Chess was unconscious most of the next day. And when he woke up, Ileana had returned.
“One of Razor’s suppliers dropped me off at the crossroads,” she shrugged in answer to his questioning look. ‘Those guys have this amazing truck that drives over anything. It was quite a ride.”
Chess began to speak, but Ileana cut him off. “He was still asleep when I left,” she snapped, and refused to say more. Chess did not ask -- it was enough that she was back and Lodestar remained safe.
The wizards, however, seemed to have dropped out of existence. Chess tried to contact them through samiz, by way of any villages in the area, but there was no word of them. He would have at least liked to be able to give Sariel some reassurance, but there was nothing he could do.
Thankfully, though, Gryff stayed around, and things seemed to go back to normal with him. They returned to their fishing, for as long as the pond stayed unfrozen, and did some hunting. Now that they were settled in one place, Gryff had also begun to try his skills at trap-making, and Chess often accompanied him on his rounds of the traps that he had set. But Gryff also wandered off on his own, and Chess knew that he was restless. And so was Chess.
The weather turned colder, and, during the month of January they actually experienced a few brief snowstorms. The blanket of whiteness on the surrounding hills made the land look magical, Chess admitted, as he accompanied Ileana up to the clock tower, one sparkling winter afternoon. Sariel was not with them. Whenever new snow covered the ground she tended to vanish to the woods, which did not surprise them at all. They left her alone.
As they stood there, listening to the wind howl through the trees, Chess told Ileana about his work on the game, and his efforts to locate the wizards. And, also, his recent foragings, trying to help Sled find more stuff to trade with the villages.
“As soon as the roads are clear, we are going to head out and make the rounds for a few days. I think it might be interesting to meet and talk to some local people… you know, when they’re not pointing guns at me,” Chess said, grinning wryly. “Personally, I think our food stores are fine, but Sled seems really impatient to get out there.”
Ileana gave him a knowing smile. “That’s because Sled has a girlfriend or two in every village.”
“Oh,” Chess laughed. “I had no idea. Uh, just Sled, or the other two, also?”
Ileana shook her head. “Just Sled, as far as I know. Irwin can’t be bothered to look up from his stories, I think. Not that I would ever criticize that kind of solid focus -- he’s doing exactly what he wants to do. And Fogg… well, he’s a sweet guy, but he’s not terribly adventurous.”
Chess gazed at the mountains in the distance. “They were all adventurous enough to come out here,” he countered. “That amazes me. They must have really believed in what they were doing.” Then Chess looked sideways at Ileana. “But… that’s not what you meant by ‘adventurous,’ is it?”
By the middle of the next month, the snow had completely disappeared, except for some patches they could see on the sides of the distant mountains. A week after that, straggling down the highway toward Lodestar, walking back from the direction the wizards had gone, came a crowd of people.
Fogg had been watching the party’s approach for days, reporting on the progress to Lodestar’s inhabitants. The trudging, weary-looking group appeared to consist of adults of all ages, and about a dozen children. With them, they carried many belongings, and a few were even pulling carts.
Discussions ensued, and Ileana convinced the rest of them to allow the people in, whoever they were. When the group got reasonably close to Lodestar, Sled took Chess and Gryff out with the truck. They quickly sent the truck back, filled to capacity. And, hours later, as the sun was setting, Chess and Gryff came down the road with the last of the company. Chess was carrying a small boy on his shoulders. They met Ileana, who, impatient for their return, had walked down the road a short way.
Chess set the boy down gently on the pavement before her. “Bad news,” he told her softly.
Continued next page...
I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
Scientific studies have determined that we like to listen to agreement - or is it the other way around? We choose groups who agree with us, but we also tend to agree with the group that we are part of. As I mentioned before, when talking about differences between Eastern and Western mythologies and cultures: from the culture develops the mythology, and from the mythology, it seems, develops the accepted norms of the culture. So how do we know what we actually believe and what is outside influence? Perhaps there is no way to tell. In this “which came first” dilemma, both the chicken and the egg have examples related to mythology.
In The Evolution of God, the author proposes that we have evolved to believe what our group believes. Whatever ideas we are immersed in are the ones that seem correct, whether the subject is religion, societal customs, cultural ideals, career aspirations or food preferences:
In Darwinian terms, it makes sense that our species could contain genes encouraging blind credulity in at least some situations. If you are surrounded by a small group of people on whom your survival depends, rejecting the beliefs that are most important to them will not help you live long enough to get your genes into the next generation. Confinement with a small group of people… is in a sense the natural human condition. Humans evolved within small groups from which emigration was often not a viable option. Survival depended on social support
- Evolution of God by Robert Wright
I am certain that I have witnessed this phenomenon time and again. Whatever group I am in: scientists, gamers, various “scenes,” etc, there are certain ideals that the members of the group expend great effort to achieve and feel as if they have made a big accomplishment if they do. However, people outside that group could not care less about those ideals, and usually would not even understand the goal.
Okay, how about a more concrete example? Jewelry, in general, holds very little appeal to me. I almost never wear any. However, I once worked at a jewelry store for a few months. During that time, surrounded by people who loved jewelry, I swear that I grew to covet every piece in that store and spent hours dreaming about which one I would buy if I had the money. However, once I left that job, I’m pretty sure I never gave that goal another thought. Again, a matter of perspective? Weird.
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