To my delight, Ahrik has returned each “day” to play the naming game. For the last four days, he has arrived with the food-mother Leesha for the second meal and we all eat together. We play until she returns with the third meal and the others leave and she helps me eat. I am learning so many words in their tongue that I am sure that they are training me to be of some use soon. If only I had some tools! The biggest difficulty is boredom when no one else is here, but even in this, I have learned to pass the time by singing every song I can remember. The guard Jef has become more relaxed in my presence, always shouldering his weapon. I am constantly tempted by my old way whenever I see his weapon. It is so odd looking I long to examine it and find out how it works and compares to those I know. But, alas, that way is closed to me forever now and I must be content in whatever path the One presents to me.
Ah, Leesha the food-mother, Jef the guard and Dug the examiner have all arrived with the first meal. I give them the greeting, “wellcom,” that they have taught me and bow my head to the as seems to be courtesy among the Chaos-kin. The food-mother prepares portions so that we may all eat together, which tells me that today something new will happen. Perhaps I will be sold; perhaps something else. I must be prepared and have faith to face whatever it is.
After the meal is done, they help me change into a new tunic and back-robe. Having one of the way of the mother help me change is still embarrassing, but I can endure it. Then the food-mother takes my arm and gently pulls me toward the door, which Jef the guard opens. Though I do not hesitate, I must admit that my heart is beating wildly.
The corridor outside is long and I can see many strange Chaos-kin moving about. Alas, it is windowless as well. We proceed down the corridor and the Chaos-kin that we meet regard me with curiosity and smiles. I greet them with “wellcom” which seems to amuse them. We come to a set of double doors and Jef the guard opens one so that we can enter.
The room is huge, but that fact is dwarfed by the presence of two other stags of the Fleet Ones! The food mother gives me a small push in their direction. And I take this as an instruction to go greet them. They are unfamiliar to me, but before I can give a formal greeting one of them recognizes me. “General Salvation’s Voice! Is it truly you?”
“It was once as you say, but that path has been closed to me. I have returned to the name Salvar to take up the path of service to the Chaos-kin.”
“I am Tinker’s Delight, a humble thief who has earned my bonds.” He raises his left arm stump to touch mine as neither of us has hands to press together. “To have treated such a noble stag such as yourself so cruelly. It is enough to make one weep.”
I smiled to reassure him. “To dwell upon the sorrows of the past can only drown you in a river of tears. I have faith that the One Voice had prepared a proper path for my paws in the future.” I turned to the other stag. “Might I have the courtesy of your name?”
“I am one who follows the Sky’s Journey, a pathless one.”
Although he still has a right hand, he extends his left stump to greet me and I am touched by his courtesy. “I have heard that many pathless ones were treated as transgressors even though they were blameless.”
“It is as you say. My only fault is that I once raised my hand in protest, but they took that hand and stilled me in revenge. But how can I pity myself when I stand in the presence of one who has lost far more for a much lesser offense.”
I needed to change our talk so that our meeting did not fall into melancholy. “The past is tragic, but we must look to the future if we are to survive. How have you fared with the Chaos-kin?”
The pathless one responded. “They are strange creatures, full of many mysteries. For the most part, they have been gentle, but they have done so many inexplicable things.”
The thief agreed. “They seem gentle, but who knows what they are thinking?”
“Have you learned any of their words or their greetings?”
They both lowered their head and raised their shoulders in negation.
“Then if you will, I will teach you what I know and introduce you to those Chaos kin who have given me their names.” They both clicked their acceptance and I began my lesson. After teaching them the Chaos-kin greeting, I explained my naming. “I have returned to my child name because it is simple. Besides, however high or low we were among the Fleet Ones, what does it matter here?”
The pathless one smiled. “I like it. It is as if I am starting my life over among the Chaos-kin. Call me Chudin.”
The thief frowned. “I like it less, but I will bow to your wisdom, general. Call me Bulgur.”
I took them over and helped them through their greetings with the food-mother, the examiner and the guard Jef. The Chaos-kin were extremely delighted with this small courtesy and talked among themselves excitedly. I must admit that I am more relieved than I expected to be from being able to converse freely with my own people once again. Though it is embarrassing to be fed by the food-mother in front of other stags, I can endure it especially because Bulgur must do the same.
Ahrik came with the second meal and after all had fed; we began playing the naming game. Chudin seemed distressed. “What is the matter wanderer?”
“How can you be so calm around their magical devices? Perhaps such fearlessness is why you became a general while I wandered aimlessly.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. The ancient tales teach us that the Chaos-kin are makers of many mischievous devices. It is what they are named for. If you accept this as the path that the One Voice has given them then I find that they are not so intimidating.”
“Your words are a true song, general. I shall try to still my heart.”
Despite their shortcomings, I find myself coming to like these stags. Perhaps it is our shared path that we have been forced to tread. I can only hope that we will be allowed to walk together for a time.
Dr. Douglas Parton
Today was another great day. We tried allowing three of the Leotaurs who are in the best condition to socialize and it worked wonderfully. Salvar had previously shown the most progress and cooperation and he was able pass on what he had learned to the other two. It is amazing how helpful it is to be able to address them by name instead of just a case number. One amusing thing is that we taught Salvar to say welcome to when we entered his room and now he says that as a greeting to everyone and even passed it on to the other Leotaurs. Eric says that such misunderstandings are inevitable in a situation like this, but it’s still funny.
I may be wrong, but it looks like that the other Leotaurs look up to Salvar. Because of this, I am going to risk introducing him to another patient whose condition has become dangerous. Everything we have tried has failed, but just maybe he can get through to her.
All comments and corrections are greatly appreciated. Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments. I love finding out about and connecting with my readers.