoo’s search for power had been a lifelong hunt that ~ in the end ~ made him a mere watchman guarding the devaluing treasure of his achievements. And as that watchman he had renounced and put to his past life the dreadful lie that falls on this moment and stretches into his future. Like a shadow it flows over Shoo’s struggle for light and hope, and darkens the life of the woman before him.
             “I know. I saw,” she says. “We must speak with Radendr.”

3

             The cocks crowed loudly in the village the following morning. In a valley of willow clumps and frosted yellowed grasses crumbling in the snow where he had taken them, Radendr produced an object enshrouded by several lengths of fine cloth. He unwrapped it, revealing a well-made sword, but old and worn, pitted and chipped, gnawed by air and time. It had a long two-edged blade with a sharp-shouldered tang, gently tapering to a slightly blunted tip, and down the middle on each side ran a fuller ~ a shallow round-bottomed channel. The hardened steel-edged blade was of pattern-welded bars of iron, twisted together, drawn out, and laminated by the blacksmith’s art.
             “This sword is plain. It is old. It knew many ancestors. It takes oaths well. Place your hands on the steel as I hold it before me. Now speak with truth and no thoughts other than the sword’s power, which flows to it from your hands, lets me hold it by the handle. You need no incantations. Speak.”
             “I named her Jaine,” says Le An.
             Shoo chokes. “The child. Your child; our child. What is this terrible life that feeds on destruction? I killed Jaine!”
             Radendr raises the sword so swiftly it cuts the hands that rest on it. “Revenge,” he shouts, and hefts the ancient wound?gasher high above him with a two-handed hold on the tapered, pommeled grip. “I claim vengeance.”

4

             A bullet of light in the far infrared shot from the laser and smashed into the target. Passing a point in one-trillionth of a second, it made a harsh sound like the crack of a thorny whip. On the monitor, the target disappeared ~ there were no fragments, no smoke. It disappeared in a form of atomic fusion ~ the spark of suns. Unlike the jumble of wavelengths of the visible light, the laser emitted a light-beam less than a pico-second long, of one frequency with every photon vibrating in lockstep. Its pulse, almost simultaneously, converted the substance of the target into plasma ~ the stuff of stars. The fusing plasma vaporized everything within the target while the outer parts were blown away, and the force imploded the central plasma, raising its temperature beyond the fusion threshold. Radiation of all sorts moved out from it at wildly varying speeds. A certain type entered the terrorists’ stockpile of uranium isotopes in which the excitement caused the atomic nuclei to split. The sky grew crimson then greened, as a fission-fusion process devastated two-fifths of the Australian island-continent. A certain radiation travelled by way of secondary laser-beams, trained on the target to convey scientific information, to the Stockholm Technate Institute.
             The moon-rocks, measuring tonnes in weight, had a combined gravitational field extending over one kilometer. High-energy cosmic rays escaped through the aperture in the mirror system of the lasers to become immediately trapped in the field. Subtle effects caused the rocks to glow as their temperature rose slowly until they shone like tiny stars. Around them, extremely hot gas electrons moved furiously fast, hitting photons and imparting energy to them. Braking radiation scattered and escaped in a brilliant flash that sealed the rocks from the universe by their own event horizon. Inside this critical singularity, space and time became violently distorted.
             In a flash of radiation, timeless infinite mass and density created a seed black hole that caught in its field heavy water fusion fuels. These became enormously compressed just before vanishing in the hole, fusing, and releasing energy in the form of dozens of tiny holes ~ no larger than a nuclear particle but weighing as much as a mountain. These radiated so much energy that they evaporated explosively. As they depleted their mass, they radiated the more intense, until the entire cluster of seed and mini black holes ~ contorting matter and anti-matter in time-flow reversals, caused the earth to shrug and dislodge the cluster from her surface, and push the other?universe event constellation toward deep space.

5

             Le An sees Jaine ride a wolf with snakes as reins. Behind her the ground undulates as the land becomes ocean, the waves coming toward Le An. The ground slips quietly away from under her feet with a sickening sway and she is flat on her face. The ground crumbles under Shoo’s feet. She hears a yodeling whoop as he falls into an abyss.
             “Will it never, never stop?”
             Though the first shock lasts only forty seconds, it seems two hours. The second shock comes after a ten second lull and is light compared to the first, but it completes the shifting movements of what the first had only unbalanced. Fissures open in the ground in parallel ripples. From where Radendr fell, he slides down with upreached arms. The gap of the earth closes and leaves only the sword held by his hand which ~ in a last convulsive movement ~ opens to drop the old bone-biter on the ground before Le An who has but to reach out and take it.
             The contour of the landscape is ripped, shredded, and reshaped. A thirty kilometer areasinks three?hundred meters. Lakes disappear; new ones form. Two small mountains vanish. Large chasms of earth gape open and she falls into one of these, her arms and her legs caught by the soft soil below. One arm seems permanently pinned until she realizes that it is the sword wedged and she is still holding it. She lets go, works her arm free, and climbs out.
             “Nothing lives except the Earth.”
             The words form in Le An’s head by the booming sound of shock­waves from deep underground explosions. Water spouts leap up carrying bursts of forked lightning. A vast column of steam pours forth with terrific noise from an opening about twenty meters in width. A death torrent of giant boulders, scalding steam, waves of gas and heat, and burning mud rains down. A vapor tower, no less that three?thousand meters high, catapults lumps of pumice hundreds of meters upward. Amid the dust and vapor, sulphur pits open to hurtle red?hot blocks through the air which ignite the grasslands and set the area on fire. Subterranean upheavals make the ground vomit incandescent matter that gives forth a prismatic light as it rolls away. Gigantic clouds of ash and steam, in a column so black it has the appearance of ebony, rise to a height of twenty kilometers, gradually mushroom and spread into dense clouds that descend to blot out the day and bring night at noontime. From the Earth come tremendous detonations that merge into an incessant roar. This lasts through the day and the night and the day following.
             Over carbonized plants among trees cut down to splintered stumps, Le An walks leaving her footsteps white on the blackened ground. She crests a rise, her heart sinks as she looks on the devastated landscape, falls on her hands and knees, and groans.
             “The Earth is burnt.”
             A great shock, accompanied by a terrific roar, sweeps her up, twirls her about. She sees in the rippling ground her footsteps catch up with her and precede her down into a patch of forest all burned and covered by ashes and stones and smoke everywhere. A grove of trees moves a kilometer. Hills walk; Le An watches one sink before her until it is far below. She feels no trace whatever of fear.
             “Go it,” she cries, “and go it stronger!”
             This power, which has been lying low and holding itself back within the Earth, manifests itself to her ~ inevitably and irresistibly ~ with an intent and spirit pointing to a living agent as its source. Something mighty grips her heart, squeezes it in her breast, and shakes it like the rattle of a powerful shaman.
             Long listens Le An to the Earth’s words and crouches on that hill, and when her mind is freed and her eyes see earthly matters again, she looks down upon the great lake to see the water drain away, then rush back at over five?hundred kilometers per hour and flood far inland. When it is all over, the birds begin to sing loudly and discordantly. Le An makes her way down to the water’s edge, dips in a finger and tastes.

             Footsteps white as snow,
             carry into the burn;
             high is seen below;
             sweet to salt does turn.

6

             In the village survived twenty?two women, fourteen men, and nineteen children. Every house was destroyed but Gimle stood. An ava-lanche of earth ~ shaken loose clod from clod, and grain from grain ~ had cascaded like water and had piled up in a young mountain near enough to overshadow and forever deprive the round?house of sunrise.
             From the rubble of the village the living and the dead had been pulled, dug, scratched. The stiffened legs of animals protruded here and there, and attracted hungry dogs scavenging to feed. A hound gnawed proudly on a human skull. Corpses were piled awaiting disposal and had to be guarded. The cold ~ first an ally preventing disease, became a harsh enemy as temperatures plunged.
             Hours and days were lost in sky-glows, crimson dawns, red rising suns, or yellow clouds in skies of vivid red, fading into green and purple, with the sun sometimes looking like a blue ball, and always a shimmering phosphorescence was in every part of the atmosphere.
*

Three Winters

1


             Winter Sunstead is at once a plea for the sun to remain unconquered and a celebration of its inevitable return. During the twelve night cycle, a large log was every day brought to the fires of Gimle to burn as the Yule-clog. ‘To put fire among us,’ was taken by the people with almost religious fervor to infuse their environment with a fragile aura of hope and to dispel the dark despair that rested in the hearts of every survivor ~ young and old. On the twelfth night of sunstead the villagers gathered on the new earth mound by Gimle. The naked soil loomed over the scorched and frosted land. Every able man, woman, and child, stood stamping feet, hoods pulled over faces against the biting wind. In their midst was a nine-spoked wheel ~ at least three meters in diameter, all wrapped with straw, which was set on fire, and rolled down the hill. And the people cheered the wheel like a sun revolving across the sky.
             The sun returned but winter did not abate. The warmth of day was negated by the cold of night, and spring did not come. Where sunlight could not reach, ice crystals glittered; frost did not come out of the ground, and in midsummer fell snow. Crops would not mature. Game grew scarce. The common cycles of life are taken for granted, but when the seasons did not follow their accustomed sequence making plant growth fail and animals perish, people grew afraid and began to suffer from the depression that comes of harshness of climate and lack of sun which can drive men and women mad. They went poorly stocked into the following winter, which took the land in a frosty grasp so grim the forest-trees cried out with cracks that rent the cold stillness. When they went out, the sweat froze in the bottom of their boots, forming ice crystals that cut numb-cold feet, to be drawn from blood?soaked socks with frost?bitten dead?black digits. Snow fell the height of a person in half a day. Weakened people died in it, their bodies sticking out of the drifts.

2

             No longer happy or sad of her own self, Le An is happy when those near her are, and sad when they are so. She watches as the people become lean, emaciated, starving. As they suffer more, they become more beautiful. In this deprivation is not the meanness bred of much need, many mouths, graves, and little hope. In this hardship, how can they be so humane? she wonders, and watches the light in their eyes and the softness that steals sometimes over their wretched features.
             The people reached another sunstead at which the sun’s greatest power still left the country mean and cold. It needed all of the midsummer’s day to find flowers to drape over Gimle’s doors and decorate the living areas inside. The fire blazed through the shortest night that gathered all around to hear the man with the horse’s head. He spoke truth while dancing in the assembly ~ shaming wrongs, proclaiming right doings. Protected in his equine guise, he was free to speak of any matter, and his devoted calling was to articulate what the community would hide.
             He speaks of those who died in this fimbul winter; of cold they died, and of hunger and weakness. Tears stream down Le An’s face into an unutterable stillness. Everything bathes in a soft clear light. A flame-colored cloud envelopes Le An, and into her brain streams a momentary flash of illumination ~ a drop of bliss that leaves a glow of immense joyousness. She sees the light, but she has no more idea of it had she first seen the sun. It is impossible to set forth the feeling of the vision for there are no words. It is a seeing inward, and the word harmony would perhaps describe part of what it is.
             In the womb, the embryo seems to retrace and summarize the evolu-tion of the human race. In a few brief months, it grows from single cell to human form, seemingly resuming each day the slow evolution of millions of years. Likewise the child ~ from birth to maturity, and from the bottom rung of the ladder of mind ~ ascends in a few dozen months through the successive phases which occupied in its accomplishment by the race thousands of years. Le An passes through these experiences aware only of her own being ~ nothing but the speck of consciousness that is herself. Time and space are lost in an eternity of contemplation, until ~ at last ~ she discovers the world by naked sense impressions that leave memory spawning reason in her mind. Then she becomes conscious of herself and everything that is other, and she names her perceptions and gains language. The light of illumination transcends the word, the name, the concept, and Le An’s mind leaps into the blissful reality of knowing.
             ‘I believe in you, my soul,’ she shouts. Mother of a nation? She laughs. Doesn’t believe in immortality; she sees it.
             Intense feelings of joy, peace, and love overwhelm Le An. Freed of her body she soars over tender green mists that spread over the land. She listens to the unheard beat of life expressed as a rhythm ~ a keeping time within her. From her being again springs Jaine. Inside her wholeness again lives the man’s seed. She feels lovingly stroked, yet not at all like this. There is a perfect tranquil transcendence of which she is an indivisible part charged with latent potencies. Le An divines the fates as a prophetess from the future? scapes ~ wantonly thrust upon her unawares ~ which she bears like shackles in her ordinary life. The visionary sees directly into what is now ~ wears it like a glowing mantle that comes to envelop Le An also, and she knows the wearer is Jaine. Mother and daughter share the prophecy of things to come and the vision of light. The father sows again, emanates great power, then breaks his own life?stalk that remains strangely glowing and absorbing. The spirit of Radendr still quotes the myth, though the words are not heard by Le An but felt: ‘Was one born ever greater to augment the earth’s powers; with a word is ordered destiny’s course, in the intimate affinity of the legions who compose the grounds. Then came another even more charged with ability; though i dare not pronounce the name.’
             She rises radiant from the pallet where she has lain four days, the people watching fearfully over her, astonished at the light that emanates from her countenance. They find a slow happiness rise in themselves when Le An tells them she saw spring ~ sees it yet, and feel strangely rallied for yet another winter.

3

             Village life was Gimle life ~ the round-house holding people, beasts and fowl, as well as their few stores. Hunger was their constant companion; they ate what could best be spared: sometimes a piece of old half?rotten moosehide, and at others a pair of old boots. These were nothing more than the common occurrences in their lives. The sheer repetition of hardships ground down day by day, night after night, week in and week out, from moon to moon, left only half the people remaining.
             They felt utterly alone. The techniques for the making of tools necessary for survival had been handed down among local populations of the boreal forest for hundreds of generations, but there were few conscious memories that these orphans of technology could apply to their sudden stone-age existence. Millennia of glaciations were witnessed by an ancient race of humans who left tools for the ground to keep hundreds and thousands of years, to be regurgitated and found and used anew: a fired?clay round-based flask with a finger-long spout intact but for a small shard, a polished stone adze-blade with hollow ground cutting edge, and a wooden saw with rows of geometrically chipped flints for teeth.
             After the ice, and during warmer eras of a few hundred years at a time, the sterile, desolate, kilometer-thick ice fields were broken by open land corridors with lush growth of vegetation established in the glacier’s rubble of boulders, gravel beds, and moraines. Through these ~ slowly expanding their hunting grounds over the watersheds into the valleys, hunters had come dressed in hides and carrying throwing sticks and their belongings; men and women and children. The spectre of these generations of hunters, fishers, workers in flint, clearers of forests, raisers of crops, minders of stock ~ with undulating shadows of uncounted ancients behind them, gave the people in the round?house a growing awareness that lifted them, as dire necessity forced them, to measure themselves against their circumstance. Instead of a pitiable group of survivors they were a self-reliant little band composed of twelve children (half of each sex), nine women, and six men. In each of them, safe perhaps the smallest, the strength that comes of emerging from a great purge.
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Spring

1


             Never was such a spring as this. The joy of the people reached exultation with the warming days that greened the land with soft mists of fecundity. The first sun following the spring evenmete was bright and clear. They came out into the light shy and blinking as newborn kids, then reached for the sun like eager flowers, and danced in the first breeze of gentle summer. They danced on the green grass, and ran with burning brands through the fertile fields, and fell there ~ men and women ~ in wild tangles of sexual abandonment, and bathed in the dew of a new moon dawn.
             On the many graves they sowed grain that sprouted to profusions of milky kernels that grew hard and heavy. The animals returned and brought new kin that fed on poison and pollution. Harvest was abundant and thanksgiving great. When winter came it was mild and seemed kind to the people who feasted amid their great stores of food and fire. At the darkest hour of sunstead the joy still welled up inside them ~ irresistible joy of survival that made them leap and laugh and sing and love, and they banished the dark with plans and predictions. The years stretched ahead of them into a future that held no reason to bemoan the past.

2

             On the south slope of Gimle’s hill a stone knoll cropped out which became a favorite play area of children. One day it was noticed there were markings in the stone, and they began to clear away the earth. The soil was loose and easily removed by the children’s hands until they had uncovered a great stone menhir, the base of which was welded to solid bedrock. It was over two meters round and stood five meters tall. The coarse pitted grey stone face away from the slope of the hill was covered by carvings of serpents, snakes, worms, all coiling, writhing, around a huge snake-dragon whose body formed a serpentine band cut with Runes. The inscription was clear and simple to read even for the children: ‘The Tribe Of Five-Hundred-And-One Prosper In Nineteen Bands Together In The New-Green Lands Of Tomorrow’s Dawn.’
             They had grown used to thinking of themselves as the only people and had not thought of exploring for others. History records the peoples’ deeds ~ foul and fair, for the learned to recall; culture preserves their deeds for all people to see for, while it is the expression of what is artful in each person, it creates devices to good behavior from a system of belief that has as its object socialization and suppression of individualism ~ as does all mythology and religion. Thus was the fiery super-shaman of individual power destroyed, and replaced by the vision of the tribe through Jaine and Le An. Thus did the menhir wrench from them the overwhelming sense of individualism that comes to the last people in the world, and did this little band of humanity send out searchers to find those who would re?unite the bands of the tribe.
             Empires crumbled, nations split, the earth itself shook. In the land where the waters flow north, the bands had resumed their ways. They rediscovered each other season by season no farther than twenty days travel from Gimle. Each had been left with the optimum number for a cooperating unit of individuals who have to engage in careful planning of the activities called for by their mixed economy: a population of about twenty?five. This is too few to be stable; the smallest tribal number that would ensure an overall balance in births of sexes and in the gene pool is about five-hundred. So were there five-hundred-and-one: nineteen bands in all.

3

             It was a spring of four-hundred rounds of seasons when it darkened with the prophecy that could not be rescinded by order. The sky dimmed ~ in truth ~ when the dragon came flying. ‘The serpent from below the hated mountains,’ which the prophecies foretold, crawled forth from the Earth as the horse?eel from the ness; the monster of the lake, but also of the swamp, which moves through land as well as water. He flew up from the ground and soared high before swooping over the plain. As he drew nearer the people scattered with fright, for he carried an aura of pure evil that boded ill malevolence, malice, and hate. His eye gleamed with an unwholesome depravity. He was a real do?evil ~ devil. His presence alone caused pain.
             Most miserable and wretched was his burden, ‘his winged talons’ which rode upon him. The ‘Hostile-Striker’ ~ non-human, sin incarnate, who came to power and authority, and governed all with the rule of blood. From their dark primitive caverns they urged their foul steeds on the people to kill and kill to reach a frenzied fury ~ that berserker rage. They fought with the avowed aim to annihilate the tribe.
             “Thy sires failed to bequeath the baresark marrow to thy bones,” they mocked.
             It was so. A moral nature nurtured in four centuries of peace recognized that mere brotherhood in arms did not distinguish the savage from the civilized. To kill or be killed like berserkers is to be berserk.
             ‘Now must the dragon sink,’ said the prophetess.
             Now must he sink, say I.
             I quote again: ‘Then came another even more charged with ability; though i dare not pronounce the name.’
             I weep, cry, plead. Shining, transcendent Tiwa. I have forgotten the meaning of what I dare not.

4

             One time, long ago, real men and real women walked these shores. In those days, great evergreen forests covered this land, and there was an abundance of game in them, and fish in these waters.
             Then the forests were destroyed. The animals became few. The waters were all but fished out. The people defiled their home, their land. They lived violently ~ fighting, lying, stealing, in darkness and untruth.
             A terrible imbalance caused volcanic eruptions and earth quakes. Erratic weather patterns sent space winds that hurl about the Earth to its surface. Giant hail storms devastated crops.
             The Earth in upheaval was reflected in the poor creatures living upon it. There were the people, living under the yoke of tyrants who ruled the world under the bloody banner of naked violence.
             War and discord spread. Brother fought brother, sister fought sister. Then in a blinding flash, fire leaped to the sky and during four turnings of the Earth darkness was not known.
             The Earth itself was afraid and trembled. The sea left its basin, the heavens tore asunder. Continents were destroyed. New lands rose in all the oceans.
             Then came three winters without end, the Sun imparted no gladness, the wind was piercing, the frost severe, and it spread hunger and devastation.
             And all the carrion animals of the earth ate the people’s flesh.
             The Earth’ crust rippled, sea levels changed, but it was not the final destruction ~ the agonizing end to a long-suffering existence. No! It was an age of violent transition during which the people were driven within themselves to find the roots from whence they came. It was a renewal, like the Sun that returns to the land in a flash brings new life in an abundant regeneration. A renewal. For the Earth is not some slab of lifeless rock. It is a fiery-ocean?ball, alive and conscious. The Earth’s crust festered and healed, and festered again.
             There was a rebirth of the people, when came the five-hundred-and-one ~ the nineteen bands by which the people escaped the common ignorance of the enslaved multitudes who bring their offerings to the altars of the gods.
             Know this to be set down in year 27 of godi Mjoda’s regency by Vargarm Radendrskin ~ ErilaR, initiate to Runic mysteries.
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