Funny enough, things got a little easier -- and more interesting -- with Gryffin there. He taught Chess how to walk more quietly in the forest, for one thing.
“You guys crash through these woods like a herd of elephants,” he said, without humor. “I could go off and leave you for an entire day and still have no problem finding you again.”
Ileana turned away from them and briefly put her hands over her face, shaking her head. Chess just tried not to smile. They were all starting to get used to the guy, though, and Chess was glad.
When Gryff helped him do something like build a campfire, he filled in the little details and corrected Chess on things that Sariel could never be bothered to tell him. The guy moved over the forest floor like Sariel did, and seemed to have a similar store of knowledge.
With Gryff’s help, they avoided villages easily. He pointed out the small signs that indicated that people were nearby. He knew more than Chess had learned during his time as a scout for Home Defense. He never smiled, but Chess figured he was happy in their company, because he stuck around.
For the next week or so, they moved deeper into the woods, avoiding roads as much as possible. The girls stayed together, mostly, and Chess did not have much chance to talk to either of them. But, with Gryff, he felt like he had his own buddy now. The two of them: a thief and a ranger. Together with the girls, Chess thought, they formed a small adventuring party, making their way toward…?
Sometimes, Chess looked at his map, but, without landmarks, he was not sure where they were.
“So, you want to find this Lodestar place?” Gryff asked him one night. “What’s so great there?”
“Not sure,” Chess mumbled, shaking his head. “Probably nothing. They transmit a game that I used to play, back in civ.” He didn’t want to go further into it than that, afraid that tough Gryffin, with his spartan upbringing and his para-military attitude, would laugh at Chess’s game of dragons and wizards. It wasn’t the same as talking to the group back at basic training – they had all been brought up in civ and were in the military mostly because it was their best option. Gryff was different.
“But Lodestar’s out here, somewhere,” Chess said, squinting at the map by the light of the fire. “I’ve chatted with them a few times through the, uh, samiz network.” He stumbled over the word, wondering how he was going to explain the idea of ‘samiz’ to Gryff, when he had never managed to come to a good understanding of the technology, himself. But Gryff surprised him.
“Oh, yeah, we got involved in that stuff,” he said. “Receiving and transmitting by samiz. Where I grew up, they all listened to Isaac Dale and all that.”
“Really?” Chess asked, lowering the map.
Gryff nodded. “Yeah, well, it’s a good source of information. Like I said, they’re not active dissidents. They would never spend time on protest actions or anything, but they don’t trust the government, either. So, Dale’s talk…” Gryff thought for a moment. “…validates what they are doing.”
“Oh, okay,” Chess answered, not sure if he understood. “You know, I still can’t believe you just came out here on your own, just because you wanted to. Weren’t you afraid?”
Gryff narrowed his eyes at Chess. “The one thing I am absolutely sure of, growing up how I did, is that I can take care of myself.”
Chess blinked at the guy’s dead-serious expression and wondered if he could ever feel that confident, himself. “Well, anyway,” Chess sighed, “Lodestar is some kind of a goal for me. Otherwise, we’re just wandering.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Gryff said. He flicked a piece of dirt off his boot and relaxed against his backpack. They sat together in silence for a while.
“You know,” Gryff said unexpectedly, startling Chess just as he was dozing off, “the terrain here is getting hillier. I expect we’re reaching the foothills of the Appalachians about now.” He turned fully toward Chess. “I bet we could find a lookout point and get our bearings on that map. How ‘bout we leave the girls and take off for a few days?”
Continued next page...
Human beings can be remarkable static creatures; it’s practically woven into our DNA. Why move from the familiarity of the campfire circle and step into the scary wilderness even if wonderful, life-giving things might be there? Doctors, however, like to look at it another way. To us, life is never static. Everything is either growing or dying.
- Goal Power by Dr. Mehmet Oz, Time Magazine (17 September 2012)
At the time that I was busy writing the beginnings of Gryffin’s story -- how he left his family and ventured out into a world with which he had no experience -- I happened to read a Time article on the importance of change, and of actually taking that first step toward change. The article was really about transforming lifestyle habits like smoking and overeating, but I was surprised at how well it fit Gryff’s story.
It takes a significant amount of courage to make a big change. As I pointed out back when exploring the idea of “evil” gods and their penchant for bringing change to the world: in all the mythologies, stories, and voiced ideals throughout history, change seems to be the thing deemed necessary to sustain life. But change is scary not only because it brings discomfort. Leaving that safe campfire - or survivalist compound - might bring immediate death from some hitherto unknown danger. One wonders if it is worth the risk. Even a good change might not be recognizable as favorable for a long time. Of all people, participants in a revolution are probably most aware of this. Consider how many years Gandhi or Mandela languished in prison, and how many of their peers never saw the end results of the political and social upheaval. A good friend once confided to me that although Portugal had gone through a bloodless revolution in the mid-1970’s to throw off an autocratic regime, this had resulted in many years of political and economic turmoil for its citizens.
And yet, every movie and meme seems to shout, “Take a Chance!” The basic outline of the “hero’s journey” in the context of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the momentous change that the hero undergoes when he leaves his comfort zone. Without this action, we are told, there can be no gain. With this action, though, there might be terribly undesirable consequences: Prometheus, the once fearless god, is condemned to eternal punishment. His rescue is then dependent on a change that he, himself, cannot bring about.
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