I thought it good to commit to a record, all the events that led to the present condition on the planet Orsa. I have included some very personal thoughts and occurrences so that if anyone ever cared, they may understand why I did what I did, seeing that I had so much to do with the present state of affairs here. Then again, I'm only human; I like talking about myself. A point to further understanding: my speech and thinking now is more in the language of the people of Orsa than in Englic. A difference may be noted between the earlier records and the final notes, of which this is an example. My mate suggested giving some explanation of the record and so I have. I would suppose that the final entry would be one of us mentioning the death of the other. If the record is transcribed it will appear as it is here when the spoken words were Englic, and thusly when they were in our tongue, meaning the Orsan tongue.
I am MacKinnic 0023, born in Tranquility, Montana District, 648 years after the Second Pyrrhic War. My father, MacKinnic 0020 had recently returned from a twenty-year assignment off planet when he met and married my mother, Ivanova 2009, although at that time she had not yet been off planet. It was her envy and sense of adventure that propelled us into space. Having been very well paid for his efforts, my father did not ever need to work again, yet he welcomed the urgings of my mother to return for another assignment.
The call came when I was twelve years old. We left Earth on an eight year journey on an LW2.2 ferry, a very large but relatively slow ship, to the IS station maintained by PE&M, my parents' employer, and later, mine also. They left me there with a promise of employment for me by PM&M and transferred to a warp-constant ship for an additional two years travel to their destination for six months work. At about the time they were arriving there, two ships arrived at the IS station, one with returnees from a successfully completed job, heading back to Earth, the other, to load the recruits for the job on Orsa. After a few days of organizing, sixty-eight of us cleared out of our quarters on the station and boarded the Astrape, a sleek TW6.6 cruiser-orbiter. Our trip would take fifty-four months, our job only twelve to fourteen. I could be back on Earth and retired at forty.
I left messages for my parents at the station, expecting that the next time I saw them would be on Earth when they would meet my family if I had one. Upon our arrival at Orsa we had messages waiting, received by the Guardians, (they're explained early in the record). One was from my father informing me that my mother did not survive the warp leap; her brain circuitry went berserk; a rare event that occurred in one person in fifty thousand. My father did not want to return to Montana alone and found employment at the station until such time that I would be returning to Earth myself.
My work as a geologist on Orsa was routine at first until we found an injured local named Chadda. My stay with "an indigenous inhabitant of the dominant species" was not permitted but was very interesting, but it was nothing compared to my meeting the Madi.
Chapter One - The Madi
The icy water was numbing my legs and feet as Chadda and I waded out to the middle of the river. His insistence that we do this in the middle of the night should have given me cause to worry. He said that based on his many years of dealing with the Madi, anyone caught in the river was fair game but the rock that we were trying to reach was a sanctuary. I had the feeling that he was scared to death of them.
Feeling our way in the darkness with poles was harrowing, trying to avoid falling into a hole and being caught in one of the many eddies. The swift current and rocky bottom would make a misstep fatal. The warming weather had finally melted the chunks of ice that would have made this mid-night trip suicidal; not that this wasn't scary enough. From the way Chadda spoke of them I wondered if they might just decide to kill us if they thought that we intended to cross all the way to their side. The Dombra, Chadda's tribe, spoke of them as being brutal and sadistic.
We knew that they were there on the other bank; we spotted them before the sun went down. Chadda thought that he knew one of them, Fadho the forger. To me they all looked the same. We knew also that they knew that we had seen them.
"MacKinnic, over here!" Chadda shouted to me. I didn't know if he found the rock or was in trouble. I moved as quickly as I could in the waist deep water.
"Where are you?" I called out to him. He was standing almost at my side and put his hand on my arm when I spoke.
"The rock, MacKinnic. Come, get out of the water." Chadda's squat hairy body better protected him from the frigid water but being fully a head shorter was a definite disadvantage in the swirling current. He clambered up pulling on my arm till I was up with him. We pulled in two bladders that contained the skins of giant ardavars, mammalian fish eaters from the lake region. I quickly removed my wet pants and footwear, and wrapped myself up thinking that if I could stop shivering I might even get some sleep.
"Chadda, what will the Madi do when they see us in the morning?" I had to ask even though he had assured me that we were safe on the rock sanctuary.
"They will threaten us with death and put their feet on us. Then they will trade."
Chadda wrapped himself in his ardavar skin and curled up to sleep.
"Sleep if you can, there is nothing to fear . . . now."
The Orsan practice of placing a foot on a subordinate was mostly ceremonial except for the Madi who made it a point of honor. According to Chadda if the foot is driven down forcibly it could break the breastplate, which protected their lungs and heart; they had no ribs. Within minutes the audible sounds of Chadda's breathing had slowed to a state close to hibernation. Like all the rest of his kind he had the ability to shut down most bodily functions to conserve energy at night or when caught by surprise in a sudden snowstorm.
We estimated that there were about three million of them on the planet and only two hundred of us. I was a geologist working for PE&M, Planetary Exploration & Mining. It was one of two rival corporations who had been issued licenses for exploration of this planet. We both sought trading rights to its resources. There were about fifty or so scientists and technicians at each camp and about a hundred homesteaders (the Guardians) who had established settlements in the habitable zone, separating us from the Orsans.
The homesteaders referred to us as Pirates, Exploiters & Murderers. Our rivals, GM&M, Galactic Metals & Mining, were called Gimme More & More. We called them the Gimmes; they called us the Pirates. The team that was successful in getting the rights could plan on retirement. Each of us would be set for life with our share of the profits.
The South Pole of the planet faced the sun continuously at a 54-degree angle. The Orsan day was 23 hours and 14 minutes long and its year about 340 days. The Southern Hemisphere was mostly desert, the hottest part of which was over 200 degrees; and the Northern, a frigid wasteland dotted with geothermal lakes in the area nearer to the equator. Temperatures were bearable in a strip about a thousand kilometers wide. The entire population of Orsa lived in that part of that strip that was fertile, only one hundred kilometers wide.
We were crossing a river in the northern part of the inhabited area where the streambed was wide and the fast moving melt water had not cut too deeply into the rock. Farther south, as many small streams joined the main watercourse, the banks became steeper, making it impossible to climb out of the canyon. Where the river reached the desert, the canyon walls were two thousand meters high and the wind rushing downriver was quite strong. The inhabited part of this world was north of an escarpment that circled the planet. It was segmented into plateaus separated by canyons impossible to cross except in the north. The Madi needed only to patrol a few kilometers on each side of their homeland to insure that no outsiders entered their territory.
Taking some comfort from Chadda's confidence in the way things were going, I made sure my portable safe was secure and closed my eyes, waiting for sleep. The warmth of the ardavar skin made it a short wait.
The sound of a voice made me turn my head in that direction, which caused me to self-inflict a cut on my cheek on the point of a spear. Two Madi were standing over us; the dawn's orange sunlight barely illuminating the rock. The larger one wore a leather harness that carried a pouch just above his rump. He had his foot on Chadda's chest.
"You worthless excuse for a man! Is there any reason why I shouldn't kill you where you lay? You stink from fish," he said.
"Mak Fadho, have I ever failed to please you in the things that I offered for trade? Look at the creature I have brought you. Have you ever seen the likes of it? We captured it in the North. It is wise and can teach you many things."
Chadda was very convincing, speaking the words that we had rehearsed so many times. He had assured me that permission would never be granted for me to enter the Madi homeland and that the only way was for them to take me as an item of trade, an object of curiosity, a chattel.
The other Madi, an adolescent was staring at me, unable to comprehend what he was seeing for the first time. I thought that he took it altogether more in stride than I would have if I had met him on Earth.
"Father! Look at this. This creature's blood is red."
All animal life on this planet had copper instead of iron as the carrier of oxygen in their blood, which gave a blue color to it and a bluish tint to their skin.
The older one came to me and motioned for me to stand up. When I did he pointed his spear at me, a bit intimidated at my height. His eyes were drawn to my penis, which he took in his hand and shook up and down disapprovingly. TheOrsans had theirs in a penile sheath attached to their abdomen like a dog.
"What are these things?" He asked Chadda, pointing to my testicles with his spear.
"I don't know, Mak Fadho, they may have something to do with coupling. We have never seen them do it."
Fadho moved his hand to my shirt, feeling the texture of the man made fiber. We were all issued the same garments, shirt, pants and pull-on footwear, all dyed black.
"What kind of animal did this come from? Why is there no hair on it? Do all the creatures from its land have as little hair as this one?"
The Orsans had a mantle of blond to light brown hair, which covered their heads, shoulders, and backs, thinning out as it ended at their buttocks. Their forearms and their legs from the knees down and their genital area were also covered with hair. The females in addition had fine hair covering their chests down to their breasts, which generally were not very much larger than the males.
"We know little about them, Mak Fadho. We captured this one after the last snow when we sent a hunting party north to the lakes."
This was not good. Chadda and I had not planned for any questioning beyond what already had been asked.
"Gulas, the chief of the Chuduvar told us of them before the last snow. When did they cross our land to get to Dombra, these hairless things, during the snow? How is it that you Dombra only now have seen them?"
Fadho went back to where Chadda was laying and squatted down to speak face to face with him.
The Chuduvar were the tribe to the west of the Madi. The humans that they reported seeing were homesteaders that had settled in the area prior to any corporate presence being allowed on the planet. From years of observation by satellite it was known that the Madi were an elite group and exercised some function in every tribe on the planet. It had been easy to identify them from the satellite by the pouches that they wore. The homesteaders had made contact with an outlyingChuduvar settlement and also with a small Dombra community two years ago, learning the Orsan language and customs to aid them in insuring that the commercial operations would not overstep the bounds that our government imposed on dealings with an intelligent species.
My own opinion of the homesteaders was that they were a bunch of misguided do-gooders who had signed on to this one-way trip thinking that they were protecting a backward species from the evils of human culture. I secretly believe that our beloved government really thought that in a few generations the Orsans would be so dependent on us that we would effectively rule them.
Chadda gave me a sideways glance knowing that he might give away our plan.
"We had heard about them from some of our hunters who had gone to the lakes. They did not approach them but only reported that a new people had made a village there. At first we thought that they drank too much malska. Who would build a village at the lakes? But at the next season when other hunters went there and reported the same things we thought to investigate to see for ourselves. We found this one wandering alone, heading south towards our village. He has been with us for a season. He has learned to speak our tongue and has shown us many things. We offer him to the Madi as a valuable commodity." Chadda was a very good storyteller; none of that was true.
"It speaks our tongue?" Fadho was stunned.
"Yes," Chadda replied. "Ask it something."
The adolescent had picked up my trousers and correctly guessed that they went over my legs. He was holding them up to me. I took them from him and would have put them on but I expected to be back in the water shortly.
"What are you?" Fadho asked.
"My home is a place called Earth. My tribe is called Human."
"I have never heard of this tribe. Where is this place?"
"Our home is far away, far beyond the lakes."
"There is only darkness beyond the lakes. Can you see in the night? How do you keep warm?"
The lake region received only oblique sunlight during the day, the solar disk not rising much above the horizon. Our camp was on a bluff on the eastern shore of a kilometer wide lake whose warm water supplied all our heating needs. A hundred kilometers past the lakes the temperature dropped quickly until it reached 70 degrees below zero in the darkness.
"If you could travel far past the lakes to our land you would see another sun, which gives us warmth and light. We are a curious people and seek to know about others so we moved south to where the Dombra saw us."
That, I thought was more poetry than falsehood. I was counting on Fadho to place some credulity in the Orsan creation myth that told of the victor of a war among an ancient people who became the father of the Orsan tribes in the land of darkness, and sent them south to seek warmth.
Fadho looked me in the eye for a very long time. I don't think he learned anything from it. He glanced at the boy who only shrugged and made some gesture with his hand. He then reached out with his free hand and grasped my shoulder, pulling me downward.
"Get down on your back," he growled.
I knew what was coming and knew also that this was the way things were going to be. He was treating me as a person and not as a piece of property. When I was flat on the rock he put his foot on my chest and leaned over me, looking directly in my eye.
"In my land you obey or you die. Do you understand?"
"Can I keep my possessions?"
Fadho looked at my garments and the ardavar skin, which really was Chadda's. He sort of grunted an assent and removed his foot from my chest. I sat up and reached under the skin for my footgear and pulled them on, a pair of shoes made of the same material as my garments but with wear resistant bottoms. I thought that this would be the best time to reveal my safe. I pulled it out from under the skin and stood up.
"What is this?" Fadho asked, clearly annoyed that I had kept it hidden from him when I made my request.
"It contains my treasures, which I will reveal to you if you treat me well. Only I can open it." Chadda winced at my impudence.
"Are you prepared to die? Open it!"
I was relying on Chadda's absolute conviction that the Madi were as totally honor bound to keep the integrity of their word as they were to keep the integrity of their land.
"We are not in your land so I am not bound to obey you. You have not traded with Chadda yet so I am not yours to command and the box is still mine to do with as I please. I can still give it to him and then go with you but then you will never know what benefits you were passing up."
Chadda was making motions with his hands as if to absolve himself of any complicity in this. Fadho's face turned a darkened blue.
"Kisla," he said to his son, "give me the green bag."
Kisla reached into a pouch that hung from his belt, his only article of clothing, and withdrew a small green sack cinched up with a drawstring. He handed it to his father who opened it and pulled out a mesh bag containing a black stone about three centimeters across and another object half that size that was wrapped up. Chadda's eyes widened, his hands reached out trembling but he did not touch it. He looked at me; his eyes were full of guilt. I had the feeling that I was about to get sold out.
"This is what I offer for this creature and all that he owns. Do you wish to trade?"
Chadda didn't hesitate for an instant.
"We have a trade Mak Fadho."
Fadho put the stone back into the sack and handed it to Chadda, who, without looking at me, took it and his ardavar skin and slipped over the edge of the rock into the water, making his way back to Dombra territory. He had planned to trade me for some pyrophoric stones or iron spear points and negotiate a deal for me to keep the safe. I had no idea what the stones were.
Three of my companions and I had found Chadda unconscious in the snow by our lake. He had apparently slipped and hit his head. He would probably have frozen to death, not being covered by his ardavar skin. Our government-issued license to operate on this planet strictly forbade any contact with the indigenous population without a homesteader being present. We did not want to leave him to die so we brought him back to our camp to recover. When he did, our upper management made a plan to bypass the regulations and the homesteaders by using him to gain access to the Madi territory. We thought the Gimmes would do likewise.
The planet was discovered because it was the source of radio transmissions at various frequencies. The initial planetary survey done a hundred twenty years ago recorded an energy source at the transmission site, which swept across the electromagnetic spectrum. Analysis of occasional bursts of light revealed the presence of Gallium, Neodymium, Dysprosium, Thorium, Gadolinium and Niobium. Later satellite reconnaissance relayed data concerning life on the planet and the suitability of human habitation.
We decided to risk our license and have me live secretly with Chadda's people long enough to learn the language and customs and to make the first contact with the Madi. If the homesteaders discovered me I could always say that I was sold into slavery against my will.
Fadho watched as Chadda waded back to his side of the river. He then turned his attention to me.
"Gather up your possessions, we are going to my land," he hissed at me. He would never again underestimate my intelligence.
I stuffed my pants, the ardavar skin and the safe back into the bladder. Kisla entered the water, then me, then Fadho. When we got to the other side I expected to be ordered to open the box again but nothing happened. Fadho passed me when I stopped to get dressed and stayed out in front the whole way. The rocky ground sloped upward gently as we traveled away from the river. The bare rock gave way to spotty vegetation and farther on when soil covered the ground, grassy plains. The rising sun brought much welcomed warmth; the Madi seemed not the least bothered by the early morning chill. After several hours of walking in silence Fadho stopped and questioned me.
"What is your name?"
"I am called MacKinnic," I said. Well, you'd have thought I called him some kind of son of a bitch. He put his spear right up to my neck; his face turned a darker blue again.
"This was all your idea; you only used that fool Chadda to get you into our homeland. What do you want?"
I was speechless. This guy was no dummy but the emotion that he showed in his face was sudden. Had he only just now figured it out? What did I do to give it away? All I said was my name. I figured that from the way Chadda spoke of these people honoring their word, I'd better not lie to him. I didn't see the necessity of telling him everything as long as what I did tell him was factual.
"I am a trader like Chadda. My people saw a great light that came from somewhere in your homeland. We are curious as to what caused it and are willing to trade some of our secrets for some of yours."
Fadho just stared at me, nodding his head slightly. I think he now understood what I had in my safe and why I might put my life on the line to protect it. He grunted as a sort of acknowledgment that we were on a more equal plane. I think that the situation was on a higher level than he felt comfortable talking about on his own.
"It is not for me to offer such things for trade. You must talk to the Council of the Madi if you live that long."
I took the implied threat as posturing and sought to give as good as I got.
"What dolt would kill me before he knew the value of the things that I have in the box? If anyone thinks that they can open it by themselves, let him kill me and claim my treasure. But if he fails he will be called the greatest fool in all the history of your people." I pulled the safe out of the bladder and threw it at his feet.
"No Madi would kill you to rob you of your treasure but you face the wrath of every priest by using the title without proving yourself to the Council. Until we determine if you are the first or the second of your kind you will be looked upon as an enemy."
I had no idea what he was talking about and didn't feel like looking stupid. "Let us go to the Council then and settle things."
"The Council does not meet until the moon is full in eight more days. Until then you will be called Inik. Only after you prove yourself will you be permitted to be called Mak Inik."
Then it became clear to me. MacKinnic was Mak Inik. Chadda had not told me that it was a title, and apparently not one to be taken lightly. I'm not even sure that Chadda knew that it was only a part of my name and not a claim to anything. Would one of them really want to kill me for claiming it? I wished I knew what was required to earn it. In the distance I could see what was the Orsan equivalent of shrubs, short squat woody plants with hundreds of branches growing from the same root all facing south towards the sun. Beyond that I noticed two figures walking towards us. One, like Fadho, had a leather strap which went around the back of his neck, criss-crossed on his chest then under his arms and fastened to a pouch. It was about the size of my head and hung just above his rump. They both wore belts that carried sheathed knives and small sacks. Both were armed with spears.
When they got to where we were, Fadho and the older of the newcomers clasped each other at the back of the neck and tugged in a friendly way.
"Greetings, Pilya." Fadho said to him.
"Greetings, Fadho. What is this thing you have here? Is this something you found or was it the Dombra?"
"I traded for it with Chadda."
"For what purpose? You'll just have to feed it."
"Pilya, it could be the one that was spoken of."
"Looking like that? Don't you think he would be one of our own?"
"Not if he came from the stars. I think it is the one we seek."
"Or it could be the other."
"That was my first thought but something tells me that isn't so. Kisla seems to think so too."
"So, how do we determine then?"
"I will bring it to the Council for it to be heard. It has learned to speak our tongue and it claims to be a priest."
Fadho moved a bit to place himself squarely between Pilya and myself. Pilya bristled and his face darkened. His spear arm rose a bit and Fadho put his hand on it.
"If this one claims that, then it must be the first," Pilya said. "Would not a priestess declare the chosen one?"
"Perhaps. He says that his tribe comes from the darkness beyond the lakes. Who knows? We should give him the opportunity to tell us about it."
Now I was getting nervous. So mak was the title for a priest. I didn't even know they had a religion; Chadda certainly never let on. I did pick up on the subtle change in the way he referred to me, first 'it' then 'he.' Pilya calmed down; it was easy to tell by the intensity of the color in their faces when Orsans were excited.
"I thought it would speak the old tongue, not ours," Pilya said as he moved to stand in front of me. He turned his spear upside down; to strike me with, I thought. I sensed that he was looking for me to give him an excuse to do it. 'Don't speak until you're spoken to' might be proper behavior that I inadvertently observed when Fadho and I first met. The two younger Madi were hanging back and had as yet not said a word.
"Speak to me," Pilya commanded. I knew he wanted to catch me making a mistake. He greeted Fadho without using the title, which told me he was at least an equal.
I debated whether to use the title to show respect or not use it to show that I considered myself an equal as Fadho did.
"Greetings, Mak Pilya." I wondered if that obligated him to return my salutation. He just stared at me stone-faced.
"Do you really think that it is the second?" Pilya asked Fadho without looking at him.
"I don't know," Fadho replied. "He is the first that I've seen but Gulas has seen many, so he says."
"What is your name? He finally asked.
"I am MacKinnic."
I saw his eyes dart to the side to see Fadho's reaction and noticed his knuckles go white on the hand holding the spear. He slowly raised the spear point until he was holding the weapon with both hands. I was ready for it when he swung it at my head. Although the Orsans were much stronger than we were they were also much slower. I had both hands on the shaft of the spear and tried to pull it out of his hand. He jerked it back and between us we managed to snap it in two.
"I show you respect and you want to beat me like a lazy chupa. That would not go unpunished in my land."
A chupa was a bear sized pack animal that was well suited for cold weather but absolutely refused to move when it was hot. I threw the broken shaft at his feet. I might as well play the part to the fullest and act as though I was their equal.Pilya was silent; I think that he did not have the right to beat me.
"Misivo." Pilya called to the other Madi while never taking his eyes off me.
"Yes, father," he said coming to his side.
"Take this broken weapon back to the hut and bring another."
Pilya handed him the half he still held and the boy picked up the other. Pilya dismissed him with a wave of the hand.
"Greetings, Mak Fadho," he said before he left.
"Greetings, Misivo." Fadho motioned for Kisla to go with him. It looked to me like they were getting rid of witnesses. When the boys left, Fadho took me by the arm and walked me away a short distance.
"This is not good, Inik. Your boldness caused him to breach and his son was a witness. Ordinarily in a situation like this if you were Madi you could challenge him or petition the Council for satisfaction against a priest. If you are no priest then he had cause, but if you prove yourself to be a priest and it be known that he raised a hand against you . . ."
"I didn't come to cause trouble; I won't say a word."
"It is out of your hands. I am bound to tell what I have seen if I am asked. Mak Pilya is a member of the Council of the Madi and when his term of service is complete they will ask if there be any reason not to reappoint him to serve another. If you have proven yourself by that time then I must speak. If not, you will be dead and his action will have been proven to have been justified."
"What if I told you that I was not a priest?"
"Then I would kill you right now."
"Without ever seeing the treasures that I have brought?"
"We have gotten along without them and I am sure that we will survive without knowing. I think that your tribe places less honor on your priests perhaps because you exhibit less honor. How could you deny the priesthood once claiming it?"
I was at the point of no return or just past it. I thought that I could explain that it was just my name and remind him that it was them that assumed I was a priest because of it and that I never claimed it myself. But I let him believe it and did not volunteer the truth. I figured that I would have to be a priest to keep from being a dead man.
"I am not denying it; I was only curious as to what the consequences might be. Besides, you never asked me and I never said it."
"You used the title of honor. We will find out soon enough if you are only a clever stranger or a real priest."
"What will happen now? How must I prove myself?
"Most certainly if the Council believes any part of your story they will send you to Ogur's cave to get your stone. If you are truly a priest of Ogur you will return alive."
"And how long until Mak Pilya's term of service is over?"
"That will be at the second meeting from now."
Their moon, which was larger in proportion than the Earth's moon, had a period of forty days and circled the planet in the plane of the ecliptic. So I had forty-eight days to accomplish whatever it was to get my stone. We walked slowly back to where Pilya was waiting; his color had returned to normal.
"Is the creature aware of the situation?" Pilya asked.
"Yes. If the Council believes his story he should leave at once for the cave."
Fadho knew that there was a very good chance that he would be appointed to be my escort and guard for the trip. I would later learn that the Madi constantly allowed themselves to be put into conflicts of interest in order to prove their dedication to 'The Principles of Ogur.'
"You wait here," Pilya said to me as he and Fadho walked up a small hill a short distance away. They faced north and sat on their haunches. I couldn't tell if they were conversing or not; maybe they were meditating or praying.
More than an hour had passed when Misivo and Kisla returned. I directed their attention to where their fathers had gone. Misivo went there at once without speaking or even acknowledging that I had spoken to him. Kisla was uncomfortable, alone in my presence.
"Are you permitted to speak to me?" I asked.
He looked pensive. It was amazing how similar their facial expressions were to ours. Their features were humanlike but . . . stronger, more defined than ours except for their ears which were much smaller. The males were more square-faced and the females more oval. The sexual dimorphism was more pronounced than in humans; the females being only about half the body weight of the males.
"I will speak with you," Kisla finally said. "Tell me about your homeland."
"In my land the sun is not always there," I said, pointing to the horizon. "Sometimes it is there." I pointed straight up. "There are parts of my world where the trees are so dense that one cannot see the sky from under them. When the water runs downhill it does not dry up in a desert but collects in a lake so large that one cannot see the other side even when on top of the tallest hill. Our people live everywhere in our world, from one end to the other."
Kisla looked at me and smiled. "I am not that young," he said. "That sounds like a tale that I would tell my little brother."
"You think that I would tell you that if it were not so? When we get to your village perhaps I will show you what my land looks like."
"How will you show me the sun above our heads? How will you show me a lake so large that I could not see across it?"
"I told your father that I had treasures. It is with one of them that I can do this."
"Will you seek to trade it for one of Ogur's stones?"
"Your father said that I must go to Ogur's Cave to get my own stone. Is that the symbol of priesthood?"
"No, it is only proof that Ogur allowed you to come into his cave to receive the stone. If he deems you unworthy you will never leave it."
I thought about what Fadho said about proving myself. So, returning with the stone was the proof. "Suppose I return without a stone?"
"You cannot return without a stone," Kisla said as if to a child who had forgotten an important lesson. "Don't you know anything about Ogur's Cave?"
What I knew about the cave were all the things that the Madi never heard of; if I was right in assuming that the cave was the source of the light that was observed by satellite and the location of the unusual mineral deposits.
"No," I said. "What can you tell me about it?"
Kisla was looking past me. I turned to see the other three returning.
"It would be better if my father told you. He has been to the cave eight times now. Two more and he will be eligible to sit on our council."
I watched as they approached; Pilya's eyes were on me right up to when he stopped in front of me.
"Inik, I have something to say to you." Pilya looked me right in the eye, studying me for a few moments. He seemed not to be at a loss for words but rather trying to discern my attitude. "I have breached the Principles and committed an offence against you. I make atonement to you." With that he handed me his spear.
I stood there dumbfounded; neither expecting this reversal in attitude nor knowing what I should do now. I looked at Fadho who showed no expression at all on his face, then to Misivo and Kisla who were standing a few steps behind their fathers. Misivo was like Fadho, expressionless, but Kisla's color had darkened appreciably.
Suddenly without turning, Fadho said, "Speak, Kisla!"
"Father, Inik will give cause to Mak Pilya through ignorance."
Pilya wheeled around to look at Kisla and then at me, and then at Fadho. His face showed great surprise. After a few seconds and with much effort he finally said, "Fadho, have the boy instruct him."
Fadho motioned to Kisla to come to his side. "Take Inik aside and tell him what he needs to know. Make sure that he understands."
Kisla began walking away and motioned for me to follow. When we had gotten out of hearing of the others he sat on his haunches. I did likewise even though it was uncomfortable and hard for me to maintain my balance. Kisla moved so that we were facing each other.
"What do you think Mak Pilya's intent was when he lifted his weapon against you?" Kisla asked.
"He was trying to split my head open," I replied.
"Then that is what you must do to him."
"We Human are faster than the people of this world. I will probably succeed. I don't want to hurt him; he did not hurt me."
"I knew that. If you refuse to strike him you will be saying that he is unworthy of having the Principles apply to him; that he is less than a priest. It was the same when my father realized that you were more than a strange animal. That is why he put his foot on you, the same as he would to any Dombra. We do not put our feet on animals; there is no honor in that. If you do not allow Mak Pilya to make atonement you will be giving him cause to kill you for denying him the benefits of the Principles."
"Me, splitting his head open is a benefit?"
"Yes. You either kill your enemy or make him your friend. By offering atonement he has taken away your cause."
Without knowing what the Principles were and how much they governed their actions, I would say it made a lot of sense. Yet, other things bothered me.
"How did you know that I would refuse to strike him?"
"You made it known," Kisla said.
"How? I didn't even know what I was supposed to do with the spear."
"Yes you did. You were at first afraid and then confused and that is what you made known."
He was right. That idea that I was supposed to hit him had crossed my mind for a split second and I dismissed it as hopefully improbable.
"How did your father know that you wanted to speak?"
Kisla turned his eyes down to the ground and said nothing. I waited. After a while he looked at me and said, "It distressed me and it was made known to my father."
"This 'making known' thing . . . can you all do it?"
"It is done only by the Madi. We all as children can do it but as we grow older it fades away. Misivo is a year older than I am and can no longer do it except to his father. We seem to be able to do it longer with those that are close to us."
So even near the end of his 'making known' ability he could not hide his distress that I might do the wrong thing and Pilya would kill me. I think he likes me but I didn't want to embarrass him by asking. I stood up and indicated that I was ready. We started back to the others.
"Do you understand, Inik, that if you hold back, Mak Pilya would know and would take that as a sign of disrespect?"
"I understand. Anything else I should know?"
"Yes. Offer no aid, show no regret and when it is over whatever action he takes toward you, do the same to him."
As we approached, Pilya stepped forward. Kisla joined the others behind him. I stopped in front of him holding the spear horizontally with both hands, one palm up and the other down. He said nothing; it had already been said earlier. He was watching my eyes. Without another thought I swung the shaft like a windmill and struck him on the side of his head. He never even raised his hand to stop it.
His eyes rolled up and he dropped to his knees, his blue blood ran down his blond hair. I looked behind him at Fadho but he showed no reaction at all. Pilya moaned and slowly got back up on his feet. When he was fully erect he made a fist and thumped me on the chest; I did the same to him and gave him back his spear.
"You are wise, Inik. You ask the right questions." He put his hand at the back of my neck and tugged at it; I did the same. He pulled me close and said in a quiet voice, "I'm glad that I didn't try to kill you. I think Fadho was right: you are the second."
I was about to ask what it meant to be first or second but lost the opportunity when we separated and he continued the ritual.
"It is well, Inik."
"It is well Mak Pilya," I replied in the same tone.
He motioned for Misivo to come to him. When he was by his side he said to him, more quietly, "It is well, Misivo."
Misivo looked at me and dutifully said, "It is well, Inik."
"It is well, Misivo," I responded. I could see his color darken a bit.
Kisla was standing behind him shaking his head, 'no'. He touched his forehead and extended his hand to Misivo who was making known something else. When Fadho saw what his son did his color darkened. I assumed that was disapproval.
Pilya, unaware of what had just occurred, turned to look at Kisla. Kisla nodded and smiled. This making known stuff was starting to make me wonder.
"Come, Misivo." Pilya said as he started off toward the river. "Fadho, I think we will share a pot of migdaska when I return."
"I look forward to it," Fadho replied. He immediately turned and started walking away. I gathered up my things and Kisla and I followed at a distance.
After walking in silence for a few minutes I casually said to Kisla, "Your father is displeased with you for telling me Misivo's true feelings."
"Yes, but you are at a disadvantage not having grown up with the ability of 'knowing.' My father expected you to ask about Misivo because he began to darken, not to be told, as one would teach a little child. We honor the wisdom to ask the right questions. When my father instructed me to tell you what you needed to know, you had the wisdom to also ask about what else you should know. That was why Mak Pilya said that you were wise when he tested you with his fist
"Why did Mak Pilya test me?"
"I told you before . . . you either kill your enemy or make him your friend. Mak Pilya tested you to see how quickly you could become his friend."
"And how soon will that be?" I asked.
"He embraced you! It is done."
"He did not invite me to share a pot of migdaska with him on his return. Why is that if I am his friend?"
Kisla turned to me and smiled. Then it happened; a shortness of breath and warmth in my chest, and in my mind the 'knowing' that Kisla also considered me a friend. I extended my hand to embrace his neck but he put his hand on my arm to stop me.
"The embrace is done on the first meeting of the day for those for whom the 'knowing' has faded away. We will know for a season or two yet."
I could only stare at him and wonder what it must be like to raise a child on Orsa. The constant making known by the parent, of their love for the child, must have a powerful effect. Yet as far as I knew there was no Orsan word for love.
"The answer to your question is that Mak Pilya did not invite you because it will be your pot of migdaska that you will share with them."
"And where am I supposed to get a pot of migdaska?"
"That's what friends are for," Kisla said with a smile, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to help a friend. Then without skipping a beat he asked, "What did you mean earlier when you said that you Human were faster than 'the people ofthis world?' Are you from another?"
I tried very hard not to be afraid of that being known. I wondered what I was making known. It was very hard to hide anything from these people (or should I say just the Madi?) and yet I felt that I could trust them.
"Yes; is that hard for you to believe?"
"No. It has happened before. In the old time when Ogur sent the people to the south to seek warmth we encountered them. We fought them for the land and then they were gone."
"How did you know they were from another world?"
"They were not like us; they did not speak our tongue. There are drawings of them it the Cave of the Priests. All I know about them is that they were taller than us and almost hairless."
"Like me?" I wondered out loud.
"I don't think so. Father took me once to see the drawings and they look nothing like you."
I was aware of how quickly these people progressed in their relationship with me. Pilya's change was dramatic but Kisla's was subtle. Until a moment ago he referred to Fadho as 'my father' but now he was just 'father.'
As we continued walking, the terrain flattened and the vegetation became thicker and more varied. The woody plants looked more like trees even though their trunks grew at an angle to better capture the low sunlight. We came upon an area where the trees were in blossom, giving the place the appearance of an orchard in springtime. They stretched to the horizon.
Kisla and I asked each other many questions about our worlds and people. We could have gone on for hours.
Presently we were looking out over a vast cliff on our left, at an endless desert. The heat waves in the distance made the horizon shimmer. High above us the evaporating water of the river began to form clouds, which drifted slowly northward. From where we stood the ground sloped downward slightly for about a kilometer to the edge of the precipice. Before us were hundreds of huts arranged in sweeping semi-circles; all their entrances faced north. In the center was a large open sided structure that I assumed was a common building or some kind of meeting house.
Fadho waited for us as we caught up to him.
"Inik, you will stay at my hut until the Council meets."
"Father, Inik is from another world," Kisla said cautiously.
Fadho did not seem surprised.
"I am hungry," he said and continued walking. After he had gone ahead a few paces, Kisla motioned for me to follow.
"He likes you," Kisla said.
"How can you tell? Never mind," I added when Kisla tapped his forehead.