The water wizards were dead. They had made it to a village, and stayed for the brief winter. They had gone about their usual activities: improving the water quality and power generation. But something had gone wrong -- information got out somehow, as it always did -- and a detachment of Home Defense had surrounded the village, searching for the wizards, the refugees reported.
“But the wizards routinely monitored all activity in their area,” Ileana protested.
One of the leaders of the group shook her head. “It was not a surprise,” she explained flatly. “We were all ready to go. But the wizards, they were angry. They said they were tired of running, and they could not allow any more destruction because of them. We packed as much as we could carry, and when the bombing started, and our houses went up in flames, we ran. They stayed… and they filmed it all. I saw them still standing there as the drone came in low. And then, there was nothing left.”
They sat in one of the larger rooms, grateful for the electricity, because it was still too cold to build a fire and sit outside. Some of the villagers were there, but many others had retired for some much-needed rest.
“They told us about you, of course,” a man spoke up. “They told us to come find you.” He smiled faintly and held out a piece of paper. “And one sent this note along for Sariel.”
Chess felt his heart pounding again, the same way it had when he first heard the news. He watched Sariel rise and silently walk to the man. With a gracious murmur of thanks, she took the paper and retreated from the room. Chess did not see her again for a few days.
They got the villagers settled in: there were plenty of empty rooms at Lodestar. But Chess had a concern. “I would hate to see this become like Razor’s compound: with everyone out for themselves and competing for resources,” he confided to Ileana. “The artificers are already pretty worried.”
Ileana nodded. “But these people come from a village where they worked together and voted for a council of leaders. They understand that’s the best way for everyone to survive, out here. We have already been talking about scheduling a sort of official meeting for everyone.”
“That sounds good,” Chess sighed. Then he turned and went back to what he had been doing before Ileana had appeared: staring out the window. Downhill from the building, and a distance away from the southerly slope they had chosen for their gardens, he could see the small but recognizable figure of Sariel. She appeared to be pacing slowly around the large field there.
Ileana joined him in staring. “What’s she doing?” she asked, with a look of concern.
“You’re asking me?” Chess shot back, exasperated. “Whatever it is, she been doing it for a while, now.”
They watched for a few more minutes, until Sariel walked over to a nearby bundle and picked up a long object. “She’s digging,” Ileana concluded.
“Is she… burying something?” Chess asked, alarmed. He pressed his nose against the window.
Ileana gave him a sideways grin. “Well, I’ll keep an eye on you, if you do the same for me…” Then she shook her head. “I think she must be planting those trees that Marcello gave her.”
Chess met Ileana’s gaze for a moment, and then they both hurried outside to help.
Sariel raised her eyes impassively when they arrived. And then she shrugged, and returned to digging. “Where I have marked,” she told them quietly, looking down.
They worked out there all afternoon, and Chess felt himself sweating, even though a cool breeze whistled through the open area, and the ground had only recently thawed. They planted the fragile-looking sticks, and surrounded them with a smelly mushroom and assorted fungi mixture that Sariel had gathered from the nearby woods. “To assist the roots in absorbing moisture,” she explained to them, as they poured buckets of water carefully onto their work.
And then Sariel settled herself down in the middle of the trees and was quiet. Chess and Ileana sat beside her, without speaking. They stayed until long after the sun had set, and the stars appeared.
Continued next page...
When the man, Ulu, returned to his wife from his visit to the temple at Puueo, he said, “I have heard the voice of the noble Mo’o, and he has told me that tonight, as soon as darkness draws over the sea and the fires of the volcano goddess, Pele, light the clouds over the crater of Mount Kilauea, the black cloth will cover my head. And when the breath has gone from my body and my spirit has departed to the realms of the dead, you are to bury my head carefully near our spring of running water. Plant my heart and entrails near the door of the house...
His wife sang a dirge of lament, but did precisely as she was told, and in the morning she found her house surrounded by a perfect thicket of vegetation. Before the door... on the very spot where she had buried her husband’s heart, there grew a stately tree covered over with broad, green leaves dripping with dew and shining in the early sunlight, while on the grass lay the ripe, round fruit, where it had fallen from the branches above. And this tree she called Ulu (breadfruit) in honor of her husband.
- Masks of God: Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell
The flip side of being immersed in a group’s ideals is, of course, consciously seeking out a group that shares our ideals, such as listening to our chosen news sources. And, further along this idea, there is another strange thing that we tend to do. We twist what we think people are saying so that it fits in with what we want to hear. It is easiest to do this when the people are, for whatever reason, not available to elaborate on what they mean. For example, I know for certain that because I refrain from voicing my opinion in many situations where I just don’t think it’s worthwhile to argue, people automatically take my silence for agreement. That’s my fault, if fault needs to be assigned.
Researchers through the years have tended to jump to similar assumptions with mythology (and, likewise, history, anthropology, etc.) The famous scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell has been somewhat controversial because some people believe that he inserted his own ideology into his interpretations. Certainly, it must be difficult to avoid doing this in some amount, because it is difficult to think outside of our current thought processes and cultural norms. But it is something that audiences should probably occasionally question. Unquestioning acceptance of anything, whether it is someone else’s view or what we believe is our own original opinion, seems counter-productive, given all the freedoms and choices we have in this modern world. Most of us are not dependent on small groups for survival the way our ancestors were, and therefore not required to agree unconditionally with anyone.
“He said people needed to practice thinking. Especially, people needed to think on the workings of the world around them... He said that when people forget to think, the world becomes more dangerous.”
- The Myth Prosaic by Georgia Z
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