Hawk Descending by PD Allen Part 1 of Song of Existence

Fiddlesticks Press hand-crafted fiction

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Published by Fiddlesticks Press at Smashwords Copyright © 20 ! by PD Allen "S#$% &'( !0 002)(

*his ebook is licensed +or your personal en,oyment only. *his ebook may not be re-sold or gi.en away to other people. "+ you would like to share this book with another person/ please purchase an additional copy +or each recipient. "+ you0re reading this book and did K not purchase it/ or it was not purchased +or your use only/ then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. *hank you +or respecting the hard work o+ this author. 111111111111111 Also by PD Allen Post Quantum Meditations Fiction Song o+ 23istence Fiction Complete *ales o+ da 4oopernatural Strange Attractors Fiddlesticks 5urderer0s Sky 6 7nder Shattered Skies/ #ook Daemon Sky 6 7nder Shattered Skies/ #ook 2 5ourning Sky 6 7nder Shattered Skies/ #ook ! Poetry 8uantum 5editations% #ook 9ne (ebook) 8uantum 5editations: #ook *wo (print)

8uantum 5editations: #ook *hree (print) 8uantum 5editations: #ook Four (print) 8uantum 5editations: #ook Fi.e (print) 8uantum 5editations: #ook Si3 (print) 8uantum 5editations ;2 (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;! (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;) (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;< (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;= (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;' (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;( (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ;& (ebook) 8uantum 5editations ; 0 (ebook) Experimental Narrative Awakening Dragon: an Shamanic Ad.enture

>isit PD Allen online at pdallen.wordpress.com.

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Contents Part 1 — The Hunchback ". *he *ribe "". *he Family """. ?awk Descending ">. 5eadow and >illage >. *he Crippling >". *he @ape Part 2 — The Birth of a Song >"". *he 5instrel >""". *he *rue Per+ormance o+ a ?arper "A. *he Bi+t o+ 5usic A. *he Penalty +or Attending A". 5aking Peace with Coss A"". *he Authentic Song and the 9++icial Dord Part — !ne"ies of the State A""". *he *ruth about Strangers A">. *he 5onkey and the Crocodile A>. *hie.es and Ditches A>". @escue and ?aunting

111111111111111 For my loving fat er and mot er! Frank and "etty Pfeiffer For my daug ters! #andace $ %amant a For Mic ael! Natalie! %tep anie! "rian! &aniel! 'ony! and Nat an! and for t eir spouses and c ildren Most of all for Eli(abet )nd lastly! for everyone and )ll t at *s

E4ou are the music while the music lasts.F 6 *.S. 2liot

E$o problem can be sol.ed +rom the same le.el o+ consciousness that created it.F 6Albert 2instein

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#ntroduction *his book was written in two bouts. *he +irst/ occurring +rom December o+ 20 0 into mid-Ganuary o+ 20 / saw the composition o+ the +irst hal+ o+ the book/ up through the dungeon section. *he second was in February o+ 20 ! and saw the completion o+ the manuscript. "n between came the entire 8uantum 5editations/ along with the editing and publication o+ the same/ Complete *ales o+ da 4oopernatural/ Fiddlesticks/ Strange Attractors and the 7nder Shattered Skies trilogy. *his book had its genesis in another/ a retelling o+ >ictor ?ugo0s *he ?unchback o+ $otre Dame/ begun early in 20 0. *hat e++ort had a strong psychological e++ect upon me and was abandoned with only twenty pages or so written. 4et the hunchback in that early manuscript haunted me/ and " considered +inishing the pro,ect in late 20 0. A+ter reading through the manuscript/ " decided against it. #ut the main character could not be so easily dismissed. And so he morphed into ?awk Descending. *he +irst hal+ o+ this book could be considered as a statement o+ the problem. *he second hal+ is the transcending o+ the problem/ and the resolution achie.ed +rom a higher le.el. *hus/ this book demonstrates the truth in 2instein0s +amous Huote about problems and solutions. " could not +inish this book in Ganuary o+ 20 . " knew how the book would end 6 ,ust as it does in this .olume 6 but at that time/ " could not reach the higher le.el reHuired to a++ect that solution.

"n the interim/ 8uantum 5editations 6 along with a number o+ other inspirations and intuitions 6 pro.ided the ladder +rom the lower le.el o+ the +irst hal+ to the higher le.el o+ the second hal+. #y the time " returned to the manuscript in 20 !/ it was almost pain+ul +or me to lower mysel+ back down to the le.el where the con+licts were stated. "n the original manuscript/ a+ter the dungeon section the story wandered down a di++erent a.enue. ?awk was inducted into the military/ as a +i+e player and signalman. *hat was a .alid possibility/ which would ha.e led to the same conclusion while making +or a much longer book. #ut it was a ma,or digression +rom the main themes o+ the book/ and it muddied the con+licts along with their resolution. So when " picked up the manuscript again/ " cut it back to the dungeon scene and brought the plotline back on track. Cet me only add that this book is not autobiographical in the usual sense. "t is rather the working through o+ certain psychological +actors in the mind o+ the author/ and is in that way a record o+ the author0s metamorphosis. Forgi.e an author +or talking about the process o+ composition. *his book is a whole/ and the second hal+ is a per+ect compliment to the +irst/ o++ering +ull resolution. At present/ " am Huite happy with this e++ort/ particularly with its transcendence and trans+ormation. 4ou could say that this is a study o+ the caterpillar0s metamorphosis into a butter+ly. ?ope+ully/ it will a++ect a similar trans+ormation within the reader. PD Allen April / 20 !
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111111111111111 Part $ne — The Hunchback I. The Tribe All o+ us are .ictims. All o+ us are heroes. Some o+ us are monsters. $one o+ us are .ictims. $one o+ us are heroes. And the monsters are ne.er what they appear to be. *here once was a tribe o+ people much like ours/ yet di++erent. *hey were a good people/ who tended the land where they dwelt with care. Dhen +irst their tribe was +ounded/ they knew the secret o+ e3istence% what you sow/ so shall you reap. *hey li.ed in lo.e and well-being/ and many happy ages passed. 9.er time/ howe.er/ they lost touch with the spirit realm +rom which they came. Due to the nature o+ the physical realm where they dwelt/ the spirit was hidden and was e.entually +orgotten in the minutia o+ daily e3istence. Petty animosities and ,ealousies di.ided them/ and they no longer li.ed in lo.e and well-being. 2ach tribe member li.ed only +or himsel+ or hersel+/ and the sacred dance was +orgotten in anger and stri+e.

A stranger came to their land/ a power+ul stranger named DaIicu/ who sought to increase his power by tricking the people into ser.ing him. DaIicu became 2mperor. ?e presented himsel+ as a rich and knowledgeable authority/ and the people belie.ed what he told them. *hey could see how rich he was/ and how knowledgeable/ and he used his authority to back others and place them in positions o+ power. DaIicu told them/ E*here is something missing +rom your li.es. *his land o+ yours is +ull o+ wealth. 9nly i+ you e3tract this wealth can you become rich and knowledgeable like me. *his wealth will gi.e you +ul+illment/ i+ you take it +or your own.F *he people did as he said. *hey stripped the wealth o+ the land and horded it +or their own. And +or the moment/ it did make them +eel good. 4et this +eeling passed and they were soon car.ing more wealth out o+ the land. 2.entually/ the land began to die around them/ yet the people did not see this. *hey were so hungry to increase their wealth that they looked at each other and said/ E5y neighbor is wealthier than me. Dhy should he ha.e so much wealthJF *hey began to steal +rom each other/ and many +ound more subtle ways to manipulate their neighbors into gi.ing up their wealth. Soon there was .iolence among the people/ and their tribe almost succumbed to stri+e and bloodshed. Seeing how bad was this ri.alry/ DaIicu instituted laws to protect the properties and persons. A system o+ punishment was set up/ whereby lawbreakers would pay +or their transgressions through +ines and the loss o+ personal +reedom. Soon this ,ustice system grew into an abusi.e system. *he tribe was go.erned and policed/ and those who were +ound guilty had their wealth stripped +rom them and were ) +orced into li.es o+ ser.itude. *hrough this ser.itude/ prisons were built to ,ail the guilty and dispossessed. And mansions were built +or the rich and power+ul/ +oremost DaIicu/ who stood as the top authority in this system/ and whose riches and power had grown as the rest o+ the tribe was impo.erished and sentenced to li.e in misery. *his ,ustice system did not sol.e anything. $othing was resol.ed. "t was simply part o+ a society designed to siphon wealth and power to those who go.erned/ and particularly to DaIicu. *he tribe li.ed in increasing pain and misery/ and their ignorance increased. $ot only had they +orgotten the secret o+ e3istence/ they lost any memory o+ how they li.ed be+ore being blinded by ignorance and greed. *hey were lost/ and e.ery action only seemed to make matters worse.

II. The Family At the +ar northern reaches o+ the 2mpire/ at the +rontier where the 2mpyreal @oad became merely a wagon trail through agrarian lands a+ter passing through the +orest/ li.ed the people o+ Path0s 2nd. #eyond Path0s 2nd were the $estled Plains/ where people +armed the land +or +ood and trade. *he only town o+ any siIe in the $estled Plain was a small hamlet called Fo3 @un/ which was hal+ the siIe o+ PathKs 2nd. *his land was isolated +rom the rest o+ the empire/ connected only by the wheat they produced +or trade.

Path0s 2nd originated as a trading town/ where the +armers o+ the $estled Plain would bring their grain to trade with merchants +rom the empire. *his trade took place in the late +all/ otherwise .isitors to the town were +ew. And in recent years/ with the drought and the wheat blight/ the +all trade was a ghost o+ its +ormer sel+. Few merchants +elt the ,ourney worthwhile anymore. *he people o+ Path0s 2nd still held many o+ the old customs/ such as naming their children a+ter an e.ent or something obser.ed at the time o+ their birth. *he people here li.ed by +arming the surrounding countryside/ and their dealings with the rest o+ the 2mpire to their south were +ew. Among the people was a ci.il ser.ant/ a man named "ron Gaw/ who upheld the code o+ the law in society. "ron Gaw led what appeared to be an upright and proper li+e. People +ound him to be a pri.ate and righteous man. ?e was looked up to in the tribe as an e3ample o+ how to li.e in their society. ?e horded his wealth/ and kept his own council. Dithin his home/ "ron Gaw ruled absolutely. ?is wi+e and his children were his property. Dithin his home/ "ron Gaw took +or himsel+ the power and personal wealth o+ his +amily. "n this way/ although they appeared a healthy and well-balanced +amily to the rest o+ the tribe/ inside the home "ron Gaw0s wi+e and children were impo.erished and abused/ li.ing li.es o+ silent agony. "ron Gaw0s youngest child was a girl named Crow Shadow. 9+ all the children/ Crow Shadow was the most like her +ather. For this reason/ she was targeted by his animosity/ his disappro.al and his abuse. As is the way with children li.ing in) such an intolerable situation/ Crow Shadow belie.ed she must ha.e done something terrible to deser.e such abuse: she thought the +ault lay with her. She did e.erything she could think o+ to win her +ather0s appro.al. 4et/ where all o+ the other children recei.ed praise when it was due/ she recei.ed only stern silence 6 or worse yet ridicule. Crow Shadow grew to loath hersel+/ while at the same time she stro.e to win the admiration o+ e.eryone around her. "n response to the constant abuse and a complete lack o+ pri.ate space/ she drew her soul up into a tight protecti.e ball. As she grew older/ this made her ego-bound. *o make up +or her sel+-loathing/ she looked down on e.eryone around her/ armoring hersel+ in +alse pride. *o the rest o+ the tribe/ she appeared haughty and ,udgmental. 9nce she reached the age o+ consent/ Crow Shadow sought to escape her +ather0s house through marriage. She attracted the attention o+ a young man who was well-liked in the tribe/ yet who bore his own wounds +rom childhood/ Ling+isher. Ling+isher0s +ather was addicted to the ,uice o+ the locoweed/ and Ling+isher had grown up as most children o+ such a parent/ always a.oiding the truth/ always hiding +rom his own emotions/ dea+ to his own heart. Dhile Crow Shadow married Ling+isher to escape her +ather0s house/ the wedding was also another bid to win the appro.al o+ "ron Gaw. *hough "ron Gaw ga.e her to her husband/ he ne.er ga.e her his blessing/ nor his appro.al. Crow Shadow +ound hersel+ trapped in an empty marriage. Ling+isher lo.ed her and tried to be a good husband/ but Crow Shadow did not lo.e him. She tried to do her

duty to him/ but she could not because "ron Gaw had stolen her power +rom her and replaced it with sel+-loathing/ pain and distrust. Crow Shadow would not undress in +ront o+ her husband/ nor would she allow him to see her naked. Ling+isher was patient with her. ?e did not understand why she was so modest and he +elt that he must be to blame. 9nce their marriage was consummated/ she rarely let him touch her. $ine months later/ Crow Shadow ga.e birth to a son.

III. Hawk Descending ?awk Descending was born to be a power+ul shaman/ who would help his people heal. ?e was born into this most in,ured o+ unions/ to these two most in,ured people o+ their tribe. $or was he spared the in,uries that plagued his +amily. ?e was a beauti+ul baby/ but he possessed a de+ect% he was born with a slight hunch in his back. "t was barely noticeable/ this growth ,ust behind his right shoulder. *his lump was +ormed by a concentration o+ his power/ which kept it bound to him and protected +rom the predations o+ his people. 4et his power was so bound within this hunch that he could rarely access it himsel+/ and then only in the innocence o+ play. From the start/ all o+ the other tribe members +ound him an odd child. *hey sensed that something kept him apart +rom the rest o+ them/ and they shunned him +or this. ) ?awk Descending was Crow Shadow0s last ma,or attempt to win her +ather0s appro.al. Dhen she and Ling+isher brought the baby to show her +amily/ "ron Gaw took one look at the boy/ sni++ed and pronounced/ E*his child is a hunchback.F E$o he isn0t.F Crow Shadow cried as she swept up her baby. E"t is a .ery small hump/ and it will work itsel+ out.F E$o/ it won0t/F "ron Gaw said. E*he child is a hunchback. "t would be better had he ne.er been born.F Ling+isher did not know what to say. ?e took his wi+e and his baby/ and le+t "ron Gaw0s house. 9n the way home/ he tried to com+ort his wi+e. E"t is okay. ?e will get o.er it.F E$o/ he won0t/F Crow Shadow spit out in anger. EAnd you ,ust let him. A real man would de+end his wi+e and child. A real man would put him in his place.F Ling+isher +elt admonished. Das he a +ailure as a manJ ?e did not want to strike out in anger/ and so he held his tongue. Crow Shadow took this as a +urther sign o+ his cowardice. Dhen they reached their home/ she ran into her bedroom with the baby and locked the door behind her. E?oney/F Ling+isher called to her through the door. EPlease let me in.F EBo sleep in the spare room/F Crow Shadow told him. E" will not share my bed with a coward.F Ling+isher stood tall. E" will go to your +ather and demand that he apologiIe.F E*he damage is done. Don0t try to make it better a+ter the +act.F

Ling+isher tried a while longer to sooth his wi+e. *hen he ga.e up and went to the spare room/ lea.ing Crow Shadow alone with the baby. *his was the pattern that would play out through their marriage. E4ou are not a hunchback/F Crow Shadow said as she hugged and kissed her baby. E4ou are my child and " lo.e you.F "n the e.ening/ she attached hersel+ closely to her son. E"t is you and me against the world/ my little one. De will show them.F *he +amily o+ Crow Shadow and Ling+isher was unbalanced. "nstead o+ being centered around the two parents/ it was centered around the mother and her son. Ling+isher +ound himsel+ on the outside/ +eeling that he had done something wrong/ though he had no clue what that might be. Dhile he lo.ed his wi+e and son a great deal/ he came to resent them both. And these +eelings o+ resentment le+t him +eeling e.en more guilty. *his child would be Crow Shadow0s sa.ior. She was ne.er clear on how he would do this. Dhether he would some day win her +ather0s appro.al +or her/ or whether he would stand up to "ron Gaw/ she did not know. She only sensed that he would help her wrestle back her power +rom this tyrant. Crow Shadow would pray +or that day as she held ?awk Descending. She would sing to him as she stroked the slight bulge on his shoulder/ imagining that she was +lattening out the crook. "n her mind0s eye/ she saw hersel+ drawing this hump +rom her baby and taking it into hersel+. "n this way/ she attached a cord +rom her solar ple3us to the hump on the child0s back. *hrough this cord/ she tapped into her baby0s power. She +elt better immediately/ drawing power +rom her son. And she soon came to depend on this power/ claiming it +or her own/ using it to make hersel+ much larger than she was. ?er child0s power ampli+ied her ) own thoughts into reality. ?owe.er/ as she dwelt upon her worries and her +ears/ they were what she brought into +ruition.

IV. Meadow and Village ?awk Descending grew up +eeling like the center o+ attention. ?e also +elt that he was responsible +or keeping his +amily happy. As he grew +rom a babe into a young child/ he +ound it di++icult to escape +rom his mother0s attentions. 9nce in a while/ he would go to a nearby +ield/ separated +rom their .illage by a wooded ridge. ?e ne.er saw another person in the meadow. Dhile there/ he +elt protected and +ree. ?ere he could let go o+ e.erything and truly be himsel+. *he only being with whom he shared this +ield was a large hawk circling high o.erhead. "n time/ he came to look +or this hawk. ?e would wa.e to it and call out in ,oy/ and the hawk would dip its wings in reply. ?awk Descending would rise up through the sky to ,oin this hawk/ and they would glide together/ +ar abo.e the ground/ riding the thermals. From this perspecti.e/ they would sur.ey the entire landscape/ the meadow/ the ridge/ the surrounding +orest land/ and the ri.er that arced around to bring its waters past his .illage. ?e saw that all these lands and e.erything that inhabited them were one large mosaic/ where e.ery part was tied to e.ery other/ and all were essential to the whole. And the hawk was the obser.er that made the whole complete by its perception and recognition.

*he only e3ception was the .illage/ which was like a dark stone dropped onto the +abric o+ the land. From the .illage/ tentacles ran out into the surrounding countryside/ tentacles that tore and disrupted the mosaic/ draining the .itality +rom whate.er they touched/ trans+orming splendor into desolation. ?awk Descending and the hawk saw the .illage as an aberration that must be plucked out in order to heal the land. 4et they laid no blame on the .illagers/ noting only that they no longer danced the sacred dance/ and +eeling sorry +or them that they could not see the lo+ty .ision o+ the hawk/ nor share their proper place in the mosaic. *his .ision +illed ?awk Descending with .itality/ e3uberance and ,oy. ?e would run through the meadows/ chasing the wind. 9ne day when he came to the meadow/ he +ound men +rom the .illage. *hey were digging up the +ield/ turning the earth o.er to e3pose the riches within. 9ne o+ the men stopped him at the edge o+ the +orest. EDhat are you doing here.F E" came here to play/F ?awk told him. E*his is no place +or you/F the man said. E"t is dangerous here. Bo back home.F ?awk Descending did not argue with him. ?e looked with sadness at the meadow that was no more. ?e scanned the sky/ looking to say goodbye to the hawk/ but it was nowhere in sight.

V. The ) ri!!ling ?awk Descending +ound +ew playmates. *here was one girl his age who li.ed nearby/ @ose Petals. *he two o+ them were Huite naturally drawn to play together. *hey played house/ they slew imaginary dragons/ and 6 as with most children their age 6 they played at +orming small balls o+ power and passing them back and +orth. *his was a natural childhood attempt at simulating the sacred union o+ mating adults 6 when two lo.ing adults would share their energy/ e.entually using it to create a new li+e/ or to some other high purpose. *his was a .ery innocent game +or children to play. $ormally/ it was a phase o+ childhood that adults o.erlooked or handled gingerly i+ it appeared to become an obsession. 9ne day/ ?awk Descending and @ose Petal went into the shed where Ling+isher kept his tools. *here they began to play this game. @ose Petal made a ball with a bit o+ her energy. "t was a light and airy thing. She tossed it and it +loated o.er to ?awk. ?awk Descending took the ball and +ed energy into it. *he ball grew and solidi+ied. "t took on a white glow. @ose Petal let out a little sHueal o+ appro.al as he tossed the ball back to her. Soon they were both giggling in delight as they passed the ball back and +orth. Crow Shadow stormed into the tool shed. ?er disappro.al was plain to be seen. EDhat are you kids doingJF Dhen she saw the ball o+ power/ she gasped in disgust. E4ou stop that.F She grabbed ?awk Descending and hauled him out o+ the shed without gi.ing him a chance to claim back his power. A thread o+ power ran +rom his hump to the ball/

unra.eling as she dragged him through the yard. @ose Petal drew back her own power/ +eeling much like she had been kicked in the stomach. She ran home/ crying all the way. 5any neighbors were outside to witness this scene. *hey saw Crow Shadow raging on her son as she dragged him into the house/ and they saw his thread o+ power trailing along behind him. ?awk was morti+ied to ha.e himsel+ thus e3posed to the neighborhood. E4ou disgust meM Dhat are you/ some kind o+ a per.ertJ Dhat is wrong with youJF *hrowing him down on the kitchen +loor/ she struck him about the +ace and body. EDon0t you e.er let me see you doing that againM 4ou0re a dirty little boyM "0m so ashamed o+ youMF ?awk Descending took the beating and the abuse. ?e was a dirty little boy. ?e was ashamed o+ himsel+. ?er rage spent/ Crow Shadow began to cry. E" don0t know what to do with youMF She threw up her arms in disappointment. EBo to your roomMF ?awk Descending obeyed. "n his room/ he wept as he was +inally able to reel in his power. *he thread o+ power was bruised and soiled. "t was the most pain+ul in,ury o+ this beating. ?e sobbed in shame/ pain and anger as he drew his power back in. ?e was humiliated to be so e3posed to the neighborhood. ?e did not go outside +or se.eral days. And he .owed ne.er to show his power to another. NNN ) ?awk Descending kept mostly to himsel+ a+ter that. ?e played with his imagination/ using it to open worlds o+ ad.enture and heroics. And now and then/ when he was alone in his room/ he would sing. ?is .oice was a thing o+ transcendent beauty. 9n wings o+ music he could soar through the skies as he had once done with the hawk o.er the meadow. Dhen he sang/ his power shone around him/ shimmering in the colors o+ the rainbow as it ran up and down his spine 6 red at the base/ then orange/ yellow/ green/ sky blue/ dark blue/ then .iolet at the crown/ and a bright pink o.er his head. Crow Shadow heard him singing/ and it bothered her. ?er +ather had used song to take away her power/ and hearing her son sing worried her that he might do the same. ?e was a male/ a+ter all. And he was ,ust like his grand+ather. She would +ind e3cuses to rage on the boy when she heard him singing/ ne.er telling him it was the song that bothered her. 9nce Ling+isher heard his wi+e berating the boy. "t was in the morning on his day o++/ and he was trying to sleep in. ?e burst out o+ his room 6 he and Crow Shadow kept separate sleeping Huarters by this time 6 demanding/ EDhat0s all this noiseJ Dhat0s going on hereJ Can0t a man get any sleepJF Crow Shadow placated her husband until his anger subsided. ?e +elt +oolish +or losing his temper. ?e returned to his room/ mumbling/ E"0m going back to bed. Bi.e me ,ust one hour0s peace/ that0s all " ask.F A+ter her husband went back to bed/ Crow Shadow sat her son down and told him/ E4ou must stop singing. "t disturbs your +ather/ and you don0t want to do that.F E#ut 5ommy/ " sing Huietly. Sometimes " ,ust ha.e to sing.F

E*his singing is not a good thing/F she told him. E"t stirs your power/ and you do not want that to happen. Dhen you +eel a song coming on/ you must stop it. ?old your breath and +orce it down.F "n this way she taught him to block his own power/ keeping it locked into the hump on his back. ?awk Descending heeded her ad.ice/ and soon the hunch on his back grew harder and more pronounced. ?e became a true hunchback/ de+ormed by the denial o+ his own power. ?is power was bound up/ bleeding o++ a little at a time to +eed Crow Shadow. For a time/ Crow Shadow seemed to prosper. ?er attitude brightened. She took to Huilting/ making large/ color+ul Huilts. And she drew on the lo.e and a++ection o+ her son. Ling+isher lost himsel+ in his work/ retreating +rom his +amily and his +ailed marriage. ?e was Huite dedicated to his +amily/ wanting to pro.ide +or them and +ill their needs as no one had e.er done +or him. ?awk Descending was made their surrogate. *hey drew +rom him what they should ha.e gained +rom each other. #etween the three o+ them/ they +ormed a circle o+ dys+unction/ a +eedback loop that became a noose about all their necks/ but particularly the child.

VI. The "a!e ?awk Descending was ridiculed by the ) other children. *hey made ,okes about his hunchback/ and aped his warped posture and his shambling mode o+ locomotion. #eneath it all/ they could sense the illness and pain within him/ and they reacted ad.ersely to it/ making him an ob,ect o+ ridicule. ?awk0s re+uge was the woodlands outside o+ town/ where he would retreat to play alone/ escaping his pain in solitude. Dhile his mo.ement on the ground was awkward/ once in the +orest he would take to the trees/ with a grace and a +reedom he +ound nowhere else in his li+e. ?e could tra.el +or miles without once touching the ground/ swinging +rom limb to limb/ tree to tree. ?e knew how to manage e.en the smallest o+ branches/ so that they might support his weight +or that bare +raction o+ a second it took him to pass onto the ne3t limb. ?e knew e.ery tree in the +orest/ which o++ered the best shelter +rom the weather/ and which were the tallest. ?e lo.ed to climb to the crown o+ the tallest trees and sit there +or hours/ looking out o.er the town and the landscape. 7p there/ he could see the hawks circling their territory/ and he en.ied them their +reedom. 5ore than once/ he spoke to them/ saying/ EDould that " could +ly like you/ to lea.e this world behind.F 5any times he +elt the urge to step o++ his limb and let go o+ the trunk/ +eeling that he would glide through the air/ ,oining his winged +riends. 4et he ne.er let go/ knowing that his body would +all to the ground/ breaking him e.en worse than he already was. *here were a +ew hideaways on the ground where he would go as well. Clearings in the middle o+ thickets/ +orest glades/ and stands o+ brush where the +oliage acted as walls and ceiling/ concealing open chambers ribbed with limbs. "n these hideaways/ he would allow himsel+ to draw his power out o+ his hump/ to e3ercise it as he sang Huietly to his power and to himsel+.

9ne day a stranger was passing through the woods and chanced to hear the boy singing in one o+ his hideaways. *he stranger recogniIed a song o+ power/ especially one so concentrated and pure. ?e +ollowed the sound to its source and +ound the boy seated on the ground in a chamber o+ brush. *he stranger drew close enough to watch and listen. All about the lad/ he saw a shimmering white light/ blinding as the sun in its intensity. 9n the branches o.er the boy0s head/ a line o+ chickadees were perched/ and beside the boy lay a red +o3. A rainbow o+ light ran up the boy0s spine/ running through the entire color spectrum/ +rom red at the base to purple at his crown/ and bright pink o.erhead. *hreads o+ light ran +rom this rainbow to the +o3/ the chickadees/ the brush/ the insects and worms in the soil/ and high up to a hawk that circled o.erhead. And all o+ these creatures and plants radiated their own nimbus o+ light/ communing with the child. *he stranger stepped closer/ so that he might taste o+ the boy0s power and essence. *he hawk cried out a warning and +lew away. *he red +o3 leapt up and raced o++ as all o+ the chickadees took wing. *he child was startled by this sudden break/ not understanding what had disturbed the animals. ?e reached out with his power/ +eeling +or whate.er scared away his +riends. $aO.e as he was/ he reached out openly/ without protection. *he stranger seiIed the opportunity. ?e sent out tentacles o+ his own power/ latching onto the boy0s power and drawing it to himsel+ be+ore the lad could snatch it away. ?awk let out a cry as he +elt something cold/ strong and alien grab hold o+ him. "t +elt like coiling serpents wrapped around him/ sHueeIing the li+e out o+ him. ?e struggled to withdraw his power into the sa+ety o+ his hump. ) *he stranger was surprised at the strength o+ the power in this de+ormed child. $ormally/ he could strip a person0s power with hardly any e++ort. 4et he must e3ert his will against this boy. EBi.e it to me/ lad/F he commanded. ?awk Descending started to bend to his will. Cooking at the +ierce stranger so +ull o+ power/ he blanched and cowered. *he stranger grappled with him/ drawing out his power by brute +orce. *he hawk do.e at the stranger unseen/ striking him with its talons/ gashing open his +orehead and drawing blood/ which +lowed down his +ace. *he man struck out at the bird o+ prey/ di.iding his power to do so. *he hawk +elt the assault/ losing tail +eathers as it +lew away. ?awk Descending picked that moment to pull +ree and escape/ yet the stranger still held his power +irmly. 4anking with all o+ his might/ ?awk Descending +elt something tear. *he stranger +ell onto his back and ?awk rolled through the brush +rom the momentum. "n a moment/ he was in the trees/ swinging away +rom branch to branch/ tucking what remained o+ his torn power sa+ely into his hunch as he +led. E@un/ boyMF *he stranger called a+ter him. E" will ha.e the rest o+ your power another dayMF ?e absorbed the bounty o+ power he had raped +rom the boy/ tasting it thoroughly be+ore making it his. $ow that he had tasted the boy0s power/ he would be able to track him down whene.er he desired. For now/ let him +lee/ knowing there was no place he could hide. E" know you/ boyM And " can +ind you whene.er " chooseMF

?awk Descending +led +ar into the woods/ until he +elt that i+ he wasn0t sa+e/ at least he was alone/ +ar +rom the e.il stranger. *here he cried o.er his assault/ his stolen and diminished power. ?e +elt .iolated and he cried out to the world/ wondering what he did to deser.e this. *he worst part o+ the whole ordeal was not what the stranger stole +rom him/ but what he le+t in its place. ?awk Descending now harbored a darkness within: the taint this stranger le+t in the place o+ his stolen power. ?awk locked this taint away into his hunch/ where he hoped none would e.er see it. ?e le+t the woods and returned home/ +eeling weak and ill. ?e took to his bed and stayed there +or a week/ while his mother nursed him through his sickness/ his nausea and his +e.er. Subconsciously/ Crow Shadow sensed how diminished was the power he o++ered her. She accepted his word that he was merely sick. She nursed him/ +eeding him o+ her own limited power until he should reco.er. ?awk Descending did heal somewhat with the passage o+ time/ but he ne.er +ully reco.ered. ?e was e.er a+ter a weak and sickly child/ more de+ormed than be+ore. For a month he moped around the house/ not daring to .enture into the woods. And when at last he did return to the +orest/ he did so cautiously. ?e had lost his +ree spirit. $ow he hid in the trees. ?e no longer sang/ nor communed his power with that o+ the +orest and its deniIens. And at night/ in his sleep the taint o+ the stranger came out to haunt his dreams. Although his power was stunted and he no longer +elt +ree to use it to commune with the animals and the +orest/ he could still climb through the trees/ swinging +rom limb to limb. "t was the closest thing to +reedom and +ul+illment that he had in his li+e. ?is mother/ Crow Shadow/ clung to )him tenaciously. And his +ather/ Ling+isher/ also held on to him. #oth o+ them needed him to +ill their empty marriage. And ?awk lo.ed them so much that he stro.e to +ill this emptiness +or them/ though it locked him into his childhood/ not allowing him to grow up. ?is peers grew into adulthood. *hey married/ had +amilies/ and +ound their place in society. ?awk Descending was an outcast/ chained to his parents/ escaping into the +orest when he could.

Part Two — Birth of a Song VII. The Minstrel 9ne day/ as he lay napping on a high branch/ he heard a distant musical sound. "t resembled the song o+ a bird/ but such a bird as he had ne.er heard be+ore. Cistening/ he heard it again/ a little clearer now. Swinging +rom tree to tree/ limb to limb/ he +ollowed the sound until he arri.ed at the road that bisected the +orests. 9+ten he had studied this road/ wondering where it might lead. @umor was that this road led +ar +rom this land/ through a distant mountain range/ through e3otic realms to an immense ocean. $o one tra.eled on it/ and in ?awk Descending0s li+etime/ and that o+ his parents and grandparents/ no one had e.er le+t the .illage to +ollow this road. $or did anyone e.er .enture +rom those distant lands to .isit his .illage. *hat is/ not until now.

For the sound that drew ?awk to this road came +rom no bird/ but +rom a man/ playing some hollow stick that he held to his mouth while dancing his +ingers o.er the holes cut into it. And what a man. ?e wore a purple cap o+ some sheer material/ with long peacock +eathers drawn down the back. ?is long/ black hair was all in braids with color+ul beads at the end. ?is long beard was also braided and beaded. ?is skin was the same light color as ?awk Descending/ but his eyes had an odd slant to them. ?e wore a cloak that was a warm red inside/ and on the outside was a motley riot o+ bright colors. ?e rode a burro/ and behind him was stowed a bed roll/ a +ew cooking utensils/ and odd-shaped cases/ the like o+ which ?awk had ne.er seen. ?awk Descending was so amaIed at the sight o+ the man that he almost +orgot to hide himsel+ as the man turned his gaIe up to the tree where he was perched. ?e ducked behind the trunk and held his breath/ hoping he had not been obser.ed. *he man stopped playing and drew the hollow stick away +rom his mouth. ?e ga.e his burro a gentle nudge with his knees to stop it. Dhen he spoke/ his .oice was loud and clear/ nearly as melodic as the sounds he made with the stick. E5y +lute has been known to enchant many creatures/ drawing them out o+ the wilderness to listen. #ut ne.er ha.e " seen a sHuirrel or monkey so big.F ?e paused. ?is .oice had an unusual accent. ?awk Descending was sure he had been obser.ed/ but he remained hidden. A+ter waiting a su++icient time to assure himsel+ there would be no answer/ the man said/ E" am heading to the .illage " am told lies along this road/ on the +ar side o+ this dark +orest. "+ this sHuirrel has an ear +or music/ then it should come along/ +or this is only ) this e.ening.F a small sample o+ the per+ormance " shall gi.e Dhen ?awk Descending made no reply/ the man spoke to his burro. E5ayhaps my eyes decei.e me/ and " am talking to no one but you/ old 5oonbeam.F ?e looked up at the tree/ then nudged his mount into motion and headed down the road. ECet us be o++ i+ we are to reach this town while it is still daylight.F ?e drew the +lute to his lips and resumed his tune. ?awk Descending waited until he was ,ust out o+ sight/ and then he +ollowed a+ter/ drawn by the music. ?e stopped in the trees at the edge o+ town/ keeping wellhidden as the minstrel rode into the .illage/ playing his +lute. Children came out to +ollow him into the town sHuare/ and adults came to their doorways to listen. At the sHuare/ the minstrel was met by the 5ayor/ the Chie+ Constable/ and the inn keeper. *he minstrel stopped playing his +lute and dismounted in one smooth motion/ +lourishing his cloak as he did so. *he 5ayor stepped up to greet him. EDelcome to our town. De seldom ha.e .isitors/ other than the merchants who ha.e business here. @arely ha.e we .isitors o+ your station.F E*hank you/ kind sir.F *he minstrel bowed his head to the 5ayor/ including the other two men in the gesture o+ obeisance. E5y name is Chantien. And my station is but a humble story teller and musician/ hoping only to entertain and share the news o+ distant lands.F EDe are always eager to hear o+ the world outside our little town/F the 5ayor told him. EAnd we would welcome the di.ersion.F E*hen/ i+ it please you/ " will per+orm in this sHuare +ollowing supper.F

EAnd " shall pro.ide ale and cider/ sweet cakes/ cheese and bread +or those who attend.F *he inn keeper added/ EAt a nominal +ee o+ course.F E23cellent/F Chantien said. EAnd now/ ha.e you someplace to lodgeJ " am weary o+ the road. "t would ser.e me well to wash and rest a bit.F E4ou shall ha.e a room in my inn.F *he inn keeper insisted. Considering how much he stood to make selling re+reshments at the per+ormance/ he added/ EAt a discount o+6say6ten percent.F E>ery gracious/F Chantien replied. EAnd ha.e you a stable where my noble mount can be groomed and +edJF EStable boyMF *he inn keeper bellowed. A young boy hurried o.er to take the burro0s reins. E?ere/ my boy.F Chantien pressed a coin into the lad0s hand. ESee that he has an ample ser.ing o+ oats/ and a good brushing.F *he boy0s eyes grew wide at the coin in his hand. ?e looked to the inn keeper/ who ga.e him a barely perceptible nod/ be+ore responding. E4es/ SirMF Chantien unleashed his instrument cases +rom the donkey be+ore the stable boy led it o++. *wo other young lads hurried +orward. ECet us help you with those/ Sir.F EDhy thank you.F Chantien handed them the cases. E#e .ery care+ul with those.F #e+ore the inn keeper could lead him indoors/ the Chie+ Constable stepped +orward. E" shall need to ha.e a word with you be+ore your per+ormance. De ha.e many local ordinances o+ which you must be apprised.F ECertainly/F Chantien told him. E" ha.e the utmost respect +or all your laws and customs. And " ha.e no desire to .iolate any ordinances.F ) said. E" shall ,oin you as you sup.F E>ery well/ then/F the Chie+ Constable EAs shall "/F the 5ayor put in. And with that/ the inn keeper led the minstrel into his hall. *he crowd broke up. E#ack to your business now/ all o+ you.F *he Chie+ Constable sent the lingerers on their way. ?awk Descending watched these proceedings +rom the shadows. A minstrel had come to his townM ?e could hardly wait +or the e.ening per+ormance. *he town sHuare was sure to be packed that e.ening. ?awk would not be able to see or hear much +rom this distance. And/ considering the way that all o+ the townspeople shunned him/ he would not be welcome to ,oin them in the audience. Considering his dilemma/ his eyes settled on the large chestnut tree that shaded the +ar side o+ the plaIa. *hat was his solution6he would ha.e the best seat in the house. ?e hurried home to eat a late lunch/ telling his mother all about the minstrel as he ate. Dhile she went out to +etch the washing +rom the clotheslines/ he bundled up some old bread and cheese +or his supper. ?urrying back to the sHuare/ ?awk kept watch until he was sure not to be noticed. *hen he scampered o.er to the chestnut tree. *he trunk was broad and the lowest limbs were +ar o.erhead/ but it took him little e++ort to climb the tree. *he boughs were thick and lush. *hey would keep him well-hidden. ?awk settled in to wait +or the e.ening/ certain he had the best seat in the sHuare/ and that none would know he was there. *here was one who saw him climb the tree. Chantien was standing at the window o+ his second +loor room/ which o.erlooked the sHuare/ as the boy made his ascent. ?e was apprising the e.ening0s stage. EAh/ there you are/ my little sHuirrel.F ?e chuckled to

himsel+ as he watched how the young man climbed the trunk with ease/ disappearing into the branches.

VIII. The Tr#e $erformance of a Har!er *he sun was low o.er the western horiIon when Chantien came out o+ the inn/ and the sHuare was +ull o+ townspeople. 5any brought out blankets and spread them on the ground/ making a picnic o+ their supper as children ran and played. A +esti.e atmosphere +illed the sHuare. ?awk watched them +rom his hiding place as he ate bread and cheese/ en.ious o+ their normal/ happy li.es. Among the +ew who did not attend were his parents and grandparents. ?awk was not surprised. Despite his grand+ather0s position as a ci.il ser.ant/ his +amily was an insular lot. *o others/ they appeared haughty and condescending. *hen shortly be+ore Chantien made his appearance/ ?awk saw his +ather at the edge o+ the sHuare. Ling+isher was by himsel+. ?awk searched the sHuare/ but could see his mother nowhere. ?is +ather greeted +riends and took a tankard o+ ale o++ered to him. ?e looked happier and more at ease than ?awk could remember him. ?is heart went out to his +ather/ and he wanted to climb down/ race o.er and gi.e him a hug. #ut he stayed where he was. *he 5ayor and the Chie+ Constable emerged +rom the inn. *he 5ayor took a seat at the head o+ the sHuare/ ne3t to his wi+e. ) *he Chie+ Constable ga.e instructions to a couple o+ guards/ who then +ollowed him to the +ront o+ the sHuare. *he Chie+ Constable took a seat ne3t to the 5ayor. *he guards stationed themsel.es to either side o+ the stone dais where Chantien would per+orm. *wo boys came out o+ the inn/ one bearing a lute/ and the other an ornate harp. *hey held the instruments care+ully/ e3hibiting pride that they had been chosen +or this ,ob. A buII o+ con.ersation went through the townspeople at sight o+ the harp. *his was no ordinary minstrel. *his was a ?arper. Possession o+ this instrument was an emblem/ signi+ying that Chantien was a master o+ all o+ the arts o+ a minstrel and a poet/ heir to a lineage e3tending back to the dawn o+ history. "t was said that ?arpers were e.en skilled in magic o+ a sort. All doors were open to a ?arper/ and to do a ?arper harm would damn the perpetrator. *he .illage was truly graced by his .isit. *his would be a rare per+ormance indeed. *his e.ening would be talked about among the .illagers +or generations hence. *hey boys set the instruments on the dais with great care. *he one boy had a +olding stand o+ wood and leather on which to place the lute. *hen the lads ran out to ,oin their +amilies. *he audience hushed as Chantien stepped out o+ the inn. 9n his +lute/ he played his own +an+are as he proceeded to the dais. "n the chestnut tree/ ?awk sat so close to the dais/ he +elt he had a pri.ate audience. ?awk sensed some displeasure in the ?arper0s countenance/ though it was doubtlessly lost to the rest o+ the audience. 9n the dais/ Chantien +inished his +an+are. ?e ga.e a dark look to the Chie+ Constable and the 5ayor/ and then he raised his .oice in song. ?is .oice was strong and

sweet/ as pure as a +resh spring morning. 2.eryone gasped and rose to their +eet/ including the 5ayor and the Chie+ Constable. Chantien was singing an in.ocation. ?e turned to +ace south/ opening his arms as he sang. E*o the powers o+ the south/ to the essential innocence o+ +ield mouse/ to the sensual +ire o+ the serpent/ awaken us to the beauty within.F *urning westward/ he continued. E*o the bu++alo and the ,aguar/ show us how to lo.e and gi.e sel+lessly/ take us beyond death.F *o the north/ he sang/ E?ummingbird and bear/ help us to look within in unwa.ering honesty/ and teach us to honor the Ancient 9nes.F Facing east/ he sang/ EBreat 2agle/ ?awk and Condor/ li+t us to the sky/ that we might see beyond the horiIon/ e.en +urther than the glory o+ the rising sun.F #owing o.er the dais/ he intoned/ E5other 2arth/ bring us into true relationship with all o+ your children.F Ci+ting his arms and his +ace hea.enward/ he sang/ E*o the sun/ and the moon and the stars/ shine down on us +rom beyond with the +ace o+ the Breat Spirit.F Finally/ +acing the audience/ he seemed to sing to something or someone beyond their sight. E*o the long line o+ ?arpers/ o+ which " am the present/ " call on you to witness my per+ormance here/ attesting to its honesty and purity.F 2nding his song/ he said to all assembled/ E4ou are here to witness the true per+ormance o+ a ?arper. Cet none interrupt/ +or +ear o+ earning the animosity o+ all those spirits here in.oked.F ?e ended his words with his eye on the Chie+ Constable and the 5ayor/ who both looked like they were about to choke on their tongues. *hey ga.e a start/ as did many in ) attendance/ when the ?arper clapped three times to signal the end o+ the in.ocation. 2ach clap o+ his hands seemed so loud that it must be heard throughout the town. #e+ore anyone could reco.er/ Chantien was playing a light and winsome ,ig on the +lute. Children laughed in glee/ and many o+ the adults chuckled in relie+. Soon e.eryone was +eeling ,oy+ul and +esti.e again. Caying aside the +lute/ Chantien picked up his lute/ checked the tuning/ and then launched into the ballad o+ the Fisherman and the Ce.iathan. "+ was a tale +ull o+ suspense and ad.enture/ and e.eryone listened with wrapped attention. A+ter this/ he sat on a stool and played his harp. ?ere was a true e3pression o+ his skill. ?e played a long/ symphonic piece/ +ull o+ beauty/ heroics and winsome melodies. Dith his two hands/ he played melody and accompaniment/ rhythm and counterpoint/ +ully orchestrating the piece until his audience would ha.e sworn there were a doIen musicians backing him up. From there/ he set the harp aside and regaled the townspeople with humorous stories. ?e had his audience in stitches. #ack to the harp/ he sang o+ two star-crossed lo.ers/ which had all o+ the women weeping6and not a +ew o+ the men. "n the end/ as is usually the case with such tales/ the lo.ers took their own li.es/ and le+t the listeners wishing the lo.ers0 +amilies could ha.e resol.ed their di++erences and so brought the tale to a happier end. Chantien played his harp Huietly as he spoke. EAnd so it is throughout the world e.en now/ where petty stri+e/ ignorance and greed make a bad end +or all/ when all any o+ us really desires is +or our lo.e to be reHuited.

ESuch is the state o+ the world. 2.erywhere there is en.y and ,ealousy. 4et there is also a great deal o+ good will and compassion/ and it is my e3perience that while the en.ious ha.e a more strident tongue/ compassion has the stronger impetus.F *his was met with approbation +rom many/ though the Chie+ Constable and the 5ayor set their +aces darkly. E?umankind is a creature o+ in+inite creati.ity/ and on my tra.els throughout the world/ " ha.e seen the endless .ariety o+ human e3pression. From the Lingdom o+ Latai behind its great walls o+ granite/ to the isle o+ the birdmen/ where people li.e in trees and e.ery sentence spoken is uttered in a warble o+ birdsong. From the .ales o+ Doomar/ where e.eryone works together to create great crystal hi.es abuII with energy and light/ to the deserts o+ Acrotis/ where sla.es toil to erect tremendous monuments to their masters. 2.erywhere/ all anyone wants is to ha.e their lo.e acknowledged and returned. E2.en here/ in the pastoral lands o+ 7r/ +rom the tiniest .illage to the greatest metropolis/ where people bargain with their own power and claim +or their own the riches o+ the 2arth/ all anyone really wants is lo.e.F *he Chie+ Constable ga.e the ?arper a stern look/ which Chantien ignored. E" bring you news +rom the +ar reaches o+ your own land/ where the mysterious Bloriosi/ who ha.e long held their secret ways e.en in the midst o+ your society/ ha.e opened the doors to their nomadic temples and stepped out to share with the world the secret truths they ha.e so long protected6secrets " am not allowed to share with you.F *his last was said with a curt nod to the 5ayor and the Chie+ Constable/ who were now sitting sti++ and straight. E"t is said that the secret knowledge o+ the Bloriosi has stirred dissent among the ) workers ha.e laid down their tools and people o+ your capital city/ Coriolas/ where demand the +ruit o+ their own labors.F *his report stirred the audience. *his idea/ that each person is entitled to the product o+ their own work/ was no.el to the townspeople/ and none knew what to make o+ it. *he Chie+ Constable made a motion o+ his hand to the guards on either side o+ the dais/ who both made a step toward the ?arper. Chantien held up a hand +or silence. E@emember/ the long line o+ ?arpers o+ whom " ha.e descended stand here with me/ and ill will come to any who interrupt the truth o+ my per+ormance.F *he guards stopped/ looking +rom Chantien to the Chie+ Constable. *hese two locked eyes until at last the Chie+ Constable broke away/ gi.ing the guards a shake o+ the head to tell them to stand down. Chantien resumed. E*his rumor " can hardly credit/ knowing the secrets +rom the mouths o+ the Bloriosi themsel.es. *here is nothing in their secrets that would sow dissent. Dould that " could share their wondrous knowledge with you now.F ?e paused/ and e.eryone held his or her breath/ certain the ?arper would re.eal the secrets o+ the Bloriosi. E#ut the interdictions o+ your society +orbid me +rom speaking o+ such. 4et the truth will e.entually win out. "t has the greater impetus/ and it resides in the heart o+ each o+ us6though we know it not.F E*hat is enoughMF From the edge o+ the sHuare/ someone interrupted. From his perch/ ?awk saw that it was the stranger6the same who assaulted him in the woods and

stole part o+ his power. ?e +elt again as though he had been kicked in the stomach/ and he almost +ell +rom his branch. *he stranger was drawn up to twice his siIe/ in a great display o+ power and authority. Around him stood a doIen o+ his personal guard. EDho would chance the curse o+ interrupting a ?arper speaking truth be+ore his ancestorsJF Chantien asked. E" +ear no curse.F *he stranger pro,ected his will most commandingly. E4ou/ ?arper/ are not welcome here. 4ou will lea.e this land/ saying not a word to anyone until you are beyond its borders. 2.eryone will disperse now.F *he audience hastened to obey. Chantien remained on the stage/ showing no +ear. ?e wa.ed to the 5ayor and the Chie+ Constable. E" ha.e the town0s permission to per+orm here.F E4es/ that is a mistake.F *he stranger eyed the two town o++icers. EDho are you to o.erride the 5ayor and his constableJF Chantien asked as though it was only a matter o+ interest and not a command. E" am the 5agistrate here. *hose who hold o++ice in this .illage do so only by my +a.or. *his land is mine/ and these people are mine. 5ine is the power.F Dith this/ the stranger drew himsel+ up e.en taller. *his man was known to ?awk Descending by reputation. ?e was a member o+ the nobility and reported directly to the 2mperor. ?e had come to this territory the .ery summer that ?awk Descending was assaulted in the woods. And he was the stranger who assaulted ?awk. ?awk Descending could see him drawing power +rom all o+ the townspeople. ?e ) +elt the tug at the power remaining in his hunch. Dith what strength remained to him/ he clung to his limb and resisted. Chantien played a +lourish on the harp/ and spoke in some unknown tongue. Dhere the 5agistrate stood/ ?awk saw a huge and writhing liIard/ towering o.er the town. "t was alien and repulsi.e/ reptilian in nature. E" know you/F Chantien said. EAnd " know your kind in+est this land and all the world. 4our end will soon come. $ot by my hand/ nor by any other0s. 4our +all will come when the truth pre.ails and all men are blind no more.F E#e goneMF *he 5agistrate commanded. E$owMF E" would not stay where " am not welcome. " will gather my things and lea.e.F Chantien was not to be intimidated. ?e turned away +rom the 5agistrate/ who was a man again/ and packed away his instruments. *o the inn keeper/ he said/ ECet us settle up. *hen " will +etch the rest o+ my belongings and my ass/ and " will be gone.F *he inn keeper hastened to lead him into the inn/ nodding his head apologetically both to the 5agistrate and6surreptitiously6to the ?arper. *he sHuare cleared out. *he 5agistrate spoke to the 5ayor and his constable. E" will ha.e a word with you two.F E4es/ Sir.F *he 5ayor nodded. EDe are yours to command.F ECome/F the 5agistrate said as he led them +rom the sHuare. "n a short time/ ?awk was alone. *hough he could ha.e descended +rom the tree without being seen/ he stayed where he was/ +ear+ul that the power+ul stranger would attack him i+ he should show himsel+.

Presently/ the stable boy hurried to the +ront o+ the inn/ leading Chantien0s burro/ 5oonbeam. Chantien came out o+ the inn/ arms loaded with his instruments and other belongings. ?e was +ollowed by the inn keeper/ who darted a glance about the sHuare as he stepped outside/ no doubt assuring himsel+ that he was not being obser.ed. ?e wrung his hands and bowed his head as he spoke to Chantien. E"0m so sorry the show ended badly/ 5aster ?arper. " had thought to ask you to stay and rest a +ew days. Certain/ " am/ that the towns+olk would ha.e welcomed you.F EAnd you would ha.e welcomed the coppers my e3tended .isit would ha.e brought.F EAh/F the inn keeper cast his eyes to the ground +or a moment. E*he business would ha.e been welcome. #ut your per+ormances would bring a light to us all/ e3ceptP.F E23cept/F Chantien +inished +or him/ Ethere are some things you would rather not ha.e illuminated.F E4es/ well it is un+ortunate that you could not stay the night in a good bedP.F EDith a straw mattress crawling with bugs.F Chantien +inished tying his belongings to the burro0s back. E" am Huite used to sleeping under the stars/ and o+ten +ind the company better there.F Cooking at the inn keeper/ he caught the man darting another an3ious glance about the sHuare. E" am gone/ least anyone should see you talking to me.F ?e took the burro0s reins +rom the stable boy and started o++/ heading back the way he had come/ leading 5oonbeam. EFare you well/ 5aster ?arper.F *he inn keeper said/ not too loud. 恠φhis way across the sHuare and disappeared EAnd +are you well.F Chantien made down a lane/ heading back to the woods east o+ town. EDon0t dawdle/F the inn keeper told the boy. E#ack to the stables.F As the boy hastened to obey/ the inn keeper darted one last look at the departing ?arper/ then he hurried inside/ shutting the door behind him. ?awk Descending sat in the chestnut tree a while longer/ pondering what he had witnessed in the sHuare. Dhat had Chantien done to trans+orm the 5agistrate into a reptileJ ?awk had sensed that man0s alien nature when he was assaulted in the woods. Das this what he had seen% the 5agistrate0s true natureJ ?e wanted to talk to Chantien about this. Something told him that the ?arper could help him to understand what was going on. Slipping down out o+ the tree/ he shambled into the shadows and trailed the ?arper out o+ town. "n the +orest/ he took to the trees again/ always keeping the ?arper in sight.

I%. The &ift of M#sic Chantien put a ridge between himsel+ and the town be+ore turning o++ the trail/ into the thick +orest. ?e sang a Huiet song as he made his way through the dense brush/ really more o+ a whispered chant. As he passed through/ the +orest seemed to open a path +or him and his burro/ closing it behind him.

?awk Descending doubted anyone could ha.e +ollowed the ?arper on the ground/ e.en i+ they could ha.e +ound his tracks. #ut up in the trees/ ?awk had no problem +ollowing. Chantien came to a +orest glade/ and there he ended his whispered chant. ?e turned to his burro and untied his bedroll +rom the animal0s back. EDe should be sa+e enough here/ 5oonbeam/ should the @egent send out guards to +ind us.F ?e laid out his bedroll. *hen he gathered stones and set them in a circle. >enturing around the edge o+ the glade/ he gathered +irewood. Soon he had a nice camp+ire going. Chantien sat on his bedding/ gaIing into the +lames as 5oonbeam browsed the grasses in the glade. E"t is much worse than we thought/F the ?arper spoke to the +ire. E2.en out here in the +arthest reaches o+ the empire/ the people are enthralled.F ?e seemed to listen a moment/ and then nodded. E4es/ they are e.erywhere/ and their hold is strong. 2.en when " li+ted the .eil none could see6well/ almost none.F ?e stood and looked directly at ?awk Descending/ where the lad perched in the darkness o+ the +orest. E"t reHuires bra.ery and power to track a ?arper thus. #ra.ery to de+y the 5agistrate/ and power to +ollow a hidden path. " am tired o+ games. Come down/ #ig SHuirrel/ it is time we met.F ?awk Descending held his breath/ but there was no use in hiding. Chantien knew he was there/ and he wanted to meet him. 23haling/ ?awk realiIed that he wanted this also. "t was why he +ollowed the ?arper to this spot. ?e climbed out o+ the tree and shambled into the clearing/ humiliated by the contorted image he must present. EDell met/ +ellow tra.eler.F Chantien greeted him as he stepped into the +irelight. ω .oice. ?e spoke with warmth and ci.ility. *here was no shock or disgust in the ?arper0s 23tending his hand/ he said/ EAs "0m sure you know by now/ " am Chantien.F ?awk dared to look into the ?arper0s +ace. *here he saw neither ,udgment nor condemnation. $either did he see o.erwrought sympathy or compassion. Chantien looked upon him as an eHual/ nothing more and nothing less. ?awk stood a little straighter as he shook the ?arper0s hand. E" am called ?awk Descending.F E8uite appropriate. 4ou see with great clarity.F ESometimes all too clear/F ?awk allowed. EDill you sit with me/ ?awk Descending/ and share my camp+ireJF *hey sat. ?awk looked into the +ire +or a moment. *hen he dared to ask/ EDho were you talking toJ 4ou were looking at the +ire. *hough " didn0t hear it/ " am sure someone answered you.F Chantien thought a moment about his reply. E" spoke to the +ire/ as you obser.ed. Fire is a power+ul trans+ormati.e. "t trans+orms matter into energy/ which then radiates out through the world. "+ you know how/ you can send your words and thoughts into the +ire as well/ and it will transmit them/ where they can be recei.ed by another with the prereHuisite skill.F ?awk looked into the +ire/ hoping to see who Chantien was addressing. ?e saw only +lame. EDho are you talking toJF E"+ this is a game o+ Huestions/ then it is my turn. Dhy do you hide in the treesJF ?awk cast his gaIe upon the ground. E" tra.el much easier in the trees than on the ground. And that way no one has to see me. "t pains them to look at me.F

E*hat is because you are a re+lection o+ how they truly see themsel.es. 5ost people are not ready +or such honesty. *hat is why none o+ them saw the 5agistrate as you and " did.F EDhy did you make him into a giant serpentJF E" did not Qmake0 him into anything. " simply used the truth to pull aside the .eil/ showing him as he really is.F ?awk Descending knitted his brow/ troubled by this re.elation. Chantien sought to e3plain. EDhen people are so deluded they can no longer recogniIe the truth/ they are easily led. *here is an alien race that has taken power in this world. *hey use this delusion to rob people o+ their own true power/ and to strip the land o+ its riches.F E*hey are aliens/ not o+ this worldJF ?awk sought to understand. ESome say they come +rom another world6another reality6and ha.e opened a portal to this one.F ?e let ?awk consider this +or a moment. E9thers think they are o+ this world/ ,ust as we are. "t is said they were no more than reptiles and serpents until our sel+-delusion ga.e them an opportunity to walk among us and claim power o.er us.F EAnd youJ Dhat do you thinkJF E" belie.e they are human/ or once were. #ut their manipulations/ their abuses and their hubris6their e.il intent6trans+ormed them into something inhuman.F Chantien turned to e3amine his guest. E5ost people cannot see them +or what they really are. #ut you are di++erent. *ell me/ ha.e you had some encounter with this ρ re.ealed himsel+ to youJF 텰9r 5agistrateJ ?as he harmed you in any wayJ ?awk drew protecti.ely inward. 4et he could not keep himsel+ +rom speaking. ?e needed to tell someone. E9ne day " was singing in the +orest. "t was the only place " could sing. *he 5agistrate attacked me. ?e robbed me o+ my power.F Chantien looked at him closely. E4es/ " can see you ha.e been abused/ by him and others.F E" +ought him.F ?awk went on. EAs we struggled/ " sensed how di++erent he was. " +elt he was not human.F EDhat happenedJF E" escaped. #ut he stole much o+ my power.F E"t takes a great deal o+ inner strength to sur.i.e such an encounter.F ?awk gaIed into the +ire/ reli.ing the pain and shame o+ his molestation as Chantien meditated. Chantien wanted to help this young man who was so maimed/ yet who held such promise. *he lad needed healing. 4et such a task was beyond Chantien0s abilities as a ?arper. *here was one thing he could do though. E" should lo.e to hear you sing.F ?awk was embarrassed. E" cannot. $ot since that day.F E*hat is a shame.F ?e drew his +lute +rom the +olds o+ his cloak. EPerhaps i+ " play a tune/ you might +ind your .oice.F E" doubt it.F E*hen " will play +or you.F

Chantien held the +lute to his lip and played a slow air. ?awk +elt the sadness well up inside o+ him. ?e wanted to sing out/ o+ imprisonment/ o+ in,ustice/ o+ de+ilement and abuse. ?e longed to spread his wings and +ly/ to e3tend his power and let it shine bright and pure as a beacon to all. #ut his power was a torn and tattered thing. $or did he ha.e wings to +ly. ?e was bound to the earth/ a shambling de+ormity with no .oice to sing/ nor the power to do so. ?e was no ?arper. ?e could only soar through the music Chantien played. ?e could only lend what little power he had to the .oice o+ the +lute. And so he reached out to caress this poignant melody. Silently/ he added his power to the song o+ the +lute. Chantien played the plainti.e melody many times/ keeping it as simple as possible/ until ?awk was intimate with e.ery bar o+ the tune. *he young man began to anticipate the melody/ leading it in his mind and in his heart. *hen/ as he pre.iewed the ne3t phrase with his inner ear/ ?awk added a little ornament/ a turn/ to the melody. Dhen Chantien played the phrase/ he added the turn/ ,ust as ?awk had imagined it. ?awk almost missed it/ it seemed so appropriate. ?ad he added the ornament to the tune/ or had the ?arperJ *he ne3t time through the melody/ he heard a +ew more ornaments/ more intricate than the +irst. And Chantien +ollowed along/ reproducing them e3actly. ?awk grew more ad.enturous. ?e added more ornaments/ and then he began to alter the melody/ straying +rom the original tune/ though ne.er too +ar. Chantien +ollowed him note +or note. *ogether they wo.e through a doIen .ariations o+ the theme/ progressing in comple3ity and wandering +urther +rom the original path/ while still co.ering the same territory. φ *he +inal .ariation seemed to +ully崐 e3press all o+ the pain and all o+ the beauty ?awk +elt within. ?a.ing nothing more to add/ ?awk let it go with a sigh. Chantien returned to the original melody/ and it was a re.elation/ as though ?awk had ne.er heard it be+ore. "t was per+ection in its simplicity and honesty. ?awk cried silently/ with his head cradled in his arms/ and the ?arper brought the air to a close. *here was only the crackling o+ the +ire/ the wind in the trees/ and 5oonbeam +eeding on the grasses. ?awk thought he would burst. *his air had so thoroughly e3pressed his inner nature that there was nothing le+t +or him. ?e +elt something tap him on the arm. Diping his tears upon his slee.e/ he raised his head. Chantien was holding out another +lute/ not so +ancy as that which he played. E?ere/ you were meant to ha.e this.F *he ?arper handed him the wooden +lute. E$ow play.F ?awk took the +lute/ though he made no attempt to play it. *he +lute was so straight and per+ect/ it was the antithesis o+ his warped and ra.aged body. E" don0t know how.F E$onsense.F Chantien spoke with con+idence. E4ou played mine well enough. ?old it like this. Pout with your lower lip.F *he ?arper instructed him. EPlace it under your lip. $ow blow down o.er it and turn the +lute until you +ind the right6that0s it.F ?awk produced a note/ +altering/ but a note nonetheless. E4ou were meant to play the +lute.F ?awk +ound the right position. *his time he sustained the note. E$ow/ place your +ingers like mine and +ollow me.F

Chantien led him through the scales/ pausing a couple o+ times to show him how to +ind the more elusi.e notes. ?awk +ollowed along with ease. "t was as though he had been playing +or years. Soon they were playing the air together. *hen Chantien added harmony and counterpoint while ?awk held the melody. Dhen ?awk had su++icient con+idence/ they took turns with melody/ harmony and counterpoint. *hey e3plored the air at length/ and this time when they returned to the basic melody/ it was di++erent than it had been be+ore6though related. As he lowered the +lute/ ?awk looked at Chantien Huestioningly. EDo you remain the same person +rom one moment to the ne3tJF ?awk thought about it. E4es and no.F Chantien nodded. E23actly. 4ou are always changing/ while your essence remains the same.F E4es.F ?awk understood. EAnd so you would not e3pect your song to remain the same while you change.F E5y songJF 2.en as he spoke/ ?awk knew it was true. *his was his song they had been playing. And as he gained con+idence/ so had his melody/ until it was trans+ormed +rom sadness into something upli+ting. E*his is the most essential talent o+ the ?arper% to hear and to translate the song within e.erything.F Chantien looked o.er at 5oonbeam/ +eeding on grasses across the glade. ESee my burro +eeding yonder. Don0t ,ust look at her with your eyes. Feel her. 9pen yoursel+ to her without preconceptions. 2mpty your mind as you obser.e her. Clear your mind and let her speak to you. Can you hear herJF 愀φ song was rather elegant/ with more than a E4esMF ?awk did hear her. *he burro0s hint o+ de.otion and determination. EBood. $ow pick up your +lute and play her song.F ?awk did so. As he played/ the burro raised her head and looked at him. She nickered/ and then she strolled o.er to his side and nudged him lo.ingly with her muIIle. ?awk le+t o++ playing to pet her. E*here you ha.e it. 4ou can do this with anything. 2.erything has a song6e.en the air. "t is the ability to +ind these songs and play them honestly that distinguishes a ?arper +rom an ordinary minstrel. *his is where the ?arper +inds his power/ and this is what we mean when we speak o+ the true per+ormance o+ the ?arper.F Chantien pocketed his +lute inside o+ his cape. ?e stood and stretched a moment. *hen he went to his other instruments and drew his harp +rom its case. Sitting back beside ?awk Descending/ he said/ E$ow we shall orchestrate this entire glade. " will start with the grasses and the trees/ the night sky and the stars/ the +ire+lies and the crickets. Dhen you are ready/ ,oin in with the camp+ire. 4ou may add your own .oice/ mine and 5oonbeam0s/ as you hear them.F And so they played the +orest glade on harp and +lute. "t was a long/ rich symphony that ?awk thought would ne.er end. 4et it +inally did wind down as the camp+ire dwindled. Dhen they stopped playing/ the symphony went on/ carried by the glade itsel+/ with e.ery element adding its own .oice. Dhile Chantien added more wood to the +ire/ ?awk sat back and e3perienced a moment more .i.id than any he had e.er known. "t was as though e.erything around them had taken on an added intensity and an added power in this present moment. ?awk

told himsel+ it was +rom hyper.entilating as he played the +lute. *hough he was lightheaded/ he knew there was more to it than that. As Chantien sat back beside him/ ?awk tried to talk about it. E2.erything +eels soP soP ali.e.F E*hat is the power o+ the ?arper/F Chantien assured him. EDhen you play the song o+ a thing/ you accentuate it/ you celebrate it. Playing the song o+ a thing imparts a blessing6to both the thing and the musician. "t ties them together/ and energiIes them both through this bond. #ut to play a thing0s true song comes with gra.e responsibility. 4ou must be care+ul.F EDhyJF E"+ you alter the song o+ a thing/ you can alter the thing itsel+. And that you ought ne.er to do. *hat is a .iolation/ a manipulation6an abuse. 4ou ought ne.er to +orce your will on anything/ whether +or good or ill. *o do so will result in harm/ possibly +or the thing itsel+/ and with certainty +or you.F E#ut we alter the melodies.F EDe are +ollowing the will and natural tendency o+ the thing we play. Do so with honesty and you aid the thing in gaining the +ull e3pression o+ itsel+. #ut ne.er +orce a change.F E*hat seems di++icult.F E"t is. *hat is why you must always be .igilant. Play in true honesty and sel+lessness. 5ake yoursel+ an e3tension o+ your instrument and allow yoursel+ to be a .ehicle +or the thing you are playing. E"t takes many years o+ training to learn the art o+ a ?arper. #ut it is all contained χ o+ a thing always do so in +ull honesty and in these simple rules% when you play the song sel+lessness. $e.er make a +alse note and you will bring blessings to yoursel+ and the thing you play. E$or should you make a habit o+ this when you are around other people. Playing the true song o+ a thing lea.es both that thing and yoursel+ open to outside in+luences. 4ou can easily lea.e yoursel+ open to attack.F E#ut you played openly be+ore the town.F E" called on the Cineage o+ ?arpers. "n this way/ they come down to protect your per+ormance +rom inter+erence. " do not call on the Cineage e.ery time " per+orm6maybe once in a moon. 5ost o+ the time/ " stick to set pieces% ballads and lays/ +ully composed tunes and stories.F E4et you did so this e.ening.F E*here was reason to do so.F *hey each +ell to their pri.ate thoughts. ?awk thought about this gi+t o+ music the ?arper had gi.en him. Chantien awoke a talent he ne.er knew he had/ and this talent opened whole worlds to him. ?e wanted to become a ?arper. ?e wanted to lea.e this town and wander through the world/ playing a song o+ all the wonder he saw there. Attuned to his thoughts/ Chantien said/ E4ou should come with me as my apprentice. 4ou ha.e an enormous talent/ but you ha.e much to learn.F ECome with youJF ?awk dared to dream. EDould you like to someday earn your own cloak o+ colorsJF Chantien wa.ed a portion o+ his cloak. E9h/ yesMF

E*hen it is settled. @eturn to the .illage/ make your goodbyes and gather your belongings. De lea.e at +irst light.F ?awk Descending thought o+ his +amily/ his grandparents/ his +ather/ and most o+ all his mother. She would not want him to go. Dhile she allowed him +ree range in the +orest/ little minding i+ he stayed there o.ernight/ he knew she would not part with him easily. "t would take a lot o+ talking and a lot o+ coa3ing. ?is grand+ather/ too/ would not be happy with his choice. E*he morning is too soon.F ?e must let go o+ this dream/ no matter how it appealed to him. E" need more time to say goodbye to my +amily.F E4ou look a grown man.F Chantien eyed him. EAre you under some contract or obligationJF E$o/ it is only so sudden.F EShort lea.ings are the easiest to make.F E4es/ but " owe my +amily more than a hasty goodbye.F E$o man can stand on his own two +eet who is obliged to his parents. Are you the sole breadwinner in your +amilyJF E$o.F ?awk could not e3plain. E*hen they can +eed themsel.es easier when you are gone.F E" need more time. Can you tarry here a +ew daysJF E2.en one more day would be dangerous. *he 5agistrate wants me out o+ here.F E" can0t ,ust disappear o.ernight.F Chantien saw that the young man0s mind was set. ?e pointed to the +ull moon. E" will pass through here again on the ne3t +ull moon. *hat will be your last chance. 5eet 慐φ me in this glade and " will take you as my apprentice. #e here when " return. " shan0t camp here +or more than one night/ and once " lea.e this land/ " shan0t return.F ?awk considered. *hat would gi.e him one month to gain his +amily0s blessing and prepare to depart. "t would ha.e to be enough time. ?is +amily might resist/ but once he per+ormed +or them/ they would ha.e to understand that this was the right choice +or him. E" will be here waiting/ under the ne3t +ull moon.F E2nough talk then. E Chantien reached +or his harp. ECet us play.F *hey per+ormed late into the night. Chantien taught ?awk Descending many songs. ?e also ga.e him some beginning instruction on the lute and the harp. "n short order/ ?awk was able to play a scale on the harp. *he lute pro.ed a little more di++icult. ?is +ingers seemed to stumble/ and he de.eloped blisters on the +ingers o+ his le+t hand. E*he lute can be a hard instrument to begin with.F Chantien counseled him. E#e patient. Bi.e it time.F *hey set aside their instruments in the early hours o+ the morning and closed their eyes. *he ne3t thing ?awk knew/ it was +ull daylight and he was alone in the glade/ beside the dead camp+ire. *here was no sign o+ the ?arper or his burro. ?awk Descending searched +or their trail/ but the woods hemmed in this glade so tightly/ there could be no passing through it on the ground. ?awk began to wonder i+ the whole night was but a dream. ?e sat by the ashes o+ the camp+ire/ asking himsel+ why his mind would decei.e him so cruelly. All the world had opened up +or him/ o++ering him a li+e he ne.er dreamed was possible. And now he woke to +ind he was all alone/ isolated in this little glade.

?e petted the earth with his right hand. Finding pebbles/ he took a +ew and threw them one at a time into the ashes o+ the +ire. Feeling +or more/ his hand chanced upon a stick/ e3cept it was too smooth and straight. Brabbing hold o+ it/ he +ound it was the +lute Chantien had gi.en him to play. *hen he remembered that he le+t it here in the tall grass by the +ire pit/ be+ore he went to sleep. ?e wept with ,oy at the sight o+ it. Drawing it to his lips/ he played a note so pure and ,oy+ul it had to come +rom deep within him. ?e played +or a short while/ the song o+ his sel+. $ow it was a light and happy dance. ?e almost thought he heard a harp playing in the background/ though he was sure it was ,ust the wind in the trees.

%. The $enalty for 'ttendance EDhere ha.e you beenJF Crow Shadow asked with an edge to her .oice. *hat edge told ?awk that she was on the .erge o+ e3ploding and anything could set her o++. ?e +elt an3ious/ least he make a misstep. E" slept in the woods.F EDould that you had stayed there.F She sounded e3asperated. EDell/ you0ll ,ust ha.e to go back and +ind your +ather.F ?awk could not help looking at her Huestioningly. *his was his +ather0s day o++. Ling+isher should still be asleep. @age crept into his mother0s .oice. E*he 5agistrate has le.ied +ines on e.ery χ household in the .illage +or allowing that wandering minstrel to spew his blasphemy in the sHuare6double +or anyone who attended the per+ormance. And your +ather was +ool enough to go there.F She wa.ed her hands at the sky. E" don0t know how we will pay +or his stupidityM As it is/ we barely ha.e enough to li.e on a+ter paying the ta3es.F ?awk made sure the +lute was well-hidden inside his ,erkin. "+ she spotted the +lute/ his mother would know he had .isited the ?arper/ and she was sure to ha.e a +it o+ anger. EDhere is +atherJF E?e has gone to cut wood +rom our yearly allotment/ to pay the +ine. " don0t know how we will stay warm this winter.F E" will go help him.F ?awk turned on his heel. EDait.F ?is mother reined in her anger. She reached +or a parcel on the kitchen counter. E?e did not take a lunch.F She handed the parcel to ?awk. E?ere is some bread and cheese. *here should be enough +or you as well. #y right/ we should cut back to one meal a day. #ut chopping wood is hard work/ and you will need to eat. " will ,ust ha.e to do without.F She took a long-su++ering/ martyred attitude. E4ou go now.F As he le+t/ ?awk heard her say/ EA +ool +or a husband and a cripple +or a son. Dhat did " do to deser.e such a li+eJF *he lunch was wrapped in oil skin. #ack in the woods/ ?awk sought out a hollow tree that had been his secret treasure chest as a child. ?e unwrapped the bread and cheese and tied the oil cloth around his +lute to help protect it +rom the weather. ?e stowed the package in the hollow tree/ where it would stay sa+e.

?e would ha.e to keep the +lute hidden +or the time being/ until Chantien0s per+ormance gained the distance o+ memory and the 5agistrate0s +ine was paid. ?e would work hard to help pay the double +ine/ +eeling somehow responsible +or the whole thing. ?e could hunt and +ish/ selling the meat and skins to help pay the debt. ?e must put o++ telling his +amily o+ his intentions. *here was no way they would gi.e him their blessings right now. ?e would keep the +lute hidden/ being care+ul to practice only when he was certain no one would hear him. For now/ his audience would be the +orests and the animals that dwelt there. ?awk Descending took o++ his ,erkin and used it to wrap the bread and cheese/ eating ,ust a little as he did so. *hen he hurried through the +orest to +ind his +ather cutting wood +rom their yearly allotment. Along the way/ he could hear the song o+ the +orest/ and he wished that he had his +lute to play along. ?e contented himsel+ with humming. As he proceeded toward the common lands where each +amily o+ the .illage held its yearly allotment o+ wood/ he noted a change in the song o+ the +orest. A sorrow crept into the melody/ a sadness born o+ pain and loss. "t crept into the song in subtle ways/ and it was not until he reached the commons and saw that many o+ the townspeople were cutting wood +rom their allotment/ that the awareness o+ this change in the song o.ertook him. Stopping to listen as the song became an e3pression o+ anguish and loss/ he saw the townspeople clearing their allotments/ working together to strip the +orest bare. 7sually/ each +amily took only a little wood at a time +rom their allotment. *hey took care to cut away the diseased and dying trees. Dith a skilled eye/ they sought to prune the trees so they would continue to grow in a healthy manner. *his is how his ϋ in the same manner as his +ather0s +ather. +ather taught him to cull wood +rom the +orest/ *hus many generations could +ill their yearly need +or +irewood/ and still lea.e a healthy +orest +or +uture generations. #ut now they took e.erything/ lea.ing only dying roots and barren ground. ?awk could not belie.e his eyes. ?ow would they sur.i.e the winter/ much less the years to comeJ As he stood there dumb+ounded/ one o+ the .illagers called out to him. E?ey apeman/ you come down out o+ the trees to +ul+ill your responsibility as a humanJF EDhat are you doingJF EDe are cutting the wood to pay the +ines the 5agistrate le.ied on the entire .illage/F the man told him. E#ut how will we sur.i.eJF E*he +orest is big.F A young man not much older than he paused between blows o+ the a3. E*he 5ayor is petitioning +or new allotments +rom the commons.F EDoubtless they will be smaller and +urther +rom the .illage/F the young man0s uncle put in. E*he 5agistrate is loathed to car.e much out o+ the 2mperor0s +orest +or a new commons.F EAnd what o+ the +orestJF ?awk mumbled. EDhatJF Se.eral workers stopped to glare at him/ uncertain they heard him correctly. EDhat o+ my +atherJF ?awk corrected himsel+. EDhere is heJF E?e0s working on your allotment/ o+ course. Dith your grand+ather and your uncle. "0m sure they0re wondering where you are.F

E*hank you.F ?awk hurried on his way. ?is +amily allotment was on the south side o+ a broad hillock. "t was a rich stand o+ timber/ with a clear creak running along the base o+ it. Dhen ?awk crested the hillock/ he +ound that most o+ the trees had already been +elled. ?is +ather/ Ling+isher/ and his grand+ather/ "ron Gaw/ were chopping at one o+ the +ew remaining trees while his uncle/ ?ard Corn/ and his cousins tied a +elled and stripped hickory tree to Brand+ather "ron Gaw0s team o+ horses. E?awk DescendingMF ?is +ather called to him. *he young man picked his way around a tangle o+ stripped branches and uprooted brush. E5other ga.e me bread and cheese +or our lunch.F EDid she gi.e you nothing to carry it in but your own ,erkinJF E$o.F ?awk lied. E"t was wrapped in an oil skin that caught on a branch and ripped to shreds. #ut " sa.ed the +ood.F E$o doubt you were climbing among the trees when you should ha.e been walking on the ground like any normal man.F ?is grand+ather spoke in disappro.al. E$e.er mind.F ?is +ather brushed aside the criticism. EDe were getting hungry. Cet0s take a break and eat.F ?awk o++ered bread and cheese to his +ather and grand+ather. E" ha.e my own.F *he elder turned his nose up at the o++ering. ?is +ather tore o++ a hunk o+ bread. E*his bread is .ery dry. Did she send nothing to drinkJF E*he stream isP.F ?awk stopped as he looked at the creak. "t was a muddy mess/ ϋ clogged with downed limbs. ?is +ather noted his pained look. *he man patted his normal shoulder in sympathy. E4ea/ it0s not how " e.er thought to see this hillside. 2specially not by my own hands.F E"t is ,ust tree and brush/F "ron Gaw said. E#etter to get some use o+ it while we can.F ?is +ather shared a Huiet/ pained look with him. *o his +ather-in-law/ he said/ E" only hope it pays enough to make up +or the loss.F E"t might ha.e/F the old man ,udged/ Ei+ you0d had sense enough not to attend that per+ormance like the rest o+ us.F Ling+isher lost his appetite. E"0.e had enough. Cay the rest aside +or later.F *hey got back to work. ?awk piled up stripped limbs and cleared brush while his +ather and grand+ather wielded a3es. *he commons was an empty/ muddy mess in a week0s time. *he wood was sold o++ to pay their +ines. And the new commons they were granted was hal+ the siIe o+ the +ormer. "t was a choked woods o+ spindly/ ailing trees/ di++icult to access/ particularly in the winter.

%I. Making $eace with (oss

?awk was so busy helping to clear the commons that he had no time to practice the +lute +or the ne3t week. Still/ as he worked he listened to the song o+ the woods/ and he o+ten +ound himsel+ humming6and more +reHuently whistling6along with it. Dhile tinged with sadness/ the song was o.erwhelmingly one o+ ,oy. For a while he thought there was something wrong with this mi3ture o+ sadness and ,oy. ?ow could there be ,oy in a +orest that was being clear cutJ Dhat ,oy was there to be +ound in death and destructionJ *hen/ one day as he was clearing brush and branches +rom an area that had been cut se.eral days past/ he made a disco.ery. $ew shoots were pushing up through the soil. *he cleared land was not so barren as he had thought. *he melody came rushing through him and in a +lash he understood why the song was predominantly one o+ ,oy. *here was sadness in the passing o+ the tall trees/ but e.en as they were +elled/ a new +orest was germinating under+oot. Death was not an end/ it was simply a part o+ the ne.er-ending cycle o+ li+e. Cooking hea.enward/ he saw a hawk swoop down o.er the cut +orest. "t do.e at the ground/ stretching its talons at the last moment as it pulled back its wings. And then it was airborne again/ wa+ting its way upward on its power+ul wings. And in its talons it bore a large snake. *he snake hung limp/ its head se.ered by all but a thread. "n that moment/ as he stood on the decimated hillside with new sprouts at his +eet/ watching the hawk +ly away to de.our the dead serpent/ he composed his +irst song. #eginnings and endings are human terms that only hold meaning +or us. Creation has only ,ust now begun/ χ the ending has already come: +or e.ery second lasts centuries. *ime e3ists only +or man. All other creatures/ all but man/ see only e3istence and change. Change they call death and/ as we obser.e/ e.erything changes/ e.erything dies. 2ach second o+ time is a birth and a death: death lost in birth lost in death. ?e didn0t e.en realiIe he was singing out loud until he +inished and a young man working nearby asked/ EDhat song is thatJF E*he Cycle o+ Ci+e/F ?awk answered without thinking. ?is listener was a man named Field 5ouse. Field 5ouse had married a beauti+ul young woman named Spotted Fawn a year ago. *his spring she bore him a son/ but the boy passed away a+ter only a +ew months/ lea.ing his parents to mourn his loss. ?awk +elt sorry that he had .ocaliIed this song o+ birth and death while Field 5ouse stood within hearing. ?e had no intention o+ reopening such a pain+ul wound. E" am sorry.F EDon0t be. Can you sing it again/ please.F *here were tears in the man0s eyes. EAre you sureJF ?awk did not want to make anyone cry. E4es.F

?awk looked around to make sure no one else could hear. *hen he repeated the song word +or word/ note +or note. Field 5ouse had tears +lowing down his cheeks by the time ?awk was done. #ut there was a smile on his +ace. E*hank you. " wish my wi+e could hear this song.F E" can teach it to you.F E" ha.e no .oice.F Field 5ouse paused be+ore he dared ask/ E" wonder i+ you could come to my home with me this e.ening and sing this +or my wi+e. "t would mean a lot.F ECertainly/ " would be happy to do so. Are you sure your wi+e will like it.F EShe needs to hear it.F *hey made arrangements to meet when the day0s work was done. *hen they parted/ each to his labors. NNN #e+ore meeting with Field 5ouse/ ?awk made a side trip through the +orest to +etch his +lute. "t was right where he le+t it. *he oiled skin kept it dry and clean. ?e hesitated a moment be+ore li+ting it to his lips. Dhat i+ he could no longer playJ Dhat i+ he could only play it because Chantien was there/ working his magic through him to help him playJ #ut he heard the song o+ the +orest/ and it bid him to play. ?e drew the +lute to his lips and blew as Chantien had shown him. A note sounded/ so+t and pure. ?e picked up the song o+ the +orest and played a while/ re,oicing that he had not lost touch. *ucking the +lute into his .est/ he hastened back to the cleared commons to meet ϋ Field 5ouse/ who was eager to escort him to his ho.el. Spotted Fawn was waiting +or her husband with a simple meal o+ boiled tubers. Dhen she saw that her husband was accompanied by the town hunchback/ she said only/ E" did not know you were bringing company. "0m a+raid we don0t ha.e much to o++er.F E" will not stay +or dinner/F ?awk said/ thinking to sa.e her o+ the burden o+ hospitality. E#ut you must/F Field 5ouse insisted. E" will ne.er turn any guest away +rom my door.F Spotted Fawn ushered ?awk into the house. E*hough our +are is plain/ we ha.e enough to share.F ?awk sought to make up +or this sorry introduction. E" grate+ully accept. 4ou ha.e a nice house.F E4ou +latter me.F "t was clear that Spotted Fawn was not as taken with ?awk Descending as was her husband. And it was +lattery. *he house was as plain as the meal. *he only +urnishings were a table and some wooden chairs. *here was a crib in one corner/ empty now. "n all/ the interior was rather bleak/ gloomy and unkempt. As Field 5ouse kissed his wi+e/ ?awk noted that she only went through the motion o+ returning his a++ection. Cooking into her heart/ he saw sadness and loss. ?e +elt sorry +or her/ and he wanted to o++er her a little warmth and light. *urning back to her guest/ Spotted Fawn said/ E" am a+raid we cannot o++er much in the way o+ entertainment.F E*hat is not necessary. " ha.e come to entertain you.F

Spotted Fawn ga.e him a look such as he recei.ed o+ten around the .illage. "n this case/ the look said% Q?ow could a piti+ul hunchback like you entertain us.0 E?awk Descending has written a song/F Field 5ouse told his wi+e. EAnd " really want you to hear it.F ?awk drew out his +lute as Field 5ouse spoke. *he sight o+ it surprised both husband and wi+e. EDhere did you get thatJF Field 5ouse asked. E*he ?arper played an instrument like that/F Spotted Fawn obser.ed. E4es/ " had it o+ him.F Spotted Fawn rounded on her husband. E*hings aren0t bad enough without you in.iting trouble into our houseJ 4ou shall ha.e the 5agistrate a+ter us/ and the ?arper tooMF E*he ?arper ga.e me this +lute/F ?awk said. ESure/ he took pity on a hunchback. 5ore likely/ you stole it +rom him.F E?e taught me to play it.F ?awk played a +ew bars o+ a light and mesmeriIing ,ig. Spotted Fawn had to hold her tongue and listen +or a moment in spite o+ hersel+. "t did not last long. #reaking +ree o+ the enchantment/ she shouted him to silence. ESurely/ the whole neighborhood can hear thatM " hope there are no constables nearby.F She hurried o.er to the doorway and looked up and down the street. E" am sorry.F ?awk tucked the +lute away. E" did not think.F E" did not know you were bringing that with you/F Field 5ouse said more gently. E*he +lute can reach into places my poor .oice cannot. " thought it would help to orchestrate the song.F ϋ song with my wi+e as you did with me.F EAll " wanted was +or you to share the E" can do that/F ?awk bowed his head/ Ei+ you still wish.F E" don0t know.F Field 5ouse reconsidered. E5aybe it would be best i+ you le+t now.F EDid you enchant my husband with some song o+ the ?arperJF Spotted Fawn accused. E$o/ it is a song " made mysel+/ ,ust today.F ?awk made ready to escape. E*he song ga.e me healing and acceptance/F Field 5ouse told his wi+e. E" thought it would do the same +or you.F E?eal me o+ what6the loss o+ my babe.F Spotted Fawn turned on her husband. E" doubt any song could do that.F E"t was worth a try.F *o ?awk/ Field 5ouse said/ EDhy did you ha.e to bring that +lute with you.F E" am sorry.F ?awk Descending shambled toward the door/ but Spotted Fawn would not step aside and let him pass. E" want to hear it.F Spotted Fawn glowered at him. ESing this song that has mesmeriIed my husband and made him +orget his son. #ut do not e3pect the bond between a mother and her child to pro.e so weak.F EPlease let me lea.e.F ?awk kept his head down. E$o/F Spotted Fawn re+used. ESing +or me.F ?awk glanced at Field 5ouse/ who o++ered the slightest o+ nods. *aking a deep breath/ ?awk said/ E>ery well. First " must redisco.er the melody.F

?e closed his eyes and listened +or the song o+ Spotted Fawn. "t was a slow and keening lament that he heard. Puckering his lips/ he whistled the melody o+ her song. ?e had ne.er heard such a sorrow+ul lament/ empty and un+orgi.ing. ?e wanted to break o++ and run +rom the house. Chancing to look up/ he saw how stricken Spotted Fawn was by this +ull e3pression o+ the mourning inside o+ her. ?e worried that she would succumb any moment. Field 5ouse stood at her side/ not daring to mo.e or e.en breathe. ?awk Descending closed his eyes and continued to whistle. *his lament was unremitting. "+ he continued it +or too long/ it was likely to strangle them all. *he only song he had e.er heard that bore any similarity was the lament o+ the commons/ but that at least was tempered with renewal. And with that/ he realiIed the trouble with Spotted Fawn0s lament. She would not let it go. She held hersel+/ and her husband/ trapped inside her loss. Something caused him to open his eyes and look at the crib. *here he saw the ghost o+ their baby/ crying and clinging to the bars/ trying to reach +or his mother. "n re+using to let go o+ her grie+/ Spotted Fawn had imprisoned the spirit o+ her baby/ not allowing it to mo.e on. And with this .ision/ ?awk knew what he must do. ?e subtly altered the melody/ taking the unremitting edge o++ o+ it/ allowing it to so+ten and change. ?e trans+ormed the melody +rom the song o+ the mother to the song o+ the baby0s spirit/ crying +or release. Spotted Fawn began +irst to sob/ and then to cry. Field 5ouse reached out +or her/ but she resisted. Dhen the trans+ormation o+ the melody was complete/ ?awk let it go. ?e stopped whistling and began to sing his composition *he Cycle o+ Ci+e. And with this song/ Spotted Fawn +inally released her grie+. She hugged her husband and cried/ looking o.er ϋ his shoulder at the empty crib. Dith his inner sight/ ?awk saw that she was letting go o+ her child. *he spirit o+ the baby le+t the crib. "t started to ascend. *hen it paused and sent a +resh thread to touch its mother0s womb. ?awk knew that Spotted Fawn would concei.e again/ and soon. She would be gi.en a second chance to bring her son into the world. Dhen he +inished his song/ he whistled again/ a light melody o+ promise and renewal/ which brought +resh tears +rom mother and +ather alike. *hey hugged and kissed/ consoling each other with their lo.e. ?awk +inished the melody and silently took his lea.e/ knowing they needed to be alone together. ?awk Descending needed to be alone as well/ so he returned to the woods/ where he meditated on what happened this e.ening. ?e stayed out late into the night/ playing his +lute +or the woods and +or himsel+.

%II. The '#thentic Song and the )fficial *ord ?awk now knew with certainty what he must do. For a week he slipped away whene.er he could to practice his +lute. ?e was kept busy cleaning brush and trimming branches as his +amily mo.ed on to clear his grand+ather0s allotment/ so there was not much time le+t +or musical studies. ?e took to whistling as he worked/ testing his memory o+ the +ew tunes he knew/ and impro.ising new tunes on the spot.

9+ten as he whistled/ he would slip into the song o+ the land about him. Dhen he did so/ he would emphasiIe moti+s o+ renewal/ and he thought the land responded. ?e noted healthy saplings spreading +resh +oliage o.er his +ather0s allotment and other areas that had been cleared early on. 9thers took note o+ this growth as well. Se.eral times/ men paused +rom their work to measure saplings that grew as much in one week as would normally reHuire a year or more. Some said they could see a measurable di++erence o.ernight. *his growth was taken as a sign o+ pro.idence/ a blessing o+ the gods/ who saw their need and granted this boon. *he re,u.enating lands were .iewed as sacred. Few tread through them/ and those who did were care+ul o+ e.ery step/ aware they were on hollowed land. *he most knowledgeable shook their heads in wonder and said that at this rate the old commons would be completely regrown within a couple o+ years. *hey cleared the rest o+ the old commons with a new +aith. *he gods were looking a+ter them. Dith the new commons allotted to them/ and this re,u.enation o+ the old/ many saw a new age o+ prosperity ahead. "n ,ust a +ew years/ they could har.est the old commons again and li.e well o++ the pro+its. *here were some who +elt the regrowth should not be har.ested again. *hey had been blessed with a miracle and should not take ad.antage o+ it. *hey lobbied to make the old commons into a sacred shrine to the nature gods. Cutting the new growth would de+ile this miracle and call down calumny upon them. *here was much debating among the .illagers as to what should be done about the old commons. ?awk stayed out o+ it/ not that anyone was interested in the opinion o+ the .illage hunchback. ?e went on with his work/ whistling as he did so. And in spare moments/ he wandered into the areas o+ ϋ regrowth/ whistling a special melody to the saplings there. "+ anyone obser.ed him/ they paid him no mind. *hey certainly said nothing about his odd beha.ior. *he only person who had any inkling o+ what ?awk was doing was the young man/ Field 5ouse. ?e would occasionally stop to watch the hunchback whistling to the saplings/ and to o++er up a silent blessing o+ his own. Field 5ouse owed ?awk Descending a great debt. A+ter the e.ening when ?awk .isited his home and sang +or he and his wi+e/ his li+e changed +or the better. Spotted Fawn opened her heart to him and was now more lo.ing and attenti.e than e.er. And both o+ them knew without any need to say it that they would be blessed with more children. Dhene.er Field 5ouse met ?awk Descending in town or in the old commons/ he o++ered the hunchback a little nod and a slight smile. ?e wanted to go down on his knee and bow be+ore him. #ut he knew this would cause trouble among the other townspeople. $or did ?awk wish to be worshipped. ?is small show o+ gratitude and +riendship was more than enough +or the hunchback. *he other townspeople ignored ?awk Descending/ or made him the butt o+ their ,okes. Dhen one o+ them was angry about anything/ the hunchback pro.ided him or her with someone on whom to take it out. For the most part/ they ignored his whistling. 9n occasion/ ?awk would take up the melody o+ someone nearby without realiIing it. Dhen he did so/ the person would ine.itably le.el a look at him as though he had .iolated his pri.acy/ without and understanding o+ why he +elt this way. 7nder the glare/ ?awk would break o++ whistling and hurry away/ lest he incur some more physical wrath.

Dithin the week o+ Chantien0s per+ormance/ a town crier was installed in their .illage. *wice a day he would walk through the .illage/ calling out the .irtues o+ the 2mperor/ the 5agistrate/ the 5ayor and the Chie+ Constable. ?e also deli.ered any news o+ the empire that was brought to him. 5any o+ the .illagers made a special point o+ stopping whate.er they were doing in order to listen to his tidings. Crow Shadow would come out o+ her house to listen alongside her neighbors. And "ron Gaw would lea.e the commons where he was working to hear the news. ?awk Descending listened the +irst +ew times that the crier attended to his duties. ?e noted ma,or di++erences o+ .iewpoint between the announcements o+ the crier/ and the news brought to them by the ?arper/ Chantien. According to the crier/ the 2mperor stood +or e.erything glorious in the world/ and the empire was the crowning achie.ement o+ ci.iliIation. ?e spoke o+ brigands/ bands o+ miscreant workers ,ealous o+ the owners and the 2mperor/ who hid in the countryside and held up merchants and other tra.elers. 9rders came +rom the 2mperor by way o+ the 5agistrate to bee+ up the constabulary and pursue these highwaymen in the surrounding territory. *ra.elers were warned to be care+ul. "t was known that a large band o+ these robbers resided in the +orests outside o+ town. *wenty young men were dra+ted into the constabulary/ Field 5ouse among them. *heir ,ob was to patrol the road to town/ pursuing any robbers and taking them be+ore the 5agistrate. *he sentence +or highway robbery was death by hanging. Crow Shadow worried about her son. She implored him to stay out o+ the woods/ lest he run a+oul o+ bandits. ?awk tried to assure her there was no sign o+ anyone in the +orests/ other than him. ?ad there been one outlaw hiding there/ much less a gang o+ them/ ?awk would ha.e been aware o+ their e.ery mo.ement. ?is mother would not listen to him/ placing her +aith instead in the word o+ the crier. She +orbade ?awk to .enture into the +orests. ?awk Descending continued to go there/ without telling his mother. Field 5ouse once approached him to suggest that he become a scout +or the constabulary. ?awk told him/ as well/ that there were no brigands in the +orest. Cike his mother/ Field 5ouse chose to belie.e the town crier instead. *here were no highway robberies in the countryside surrounding the .illage. *he town crier/ the constabulary and the .illagers all attributed this to the .igilance o+ the constabulary. *he town crier told them word had gone out among the brigands to a.oid this territory/ where ,ustice was swi+t/ certain and merciless. Still/ the crier warned them to be care+ul should they .enture out o+ town. *he crier also told them the empire was plagued by the Bloriosi. *hey were portrayed as wanderers who told +ortunes and cast spells +or a +ee. "n reality/ according to the crier/ they were all liars/ cheats and thie.es. "t was their special mission to spread disenchantment with the empire. "t was suspected that many o+ the Bloriosi were in league with the highwaymen. 9nce the Crier related how the 2mperor0s troops rooted out a band o+ Bloriosi and herded them to the capital/ where they were put to the Huestion. "n the end/ they con+essed their crimes/ e.en admitting that +rom earliest childhood they were trained in black magic. *heir con+essions were published and all o+ them were put to death/ right down to the youngest baby. A+terwards/ the 2mperor proclaimed in his wisdom that none should su++er a Bloriosi to li.e.

5any o+ the Bloriosi took re+uge in the neighboring kingdom o+ Latai. Dhen they made incursions back into the empire/ troops would pursue them to the border. *he Bloriosi e3acerbated tensions between the two lands/ and there were e.en rumors o+ war i+ the Latai continued to grant the Bloriosi re+uge. *he news as presented by the town crier could not be more opposed to the .iews o++ered by Chantien. 23cept +or ?awk Descending/ the .illagers took this as proo+ that the ?arper lied to them. ?awk knew the onus placed upon the ?arper to speak the truth. Dhat is more/ he heard Chantien0s song/ and there+ore understood that he could not per+orm but +or the strength o+ his integrity. And so it must be the *own Crier who twisted the +acts. *he *own Crier made no sacred oath to tell the truth. ?e claimed to speak +or the 5agistrate and the 2mperor/ and while this ga.e him authority in the eyes o+ the .illage/ it was no indication o+ the .eracity o+ his reports. "ndeed/ as ?awk saw it/ the crier0s allegiance to the 2mperor was in itsel+ an admission o+ bias. Dhile the rest o+ the .illage grew to depend on the crier/ and adopted his .iews as their own/ ?awk disregarded e.erything the man said.

Part Three — !ne"ies of the State %III. The Tr#th abo#t Strangers *hen one day/ ?awk did +ind strangers hiding in the +orest. "t was late in the a+ternoon/ +ollowing a day spent clearing dead brush +rom what remained o+ the old commons. ?e had returned home with his +ather +or dinner. A+terwards he .olunteered to haul trash to the .illage dumping grounds. A+ter disposing o+ the garbage/ he snuck out into the woods/ retrie.ed his +lute/ and climbed +rom tree to tree until he was certain no one +rom the .illage would hear him. ?e settled into a shoulder between a limb and the trunk o+ a large maple/ and was about to play his +lute/ when he heard the noise o+ someone trampling through the underbrush. $o/ it was two people. ?e thought o+ tracking them down/ but soon realiIed there was no need. *hey were heading toward him. Satis+ied that he was well hidden/ he sat still and listened to their noisy passage through the +orest below. Soon he caught sight o+ them. *here was a man in his mid-thirties/ and a boy o+ no more than ten. *he man carried a hunting bow in his hand/ and a Huarrel o+ arrows was slung o.er his shoulder. From his belt hung a +reshly slain rabbit. *he man at least made some attempt at stealth. "t was the boy who made most o+ the noise. *he lad trudged along/ kicking up dead lea.es and rattling branches. ?e seemed downhearted about something. Presently/ he glanced sidelong at the man and said/ E"0m sorry " missed that sHuirrel.F E*hat0s okay/F the man/ ob.iously the boy0s +ather/ assured him. E#ut " lost us another arrow.F EDe ha.e more arrows.F EFew enough.F E"t was worth the price/ i+ you learned your lesson% ne.er loose an arrow in haste.F
ϋ

E" know/F the boy recited +rom rote/ Ene.er let go until you +eel the shot already striking home. #ut " was sure " had it/ Da.F EDere youJF *he man stopped and looked at his son. E9r were you sure that i+ you did not loose the arrow soon/ your Huarry would get awayJF *he boy thought a moment/ and then nodded. *he +ather patted him on the back o+ the head. E"t is nothing to be ashamed about/ so long as you learn +rom the e3perience.F E4eah/ but that one rabbit0s little enough +or all o+ us.F E"t is better than nothing.F *he +ather set out again/ passing right under the tree where ?awk perched. EDho knows/ perhaps we will kick up something else on our way back.F E5aybe we0ll +ind a harteMF *he boy0s disappointment disappeared. EA big harte that will +eed us +or a week6or e.en a month. *hen we could stop tra.eling +or a spell. *hat would make me so happyMF E5aybe.F "n that one word/ the +ather reached +or his son0s anticipation/ though his .oice held too much o+ sadness and disappointment. *hey went on their way/ the boy +ull o+ hope/ and the +ather hardly daring to hope. ?awk Descending watched them a while longer. *he +ather clearly knew some wood lore/ but they were dressed as city +olk. *rue/ their clothes were old/ possibly casto++s. #ut something about them said they were city-bred/ especially the boy. And they had a +amily waiting +or them. *hough it was doubt+ul they had permission to hunt in the 2mperor0s +orests/ ?awk could tell they were not outlaws. 5ost o+ the .illagers hunted in the +orests without ϋ taking game/ +ish and +irewood without a permission. ?awk li.ed there +or days at a time/ license. *he constables rarely troubled themsel.es about it unless they were +aced with a poacher hunting +or pro+it. $o/ these were normal +olk/ much like he and the other .illagers. Curious as to their purpose in tra.eling through this land/ ?awk tucked away his +lute and +ollowed a+ter them. ?e tra.eled so silently/ neither the son nor the +ather had any inkling they were being tailed. #e+ore they e.en reached their destination/ ?awk Descending knew where they were going. *he creek that ran through the old commons wound its way through the woods until it emptied into a small lake. *he +orest opened up here/ gi.ing way to grassy hills and marshy bottoms. *hough not suited +or +armland/ it was a good spot +or hunting/ camping and +ishing. *here was many a campsite and +ire pit atop the hills. Bame birds and water+owl were plenti+ul in the bottoms/ and the lake held many +ish. Sure enough/ +ather and son made +or a hilltop ad,acent to the pond/ where the rest o+ the +amily waited +or them. *here was the mother/ two young girls/ and a small boy. *he mother nursed an in+ant in +ront o+ the small +ire/ while the oldest daughter tended camp and the other children chased +ire+lies. From a high perch on the edge o+ the +orest/ ?awk watched as +ather and son re,oined their +amily. *he children gathered round to see what game the hunters had bagged. *hey oh0ed and ah0ed o.er the rabbit. "t was a large specimen/ but it would not go +ar among the si3 o+ them. *he +ather and mother/ and the oldest son/ knew this. #ut they said nothing/ content to make the most o+ what little they had.

E2lise/F the mother called to the oldest daughter/ Eget the kettle and +ill it with water. De will ha.e a stew.F *he daughter0s name con+irmed they were city people. ?awk Descending had long heard that city dwellers lost the way o+ naming their children in honor o+ the land about them. *hey bore two names% their clan name and a common name. And neither name bore any relation to who they truly were. "t must be con+using/ with so many Da.yds and 5aras/ and whole +amilies o+ #urrows and Cruppers. ?ow did anyone know who they really wereJ ?awk reached out to hear the songs o+ this +amily. *hey were a con+used bunch/ out o+ touch with their true nature: but they were good people/ as their songs were +ull o+ innocence and purity. *he +ather0s song came through the clearest/ bearing out ?awk0s intuition that the man was not originally a city dweller. ?is song wanted to ,oin with the land around him/ though it held back. *here was something restraining him/ and something sad about his song as well. *he mother0s was +ull o+ lo.e and sadness. She used her song almost entirely to harmoniIe the songs o+ all her +amily/ lea.ing .ery little +or hersel+. And her song was weak/ as were all o+ their songs. *heir songs spoke o+ troubles/ po.erty and lack. "t was clear to ?awk they had not eaten in a long time. *hey were all undernourished. *he older children kept their songs muted where a healthy child would sing loud and +ree. *hey were guarding themsel.es/ so as not to deplete what little they had. *he younger children sang with less inhibition/ but their songs seemed to come and go/ starting and stopping like the +ire+lies they had been chasing. *he in+ant sang in a pure though slight .oice/ announcing its e3istence and ϋ e3claiming in wonder at the world in which it +ound itsel+. Dith a start/ ?awk Descending realiIed he knew this little one0s .oice. "t was identical to the .oice o+ Field 5ouse and Spotted Fawn0s dead child. *hough where the .oice o+ that spirit cried +or release and return/ this in+ant cried to +ind itsel+. ?ow could this beJ ?awk had seen the spirit o+ the dead babe reach out to plant itsel+ back in its mother0s womb e.en as it departed. ?e was sure Spotted Fawn would soon be pregnant with her son0s second coming. Could it be that this planting had not taken/ and so the spirit cast about +or another hostJ ?awk had to +ind out what was going on here. *his +amily needed help. >ery clearly/ they were star.ing. A thin stew o+ one small rabbit would not be enough to +eed them. From their songs/ ?awk Descending could tell the mother and +ather were skimping on their own meals to gi.e their children more. *he mother/ in particular/ was weak as she nursed her baby and ga.e her energy to the rest o+ her +amily. ?awk decided to approach them and gi.e them what aid he could. Climbing down +rom the trees/ he drew his +lute and prepared to play. Coming on them unannounced would startle the entire +amily and make them wary/ and he had no desire to do that. >ery so+tly/ he played a tune that harmoniIed with their own songs. ?e played Huietly +or a while/ then increased his .olume until he was sure his +lute was heard. ?e emerged +rom the +orest to +ind all o+ the children standing at the edge o+ their camp/ waiting to catch a glimpse o+ the musician. *heir +ather stood ,ust behind them/ bow in hand/ ready to greet a stranger or protect his +amily/ as need be. *he mother continued to nurse her baby by the camp+ire.

Pretending to ha.e ,ust caught sight o+ them/ ?awk stopped playing and wa.ed his +lute at them/ calling out/ EDell metMF EDell met/ minstrelMF *he +ather let down his guard. Aware o+ the +igure he must present/ ?awk Descending tried not to shamble too much as he climbed the hill and closed the distance between them. E" am no minstrel/ ,ust a commoner +rom the .illage Path0s 2nd/ on the +ar side o+ yonder +orest.F EPath0s 2ndJF the +ather echoed. E*hen we ha.e reached the +arm lands o+ the $estled Plains.F E*he $estled Plains truly begin another day0s tra.el +rom Path0s 2nd/ or so "0m told. 4ou will be in the hills until you reach Fo3 @un.F Dith these words/ ?awk closed the distance between them. ?e bowed to the +ather. E" am ?awk Descending/ son o+ Ling+isher and Crow Shadow.F E" am @oban 5eechum.F @oban held out a hand. ?awk heard o+ this city custom o+ shaking hands. ?e reached out his hand/ and @oban took it and pumped it up and down. E4onder is my wi+e/ Agnis. And this is our brood.F E4ou are a minstrel.F *he youngest girl said in wonder. ?awk ignored the way the children eyed his hunch. E$o/ ,ust a commoner.F E4ou play the +lute as well as any minstrel " ha.e heard/F @oban allowed. E*hank you.F ?awk ducked his head again. E" had a good teacher.F EGoin us +or dinner.F @oban in.ited. EAnd then maybe we can ha.e some music/ i+ you don0t mind.F *he children made a chorus o+ sHueals and a++irmations. ϋ E@obanMF *he mother called them short. E4es/ my dearest.F @oban attended to his wi+e. EDe don0t ha.e enough +or us/F Agnis said in an aside that ?awk politely pretended hot to hear. E5y dearest/F @oban said. E5usic makes a light heart/ and a light heart is easier to +ill than a hea.y one.F ?awk had no intention o+ eating what little they had. "ndicating @oban0s bow/ he said/ E#een huntingJ *his is a good land +or it.F EAh/F @oban said. E" managed to take a hare in the +orest.F E*he bottoms here are where the best hunting is +ound.F ?awk pointed to a thicket o+ grasses and cattails at the base o+ the hill. E"0ll .enture that a walk through that thicket would kick up plenty o+ game. "+ the children would help me sweep through/ we can gi.e you opportunity to show o++ your archery without lea.ing the campsite.F E" should like to see that/F @oban said. EDe don0t want to trouble you/F Agnis countered. E"t is no trouble +or me/F ?awk assured her. E@ather/ the trouble will be yours/ as you will ha.e to do all the cleaning and cooking.F E" am eHual to the task.F E>ery good then.F 9+ the children/ ?awk asked/ EDhat are your namesJF *he +ather answered +or them. E5y eldest is named @oban/ a+ter his da. $e3t is 2lise. And the younger two are 5air and 4oseph.F *he children crowded around/ ready +or instructions. E@oban and 2lise/ you will accompany me. And you two/F he spoke to 5air and 4oseph/ Estay with your da.F

EAwwMF 4oseph wanted to help/ like his older brother. E4ours is an important ,ob/F ?awk told him. EDhen your da hits his mark/ you must race o.er and retrie.e the priIe. 4ou must watch closely/ so as not to lose any game that crawls o++ to die. And be care+ul when retrie.ing% a stricken animal can turn +ierce in its last moments.F 4oseph brightened. ?awk Descending led the older children to the +ar side o+ the thicket. *here @oban and 2lise +ound long branches to beat the grasses. ?awk stationed them se.eral yards out/ to either side o+ him. EFollow my lead/F he told them. Drawing his +lute/ ?awk +elt +or the song o+ the thicket. ?e played this song/ calling out to all o+ the animals who inhabited the tall grasses. *he children waited impatiently. ?awk Descending added nuances to the song/ e3pressing the hunger o+ the +amily encamped close by. *hen he called +or the animals li.ing here to answer this need/ sharing in their abundance. $odding to @oban and 2lise/ he paraded through the middle o+ the thicket. *he elder children +lanked him/ +lailing with their sticks. Dithin a +ew +eet/ they chased up a co.ey o+ Huail. *he +ather managed to take two on the wing6.ery good shooting +or an archer. #y the time they reached the +ar side o+ the thicket/ the +ather had also bagged two pheasants/ a duck/ +our red-winged blackbirds/ and a large woodchuck. ?e had to put two arrows into the woodchuck be+ore it died. 4oseph bore it proudly up to the campsite. Cea.ing the thicket/ the elder children raced up the hill to help clean the game. ?awk tarried a while longer to do some +oraging. Dhen he topped the hill/ the +ather again shook his hand. ϋ we0.e had since lea.ing the city so many E*hank you. *hat is the best hunting months ago.F Agnis smiled at him as she added meat to the pot. ?awk o++ered her his hat/ +ull o+ cattail tubers/ and a couple o+ leeks. EPeel these and add them to the stew. *hey will gi.e it more substance.F E*hank you.F She took the .egetables. EDe will ha.e Huite a +east.F ?awk drew a hand+ul o+ berries +rom his pocket/ o++ering them to 5aire and 4oseph. E*here0s a large patch o+ huckleberries down there as well.F *he children eyed the berries. 5aire ate one/ and e3claimed about how good it was. 4oseph piled se.eral into his mouth. E"+ you kids can +ind them/ they will make a nice dessert/F ?awk suggested. *he children looked to their mother +or permission. 4oseph0s chin was stained with berry ,uice. E*ake the bucket with you.F Agnis chuckled. EAnd don0t eat too many/ you0ll spoil your appetite.F 5aire grabbed a leather bucket and the two youngsters raced down the hill to pick berries. @oban senior laughed to see his +amily so well pro.ided. E" ne.er would ha.e thought to +ind such abundance right at our +eet.F E4ou ,ust ha.e to know where to look/F ?awk told him. E"0.e hal+ a notion to build a house right here.F E*hat wouldn0t be such a good idea/F ?awk ad.ised. E*his is part o+ the 2mperor0s +orests. *he local constabulary allows hunting here/ and short term camping.

#ut they0d be sure to run you o++ i+ they caught you building a house. *he 5agistrate would slap you with a period o+ indenture until you paid o++ the damage you0d done.F @oban grimaced. E*here0s little le+t but crumbs +or the common +olk to +ight o.er in this empire.F ?e shared a look with his wi+e. ESadly true/F ?awk agreed. EAnd the 2mperor seems intent on taking what little we do ha.e.F E*he 2mperor proclaims the +reedom o+ the market.F @oban spat. E#ah/ in this empire you are only as +ree as the money in your pocket. And the ma,ority o+ the wealth is horded by the 2mperor and his cronies/ while the rest o+ us are le+t with empty pockets.F EDon0t speak against the 2mperor.F Agnis warned her husband. EDho will hear me/ but our +riend hereJF @oban demanded. E"t was speaking against the 2mperor that lost you your ,ob/ and our home/ and dro.e us +rom the city ,ust ahead o+ the 2mperor0s troops/F Agnis reminded him. E"+ you don0t mind that tongue o+ yours/ we0ll ne.er be welcome anywhere.F E"0ll watch my tongue when we0re among others. #ut out here where there are none to hear/ "0ll en,oy what little +reedom " do ha.e.F ?e shouted o.er the hills and the lake. E*he 2mperor is a thie+MF ?awk in.oluntarily looked about him/ at the enshadowed hills/ the still +orest and the Huiet lake. EDo not practice your +reedom too loudly/ e.en here. Such a proclamation tra.els +ar/ and this area o+ the 2mperor0s lands does ha.e ears.F @oban caught himsel+ as he was about to shout again. E9hJF E*he constabulary maintains patrols along the 2mperor0s @oad. *hey0re e.er on ϋ the watch +or highwaymen. *he word is that many disgruntled workers ha.e le+t the cities +or a li+e o+ brigandry/ preying on the merchants and ta3 collectors who ply the roads.F @oban laughed. EAnd so they turn the country +olk against us as well. *he city dwellers are sorely oppressed. #etween the piti+ul wages and the ta3es/ there is nothing le+t to +eed a +amily but charity. And there is too little o+ that to go around.F E"t is much the same out here in the country/F ?awk obser.ed. E2.ery day the 5agistrate car.es down what little we do ha.e/ and then bleeds the rest with +ines and ta3es.F E"+ the country +olk would ,oin us/F @oban dared hope/ Ethere0s no way the 2mperor could stand against us.F ECittle hope o+ that/F ?awk said. E*he +olk in my town do not understand city people. *hey are .iewed as spoiled and pampered/ li.ing o++ what our hard work pro.ides with no gratitude.F E$ot true/F @oban protested. E5ost city +olk are star.ed and worked to death.F EDe ha.e a town crier who deli.ers the news o+ the 2mpire e.ery day/F ?awk told him. E" ha.e thought that most o+ what he says is propaganda/ but people belie.e him because he speaks with the authority o+ the 2mperor. *he crier is always telling o+ murder and mayhem in the cities/ and o+ the outlaws +rom the cities who ha.e taken to the countryside to prey on innocent tra.elers. 2.ery day he bears word o+ an outlying town that was sacked in the neighboring pro.ince.F EDhat rotMF EAnd the 5agistrate has bee+ed up the constabulary to patrol our roads. *hey arrest anyone who has no good reason +or being on the roads. *hose who are arrested are

put to the Huestion until they con+ess/ and then they are e3ecuted. "+ you ha.e no coin in your pockets/ it is not sa+e to tra.el these roads.F Agnis turned to her husband. EDhat are we to doJF E" would suggest you go back the way you came.F ?awk counseled. E*hat we cannot/F @oban stated. E*hen tra.el at night/F ?awk ad.ised. EAnd gi.e the roads and the town a wide berth.F E*his is sorry news you bring us/F @oban said. E" had hoped things were better in the country. De thought to +ind a +armer in need o+ laborers.F EAnd maybe you shall at some isolated +arm. #ut be wary o+ who you approach.F E?mmm.F @oban looked at his children listening silently/ and saw the new apprehension in their eyes. E" shall ha.e to think on this. "t is too bad we cannot dwell here.F EAye/ it is/F ?awk agreed. E4ou are good people/ and " wish " had better tidings +or you.F EDell/F @oban a++ected some small cheer/ Eyou ha.e brought us a +east.F ESpeaking o+ which/F Agnis chimed in/ Esupper is ready.F *his brought the children to li+e. Soon they were all eating the delicious stew.

%IV. The Monkey and the rocodile A+terward supper/ the children begged +or music. ESoon enough/F ?awk told them. EFirst we must clean these dishes.F E$onsense/F Agnis insisted. E4ou are our honored guest. Play your pipe while the rest o+ us clean up. *he music will make the work go +aster.F E>ery well/ then.F ?awk drew out his +lute. ?e thought o+ the pond and the wetlands/ the +orests and meadows/ and he thought o+ the long road this +amily had tra.eled. Surely there must be a place here +or these good people. *hen he began to play/ a tune o+ the land/ the long ,ourney and the home waiting at the end o+ the road. *he 5eechum0s worked Huietly and soon had the dishes washed. *he kettle o+ stew was co.ered and le+t to warm by the +ire. "t would +eed them again on the morrow. Dith their chores done/ the children +ound seats at ?awk0s +eet. Agnis nursed her babe by the camp+ire/ and @oban sat by her side/ smoking his pipe. $o one spoke/ so attenti.e were they to ?awk0s tune. Dhen +inally he brought the music to resolution/ @oban o++ered a word o+ praise. E" ha.e heard minstrels enough/ and e.en a ?arper or two/ and " must say% you are no common piper. 9nly a trained ?arper could play like that.F ?awk Descending bowed his head at the compliment. E0*was a ?arper taught me to play. Dhen he passes this way again/ he has promised to take me as his apprentice.F EAnd i+ he doesn0t/ get yoursel+ to the ?arper0s ?all at ?ighbridge. 4ou ha.e too much talent to waste out here playing +or naught but the hills and the likes o+ us.F E" could not ask +or a better audience/F ?awk demurred. *he thought o+ going to the ?all at ?ighbridge kindled a +ire within. Funny that he had ne.er thought o+ attending the ?all. ?e had not +elt himsel+ worthy. Simply apprenticing himsel+ to Chantien was a
ϋ

bigger dream than he dared hope only a month be+ore. E?a.e you e.er been to ?ighbridgeJF EAye/ we ha.e/F @oban a++irmed/ Eas it is the only bridge crossing the @i.er Caird between here and Castlebury.F EAnd did you stop by the ?all o+ the ?arpersJF E*hat we did. "t is a grand building/ se.eral +loors high/ and it takes up +ully hal+ the town. *he practice o+ the initiates +ills the air with music and magic. Dhen all o+ the ?arpers ,oin together to play up the sun at morn and play it down at night/ the concordance o+ their song blesses the land +or miles around. Dhy " was o++ered a place there mysel+6E Agnis poked her husband in the ribs. EBo on/ @oban. Don0t be telling your stories with a true born ?arper seated be+ore ya.F E0*is true/F her husband insisted. EDas " not o++ered a position at the ?arper0s ?all.F E0*was only a temporary ,ob helping in the stables during the 2mperor0s .isit.F EAnd it would ha.e led to something permanent/ had there not been that row between the 2mperor and the Council o+ ?arpers. Das " not o++ered an auditionJF E0*was the open audition on the e.e o+ the +ull moon.F *o ?awk/ she e3plained/ E*hey o++er a +ree public stage at the +ull moon to any who would per+orm. $ow and then an apprenticeship is o++ered to them that ha.e true talent. $ot to big winded braggarts/F she added with an eye to her husband. E" was working up a good act o+ ,uggling and balancing.F @oban +ished three rocks out o+ his pocket and began to ,uggle them. ?e did +ine enough until he missed a ϋ rock that landed on his toe. EAnd that0s the best you0.e e.er managed.F Agnis laughed along with the children as @oban groaned o.er his sore toe. E2nough o+ your stories.F E4es/ a storyMF @oban Gunior e3claimed. EA storyM A storyMF All o+ the children took up the cry/ turning to ?awk Descending. EDell/ let me see i+ " can come up with something +or you.F ?awk +ished around. ?e thought o+ the .illage and the countryside/ and he thought o+ his li+e. *here wasn0t much there o+ which to make a story. E9+ what would you like to hearJF EA monkeyMF Cittle 4oseph chimed in. EA monkey/ is itJF ?awk looked out upon the woods. EDell/ then/ there was a monkey that dwelt in the woods outside o+ town. ?e liked to .enture into the town where he would steal +ood and get into all sorts o+ mischie+. *he .illagers were always trying to catch him so they could put an end to his shenanigans/ but the monkey was much too sly +or them. E*here was a ri.er that +lowed through the woods and by the side o+ the .illage. 9nce a week/ the women would bring their washing down to the ri.er. *here was a young mother named 5ourning Do.e who had a little baby/ like your brother there.F E5ikal/F 4oseph put in. EDhy/ yes/ 5ikal was the baby0s name. 5ourning Do.e would bring 5ikal swaddled in blankets/ and lea.e him on the ri.erbank as she washed her laundry. All the women kept an eye on 5ikal to make sure he did not crawl too close to the water. 5ourning Do.e tried to time her laundry so that 5ikal was taking one o+ his long naps.F

?awk paused +rom his narrati.e long enough to tell the children/ ECoincidentally/ 5ikal was the name o+ the monkey as well.F E$o.F @oban Gunior scrunched up his +ace. E5onkey0s don0t ha.e names.F ESure they do.F EDogs ha.e names/F 2lise pointed out. EAnd cats too.F E4es/ but that0s because they are pets.F @oban would ha.e none o+ it. EDe gi.e them names.F E5um and Da ga.e us our names/F his sister argued. E#ut they are ours all the same.F EAnd the children o+ the .illage ga.e 5ikal his name long ago. *hey did that so they would ha.e someone else to blame when they had a mishap. Q" didn0t do it/ 5ikal did it.0F E"t wasn0t right o+ them to blame 5ikal/F 4oseph spoke up. From the sour look he ga.e his siblings/ it was clear that he had o+ten been used as a scapegoat. E$o/ it wasn0t.F ?awk agreed. ?e returned to the story. E*he women o+ this .illage were noted +or the brilliantly colored cloth they wo.e. "t was said that the clothing o+ their women put the sunset to shame. And nobody was a bigger +an o+ their brightly colored cloth than 5ikal the monkey. ?e always came down to the ri.erbank to watch them on laundry day. *he women had long since learned to keep a close eye on him/ lest he steal some color+ul item while their backs were turned. E9ne day/ 5ourning Do.e brought her in+ant to the ri.er swaddled in a sheet o+ the brightest/ purest red. *he baby was sleeping soundly/ and she le+t him a sa+e distance +rom the ri.er as she ,oined the other women washing clothes. ϋ and he ,ust had to ha.e it. Dhen he saw E5ikal/ the monkey/ saw the red sheet where 5ourning Do.e le+t it/ he knew it was le+t there +or him. 9therwise/ she would ha.e taken it down to the water with the other laundry. 2.erybody knew better than to lea.e color+ul cloth lying distant. So he crept o.er to the bundle o+ red/ ready to take it and run +or the trees be+ore anyone could stop him. EDhat about the babyJF Cittle 5aire wondered. E*he in+ant was sound asleep/F ?awk e3plained. E?e wasn0t mo.ing or making a sound. *he monkey snatched hold o+ the red cloth and turned to run +or the trees. And ,ust then the baby awoke with a sHuall. 5ikal looked into the bundle and +ound himsel+ nose to nose with a wailing/ writhing in+ant. #aby 5ikal lashed out a hand and bopped the monkey on the nose. EStartled/ the monkey dropped the bundle. All the women were screaming at him. 5ourning Do.e ran towards him/ shouting/ Q5ikal/ my babyM0 E5ikal le+t the bundle where it was and raced to the sa+ety o+ the trees. *here he watched with some interest as the mother reco.ered her in+ant/ checking to make sure her baby was not in,ured. 9ne o+ the bigger women came o.er to the tree where 5ikal was ensconced. E04ou ha.e always been a troublemaker/ but you ha.e ne.er be+ore tried to steal a baby. 4ou are a bad monkey/0 she admonished him. E4ou had best straighten up/ or we will hunt you down and put an end to youM0 E?e didn0t know the baby was in there/F 4oseph de+ended the monkey. E$o/F ?awk agreed. E#ut they did not know that.F

E5ourning Do.e cradled her baby until he went back to sleep. She had to +inish her laundry yet/ but she did not dare to take another chance with the monkey/ so she brought her baby right down to the water0s edge/ where she could keep a close eye on him. E$ow it ,ust so happened that a large and +erocious crododile was making its way down the ri.er/ ha.ing eaten all the game around its +ormer nesting ground. From his perch high in the tree/ 5ikal saw the crocodile approaching/ submerged in the water. *he monkey began sHuawking in warning/ ,umping +rom branch to branch. EAll o+ the women looked to 5ikal/ not knowing there was a crocodile approaching. Se.eral took stones and hand+uls o+ ri.er clay and threw them at the monkey. 5ikal dodged out o+ the way/ still shrieking his warning. E5ourning Do.e stepped away +rom her laundry and her baby/ watching the women trying to pelt the naughty monkey. *here came a loud splash right behind her and she turned back ,ust in time to see the crocodile launch itsel+ into the ri.er/ with her in+ant in its mouth. E05ikalM 5ikalM0 she cried as she splashed out a+ter the monstrous reptile/ but the crocodile outdistanced her with one thrust o+ its enormous tail.F *he girls e3claimed in distress as they listened to the tale. E$ot so/ 5ikal the monkey. ?e ,umped +rom the tree and bounded o++ the head o+ the woman who was cursing him most .ehemently. Down the ri.erbank he raced. ?e passed 5ourning Do.e in an instant and soon came abreast o+ the crocodile. E5ikal had to scale +ences and ,ump +rom roo+top to roo+top to keep up with the crocodile. #ehind him/ the women +ollowed along more slowly/ crying Q5ikalM 5ikalM0 ֨ 豈◌ and QStop him/ he has the babyM0 EA man who was +i3ing a hole in his boat heard the cries and saw the monkey racing by. ?e grabbed a paddle and swung it at 5ikal. *he monkey grabbed hold o+ the oar and used it to swing himsel+ o.er the ne3t +ence. E*here a woman who stood on her back porch listening to the commotion let out a shriek as 5ikal landed in her yard. ?e turned to her and chattered. Q"0ll teach you/ you little beastM0 the woman opened the door to her house and whistled. *wo large dogs rushed out and bounded a+ter 5ikal. EDith a sHueak/ 5ikal leapt up into a tree. *he dogs barked at him/ ,umping up and snapping their ,aws to show him what they would do when they caught him. *he crocodile was getting away. E5ikal swung out on a limb and +ollowed it hand o.er hand/ with the dogs leaping at his +eet/ until he could ,ump onto the ne3t +ence. *hen he was down and a+ter the crocodile again. E*he crocodile led him on a chase right out o+ the .illage/ which was all in a commotion by then. Some boys with slings pursued 5ikal/ but he eluded them in a wheat +ield. Dhen he caught up with the crocodile again/ the monster had climbed out o+ the ri.er on a sandbar to sun itsel+. 5ikal watched the reptile +rom some nearby reeds/ wondering what to do. E?e noticed the crocodile scratching at the side o+ its mouth with a +orepaw. Dhen the beast yawned/ he heard the baby crying yet +rom deep in its craw. *he red sheet in which the baby was swaddled was twisted around one o+ the crocodile0s teeth in a manner that was most uncom+ortable. *ry as it might/ the crocodile could not unsnag its

tooth. 5ikal saw an opportunity. Still huddled in the reeds/ he said/ QSay/ that is a pretty red blanket in your mouth.0 E0Pretty maybe to you/ but to me it is pain/0 the Crocodile replied. E0" should lo.e to ha.e such a pretty red blanket.0 E0*hen come and get it.0 E0And ha.e you swallow me up/ oh no.0 E04ou would be doing me a +a.or to rid me o+ this blanket. " would not eat you +or that.0 E0$ot while the blanket is caught in your teeth. #ut what is to keep you +rom eating me a+ter " remo.e itJ0 E0" promise.0 E0" would not trust your word enough to stand in your mouth. $o/ "0ll ,ust bide my time.0 5ikal lolled back among the reeds. Q"t shouldn0t be too long be+ore you choke to death.0 E*his introduced a new concern to the crocodile. ?e soon begged/ QPlease help me. " promise not to eat you.0 E0Dell/ maybe i+ you let me prop your ,aws open with a stick o+ wood.0 E*he crocodile did not like this idea. ?e tried again to pull loose the blanket with his paw/ but only succeeded in lacerating his gums with his sharp claws. At last/ he said/ Q9kay/ but you must remo.e the stick when you are done.0 E0"0ll be right back.0 5ikal scouted around until he +ound a stout limb/ long enough and strong enough to do the ,ob. E@eturning/ he stepped out onto the sandbar. Q" am ready. 9pen your mouth. And 崐φ no +unny business.0 E*he crocodile spread his ,aws wide/ and 5ikal wedged the branch into place. *he baby was crying deep in its craw/ twisting around in its swaddling blanket. *he crocodile0s teeth were sharp and its breath smelled bad. 5ikal reached in with one +oot and tapped the croc0s tongue with his toe/ pulling his toe out Huickly. *he crocodile instincti.ely tried to clamp its ,aws shut/ but the branch was too strong +or it to break/ and too +irmly set in place +or it to dislodge. E5ikal gathered his courage and climbed into the crocodile0s mouth. "t0s tongue was slimy/ and its teeth were green with algae. 5ikal could hardly breathe +or the +oul odor. Q4ou really need to learn about proper dental hygiene.0F *he children laughed. E*he crocodile grumbled and the branch creaked. 5ikal prepared himsel+ to leap +ree. QStop mo.ing or " won0t help you.0 E*he crocodile rela3ed. 5ikal +reed the blanket +rom its tooth. *hen he tried to pull the baby up +rom its craw/ but the crocodile tightened its throat/ re+using to gi.e up the tender morsel. E@eaching outside/ 5ikal gathered up a hand+ul o+ reeds and used them to tickle the croc0s tonsils. *he croc lashed its head about/ but 5ikal held his place/ tugging on the baby0s swaddling. At last the crocodile yakked and its throat muscles loosened. 9ut o+ its mouth tumbled 5ikal/ the blanket and the baby.F E4ayMF *he girls and little 4oseph cheered.

E$ot so +ast/F ?awk hushed them. E9n his way out/ 5ikal bounced against the branch/ knocking it loose. *he crocodile shook it out o+ his mouth and turned on the monkey with a roar. E5ikal snatched up the baby and leapt out o+ the crocodile0s way/ but he was not Huick enough. *he crocodile snapped its mouth shut on the end o+ his tail. E0$ow " ha.e you/0 the crocodile .owed through its clenched teeth. E5ikal struggled to pull +ree. *he crocodile pulled back/ drawing the monkey closer. EGust then/ 5ourning Do.e appeared. 5ikal thrust the baby into her arms. *hen he grabbed the stout limb and ,umped atop the crocodile0s snout. ?e landed it such a blow between the eyes that the branch cracked. *he croc0s eyes glaIed o.er +or a moment and 5ikal pulled his tail +ree though the end o+ it was shredded. E*he crocodile reco.ered and would ha.e been on him again/ but through the reeds came a crowd o+ .illagers armed with clubs/ pitch+orks and a3es. *he crocodile took one look at them and +led into the ri.er/ ne.er to be seen again. E*he .illagers turned on 5ikal/ and he thought that was the end. #ut 5ourning Do.e rushed to his side. QDo not touch the monkeyM ?e sa.ed my baby.0 EShe told them her tale/ and the .illagers saw 5ikal in a new light. *hey welcomed him back to the .illage as a hero/ wrapped in the red blanket he had so co.eted. EFrom then on/ the .illagers did e.erything they could to please the monkey. *hey made him a home in one o+ their temples and brought him trays o+ +ruit and .egetables to eat e.ery day. *he women o+ the .illage made him many color+ul blankets ֨ 豈◌ and sheets. E5ikal ne.er had it so good. #ut a+ter a +ew months he tired o+ the li+e o+ lu3ury. 9ne day he .anished. Soon a+ter/ things began to disappear 6 +ood/ trinkets/ bright clothes. 2.entually/ 5ikal was identi+ied as the culprit. Dhen people caught him up to mischie+/ they pretended to scold him and chase a+ter him/ but they always let him get away/ and under their breath/ they blessed him +or sa.ing the child that was his namesake.F E?urrahMF *he children applauded/ and their parents as well. ESee/ he really was a good monkey/F 4oseph said. E4es/ he was.F ?awk agreed. EBet yoursel+ to ?igh #ridge/F @oban Senior told him. E4ou are a ?arper born.F E5any thanks.F ?awk Descending bowed his head. Dhen he li+ted it/ he had his +lute in hand. EAnd now +or some music.F E4eaMF *he children were all on their +eet. ?awk played a number o+ li.ely reels and ,igs as the children danced around the camp+ire. @oban e.en managed to get Agnis on her +eet +or a dance/ until the baby started crying. "t was getting late. Agnis wanted to put the children to bed/ but they were too wound up. ?awk played a slow/ so+t lullaby/ winding the songs o+ each child 6 e.en the baby 6 in with the melody. "t was a rela3ing and resti.e piece. "n no time/ they were all asleep/ lea.ing the three adults sitting around the camp+ire. ?awk laid aside his +lute and Agnis handed him a cup o+ herb tea.

E" say it again/F @oban told him o.er his own cup/ his lo.ing wi+e close by his side/ Ei+ this ?arper o+ yours does not return/ get yoursel+ to ?igh #ridge. *hey are sure to ha.e a place +or you at the ?all.F EFirst " need the blessing o+ my +amily.F ESurely you already ha.e it.F @oban noted the look o+ doubt pass o.er ?awk0s +ace. E*hey can0t deny that it is where you belong/ and i+ they ha.e heard you playP. *hey ha.e heard you playJF E$o.F ?awk admitted. EPlay +or themMF Agnis urged him. E"+ one o+ my brood could per+orm like that/ " would gladly take the child to ?igh #ridge mysel+.F EAye/ that we would/F @oban agreed. EAnd work to pay the tuition/ i+ necessary. Dhen they hear you in ?igh #ridge/ they will ha.e no choice but to make a place +or you.F EAnd your +amily will ha.e no choice but to gi.e you their blessing/F Agnis added. *hey talked a while longer/ and then ?awk Descending took his lea.e/ promising to return on the morrow/ i+ the 5eechums tarried one more day. E*hat is easily done/F @oban told him. EDe need a rest +rom the road.F 9n his way back to the .illage/ ?awk Descending wondered i+ there was a place in their community +or his new +riends. *hey were good people/ surely the town could make room +or such as them. ?e decided to broach the sub,ect with his parents and his grand+ather. *hen he could bring the in.itation to the 5eechums. *hey would be so happy to ha.e a new home. "t would be a good thing +or all. 4et/ in the back o+ his mind/ ֨ 豈◌ there was a little niggling Huestion about the in+ant/ 5ikal/ who should ha.e been born to Field 5ouse and Spotted Fawn.

%V. Thie+es and *itches ?is parents were waiting up +or him. *he moment he entered the house/ he knew something was wrong. EDhere ha.e you beenJF ?is mother demanded. E9ut in the woods.F E" don0t know why you spend so much time out there/F she went on. E5eanwhile the crier has brought bad news +or the entire .illage.F E*he boy had no way o+ knowing.F ?is +ather spoke in his de+ense. E$o responsibility/ more like.F EDhat news +rom the crierJF ?awk asked. E9nly that the 5agistrate has appropriated the old commons +or the 2mperor. De made so much money clearing it/F she directed a dark look at both husband and son/ Ewe ga.e the 5agistrate a taste o+ what it is worth. And with the +orest growing back so +ast/ they ha.e taken it to start their own enterprise.F E#ut that woods has been the .illage commons +or generations.F ?awk Descending protested.

E9nly by the grace o+ the 2mperor and his 5agistrate.F Crow Shadow was Huick to point out. E*hey will build a mill at the edge o+ the woods. And we will work it/ and clear the woods in our +ealty to the 2mperor.F E"n +ealtyJF ?awk Descending echoed. EDithout wages/F Crow Shadow clari+ied. E"t will cut into the time we ha.e to attend to our own li.elihood. And it will render impossible paying o++ the remaining +ines +rom attending that minstrel show.F Ling+isher cast his eyes to the +loor. E4ou should +eel guilty.F She ,abbed at her husband. EDe wouldn0t be in this mess i+ you hadn0t attended that per+ormance/ and let yoursel+ be seen there.F EDe didn0t know it would end so badly.F E?mm.F Crow Shadow turned up her nose. E" saw no need to go. $or did my +ather. Dhy couldn0t you be more like himJF Ling+isher set his ,aw and said nothing. E?e is abo.e reproach/ and he will be little hurt by this/ beyond the loss o+ his share o+ the old commons.F E" will +ind some way to make this right.F Ling+isher li+ted his head. EAnd " shall help/F ?awk added. E4ou twoMF Crow Shadow harrumphed. E4ou two are worthless enough. " shall ha.e to go to work i+ we are to sur.i.e. *omorrow a number o+ us ladies are ha.ing a meeting. De shall +ind a way to keep +ood on our tables while you men ser.e your +ealty.F Ling+isher cast his head down again/ ashamed that he must let his wi+e pro.ide ֨ 豈◌ +or him. E" already ha.e an idea.F Crow Shadow announced. E*he meadows bear plenty o+ +ruit/ and the ladies o+ this town are noted +or our ,ams and ,ellies. Dith a little more e++ort/ we could turn it into a business. And " think it should do .ery well.F EAnd what o+ the ,ars/ and e3tra canning eHuipmentJ $ot to mention the cost o+ sugar.F E4ou lea.e us to worry about that. 4ou men will be busy enough +ul+illing your duty to the 2mperor. Dork on the mill begins tomorrow/ and you ha.e kept us up late enough this night/F she said the ?awk. E#est you both get some sleep. 4ou ha.e many days o+ hard work ahead o+ you.F ?awk did not bother mentioning the +amily 5eechum. ?e realiIed the last thing the .illage needed was another set o+ mouths to +eed. ?e slept poorly that night/ his thoughts returning again and again to the +amily encamped on the hill. For some unknown reason/ he +elt an3ious +or them. ?e worried they would run a+oul o+ the constabulary and the 5agistrate. Dhen he did sleep/ he dreamed o+ a little baby crying. "t was the baby/ 5ikal. ?awk Descending was on the road to ?igh #ridge when he heard the crying. A crocodile was bearing the in+ant down the ri.er in its ,aws. ?awk le+t o++ his ,ourney to gi.e chase/ but he ne.er caught up with the beast. ?e knew the crocodile bore the baby to ,udgement. *he in+ant0s cries haunted him e.en a+ter he awoke. ?e wanted to hurry out to the +amily on the hill and warn them to +lee. 4et he had to work with his +ather and the other .illagers/ digging the +oundation +or the mill. ?e told himsel+ again and again there was no reason +or his apprehension. Still there was no easing his an3iety.

Field 5ouse was among those who turned out that morning to clear ground +or the mill. ?awk had a brie+ opportunity to speak with him. ?e had an e.ening patrol o+ the roads/ and so his morning was +ree to show his +ealty to the 2mperor. ?e thanked ?awk again +or helping him and his wi+e. ESpotted Fawn is doing well now. 9ur marriage is back on track. 9+ course/ the income +rom the constabulary is helping to ease the tensions at home. De are talking about ha.ing a child again.F E" wish you luck. 4ou will make +ine parents.F Despite his blessings/ ?awk could not help thinking that it was too late% their son had already been reborn to the 5eechums. *hroughout the morning/ he could not shake the +eeling that the babe was lost out on the hill/ lost and crying. $ot long a+ter lunch/ the Chie+ Constable stopped by to press Field 5ouse and a couple o+ other members o+ the constabulary into ser.ice. ?e had a word with them and then went on his way as they gathered their things and hurried a+ter. As the Chie+ spoke to them/ Field 5ouse could not help glancing at ?awk Huestioningly. A+ter the Chie+ departed/ Field 5ouse asked ?awk/ EDere you playing your +lute on the hills east o+ the woods last nightJF E4es.F EFarmer Cong Brain came into town to report music during the night. ?e +ears there might be robbers in the hills.F E*here are no robbers out there/F ?awk insisted. EDe0re being sent to patrol the hills. 4ou le+t no sign o+ your presenceJ $othing that would point back to youJF E$o.F ?awk Descending thought o+ ϋ the 5eechums/ but dared not to say anything. E#est you stick around town this e.ening.F Field 5ouse ,oined the other constables/ lea.ing ?awk and the men to continue with their work. *he a+ternoon passed slowly +or ?awk Descending. ?e kept looking to the woods east o+ town. Se.eral times his +ather and the other men directed his attention back to what he was doing. EStop your daydreaming/ lad/F his +ather told him. E4ou0.e plenty o+ time to play in the woods.F *hey knocked o++ work late in the day. ?awk Descending and Ling+isher returned home to eat the meager meal Crow Shadow prepared +or them. Crow Shadow was in a +oul mood. *he ladies0 meeting had not gone as she hoped. E*hey wouldn0t e.en consider making a business o+ our preser.es/F she complained. E*hey said we don0t ha.e the money to in.est in it. And it would take too long to get it o++ the ground. 2at your beans and cornbread/F she admonished her son. E"0m not that hungry.F *he beans were unseasoned and the cornbread was burned. Anyway/ ?awk had no appetite/ so concerned was he +or the 5eechums. ?e wanted to slip away as soon as possible to go warn them. E4ou0ll eat the dinner " made you.F ?is mother commanded. She glared at him until he sho.eled a spoon+ul o+ beans into his mouth. ESo what did the ladies decideJF Ling+isher asked to di.ert her attention +rom the boy. EDhy/ we0re going to take up the work you lea.e idle while you do your +ealty. *hat won0t help us out o+ the hole we0re in. $obody here knows how to think big. "0.e

hal+ a mind to start a canning business all by mysel+/ ,ust to show the whole bunch o+ you. 2at your cornbreadMF ?awk had stopped eating because he thought he heard the town crier0s bell. *here it was again/ louder and more distinct. Ling+isher put down his spoon and rose +rom the table. E5ust be a special announcement.F E4ou ha.en0t +inished your dinner.F Crow Shadow ob,ected. E*his could be important/F Ling+isher said. EDe0d best listen.F ?awk ,oined him as he opened the door. 5any o+ their neighbors stood in their doorways as well/ as the crier passed down the street/ shouting his news. E#rigands caught outside o+ townM Ditchcra+t in the hillsM *he 5agistrate commands e.eryone to assemble in the town sHuare to see ,ustice meted outMF ?awk Descending +elt ill at this report. Fortunately/ neither o+ his parents noticed how pale he became. EDe0d best attend.F Ling+isher reached +or his ,acket and cap. EDhat o+ dinnerJF Crow Shadow asked. E"t will keep.F ?awk Descending was already out o+ the door. ?e did not think o+ the e.ening chill. E*he 5agistrate bid e.eryone to attend.F Ling+isher reminded his wi+e. EAlong with you thenM "0ll +ollow a+ter " take care o+ these dishes. Dinner was ruined anyway.F ?awk Descending hurried to the sHuare/ dreading what he knew he would +ind. @ *he sHuare was packed with townspeople. *here were easily twice as many people as had attended Chantien0s per+ormance. *he air at this gathering was not +esti.e/ it was grim. *here were no ,o.ial greetings/ and little talking. "nstead o+ a murmur o+ anticipation/ there was a grumble o+ angst/ and e.en that was made with reluctance. *hese people had taken time +rom their troubled li.es to see the 2mperor0s ,ustice ser.ed to deser.ing miscreants. *here was nothing to be grate+ul +or here in the sHuare this e.ening. ?awk Descending sensed in this audience a terrible hunger% the desire to see someone hurt and to watch someone su++er. *he song o+ this audience was discordant and strident with dark intent. *hey were making o+ this e.ent a ceremony to banish their own mis+ortune by trans+erring it to a human sacri+ice. Sensing that this mob would easily turn on anyone who incurred their ire/ taking out all o+ their ill +eelings on the un+ortunate and assuring themsel.es in the process that they were better than their scapegoat and more deser.ing/ ?awk stood at the edge o+ the sHuare/ outside o+ the crowd. ?e stood in the shadow o+ the inn and tried to make himsel+ inconspicuous. *here was his grand+ather/ standing prominently toward the +ront o+ the audience. "ron Gaw looked about and spotted Ling+isher. ?awk ducked behind the corner o+ the inn. "ron Gaw wa.ed to Ling+isher and called him o.er. ?awk saw his +ather obediently pick his way to "ron Gaw0s side. "n the process/ his +ather/ who was a good and gentle man/ became a part o+ the mob. ?awk Descending had ne.er +elt so separate +rom his +amily and the .illagers. "n this moment/ he understood how he truly +eared his neighbors and relati.es/ and rightly

so. ?e wanted to run +rom the sHuare and the .illage/ retrie.e his +lute and set out to +ind Chantien where.er the ?arper might be. 9r set out +or ?igh #ridge and the sanctuary he thought to +ind at the ?arper0s ?all. #ut he could not go/ not until he +ound out who was the intended sacri+ice. ?e watched his mother arri.e/ making her way through the audience to stand between her +ather and her husband. She and her +ather were so much alike/ nose in the air/ sti++ and ,udgmental. ?awk Descending +elt such shame and repugnance/ he wanted to shout o.er the crowd/ renouncing his +amily and his tribe. Still he kept silent/ watching and waiting. 2.en +rom the back o+ the crowd/ he could see well enough. *he 5agistrate sat on a tall stool/ brimming with all o+ the authority .ested in him by the 2mperor. "+ ?awk glanced at him sideways/ he could almost see the serpent Chantien had once disrobed. At the sight o+ him/ ?awk0s shoulder ached with the old wound where this reptilian e.il had raped his power. ?e +ought +or breath/ +eeling as though he had been kicked in the stomach. #eside the 5agistrate stood the Chie+ Constable/ posing in his position o+ o++ice. *he Chie+ was nearly as +ormal and dispassionate in his bearing as the 5agistrate. At the corners o+ the dais were stationed +our constables bearing spears. Field 5ouse was among them/ trying not to look ill at ease. From a thick limb o+ the chestnut tree hung three nooses o+ thick hemp/ one shorter than the other two. "n +ront o+ the dais/ three wooden posts were planted in the ground. *hough he could not see it through the audience/ ?awk supposed there was wood piled around the posts 6 wood cut +rom their own .illage commons. *he 5agistrate nodded to the Chie+ Constable/ who in turn spoke to Field 5ouse ◌ ֨ others used their spears to clear a path to and the other constables. Field 5ouse and 豈 the the dais. *he crowd hushed as the prisoners were ushered out o+ the stables by a sHuadron o+ the 2mperor0s Buard. ?awk Descending nearly cried out as he saw his worst +ears realiIed. "t was the 5eechum +amily. @oban led the way/ walking on his own with his hands trussed behind him. *he two boys +ollowed him/ led by guards to either side. #ehind them came Agnis/ weeping but walking on her own as did her husband. And behind her guard0s carried the two girls/ who cried with terror. @oban and his sons were stood on stools and the nooses were placed around their necks. Agnis cried out at the sight. *hen she and the girls were led o.er to the posts. Agnis nearly +ainted/ but reco.ered as she was tied to the center post/ her daughters at her sides. *he 5agistrate stood +orth and spoke. EDoes the condemned ha.e any last words to sayJF $one o+ the 5eechums made a response/ but +or the weeping o+ the mother and daughters. *he 5agistrate turned to @oban senior. EDo you wish absolution be+ore the sentence is carried outJF @oban tried to spit at the 5agistrate/ but his mouth was too dry. *wo o+ the 2mperor0Buards started +orward/ but the 5agistrate wa.ed them back. ?e walked around to +ace Agnis. EDo you and your daughters wish to repentJF EShame on youMF Agnis +ound her .oice. EShame on all o+ youMF *he 5agistrate started to walk away/ but Agnis shouted at him. E4ou are a monsterM Dould there was one 5ikal to sa.e another +rom your ,awsMF

2.eryone thought her out o+ her mind/ babbling nonsense. 9nly to ?awk Descending did her words register. 9ne o+ the 2mperor0s guards struck her in the stomach/ silencing her. EAgnisMF @oban cried out. A guard behind him had to hold him steady/ or he would ha.e stepped o++ his stool and strangled in the attempt to reach his wi+e. *he children were all crying. *he baby/ ?awk thought/ the in+ant 5ikal was not among them. ?e was sure Agnis was speaking to him. Dhat was she trying to tell himJ *he 5agistrate went on/ announcing his sentence. EAgnis 5eechum/ you and your daughters ha.e con+essed to witchcra+t. Speci+ically/ that you did mani+est the ?orned 9ne out in the hills and dance to his pipes.F A gasp went through the .illagers. EFor this most heinous o+ acts/ there can be only one sentence% that you will burn at the stake and your ashes be scattered in the .illage dump.F E$oMF *hree guards struggled to hold @oban still. Field 5ouse and another constable held the boys. 2lise and 5aire cried out as guards drew near with burning torches. ECet the sentence be carried out/F the 5agistrate commanded. *he guards laid their brands on the +irewood stacked at the base o+ the posts. *he girls screamed e.en louder as the wood caught +lame. Agnis bit her tongue in the e++ort to keep +rom crying out. @oban ,unior broke +ree o+ Field 5ouse and stumbled +rom his stool. ?e swung +ree/ writhing and choking as the noose pulled tight. ֨ 豈◌ E@obanMF ?is +ather +ought all the harder. Field 5ouse stepped o.er to retrie.e the boy and return him to his stool. *he 5agistrate shook his head and Field 5ouse stood back to let the boy choke. E@oban 5eechum/F the 5agistrate spoke to the +ather. E4ou and your sons are guilty o+ armed robbery/ and o+ consorting with witches. 4ou are hereby sentenced to hang by the neck until you are dead. 4our bodies will be disposed o+ in the city dump.F EDamn youMF @oban cursed. #e+ore the 5agistrate could gi.e the sign to carry out the sentence/ he leapt +rom his stool/ +alling hard to snap his neck. *he 5agistrate stood watching his limp body swing +or a moment. *hen he turned to the guard standing behind 4oseph and ga.e him a nod. *he guard kicked out his stool and 4oseph +ell. 7n+ortunately/ the small lad did not ha.e enough weight to make a Huick end. ?e writhed +rom the rope/ choking slowly like his brother beside him. *he +lames were leaping up to embrace the women. *he two girls stopped screaming. "nstead/ they emitted a high-pitched/ unearthly keen that chilled all who listened. Agnis +ought back her own cries/ looking steadily out o.er the crowd. ?awk could ha.e sworn she was looking at him. 4et e.en at his distance/ he could see that something in her eyes was already dead and unseeing. ?e wanted to lea.e/ but there was one thing he had to determine +irst. ?e reached out to the mother/ and much though he did not want to/ he listened to her song. *here was a great deal o+ rage in her song/ and an immense pain beyond enduring. 4et there was in her .oice a growing purity that brought a merci+ul distance between her and the e.ents playing out here. She was lea.ing: she was letting go. ?awk wanted to respect her pri.acy and allow her what relie+ she could +ind. #ut he had to send one outside theme to

her/ the moti+ o+ one not present. Agnis paused in her retreat/ returning to the torment o+ her immolation long enough to answer him. And then she was gone. And so was ?awk.

%VI. "esc#e and Ha#nting ?awk Descending shambled through town as Huickly as possible/ running +rom the horrible obscenity o+ the town sHuare/ running in hope o+ sa.ing at least one soul. Dhen he reached the woods he took to the trees/ picking up his pace. ?e +lew through the canopy/ leaping +rom limb to limb without thinking/ without e.en looking +or his ne3t purchase. ?e was wholly consumed by the one re+rain sent to him by Agnis 5eechum as the +lames consumed her body. ?e +ollowed that clarion call e3clusi.ely. "t was his impetus/ it was his path/ and by it he +lew directly to that hill where the 5eechum0s had been encamped/ where he +easted with them a scarce twenty-+our hours past/ where he per+ormed +or them little dreaming the sound o+ his +lute would draw them to their death/ where he told them the story o+ the crocodile and the monkey 6 that story that Agnis co.ertly used to communicate to him her one note o+ sal.ation +or the only remainder o+ her belo.ed +amily. So intent was he on that note/ that clarion call/ that his eyes only cleared when he stood on the hill/ at the ruins o+ the campsite. *he 5eechum0s belongings were strewn about the hilltop. *heir tents were ripped to shreds. *he stew pot lay on its side by the ֨ +ire pit/ the remains o+ the stew mi3ed with 豈◌ ashes and bits o+ charred wood. ?e +ound @oban0s bow broken in hal+. #ut nowhere did he see any sign o+ the baby/ 5ikal. ?e listened/ but heard only the wind in the reeds. *he reeds. ?awk Descending galloped down the hillside/ into the thicket where a day ago the eldest children helped him kick up game +or @oban to shoot. *here was no game here now. $or was there a baby to be +ound. 5ikal had to be here. Dhere else would his mother hide him. ?awk can.assed e.ery inch o+ the thicket. ?e looked in e.ery clump o+ reed and grass. ?e combed through the thicket a second time/ until he had to admit% the child was not there. ?e returned to the campsite. *urning a circle/ he sur.eyed the surrounding countryside/ the +orest/ the hills/ the wetlands/ the lake. Dhere could she ha.e hidden the babe on such short noticeJ ?e looked +or clues again among the ri+led debris o+ the camp. Scattered arrows 6 some broken battered cookware/ soiled clothes 6 many o+ them wet/ torn can.as. ?e picked up a wet cloth diaper/ trampled into the ground. "t was sti++ with dirt. "t dawned on him that he was going about this all wrong. ?e knew this baby be+ore he e.er met any o+ the 5eechums. Dhen +irst he laid eyes on this +amily he had known the in+ant by its song. 8uieting the chaos o+ emotions within/ he recalled that simple melody/ unadorned by any o+ the .ariations a +ull li+e would bring it. As the tune came to him/ he whistled/ repeating it se.eral times be+ore pausing to listen. *here.

?e heard it .ery +aint. *he cry o+ a babe. "t was so weak/ it hardly carried abo.e the wind in the reeds and the lapping o+ water. *hen all o+ the pieces +it together +or him% the wet clothes/ the story o+ the crocodile and the monkey/ Agnis0s +inal message to him. 2.en as it came together/ he raced down the side o+ the hill/ to the spot along the banks o+ the pond where Agnis had been washing clothes when the constables came +or her +amily. *here were wet clothes on the shore and some in the water/ where she was busy scrubbing them when she heard her children scream. At the sound o+ trouble/ Agnis le+t her un+inished laundry to run back to the camp+ire and +ind out what was wrong. And there she le+t her baby. She hadn0t hidden him. She le+t him swaddled in a wicker basket/ sa+e and sleeping as his +amily was rounded up and marched o++. ?awk +ound the baby/ crying in his basket. *he baby took one look at him and began wailing with new +orce. ?awk gently took the babe/ cradling it in his strong arms. E*here/ there.F ?e hugged the baby and stoked it reassuringly. E*here/ there.F Soon he was crying along with the baby/ crying +or the loss o+ the in+ant0s +amily/ and +or the sal.ation o+ this one innocent baby. 5ikal was wet/ cold and hungry. ?awk could do little +or him but take o++ his soiled diaper and hold him close +or warmth. And then he knew what he must do. ?e had the answer to that which had been puIIling him since +irst he caught sight o+ the in+ant. And that answer was both sad and miraculous. ?awk could not belie.e an entire +amily would sacri+ice their li.es ,ust so an in+ant could resume its interrupted e3istence. *here was no Huestioning the ways o+ the world. ?e had seen animals killed by predators with what appeared to be great pain/ yet knew that somehow they went to their ֨ 豈◌ deaths willingly 6 e.en gladly 6 though they +ought against it the whole time. *he aw+ul beauty o+ this world was o.erwhelming. *he 5eechums must ha.e lo.ed this little one a great deal to make such a sacri+ice. EComeF he told the wee lad. ECet0s get you out o+ here. "0m taking you home.F NNN *he .illage was Huiet that night. A+ter the e3ecutions/ e.eryone hurried home. *he .illagers/ who had been so .oci+erous while the sentences were carried out/ were now subdued. *hey spoke only in whispers/ when they dared speak at all. *hey kept their eyes cast down so they would not ha.e to acknowledge their presence to their neighbors. $ow that it was o.er/ +ew could +ace the callous murder o+ an entire +amily 6 e.en a +amily o+ strangers ,udged robbers and witches 6 not in their town. 5uch less could they admit the part they had played in it. #est to hurry home and go to bed/ hope+ully to sleep without nightmares and so put the distance o+ night between them and this sorry a++air. *he 2mperor0s ,ustice was swi+t and terrible. #etter not to speak o+ it at all/ lest they attract the 5agistrate0s unwelcome attention. #est to +orget. 4et/ though most went straight to bed on returning home/ +ew were able to get to sleep/ and those who did reli.ed the e.ents o+ that e.ening in +oul dreams. A dark dread blanketed the town. *hose who did not e.ade ruminating o.er the e3ecutions knew that the blood was on them all. *he 5agistrate enlisted them in an e.il ,udgment/ +rom which none would escape. *he town would pay +or what happened in the sHuare this e.ening/ the town and e.eryone in it.

Field 5ouse was one o+ those who could not sleep. ?e played a bigger role in the e.ening0s e.ents than most/ and now he could not get them out o+ his head. ?e tried to tell himsel+ that he was merely +ul+illing his duties as a constable. ?e was only trying to keep his .illage sa+e and uphold the law. #ut another .oice deep inside him cried out in pain/ and that .oice named him murderer. ?e helped apprehend and e3ecute an entire +amily/ +ather/ mother and children. And their deaths were a horrible/ brutal .iolation o+ the sanctity o+ li+e. 5aybe they were brigands and witches/ though he doubted their con+essions +or the manner in which they were e3tracted. $e.er mind. 2.en i+ they had been murderers/ practicing child sacri+ice many times o.er/ that did not ,usti+y what he helped do to them. *here was no law that legitimiIed the punishment or termination o+ a human li+e. And those who thought otherwise only managed to block out the .oice o+ their inner sel+/ walling themsel.es o+ +rom their own soul in an e++ort to mute their .oice. 4et there was no way to completely silence that inner .oice. *hat is why the other constables and the 2mperor0s Buard went out drinking a+ter the e3ecutions. *hey wanted to drown out their inner .oices/ numbing themsel.es against the message they pre+erred not to hear. *hat is why constables who had been on the ,ob +or a number o+ years were all hea.y drinkers. "t was either that or grow sick inside/ sick and dark/ and +ull o+ sel+-disgust and anger +or the entire world. *hough Field 5ouse tried not to hear it/ his inner .oice called out with a clarity he rarely e3perienced/ and the truth that it spoke to him was this% the in,ury o+ any person is an in,ury to all/ the punishment o+ any person is a punishment to all/ the imprisonment or ensla.ement o+ any person is the imprisonment and ensla.ement o+ all/ and the ֨ +or all o+ his e3cuses/ that inner .oice 豈◌ e3ecution o+ any person diminishes all. And insisted there are no e3ceptions. And the hardest part o+ the message o+ his inner .oice/ that which stung the most/ was that he was +orgi.en. So long as he learned +rom his errors and would not repeat them/ he was +orgi.en. #ut i+ he continued to persecute others/ then he would not be able to +orgi.e himsel+. ?e would grow dark and sick inside/ he would turn to drink/ and he would become a sour and dangerous man/ +eared by others and lo.ed by none. ?e took this ,ob because he and his wi+e needed the money. 9therwise/ it was a struggle holding onto their house. ?e didn0t see how they would e.er a++ord to raise a +amily. #ut he knew that i+ he remained a constable/ he would grow hard and cold. And he would lose his wi+e and his +amily. 2ither that or they would grow hard and cold with him. 9r he would take out his pain and anger on them. $o/ he could not ha.e that. And so Field 5ouse resol.ed to resign +rom the constabulary. ?e would +ind some other way to support his +amily/ some way that would sa.e him his soul. ?e must come up with an e3cuse +or the Chie+ Constable. *o tell the truth/ that he could not consciously per+orm his duties/ would make himsel+ an ob,ect o+ suspicion. $o he must bide his time until he +ound the right e3cuse/ so that he would not incriminate himsel+. #ut once he +ound the way out/ he would Huit the constabulary ,ust as +ast as he could. ?a.ing made this decision/ he put an arm around his sleeping wi+e and closed his eyes. #e+ore he dri+ted o++ to sleep/ howe.er/ there was a knock at the door o+ their home. ?e opened his eyes and listened. *here it was again. Dho could it be at this hourJ

"t must be duty calling. ?is ,ob as constable had hounded him out/ e.en as he made up his mind to relinHuish the duties and seek the healing balm o+ sleep. Das it more brigands/ he wondered as he climbed out o+ bed gently so as not to wake his wi+e. *he knocking was repeated as he put on his slippers and his robe. ?e took the candle +rom the bed stand/ but did not light it until he le+t the room/ so as not to disturb Spotted Fawn. 9nce he had lit the candle/ he headed +or the door. *here was the knock again/ more insistent. E4es/ "0m comingF he grumbled/ raising his .oice a little louder than necessary. ?e e3pected to +ind one o+ the other constables waiting impatiently on the doorstep to press him into ser.ice. And he was tempted to tell the man right here and now what to do with his duties. #ut when he opened the door there was no one in sight. ?olding up the candle/ he looked all along the lane. "t was Huiet and dark. *here were no lights burning in any o+ the neighboring houses. ?e looked down as he started to step out o+ the doorway/ and there on their stoop was a writhing bundle o+ cloth. Field 5ouse +roIe in place/ not e.en daring to breathe. "n that one moment/ he +elt his li+e turn. "n that moment/ he +elt his recent resol.e wai.er as new responsibility o.ertook him/ a responsibility that was met by acceptance/ lo.e and commitment. "n that moment/ the in+ant cried. E9h a babyMF Spotted Fawn was there/ pushing past him to pick up the child. She hugged the crying in+ant. E"t is so coldMF Parting the swathing/ she noted/ E"t0s a boy.F For a moment/ Field 5ouse thought he heard a +aint melody/ played on a +lute perhaps. Dith certainty/ he said E?is name is 5ikal.F ֨ looked at her husband/ wondering how he 豈◌ E*hat is a city name.F Spotted Fawn knew the child0s name. #ut she knew he was right. E" wonder who le+t him here. ?e is cold and hungry. 4ou build a +ire and " will +ind him something to eat/ and some dry clothes.F She bore the in+ant indoors. Field 5ouse tarried a moment longer/ looking up and down the lane. *hen he closed the door and hurried to the +ireplace. NNN ?awk Descending was ready to Huit the town and his +amily that night. ?e used to look down on himsel+ as did the other .illagers/ granting them the right to think themsel.es better than him. $ow he saw them all as weak small-minded/ and e.en wicked. *he sacri+ice o+ the 5eechum +amily had shown them in their true light. $ow he +elt dirty to be around them. ?e was ashamed o+ them/ and he did not want to be associated with them in any way. *he odor o+ burning +lesh seemed to hang o.er the .illage +or days. $o one else noticed it: or i+ they did/ they said nothing. Dhene.er ?awk smelled it/ he wanted to purge himsel+ and then run and hide. ?e bathed o+ten in the stream/ but it did not help: he still +elt tainted. ?e carried a ma,or share o+ the blame +or what happened to that poor +amily/ because it was his +lute playing that drew attention to them. "t should ha.e been him that was put to the torture and e3ecuted/ not them.

?e lost all desire to play the +lute. ?e rarely e.en drew it +rom its hiding place/ pre+erring to lea.e it wrapped in the oiled cloth/ tucked away in the hollow tree. *he only music he heard was sad and burdened with guilt. ?e still spent his e.enings in the woods/ climbing and swinging +rom limb to limb/ or sitting in the treetops looking out o.er the landscape. #ut now he was haunted by the 5eechums. 2.erywhere he turned/ he saw the children looking up at him as he told them the story/ or dancing around him as he played the +lute. And then he saw them as they were at the .illage sHuare/ the boys with nooses about their necks/ the girls tied to their posts. ?e saw the pain and the terror in their eyes. And he heard them keening as the +lames licked at their bodies. ?e heard the song o+ Agnis as she reached through her pain and her death to tell him o+ her in+ant son. "t made no matter to him that he sa.ed the babe. A +ew times he saw Spotted Fawn with the in+ant. Dhen the baby looked at him/ it seemed to be saying/ E4ou know where " came +rom/ and you know how " lost my +amily.F For days a+terward/ he would catch Field 5ouse looking at him oddly. ?e knew the man had Huestions +or him/ but he a.oided him. A summer passed/ and Chantien did not return. ?awk Descending watched the roads. ?e scouted o.er the land +or sign o+ the ?arper. ?e scoured the woods e.ery e.ening/ going to the glade where the ?arper camped that night. #ut there was no sign o+ Chantien to be +ound. ?awk Descending took to staying in the woods o.ernight. ?e would sleep perched in a tree o.erlooking the 2mperor0s @oad/ so he would notice i+ Chantien passed by during the night. ?e slept +it+ully and woke at the slightest noise. 2.en in his dreams/ ◌ ֨ soon as they appeared in his dreams/ he he was haunted by the murdered +amily. 豈 As would wake with a start and stay awake long a+terwards. *he saplings in the old commons had grown into trees already. *heir growth had slowed signi+icantly since ?awk ceased singing to them. 4et they grew +aster than any normal tree. 5any who used to en,oy ?awk0s music without realiIing it were now disappointed by his silence. $ot being +ully aware o+ the nature o+ their disappointment/ they took it out on the hunchback/ intuiti.ely +eeling that he was holding out on them/ withdrawing +rom them. *hey noted his disappro.al and his disgust/ and they mirrored it back to him. ?e was ridiculed by all/ and he was gi.en the most arduous task o+ mo.ing timbers and boulders 6 a ,ob usually reser.ed +or o3en and horse teams. ?awk Descending ga.e himsel+ to this work/ using the e3ertion to .ent his ill +eelings toward the .illagers. At the end o+ the day/ he would shamble home e3hausted/ eat a meager dinner while Crow Shadow heaped abuse on him/ and then sneak out to the woods to maintain his desperate .igil. ?e had become a beast o+ burden/ lean and tough/ dirty and smelly/ and the .illagers wanted nothing o do with him. 2.en his parents were glad when he le+t their home +or the night. 9ne e.ening/ as he headed +or the +orest/ he chanced upon Spotted Fawn with little 5ikal in her arms. Spotted Fawn had grown attached to her +oundling. ?e had/ in e.ery way/ +illed the place o+ the in+ant she lost. *he .illagers considered him a miracle baby. ?e was so like the dead child that many thought he had come back to li+e through the lo.e and dedication o+ his mother. Dhen Spotted Fawn bore him through Forest0s 2nd people would stop what they were doing to admire the child.

?awk Descending saw Spotted Fawn/ standing amid a cluster o+ .illagers who were cooing o.er the baby. An old man/ one who had only abuse +or ?awk Descending/ ga.e the child a hand-car.ed duck. *he in+ant stuck its head in his mouth and then shook it e3citedly. *he onlookers laughed at the in+ant0s ob.ious glee. ?awk Descending wanted to see the baby and share in the ,oy. ?e had not been near the child since the night when he rescued him. ?e drew near/ respect+ully seeking to make his way between the townspeople. Se.eral deliberately blocked him +rom approaching the mother and son/ seeking to protect them +rom his +oul presence. Picking up their attitude/ Spotted Fawn held her baby close and turned away. Cittle 5ikal +rowned and started to cry. *he old man con+ronted ?awk. EDhat do you think you0re doingJF E" wanted to see the baby.F E4ou0.e already scared him enough/F the man went on. E9ne look at you/ and he0ll ha.e the colic. $ow/ o++ with you. #e goneMF ?awk was at a loss. "t was he who rescued the lad and brought him to his mother. #ut none o+ these people knew that. E*he ner.eMF one woman said. A +riend ushered Spotted Fawn and the baby into the sa+ety o+ her home as the other .illagers maintained their +ront. ?awk was shattered by this mistreatment. ?ow could they e.er think he would harm the boyJ Something hit him in the back o+ the head. "t was a clod o+ dirt thrown by some boys standing behind him. 5ore clods o+ dirt +ollowed. Cooking at the adults +or assistance/ he saw the same .isages they had directed at the 5eechums when they were ֨ 豈◌ put to death. ?awk turned and ran/ with the boys chasing a+ter him. ?e did not +eel the clods that pelted him. *hese were the people who murdered the babe0s +amily/ and they would do the same to him 6 the babe0s sa.ior. @eaching the sanctuary o+ the +orest/ he scaled the nearest tree and +lung himsel+ +rom limb to limb/ tree to tree until he le+t his pursuers +ar behind. "n his heartache/ he sought a perch o.erlooking the road/ and there he cried himsel+ to sleep/ weeping o.er the tree trunk +or all the com+ort it o++ered. "n his dreams/ he stood alone in the .illage sHuare mourning +or the +amily that had be+riended him. Someone called his name. ?e turned to see @oban senior approach him. *he man had a so+t white light around him. ?e looked better than e.er he had in real li+e. *here was no sign o+ the torture he underwent/ no sign o+ the broken neck or rope burn around his throat. ?e was the idealiIed .ersion o+ the man/ brimming with wellbeing and good health. @oban o++ered his hand to ?awk Descending. ?awk shook it/ noting how solid it was. E4ou0re really here/F he mar.eled. E#ut you0re dead.F @oban smiled at him and bid him to +ollow. ?e led ?awk through Forest0s 2nd/ to the home o+ Field 5ouse and Spotted Fawn. *hey entered the house without knocking. "t was Huiet and dark inside. @oban led him into the bedroom/ where the husband and wi+e lay asleep in their bed. "n a cradle at the side o+ the bed lay the baby. And around him stood the +amily he had lost. ?ere was Agnis/ @oban ,unior/ 2lise/ 5aire and 4oseph. All o+ them were in per+ected +orm/ and all o+ them glowed with a so+t white light. *he youngest two children

went to ?awk and ga.e him a hug. *heir embrace had substance and was +illed with lo.e and gratitude. E*hank you +or sa.ing 5ikal/F Agnis said to him with a smile. ?awk approached the +oot o+ the cradle/ and looked upon the in+ant. Cittle 5ikal was awake. At sight o+ his sa.ior/ he kicked his +eet with delight and gurgled ,oyously. *he 5eechums gathered around/ showering ?awk Descending and the baby with lo.e and good will.

*his story is continued in Song of !%istence. Follow ?awk Descending through his trans+ormation into a true ?arper/ and ,oin him in achie.ing a similar trans+ormation +or his entire ci.iliIation.

7se the +ollowing discount code to purchase Song of !%istence +or hal+ price at smashwords% ֨ 豈◌ AL')7 (coupon good until )ugust +1st! +,1-)

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About the Author PD Allen li.es in a cabin in a remote section o+ the Porcupine 5ountains in 5ichiganKs 7pper Peninsula with a +ey spirit that answers to the human name o+ 2liIabeth. *heir cabin is eHuipped with a hand pump to draw water. 2lectricity is pro.ided by a bicycle hooked to a small generator. ?e spends his days hunting/ +ishing and +oraging. ?e tra.els around the 7P a great deal/ gathering +olklore and e3ploring .arious mysteries. ?e also practices shamanism/ and can sometimes be seen tra.eling through the wilderness/ +lying +rom treetop to treetop. 9ccasionally he assumes the +orm o+ a black panther/ a large red +o3 or a hawk. 9n clear nights when there is a +ull moon/ locals say you can hear him playing his +iddle high up in the mountains. *he "ndians say he plays +or the little 5anitou/ which come out to dance and caper.

At least once per week/ he tra.els twenty-+i.e miles on +oot to the nearest cyberca+e 6 DaltKs #ait and Cyberca+e. *here he updates his blog 6 9+ 9ur 9wn Design.

*mage by Eli(abet )nne Pfeiffer

"n an alternate uni.erse/ PD Allen is a no.elist/ a poet/ a musician and a geologist. ?e is a writer o+ high Ror trueS imagination/ metaphysical +iction/ alchemy and new thought. ?e is also a student o+ enlightenment/ inching his way along the path as it is re.ealed to him. Currently/ he di.ides his time between 5ichigan and Southern "ndiana/ li.ing with his lo.ely wi+e/ 2liIabeth.

Fiction Co"&lete Tales of da 'oo&ernatural

@emember telling spooky stories while sitting around the camp+ireJ *ales o+ da 4oopernatural combines the +eel o+ the oral tradition with modern sensibilities. "n these tales the author has created a world o+ myth and legend/ a world which looks a lot like the one we inhabit but is ,ust a bit skewed with the occasional portal to other dimensions/ appearance o+ mythical creatures/ spirits/ ghosts and more. *he stories range +rom the prosaically dreamlike to the disturbing/ without a lot o+ graphic bloodshed or gratuitous .iolence. "ncludes all +our no.ellas and three short stories. #lood 5oon Connie ?illman +ollows her +ormer lo.er into madness. "n the ancient ?uron 5ountains/ she encounters ghosts/ cannibalistic Deendigo/ and a mysterious giant while

trying to rescue the man she cannot stop caring about/ Phil Da.erly/ an anthropologist lost in his obsession to pro.e his own demented theories. *he #uck o+ 5ulligan Plains ?enry Lincaid enters into a mythic hunt that will bring him +ace to +ace with the Cord o+ the Dilderness. 5eanwhile/ his lo.er/ Cilith Bordon/ +ears that she will lose him +ore.er. *he Secret Ci+e o+ *rees *he northern woodlands are home to many strange sights. Some say the ghosts o+ +allen +orests haunt the region/ while others say it is the ghosts o+ the lumber,acks who +elled the ancient trees. A +ew speak o+ enchantments e.en more mysterious than ghosts/ mar.els o+ the +allen wilderness that linger/ haunting woodlands and claiming the li.es o+ solitary hunters or backpackers. Carl Candau will soon disco.er the truth behind these local legends. *he Biant Liller Fi.e-year-old @ene DeClaire embarks on an ad.enture with +airies and a giantkilling dwar+. A+raid o+ the Dark Drawn on by a contrasting mi3ture o+ attraction and repulsion/ will Andrew 2rickson unco.er what secrets lie hidden in the absolute darkness o+ the haunted Caughing 2agle 5ine be+ore they cost him his li+e/ and that o+ his +riendsJ Goin him on ֨ 豈◌ his harrowing descent into a nightmare world car.ed out o+ the ancient basalt o+ the Leweenaw Peninsula. 9n "ce An enchanted/ ancient sturgeon seeks to communicate with #ruce *or.alds/ bridging the gap between man and nature. #ut is it already too late +or #ruce to escape his social preconditioningJ *his tale demonstrates that the greatest struggle is not between man and nature/ but between man and his own mindset. A Liller0s Pride 9ut o+ a misguided sense o+ loyalty/ young 9,ibwa "ndian Stephen DeClaire ignores a call to +ollow the @ed Path. ?e ,oins the army along with his +riend Skip $eunan and is shipped to "raH ,ust in time to take part in the raIing o+ Fallu,ah. Stephen +inds himsel+ the +ocus o+ a struggle between the #u++alo 5aiden and the #east o+ #abylon. "n the +ight +or his soul/ he learns power+ul lessons about imperialism/ the nature o+ war and ci.iliIation. Dill he sur.i.e the in.asion with his soul and mind intact/ or will he +ollow his +riend into the darknessJ Say 222L to da 7P/ eh.

(iddlesticks

#lind giants run amok/ .oracious Deendigo who eat e.erything in sight/ the horned one riding on a dragon-cat/ characters +rom 9,ibwa mythology come to li+e/ a dark shaman/ the Corrupted ?orde/ and a blight on the Dorld 7nder the Flesh and the Dorld o+ the Flesh. DhatKs a young +iddler to doJ Si3teen year old 9,ibwa @ene DeClaire is disillusioned and alienated +rom the modern world in which she li.es. She would rather play her +iddle/ inhabiting the backwood o+ 5ichiganKs 7pper Peninsula/ practicing the old ways and learning to be a shaman like her Brandma @ena. ?er older brother Stephen li.es in the +orest/ hiding +rom the go.ernment and the 2ater o+ Souls. ?er mother Gudy worries about her children and their inability to compromise with the dominant ci.iliIation. #ut Brandma @ena knows how important it is that the siblings and their mother +ind the right path. She has dedicated her remaining days to helping all three o+ them open their eyes.
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Soon the younger DeClaires will +ind themsel.es in the Dorld 7nder the Flesh/ locked into a merciless battle to sa.e the ?eart o+ the Dilderness and the Cand #etween the Sky Daters +rom the ?orde/ the #light and a power+ul and corrupted shaman known as the 9gimauh. Along the way/ they will ha.e many ad.entures/ ,oined by other characters +irst introduced in the *ales o+ da 4oopernatural/ as well as new +riends o+ myth and legend. *hey will +ind this struggle +or the Dorld 7nder the Flesh is also a struggle to awaken the world +rom which they came/ the Dorld o+ the Flesh. And it all re.ol.es around the ?eart o+ the Dilderness/ a magical +iddle/ and a +iddlestick. Strange Attractors

*his .olume contains ele.en tales +rom the +rontier o+ imagination/ stories that are/ by turn/ surreal/ satirical/ surprising/ sub.ersi.e/ slapstick/ sensual and spiritual. And always stimulating.

"nto the $ight *he poet seeks the illumination and +reedom +ound in the darkest shadow o+ the night. Surreal/ otherworldly/ lyrical/ and +illed with essential intimacy and noncon+ormity. Daiting +or the Cight 5ore +un than a garbage truck +ull o+ Iombies/ which it +eatures/ along with e.il clowns and the end o+ the world/ all o+ which beset our protagonist as he sits in a le+t turn lane/ waiting +or the tra++ic light to change. Dalt0s #ait and Cyberca+T A short and Huirky .ignette about *rance Gorgenson0s attempt to bring the two horse yooper town o+ Datersmeet into the age o+ the internet. Dhat happens when backwoods 4oopers meet the world wide webJ @e.olution/ o+ course. *he ConHuest o+ #read A radical tale o+ awakening Iombies. "t is a tribute to Lropotkin/ told in the +irst person plural. Goyride @eady +or laugh-out-loud ad.entureJ Goin Captain Dill Power as he tries to sa.e #ugtown +rom peeping toms/ rabid guard dogs/ e.il pro+essors/ demonic toadies/ an army o+ Iombies/ religious Iealots and dri.e by shooters. *he only Huestion is% who will protect #ugtown +rom Captain Dill PowerJ ϋ Gesus Freaks *ake a gander at &'0s era acid casualties/ and the merits o+ what is considered a good book. 5ean and Despicable *his is the de+initi.e history o+ Gim Summers/ the +armer0s gunslinger. "n the ((0s/ tension between lumber businesses and homesteaders in 5ichigan0s 7pper Peninsula almost ri.aled the range wars +urther west. Gim Summers was at the heart o+ it. *rouble Comes to *own *he seHuel to Dalt0s #ait and Cyberca+T. 5ad bomber/ @yan Chartier comes to Datersmeet in search o+ a pay phone. @obin o+ the ?ood ?e steals +rom the rich and gi.es to the poor. A real trickster outlaw/ @obin is. ?ilariously de.ious. Bone Borilla A biIarre +antasy ad.enture. *he protagonist seeks to e.ade the e.er present ?iggs #oson. 4ou can ne.er outrun that gone gorilla. Song o+ the Dandering ?unter

*he seHuel to "nto the $ight. *he wandering hunter e.ades pursuit as he comes to understand the intimate unity underlying all that e3ists. Dill he be able to pass his disco.ery along be+ore he is hunted down himsel+J )urderer*s Sky — +nder Shattered Skies, Book 1

7nder shattered skies/ +i+ty-se.en illegal immigrants are murdered outside o+ the town o+ ?eater/ AriIona/ a dying town in a dying ci.iliIation. *heir deaths in a ritual sacri+ice awaken Sheri++ 2lliot Pierce/ Father Albert ?ayne/ pregnant sur.i.or 5aria DiaI and all o+ the people o+ ?eater to an e.il as abhorrent as what is happening in the sky o.erhead/ an e.il that is linked to what is happening in the sky/ to their +ate and to the +ate o+ the entire world. 5urdererKs Sky is the +irst book o+ the speculati.e/ dystopian horror trilogy 7nder Shattered Skies. Set in a world not too di++erent ֦ +rom our own/ a world where humanity 扰◌ has passed the point o+ no return in its e3ploitation o+ the planet/ a world where the monster threatening the +uture o+ li+e on this planet is the sociopathic inclination o+ its dominant species. "s there still a chance to sa.e it allJ Perhaps/ but only i+ we can o.ercome isolationist tendencies and achie.e a new degree o+ empathy with the world in which we li.e. Can that happenJ 9r are we damned to commit suicide by ignoranceJ Find out in 7nder Shattered Skies. Dae"on Sky — +nder Shattered Skies, Book 2

*he multi-threaded plot o+ 7nder Shattered Skies is on the mo.e e.en as the sky itsel+ is on the mo.e. "n the second book o+ the series/ DUmon Sky/ our many characters draw ine3orably closer to their +ate. And we are gi.en our +irst close look at the e.il behind the plot to cull the population through atmospheric cataclysm/ as well as a glimpse through the eyes o+ 5artin @oss and his henchman/ >ince @iker.

DUmon Sky takes the suspense/ the intrigue and the terror up another notch/ transcending the plot through the interwea.ing o+ characters/ storyline and imagination/ to deli.er the reader into a whole new realm o+ speculati.e +iction. )ourning Sky — +nder Shattered Skies, Book

*his is the +inal book o+ the 7nder Shattered Skies trilogy. *he sky erupts/ raining de.astation upon the town o+ ?eater/ AriIona/ and upon the entire world. Albert ?ayne/ Sheri++ Pierce/ Le.in ?owell/ 5aria DiaI and all the other characters struggle to sur.i.e/ +ighting against racial hatred/ Iombies/ the military and daemonic +orces. *his climactic no.el takes us to new dimensions o+ suspense/ thrills and horror. Song of !%istence
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PD Allen0s +irst post 8uantum 5editations no.el. A tale o+ .isionary +iction. A hunchback and social outcast plants the seeds to awaken e.eryone on a broken world. "n a world where power is appropriated +rom the many and co.eted by the +ew/ ?awk Descending disco.ers that power is the innate heritage o+ e.erything that e3ists. ?e undertakes a magical Huest to e3plore the true music at the heart o+ all that e3ists/ and to per+orm this song openly where all can share in it. #eauti+ul and heartbreaking/ Song o+ 23istence is +illed with uncharted depths o+ wisdom and enlightenment. All o+ us are .ictims. All o+ us are heroes. Some o+ us are monsters. $one o+ us are .ictims. $one o+ us are heroes. And the monsters are ne.er what they appear to be. Poetry -uantu" )editations. Book $ne

8uantum 5editations is a li.ing work o+ literature capable o+ lighting a +ire in the readerKs mind and trans+orming reality. *he meditations had their genesis in a personal crisis and resulting trans+ormation. As such/ they are a record o+ a .oyage through inner and outer uni.erses/ and a map +or others to +ollow. *he simple act o+ reading the meditations is su++icient to carry the reader along on this .oyage. Along the way/ the 5editations cross +rontiers o+ physics/ consciousness and the relationship between the indi.idual and the uni.erse. *he 5editations bridge Huantum physics/ *aoism and hermetic alchemy/ along with countless other sub,ects. *he +irst .olume includes riddle/ the Song o+ 23istence series/ Sacred Bro.e/ Passing *hrough/ Abundance "s/ Candscape/ Source/ 2nergy/ @elati.ity/ Soul 5ates/ Creation/ 9ur Song/ 5andala/ Sleeping the Dreamer Dreamed/ 2ternal @ound/ #ell #ook and Candle/ the Creati.ity series/ A Sorrow o+ @a.ens/ Ci+e and ?ow De Ci.e "t/ ϋ Flows/ Pictographs/ *he Secret Power o+ $onlinear/ *he Singing 5akes "t So/ *hought @espiration/ *he 2ssence o+ 5agic/ 5e 5ysel+ and "/ Stepping Stones/ *ransmitter/ Something "n 5otion/ @ide the Dragon/ Sweet ?oney in the @ock/ 7ni.ersal Form/ 7nderworld/ Skein/ DiIards All/ *he *ruth in a $ame/ #reathing Seeing #eing/ the Physics o+ 23istence series/ All 4ou Are/ 5y Co.e and "/ the #reathing 5iracles series/ @ippling/ Prepare 4oursel+ +or a 5iracle/ 2ternal Dell/ *he 5erry Bentleman/ the *rickster Series/ the #irthing Ce.iathan series/ Spiraling 9ut/ 5y Co.e Comes @iding/ the Fey *une series/ the Secret o+ 5ani+estation series/ the Summonsing the 2agles series/ the "magine series/ the 5yth series and much more.

-uantu" )editations /2

"ncludes 5y Co.e Composed/ *he Dance o+ Ci+e/ Dorld 5aking Dreams/ @esponse o+ the Brasshopper/ ?eliocentric/ *he >ibration Purple/ the D"A series Rmeditations composed during a tour of t e &etroit *nstitute of t e )rtsS/ Connecting the Dots/ the Barden o+ Allowing series/ Conscious 5ani+estation/ Fractal/ Awareness Flows/ De Are the Frontier/ Da.e Forms/ Diamond/ *he Cycle o+ Ci+e/ *ake a Deep #reath/ *he Fallacy o+ Action/ Dalking on ?ot Coals is 2asy Compared to/ *he $ature o+ *hought/ Dreamers o+ Dorlds/ Dea.ing a *hought+orm/ 5emes/ *he Secret o+ A++irmations/ *he 7ni.erse Speaks/ $a.igating "n+inity/ 2scher Stairs/ A #ellows #e/ *he Daters Dhere 4ou Swim/ *he "n.isible 5an/ *he Anni.ersary series Rfor Eli(abet S/ and much more. -uantu" )editations /

"ncludes *he 7ni.erse Speaks/ $a.igating "n+inity/ 2scher Stairs/ A #ellows #e/ *he ֦ 扰◌ Daters Dhere 4ou Swim/ *he "n.isible 5an/ *he Anni.ersary series Rfor Eli(abet S/ $ote in a #ottle/ 23ponential Cur.e/ Fruit o+ the @a.en/ *he #lade o+ Cight/ Coosening Form/ the Dho Am " series/ Spiral 9rbit/ Field o+ >ision/ A *rue 5iracle/ *he @a.enKs *ale/ *he Caughter o+ Chaos/ *he Day o+ 5agic series/ $onlinear Path/ *he Song o+ the Dell/ Scripting/ and much more. Also includes the essay/ Dhat "s 2nergyJ -uantu" )editations /0

Contains *he Song o+ 4our #ecoming/ Circular Attractor/ Stellar *hought+orms/ 7nder "n+inity/ 5y >ision o+ 4ou/ *he PainterKs Palette/ CetKs Bet Physical/ the Candscape o+ Awareness/ *he $ature o+ *urbulence/ the Purpose o+ *urbulence/ the #eltane series/ 5orning Finds 5e ?ere/ the Crossroads series/ the State o+ 23istence/ Attuned to the Donder/ *he Distance o+ Creation/ Chaotic #rain/ *he Cens o+ Consciousness/ *he Dorld o+ 5agic/ *he *hie+ o+ 9ne/ $onlinear *hought and so much more.

-uantu" )editations /1

Contains the SchrVdingerKs Cat series/ @aindrops on the Pond/ *he $ature o+ >ibration/ Synchronicity/ the #order o+ Consciousness series/ *he 7nited Choir o+ Consciousness/ *he Song o+ Atoms Cells and Stars/ Dueling Delusions/ the 5andelbrotKs Set series/ "n+lection Points/ *he $ature o+ 4our Cattice/ the Soliton series/ *hought @adiates/ *he ?ero o+ a *housand Faces/ Painter on a *ightrope/ the Dell o+ Chaos/ *he $th Degree o+ Freedom/ the 2ntropy series/ *he Breat Bod Chaos/ the "ntimacy series/ Bestalt Sel.es/ Song #etween 7s/ *he Song o+ 4our #ecoming/ and so much more. -uantu" )editations /2

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"ncluding "n the Benes/ Coe.olution/ Daking Baia/ *he Crisis o+ 2.olution/ Candscape o+ DelinHuent Dreams/ 7ni.ersal 5andelbrot/ *he Cattice o+ #eing/ Systemic Shi+ts/ *his #lossoming 5oment/ 2nergy is Awareness/ Wygote/ 2ntanglement/ *he 5usic Cessons series/ the Pro.ince o+ Creati.ity/ #order Dalkers/ Chaos is 9ur Dri.er/ Children o+ Chaos/ *he Power o+ #elie+s series/ Field o+ 23istence/ Dream o+ $ucleating Change/ Do the 5ath/ Da.e Collapse/ Creati.e 7ni.erse/ and much more. -uantu" )editations /3

"ncluding *he 2yes o+ Source/ "ndigo *ribe/ *he Dorldwide Deb o+ 23istence series/ *hinning >eil series/ 8uantum Sub,ecti.ity/ the *hoth series/ 9uroboros series/ *he $aIca Plains/ the Calcination o+ ?umanity/ *he 5arriage o+ the Sun and 5oon/ the ?atching 2go series/ the #osonKs Song series/ *he #irth o+ Consciousness/ *he Sea o+ Potential and the 7ni.ersal 5ind/ the $ew Alchemy series/ "nter+erence Patterns/ Fourier *rans+ormations/ *he Con+luence o+ @eality/ the "mplicate series/ Awash in the 8uantum >acuum/ $ous Sommes du Soleil/ *he #oundaries o+ Delusion/ ?olographic Synchronicity/ and much more. -uantu" )editations /4

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"ncluding "nner Candscapes/ Con,unction 5edicine Dheel/ Ci+t the >eil/ 8uantum Directi.es/ the @iddle o+ 5e/ "ntertwined/ the ?abit series/ *hought and *hing/ 2ntangled Fields/ Conscious *rans+ormation/ String o+ Pearls/ Dorking the Cooms/ Subtle 2nergy/ Caduceus/ the 5echanics o+ 5ani+estation/ 5instrel Dancer *rickster/ Degree o+ Awareness/ Fountain o+ 4outh/ *ree o+ Ci+e/ Dancing 5ind/ #lessed Flowers o+ Delight/ 7pside Down *ree/ the ?ermes series/ "n the 7nderworld and much more. -uantu" )editations /5

"ncluding Field o+ Awareness/ #alls o+ Lnowledge/ the Speed o+ Awareness/ the Spawned series/ 9n Dings o+ *hought/ From the 5ind o+ Weus/ Dancing 5emes/ Passing through the Crucible/ 7ni.ersal 5oment Focus/ *he Fey are Calling/ Dissolution o+ 5emes/ 2ye o+ the Pyramid/ 5utable Deb/ Subtleties o+ Form and much more. Experimental Narrative Awakening Dragon6 an Sha"anic Ad7enture

Awakening Dragon is about empowerment/ stirring the magick that lies at your heart/ and through your heart/ at the heart o+ the uni.erse. "t is an introspecti.e ,ourney through the depths o+ the subconscious/ through the essence o+ thought and emotion/ through archetypes and the laws o+ e3istence/ and into the dynamic +low o+ energy and awareness that underlies e.erything in the uni.erse/ e.erything in the wakeaday/ and e.erything in the underworld. "t is a story about +inding yoursel+/ +inding your center/ and +inding the lo.e and intent that is at the heart o+ e.erything. #ased on a shamanic e3perience/ this book contains a .isionary ,ourney to awaken the dragon within and bring its power into the world/ also awakening to the interconnection o+ all things. *he +irst portion o+ the book consists o+ a nonlinear song cycle/ +ollowed by an e3perimental prose narrati.e. -uantu" )editations 8ideos 5any 8uantum 5editations ha.e been +eatured in .ideos/ with background images and music/ +or your .iewing pleasure. http%XXyoutu.beXHo$l7 a )u0 http%XXyoutu.beXaDi!+AY#S27 http%XXyoutu.beXmo2.?8s-$m7

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