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In The Beginning

In The Beginning

 

By Richard Webber

 

Shakespir Edition

Copyright 2015 Richard Webber

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. Thank you for your support.

 

This novel is a work of fiction based very loosely on actual people and events from the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Prelude

Part I – The Journey

Part II – The Meeting

Part III – The Village

Part IV – The Kingdom

Part V – The Awakening

Part VI – The Future

Epilogue

 

 

 

Prelude

 

“In the beginning, there was evil.”

“Now of course I know that this is not correct. First there was good, and evil came into the world later. But this is my story, and I shall begin it however I wish.”

I looked around the crowded room for a long moment as I judged their interest, and eventually continued.

“Every heart holds both evil and good in different weights and proportions, and it is up to each individual to decide how the evil and the good in their heart shall be measured out. As one who has long tried to change the balance of my life, I know this better than most.”

It was early in the day and there was bright, clear sunlight streaming in through the open windows of the large common room. Once again I carefully studied all that were gathered around me. While I was surrounded by a great number of children and youths, there were also quite a few parents and other adults scattered throughout the crowd.

The children ranged from little ones that were being bounced on their mothers’ laps to young men that were showing the first signs of beards upon their chins. They all watched and listened to me with rapt attention, though if I held their attention out of respect, fear, or only because they were forced to be there by their parents I did not know.

“Now some of you have heard this story before, and you may have already learned the truths of what I will speak. But most of you have yet to take your first steps in my lesson. As I have said, this is my story, and though you may have heard it told by others, you have not heard it from my own lips. Well, now you finally shall.”

“I do not begin at the true beginning, since that is not what you need to learn at this time. But someday, that also may be revealed to you. Hopefully one, or perhaps even more than one of you shall learn something, and leave this room a little wiser then when you entered.”

Once more I looked around the crowded room, and with a firm nod I said, “I shall begin the story where I deem it best, and it shall end when I have finished.”

 

 

 

Part I – The Journey

 

 

Chapter One

 

It was just another desolate, rocky valley.

I had forced myself to believe that when I reached the top of this slope there would be something different to see. Disappointed once again, in front of me was more of the same barren landscape I had been walking through for weeks. I couldn’t see evidence of one drop of water in the entire valley. Only sand, rock, and scattered patches of long-dead scrub brush stretched almost as far as the eye could see.

Almost, because for the last three days I had seen mountains in the distant east.

But those mountains were still far away, and I had not found water since I left home. My second water skin was down to its last few mouthfuls. I had five, maybe six days at the most before it was completely empty. After that, it was only a matter of time.

But how much time was the question. The desert haze made it impossible to judge distances, and I could not tell if I was five or twenty-five days from the slopes. Once the water was gone I could only hope that I would be able to hold on long enough to reach them.

I looked over the sterile landscape, devoid of any sign of life, and once again thought gratefully about the abilities I had discovered in my long days of walking through this wilderness. Right now I was most grateful for my recently discovered ability to go for extraordinarily long periods of time without the need to drink deeply. As I had been forced to conserve my water, I learned I could live on only a few sips each day.

I had not known this before starting across the desert, since I had never needed to go without water before I began my journey. Even though I now walked almost nonstop day and night, I was able to get by with only two or three sips each day. I spaced out these drinks as I walked through the burning hot days and only slightly cooler nights.

Though I had no idea how many days I would need to go until I reached the mountains, I hoped I could travel at least five days after my last drops were gone. Perhaps that would be long enough, and I still had a chance to stay alive.

I had begun my journey forty days earlier. I left home with only a rough leather pack and the cloths on my back. The pack had held two full water skins, a bag of food, a heavy wool cloak, a firestone, and the drawing my mother had made for me when I was a child.

Though it was now almost empty, in the beginning my food bag had contained four large loaves of bread, a round of hard cheese, a package of various dried fruits and nuts, and several fresh oranges and apples.

Besides what was in my pack, my possessions consisted of the clothes I wore and my knife. I was wearing a tunic of wool which my mother had woven just a few weeks before I left. It was made of a lighter weight cloth and dyed a dark reddish brown color; it was good material and very well made.

I had sturdy sandals on my feet made from the hide of a wild boar. They were thick and strong and would last a very long time. Knotted around my waste was a belt of supple leather, made from the skin of one of my brother’s sheep. To the belt was attached a sheath, which was also made of the wild boars’ hide.

My father had devised an ingenious way of attaching the sheath to the belt with leather cords, which held the sheath in place just as you wanted. He had discovered that by repeatedly wetting leather in water and then drying it under the sun, it would become very rigid and hard as a rock. The hardened boar’s skin was tough enough to resist cutting, even from the extremely sharp blade of my knife.

The knife I carried was absolutely beautiful. It was perfectly balanced and always stayed incredibly sharp. The blade was made from a special stone which was found in one of the farthest corners of our land, and it had an intricately carved wooden handle that was inset with a large, highly polished dark red stone. I considered the knife to be a work of art, and it was my most prized possession. It had been made for me by my father, and had been a gift from him many years before.

The memory of the happier times from my youth brought the darkness into my heart, and caused an angry frown to settle on my face as I thought about the home I had been forced to leave behind.

My family lived in a rich, fertile country, but it was a place that was almost impossible for us to leave, or for other people to reach. Our land was bordered on both the north and south by great rivers that were wide and deep, and impossible to cross. To the west between the rivers ran a range of mountains which were so steep and dangerous they were threatening even to view. The mountains were so tall that there was no growth on the tops and well down the sides, and my father had said several times over the years that there were no passages through to the far side.

He also said there were fierce predators in those mountains, though I had never seen any on the few occasions I approached their jagged slopes. My father had made it very clear that the mountains were dangerous and there was no reason to ever try to cross them, since on the other side there was a great sea that blocked your passage any further. Those mountains and what lay on the far side were one of the few things outside our homeland that he had ever spoken of.

I had come to believe that my father was not telling the truth; that my parents had once lived on the other side of the mountains and that was why my father was so adamant that I not try to venture into them. I believed that God had made sure there was no way for them or anyone else to go through those mountains to the far side.

To the east of my home lay the wasteland I now walked through. Years ago in a rare moment of volubility my father had told me this desert stretched eastward for many days, but eventually it ended at a fair green land. I hoped he was right.

My homeland was very large, much larger than my family could ever have hoped to fill. It took many days of steady walking to cross from the northern river to the southern river, and a similar length of time to walk from the mountains to the start of the wasteland on the eastern border. While we actually farmed only a small bit of the land and our flocks used a tiny portion of the lush meadows, the rich soil and numerous streams would have been able to support thousands of people. But of course, it only supported the four of us.

Though my parents never seemed completely satisfied with our home, it was as close to a paradise as I could imagine. I loved my home and never dreamed I would be forced to leave.

Except for the one brief statement by my father years earlier, the wasteland and what lay on the other side was never discussed by my parents. I felt confident my father knew exactly how large the wasteland was, and what I would see if I was able to cross it successfully. I was certain my father knew almost everything there was to know about the world outside our homeland, but he was never willing to share anything with me about the lands past our borders.

For that matter, he would not discuss anything that had happened to him and my mother prior to their arrival in our land. My parents were so unwilling to talk about their past that over the years I had become discouraged about ever learning anything, and finally given up asking questions. I cared for my parents and respected their knowledge, but they were an intense source of frustration to me because of their unwillingness to teach me what they knew about the world.

I could not understand why they would not tell me everything I wanted to know. There was so much I could learn from them. While I was still young I had realized that knowledge was very powerful, and their unwillingness to answer my questions disturbed me and would often make me very angry.

My parents knew so much about the world. They had been alive since the beginning and they had an abundance of wisdom and knowledge that they could share. Knowledge that could help me to achieve great things in my life. Yet they would tell me nothing! My parents refused to acknowledge that I knew more than them about what was best for me.

Their unwillingness to teach me everything they knew made me even angrier as I became older. When I was young I believed it was my youth that caused them to be so close-mouthed about their history. As I aged and they still refused to answer my questions, I realized their past was something they would never be willing to discuss.

My parents always said we needed to live in the present. But for them to have knowledge about the very beginnings of the world and not be willing to share it made me furious. My brother always told me to forget about it, that they had their reasons and I needed to focus on the present. Then again, my brother always took their side; our parents could do no wrong according to him.

My younger brother always tried to do what he thought he was supposed to do, whereas I needed a reason to act a certain way. I would never do something simply because my family wanted me to. If an action didn’t benefit me, why do it?

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

When I started my journey I knew that before me lay nothing but a barren wilderness. Once I left behind the rich fields and abundant streams of my home I did not expect to find water, food or shelter until I reached the green lands of the east. But as I went forward into the unknown, I could not get two questions out of my mind.

How far would this wasteland continue? Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing this for certain. I went forward on blind faith alone, trusting that I could safely reach the green lands on the far side. The other question that preyed on my mind was the one which haunted me; the one which I feared to even think about. Who would I find if I was able to make it to the other side?

Our father had been willing to tell my brother and me just a little about the others. He discussed them with us once, and this was only because of my brothers’ persistent and irritating questioning about if there were any other people living in the world.

Father had been obviously uncomfortable and hesitant, which in itself was a rare occurrence. He told us that other humans did exist on the far side of the wasteland, but they were different from us. He said they were more plentiful in numbers and dangerous to each other, though they were not dangerous to us. Father said he had realized very soon after he and my mother moved to their new homeland, where the others had been living, that the differences between us and them were significant, not only in our physical makeup, but in our innate behaviors and thought processes. For our families’ safety he had decided to send them away.

He had not wanted to say anything else, and he was in obvious distress and seemed so sad. His statements confused us and brought up even more questions in our minds, but though we were more curious then before, because of his obvious discomfort we had not pressed him any further.

For a long time we had discussed what our father said, and tried to figure out what he actually meant. How could they be so different from us if they were also human? Why were they dangerous to each other but not us? How could he send them away?

Over time, as I grew older and became busier with work and never saw any evidence of the other people, my curiosity faded. I was young, and never thought I would need to leave home or meet another human being outside my family.

In hindsight it was ridiculous to think that I had not been more curious about the other humans, but it was now abundantly clear to me why no travelers visited our land from the east. After I left my home with its plentiful water, woodlands and meadows, I quickly entered a land that no human could hope to live in for long. Travel through perhaps, if you could carry enough food and water, but since there were no springs or plants, it would be impossible to live off the land. It truly was a barren wasteland.

When I left home I did not know how long I would need to make my food and water last, but I never dreamt I would travel this far with no signs of life. While my father had told me the desert stretched to the east for many days, I had not taken this information to heart, and I had foolishly assumed the journey would take no more than fourteen or so days. Since I started my journey with a good amount of food and an inaccurate idea of how long I would travel, in the beginning I thoughtlessly took my normal daily amounts of food and water.

During the first days of my journey I began each morning by breaking my fast with bread and water and some fruit and nuts. My parents had taught us that it was important to eat well before you started the day’s work, and the fruit and nuts gave my body strength that it could not obtain just from eating bread. This meal was similar to a breakfast that I would have at home with my family, though not nearly as elaborate.

I also drank generously to give my body plenty of water before I started traveling for the day. I would then begin walking, traveling through the day and taking short breaks only when I felt the need for rest. At home we would take a longer break in the early afternoon during the heat of the day, since this was when we were least productive. In the desert it made little sense to rest at this time since there was no shade, so I continued onward through the heat.

At home we would have our second meal of the day after our afternoon break, and then continue on with our work through the day until the sun began to set. The second meal would give us the strength to continue with our work through the long afternoon. This meal would include bread like the morning meal, but we would also have olive oil and herbs with the bread, as well as cooked and raw vegetables, cheeses and fruit. I began to salivate as I thought back to those meals which I had considered so simple at the time, but now thought of as a feast.

For the first part of my journey I tried to make the afternoon meals similar to what I would eat at home. In the late afternoon after the sun had dropped in the sky, I would sit and rest while I drank water and ate some bread, cheese and fruit. Since I ate out of habit I did not ration my food during those early meals, and I would have given anything now for the taste of cheese or fresh fruit. After I had eaten, drank, and rested my body for a time, I would continue walking. I would travel until the sun went down and I could no longer see enough to keep my bearings straight.

I didn’t feel the need to continue on in the dark, since I had been confident in the beginning that I would reach the end of my journey within two weeks. When night fell I would find a comfortable spot to lie down, behind a larger rock or under some dead bushes. It didn’t matter to me as long as I was sheltered from the endless wind. I didn’t worry about predators, since it was so desolate in the wasteland that there was nothing alive to prey upon me.

The first ten days were the exact same; eat, walk, eat, walk, sleep. On the eleventh day I awoke and it occurred to me that I had seen no change whatsoever to the horizon. I suddenly realized that I had been a fool, and the wasteland was going to continue for a much longer period than I had imagined.

I stopped eating food that morning. This decision was easy to make, since I had eaten so much during the first ten days of my journey that my food supplies were almost gone. By this time I had only one loaf of bread, a third of the cheese, and a few handfuls of nuts and dried fruit remaining. I went that entire day without eating anything. I was quite surprised when I awoke the next morning and was still not hungry. I went another day, and when I awoke the next morning I had only mild hunger which was relieved by a mouthful of bread and a morsel of cheese.

From this point onward, instead of eating twice a day as I had done all my life, I decided I would eat only when I was actually hungry, and I would eat only what my body needed to get by. I began rationing my food this way, and the results amazed me. Though I almost stopped eating, taking food only when my body indicated that it was needed, I had no ill effects. I had no overwhelming hunger, no weakness, and no loss of strength. I could have eaten more, and it would have tasted good and been satisfying, but my body obviously didn’t require all the food I had been eating out of habit.

Once I discovered my ability to go without eating through the simple testing of my body’s actual requirements, I decided to try the same experiment for both my drinking and sleeping needs. I needed to discover what the real requirements of my body were; to identify anything I had been doing thoughtlessly throughout my life out of habit or a perceived need that had been put upon me by my parents.

My continued strength after two days with almost no food had given me the confidence to try the next step. That very night I had not lain down and rested. Prior to this, though I had never been weary from my long hours of travel, as night approached I stopped to rest. I had done this only out of habit; because every other night of my life when night came I had slept.

The first night I continued walking was a revelation. When darkness fell I was not tired from the exertion of walking through the day, nor was I actually sleepy. As I continued on through the night I expected something to happen; that my legs would tire, that I would run out of energy, or that I would become fatigued and need to stop and sleep. It never happened. I continued traveling, using the stars to keep my bearings as I walked eastward. To walk through the night gave me a sense of power.

When the sun came up I broke my fast with a bite of bread and took a short break, and then I continued onwards. As when I experimented with my eating requirements, I wanted to continue until my body told me it needed to rest. I walked through the day, stopping only briefly to do what was necessary for my physical needs, and I kept walking into the night. That night I did become a bit weary, and when I stopped to rest I realized I felt the need to sleep. I lay down when the moon was high in the sky, over halfway through the night, and I awoke that dawn feeling absolutely refreshed.

This now became my normal pattern for resting. I would stop when I realized I needed a break, walk when I was refreshed and sleep only when I was tired. My body quickly established a rhythm of sleeping every other night for just a few hours.

I was glad my body wanted to sleep during the nighttime, even though it was cooler and more pleasant to walk during the night. Though I had yet to see any signs of life, either human or animal, I needed to keep watch for this possibility, and even with my excellent eyesight, signs could be difficult to see in the dark.

Since I knew water was so important for survival, especially in this desert environment, I was worried that this would be the area where my body failed me. Unfortunately, I had already drunk the greater share of my supply when I began the experiment of severely limiting my water intake.

I started to drink only when I was consciously thirsty, and I drank only what I needed to quench my thirst. My intake immediately dropped to almost nothing. Even though I walked through a desert, I needed to drink only rarely. This made me angry with myself for squandering my supplies earlier in the journey, because by this time I had less than half a water skin left.

I was delighted to have found these powers. I was discovering strength in myself that I had never dreamed existed, and I loved testing myself to uncover the limits of my body and mind. The realization that I didn’t require the food, water and rest I had assumed I needed to survive made me realize that I should question every other assumption I held about my life. In order to understand who I was, I needed to re-evaluate everything I knew or thought I knew about myself, my parents, the things I had been taught, and even the very way I thought.

From this point forward I would test myself in every aspect of my life. I no longer wanted to do anything just because I had been doing it my entire life, often with no thought as to the purpose or reason. I made a conscious decision to reach an understanding of myself during my trek through this harsh land. I decided that whether I lived or died out here, I needed to make sense out of my past and know who I was. Only by knowing myself could I control who I would become.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

I had grown up in a very ordered house, with a scheduled routine. Every day, with the exception of the seventh day, followed the same pattern from the time we rose until we went to bed at night.

My family broke our fast in the morning after we awoke at sunrise. We sat together at the table to eat as a family, and my mother would put out what I now realized was a feast. Most mornings we would have eggs. Sometimes they would be plain, other days cooked with vegetables or cheese. With the eggs we would always have bread with butter or honey, milk and fresh fruit. We often had warm cereal made from grain harvested from my fields. We would mix the cereal with honey and milk to make a delicious dish.

After the breakfast meal we would clean the table, kitchen and house as was needed. We would then wash ourselves to get ready for the day, cleaning our teeth, face and hands, before going out to our work.

The morning was spent working alone in our area of specialization. The afternoon was used to do our communal work, where we would help each other on whatever job had need of an extra set or two of hands.

When my brother and I were children our chores had varied as our parents taught us to do all the tasks that were required to support the family. As we had grown to adulthood we had moved towards working in the areas that we most preferred. He loved working with animals and preferred a slow pace. He liked to have lots of time to sit, think and sing. For years now he had taken care of our flocks. I wanted to work hard and see the fruits of my labor grow before my eyes. I loved to work with plants and was responsible for growing all our field crops. I provided most of our family’s food.

My father took care of our orchards, and he could build or fix anything. He was quite ingenious and had made everything we needed to have a very comfortable life. We had a table with chairs for eating our meals, and we had soft beds to sleep in. There were shelves and cabinets for storing food and cooking tools in the house. My father had even diverted a stream so the water ran right behind our home. We did not need to walk far to get water to drink, cook or wash with.

My mother was in charge of our household. She cooked our meals, made our clothes, and took care of the house, whether it was cleaning it herself or telling us what to do. She was also in charge of the herb garden, where she grew the many herbs she used in her cooking. Though it was a very rare occasion when one of us did not feel well, she also grew special herbs which could be used to treat our family for illness or injury.

After breakfast and cleaning up, I would be able to go out to my fields to work for the morning. I loved the time I was able to spend there alone, with no one to bother me. Depending upon the season and what had to be done with my crops, I would at times need help from my family in the afternoons. Planting season was difficult and time consuming and I always needed assistance in the spring, but during the growing season and the quiet fallow season the pace was more relaxed and I needed no help at all.

Harvest was an especially hectic time, when many hands were needed to bring the grain in. Harvesting the fields of grain was a lot of hard work, and it had to be done quickly lest you lost the seed off the stalk. The more hands the better in order to complete the harvest as swiftly as possible. I was able to harvest all the fruits and vegetables myself, as they had a slower paced growing pattern and they yielded their produce over a longer period of time.

My mornings were spent in solitary work; hoeing, watering, spreading manure, harvesting what could be taken. This was my time alone, when I could work and not have to interact with my family. I did not like to sit around and think and talk as the rest of my family always wanted to do; I needed to be active.

By the time I left home I had come to the point where I often did not want to speak with my parents. They enjoyed giving me counsel in areas where I had no need, and I would get frustrated and angry with them. It seemed that the older I became, the more they told me how they thought I should think and act in my life.

On different occasions my parents had said I needed to be less arrogant, especially with my brother, that I needed to be more giving in my worship of God, and even that I needed to think less of myself and more of the family. They actually told me they thought I was selfish!

I hated that they seemed to think so little of me. I was not arrogant with my brother, though I did believe him to be simple in his outlook on life. I did not feel the need to be more giving to God. My giving was sufficient. Everything I grew was because of my hard work and intellect, not His. As for selfish, since I produced almost all our food, I believed I was generous to share everything with my family.

I believed my family needed to think more highly of me and be more grateful. I provided our abundant food. They should have been respectful and impressed by what I did. Without me they would not have eaten nearly so well.

My brother was just as bad as my parents, if not worse. Though he was younger than me, he felt he had the right to give me his opinion on how I should live my life. I was especially bothered by his superior attitude regarding his relationship with God.

For some reason he thought he knew better than me how to worship God. He would constantly tell me how I should praise God more, and give God the glory for the success I had in my own fields raising my crops.

This infuriated me. He just sat around all day watching his sheep, singing, and as he liked to say, praising God. While my brother played around like this, I, not God, had real work to do in my fields raising the food our family ate. I, not God, deserved the glory.

When the sun started to drop in the sky my father would blow a horn to signal our afternoon rest, which we took during the heat of the day. This would not be a long break, just enough time for us to regain our energy while the sun dropped a bit lower in the sky. The rest time would be followed by our afternoon meal.

After a morning of hard work in the sun, I was always ready for both the rest and the repast. Dinner was taken in the same manner as the morning meal. We would gather around the table to eat that which my mother had prepared.

We would always have bread and cheese, and there would be butter or olive oil with herbs to go with the bread. From my fields we would have various raw vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and peppers, as well as wonderful soups or stews made with beans, potatoes and vegetables. The food was always delicious and filling.

We would finish the meal with our choice of the many fruits we grew, such as strawberries, apples, melon or citrus. In addition, to quench our thirst we would have water, milk or juice squeezed from fruit.

While we were eating, we would discuss what we had accomplished that morning and what was still to be done. After talking over our morning work and whether any of us had need of help that afternoon, my father would decide what project to work on for the rest of the day.

The afternoon was the time for the large jobs that had to be done. These projects would sometimes take many days to complete, but together we would build a new structure to store grain or keep animals in, a fence for livestock or a trench for irrigation in the fields. There was always plenty to be done, and these projects could be completed more quickly with all of us working together.

Though the work was often tedious, I took pleasure in being able to form things with my hands. The creation of items for the house was my father’s primary job, but on occasion my brother and I would help him make furniture or other small household items, such as the utensils that we would eat or cook with. These household objects were fashioned from wood and sometimes stone, and all of them were shaped by tools which my father had devised and built.

I enjoyed turning the wood and stone into beautiful, functional objects almost as much as I enjoyed working in my fields.

Following the afternoon meal, the men would go out to work on whatever project my father had decided upon. Though sometimes mother would need to help us, she normally stayed at the house and worked outside in either her kitchen or herb garden, or inside the house cleaning, making cloth on her loom, or sewing. If she felt the desire, she would sometimes spend time in the afternoon creating a drawing or painting.

When darkness came we would all be back at our house, where we would wash the dirt and sweat from our bodies and join together to converse for a time with candles lit before going to our rooms for the nights rest.

Every day was much like the day before, with little variation in what we ate, our work, the time we rose and the time we slept. There was a sameness about everything my family did, even the things that we spoke of, which I found tedious. Nothing ever seemed to change or happen, and I could foresee my life going on like this forever.

On the seventh day we would rest from our labors. This was a practice my father had taken from God, who had created the heavens and earth in six days and rested on the seventh.

The one thing my parents were willing to speak of from their past was their relationship with God. They told me and my brother that in the beginning they had lived in a garden where their life was wonderful and filled with peace. In this garden they had somehow known God personally; they said they actually spoke with Him. At the time I found this ridiculous and hadn’t really believed them. How could they know and speak with the Creator of the world?

Something had happened to my parents; something that forced them to move to our homeland and fundamentally changed their relationship with God. According to them someone they named the Deceiver had lied and caused them to do something which made God sever their close relationship, changing it radically. This change was not my parents’ desire and caused them great sadness.

Now, instead of being close to God physically and emotionally like my parents said they originally were, we worshiped Him from a distance. This fundamental change in their relationship with God caused my parents great pain, and the separation also seemed to bother my brother. I really couldn’t understand their problem with this arrangement, as I had no real desire to know God personally.

My mother and father liked to call our family people of God. They told me and my brother that they were created by God to be a blessing to Him, to be righteous and do His will. They said we were created in God’s image; that we were able to reason and make choices, to think and act righteously like God if we had the strength of will and chose to do so.

Our parents were insistent that we never listen to the Deceiver. They said he no longer walked the earth as he had when he first deceived them. Now he was the voice within us which tried to sway us to do wrong, just as God was the voice within that wanted us to do good. My parents told us that God had given us free will, and He left it to every person to make their own decisions as to how they would live their life.

Other than these things of God, my parents would not talk about their past. They would not tell us what it was like in the beginning, about their original home, or why they had to leave.

My father told us resting on the seventh day was a way of honoring God and His power. He said God wanted us to take time to contemplate Him and also relax; that He wanted us to enjoy the beauty of the world around us and do what we enjoyed without feeling guilty about taking time away from our work.

It was on rest days that my father would construct things for pleasure. He had made my knife over the course of several rest days, carefully shaping the blade and then carving the handle to fit me perfectly.

He carved a flowing guard into the hard wood, and the end of the handle was shaped into an ornate circular design like the inside of a shell curling in upon itself around the large, deep red stone. It was such a beautiful knife that for the longest time I would not use it for fear of damaging it in some way. My father had finally found it necessary to talk with me to convince me to use the knife. I consider the lesson he taught me that day to be one of the most important I ever learned, and I have tried to keep it central to my life.

Father said everything that exists on the face of the earth was put there for God’s purposes, whether it was created through the hand of man or by God Himself. Everything in existence, from our human minds and bodies to our talents, abilities and our man-made tools, is from God. Anything which is not used by man to its absolute fullest potential is not serving the purpose for which God put it on the earth. To not reach, or not be allowed to reach your full potential is worse than to not be created at all, for by this you fail both God and man.

It was on rest days that my mother would create her most beautiful paintings. My father had devised an ingenious construction for her to paint upon. He would take the skin of a sheep, clean it and allow it to dry almost completely. He would work the skin to keep it flexible as it dried, and finally he would stretch it over a square wooden frame and let it dry fully.

My mother would then take this smooth skin, and paint upon it with every color. She made these paints herself by mixing various elements she grew or found in nature. She created the most wonderful paintings, mainly of flowers and her gardens, though she also painted scenes of the forests, mountains and meadows, often with animals in them.

My parents spent much of their time together on the days of rest, often just walking through the forests and meadows. They always seemed happiest when they were alone with each other.

My brother wasted most of his free time, as far as I was concerned. He would sometimes spend an entire day making a musical instrument, usually simple flutes or pipes which he fashioned from reeds. He also tried to construct very complicated stringed instruments which he would work at for many days, but he could never seem to get them quite right.

While he was able to find a way of making the strings out of animal parts and the bodies were carved and shaped out of wood, the way of adjusting the strings to create the exact sound he wanted eluded him. He continued trying though, and he used his flutes to create tunes which he played as he watched his flocks in the meadows.

He would make up songs which he sang to our parents in the evenings. They loved these songs, and praised him for the beauty and poetry which they heard in them. They were often songs about the glory and power of God. My brother always said God’s glory was revealed in everything he saw in the world. These sentiments brought pleasure to my parents, but I thought he did this only to impress them and curry their favor.

Of course God was powerful, He had created the earth and everything that was seen, but what did He care about us or my brother’s songs? I was not sure He even knew we existed any longer. Though my parents had once had a relationship with Him, God seemed to have gone away, perhaps for good.

My parents insisted that we make sacrifices to Him, that we give Him the first fruits of our harvest and flocks and give thanks to Him for all we had. I couldn’t see any reason for this worship. We did all the work to provide for ourselves. As far as I was concerned, I worked harder than anyone else, so why did I have to give God anything?

Since God was so awesome and had so much power, why would He care what we gave Him or what we thought about Him? God was so far above us that we were probably nothing to Him. Since God no longer spoke to my parents as He once had, I believed He had forgotten them.

My parents insisted that it didn’t matter what God did, that we were His creation and we were obligated to make sacrifices and give our best to Him in thanks. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t understand how they had come to the conclusion that we were obligated to God, but they were so insistent about sacrifices that I grudgingly did what I was told without arguing.

Rest days were usually a source of frustration to me. I had so much work to do with my crops, and I always felt as though I needed to be in my fields doing something. I had no desire to take a walk through the forest, and did not want to waste my time with singing or painting. I always felt the need to do productive activities.

Since my parents insisted I wasn’t allowed to actually work in the fields, I would use the rest days to plan what I could do later to help my crops. Though I would not admit it to anyone else, this forced time off from working in the fields helped me to think of several ways to produce more and better crops.

While walking though a meadow I noticed that where the sheep left their waste the grass grew thicker and taller. I decided to take some of their waste and put it around my vegetables. I spread it around the base of some plants, and those vegetables seemed to jump from the earth. They grew taller and fuller than any I had ever seen. Though it was a nasty job, I now gathered waste from my brother’s flocks and carried it back to my fields to spread around my fruit and vegetable plants. This practice, which I had been following for over twenty years, had without a doubt greatly improved the yields of the plants.

It was on a rest day that I came up with the idea of how to bring water to my fields so I would not have to carry it there in buckets. I realized I could dig ditches through the fields which would channel the water to the areas where it was needed. I put wooden gates in the ditches to hold the water back, and opened them to allow the water to flow whenever needed. With these irrigation ditches I was able to increase the yield and the health of my crops, and save myself from the back-breaking work of carrying the water in buckets.

On another rest day, while sitting in my vegetable field I noticed that although all my plants grew under the same conditions, receiving the same amount of sun and water, certain plants were larger and healthier than others that grew right next to them. I had the idea to take the seeds of the healthier plants, and use only those seeds when planting for the next growing season. I thought perhaps this would cause all my plants to grow larger and be more productive. I tried this the next season and it worked. It had now been several years, and my plants were flourishing as never before.

I never told my family that all these ideas came to me on a rest day. Although I always insisted rest days were a waste of my time, a lot of good had actually come out of them.

After many days of thought while I walked through this wasteland, I now knew growing up and living in our land had been a life of relative ease. We worked hard to provide for ourselves, but we never wanted for anything. All our needs were met, and we even had excess. We rested when we needed, ate our fill and never wanted for more. I never went without anything, whether it was food or water, sleep, clothing, or any material object.

This was why my newfound abilities to travel without rest and almost no food or water were such a revelation. In all my life I had never needed to push myself this way. I found it wonderful, and I was intrigued that I was able to go so far past any physical limits that I had previously imagined my body to have.

In my parents’ house they had always insisted we needed to drink water frequently and eat food regularly to keep up our strength. After I discovered my new abilities, I wondered if my parents knew or even suspected they had the same abilities. After I thought about it a while, I realized that of course they knew, it just didn’t matter to them.

To my parents, the food and drink we shared brought us together around the table as a family. That was the most important thing in the world to them. The sleep of the night brought us into the house and bonded us together, and that was where their hearts rested.

I had come to the realization that my parents had no need or desire to test themselves. With our family and our home they knew what they had in their lives, and it was enough.

Perhaps this was because they already knew themselves. They knew what they once were and what they had become. Perhaps through their decisions and the actions they had taken in their lives, they had arrived at a place of stability with no need to push at any boundaries.

At one time I probably felt the same way as my parents about my life, but as I had gotten older my family and the land had not been enough to keep me satisfied.

Before I started my journey; before the act which caused my expulsion from my home, I had not known the cause of my dissatisfaction with my life. I had been looking for something, waiting for something, but I had not known what it was. And how could I have known what I was looking for, since I had never experienced anything besides what I had grown up with?

In these last days of walking as I had moved farther eastward, farther from all I had ever known, farther away from the safety and security of my parents’ home, I had finally discovered what I was looking for.

Freedom.

Freedom to make my own decisions. Freedom to make my own choices, whether they were right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or evil. I had to be free to become the person I wanted to and needed to become, not the person my parents, my brother, or even God wanted me to be.

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

I reveled in my newfound strength and endurance, and I truly needed it. This barren wasteland seemed like it would stretch on forever. One miserable hill after another, each hill followed by another miserable valley, and every square inch of it uninhabitable. Not even a vulture would bother to fly over this land. Home had not been perfect, but it was a paradise compared to what I now walked through day after day.

I had come to hate this wasteland in a way I would never have dreamed possible before I entered it. I hated it like it was a living, breathing organism. I hated it as if it was an enemy, alive and seeking to kill me.

I thought about my homeland frequently as I walked. I thought about the abundant fruit trees filled with mouth-watering oranges, peaches and figs; the groves of olive, pecan and cashew trees; the small ponds and streams; the grassy meadows and woodland forests. And of course I thought about the fields of vegetables, fruits and grains that I had grown.

I had never realized how tied I was to the place of my birth. I knew how much I loved to farm; to go into my fields and plant and cultivate my crops, but before I was forced to leave I never thought about how much our land really meant to me.

In hindsight I realized I had always considered the parts of our land outside my fields as being more connected to my parents and brother. I never gave what I considered to be their land much thought beyond what I got out of it to help sustain or cloth me.

My growing anger and frustration with my family had blinded me to my feelings for the land of my birth, and all the beauty and bounty that surrounded my home. Now that I knew what I had lost I missed the land even more than I missed my family.

I tore my thoughts away from my past and once again focused on what was in front of me. The rolling hills I had traveled through the last few days were just as tedious as the flatter lands to the west. There was still no vegetation and no change in the overall feel and nature of the landscape. I had not seen one animal since I started walking forty five days ago.

What now gave me hope were the shades of green I could see coloring the tall hills ahead of me, still far off in the distance. There was life there, food and water. I no longer had any doubt that I would be able to reach those far hills.

Ahead lay the end of my journey across the wasteland and the beginning of my new life.

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

I had now been walking for fifty days, and all my food and water was gone. If not for my ability to subsist on ridiculously small portions, I could never have made it this far. Thankfully, even on the tiny portions I allowed myself as my supplies dwindled, there had been no decrease in my body’s strength or stamina.

Once again I questioned how I was able to do these things, to go without sleep, food and water, and not suffer? Even if it wasn’t important to them, why had my parents never told me I could do this? They were so wise and they knew so much, yet they told me so little. It made me angry every time I thought about it.

In truth, I knew it was not honest to say they had told me nothing. My parents had actually taught me about many different things. I truly believed the knowledge they had given me would help keep me alive as I started my new life.

From childhood they had instructed me on how to grow crops, how to raise animals, how to weave cloth, what herbs to use in food and as medicine, and how to make things with tools. These were all invaluable skills which would be critical in my future, but these were just learned behaviors. Skills such as these were important, but what I desired was knowledge.

Who was my family? How did we come to be the people of God? Who was the Deceiver? These were the questions I wanted answered, but these questions could never be answered without my parents.

I did not realize how little I knew about our family until I left home. Why had my parents not told me more about the world, about our past, and about our abilities? What other abilities did I have that I had not yet discovered?

This thought gave me chills. I suddenly realized that I had no idea what was normal and what would be thought of as exceptional in the world of men.

I believed that my abilities would set me apart and give me the means to become a powerful man, but perhaps I was not special. Perhaps my knowledge and abilities were nothing out of the ordinary. This concerned me somewhat because I could not accept being ordinary, but I was not overly worried. Even with the circumstances behind my departure, even though I was forced to leave my parents and all I had ever known to journey to an unknown land, I believed my future held great promise.

Even with my life in a shambles, I had set out across this wasteland with high hopes. Hope that my future would be better than my past. Hope that I would be treated more fairly, and would be able to achieve the greatness I believed was my destiny. I still hadn’t defined what I wanted to achieve beyond a vague notion of greatness, but one thought gnawed at my heart. I refused to be common in this new land! Although I didn’t know what lay before me, I resolved to fight relentlessly to satisfy the need for power that was within me.

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

It was always so easy for my brother to follow our parents without question. He didn’t mind that they told us so little about the world; that our life was the same, day after day, year after year; that we were supposed to worship God and sacrifice our best to Him for no apparent reason. To my brother it was enough that our parents told us something was important.

That wasn’t good enough for me. Why should I listen to my parents and follow along without question? I had a great mind. On my own I had thought of how to irrigate my fields and increase the yields of my crops. Yet according to my parents I was supposed to give all the glory to God!

My brother had agreed with them. He actually told me that he thought I was arrogant and conceited; that I thought I was better than him. He said God had given me all my talents and abilities and I should give God the glory for everything I was able to do.

This infuriated me. It was my mind that thought up those advancements, and my hands that made the improvements. They wanted me to praise God, when they should have been praising me for what I had done for the family. What had God ever done to help me? I did everything. For good or bad, my thoughts and deeds were my own.

When God came to me after my brother’s death, I had seen His power and been frightened. Although I considered myself brave and knew I was strong, I had fallen on my face in fear and had not been able to lift my eyes to look upon Him.

After our encounter, I no longer had any doubts about my parents’ stories of how He had created the earth, the sky and everything in existence. I believed what my parents had told me, but I now believed of my own accord.

But how did that translate into a God that increased my crops? I was the one doing all the work. I used my intelligence to think of ways to increase the crops, and I used my hands and sweat to grow and harvest the crops. God was not involved.

My parents insisted that everything came from God. That He gave us all our skills, abilities and talents, and He guided our decisions if we listened to His voice. They said if we didn’t let Him guide our decisions they may not be right.

This idea that God, the God I had fallen down before in fear and awe, actually cared about me as an individual was still not believable. I was below Him. I could not matter to Him. Why would He care about me? Even now I could barely believe that He had come to me. I had made a mistake and I appreciated His mercy, but that didn’t change things.

Even though I now knew God was real and had awesome powers, I also knew I had my own power. My physical abilities were my own. My intelligence would be my guide in the days ahead; my decisions would be my own, and not made because of Him. My success or failure, my life or death, was in my hands and dependent only upon my thoughts and deeds, my actions and intelligence, and no one else’s.

My life had changed completely in the last fifty days. From my brother’s death, to my expulsion from my home and my journey across the wasteland, I could scarcely believe it was all real. I now understood that as old as I felt, as much as I had seen and done, I had been alive for only a short time. I realized that there were many choices in life, there were many paths that could be trod, and one person could make a difference in the world.

Anything was possible, and I would make my own future. I alone would decide what I would be, with no direction from my parents or God. I had spent my journey thinking of my life as it had been. From now on I would take action. Whether I was right or wrong, I would change the world as I saw fit.

I was finally close to real vegetation. I could smell it in the air. I had barely stopped walking for the last two days, and there was life just ahead. My mind and my eyes were focused on the wooded slopes I now approached.

The hills I had been watching for so long had sprung to life, and I was now able to see everything clearly. There were birds flying over my head, and I had even seen some wild animals off in the distance.

As of yet I could see no fruit trees, nor any grain to make bread. I was not worried, where there were birds and animals, I could find something to eat and water to drink. I was focused on reaching those hills and would stop for nothing. I knew in my heart that whatever I had been searching for was just ahead of me. I would soon reach my destination. Whether it was to be the end of my journey or just the beginning I didn’t know, but I could not stop now.

 

 

 

Part II – The Meeting

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

It was my fifty-first day of travel. The sun was well over the horizon and the day was full of light when I heard the sound of voices raised in the distance. People were shouting. Though I was still too far off to understand what they were saying, it sounded as though there was an argument going on.

I ran up the next hillside, and taking cover behind some brush and trees, I cautiously peered over the top. Nothing there. I could hear the shouting more clearly, and they were definitely arguing about something. I could feel the anger in their voices as the shouting rose and became louder and more forceful. I paused and listened closely, and was now able to judge where the sounds were coming from.

I ran cautiously down the hillside before me, moving from tree to tree quickly but confidently, keeping my ears wide-open and staying alert. I could hear the shouting very clearly now, and it became louder and even more intense the longer it continued. They were here, just ahead.

I could hear men’s voices, and surprisingly, also a woman’s voice. She was shouting even more loudly than the men, and she sounded just as angry and defiant as they did. Now that I was getting closer I could hear everything they said, and I couldn’t understand one word. For some reason this shocked me.

As I crossed the wasteland I had thought often about my first meeting with other humans, and what would transpire when or if a meeting occurred. While I walked I had gone over the various possibilities, and it had never occurred to me that I would not be able to immediately converse with anyone I met.

Though I knew virtually nothing else about them, I did know that we had once shared a land, if only briefly, and I had assumed we would share the same language. Apparently it was too much to ask that I would share a language with strangers that were separated by so far a distance and so long a time. The information my father had given me and my brother had been very limited; I had no idea what they would be like, only assumptions.

He had said they were also human, but they were different from us in the way they thought and acted, and he had sent them away for my families’ safety. It was odd that he said he sent them away for our safety, since he also said they were dangerous only to themselves and could not harm us.

Given the incredibly difficult time I had crossing the wasteland, I found it impossible to believe that a group of people could have made it across safely. Now that I knew people were actually here, I wanted to learn how they had been able to cross, and if they really were the same people that had once lived with us.

As these thoughts passed through my mind, I continued to slowly and cautiously move toward the voices. They were close now. I paused behind a tree and took my bearings once again. This was no time to be stupid and jump into the middle of something that could get me killed. These people sounded very angry, and I didn’t need any more trouble than I already had.

I stayed low to the ground and slowly crept forward, picking up a few smooth, round stones as I moved. Though I wasn’t sure what I would do with them should I be threatened, they fit well into the palm of my hand and gave me comfort as I moved towards whatever lay ahead.

I was now well within the foothills that I had been approaching for so many days. I had found large stones and boulders mixed in among the tall hardwood trees. There was very little undergrowth, and though I had been searching for food prior to hearing the voices, I had seen no edible plants, not even an herb or edible flower. The landscape was rough and ugly, and the soil too dry and rocky to support any good plants.

I found this place to be without the grace and beauty of the forests which I was accustomed to walking through. The only positive about this woodland as I now tried to approach without being seen was the spacing of the large trees. I had good cover as I moved through them, my eyes searching, trying to pick out the objects of my hunt.

I could hear the voices quite clearly now and they spoke no language I knew or had ever heard. Their language was very guttural and broken, and to my ears it sounding more like animal sounds than a human speaking. But from the inflections in their voices and the responses, it had to be some sort of a formal language. I had now come to the source of the voices. I crawled behind a large rock and slowly peered around to the other side.

Humans, they were definitely humans; though to my eyes they were a strange and ragged-looking group. Just in front of my hiding spot was a single person with their back to me; this was the woman. She was the smallest of the group, though not by much, and from behind I could see nothing of her except a tangled mass of long black hair and her clothing, which looked like a shapeless collection of animal skins hanging from her shoulders.

In one hand she held several dead rabbits; in the other hand was some type of a tool or most likely a weapon, something that looked like long strips of leather. As she shouted, she would shake either the dead animals or the weapon at the men, who were standing on the other side of a small clearing. There were three men facing the lone woman, and from my vantage point I could see them clearly.

I studied them, and immediately noted that compared to me they were a small people. The man in front, who was the largest of the three men, reached no higher than my shoulder. The other two men were only slightly shorter. They were thin and wiry, and they looked strong enough for their size, but my first impression was that they were a weak imitation of my family. All of them had long black hair, which was dirty and tangled. They also had hair growing on the lower parts of their faces, which was a great shock to me since my family did not grow hair on our face.

They looked a complete mess, and there was an aura of uncleanliness about them that immediately disgusted me. Their clothing, which was made from the skins of dead animals, appeared foul to me, and as the breeze shifted and blew toward me, I could clearly smell them. They stunk even worse than they looked! It was an almost overwhelming odor of unwashed bodies and dead flesh. The smell turned my stomach and caused me to gag involuntarily, but I swallowed hard and continued watching.

They all wore the same coverings of crudely sewn animal skins, which hung from their shoulders and were belted about their waists with strips of leather knotted together. They wore no shoes on their filthy feet, nor did they carry packs or bags. Into their belts were thrust knives with simple handles, while in their hands they carried weapons that were foreign to me. These weapons had rough stone blades that were similar to the knives in their belts, except the blades were lashed to long straight shafts of wood, essentially giving them a knife that was as tall as I. They vigorously shook these long weapons at the woman, and this, combined with their continual shouting, made them appear quite formidable.

They were focused on the woman, and as I was careful to remain hidden, they did not notice me. Though they were all quite angry, the fact that the men and the woman looked the same and spoke the same language made me believe they were of the same tribe or family.

The largest of the men seemed to be their leader, as he was doing the majority of the shouting. The other two men pitched in their voices occasionally, but for the most part seemed satisfied to nod their heads and shake their weapons for emphasis.

Now that I could see them and hear the language they spoke more clearly, I realized that many of the words sounded relatively similar, but they were combined with a great variety of verbal inflections, as well as some hand gestures. Though I could not understand the language they spoke, it was obvious they had a fairly limited vocabulary in which tones and sounds were often repeated. Communication through the inflection and emphasis put upon the words seemed to be as important as the words themselves. Their communication was crude and decidedly rudimentary, though they obviously understood each other quite well.

I remained where I was and continued to observe the interaction between the woman and the three men. They were still shouting and gesturing; the argument had been going on for some time now, and I was getting concerned that it would escalate into real violence.

The disagreement appeared to be about the rabbits the woman held. Several times the leader had pointed at the rabbits and seemed to indicate that the woman should give them to the men. The woman had responded in a way that made it very obvious, even to me, that she would not be giving up her rabbits. For a reason that was as yet unclear to me, the men felt strongly that she should not have them, and they were getting angrier as she continued to hold them in her hand.

That this confrontation seemed to revolve around the animals confused me. Why the dead animals? What did they need them for? They were so small; I couldn’t imagine that they would make an adequate covering for anyone. Why were they all so upset about the dead rabbits?

Though I was disappointed that we did not speak the same language, after watching them for only a short time I was glad to see they could communicate verbally at all. My initial impression was one of shock. Their appearance was so primitive; their behavior so uncivilized and violent. Was this how they had acted when they lived with us? Was this crude language the way they had communicated when we lived in the same land? That we did not share a language was not logical to me. Given that they had the intelligence to converse, I saw no reason that they would not be able to speak my language if it was taught to them.

If these were the same people that had lived with us, based on what I saw before me I concluded that they had been sent away because of their fierce behavior. My father had said they were dangerous to each other and they were different from us in their behavior and thought process. Though I did not know why they were arguing or how serious the situation was, I could not imagine even in the worst of times acting in the violent way these people were acting with each other. I was starting to fear for the woman’s life. Perhaps I was wrong and they were not of the same tribe. Perhaps they were enemies, because they certainly behaved that way.

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

These people were just as human as I was. But there were striking differences between us in addition to the obvious differences in our physical appearance.

If I stood next to these people I would tower over them. The tallest man in the group might come up to my shoulder if he stretched. I was almost twice as wide as these men, and where they were lean and sinewy, I was large muscled, broad through my shoulders and large in my arms and chest. My legs were long and strong, and should it ever come to it I was confident I could easily outrun these men, since I was almost as fleet as a deer. My muscles were strong and well defined, and there was no extra fat on my body.

Though my hair had grown in the time since I left home, it still hung short of my shoulders. We had never grown it too long, for no other reason than my family always kept ourselves clean and neat. We bathed often and long hair was much more difficult to keep clean and combed than short hair. I had very little hair on my body and certainly none on my face. While the group I now watched had hair that was as dark as a black bear’s coat, my hair and the hair of all my family was brown, like the fur of a deer. Our eyes were also the brown of a doe’s eyes, while my sharp eyes could pick out that these people had eyes that were very dark, and at this point very angry.

My body appeared to be vastly superior to theirs, and based on what I was now observing, so was my mind. Though it was impossible to determine yet if they were actually stupid, their appearance and behavior indicted to me a distinct lack of intelligence.

As I objectively observed them as they continued to argue, I suddenly came to a shocking realization. I couldn’t understand how it was possible, but even though we were all human, we were of different races. This was the only explanation for our considerable differences, and as soon as this thought came into my head it made perfect sense.

Now I understood! We were of a different race, which explained why my father had been able to send them away. They were so different than us. Though we were all human, they were inferior; smaller, weaker, and less intelligent than me. When God had created mankind, for some reason He had created two distinct races. My family was the people of God. What did that make them? We were obviously stronger and more intelligent, and would probably have been intended to be the leaders and teachers for the others.

I assumed my father had tried to teach them how to speak and act, and either they had not been able to learn, or had not wanted to learn. Given the behavior I was witnessing, I guessed it might have been both. Because of this and perhaps other reasons I may never know, apparently God had allowed my father to send them from our land.

As soon as this thought crossed my mind I thought of the horrific desert behind me, and I knew God must have been involved in bringing them to this land. This newest twist floored me. I realized this was a puzzle I doubted I would ever be able to solve.

But I had seen enough. The dreams of power and glory I enjoyed as I walked through the wilderness had been fertile fields, and a thought had been planted in those fields when I first saw these people. In the short time I had been watching them argue the seed of a brilliant plan had grown to fruition in my mind. I knew how I could take my current low state and turn it into a grand position.

I still held the stones in my hand. I had no doubts that I could kill these men; I had a keen eye and could place a stone wherever I wanted. I would only need to throw three times, quick and true, and they would all fall silent and dead.

With the din they continued to raise I was sorely tempted, just to gain some peace. But the thought of killing them was distasteful, since killing them would serve no purpose and gain me nothing. I dropped the stones on the ground. I needed them unharmed. I had to meet them and go back to their settlement with them.

There were so many questions running through my brain. I needed answers to my questions, more information, in order to make the right decision about how to deal with these people. In order to be successful, I needed to exploit their inferiority, and I would need to do it carefully. From what I could see of their behavior, one misstep and I would be worse off than I was now.

I could no longer sit and watch. The time had come to start my new life and begin my journey to power.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

I stood up and stepped around the rock into clear view of the three men. I had my hands lifted high and palms facing outwards to show I carried no weapon, and I put a big smile on my face in an attempt to show I was friendly. This didn’t work, as almost instantly two of their long knives were thrown at me. I was mildly surprised that they threw so quickly, and I was impressed as the weapons flew straight and true towards my chest.

The first one I deflected away from my body with my left hand, while I twisted slightly and caught the second in mid-flight with my right hand. Slowly and carefully, all the while staring intently at the thrower of the spear, I broke it into two pieces. The leader of the three men had held his weapon; it was raised and remained ready to throw as I dealt with the first two. He had watched me keenly as I took care of the first two long knives, and I now looked directly at him.

He stared at me, transfixed. At first I thought he was frightened by the ease with which I had protected myself from the long knives, but I now saw this was not the case. My head, I thought, he is staring at my forehead. His mouth hung open and he had an odd, almost dazed expression on his face. It suddenly came to me. He was staring at the mark; the mark God had given me to keep me from being slaughtered by such as these. I had forgotten about the mark because I could not see it on my forehead. Though I had forgotten it existed, he could obviously see something.

When I first left my home at the beginning of the journey I had looked at my reflection in some still water. I had seen nothing, no mark of any kind. I had been disappointed and confused. I did not think God would deceive me, yet I could see nothing on my forehead.

After I made a mistake and my brother died, God had come to me. This had been such an awesome and frightening experience that I still trembled to think about it. Though I never said it to anyone, it had always been difficult for me to believe that God could exist as a physical being. My parents always referred to Him as if He had a physical body, but to my knowledge it had been well over 100 years since He had been seen or heard in person.

I believed that because of whatever they had done, He was gone; that He had truly left the world, not to return. That’s why it never made sense to me to give God praise and sacrifice the best of my produce to Him, since I didn’t believe He knew or cared that these things were being done.

I had been so shocked to realize He actually existed, and so frightened to be in His presence and know that He had seen what I had done, that I had fallen to the ground, numb and speechless. I only recovered my senses when He told me I would have to leave my home immediately; that I was no longer welcome to live with my parents.

This had temporarily broken my spirit. Although I was often angry with them, I did not want to leave my home or be separated from my parents. I had known I would have to tell them what happened, but I had planned to make it sound like it was my brother’s fault. I had hoped they would believe the reasons I gave them for what I did and forgive me, but God was not going to give me a chance to explain.

As I lay on my face, unable to look upon His glory, God spoke to me, telling me that I had to leave my home and be a wanderer upon the earth.

This frightened me, as I knew almost nothing of the world outside our land. I knew only the little my father had told me about the other people in the world, the people that now stood before me.

I feared for my life, and said, “Anyone that finds me will surely kill me.”

He spoke again, “No one will kill you. I will put a mark upon you. The mark will identify you to any strangers you shall come upon, and shield you from violence. Now leave this place. You may not see your parents again.”

When God came to me, I had been in my fields on the west side of our land. When my strength returned I rose from the ground and walked to our house, got my pack and filled it with food and a few other necessities. Knowing I could not go to the north or south, and believing what my father had told me of the western lands, I had continued on towards the east. I had not stopped traveling since that time. My parents had not been at our house. I had not seen them when I left, and I would never see them again.

When God told me He would put a mark upon me so I would be protected from the violence of strangers, I had briefly felt warmth upon my forehead. When checking my face later I had seen nothing, no visible marking or symbol. But although I had not been able to see anything, from the reaction of the men facing me I knew that they could definitely see something. Whatever was visible to these men was having a strong effect on them.

The leader continued to stare at my forehead mesmerized, his throwing arm still raised, while the others gaped at me with astonishment on their faces. I also saw fear there, though I didn’t know if the fear came from seeing the mark on my forehead or the way I had dealt with the weapons they had thrown at me.

I did not know what would happen next; for several moments no one seemed to breathe. Finally, though the leader continued staring, his arm gradually sank to his side. He dropped his weapon on the ground and very slowly walked towards me with his hands up and open in a show of peace. He still could not take his eyes off my face. His reaction to whatever was on my forehead was remarkable.

Suddenly the woman, who had turned towards me when I emerged from behind the rock and had also been looking upon me in shock, sprang into action. She burst past the man who was approaching me and threw her body upon the ground, prostrating herself at my feet. This was completely unexpected and confused me, but I immediately saw a look of anger come over the leaders’ face. He moved towards the woman in sudden fury, his face twisted.

I did not understand why this behavior would so enrage him, but I swiftly reached down, pulled her up and pushed her behind me, out of his reach. The rage melted from his face, quickly being replaced by the same expression that had been there a moment earlier. I now clearly recognized that it was fear in his eyes. I could see his fear was coming back even more strongly as I watched, but it was also mixed with awe, as if he knew he was in the presence of someone special.

I was thrilled by his reaction; his response suited me perfectly. In the few brief moments I had taken to develop my plan as I watched the confrontation from hiding, awe and fear were the exact emotions I had hoped for when I showed myself.

It had not occurred to me that their reaction would be caused by seeing the mark on my head. I had expected them to be daunted by my size and physical strength; that the sight of me would impress them and cause this reaction. Apparently my physical superiority was not necessary to make them fear me; the mark of God was enough.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Now it began. During my journey across the desert I often had daydreams that began in this same manner. I found other people, somehow convinced them to take me into their tribe, and was always made their king because of my strength and wisdom. Of course these had been dreams born out of vanity and boredom, and though there had been a degree of hope and desire in the daydreams, I had laughed at myself even while I had them. These fantasies had usually involved very little effort on my part. I now realized carrying out my plan, which in reality was very similar to my daydreams in the wasteland, was going to be much more difficult than I had imagined.

The leader now stood right in front of me, hands out as he looked at me inquiringly. I lifted my open hands again. An audible sound of relief came from all three men. They looked at me and waited, expecting me to make the next move. Now that I had been accepted and was no longer in immediate danger, I needed to communicate with these people to begin the process of becoming their leader.

“Hello,” I said.

Their heads cocked like animals as they looked at one another in surprise, and then looked back to me. They all realized I was speaking to them, but this form of communication was very different from what they were accustomed to and they had no idea how to respond. Instead of the guttural sounds that they had been using, this was a smooth and pleasant sound. The word rolled off my tongue and out of my mouth effortlessly and relatively quietly compared to their speech. I expected that it sounded quite different from any speech they had heard before.

“Hello,” I repeated more slowly, smiling and trying to indicate that this was a positive, friendly word.

The leader looked at the two men, who had come forward to stand at his side. They all faced me, along with the female who had come around from behind me and now stood beside them, looking at me in surprise with her mouth open.

There was a long pause. I could practically see their minds turning as they tried to take in this new development. The woman was the first to respond.

“Ello,” she cautiously said in a low tone.

I was thrilled! She actually could make the sounds required to communicate. An even broader smile, this one unforced, came upon my face. I nodded and faced her directly.

“Hello,” I said again, emphasizing the sound at the beginning of the word.

She hesitantly said hello once more, pronouncing it correctly this time as she spoke in a more confident tone. I was surprised to hear that her voice had a pleasant sound. When she had been shouting at the men in their native language, she had sounded coarse and guttural, now her voice was smooth and melodious.

 

Who is this? A god out of the desert? He appears to be a man and he speaks, but he is so large and he looks so different from us. There is something shining on his head, I don’t know what it is but it means I cannot harm him… How do I know the mark means I may not hurt him?

 

One of the men was the next to respond “Hello”. He also spoke hesitantly and softly, but the word sounded well coming from him, much more natural than any of the crude noises had sounded only a few moments before.

Now that everyone had calmed down, I could see this man had a more pleasant face than the other two men; he was younger and his features did not look quite so rough. His eyes were alert and his face was more defined and expressive. In contrast, the expressions of the other two men were a bit dull, and they were definitely slower to comprehend my speech.

On closer examination, the leader of the men impressed me the least. I could see he did not understand the speech I had just exchanged with his tribe mates. He was trying to get his mind around the word we had spoken, but it was obvious he had no idea what was happening. While I could understand that he would lead this small group, I found it difficult to believe that the man in front of me was the leader of their tribe. He just didn’t seem bright enough. The leader I would need to identify and displace would be back in their village.

Now that I could closely observe the woman and the three men together, I concluded this tribe chose their leaders for their aggressiveness or size, and not necessarily their intelligence. My path to leadership could be made more difficult if too many of the men did not have sufficient intelligence to realize what I could bring to them, or were wary of following me because of jealousy or fear of change.

But overall this had been a wonderful beginning; I could not have hoped for it to go any better. They had seen what I was physically capable of when I deflected and broke their weapons, and they could see the mark on my head. Because of these things they held me in awe and feared me. It appeared that they could learn my language and we would be able to communicate. It was a better start than I could have hoped for, but I needed to insure that I gained control while I still had an advantage; before my skills and the mark became ordinary and normal to these people.

Their reaction to my mark intrigued me. What did they see when they looked at me? They obviously saw something on my head and it made them fear me. What was it? A symbol, a glow, a ring? I could see or feel nothing, and it was disconcerting that I didn’t know what it was they saw.

I came back to the present and realized they were all staring at me expectantly. Given their reaction, I was no longer worried that I would be attacked. It was time to visit their home, to learn more about them and start building my future.

Their argument forgotten for the moment, they waited to see what I would do next. I knew what I needed; food and water, and I knew what I wanted; to wash myself and get a good night’s sleep in a real bed. I hoped all those things could happen when we reached their home.

I indicated through hand gestures and slowly spoken words, a form of communication that I knew would be normal for a while, that I wanted to go to their home. Their eyes went wide when they realized what I was asking, but I insisted, pointing at the group’s leader and indicating that I wanted him to lead the way. The leader was obviously very uncomfortable with this proposition; this wasn’t what he had expected, but I made it very clear that this was what I needed to do. He finally nodded slowly, grudgingly agreeing that they would take me there.

With this settled I grabbed my pack from behind the rock and was ready to go. I noted the interest that was shown in my pack as I swung it on my back, but was quickly distracted when the leader once again pointed at the rabbits and indicated that the woman should give them to him before we left. Her reaction was immediate, and the shouting started again just as loudly as before.

Enough, I thought, and I quieted them with a roar. I had to get the bottom of this shouting. I pointed to the woman’s rabbits.

“What are the rabbits for?” I asked her.

Surprisingly, she seemed to understand and made a guttural sound in her throat as she pantomimed eating, bringing food to her mouth and chewing. At first this made no sense to me. What did she mean? And then I understood.

“Food?” I said in horror, as I took a step back in revulsion.

“Food!” I repeated in shock.

They eat animals! My mind was spinning and I thought I might be sick. I could imagine nothing so barbaric as to eat an animal.

My family had killed animals rarely and only out of necessity. To us it was understood as a fact of nature that life was sacred and not to be wasted unnecessarily. If an animal was so sick or injured that it could not be saved, it was killed to ease its suffering. If you were attacked and your life was in danger, as in the case of the wild boar from which my sandals were made, it was expected that you would kill to save your own life.

The only time we willfully killed an animal was as a sacrifice to God, and this was a complex relationship involving our perfect first fruits. The animals we killed were given to God out of respect and honor, and were related to His gifts to us. To my family the act of killing anything was a very serious and complex issue, which had made my sin against my brother all the worse.

Never had the idea of actually eating an animal that had been killed crossed my mind. The very thought filled me with such disgust that if I had anything in my stomach it would have come up; I gagged just thinking about it.

What could I do now? Could I still go with them? The thought of eating an animal so nauseated me that I didn’t know if it would be possible for me to live with these people. They were more barbaric than I could ever have imagined.

I realized with absolute certainty that this was the main reason my father had removed them from our land. Though I could never know exactly what had happened, I knew without a doubt that eating meat was the cause of our separation from them.

My mind raced. I needed water and I needed food. Real food, I thought with a shudder, bread or fruit.

“Food.” I slowly said once again, much more quietly this time.

The woman and the younger man, the ones that seemed to understand my speech the best, both hesitantly said “Food.”, and looked at me with curiosity. My reaction had been extreme, and I knew they had no idea why I had become so upset.

This group’s job appeared to be gathering food for their tribe by killing animals. As much as this disgusted me, at this point I felt that I had no other options. It had been days since my food and water gave out, and at this point I really needed to eat, drink and rest. We had to go to their settlement, and I would make a final decision after I knew more about them.

I pretended to walk, “Walk” I said, “Let’s walk.”

They understood. There was a short pause, and then the leader sighed, gave a little shake of his head and we started. We went in the same direction I had been traveling these many days, to the east, away from the desert. The terrain had changed quickly once I came out of the desert. I had been walking today through rocky and unattractive hills covered with an abundance of large hardwoods; and this was the land where I had met my new companions.

Now, as we continued to travel east through the hills I had been watching for so long, the landscape continued to change, all for the better. After only a short period of travel, we now walked among cedars and pines that were tall and mature, and it became obvious to me that they supported an abundance of wildlife.

The hills were easy and rolling, with the trees well spaced. There was an attractive undergrowth all around us that had large, glossy, deep green leaves and fragrant white flowers; it was scattered over the hills and quite lovely to look at.

It had now become a vibrant and fair land that we traveled through. Though it did not yet compare with my homeland, the farther we walked from the desert, the more pleasing it became.

After a short time we came upon a quiet stream that ran across the faint path we travelled along. We stopped to drink, all of us kneeling as we cupped water in our hands and drank deeply of the cool liquid.

This was the first fresh water I had seen in over fifty days, and I drank deeply to quench my thirst. I took this time to fill my water bags, and noted the amazement on their faces as they realized what I was doing. I could scarcely believe that this basic amenity was not known to them. How could they not have water bags to carry water with them when they traveled?

I thought about it, and remembered I had rarely carried a supply of water when I was traveling about my own land. The water bag was something that was invented by my father because he saw a need, but it was actually used only occasionally. If these people had plenty of fresh water available to them and no need to carry it on journeys, they would not develop a bag. It was the same with the pack that they were so interested in when I first slid it on my back. If they had no need for a pack, they would not have invented it.

This was my first conscious realization that for most people inventions would come about only because of a requirement. In my family we actually had tried to think of different ways to doing something, or things we could invent just to make our lives easier or better.

I took advantage of the cool water to wash myself. It had been a very long time since I last bathed and I knew I was filthy. Unfortunately I had no soap; I had not thought to bring any with me when I left home. But the water by itself did a pretty good job of taking the dirt off my body.

I went downstream from the others, so as not to dirty the water they were drinking. I first washed my face and neck, and from there moved on to my hands and forearms. I finished by removing my sandals and rinsing my feet and lower legs. Though it was not a hot bath, it was better than nothing. I also found a decent stick to make into a tooth brush, and quickly shaped one to clean my teeth. With a good drink of water and my body and teeth washed, I felt like a new man.

Unfortunately, now that these needs were meet, I was more conscious that I had not eaten for many days. I really needed some food, but because of my companions’ barbaric eating practices, I wasn’t sure if I could get anything from them to sustain me. I would need to find something here in the forest, some nuts or berries in the least to assuage my hunger and give me some strength. It would not do to look weak in front of the tribe when I met them.

I sat back and carefully looked around the woods, searching for something that I would recognize as edible. It was then that I noticed my companions had all gathered together, and they were staring at me. Apparently they had been watching as I cleaned myself.

As we travelled over the morning I had become more used to their appearance and smell. But since I had now washed up, the differences in our level of cleanliness had become even more apparent. I realized with disgust that they had not even washed their filthy hands before drinking the water.

Apparently they did not know that dirty food or drink could make you very sick. This was something my father had realized even before my brother and I were born. All my life our parents had stressed to us the importance of cleanliness, both in our bodies and in what we ate and drank. I could not believe these people didn’t vomit from their own filth; the dirt was thick upon their bodies and faces.

I motioned for them to come close to me, which they hesitantly did. I then showed them how to wet their hands and forearms, take some of the clean sand from the side of the stream, and vigorously scrub themselves.

They rinsed with more water, and the dirt ran off, leaving skin that now looked like my own. The palms of their hands were white and the rest was tanned brown by the sun, just like mine. I also showed them how to wash their faces, though without the sand. This all made a remarkable difference, giving them a much more human appearance in my eyes.

They really needed a bath with some strong soap, but this was a definite improvement. They seemed to have no qualms about washing, although from the way they acted I got the impression it was something they had never done before.

While one man was washing upstream, the younger man took another drink of water. I explained to all of them as best I could with broken words and signs that they should not do this; that it was a bad practice and could make them sick.

They appeared surprised, but accepted what I told them and did not do it again. I was pleased to see that they would do what I said without argument. If I could make it the custom to have my wishes followed with no disagreement, both my life and theirs would be much better.

While we were resting I took the opportunity to teach them some new words. I told them I needed to eat, but I wasn’t willing to eat the rabbits the woman carried. I pointed at the plants surrounding us and indicated that I wanted something from a plant to eat. Perhaps because of my strong reaction when I realized rabbits were food for them, they did not seem too surprised that I wanted something from the forest.

The men looked to the woman at this point, and through their rough speech I gathered that they expected her to find me something to eat. This enlightened me as to why the men may have been so angry with her this morning. If these people went into the forest to get their food, with only the men expected to kill the animals while the woman gathered food from the plants, she may have violated some tribal rule by killing the rabbits.

While this may be the rule within their tribe, I didn’t understand why there would be a problem with a woman killing animals, as barbaric as the practice was. In my family there were no rules as to who did what job. While we all had our areas of expertise, there were many times that my mother worked in the fields or helped my father build something. Though it was mainly my mother’s area, I could not count the times that the men had done the cooking or cleaned the house. We all had our favorite jobs, but the idea was to do whatever was needed to help the family.

The woman indicated that there was something I would be able to eat further up the path; apparently she had gathered food in this part of the forest before. She also communicated that we needed to continue on toward the village, and she would be able to get me more to eat there.

I was impressed with the woman. She seemed to quickly grasp what I wanted when I spoke, was able to repeat much of what I said, and apparently understand what the words meant with little problem. The younger man also seemed to have a quick mind and understand much of what I was saying. Unfortunately, the other men were struggling to keep up with my speech, and I was sensing growing frustration on their part.

We started off, once again moving quietly through the wooded hillsides, still following the faint path which was probably made by forest animals. As we walked my thoughts moved quickly through what I had been able to learn thus far.

My eyes were alert and searching, seeing everything, yet my mind was elsewhere. I was attempting to pull together everything I had previously known, and combine it with what I had been able to learn of these people in the short time that we been together.

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

My family was the people of God. This was an indisputable fact. My parents had been created by God Himself and had once been blessed by Him. Even though they had done something wrong and fallen from His favor, that did not change who we were and would continue to be.

Even what I had done to my brother, as wrong as it was, still did not change that like my parents I was one of the people of God.

As little as my father had told me about the other humans in the world, the people I now walked with, I had learned they were different from us. I knew that God had not created them for the same reasons He had created my parents, to have dominion over the earth.

Although he tried to hide it, even in the little my father had spoken of these people I realized he did not consider them our equals. It was apparent that he was glad he no longer needed to interact with them.

I thought back over the morning; how they spoke, what they ate, their behavior and the way they treated each other. The only reason I could think of that would have caused God to create my parents separate and different from these people was because He wanted us to be their leaders.

I considered some of the most obvious differences I had noted so far between our two races. I was tall, well built and fair of form and feature. I was fleet, strong and my eye was keen. My voice in speech and in song was strong, rich and melodious. In my travels I had found a strength and endurance that had shocked even me. From what I could see, in all physical aspects I was vastly superior to these people.

I believed that I was also their superior intellectually. Their crude and rudimentary verbal skills were shocking. They obviously could understand one another and had developed a working language based on a number of main words, but it was inherently limited. From what I had seen so far, speech seemed to be used only when it was required. I had yet to hear a social exchange of words between any of those walking with me.

When I was still with my family, the discussion was virtually nonstop, often to my dismay. The multitude of issues we talked about ranged from the weather and the beauty of creation, to our health and what we would have for dinner. Of course there were times of quiet and meditation, but it seemed like my family never ran out of things to discuss.

Not so here. Walking with these people one would never realize that they even knew each other. There was no talking whatsoever unless I initiated it, which I did with increasing frequency to teach them words in my language.

The differences between me and the people I walked with were as obvious as the day is different from the night. They were considerably shorter than me, and they were slim and rangy while I was broad and muscular. They had long, black, unkempt hair and dark, almost black, eyes, while both my hair and eyes were brown. Our skin coloring was the same now that they were cleaned up. We both had a complexion that was light brown, and our facial structure and posture were also the same.

My clothing was a finely woven tunic of wool, and I wore sturdy leather sandals on my feet. I had knotted about my waist a belt which held my sheath and fine blade of stone with the beautifully carved wooden handle. When my father had given me the knife many years before he had bade me to use it well. I had failed him in that request.

The people I walked with were dressed nothing like me. They wore rough animal skins crudely stitched together with leather cords, with their knives thrust under the wide leather straps that were tied about their waists. They all walked barefoot, apparently unaffected by any rocks they trod upon.

The weapons they carried were as crude as their clothing. They used an inferior type of stone that I had not seen before for the blades of their knives and the tips to their throwing weapons. The stone did not flake smoothly, which meant the edges would not stay sharp and the tips were not well shaped. The long shafts of their throwing weapons were not straight or smooth. I felt confident the weapons would not fly through the air straight or reach the target with accuracy over a longer distance. Inaccuracy would obviously impair their ability to bring food back to their tribe.

Their knives were also of poor quality. Not long, slim and beautifully shaped like mine, but short, thick and blunt. They used a piece of horn for a handle, lashed onto the blade. Functional but not attractive, like the people themselves, I thought. Looking at their crude weapons, I was not surprised that they were returning home with only a few rabbits for food.

I was quite curious to find out how the woman had caught the rabbits. She had no weapons that I could see beyond her knife and the leather straps she had been holding in her hand when I first saw her. She had tucked the straps into her belt when we started walking, and upon closer examination I noticed they were more involved than just a simple strap. I decided I would ask her about them later when I could speak with her alone, as I did not want to stir up any more dissension among them right now.

I wondered how many people lived at their home. We were returning with only three rabbits, and I assumed they would normally want to return with a larger animal to eat, such as a deer or boar, in order to provide food for all their people. Watching them as we walked, I did not see how it was possible for them to kill a large animal, given their size and the weak weapons they carried. I was interested in learning how they caught their food, perhaps they had special techniques that allowed them to approach the prey, or perhaps they trapped it or cornered it in chase.

I believed that the women of this tribe were not supposed to hunt, and assumed this was their rule because hunting was considered a dangerous activity. Since their weapons were so rudimentary, I would guess that the animals were killed at close range, and a trapped or wounded boar would easily be able to kill these people if they were not careful. I began to understand why they did not want a woman hunting with them, but I thought the problem was not the gender of the hunters, but the weapons they were using.

These people needed better weapons. I didn’t see how they could kill anything with the ones they were now carrying. It didn’t matter whether you were hunting, farming, cooking or cleaning; a person needed a good tool to do the job correctly. I would need to show them how to make a decent knife, and I would also make them a stronger and more accurate throwing weapon.

If I was going to lead these people, I could not allow them to starve, no matter how abhorrent their food was to me. Everything I had seen about these people so far, from their language to their clothing and their weapons, indicated that while they had potential and some intelligence and ability, they needed leadership and innovative thinking.

Their personal hygiene, clothing and weapons; everything I saw indicated a culture which either consciously resisted change, or lacked the drive to do things better. I had been attempting to converse and teach them as we walked, and I had seen both intelligence and active minds in the two younger people. The two older hunters seemed to have a more limited but still strong potential to learn, but obviously had no desire to converse with me. Still, as the day went on I became more positive about the type of people I would find when we reached their tribe.

I was asked to stop speaking, and from the way we were stealthily moving through the forest, I understood that they were hoping to come upon some animals. We paused frequently as the men would look and listen for signs of life. Though we had now been walking for quite some time, we had seen or heard nothing.

Though I really had no desire to kill anything, and in fact the idea was detestable to me, I realized how important meat was to these people. I knew that should the opportunity present itself, I would need to help them get food for their home. Getting food would allow me another way to show how valuable I could be to them.

I did not want to show them I was a hunter as much as I wanted to prove I could and would help them survive and thrive as a tribe. It was imperative that they believe I was able to do everything at a very high level; that my talents, abilities, and intelligence were unmatched. I needed these people to believe in me so absolutely that they did not question anything I did or told them to do. My success, as well as the success I planned to bring to their tribe was predicated on my ability to gain absolute and unquestioned authority.

Apparently we had come to a good hunting spot, and at the leader’s request we stopped and all listened intently, but even I had heard nothing. We had just started walking again, silent and cautious, when it happened. A huge deer sprang from the heavy brush on our right side, running directly across our path. This was what I had been hoping for.

Since our water break I had carried a large rock in my hand, anticipating this situation. The rock was the perfect size for throwing, about the diameter of a small apple, round and smooth.

I did not think. In less time than it takes to blink an eye, I reacted. I threw the stone, hard and true. It sped through the air and contacted the deer exactly where I had aimed, just under the ear.

The deer feel like a sack of stones, either stunned or dead. The entire episode had happened so quickly that my companions had not even lifted their weapons from their sides; they had barely registered that the animal was there. The deer had fallen only twenty paces from me. I ran to the animal and felt its neck; there was no throbbing, no movement of blood under its skin. It was dead.

Though I knew it was imperative that I do this in front of them to demonstrate my power, it still made me feel sick to kill an animal for food. But I accepted that I would need to do things I did not want to do, things I did not even believe in, in order to reach my goals. I took a deep breath, set my shoulders, and turned back to them.

“It’s dead” I said.

I was not proud of what I had done, but I was pleased with myself. I was conscious of how important animals were to these people. They wore their skins for clothing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if meat was their main source of food; it was probably the difference between life and death for them.

Even more important to me, I had been the one to get this food, and I had done it in a way that was almost miraculous to them. I watched my companions as I slowly walked back to where they had stopped, frozen in surprise.

Yes, I thought, meat was important. But even more important to me was the response I had gotten from my companions. They all stood still, staring at me, disbelief at what they had seen showing on their faces. I could see awe and respect in the eyes of the woman and the man I was becoming friendly with. In the eyes of the other two men I saw only fear.

They feared me even more than before, because they had seen a tangible reason that proved they should fear me, and this was much more intimidating than me catching a weapon out of the air. It was not some mark upon my forehead, a mark that they didn’t understand. No, now they feared me because they had seen a powerful example of what I was capable of.

While they had barely realized a deer was present, faster than their eyes could follow I had reacted, and in the blink of an eye I had thrown a stone twenty paces with shocking accuracy and enough strength to instantly kill a large adult deer.

I believed they now understood how different I really was from them. They knew they could not kill me even if they wanted to, and they knew that I could kill them with ease in an instant. They may not have been smart, but they realized their hold on life could be very tenuous if I was not their ally, and this realization made them fear me even more.

I had no idea what needed to be done to the animal to allow it to be eaten. I didn’t know if it was ready to be carried to their village, if it needed to be prepared in some way, or if they had a ceremony or sacrifice to honor the death of the animal. The only thing I could do was turn the animal over to them.

I looked at the leader, and pointing at the deer said, “For your people to eat.”

I repeated myself slowly to make sure they understood what I was doing, that I was giving this bounty to them.

Their expressions quickly changed to looks of joy as they understood what I had done. It had happened quickly, but with my words they realized I had killed the animal for them. They would be able to return home with a large kill, and I could see the relief in their eyes, knowing that they could return successfully to their tribe.

All four quickly went to the animal and knelt over it, apparently examining it to make sure it was really dead. There seemed to be a brief pause and a moment of silence, though it happened so quickly I wasn’t sure. Suddenly, with no discussion on their part, the leader pulled out his knife and slit the neck of the deer. The blood gushed forth in a stream that turned my stomach, making me feel instantly sick. I had to turn away; I could not bear to see all that blood.

The sight immediately brought back the last time I had seen blood flowing so freely. It had been the day of my brother’s death; the day I killed him.

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

When we were growing up our father taught me and my brother to do everything he could do, which included every skill from farming to building furniture. Though out of necessity we learned how to do everything, we each enjoyed and eventually focused on different areas.

I developed a great love of farming. I enjoyed every aspect of making things grow; I didn’t even mind weeding the fields. I loved nurturing the plants and doing everything I could to make my fields produce the finest crops possible. My produce was our main source of food, as we did not eat the animals we raised, but used them only for wool, milk and eggs.

I was an excellent farmer and very successful at raising bountiful crops for our family. It was hard work, much more difficult than my brother’s job of watching our flocks. I would be in my fields every working day as soon as possible, sweating under the hot sun to plant and till and nurture my crops. Taking care of my fields was an enormous task, and though my father, mother and brother would help in the afternoon when it was needed, most of the work I did on my own.

The animals my brother raised for the family, which he sheared and milked to cloth us and provide milk and cheese, were really no labor at all. He only had to watch them for most of the day, making sure none wandered off and no predators carried any away. My fields required a steady stream of hard physical labor to produce the food we ate, while all he had to do was sit under a tree, watch his flocks and occasionally scare off a bear or a lion.

Hardly anything ever happened, and in the evenings he occasionally spoke of the quietness of his day. He liked to tell me how he filled his time by talking to God. My brother said he often spent the entire morning praising God and His work on the earth. He would praise God for the beauty of the world around us, and how bountifully God had blessed us. He would go on and on about how he talked or sang to God, as if he had not a care in the world!

I found this quite frustrating. I usually worked so hard during the day that I just wanted to sleep. I had no time to talk to God, much less time to reflect on how beautiful the world was! I had to weed and hoe and carry water in order to grow the crops that were required to feed us. I could not afford the time to hold a one-sided conversation with God.

My brother once told me I needed to nurture my relationship with God as much as I nurtured my crops. He thought this was funny, but he was also being serious. He told me that my crops could wait and the work would always be there, and I needed to take the time to thank and praise God for the bounty which I was able to provide for our family. He even had the gall to say that he thought I was becoming angry and resentful of him for no reason, which was ridiculous.

I may have been angry and resentful, but it was for a very good reason. I was sick of working hard all day to grow food for our family, and then coming home and hearing my brother talk about the wonderful day he had watching his flocks graze while he praised God.

I was proud of what I did. My crops were a result of my toil and sweat, my hard work and that alone. God had nothing to do with my crops growing and flourishing, so why should I need to praise Him?

It was my ingenuity that found new ways to take care of the fields and get more crops with less labor. I had the idea to dig the trenches that would move the water between my rows of plants. I was the one that decided to put animal waste around my plants. My brother laughed at me, he thought it was a joke, but the plants grew taller and stronger, and they produced more food for the family than ever before.

These ideas had been mine and mine alone. Why would I thank or praise God for this?

Even now, as I thought back on the past and how I had been overlooked for my work and ingenuity, my blood began to boil. I provided most of the food for the family, and yet I had been found lacking. Instead of being honored, I had to take a place behind my brother.

My mind went back to those last fateful days with my family, and the events which had caused my downfall. Even though my parent’s relationship with God had changed dramatically since they had left their Garden, my family still worshipped God. This was something my parents thought very important; that even though they didn’t have the same close relationship and He no longer spoke with them, it was still necessary that we continue to praise and honor His power and glory.

This had taken the form of giving Him a portion of everything we produced as a sacrifice. According to my parents everything came from God, so we were to give back to Him the best portion of everything we had as a way of honoring His generosity.

This always bothered me, since it was my ideas and hard work that was causing my crops to thrive. What did God have to do with it? But my parents insisted we sacrifice, and of course my brother Abel was all for this idea.

I always felt that he didn’t mind sacrificing to God because raising flocks was so easy. All he had to do was take one of his sheep, kill it and place it on the altar where we made our sacrifices. To me, my brother’s sacrifice was really no sacrifice at all; he didn’t have to toil or sweat over his sheep.

For my sacrifice I had to take some of the crops I had grown with my backbreaking work. Out of this hard-won food for our families’ sustenance, I was supposed to give the best to God. This was a difficult sacrifice for me, and not one I made willingly.

My brother once said something very interesting when he noticed how grudgingly I was going to sacrifice some of my first fruits. He said that the sacrifice God really wanted was not a physical sacrifice, but an emotional and spiritual one. That God was not as interested in what we laid before Him as He was interested in the state of our heart. Abel said that we gave the best of ourselves to Him symbolically through sacrificing the best of what we produced.

This gave me pause, and I thought about what he said for a long time. I actually was trying to give God my best crops; this really wasn’t difficult, since they were just crops and they were pretty much all the same. But in my heart I was definitely not happy about it. I resented giving Him anything, since I couldn’t see that I was getting anything back in return. Everything I did for God seemed to be one way. I did all the work and saw nothing from Him in return.

I finally had to admit that while I knew on an intellectual level what my brother was talking about, I just couldn’t understand this emotional relationship he seemed to have with God. I couldn’t make myself care for God more than I cared about myself. I continued to bring the best fruits of my labor in sacrifice to God, but I felt increasingly resentful towards Him and my family as I did so.

Since my parents left their Garden no one in our family had been in direct contact with God. He had once spoken to them in person, but no longer. The first time God came to me in a dream was the most frightening moment of my life. It was so real, that to this day I do not believe I was actually asleep.

“Cain, your brother Abel is correct. The sacrifice I desire is something that comes from your heart. The sacrifice is only a symbol of your spiritual gift to Me. I find favor with your brother; his sacrifice is sincere. But your heart is not right and your sacrifice is lacking.”

I came out of the dream with a start, my heart racing. I could not sleep, but sat up in bed deep in thought. Over and over the words of God and my brother went through my head. I tried to make sense of them, but increasingly my frustration grew. I was working so hard to feed our family. I gave us almost everything we ate; everything that kept us alive. How could I be lacking?

I tried to understand why God thought I was lacking, but I kept coming back to how much I was doing for our family, and how I was the one that deserved the praise and thanks. My anger grew the more I thought about the injustice of the situation; that God found favor with my brother and not me.

Once again, though I did not sleep, God came to me in a dream.

“Cain, why are you so angry? If you do the right things you will be accepted by Me. But beware. Your sin is right here, ready to take you over. Only you have the power to master your sin and not let it control you.”

I woke up again, in a cold sweat this time. I didn’t know what He meant by this, but it frightened me. What sin was taking me over? What sin could I master?

Again I sat in my bed thinking. I just couldn’t understand why God found favor with my brother and not me? I worked hard to feed our family, while Abel sat on his behind watching his flocks and spent much of his time singing and praying. Why would God find favor in what was really just laziness?

By the time the sun came up I had decided that this was all my brother’s fault. It wasn’t that I was doing the wrong things, I was doing just fine. The problem was my brother Abel.

For some reason God couldn’t see that Abel was really just lazy, and instead thought he was doing everything right. My brother was the one that would need to change his behavior. If God realized that Abel wasn’t as good as God thought he was, I would be fine and God would leave me alone. I would need to talk to my brother and make him change. I would talk to Abel alone that same day and make him stop acting like he was so righteous.

That morning at breakfast I told Abel I would need his help in my fields later that day. He gave me an odd look like he knew something was up, but he agreed and said he would come out after the midday meal. He was all I could think about that morning. I had to make him stop acting so righteously; he needed to be normal like me, otherwise I would never look good in God’s eyes.

That afternoon, while our father worked elsewhere, Abel met me in one of my fields. I immediately started in on him. All morning my anger had been growing as I thought of the injustice of the situation, how I was being persecuted because of how my brother worshiped God.

I insisted that Abel stop praising God all the time, that he needed to work harder for the family and focus less on God. He laughed as if I was making a joke. This made me even angrier, and I told him everything about my dreams the night before.

I concluded by saying, “God finds favor with you and not me. This is not right and it’s not fair. You need to change so God will like me more and find favor with my sacrifices.”

Abel was very serious, and his face was downcast. After a moment he quietly said with sadness evident in his voice, “Cain, how can you not see that your heart is the problem? You are the one that needs to change if you want God to find favor with you. As for me, I will never stop loving God.”

His response and the complete refusal to do as I wanted infuriated me. Without another thought I pulled my knife and drove it deep into Abel’s chest. I can still see the shock in his eyes. My brother fell to the ground, his blood pouring into my tilled soil.

I immediately realized this was the sin God had warned me of. He had known my uncontrolled anger could drive me to murder my brother.

I stood stock still with my knife still clinched in my hand. I had no idea what to do as Abel lay dead at my feet, his blood still staining the soil. Finally I turned and began to stumble towards our house, my mind spinning as I tried to think of what I would tell my parents. I had not gone far when suddenly there was a blinding light in front of me. I could see nothing and fell face down on the ground in fear.

The voice of God said to me, “Cain, where is your brother?”

I lied, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?”

This was stupidity on my part; of course God knew exactly what had happened.

He said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

As I lay prostrate upon the earth, unable to move or answer Him, God continued, “You are now cursed, and the ground will no longer yield it’s bounty for you. From this day forth you will be a restless wanderer upon the earth. You must leave this land at once. You may no longer speak to your parents.”

It was then I said to God that I would be killed by the first people that saw me. To prevent more murder, He gave me a mark so no one would kill me out of hand.

Then He was gone.

When I was able, I picked myself up from the ground and went home to gather food and the things I now carried on my back. And I left, never to see my parents or my home again.

Now here I stood with a mark on my head, among strangers in a foreign land, once again seeing shed blood stain the earth because of me.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

While I was lost in thought, my companions had pulled the deer to a clearing and hung it from a tree by its hind legs. This was allowing all the blood to drain out from the deer’s throat. They did not seem at all bothered by the grotesque sight of the blood spilling onto the ground.

They relaxed around the clearing, nonchalantly waiting for the bleeding to finish. Though they did not speak, they frequently glanced at me, their thoughts indiscernible behind their dark eyes. The woman in particular could not take her eyes away, watching me with a furrowed brow.

 

He cannot be a man, what he did was not possible for a man to do. He must be a god. What does he want with us? Why does he want to go to our village, and why does he give us food? He appears to be kind, but his power scares me.

 

I assumed they would take the dead animal back to their village, and I was curious to see how they would carry such a heavy load. I was also curious about how far we still had to go, because the sun had begun its drop towards the horizon quite a while ago. But I doubted they had any concept of time, and I wasn’t sure how they would understand distance.

I looked at the woman, who I had learned was called Kalou in their language, and the younger man, who was Catto. “Village today?” I said. They stared at me with blank expressions.

I pointed at the sun and slowly dropped my hand, indicating the sun setting. “Village today?” I slowly asked. I once again motioned the sun going down, and put my hands to my mouth as if eating and under my head as if sleeping.

Kalou’s eyes lit up and she smiled enthusiastically, than turning to Catto, she began speaking and gesturing in their language. He nodded and they both looked back to me.

He mimicked me eating and sleeping and distinctly said, “Village.” Then he pointed at the sun and began slowly dropping his hand. He stopped moving it just above the horizon. We would be at their village today, before sundown.

I smiled and nodded and said to them, “We’ll be at your village today.”

Catto nodded back to me and replied slowly and distinctly, “Village today.”

We still had quite a ways to travel, and I felt sure my companions were very hungry. I had been with them most of the day and they had eaten nothing. I decided while we were waiting for the deer to finish bleeding, they should cook the rabbits. Also, this would be a good time to search the forest for something I could eat. I hadn’t eaten for days, but there was no chance I would eat any rabbit.

I also had another, self-serving reason for wanting them to eat the rabbits now.

I said, “Village today, but eat now.”

I brought my hand to my mouth to show them what I meant. They nodded hesitantly while giving me puzzled looks, not really understanding what I meant. They had no packs and no gear for cooking; they carried nothing but their weapons in their hands.

I knew that they planned to be home before nightfall, and their tribe would expect them to bring back everything they had killed that day so the entire tribe would be able to eat. They obviously carried no prepared food, and were confused that I seemed to tell them that we would eat now.

If my guess was correct, they had no idea how I planned to cook the meat. But I had a good reason for wanting them to eat, one which was much more important to me than making sure they weren’t hungry. I had something I wanted to show them, something I believed would be the most significant thing I showed them all day.

While the blood continued to slowly drain, I turned to the group and said, “Time for a fire.”

Then looking at my two new friends I told them, “Get wood.”

Once again they gave me blank stares.

“Wood,” I said, “For a fire.”

I pointed at a tree and then bent down and picked up a dry stick from the ground. They nodded, still puzzled, but even so they started to collect dead branches for a fire. They’re beginning to trust me, I realized. They don’t know why I want them to gather wood, but they’re doing it because I asked them.

Between the three of us, we soon had a nice pile of branches gathered. I piled some kindling up just as the elder hunters decided to come see what I was doing. Taking out my knife and firestone, I began striking towards the kindling.

As the first spark flew off the stone, in unison there was a loud cry from all four of them. I looked up from my kindling, a purposefully blank expression on my face. They had all jumped back from me, shock showing on their faces. I knew then that I had guessed correctly. They did not have the ability to start fire, and that was why they were confused by my directions to gather firewood. They obviously didn’t use, or know how to use a firestone.

I had come to this conclusion as we waited for the deer to bleed and I had time to think about their level of civilization. I felt confident that fire was a precious commodity which had to constantly be kept alive in their settlement, at the minimum banked in coals at all times. This didn’t really surprise me, as my family had done the same thing, letting the fire die down at night and bringing it back in the morning with fresh kindling.

The difference was that we had the ability to start fire whenever we needed, because of the stones my father had found and discovered how to use. Fire was the most valuable commodity there was, since they had to cook their meat in order to eat it. If all the fires in their camp ever went out, I wondered what they would do.

Fire could be the difference between living and dying, and they had just seen that I held that power in my hand! I could not even imagine what they were thinking; what their opinion of me now was. It was possible I had just been elevated to a god in their eyes, which was an interesting thought.

I didn’t want to say anything about the stone or make a big deal out of what I was doing, so I bent back over my task. With a few more strikes to the stone the fire was lit and quickly began picking up heat. I grabbed two sticks and began to sharpen them. Though I had never cooked meat before, the only logical way seemed to be to put it on a stick and hold it over the fire.

I indicated to Kalou that I wanted to cook the rabbits and held up two fingers. She nodded slowly, continuing to look at me wide-eyed as she bent down to pick up two of the rabbits.

I indicated that they should prepare them for cooking and use the sticks I had sharpened to hold them over the fire. I got the impression this was not a new concept to them, which was a positive sign to me. They quickly skinned and cleaned the rabbits and prepared them for cooking. I had them throw the intestines into the woods, which the older men, Andoc and Nadar, the leader, were not happy about.

I thought it was probable that in their society they wasted no part of the animal after it was killed. One more lesson to teach them, I thought. You don’t have to eat every part of something just because it’s there.

Since the rabbits had been killed early in the day, I saw no reason to risk illness by cooking or eating the intestines. Though the entire dead animal looked disgusting to me, there was something about those intestines which made me uncomfortable. I had the feeling that something in them could make you ill if you were to eat them, and I did not want to risk that happening right now.

At this point we were still waiting for the fire to grow to the point where they could cook the meat. This was a good time to look for something I could eat in the forest, so I looked at Kalou and said, “Let’s get more food.”

I indicated eating and pointing to the woods around us, repeated, “Get more food.”

She understood, nodded in agreement, and turning to the men said something in their language. The younger man, Catto, indicated he would come with us, while the older men would tend the fire and cook the rabbits.

I followed the woman as we walked into the forest. She seemed to know exactly where she was going and headed straight up a faint path, moving quickly and silently. In a short while we arrived at another small clearing, and on the far side I saw some low bushes which I immediately recognized.

When we got close I was pleased to see they were covered with small blue berries. The fruit looked a little smaller, but otherwise was identical to the blueberries I had cultivated at home. It was one of my families’ favorite fruits, and we had used it often in our cooking and baking. I was thrilled to see that it existed on this side of the desert; the blueberries made me feel more confident that there would be other familiar plants that I could grow and eat.

I immediately began voraciously devouring the fruit, and quickly felt energy flowing back into my body. Now that I had something to eat, I could allow myself to admit how hungry I really was. I had eaten nothing for over five days, and my last meal, as it were, had only been a few morsels of stale bread.

While I was eating Kalou briefly disappeared into the forest, but soon returned with several large leaves which she formed into bowls and began to fill with berries. When I had eaten my fill and she and Catto had filled five leaves, she indicated we should continue walking.

We changed direction and now moved through the underbrush. It was thin and the walking was still easy, but the berries we carried made our progress a little slower. Kalou was searching for something; as she walked she continually looked around and scanned the ground. Suddenly she saw what she had been searching for, and calling out she pointed to a small patch of spindly plants.

The plants were foreign to me, and they certainly didn’t look very promising. Putting down her berries, she knelt and began to dig with her knife around one of the stalks while she simultaneously pulled upwards on it. After a short while the entire plant popped out of the ground, showing a large tuber attached to the spindly top. The tuber looked very much like a potato, though it was longer and skinnier than I was used to.

Catto and I also began to dig, and we soon had a full load of potatoes which we cleaned up and put in my pack. We then gathered the leaves of blueberries and returned to the fire.

We arrived back at the clearing where the older men waited, turning the rabbits as they roasted. They indicated the rabbits were cooking nicely, and were almost ready to be eaten. I told Kalou that I wanted to eat some of the potatoes, and since I did not know how they were best eaten, I asked her to prepare them. She gave me an odd look, and then with a roll of her eyes she walked to the fire and dropped several of the potatoes in the edge of the coals. I noticed that she was trying not to smile, and I realized sheepishly that this obviously was the only way they could be cooked.

When the rabbits were done we pulled the potatoes out of the fire. They weren’t cooked quite as thoroughly as I would have liked, but the rabbit was ready and everyone wanted to eat. While the rabbits were being taken from the fire, Catto went into the forest and came back with more large leaves to use as plates. Nadar pulled the rabbits off the sticks and used his knife to divide them into four portions. I had already indicated I did not want any rabbit, but would have extra potatoes. They each took half a rabbit, as well as a couple potatoes and some blueberries, while I took five potatoes and a generous portion of the blueberries. We drank from my water skins with our meal. I used one for myself, and gave the other to my companions.

Everyone attacked their food voraciously, and all the leaf plates were soon cleared. From the way they ate I could tell they had eaten nothing since early that morning, if not the night before.

In short order the fire was put out and the body of the deer had been lashed to a large pole, hanging by its feet. It would be carried by two men, with the pole resting on our shoulders as we walked. This was a good way to carry the deer, and I was impressed they had thought of it.

The sun was lowering in the sky, and my companions indicated that we needed to move swiftly so we could be out of the forest and in their village before nightfall. Though I did not know if it was other humans or animals they feared, they obviously believed it was not safe in the forest at night. We quickly got underway with Catto and Nadar taking the first turn carrying the deer.

As we walked I thought about what would happen when we arrived at their village. I needed to be ready. I needed to plan what I would do and how I would act when we arrived. I had to make sure that I would quickly be recognized as the leader of these people. While I had no way of knowing if there were any other tribes on this side of the desert, for now I needed to work with what I had, which was the people walking with me.

I knew very little for certain about my companions. They were obviously a crude and uncivilized people, and they would probably have a simple form of leadership. I saw the power structure in this hunting party, that one of the older men was the leader. I didn’t know if his leadership over a few hunters transferred into power over all hunters or the tribe in general, but I was pretty confident that age was the deciding factor in their tribal leadership.

Though I might be older than anyone in their village, since I appeared young to them my age could be an obstacle that I would need to negate immediately to be accepted as their leader. The mark on my head would stop them from harming me, and the stories my companions would tell about how I had stopped their weapons, killed the deer, and started a fire should inspire fear and awe.

But fear, awe and the mark could combine to get me thrown out of their village the next day if I wasn’t clever. I had to make sure that I inspired them, and that they realized what my superior intelligence and abilities could do for them. While fear of my physical abilities could help me gain power, it would be my ability to help them advance past their barbaric lifestyle that would be the key to holding power.

These people could barely communicate, they had shockingly crude weapons and clothing, they had no way of starting a fire, and their hygiene was appalling. Given what I had witnessed today, I had no doubt that their farming skills were minimal to nonexistent, and I didn’t even want to think about the homes they lived in.

These people had a long way to go to become civilized human beings, and my ideas, knowledge and leadership could turn them into a great and powerful tribe. I just had to make sure they took me in tonight and let me stay long enough to set my plans in motion.

Since they couldn’t harm me and I was so much stronger, it might be easiest to kill the current leaders in order to take their place. I hoped it didn’t come to violence. It wouldn’t make me happy to kill, but I would do whatever I needed to gain power and get the place of honor that I deserved.

I was going to be their leader and soon everyone would know how important I was. And someday, someday soon, I would be the king on this side of the desert. Nothing was going to get in my way.

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

As we continued along the trail, I thought back to the meal we had shared in the clearing. I had noticed the men were very appreciative for the blueberries and potatoes Kalou had found, and she had taken an equal portion of the meal when it was divided with no questions asked. Since the arguments of the morning, the interaction between Kalou and the older men had been minimal but civil.

I was interested to find out what position women held in their tribe. From what I had seen earlier today, it appeared they didn’t allow women to hunt, and that was the cause of the argument this morning. Of course, it was possible that women were allowed to hunt and Kalou had done something forbidden like hunting in the wrong location. But from the violence of their disagreement, I had to believe that she had broken a much more serious rule than that.

I thought of my home and the position my mother had in our family. It had been a very interesting situation, as God had created her to be a helper to my father. Though she had constantly taken care of us, watched over us and served us, there had been nothing approaching the attitude of a servant about her. She had done nothing out of obligation, but only because she wanted to care for us. Her relationship with my father had been one of equality.

They had different responsibilities in the family where they each took a leadership role; neither ever tried to lord it over the other. Theirs had been a relationship of loving acceptance in which they each had a role, worked hard and did their part. Though there was a distinct division of duties with my parents, they willingly helped each other whenever there was need.

As I thought about my parents, I once again thought back to my final days with my family. It had been the harvest and my crops had come in beautifully. I had provided a bounty for our family; a bounty of grains, fruits and vegetables which would be needed to sustain us over the months of cooler weather when crops did not grow as well. My family needed my harvest to carry us through the winter and early spring.

The flocks my brother tended were useful for our existence, but they weren’t really necessary. His flocks gave us wool and milk, but that was all we needed from them. We could have gotten by without my brother’s flocks, but my crops were irreplaceable. I was much more important than him to our family.

As I started down this familiar trail of thoughts, my anger flared up once again. My crops were a necessity, the foundation of our life. My brother’s flocks had been a luxury, a pleasant addition to our life, but not all that important. That God would not find favor with my sacrifice, and yet find favor with my brother’s still drove me into a fury.

“Mine was better,” I found myself muttering.

But all that didn’t matter anymore. I had left that life. God and my parents were far behind in another land. I was here now; ready to start a new life that was destined to bring me power and glory. This was my time and my place, and I was going to be a king.

 

He holds fire in his hand. He can catch a thrown spear and a kill a deer with a stone. What is going to happen when we reach the village? I am scared the elders will anger him. What will he do to us?

 

I glanced over at Kalou and saw she was watching me out of the corner of her eye. We had been walking for quite some time since our meal, but the time had passed quickly. When Kalou saw me looking at her she indicated their village was very close. The sun was touching the horizon and we would be there in a few moments.

I was ready.

 

 

 

Part III – The Village

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

We finally emerged from the forest and crested one last rise. The hills quickly fell away, and below us I saw their village. The sun setting at our backs cast a warm glow over a small collection of huts on the edge of an enormous valley which extended beyond my view in all directions. Straining my eyes in the fading light, I saw large open plains stretching far into the distance. The monotony of the grassy plains was broken by frequent stands of trees and an occasional small forest. Light reflected off numerous waters flowing through the valley, and far to the east the light shown dimly off one particularly large river.

The village was set a short distance from the bottom of the hill we were descending, in the midst of a large section of grassland. A stream ran past the village just north of the last building. Whether by chance or good planning I did not know, but someone had chosen an excellent location for a settlement. I could see at a glance that this spot, with the water and the abundance of open meadows, would be perfect for farming or keeping flocks, while it was also close to the forest for hunting and gathering firewood and food. This was exactly where I would have established my village.

I turned to Kalou and gave her a genuine smile. “It’s beautiful,” I said.

She smiled back, obviously pleased by my reaction to her home. As we walked down the long, sloping hillside towards the village, I examined the huts. I saw they were crude structures as I had expected, though interestingly enough they were made of grass. It appeared that the tribe bound clumps of long grasses together to form the walls and roofs of their buildings. I saw only a single doorway in each hut, with no windows or chimneys; they were very simple structures. I saw no smoke coming from any of the individual huts, but a large fire burned in the center of the village.

I counted sixteen huts of varying sizes, and I estimated there were about eighty people gathered in the open area around the fire. I was pleased. The valley looked like a perfect place to farm, and the tribe was of a good size; I felt optimistic about my future as we continued down the long hill towards the village.

We were finally noticed in the waning daylight, and a cry came to us from the people below. In mass they surged towards us, shouting as they came. We reached the edge of the village at the same time as the tribe, and when they saw me they stopped abruptly, their shouts dying in their throats. An eerie hush fell over the crowd, and I felt quite uncomfortable. Every eye was fixed on me as they stood frozen and staring.

Our group paused about ten paces in front of them. After a brief moment of silence Nadar spoke, and he spoke to the villagers for quite some time. It was a bit difficult for me to follow, but with what I had learned through the day I understood a good amount of what he said.

Three old men had come to the front of the group and Nadar spoke directly to them, essentially ignoring the rest of the people. While he did not appear frightened, he was obviously uncomfortable as he gestured towards me, pointing at my forehead several times. From the looks on the faces of those assembled in front of us, I knew they also could see the mark on my forehead, and they appeared puzzled and fearful. At one point Nadar indicated the deer, and I knew he was telling them I had killed it and given it to the tribe. This brought broad smiles to several faces, and a few people even rubbed their bellies.

The old men continued to look sternly at our group; obviously bringing me here was a serious issue. One of the old men asked a question, and Nadar continued talking, pointing at my head once again while he answered. Although I saw a number of knives and long throwing knifes being held by tribe members, none were held in a threatening manner, and I had no fear.

I took this opportunity to look closely at the people assembled in front of me. The difference in the ages of the tribe was of great interest to me. Those gathered ranged from a few infants held in the arms of their mothers, to the very old men that obviously led the tribe. The only people I had ever seen before today were my family, and we had all been mature adults for many years. To see a mix of people from babies to the elderly was a new experience for me.

I saw my initial estimate was correct; there were about eighty people before me. Most of them were youths or men and woman that were in the prime years of their lives. The elderly were a minority, and I guessed that given their hygiene and way of life, most never had the chance to get old. This realization gave me the oddest feeling.

Death, even getting old, was something that never came up with my family. I wondered how many years these people lived? Some of them looked so very old, many years older than my parents, but I knew that was impossible. It occurred to me that these people would not have the same lifespan that I expected to have.

There was a pause in the discussion, and everyone looked at me expectantly. I smiled, lifted my open hands in a sign of peace and said in my own language, “Hello, I am your king.” I thought this quite funny, as no one had any idea what I meant.

I followed this by saying a word in their language that Catto had taught me earlier, “Friend.”

A few in the crowd smiled back at me, but the old men were obviously not convinced. Another brief discussion followed, and then several things happened at once. The deer, rabbit, and remaining potatoes were taken in the direction of the fire, along with Kalou and Andoc, the older, less intelligent hunter.

I could see they were happy to have the food. Although nobody in the tribe appeared to be starving, it was obvious from the way they acted that food was central to their lives. As she was pulled along by the crowd Kalou glanced back, piercing me with her searching gaze. Others in the crowd also looked back as they returned to the fire, most of them staring at my forehead. Although most of them just seemed to be curious, some were frowning and to my eyes appeared quite distressed.

 

The Elders are unhappy. I hope they do not send him into the forest tonight. I think he can help our tribe. He has great power and much to teach us. But there is something about him that makes me uncomfortable. He is very… proud.

 

I was escorted towards the huts by Nadar and Catto, as well as an additional five men who had surrounded me. We followed the three old men. I believed Catto was brought along because he had quickly learned to speak with me, while the five additional men were with us for either protection or intimidation. We arrived at one of the larger huts, and pushing aside the animal hide door, we went inside.

While I was interested in the construction of the hut, I was not able to examine it in any detail as my attention needed to be fixed upon the old men. What happened in this hut tonight would be the single most important event towards deciding my future with this tribe.

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

The hut was a single room, and a small fire burned in the center. It was dimly lit and very smoky, since there was not even a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape. The old men sat down on the far side of the fire, while Nadar, Catto and I sat opposite them. The other five men were scattered throughout the room, with two standing directly behind me. Though I understood their reasons for having the additional men there, I found it amusing, as we all knew they could not harm me.

The old ones asked a question of Nadar and he spoke for a very long time. From what I could understand of his words and hand gestures, he was telling them in detail everything that had occurred that day. I saw him act out my dodging and catching the long knives, he pointed at and spent more time discussing my forehead, he mimicked drinking out of a water skin, and he took a significant amount of time to tell them how I had killed the deer.

I could see everyone was impressed with my killing of the deer. My ability to kill a fully grown, running deer with a rock thrown from twenty paces gave them much to think about. This was an extraordinary deed, and one that made the old ones look at me in a new light. I heard the guards behind me murmur to each other before they were silenced by a stern look from one of the old men.

While Nadar continued with his tale of today’s events, I thought about my mark. From the little God had told me, I knew no one could kill me, but could they hurt me? If they decided to force me to leave the village what actions could they take against me?

In theory I could probably stay no matter what the old ones decided without fear of injury or death, but this would not help me gain leadership over the people. I needed to leave this building acknowledged as a man of power; a man they wanted to stay, and a man they knew could teach them and help them.

I followed along with the story as Nadar reached the point where I started the fire; this was what I had been waiting for. When he told the old ones I had started a fire with a stone, a mixture of laughter and sounds of disbelief came from around the room. The old one seated in the center, the one that did most of the talking, examined me with a penetrating eye. I saw intelligence in his eyes, and I believed him to be a wise man among these people. As he continued to stare unblinking, he made a short statement to Nadar, who then looked at Catto.

The young hunter spoke for the first time since we entered the hut. “Fire.”

They wanted me to prove that I could make fire. I smiled and nodded, “Yes,” I said slowly, “I will make fire.”

I swung my pack off my back and reached inside to take out my firestone. I asked Catto for wood, and he gave me some kindling and small sticks. I arranged this on the floor between myself and the old ones, and pulling out my knife I prepared to make fire.

I noted the obvious interest my knife received from every man in the room. It stood out in sharp contrast to the utilitarian knives everyone else carried. I paused briefly, just to increase the drama, and then struck my knife to the firestone, causing sparks to fly into the kindling. It was dry and took the sparks immediately. I blew gently into the kindling, and the fire sprang to life.

I looked up at the old ones, and was impressed by their reaction. While the guards scattered around the room exclaimed excitedly, they calmly looked at me and the fire, and then turned to each other and began to talk quietly.

When the old one in the middle turned to his side, I noticed something of great interest. He was wearing a leather skin with the fur turned inside, and when he moved I saw it was sheep’s fur. I was very pleased to see that sheep lived on this side of the wasteland. This was an interesting development, and something that could be quite important in the future should I be allowed to stay with the tribe.

I placed the firestone back in my pack. The old ones watched me place it there, and one said something to Catto. He turned to me and asked in a mix of our languages if they could see what else was in the pack. I firmly shook my head no, and held the pack on my lap.

The room immediately became silent. It appeared that I had done something unusual, saying no to the old ones. I calmly faced them, my pack held firmly in my lap, almost daring them to try and take it from me. There was a long pause, and then the leader of the old ones said something with a slight smile, and the tension left the room.

There was another pause as once again their leader stared at me appraisingly, his eyes slowly running the length of my body. He looked long and hard at everything I had; my sandals, my woolen tunic, my belt with the attached sheath and knife, and the pack. He finished by gazing intently at my face, much like the woman, Kalou; looking deep into my eyes in a manner that made me extremely uncomfortable. I felt as though he could see my thoughts, see into my very soul, and I couldn’t have that.

Returning his gaze as evenly as I could, I saw wisdom in his eyes. We stared at each other for a very long time, and then abruptly he broke the contact, a decision apparently made. He turned to Catto and said something to him, a slight smile on his face. Catto indicated that the old one wanted to feel my clothing. This was odd given the seriousness of all that had happened, but I smiled to myself as I realized his decision was that I could stay.

I said yes, and the old one leaned across to me, taking a fold of my tunic in his hands. As he felt it he nodded and made appreciative sounds.

I pointed at the skin the old one wore and asked Catto if this was something they often killed. His response was difficult to understand, but I gathered it was an animal that was very rare, and this skin was the only one that had been killed. While I was disappointed that sheep were not common to the area, I was still pleased. Finding them and bringing them back to the village was something I could do for the tribe to improve my position.

The old one, whose name I had learned was Garon, sat back and made an announcement to the gathered men. While I could not understand everything, I knew he said I would be able to stay with them with the elders’ blessing. I was very grateful that I had not needed to kill anyone or use force to bring them to this decision.

I would soon begin changing these people, and it wouldn’t be long before I was in control. It did not matter to me if the old ones remained the leaders of the tribe for the time being. As long as I was here with their consent, and I was able to effect the changes I wanted to make, I was satisfied. It was now only a matter of time until I had the power.

Garon said something to Catto, and Catto turned to me and indicated that I was to stay with him; that he would help me. This pleased me, as I liked the young man and respected his intelligence. He had shown himself to have an excellent aptitude for my language, already understanding and remembering many words. He had an obvious openness to me and what I could teach him.

I smiled to myself as I realized that given my youthful appearance, Garon probably thought Catto and I were about the same age. Little did he realize that I was at least twice, and probably more than three times older than Catto. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was older than Catto’s father.

If more of the young men in the tribe had the same intelligence and attitude as Catto, I would soon be able to guide them out of their barbaric lifestyle. I had also been very impressed with Kalou today. She had fire; I could see that nothing frightened her. She was extremely intelligent and had learned my language quickly as we walked together. I hoped more women in the tribe had her strength and spirit.

The old ones stood, indicating our meeting was over. They left the room first, and Catto and I followed, the guards no longer shadowing me as I went out into the night. I could hear shouting and laughter coming from the direction of the fire; it sounded as though a celebration was going on. We walked to the center of the village where the fire roared and the deer roasted, having been cleaned and cut into pieces. The smell of the deer cooking made me somewhat nauseous, but the people gathered around the fire obviously had no such problem.

I was surprised they would feast so late in the evening. I surmised that no other hunters had brought meat to the tribe that day, so this was their first chance to eat. It was odd that they didn’t eat until they had meat; Kalou had found an abundance of potatoes and blueberries, so obviously other food existed in the forest.

It would take time for me to understand these people, their ways were so foreign. But I had no choice except to learn everything about them. I would need to understand their behavior and ways of thinking in order to manipulate them to my will.

 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

Approaching the fire, I saw that much of the tribe was gathered about Kalou and Andoc. Andoc said something, and his statement was followed by a loud roar from the group. Everyone was very excited and there was a noticeably high level of energy. My arrival was an unexpected as well as unprecedented occurrence, one that had them stirred up like a hive of bees when you disturb their honey. The crowd noticed our arrival and silence quickly fell, broken only by a baby crying and a few young children calling out and being hushed by their parents.

Garon looked over the tribe, waiting to speak, extending the last moments of tribal life as he knew it. He was wise, and I believe that he alone understood the significance of my coming; that allowing me to stay would forever change who they were. I knew Garon did not take this decision lightly, and his hesitation caused me to hold my breath for a long moment.

Finally, with a quick glance in my direction, Garon announced the Elder’s decision to the tribe. His words were immediately followed by a loud clamor of voices. As I watched the crowd I saw various emotions pass over their faces, and not everyone was happy. Andoc looked pleased, and I saw he was enjoying his new status from spending the day with me. Kalou gave me another of her disconcerting looks, and then turned away.

 

The Elders have accepted him. I think this is good, but I am not sure. Sometimes he scares me; I see something in his eyes that causes me not to trust him. I believe he can help us, but why is he helping; what does he want from us?

 

Some in the tribe were definitely bothered by this new development. I saw one group gathered off to the side, made up of several of the older men and women. They scowled and turned to each other, talking angrily. These were the people I would need to either convince of my worth, or find a way to eliminate.

I had much work ahead to change this tribe into an image that pleased me. But now that I was here I had no intention of ever looking back. My time had come.

Every man that had been in the hut with me was immediately surrounded. Their friends wanted to hear every detail of what had occurred. Still viewing me with varying degrees of apprehension, fear or wonder, most of the adults kept a respectful distance, but I was immediately surrounded by what seemed to be every child in the tribe. They gathered round me, staring with mouths wide open as they jabbered back and forth; a few brave ones going so far as to feel my clothing.

The rest of the evening passed quickly, with much discussion and friendly shouting on their part, while people stared, circling me constantly. Many people tried to converse, and I put on a good show. I was very conscious of the need to appear open and non-threatening. I did not want to give them any hint of my intentions, or let them know what I really thought of them. I wanted them to believe I was a benign friend, come to help them.

When the fire died down and the celebration slowed, Catto came to me and indicated I should follow him. We walked from the fire to one of the larger huts on the far side of the village. In the dim light cast by a small fire banked in the center of the room I saw six people sleeping on the floor, covered by fur blankets. There were several more unused piles of fur blankets scattered about the dirt floor.

When a couple of the sleepers stirred and looked at us, I realized everyone in the hut was an adult male. This must be the sleeping hut for men who hadn’t taken a mate. I had noticed as we walked down the hill that there were two large huts located at opposite ends of the village. I was now in one of those huts with the men, and I guessed that the single women stayed in the other large hut.

It had been obvious at the fire that this tribe recognized the family unit. I had seen several families sitting or standing together; a man and woman along with children of varying ages, eating their meat and talking. I assumed that the families were able to live in their own hut, which would account for the larger number of small huts in the village.

Catto went over to a large pile of furs on the far side of the room. He gave me some fur blankets, and taking the others he lay down, covered himself, and promptly went to sleep. I had not slept for two days, and this had been the most intense day of my life. I suddenly realized I was exhausted, and lying down, I pulled the stinking furs over myself and immediately fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I awoke the next morning refreshed and alert. No one in the hut stirred as I lay awake, staring up at the roof. Though I had much to think about, I was distracted by the construction of the hut. Now that I had a chance to examine it more closely, I was impressed. They had used a post and beam style construction, lashing sturdy lengths of wood together with leather strips. Large bundles of grasses had then been lashed to the wood frame in an overlapping manner. This method of construction was effective, and had been used on both the walls and the roof. The only negative I could see was the lack of a smoke hole in the roof.

There was enough of an opening at the door, which was covered only by a flap of skin, as well as occasional gaps at the base of the walls to allow a draft. All that was needed was an opening at the peak of the roof, and the smoke would rise and leave through the hole.

The smoke from the fire, which smoldered in the center of the sleeping men, was irritating to the chest and eyes and was not healthy. I decided I would fix this later today; I would not sleep another night in a smoke-filled hut.

I silently slid from under my fur blankets and padded to the door. Pushing the flap aside, I stepped out into the faint early morning light. I saw no one else moving outside, but sensed I was not the only person out of the huts.

I quietly walked through the huts to the center of the village. Arriving at the fire, I could see that it was carefully banked, ready to be brought back to life. The area around the fire had been cleaned, and there were no bones or scrapes on the ground. Everything had been thrown away, I assumed into the fire. I was pleased to see this, and wondered if this was someone’s personal preference, or a tribal rule that was followed every night.

My senses told me there was more than one person about, though I still had not seen anyone. This could only mean that they were on the far side of the huts, out of my sight. I suspected that if I looked around I would find a few men that had kept watch over the village through the night.

I was curious to know what they guarded against. I felt no danger, and I had not heard or seen any sign of a bear or large cat since I entered their land. I assumed those animals must exist here, since they were needed to cull the weak and keep balance in the food chain.

We had those predators in my homeland, which was one of the reasons my brother had to watch over his flocks. Given the abundance of wild game in the forest, they had not bothered my family often; our presence was usually enough to keep them away from our fields and meadows.

When I was young a very large bear had made the mistake of trying to take my father as he walked in the forest early one morning. That bear’s huge pelt now graced the floor of our house. I had no doubt that should a bear be so unwise as to attack me, my knife would be more than enough to insure a new blanket for my hut in this village.

I coughed quietly to make my presence known to the guards, and then rounded the corner of a hut where I thought one of them might be stationed. There I found one of the men who had gone into the leader’s hut with me last night. Having heard my cough, he stood facing me with his long knife raised, but I could see he hadn’t expected anything dangerous.

I smiled and quietly said good morning to him in my language. Though he did not understand my speech, he smiled back and spoke a greeting in his own language. He showed no sign of fear at my appearance, so apparently the approval of the old ones was all that was necessary to put him at ease. I hoped the rest of the villagers felt the same way.

Through a mix of his language and sign language, I let him know I was going to take a walk and would soon return. He probably assumed I needed to relieve myself, but I actually wanted a better look at the surrounding area and the valley in general. I needed a high spot where I would have a good vantage point to see the lay of the land, so I strode off in the direction we had come from the night before.

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

I followed the same path up the hillside that we had come down last night, aiming for an even higher peak from which to view the valley. When I had climbed to the highest point in the hills above the village, I looked over the land that I knew was destined to be mine.

In the early morning light the valley was even more impressive than I had thought last night. It was a very wide land, much larger than the land of my parents. Far to the east I could faintly see another range of mountains which seemed to run parallel to those on this side of the valley. They would be many days walk for me, and they were too distant for even my keen eyes to pick out any details.

As the sun rose over those mountains the land came into sharper focus. To the south the two ranges appeared to gradually run together, though if they finally joined it was too far away for my eyes to see. To the north, many days distant, I could see another tall mountain range. Even from this distance it was fiercely imposing.

Before me was an absolutely beautiful valley, wide, green and lush. As far as my eyes could see were grassy plains interspersed with patches of woodlands. I now saw more clearly the wide river I had noticed last night. It seemed to run generally north and south, dividing the valley, although this side was by far the larger of the two parcels. The morning light flashed off many other flowing waters; not too far to the north I saw a small river.

The village was located at the southern end of a large meadow, and it stood out in the open, with a thinly wooded forest farther to the north. On the edge of the village was the stream I had seen the night before, running out of the mountains and off to the north and east.

From this vantage point I could clearly see that the village had no gardens or planted fields, nor could I see any animals grazing nearby. My conclusions had been correct; everything they ate was hunted or gathered in the forest. The woods north of the village were thin and I would not be surprised if they held no large game, which explained why the tribe hunted in the deep forest behind me.

I liked what I saw around the village. There was water for drinking and irrigating crops, plenty of wood nearby for building, and more than enough meadowland for both growing crops and grazing animals. Though it might eventually be necessary to move the tribe to a larger source of water since the stream below would not support the irrigation of large fields, I could see no physical obstacles to my plan for turning this tribe into a great people. All the raw material was here, and though there was a huge amount of work to do, I was confident I would be successful.

Getting accepted and being allowed to stay had been the important first step, but now the real work began. To advance these people and become their leader I needed to transfer my knowledge, and to communicate properly it would be necessary to use my language. Their languages’ vocabulary was extremely limited, plus the crudity of the language irritated me. Unfortunately, in order to teach them my language properly, I would be forced to first learn theirs.

I had decided last night that I wanted Catto and Kalou as my guides in the language and ways of their tribe. I was impressed with their intelligence and energy, and they had both shown an excellent aptitude for my language. They would be both my students and teachers, and through them I would learn about these people, teach the tribe what they needed, and turn them into what I wanted them to be.

I would have Kalou and Catto guide me through the forests and plains to find crops that could be grown for food, and I would bring the crops here. There was no reason, given the open meadow and abundant water, why these people should have to travel deep into the forest to gather food when it could be grown right next to their village.

In addition to the potatoes and blueberries I already knew about, I hoped to find and grow staples such as wheat and corn, but I also needed to find as many fruits and vegetables as possible that could be transferred to a garden, such as peas, carrots and strawberries. I also hoped to discover herbs like parsley, sage and rosemary that could be used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.

In addition, I would search for any animals that could be domesticated. As disgusting as I found the habit of eating meat, the tribe needed sources of food that could be raised on these wide meadows. I knew there were sheep in this land, since I had seen the skin. I did not want the sheep for a food source as much as I wanted them for their wool, but where there are sheep there may also be goats, pigs and cattle.

If I could find this livestock, or at least animals that were similar, the tribe would be able to have meat, milk and wool. Raising livestock would not mean they didn’t need to hunt for food, but at least killing game would no longer be a matter of life or death.

Unfortunately, there was so much to do here in the village that I could not immediately go off hunting for sources of food. The people were primitives. The only positive thing I had seen in the village was that the tribe knew how to build functional huts. Otherwise, they had no decent clothing, no furniture, and no cooking or eating utensils. They cooked their food by roasting it over an open fire, and then used their filthy hands to eat!

That reminded me that I needed to find a source of oil to make soap. Even though I was now getting somewhat used to it, the stench they carried was still tremendously offensive. Cleaning them should not be more important to me than feeding them, but it was. Their smell and the layer of dirt that coated them repelled me, and although to become powerful I was willing to lead people that ate meat, I would not live in filth like an animal.

But I could not be thought of as the stranger that came into their village and forced them to change their way of life. I needed to show them what was possible, and then, hopefully they would want to change. It was important that they desire all the improvements I could bring. I wanted them to blindly believe in me and my leadership, and I needed them to think that they could trust me.

I would split my time between exploring the countryside and teaching in the village. My plan was to travel through the land with Kalou and Catto as far as we could in two or three days. On these trips we would collect plants, capture animals, and explore for anything of interest. At the same time, as we travelled I would be transferring advanced language skills to my companions.

We would carry everything we found back to the village. There I would take the time, whether it was a week or a moon, to plant, build and teach about what I had discovered on the trip. Then we would go off again in a different direction, searching for new discoveries. I wanted this cycle to be repeated as often as necessary, with new foods, animals and knowledge being added to the village with every trip.

I also wanted to venture out alone whenever possible. Alone I could travel faster and cover much more land, since I could run without rest and did not need to eat or sleep the way Catto and Kalou would. To be able to explore the farthest reaches of this land, I would need to travel by myself.

I could see people beginning to move about in the village below, and sounds were drifting up to me as the children awoke and cried out to their parents. The mix of all ages, from the little ones up to the old ones was curious to me; I was interested to see how these people grew and aged. The old ones looked so very ancient to me. They appeared to have lived many more years than my father, but I knew that was not possible.

I wondered idly as I walked back down the hillside if it was the harshness of their lives that caused them to age more rapidly than my family. Though my parents were hundreds of years old, they were smooth-skinned and vital, while I was still considered little more than a youth, having lived only 112 years.

As I returned to the village I realized I was looking forward to staying put for a few days, observing what the people did and how they lived their daily lives. I needed to talk to Garon, to make sure I could keep Kalou and Catto with me as my guides.

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

When I entered the village I saw everyone, both old and young, standing around the central fire talking animatedly. Their attention immediately shifted to me when I walked into the area, and I knew that I had been the topic of conversation.

Catto was surrounded by a group of men, deep in discussion. As I walked towards him, I noticed that a few of the woman were tending something at the edge of the fire. Curious, I saw that they were roasting potatoes in the coals; they must eat them for breakfast. I was glad to see they didn’t go hungry all day until someone brought them meat.

I reached Catto and said, “Hello. How did you sleep?” slowly and clearly, using a hand gesture to indicate sleep.

He understood and replied, “Hello. Sleep good.”

Hello and good were two words we had learned the day before, and I was pleased to hear him use them together with a new word, sleep. Catto showed an excellent capacity for learning.

I gave him a sincere smile and said, “Good. Eat potatoes?” while pointing at the potatoes.

He replied, “Yes, eat sa’dac”, calling the potato by the tribe’s name.

I shook my head and stated, “Eat potatoes.”

I said this firmly, to show that I wanted to use only my name for the food.

He looked at me for a brief moment, and then nodded and said, “Yes, eat potatoes.”

The people surrounding us had followed our small conversation with rapt attention, and I smiled at all of them saying, “Hello. Eat potatoes.” Many laughed, but several actually repeated my words.

So it began. We found Garon, and through Catto I asked if he and Kalou could remain with me in the village that day. Garon said yes, and I knew he understood my reasoning, indicating that I should look around the village.

It turned out to be an informative day. Several small hunting parties of men went out, with those that were too young or old to hunt remaining in the village with a few men that were left behind, apparently for protection. Most of the women remained in the village taking care of the children and doing other chores, while two parties of women went into the forest to gather food. Kalou told me they would be gathering potatoes and blueberries; apparently that was all they knew to eat.

By the time the sun began to drop in the sky and a group of hunters brought two wild pigs back for dinner, I had gathered all the information I needed for the immediate future. Over time I would come to understand the more complicated parts of their culture, but I had learned much this day.

I could now speak with them in their own language with few problems; they seemed shocked by how quickly I had learned. By using their language, I was able to teach them words in my language for things in the village, and some were able to learn at a rapid pace.

Many people followed me around that day, and several in addition to Catto and Kalou were learning more quickly than I ever could have dreamed. I was very pleased to see that the leader of the tribe, Garon, was another of my best students. We made great progress, much better than I had thought possible with these people. It would not take as long as I thought to teach them my language; though getting all of them to use it on a daily basis might be more difficult. I knew I would need to target the children in order to have the change to my language become permanent.

It had been a very successful day, and I decided tomorrow I would go into the forest with Catto and Kalou. Garon agreed to this, and when I told them they were very excited. I let Kalou know that we would be looking for sources of food that we could grow at the village, and while she was surprised, I could see she immediately understood what I meant.

 

Why did I not think of that? It is a very good idea. We can grow potatoes here, so we don’t need to go into the forest to find them every day. But how did he learn our language so fast? He speaks like he has known it all his life.

 

As darkness fell, I ate a few potatoes as the tribe feasted on the pigs and a deer another hunting party brought in. After eating their fill, the tribe members drifted away from the fire towards their huts, the parents and children leaving first, followed later by the older members.

I had no need of sleep, having slept deeply the previous night. So when Catto made to leave for our hut, I told him I would not go with him; that I did not sleep every night. He only shook his head and smiled, understanding that here was another way in which we differed. I remained by the fire for a short time after everyone else had retired, but I could not sit there all night and think; my planning was done and I was too excited to sit still. I felt the need to act, so I decided to spend the night exploring on my own. Finding a guard, I told him in his own language that I was going out of the village for a time, but would return by morning.

He was one of the guards I had met the first night. Shocked, he said, “It is not safe to leave the village at night, you must stay here!”

Touching my knife, I told him with a smile, “Don’t worry about me, worry about anything that finds me. But don’t throw your spear at me when I return.”

He laughed at this and said, “I’ll keep watch for you, but no promises about the spear.”

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

The moon was almost full, which provided plenty of light and allowed me to see for a very long distance. I decided to travel as far north as I could in one night through the fields and woods that stretched towards the small river I had seen. When I looked over the valley this morning, I thought it likely that some of the fields might contain more than grass. If wheat grew in any of the fields, the greatest problem of feeding the village would be solved.

The village needed to raise animals to provide meat, milk and cheese; they needed vegetables and fruit; but they especially needed bread. Bread was one of the foundations on which I would build, and for that to happen I had to find wheat.

I needed the tribe to increase, and it would be impossible to support more than eighty people on only potatoes, game, and a few blueberries gathered daily in the forest. In order for the tribe to grow and be established as a strong people, I needed to develop crops that could sustain them so they would not need to go into the forest to hunt and gather all their food.

Only when they stayed at the village raising and growing their own food would they have the labor available to allow them to do all the other things required to become a civilized people, such as weave cloth, and make furniture and tools.

I ran at a steady pace. The fields immediately to the north of the village were a nice grass, and a brief inspection earlier in the day had shown me that the soil underneath was rich, nurtured by years of decomposition and renewal. These lush fields and this fine soil would allow me to do whatever I wanted, whether it was to provide grazing for flocks, or be tilled for crops.

Running at a speed no villager could ever have hoped to match, I soon arrived at the first forest north of the village. These woods were much younger than the mountain forest to the west of the village.

I slowed to a walk as I entered the woods. There was an abundance of smaller trees here, and I assumed this was where the tribe had gotten the wood for the framework of their huts. I saw many hardwood trees and saplings, wonderfully slim and straight. I would take advantage of these woods to get the building material needed to construct furniture and tools for the village. It was a nice forest, and the woods gave me some peace. I would have enjoyed staying for a while, but I had no time tonight, I needed to keep moving.

As I walked through the abundance of slim, straight hardwood, I wondered why the hunters used thick, rough shafts for the weapons they called spears. Talking to Catto earlier today, I had learned the weapons were meant to stab their prey after it was cornered, and since they didn’t fly well, they were thrown only when necessary. This made absolutely no sense to me. These people didn’t seem to think in any logical fashion. How couldn’t they realize a thrown spear would be a safer and more efficient way to hunt? Why wouldn’t they make their spears from the strong, straight wood in this forest and throw them at their prey? I shook my head and let it go. That was a problem for another day.

When I reached the far edge of the forest I found pecans. The entire northern side of the woods was pecan trees, and the ground was covered with nuts, ready to be cracked open and eaten. I laughed out loud. Already the night was a huge success. I had discovered a wonderful source of food and an abundant supply of building materials, only a short distance from the village. I would fill my pack with nuts on the return trip, and show the tribe what they had been missing in the morning.

When I emerged from the forest and re-entered the meadow, I was mildly disappointed to find that it was still grass. Once again I ran, occasionally lowering a hand into the tall grass, feeling for seed heads. Of course I would know grain when I saw it; I did not need to feel for seeds, but it gave me pleasure to touch the green living plants.

I continued onward, running north at a fast pace to cover as much ground as possible. As I ran I thought that I would like to visit the great river on the far side of the valley. I knew I could not go there now, it was a trip that would take many days, but I wanted to go there eventually to see what the waters held.

I abruptly stopped running. Of course, why had I not thought of that before? If these people ate meat, there was no reason they couldn’t eat fish. Bears and raccoons loved to eat fish, why couldn’t people? I would talk to Catto and Kalou about that possibility tomorrow while we walked; they might have noticed fish in the stream next to the village.

I began to run again. Though my main focus tonight was searching for grains, I also wanted to check out the small river I had noticed this morning. I knew that if the tribe was successful at growing their own food they would eventually need to move, since the stream next to the village would not be able to support all their needs.

As I taught the people to be civilized, in addition to requiring drinking water for people and animals, they would need water for washing, cooking, and irrigating crops. And these activities would take greater quantities of water as time went on. If I was successful at changing the ways of the tribe, and I had every intention of being successful, it would not be too many years before the tribe would be forced to move.

I continued running, pushing myself even harder. My breathing became labored and the sweat flowed freely off my body. I knew I faced a challenge, running hard it would still take me most of the night to reach the river and return to the village.

I ran through fields of tall, lush grass most of the way. The meadows were wonderful, the grass almost as high as my waist, thick and healthy. I loved the sweet smell, and as I ran I was at peace with myself for the first time in a long time.

I passed through two additional small woodlands, and though they were even younger than the forest with the pecans, they still held an abundance of wood that would be good for building. Best of all, the forest farthest to the north held walnuts. There certainly seemed to be plenty of food in this land if you just knew what you were looking for!

In good time I arrived at the river. It was actually not that far from the village; not more than two days of steady walking for a healthy hunter. Though it was a fairly small river, it would still supply more than enough water for the needs of a substantial village. It was six or eight times wider than the length of my body, and it flowed at a gentle rate. The tribe could grow to many times their current size and still draw from it all the water they would ever need.

I could see clearly in the bright moonlight, and when I looked across the water I drew a sharp breath. On the far side I finally saw what I had been searching for tonight. Mixed in among the grasses, I could see wheat stalks. Without further thought I dropped my pack and immediately dove into the water.

I quickly emerged on the opposite bank. Yes, thin and weak, being crowded out by the stronger grass were some actual clumps of wheat. I was so overjoyed I could barely contain myself. I looked around, and scattered here and there, barely surviving, were quite a few clumps of wheat. I would need to transplant and nurture them before it was too late, but I had found what the tribe desperately needed.

I gently dug out one of the clumps, being careful not to harm the root structure. My plan was to dig out several clumps and carry them back across the river. I thought if I stored them carefully, they would be safe in my pack until I transplanted them in the morning. The plants already had seed heads, but the seeds were not yet mature enough to allow them to be harvested and planted for the village.

As I stood in the warm night air, thinking about how best to carry it back across the river, the plant in my hands started to shrivel. As I watched in horror, in the space of ten heartbeats the plant went from a living thing to dry, dead stalks. How could this be? There was no way that a plant could die so quickly, nothing would die that fast naturally.

Suddenly, the words God said after I killed my brother came back to me. He told me that because of my brother’s murder I was cursed, and the earth would no longer yield any crops for me. I had forgotten this; with all I had gone through His words had not crossed my mind since that day. What would I do if I could no longer farm? That was the greatest joy in my life, the most important thing to me above all other things. Now, my touch alone would kill. How could I hope to succeed with the tribe if I could not grow food? Numb and thoughtless, I sat down upon the ground, my body slumped and my head down, lost in sorrow.

Time passed slowly as I sat in that position with my mind a blank, staring at the dead plant in my hands. The moon crossed the sky, and still I could not bring myself back to life. I stared at the seed heads motionlessly, but finally, I thought again.

If only the seeds had been mature, Catto could have planted them. This went through my head several times before I realized exactly what I was thinking. Of course! I did not need to plant everything myself. I should not plant anything. I was going to be the King. I should only teach them, not perform the labor. I needed to bring some of the men here and have them collect the plants to bring back to the village for transplanting. As long as I did not touch the plants or do any of the actual farming myself, there was no reason to think that the plants would not grow.

Though I was relieved, I smiled only half-heartedly. It was bittersweet. Not being able to grow crops myself saddened me, but I would still be able to teach the tribe how to farm the land and raise their own food. I dropped the dead wheat on the ground and standing, looked around the area. While there was not an abundance of wheat, there was a sufficient amount to take back for transplanting. Once the wheat was harvested, the seeds would need to be planted again to raise a real crop, a crop that would be used to make bread.

I dove back into the river, returning to the other side. I had lost a lot of time sitting in despair, and putting on my pack I immediately began my journey back to the village.

I had been more successful tonight than I had hoped to dream. I had found nuts, an excellent river for a larger village, and most important of all, in the future there would be bread for the tribe. I rapidly retraced my route, filling half my pack with walnuts at the first forest, and topping it off with pecans towards the end of the trip.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty One

 

I arrived in the village at dawn, just as the sun was getting ready to break the horizon. I came back to the same guard, whistling softly to alert him of my return. He smiled when I approached, asking me jokingly, “Did you bring me food?”

“Yes.” I said, and he laughed quietly, thinking I was joking in return.

When I opened my pack and showed him the nuts, his brow furrowed in confusion. He obviously recognized them, but had no idea why I would consider them food.

It was my turn to laugh, and I told him, “I’ll show you how to eat them after everyone wakes up; getting this food out is loud.”

This confused him even more, and laughing softly once again, I walked over to the firepit to rest until the tribe rose. I threw wood on the coals and sat before it, watching as the flames began to dance.

When Catto came out, he found me in the same place he had last seen me.

“Did you sit here all night?” he asked with a half smile.

I shook my head and opening my pack told him, “No, I went for a walk and found food to eat, and plants that we will grow to make more food. It was a very good night.”

He eyed me skeptically and looked in my pack. Seeing the nuts he began to laugh, “You can’t eat those; they are as hard as a rock. They’re only good for throwing.”

“You’ll see.” I promised, and placing a pecan on a large rock, I smashed it with another rock. The shell broke cleanly, leaving a full nut.

I handed the nut to Catto, “Taste it.” I ordered.

All the villagers around the fire, including the guard, watched him in anticipation. As he chewed a surprised smile broke over his face.

“It’s good,” he said, “really good.”

The villagers laughed at his reaction. With this I poured all the nuts from my pack onto the ground, showing them how they needed to be cracked between two rocks. I warned them to eat only the soft meat inside, not the hard shells. The air was soon filled with the sound of rocks banging and nuts cracking, as the villagers quickly got to work.

Catto and I went off to the side, and I began to tell him all I had done the night before. He was amazed, but somewhat skeptical at the distance I had travelled. As we were speaking Kalou joined us, and I jokingly reassured them that I would not require us to travel that fast on our journey today.

I became very excited as I told them about the wheat plants I had found. They wanted to know why these plants were so important, so I described to them the entire process of making bread, from planting the wheat to baking the bread in an oven.

As I expected, they didn’t understand all the specific information I gave them about growing and baking, but what concerned me was their inability to grasp why you would want to do what seemed to them an enormous amount of work just to make something to eat. While Kalou clearly understood why we should grow potatoes next to the village, she asked several times how growing grain and baking bread could be easier than hunting in the forest.

I tried to explain, but their lack of understanding wasn’t because of a language barrier. We were now able to communicate very well in a mix of their language and mine. Their inability to understand me on this issue was something much deeper.

I believed that Catto and Kalou were two of the brightest and most open-minded people in this village. Their inability to understand why you would even want to go through the process of growing grain, changing it into flour and using that flour to make bread was because this concept was such a fundamental change in the way their people had always existed.

Since time began for them, they had subsisted solely by hunting and gathering what they needed to eat. Every day they went out and killed or gathered their food for that day. The next day they did it all over again, never looking further than one day ahead.

I was asking their minds to take a monumental leap, from a subsistence mindset to an organized and planned existence, where crops were grown and harvested, and food was stored to be eaten later. This was a radical change from their traditional lifestyle, but if these two couldn’t understand why they should want to change, nobody would.

I had known it would take time to change their culture; that molding them to my liking would not happen overnight. But now I was worried that it might not happen at all. I finally told Catto and Kalou not to think too much about what I had said, that we would take things one step at a time. In reality, I was just trying to reassure myself.

 

I understand that we can grow potatoes here at our village. That is a very good idea. But what does he mean that we can turn plants into something else, and then make that into something else that we will eat. How can you crush little seeds and turn them into something to eat? Why would you work that hard when you can just grow potatoes? That makes no sense.

 

While we were talking we had thrown potatoes in the fire to roast, and now, ready to eat, I needed to clean up. As always, a group of villagers, both adults and children, followed me around, listening and watching everything I did. I encouraged this, though it was sometimes awkward.

I gathered them around and explained as clearly as I could that we needed to go to the stream to clean up. Now that I knew their language and we could communicate, I explained that washing our hands and faces helped keep us from getting sick. I would teach them about bathing later, after I was able to make soap.

I demonstrated how I washed my hands and face, and many of the villagers did the same. I was pleased to see that the elder, Garon, was one of those washing in the stream. He had also been listening to the conversation about growing wheat and baking bread. Garon was very intelligent, and I believed he understood my language as well as Catto and Kalou, and at times perhaps he understood me even better.

I needed to make Garon believe that everything I did was for the tribe, and not for my own good and the advancement of my power over his people. Though there were three elders, as the recognized leader of the village his acceptance of my changes would allow the transition to my ways and leadership to go more smoothly, and allow me to take over the tribe without the need for violence.

After eating I went to Garon, and shooing everyone away, I asked him if I could place something of great value in his care. He was surprised, but agreed and led me to his hut. From my pack I carefully took the rolled up painting my mother had made so many years ago. With everything I had put in there recently, it was a miracle that it had not been ruined.

“Please do not open it,” I asked, “but can you keep it safe for me? I hope to fill my pack with plants and food, and I don’t want it to get damaged.”

Nodding, he quietly took the hide and placed it under a fur on the far side of his hut.

“Thank you Garon.” I said, and continuing on, I told him where Catto, Kalou and I were going, and what we hoped to accomplish.

I finished by telling him, “We should be back late tomorrow, and if things go well, after that we will begin planting to grow food for the tribe.”

“I know why you go, and it is good for the people. I do not like that you stay in the forest overnight; it is not safe.” He paused, and staring into my eyes intently in a way that made me very uncomfortable, he finally said, “But you will keep Catto and Kalou from harm. Safe journey, and may you find what you look for.”

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Two

 

My plan for our first trip was to search the forest going north from the village. I already knew that we could find potatoes and blueberries, and those crops would definitely be grown in my fields. Kalou had said the tribe knew of nothing else to eat, but there had to be more. We would search the entire valley if necessary to find other food we could grow here. Only time would tell whether it would be a long process or it would go quickly, but today was the first step.

The day before I had taken some of the rough skins the tribe used when they gathered potatoes, and by poking holes and threading straps of leather I had fashioned unattractive but large, functional packs for my companions. We would be able to carry a lot in our packs, and I hoped that when we returned to the village they would be full.

After leaving Garon I returned to the crowd, where I gathered up Catto and Kalou. After they said a quick good-bye to the tribe, we turned and strode up the hill and into the forest.

We walked briskly as I spoke of many things. I told them that when we returned to the village I would take Catto and some other men, and we would go to the river to gather the wheat plants.

I continued, “But on this trip, I want to cover as much ground as we can, and I want to see as many different plants and animals as possible. Like those nuts I brought back today, I believe your tribe does not realize what edible plants are in the forest. I’m looking for anything you can grow at your village for food, and we’re going to bring back seeds, roots, or even the whole plant, whatever we need to do to get some crops started.”

I also told them how certain animals could be kept in the fields outside the village, and that if we could find them, these animals would provide the village with meat, milk and eggs, and the tribe would not have to hunt every day for something to eat.

Since we could now understand each other quite well, as we walked I was able to answer all of their many questions. They questioned me extensively about everything I said, and since everything was new to them, every answer I gave led to another question.

This question and answer went on for much of the morning, until we reached a spot where Kalou showed me a large patch of potatoes. I carefully dug up one entire potato plant, this one having three potatoes growing from the green top, and explained, “You take the potato and cut it into pieces, and when the pieces are planted back in the ground roots grow out of these eyes, and a new potato plant grows up from each piece.”

They both looked at me skeptically, but Kalou said, “All right, the women can gather potatoes just for planting on one of our trips into the forest.”

Since we would probably need these potatoes later for a meal, I put them in my pack where they joined my fire starter, some long strips of leather, and my water skins; these were the only other things we carried with us. We continued on, now traveling silently through the rolling hills, not wanting to scare off any animals we might come across. As we walked my eyes moved constantly through the forest, searching for any plants I recognized.

We walked without rest through the morning, but saw nothing of any use to the village. Occasionally one of my companions would show me something they thought might interest me; the track of an animal, or a plant they thought I had never seen before. The plants were all inedible, and the animal signs quickly became redundant. We saw many deer tracks, as well as signs of rabbit and other small game such as possum and raccoon.

We did see the tracks of a large boar, which was travelling with a number of the smaller pigs that the tribe often killed and ate. These smaller pigs would be domesticated and raised near the village for food. We had left them to run wild in my homeland since they produced nothing we needed, but the villagers obviously liked their meat. But they, like the potatoes, were abundant in this area, so I did not plan to take any back at this time.

Though crops were more important to me, it was imperative that I also find chickens, sheep, goats and cattle. These were the animals that would provide the most value, allowing the tribe to add eggs, milk and cheese to their diet, giving them wool for the making of clothing, and a ready source of meat after the animals were established. I had described these animals, and had even drawn pictures of their tracks, but none were familiar to Catto or Kalou.

I was very disappointed that they had never seen anything like cattle, as they would be an excellent source of milk. I thought cattle might live on the great plains of the valley, but had seen no sign of them the night before. They would be known if they lived anywhere near the village since they were too slow not to be killed, but it was possible they lived farther to the north or south.

I had seen with my own eyes the sheep’s hide that Garon wore. He had told me he killed the sheep when he was very young and adventurous. He had travelled far to the north and found the sheep alone, on the edge of the forest. Though he returned to the spot he never saw another, and he eventually stopped travelling so far. His story was one of the reasons we traveled north, close to the edge of the grasslands.

We were surrounded by a beautiful landscape as we walked through the forest. The trees were tall and majestic, the undergrowth lush and varied. We were now to the farthest reaches of the tribe’s normal hunting grounds, so what we saw from this point would be new to all of us.

As our walk continued on into the day I began to be unsettled by what I saw in the assortment of plant life around us. I eventually realized that there seemed to be an order to the forest that we walked through, an order which I had never before seen. There were now frequent clearings in the forest, some small and some quite large. In each of these clearings we would find a single variety of a plant, such as a huge patch of wild daisies or a continuous blanket of a specific grass. Then the plants would end, not to be seen again after we left the clearing and reentered the forest.

The organized nature of the growth was quite disconcerting to me. It was normal to see plants dispersed throughout a forest, not arranged in large quantities in certain spots like a garden. Even Catto and Kalou commented on what we were seeing. It certainly seemed planned, and though the thought made me extremely uncomfortable, the only logical conclusion I could arrive at involved the power of God.

In my mind I had left God behind with my parents in the land of my birth. Though I knew He had created all the earth, I had come to this land believing that I would never again have to deal with Him, that I was in control. I wanted the power and glory I attained in my new life to be achieved through my strength, intelligence and wisdom alone, without anything owed to God. What I was now seeing in the forest forced me to realize that I might not be able to get away from His influence.

Though it was difficult to admit, I was actually encouraged by what I saw indicating God’s handiwork. If these patterns of growth continued, it seemed likely that eventually we would walk through a patch of something we could eat. I quickly brushed aside thoughts of God and began to hurry ahead to the next clearing.

As the afternoon wore on I saw several plant varieties that were new to me, and I eagerly inspected these plants, smelling, tasting, and pulling them out of the ground to see if there was anything edible underneath. But we continued to find nothing that would be good to eat, and the sun was now lowering, having passed its zenith long ago. I knew we would soon need to start our return trip, and I was loath to do this with nothing in hand.

I had begun to doubt that we would ever find anything of value to bring back for the tribe. I now walked more slowly, discouraged and with my head down, and I had just decided to turn us around after the next clearing when Kalou snorted quietly in laughter and pointed ahead.

“Look at that funny grass,” she said.

Looking towards where she pointed, I saw them. I would recognize those feathery tops anywhere. Shouting joyfully, I ran ahead, reached down and pulled out the nearest carrot.

“Yes!” I said enthusiastically, “Carrots are delicious!”

I showed the long orange carrot to my friends, wiped the dirt off and took a big bite. “Wonderful!” I said with a wide smile as the carrot crunched in my month.

Catto and Kalou followed my lead, pulling and cleaning carrots, then tentatively taking bites. They nodded and smiled, though Catto less happily than Kalou.

“Yes, it’s very good,” she stated.

Catto shrugged and said, “It’s all right.”

This made me laugh heartily, which surprised my companions. “Vegetables aren’t for everyone, but they’re good for you and make you healthy and strong. If I hadn’t eaten all my vegetables when I was growing up, I’d probably be your size,” I joked to Catto.

Catto looked at me dubiously, not knowing if I was serious, and Kalou burst out in laughter at the look on his face.

I instructed them to pull as many as we could fit in one pack, but keep a little dirt around the plants that went on top. I explained how we wanted these top plants to continue growing back at the village; that the tops would later go to seed, we would collect the seeds, plant them and have more carrots to eat in the future. I was uncomfortable with them doing all the work of digging and packing away the carrots we would keep, but I could not risk touching them myself.

When Catto’s pack was full, we continued to the north, my spirits buoyed by our discovery. The afternoon was the exact opposite of the morning, and in succession we found numerous patches of herbs, fruit and vegetables. Some patches were large, and others fairly small, but everything we found could be transferred to the village and grown for the tribe. We found too many patches to describe, among them rosemary, cucumber, peas which were almost ready to harvest, sage, thyme, melon, radishes, immature cabbage, strawberries, oregano and finally, a large stand of corn.

I was amazed at the variety and condition of the plants. Every type of plant had been discovered growing in moist soil in its own clearing, hardy and vigorous, nurtured by sunlight streaming through the trees. By the time we reached the corn we had long since given up trying to gather plants to take back to the village. We had emptied most of the carrots out of Catto’s pack, and were now filling our packs with samples of the produce. I wanted to bring these samples back to the tribe, and let them be seen and tasted by all the villagers.

Now that I knew the bounty I had to work with, I had changed my plans. Given the large number of plants we had discovered, I decided we would return to the village to show the people what we had found, and have them prepare the soil. Then I would return with a larger group of men to collect all the plants, carry them to the village and transplant them into the prepared fields.

This was better than anything I could have imagined, and I was overjoyed. We would soon be able to grow everything that was needed to feed the village. With all this food the villagers could eat well and grow strong, which would allow them to grow in numbers and become a great power, with me as their King. Simply by changing their diet, I would change the world.

In my excitement at each new discovery I had forgotten about our return trip to the village, and it was now very late. There was no way we could possibly make it back tonight, and Catto and Kalou were exhausted. Because of all our tasting of the fruits and vegetables as they were discovered, we were also stuffed.

I decided to camp right where we were, at the edge of the large clearing where the corn grew. We would begin our return to the village at first light. Catto and Kalou were nervous about staying in the forest overnight, but I assured them they were in no danger and I would keep watch to make sure nothing happened to us during the night.

As the light began to dim, we made ourselves comfortable and talked about the day. Catto said he did not think anyone had gone so far from the village for a very long time, at least since Garon when he was young.

Thinking there would some deep reasons, I asked, “Why not?”

“Why should we? There is plenty of meat near the village, so there is no need to come this far.”

This rationale made no sense to me. “Hasn’t anyone wanted to explore, to see new sights and find out what was here, as Garon did so many years ago?”

Catto thought about this for a moment. With a puzzled look on his face he finally said, “Well, no, of course not.”

Kalou laughed, “He does not understand you, the men only do what they have to do, and go where they need to go. That is why they were angry the other day when they caught me so far from the village.”

“What do you mean? Why were they angry?” I questioned.

“I was exploring, as you call it. I wanted to see the wasteland; see what was on the far side of our mountains. I was supposed to be gathering potatoes, but instead I walked far away from the village. Andoc, Nadar and Catto were hunting, saw my tracks and followed me. I had killed some rabbits, and was just in sight of the wasteland when they caught me. Nadar was very angry; we are not to go near the wasteland, that is the first rule we have, and I had broken many other rules also.”

She looked at Catto out of the corner of her eye, “If you had not found us and made them forget what I had done, I would have been punished.”

I was glad we were finally talking about when we met. I still had many unanswered questions from that day. “Why are you not to go near the wasteland?”

There was a pause that stretched on until it was uncomfortable. Catto and Kalou kept glancing back and forth at each other, neither of them wanting to answer. I waited, watching them evenly without expression.

Finally Kalou spoke. Hesitantly, often looking at the ground, she said, “Our tribe has a story from long ago of our beginning, of how a god brought all the people to this land. There was nothing, and then we walked out of the desert with the god and we were a people. He told us to continue on into this land and never to return to the wasteland, and then he disappeared back into the desert.”

She paused, and then continued, “The god was never seen again. All the people came through the mountains to this place and built our village, but in time the people were scattered to the four winds.”

There was another long pause, and then Kalou, staring at the ground, said quietly, “Some in the village say you are the god returned… Are you?”

I wasn’t surprised by what Kalou said. Given our differences and my superiority to these people, I had expected that they might assume something like this. But hearing the story of how they came to this land shed a whole new light on the actions of the Elders.

Was this why the Elders had let me stay? Did they fear that I was the god returned? The god they referred to must have been my father. How had he done it? How had he brought so many people safely across that wasteland?

But in my heart I knew it could only have been done by the power of God. Only God could have brought them safely through the wasteland, which meant God had condoned bringing these people to this land and removing them from my father’s influence.

I had so many questions I wanted to ask Kalou, but first I answered her question. “No, I am a human just like you and Catto, but I am of a different race, with different abilities, from a land far away across the wasteland. My people were created by God to help your people, but we were separated, and now I have come to your land to teach you all I know.”

“How did you cross the wasteland, and which god do you speak of?” Catto asked.

I was not sure of how much to say. “It took me many, many long days and nights… It was a very difficult journey and I will not return there.”

I paused and then said, “There is only one God. He created the land and the sky. He created your people and my people and all the animals and plants.”

I paused again, choosing my words carefully, and continued, “Then He went away and now we have to take care of ourselves.”

 

Though he is helping us, something is false. I do not think he came here only to teach. I think he fears this God, and he hides something from us.

 

I continued speaking, “What about the other people you mentioned; the ones that scattered to the four winds. Where are they, do you ever see them?”

Catto answered, “Yes, some have been seen, but long ago when Garon was young. We think they were from the high mountains at the head of the valley. They came in the night and took some of our women, fighting and killing many of our men. They disappeared into the night and have never returned, but that is why we keep watch. Others are said to have gone in the opposite direction to the far end of the valley, and still other people are said to have crossed the great river, going towards where the sun comes from. Every corner of the land is said to have a tribe, though this may just be a story.”

He smiled and added, “But where our people came from was just a story until you arrived.”

“Yes, many stories may become true as time goes on,” I said quietly.

I was quite pleased to hear the news that more people lived in the land. This changed things, and I would need to think more on this in the night.

Changing the subject, I turned again to Kalou, “How did you kill the rabbits, and why did Nadar want them?”

She pulled the leather straps that she carried out of her belt. “This is my weapon,” she said, “since women cannot use the spear, I made this.”

She handed the straps over for my examination. I looked at them and was confused, they just looked like two long, thin leather straps. Except now that I saw it up close, I realized it was actually two straps connected by a small square of leather.

“How do you use it?” I asked.

“Watch.”

Taking the straps from me, Kalou pulled a smooth, round stone from somewhere in the depths of her clothing. She placed the stone in the square of leather, and then holding the two straps together by the ends she began to spin the entire thing over her head very quickly. It was soon spinning so fast I could barely see it. Suddenly she released the end of one of the straps, and the stone flew out and hit something on the far side of the clearing with a loud thud.

Kalou stood and walked briskly across the clearing, with Catto and me trailing behind. She went to the end of the corn field, about thirty paces away, where she picked up a head of corn that lay on the ground. It had a messy indentation, and I could see the stone buried deep in the cob.

“That is how it is used.” she told me with a wide grin.

I was impressed with her accuracy as well as her ingenuity. “How did you think of it?”

“I would often throw stones for fun when I was in the forest, but I could never hit anything. At least not the way you can.” She glanced at me with a smile in her eyes. “I noticed how leather straps could stretch and tried using them in different ways to throw stones, but nothing worked. One day I put a stone in the strap and was swinging it over my head, and the end slipped and the rock flew out and went very far, much farther than I could ever throw it. I kept working on it and changing the strap until I got it just the way I like it, and I kept practicing. Now I can hit almost anything I want.”

Catto and I just looked at her, Catto with his mouth open in amazement. This was a fine weapon, and one she had perfected on her own. As we walked back across the clearing and sat down again, Kalou continued. “Nadar wanted the rabbits for many reasons. Because we do not kill rabbits since they are too small for the tribe to feast upon; because I was supposed to be gathering potatoes, not killing animals; and because he is my father and thinks he can tell me to do anything he wants. But most of all he wanted them because I was near the wasteland, and obviously going that way on purpose. That made him very angry, and also frightened. He wanted to take the rabbits because that was a way to show his control over me,” she finished insightfully.

Everything she said made sense, and she showed wisdom with her analysis of Nadar’s behavior. Once again I was impressed by Kalou, but I was surprised to hear that Nadar was her father. While there was nothing wrong with him, he had not shown himself to be one of the more intelligent villagers, which Kalou definitely was.

“Where is your mother?” I asked, knowing that Kalou slept in the communal woman’s hut.

“She died, and I have taken care of myself for a long time.” Kalou stood abruptly, “We need wood for a fire,” she said as she walked away.

I had obviously touched on a subject she did not want to talk about. Since the light was fading quickly, Catto and I rose and also began to gather wood. We soon had a fire burning, just in time for my companions, as it got very dark in the forest and they were still nervous about staying here tonight. The moon had not yet risen, though I knew it would be close to full again.

After the long day of walking and all the food they had put in their bellies, Catto and Kalou were soon fast asleep. I sat with my back against a tree, watching the flames dance in the small fire, completely comfortable in the night. My body was still, with all my senses pitched to the sounds around me. I felt no danger, and I was content and relaxed.

This day had been more successful than I could ever have dreamed. The forest was like a garden, and it was as though everything we found today had been put here, just waiting to be discovered and used. I thought this entirely possible, that God had placed the food here for these people, though I found it ironic that in all the years they had lived here, they had never explored far enough to discover it.

God had put the food here, and my father had brought the people to this land with God’s aid. Or, it suddenly occurred to me; perhaps God Himself had brought them here. That made more sense; I did not think my father had ever seen this land with his own eyes. I was filled with unease.

Whether it was my father through God’s power, or God that had brought them here, it was still shocking either way. Did God care about these people? Why would He bring them here and give them these beautiful lands and this abundance of food? They were barbaric, crude and dirty. Though I now knew they were not the dumb beings that I had believed when I first saw them, the fact remained that they were not special like my family. They were not the children of God. Why would God care for them, as He apparently did? I thought about this long into the night, but could come up with no satisfactory answer.

Learning that there were other people in the land had surprised and thrilled me. If I could bring the scattered people together under my rule, then I truly would be a great King. This had immediately become my goal, to become King over all the lands, over all the people. But first I needed to turn the tribe I had into a great people, and that would take food, tools and a lot of instruction. It would be hard work, but I knew my plan was sound.

Tomorrow we would return to the village and begin the long process of building the society that they needed to live and thrive as a people. It would not happen overnight. It would take time to establish the fields and teach them how to grow crops, build tools, make soap and bread, and do all the other many things they would need to do to take care of themselves properly.

Yes, it would take years. But I was a young man, barely over one hundred years. I had plenty of time.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Three

 

The night passed without incident. The sun was just rising and a warm glow was beginning to filter through the trees into the clearing, when my sharp ears heard a faint but distinct sound. Straining, I caught the sound of motion on the far side of the cornfield. A slight breeze blew towards me, and this carried the sound my way and also kept my scent from whatever approached. I did not move, did not even breath, but silently waited. Humans, predators, game for the tribe, what was it?

I waited with bated breath as the sun slowly rose higher; the clearing was now bathed in early morning light streaming through an opening in the trees. Apparently convinced they had nothing to fear, I heard them enter the cornfield and began to feed. They were animals, but not predators. I continued to silently wait.

Soon I heard a soft but distinct bleat, the unmistakable sound that a young goat makes to its mother. Goats meant meat, milk, and cheese! I was thrilled, but first I had to capture them.

Since we were silent and the wind blew towards us, we were completely hidden. I gently woke Catto, covering his mouth to prevent any sounds. Indicating that he should not move or make a noise, I woke Kalou the same way. The goats were now actively eating and making more noise, so I quietly informed my friends as to what was happening in the cornfield, and told them how we would capture these animals.

Leaving Kalou, Cato and I silently began to move around the outside of the field, approaching slowly so as not to scare them off. When we reached the far corner of the cornfield and I had a clear view of that side, I gave a soft whistle.

From where we had slept, Kalou started shouting and banging, making as much noise as possible. The reaction was immediate. Six adult goats raced out of the field, followed closely by several kids, all trying to get away from the danger.

As soon as I saw the first goat emerge, I sprinted after them. I knew I could easily outrun a goat, but I wanted to catch all of them, and that would be very difficult. My idea was to grab one or two goats, and hold them until Catto could arrive with a leather cord to tie them up. I would then chase after the rest of the goats and try to catch more. I wanted to do this until I caught every one of them.

The goats raced back into the hills, the kids lagging behind. I was able to quickly capture one ewe, and without slowing I scooped up another under my other arm. Turning, I ran back to Catto, who had unsuccessfully been trying to keep up with me. I thrust both goats into his arms, shouting, “Don’t lose them!”

I raced after the others, passing three of the frantically bawling kids who were now running towards Catto, who held their mothers. The goats had disappeared into the woods, but they left a clear trail in their haste to escape. I followed after them at top speed, and soon burst into another clearing where the goats had paused, panting and exhausted. When I entered the clearing they immediately turned and ran off once again. In my brief glimpse I was able to see that of the four remaining adults, two were ewes, one was a mature ram and the other a young male. I didn’t care about the young ram, but I really wanted the ewes and that big ram.

I was grateful the goats had stayed close together as they ran. I was able to catch two more almost immediately, once again sweeping up a ewe under each arm. I spun and raced back the way I had come, a kid once again following behind after its mother. Catto had continued trying to follow me, and I saw Kalou lagging far behind dragging two kicking, crying goats held around the neck by leather straps. I shoved the ewes at Catto, said, “One more!”, and immediately turned and ran off on the ram’s trail; it was imperative that I capture him. The ram would keep the ewes producing kids and milk. I didn’t like rams because they were generally mean, nasty creatures, but they served a purpose.

I followed his trail for quite a long way; the ram was running for his life. I finally caught up and was able to corner him against some rocks. He was a tough one and he came at me with everything he had, but after a bit of a struggle I got him by the horns and held on tight. I wrestled him back towards Catto and Kalou as he battled with me the entire way.

My companions followed far behind, slowly dragging two ewes apiece. Trailing after them, not allowing themselves to be touched, were three loudly bawling kids.

Though I struggled to hold onto the ram, I was laughing with joy. Catto and Kalou stared at me as though I was mad, but I didn’t care, I was so pleased by what we held in our hands. With a ram and four ewes, as well as the three kids, I had my flock of goats, and the tribe was well on its way to having all the milk and cheese it would need.

As soon as I got close Kalou called out to me, “How can you do that?”

My mind was still focused on the goats, and I had no idea what she was talking about. “Do what?”

Giving me an odd look, she said, “How can you run so fast and catch all these animals?”

I didn’t have an answer for her; I had just chased and caught them. It was no big deal to me, catching goats was a game my brother and I had often played when we were young. Catching sheep was far too easy, so we had chased goats, which were faster, meaner, and much more elusive.

Kalou’s surprise at my ability to do something as simple as catch a goat caught me off guard, and for once I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. “It’s really not that hard…” I trailed off, and then finished, “Come on. Let’s go back to the village.”

 

No man can do that. He runs like the wind, and he carries two heavy animals at once like they weigh nothing. Is it possible he really is a god?

 

Getting a length of leather from Catto, I tied a strong lead around the horns of the struggling ram as he continued to attack me. All of us were quiet as we trudged back to the corn field dragging the unhappy goats behind us. It was difficult to do anything with the goats pulling us in different directions, but as quickly as possible we gathered our packs and started home.

Though we had covered a great distance, the previous day had been a joy. The morning had been filled with anticipation, and in the late afternoon our new discoveries had made time fly. Now we carried heavily loaded packs and dragged frenzied goats behind us. The return trip quickly became an unrelenting test of our will.

The goats were making such a racket that you couldn’t even hear yourself think. The noise, combined with their constant struggle against their leads, made every step feel like a never-ending battle.

We soon headed down hill towards the level valley floor, believing that route would be an easier walk. I could see that my companions were already struggling, especially Kalou. Though she led only one ewe, her pack was full and very heavy. What we were doing was extremely difficult, but Kalou was so focused, so determined and strong, that I sometimes forgot she was a woman. I needed to be more conscious of this. I did not want to break her, mentally or physically. She was too important to my plans.

We were traveling as quickly as possible across the hillside, and were almost to the valley floor when Kalou stumbled, almost falling. Glancing down, I noticed she had tripped over a large grey stone, a type of stone I had not previously seen on this side of the wasteland. Telling my friends to continue on, that I would catch up with them, I bent over and carefully dug out the rock. It was big, about the size of my head, and irregular in shape.

“Where did it come from?” I said to myself. “It doesn’t fit here, the soil’s not rocky.”

Enduring the loud complaints of the two ewes I dragged while also continuing to fight off the ram, I worked my way directly up the hillside, forcing myself and the goats through increasingly heavy brush. The further I continued, the more rugged the land became.

Eventually I arrived at a rocky outcropping which ran north and south, parallel to the valley below. It was not large, being only twenty paces long and standing about my height. It was well hidden from below, and I could see it would also be hidden from above. The entire outcropping was solid rock, a type of rock my father had called flint, which was an excellent stone to use for making tools. Though not as hard as the special rock my knife was made with, it was vastly superior to the stone the villagers currently used for their weapons and tools.

This was an incredible find, and it made the incessant protests of the goats a little easier to bear. I had no room in my pack, so any stone I wanted to bring back I would need to carry in my arms. I quickly selected three large, flat pieces that were loose on the ground. I knew I would need to find this outcropping later, so I marked some trees as I went back down the hill. This was no easy feat given the goats were pulling me in all directions and my arms were full, but I did the best I could.

I eventually joined Catto and Kalou many leagues down the valley later in the afternoon. They were both quite weary, stumbling as they walked, and I suggested we rest for a time. While we sat I showed them the stone.

“This is much harder than the rock you currently use, but it will shape more easily and it will have a cleaner edge. This new stone will give you much better knifes, spear heads, and tools for wood working! ”

I was very excited, but by now they were overwhelmed and I got almost no response. They were beyond exhaustion, and they just wanted to be home. I understood. This return journey was without a doubt the most difficult thing they had ever done, but there was no way around it. We had to keep moving until we reached the village.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Four

 

Late that evening, just as the sun set and darkness fell over the valley, we finally arrived at the village. Both Catto and Kalou were at the point of collapse; fighting against the struggling ewes the entire trip while carrying the heavy packs had taken every bit of their strength. As we walked into the village an incredible uproar ensued. The villagers were excited to see the goats, and knives immediately came out as the tribe ran at them, believing they were meant for a feast.

How brainless could these people be? Did they understand nothing? All the frustration that had been building during the long, stressful return trip boiled to the surface in a fierce display of rage.

“You fools! Do not kill the animals!” I roared, and the villagers instantly fell back, silenced by fear. Kalou and Catto could only stand there, swaying with exhaustion; it was taking all of their strength just to remain on their feet.

“We have traveled farther than any except Garon has ever travelled. We have discovered wondrous plants and animals that will feed the village forever, stone that will give us new tools and weapons. We have done mighty things, and this is how we are honored? You want to kill what we have worked so hard to bring back alive, while we stand here with our arms full and the packs still on our backs!”

I looked at the gathered villagers, my fury burning intensely. “Know this!” I shouted, “Anyone that harms one of these animals will be killed by my hand before the next sun sets. These animals must live. They are not to be eaten!”

At that moment, unable to stand any longer, Kalou collapsed, utterly exhausted. People rushed forward, some grabbing the ewe as it attempted to run away, while others gathered up Kalou and moved her towards the fire. The villagers watched me apprehensively as some took the packs from Catto and me, others took the goats, and still others gingerly took the stones from my arms.

Even I was tired. I had not slept in two nights, and this trip combined with my journey to the river two nights earlier had pushed me to my limits. I did not know how my companions had done it, and I was impressed by both their physical and mental strength.

Kalou was brought to the fire and she soon revived, but remained on the ground reclining, where she was joined by Catto. I stood wearily next to them. The attention of the subdued villagers was focused upon us, the silence broken only by the continued bleating of the goats.

Now calm, I told the villagers in a loud, clear voice all that had occurred the last two days. As I spoke, I pulled the various fruits and vegetables out of our packs, describing to the villagers what they were and how they were meant to be eaten. I handed out the samples and each person was able to get a taste of everything. The villagers were amazed at the varied flavors and exclaimed excitedly over every bite that passed their lips.

The food was soon gone, with the tribe having eaten every scrap. I had their undivided attention and the time was right, so I continued on, describing my plan for transforming their village.

It took a while for them to understand what I intended. I had to go over the same information several times, explaining how they could grow all the fruits and vegetables in the meadow next to the village instead of going into the forest each day to gather only potatoes. Finally, after much discussion they seemed to understand why it would be better to grow their food.

Explaining why they could not eat the goats immediately was complicated. No one understood the benefit of keeping them alive for a steady supply of milk and cheese, since they had never eaten any. No matter what I said, I could tell that everyone still wanted to eat them. But they feared me and knew I was serious when I threatened to kill anyone that harmed the goats, so I knew they were safe for now. Once I made cheese I was sure the tribe would understand why I wanted to keep the goats alive.

Lastly I told them about the outcropping of stone I had found. I passed around the rocks I had carried back and they immediately saw this stone was much better than what they currently used for their tools and weapons. The tribe’s hunters were especially impressed. Unlike growing crops and raising goats, this was something they understood, and they realized how they could benefit from this discovery.

The meeting had carried on long into the night. The little ones, along with Catto, Kalou and a few other adults, had fallen asleep. Though many people still had questions, I silenced the crowd, telling those still awake that we would speak further the next day. I hid it well, but I was also exhausted, and this night I truly needed rest.

Warning the villagers once again to keep the goats safe during the night, I dismissed the tribe. People slowly drifted off to their huts, whispering and watching me out of the corners of their eyes as they left the fire.

I motioned to Garon, Nadar, and Cadune, the guard I had come to know, and told them I wanted to meet with the elders and tribal leaders in the morning to plan the work that needed to be done. They agreed, and I charged Cadune with watching over the goats that night, keeping them safe until the morning.

The goats had made an extra loud racket when we first entered the village, but they had finally quieted down and now slept, as exhausted by the long trip as we humans were.

I said to Cadune with a smile, “Be careful now. They’re quiet, so if I hear them during the night I’ll know you’re trying to get some more dinner. Don’t make me come out here to kill you.”

Laughing, Cadune assured me, “Don’t worry, I’m not that hungry. I’ll let you get some sleep tonight.”

Satisfied, I went to my hut where I slept like the dead.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Five

 

I awoke at the first light of sunrise, fully refreshed. I could not hear the goats, and slightly worried that something had happened, I quickly left the hut. I appeared to be the first in the village to rise, which was good because I needed to talk with Cadune privately.

He was in his normal place, with his back against the wall of a hut on the north side of the village. He was idly watching the goats peacefully graze in the meadow. They were held by long leather leads that were staked into the ground, and since it was quiet and they had plenty of grass to eat they were content, even the ram.

“That was quite a scene last night,” Cadune remarked quietly as I sat down next to him. “Would you really have done it; killed a person just for killing an animal?”

I considered my answer carefully. I found Cadune to be a very intelligent man, and I knew he was trusted and respected by all the villagers. Though he was not an elder, Cadune was one of the leaders of the village. The tribe considered the job of the guard that watched during the night to be one of their most important positions.

“Yes,” I replied honestly. “I would not want to do it, and I would do it with regret, but the goats are that important to our future, and the people needed to realize that.”

“Our future? Do you plan to stay with us?”

I paused, once again considering my answer. “Yes, I do. There is much work to be done here, and I can help make the village a better place to live… and I want to do that.”

I was surprised to realize that I actually meant what I said. The most important thing to me was becoming a King, but making their lives easier and better would help both of us in the end.

As we sat I told him what I planned to ask for at the meeting that morning. I didn’t want to force the tribe to do anything; I wanted them to change of their own accord because they realized it was for the best, and I knew it would help if a respected man like Cadune was on my side. Cadune realized the benefits of what I described, and he agreed to support me in the meeting.

As I stood to leave he said wistfully, looking at the goats, “They do look very good, you know, to eat.”

Bursting into laughter, I said, “Yes, perhaps they are. And after we have raised enough of them, you can find out.”

With that, I walked to the fire to roast some potatoes and think more about what I would say to the tribal leaders after breakfast.

We did not meet until later that morning. I insisted both Catto and Kalou attend the meeting, and they did not wake until the sun was high in the sky. Nadar and one of the elders did not think it was necessary for Kalou to attend, and they were obviously uncomfortable with a woman being in a meeting where important decisions were to be made. I told them bluntly that while Kalou was a woman, her intelligence and strength rivaled any man’s, and that to exclude her would be a grave insult. While I believe Nadar was pleased that I thought so highly of his daughter, he still did not appear happy that she would attend.

After Catto and Kalou arose and ate, we met in Garon’s hut. I reviewed the benefits of raising food at the village, and described in detail how it could be done by the tribe. I made it very clear that it would take the time and energy of both men and women, young and old. Though we would still need hunters and potato gathers to continue supplying the village with food, everyone else would be needed to get the village ready to farm. We would need to immediately start building tools to prepare the soil, and construct fences to hold in our goats.

After some discussion, all the tribal leaders agreed. Farming would be the future of the tribe. They appeared to understand the challenges that were ahead, but they were committed and everyone said they would do whatever was necessary. I left the meeting in high spirits. Nothing could stop me now!

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Six

 

The next few days passed in a flash. There was much to do, but I was able to delegate the leadership of the work crews to Garon, Cadune, Catto and Kalou. Under my guidance, Garon and Cadune led most of the men that were not out hunting in preparing the soil and building the pen for the goats. Catto and Kalou were the leaders of the group I trained to build the tools we would need for farming and construction.

The tribe already used crude tools to dig holes and build their huts, but they were not sharp enough and did not work well. The first afternoon I taught Catto, Kalou and several others how to make sharper, better axes and shaping tools using the new stone I had brought back.

With these new axes, the next day the building crew was able to cut many thin, straight trees to use as fence posts and rails for the goat pen. The tool makers were taught how to shape a good shovel out of wood so the building crew could dig holes to set their fence posts. I also taught them how to fashion both a pick and a hoe out of wood and stone.

By cutting notches in the posts and using leather strapping to hold on the rails, a large, solid pen was quickly built for the goats. A pen would not always be necessary, because in time the goats would become domesticated and want to stay with the villagers, but for now it was needed.

While the building crew was taking care of the pen, I was able to teach the tool makers how to fashion a plow and some other tools for working the soil. Since we had no cattle the plow would need to be pulled by humans, but it was functional and would do an adequate job of turning the soil and loosening it to prepare for planting.

Buckets were difficult to make, but they would be needed. I had decided against building an irrigation system for now, so I wanted them to make quite a few buckets for carrying water from the stream. To make the buckets we chopped down the right size of tree, cut the tree into lengths and then performed the tedious work of hollowing out the pieces of wood to form a depression for carrying water. Once the hollow was created, two holes were put into the top to install a strap for a handle. When the villagers saw their first bucket in action they were very excited. Their wonder at this simple tool made me laugh.

While the tool makers were busy hollowing out buckets, I took time to shape some simple kitchen utensils for examples of what they could make. I fashioned a plate, bowl, cup and spoon out of wood, and showed them to the villagers I was working with. They immediately realized how wonderful they would be to use with their meals, and soon everyone that could wield a small axe or carving knife was shaping kitchen items.

I was especially pleased that I needed to spend just a short amount of time teaching the villagers how to do something, whether it was building a fence or shaping a spoon, and they would quickly begin to do it on their own with a high level of speed and quality. The more we worked together, the more I realized it was not intelligence they lacked; it was ideas, ingenuity, and experience.

In just ten days many tools were made, pens for the goats were built, and sufficient fields were prepared to allow us to return for the plants we had found in the hills. Most of the men would remain behind to hunt and guard the village, while under the guidance of Garon and Kalou, the woman and the men too young or old to hunt would continue to make tools, utensils and buckets.

I was leading all the men the tribe could spare, which was twelve including myself, Cadune and Catto. Everyone understood this was not a hunting party, but a trip to gather and bring back as many seeds and whole plants as possible; plants that would be transplanted and grown in the fields the tribe had prepared. All the men were strong, and everyone would need to carry a large, heavy pack on the return journey.

We started at sunrise and traveled fast. We carried little besides the small shovels that we would use to dig out the plants and cords of leather in case we discovered more animals.

The trip passed uneventfully. We travelled the same route as the first trip and gathered plants as we went. Some fruits and vegetables, such as the cucumber and corn, carry their seed inside, so whenever possible we took the produce and left the plant. But most of the time we had to dig up and carry the entire plant.

Though we were not able to take many of each variety, I was not worried. This was only our first trip, and after a few more trips we would have enough plants to provide plenty of food for the tribe. Even so, my intention was not so much to feed the tribe with the produce this year as it was to gather the seeds we would require to feed the tribe in the future.

We worked quickly, the men filling their packs with plants as I directed them. Once again we camped by the corn field, but we saw no goats; apparently the young ram had moved on. That night we roasted corn over the fire, and had a good dinner with some of the food we had gathered during the day.

We rose early the following morning, and on our return trip I made sure we passed by the hidden rock outcropping. I filled my empty bag with good rock until the straps strained to hold the weight. Though the villagers would need to continue to gather rock in the future to build more spears, knives and tools, I was able to carry a good amount to get us started.

Because of the size of our group and the noise we made, we encountered no animals on our trip. Since we had no goats to capture or drag behind us, we were able to return to the village quickly, arriving home in the afternoon. We were met by the entire tribe and greeted with shouts of joy and celebration. The rest of the afternoon was spent planting and watering in everything we had brought back.

Over the following weeks we made many trips to gather plants, until our fields were full to bursting. We did not take everything, but left some plants growing in the forest.

I wanted to ensure that every task from building tools to farming and taking care of livestock could be done competently by everyone, so we continued to use the work groups that had been set up earlier, but we added the rest of the tribe, including the hunters. These groups had to learn to do everything, so some watered and cared for the plants while others learned to care for the goats or carved utensils or built tools. The groups rotated, and soon everyone in the village had learned to do every job that we currently had.

One day as Garon, Cadune and I were talking about the goats, I mentioned that some day it would probably be necessary for everyone in the tribe to stay at the village to raise food and care for the animals, and hunting parties would go out only to supplement the food we would grow.

Cadune laughed heartily at this idea, “It would be impossible to raise everything here at the village for the tribe to eat. We will never be able to stop hunting the deer and the boar.”

Garon agreed, “We are doing well, but there is no way goats could ever provide all the meat we need.”

I told them with a smile, “It will take two years, just twenty four cycles of the moon. I promise you, by that time we will have so much food for this tribe that you will get as fat as the fattest sow.”

They both laughed, but they were not sure if I was serious or joking.

I smiled, “Just wait and you will see. Give it time.”

As soon as we finished the plant gathering trips to the hills, I chose several of our strongest runners and we went off to gather the wheat plants I had discovered earlier. Travelling with the additional men was much slower than running through the valley alone, and it took almost two days to reach the river. Though there was not an abundance of wheat plants, they were still there, spindly and in the process of being choked out by the thick grass.

Since none of the villagers could swim, the most difficult part of the journey was crossing the river. As I looked at the water and got ready to dive in, I suddenly remembered my idea from the first time I traveled here, that the villagers could eat fish. I promised myself that someday I would catch a fish for them to taste, but that day not today.

I demonstrated to the men how I could swim in the river, proving to them it was safe. One at a time I swam the four men across the river, struggling to breathe as each in succession clutched me in terror. Since I could not work with any plants without killing them, the men carefully dug and loaded their backpacks full with the salvaged wheat plants. After I helped the men return across the river I went back for the heavy backpacks, which I swam across one by one held high above my head. As soon as I finished we started our long trip back to the village. The wheat plants were immediately put into the prepared ground upon our return, and after a few days of good water they began to grow tall and strong.

Planting the wheat was the final piece in the first stage of my plan. There was still much work to be done, but the hardest part was over. I had established a foundation for the village’s future. The tribe had livestock and crops, and they had a working knowledge of the tools they needed and how to make those tools. Though it was bittersweet for me, the villagers were now fully trained to plant, grow, and care for all their current crops and animals.

When I had still been able to farm with my own hands I had loved the entire growth process, and I tried my best to impart this same love to the tribe. A small seed, which you had picked and saved from the season before, was placed in the earth. With sun and sufficient water a shoot would emerge, and with care and attention it would grow strong and true until it reached maturity. It then could fulfill its purpose, the reason the seed had been placed on the earth. It could nourish our bodies and provide the sustenance that man needed to survive and flourish. While I was very glad the tribe could now grow their own food, since I could no longer participate actively it was with some sadness that I watched their progress as farmers.

I was very proud of myself. I was well on my way to establishing a strong and successful tribe, one which someday would conquer all people in the land. I was seen by the villagers as some sort of god from the desert, no matter what they said to my face. I had recently decided this was actually good; that as long as they ascribed me special powers and remained in awe of me, my ascension to the seat of power in the tribe would occur naturally as the current leaders died off. There was no one that would dare challenge me among the younger men, and even the current leaders, such as Garon and Cadune, did what I wanted.

Though it was by far the most difficult change for the tribe to accept, slow progress continued to be made as they learned to speak my language. I had asked Kalou to teach the young ones, knowing that if the children spoke only in my tongue, eventually that would be the only language spoken by all the tribe.

As often happened, Kalou didn’t agree with my belief that it was vital for the tribe to completely change to using only my language.

One day when I expressed frustration about some of the older members of the tribe still wanting to use their old language she said, “You know, our language served us well for a very long time. Why is it so important that everyone now use only your words when we speak?”

I tried to explain, “The old language doesn’t have enough words, and the words are not as descriptive. With the old language you can’t communicate as easily; my language is just much better. Also, to use two different languages is confusing and as time goes on it will become even more difficult. There needs to be only one language used by the tribe, and the best language is the one I brought you.”

Kalou gave me one of her long, piercing looks, and finally said, “Alright, I understand. But our old language is not bad, and you need to be patient with the old ones. It is difficult for them; they have spoken the old language for many years.”

She made a good point, and I agreed, “That’s true. I’ll try to be more patient, but that’s not something I’m very good at.”

“Yes, I have noticed you like to get your way all the time,” she said pointedly as she walked away.

 

He always makes it sound as though he is doing everything to help the tribe, but sometimes I think his reasons are false. Though the new ways do help us, I still think he puts himself and what he wants before what is best for the tribe.

 

The reasons I gave Kalou for requiring the tribe to learn my language were true, but they were not the whole truth. I could not tell her that I just didn’t like their language with its shouting and gesturing; that its crudity offended me. And I definitely could not tell her the most important reason for using only my language.

After I finished changing this tribe into a people more to my liking and brought an increase to their numbers and strength, I would conquer every tribe in this land. I could not have them each speaking different crude languages. I intended to unite all people under one culture and one language. Mine.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Seven

 

With the passage of time the villagers became very skilled at farming and building. This allowed me to go on frequent journeys to satisfy my need to explore new places. My journeys ranged across the massive valley and eventually I had travelled to every far corner and ventured deep into each mountain range that formed its borders.

On these trips I was looking for anything new; people, plants or animals, and I made many wondrous discoveries. Of people, I found one tribe in each direction; to the north in the barren, rugged mountains; to the east in the foothills of the mountains across the great river; and to the south, living on the edge of the grasslands much like we did. This tribe was far south, but not all the way to the southern mountains, which were taller and more frightening than even I could ever have believed.

To my knowledge, none of these tribes ever saw me in person. I met none of the people and I did not venture into their villages, since at this time it was not in my best interest to reveal myself to them.

In the first years of my lengthy travels, both in the wooded foothills and on the grassy plains of the valley floor, I found wonderful fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock that I had the tribe add to our farms. But my greatest discoveries by far were sheep, olive trees, and salt.

I finally found the sheep far to the south, living wild on the edge of the great grasslands. They were very cautious and would venture into the meadows only to feed, immediately returning to the thick forest undergrowth at any hint of danger.

To this day it remains a mystery how Garon killed his sheep in the north, because I never found any trace of sheep in that direction.

After I discovered the location of the sheep I constructed a rough holding pen, and then I spent four full days catching enough sheep to make up a flock. They were four of the worst days of my life, and the less said the better.

The journey home was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I had thirty head of sheep tied together to keep me from losing any, and to this day I am amazed that any were alive by the time I arrived in the village. I had never liked sheep when my brother raised them, as I thought them perhaps the stupidest animals to walk the earth. On that journey I came to absolutely despise their mindless ways; they made our goats seem intelligent. Not one of those creatures ever wanted to go in the same direction or at the same speed, and it took me weeks to return to the village, pulling every one of the thirty struggling, bawling bodies behind me the entire way.

I went through this ridiculous experience only because the sheep were so important to the future of the tribe. The wool of the sheep would allow the tribe to make real clothing and blankets for themselves, and finally rid themselves of those wretched, stinking furs.

After bringing the sheep to the village I had to make a loom and teach the women of the tribe how to make cloth. This was very difficult. Although I had been taught how to work a loom by my mother, it had really been her job, and I had never gotten very good at it. In addition, I had never paid attention to the details of how the loom was made, and it was one of the most intricate devices my father had ever built. It took months to construct a proper loom, and then there was a long and complicated learning process for both myself and the women, but eventually they became very good and were able to make beautiful woolen cloth. Once they learned, it was not long before the tribe began to be garbed in comfortable tunics made in a rich variety of colors.

The olive trees were also discovered towards the southern end of the valley. I was overjoyed to find them, since there were so many things olives could be used for. They could be pickled and eaten, they could be pressed and turned into olive oil to use in cooking, and most important to me, with oil the tribe would now be able to make soap.

I had never fully gotten over my disgust with the odor of the tribe, and I could not wait to make them all bathe. Though they were now trained to wash regularly and be clean when they made food, without soap there was no way for them to truly clean anything properly after cooking, and their bodies still stunk. With the olive oil they were finally able to make good, strong soap, and I wasted no time in teaching them how. To my relief there were no arguments, and in no time bars of soap were regularly used for the washing of bodies.

The salt I discovered in the far north, at the base of the tall, rugged mountains which shut the valley off at the north end. I had not thought I would ever find salt in this land. It had been the rarest item in my homeland, found in only one location.

On this particular journey I had traveled to the mountains specifically to search for more information about the people that lived there. As I explored the rocky foothills, before I ever reached the mountains or found a village, I came upon a long, low depression where I saw significant evidence of human activity. Curious about why these people, which I had seen very little evidence of otherwise, would come to this spot, I examined my surroundings closely. This was when I realized that the grayish material underfoot which I had taken for sand and small rocks was actually salt.

Though I didn’t understand why, I knew salt was vitally important to the body, and something humans needed to stay healthy. As soon as I tasted it I realized my body had been craving salt all along, and I packed my bag as full as possible. I was many days journey north, as far from my village as you could go in that direction, but I knew I would need to return periodically to gather salt for the tribe. Since the salt was also used by another tribe, it was now only a matter of time until our paths crossed.

In addition to the discoveries I made on my travels, there were also new inventions that helped the village to get food more easily. When we first built the fences for the goats, I had shown the hunters the strong, straight wood which was available in the forest north of the village. It didn’t take long to convince them to use this wood for their spear shafts once I showed them how the straight, smooth wood was stronger and flew truer and further.

The hunters soon began to use two different types of spear. One spear had a long, sturdy shaft, and was used to stab an animal at close range as they had traditionally done. The other, new style of spear was used exclusively for throwing at prey and it employed a thin, light shaft. Intentionally throwing the spear at their prey was a new method of hunting for them, and it impressed me since they had thought of it themselves.

One day as I watched some men practice their throwing in the field I noticed that though the shafts flew relatively straight for twenty or so paces, they did not have the accuracy that was needed to be really useful when the game was farther away. I thought about Kalou’s sling, which was now used by the tribe for killing small game to mix in dishes along with vegetables.

I made a very small spear and tried to throw it with a sling. That did not work at all. I almost stabbed myself, but I did discover that the faster the spear flew, the straighter it would go. I needed to find a way to send the small spear flying with great speed, a way that would send it to its mark straight and with accuracy.

Later that day I noticed the sheep in the pasture and heard a boy singing as he watched them. I had never encouraged the tribe to sing, but this was something they wanted to do and it was part of their culture. When I saw the boy and heard him singing to his sheep, my mind went back to my brother.

As I thought of Abel, I remembered those instruments he always tried to make, and in particular I remembered how one happy day we had made up a game using one of his failed stringed instruments. This instrument was meant to make nice sounds which he would sing along with, but it actually made horrible noises. So being boys, we had used it to shoot stones across the meadow towards the sheep. The stones had not gone far, but they had actually flown, and we passed the instrument back and forth, seeing which one could shoot a stone the furthest.

I remembered in general how the instrument had been shaped, and I hurried to the woodworking area where I found a long, straight, flexible shaft. I notched the shaft on each end and then put loops on the ends of a long piece of very thin leather. With some effort I was able to bend the wood and hook the leather between the two ends. The shaft of wood stayed bowed and pulled the leather cord very taut, and when I plucked the leather it made a nice thrumming sound.

Abel would have been pleased, I thought as I walked to the meadow, and then realized with a twinge of guilt that I missed him. I lifted the bowed instrument and put my small spear on the string, and then I pulled the string back and sent that spear flying far across the meadow. I could not believe how far it actually went, and it took forever to find.

Though it took some time and many changes were made to what were eventually called the bow and the arrow, the invention based on my brothers’ instrument became a mighty tool that was used by our hunters. They were now able to send arrows flying long distances with great accuracy and power, and they could bring down a deer at many paces.

Another invention that was important in helping to feed the tribe was developed as the result of a challenge I issued. After my return from the trip where we first gathered wheat plants, I went to the stream next to the village and with my hands caught several large fish. I asked the village women to clean them, and then they baked the fish over the fire.

Though it disgusted me to eat the flesh of an animal, I myself tasted the fish to make sure it was safe. It did not make me ill, and actually did not taste all that bad. The fish were then tasted by some of the braver villagers, who pronounced it to be delicious.

With the discovery that fish were good to eat, the tribe now had a potential new food staple. But since no one besides me could catch them with their bare hands, there was no way for the tribe to eat fish with any regularity. Desiring to encourage both competitiveness and ingenuity, I challenged the tribe to invent a way to consistently catch fish. I was surprised and amused by the vigor with which the villagers attacked my challenge. Many people were soon spending every free moment away from their work at the stream, with all manner of interesting equipment in their hands.

While there were a number of good ideas, Kalou’s was the best. She began by weaving a large basket to catch the fish in, but the force of the flowing water dragged it out of her grasp. Next she made a basket with big holes to let the water pass through; this allowed her to pull the basket through the water, but the fish just swam away when it approached.

At this point I left on a trip to gather stone and I never found out exactly how she arrived at her final design. But when I returned a few days later she had a long, wide net, which she had made by weaving together thin cords of grass. Her invention had large holes which let the water easily pass through, and apparently the fish did not notice it in the water. Using two people, it was held across the stream, and by pulling it through the water they were able to catch many fish.

Once again I was impressed with Kalou’s intelligence, and I was very glad that the village now had another source of food.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Eight

 

Time had passed quickly for me as I taught and led the village. I had been with them seven years, and virtually everything about the tribe’s lifestyle had changed. The entire village now spoke my language, and though some of the older ones still did it reluctantly, the young ones would never think of using the old tongue.

The village had made a complete and successful transition to a life based on farming. There were wide fields of grain which stretched from the village towards the south, which was also where the fruit trees and olive groves were located. The fruit and vegetable fields were to the north and east, closer to the stream. The flocks of sheep and goats were kept to the north. The animals were numerous and able to provide us with meat, milk and all the wool the tribe needed.

The villagers had gradually made a relatively smooth transition from a hunting and gathering society, with both men and women learning all tasks and often excelling at specific trades. Some women focused on being weavers and clothing makers, while others worked in the gardens, baked bread and made cheese. Most of the men now worked in the fields, while woodworking and building continued to be a trade that was much in demand. The repair of fences and plows and the building of furniture and house wares never ended, and several men made this their full-time work.

The tribe had moved to a diet which included fish, bread, fruits and vegetables. Pigs, sheep, goats, fowl and occasionally one of the cattle that were kept for plowing or milk were able to provide the majority of the meat the village required, though one group of men was still responsible for hunting game to supplement what the tribe raised. The weapons the hunters now used made killing game much easier, so the time spent hunting and the number of men it required had decreased significantly.

Unfortunately Garon had died this year, and I had been quite sad to see him pass. He had been a wise man and had helped me by supporting the many changes I made over the years. Without his aid and acceptance of all my changes I might have been required to resort to force, but that had never happened. I was now the only leader of the tribe, and my word was law. Whatever I wanted was done immediately and without question.

The village had increased in size rapidly over the past few years. As food became more abundant the population grew, with the children also becoming larger in size. I believed the use of soap and cleaner living habits helped the people become sick less frequently, and it may even have increased their longevity.

We now stretched the limits of the village to bursting, and I knew it was time to move the tribe to the location on the northern river. The village had increased to well over one hundred people, many of them babies and young children. Though it would be difficult to move, there the tribe would have all the water it needed to grow and prosper. But something held me back; I was waiting for something to spur me on, though I knew not what.

I had made a plan years ago for moving the tribe to the river site and building a much larger village that could hold many more people than our current one. But my plan involved the other tribes that lived in the valley.

As I travelled through the land I had become familiar with the tribes that lived to the north, south and east of our village. I always saw signs of the northern people at the salt flat, but they did not seem to venture south onto the grasslands; apparently there was nothing on the plains they needed. I had found their village in the mountains, quite a ways further north from the salt flat. Given the great distance, I was puzzled as to why they had once journeyed to my village to steal women. But since they knew where we lived I had decided these were the first people I would need to conquer.

I had journeyed across the great river to the eastern side of our valley, and I had needed to cross a wide, arid grassland for many days just to reach the foothills. There I found and for a short time observed the tribe that lived there. As I wanted to continue exploring eastward through the mountains I did not spend too much time in observation, but they appeared to be the same as my tribe had been when I discovered them, small, unorganized and barbaric.

The southern tribe lived far down the valley, a journey of many days. Once again those people were similar to the northern and eastern tribes and how my tribe had once been, a small group of hunters and gatherers that lived in crude huts and barely managed to subsist. I could not understand how people could remain so uncivilized year after year and never desire to change and improve the way they lived.

I had realized early on that the people of my tribe were not stupid; some such as Kalou, Garon, Catto and Cadune were actually very intelligent. Once I had taught them how to live properly they became civilized and acted just as human as my family. Though of course they were not my equal, they were much more than what I had first believed them to be.

I had recently decided it was time for me to marry, and I was going to ask Kalou to join with me as my wife. I respected Kalou, and with her dark, flashing eyes and fine features, she was the most attractive woman in the tribe. But it was her strong will, intelligence, and fiery spirit that really made her stand out as the only woman I could marry. She was the finest woman in the tribe and for some reason she had never taken a mate, though she had been old enough for years.

I found Kalou alone by the stream mending her nets, which were now made of a thin fibrous material they gathered in the forest.

“Kalou,” I started, “I have decided to take you as my wife.”

I was interrupted by her sudden outburst of laughter, “Oh, really? Thanks for telling me.” She was laughing so hard that she was having a difficult time drawing a breath. “And when did I decide to become your wife?”

I was at a loss for words; this was a completely unexpected turn of events. It had not occurred to me that Kalou would not jump at the chance to be my wife. I just stood there in front of her with my mouth open, which caused her to laugh even harder.

“Close your mouth Cain, you look like one of the fish I’m going to catch.”

I snapped my mouth shut, feeling the heat go to my face. I had no idea what to say next and considered turning and leaving, but that was not my way.

I thought for a moment and then started over, telling her honestly, “Kalou, I would like you to be my wife. We are good together, and there is no one else I want to be with.”

She stared at me in her appraising way for a long moment, as she had done so many times before. The way she seemed to look right into me always made me uncomfortable. I felt the heat once again rising to my face. Perhaps this was not such a good idea after all. Kalou knew me better than anyone else. She was the only person who ever seemed to realize where my plans were leading, and also the one person who may have recognized that what I said I did for the tribe was often really done for me.

 

What should I do? I have never been able to fully trust Cain. He cares only for himself, but he is not an evil man. He needs to think more of the people he leads and less of himself. But in spite of that I have come to love him, and he is strong, intelligent and handsome. He will lead the tribe for many years, and I need to be there to make sure he does not hurt my people. Yes, I will marry him.

 

Finally, very seriously, she answered, “Yes, Cain, I will become your wife. I think that is a good idea.”

I smiled, strangely relieved. It would have been embarrassing if she had said no, and besides, there was no one else I was willing to marry.

“Good!” I said a little too quickly, causing her to smile again. “I will start on a home at once and we can be joined in just a few days.”

Once a couple took each other as mates they moved out of the communal huts of the unmarried and into their own home.

I paused, thinking. A couple could put their house anywhere they wanted, as long as there was enough space. “Do you have a place where you would like me to build?”

Kalou looked pleased that I had asked. “Yes, I want to live as close to the stream as possible. I like to hear the water flowing.”

I enjoyed being by the stream also and thought this was an excellent idea. Happy, I said, “I will begin today.”

I walked away from Kalou very pleased with myself, but also just a little apprehensive. Although I enjoyed being with Kalou and considered her one of my only friends besides Cadune and Catto, she had the power to make me uncomfortable with myself, something no one else could do. I hoped I was making the right decision.

It was simple for a man and woman of the tribe to become husband and wife. Once they decided to be joined they told the leader, which was me, that they wanted to have a ceremony. The ceremony normally took place soon after the man finished building their house.

The leader would tell the women in charge of preparing the meals which night the ceremony would be held, so they could prepare a grand feast for all the tribe.

On the evening of the chosen day, just as the sun was getting low in the sky, the couple would come together in front of the tribe. There they would simply pledge their lives to each other. When they finished there was a huge feast and celebration, long into the night.

I wanted to build a real house for Kalou and I modeled on the home I had grown up in, with walls, doors and separate rooms for sleeping and living. As a king I deserved a grand house, not a one room hut like everyone else. But I did not want to build it until we moved the village to our new location, which could be fairly soon. We would make do for now with a nice, but smaller home.

As soon as I started building the entire village knew I was going to marry. Though Kalou insisted she did not tell anyone, everybody seemed to know that I would wed Kalou.

I chose a spot near the stream at the eastern corner of the village. You could see and hear the flowing water from there, and it was private and quiet. It took little time to build a house, as it was just simple post and beam construction using long, straight trees from the forest to the north. After the frame was raised crosspieces were attached which were then covered with bundles of long grass from the plains. But I added a few special features to our house which made it better than any other house in the village. All huts now had a smoke hole in the top to keep them clear, but I wanted to let more natural light into our home. I placed two window openings on the side facing the stream, which was the part of the house we would use for sleeping. I built a wall to separate the sleeping area from the living area, and placed another window near the entry of the house.

I asked the workers that specialized in furniture building and cloth making to provide us with a bed, new blankets and some tables and shelves for holding clothes and personal items.

Since the tribe still prepared and ate all their meals at the communal fire in the center of the village, I did not need to build a cooking or dining area at the house.

I knew the tradition of communal eating would need to be changed when we moved the village, as the larger size of the new tribe I would bring together would not allow for communal cooking. Even now, with the population of the village growing and our diet becoming so varied, it had become much more complicated. Once again I would need to change the way the people lived, and I knew that changing the way they ate would be one of the most difficult things to get them to accept.

On the second day of building Catto came over to help me put up the roof. I was grateful since this was a job that was much easier with two people. We worked mostly in silence, both of us knowing what needed to be done.

When I thanked him for his help, Catto said with a smile, “Well, it’s taken you two long enough. I’m happy to help you finish the house.”

My curiosity getting the better of me, I asked, “What do you mean it’s taken us long enough?”

With a snort he replied, “Are you serious? Everybody in the village knew you two would be joined. Nobody could understand why you didn’t do it years ago. Kalou is the only woman you talk to as an equal, and anyway, every other woman in the village is scared of you. Besides, Kalou is such a handful that no other man could ever take her as a wife.”

I thought about what Catto said. I was surprised that the other women were scared of me, but I really didn’t care about that. In hindsight I knew what he meant; Kalou was the only woman I respected as an equal. Though the other women were just fine as wives and mothers, workers, weavers and cooks, and some had become good leaders, Kalou had a fire and intelligence that made her special. I nodded to myself, agreeing with Catto.

I finally said, “So I guess that’s why everybody knew we were going to join, even though neither of us told anyone.”

“That’s right, once you started the hut nothing needed to be said. So did you know that everybody is talking about how they can’t wait to see the children you two produce?”

This matter-of-fact statement, which he said while looking at me out of the corner of his eye, stopped me dead in my tracks. Of course I had been curious about the same thing, but it made me uncomfortable to think that everyone in the village had been talking about us having children.

Catto burst into laughter when he saw me pause, not sure what, if anything, to say about that statement. “I’m just kidding,” he choked out, “but you should have seen your face.”

The rest of the time we worked in silence, a silence broken only by the occasional sound of Catto chuckling.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty Nine

 

The house completed, we were joined seven days after I asked Kalou. It was a very good evening. The tribe always loved it when a couple was joined, and everybody was in high spirits. A marriage meant a big celebration and was cause for a loud and long feast. Our joining together meant an even more elaborate feast than normal, given my position as leader of the village. Though no one knew my age, by their standards Kalou was considered quite old to be married, so this also was cause for celebration.

I had chosen Kalou because she was the most impressive of what I still considered to be an inferior race, but I was excited and actually looking forward to marrying her. Over the years I had come to care for Kalou, and I respected her more than just about anyone. She was one of the few people in the village who was willing to let me know when she didn’t agree with me.

The ceremony was brief and simple. Just as the sun was setting over the mountains Kalou and I stood, and all the villagers fell silent.

There was a pause as we looked at each other, then I said, “I take Kalou as my wife, to join with her forever.”

Kalou said, “I take Cain as my husband, to join with him forever.”

It was done. To the tribe those simple statements were unbreakable vows for the rest of our lives.

As soon as she finished speaking the tribe erupted into shouting, laughter and raucous noise, and the feast began at once. The meal was excellent, and the selection and vast amount of food available was amazing.

The village cooks had prepared the full range of dishes for the celebration; raw and cooked vegetables, potatoes, fresh fruits and loaves of sweet bread baked with nuts and honey, as well as platters of fish and fowl, and both a pig and a deer turning over the fire.

It was a meal to remember, and the joyful feast, with children shouting and running about, and all the adults talking and laughing, was one of the happiest evenings of my life. Late that night, actually early the next morning, full, tired and content, we retired to our new home for the first time.

A few months after we were joined I was sitting in my living room, working on a map late in the night. This was one of the reasons I had wanted my house to have two rooms. Since I slept so little I wanted to be able to work inside my home and not be forced to sit by the fire as I had done for the last seven years.

I had started drawing the map two nights earlier, putting it on tanned sheepskin as my mother had done with her paintings. It was a complete rendering of the huge valley we lived in, and I was trying to draw it to the correct scale and include everything I had found over the years.

In addition to common items such as rivers and forests, the map would show the original locations of all the plants and animals I had found, as well as the locations of the three other tribes’ villages. While the map was not complicated, it was taking me a long time because I wanted to be very exact. It was good to have a quiet place and a table on which to work.

As I drew, my sharp ears heard a sound that was muffled and out of place. The animals were making a little more noise than normal and they sounded disturbed. Something was happening outside, and it didn’t sound right.

The village occasionally had predators come exploring at night, lured by the smell of our livestock, but a watchman’s call as he walked around the flocks with a torch was normally enough to scare off any wild animals. The predators knew it was easier to kill a deer in the forest than fight a man with fire and a spear.

A shout that was abruptly cut off told me this was not just a watchman chasing off a bear. I dropped my writing stick and ran out the door, grabbing my bow and arrows as I went. We normally had five watchmen at night; one on each side of the village with two on the north side, since that was where the animals were kept.

I could hear the other watchmen quickly moving to check out the disturbance, but nobody else in the village stirred. I covered the distance to the north edge of the village at top speed, and immediately saw that we were under attack.

I should have seen two watchmen, but they were gone. Instead I saw a large number of shadowy figures rapidly approaching the village. While I could not get an accurate count of how many, there appeared to be at least twenty five.

The other three watchmen joined me and I ordered them to open fire with their bows, shooting at the attackers on the left and right flanks, while I started firing as quickly as possible at the men in the center.

While I shot I shouted, “Attack!” over and over, as loudly as I could.

This was the signal to alarm the village; it meant the woman and children were to stay in their homes while the men came with their weapons, ready for battle. I hoped the villagers would follow their orders correctly.

The four of us fired steadily, and we were dropping the attackers before they got close. The tribe’s watchmen were also hunters, and were chosen for their courage and skill with a bow. We were causing considerable damage to the attackers while they were not yet close enough to even start throwing their spears.

It was happening so quickly that no other tribesmen had yet joined us and our arrows were now exhausted. We had shot well, and because of the silence of the arrows I did not believe the attackers realized just how many of their party were already gone. They were now close enough for me to see clearly in the dim moonlight, and although I knew not how many they had started with, only twelve remained.

I could not allow them to enter the village and get among the huts filled with women and children, perhaps even get to Kalou, so without another thought I pulled my knife and ran at them, screaming out my fury. The watchmen were shocked, but after a brief pause I was followed by them and several more men that had just joined us.

I outstripped my companions and reached the attackers well ahead of them. I went directly at a group of four that were running close together. When I reached the first man I ripped the spear from his grasp with my left hand while slashing his throat with my knife. I spun the spear around and thrust it completely through the body of the next man before he could react.

I continued moving forward like a raging bull. Throwing out my left arm I knocked a man flying with the force of the blow, while at the same time I used my knife to parry a spear directed at my chest. I quickly spun my knife and plunged it deep into the man’s chest.

I could hear the sounds of battle to my right and left, but they were quickly dissipating. The ferocity of our response to their attack was too much for them, and with a shout the few remaining men turned to run, heading back towards the north.

“Capture them and hold them alive!” I shouted, and I ran after the two that were farthest away.

When I caught them I grabbed the first one I could reach with both hands and threw him as hard as I could back towards the village. He flew far through the air and came down hard, bouncing a few times and then lying in a motionless heap. The second man I grasped tight around the body, and holding his arms at his sides so he could not pull his knife, I carried him kicking and screaming back to the village.

It was a madhouse. There was shouting and confusion, and our men were running everywhere with weapons in hand, looking for someone to fight.

With a shout I got everyone’s attention and quickly restored order. “Be wary and ready with your weapons! Go out into the fields. I want every single body accounted for and brought back here. Find and bring back every attacker, dead or alive. Use your spears, and if any resist, kill them!”

With a loud voice I called out in the old language, “Drop your weapons and come towards me with your hands empty. You will not be harmed. Do not try to fight us or escape, or you will be killed!”

I saw no one trying to run, and slowly a few men rose from the ground, while at the same time I heard the voices of the wounded and dying calling out from the field.

My men were now in the fields with torches and their weapons, and they returned in groups of twos and threes, herding everyone they found that could walk, while carrying the dead or wounded. Two men did resist, and both were killed without mercy.

In the field where the sheep were kept we found the bodies of our two watchmen, Akan and Latto. Besides the two dead watchmen who had apparently been ambushed when they went to see what was bothering the sheep, our men had received only cuts and minor wounds, and everyone would survive.

In a short time we had all the attackers gathered on the edge of the village. They were a ragged looking group, dirty and clothed in skins, looking much like this tribe did when I found them.

I counted a total of twenty eight men with nineteen of them dead, most from arrow wounds. With a glance I could see that of the nine remaining men, two had no chance of survival and were in intense pain, probably hoping for death to arrive swiftly. Three more had less serious wounds and would be fine if they were treated and the wounds cleaned.

The wounded men lay on the ground moaning softly or crying out in pain, while the four remaining men that had escaped unscathed either looked at us sullenly or stared at the ground in silence, fearing the worst. Of course they were wondering what we would do with them, and I was thinking about the same thing.

Of the four unharmed men only the largest one returned my look without fear, and he was noticeably interested in our appearance. I was obviously of a different race and he openly stared at me, but our tribesmen, though of the same race also must have looked very different to him.

In the old tongue I gave assurance that we would not harm them, and then we tied the hands and feet of the living men, leaving free only the two dying men and the man I believed to be their leader.

I told Catto and Cadune to make sure everyone in the village was reassured that we were safe and secure. I kept a force of twenty men out, sending fifteen to patrol the perimeter of the village while five stayed with me to guard the prisoners. The remaining men were sent back to their beds to rest for the next day.

I squatted down directly in front of their leader. “Can you speak with me?” I said in the old language.

He looked at me appraisingly, and after a moment nodded, “Yes.”

I pointed at the two mortally wounded men who lay crying in agony. “They will not live, and they are in much pain,” I said.

He nodded, not knowing where I was going. “Yes,” he said again.

“You may end their pain,” I said, and slowly and carefully I handed him a knife.

He understood. Moving cautiously and always keeping one eye on me, he went over to the dying men and quickly cut their throats, ending their suffering. He then placed the knife on the ground and came back to where I waited. Once I had bound his hands and feet we began to speak.

Kalou had appeared with a few of the older women, carrying scraps of cloth, water, medicinal herbs and some salves. After treating our wounded and making sure we would be alright, they looked at me questioningly. I nodded, and they began to treat the other tribe’s wounded, first cleaning the layers of dirt from the areas surrounding their wounds. As they were cleaned I saw that those men would all be able to survive without issue.

All this time I had questioned the leader about their attack.

I learned that they were from the north, and their entire force had attacked; he told me there were no more men outside the village, and I believed him. But he would not give me a straight answer about why they had attacked our village, and what they had hoped to gain. I was getting fed up, and eventually I was forced to say, “If you don’t tell me your real reasons for attacking us I will kill that man.”

With this statement I casually pointed to the man that was lying nearest to me. His eyes grew huge as he looked desperately at his leader.

The matter-of-fact way I said this as I pulled my knife from its sheath, combined with his companions’ look forced him to blurt out, “Women. We need more women for our tribe.”

This was what I had expected him to say all along, given that their only previous visit years earlier had been to steal women. Nonplussed, I asked him, “Why do you need our women?”

“We have many men and there are not enough women for all our men to marry. Not enough women are born in our tribe, and many die when they bear children. We need more women to help our tribe stay strong.”

I nodded. Though I didn’t agree with their methods, I understood their logic.

Though I was saddened by the loss of two good men, I was actually pleased by what had happened. Tonight was very good for me, and tomorrow this attack would be used to further my goals. It was obvious to me what needed to be done, and I would be able to settle everything in the morning.

“Get some rest; neither you nor your men will be harmed unless you try to escape. We will talk further in the morning.”

Turning to the remaining guards, I told them to stand watch over the prisoners for the rest of the night. Kalou and the other women were now finished, and I thanked the women for their help before they returned to their huts.

Kalou and I moved off to the side, where I told her what I had learned. Her reaction surprised me; she was much angrier than I had expected her to be.

“Women!” she practically shouted, “They wanted to steal our women?”

“Calm down,” I said, “They have more men than women, and not all their men are able to marry. Apparently it’s desperate enough that they decided they needed to steal some of our women.”

“Calm down?” she sputtered, “How would you have felt if they had taken me?”

“Well,” I said evenly, “I would have hunted them down and killed every one of them. But I didn’t let them take you, did I? And now that they’re here I know exactly what we have to do. It is very clear to me. It will help keep our tribe safe, and it will be good for everyone.”

“What are you talking about?” she said slowly, looking at me in her way, the way that sometimes made me feel uncomfortable.

“Well, we have plenty of women in our tribe, so I’m going to force the other tribe to join with our tribe when we build our new village. That way they will never attack us again, and our tribe will become larger and stronger. Combined we will be one powerful tribe.”

I made this statement as though I just had the idea, but of course it had been my goal all along to form one large, powerful tribe with me as its king.

Kalou stood in front of me and looked up at me piercingly while she thought. Finally she asked simply, “Why do we need to combine into one powerful tribe?” She watched me intently as she waited for my answer.

Kalou was my wife, and she knew me better than anyone in the world. I would not deceive her any longer. “Because I know best how everyone should live and I want the power to decide what is right for all people. I need to be the leader over everyone in this land!” I stated, somewhat harshly even to my own ears.

“What you think is right!” she replied, “But what makes you think you know better than everyone else?”

I looked at her, sincerely confused, “What do you mean? Of course I know what is best for everyone.”

Kalou shook her head slowly. “That is your problem Cain, you have always thought you are better than everyone else, that you are smarter and somehow perfect. You are bigger and stronger, and you had great knowledge when you joined us, but that does not mean you are a better person, or that your race is any better than my people or the men that attacked us. We are just different. This God you have told me about, the God that made the world and everything in it. Do you really think He made your race superior to mine, to be our masters? Would He do that?”

This was ridiculous, and I would discuss it no further. Of course we were made superior to them by God; that was obvious, just look at us. I was angry, and so bothered by her comments that I could not speak to her any longer. Is that really what she believed, that they were just as good as me, that God had made them my equals?

“Do not think you know the mind of God,” I said shortly, dismissing her comments. “You should go back to bed now.”

Kalou just looked at me and shook her head sadly.

“Good night husband,” she finally said. “Be safe.”

With one last look, disappointment evident in her eyes, she returned to our home.

 

I really thought there was hope for him. I thought he could change. Now I just don’t know. He believes he is better than us, and his physical gifts are not the only reason. Perhaps he always thought he was superior, and that is why he left his own people.

 

That night fifteen men patrolled the perimeter of the village, while I and five others guarded the prisoners. The wounded men slept fitfully, even though Kalou had given them something to ease their pain.

As I watched them I was silent and still as stone, but my mind was disturbed and full of conflict. My thoughts raced back and forth, giving me no peace. I was bothered by what Kalou had said. How could she believe that these filthy savages I now watched over were my equal, or even her equal, for that matter? Our tribe had made such progress that we were now vastly superior to the men that had attacked us tonight.

I tried to dismiss what Kalou had said; she didn’t know what she was talking about. But I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Was it possible that Kalou was right? Perhaps the tribe always had the innate intelligence and ability to learn and advance, and they just lacked the knowledge that I provided. Given enough time, would they have learned on their own everything I had taught them? This thought disturbed me, creating conflicts in my reasoning that I did not want. While I sat still all night, my mind was just as fitful as the men I watched over, but I came to no conclusions.

When the sun rose I adjusted the ropes that bound the legs of their leader, tying them in a way that would allow him to walk with short steps but not allow him to run. I motioned for him to follow me and we moved away from the others, out into the fields. As we walked I asked his name.

“Gadu,” he said. “I lead the hunters of my village.”

When we were away from the other men I turned to him and spoke. “Look at my tribe Gadu. We are strong and healthy, and we have all the food we could want. We have many people, both men and women, and we have powerful weapons. We are going to build a great village along the river north of here for our tribe. I want your people to join with my tribe to build the village and make one people, all together in one tribe. I give you two choices. You can join us to make one tribe with me as your leader, or we will kill everyone in your tribe, completely removing your people from the land as though you had never been.”

I finished and awaited his answer, looking him calmly and squarely in the eye.

He stood tall, returning my gaze. He saw the truth in my eyes and knew I meant what I said. “Well,” he replied, “you leave us no choice, do you?”

“No. You have no choice if you want to live. I will give you food and allow you and all your men to return to your tribe. There you must convince your elders of the truth of my words. I will meet you and your elders at the salt field in twenty days time,” I said, showing him my hands twice to indicate exactly when I wanted to meet. “I will come alone, and there I will hear your decision.”

Looking at my forehead, he said, “I know that we cannot harm you. I will be there with our leader, and you shall know his decision at that time.”

When I told the villagers later that morning that I would not execute the attackers, they were pleased by my mercy. Even though they had killed two of our tribe, my people made it obvious they did not want me to retaliate and kill the rest of the attackers. This amazed me; where was their vengeance?

Though three of the men were wounded, they would still be able to make the return trip to their village. We gave them enough food to last their journey, though since they had never before eaten food such as bread, nuts, apples or carrots we had to teach them what it was. We also gave them some dried meat, which seemed more familiar to them.

After putting a few water skins in the packs holding their food, I returned their knives to them, but we kept all their spears. A large contingent of our men escorted them well north of the village and I continued to follow them at a distance for much of the day, making sure they continued on.

When I returned to the village that evening I called all the tribe together. At this meeting I told them of my plans to move the village to the north, to the edge of the large river. As I expected, they were very disturbed and could not understand why the village had to be moved. They were comfortable at this location; they had lived here all their lives, and the crops, orchards and gardens that they had worked so hard to establish were here.

Though I had my own reasons for moving the tribe which I kept to myself, I was still able to tell them much that was true.

I said, “I understand how you feel, but we have no choice. Moving is a huge undertaking and it will take much time and effort, but our tribe is getting so large that the stream can no longer support us, our animals and our crops. Water is our lifeblood, and without more of it we cannot grow.”

The tribe thought about this and talked amongst themselves. I waited, giving them time to discuss everything involved in moving. Everyone knew we already struggled to have enough water to support our crops, this was no secret. It was also a fact that there were far fewer fish in the stream than there used to be, and they were harder to catch. They knew in their heads we needed a larger river, but it was still difficult to accept the need to move in their hearts.

I wanted them to believe they had a voice in this decision, but in reality I was in control and the decision had already been made.

“We really have no other choice,” I finally said after giving them plenty of time to talk about the move. “We all must move and none may stay behind. And,” I continued, “to keep us safe and make us a greater people, I am bringing the other tribe into our village. We shall become one tribe as you were so long ago.”

At this announcement an uproar ensued.

“What! Why should we let them join our tribe? They are killers!” the people shouted.

My answer was simple and for the most part honest.

“It will keep us safer. We will not have to fight or kill them. There is no harm in becoming one people.”

I continued, looking at Kalou as I made this statement, “Besides, they are just like us. All people are made the same. With their addition to our tribe we will grow more food and become a great people. We will not need to fear any other people in the land.”

“But they are the only tribe that threatens us. If we let them join with us, who is there to fear?” someone called out, and others immediately agreed, repeating the question.

“I have found the other tribes in this land, both to the east and the south. We do not know their intentions, and we must be prepared for anything.”

I said this knowing full well that those tribes were even less of a danger to us than the tribe to the north.

My tribe thought about what I said, and once again began to talk to each other. They were concerned about moving and the uncertainty of what could happen if we joined with the other tribe. But I could see that though they were still apprehensive, they were beginning to accept the inevitability of having to move.

Exhausted from everything that had happened in the last day, I stepped away. I had not slept in several days and I wanted to give the tribe more time to discuss and accept what I had proposed, so I went home. I could still hear the discussion going on as I slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next day I was told by Catto, Cadune and Kalou that the tribe had accepted my decision, and they were willing to move. Over the following days my leaders and I met together constantly, planning exactly what needed to be done, making drawings of how the new village would be laid out and built, and deciding how to actually move the people, crops and flocks.

It would not happen overnight and it would not be easy. But I had to make sure it went as I planned, with sufficient food and organization to allow everyone to transition smoothly into a whole new way of life.

I wanted this move to be more than just transferring village life to a new location. I wanted to change the very way people thought, ate, worked and lived. If I was successful, with this move the world was going to change.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty

 

Ten days after the attack, I left the village for the meeting with the other tribes’ elders. With me went Catto and two more trusted men, Jataan and Larro. Though I could have travelled much faster alone, I wanted to have other tribe members as witnesses to whatever happened.

It was not an easy trip and we had to push hard to arrive on time. I travelled far in front of the others, using my superior eyes and ears to make sure there was no one lying in wait. On the twentieth day after the attack we were at the salt fields, having carefully approached from the west to ensure there were no surprises.

Leaving my men just over the knoll of the hill closest to the salt fields, I approached the wide open flats. As I walked towards the flats I saw two men approaching from the north; one I recognized as Gadu. He was accompanied by an older man who moved slowly, occasionally aided by a hand from Gadu.

When we met they looked at me expectantly, as I quickly appraised the old man. He had intelligent eyes, and I immediately recognized that he had wisdom to go with his experience. I realized I must not underestimate this man. He was not in any way intimidated by my size, my appearance, or even the mark I bore. He looked at me intently as he waited for me to speak.

I did not hesitate, but immediately asked my question. “What is your decision? Life or death?”

The old man peered up at me from under his wild hair. “Who gives you the power of life or death?” he said, pointing to the mark upon my head.

This was a wise question, and one that had never been asked of me before.

I thought carefully for a moment and then replied, “My power does not come from the mark, which is only protection given me by the one God. The power I have comes from me.”

The old man considered my answer and then gave me a toothless smile. “So you think, but I think you are wrong. I will need to know more of your one God that gives you power.”

He paused, and then continued speaking, “I have decided we will join your tribe. Not because you threaten us with death, but because it is better for my people that we should marry your women and eat your food and grow strong.”

I cared not what this old man thought about the source of my power. Nor did I care about his professed self-serving reasons for joining his tribe with mine. All that mattered was that he agreed to join the tribes together under my leadership. He would recognize my greatness soon enough, when all people were one tribe and I had changed the world.

I nodded and said, “It is agreed. We will be one tribe.”

But even while I said this out loud I thought to myself, “Now I am a King.”

 

 

 

Part IV – The Kingdom

 

 

Chapter Thirty One

 

I did not hesitate after the Northern tribe’s leader, Aron, accepted my ultimatum and agreed to join his tribe with mine. We immediately sat down, right where we had been standing, and I began to tell him how I would integrate the two tribes into one.

Catto and my other two men joined us, along with three more men that Aron had brought. These additional men were included only to act as witnesses to what occurred. Almost all the talking was done by me and Aron, with Catto and Gadu only occasionally joining in with a comment. We had to converse in the old language, and although it did not have all the words I needed to fully describe my plans, we were able to communicate enough to get by.

I was surprised by the difficulty my men had following the conversation in the old language. They had not spoken it at all in several years, and they struggled to understand everything Aron said. Teaching the newcomers our language might be one of the more difficult aspects of their integration into the tribe, since our adults didn’t use the old language anymore and the children had never learned to speak it.

I told the northern men, “I would like Gadu to return with us to our village. Soon I will take a group of workers to where we will build the new city and Gadu will see where this is. From there I will send Gadu back to your village. He should return back to the site and bring with him all the men and women from your village that can work and build the city. He should bring all the people that are not required in your village to hunt or care for the elders and children.”

I gave them no additional details about my plans for the city or the number of people involved. I had not yet developed trust in them, or more specifically, Aron. Though I could see Aron was wise, I also saw a crafty look in his eyes. A plan to steal women from another tribe was a daring move, but also a despicable one, and it indicated a mind that was not honorable and a person who was willing to deceive.

Aron agreed, “I think it is good that Gadu go with you to your village. While he is gone I will decide who goes with him to work and who stays at our village while you build this city.”

I wanted to make sure Aron understood the length of time the people would be gone from his village. “Building the city, starting the crops, and getting everything ready to move will take many days. It might take two hands of moons altogether before we can live in the new city.”

While he knew about the changing of the moon, he had never attached a specific length of time to it. I struggled to make him understand the number of days involved in building the city and starting all the crops required to feed the people that would live there.

“We will need to prepare the fields and then plant the crops and move our orchards. For all of my village and your village to live there, the fields need to be producing when we move. If there is no food to eat, we can’t go. We also need to have the houses built, a bridge over the river, and pens for the animals. There is much work to do to prepare for two villages to move into one city.”

Though I believe the Northerners understood almost nothing of what I spoke, at my mention of the food we grew Aron’s eyes lit up greedily. “Yes, the men told me of all the food you have, which they say was very good. They also said you keep many animals in the village so you can eat them whenever you want. So your men do not need to hunt?”

“Yes, we still hunt. But we have learned to grow much of our food in the fields; we raise pigs and other animals for meat, and we eat fish from the waters. We do not need to hunt so much anymore. There is other work to do; taking care of all the fields and animals, and other jobs such as making tools and working with wood.”

“Growing food does not sound like work for a man! A man should be on the hunt; getting meat for the village while the woman works in the fields,” Aron stated with disdain in his voice.

I looked at him evenly. The idea that farming was not fit work for a man would need to be squashed right now. If his people joined us with that mindset it would cause great discord and ruin everything I was working for. My answer was directed to Aron, but I also wanted to make my point clear to his men.

“Growing and eating our food has made us bigger and stronger than you. We killed almost every man you sent to our village with ease.” I paused here, looking each man in the eye. “With ease,” I repeated. “Raising crops is hard work and women can do it, but it is not woman’s work. There is much to be done by both men and women which you do not know of. Some men hunt, but most men are needed to care for the livestock and raise the crops that give us most of our food.”

I paused again, and then spoke distinctly so there was no question about what I said. “Understand this. Our two tribes will become one tribe and I will be the only leader of the tribe. Your people will be treated exactly the same as the people from my village. We will all get the same food and homes to live in, and we will all be expected to work and provide for the new tribe.”

Looking closely at Aron I continued, “I have leaders under me, both men and women, which are responsible for the people that hunt and farm and build things. These leaders and all the people, whether from your village or mine, will answer only to me. Is this understood?”

Aron took a long time to reply, and instead of answering my question he asked, “What if one of my men should want only to hunt, and not work in the fields?”

“There are many jobs in the village, from taking care of the fields and the animals to making tools, building houses and hunting. The people of your tribe will be taught to do all of these things. They will have their choice of work, but usually they will do different jobs at different times of the year, depending on the needs of the tribe. If he is a good hunter and we need him to hunt, he will be able to hunt for the tribe.”

“And what if he only wants to hunt and he refuses to do these other jobs?”

“If a person will not work for the tribe, they do not belong in the tribe,” I said carefully.

I was pretty sure I knew the next question that would be asked. Though none in my village had ever refused to accept new responsibilities, I had anticipated it could be a problem as new people were added to our tribe. Though the newcomers would want our food and the easier life we offered, they would want it on their own terms. I expected there might be significant resistance to completely changing their way of life, and this could be the greatest challenge to my leadership; how to get newcomers to change and do what I wanted for the tribe without having to use force or become a tyrant.

I had already considered my limited options. I could expel a dissenter from the tribe, but this opened up the possibility of additional problems such as others trying to follow the dissenter to create a new village, or the expelled person becoming an outlaw for food.

My goal was to join everyone together as one tribe under me, not force people out as loners or into smaller tribes, so I had dismissed expelling people from the tribe as a way of controlling them. I also dismissed killing or injuring anyone to force people to conform. This was extreme and should not be necessary to enforce my rule. What I chose was the only serious punishment I knew of which could insure that people would do what I wanted.

There were only two ways to influence these tribal people, social pressure and food. To control the people’s behavior I needed to control the source of their food, and also the treatment a person received from the tribe if they refused to do what I required.

“So if they refuse to do the work you ask and want only to hunt, what will you do?” asked Aron, looking at me intently from under his bushy brows.

“I will make them pariah,” I stated, slowly and clearly. Pariah was a word he knew. It meant that someone was excluded from fellowship with the tribe and was allowed only enough food to survive. As pariah they were not expelled from the village, but they were not spoken to and they could not eat with the tribe. Making someone pariah was done to show tribal disappointment and disgust with an action, and the weight of shame it carried was very difficult to bear in a tribal culture. The status of pariah could only be conveyed and rescinded by the elders of a tribe, or in my tribe, by me.

No one had been named pariah since I had been with the tribe. I only heard of the word and its meaning the previous year, when one of the tribe’s hunters, Lakta, had struck his wife in a fit of anger and she had told another woman of this outrage. When Kalou found out she came to me and told me of the option to make him pariah. I called him before me, but when he told me of his sorrow I decided against making him pariah. Instead he had gone before the tribe and begged his wife’s forgiveness, promising never to harm her again. She had accepted his sorrow and repentance, and he had been forgiven.

I think perhaps Aron had expected my response, as he showed little surprise at my statement. “Pariah for wanting only to hunt?”

“No, pariah for not doing what I tell them to do. Only I decide what is best for the tribe, and if I think someone should not hunt, they do not hunt.”

I actually did not control the tribe to this extreme, nor did I want to. The leaders that answered to me, Catto, Cadune, and my wife Kalou among them, were directly in charge of hunting, farming, and making sure all the work was done correctly in the village. But I needed to make these men clearly understand that I was in charge, and if they went against my wishes there were consequences.

I was weary of this conversation and I wanted a commitment from Aron.

“If you and your tribe cannot accept what I say, tell me now and I will leave.” I looked at Aron intently and continued, “But understand, I cannot trust your tribe to exist separate from my tribe. If you do not join us, I will return with my men and our weapons. We will do battle and we will utterly defeat you. It will be as if your tribe never walked upon the earth. Your only options are to join us and become one tribe or die. You told me earlier you would join our tribe. Now that you have more knowledge of what is required, is this still your decision?”

Aron nodded slowly, “Yes, we want to be one tribe, but it will be difficult to change so much.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “it will be difficult. But in the end your tribe will be better; stronger and happier with full bellies and healthy children. That is what is important, to make the tribe better.”

Aron searched my face intently, examining it for signs of falsehood. In my carefully masked eyes he saw nothing that caused him to doubt me, but neither did he see anything that set him at ease. “Yes, that is what is important,” he finally said.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Two

 

Our trip back to the village passed quickly and uneventfully. As Aron and I had agreed, Gadu came with us. He was to be the northern tribe’s representative, and would be involved in the final planning for the move to the new city. I had been impressed by Gadu since the first time I spoke with him, and he would give the northern tribe a voice among my leaders. Gadu was an intelligent man, and I could see he wanted to do what was best for his people. He did not appear to fear change, which besides intelligence, was to me the most important characteristic in a leader.

Before I left for the north I had drawn up plans of how the city and surrounding fields would be laid out. I had also decided on a general timeframe for building the city and how we would move the people, crops and flocks. While I was gone Kalou and Cadune had been charged with developing the specific plans for the move; how long building the city should take, who would build, who would stay in the village, when crops would move, when people would move. On my return to the village, the layout of the city and the plans for the move would be finalized and put into motion.

What I was doing, building a city to combine two tribes together, was more complicated than I had ever imagined, and on occasion I wondered if I could make it happen. But whenever my confidence wavered I would pause and think of whom I was, remembering my position in the world, and my resolve would quickly return.

When we arrived back at the village I immediately sought out Kalou. Though we had worked closely together for years prior to our marriage, I had come to trust and depend on her even more since we were joined. The trip north was the first time we were separated since our marriage, and I had truly missed her and our time together.

When I found her she was baking bread with some of the other women. Without thinking we embraced, but when I heard the women’s laughter I was embarrassed, and we left them and went for a walk.

I surprised myself when the first thing out of my mouth was, “I missed you while I was gone.”

She looked very pleased, and smiling up at me said, “Well I missed you too. Was your trip successful? What did they decide?”

“They agreed to join with our tribe. Gadu came back with us. He will stay here and work with us to finish the planning and get the city laid out, and then he will go back to his tribe and return with the men and women that will help us build the city.”

“What did you think of their leaders? Are they trustworthy? Do you think this is something they really want to do, or are they only joining our tribe out of fear?”

“They have only one elder that leads their tribe, and I do not think he is trustworthy. He does not fear us and he is very wily, but he does this for the good of his people. He knows we have abundant food, and he also knows we are stronger and have more powerful weapons than his tribe. He joins us because he has to and also because he wants to. But it is obvious that he is conniving, and he is looking for a way that this can be made to favor his people.”

Kalou thought about this, looking at the sky and absently tapping her front teeth with her forefinger as she considered my words. “If you know they are not to be trusted, why let them join with us? Isn’t there something else you can do? What if they join us and then in the night try to kill us?”

We had now reached the edge of the stream, and we sat down on some rocks, making ourselves comfortable. “I believe that most of the people are trustworthy and will want only to improve their lives. Their tribe is just like your tribe was when I met you; it is made up of many different people. Some are intelligent and willing to lead and change, but most only want to live their lives as best they can. They want to do what is needed during the day to get along, and go to bed each night happy and with a full belly. I think it is just Aron that needs to be watched and controlled. Gadu is intelligent and a good man, and the other men respect him. I will make him a leader in the new tribe, and that will satisfy their people. Aron is old and will fade to insignificance as their tribe becomes one with ours.”

Kalou looked at me intently, suddenly very serious. “Cain, don’t underestimate Aron. He sounds like a snake to me. Snakes always strike when you least expect, and you never see them until it is too late.”

I laughed, “Don’t worry Kalou, I know what I am doing. It is better to keep the enemy you know about close by where you can watch them, than to let them plot in the darkness.”

Kalou continued to look up at me, still concerned, but questioned me about Aron no longer. We rose and walked slowly to our home, talking about the progress she and Cadune had made.

They had divided up all the able-bodied people in the tribe into work groups, which would take turns building the city and preparing and planting the fields around the city. While some people would remain at only the city or the village, many would rotate between the two, one moon in the city and one moon here. By rotating they would not be separated from their families for too long a period of time.

It was very important that we keep enough people here in the village. They would need to continue farming and harvesting, taking care of the livestock, caring for the children and elderly, and protecting the village in case of treachery by the northern tribe. All members of the tribe who were not strong enough to travel and do the hard work of building and preparing the fields would remain behind in the village, along with a force of men to hunt and guard.

I had a meeting with all my leaders the following day where we reviewed the final plans and all that would need to be done. Kalou, Cadune, Catto, and Nadar were there, as well as Amtah, a woman that had become a leader among the weavers and bakers, Sagan and Lataan, two men that excelled in all aspects of farming, and Ataran, an intelligent and creative builder who was the villages’ best woodworker.

Gadu was not included in this meeting. Though I believed he was to be trusted, I did not want him to know the specific numbers of the people that would be left in the village and working on the city. I did not want him to unwittingly transfer any information to Aron that may endanger my people when he returned to his tribe.

“While I am gone building the city Cadune will be leader over the village. He will answer only to me, and everyone else will answer to him. Nadar will also stay here and be in charge of hunting, fishing, and all the men that protect the village. Amtah is responsible for all clothing, cooking and baking, while Sagan will manage the care of the crops, fields and livestock.”

“Lataan will go with me and be in charge of preparing the fields and starting the planting for the new city. Catto will be responsible for all the builders of the city, and Ataran will work with him. I will travel often between the village and the city, and Kalou is the leader of the city whenever I am not there. Does everyone understand their duties?”

They all nodded. They were competent men and women, and had proven themselves over the years. I had no worries that they would fail me or the tribe.

I continued, “We will rotate the men and women of the tribe that can travel and work between here and the city, so everyone has a chance to build and become familiar with our new home. All of you will remain at only one location, responsible for leading the people that are placed under your charge.”

Here I paused, uncertain of the response my next words would receive. “The northern tribe will send about fifty people to work with us. I will divide those people between the village and the city. I want them to be taught to farm, fish, bake and weave; they must learn to do everything that we do. They will also help in building, preparing fields and planting at the city, but they really need to learn the daily tasks that all are required to do in our tribe. They are like you were seven years ago. They have never done any of the work that you now do every day. In order to join our tribe as equals they must be taught everything we know.”

As I expected, the response was varied. Most accepted my statement quietly, but Nadar and Sagan protested vehemently. “Why must we teach these outsiders everything we know? They are killers and thieves! It is bad enough we let them join our tribe, but they are not our equals. They should be nothing more than workers to build the city and toil in the fields!”

I saw Amtah and Cadune nod quietly to themselves in response to this outburst. I understood how they felt and had fully expected this reaction from some of my leaders, and definitely from Nadar. I answered them as honestly as I could, knowing that what I said might put me in dangerous territory.

“The northern tribe was dishonorable and they did evil, but they did what their leader told them. The men knew stealing our women and killing as they did was evil, and they should have told their leader they would not do it. All people have free will and the capacity to know right from wrong, but they went along with their leader when they should have said no, and this was their wrong. But I, and through me our tribe, have given them mercy. With mercy must come forgiveness, or we can never heal.”

I continued, “If we bring them into our tribe only as laborers and not as our equals, we will never really give them forgiveness, and they will not become one with our tribe. There will continue to be anger on both sides, and eventually that anger will again turn to violence. They are as you once were, and they need to be taught to become as you now are. Though none of you are murderers or thieves, all people have done wrong in some way, and all people need forgiveness at some point.”

“If we are to become one people,” I finished, looking around the room, “we must accept everyone into our tribe as equals, as people that need only to be taught to become like us.”

There was complete silence in the room. Everyone was thinking about what I had said and trying to make sense of it, with some understanding more than others. This was the first time I had ever spoken to them of moral standards, of right and wrong, and good and evil, and it gave everyone much to think about.

Did I really believe what I had just said? Though I said it in part to justify my decision to bring more people into the tribe and make myself more powerful, it was still true. I knew for a fact, perhaps better than any other man, that all people know right from wrong and have the capacity to choose one from the other; this is the free will given us by God. Mercy and forgiveness are characteristics of God, and mercy He had shown to me when I killed Abel. We should now show these same characteristics to the northern tribe. This would make us more human, and yet more like God.

 

I understand what Cain says. I think he is right and speaks wisely. But does he really think this way, or does he only say this to make the tribe do what he wants?

 

Finally Nadar spoke, “I think what you say is true. I know what is good and what is bad, and I try to do the good but do not always succeed. I also understand when you say that if we do not accept the Northerners as equals there will be anger and someday more fighting. So I agree to teach them, and I will try to treat them as my equal.”

Everyone else in the room nodded and murmured their agreement with Nadar.

“Thank you Nader, you do the right thing.”

I looked into the eyes of all who were gathered around the room. “So let us begin. I will call the people together and let them know our plans. You should then gather your people to you and make sure everyone knows their job; what they will do and where they will go. We will leave the day after tomorrow to begin the city.”

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Three

 

We arrived at the site quite late in the evening. Because of all that we carried the trip took a long two days, and everyone was exhausted when we finally arrived. After a cold dinner guards were posted, and the people quickly spread out blankets and slept wherever they could. I roamed through the fields around the camp, making sure there was no sign of danger. I saw or heard nothing to cause me alarm, and soon went back to camp and passed the night in watchful silence.

In the morning our first task was to put together a good camp that would be our home for the next several months. The river ran to the north, and I placed the camp north and west of where the city would be built, in the area where we would eventually pasture the animals. West and south of the city would be farm fields and cropland. We would build one bridge for passage, but for now we would not use the east side of the river.

I had Kalou use most of the people to set up the camp, while I, Catto, Ataran, and a few helpers began staking out the city. We focused first on the southern and western edges in order to define where the fields and pastures would end and the city begin.

Our camp was completely set up by early afternoon, and I called everyone together and showed them my drawings of the city layout. For most of the people this was the first time they had seen a drawing, and it meant nothing to them. I explained what the symbols and pictures meant, and enjoyed seeing comprehension appear on their faces.

Our tribe now numbered about one hundred and twenty people. Sixty had stayed at the village; approximately forty were too old or young to travel and work at the city, and another twenty had remained to help support and protect them. I had with me sixty strong and able bodied men and women that were dedicated to building the city. Together with the Northerners we would build all its private homes, public buildings, fences and irrigation ditches.

Providing food for the city was of the first order. The croplands would be prepared and planted immediately, and the orchards of fruit trees and groves of olive and fig trees would need to be planted at once. We had brought many saplings and immature trees with us, and bringing them to fruition would take a few years. We would need to care for and harvest the orchards and groves at the old village until these trees matured.

The majority of the buildings in the city would be private homes. I had come to the conclusion that given the increase in the population I expected for the new city, the tribe would need to completely change the way it lived and ate. My decision had created an uproar and I had needed to argue long and hard to bring the tribe around to my thinking, but I saw no other way for us to live in the future. I was convinced tribal meals and communal housing for unmarried men and women could not work as the tribe continued to grow larger. My idea was to make the individual family unit the focus of the tribe.

In the new city each family would receive a small piece of land with a house much larger than their current hut. This house would have a living area and sleeping rooms, and there would be a cooking area behind the building for preparing meals. The living area would be where the family ate their meals together and gathered as a family in the evenings. The land for each house would be large enough for a garden and to add on additional sleeping rooms as the family grew, since all children would now remain with the parents until the children married.

This was a radical change from the old ways of cooking, eating and living communally, and it had been extremely difficult for the tribe to accept this. After much discussion they finally had agreed it was necessary, since even now it was becoming very difficult to prepare the large meals that were required for the tribe to eat together.

If I was going to change the way the tribe cooked and ate, it would require a new way of distributing food to the people. We had built several public barns in our current village for the storage of grains and other foodstuffs, and this practice would continue in the city. There would be several large barns built to store and distribute the produce we grew, as well as other items such as milk, meat, and wool cloth. I realized this would be difficult to organize, but I could think of no better way to provide for a city as large as I expected this to become.

The city would initially include one other public building besides the barns. We were going to construct a large hall in the center of the city overlooking the river, and we would have open space all around it. The hall would have a roof but no walls, and this would be where I held court and where any public meetings would be held.

I expected this building and the area around it to replace the village fire pit as the site for the tribe to congregate and socialize. As the city grew in size I planned to construct more of these open buildings. It was important for there to be places where the people could gather and visit with each other at the end of the day.

The first days passed quickly. Once the framework of the city was laid out, those that were most experienced in farming were occupied in the fields plowing and planting trees, while the rest of the people gathered the materials we would need to build our structures.

We had much to do before we could build. Grasses were gathered and dried for exterior walls and roofs, rope for binding framework together was made, and groups went to the forest daily to cut and bring back the wood required for the frameworks of the houses and barns. We had several women that cooked communal meals for all of us, and this was a full time job with sixty people eating, and more on the way from the North.

We laid out the city in a pattern of squares. I wanted all the walking paths between houses to be straight, so all the paths ran either to the north and south, or the east and west. This pattern would allow for easier expansion and less confusion as the city grew. I would live near the main meeting hall where I would hold court weekly, and my home, the largest in the city, would also overlook the river.

My plan included a wide walkway along the river which would allow easy access for everyone, and there were several spots where people could easily draw their water. Downriver, at the northern end of the city is where the animals would drink and we would connect our irrigation streams.

We would put one bridge across the river, and it would be placed just north of the meeting house. This would be a small walking bridge for access to the far side of the river. The community barns would be on the north side of the city near the fields, and if we ever needed to plant additional fields on the other side of the river I would add a larger bridge near the barns.

I spent time daily with Lataan as he guided the farmers in preparing and planting the fields and orchards, laying out and digging the irrigation system, and building fences and the structures to house the livestock. The fences were not needed to keep the animals enclosed, as most of the livestock was allowed to range free, but to keep them out of our crops.

Setting up farms that would be required to support a city more than twice as large as our current village was a huge undertaking. Lataan was a very competent man, and he had a solid grasp on all the tasks that needed to be done. He fully understood all the aspects of caring for livestock that I had been able to teach the tribe over the years, such as breeding your best animals together, as well as the techniques for improving crops and yields that I had originated at my old home. The irrigation system was by far the biggest part of the project, as this involved the hard work of digging ditches and building the gates which directed the water where it was needed.

Catto and Ataran were making excellent progress on the cities’ structures. They were very prepared, and once the walking paths through the city were laid out, each plot was staked and marked, and all the materials were gathered, they began building. Though there was much to do, the work was organized and progress was steady.

We needed about sixty houses to allow every family from both tribes to have their own home. We had decided to begin by building seventy houses, which would give us some extra houses to allow for new marriages. In addition to the houses, we needed to build the large meeting hall, the storage barns, and the bridge over the river.

On the northern edge of the city would be all the storage barns for the tribe’s food. There would be six large barns to begin with, and we allowed space for many more to be added later when they were required. The post and beam construction we used would allow us to build large structures; unfortunately, they all had to be covered with grass.

The forest was much too far away to transport enough logs to build the structures entirely out of wood, and I had not been able to discover a source of clay nearby which would have allowed us to make our buildings out of bricks.

A builder must use the materials at hand, and for us the most abundant building material was the grasses which surrounded us. We needed to clear large areas to plant our crops and build the city, so the grasses we cleared gave us much of the material we needed for our walls and roofs.

A crew which I personally led built a sturdy bridge out of logs the third week of construction. This bridge gave us access to the fields on the far side of the river, ensuring an inexhaustible supply of grass for the city.

Kalou was invaluable to me; she was everywhere I could not be, and was focused on making sure everyone was happy and had everything they needed to do their work. Every night she updated me on the overall progress throughout the city, and attitude of our people.

Gadu had remained at the building site with us for five days in order to get a general understanding of how we planned to build the city. I spent much time with Gadu while he was in our village and also at the building site. I often kept him with me for the entire day as I met with my leaders or supervised crews in the fields or the city.

I did this for two reasons. I needed to make sure my impressions of Gadu were correct; that he was intelligent and a good leader, and I could trust him with responsibility in the new tribe. Additionally, it was imperative that I teach him our language quickly, to speed his integration into my leadership group.

The more time I spent with Gadu, the more positive I became of his abilities and trustworthiness. I was confident he would be able to join my inner group of leaders and become someone that could help me bridge the divide between the two tribes. He left on the morning of the sixth day, promising to return to the city with approximately fifty workers within thirty days.

I trusted Gadu, but I did not trust Aron. I still believed there existed the potential for treachery on the part of the northern tribe. This was one of the reasons I planned to split them up as soon as they returned, with most of the women and a smaller number of the men going to our village to learn the ways of farming, cooking and weaving, while most of the men would stay here and learn how to build and farm.

Splitting up the newcomers between the village and the city would weaken them, and also speed both their inclusion into our tribe and their education in our advanced practices. The men of our tribe outnumbered theirs; we had seriously weakened their tribe when they attacked us, killing over twenty of their men. Even so, I had decided that no newcomers would yet be allowed to hunt, or learn to use the bow and arrow. They first needed to learn farming, building and our language, while we learned to trust them.

I knew that the fastest Gadu could possibly travel to his village and return back with a group of warriors was about twenty-five days. After twenty days I began to range far to the north and west, mainly at night, looking for signs of a fast-moving group of men. I believed that if Aron was going to resort to treachery he would strike now, when our tribe was split and at its weakest.

If they were going to attack they would probably pass far to the west of the city, and send a party to the village where we had fewer men for protection. I had a good idea of the number of men now in the northern tribe, and I was almost certain they did not have enough to attack us successfully. But while I knew assaulting us would mean the destruction of their tribe, I was not sure if Aron in his arrogance would recognize this.

As the days and nights passed with no sign of Northerners I became more confident that Gadu would return to the city with a work group of men and women. If there was going to be treachery, it would have been swift.

They were still two days travel to the north when I found them one night. I slipped silently past the guards into their camp and could see that they were obviously not bent on violence. There were about fifty people, roughly half each of men and women.

By sending this many men to us now, the northern tribe would not be able to spare any men from hunting for their village to attack us. Aron had been true to his word, and though I still did not trust him, I was pleased that he had been wise enough to understand the necessity of joining us peacefully.

After thoroughly scouting their camp, I ran back to the city. In the morning I informed my leaders of the Northerners’ arrival the next day, and told them of my plans for dividing them up.

I would lead a group with people of both tribes to our village the day after the newcomers’ arrival. This group would contain most of their women and five men, as well as the members of our tribe that were returning to the village to rotate with new people that would come back to the city.

Remaining in the city to join our workers would be seven women and the rest of the men, including Gadu. These people would be divided among our work teams and would have minimal contact with each other. This would speed their integration into our tribe and encourage their adoption of our language.

The newcomers arrived late in the afternoon. I was pleased to see Gadu, and with his help I gathered the people in our makeshift camp. All our work crews would soon be coming into the camp for dinner, which was currently being cooked and was sending mouthwatering smells in our direction. The newcomers had a difficult time focusing on Gadu and me, and they constantly looked over their shoulders in the direction of the open building where the cooks were hard at work.

While we waited, I told them that some would stay here and some would go to the village to live. This was new to them, since I had not wanted Aron to have this information. I explained why they would be divided; that we wanted them to learn new skills and our language as quickly as possible. They seemed to understand my reasoning and accepted what they would do.

The ones that were going to the village were unhappy when they learned they would leave the following morning, but they cheered up immediately when dinner was ready. All the newcomers ate voraciously, filling their plates with the unusual food, the likes of which they had never before seen. Both the plates and eating utensils were new to them, and though some tried to use the utensils, most didn’t even bother and greedily scooped their food into their mouths using only their fingers.

Fortunately I had shown them how to wash their filthy hands with soap and water prior to eating. Though they obviously didn’t understand why this was required, everyone had obliged and had clean hands at the start of the meal. To our tribe it was a very simple meal, consisting of fresh bread and a hearty stew of carrots, potatoes and antelope that had been killed on the plains earlier that day. To the newcomers, who were used to existing almost entirely on roasted meat, this was a feast to be savored. As usual, potatoes and carrots had been cooked for me separate from the meat.

The people lived communally in several shared huts, but as the leader of the tribe Kalou and I had our own small hut. That night we talked about the newcomers, reminiscing about how our tribe had once been just as ragged and uncivilized, living in uncertainty and constant hunger.

As we laughed about how they had used their fingers to eat the stew, Kalou surprised me by suddenly asking, “Do you think your God sent you to us on purpose, so you could teach us your ways?”

In all our years together that thought had never crossed my mind, and I sat on the ground frozen with shock as I considered this possibility.

Kalou continued, “After we first discovered everything to eat in the forest, you said that you thought He had put all the plants and animals here to be discovered by us. Is it possible that all along you were the one that was supposed to discover them? I don’t think we ever would have learned how to do everything you’ve taught us on our own.”

My mind spun as I considered what Kalou said. In order for this to be true, in order for me to have been sent here by God to teach these people, He would have known long in advance that I would kill Abel, leave my home, and come to this land. This would mean either God knew I was going to kill Abel and did not stop me, or somehow He caused me to kill my brother.

I wanted to believe God was harsh, controlling and judgmental, but I knew in my heart He was a caring God. Though it was tempting to assign Him blame for my brother’s death, I immediately dismissed the thought. But as I thought back to His warnings that night while I lay in my bed, I realized that He did know where my heart was leading me.

With sudden insight I understood that God was intent on allowing mankind free will, no matter the cost. He gave us the ability to decide for ourselves whether we would do good or evil, and follow Him or sinful ways. God had warned me, but had allowed me to make my own decisions and follow my own path. I had chosen selfishness, rage and evil. It was my decisions alone that had brought me here, far from my family and everything I once had.

“Cain, Cain, are you alright? You are far away in thought, and your face is so sad.”

“Yes, I’m fine Kalou… I think you are partially right. Though God did not send me here, He knew in advance that I would come. God gives all people free will to make our own decisions and does not force us to do anything, but He knows everything that will occur long before it happens. So yes, I think it is possible that the plants were put there so I could discover them and teach you about them.”

“Your God is so different from our gods. I think He has much more power and wisdom.”

I laughed heartily. They talked so rarely about their gods that I had forgotten they actually believed there were gods other than the one God. I found this absurd, but humorous.

“Kalou, how can you still believe there are any gods besides the one true God, the creator of all there is?”

“Well, why shouldn’t we? You never talk about your God or do anything in honor of Him. Why should we believe in a God we know nothing about?”

This brought me up short and immediately quieted my laughter. She was right. I almost never spoke about God. I believed in His existence and took His power for granted, but for many years I had been angry and resentful, and I had tried not to think about Him.

Why? Unasked for this question came into my head. Why was I angry at God? Why did I try to pretend He was not here? My face twisted as I tried to make sense of my thoughts, and suddenly I understood.

I had assigned to my own brother and God the blame for Abel’s death, taking none of the responsibility upon my own shoulders. I had been hurt by what I saw as God’s unjust favor of my brother, and offended by God’s statement that I did not give Him the correct sacrifice of my heart. In my selfishness and pride I had used that as an excuse for my actions. I had transferred my own guilt to God.

I had believed myself wiser than God, and it suddenly occurred to me that my ongoing thoughts and actions, the way I took credit for everything and never gave any thanks to God, showed that I obviously still believed this to be true in my heart. I was confused and unsure, uncertain what to do about this epiphany.

Once again Kalou questioned me, worry in her voice. “Cain, what’s going on? You’re so serious. You look like you are frightened. Is everything all right?”

I tried to reassure her, though my heart was filled with more doubts and questions than ever before in my life. “I’m sorry Kalou. I’m fine, I just need to think. I hadn’t realized that I never taught you about God.”

This sounded ridiculous even to my own ears, but I quickly said good night and lay down to sleep, turning my back to Kalou.

 

He is scared; I have never seen that look on his face. Something just happened, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. But maybe thinking about his God will stop Cain from always putting himself and what he wants before the tribe.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Four

 

After a sleepless night, I left the hut early the next morning. I was troubled by the insights I now had into my behavior and unsure of what, if anything, I needed to change. I could see that I had made many mistakes in my life, and I was guilty of doing many things that at the time I either hadn’t realized or hadn’t cared were wrong. But I had come to no conclusions as I lay on my back staring up the thatched roof. I didn’t know where to go from here.

I rose with more questions than when I lay down, and I felt more confused than ever before in my life. The only thing I knew to do was lose myself in my work, like I had always done in the past. To make sure I was so busy that I didn’t have time to question my decisions or think about God. I couldn’t run away forever, but I wasn’t ready to face myself yet.

Kalou would stay at the city to lead in my place while I went to the village. I started early with the twenty-five newcomers, as well as seventeen members of our tribe that would be returning to their families. Though we were outnumbered I had no fear; I could probably defeat all five of their men by myself.

It took most of two days to return to the village, and on our arrival we were greeted joyfully, especially by the families of the returning men and women.

Everyone looked with such uncertainty at the newcomers that I almost laughed, but I quickly called the tribe to attention. I divided the newcomers and sent them home with the people they would live with while they learned our ways, and they were quickly settled into the huts they would stay in until the city was ready. It was now late in the evening, so everyone went to the fire where we enjoyed a delicious meal together, with the newcomers once again greedily eating everything that was placed before them.

I stayed two full days, discussing with Cadune and the other leaders how things were going in the village and filling them in on our progress with the city. I also met with the tribe, and everyone was pleased when I described how quickly and well the building was progressing.

I and the new workers from the village would return to the city with more seeds and many additional trees that would be planted for our orchards and groves. This cycle would be repeated as we continued to build the city and prepare for the move to our new home.

In three trips we had transferred enough seed and seedlings to plant all the fields for the city, though we continued to transfer immature fruit and olive trees for several more trips. Within four months everything needed for farming was done. The fields were planted, the irrigation ditches and fences were complete, and the storage sheds which were needed for the animals and farming tools were built.

The newcomers adapted quickly to our culture. They were enthusiastically open to any new foods we offered them, and most of them had a real desire to learn everything they could. It quickly became obvious that while they were good workers and would do anything we asked, they especially wanted to farm and enjoyed working with plants. I found this interesting, since to my knowledge they had never grown anything before joining us.

One day, as I stood with Gadu watching several of the newcomers eagerly question Lataan on the purpose behind putting manure on the farm fields, I asked him to enlighten me about their interest in farming.

Gadu looked at me seriously and said, “I don’t have this interest, so I’ve been wondering the same thing. I asked a few of the men and they couldn’t really explain it, but I think I’ve figured out why they’re so interested in growing. In the north we never seemed to get enough to eat, and the only thing we had was meat. Your tribe at least had potatoes and some berries to eat, but we didn’t.”

“While building the houses and all that sort of thing is fine, growing your own food is incredible for people that were almost starving on a daily basis. Putting seeds in the ground and having food come from them is a miracle. Though the men can’t explain themselves, I think they want to farm because they feel like they are doing the work of the gods by giving food to the people.”

I asked, “The work of the gods is giving food to the people?”

Gadu looked at me curiously, as if he wondered why I asked such an obvious question. “Well yes, the gods give us the food we eat; they bring us the wild goats, antelope and deer. Without the gods’ favor, we would not have any meat.”

“Do you need to do anything for the gods in order for them to give you the meat?”

“Not really. After the kill we drain the animals’ blood onto the ground in the gods’ honor, but that is all.”

I thought back to my first day with the tribe, and how I had killed a deer with a thrown stone. Though at the time I was shocked to see the blood flow from the deer’s slit throat, even now I remembered the reverence with which Nadar performed that action, and the way all the hunting party paused.

“Yes, this tribe does the same thing to honor their gods.”

“But I remember how you said to Aron when you first met that you believed in only one God; a God which had all power. Is this not what all your tribe believes?”

I said, “No, only me, but I will begin to teach everyone of the only God when we all live in the city.”

The words were out of my mouth before I knew they were coming. What had I just said, and why would I even think this? For years I had pretended that God wasn’t on this side of the wasteland. I acted as if I alone controlled my world and everything in it. Why would I even mention God to these people?

Gadu nodded, “Good, you are a wise man and great teacher. If you believe there is only one God, I want to hear of it.”

Later, as I thought back over my conversation with Gadu, I realized that I offered to teach the people about God because I knew it was the right thing to do. I did not want to see these people worshiping things that didn’t exist, gods that weren’t there, when the true and only God was a fact. I felt compelled to give the people all the information about God that I could, and then let them decide for themselves what they would do and who they would worship.

Though I had failed, I knew God had created man to be good and do what was right. The gods the tribe followed carried no moral or ethical weight; these gods seemed to exist only in the people’s minds to provide them with food and other necessities. Their gods were an invention designed by the people themselves.

I decided that once we were all together in the city I really would tell them everything I could about God. I would tell them the truth so they could know about the Creator of the world and the standards he had set for mankind. Only then would the people be able to make their own educated decisions about about right and wrong, good and evil, and how they would live in this world.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Five

 

The planting was done and the crops were growing well, all the farm buildings were complete and we were well over halfway done with the construction of the city. Just before bedtime one evening, Kalou suddenly looked over at me and said, “Cain, we need to talk.”

I was at the table with the plans trying to decide if we needed to build another storage barn before we occupied the city, but I immediately looked at her, concerned. There was an odd tone in her voice. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong!” she said, laughing. “Why do you say that?”

“Well, you’ve never said we needed to talk before. And… I don’t know, you sounded kind of strange when you said it.”

“It’s not so much we need to talk but that I need to tell you something.” After a long pause, she finally blurted out, “We’re going to have a baby.”

For some reason my mind couldn’t seem to understand what she had said. I just sat there staring at her blankly. Eventually my mouth worked and I said, “A baby? Now?”

She got a good long laugh out of that. “No, not now,” she finally managed. “It will take a few more months, probably about four. I think I am over halfway through my time. I have been so busy with the city that I have not had a moment to even think about myself, but I have felt very peculiar. I have gotten heavy, I am always hungry and I get tired so very easily.”

“This morning when I went to get some extra food from the cooks, I mentioned that I always seem to be hungry. Alata, the old woman who makes the very good sweetbreads, asked me when the baby would come. I was confused, since I did not know what she meant. She laughed very hard, and then said, ‘Girl, how can you not know you are with child? All the women in the kitchen have known for two moons!’”

“How could they know? They only see you twice a day.”

“I asked her the same thing. She said that usually a woman will become with child soon after she takes a husband, and since I had gained weight and was so hungry all the time, there was no doubt.”

Now that I’d had a few moments to think and comprehend that I was going to become a father, I was overjoyed. I was also nervous, scared and a host of other emotions, but mainly I was overjoyed. I gently took Kalou’s hands in mine. “Kalou, we’re going to be parents! We are going to have a baby!”

She laughed at me. “Yes, I know, Cain. So you are happy?”

“Yes, I’m very happy! I think you will be a wonderful mother; you are such a good person.”

But, I thought, I don’t know what kind of father I will be. Then I had another thought, “Kalou, you need to stop working so much. I have given you too much responsibility for the city and you never have a chance to rest.”

“No, I think I am fine, I don’t need to work less. But I do need more rest, and I need to sit down more often. I get very tired when I am on my feet too much and when I have to walk all over the city to check on things.”

“All right. I’ll do anything that I can, just tell me. There is no reason that you need to walk all over the city every day. People can come to you to tell you how things are progressing and what they need.”

I had an idea. “You can spend your time in the public building. It is complete, and you can hear the river from there and be comfortable. The people will come to you, and when you do need to check on something, it is central to all the work and you won’t have to walk too far.”

She smiled broadly, lighting up the room. “That’s a good idea Cain. I’m glad you’re happy about the baby. So am I.”

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Six

 

It took a total of five months to build the entire city. While the city was being completed, the fields were nurtured to fruition using everything I had learned and been able to teach the tribe about farming, from irrigation to using manure to help the plants grow larger and stronger.

The fields were truly magnificent. They stretched as far as the eye could see; the wheat fields were almost ready to harvest and the fruit and vegetable plants were healthy and loaded with produce. Though none of the trees would produce this year, every other crop was excellent. Since the crops were almost ready to harvest, we would soon have enough food and we could begin to move the rest of the people to the city.

The city proper also was ready. The storage barns were complete and ready to accept the fields’ bounty, and all the houses had been built and were ready to be occupied. All the people had worked very hard and built a beautiful city; a city they could be proud to live in.

I especially liked the public building, the one in which I would hold my court. It sat on the edge of the river, with a large fire pit and plenty of space for gathering and talking, something I knew the people would take full advantage of as soon as they arrived.

When the two tribes combined, the total number of people living in the city would be about two hundred. Though we had built extra houses, I knew that enlarging the city by building more homes and public buildings would be a continuing job.

Since we had improved the health and eating habits of our tribe there were now many more births than deaths, and I expected the same thing to happen with the northern tribe as they embraced our way of living. Also, the northern tribe had lacked women, and once we were more comfortable with each other I expected there to be marriages, which would mean more children.

Additionally, I still planned to eventually bring the two other tribes into the city to make one combined tribe. At that point I would be the leader of the only kingdom on earth, which would make me the most powerful man on earth.

All that remained was to move the people and their personal belongings, along with the rest of the farming implements and the animals, from the old village to the new city.

I had decided our tribe should arrive first, before the northern tribe. Since I expected life to be chaotic for a time once the Northerners arrived, I wanted our people to choose their homes and get settled into the routine of life in the new city. It should not take long, but they would still need some time to feel at home.

Gadu would leave for the northern village the same day I left for my village. Though my tribe had much more to transport to the city, given that his journey was much longer, my people would be here sooner and have plenty of time to get settled in before the northern tribe arrived.

I wanted to make sure there was complete integration of the two tribes into one, so I decreed that when my tribe chose the homes in which they would live, there could be no more than two homes in a row with inhabitants from our tribe. This would insure that everyone would have people living next to them from the other tribe.

The Northerners that had been in the village and the city with us had become almost fully integrated into our tribe. They had been among us for about five months, and in that time had learned enough of our language to easily communicate. They could do almost any work our tribe could do, and although they were not yet experts at some of the more complex jobs like weaving and making small wooden objects, they had become very good farmers.

As in any group of people, there were a few individuals that were difficult to get along with, but for the most part the Northerners were well liked and they behaved the same as anyone from our tribe.

Once the city was fully complete, I allowed everyone to chose and move into their homes. Catto, Gadu and I made sure that this was a very methodical operation, with the homes chosen and agreed upon in advance, and the newcomer’s houses mixed in amongst our tribe members. The move out of the communal huts in the temporary camp went smoothly, and everyone was thrilled to finally be in their own house.

Kalou and I also moved into our new home, but since I was going back to the village for the big move to the city and she was well along in her pregnancy, Alata, one of the older women in the tribe, agreed to stay with Kalou until I returned.

While I was gone, Catto would be in charge of completing the final tasks on the last few houses, and breaking down and removing the temporary camp that we had all lived in for the last five months. Though it had served us well, that space was part of the animal pastures that we would need when I returned from the village.

Two days after we moved into our new homes, Gadu and I left for our villages. Gadu traveled with ten other men, while I went alone, with fifteen men following behind at their own pace.

Every month when we had traveled from the village back to the city we had transported as much of the food, animals and equipment as we could manage. But even with so much already moved, there was still an enormous amount of work to do. We had to carry the belongings of every family in the village back to the city, move most of the animals, and transport the remainder of the large, bulky items.

We would use the cattle to pull slides, which were harnessed to them much like a plow. The cattle could pull the slides easily, and on them we would place the larger items such as looms and heavy farm implements that were too heavy for a person to carry. The cattle had pulled slides loaded with grain and other items on the earlier trips, which had saved the backs of many men.

When I entered the village I could see the people were ready to load up, and I felt the anticipation in the air. I was in high spirits and found Cadune as soon as I arrived. “It looks like everybody’s ready to move!”

“Yeah, we’ve been working hard since your last trip. We can leave whenever you want; almost everything is packed and ready to go.”

“Excellent, the rest of the men will be here tomorrow, so we’ll leave the morning after that. How is everyone doing?”

“They’re looking forward to being back together as a tribe, but many of them are very sad. The people that are still here are the young families and the very old. The elderly have lived in this village for many, many years, and most of the women that are still here have never been farther than the nearest spot that they could gather potatoes. These are the least adventurous people in the tribe, and this move is very difficult for them.”

“I understand. Change is never easy, and there has been nothing but change since I arrived in the village. But I believe all the changes have shown to be for the best, and so too will this. Though it will be different, it will be better.”

“I agree, but change doesn’t always look good when it’s happening, does it?”

I couldn’t disagree with that. Cadune and I would talk more that evening, so I went to check on the farm tools, to make sure we left enough behind for the men that would be staying in the village. I was going to leave a small group of unmarried men here for the rest of the growing season to take care of what little remained of the crops. When the final harvest was brought in the produce would be transferred to the city. After that the only reason for going back to the village would be to gather fruit and olives from the trees, which we would need to do for a few years, until our new trees were fully productive.

I spent what was left of the day going over the preparations. Cadune had been very thorough, and we were as ready as we could possibly be.

Dinner the following night had a subdued air. Leaving their homes and all they had ever known was very difficult for these people. There were more than a few tears shed around the fire that night, but eventually everyone went off to their huts. I did not sleep, and in the morning I woke the village at the break of dawn. I knew that no matter how prepared we were, it would still take a lot of time to get everyone moving in the right direction.

The morning went as I expected, with some confusion and questions, but well before the sun had climbed to midway we were moving steadily towards the city. The travel between the city and the village during the previous five months had worn the grass down to the bare ground and made a noticeable trail, and this made the journey a little easier.

But even though the road was easy, we would still be slow. Traveling by myself I could make this trip in about half a day if I pushed. A group of men moving quickly could do it in an easy two days. Our previous trips with supplies and animals had taken a long, hard two days, pushing from sunup to sundown. Given that we travelled with the elderly and the young, all that we had to carry and all the animals we herded, this trip would take much longer. If things went smoothly, I hoped to arrive by the evening meal four days hence.

Once again I was impressed by the resiliency and strength of my people. Though the trip was difficult for them, they pushed themselves hard to make the best progress they possibly could. Because of this we arrived at the city before midday on the fourth day.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind. The move had been well planned and Kalou and Catto had everything ready for our arrival, but it was still extremely hectic. I was occupied with making sure the animals got into the correct pastures and were fed and watered, the farm tools were put away in the proper places, and the stores of food were placed into the public barns. It was dark before I finally got home, where I found Kalou waiting for me with a plate of food.

I was so glad to see her. Since she was in charge of getting the people moved into their new homes and was also swamped with responsibilities, we had barely seen each other all day.

After a long embrace I asked her, “So how did it go today? Is everyone in their new homes? Are they happy?”

She smiled, a weary smile, but a smile nonetheless. “Yes, they’re finally moved in. And I think that everyone, even the old ones, is very happy with the city and their new homes. Tomorrow will be a day of new beginnings, of finishing moving in and showing everyone where things are in the city.”

She continued, “The ladies that have been cooking for us are going to have a great feast tomorrow night at the public house. They have been getting ready for days, and it will be incredible. But how about you? You look exhausted. How was the trip?”

We talked for a short time about what I had done the last few days, but we were both so tired that we were soon asleep, my plate of food untouched.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Seven

 

The tribe was able to adjust to their new routine in the city with minimal difficulty, and the days passed quickly. I had been keeping watch, so when Gadu returned with the northern people I was expecting them. Though their journey took longer, they actually traveled much faster than we had, since they had no animals, farm implements or supplies to carry. They arrived with little more than the clothes they wore, carrying their meager possessions in furs on their backs.

The Northerners which had been living in the village and those that had remained in the city when Gadu went north were already living in their new homes. They had prepared the houses where the rest of their tribe would live so the newcomers to the city were able to move into their homes immediately, and their transition was eased by the familiarity of those in their tribe that had been living with us for the past five months.

The differences were stark between the Northerners that had been living with us, and those that arrived that day with their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open in surprise. Those that had been with us were now so similar in appearance to our tribe that you could not pick them out in a crowd.

On the other hand, the newcomers were almost frightening in their appearance. Clothed in furs, their faces gaunt and drawn, they had a hungry, feral appearance that made them look much less human than us. It was times like this when I realized how important the civilization that I had brought to these people really was.

With Gadu’s leadership and the help of those that had been living with us, moving into their homes went as smoothly as it possibly could. I made sure to find Aron later that day to pass on my respects to him as the past leader of his tribe, and to make sure the shift to my leadership remained unquestioned. As we talked, I was once again impressed with his quick mind, while his shifty, greedy eyes constantly reminded me of his untrustworthiness.

“Welcome Aron, I am glad you made it here safely. Did you encounter any problems along the way? How did your tribe fair in the last months while we built the city?”

“Our daily lives went as they always have, though it was a little more difficult to get the meat we needed since some of our strongest hunters were here playing in the dirt. But we made it through alive, and now here we are in the city of kings!” he finished emphatically, watching closely to see my reaction to his sarcastic conclusion.

I ignored his tone of voice, but I answered him honestly and firmly, looking him straight in the eye while I spoke. “Life will be very good here for your people. They will live well, and they will grow strong and healthy… as long as everyone remembers that there is only one king in this city.”

He was visibly surprised by my answer, perhaps expecting me to be more subtle in my statement about my position. But I saw no reasons to be subtle any longer. I had been working towards this goal for over seven years, and now that I had finally arrived in the position of power I deserved I would not be weak.

He recovered quickly and asked with the hint of sarcasm still in his voice, “And how should your people address you, my king?”

“Cain will be fine, I need no title. The title a man holds means nothing; the power he wields means everything.”

“I agree. In my many years of life I have seen that it is often easy to take power, but difficult to hold it. I have been the only leader of my tribe for years uncounted, and this is not by accident.”

“I understand, but you must understand that your time is now over, and should you not agree with me you will not have a chance to enjoy the good life in this city. We are now one tribe, and the people from your tribe that have been with us understand this and are happy with their new lives. I do not think they would be willing to go back to their old ways,” I paused and again looked in his shifty eyes, “or their old leadership.”

“Perhaps you are correct Cain, but then again one never knows what the future will bring.” With this last statement he turned, and calling out a greeting to a member of his tribe that had been in the city, he left me.

I was pleased with our conversation. I had made my position absolutely clear to Aron, and if there was any treachery on his part I had no doubt what my swift response would be. I almost hoped he would try to rebel against my leadership, as his death would serve to prove a point to any who thought they could oppose me. From this point on, I was in complete control.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Eight

 

Almost three months to the day after we moved into the city my first son was born. I named him Enoch, and in his honor I also gave the name Enoch to the city I had built. Kalou was strong, and the birth went well for both mother and child. Though her pain was great, as childbirth always is, she recovered quickly and was soon back to full strength.

Enoch was healthy and beautiful at birth, and soon after he was born it became apparent that Enoch favored me both in coloring and size. He had my eyes and hair, which were both lighter than his mother’s, and he was large and very strong. It gave me great pleasure to know I would have a son that followed after me, one which I could train to be like me and lead the people as I did.

After everyone moved into the city I started the practice that on the first day of the week I would hold court in the public building. This was a time for anyone that had a grievance to be heard. All parties involved had a chance to speak, and the grievance could be against anyone, for any reason. At these meetings I would uphold the law as I saw it, and I would do my best to speak words of truth.

I tried to be just and fair, and although I know I made mistakes, I did my best. Kalou would sit by my side at these meetings to emphasize that she was second in power in the city, and I would sometimes quietly consult with her. I wanted to make the point, subtle but sure, that leadership of the city stayed in my family; that Kalou was second after me and someday my son would lead the people.

I heard through people loyal to me that for a time Aron tried to stir up the Northerners regarding what he called the oppression of my leadership. But everyone was busy farming and establishing their households, and since they enjoyed the abundance of food and their new city, no one gave any credence to his words and he quickly faded into obscurity.

I was the leader of the city and my absolute authority was recognized by everyone, but I had an established hierarchy of leaders under me. I met with my three top men Catto, Cadune and Gadu every week, and they would follow my direction to ensure the city operated smoothly and in an organized manner.

When Enoch was six months old I went to Kalou and told her that I needed to go on a journey and she would lead the city in my absence. Life was very good both at home and in the city. Enoch was healthy and growing, and we were all content, and she wasn’t happy to hear me say I was going away. She could tell from the way I spoke that this was not a normal trip to the old village, and she became alarmed. Even now, Kalou still had not resigned herself to the fact that I was cursed to be restless, and I could not stay put for long before my nature forced me to push ahead.

She began to question me, “What’s going on? Where are you going? How long will you be gone?”

“Kalou, calm down. Everything’s going to be fine. You knew this would happen sooner or later. It’s time for me to bring the other tribes into the city. I’m going to travel to the south first; they’re the next tribe I want to join with us. Next year, or perhaps the year after that I will go across the great river, and the eastern tribe will also have to join with us. Then I’ll be done, and I won’t leave our home any more than I have to.”

Kalou looked at me with concern, “You make it sound so easy Cain, like you’re just going to walk into their villages and ask them to move far across the land to a new home and a new tribe. You think they’ll be so thrilled that they will just follow after you! But what if they don’t want to join with us? What if they fight with you and try to hurt you? What if something happens along the way, fierce animals or sickness or treachery? It’s a very long journey to either of those villages, and anything can happen. What would we do without you?”

“Kalou, do you forget what I did all those years before we were married? I traveled this entire land. I was always gone for many weeks, and sometimes months at a time. And you know no person can harm me since I still have the mark of God upon me. Nothing is going to happen to me; I am the smartest, strongest man in the land. These people are weak and ignorant, and I need to bring them into our city for their own good. That has always been my plan, to join all the people together under my rule, and I won’t rest until it is done.”

“Look how happy the people that were once Northerners are. Those that came early and helped us build the city are barely recognizable from us anymore. They speak our language fluently, and they are some of our best farmers. They have happily learned and accepted our ways in little more than a year. None of the Northerners would ever go back to their old life, of living from day to day in little huts and eating only meat. I know that what I did to make them join us was the right thing, even if I did it for selfish reasons and not just for their good.”

“Now I will go to these other tribes and I will tell them of our ways. I will bring other men with me, and we will have our food and clothing and our weapons. I will show evidence to these people of the superior way of life in my city. It will be obvious to them that we are a people of strength and power, a people that is better than they are. They will want to follow me!”

After I finished speaking Kalou just looked at me in silence for a few moments, until finally she said quietly, “And what if you are wrong? What if they see what you call our superior ways, and they still don’t want to join with us?”

“As you can imagine Kalou, not joining us isn’t going to be an option for them. I made the decision long ago that every tribe in this land will become one tribe under my leadership.”

“Why Cain, why must you force everyone to join with us? Why not leave them alone and let them live their lives as they wish?”

I looked at her, concerned, “Kalou, don’t you know after all these years? You still don’t understand? I am smarter and stronger, and I know what is best. I need to change these tribes into a people that are like me. A man made in God’s own image.”

She looked into my eyes for a very long time, and at last she spoke, “When you were made in God’s image were you made to be like Him physically, or were you made to be like Him in your soul and your mind, in the way you think and act and know right from wrong? From what I have learned through you, I think your God wants you to be like Him in your heart, in the way you love and act with others. I do not think God made you in His image in order for you to force all people to live like you want them to live, under your rule in a city of your making.”

It disturbed me that Kalou would question my heart and the reasons for my actions. That was what my brother and God had done so many years ago, and though I now realized my thoughts had not been right at that time, I had grown more selfless. I taught the people all that I knew and I led them the best I could, and although I did some things for my own gain and to achieve the goals I had set for myself, it was also to help them. I did nothing for purely selfish reasons.

A scowl came to my face, and trying to control my emotions I spoke through tight lips, “What God wants is not the issue. I know what I need to do and why. All people must come into our tribe under my leadership. It is for their own good. I decided this long ago, and I will not stop until I have finished what I started.”

 

“Whenever I start to believe that he has really changed, the old Cain comes through. He still thinks that he is superior to us. He can’t see that it’s only our bodies that are different. When will he understand that our minds and souls are the same as his?”

 

Kalou opened her mouth to say something, but paused and after a moment closed it and slowly shook her head. Finally she said, “You will do what you will do, and I cannot stop you or talk sense to you. But someday I think you will learn the truth of what your God wants from you. I only hope you learn before it is too late.”

I consciously decided not to continue this conversation. She was getting too close to areas I preferred not to speak of. “Now you speak in riddles. Don’t worry Kalou; I will come back to you and Enoch safe and sound. ”

“I am sure you will Cain, but it is not your body I am worried about.”

The next day I told my leaders of my plans for leaving. While they had known this was something I desired to do, they were still surprised that I was actually going.

I laid out all the details for them. I would take ten of our largest and strongest men, and we would be clean and groomed and clothed in our finest woolen garb, carrying our bows and finely made spears and knives. We would have with us food that could travel for a long distance, bread and cheese, dried meats and fruits. Even dried foods that were made for travel would be better than anything these people had ever seen.

I would talk with the leaders of their tribe and convince them of the superiority of our ways, how they should join us and become like us, strong and healthy.

They nodded as I spoke, understanding my plan. When I was done speaking, the first question out of Catto’s mouth was the same as Kalou’s had been.

“But what if they don’t want to join with us?”

“As Gadu knows, I can be very persuasive. I will demonstrate the superiority of our ways. When they taste the food we have brought them, see our fine clothes, our strong men and the power of our bows, they will be persuaded. After they have seen all this and are told their only choice is to join us, they will not refuse.”

Gadu spoke up, “Though it was humbling to be forced to leave our homes, everyone is now happier. We have plenty of food and a much better life. But it is not an easy thing, and a strong leader could convince his people it is better to fight than join. We were easily defeated by you in battle, and we saw all your food with our own eyes. If this had not happened I don’t think Aron would have been convinced, and we almost certainly would have fought before joining. I think you need to be prepared for them to refuse, because that is a strong possibility.”

I nodded, “I understand. I will make it perfectly clear that if they refuse me I will return with many men, and they will be forced to join us anyway. All people must live in this city; it is not an option to disagree with me. Someday people will go out from here and start new cities, but first everyone must live here and become like us. If I need to use force to make people become civilized, I will do so.”

They all nodded, even though I don’t think everyone was pleased by my statements. I told them we would leave in three days time, and we discussed which men should go with me. Early in the morning three days later we gathered at the public house, where we put on the heavy packs containing everything we needed for our journey to the southern tribe.

We wore our finest clothes dyed in deep hues of many colors, and we carried our bows, arrows and both throwing spears and stabbing spears. With our large size and colorful garb we looked like a special group, and I knew there was no way we could be denied.

The southern village was many leagues away, and I expected the journey there to take at least fourteen days of steady walking. I did not expect to return to the city for over a month, and although I would almost certainly return unharmed, there was always the possibility that we would have to do battle with the other tribe.

If this was the case, there was no certainty that all of us would return to the city. Everyone knew this was a possibility, which was why most of the men we had chosen were single. After saying good-bye to our friends and families we started to the south, taking the first steps of a very long journey.

We passed through our old village on the second day and rested there. We no longer had anybody living in the village, having taken the last of this year’s harvest to the new city. We would return to harvest the fruit and olive trees again next year, but the village was beginning to fall into disrepair. That night we ate some apples we were able to gather from the trees, and we left early the next morning with potatoes and carrots gleaned from the old fields.

It had been several years since my last trip south and the journey was longer than I remembered, but this was probably because I was forced to travel more slowly. Though we passed through occasional woodlands, the wide, flat plains stretched far before us. It was difficult to get enough meat for the men since we stayed in the valley to travel faster, but I went into the forest to our west every couple days, coming back each time with a deer.

We pushed ourselves hard and were able to make excellent time, reaching the southern hills that separated our section of the valley from theirs in only twelve days. The southern hills were fairly low, and covered with an older forest which continued down to the floor of the great valley.

The hills served as a minor barrier, really more of a defining line, separating the wide, grassy plains of the northern end of the valley where my tribe lived from the remainder of the plains that continued on far to the south.

About five years earlier I had traveled to the southern end of the great valley to explore the tall mountains that formed the border; to see what they held, and perhaps even venture through them and beyond. It had taken me weeks of steady travel to reach the mountains, and I had not liked in the least what I found at the end of the journey. Fierce lizards, huge and frightening, the like of which I had never dreamed of in my worst nightmares, roamed those soaring mountains and the valleys held within them. In only a few days I was overjoyed to exit that mountain range with my life.

On my way south I had passed east of the village moving fast on the plains, but I took the time to observe their village in secret on my slower return journey.

The valley was much the same on the southern side of the dividing hills as it was where we lived; broad plains interspersed with occasional young woodlands. In all my travels I had discovered that there was little difference anywhere in this huge valley from one place to another, except for the water supply. While there was an abundance of streams that could support a village of hunters, there was a limited supply of rivers large enough to support a city that wanted to grow crops.

We camped for the night on our side of the hills, less than two days from the Southerners village. We had not seen any sign of hunters, which was as I expected since they would normally hunt either on the far side of these hills or in the foothills of the western mountains. Even so, it was possible that we had been seen, so that night I scouted far ahead, ranging almost to their village, but I saw no activity. By morning I was confident we had not been spotted, and if we were careful in our travels through the hills tomorrow, our arrival would be a complete surprise.

We moved slowly and carefully the following day, and were able to camp less than a league from their village, in a small hollow where we could rest unseen. That evening I scouted to the very edge of the woodland near their village, which was set in an excellent location. They had placed it on the edge of the plains, tucked in the crook where the dividing hills joined the range of mountains which ran to the north and south. The tribe had ready access to the forest for hunting and foraging, and a small stream ran out of the mountains and flowed just north of their village, providing them with ample water.

The following day when the sun was high in the sky I emerged from the woodlands, walking slowly and carefully through the tall grass towards the village. I had chosen this time to approach because I knew the village would be least occupied at midday, which would eliminate some of their advantage in numbers. Most of the tribe’s hunters would be in the forest, and many women would be out foraging for potatoes or berries. I assumed the tribe’s elders would not go hunting, and that was who I needed to talk with today.

I was followed at a distance by my men. Though they could be clearly seen, they were far enough away that a spear would not be able to reach them. At that distance they would not pose a great threat, and since there were only ten of them the village should still contain enough men to outnumber us. Little would the villagers know that with my men’s bows and throwing spears we could kill at least twenty of their men before they ever knew what had happened.

I was noticed by some children playing in the grasslands soon after I exited the woods, and by the time I got within a stone’s throw of the village everyone was there, watching me as I approached. Every available man, about twenty from what I could see, was standing at the front of the group with their spears held ready. The people looked just as I had expected; thin, dirty, and clothed in animal skins. There were probably close to sixty people all together, and every single one of them seemed to be shouting as loud as possible in the old language, the gist of the outcry being that I should stop where I was.

I finally did so once I was close enough to make them a little uncomfortable, and lifting my hands to show I was unarmed, I called out in the old language, “Greetings, I am Cain. May I speak with your elders?”

My question silenced them briefly, but almost immediately they began talking more quietly among themselves while watching me and my men, who continued to stay well back from the village. I waited, my hands raised and open. After an extended discussion two older men and one younger man broke away from the crowd and slowly approached me. When they had closed approximately half the distance between us they stopped and called out to me, “You come to us alone.”

I wanted to make the villagers believe we posed no threat, so in the old language I shouted over my shoulder to my men, “Sit down and rest.”

I walked forward to join them, keeping my hands up and open. Their eyes were drawn to my head as I approached, and as I closed the gap I saw the familiar looks of uncertainty and fear come over their faces. The men I now stood directly in front of, and the larger group of men, women and children at the villages’ edge all stared in silence. Even from a distance the villagers could see I was not to be harmed.

Even if they had not seen my mark, I was still an imposing sight. I was significantly taller and broader than they were, and with my coloring and clothes I appeared alien in every way. My appearance combined with the mark I carried had thrown them into confusion.

When I reached the men I said, “Greetings, I am Cain. We have travelled far to come to your village.”

The oldest man of the three had recovered his composure, and he spoke bluntly, “Why are you here?”

I had studied the men as I approached, and I thought he would be the leader. The youngest man held a spear and I was confident he was there only to protect the two older men, while the other older man had seemed hesitant and trailed back as they walked towards me. The speaker had come towards me boldly, watching me carefully the entire way. I saw no fear in his eyes now as he looked me up and down, only curiosity and assessment.

I had expected this question, and I gave the speech I had prepared to tell them just what I wanted them to know. “We are from the village far up the valley, the village your tribe left many, many moons past. We have known of your village and have wanted to visit you in friendship. We bring you gifts of food, and hope to tell you of our ways, ways which have given us much food, more than we can eat.”

As always with these people, food was the way to get their attention. The three men had been appraising me as I spoke, looking at my clothes, sandals, my fine knife, and repeatedly returning their eyes to the mark upon my head. At the mention of food every eye became fixed upon me, giving me their complete attention.

The leader questioned me, “Food, what do you mean you bring food? Do you kill too much meat for your tribe to eat?”

“We grow food in the ground by our village, and this food we eat with our meat. We grow more than we can eat, and as you can see,” and here I gestured over my shoulder to the men sitting on the ground far behind me, “we have grown large and strong because of all our food.”

My statement caused the confusion I expected, “What do you mean you grow your food in the ground? How can you do this?” asked the leader.

“If you want I can explain later how we grow our food. But we have carried much food here for you. The bags my men carry are heavy and full of many things to eat. If you allow they will approach and give you the bags, or if you want they will go back in the forest and leave the bags for you to gather. I would like you to have the food and I want to tell you what it is.”

The leader immediately said, “How do we know this food will not make us sick?”

I was impressed. This was a very good question, and not one many of these people would ask when offered food. “I or any of my men will eat the food with you, to show you it is good. We are here to help your people, not hurt you.”

As you would expect, he was still suspicious, “Why do you want to help us? What are we to you?”

I told him my standard lie, a lie I had spoken more times than I could count. “I have come to this land from far away. I came here to teach people my ways so they could live better lives. I have taught the people of the tribe you see with me, and they are now strong and healthy.”

He was persistent. “But why do this? Why do you care how we live?”

“I just want to help people,” I answered simply and somewhat honestly. In the last years I had realized that I really did want to help these people live better. It was no longer only about gaining power for myself.

He looked at me, accessing me carefully. After a long pause he finally said, “Alright. Have your men leave their bags and go back to the woods. I want only one man to remain with the bags, but he must hold no weapon.”

I called back over my shoulder to the men, relaying these instructions. They returned to the edge of the forest, leaving only Shadan, one of my most intelligent and trusted men.

Turning to his men, the leader indicated that some should get the packs. Curious and eager, ten men quickly ran out to where Shadan waited, and grabbing the bags they and Shadan returned to the village. I and the leaders joined them as all the people gathered around us in curiosity.

“Should we go to your fire, where we can taste and talk about this food?” I asked the leader.

He shook his head empathically, speaking loudly to everyone gathered around. “I want all our men around us with their spears ready should the other men return. All the women and children stay here to see this food.”

Speaking directly to me and Shadan he added, “You and your man give me your knives.”

Shadan looked at me and I nodded, and we both turned our knives over to the leader. “Keep that safe,” I said, “it is very precious to me and I will want it back.”

He examined my beloved knife closely and I could tell he was impressed. He said, “This is a fine blade and I shall return it when you leave us. Now, what have you brought?”

From that point on the afternoon passed very quickly. Before we started I insisted that we methodically go through each bag. I would take out the contents and Shadan and I would eat a small portion to show them it was safe. Then I would explain what the items of food were before giving any to the leaders and the people.

The first three bags I opened contained bread. I did this on purpose, because bread was an item absolutely foreign to them, something not grown in the ground but made from many different ingredients. We had brought several different types, plain wheat bread, bread with rosemary and other herbs baked in, and sweet bread with nuts and dried fruit inside.

The people were amazed at the flavor and variety, and though they did not understand when I explained how we grew the wheat and baked the bread, it was clear that they were impressed. They were even more impressed when I told them we lived many days to the north, and the bread was baked before we left.

Since I wanted to show them a bit of everything we were able to achieve with our civilization, we had brought more than just food. While the people tasted the bread I opened another bag, and taking out plates, spoons, and other cooking utensils, I explained what they were and how they were used. After this I took a bar of soap from the bag and explained its function. Soap seemed to make less sense to the people than the plates and spoons, but I thought it was necessary to try.

I took fine cloaks out of a bag and presented them to the two leaders. I told them how we had made the cloaks; that we raised sheep which provided the wool and then turned the wool into clothing. This silenced the crowd. They could not understand the concept of raising animals to provide food, much less making clothing out of their coats.

After they had eaten much of the bread and looked at the cloaks, kitchen utensils and soap, we began to go through the remaining bags. These bags contained various samples of delicious food and produce. We had brought with us an incredible variety of foods; shelled pecans and walnuts, olive oil, honey from our hives, fresh fruits and vegetables, and several types of dried meat and fish.

As they tasted the food I described to everyone what each item was; how it was grown, used and eaten. These different foods had been brought because they were both delicious to eat and easy to carry, and they also showed these people the full range of what we ate while emphasizing the limited diet on which they subsisted.

The tribe loved our food. I told them if the Elders would allow me, that evening I would make a meal for them from the meat their hunters killed combined with carrots, potatoes and spices. The leaders appeared uncomfortable with the idea of letting me stay and cook for them, but the people enthusiastically shouted their loud approval.

The entire time I had been talking and handing out the food and other items, Shadan had also been talking with the people. I had chosen Shadan to come with me because I knew the people would be comfortable with him in a way they could not be with me, since I was a foreigner and marked in a way they could not understand. But I specifically chose Shadan because he was tall, strong and handsome, as well as intelligent and friendly. Dressed in his woolen tunic, with sandals on his feet and clean hands and face, he emphasized the great contrast between us and the dirty, fur clothed men of their tribe.

I could see that the way several women of their tribe were openly staring at him was beginning to make Shadan uncomfortable, bringing a broad smile to my face.

Finally I couldn’t resist, and I said in our language, “Shadan, I don’t think you will have any trouble finding a mate in this tribe. Which one do you like? They all seem to want you.”

He didn’t think this was amusing, and he sounded a little worried as he replied, “That’s not funny Cain. Some of these women are getting touchy, and they’re actually starting to make me a little nervous.”

“That’s probably because in this tribe the women choose the mate.”

He took an abrupt step backwards as he literally shouted, making everyone around him jump in surprise. “What! Are you serious?”

I laughed so hard it hurt my sides, which caused everyone to fall silent as they stared at us. I quickly composed myself, and in the old language apologized and told them I was having a little fun with my friend. Everyone returned their focus to the food, but the elders immediately asked about the language Shadan and I had spoken.

Not wanting to give too much away, I told them it was the common language we used as a tribe, since all the tribes in the land had slightly different tongues. This was true, even using the old language it was sometimes difficult for us to talk. Although the old language was the original common tongue, over time each tribe had developed unique words and inflections, so they all spoke somewhat differently.

They immediately wanted more information about the other tribes we interacted with, being both suspicious and curious about what I had just said. I had hoped for this reaction and asked them if we could speak privately. By this time we had gone through all the packs, and the people had excitedly tasted everything they could get their hands on. The elders put their heads together and conversed briefly while looking at me occasionally over their shoulders, and then turned back to me and nodded.

As the leader motioned me to follow and turned towards the village, he shouted out orders. “Leave the rest of the food alone! We will taste more later, after the hunters return.”

He put a strong man in charge with orders to keep close watch on Shadan, as well as the rest of my men, who could be seen far across the field sitting at the edge of the forest. Then telling several additional men to come with us, he led me to a hut in the center of the village.

This meeting felt very much like the one I had with Garon years before. Even the hut was similar, small and closed in, with no hole to let out smoke. I sat facing the two tribal elders who were flanked by strong men with spears, while two additional men stood behind me.

I was impressed. I felt the elders had reacted very capably to our sudden appearance. They had set up guards and been suitably suspicious of our intentions. In my opinion they had acted appropriately, in such a way as to show me they were both wise and strong. I believed that what I now had to say would not be dismissed out of hand, nor would it be taken lightly.

After we sat the leader looked me up and down for a long time, and then simply said, “Talk.”

Once again I introduced myself, “I am Cain, and I am a foreigner to this land. I came to live with the tribe from north of here many years ago. I came to help the people live better; to show them how to grow food to eat and raise animals that would cloth them and be their food. I was successful. As you can see from Shadan, the people are healthy and strong. The food is abundant, and the tribe has grown to many people, with many new babies. Everyone is happy.”

“We were joined by another tribe, a tribe that lived even farther to the north. That tribe had only meat to eat, and never enough of it. They wanted to live like us with plentiful food to make them strong. Together we built a new, larger village, one with good huts to live in and many large huts just to hold all the extra food we grow.”

Here I paused, and the lead elder spoke, “I am Lakaan. I lead the people along with Jattar,” indicating the other elder. “I know that you did not come all this way just to give us gifts of food. Why are you here? Speak truthfully.”

I answered bluntly, with no attempt at deception, “I have come to offer you a new home with us. We want to help all the people of this land, and our tribe has a much better way to live. My people are happy. They have new tools and ways of hunting and growing food that have made their lives better in every way. We have land at our village and huts where you can live, and we want you to join us.”

I could see Lakaan was taken aback by my direct answer. There was a long silence as if everyone was holding their breath, as all in the room considered what I had said.

Finally Lakaan replied, “You called them your people. But you are a foreigner, different from all of us and even those in your own tribe. Also, you are a very young man. How is it that you are the leader of two tribes? What happened to their elders?”

I considered my answer, and then replied, “I am not so young as I look. I have walked the earth for many years, perhaps even longer than you have yet walked. I came from a far land, filled with much knowledge of how to grow food, raise animals and make tools to help people live better. In my land that was how we lived. Because of my wisdom, knowledge, and physical strength, I am the leader of all people that live in my village, and the elders acknowledge this. That is how it is, and how it will remain,” I finished firmly, looking Lakaan straight in the eye.

He considered me for a long time, and then said, “So you will live forever?”

Now this was a question no one had ever dared ask. Because of my physical abilities I knew many of my own people believed this was true, and it was in my best interests to let them continue to believe it.

I answered Lakaan quietly, “I do not know the answer to that question. Perhaps I will, but I believe my days are numbered, though I know they will be very, very long.”

He let that drop but continued to stare at me appraisingly, even while the other men in the room murmured back and forth. Eventually he spoke again, “Where does this mark that rests upon you come from? I know I cannot harm you, but I know not why. My heart is put in distress by even the thought of hurting you; though killing the man that is with you would not be a problem. What causes this mark and the knowledge of it within me?”

Here again I gave him a direct answer, though it was not entirely truthful. There was no reason to hide God from Lakaan. Even though the mark God had given me was because of the great evil I had done, I saw no reason that I should not make it appear to have been done as a good thing; something that was done to allow me to help people.

I told him, “There is only one God and He has power over all the earth. He has given me this mark as protection so none may harm me as I bring my ways to all people in this land.”

He immediately barked a short, harsh laugh, scoffing, “One God, that is stupid! Even a child knows many gods have control over the land.” Everyone in the hut joined him in laughter.

When the laughter began to die down, I quietly replied, “No, there is only one, and this is a fact. He gave me the mark you see, and this is but one small evidence of His existence. He has all power. He made the earth and everything on it. There are no other gods except ones you have created in your own mind.”

The quiet, confident tone in which I made this statement caused all in the room to stop their laughter, looking at me in surprise and curiosity.

After another long moment while he considered my mark closely, Lakaan finally said with a hint of uncertainty in his voice, “You cannot prove a God.”

Looking then to the man seated beside him he continued, “I will discuss this with Jattar and we will give you our answer after the meal, but I see no reason to join your tribe. Our people are happy here. We already have huts to live in and animals and potatoes in the forest to eat. We have lived here for moons uncounted. Your food is no reason for us to leave the land of our fathers and live in your village under your rule.”

I nodded, and once again I spoke. I had left this for last, not wanting to make any unnecessary threats. “There is one last thing I must tell you. In addition to the food we grow and the animals we raise, I have brought to my people much knowledge of tools. Some simple tools I have already shown you, such as the plate and spoons that we eat with. Other tools are used to prepare and water the fields where we grow food, while more tools allow us to make this cloth I wear from the coat of the sheep.”

Here I paused as I looked around at every man in the room. This was delicate. It was imperative that they understand what I was implying, but I needed to be subtle enough that I did not obviously threaten them and force them to react out of pride.

“We also have made new tools that we use for hunting. We now have spears that we can throw for a very long distance. Spears that fly straight and true and can bring down a large deer or boar at thirty paces.”

Their eyes widened at this statement, and I could see that some wanted to speak, but I continued on, “We also have a new tool that shoots a small spear very, very far. With this small spear a hunter can kill a deer at over one hundred paces. With these weapons my men are very strong. One hunter is worth five hunters in the forest…. or in a battle.”

I knew Lakaan and Jattar heard me, but I was not sure if the rest of the men heard my final comment about battle. When I stated that my tribe had spears we could throw to kill a boar at thirty paces, they reacted with doubt. When I said we had small spears that could kill a deer at over one hundred paces, the room broke out into full-fledged, uproarious laughter. They thought this to be an absolutely ridiculous statement. Of course to them it would be impossible; something they couldn’t even imagine.

I waited for the laughter to die down, then allowing just a hint of anger to color my voice I said, “You laugh, but if I had come to you in furs and told you I possess clothing such as I wear, would you have believed me? If I came to you with no bread or carrots or fruit but told you it existed, would you have believed me? No, you would not have believed. You would have thought me a madman, and with good reason.”

“I brought you proof of these things so you will know I am not mad, but speak the truth. Why do you now laugh when I tell you of the small spears, arrows as we call them? The arrows exist. They wait on the edge of your forest, and there are many more in my village. I am not false, I speak only the truth!”

The room was now silent as they considered the existence of these weapons.

After giving them a moment to think, I continued, speaking directly to Lakaan and Jattar, “I would like you to discuss all I have told you and shown you this day. It is my sincere desire, as well as all the many people in my tribe, that your tribe joins with us. We could never be satisfied if you denied us this honor.”

My words brought complete silence to the room, as every man there considered all that I had said.

After a thoughtful pause Lakaan said, “You have given us much to consider. Leave me with Jattar to discuss this matter. You are free to return to my people, but I insist that you do not speak to them of your offer to join your tribe. That decision can be made only by the elders.”

“I understand Lakaan, but please consider my offer carefully. I trust in your wisdom to do what is best for your people.”

Rising, I left the hut to return to the gathering escorted by three guards. I believed I had left them with few options. The evidence I had brought of our food and our civilization was not to be denied, while my subtle but obvious threat had given them much to discuss regarding the consequences of refusing me.

Even though I felt confident the elders would realize they had no choice but to join our tribe, I sent Shadan back to the other men to wait in safety. Though I could not be harmed, he did not have the protection I had should they decide to resort to violence.

The afternoon had passed quickly, and the first group of hunters returned shortly after I rejoined the people. The women that had been gathering potatoes in the forest also returned, and all these new people created another uproar and forced me to answer the same questions we had gone through earlier.

The village had taken on a festive air as everyone began to look forward to the feast I had promised. There were still two groups of hunters in the forest, and when they returned I would prepare the stew I had offered to cook for them. I gathered some of the women, and together we cleaned potatoes, carrots and onions, getting everything ready to cook. By the time we were finished with this, the last of the hunters had arrived and the meat was ready to start cooking.

The elders had not yet returned to the gathering, and this was beginning to make me uncomfortable. Since the choices were so very clear-cut, I felt there should have been little to debate. Perhaps I had been too subtle with my threats, and I should have bluntly stated what I said to the northern tribe. They had only two options, join us or die.

I put these thoughts to the back of my mind and talked with the tribe around the fire as dinner cooked. They continued to ask questions about my village and my people, and the more information I gave them about how we lived, the more excited they became.

The food was now ready to eat and still the elders had not joined us at the fire. I sent one of the men that had been at our meeting to ask if they would join us in the meal, and he did not return.

I had just come to the conclusion that this visit had gone badly and I would need to get out of there, and I was about to make a quick retreat to join my men when the elders appeared at the fire. Their arrival was greeted by the eager shouts of the rest of the villagers, who had been restlessly awaiting them to begin the meal. My eyes immediately found Lakaan among the crowd. Our eyes met, and with his subtle nod my anxiety disappeared.

I moved through the crowd to join Lakaan and Jattar, and when we came together Lakaan spoke to me quietly, “You were very… persuasive. We will join with your tribe. After the feast we will tell the tribe of our decision.”

Speaking to both Lakaan and Jattar I said, “You have made a wise choice for your tribe. You will not be disappointed.”

With a sharp look, Lakaan replied, “As far as we could see, there was no real choice to be made. If we believed what you told us, and we decided that we did believe you, we had no option but to join with your tribe.”

I nodded. This was true.

He continued on, “I ask you to leave us after the feast so we may speak as a tribe. Tomorrow I will talk with you again and we will discuss how this move to the north will take place.”

“That is a good plan,” I said.

Turning, I shouted to the crowd that had been watching and waiting as Lakaan and I spoke quietly together, “Now let us feast!”

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty Nine

 

The stew was delicious, but since it contained meat I ate carefully, discreetly picking out the potatoes and carrots. According to everyone I spoke with, they enjoyed the stew more than anything they had ever eaten. After the meal I returned to my men to give the tribe time for discussion. We camped deep in the forest, everyone sleeping deeply while I sat guard.

The next morning I returned to the village to meet with the elders. As the guards let me through I was a bit apprehensive of the welcome I would find, but when I entered the village I was greeted with a great roar, and many people happily rushed to me and pounded me on the back in joy. Though I had believed the people would approve of the elders’ decision, I was shocked by this overwhelmingly positive reception. Though I saw some frowns and received a few unsmiling glares, the vast majority of the people seemed overjoyed by the decision to join with our tribe.

Lakaan, Jatar and three other men met with me throughout the day and together we developed a plan to move their tribe north very quickly. Apparently this tribe had moved a few times since they first came south, so moving was not as traumatic for them as it had been for my tribe and the northern tribe.

I explained what would be expected of them in my city; how they would learn new work, a new language and how their entire lifestyle would change. I needed to make sure there were no questions concerning what would happen after they moved. They insisted they understood all the changes that would be necessary and they still wanted to join with us.

They had almost nothing to prepare and very little to bring with them, so they made the decision to leave within days. I was shocked; it had never occurred to me that the tribe would want to start the journey immediately.

I had planned for them to join our tribe in two or three months, giving us time to build the additional houses they would require. Their tribe numbered just under one hundred, which seemed to be the maximum amount of people that could be supported by hunting. This number meant that the city would need to add about twenty-five new houses to accommodate them.

My men came into the village that afternoon for the first time and were warmly greeted. By the end of the day the relocation plans were finalized and it was decided that the next morning preparations for the move would begin, with the tribe starting their trek northward the day after that. It was a bit shocking to me, but the tribe had so little to do in preparation that there was no reason to delay starting.

That evening the people feasted again. With herbs, salt and the last of the carrots we were once again able to make a delicious dinner. My men were comfortable and interacted easily with this tribe, as you would expect since they had the same background.

I had brought intelligent, hard-working men with me, and they would be a great help to these people as they journeyed north. I would leave for the city the following day. I wanted to return as quickly as possible to inform my people of the decision that had been made, and we needed to immediately begin building the homes for this tribe. By diverting some of our workers from other tasks we could build much of their housing before they arrived.

At the speed I expected this group to move northward, we would have about thirty days before they reached the city. Though we wouldn’t be able to finish all the houses they needed, we could build enough homes for everyone to stay under a roof when they arrived and they could share houses as needed until the rest were built.

After they arrived they would be able to help build their own homes. This would be an excellent learning experience for them, and a way to help them value their homes and new life.

That evening I informed Lakaan, Jatar and Shadan of my decision to return home the following day. I placed Shadan in charge of our men, and I made it perfectly clear to the elders that while they were still responsible for their people until they arrived in the city, they travelled to the north under the leadership of Shadan. They agreed to this, understanding the difficulties they would face on such a long journey.

I slept well that night and took my leave at the break of day. I would travel light and fast, carrying only a water bag and the last loaf of bread. By sleeping little and running steadily though the day and night I expected to make the return trip in four days, which would be very difficult but not impossible. I looked forward to seeing my family, and thoughts of them gave speed to my feet.

I arrived home late in the night on the fourth day. I had run the entire way and only slept once, but the trip had gone better than I expected. It was long after dark and I did not try to be silent when I approached the city, so it pleased me when I was challenged as soon as I came within bow range. After calling out my name I was allowed to approach. I knew the guard well and was in my house within moments of entering the city.

I woke Kalou when I crept into the bedroom, so I gave her a very short version of what had occurred and then gladly collapsed into my own bed, sleeping hard until well after sunrise.

I met with my leaders later that morning, filling them in on my progress with the southern tribe. Everyone was delighted to hear of the ease with which they had been persuaded to join us, but shocked when they realized the tribe would arrive in thirty days. Though they had been mentally prepared for the eventual addition of another tribe to our city, the immediacy of their arrival took everyone by surprise.

We started building additional housing that very day. I transferred twenty men from other duties to help build, and was pleased to see the speed at which the houses began to go up. After ten days I went south to check the progress of the travelers. All was well and there had been no problems out of the ordinary; they were making steady progress northward. I returned once again to my city and let everyone know they would arrive in about fifteen days.

By the time they were scheduled to arrive we had built twelve houses for them. The new homes were built in open areas that had been left in the city, allowing the newcomers to be scattered among existing homes and families. I believed this was imperative to speeding their adjustment and integration into our culture.

The twelve new homes combined with five extras that had already been built meant we still needed to build seven more, plus a few extra. There would be some crowding in the beginning, but the rest of the houses would be completed within thirty days. And the Southerner’s first job as they began their life with us would be learning how to build the rest of the houses that were needed.

I assigned a neighboring family to assist each new family with their integration into city life. The neighbor families would host the new members and be responsible for teaching them our language and everything they needed to know about living in what to them was a new world. The newcomers needed to be taught everything about our society; how to prepare totally new foods in the cooking areas behind their houses, how to use looms to make wool, how to grow food and build tools and houses. It was an enormous task and a great responsibility for the neighbors, but I was confident that in the end it would be a positive experience for all the families.

Learning both our language and how to live in an entirely new way was a potentially overwhelming proposition. The Southerners did not have the luxury of learning over a period of months as so many of the Northerners had been able to do. Integrating so many people into our tribe at one time had the potential to aggravate the rest of the tribe, but I believed by assigning host families conflict and stress would be minimized.

The Southerners camped one final night on the outskirts of the city, and when I met with them that night they were awed almost to the point of being speechless by what they saw. I spoke with Lakaan and Jatar and explained how each family would get a house and have a host family assigned as teachers. They agreed this was an excellent way to proceed, and based on their knowledge of their tribe, together we decided where families would go.

The next morning I explained to everyone how they would be taught our ways, and immediately after this, with Lakaan’s help I called every family forward. They were then introduced to their host family and led away to their new life in the city.

The integration went surprising well and there were almost no problems, mainly because the Southerners as a people were overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. They generally approached every task and new situation with joy, wanting to learn everything they could and become like us. I was amazed, but also puzzled by their continually positive attitudes, which they never seemed to lose even as they struggled to learn our language or a new job.

After two months I sat down with Lakaan to get his impressions on the transition and discuss how his people were progressing. By this time the last of the new houses were complete and every family had their own home. Lakaan and his family had been in their place since the beginning, and were currently putting in a kitchen garden.

After passing the time and discussing a number of various issues, I finally got to the topic I was most curious about. “Lakaan, I have to ask. I am surprised by how enthusiastic and happy your people are to be living in the city with us. I see such joy in all the people from your tribe. I am very pleased, but also a little confused. Why are they so happy all the time?”

Lakaan laughed as he replied, “Well, you’re correct. My people are overjoyed to be living here and their happiness has surprised even me. I can understand though, because I also am very happy to be here. Understand, we did not have a bad life in our old village, but as you know it was difficult to get food and there never seemed to be enough. Life was a constant struggle.”

“That day you arrived, it was like seeing a vision. With your size, the way you were dressed, and your mark, you were like a god to us. And then with the food and everything else that came out of those bags, well, it was like a dream. Though I appeared to be very stern, inside I was overwhelmed. After you described your city and the way you lived, and we saw the truth of your words, all our tribe wanted to be like you and your men. We wanted to have your cloths, your food and your life. I did not need to convince my people. They insisted on joining you, and I couldn’t have stopped them if I had wanted.”

As Lakaan explained this to me it all made perfect sense. The Northerners that had come to live with us and help build the city had quickly preferred their new lives, and they had wanted no part of Aron’s plans to hurt the tribe. Like them, the southern tribe had also immediately seen the benefits of life with us and had wanted what we had. While I had planned it all, I was still surprised that it had been so easy. I could only hope that getting the eastern tribe to join with us would be so simple.

“Thank you Lakaan, I am very pleased to hear that you are happy in your new home. Fare well, and I will talk with you soon.”

I smiled as I returned to my duties, very proud of myself.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty

 

After the passing of two years you would have been hard pressed to tell a Southerner from a Northerner, or for that matter, anyone from my original tribe. The Southerners had learned our language and the skills necessary to living in the city, and were now fully blended into our tribe.

As a people they had retained their enthusiasm for life and were a positive addition, their joy balancing out the somewhat dour nature of the Northerners. The men tended to favor the building trades, and though some became farmers, most had quickly taken to building houses and tools, and several were coming to be some of our finest woodworkers and craftsmen. This balanced nicely with the northern men, who in general had become farmers, loving to work the soil.

My second son Garon, named after the elder I had so admired, was six months old when I once again came to Kalou.

“It is time for me to go the eastern tribe. The Southerners are now one with us, and I want to add the final piece to our people.”

She nodded, resigned. She had known it was only a matter of time before this happened. “I can only hope that tribe is as happy to join with us as the Southerners were. They have been such a wonderful addition to our city. The joy they have for life is good for all of us.”

I nodded, “I agree. I hope the easterners will join us so eagerly, and be able to add so much to our tribe.”

“When will you leave? And how long do you think the trip to their village will take?”

“We will go at the next new moon. I plan to take several of the same men with me, since they did so well the last time and they know what to expect. The trip to reach their village is not as long in distance, but it is a much more difficult and interesting journey. We will need to build rafts to cross the great river; that is one of the two obstacles between their village and our city. It should take four or five days to get to the spot at the river where I want to cross. Once we have crossed it will take at least another fourteen days to traverse the waterless plains and reach the foothills we will travel through to get to their village. That is, if they are still in the same location. It has been over ten years since I last crossed the river and saw their village.”

“Do you think it will be as easy with this tribe?”

“I hope so, but I cannot truly believe I could be that blessed. I will try the same approach and hopefully I will have the same result. I’m looking forward to getting all the people together into one city. I want to be able to focus all my energy on this place and what I have built here. I feel like I’m always looking over the horizon, focused on the next thing I have set for myself to do. Once this final tribe is here with us, I will have completed what I started.”

Kalou laughed, “It’s funny to hear you say that. Cain, you will never be done. You will always have something you are working on or trying to achieve. I don’t think you know how to rest.”

I ruefully agreed, “You’re probably right. There always seems to be something… Well, I’ll call the leaders together tomorrow and we will talk of my plans. If all goes well we’ll leave in about ten days.”

The next day I gathered my council of leaders. As the city had grown the council had grown, and it now consisted of Kalou, Catto, Cadune, Gadu and Sharot, the man from the southern tribe that had come forward to protect Lakaan and Jatar at my initial meeting with the Southerners. He had proven to be a strong and intelligent man, and had shown excellent leadership with Shadan on the trip north from the Southerners’ old village. Shadan had come to depend on him during the trip, and he had continued to be an active leader to his people after they joined our city. He had been the obvious choice of a Southerner to add to my leadership council.

I told them of my decision to travel to the east and meet with the tribe that lived across the river. As with Kalou, they knew it had only been a matter of time before I made this journey, and they were not surprised.

Shadan would once again be second to me on the trip, and he had final say on the men that would accompany us. Most of those he chose had gone to the south with us and only a few were married, though none of them yet had any children. Shadan had married one of the southern women last year, which made him the butt of many jokes from the men that had been on the first trip and seen how the southern women admired him.

Although the southern tribe had joined with us gladly, that was no guarantee that the eastern tribe would feel the same way. There was a distinct possibility that they would attack us, either on first sight or after they heard our offer and the ultimatum that they had to join with us. I was glad none of the men with me had children, as I would not want anyone to leave behind a fatherless family. Though I would almost certainly not be harmed if it came to a fight, the same was not true for my men.

We were able to prepare for this trip quickly since we knew we were taking the same items with us as we did on our trip to the south, and we left on our journey eight days after the meeting with my council. Once again we carried large, heavy packs containing food for our journey, as well as food to share with the eastern tribe. We wore travelling clothes but we carried our fine clothes in our packs, and we all had both bows and throwing spears.

It was early in the morning when we parted from our families and crossed the bridge to the east side of our river for the start of our journey. We would cut across the wide plains to the northeast, to a large forest that ran right up to the river about four days hike from our city. Though traveling to the northeast would make for a longer journey than going due east, we could cut all the logs we needed to build rafts for the crossing in the forest at the river’s edge.

We would need to cross the river with twelve men and a large amount of gear, and this would require two rafts to be built. The river was a huge obstacle, and since none of the other tribes had knowledge of boats or was comfortable swimming, I was curious as to how the Easterners had crossed the river when they separated from the original tribe.

When I had gone exploring across the river years before, the eastern village was set in the hills at the edge of the eastern mountains, many leagues past the river across barren grassland devoid of any water. I expected the trip there to require more than fourteen days of difficult travel once we crossed the great river.

My usually sharp mind remembered few details of the eastern tribe. I had scouted the village from a distance, watching the people from behind some brush as I lay on top of a small knoll. I remembered seeing nothing out of the ordinary, but yet for some reason I had not liked the look of their village. Though they had appeared to be just another small, barbaric tribe similar to the rest and I could not put my finger on anything specific, I vaguely remembered being disturbed by a sense of sadness. After watching them for part of a day I had become impatient and moved on, being anxious to explore the tall mountains to the east.

We reached the river’s edge on the fourth day and followed it north until we arrived at the woodland where grew the trees we would use to fashion rafts. It was easy work and we were soon finished building wide, stable rafts that the men could feel secure sitting on as we crossed the river. We also made a flat board for each man to paddle with.

I had come up with the idea for a raft on my previous crossing of the river. Though I was a good swimmer, the river was extremely wide and fairly fast, and I had wanted to cross it with a pack and gear. At first I had planned just to lash my pack onto a log and swim it across, but that idea had quickly evolved into a raft.

I had found a fallen tree and lashed together three pieces of log to give me a stable platform to sit on. I then made a board from a smaller piece of wood and used this to paddle across the river. My progress had been slow and I had drifted down the river quite a distance, but I got across safely and easily. I planned to do the same thing with my men, except we made larger rafts which could carry six men apiece. It was important that they be very stable, as none of the other men could swim. Even though they were brave and they didn’t talk about it, I knew they were all frightened of crossing the river.

Early the following morning we set off. There were twelve of us total, so we placed six men on each raft with three paddling on each side. All the precious cargo was balanced carefully in the center of the rafts. We connected the rafts together with a long rope, so if there was a problem and anyone fell off, I would be able to swim to them in time to help.

We had made the rafts broad and long, and I think they were probably impossible to tip over. Though progress was still fairly slow, since there were six paddling on each raft we crossed the river much more easily than I had thought we would. In short time we stood on the other side, safe and dry. We pulled the rafts as high as we could onto the land, since we would need them again to return to our own shore.

There were no trees on this side of the river until you reached the foothills. Though you could see the mountains rising far off in the distance, the grasslands seemed to spread away from the river endlessly. I knew from my previous journey that once I reached the foothills of the mountains there would be water, but that was days away.

While this was not a desert or a wasteland, there was only grass. There was no water, no animals, no plants for food and no wood to burn. None of the things that a human needed to survive existed on the wide grassland before us. Knowing this, I made sure we brought many water bags, as well as food that did not require cooking. It would take approximately fourteen days of hard travel to cross this grassland, and it would be the sternest test my men had ever faced. But these were some of my finest men, strong, intelligent and brave; men that could fight, farm or hunt. If they couldn’t do it, it couldn’t be done.

As I thought about the challenges that faced us in reaching this tribe’s village, I again wondered how they had crossed the river and this grassland to get to where they now lived. I wondered if they had a strong leader and the intelligence to develop items such as rafts and water bags, or if God had once again been involved in shaping the course of men.

Knowing the people as I did, I doubted they had crossed the river and grasslands on their own. I considered how God had interacted with my parents throughout their existence and how He originally brought my tribe though the wasteland and put them in this land, a land with all the plants and animals they would ever need. God’s hand was in everything, and it now occurred to me that He had brought these people to this land for His own reasons. I was curious to see what would have caused Him to so thoroughly separate these people from the rest, and I hoped it was for some reason that would be useful to me.

We traveled steadily every day, walking with minimal breaks from sunup until after the sun went down. We headed due east, trying to get to the hills as quickly as possible. Once we reached the hills we would travel south towards where the village had been located on my previous trip, though it had not given me an impression of permanency at the time.

To save energy we talked very little as we walked. When my men did talk, one of the favored topics was how happy the women of the southern tribe had been to meet the men of our tribe. There was animated discussion regarding which man should be the first to meet the tribe with me, since Shadan was now married to one of the southern women.

The last words from Shadan’s wife when we left the city were orders that he was not allowed to meet the tribe with me. Though Shadan insisted she was only joking, everyone had a good time teasing him about meeting the eastern tribe, and the rest of the men often discussed whether he was even allowed to talk with their women.

Pushing ourselves hard, we were able to reach the far hills in twelve days, which was a very good time. Though we saw no one as we walked, on the grasslands a group as large as ours would stand out, so anyone watching from the hills knew we approached. The final two nights I scouted far from our camp, but I saw no sign of any humans.

We were all relieved to reach the hills without issue, and turning to the south we soon found water. This was very good, since even though we left the river with many full water bags, most of the men had no more than one day of water left.

The hills were lightly wooded and very pleasant; it was obvious there was an abundance of game living in them. We travelled due south, though we actively scouted by ranging far in all directions. One of the men found the day-old tracks of an individual in the hills farther to the east, but we saw no other signs of man.

Since we were still at least two full days north of where the village had been ten years earlier I did not really expect to find any sign of humans, so I was very surprised to hear it was the tracks of a single man. Normally, a hunter never went out alone. There was too much chance of an individual being attacked by a bear or large cat, so in every tribe the hunters and gatherers travelled at least in pairs, and usually in groups of three or more. A man traveling alone days from his village indicated a rogue or an outcast, though it was possible he could be an adventurer.

Finally traveling back to the village must have jogged my memory, because as we walked south my previous visit to the eastern village slowly came back to me.

My goal had been to explore the far mountains and beyond, so I had spent less than a half day observing the village and tribe from a distance, hidden in the shadows of the forest. It was hard to put my finger on it, but this village had seemed somehow depressed, and much more somber than my village. The people had moved slowly and seemed downcast and quiet. It had been odd to me at the time, but I was so distracted by thoughts of what I would find on the other side of the mountains that I had not been fully focused on the village. After part of a day I had left them and my thoughts of them behind, and I had been so focused on returning home that I had not bothered to visit them again on my way back through several months later.

We travelled quickly the next day, continuing to scout far out in all directions as we traveled. A few times we came across the tracks of solitary men, and we identified that there were at least two different men hunting alone in this part of the hills.

That day I saw a lone traveler out on the plains to our south. With my far-reaching eyesight I was able to see he carried an antelope on his shoulders and he was traveling fast, moving due east towards the forested hills. Individual hunters ranging about; something was going on here that I didn’t understand, and I was bothered by this.

As we went further south the gloom I had felt when I watched the eastern tribe began to return even more strongly. Though I could not identify the source of my unease, as my mind went back over the impression I had years earlier I began to feel less and less comfortable.

When we stopped for the night I posted extra guards. Telling my men to lay low with no fires, remain at this camp and stay hidden until I returned, I left the camp almost immediately.

I had to find the village and see what awaited us. Though the forest was lovely, open and vibrant, the further south we went the more weighed down it seemed to be. I had never felt so oppressed, and I had to find out what was going on.

I went quickly and silently due south. Though I normally did not carry any weapons beside my knife, tonight I carried both a bow and a short, heavy spear, the kind we used when hunting boars. Though I ran easily through the night, I still went faster than any normal man could sprint. In the dim light I was able to clearly see where I was going and take note of my surroundings. I was so focused that everything seemed to move more slowly than usual around me.

The further south I travelled the more signs of man I saw. I noted two areas where kills had been made and the animals gutted, as well as a large potato patch where gatherers had recently been digging.

By the middle of the night I could tell from the signs that I was getting very close to the village. I slowed my pace and began to tread more cautiously; I needed to see any guards before they saw me. I picked my way through the trees and saw a slight glow in the sky, indicating the presence of a fire just a little to the south and east. I moved towards it carefully, making not a whisper in the night.

The village was located in the center of an open meadow, and I could faintly hear running water on the far side. There was a half moon tonight, and in the faint moonlight it appeared to be a normal village, made up of a number of small huts that were set back from the forest’s edge for safety. They had a fire burning very low in the center of the village, and I could see one figure seated near it.

I wondered if my dark feelings of apprehension were called for; there was nothing here out of the ordinary. I sat, watched, and waited, knowing that only time would rid me of my unease.

The night slowly passed without issue. After quite some time I saw a figure move out of the shadows of a hut and start around the outskirts of the village. I had felt someone watching, but even my eyes had not been able to pick him up in the shadows. He walked slowly, pausing frequently, and he finally disappeared around the corner of another hut. I faintly heard the low murmur of two voices in conversation, and a few moments later he returned, sauntering slowly back to his original position. I now knew they had at least three guards posted.

Just about this time the wind changed. It had been blowing lightly from the east, which had allowed me to approach the village from the north. It now shifted just enough to the south that the scent of the village came clearly to me.

I was immediately overcome with revulsion! Shocked, I could not believe the vile stench that reached my nose. I still remembered how both the people and villages of the other three tribes had stunk when I first encountered them, but this stench reeked far, far beyond the smell of those tribes.

This smell was beyond foul and caused me to gag involuntarily. I could definitely smell raw human waste, but that was the least of the stench. The air was saturated with the overwhelming reek of rotten meat and other noxious odors that I could not yet identify.

I knew I had not smelled the village on my previous trip, because I could never have forgotten this odor. It smelled like death.

My unease had been replaced by a palpable feeling of dread. I rose and moved slowly around the village to the east, circling through the trees. I had to get away from the smell, and I thought I could get a better view of the village from that side. I took my time and moved silently, just in case they had a guard stationed in the forest, but I encountered no one. I finally reached a position where I could clearly see the village’s fire pit and the man seated before it. Just as I got comfortable in my position behind a large tree, another guard walked to the fire and threw a couple more logs on it. The logs flamed up, and in just a short time the center of the village began to glow brightly.

When I positioned myself to watch the village from my new spot, I had noticed there was something fairly small directly in front of me about halfway to the village. In the dim light I could not make out what it was, but I knew it wasn’t a guard. As the fire burned higher the village came into clearer view, and I now realized with horror what stood before me. Stuck on a pole between the forest and the village was a human head!

 

 

 

Chapter Forty One

 

My head spun and I couldn’t breathe. I could feel panic building in my stomach like bile as my every sense screamed for me to run. But I fought back; I stayed in my position and forced myself to take a breath, and slowly my thoughts come into focus.

My relationship with God was tenuous at best; I could still become angry and resentful when I thought about our past. Even so, I had long ago come to realize that He did all things for a reason and for the good of man, whether we knew it or not. God could and did shape the world any way He saw fit.

Now that I saw this vile symbol of their evil, the puzzle of how these people had come to live here was solved. This was not some advanced group of people, the most intelligent of the tribe, a people who had discovered a way to cross the great river. No, this was a group that God had taken far away, purposefully separating them from all the rest with a wide river and an almost impassable grassland.

How could a people fall to this grotesque level of inhumanity?

There were undoubtedly evil people in my city. Mankind was given free will and we daily make choices to do right or wrong. Every day a person has to control how they will speak, think, and act. Sometimes we make choices that are good, some choices we make go against God’s will, and sometimes people choose great evil over good. I knew this well from my own history. But the vast majority of the people in my city chose to do good most of the time, either because they wanted to or because they felt required to by the society we had developed with its rules and social mores.

Apparently that was not true here. Their society, even viewed from behind a tree, seemed to run very differently. I needed to watch this tribe, really watch them this time, and make a decision about what to do with them. Depending upon what I saw, instead of trying to coerce or force a tribe of essentially good people to join my city, I might end up trying to rescue some good people from an evil situation. Or, just leaving the whole filthy lot here and forgetting that this tribe and this side of the great river even existed!

I already knew there was no way I could bring this entire tribe to my city. Even if I wanted to, and given what I had seen I knew I didn’t, if God had separated them from us, who was I to bring them back?

I spent the short time remaining until sunrise pondering my options. I needed to spend at least one full day observing this village to see how the people acted and treated each other. I had to try to identify if there were any people in this village that were essentially good; people that deserved to leave and would want to leave if given the chance. My heart went out to the women and children here, as I suspected they were powerless in this place.

While I didn’t yet know how I would do it, I was resolved that if I saw people that needed rescue I would somehow find a way to take them away from this depravity.

As the sky lightened and the night turned to day I saw there was more than just the one head; the village was surrounded by human heads stuck on poles. I could see seven from where I lay, and while most were bare bone, at least one skull besides the one facing me was fresh. Before the tribe woke I backed deeper into the forest, finding a safer and more comfortable spot to observe the village. I was very glad to be farther away from that rotting display of inhumanity.

I spent the entire day hidden on a knoll in the shadows of the forest, watching the activities in the village below me. The women rose early in the morning to gather wood and then went to the fire to prepare food. Most, but not all of the women were quiet and very subdued. They kept their heads down, and to my eyes they moved fearfully. Their children stayed close beside them; they also were quiet and seemed much too serious for little ones.

These men rose much later than the men of my tribe, well after daybreak, and immediately went to the fire to eat the potatoes the women had roasted. Over the course of the day I watched as hunters and gatherers left and returned, as children played and ran through the village, and the daily chores were performed. Patterns began to emerge, and it became obvious to me that there were two distinct types of people in the village.

The vast majority of the men appeared to be loud, cruel, and very aggressive. On a number of occasions I saw men shout or take a swing at a woman or child, occasionally landing a blow or a kick. I did notice a few men that seemed quieter and more stable, so perhaps not every man in the village was a villain. Several of the women and even some of the children were noticeably mean, treating the rest of the women and children very badly.

The quieter women and their children did the majority of the work, with the more aggressive women directing them, obviously with the men’s approval. While a number of the men did go hunting, they did little else that I could see. It appeared that the men that did not hunt were supposed to be guarding the village, though in general they sat by the fire and talked crudely, occasionally shouting at women or children that ventured too near. Even their hunters must have been lazy, as they came back with only two deer to feed the village that night.

I counted only seventy people in the entire village, making it the smallest of the four tribes. I could not know if they had killed each other off or some had left the village, but I was confident the population was smaller than when I visited the first time. There were about twenty five men with approximately the same number of women, and the remaining twenty or so people were children. The distribution of the population was very odd, with such a low number of children in proportion to the adults, but I was glad there were fewer children in the village to suffer.

It was an evil place that I watched, a place where the strong took pleasure in dominating and abusing the weak. I was ashamed that I had not noticed this on my first visit. I had been so focused on my ambition and my personal goals that I did not see the evil that was now so obvious in front of me.

By the time night fell, I had come up with a plan of rescue. Even with my group numbering only twelve against their twenty five, armed with our bows and throwing spears I had no doubt we could easily kill every man with no danger to ourselves. Still, as evil as most of these men obviously were, I did not have the right to slaughter them unless they made it necessary.

As much as I wanted to punish them, I knew it was not my place to be their judge. I needed to help the weak while leaving the rest to make their own choices for right or wrong as they saw fit. I did not see this as weakness on my part, but as a way to allow them to control their lives and their tribe’s future. Perhaps they could change.

When the tribe went to rest for the night I quickly returned to my men to tell them what I had found. The men were visibly relieved to see me. They were getting anxious about what to do if I did not return, and this caused me to smile for the first time in over a day. The possibility of not coming back had never occurred to me.

I bluntly told them about the state of the village. They were shocked and saddened by what I said, but relieved when they heard we would be rescuing anyone that wanted to flee from the tribe’s evil. They were agreeable to the plan I laid out before them, and though they understood some of us might die, they knew it was the best way to help the innocents escape.

I had arrived late in the night and was physically and emotionally exhausted. As soon as I finished relating all I had seen and I had told them of the rescue plan, I laid down to a much needed rest. Unfortunately my sleep was troubled and my dreams fretful. I awoke early feeling little more rested than when I lay down.

The day was spent in waiting, since we would not leave for the village until late that afternoon. We couldn’t run the risk of being seen, so we would travel through the night, arriving at their village before dawn. Since it took little time to check bow strings and prepare for what lie before us, it was a long and tedious day spent in small talk, napping, and idle chatter.

Late that afternoon we stowed away our packs, hoping to return for them soon to begin our homeward journey. As the sun began its descent in the sky we started towards the village, traveling silently through the lengthening shadows.

I had warned my men of the stench, but luckily the wind was not blowing towards us when we arrived well before sunrise. The men silently went to their prearranged positions and stationed themselves in the shadows of the tree cover, out of sight from the village. They were arranged in a semi-circle behind me and within easy bowshot of the village.

I waited until the tribe had gotten into their morning activities; the women and children were up, and a few men had risen and gone to the fire to eat. The guards by this point had eaten and returned to their stations, where the ones I could see watched in a relatively attentive manner.

I stepped out of the trees and walked slowly towards the village. Though I had a full quiver of arrows and a bow slung on my back, available for use at a moment’s notice, I approached the village with my hands empty and held high in the air.

Before the first guard even noticed me and raised the alarm, I shouted loudly in the old language to get everyone’s attention.

“Hello! I come in peace! I come in peace!”

I was impressed with the speed at which the villagers reacted. The women and children immediately ran for the cover of the huts, while all the men that were already up for the day ran towards me with their weapons in hand. I stopped walking and remained midway between the forest and the village. This would afford my men the easiest shots with their bows.

I kept my hands raised and continued to shout, “I mean no harm! I come in peace!”

If these words meant anything to them they did not show it, as every man came towards me at top speed, spears raised threateningly. A blood-curding roar rose from their throats, wordless and raw. It was a call for battle, and it was clear they had no intention of stopping to talk. Hopefully half asleep, the remainder of the men streamed out from their huts, joining in the race towards me.

When I started towards the village I did not know if they would try to capture me or kill me immediately, but they were obviously out for blood. They came quickly, and several men threw their spears as they approached. They were not close enough to do me any harm and I could easily have dodged them if necessary, but I did not move and continued to shout out my words of peace. Most of the spears harmlessly fell short, but one spear was well thrown and veered off only at the last moment, falling at my side.

I waited until the attackers were close, probably too close, before I dropped my right hand just slightly. At my signal there was a rush of arrows flying through the sky, as my men shot several in quick succession. There were about ten men in the first group running towards me, and the mass of arrows fell directly in front of them, covering the ground between us. The blood-driven roar died in their throats.

The front runners came to an immediate halt, but the men in the rear were slower to react and crashed into their backs. They began to mill about in confusion and stared open-mouthed at the arrows in front of them. Even though they had never before seen arrows, there was no question that these were dangerous weapons that were now half buried in the ground. Weapons that even these simple men understood could just as easily been sent into their bodies.

Throughout all this I had continued to shout at the top of my lungs, “I come in peace, I mean you no harm. I come in peace!”

I now stopped calling out and I waited, still with my hands up and empty, as the men continued to mill around. They talked animatedly among themselves, often looking towards the forest, trying to see where the arrows had come from. Their blood-lust was gone, and they were unsure of what to do next.

As they talked more of the villages’ men joined the group. I believed every man in the village was now gathered before me, and a quick count tallied twenty seven. I noticed few older men, which given the violent nature of this tribe did not surprise me.

These people spoke a crude version of the common language which was a little harder for me to understand. I couldn’t hear much of what was said at first, but the talk quickly grew back into fierce shouting and gesturing, with men pointing at both me and the arrows. All this while I continued to calmly wait, hands held high.

Finally, one of the men turned to me and shouted out, “If you are here in peace, why do you try to kill us?” As he said this he pointed at the arrows directly in front of him.

I smiled to myself at the irony of his statement. I also pointed at the arrows, and replied, “If I wanted to kill you they would be in you and not the ground. I had to make you stop. I want to talk with you.”

Their eyes searched the forest as they tried to locate my hidden companions. The one that seemed to be the leader shouted again, “So talk. Why are you here? What do you want? All outsiders are our enemies!”

“That is not true,” I said. “I am not your enemy, unless you make me your enemy by trying to kill me. My name is Cain and I have traveled from far away to come to your village.”

The same man spoke again. He was one of the largest in the group; clothed in a filthy deer skin and carrying a long, stout spear. Though he seemed reasonably intelligent, he had a nasty look in his eye and I didn’t like his tone of voice.

“Answer my questions. Why are you here? What do you want from us?”

Answering these questions would be tricky. The wrong answer could send these men forward in anger, forcing us to kill most or all of them. Even though I knew most of them were evil, I still didn’t want to kill them if I didn’t have to. “I will answer your questions, but first I must know if you see the mark I bear. Do you see the mark of God which shows you may not harm me?”

After a pause, there was a broken murmur of assent from the group of men facing me. They shifted their spears and looked at the ground, obviously uncomfortable that I had spoken of the mark.

The leader nodded and said grudgingly, “Yes, we can see something upon you. This mark shows that we should not kill you. I do not know how it does this, but now that I see it I cannot throw my spear at you.”

“Good. You understand that you cannot harm me. Now, know this. In the forest behind me are many men. At my word they can put one of these small spears through your eye. Before any of you could ever reach me, you would all be dead.”

“I do not want to kill you. We did not come here to do battle with you. But if you come forward to attack, or if you try to return to the village before I give you leave; if you do anything but listen to me until I give you release, you will die. Do you understand me?”

While most of the men nodded and resentfully mumbled their assent, obviously hating that they must do this, I noticed two men off to the side talking under their breath. Suddenly, with vicious war cries they raced towards me at top speed, spears up and ready. The rest of the men stayed where they were, but as one they roared their approval of the men’s actions.

All this time I had held my hands aloft and open in a sign of peace. I let the attackers take a handful of steps towards me, and then with a calmness I did not really feel, I dropped one hand.

There was a hum in the air, and faster than the eye could see arrows flew from the forest. Both men dropped instantly dead, each pierced by four arrows. In a gruesome touch each man had an arrow protruding from one eye, although the three arrows sunk deep in their chests had done more damage.

It happened in the blink of an eye, and since all the men were watching me they had no idea where the arrows had come from. The crowd’s roar died as if cut off by a knife. The silence was so complete I heard a bird call deep in the forest.

I coolly lifted my hand so that once again both were up in the sign of peace. “As I said, we do not want to hurt you, but if you do anything except stand there and listen to me you will die. Do you all understand me? If there are any more of you that want to attack, do it now so we can kill you and get it over with.”

Not a word came from the men. A few shook their heads, but most just stood motionless facing me, shocked by what they had seen. By this time all the women and children had come out of the huts and slowly moved to the edge of the village behind these men. They were out of harm’s way, but they could see me clearly. I raised my voice, since these were the people I needed to hear my words.

“My name is Cain. I have come from a land far away, far across the grassland and the great river. I am leader over a large village which is filled with the people from all the tribes on the other side of the river. We live in peace. We are strong and healthy, and we have an abundance of food. We are happy with our lives.”

Here I paused, letting my statements sink into the heads of all who listened. After a moment I continued, “We came here to ask you to join our tribe. This would have been an offer made in peace, because we want all people to live with us and share in our abundance.”

There were a few cautious smiles among the men gathered before me, until I went on, “But I have watched you and I see that you are a vile and evil people. Your actions fill me with disgust and your tribe will not join with mine!”

At this the men stirred and grumbled amongst themselves, while I also saw a negative reaction among the women and children that stood listening at the edge of the village.

“Silence!” I shouted. “This is a fact. You are a vile people that murders and does evil. Do you deny this?”

I pointed to a head that sat atop a stake just off to my right. Once again there was silence from all gathered before me.

“I have watched how you men abuse the women and children, how you take advantage of them and beat them. While I do not condemn you men to death, I do not want you around my people. You are foul and tainted, and you would destroy my tribe from within. I will not allow any men to return with me.”

Here I looked past the men to the women and children standing by the village. “But the women and children I will allow in my village. You may join my tribe. This is an offer freely given, and the decision to leave this village is yours to make. If you are good at heart and want only to live in peace, I give you the chance to leave this place and the people that surround you. You may come to my village and be part of my tribe. There you will work with us and live with us. There you will have a home.”

I let these words sink in for a moment, and then I said, “I give you my word; any who join me will not be harmed. You will be able to have a good life, safe and secure. But I warn you! Do not come with me if you carry the love of darkness and evil in your heart. That is not allowed in my tribe and you will be expelled. Come with me only if you truly want a new life of peace, free of the abuse you have suffered at the hands of the evil men and women in this tribe.”

“And be warned!” I said, glaring intensely at the men before me. “Any that try to deny or hold back those that choose to leave will die where you stand.”

Once again I looked to the crowd at the edge of the village, and I called out to them, “Come to me now if you want to leave this place.”

For a moment nothing happened, and then abruptly a number of people began sprinting. Of the approximately twenty five women and twenty children, at least half of the group was surging towards me in a mass. They ran silently but at top speed, mothers pulling along or carrying young children as the older children ran behind, desperately trying to keep up.

A shout rose from the mouths of several men as they reacted without thought, starting towards the women and children; wanting to stop them.

I shouted at those men, “Let them be!”

My words were accompanied by a flurry of arrows which landed around the entire group of men. They stopped, but their heads went back and forth from me to the runners, their eyes filled with rage and frustration as some were forced to watch their families leaving them.

The women and children reached me quickly, even though they passed wide of where the men stood, angry but powerless to stop them. Most ran on when I motioned for them to continue past me into the forest, but three women stopped directly in front of me, falling at my feet.

They were in tears, and they cried to me earnestly, “Please, please! Please let our men come with us! They are good men, not like the others in this village. Please let them come!”

I looked up at the gathered men. “The men of these women,” I ordered, “come before me.”

Three men dropped their spears and quickly left the group before anyone could try to stop them. As they approached I recognized them as the men I had noticed when I watched the village. They were the men that did not abuse the women and children; the men that had struck me as being out of place in this tribe. I was not surprised that their wives wanted them to come.

When the men reached me they stood before me, their heads up. I stared into their eyes, and liked the way they returned my look. I saw no evil there; no hate or rage, only fear that they would lose their families.

I said, “The love of your wives has saved you, you may come with us.”

Relief flooded their eyes as their wives jumped to their feet, putting their arms around their husbands and holding them tightly, not wanting to let go in case I should change my mind.

Everything had happened very quickly up to this point, but it was now beginning to sink in. As the women and children disappeared into the forest, many of the men realized that they were really going to lose their families. They were beginning to stir unhappily, as if coming out of a dream. Dark looks gathered on their faces and I knew I could not control them much longer, even with the threat of force.

I had thought this might happen, which was why I had been acting with such haste. Sending the couples in front of me towards the forest, I addressed the crowd of men, as well as the women and children that had stayed behind.

I shouted in my most threatening voice, “Understand this! Man, woman or child, if any of you follows us, we will kill you on sight. I never want to see anyone from this tribe again, nor will I return to your village.”

Continuing on in a slightly gentler tone, I added, “Try to do good, and it will go better for you.”

With this I turned my back on them and walked into the forest, where I disappeared from their view.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Two

 

My men waited inside the tree line, just deep enough that they could not be seen. The villagers stood facing them in a huddled mass, their eyes wide with fear and uncertainty. In truth my men were a fearsome sight, tall and strong, and heavily armed with bows and spears. Though my men were smiling and they talked to the villagers gently in their own language, the villagers were not reassured.

Arriving at the group I hurriedly addressed them, “Do not be frightened. You are safe with us, but we need to move quickly. They may follow, and I don’t want to fight them any more than I have to.”

I looked to my men, and with a grim smile and a nod I complimented them, “You did your jobs very well and I’m proud of you. I’m sorry that you had to kill, but hopefully we’re done with that.”

Finding Shadan in the group I said, “Take these people back to our camp. I’ll set up the rear guard and watch the village. We will meet back there later today. Now go!”

Shadan led off the rescued villagers with an escort of seven of my men. I stayed behind with three men to watch the village and insure we were not followed. I did not want any trouble on our return to the river, so we needed to make sure the remainder of this tribe stayed in their village.

We carefully made our way back though the trees to a spot where we could watch what was happening. The remaining men were gathered around the dead bodies of the two that had charged me. They had pulled the arrows out of the bodies, and there was a loud discussion going on. They shouted, gesturing and pointing the arrows at each other as they argued over what they should do.

Several of the more aggressive men wanted to follow us into the forest in defiance of my orders, while the majority seemed inclined to return to the village and let us go. As their argument continued the remaining women and children joined the group.

The children scattered about the outskirts of the men, with a few listening while most idly played. Most of the women remained silent, subdued and with their heads bowed, but a few of them were quite vocal and very strident in their protests.

From our vantage point we could clearly hear the discussion, and there was no doubt that these women were very angry. They began to shout insults at the men whose women and children had fled the village. They called these men cowards for letting their families leave.

I was amazed that they could get away with this, but I recognized these women as the ones that ordered around the others and told them what work to do. They must have been the tribal leaders of the women and children, and they were undoubtedly upset because many of the tribe members that had served them were now gone, and they realized that their workload would be much heavier.

When the women joined the discussion it became much more animated, and the argument was getting louder and angrier by the moment. I did not like where this situation was heading, and turning to my men I gave them brief instructions, “Spread out and follow my lead. If we have to fire, fire in front of them to start. Shoot to kill only if I do.”

They quickly ran a little way down the tree line, and just in time. Spurred on by the women, the crowd opened up and at least fifteen men emerged, determined looks upon their faces and spears ready in hand.

These men cleared the playing children out of their way as they walked quickly towards where I had disappeared into the forest, and after they had gone five steps past the children we fired. We each dropped two arrows just in front of the approaching men, hoping this would stop them. They paused and looked back over their shoulders, but the crowd had worked themselves into a frenzy and they shouted at the men, telling them to continue on.

I could hear people calling out that we were cowards and we would not hurt them. I was not surprised by their stupidity. I had realized that in addition to being lazy and prone to evil, they were a tribe which made thoughtless, bad decisions. As I feared, after a brief pause the men turned back to the forest and began to come at us again, now at a run.

I showed two fingers to my men, and then in quick succession I fired two arrows, this time showing no mercy. My men did the same, and in an instant, with a hum and a blur of motion four men fell, immediately followed by four more men. All were dead, arrows buried deep in the center of every chest.

We had remained silent and hidden in the trees, and it was as if the arrows came out of the forest on their own, fired by no one. The remainder of the attackers stopped so quickly it appeared that they were jerked backwards by an invisible hand. The survivors looked down in open-mouthed astonishment at the men that had fallen to their left and to their right. They actually seemed shocked by what had happened, as if they truly believed we could not harm them.

The crowd behind the attackers, the crowd that had been screaming for our blood just a moment before, was now silent. Not a breath came out of them; it was as if the world paused.

Then suddenly, as if waking from a nightmare, with a scream of fury one man rushed at the forest. I did not fire, but only watched. With a fierce cry he threw his spear harmlessly into the woods.

“You cowards, come out and fight us like men! You hide in the forest and kill us from behind trees. I challenge you to fight me alone!”

In a fury he shouted on and on, but we did not respond. Finally, spent and defeated, he turned and walked back to the tribe that waited silent and still. While he raged at us they had stood quietly, but now they collected the bodies of their dead and brought them away from the forest to where the other dead men lay. The women began to cry and wail over their bodies, wringing their hands and pulling at their hair, overcome with grief and sorrow.

After a long while the people trudged back to their village, carrying the bodies of those we had killed. As they slowly walked, encumbered by the weight of all they had lost that day, many cast looks over their shoulders at the dark, still forest.

We stayed there for the rest of the day watching the village, but no action was directed towards us. The remainder of the tribe spent their time gathering wood and building a huge pyre on the far side of the village.

I believed that the entire tribe was now in shock. They had lost half their people that day, either through death or desertion. As the reality of this sunk in, any desire to follow us disappeared.

While there might be one or two men motivated by an overwhelming desire for revenge who followed us, I no longer had any concern about a pitched battle. The tribe did not have enough men left to waste them in what they now knew would be certain death.

Late that afternoon they burned the bodies of the fallen. The wails of the women and children were audible to us, even though we watched from far away. As the flames roared and their mourning cries rose up to the sky, we stood. It was time for us to leave this place.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Three

 

The sun dropped and we walked on through the night until we arrived at our camp. We spoke briefly with the guards, and then were able to sleep for only a short time until everyone rose at the break of day. When the sun came over the horizon we were on our way.

We still had plenty of food in our packs since we had never given any to the tribe, and there was abundant water to fill our skins before we crossed the grasslands. It would be difficult, but I saw no reason why we would not be able to make it safely back to the river.

We set guards around us, but we saw no signs of pursuit. Given the women and children that traveled with us we were not able to make very good time, but we moved steadily, with my men carrying the small children as much as possible.

We were never followed, though I twice saw individuals’ moving across the grassland far in the distance. As we got further from the village the people began to feel more secure, and they slowly became comfortable as the days went by. Gradually, with pain visible on their faces when they spoke, the story of the eastern tribe emerged.

They had no memory of their origins. Though they had a vague idea that people outside their tribe existed in the world, they had no history of ever living among them. For all they knew, they had always lived in the hills on that side of the grasslands. The history of their tribe started only one generation earlier, and I found it incredible to think that no one had ever questioned this.

They told us it was always a violent tribe, with the leader being whoever was the strongest and most ruthless. If the leader decided that someone should no longer remain in the tribe, they were sent away with nothing but the clothes on their back. Expulsion from the tribe was normally done only to men, since they needed the women to do the work in the village.

The stakes posted around the village were topped with the heads of men that had committed crimes requiring more serious punishment than expulsion. This included men that after expulsion had been caught trying to take away their wives and children, men that had committed acts so vile that they were forbidden even to these corrupt people, and any competitors to the leader. The leaders changed frequently over the years, as would be expected in so violent a society.

In their stories the tribe had once been very large, but over the years it had gotten smaller and smaller as people had been sent from the village or executed, or in a few cases, escaped into the night. It seemed that there were now quite a few people, both individuals and families, which lived in the hills alongside the grassland, far from the village. Whether these people were better than those that lived in the village was impossible to know.

Thirteen women and twelve children had joined us, along with the three men that had been allowed to come. Over the course of our journey I watched them closely, and I came to believe that every one of these people were essentially good. It was possible that other good people had remained behind, too fearful to join us, but there was nothing I could do for them anymore. Everyone in that village had been given the freedom to make their own decision about their life. With the freedom to choose comes responsibility for your decisions and your future.

As we travelled I saw that these people as a group had some bad habits, and they exhibited behavior that was not acceptable in our tribe. They were greedy and wanted to hoard their food. They tended to shout at the least provocation, and overreacted very quickly to trivial slights. Worst of all, they had almost no trust in each other or in us. But I believed this behavior had been required to survive in the harsh environment of their village, and I had faith that through training and example this learned behavior could be eliminated.

We made the journey back to the river in twenty days, traveling steadily from sunup to sundown. These people were tough, and it was obvious they were used to hardship. They never complained, not even the youngest of them. Though we had to ration our water, we were able to provide plenty of food. This gave them the strength they needed to walk all day, and they managed to eat an amazing amount. After a few days we had to teach them to stop gorging themselves. This became easier as they began to have faith that they would get more food the following day.

They were openly apprehensive about their future, but we did our best to assuage their fears. We described our city and our lifestyle, and tried to explain to them in ways they could understand how they would live in the future. As one would expect they found it hard to believe us, since what we told them was so very different from anything they had ever known.

When we reached the river we had problems. The easterners had never seen a body of water anything like this, and the size and power of the river filled them with dread. The thought of crossing the river on rafts terrified them, and they absolutely refused to consider getting on them.

My men had been frightened when we crossed, but because of the trust we had developed over the years they had faith when I told them it was safe. These people had not developed this level of trust in me or my men, and they were petrified.

They argued with me that it was impossible for them to cross, so I had to lay out their options very bluntly. I told them they could go with us and I promised to get them safely to the far side, or they could stay on this side and either return to their old village or start a new village of their own. I made sure they understood that it was completely their choice; that they had the freedom to choose what they wanted to do with their lives.

I said this very simply in a way they could understand, but I made sure they knew the consequences. If they didn’t come with us now, we would not come back for them.

They had seen we were good people, and they had heard enough about life in our city to know they wanted to be a part of it. They decided to cross, but they were still very frightened and asked if they could see some of us do it first. I thought this was a good idea, but told them we would still need to bring some of them with us on the first trip.

We dragged the rafts a little way up the river to account for the current, and one raft made the first crossing. I and three of my men were on it to paddle, and along with us came one family consisting of a father, mother and two children, as well as two single women. They huddled in the middle of the raft, clutching each other in fear with their eyes squeezed shut against their terror.

The raft was stable and safe, and they were in no real danger. We made it across with no problems, and once we had safely deposited our passengers on the far shore, my men and I paddled back across the river as everyone anxiously watched our return.

When we arrived I said, “See, you just need to have faith, and you need to trust us. We will not let you get hurt. Don’t worry, we will get every one of you safely across.”

And we did, though it took the better part of that day. First we loaded up the rafts with as many of the mothers and children as we could fit. That trip was accompanied by more wailing and crying than I could ever have imagined was possible.

After this we still had one final trip. We got the rest of the people and our almost-empty packs centered on the rafts, and we pushed off from the eastern shore. A sense of relief washed over me as I realized I was finished with that land, and I would never have to return.

By now even I was exhausted; our arms were not used to so much paddling. We were overjoyed when we finally got that last raft pulled up on our own shore. We set up camp, and even though it was barely dusk, after a quick meal everyone but me collapsed into sleep, physically and emotionally spent. I could really have used the rest, but someone had to stand guard, since you never know if a predator is lurking in the dark, hoping to pluck a meal from an unwary camp.

In the morning we dismantled the rafts before we started the final leg of our journey home. I did not want anyone crossing that river unless it was done with my knowledge, and I didn’t want those rafts sitting there to tempt any of my people into trying to cross. Even more importantly, I didn’t want those rafts ever getting to the other side, and somehow allowing those evil people to return to our shore.

I sent my two fastest men ahead to let the city know of our safe return. They would send other men back to meet us and bring more food. I expected it would take about five days to get to the city with this group, and our food was starting to get quite low.

On our fourth day I finally saw them on the horizon, travelling fast. Even from a distance I could tell there were a lot of people, and as they came closer I could see Kalou leading the procession. I was so happy to see her that I left my group behind and ran like the wind. Kalou also ran, and we met in the middle for a prolonged embrace.

“It’s so good to see you. I missed you so much,” was all I could manage.

We held each other tight, and after a long time she finally pulled away.

Looking up at me, she stared straight into my eyes and asked without even a hint of a smile, “So, are you finally done building your kingdom? Are you ready to stay at home with your family and take care of us now?”

I was not sure if she was joking, but out of pure joy I laughed anyway.

“Yes, I’m done. After that village, I never want to see another new tribe. Now it’s time for me to stay home and be with you!”

 

 

 

Part V – The Awakening

 

 

Chapter Forty Four

 

I was incredibly relieved to finally be home, but the stench of evil and the overwhelming corruption that had surrounded the eastern village haunted my mind. Gratefully, as the responsibilities of my kingdom and family pressed upon me, thoughts of the eastern tribe eventually faded into the background of my consciousness, though they never fully disappeared.

Though we had been gone less than two months, it felt like an eternity. It was so good to see Kalou’s face every day. Enoch was now speaking quite well, and Garon was just taking his first steps. Things change so quickly with little ones, and it took several days to catch up on all that had happened in my absence.

Kalou and the boys had fared well while I was gone, and the joy I felt at being together with my family once again surprised me. The deep emotional bond I had developed with my wife over our years together, first as friends and then as mates, had grown to the point where I could not even imagine a world where she was not beside me. My sons were my pride, and I looked forward to the time I was able to spend with them. For a few days we barely left the house, but instead stayed in as a family, talking, playing and enjoying each others’ company.

But eventually the responsibilities of my kingdom called, and I had to return to my duties. My immediate concern was to get the easterners settled into the community, and this was more complex than it would have appeared at first. We had built additional houses in advance to accommodate the expected influx of new people, as had happened when the Southerners joined us. But the easterners were a very different situation. The Southerners, though they had needed to learn our language and ways, had come as a tribe very similar to us in customs and values. The easterners on the other hand, came from a dysfunctional tribe with a corrupt value system.

In their tribe you did only what was ordered of you by someone who was more powerful than you. Stealing, lying and cheating were considered legitimate survival techniques, things that you did to get through the day unharmed. Though they were the best of the easterners, they had still grown up and lived in a society that was ruled by fear and pain.

These were all essentially good people, but because of the wicked environment they had lived in all their lives they could not yet be expected to know how to live in a fair and reasonable society where people tried to work for the common good. I knew it was going to be much more difficult to integrate these people into our tribe than it had been for the southern tribe.

We needed to teach them how to interact with other people in an honest and trustworthy manner, as well as all the basic skills such as our language and how to live in our city. They had to learn how to live in a society where work was done voluntarily, and food and the necessities of life were earned through the work you did.

I needed to get all the easterners into homes where they would see and learn how we lived. I wanted them to understand that force did not make us work together, but the desire to help the tribe and do the right thing was what drove our behavior. The best way to do this was to have all the newcomers live in established homes. Adapting to the social behavior that was expected of them, as well as being taught how to keep up a home, learn our language, and learn a trade would be easiest if they were around it constantly every day.

Each married family went to live with an older couple whose children had begun to leave the house. Though there were still some children left in each home, there was plenty of space for more people, and I believed that seeing how the host family raised their children would teach them to raise their children properly. Though the eastern parents loved their children, they had never seen how functional families acted, so they needed to learn from the ground up.

The single women, both mothers with children and those with no children, also went to live with families for the time being. Here again, seeing the behavior modeled by solid and well-adjusted families was the best way to teach these women what was expected of them in our society.

I really didn’t know if this would work, but it seemed logical to me. I believed they just needed the proper role models in order to get rid of the behaviors they had developed to survive in their old tribe. I hoped I was right, but only time would tell.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Five

 

With the disposition of the easterners finalized I was able to fully turn my attention to my nation and family. We had now lived in the city for a little over three years, and I had always focused on leading the city while also trying to be a good husband and father. The difference now was that for the first time since I arrived in this land eleven years earlier, I was not thinking about my next trip to explore a far land, or my next journey to conquer another tribe. For the first time ever, I was solely focused on leading my nation and taking care of my family.

I would walk throughout the city every day. I needed to see how people were working and how things were being done. While all of my leaders were quite intelligent, as a whole they did not always look to innovate and experiment the way I wanted. I constantly looked for better ways to grow, build and create to help the people. I tried to see the future and imagine what the tribe would need years from now.

One thing I knew with certainty was that nothing ever stayed the same. Change, for good or for ill, was constant. I tried to focus on changing things for the better, because I had learned that if left alone things often changed for the worse.

I would frequently go to the farms and spend the day observing and talking with the workers. Because of my curse I could not help with the work lest I cause the crops to die, but I enjoyed the sights and the smells. We continued to use many of the same methods I had taught the people years ago. They worked just as well for farming on the large scale that was required to support the city as they had for my family back in my homeland.

Irrigation was a very complex operation given the amount of land that needed to be watered. Sagan, who was in charge of the crops, excelled at making sure the plants received just the right amount of moisture to thrive here in the more arid open plains.

I also enjoyed spending time with those that cared for the livestock. Lataan continued to be my leader in this area, and he was incredibly knowledgeable about all the animals we kept for the tribe. He and his people had to know everything about raising and keeping the animals, as well as how many of each animal we needed to meet the demands of the city. This was more complex than one would imagine, as the city continued to grow at a rapid pace.

We kept a large number of pigs, sheep and goats. These animals provided much of the meat that was eaten by the tribe, as well as milk for making cheese and all the wool for our clothing. We also kept chickens for eggs and meat, as well as other fowl that was raised just for the meat. We had cattle for their milk, which was used for drinking and making cheese. We did not eat the cattle until they stopped producing, since they ate too much grass to be raised strictly for their meat.

We also had some large cattle called oxen that did not provide milk. Since pulling heavy loads was not good for dairy cattle, we kept a few of these large, strong animals to pull the carts that transported our crops and serve as draft animals in the fields. As the city had expanded, we now had many fields on the north side of the river. The oxen were needed to help prepare our fields and pull the heavily loaded carts filled with vegetables and grains from those fields to the storehouses.

We had built an additional bridge further down river to connect the northern fields to the farms and pastures on this side of the river. That bridge was used by the oxen and the farm workers to quickly reach those fields, which was where most of our grain was now grown.

As the tribe had grown we built several more storehouses for all the crops we needed to raise. The storehouses continued to be where everyone in the tribe went to get their food and the other necessities of life. This system continued to work well, though I knew it might become difficult to keep the supply of goods balanced with the demand for them as the city grew even larger. Catto was in charge of the storehouses, and his most important job was tracking what we had in them to insure that we had enough of everything that was needed.

In addition to new houses we also built more public areas where the people could gather in their free time. These were large spaces where we would plant trees and build an open, roofed structure. Here the children would play, the elderly could relax and visit, and the workers would gather in the evenings to socialize with their friends and family. We placed them in several locations throughout the city, so everyone had one near their home.

After my return from the east I continued to hold court once a week in the main public building, the large one in the center of the city. There I was available to all the people. They could come to me with any troubles they had, whether it be with their neighbor or the city.

This was when my wisdom was most tested. People sometimes brought problems to me that were quite complex; problems that required solutions that could impact every person in the city. I knew that once I established a precedent, I needed to continue enforcing the decision. The people had long memories and would know if I later tried to change my decision.

I tried to be fair in everything I did. Even when dealing with the most complex of issues, fairness is the great leveler. Though people would sometimes leave the court upset if they did not get their way, a solution that is seen as fair will normally allow those involved to be appeased.

I now realized that God had not been fair with me after I killed my brother. Fairness would probably have meant that I be put to death, something God could easily have done. But instead of getting what I deserved, God showed me mercy. He also showed generosity by giving me the mark that had protected me ever since. His mercy and generosity, which in my self-centeredness I had not even recognized, had been undeserved yet freely given.

As the King I had many difficult decisions to make, at times involving life and death. I tried to approach all my decisions with the thought of what God would do. Sadly, I realized that even if I wanted, I would not always do the right thing. I was human. I fought a never-ending battle in my heart between doing what God would want, and doing what I wanted. This was not always the same thing, but I was resolved to try to be the best person I could be.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Six

 

The trip to the east had shaken me to my core. The differences between the two cultures were stark and very clear. Ours was a society that tried to live correctly and do what was right, while theirs cared not a bit for humanity or justice. I knew my people had their problems and weaknesses, and with my pride, arrogance and self-centeredness I had more weaknesses than many others, but we as a people tried to do good, and that was the important thing.

What troubled me most about what I had seen in the east was that we were all the same people, with the same hearts and minds. The only difference was they allowed evil to take over their thoughts, and eventually to rule them. I could not allow evil to gain a foothold here. As I walked the city day after day deep in thought after my return from the east, I eventually came to the decision that I needed to finally teach my people about God.

I had done many things to benefit myself as I worked to become King over this land. But all along I had still unconsciously been following the same basic principles that had been taught me by my parents, and I now realized the society I had formed was based on those principles. Do good, be fair, have faith and take care of the family. These were the principles I had learned from my parents, who had been taught by God. Though I had often practiced these principles poorly, they had still guided me and directed my actions as I led my people.

Though many of my actions were done for self-serving reasons, I believed that I had still done well teaching and exhibiting three of the four principles to my people. For the most part, as a society we did good, were fair, and we took care of ourselves and each other. Where I had totally failed my people was in faith.

Because of my anger, jealousy, and self-centeredness I had tried to ignore God and strip Him of his power, pretending He did not exist on this side of the wasteland. Time after time He had shown me to be wrong and proved His influence over the world and all people.

It was known by everyone in the tribe that I had definitively said there was only one all-powerful God. Over the years I had mentioned God in passing and in general terms to many different people, and at different times I had spoken of God at greater length to people when they had expressed an interest in knowing something specific. But because of my selfishness and conflicted thoughts, I had never been able to stand up and address all the people about God or my beliefs.

To most of my people, my belief in one God was quite odd. Almost all of the people still professed to believe in multiple gods that had control over different aspects of life such as water, hunting or the wind, though as far as I could see they actually gave their gods little thought and ascribed to them minimal power or influence.

Just as I had taught the people how to live better; how to raise crops and livestock, how to weave and make cloth and soap, I needed to teach them about God. Teaching them how to live was giving them longer and healthier lives. Teaching them about God would give them knowledge they needed; a moral framework and belief system that would help them to live better lives. Hopefully, knowledge of God’s will would help them be better people, people more able to make the right decisions in their lives. People that would choose to do good and not evil.

There was actually not a lot I could tell the people, because God had not given mankind specific laws or rules to live by. But I needed to teach them that God was the Creator of the heavens and the earth. That He was the only God and He was all-powerful. I had to tell my people that He cared about us and wanted us to live good lives and treat each other and the earth with respect. I also needed to make sure they understood that God had given each of us a free will to act as we would choose. All of mankind was capable of both good and evil, and it was up to each person to choose how they would live their life.

I struggled with how to tell these facts to the people without sounding like it was just my opinion. I knew I only had one first chance, and I did not want to make a mistake and turn people away from God with what I said. There had to be some logical way I could give this information to them, and give it in such a way that they could and would believe. I considered many options, and finally realized I needed to get Kalou’s opinion.

It was after dinner and the boys were playing on the floor while Kalou and I reclined at the table. Garon had begun walking only a month earlier, and he was still unsteady as he toddled around the room. His feet could not always keep up with his desire to explore every corner of the house, and Enoch didn’t even bother trying to keep up with his little brother. He just sat on the floor playing with some wooden animals I had carved, all the while giving Garon a non-ending stream of directions and orders which of course went unheeded.

Kalou and I happily watched this scene. Occasionally Kalou would take a sharp breath as Garon made a particularly dangerous move, but for the most part we sat in companionable silence, relaxing and watching our children at play.

Although I didn’t want to interrupt this pleasant moment, the time was right, so finally I broached the subject I’d been putting off discussing with her. “Kalou, I’m stuck on something, and I’m not quite sure how to approach it with the people. I’m hoping you can help me out.”

“Well I’ll try. What’s going on?”

“You know how I’ve said in the past that I wanted to tell the people more about God. That I wanted them to understand who and what He is, and what He’s done.”

“Yeah, you’ve said that before, but you’ve never really done anything about it. I know you’ve talked to a few other people besides me, but I don’t think most of the people in the city know much of anything about your God.”

“Exactly. Even you have a hard time with it. You always call Him my God, but He is everyone’s God, since He’s the only God. He created this world and everything in it. He made both our races, and He’s responsible for everything we know and have. And yet, most of the people don’t even believe He really exists, and that’s my fault for never teaching them about Him.”

“Well let’s be honest Cain. When you came to us, it was all about you. You were so powerful, and you had all your knowledge about how to do everything. Even though you had the mark and we knew we couldn’t harm you, you never gave us any details about what it was, where it came from, or why it was given to you. You’ve had plenty of openings over the years to talk about your… about God, but you’ve always focused all the glory onto yourself.”

“Even now, after all our years together, I know almost nothing about your past. I don’t know where you came from, or anything about your family. I could go on and on. Because of who and what you are, no one, not even me, has ever felt comfortable asking you any questions, so we know only the little bits you’ve told us.”

I considered this for a long moment, and then answered honestly, “You’re right, of course. I have always been arrogant and selfish. I’ve tried to take all the glory for myself, thinking I was better and smarter than everyone around me, even God. I have never wanted to listen, and I never thought anyone had the right to tell me anything. I would get angry if someone disagreed with me or tried to tell me what to do. Arrogance and selfishness are my problems now, and they caused my problems in my homeland, both with my family and with God.”

I paused here, and then slowly continued, my eyes fixed on the ground in front of me. “That is what caused me to do the evil I did, the evil for which God sent me away from my family.”

I lifted my head and looked over at Kalou. Her eyes were fixed upon me, a frightened look on her face.

She hesitated, and finally, gently, she said, “You know I love you, and that will not change. What did you do Cain?”

My eyes went back to the ground. I was too ashamed to lift them. No more lies, to myself or to others. For the first time I admitted it to myself, even while I said it out loud to Kalou.

“I… I murdered my brother.” I said, the words tumbling out in a rush.

She did not say anything, and after a moment I hesitantly looked up, fearful of her reaction but needing to see her face.

Her hand, which she had probably lifted in a reflex motion, still covered her mouth. Her wide eyes showed shock and sadness. Gratefully, I did not see there the disgust and hatred I had expected, and perhaps even deserved to see.

“I am so sorry Cain, sorry for both you and your brother.” She paused, and then gently asked, “What happened?”

Now that I had admitted it, both to her and myself, I would not lie about it ever again. I wanted nothing but the truth to come out.

I started haltingly, but as I continued the words spilled out as if I was in a race to get the truth finally in the open.

“I was arrogant and selfish almost beyond belief. I took everything I could learn from my parents and everything I could figure out on my own and I used it in my fields. Our crops grew abundantly, but I would not admit that God was guiding me, as well as blessing our family with His generosity through my fields.”

“I wanted all the glory for myself, and I chafed under my parents’ requirement that we return a portion of our bounty back to God. This we were supposed to do as a loving admission of our dependence and gratitude to Him. Though I gave God the required sacrifice of my fields, I gave Him no love or respect. There was no admission in my heart that any of my success was dependent upon Him. In my arrogance I believed my success occurred only because of my intelligence and hard work.”

“My relationship with God, which should have been one of loving gratitude and submission, was one of resentment and… it’s difficult to even say this, one of disdain. I could not admit that God had helped me in any way, and though I grudgingly gave a sacrifice of my fields, there was no sacrifice in my heart. No love, no fear, no admission of dependence. I was only fulfilling the requirements of my parents.”

“My brother saw this and he rebuked me. At the time I considered it meddling and conceit on his part. Now I clearly see it was out of love and concern for me that he did this.”

“My brother Abel had a close and loving relationship with God. He respected God and praised Him constantly, in his heart, though his songs, and in the way he lived. He was truly dedicated to God in a way I could not even begin to understand.”

“But I did not respect my brother because I felt he was wasting his time. I resented that while I worked to produce food for the family, Abel spent much of his time in reflection and praise of God. In hindsight, it is clear to me that Abel had the loving heart that God desires, while mine was too filled with pride to let God in.”

“As time went on, my disdain for both my brother and God grew. What did I need God for? Why did my foolish brother waste his time believing as he did? I tried not to let my true feelings show, but my brother, seeing in my behavior that something was amiss, continued to come to me, encouraging me and trying to turn my heart. Instead of gratitude, I was angered by his actions. I considered him to be intruding into my life, and I became increasingly angry and resentful whenever he spoke to me of my attitude.”

“I worked hard to grow my crops, and I could not believe it when one day God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice and not with mine. This was an insult to my pride, and I became even more resentful of Abel. I decided I would never let him lecture me again.”

“God warned me. God saw what I could do if I did not control myself, but I ignored Him. My heart was filled with anger. I told myself I was righteously angry because God was unjustly favoring my brother. I now see I was self-centered and full of jealousy because God did not think I was as perfect as I saw myself to be.”

“For many years I have told myself… actually tried to convince myself, that I acted thoughtlessly out of blind rage, but I know this is not true. In reality, I wanted no competition. In my self-centeredness I thought if my brother was no longer there, God and my parents would finally see how wonderful I was.”

“Only one day after God Himself came to me and warned me to beware and master my sin, my brother lay dead with my knife in his chest.”

“Oh Cain!” Kalou looked at me with sorrow in her eyes.

Continuing on I said, “The moment he fell, I knew what I had done and regretted it, but yet I still could not bring myself to admit my guilt. In my heart I continued to blame Abel for my actions.”

“God showed me mercy. He gave me this mark so no one would murder me the way I had murdered my brother, but He sent me out of my homeland, never to return. The only direction I could go was east, so I crossed the wasteland and found you and your tribe. ”

“In all the years I have been with this tribe, I have done many good things that have helped the people, things that I believe God wanted me to do. But everything I did, I did for myself. I continued to arrogantly believe I had all the answers, and I acted out of selfish pride and ambition, wanting only to be first in the eyes of everyone.”

“I believe that I have slowly become a better person as my responsibilities to our family and the tribe have increased. But when I went to the East and saw how those people acted, I realized how similar to them I have been. I now see how my arrogance and self-centeredness has caused me to sin all through my life.”

I finished, “Kalou, I know I will sin again because I’m human. But I vow to you, I will do my best to never again be that self-centered man; that man who thought only of himself and what he wanted, no matter the cost to others.”

“Cain, I know better than anyone how arrogant and selfish you were when you came to us. I saw it clearly in your actions and your words. But I also saw that it wasn’t always only about you; I saw that you truly wanted to help us improve our lives. Over the years you have changed, slowly yes, but you have changed from a man that looked down on us as ignorant and inferior into a caring leader that the people truly want to follow.”

“In the beginning we followed you because we felt forced by your mark, your knowledge, and your strength. For a long time many in the tribe thought you were a god and they followed you out of fear. But now everyone follows you out of respect. They recognize all you have done for them, and they see how you want to help the tribe in everything you do.”

Nodding, I said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that Kalou. All I can see in myself is my selfish thoughts and deeds. It is good to know that others see the good I have accomplished, even when I was doing it for myself.”

“When I crossed the wasteland all those years ago I dreamed about building a kingdom, and the only reason was to have absolute power to do as I wanted. Now that I’ve finally finished building the kingdom, I realize that what’s important is not having the power to do what I want, it’s having the power to help others. Having the power to bring people together and teach them. Teach them about growing food and building houses and tools, yes, but also teach them about God, and teach them not to make the same mistakes that I made.”

Kalou asked, “Well, where do you go from here? Now that you’ve come to this decision, what’s next? Are you just going to call the people together and tell everyone about God?”

“Yes, but I feel like I’ve only got one shot, and I want to make sure I tell them everything they need to hear. I can’t force anyone to believe me or believe that there’s only one God, but I need to give them all the facts so they can make their own informed decision.”

Kalou smiled, “I understand. But it shouldn’t be all that hard to get them to listen, you’re the king.”

“True. I’ll call a meeting at the public building and order everyone to be there. But just because I make them listen, that doesn’t mean they will understand or believe; that has to come from them. So I’m just going to tell the truth. I’ll tell everyone about my past and why I’m here; I’ll tell them everything I know about God, and then it’s in their hands.”

“Do you really have to tell them about your past? About your brother?”

I nodded earnestly, “Yes I do. I need them to know I have been guilty of arrogance and deceit, and I committed a horrible sin when I killed my brother. I need them to know I regret my actions, and I am constantly trying to change for the better. I want them to understand that all people have free will, and it is possible to change who we are if we want to change and are willing to work for that change.”

I continued, “Also, it was because of my brother that I know for a fact that God exists. First, though I did not sleep He spoke to me in dreams to warn me of the evil place my arrogance and anger was taking me. After my deed He came to me in a blinding light. In fear and shame I fell to the ground and could not raise my eyes, but we spoke together. He sent me away from my family and my homeland, but He gave me the mark I carry out of His mercy. In order to tell the people the truth about God, I need them to know the truth about me.”

Kalou nodded, “I understand, but it will be difficult. When will you hold the meeting?”

“Three days from now, on the seventh day. That is the day God rested after He created the earth, and the day my family always rested. That’s why I have always had our tribe rest on the seventh day. Now I can actually tell the people why we have done this since I became the leader.”

Kalou agreed, “That’s a good idea. Everyone loves the rest day, and it will be good for them to finally know why it’s special.”

I finished by saying, “So three days from now the tribe will gather in front of the public building at midday, and I will finally tell them the truth.”

This decided, I changed the subject to another important matter. “But now I need to show you something, something I brought from my homeland that is very special to me. I have kept it hidden all these years, waiting for the right time to show it to you.”

Kalou was startled, “What? What have you kept hidden from me?”

“I’ll be right back,” I said, going into our sleeping room. There I carefully lifted some boards and removed my mother’s painting from its hiding place.

I returned to Kalou’s side, and as I slowly and carefully unrolled the hide, the painting emerged. It was a picture of an obviously happy family, painted in loving detail. There was an attractive couple in the center, and standing beside them two small boys. The boys appeared to be close to the same age, and even in the painting you could see all the life and energy the family had. It was an amazing and beautiful sight.

Kalou looked at me in surprise, her eyes wide. She didn’t know what to say. Finally, “What is it? How did you do that?”

“I didn’t. My mother painted it when I was a boy. It is my family. That is me, next to my father.”

I pointed to the boy standing next to the large, handsome man. The man’s hand held the child’s in obvious tenderness. Just looking at the painting made me miss my family so much, and made me regret my sin almost beyond the point I could bear. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I turned my head away.

Kalou saw my reaction and gently touched my shoulder, “I’m sorry Cain.”

“I’ll be all right… It was a long time ago, but it’s my fault that everything changed. My parents must have felt so much pain because of what I did. They lost both their sons because of me.”

I paused, and took a deep breath, “But I can’t change the past. I love you and the boys, and even if I could, I wouldn’t go back there. I am happy here with you and the life I have.”

Smiling gently, Kalou said, “I’m so glad. That means everything to me. Is there some way to put the painting up so we can see it? If that is what you would like.”

“Yes. I want to put it up. It is a thing of beauty, and I want to see my parents and be reminded of where I came from.”

Kalou said, “Good, I’m glad. It’s incredible! Your mother must have been a very special woman.”

“Yes she was. And three days from now I’m going to tell everyone about her and the rest of my family.”

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Seven

 

The next day I called all my leaders together in privacy at my house, something I had never done before. Once they were settled I got right to business.

“I’m going to call a meeting of the entire tribe. I would like all the people to gather in the large square two days from now, on the rest day. When the sun is at its peak I will address the people. Please let all those that work under your direction know this. What I have to say is very important, and I want everyone in the city to be there.”

Catto was the first to respond, “What’s going on Cain? Can you tell us now?”

“No, I want to tell everyone in the tribe at the same time. It’s not an emergency and there’s no danger, but there are some things I want to tell the tribe about my past, and I also want to talk to everyone about God.”

All eyes shot wide open when I said this. My past had always been a huge topic of speculation and curiosity. Just by saying I would talk about my past, I had ensured perfect attendance at the meeting.

Cadune spoke up, “Are you sure there’s nothing you can tell us now; something we should know before the meeting?”

With a laugh I said, “No old friend, you’ll have to wait just like everyone else. But be assured, there’s nothing to worry about. I need to tell the entire tribe some things, and I want everyone to hear what I have to say at the same time. You’ll all know soon enough.”

None of them liked that they didn’t know what was going to happen, but there was nothing they could do to persuade me to tell them in advance.

All eyes were upon me as I went through the city that afternoon, and even more so the next day. I normally attracted minimal attention on my rounds, even though I was the leader of the city. I was accorded respect and a certain amount of deference by the people, but in general I was not given any special treatment. I knew I was esteemed by most and feared by some, but not revered or worshipped, which was just how I wanted it.

But now I was the center of attention, and everywhere I went people looked and whispered, many pointing and talking openly. A number of people, mostly men and women from the original tribe that I had known for many years, openly asked me what the meeting was about.

Whenever this happened I would respond with a joke such as, “I won’t tell Catto, you think I’m going to tell you? You’ll have to wait until rest day to hear my story.”

My easy attitude and laughing response calmed any fears that may have developed among the people, reassuring them in advance that nothing was wrong.

The anticipated day came and the sun rose the same as any other day. I was nervous, not sure how the people would react to the knowledge that their king, the man that led the tribe and held court as their judge, was guilty of murdering his own brother.

I needed to tell the people my history, but it was imperative that I properly tie in the existence and involvement of God. I wanted the tribe to hear the truth about me, but I needed to make sure they heard and understood the bigger story.

We existed because humans and everything around us were created by the one and only God. This God had shown me mercy and permitted me to cross the wasteland to this land, where He had guided me to help them achieve a better life. I wanted them to know of His power as well as His love, mercy, and justice, things I was only now beginning to truly comprehend.

I wanted to make them believe everything I told them, but I knew that because of the free will God had accorded to all people, no one could force them to believe in Him. It was a decision every individual had to make on their own.

I wanted everyone in the tribe to make decisions based on truth, not on silly notions of gods that they had invented in their own minds. I wanted my people to live their lives as they saw fit, but their decisions needed to be based in the knowledge that there actually was right and wrong, good and evil, as decided by the Creator.

By mid-morning people were streaming into the square in front of the common building. They were arriving very early, and the sound of the tribe talking and laughing grew as the morning went on. Anticipation kept building, and everyone was there well before the sun had reached its zenith. I could wait no longer. It was time to address the people.

I had been sitting with Kalou on the steps going up to the common building, chatting with various people as they passed by. Our boys played on the edge of the crowd with the rest of the tribe’s children, being watched over by several older women.

I rose and the crowd immediately quieted. It was eerie to have hundreds of people instantly fall silent and focus only on me.

I began, “Thank you for coming. This is the first time I have ever brought the entire tribe together, but there are some things that I want to tell you; things that I need to make clear.”

“What I am going to tell you is important… Very important. I’m going to tell you about my past, my history before I came to this land. I hope that through learning about what I have done and how I have lived my life, you will be able to learn lessons that will help you to live a better life. I do not want any of you to make the same mistakes I have made.”

At this the crowd stirred and looked around at each other. They had certainly not expected me to start this way. After a brief pause, I continued speaking.

“But before I can tell you my story, I must first tell you everything I know about the one God. My story is tied to God, and I cannot tell you the truth about my life until I first tell you the truth about God.”

“There is only one God! I will say this again. There is only… one… God. I state this as an undeniable fact, as one who has seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, and is born of those that were created and chosen by God in the beginning.”

“This God created the sky and the earth and everything that moves in the sky, on the earth or in the water. He existed before He made this land, and He will exist after this land is gone. He is all powerful, all seeing, all knowing and will exist forever. These are undeniable facts.”

“Some of you believe that there is more than one God, that there are many gods in different shapes and forms. This is absolutely wrong. These gods of water and earth, of animals and food; all these various gods that some of you consider to be real are most certainly false. They are made up by you in your own mind, to serve your own purposes. They do not exist and never have.”

“I tell you again, there is only one God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, and anyone that believes in any other god is a fool.”

I spoke all these words with fierce conviction, and at this last declaration I saw some people frown unhappily. I wasn’t concerned with their reaction and continued speaking.

“In only six days God created this earth and everything on it. He rested on the seventh day, which is why we also rest on this day. Out of His love and generosity, God gave us this land and all that is here. We are to use this land to feed and clothe and take care of ourselves and our families. This land and all we have is a gift from God, and we must treat everything with respect.”

“In return God wants us to revere only Him as the creator and sustainer of life. All thanks should go to Him for all we have and all we are. We must always remember that nothing comes to us except what God provides.”

“Just as undeniable as His existence, power and love, is His nature. God loves good and hates evil, and He wants His people to do right and shun evil. But in His wisdom He gave all people a great and fearsome gift. He gave us free will, the right to choose what we will do and how we will live our lives.”

“This free will is inherent in humans. It goes with our soul, with our intelligence and our ability to reason and make decisions based on our desires and needs, and is one of the things that separates mankind from the animals. Humans can and do decide whether we will do good or evil, whether we will do right or wrong. Whether we will strive to follow in the way of God, or choose to follow the evil one.”

At my last words I saw the people start, unsure about this new development.

“Yes, there is an evil one. But he is not a god. Though I know little of him, I do know that in the beginning he was one of God’s helpers, much as Catto is my helper as I lead this tribe. But he wanted power that he was not worthy of, and in his folly he fought the all-powerful God.”

“Of course the evil one lost that fight. But God in His mercy did not destroy him. God allowed him to come to the earth. Here the evil one fights constantly to sway our souls, to turn our hearts to evil instead of good.”

The crowd was entranced. They appeared to hold their breath as they focused on my every word.

“The evil one is the deceiver. He is the mutterer and the liar. He speaks to our hearts, but he is false, lying to us and preying on our fears, trying to sway us to do evil.”

“All the while God also lives within us, also speaking to our hearts, trying to guide us to choose good.”

“In reality there is a battle being fought for our souls, but we are fighting ourselves. It is our decision to choose whether good or evil will win the battles of our heart.”

Here I paused to take a deep breath and focus my thoughts. No eyes left my face; they continued to stare, attentively waiting for me to continue.

“God will never force us, but truly desires that we choose to do His will. I do not know what will happen after my life is done. But I know that the decisions we make while alive, the decisions to do good or evil, will live on long after we are gone.”

“Unfortunately, because we are all human everyone will do evil, but there is a great difference between doing evil and being evil. Everyone will make a wrong decision many times over the course of their life, and even the best people on occasion will decide to do evil deeds. We are human and no one will ever be perfect. But I am here to tell you, resist the deceiver when he mutters in your heart. I know from my own experience how the deceiver can change and ruin lives. You must try your hardest to do only good, knowing that at times you may fail. You, and only you, can choose how to live your life. With all your heart and soul, try to follow God!”

“Now that I have told you the truth of God, the deceiver, and the free will you have been given, I will tell you my story. Now you will hear how my life has been affected by the choices I have made.”

At this the crowd stirred. All this time they had been standing silent, almost breathless as they listened to my every word. Now once again they moved, shaking themselves and turning and whispering to each other. I waited, giving them time to think and speak. After a few moments they began to settle down to hear what I would say next. Soon they were quiet again, looking at me expectantly.

“I have lived in this land for twelve years. When I arrived here I was a wanderer that had been sent away from my own land by God. The mark I bear comes from God, and was given to me on the day I was sent from my home. You may think this mark is a sign of blessing, but no, it is a mark of mercy. Mercy given to me by God, even though I did not deserve it.”

“God, in His love and mercy gave me this mark so no man would do to me the evil that I did to another.” The crowd looked at each other in puzzlement, and then slowly realization began to dawn upon them.

I finished my confession, “Yes, God gave me this mark so none would kill me as I had killed.”

At this statement there was a sharp intake of breath as all eyes widened in shock. After a brief stunned silence, the crowd lost control. There was talking and shouting; an overwhelming clamor that was almost deafening to my ears. In their surprise some reverted to their old languages. Others gestured and called out, “Murderer! Murderer!”

Even though I had denied it over the years, many in the crowd had still believed I was a god of some sort; a god that was good and had been sent to help them. For no valid reasons whatsoever, many had raised me up as one that was beyond reproach; one that did no evil. To hear me admit to the greatest evil of all disappointed them to their very core.

I stood silent and unmoving, facing the crowd and waiting. My eyes searched out my closest friends, Catto and Cadune among them. I saw sadness and disillusionment in their eyes. I had expected and deserved this, but nevertheless, it hurt. Finally, the din began to die down.

“Yes, I did murder. I did evil against my own family and against God.”

The crowd once again became very restless and agitated, loudly discussing what I had just said. After they calmed down I continued, “I will now tell you of my life before I came to this land, as well as the circumstances that brought me here.”

“Though I know little of mankind’s origins, I know that all of us, both your race and mine, were created by God. I cannot tell you of your beginnings, and can tell you only a little of my parents, since they were not willing to speak of their past. But I will tell you what I know.”

“My parents were created by God to have dominance over the land and be God’s people on earth. They lived in a special place and were blessed by God, but something happened. They listened to the deceiver and did something that was wrong in God’s eyes, and they were sent away from His presence to the land in which I was born.”

“In my homeland, far away on the other side of the wasteland, I and my brother Abel were raised by my parents. We lived a good life. The ways I have taught since I came to live with you were the ways of my parents. We farmed and raised sheep and goats; we made soap and cloth and lived much as you do now.”

“As a family we revered God. We kept the seventh day as a day of rest, to honor God’s rest on the seventh day after His creation of the earth. We gave back to Him in a sacrifice the finest portion of our yields. Even though my parents were sent away from His presence because of their disobedience, they still loved Him and tried to do His will.”

“Though I had no cause for thinking as I did, I chafed under my parents’ requirement to give back to God. I had ideas that increased the yield of my crops and I wanted the glory for these ideas. I was proud and did not understand that all things come from God, and my heart was not willing to give Him honest and sincere thanks for His blessings. My anger and resentment grew when I did not hear the praise that in my self-centeredness I felt I deserved.”

“My brother Abel had a great love for God, and tried to do His will in every way. As time went on Abel increasingly found favor in the eyes of God, and though I now realize it was not true, I believed he was also favored by our parents. I grew very jealous of my brother, and I resented the peace and joy he had in his life. Abel loved me and tried to tell me how to find peace in God, but this caused me to resent him even more.”

“As my jealousy began to turn to hatred, God came to me and warned me of the evil that was growing in my heart. But in my pride and arrogance I did not listen. I did not repent and change. Instead, I let the jealousy and hatred grow, and finally it spilled over and my own brother lay dead at my feet.”

I heard the sharp intake of breath from the crowd. Although they had expected this, they were still shocked to hear the words come from my mouth.

“I was warned by God, and I still killed my own brother. I deserved nothing less than death for this act of evil. God came to me and asked me what I had done, and in my shame I lied. Of course God knew what I had done to my brother. But in His mercy He did not take my life, but instead sent me away from my parents and all I had ever known. This mark He placed upon my head to prevent others from killing me, from sinning as I had.”

“I left my homeland, and though I was sad over the death of my brother, I was still unwilling to repent and take responsibility for what I had done. Pride, arrogance and selfishness still reigned in my heart. I could not admit wrong-doing on my part, but instead assigned the blame for my actions to my brother, to my parents, and even to God.”

“I found a home here, but as I have lived among you I have been that same man; arrogant, selfish and full of pride in my accomplishments. I have always taken the glory for myself, refusing to see the hand of God working through me and you, time and time again.”

“Only now have I seen my folly. Seeing the sin and corruption of the eastern tribe finally opened my eyes to all that God does for mankind. A generation ago God removed the people that had gone over to sin for your protection, and though they had the free will to change, most continued to revel in their sinful ways.”

“Seeing them and realizing what so many of them had chosen, it is as if I have awakened from a dream. I now know it has been God’s hand at work all along. I have accomplished nothing on my own, but all things through God, who has guided and strengthened me. Though I am not worthy, I have been blessed in this land with you as a people, and blessed with my wife and my sons.”

“Though unworthy, I have asked God for forgiveness for my brother’s murder, as well as my sins of pride and selfishness. I cannot know if He accepts my repentance, but this is all I can do. I also ask your forgiveness, if you can find it in your hearts. I am truly sorry for what I have done, and the man I have been.”

“That is my story, and the truth of the one God.”

Here I stopped. I had nothing more to say. I felt empty, drained. I was ashamed of myself and what I had admitted to being, but I was glad to have finally spoken the truth.

I stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to do and unsure of how the people would react. Neither did the people seem to know what to do. They looked at each other, and then looked back at me. No one said anything for a long moment.

Then the floodgates opened and everyone began to speak at the same time, talking with their spouses, families and friends. They would look at me often, glancing up to where I stood and then turning back to continue their discussion. I waited, expecting someone, or perhaps even the entire tribe, to do something, though what I expected to happen I do not know. But they continued only to talk among themselves. I could hear my name mentioned, hear discussion of God, and I knew that they still had many questions, but no one called out for me in anger.

I continued to wait, alone and unsure of what to do next. Finally Kalou, who had stood near the entire time, took my hand and said, “Let’s go talk to our friends. They have questions for you.”

She led me into the crowd, and no one shied away from me. They were curious and many asked questions, while others spoke words of encouragement. I was amazed; this was not at all what I had expected. I had expected to see disgust, and perhaps hatred. I had even thought people might call for my expulsion from the tribe.

Instead I found sadness and disappointment, but also there was understanding and forgiveness. They were disappointed I was not the man they had thought I was, and they were saddened by what I had done to Abel. But in their humanity they understood my weakness and they were able to forgive me.

People lingered in the square for quite some time. I moved through the crowd, speaking with everyone that wanted to talk as I answered many questions about both God and my past. I never noticed when people began to disperse back to their homes, but suddenly I saw there were very few people left, and most of them were my leaders, the men and women that knew me best.

Kalou had already left with our children, and I was mentally and physically exhausted, hardly able to stand.

I looked around and said to everyone, “I’m tired. I have to go home now.”

Catto looked back at me, and replied seriously, “Yeah, you look as tired as I’ve ever seen you. How long has it been since you slept?”

“A few days,” I admitted.

He nodded, “I figured as much. That must have been an incredibly difficult confession to make. I don’t know if I could have done it. But it’s over now and tomorrow’s another day, right?”

“Yeah, tomorrow’s going to be a whole new start for me. But I know I’ll sleep well tonight. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and it’s been a long time since I was able to sleep in peace.”

He nodded again thoughtfully, “I understand. I’ll see you tomorrow… And Cain, thanks for finally telling us the truth.”

I paused as I began to turn away, and looking him in the eye I replied, “Catto, it was my pleasure.”

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Eight

 

Five years after I told the tribe my story Kalou gave birth to our third son, whom we named Abel. He was followed seven years later by our fourth son, Asher. Each time she came to me I was overjoyed to hear the words that she was with child. I loved my sons and enjoyed helping to raise them, but after four boys I began to wonder if we would ever have a daughter.

Finally, our fifth child was a girl, and she was the first of our children to look like her mother. The boys all favored me in both their coloring and size, but thankfully our daughter favored her beautiful mother. She had Kalou’s dark hair and dark, flashing eyes, and as she grew it became obvious she also had her mother’s intelligence and strength of will. But she was a good-natured girl and soon became the center of attention in the house, with her brothers spoiling her the most. We named her Shalon, in honor of Kalou’s mother.

I taught and trained my children in their abilities from their youth, and as they reached adulthood they began to realize just how different their size, strength and other abilities made them. I was disappointed to see that as my children got older they began to develop a sense of superiority to the rest of the tribe. With dismay I noticed them adopting an arrogant and privileged demeanor. I took some time and surreptitiously observed their behavior, and it became obvious to me that they had decided they were better than everyone else.

What disappointed me the most about their behavior was that I had always stressed to them that all people were made in God’s image. While we were physically stronger and had our special abilities that the rest of the tribe did not share, our family was not intellectually or morally superior. We were all humans and equal.

As I saw my children’s sense of entitlement growing, I knew I had to do something before it was too late. For too many years I had believed in my superiority to what I had considered the inferior tribal people. I now knew how wrong I had been, and I was ashamed of what I had believed. I didn’t want my children to make the same mistakes I had made.

One day it came to me, and I suddenly realized what I had missed in their training. My children knew we were of a different race, and they had been taught about our special abilities. They knew I was the ruler of this city, and I had control over the destiny of the tribe. Of course this had given them a sense of entitlement. I had failed my children because I should have taught them that our position and their special abilities did not entitle them to privileges, but instead obligated them to service and duty.

As special, powerful individuals and the rulers in this land, our family should be obligated to a higher standard, to exceptional levels of duty and sacrifice. We all needed to understand that because of who we were, we had to give more to others. My children would be the leaders, yes, but they needed to understand that we were here to serve and help the tribe. I had taught my children about their abilities, but I had never taught them why our race was given those abilities. They had been given their abilities to accomplish great things for the tribe, and their gifts were not for their own gain, but for all the people.

When Enoch was about forty, I added lessons about what it really meant to be a member of our family and a leader in the tribe to the teachings I gave all my children, from Enoch down to the youngest. We discussed free will and the power to choose your own path at length. I emphasized the need for service and the importance of using our abilities for the good of the tribe, but I also emphasized the folly of arrogance and pride, as this was the trap that waited at the door for every one of them. I know these heart-felt lessons helped, because I soon began to notice positive changes in their attitudes towards the people.

Our family continued to grow, and by the time Enoch was fifty years old he had nine siblings, six of them male and three female.

When it came to a trade, most children in the tribe followed in the footsteps of their parents. If the father was a farmer or a woodworker, that was what the son would do. Of course there were some young people that wanted to do something different than their parents, and that was fine, but normally children followed their parents.

Eventually my children would be the leaders of this city and throughout the land, and in order to relate to all the people, I wanted each of them to know how to do every trade. Therefore, all my children were required to spend at least one year learning and working in every major trade. They would often spend significantly more than one year working in an area if they enjoyed it or wanted to learn all of the intricacies of the position. Several of my children became incredibly skilled at some of the trades, becoming among the most knowledgeable in the city.

My son Abel, who like his namesake loved working with animals, became renowned for his knowledge of livestock. He was instrumental in advancing the way we culled our flocks, and also how we rotated and pastured our sheep and goats, which reduced overgrazing and improved crop yields even further.

Both Asher and my seventh son Eben became expert woodworkers, while my fifth son Corran became a master of shaping and using stone. Together these men advanced the building trades as innovators and inventors, with new tools being developed which improved the lives of everyone.

Both Shalon and her younger sister Kera were instrumental in reorganizing the operations of the storehouses, which continued to become larger and more complex as the city grew.

My daughter Keela was extremely creative. She became the best weaver in the city, and actually made some revisions to the age-old design of the loom. These revisions made it easier to weave the cloth, even while improving the speed at which the weaver could work.

I was incredibly proud of the accomplishments of all my children. Every one of them was intelligent and a hard worker that did their best. This was all I could ask of anyone.

My family was growing and getting older, and soon they would go into the world to spread their wings and make their own paths. It was in their nature and their blood. I had done everything I could to prepare them as they grew, and now it was up to them.

 

 

 

Chapter Forty Nine

 

I was very pleased with the progress we had made in the fifty years since the tribe built the city. The population continued to be healthy and well-fed. The four tribes were now fully integrated into one tribe, with any old divisions long gone as the population aged and intermarried. The tribe had taken my words to heart about the true God, and belief and reverence for God was common in the tribe. While I oversaw disagreements and settled a multitude of wrongs in court every week, the tribe, though imperfect humans, as a whole was generally ethical and moral in their behavior and actions.

The rest of the tribe was having even more children than Kalou and I, and the population was growing at a rapid pace. I had considered population growth when I planned the city, and I knew we were quickly approaching the maximum capacity of the area. The river, fields and flocks could only support so many people before conditions became too crowded and unhealthy.

I had originally believed that the surrounding fields and the river would give us the space and water to support a city of one thousand people, which had been very far away when we settled here. But I had not factored the high number of children that would be born. Now that we had grown to about nine hundred people, I realized we would be able to support more than the thousand I originally anticipated. But I also realized we would surpass that number very quickly.

I still had no idea how long my race would live. When I had last seen my parents they had not appeared old in any way. They had been vital and looked as if they were in the prime of their life, but I knew they had lived at least four hundred years, and perhaps many more. I had now lived one hundred and seventy years, and yet to people I appeared as one not long into adulthood. While I had no idea how long I would live, I guessed it would be many hundreds of years.

No one had counted before I arrived, so I did not know how long the people lived in this land. When I first arrived I had guessed at their life span based on how old they looked, and estimated it to be about three hundred years.

Those such as Garon the Elder that had been alive since near the beginning had already died of old age, so these people obviously aged at a faster rate than my race. But I now believed they actually lived much longer than three hundred years, and they had just looked old at a younger age because of the harsh lives they endured.

My entrance into this land had changed everything. The people were much healthier since they now ate meals which included fruits and vegetables, and they used soap to keep themselves clean. Their health had improved a hundredfold since I joined them, and I had no doubt their lifespan had increased significantly because of these improvements.

I truly had no idea how long they would live, any more than I knew what my own lifespan would be. But it was obvious that if we continued to be healthy and have children at this rate, in only a few more years the city would grow to an unmanageable and unhealthy size.

I knew it was time to send people out into the world once again.

I called together my leaders to tell them of my intentions. When I informed them of my decision to start another city, I was surprised by their negative reactions.

Cadune was first to speak, and as usual he was blunt in his assessment. “Why do we need another city? We’ve worked so hard to increase the flocks and build all the storehouse we need for grain. Everyone is fed and there are plenty of houses. Everyone is happy. Why ruin everything by dividing the tribe?”

“I told you Cadune. All the children that have been born since we moved here are getting ready to marry and start having their own children. The population of this city could double very quickly, and we can’t handle that.”

“Even if the river could support them, to support all the additional people the fields and flocks would have to become huge, and they would be very difficult to work. We would need to double the number of homes and storehouses we have now. The city would become too large to be manageable.”

“The people would eventually become frustrated as our services were overwhelmed. They would start to think back with fondness to their small villages, and want to leave for a smaller and more comfortable home.”

“A new city needs to be built, that’s a fact. I want to organize and build the new city in the location of our choice, in the way we want it to be done.”

Cadune was still not convinced, though he saw the wisdom of my words. As he crossed his arms and sat back with a frown, he declared, “Well, I’m not going anywhere.”

I laughed, “That’s good, because I need to you stay here and run the city whenever I’m away.”

I continued, “This will take time, so we need to get started now. I want to follow the same plan as this city, and build it with the houses, farms and fields ready to go when the people move in. It’s very important that we have people of all ages, trades and skills, with people from all the old tribes move into the new city. It will need to thrive on its own, with no support from us.”

Carron asked, “Do you know where you want to build it?”

“Yes.” I replied, “Of course, any new city needs to be built near enough flowing water to support the population, and that limits our options, but we all know there are several good rivers with excellent land around them in this valley, mainly to the south. Over time we will need to build more cities, and I have already picked out several good locations that can support at least a thousand people.”

At this statement Cadune frowned again, but before he could say anything Carron spoke. “Well, which one have you chosen for the first city?”

“I want to begin to move towards the south,” I replied. “I would like to build the next city close enough to us that it can stay in contact fairly easily. But of course it needs to be far enough away that we don’t have any conflict for land or game. I think it should be built about a three day journey from here.”

Gadu interrupted me, “A three day journey for you, or for one of us?”

This comment drew laughter from everyone.

I thought about it, and then had to admit with an embarrassed shrug, “Yeah, actually it’s more like a five day journey to the Silver River. But we need to go that far to get to the first good spot. As we go further south the locations get more plentiful.”

“I have good reasons for choosing that location as our first new city. I’ve identified five excellent places for cities between here and the Southerners old village. And as you go further south past the old village, there are even better spots as you get closer to the southern mountains.”

When I said this everyone looked at me curiously, unspoken questions in their eyes. The southern mountains were very far away, and I had never mentioned that I had gone there.

I nodded, “Yes, I’ve been to the southern mountains.”

The tense tone of my voice conflicted with the mild statement. They noticed this and looked at me in surprise, even more curious than before.

I did an overly casual shrug, but my body still gave an involuntary shiver. “I don’t recommend you ever visit those mountains. There are things there that are best left alone.”

I quickly brought the conversation back to the subject at hand.

“After the Silver River you go only another three days further south, even as slowly as you travel Gadu,” I said, grinning at my old friend, “and you come to that narrow, faster river which flows almost due north. It’s not named, but I’ve always called it the Green River because of all the grass growing in it.”

“After building there, another three days journey towards the south and east brings us to a very good location on the Great River.”

Here everyone looked at me with surprise, and Gadu asked, “I thought we wanted to stay away from the Great River?”

I nodded, “We do, but this spot is very good. There’s a long bend in the river and it’s very wide, so there is a lot of land with water access as well as a large forest less than a day away. It is the only place on the Great River where I would be willing to build a city.”

“Another three days journey south and a little west of there is another excellent spot for a city, and then the final location I have chosen so far is about three day’s journey south of the Southerner’s old village. That river is further to the west, all the way back to the western mountains.”

With a smile I added, “I asked around, and not one of the Southerners ever knew the river existed, but it is probably the best spot out of all of them. That river goes almost due west all the way to the Great River. It gets wider as it flows west, but near the mountains it is still narrow enough to build a bridge across. Once you cross that river the valley continues onward to the south for many days until you finally reach the southern mountains.”

I looked around the room as I said, “This great valley, from here to the southern end, could hold many, many thousands of people.”

Cadune had a puzzled look in his eyes, “If the great mountains are so far to the south, how can they be seen? They were visible from the high point near our old village, but you are saying they are actually very far from there.”

I nodded, “Yes, they are very far from our old village. But they are tall. Higher than you could ever imagine. They make Gadu’s mountains, the mountains to the north, look like small foothills.”

I shook my head, and with a frown that silenced any additional questions I continued, “As I said, I don’t recommend you ever visit them. There are some places in this land that we should not go for our own good.”

Once again I looked around the room, “So what do you think? Any additional discussion? Now is your time to talk, because you all know once we leave this room I expect complete agreement from every one of you.”

I looked pointedly at Kalou, and she couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you serious Cain? You know I always agree with everything you say.”

Her statement drew the largest laughter of all, but when it died down I looked at each person in the room. “You know this decision will be opposed by many of the people. Though there are always some that love change, few will want to leave here. But it needs to happen quickly, because very soon our population will start to rapidly increase.”

I continued, “We have to control, to some extent, who goes. I don’t want all the young people to leave, and I also don’t want the majority to be from one or two of our old tribes. Those that move need to be a mix of all the old tribes, and they need to be both young and old.”

“We are now at a little over nine hundred people, and I want to keep all our cities to a maximum of about one thousand. I think three hundred people will have to volunteer to move and start anew. If we can do this, and do it well, it will set the pattern for the future. I would want the next city built after this first new one to be a mix of both the cities populations.”

I began to get excited, and my voice rose, “Over time, the mixture of people from different cities and the different cultures that will grow in those cities could be amazing. This could be the start of a whole new era, a time of growth, invention and adventure.”

Kalou touched my arm gently. She knew me well, and knew I always had to dream and look to the future. “But one city at a time Cain, let’s take it one city at a time.”

Her touch calmed me, bringing me back to the present.

“You’re right Kalou. One city at a time.”

I addressed the room in general, “So are we agreed? Are you ready to get to work on this?”

I was pleased to see the nods and smiles. I could feel the energy level rise as everyone gave their approval.

“Excellent!” I said, “Let’s go to work.”

The rest of the day was a blur of intense debate as we went over various plans and ideas, talking, discussing and at times arguing about the next steps. Everyone left late that evening, exhausted but happy with the start that had been made.

In our room as we prepared for bed that night, Kalou said, “Cain, I’m curious…”

She stopped there, and when I looked at her I could see she was deep in thought.

“What?” I prompted.

She shook her head, apparently clearing her thoughts. “Well, I’m a little hesitant to ask this. But… why do you ask our opinion and want to get our approval? You’re the king. You could just order them, and actually even me, to do anything you want, and we would have no choice.”

I thought carefully for a moment before I answered her. “I know I could just tell everyone we are starting a new city, and order them to build it. Through the force of my will or with threats I could make them comply. But if my leaders and the rest of the people were opposed to what I wanted, it would never go well and the people would be unhappy. Without our people’s agreement to move, what is a huge and daunting proposition could easily fail.”

“Previously I would have forced them if I thought it was necessary. I had no qualms about threatening to use violence to get my way when I made the Northerners join us. But I do not want to govern through threats or force. The best way to get people to follow gladly, not grudgingly, is by first getting my leaders to believe in the plan. If my leaders believe, they will gladly follow me and the rest of the people will come along.”

“I am confident of my leaders’ intelligence and reason… including you!” I added with a smile. “I knew that if I presented the facts everyone would agree with me.”

She nodded, “I understand, and I thought that was what you were doing. I just wanted to hear it with my own ears. Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how much you have changed!”

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty

 

I had sworn my leaders to secrecy for another day, and we met again the next morning to continue our planning. I went to the meeting with an idea of how many of each age I believed should move, as well as how many of each trade needed to go.

All my leaders, even Kalou, thought I was being too particular. They believed that we could just announce to the tribe that we were going to build a new city and let the people decide if they wanted to go, but I knew this would not work.

“Gadu, what if all of the old northern tribe decided they wanted to go to the new city. If we let every one of the people go that used to be members of your tribe, roughly one third of this city would leave and make up the new city, which is the right number of people. But the characteristics of your old tribe would now become the characteristics of the new city.”

I looked at those around me, “Do you all understand why this would be a problem?”

They thoughtfully nodded as Gadu responded, “Even though we have changed somewhat over the years, the members of my old tribe still tend to be quieter and more reserved than everyone else. We are less creative and more rigid in our thoughts than the rest of the people. It would not be a good thing to have only us move to the new city. This city is a good place to live because of the mixture of the tribes.”

“Exactly,” I agreed, “The mix of the tribes makes this city what it is. We need to make sure that a mixture of the old tribes and all the different trades’ volunteer to go to the new city. We need to decide how many of each trade goes, so we know we have enough farmers, weavers, woodworkers, and hunters to support the city.”

“Also, younger people tend to be more adventurous, so I think we will not have as many elder people that want to go. But it is very important we have both old and young; we need the mixture of youth and wisdom.”

Cadune asked, “So how will we get the older members to move, those that built this city and have lived here since the beginning? They probably won’t want to do it all over again.”

I grinned, “I believe that will be easier than you think. Kalou, what do the older woman love, maybe even more than their own children?”

She looked at me with a puzzled expression, and then with a burst of laughter she said, “Of course, their grandbabies! They will move if their children move, because they want to see their grandchildren grow up.”

I nodded, “Exactly. If we want a family of woodworkers and the children decide to go, the parents will also go so they can be with their grandchildren. Entire families will want to move to the new city.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

“You’re right.” said Gadu, “That’s going to happen.”

“Yes. So we need to make sure everyone understands that only so many of each trade will be allowed to go. That will encourage those that really want to go to volunteer right away.”

“People of the old tribes still go into certain trades, such as the Northerners becoming woodworkers. So just by sending people of every trade to the new city, we insure that members of every old tribe will move.”

Kalou said, “And even members of the old eastern tribe will go, since those women married men from all three of the other tribes.”

By late afternoon we were finished. We had agreed upon how many people of each trade we would need for the new city. We had also set up a rough schedule for establishing the fields and orchards, and when we would start building the houses and other structures.

There was no reason to wait any longer to announce the new city. The decision was made, the plan was set and we had established the timeframe for the move.

“Let’s call a meeting for tonight,” I stated.

There was a general outcry, “What! We can’t announce it tonight!”

“Why not? As much as I trust you, somehow it will get out and rumors will start, and I don’t want that to happen. I want everyone to find out at the same time and in the same way.”

“But we’re not ready yet,” said Gadu.

I disagreed, “We’re ready enough. We know how many of each trade we want. We know where we are going to build and when we want to start. We know how to build a city! It’s not like we haven’t done this before. I want to tell the people and get started right now.”

Everyone nodded, though some of them grudgingly. I knew they were apprehensive; this was a big change, and everyone in the room was going to have family or friends moving away. Though we had not discussed it, a five day journey would be a long and difficult trip. Because you had to camp every night and wild animals made it necessary to set out guards, small groups and individuals could not easily travel. A five day journey was not something many people would ever undertake, so if someone they loved moved away, they may never see them again.

I already had a solution to this problem, but in all the excitement I had forgotten to tell them. I knew that by the time we were done building the new city there would be a road worn between the two settlements. I wanted to find families that would be willing to set up houses along this road. Houses where travelers could stay overnight as guests on their journey between the two cities.

These guest houses would be built a day’s walk apart, and would allow travelers to get a hot meal and sleep under a roof each night. The guest houses would make travel much easier and encourage movement and interaction between the two cities, which would be very important.

I hurriedly related my idea about the guest houses to everyone, and the positive response was unanimous.

“That will really help keep the two cities connected,” said Lataan, who was in charge of the farmers and the quietest of all my leaders. I had the feeling he was thinking of moving to the new city, and his comment convinced me that he wanted to go.

“It’s decided then,” I said. “Let’s call a meeting for tonight. We’ll have it after the evening meal is taken, but while the sun is still up. Go tell your people that there’s a meeting tonight in the square. By dinnertime that’s the only thing the city will be talking about.”

I warned them, “But tell no one what the meeting is about. Do you understand?”

After dinnertime I went to the public building to blow the horn signaling the meeting to begin. It looked as though the entire city was already gathered, but I blew the horn anyway, just to signal any stragglers. The blast of the horn immediately quieted all those that were gathered.

The tribe had grown so large that not everyone fit into the square in front of the public building. I thought back to the tribal meeting I had held years earlier, the meeting where I told the people of my sin and declared to the tribe the truth about the one God.

The public square was very large, and at that time it had not been full. There had still been plenty of space in the back and around the edges. But now it was full to bursting. The people were standing shoulder to shoulder, with many of the women and men having little ones sitting on their shoulders or held in their arms.

I stood tall and straight, my wife and all my leaders beside and behind me, my children also there to be seen. I raised my voice so all that were gathered could hear my words.

When I made the announcement of my decision to start a new city, a tumult immediately arose. Everyone there realized what this would mean. People would be moving and families could be separated.

As I had expected, there was loudly shouted disagreement to my announcement. I let them react for a time, and once they had calmed down I proceeded to logically tell the people why it was necessary. I told them that our city had grown too large, and it was becoming too crowded. They only had to look around to see the truth of this statement.

I went on to emphasize the excitement and adventure that came with building a new city, and I mentioned the guest houses that would make travel between the cities much easier. As I continued to speak, stressing the positives for those that moved, throughout the crowd I saw frowning faces change to thoughtful ones. I saw smiles play across faces as people turned and whispered to their spouses.

I finished with the announcement that only a limited number of people from each trade would be allowed to move to the new city. At this statement eyebrows went up. By now many people had become intrigued with the idea of starting a new city. The thought that not everyone that wanted to go might be able made it that much more desirable.

I closed by telling them, “Please reflect on this and decide if you are up to the challenge. Both hard work and adventure come with building something from the ground up. Think about it, talk about it with your family, and sleep on it for two nights. Then if you still desire this, talk to the leader of your trade the day after tomorrow.”

At that point the meeting was over, but nobody left the square. Everyone wanted to talk with their family and friends, many of them already thinking and dreaming of the possibilities that lay ahead.

Two days later we had all the volunteers we needed. The response had been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and you could feel the excitement throughout the city. More people than I had imagined possible desired the challenge of starting a new city.

I met with my leaders the following day, and we began to plan the details. The new city would be modeled on the city of Enoch, and would be built exactly as Enoch had been built. Since we had built Enoch only fifty years ago, and almost every one of my leaders had been involved, the planning was mainly about the schedule and the people involved.

I stressed that the language, the culture, the methods of farming and building that I had introduced to the tribes, and especially the worship of God must remain the same. Though I always encouraged innovation if anyone had a better idea, it was imperative to me that we continue to build upon the improvements we had introduced, not go backwards.

Everyone was in complete agreement with me, as Cadune said with a laugh, “Why would anyone ever go back to the old ways?”

Though he was still quite young, being barely fifty, Enoch would go as the ruler. It was important that one of my children be there to lead the city. Though I would still be King over the entire land, I planned to place one of my children as the ruler under me in each city we started, no matter how many cities that was. My family would always rule, with me as the King over all.

I also decided on most of the leaders that would serve under Enoch in the new city. Catto was ready for more responsibility, so he would take on the same role for Enoch that Cadune filled for me in this city. I was sad to see my oldest friend leave, but relieved to know that someone I trusted absolutely would be there to help my son lead.

As I had thought, Lataan wanted to take on the challenge of starting the new farms. Besides these two, the rest of the leaders would be new to their positions. They were all chosen because they were intelligent, hard-working men and women that had not been able to gain positions of leadership here, because I already had competent people in place.

In a week we were ready to travel to the site to lay out the construction. I, Enoch and fifty other people went. This group was primarily men with some women; the people that would be the leaders and main workers in building the city. While a few of us would return, most would remain to begin building after we finished the layout.

You could feel the excitement as we left the city. People gathered along the way and cheered our departure as we began our trek to the south. I was just as excited as the rest. The next stage of my kingdom had begun.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty One

 

Though nothing ever goes exactly as it is planned, the building of the new city proceeded fairly smoothly, with only an occasional bump in the road. At the time it seemed to drag on forever, but only a little more than one year after I first announced my intentions to build a new city, it was complete.

After the layout was completed more farmers and woodworkers had moved to build the structures and establish the fields and groves. Over the past year the road had become well traveled and the guest houses had been set up.

There had been no problem finding families that were willing to live in the guesthouses. I hadn’t been certain there would be sufficient people who would want that job, but apparently many people liked the idea of living on their own, with only occasional travelers passing through.

The last month was a very hectic time, since this was when the bulk of the people moved. It had taken most of the year for the fields to be established to the point where they could support the population. Now the families of those that had been working the fields and building the houses and other structures were ready and able to move, along with the rest of the trades people; the weavers and makers of house wares, those that labored in the storehouses and those that did all the other tasks necessary to keep a city running.

I had been traveling constantly, helping to direct the work. I was spending as much time in the new city as I was in my own home. This was fine, since Cadune was charged with running the city of Enoch on a daily basis, while Kalou stayed there to rule in my stead.

Enoch, Catto, and all the men and women that were the leaders in the new city had been living there full time, directing the daily work of building the city. Though he was young, I knew with Catto’s and Lataan’s experience and help Enoch would be successful. Also, two more of my most trusted people had decided to go to the new city. Amtah now led the weavers, and Shadan was the leader of the hunters.

Shadan had served me very well on my trips to the southern land and the eastern land. He was a great leader, hunter and warrior, and though I would miss him, I knew he was the right man to take on this important position under Enoch. The hunters in a city were also the guards of the city, so it was imperative that the leader of the hunters be a man that was trustworthy, honorable and faithful to his ruler.

The day when the new city could finally be called complete arrived with little fanfare. It just happened; everyone had moved and they were farming, building, baking and weaving. I named the city Kalou-Car, in honor of my wife.

Kalou and I, along with all of our other children, traveled to Kalou-Car to tour the city and visit Enoch. He was happy and working very hard to make sure everything ran smoothly. I was proud of both Enoch and Catto. They had shown excellent leadership and strength, and I was confident the city would be well run.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Two

 

From the beginning there was steady interaction between the two cities. Families visited each other occasionally, and some people traveled there just to see what another city was like. Over time a few people moved back to Enoch, while others decided to move to Kalou-Car. Lataan found that there were a few items of produce that grew better at that location, while others grew better at Enoch, so a trading relationship between the two cities slowly developed.

Daily life and the responsibility of governing Enoch, while also making sure all was well in Kalou-Car caused time to pass very quickly. Kalou and I had several more children, which kept me even busier, and while I barely noticed the passage of time, forty years passed rapidly.

Enoch had once again reached its population limit. Kalou-Car was a complete success and had grown just as rapidly as Enoch over the last forty years. As it grew Kalou-Car had added storehouses, fields and houses, and though it could grow still larger without becoming a difficult place to live and work, it was catching up to Enoch in size.

It was time to build another city and repeat the process all over again. After the success of Kalou-Car everyone was even more open to building and moving to a new city.

We would build the next city as I had previously planned on the Green River, three days south of Kalou-Car. We followed the same procedure that we had with Kalou-Car and asked for volunteers from both cities that were interested in building another new city. As before, most people liked where they lived and didn’t want to move, but there were still plenty of adventurous ones that wanted to try someplace new.

One year later the city was complete, and people from both Enoch and Kalou-Car had built it. My second son Garon would rule this city. Shadan had been willing to move again and would now serve as the top leader and chief advisor, helping Garon run the city.

Once again, this city was founded on all the principles that had been developed under my kingship; a common language, belief in the only God, and the farming, livestock and building practices that were used in the other cities. This city, which I named Caladar, began to thrive immediately.

Over the next one hundred and twenty years this process was repeated four more times, each time with the same positive results. My kingdom continued to grow and was filling the land. The seventh city, Salar-Dun, was built south of where the Southerners originally had their village, and was a full twenty day’s journey from Enoch, the capital of my kingdom.

Each city was governed by one of my sons, who ruled as princes under my kingship. While I had recently decided that the next city would be built north of Enoch, most of the future cities would continue even further down the southern plain. For better or worse, my kingdom would continue its inexorable march towards the southern mountains.

While I tried not to take all the credit, I was proud of the success I had achieved and the way both my family and my kingdom had prospered. My children had grown into strong and honorable leaders; men and women that worked diligently to do good for their nation. They were thoughtful rulers that tried to do what was right for their people.

Kalou and I would have no more children. By this time she was at least two hundred and seventy five years old, while I was now three hundred and fifty two. While I was still vital and would have been able to father more children, Kalou’s time for bearing children was past.

I was now entering what would be the prime years of my life, having not yet lost any of my strength or endurance. Sadly, Kalou was already into the middle years of her life, and though still intelligent, vivacious and beautiful, was obviously aging faster than I. We had always known this would happen, and the painful thought of life without my wife would occasionally appear unbidden in the back of my mind.

Kalou and I had twenty one children; twelve sons and nine daughters. While ten of our children were not yet married, we now had many grandchildren from our older children. Enoch alone had already fathered nine sons and ten daughters with his wife Kataran, with another child on the way.

My older children were charged with ruling, and occupied the highest positions of administration in the cities throughout the kingdom. But I often thought of what the future would bring for my younger children, my future grandchildren, and those that came after.

There were only so many positions of high authority to go around, and all of my offspring had strong personalities. They would chafe if forced into positions that did not allow them to innovate and excel. The need to explore and lead was in their blood, and I could not see how this would be possible in the future as our world became more settled and my descendents increased.

While most of my children now lived in the outer cities, four sons and six daughters still lived in the capital city of Enoch with their mother and me. Soon they would all be ready to go into the world and make their mark.

The future, once so simple, was becoming more complex and less certain as time went on. What would my descendents do?

I was proud of all my children. Unlike me in my younger years, the quest for power was not foremost on their minds. They had been raised to believe in the free will given mankind by God, as well as the need to follow the will of God by trying to do good. The way they would use their talents and abilities to do good was the only question.

I had always stressed to my children that leading our nation was the best way to exercise our nature. But there had to be other ways to do this, ways other than leading. But what? This question often kept me in thought during the night. Besides ruling, what could my descendents do that would be God’s will, and be right for them and the entire nation?

While I worried about my children’s future, other more pressing problems truly kept me awake at night. All was not right in my nation. As mankind is apt to do, not everyone chose to follow the law of the land. There were people that had no desire to live in the cities and did not want to farm, build or help support the common good. Some men and women wanted to be free to pursue whatever they desired, whether it be through good or evil means.

When I arrived in this land my only thought had been to become King over all the people. Though it had not been my primary intention, the knowledge I brought from my homeland had allowed the people to flourish. This land had become a place of civilization, and the barbaric people I originally found now lived much better lives.

Now, some of these people had decided that civilized life was not for them, and they were leaving the cities to live in the forests. This movement was yet a tiny trickle. When it first began I thought long and hard about whether I should allow people to leave, and I realized that forcing them to stay would be against everything I believed. Mankind had the right to choose its own path. In the end, though I did not endorse their behavior, I stopped no one that wanted to leave.

Sometimes individuals would go. Usually they were young men wanting to experience freedom, not wanting to go into their fathers’ trade but not sure what else to do. They would just leave, disappearing into the night. They would end up in a forest, banding together with other people that had left the safety of the city.

Young couples would sometimes leave, especially if the parents of a young girl did not approve of her choice in a mate. The parents would awaken one morning to find their daughter gone.

There were even occasions when entire families left; parents and children just picked up and disappeared. Wanting more of something; freedom, privacy or space, they would leave behind their home and move into the forest to live off the land.

Given the lions, bears and other predators in the forest, people would usually band together, forming small villages for protection, where they farmed, hunted, and lived much like those in the cities. For the most part these villagers would remain true to the ideals that were common across the land. They treated each other with respect, and sought to live in a way that pleased God.

Unfortunately, some of these villages became places where the wicked congregated. Some were those that had run from their city before they could be captured and judged for doing evil. Others left because they wanted to do evil, and knew it would be easier if they were away from the constraints that existed in the cities.

I first began to hear whispers and stories just after our sixth city, Darron, was completed. Someone had attacked travelers between Darron and Sankalar, the next city to the north. As time went on, I began to hear more stories of evil deeds. The most common tale was of traders between cities being attacked. People were being waylaid on the roads and their goods stolen.

Though news traveled slowly, by the time the seventh city Salar-Dun was complete I knew that the problem had grown too large, and the hunters were no longer able to control those intent on doing evil. The guest houses along the roads had even become a target. Though most had grown larger than one house, they were still small settlements, usually consisting of no more than three families.

I was considering my options to deal with this violence when I received word that my son Corran, the prince of Darron, would need help. He reported that two separate guest house settlements had been attacked by groups of men, that evil was done and the guest houses were burned.

Some of the hunters of Darron had followed the trail into a forest near the city. He reported that the hunters were overwhelmed by these lawless men, and only one hunter had lived to tell the tale.

When I received this word I was furious, furious at myself. I had let this go on for too long while I thought and talked. I had not immediately moved to control the situation, but had believed that good would win out, and the individual cities would be able to control those few that wanted to do evil.

I saw now that this was not true. Those that wanted to do evil always seemed to gather together, where their evil would fester and grow, breeding on itself like it had in the eastern lands. I had to stop this evil now and insure that it could not grow to this level ever again.

I could not stop men from being evil, but as the King it was my duty to stop them from doing evil. And I would do everything in my power to punish them for the evil they did.

It was my duty as King to protect my people. I had let this violence go too long and done nothing. I was ashamed, and could see only one way to right the wrongs I had allowed.

I spoke first with Kalou to tell her of my decision. She was initially opposed to my plan, but as I explained myself she slowly came to agree that I was right. She knew in her heart that what I planned was the best way to deal with the threat to our people. Though she was frightened and concerned, she had faith in me.

I brought together my leaders, Kalou, and our children that still lived in the city, and I told them of my plan. Their reaction was exactly what I expected.

A shocked silence followed my announcement, but Cadune was the first to speak. “Are you crazy? You’re the King! You can’t go out and fight against thieves and murderers! You have hunters that will do that. It’s their job.”

I had to smile at his reaction. Cadune, who had been my good friend as well as my second-in-command in Enoch for so many years, never had any problem telling me what he thought.

“Actually Cadune, I must do this because I am the King. It is my responsibility to protect my people, and I have sat here in the capital and done nothing. I thought the local hunters could deal with it and this problem would just go away. But it has not gone away, it has gotten much worse. Those intent on evil have seen my lack of action, and they now believe they can do whatever they want.”

“Apparently, some of those living outside the cities do not realize they are still ruled by me, and they do not fear the King’s justice. So as the King I must personally bring judgment to the people and the villages that are doing evil. It is that simple.”

Cadune responded, “But you can’t do it alone, there are too many of them. Even with your mark, eventually they’ll kill you.”

I looked around the room. Gathered here were all my sons and daughters that still remained in the house. Eight of my sons were gone as princes and leaders in cities to the south. Two of my daughters had married and no longer lived in this city, having moved with their mates to build new cities. One more daughter had just wed, and she would be going to Salar-dun in a few weeks with her new husband, where she would be in charge of the storehouses.

Seated in front of me were my youngest children, four sons and six daughters. While three of the girls were still children and too young, all four of my sons and the other three daughters were adults, and would be able to go with me if they so desired.

I looked at my children, making eye contact with each of them. They returned my gaze evenly, hope showing in some of their faces as they guessed what I had planned.

Finally I said, “You’re right, I can’t do it alone. That is why my children are here with us. I invite the children that have reached the age of adulthood to join me. I am going to hunt these outlaws, and I will bring the King’s justice to them. I will make our land safe once again.”

The reactions of all those gathered were immediate. While astonishment spread across the faces of my leaders, expressions of joy and exclamations of excitement came from my children.

My son Esan actually shouted, “Are you serious? That’s incredible! When do we leave?”

There had been no hesitation, and it was obvious they all desired to go. My children were ready.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Three

 

Two days later we left. Eight of us took to the road early in the morning. Kalou was nervous and a little fearful, but she trusted me and knew I would do everything in my power to keep our children safe. Cadune had asked me again to bring hunters along to give us greater numbers in the fight, but I had to deny him.

“No Cadune. Only I and my children are going. We can travel much faster than anyone else. We need to rest very little, eat very little, and we are more skilled with weapons than any hunter. Hunters would only slow us down, and eight of us together are worth eighty of them, so we will not need them if there is a fight.”

While he hated the idea of only me and my children going, he couldn’t disagree with my logic.

“Well, be safe Cain, I would hate to lose you now. You’ve finally turned into a good King.”

With a smile barely held in check I said, “I know, and you’re finally doing a decent job of helping to run this city.”

We said our good-byes to Kalou and the three youngest girls. While Kalou struggled to keep her tears in check, the girls being left behind were a little angry, since they also wanted to go. I hugged them good-bye and told them that if we still had problems when they were older, they would be able to go with us.

We travelled very light and carried only our weapons and small backpacks. The packs held only the bare essentials; a cloak and a change of clothing, a container of water, and some bread and dried fruits and vegetables. Like me, my children cared little for meat, finding its consumption to be both unnecessary and disgusting.

All of us carried bows and knives, and several of the children carried spears. Three of them had the lighter throwing spear, while one of my sons, Candal, favored the longer, heavier, stabbing spear which was commonly used against a large animal such as a lion or bear.

We travelled quickly, moving due south. For the most part we stayed off the roads and bypassed all the cities and guest houses. When we stopped to rest we would roll ourselves in our cloaks, and we slept with no fire, trusting in our instincts to wake if danger approached.

We pushed ourselves fiercely, and in only seven days we arrived at Darron. I sent Esan to go to his brother Corran and bring him to where we camped in the forest north of the city.

When he arrived at our camp Corran said, “I am very pleased to see you father, but why did you not come into the city? Why all the secrecy? What’s going on?”

I told him, “We do not want to alert those we hunt of our presence.”

I went on to explain my plan for bringing the outlaws to justice. He was surprised but excited about what we intended to do, and he wanted to join us along with his city’s hunters.

Regretfully, I had to deny his request. “I’m sorry Corran, but not this time. Your brothers, sisters and I have pushed ourselves far beyond the strength of men, traveling with little rest or food to come here and cleanse the land of this filth. We started this undertaking with just the eight of us, and I want the eight of us to be the ones to finish it.”

He didn’t agree with my reasoning, but he obediently, though unhappily, consented to return to his city later that day. He then proceeded to fill us in on the attacks that had been taking place; the locations where they had occurred and the atrocities that had been committed. I was disgusted by what these outlaws had done, and once again furious at myself for allowing it to come to this point.

Corran told us, “We believe their village is just north and to the west of here, but it is well hidden deep in the forest. My hunters have not been able to capture any of them or track them back to where they hide. They are vicious thieves and murderers, but they are very good in the forest. I believe many of them were once hunters for the cities. Why they left and chose this path, I do not know.”

“Why do any chose evil? Some just prefer doing evil to doing good. Some believe it is easier, and some even believe it is… fun,” I ended sadly.

“Whatever their reasons, it is time to show them the consequences of their actions. I will no longer allow evil to be done with impunity in my kingdom. This has gone on for too long. Even if people do not live in a city under our direct rule, they must still follow our laws or suffer the consequences!”

We spoke with Carron then of other, less pressing matters, since his siblings had not seen him for a few years. That afternoon he returned to his city and his duties.

After he left I turned to my other children and said, “Now we must sleep. Tonight we will find their village, and tomorrow we begin to bring justice back to the land.”

Waking late that evening, we left our camp just after night fell. We went to the northwest, and eventually by the light of the moon we were able to find a very faint, well hidden trail, which we followed through the night. These rogues were good; they covered their tracks very well, and there were few that could have tracked them to their camp. But I could, and we arrived there before dawn.

It was a well laid-out camp; really a small village. It was neat and appeared clean, and did not look like a place that would be the home of thieves and murderers. There were twelve small huts, all built around a central fire just like in the old days. With pleasure I noted the smoke holes in the roofs, some small gardens, and a rack filled with fish to dry in the sun. They had not gone completely back to the old days.

We spoke briefly and then I sent the children out around the camp, where they set a perimeter just inside the trees, their bows and spears ready for use.

Just after dawn broke I stepped to the edge of the camp and shouted out a loud hello. I carried only my knife at my side and my hands were empty, but I was ready.

Their reaction was swift and surprisingly well-organized. Men, and even a few women, boiled from the huts. In just a few moments I was facing well over twenty armed people. A few had bows with arrows notched, but most carried spears or knives.

I wasted no time, and before they could try to attack or question me I spoke.

“I am Cain, your King, and…”

I was loudly interrupted before I could get any further. The speaker was a large fellow, and by the way he spoke and carried himself, it was obvious he was their leader.

“We have no King. We are all free men and women here.”

I looked at him, and answered him directly, “I agree you are free, but I am still your King! All who live in this land are under my Kingship, whether they like it or not. It is not optional.”

With a sneer he declared, “Well, we have decided it is optional. We answer to no man, and we follow no rules. We do what we want, and we have no King!”

At his last statement all the men and women around him cheered loudly. I waited patiently, a half smile on my face, and when they quieted down I continued speaking.

“I have been told this, that you do what you want. Unfortunately, what you want to do is murder and rob other citizens; people under my protection. This is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated. For these crimes you will be judged and punished!”

At this statement some in the crowd began to look anxious, and I noticed several of them looking behind me towards the forest. Their eyes searched for those they now realized must be there, but they saw no one, since my children were well hidden. Their leader and some others were not so wise, and still did not seem to realize the danger they were in.

The leader laughed and said, “Since you call yourself our King, you think you can come into this forest, into my village, and pass judgment upon us?”

I looked at him disdainfully, and pulling myself up to my full height I declared, “Yes! I have come into my forest to pass judgment on those that have murdered innocent people. Any of you that wish to proclaim their innocence in these murders drop your weapons and step over there.”

I pointed off to the side, next to the fire, and continued, “Surrender and you will receive a fair judgment in accordance with your crimes. But any that are found guilty of murder will die immediately.”

At this the leader had heard enough. With a vicious cry he charged, followed closely by over half of his people. Within three strides every one of them lay dead.

I had not moved, remaining still as they charged. Now I calmly spoke once again.

“Those that attacked are judged to have been guilty of murder. Any that continue to hold weapons will also be considered murderers. If you want a fair trial, drop your weapons.”

Everyone still facing me immediately dropped the weapons they held and eyed me, silent and fearful.

Judgment of the outlaws did not take long. I sat upon a log and questioned those that were left. Remaining were seven men, and six women who between them held three babies and two toddlers.

The women all insisted they had no knowledge of what the men did in their frequent forays away from their settlement. From this I concluded they were at best liars, since they would obviously have known the food, clothing and tools the men brought back were ill-gotten. But I was able to judge from their voices and words that they truly did not realize the extent of the violence the men had done, and none had joined the men on their raids.

Every remaining man was adamant that they had not murdered anyone, but only stolen from travelers and guest houses. I questioned them extensively and decided that while some told the truth, three men lied and had killed others.

My judgment was swift and sure. The murderers were put to death that day, while the others were shown mercy.

I told the remaining people, “Leaving your cities to live in the forest is not the problem. The problem is that instead of living lives of peace, you chose to live lives of violence against your fellow man. I give you one more chance to live as God wants you to live. If you fail again, there will be no mercy.”

We escorted them back to Darron where I met with Corran. After much discussion they were allowed to go back to their previous homes and return into society, but they would be watched. A return to the life of an outlaw would bring swift justice.

My children and I returned to the forest, tracking more of the lawless. This went on for over thirty days, but by the time we were finished we had eliminated all the outlaws from the forests of the south.

Any settlements made up of those that wanted only to live peaceful lives away from the cities were left undisturbed. Though I would not allow a return to their barbaric past, I had no real quarrel with people leaving the cities, as long as they followed the laws and customs of the land and acknowledged me as their ruler.

We returned home after two months, all of us unharmed.

On our journey home I mulled over what my children and I had accomplished, and what this could mean for the future of my land.

Under normal circumstances the hunters could enforce the rules and laws of the land. But unfortunately there would always be those with truly evil intentions; people whose capacity for violence and love of bringing suffering to others was beyond the ability of the hunters to overcome.

All my offspring were fierce warriors, intelligent and hardy. Their superior physical abilities and capacity to go without sleep and food allowed them to do things no common hunter could do. Most importantly, they all had a devotion to justice and a single-minded focus to do what was best for the land; to stop any behavior that hurt our people or damaged our nation.

I saw no need, and in fact believed it would be harmful to the future of the land to have my children permanently become warriors and traveling judges. But to have my offspring serve in this capacity only as necessary, when the seriousness of a situation warranted their involvement, could be helpful for the nation’s development. I believed if the royal family took a personal responsibility to bring swift and final judgment upon those people that caused inordinate suffering to the nation, it would minimize the willingness among the populace to do evil.

Upon our return home I spoke with Kalou about my thoughts. Like any mother, she was worried about her children’s safety.

I did my best to reassure her, “I know Kalou, I worry also. But there is evil in the world, and our children are more equipped than any others to battle against those that want to harm others. People living freely as outlaws eats at the heart of the law-abiding citizens and causes them to fear travel from city to city. It could isolate the nation and stop our growth, killing our future. If allowed to go unchecked, these outlaws could cripple the land.”

“But why our children? You took care of the problem for now, but why can’t the hunters take care of the outlaws in the future?”

“Evil will always come back in one form or another, and because of their abilities our children are supremely gifted to face those challenges and win. God made us this way to be the leaders of the people. I now believe we are also to be the protectors of the people. For too long I wanted to use my abilities to grasp power for my own gain. It took me many years to realize these gifts were not given to help me, but to help everyone.”

Kalou nodded, “I believe this too, and I’m so proud of the man you have become. But I still fear for our children. What if one of them is killed?”

I thought carefully before I answered with all honestly, “This is a possibility and I cannot deny it. But we are all destined to die someday. I believe that as a leader, it is better to die in the pursuit of justice for your people than to live a safe life while your people suffer and die around you.”

Kalou thought about this for a while, and finally said, “I understand, and though I agree, I will never stop worrying about our children.”

“Neither will I Kalou, that’s what parents do.”

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Four

 

Over the next seventy years the nation continued to grow. We settled two more cities to the north of the capital, and continued our inexorable push towards the mountains far to the south. Our nation was now vast, stretching so far from the northern end to the southern that none besides the royal family and a few intrepid travelers would ever consider trying to visit every city in the land.

It was now much more common for people to live outside the cities, and small villages existed in the forests near almost every city. There will always be those that prefer the quiet and peace of a small settlement to the bustle of a large, active city. As long as these villages lived in peace and obeyed the law of the land they were allowed to exist. The villagers traded with the cities, providing much of the game the city people ate.

My children and grandchildren ruled all the cities throughout the land as Princes and Princesses. Besides being the rulers of every city in the nation, they were often the leaders of the trades, and they always served as scholars and teachers to the people, trying to advance our culture and civilization.

A loose confederation of warriors had developed in the royal family; keepers of the law who would go out to fight whenever it was necessary. This was not required often, since for the most part the hunters of the cities were able to keep the peace. But on occasion a strong leader would arise that pulled people in the wrong direction, away from peace.

A man or women would find enough followers that believed it was better to steal than to work. Sometimes these people would become too powerful; their numbers too great or the leader too strong to be captured by the hunters. At these times the royal warriors would join together. They were looked upon as the heroes of the land, and it was said that evil would fall wherever they went.

They came to be known as the Nephilim. This name was given them by the people, and was a combination of words which meant conquering royal warriors. They went forth rarely, but whenever they were called out they always came home victorious.

Over the past few years pressure had been increasing to cross the great river and settle the far side of the barren grasslands None had crossed the river since our ill-fated trip of so many years ago, when we had visited the eastern tribe.

At that time I had vowed we would never again cross the river, but much had changed in the intervening years. The nation had now grown to a great number of people. There was still land enough for two more cities to the north, and some land also remained near the southern mountains. But we were getting too close to those mountains, and I feared the consequences if we were to try to settle any more than two additional cities in the south.

Vile, fearsome creatures lived in those soaring mountains and the deep valleys within. I knew it was dangerous to settle too near them, lest we begin to draw the animals out in search of easy prey.

We needed more land, and east was the only direction we could go if we were to continue to grow as a nation.

In truth, the Easterners had continued to weigh heavily on my mind all these years. I thought of them often and still continued to second-guess myself. Had I done the right thing by leaving them alone, perhaps condemning any innocents to lives of continual pain and suffering?

Though I knew that I bore no responsibility for their well-being, the thought that innocent people may be suffering or dying on the far side of the river while we prospered on this side had caused me many a restless night.

I had no idea what had occurred across the river. It had been hundreds of years and perhaps they had killed each other off, though hopefully they had learned and now tried to live good lives. There might be a few small villages, or even a great nation. While I didn’t know what I would find, I could no longer deny what I must do.

The Eastern lands would be the final great challenge of my life. I had to go back.

 

 

 

Part VI – The Future

 

 

Chapter Fifty Five

 

I called a meeting of all our family members. I wanted every one of my children and all their offspring to come to the capital city. In all the years I had been ruler over the land, I had never before done this. We had not been together as a family since Kalou, I, and the rest our children had gone to Kalou-Car when Enoch had taken the rule of our first new city. My family was now spread wide across the land, with my children and my children’s children leading cities from the north end to the far south.

I knew this might be the last time we could ever come together, given the size of our family and the size of the land, so I sent messengers to each city commanding that every family member must attend. None of my family was excused. To make sure everyone could be there I set the meeting for six months in the future.

“Why are you making this into such a big deal?” Kalou asked me once again.

“I told you Kalou, I really want to see all our children together, and their children with them. We have become a great nation, and this may be the last chance to get us all together.”

“Yes, I understand that,” said Kalou, “and I agree it will be wonderful to see all the children and grandchildren. But there is more going on here than just that. You’re planning something.”

I couldn’t disagree with her, since that would be a lie.

“You’re right.” I laughed, “Why do I ever try to keep anything from you? Actually, I shouldn’t laugh, because it’s serious and very important to me.”

“Our family has grown so large that I’ve lost count of our grandchildren, though I know it’s over two hundred. Our children’s children are now becoming parents, and the family will continue to grow. We are spread far across this land, and most of the family rarely sees each other.”

“I want to bring the family together to give this generation and future generations a sense of community. I want them to see that though we are different from those around us, there are many in our family and we are the same.”

“Also, I need to tell them my story, to make sure our grandchildren and their children hear from my own mouth who and what I am, and how I have tried to change.”

Kalou looked at me and smiled gently, “You are a wonderful man and a great ruler to your people. You are as different as the night is to the day from the man I met at the edge of the wilderness three hundred years ago.”

Kalou’s statement brought me up with a start. Three hundred years! Had it really been three hundred years? I could remember the day we met like it was yesterday. Three hundred years had seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. But really, it had not.

When I looked at my wife, I saw her through the eyes of love. I saw her as the wonderful, fiery, intelligent and beautiful woman she had always been. And in truth she still was, but she was no longer young. Though Kalou was healthy and strong, and to me she was still the most beautiful woman in the land, she was now well past the middle of her expected time and was approaching old age.

The jet black hair had begun to show gray, and there were wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. She was not yet an elder, but that time was fast approaching. The last few years had seen the passing of several of my oldest and most trusted friends and leaders. It had been painful to see them age and pass from this world, but of course, that is the way.

I now knew the blessing of long life that my race carried also included the pain of watching those you love age and pass away. It had been heartbreaking when Cadune died a few years ago. Even though he had lived a long, full life and had accomplished much, losing my good friend and my closest advisor after Kalou had been very painful. His departure had been followed by Gadu and Ataran, friends and leaders from the beginning. Just last month I received word that Shadan had passed away. His death was especially difficult because he was not yet old, having been in the world less than four hundred and fifty years.

I expected those of the other race to live at least five hundred years. This is what I hoped for Kalou, which would give us at least one hundred more years together. The thought of another hundred years comforted me somewhat.

I had no idea how long I would live. Though I had never truly expected to live forever, I had often wondered what my span would be, since for a very long time I did not seem to age at all. I was now four hundred and four years old, and signs of aging were finally visible, which reassured me. I no longer looked like a young man, but would now be seen by most people as a man entering into the prime of his life. As my friends and wife aged, I had come to realize I had no desire to live forever. The pain of losing those you loved was great, and I did not want to feel that pain over and over forever.

Kalou nudged me with her hand and smiled gently as she said, “Cain, where did you go in your thoughts? You look so serious.”

I came to myself with a start. “I’m sorry Kalou. I was just thinking about the man I was when you met me all those years ago. That is one of the reasons I want to bring our family together. I want to make it clear to them how easy it is to do evil. How it can appear to be acceptable if you fool and excuse yourself. I’m going to teach all of my offspring as long as I live with my own story.”

“How will you do that?” Kalou asked. “We are too widespread. We can’t make everyone come here every year; it’s too long a journey.”

“I know, but I’m going to establish a new tradition for our family. I will tell my story once every five years. The entire family will not be required to be there and listen each time, but I’ll require all of our children and grandchildren to bring their children once in their life, before their twentieth birthday. This will happen until I die. If all my offspring hear my tale from my own lips at least once, perhaps I can help them not to make the same mistakes I made.”

“That’s a good idea Cain. I know they can learn some important lessons from your life. And at least we’ll be able to see our family more often; the ones in the far south rarely visit anymore.”

I decided this was a good time to broach the subject I had been putting off. I knew Kalou would be opposed to returning to the East. She had hated everything I told her about the land after my last journey there. She had seen that the evil in the place affected me profoundly, and it had taken a long time to rid myself of the sadness it brought upon me.

Kalou had mentioned on more than one occasion that she never wanted our people to settle that side of the Great River. She believed that God had sent the evil people to that land for a reason, and our people were not meant to live there.

“Kalou, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about,” I said hesitantly.

She looked at me expectantly, “What’s that?”

“Well…” I finally just blurted it out. “I’m going back to the eastern lands.”

“What! Why would you do that?” She was as upset as I had expected her to be.

“Please calm down. You know we need more land. That is a fact we cannot get around. We have almost completely filled this land, and at the rate we’re growing within a hundred years we’ll have no more places to settle.”

Kalou was extremely distressed, “But there’s got to be some other way, some other place!”

“There’s not,” I said. “We all know we can’t go to the west. That’s a fact. Even though our offspring could make the journey, we don’t know what welcome we would find there.”

“I have been into both of the mountain ranges at the ends of this great valley. The mountains to the north continue on for a very long time, and they are uninhabitable. When you finally come out of them to level land it is too barren to farm and keep animals, and we could not live there. The southern mountains and their deep valleys are filled with creatures of which I will not speak, lest they return to my dreams. We dare not encroach too close to them with our cities, and even I could never get through those mountains to see what lies on the other side.”

Kalou was still not convinced. “But God sent the evil people across the river. You said yourself that there was no way they could have crossed the river and the wide plains without His aid, much like my people reached this land from yours long ago.”

“That’s true, but that doesn’t mean we can never go in that direction. And we have no choice Kalou! There is no other place for us to grow. We have to cross the river, because it’s only a matter of time before this land becomes too small to support our people.”

Kalou thought about this. I could tell she was desperately trying to think of another way to manage, so we would not need to cross the river.

Finally agreeing with the truth of my words she gave up, and in resignation said, “Well, how do you plan to do this?”

I knew Kalou was really going to dislike what I was about to tell her, but there was no getting around it.

“Well,” I said slowly, “I have an idea for the fastest way to scout, and if necessary conquer any that may still be living there.”

“I’m confused. What do you mean, scout and conquer any that may be living there?”

I explained, “They were such a violent people that it’s possible they’ve killed each other off. I would be very shocked if they still exist in any great numbers. It’s been almost three hundred years since we were last there, and anything could have happened.”

“Yes, anything could have happened! How do you know they haven’t become a mighty people, just as we have? Given their evil, vicious nature, perhaps they could defeat us in battle.”

I couldn’t help myself, and I actually laughed as I replied, “Kalou, there is no way they could become a mighty people with the culture they had, any more than you could have become a mighty people with your old way of life. Anyway, the land was not evil, just the people. And now we have a great need for the land, so we have to go back. Any people still living there will need to renounce their evil ways or die.”

Kalou continued to protest, “You say it so easily Cain, like it is such a simple thing. But how do you plan to take a force across those barren plains and conquer the land?”

“With the Nephilim.”

“What! You want to do this with our children?”

“Yes, because there’s no other way. To cross those wide grasslands without food or water is very difficult for common men, but to our family it is no great barrier. Once we cross the great river, we can be across the plains in a matter of days. I want to take a large enough force to explore the land thoroughly, and conquer any evil people that may still live there.”

Kalou was not willing to give in easily, “If you go, do you expect to find any good people living in the East, or will they all be gone?”

“I think it’s very difficult for good to grow in a completely evil environment, but it happened before, so you never know. I’m not sure exactly what we will find, but I’m confident they have not grown into a great people. I believe it is much more likely that they have diminished, choking themselves with their evil.”

“But do you think you are going against God’s will? He sent them across the river, and He separated us with a wide, waterless plain. Perhaps God intended that you never settle that land.”

“I do not think so. God controls everything in ways we cannot see. God separated those people from your tribe when you could have been corrupted by them. Now we are powerful and much more numerous, and we can eliminate that tribe’s evil from the world. I do not pretend to know the mind of God, but perhaps this was His plan all along.”

Kalou thought about this and nodded, “Perhaps… As you say, we cannot know the mind of God. So, how many Nephilim do you want to go with you?”

“I would like at least one hundred to accompany me.”

“What? One hundred Nephilim! That is like sending more than a thousand of the hunters. Nothing could ever stand in your way. Why so many?”

I smiled, “Because nothing can stand in our way! We must conquer the land completely, so we control the entire east side of the great river. That land stretches as far south and north as our own, and on the far side of the eastern mountains the land continues on for a very great distance, so far that I could explore only a small part of it. The land to the far east is a very fertile land, and is so wide that I believe it could never be filled by our people. We must have access to that land, and I will take an army of Nephilim to make sure we get it.”

“So when will you leave? When will you start your next journey?”

I looked at Kalou and said quietly, “I think this will be my last journey and my last adventure. But we will leave from the gathering. Once I have told my tale and discussed the business of the land, I will tell the family of my plan. I expect that many, if not all of them, will want to go. I have decided that leaders of cities cannot go, but any others will be allowed. If necessary, I will choose those that are to accompany me by drawing lots.”

Kalou said thoughtfully, “This was inevitable, wasn’t it? Eventually we had to go.”

I nodded my agreement, “Yes, it was only a matter of time. We couldn’t let that evil fester over there forever, and it’s better to go now before overcrowding becomes a problem; while we are still in control of the situation. This is the right time, and the Nephilim are the right people.”

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Six

 

The next six months dragged by. Kalou and I stayed occupied with the administration of the capital and travel to neighboring cities to visit family and perform official duties. I made a few trips to the south into the middle of the nation, but did not go to the far southern cities. I felt as if I was waiting for the next stage of my life to begin, and it frustrated me. I did not like to wait.

There was no real planning necessary for the trip to the east. The Nephilim always travelled light, normally carrying only weapons and a small pack containing a cloak and minimal food and water. My plan was simple; start in the far north and travel south through the entire land.

Dependent upon the number of people we found and where they lived, our trip could be long and arduous, or it could be relatively brief. The Nephilim could travel quickly, but we had to cover all the territory, since we knew that in the past numerous individuals had left the main village and lived in the countryside. Those people could be good or evil, and we would need to find every one of them and uncover their intentions.

Any and all villages would need to be taken and every citizen interviewed and judged. I alone would evaluate those that desired to become law-abiding citizens in my kingdom. Any that I judged to be good would come to live in the Western lands, where they would be trained in our language and way of life.

All those people I deemed to be evil would be killed. This was a harsh decision that would need to be made, but one that was necessary. I knew from experience in our own land that if evil people were allowed to live, their evil would fester and grow, poisoning the cities and the people.

Sadly, it is and always will be impossible to eliminate evil. All people will sin, no matter how hard we try not to, because we are human. Everyone has the capacity to do both good and evil, and the option to choose to do right or wrong, and even the very best people sometimes choose to do the wrong things. In the East I would not be searching for the essentially good people that had made the normal, human, bad decisions that led to sin, but the people that had freely chosen and embraced a life of evil.

My first trip to the east had been a journey of exploration and adventure, and on my second trip I had been focused on finding the village, so my memories of geographic details were vague. Even so, I remembered the land as a very good place with abundant water and wide meadows and rich forests teeming with game. The only negative was the wide, waterless plains of grass which began at the great river. This grassland combined with the river to separate my people from the rich, habitable areas.

It was on my second trip that I realized the grasslands were actually a barrier that had been placed by God to keep the people of the east from returning to our land, and to keep us from joining them.

On our coming journey I wanted to find the best locations for new cities; sites with abundant water for drinking, fishing and farming, as well as plentiful wood and stone for building. If it could be done, I hoped to establish the first city in the east opposite my capital city of Enoch. I hoped the location of the first city could be at a narrow section of the grassland, in order to shorten the travel across the grassland from the river.

Travel from the river to the new cities would be the greatest difficulty. Once the cities were established they would be self-supporting, and there would not need to be a great deal of travel across the grassland. But of course, there would always need to be some interaction between the people on both sides of the river, lest the two areas become separate and estranged from each other.

The problem with travelling across the plains was the lack of water. To move any large number of people and animals across those plains we would need a lot of water, water that was not there. At this point I didn’t know how we would carry the amount of water that would be needed, and I hoped that on our coming journey someone in my family would be able to discover a solution.

My plan was to start by establishing one large ferry service across the river that would be a safe and secure way for goods, people and animals to cross. I knew it would be difficult, but I did not think it would be impossible to set up a ferry. Next we would build one main road which ran directly east from the great river to the location of the first city. We would need to build guest houses along the road for travelers to rest every night, and those guest houses would need water. Over time other cities would spread from the first city to the north and the south along the range of mountains. I had complete faith that with the great minds of my family working on the problems, answers to the challenges of obtaining water and building the ferry, the guest houses, and the road would be found.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Seven

 

It seemed to take an eternity, but finally the day came when my family began to arrive in the capital city. What a joyous time this was! It had been so long since we had all been together, and over the course of several days’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren flowed into the city. It took almost a week for everyone to arrive, and two births actually occurred on the journey from the south, with one grandchild and one great-grandchild being added to our family while they were in route.

Though Kalou always tried to keep me up on any new additions and I had known our family was becoming quite large, I was shocked when everyone arrived and I counted the actual number. The birth of our newest grandson to our daughter Shadalon brought the total number of grandchildren thus far to four hundred and five. Since several of our children were still in their child-bearing years, I knew this number would continue to grow. And with the birth of our newest great-granddaughter, we now had seventy two great-grandchildren.

My family was almost a nation unto ourselves, numbering exactly five hundred people at the time of our gathering. They all stayed in an open meadow north of the capital, where we set up a temporary village able to support their needs.

After the last group arrived from the south I gave everyone a few days to visit and enjoy themselves. After breakfast on the fourth day, we had our first family meeting. We gathered in the meadow just outside the temporary camp. Everyone relaxed in the grass, lounging and happy, while the youngest children played on the edge of the group.

I quietly looked across the gathered assemblage. I could not have been more proud of my family. They were all strong and healthy, and a very intelligent and hard-working group. I knew every one of them strove to do the best they could for God, their nation and their people.

Kalou and I stood before them as I addressed our family in a loud voice, making sure I was heard by everyone.

“There are several reasons for bringing our family together at this time. The first reason is that we have not been together as a family since Enoch became leader of Kalou-Car, two hundred and eighty years ago. There have been many grandchildren and great-grandchildren born since that time, and Kalou and I wanted all of you to see each other and feel like one family again. These last few days as you arrived and we were able to have fellowship with you have been a great joy to us. I know you also have enjoyed yourselves, seeing each other for the first time in years and meeting new members of our family.”

“As you look around this meadow you see how large our family has grown. To come together like this is a great undertaking, one that will become even more difficult as the years go on. But there are reasons to come together, reasons to be around other members of our family whenever possible. We are the rulers and leaders of this nation. I believe it is imperative that we know who we are, why we exist, and what our purpose is on this earth. It is good to see each other, to know we do not stand alone in our struggles to lead this land with wisdom and integrity.”

“While all of you should know my story, know that I was born in a foreign land, that I committed murder and was exiled to this land, you may not know the details. You may have heard my story in pieces, but not in its entirety. I believe that it is very important for my family to know of my parent’s personal relationship with God; to know of my youth and my incredible selfishness and pride. I want you to know of the battles I fight within myself even to this day, as I struggle to leave my selfishness behind and live a life committed to doing good in the world.”

“I believe you will better learn the lessons of my story by hearing it from my own mouth. In addition to learning how to live and not make the same mistakes I have made, it is important to learn our family’s history.”

“Starting with this meeting, I am establishing a new tradition. Every five years, in this city, I will tell my story to those of my family that have not yet heard it. Everyone will be required to hear this story from my own lips at least once in their lifetime, before their twentieth birthday. My hope is that if you learn of my pride, my arrogance and my selfishness when you are young, you will not grow to be as I was.”

“In addition to bringing you all here to listen to my story, I want to talk to you of our nation. To discuss how we have grown to be this large, how we as a people need to live and act, and the nation we want to be in the future. We are very large already, and we will continue to grow. I can no longer expect to exert the control I once had over such a vast nation. It is up to you, the leaders and rulers of these far-flung cities, to ensure that we hold fast to our ideals, to the traditions that have brought us growth and success, while you continue striving to uncover new knowledge that will serve us in the future.”

“It is imperative that we remember we are a family; that we remember the ties that bind us together as both this family and this nation continues to grow and spread farther afield. For we will continue to grow. Just as our family was once only Kalou and I, and now we number five hundred people, this nation will also continue to expand and you will be the leaders.”

“But as important as it is, we will discuss our nation later. First I will tell you of my life.”

I proceeded to tell my tale. I left out nothing, starting with my parent’s history as I knew it. I spoke of my pride and selfishness, of my arrogance towards God, and the murder of my brother. I told of my expulsion from my homeland, my journey through the western desert, and how I joined Kalou’s tribe. I emphasized to them my constant attitude of pride, arrogance and selfishness over the years, until finally, my eyes opened by the evil I saw in the east and my heart softened by Kalou’s love and faith, I began to realize how wrong I had been.

I continued on to give them as complete a history of our family as possible. The story took two days to tell, and by the end of the second day I had never been so tired of speaking. All the family knew my story in general, but at the conclusion many told me how valuable it had been to hear the tale in its entirety from my own lips.

I slept very well that night, and the day after I finished my story we came together once again to discuss other matters.

“Before I told my story, I talked to you about our nation, how we would continue to expand and grow as a people. I stressed how important it is to hold onto our values and the traditions that we have established over the last three hundred years. It is the values of honesty and integrity, the tradition of hard work, and the pursuit of excellence in all we do that has given us our success.”

“As time passes, it will become more difficult to hold to these ideals. We as a family must stand fast, and press on with integrity and faith in God to continue to be successful. There will always be pressure from those that want to take shortcuts; that want to cheat or lie or steal their way to power. We most hold firm against them, never letting them gain the upper hand. The Nephilim must stay strong to keep evil at bay.”

The time had come to talk of the eastern lands. I knew that once I brought up the subject it would be the only thing that occupied their minds, which was why I had waited until the end. I looked around the meadow at my gathered family. Kalou and I had so enjoyed being surrounded by them once again. I told them this, and then after a brief pause I continued on to the final business at hand.

“There is one more thing we must discuss, and I have saved this for the last. It is no secret that we are slowing running out of space, and it is only a matter of a hundred years or so before we become too crowded in this land. If we are to continue to grow as a people, we need more room to expand. The time has come to look to the east.”

At this statement there was a brief silence, than a collective indrawn breath as they comprehended what I meant. Suddenly everyone began to talk at once. We were crossing the great river! We were taking the East!

I let them talk excitedly among themselves for a few moments, than I continued, “Yes, it is time to build our first city on the far side of the great river. Though we will continue to grow in this land, my hope is that most of our future expansion will be in the east. But there is much work to be done before that can happen. It will not be easy, just as nothing that is important is ever easy. But it is necessary for our people.”

“Right now, Kalou and I want to talk with only our children. Afterwards, we will return to speak with all the family.”

Our children came to the front of the assembly, joining me and Kalou. We then walked a little further north to a more private place where we sat and spoke together. I told them how I wanted to cross the river with a force of Nephilim and take the land from any that lived there, killing those that I saw were evil, and allowing the remainder to join our nation.

I spoke of my idea for a permanent ferry across the river, a great road across the grassland with guest houses along the way, and a large city built at the end of the road. From this city all future expansion would go to the north and south, and perhaps someday, over the far mountains and even further to the east.

As a family we discussed and debating my plan, and in the end we had agreement. Each child would send no more than six members of their family to travel with me to the east. Given their responsibilities, it was agreed my children would not go. The force of Nephilim would depart on the third morning to come, which was when most of the families were planning to begin their return journeys to their own homes.

We returned to the gathering, where I relayed all we had discussed to the rest of the family. I announced that we would meet together for the last time two days from now, but I would meet the next morning with my children and those that would accompany me to the east.

The next morning I came together with my children and those they had chosen to discuss what would happen in the following days. We would cross the river at the same spot as we had the last time we travelled east. We knew there was wood to make ferries, and it was the narrowest spot in the river. It was also further north in our land, and since I wanted to travel from north to south, it made sense to go as far north as possible on our side of the river.

That day and the next were wonderful days of feasting and fellowship. Everyone had renewed or made new ties with their extended family while we were together. For Kalou and me, having our family together made these the best days in many years. On our final night we had a feast that all would remember for years to come.

On the morning of the third day I departed to the northeast with my force of Nephilim, while the rest of my family started homeward. Some of them had a relatively short journey, while others had many days on the road before they would finally reach their homes far to the south.

The Nephilim travelled light and fast. We wore small packs which held a cloak, a skin of water, a fire starter, assorted dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, and travel bread. Everyone wore a knife at their belt and carried a bow and arrows, and while a few carried spears, most carried the tools and rope we would need to build our rafts.

We reached the river quickly, having traveled at an easy run the entire two days while we paused only a few times to eat and rest. Building the rafts we needed did not take long. We worked together efficiently, and the logs were quickly felled and lashed together, and the paddles made. Only one day after we reached the river we stood on the other side, looking back at our own land.

After a brief rest, I turned to the assembled group. “Let’s go,” I said, “we have a lot to accomplish before we can see our home again.”

We were the Nephilim. We could travel northeast across the barren plains for days with no problem, eating the food we carried and drinking from our water skins on the run. At our pace it wouldn’t take more than ten days to travel to the northern reaches of the land. I did not expect any people to live that far north, but I wanted to cover the entire country, to make sure we missed nothing of interest in our journey of exploration.

I knew that the Great River eventually flowed into a huge gorge in the northern mountains. Those same mountains continued on this side of the river. That was where we would really begin exploring, at the far northern point of the land where the tall, fierce northern mountains joined with the slightly smaller and gentler mountain range that ran along the eastern edge of this land.

It took us longer than I expected, but in twelve days we stood at the conflux of the two mountain ranges. We had traveled across the wide open grasslands with only minimal stops for rest, and though we had seen some large bison and cattle, and small, quick antelope, we had not seen one sign of a human the entire time.

We took a full rest day when we reached our starting point. Beginning the next day, the group would spread out to the east and west and travel in groups of two, just within shouting distance of each other. We would be in a rough line stretching from the edge of the grasslands up into the mountains as far as the line would reach, and we would move at a steady pace to the south. This would allow us to cover a large expanse of territory very quickly. We were looking for people as well as any other worthwhile discoveries this land had to offer. When we came across people we would stop, but otherwise we would keep moving, and every other night we planned to come together at the edge of the grassland, to discuss what we had found. It was a crude method, but a fast way to cover a lot of ground.

We traveled quickly and for the first nine days we saw no signs of humans, and nothing of interest except for one good outcropping of stone for making tools. On the tenth day I was called into the forest not too far from the edge of the grasslands, where I was shown a large patch of carrots growing in a clearing in the woods.

There was no sign of humans around the site. To me, it looked just like the fields that I, Catto and Kalou had found so many years earlier. Those patches of food had been placed by God to be discovered by the people of the land, and I was happy to see that He had apparently done the same thing on this side of the river. We gathered some carrots for our packs and continued onward. I now travelled in the lower foothills of the forest, and I expected to find more food as we continued south. I was not disappointed.

Over the next few days we discovered fields of corn, peas, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables, as well as numerous fruits and herbs. It appeared as though God wanted to provide for the people on this side of the river, just as He had provided for us. We loaded our packs with the bountiful fresh food, taking as much as we needed. During this time we also saw both sheep and goats, but we saw no signs of humans. If they had ever lived in this area, it had not been for a very long time.

We continued south at a steady pace, and soon passed out of the food-growing areas. We had been traveling down the mountain range for fifteen days, scouting all the land from the edge of the grasslands well up into the foothills. We were now farther south than where we had crossed the river, even farther south than our capital city of Enoch.

I had begun to wonder if we would ever find anyone living, when late one afternoon word came down the line that we had someone. The line stopped, and I quickly made my way up into the forest. There I found one of my granddaughters holding onto a man’s arm.

He stood slouched, his shoulders down as he stared sullenly at the ground. He looked the same as the people of this land had looked when I was last here; the same as the people in my own land had looked when I first discovered them. He was small and dressed in crude animal skins, and there was a poorly-shaped spear lying at his feet. He was dirty and mangy looking, with bad teeth and a filthy face.

As soon as I came to him I held up my hand in the sign of peace, and speaking in the old language I said, “Hello. We are strangers in your land.”

He looked up in surprise to hear me speaking his tongue. The old language was no longer used in our land, but I had taught the Nephilim enough of the tongue that those gathered around could understand what we said.

The man looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Who are you? Why do you take me prisoner?”

I spoke slowly and calmly, “We are travelers in your land. I visited this land many years ago, and I have come back to see how you have fared since I was last here. Are you with a tribe, or do you live alone in the forest?”

He looked me directly in the eye for just a brief moment, and then quickly looked away as he replied shortly, “I live alone.”

I detected no falsehood in his voice or in the look he gave me. “Why did you leave your tribe?” I asked.

He looked at the ground and shook his head, refusing to answer.

I reached out and took his chin in my hand, forcing him to meet my eyes.

I repeated, “Answer me. Why did you leave your tribe?”

He spoke reluctantly, “I had no reason to stay. My parents and the rest of my family were dead and I could not get a woman, so I left. It is better to be alone in the forest than dead.”

“Have you killed anyone?” I asked, still looking at his eyes.

He met my eyes in surprise, “Me? No! I am one that would be killed, not one that is a killer. I tried to stay out of the leaders’ way and keep my life in my hands.”

“Where is your old village?”

He did not want to answer me, even now showing some loyalty to his old home. Finally, pointing to the south he said, “It is five days in that direction.”

That was the approximate location of the village we had visited years earlier. I wondered if it was the same village, or if they moved after we killed so many men and took away most of their women and children.

“Are there many people like you? Have others left the village to live on their own in the forest?”

“Some, but not many. In my life I know of three other men that left before me, and two families.”

“Why did they leave the village?”

“The men were worried about being killed. Two of them were strong and hated the leader. They feared the leader would kill them to stop them from killing him. The other was like me, and feared that he would be killed because he found no joy in following the leader.”

“Why did the families leave?”

“I do not know for sure, but I think they left because the man was worried his woman would be taken from him. Our village did not have enough women for all the men, and the leader would sometimes take a woman from a man if he wanted her.”

“How many people live in your village?”

He looked at me in confusion. Though he knew rudimentary counting, and he was able to hold up fingers to show me small numbers, he could not answer my question. He had no way to express how many people had lived in the village.

“Are there many women and children in your village?” As I asked this I held up both my hands, all my fingers out.

He showed some comprehension, and after thinking for a moment, he slowly lifted his fingers three, and then four times. “Maybe that many,” he said, suggesting thirty or forty women and children were in the village. “And the same amount of men. There are more men than women, and not too many children.”

So there were about seventy people in the village. It was about the same size as when I was last here. Even though I had killed many men and taken most of the women and children, it had grown back to the same size.

“Are all the people bad? Do most of them want to hurt and kill others?”

“No,” he said, “I think many, but not all of the men are bad, and some of the women. But most of the women just want to be left alone to take care of their children.”

I nodded. Little had changed since I was last here.

“Where do the other people live that left the village?” I asked.

“I don’t think anyone lives that way,” he said, pointing north. “One bad man stays between me and the village, but I do not go near where he lives. I do not know where anyone else lives. I have never seen their sign.”

I nodded and told him, “You are going to stay with us. You will not be harmed. Our tribe is going to live in this land, and I will allow you to join with our tribe. You will be happy and safe with us, but I cannot allow you to go free for now.”

I instructed two of my grandchildren to stay with him and follow along behind as we continued onward. Now that we had a better idea of what lay in front of us, we moved at a faster pace.

I was not surprised to learn that nothing had changed in the years since I was last here. I had found the people to be a hard-headed and stubborn lot. I had warned them, but I had not believed they would listen to me, and apparently I had been correct. It sounded as though many of these people were still allowing evil to rule their lives.

Late the next day we found another man. Though he looked much the same as the first man, his actions and demeanor was completely different. He would not stop trying to hurt anyone that came near him, forcing us to bind his arms. He continued to shout and curse at us in the old language, kicking and screaming in fury.

He seemed to be a wild man. When I looked into his eyes I saw nothing human there. It was obvious that he had either completely given himself over to evil or he was violently insane, and there was no way to change his heart. He was executed, and we continued our journey towards the village.

After another two days we began to find signs of human activity. At the pace we traveled we would be at the village very quickly, so we stopped as soon as we found a well-hidden spot to stay safe from discovery. We would leave for the village in the night, and arrive there early in the morning, before anyone went out for the day to hunt or gather food. Given the size of our group, we would be able to easily surround the village and capture everyone in it. I wanted no one to escape, desiring to judge the village in its entirety at one time.

That night we took advantage of the forced early stop to get a good sleep for the first time in days. We left our camp well before the sun was up, arriving at the outskirts of the village just as the sun came over the horizon. Everyone knew what to do and we quickly surrounded the village, staying hidden in the trees. The Nephilim were ready for anything. Each was alert and waited with an arrow set to the bow string.

I would remain hidden until the right moment. I wanted everyone to be awake before I showed myself, so as I waited I observed the village and watched the morning activities.

While I was glad to see that no human heads were staked around the perimeter, otherwise the village appeared no different than the last time I was here. It was no cleaner or more organized, and the place still stunk of death and decay.

It was well after sunrise before the bulk of the men finally rose, many shouting for food as they came through the doorways of their crude huts. I believed that by now most were awake, and not wanting to wait any longer, I stepped from the trees. I called out to the village as I slowly approached, drawing attention to myself. My hands were empty and raised high.

“I want to talk. Do not attack. Do not take up your weapons.”

I could not tell them I came in peace, nor would I say I meant them no harm. Once this would have been true, but now I was here to judge and I would not lie to them. I knew that many of these people would not see the end of the day. All who were found guilty of murder, rape or other vile acts would be executed.

A number of the men reacted quickly, and immediately ran towards me with their weapons raised, shouting fiercely as they approached.

I continued to call out warnings in a loud voice, “I want to talk. Do not attack.”

The eight men that had initially begun to run towards me showed no signs that they would stop; their vicious cries were rising even higher. Another twelve had gotten over their initial surprise and followed close on their heels. They all ran with abandon, excited by the sight of a single unarmed man in their village.

I still continued to shout my warnings, waiting until the last possible moment. Now I could see the blood lust in their eyes, and their arms were cocked and ready to throw, so finally, just before they reached me, I dropped one hand. A flight of arrows immediately came from the surrounding forest, dropping the men in their tracks. Every one of them was dead, pierced by multiple arrows.

Confusion and fear took over the village. People began screaming and running in every direction, trying to escape. With another sign from me, my force stepped from the trees and showed themselves. A loud wail rose from every throat in the village. They were hopelessly outnumbered, and half their men were already dead!

I was now shouting in my loudest voice to be heard over the din. “Drop your weapons. Everyone sit on the ground. Drop your weapons or you will die.”

It was a scene of madness, and I could not fault them for their panic. We were much larger than them, probably appearing to be giants in their sight. We were many in number, and had used strange weapons that killed their men silently and from a far distance. I knew we were utterly terrifying to these people.

A force consisting of most of the remaining men and several women had gathered in a corner of the village. Once again I shouted at them to drop their weapons. They did not listen, but ran as a group towards one section of the Nephilim. I waited only a moment before I waved my hand, and every one of them fell with multiple arrows protruding from their bodies.

Another great wail rose throughout the village, and I now shouted only one thing, “Sit down. Hold your children and sit down.”

By now it was mainly women and children left alive in the village, and with obvious dread they finally sat, shaking and crying. Women held small children in their arms while older children huddled close, staring at us with wide, fearful eyes. The few men that were left all appeared to be fathers. They sat with their wives and children and tried to comfort them, knowing they were unable to protect them.

The Nephilim closed in, bringing everyone together in the center of the village. Though a few stared with hate-filled eyes, all appeared resigned to their fate and no one else tried to fight. We quickly dragged all the dead to the far side of the village, away from the sight of our prisoners. A total of thirty-two men and seven women had been killed when they attacked.

Before me sat all that was left of the village, forty-four people in all. Twenty-two were children and youths too young to be called adults. There were only five men left in the group, all of them sitting with families.

I had their complete attention as I spoke, “We are the Nephilim. We come from the land on the other side of the grassland, across the great river. Once before, many years ago, we came to your village. We found it to be an evil place, and we rescued those that needed help and left the rest alone in the hope that they would change for the better. We have come again to talk to you, to judge your ways. Just as we did so many years ago, we want those of you with good hearts to join our tribe and live with us in peace.”

“Today I will speak with each of you. We will speak of your heart and your thoughts. That is all I wanted to do when I came into your village. I did not want to harm you unnecessarily. That is not our way. But if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves.”

“I will go to the other side of the village and I will speak with you one at a time. When I am done talking with all of you, everyone that is alive will leave this village, never to return.”

As I spoke there was whispering, and fearful looks were exchanged. They did not like the sound of what was to happen, but it was not their choice. They had chosen the lives they would lead, and now it was time for their lives to be judged. I would decide who could join our tribe, and who would not leave this place alive.

I went to a far corner of the village away from the smell and sight of blood. There I sat on a large stone as the Nephilim brought the people before me. First came families with a father, mother and children, then mothers with children, and then single women. Finally, a few orphan children that had lost both parents in the fight were brought to me.

Most that I spoke with I judged to be good, but all were afraid and many were broken, cowed by the abuse they had received in this village. Sadly, whether they were judged to be essentially good or essentially evil, all were tainted by the life they had lived. Tainted by the violence and hatred that had been normal in this vile place.

In the end, only five more people lost their lives. One man, three women, only one of them a mother, and one older youth, a boy so filled with hate that it almost frightened me to be in his presence, were not allowed to leave this place. Their bodies joined the others on the far side of the village. The remaining members of the tribe would be sent under guard of the Nephilim to join with those that trailed behind escorting the one good man we had previously found.

That day a total of thirty nine people turned their backs and walked away from their foul home, never to return. We left the village exactly as it was, trusting to wild animals and time to wipe that vile place from the face of the earth.

I and the rest of the Nephilim continued onward, traveling south at a rapid pace. Once we left the area surrounding the village, the land we traveled through was rich and lush, and just as fair as our own. I could see that this would be a good place to live. There was abundant water everywhere except the grasslands, and the forests were filled with game. I expected to find more people living in this direction. According to the first man we had found, most of those that had previously left the tribe were believed to have gone south.

As we continued on the rivers and streams became more frequent. I found it interesting that all the rivers, even if they were large enough to support a city when they came out of the hills, eventually broke up into many smaller streams as they flowed out into the grassland. Within a league very stream eventually disappeared as it ran off into the grass. I had not noticed this on my previous trips, perhaps because I had never been this far south where the rivers were larger and the effect more noticeable.

This was quite odd to me. Water could not just disappear, it had to go somewhere. Now that I was no longer preoccupied with thoughts of the village, I could focus more on my surroundings. The next time we came to a stream I followed its course. The flow of water became less and less, and eventually the stream just ran out, disappearing in the grass. I continued ten paces past the end of the flow and began to dig with a piece of wood. It was very difficult to cut through the tangled mass of grass roots, but once I got through them I found that the ground was very moist.

I continued digging down through the soil, and after a short while the bottom of the hole filled with water. I emptied the hole of water, but it soon came back, quickly reaching the same level as before. The stream had not disappeared; it had gone underground and was nurturing the grass from below.

I walked even further from the end of the stream and tested my theory once more. Again there was water under the surface of the land, though I had to dig slightly deeper to reach it. As a final test I walked south of the stream and dug another hole. Once again, I eventually reached water.

The water I could get from these holes would never support a city, or even a village. But perhaps by digging several of these holes we could get enough water to support a guest house for travelers. These water holes may be the way I could get my people across the grassland!

Three days south of the village we came upon the tracks of a single man, and we found him the next day. Once again this was a man that had given himself over to evil, and he would never have been able to live in our society. His hatred and desire to hurt and destroy was sad, and it was difficult even to speak with him. My judgment was swift, and we continued on our way.

After another five days of travel we finally found the remainder of the eastern tribe. The two families that left the village had banded together, and they were a peaceful and content group. Once they overcame their fear at seeing us and were able to talk, they told me they had lived here for several years. They had planned their escape from the village together, and had formed this community for their common protection from animals and evil men.

One family had six children and the other four, and though they were just as crude and backwards as all the tribes had been, the difference between their attitude and the attitudes of the people that had lived in their old village was like night and day. To see these people living together in harmony was wonderful and gave me hope for all of them.

They told me that an evil man had once come upon them in the night, unaware that one of their men always stood guard over their homes. They thought he had wanted to steal a woman, but during the fight the evil one had been killed. They were confident that no one else lived past them to the south, and they were the furthest outpost of the eastern people.

I explained what would happen to this land in the future, and apologized for the need to take them away from the fine home they had made so far from the village. But no matter how happy they were at the time, I could leave no one out in the wild holding to old traditions, languages and beliefs.

These families were escorted north to join with the Nephilim that now trailed far behind with the rest of the Easterners. I told the Nephilim that escorted these people that it was time for that group to turn around and start the return journey back to our own land. My group would finish exploring to the south, and catch them before they reached the point where we would all start back across the grassland.

We were nearing the southern end of the land. We had now been travelling for many days with short rations and little sleep, and most were ready to return home. But everyone agreed that we needed to continue all the way to the southern mountains, which now loomed before us. I couldn’t have stopped myself if I had tried. I felt compelled to explore this country from its northern to its southern border, and with my own eyes see all this land had to offer.

We traveled south six more days, exploring this beautiful country all along the way, until we finally reached the point where the eastern mountains joined with the massive southern mountains. There was nowhere else to go. Even on this side of the river I would not enter the southern mountains.

We had reached the end of the land. It was time to return home and start planning for our new city in the east. We began to travel north once again, catching up with the Nephilim that escorted the Easterners in a matter of fifteen days.

I was pleased with what had been a very successful trip. I knew we had saved some good people from an evil fate and given them new hope in the future. We now had a huge expanse of rich land for our people to settle. We had found many good sites for future cities, and just as important, we had discovered that there was water under the ground, water that I believed would allow my people to journey safely across the grasslands.

Satisfied with all that we had accomplished in this land, I and the rest of the Nephilim, along with the new members of our tribe, turned our faces towards the west and started home.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Eight

 

I was overjoyed to see Kalou again. I did not like to be separated from her for so long a period of time. We had been gone for almost three moons, but it seemed like even longer. After we returned across the river our force had separated, with most of the Nephilim that lived farthest to the south going home. I kept about twenty leaders of the Nephilim with me to escort the Easterners that returned with us. These Nephilim would stay to participate in meetings as we decided exactly how to expand our nation to the east.

In our meetings over the next few weeks I was incredibly impressed by what I saw in my family. With me at these meetings were Kalou, some of our children, grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren. While I was proud of their intelligence and knowledge, what impressed me even more were their moral and spiritual principles.

Though the Nephilim were looked upon as royal warriors, in reality they considered themselves responsible for keeping the land on the path of righteousness, and they took this responsibility very seriously. They discussed openly the need to keep strong our worship of God, our reverence for His power, and gratitude for the gifts bestowed upon mankind in His creation.

My life had been one long journey. Physically, spiritually and emotionally I had been travelling nonstop for hundreds of years. My journey had begun at my parent’s home, a place where I was selfish, arrogant and jealous; a place where I was able to murder my brother and lie to God Himself. And my journey continued to this day. I was in no way perfect and often struggled as I tried to make the right decisions for myself and my nation. God’s gift of free will engendered a battle within me, and though I seemed in control, it was a battle that I fought daily.

My offspring appeared to have much less difficulty controlling themselves. Though they thought of themselves as many different things; leaders of cities, administrators, inventors and warriors, they were in reality the moral and spiritual leaders of the land. Their hearts for service and desire to lead in a righteous manner impressed me, even while it made me more ashamed of my past.

I could see in them, in a way I never saw in myself, that mankind truly was made in God’s image. Not in His physical image, but in His emotional, intellectual, and spiritual image. Kalou and I could not have been more proud of our offspring.

In our meetings we discussed how the people that moved to the east would be far from their families and everything they had known their entire lives. We wanted to make sure there would be no weakening in the faith of those that moved, no loss of moral strength and no loss of our culture and beliefs. We knew this would be difficult, so we wanted to choose our strongest people to settle the new lands.

Kalou and I met constantly with our family for two weeks. I had chosen three possible locations for the first city, and after much discussion it was decided that we would build the city diagonally to the southeast from the city of Enoch. Since the majority of our population now lived south of the capital, I decided our first city in the east should also be south of the capital. While those of us that lived in Enoch would need to travel nine days to get to the river crossing, this would be a more centralized location for the majority of the nation.

We knew of the perfect place to build a ferry crossing on this section of the river. After we constructed the ferry, the road would travel due east across the grasslands to the new city. The location we chose for the first eastern city had a clean river filled with fish, abundant woodlands full of game, and wide meadows for farm fields and grazing flocks.

After we decided on the locations for the ferry and the city, we developed our plan for building the ferry and constructing the guest houses and the road that would allow us to settle the city. This project would be undertaken by people of every city, and many members of my family desired to be involved. I was not surprised by the excitement this new city evoked. There had been many in my family that had desired to cross the river, explore the new territories and expand our nation.

Because of our nation’s history of expansion, building a new city was not a major undertaking. By now virtually everyone in the land had been involved with starting at least one of them. What made this city different and more difficult was the need to transport all the raw materials for the guest houses and water holes across the river and the wide expanse of the grasslands as we built our way east.

On our return trip we had frequently tested the grasslands for the availability of water beneath the surface. Thankfully, we found it was always there, though we had to dig deep holes to reach it. This ground water would allow us to use carts and oxen to carry materials across the grassland, and would allow animals and people not of my blood to cross the wide plains to the new city.

We would build one road from our ferry to the first city, and there would be guest houses placed one day’s journey apart along the road. Each guest house would be supplied by several of the water holes to ensure that the people would have plenty to drink and could still water livestock. It would be a long trip for anyone venturing to the new city across the grassland, at least fifteen days and possibly more. But while it would be tedious, it would not be a dangerous or horribly difficult trip.

Together we came up with an idea for how to build a permanent ferry across the river. We would make huge log platforms which would be moved across the river on strong ropes that were anchored on each side. There would be two separate ferry boat lines, and each line would cross the river on an angle. The ferry moving with the river’s current would always be the loaded boat. On the return trip the ferry would be empty and easier to pull back across. Since the boats traveled on an angle, the trips against the current would not be too difficult for the ferrymen.

After a few weeks we separated with our meetings complete and our decisions made. We would gather again in three moons on the shore of the Great River. There we would begin the construction of the ferries, and soon after that, building the road. We had much work to do before we could begin to settle our new city.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifty Nine

 

Three moons later I stood on the bank of the Great River, watching the water slowly flow past me. The speed of the river would cause us no problem. The problem was the great width we would need to traverse.

We had chosen this spot because it was almost due west of where we would build the city, and also because a large forest grew almost to the river’s edge. The forest could provide more than enough logs for the ferries, as well as all the buildings we would need to construct on both sides of the river to support the ferry service.

I stood with about twenty members of my family discussing how we would anchor the ferry boats. Behind us, in a clearing back from the river, some men and women were setting up the camp we would live in while we built a small village to support the ferry on this side of the river. We would also need to construct some guest houses on the far side of the river.

We had all arrived over the last few days, and the village was already laid out. People were at work felling trees and gathering the rock we would need for the village and the pilings that we would use to anchor the ferry boats. Another crew was bringing long, straight logs to the river to build the ferries.

These ferries would be quite simple, but very large. They would be long, wide and able to carry a great volume of cargo. We would need to anchor posts deep into the ground, and make the thickest, strongest ropes I had ever seen to allow us to cross the river the way we planned. The ferrymen and passengers would pull the boat across the river using these ropes. It would be a difficult job, but I was quite confident it could be done.

The ferries would cross the river on an angle, which would allow the full ferry boat to go with the current and the empty boat to crab across the river and take much of the work off the ferrymen. While crossing from our side to the east, the full ferry moved with the flow of water to the north. When crossing the river to our side from the east, the full ferry once again would move to the north. This requirement meant that the boat landings on this side of the river would be next to each other, while on the eastern side they would be quite a ways apart.

We finished our discussion of the pilings. It was decided that we would use three large tree trunks, binding them together to create a huge piling as an anchor for the ferry rope. This piling would be buried deep in the ground and surrounded by rock. We would need to do this four times, twice on each side of the river. Once this heavy, difficult work was done and we were able to connect the two sides with a permanent ferry line, work on the other side of the river would be possible.

Over the next few weeks we made steady progress. The settlement for the ferry landing on this side of the river continued to be built. The pilings were installed and the ropes attached on our side of the river. Carrying the logs and rocks across for the pilings on the other side was a difficult job, but once the first piling was completed on the far side we quickly had a permanent ferry crossing.

I was thankful the ferry boat crossed on the rope as well as I had imagined. While I had been confident it would work, one can never be sure until it is actually done.

Once the first ferry line was completed and running I set off with a work crew. We traveled due east towards the eventual location of the new city. We had oxen pulling carts filled with food, water, and building supplies. Everything we required to build the guest houses along the road would need to be transported from the river. I expected transporting the supplies to be the most challenging part of building the guest houses. It would be a long and tedious undertaking to move everything we needed eastwards across the plains, especially rocks and logs.

Every day crews would cross the river to carry supplies along the road. The builders would continue to be supplied this way as we crossed the plains, building guest houses and digging water holes which were spaced one travel day apart. I believed we would need to build at least fifteen guest houses to get across the plains. I hoped we could find water beneath the ground at each of our locations.

We walked for what we considered to be a solid days’ worth of travel, and when the sun dropped low in the sky we set up a camp. This would be the site of the first guest house. Early the next morning we started work. Part of the crew began setting the logs for the framework of the structure that would become the main building of the guest house, while another crew began digging the first water hole near the building.

Digging a water hole was hard work. The grass roots stretched deep into the soil, and it was quite difficult to cut through them and reach the softer soil beneath. Once we hit the soft soil the ground was damp, which was how the grass received the water it needed to live. As we continued to dig, eventually we reached a point where the water began to fill up the bottom of our hole. We kept digging, pulling large pails of mud out of the hole, until we had deep water in the bottom of the pit. It took several days to complete, and we finished by placing a loose layer of rock in the bottom to keep mud out of the water.

I stayed with the work crew the entire time, and together we built everything that was needed for a guest house. Since this was the first one, I wanted to use it as a model for all the guest houses that would follow.

We built two solid, comfortable structures. One was a home for the family that would run the guest house, and it would also house small groups of travelers. The other building was for those times when large groups were crossing the plains and more living space was needed. We also dug several additional water holes and built all the assorted outbuildings and paddocks that would be needed for a guest house.

In the future, after I laid out the site and we dug the first water hole, I would take another work crew and continue to the east to locate the next guest house. I would leave behind a leader and all the workers that were needed to build the structures and dig the rest of the water holes. By leapfrogging across the plains this way, I hoped we would be able to build several guest houses at one time.

The process proved to be as tedious as I had imagined, but it worked. Every day a fresh caravan of material arrived at the furthest point of the road, and we were able to keep working on several guest houses at a time as we slowly but steadily moved across the plains.

The third guest house was completed just as we were breaking ground to begin the seventh. Things were moving smoothly and everyone knew what was expected of them. I was no longer needed on a daily basis, so I took a break from the plains and went back to the river to see what progress had been made.

I was very impressed. The ferry villages on both sides of the river were nearing completion, and both of the ferry lines were now crossing the river many times a day, carrying the materials and people that were needed to build the guest houses.

The village on the east side of the river was quite small, little more than a couple large guest houses and their outbuildings and paddocks, since it existed only to house a few ferry workers and any travelers that were forced to stay on that side of the river for a night. The village on the western side of the river was larger, since it was expected to support the bulk of the travelers, the ferrymen and their families.

Many of the people that had been working on the villages were now being transferred to work crews to transport supplies across the plains and build the guest houses. Eventually, as construction continued to the far side of the plains, a huge crew would be needed to supply those that were building the guest houses.

My grandchildren were the leaders in every phase of this endeavor. My children all had positions of high authority in cities across the land, and they were not able to leave their posts to go to the east. This was the perfect adventure for the younger members of our family; those that were looking for more excitement. Settling a new land was exactly what they needed.

My grandson Talencar was leading the construction of the western village, while my granddaughter Alerca was in charge of the eastern village. Andaran was responsible for the building materials for all the construction, and Sataran was in charge of the daily supply caravans that crossed the plains. Many other grandchildren also served in positions of leadership, and I was proud of every one of them.

We were making steady progress, moving even faster than I had expected. Since there had been no problems up to this point and I had been away from Kalou and my city for more than two moons already, I decided to take some time and travel home for a visit.

I brought Kalou up to date on our progress, and she was amazed by all we had been able to accomplish thus far.

“At this rate you will be across the plains and starting on the city in another four moons!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, we are moving steadily,” I said. “I can’t wait for you to see the new land. The plains, as boring as they are to travel across, are something that everyone should see. They are perfectly flat and seem to go on forever. When you look around you feel like you are in a world made up of only tall green grass and endless blue sky. They are a wonder to behold.”

“Yes, you make them sound lovely. I can’t wait to walk across them for days on end,” Kalou said with a sidelong glance and a slight smile.

I had to laugh. It was so good to be home with my wife.

After a brief but satisfying visit I had to return to the river and the far plains. We were moving east at a rate of about two guest houses each moon, and after the tenth guest house was begun I gathered several of my offspring and we traveled to the mountains, to the spot where the new city was to be located. I had been correct in my estimation. It would require sixteen days travel, with stops at fifteen guest houses, for a person to cross the plains. While this was a long journey, it was one that most people would do only once in their lifetime. While I expected there would always be steady traffic both ways along the road, most of those that came to the east would stay, never returning to the west.

When we reached the site we spent a few days surveying the surrounding area. We had chosen a good location. It had everything that was needed to allow a great city to thrive, and this was important. This city was to be the capital of the east, and it would be the city from which all others would grow. After we reviewed the site and made some final plans, we returned to our work on the road and the guest houses. We were now completely focused on finishing that road and reaching our destination.

The roadway, including both villages and the chain of guest houses, was completed in six moons time. It was an incredible accomplishment, perhaps the greatest of my life.

By the time we completed the road and the final guest house, the majority of the people that would build the city were on the site. My grandson Lataron was in charge of building and would lead the city. I intended to visit several times during construction, but I would soon be going home to Enoch for a good, long stay.

Most of the workers that had built the road and the guest houses would also be building and living in the new city. Now that construction on the city was set to begin, farmers could travel across the plains and start to establish the fields and flocks that would be required to support the city. Though the long journey and the distance from the rest of the nation would make the process move more slowly than usual, this was now essentially nothing more than building a new city. This was something our nation had done many times in the last three hundred years, so I was confident we would be successful.

I had decided to call the city Kan-Eden in honor of the new start that God had provided for us. Though I truly enjoyed the excitement and adventure of opening up a new land to settlement, I looked forward to going home to Kalou. It would be good to be back in the peace and quiet of my home.

 

 

 

Chapter Sixty

 

For any person going to the eastern lands their journey began at the river, and traveling across the plains was an adventure unto itself.

Once you set off you had a long journey ahead of you, but it was not particularly difficult. Facing a traveler was sixteen days of steady walking across a wide, seemingly endless plain of grass under a clear blue sky. For days it would seem as if you were getting no closer to your eventual destination.

Every day was exactly like the one before. You walked and walked, and just as you began to think you would never again see anything but grass, you would finally see a speck on the horizon. Eventually the speck would turn into a guest house where you would get a hot meal and a bed. The next day you would get up and do it all over again.

One day, usually seven or eight days into your journey, you would realize that the eastern mountains finally seemed to be a little larger. Eventually, after you had become so bored by the endless grass that you almost couldn’t take it any longer, you would see foothills on the horizon. You were almost there.

For the last two days of the journey you could see the city clearly across the plains. It tempted you, and made a person want to push to get there in one day. Some tried, and they always regretted it. Almost all were smart enough to spend their last night at the final guest house, celebrating their imminent arrival the following day.

Since it had been such an enormous and time-consuming project to build a road across the plains, I didn’t know if another would ever be built. Though I believed it would be a good idea to eventually have another road connecting the two lands further to the south, I did not plan on being the one that would build it. I had to leave something for future generations to accomplish!

Because of the distance separating Kan-Eden from the rest of the nation, establishing the city took longer than usual. It was a full year before it was completed and running on its own.

Kalou and I came for a visit soon after Lataron called it finished. Though I had been there several times during its construction, this was Kalou’s first time ever across the great river. She was very impressed by everything we had done, especially the ferry boats. We stayed in Kan-Eden for several weeks, using it as a base as we took shorter trips in all directions, enjoying ourselves as we explored the land. It was the first time in many years that we had explored new places together. We even went farther east deep into the mountains, but had to stop when we encountered steep slopes and sheer rock.

“Is there a way to the other side?” Kalou asked.

“I went across them many years ago. On the other side are more plains and woodlands stretching forever to the east. I remember it as being very much like our own land. I would like to go there again someday, though I know not when.”

“But how did you cross the mountains?”

“I climbed, but that is no way for most people to cross. Only members of our family could do that, and it would be difficult even for many of us. Someone will need to find a pass though the mountains. Eventually one of our grandchildren will, and if I know them it will be sooner rather than later,” I said with a smile.

While it was exciting for Kalou and me to discover new places together, it was with some relief on both our parts when after six months of constant travel we finally returned to the capital of Enoch and settled back into our routines of leading the city and the nation.

The years passed quickly and peacefully. The western lands still expanded, but it was much more slowly now as adventurous people moved east every year. Our people had realized the east was a good land, and that was where the growth would come in the future.

Less than two years after our trip to the east one of our grandchildren found a pass through the mountains. It appeared to be a narrow gorge at first, but as you traveled further east it widened, eventually opening through a break in the mountains. The way was steep, but not especially difficult. The far eastern lands were now accessible to anyone.

The pass was a ten day journey south of Kan-Eden. Within one hundred years there was a city established on the edge of the plains, below the pass that was two days journey to its west. Though it was probably far off, as there was still an enormous amount of land to settle in this eastern realm, I was sure that someday my offspring would cross that pass to begin a new adventure, a new nation on the far side of the mountains.

That would not be my adventure. My nation was here, centered on both sides of the great river. I knew in my heart I would someday see that far land again, but I would not settle there. I would not be the one to take my people to that place. That adventure would be for those that followed after me.

 

 

 

Chapter Sixty One

 

Though it happened to everyone, nonetheless it was painful to see Kalou become old. She had reached her five hundred and twentieth year, which was a long life for anyone not of my bloodline. To look at us one would think I was a man of great vitality still in his prime, while she was an old woman, grey and wrinkled. But in my eyes she was still and always would be the beautiful, fiery Kalou that had impressed me from the very first day we met.

I clearly remembered our first meeting, where I saw her courage as she faced down three men from her own tribe. I could still see Kalou standing firm, those rabbits clutched in her hand as she shouted her defiance at those men.

She had enjoyed a very good life, a life of incredible adventure and change. Kalou had started her life in a world where people lived in crude huts, wore filthy animal skins and barely subsisted on meat and roasted potatoes as they struggled to survive from day to day.

Kalou was finishing her life as queen over a vast realm, in a large home surrounded at all times by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was known to her entire nation as a truly great woman, a woman of intelligence and strength; wise, courageous and faithful to God.

For over four hundred years Kalou had been my center, the one person that kept me going. I would never have changed without Kalou. I would have lived and died a self-centered, prideful and arrogant fool. Nothing that now existed; our family, our civilization, the nation we had established, could have been born without the love, the strength, and the intelligence of Kalou.

She had always been there, guiding and helping me to see my weaknesses and change my ways. Through everything in the last four hundred years Kalou had been my foundation and anchor, and I actually feared a life without her. I would love her with all my heart for the rest of my life, however long that may be.

We no longer travelled, but spent our days in Enoch, sharing our time with family and friends. I savored this time together, because I knew it would not last. As much as one could, I had become used to losing those I loved. All my closest friends and leaders from the early years were now gone, but they would never be forgotten. I had come to realize long ago that though a long life was a blessing in some ways, in other ways it was a curse.

On the day that Kalou left me I did not cry. The pain was too great to allow for tears.

As Kalou had become more fragile in her last months, more and more of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had come to visit. There were hundreds of our offspring in the capital, and she was content as she was surrounded by her loved ones at her passing. A few days afterwards, though we were all yet saddened beyond words, as Kalou had requested we had a ceremony, a sad and also joyous ceremony, to remember and celebrate her wonderful life.

The day after the ceremony, as most of my family prepared to return to their homes, I pulled aside my oldest son Enoch to speak. I had made a decision and I told him of my plans. Though he was not happy, he agreed to do as I asked.

That same day I held a brief meeting with my family, where I announced my decision.

“I am no longer willing to stay in the city of Enoch, and I feel the need to travel. Enoch’s son Shadan will take over the rule of this city, and Enoch will serve as King in my stead while I am away. Perhaps I will reclaim the mantle of King some day, and I may find a new home in our land, but I will never return to Enoch to live.”

No one disagreed with me. Everyone in my family understood that I needed time to be alone; time to think.

The next day, as my family streamed out of the city returning to their homes, I also left. I traveled southeast, following the well-worn road that led to the ferry crossing of the great river. I crossed and continued onward across the wide plains.

I had not crossed the river to the eastern lands in thirty years. As Kalou had aged, I had not wanted to leave her for any extended periods of time. Since any trip across the river to visit the eastern cities would take at least two moons from start to finish, I had not gone.

There were now ten cities established in the east, and all were thriving and healthy. Each one contained a good mix of people from the cities of the west, as well as a growing number of people born on this side of the river.

I visited each one of the cities, and once I had been to each city my duty was done. I finished my travels at the city of Caranor, two days west of the pass through the Eastern Mountains.

Early one morning I said goodbye to the leader of the city, my grandson Andanar. With my face turned to the east I walked out of the city, starting towards the rising sun.

I had only a rough leather pack, the cloths on my back and my knife. The pack held one full water skin, a heavy wool cloak, a drawing my mother had made when I was a child, a drawing one of my grandchildren had made a hundred years earlier, a firestone, and a bag of food. My knife had an intricately carved wooden handle which was inset with a large, highly polished dark red rock. It had been made for me by my father. The knife and the two drawings were my most prized possessions in all the world.

I did not dwell too long on the thought that five hundred years earlier I had left behind a home with virtually the same things on my back as I ventured east into an unknown land. The only significant difference in my pack was an additional drawing. It was a beautifully wrought picture of my family. In the center of the picture were myself and Kalou, and surrounding us were our children. All of us were smiling happily.

Five hundred years ago I had not looked substantially different from the way I now appeared. I had worn the same style of clothing, carried the same items in my backpack, and carried the same knife at my side. To look at me, no one would notice a difference between the man I was then and the man I was now. No one but God.

I walked easily through the foothills towards the pass. My pace was leisurely, though inside I was taut with excitement, filled with anticipation at what I might find. It was a good feeling to have. I knew I had time and nothing to prove. Though I knew not what I would discover, it no longer mattered. There was nothing more I needed to accomplish.

I only needed to see what was ahead of me; what lay to the east. Always to the east.

 

 

 

Epilogue

“In the end, everything was good.”

“Now of course we all know that this is not actually true. First there was good, but evil and disobedience to God came into the world, partially by my hand. Now our family works to keep the world as good as we possibly can. But it is my story, and I shall end it however I wish… And that is the end.”

I smiled to the crowded room as I fell silent. Everyone, both children and adults, shook themselves as if coming awake out of a dream. I had seen this same reaction to the ending of my story many times over the years.

After my return from the east I had reinstituted telling my story to my offspring every five years. I had first started the tradition when we began to settle the east side of the great river. When I disappeared into the east the tradition had fallen by the wayside.

My journey of exploration to the far eastern lands had stretched to such a great length of time that my family had finally given up the hope of ever seeing me again. One day, after many decades of absence, I returned unannounced. In all the years that followed my return, I never answered the repeated questions concerning what I had found on my long journey.

To all those that asked I would reply, “You will need to discover those things for yourself.”

Once again I looked around the room at my family, which surrounded me on all sides. It was late in the day and the sun was setting. It had taken several days to tell my story, as it always did. I looked forward to this time, since I was now a very old man, and I never knew if I would live to tell my tale again. So I always treated it with respect, making sure to leave out nothing in the telling.

I repeated what I had said to my family at the beginning of the story, “Hopefully one, or perhaps even more than one of you has learned something. My wish is that you will leave this room a little wiser then when you first entered.”

And with that simple conclusion, I rose and walked into the fading light of the day.

 

 

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Thank you for reading In The Beginning. There’s more to come, but since I’m a slow writer it may be a while. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer.

 

Thanks!

 

Richard Webber

 


In The Beginning

The world is young, and a single man struggles across a desert wasteland. He’s been walking almost fifty days, and his food and water are gone. But he sees mountains in the distant east, and if he can hold on long enough to get there, he just might make it out of this alive. He has no options; he’s been exiled from his land and now he’s a wanderer, so there’s no going home. He’s never seen anyone outside of his family, but his father once told him that other people lived in a fair, green land across the desert. His father had said they were dangerous, but only to each other; not to a member of his family. He would have to hope that his father was right, and his cunning and the mark he carried upon his head were enough to keep him alive. Somehow he is able to make it through the desert, and he stumbles upon the Others almost immediately. His father was right; he has nothing to fear from them. His parents had always called their family the firstborn, the children of God, and he immediately realizes that this is another race, a race that cannot compare to his in strength or intelligence. They are small and weak, clothed in filthy skins and speaking a barely intelligible language. While he feels nothing but disdain for them, he immediately realizes his dreams of ruling are no longer just dreams. As time passes he is able to bring all the tribes under his rule as he teaches them his language and ways, and imparts the knowledge and inventions that had allowed his family to thrive. Over the course of time his contempt fades as he comes to realize that though they are not his match in size, strength, or longevity of life, they still possess a spirit, intelligence and soul equal to his. Through the guidance of a wise woman, one he is proud to join with as his wife, after years of condescension his heart is opened and he can see that the others are his equal in the eyes of God. In spite of the fact that he was prideful and arrogant, the kingdom he has built with a heart focused only on his own selfish needs is still a good one. There are many challenges, both internally and externally, to his new-found wisdom, but if he can stay true to his ideals, he, his wife and their children just might be able to make a real difference in this young world.

  • ISBN: 9781310794933
  • Author: Richard Webber
  • Published: 2015-11-27 15:05:19
  • Words: 131391
In The Beginning In The Beginning