The Story of Jak: Beginning
I awake, and start to prepare mornmeal as the dawn breaks. Even with dawnbreak, it doesn't get much lighter, here in our forest. Wadft Forest, we foresters call it. We've been here for over one thousand years. The outsiders, the 'moderns' with their 'thek-nowl-ed-gy' call it Waft Forest, like wind maybe. A simple misunderstanding. Wadft Forest is named after a legend, an ancient legend that only foresters know. Some outsiders know the legend as well, but the decision for a forester to tell an outsider must be greatly considered, by the Law of the Forest. I have decided to tell you this ancient legend, and the prophecy that comes with it, that you may learn from it. It is the Legend of Jaas.
The Legend of Jaas: Beginning
Jaas is our greatest ancestor. He is the one who discovered the Himble, and wrote the prophecy, when he was still a young man. He led the first foresters into the forest, for he could sense that something would happen to the others. He went to the ones he felt were right, and offered them a good life, maybe not better, maybe not worse than the others, but different. He went to their village's wizard and offered to have him help lead his new civilization, but the Wizard declined. 'It is not my place to go. This is the start of a quest for you. I will give you something to aid your journey.' He handed Jaas a deep-blue velvet bag. 'Don't open it now. Open it after you get your people settled, when you feel the time is right.'
'You will know.'
So Jaas led his followers into the forest. They reached a lake, and it was decided they would make their civilization there.
Some years after they settled, Jaas felt it was time to open the bag. He loosened the drawstring and put his hand inside. He drew out a stone, and held it in the light. The stone sparkled with blues and greens and purples. He said aloud, 'How is this stone going to help me in a quest?'
A voice, deep and not really speaking, just being, entered his head. 'You must go....'
'Go where?' Jaas asked, full of wonder.
'You must find them....'
'Find the Himble... Travel west....'
'Why must I find them?'
'Please... You ought to know better... than to question a disembodied voice....'
'Oh. I forgot. 'Don't question a disembodied voice- it might be someone you know,'' Jaas quoted the Sayings.
'Um. Look. Would you do me a favor? Stop drifting off at the end of your sentences. The end only needs one period.'
'Very well,' the voice continued crisply. 'I only do that to inspire awe and respect in the keepers, such as yourself. Many have become uncomfortable and left me. You are the first to hold a conversation this long. Although you are the one who is meant to have this stone.'
'Boy, do I feel special.'
'You must travel westward for some large time. You will eventually come upon the village in which the Himble live. You will tell them you are from the lake.'
'Okay, but... who are the Himble? You keep saying I need to find them and all that, but- who are they?'
'They are a truly fascinating people. They appear to have such so-called 'magical properties' as changing size. However, they do not really change their size. They instead call their art 'changing perspective.' You are to go to them and learn their arts. Teach them what you will. When you return to your own people, you will tell them your story. 1000 years from that date, exactly, your grandson's grandson will follow in your footsteps to re-find the Himble. I will not be there to help him. You must make your story well, for it will be the only thing to help him. Now, you must go.'
So that night Jaas gathered what he would need to travel to the village of the Himble. The next day, he left.
The Legend of Jaas: Travel
The day Jaas left, it was unusually warm for deep forest. A warm wind was blowing gently, rippling Jaas's long dark hair. He felt as if the wind were wishing him luck on his journey. He recalled that his peoples' ancestors used to worship the wind, base their lives around it. Soon enough, Jaas suspected, his people would have a new idea to base their lives around- his story.
That morning, Jaas had been walking away from the hint of sun that shone through the thick leaves of the trees. As the sun neared its peak, Jaas stopped for midmeal. He had quite a bit of dried seaplant, the main dish of the forest-dwellers, but he decided to save that until he really needed it. For this day, he could find plants on the ground that were edible. His people were vegetarians, but the city-dwellers, with all their thek-nowl-ed-gy, ate the flesh of animals. Jaas shuddered at the thought. This was just another of the many differences that had evolved between the city-dwellers and forest-dwellers throughout the year. After eating, Jaas stretched out on the forest floor and took a short nap, in the custom of his people. It was a racial memory from the time when they lived out on the open sand, and had to find shade during the hottest hours of the day.
After awakening, Jaas picked up his things and trudged on, this time towards the faint glimmer of the sun. As he walked, he reached behind into his pack and pulled out the velvet bag. He took out the stone and cupped it in his hands. It felt warm. Some strange heat seemed to be emanating from it. Jaas waited for the voice to project itself into his head, and when he still heard nothing, he spoke. 'Stone, magical Stone,' he called.
'Yes?' Jaas heard.
'Um... after I find the Himble village, what do I do?' Jaas asked, for he had no true reason for talking to the voice right then.
'I have told you,' the voice replied. 'You are to tell the Himble that you are from the lake.'
'I know, but- then what?'
'You will ask to go to the village's Wise Woman. She will tell you what to do from there. You will probably be entrusted into the care of one of the villagers, who will teach you their art of 'changing perspective.' You will learn as much as you can, all they will teach you, and you will come back to your own village when the time is right. -Don't worry, you will know when,' the voice added, anticipating the question.
'All right,' Jaas answered, as he put the Stone away..
When dusk came, he ate, and slept, and dreamed about what the Himble would be like.
The Legend of Jaas: Truth
Jaas has been thinking a lot as he walked, about himself, his journey, the Himble, but mostly about the strange voice emanating from this strange stone. One thing had been troubling him greatly. Now, he finally asked: 'What do you really look like? Or are you more of a stone-being?'
'You wish to know my true figure? Look through the stone.'
Jaas gazed at the stone- into the stone- through the stone! and saw the figure of the voice. Jaas opened his mouth, his shriek echoing through the darkness of the forest. For he had seen no other than himself- older, perhaps- but undoubtedly himself.
Jaas asked shakily, 'H-how-what-how can that be me?
'That is not how you know yourself now,' the voice- himself- replied.
'But- someday- I'll be in there?' Jaas asked incredulously.
'As I have said, not as you know yourself now. From studying with the Himble, you will learn what shall come to be called Himble-Wadft. You will be able to turn your spirit, the essence of your being, of what you are, into pure colored energy.'
'The color one will see when looking at your spirit, your sviide, will accurately reflect your inner being. What color was your sviide when you looked through the stone?'
'I- don't remember...'
Jaas gaped with horror. 'But I don't want to see that again!' he said, a bit more forcefully than he had meant to. 'To look at-' he choked.
'Do so,' the voice commanded.
Jaas looked again, and realized that the figure he had seen before, his older self's sviide, was indeed made up of pure energy- blue, the jeweled tone one saw at night through the tree canopy. 'Blue- deep blue,' he stammered.
'Good,' the voice said, pleased. 'I cannot now explain to you what the colors mean. You will learn that later, with the Himble. Now resume walking,' he commanded, for indeed, when Jaas had screamed, he had stopped walking and stood stock-still.
A few minutes later, Jaas addressed the voice again. 'Wait-'
'I am always waiting.'
'-If you're my older self,' he continued slowly. More quickly he burst out with, 'does that mean I'll have to repeat this whole thing?'
'An interesting scholar's question.'
'It's like a time loop or something. Time travel, maybe,' Jaas continued, as if he'd never been interrupted. 'If I'm in true-time, you, my later self, hasn't existed yet.'
'Is there such a thing as true-time?'
'Well, the scholars say there is...'
'Isn't it possible that time is a live thing, a pliable thing that can be bent, and shaped, and molded and re-molded?'
'I guess so... Anyway, assuming there is true-time, if you're in true-time, then am I just a memory of yours? But you can't remember something that hasn't happened because you can't be in two places at once, or in one place in duplicate, especially two different selves. You're not possible. Or I'm not. This is all crazy. You, and me, time-travel and older and younger selves, and- you're messing with my mind and- you're enjoying it!' Jaas accused.
'Peace, young one. I take no pleasure from suffering. Though it is rather amusing to see you rambling on about irrelevant topics,' the voice admitted. 'This has no impact on your quest!' he nearly yelled.
'Doesn't it?' Jaas asked quietly, calmly. 'You have a direct impact on my quest, therefore discussion of you might have an impact on my quest. In fact, without you, I wouldn't even be on this quest!'
'Correction: without the Wizard you wouldn't be on this quest.'
'No,' Jaas argued. 'Without me, I wouldn't be on this quest.'
'Hmm,' his sviide answered.
Jaas walked the rest of the day without conversing with his sviide. He listened to the birds and thought about what had transpired.
The Legend of Jaas: Discovery
Many days passed much like the last had, a little discussion with Jaas's sviide, but mostly quiet walking, for two weeks. On the 16th day of travel, Jaas ran out of water. On the 17th day of travel, Jaas ran out of food. The past few days there had been no food growing, and on this day he ran out of seaplant. He addressed his sviide with the problem. 'I'm out of food.' There was no answer. A little anxiously, Jaas repeated, 'Sviide. I'm out of food.'
He then heard, as if coming to him from a long way away, 'Patience. You are close.'
Three days passed. With each, Jaas became more and more hungry and thirsty. There were some plants in this area of the forest, now, but Jaas did not know any of them. He decided that he had to try to eat something, for he was sure he might soon die. Being dizzy with hunger, he forgot to ask his sviide for advice, and ate some poison berries. He became dizzier and got a fever, but he stumbled on, the only thought in his mind now to get to where he needed to go.
The next evening, the last day in the third week of travel, tired, hungry, thirsty, and sick, Jaas saw ahead of him a flickering light. It wasn't fireflies or the moon reflecting on a lake, but firelight! As he dragged himself closer, he began to hear a babble of voices. He saw a group of people. Then one voice, that of an old woman -perhaps the village's Wise Woman?- rose above the others, and they quieted. She spoke in the sing-song voice of a prophecy.
She withdrew from the crowd, her wise eyes glinting in his direction. Jaas's mind cleared from the poison a bit. The other voices were quiet a moment, then began their babble again. A shiver ran down Jaas's spine. He had the strangest feeling the woman was talking about him. And the one he must consult- surely that was his sviide? Obligingly, he retrieved the bag, took out the stone. Spoke. 'O Sviide, my Sviide.'
'Waxing poetic, are we?' the voice said, amused.
'Well...' Jaas answered, embarrassed. 'Never mind,' he continued. 'There's people up ahead.'
'So there are,' the voice replied, sounding like he was squinting into the darkness.
'This woman spoke. Maybe the Wise Woman? She said some poem- said I should 'consult with one. I could only assume she meant you. Then she said I had to wait until morning. Great Forest, I wish I could go now! I'm so hungry.'
'Patience,' the voice said kindly.
'Uh-huh. So what am I to consult with you about?'
'You are correct, first: that is the Wise Woman. Tomorrow you will seek her anew. She will tend to your needs, but you must not ask for food or water until you have met with her.'
'Why?' Jaas asked, annoyed.
'That is not for you to know as yet.'
'Well, then they are the Himble?'
Hungry and thirsty, his head once again clouded from the berries, there was nothing Jaas could do but wait out the night. His stomach empty past growling and his mouth feeling full of sand, Jaas stifled a yawn and arranged a bed for himself out of the leaves that littered the forest floor. He sighed resignedly as he lay down, determined to make the most of what would undoubtedly be a rough and restless night. He slept little, and woke with dawn the next day.
The Legend of Jaas: Wise Woman
The sun rose not a moment too soon for Jaas, as he stood up with dawnbreak. He would have rushed into the village, but weak from lack of food, he had to go at a slower pace. By the time he staggered into the village, half-way through the morning, the open-air market was already bustling with activity. A well-meaning woman rushed to his aid. 'Sir! You have eaten the poison berries! Surely we must get you to the healer!'
'Nay,' he forced out weakly through dry, parched lips. 'I must go to your Wise Woman!'
'Nay! Medical assistance!' she insisted.
He pushed himself away from her support. 'The Wise Woman!' he gasped.
An elder said in a deep, strong, and strange-sounding voice, 'Sure an' we must do what 'ee says, lass. We don' ignore requests fer the Wise Woman.' He looked more closely at Jaas. 'Ye're not from aroun' 'ere, are ye, lad?' Jaas shook his head as best he could. 'Well then, lad, where're ye from?'
'From the lake,' he managed.
'You there, lad! Give us a 'and!' he said, motioning at a boy. Together, they dragged Jaas to the Wise Woman's dwelling, and put him on a bed. ' 'Ee says 'ee's from the lake, milady,' the elder told her respectfully.
'Very good. You may leave him here with me, Jame,' she replied decisively. After they left, she gently touched his face. His eyes flickered open.
'I've been traveling for some time, friend,' he rasped. 'Might you spare a bit of water?'
'You are from the lake?' she asked, her eyes glittering.
'Aye. Water- please!'
'Stand that I may see you.'
'Cannot you endure a little hardship?'
'I've gone five days without food, six days without water. I ate some poison berries near here,' he said, struggling to his feet. 'I've been three weeks hard traveling besides.'
'Hm,' the Wise Woman said, slightly contemptuously. 'You seem in good health other than that. Tals!' she called. 'Sit down,' she ordered Jaas. He sank to the bed gratefully. 'Tals! Bring my guest here a bowl of soup,' she said to the young man when he arrived. 'It's venison,' she explained to Jaas.
'Deer meat!' he cried. 'You cannot be friends with an animal if you take its brother's flesh even for nourishment!'
'Friends?' she asked skeptically.
'Aye. If you get lost in the forest, a deer'll always point you in the right direction- unless it smells flesh on your breath.'
'Oh- all right then. Tals! Some vegetable stew. And put some poison-berry medicine in it.'
The youth brought the stew, and Jaas ate in silence. When he finished, he asked her, 'Have you a name I may call you?'
'ValeRse, I am known as Jaas.'
'Tell me how it is you came to be here.'
Jaas told her something of the story I have already told you. When he completed his story, ValeRse asked to see the stone containing his sviide. Used to the drill now, he took out the bag from the pack he was still wearing on his back and handed her the stone. She cupped it in her palm and gazed at it reverently, but the stone did not speak to her. With awe in her voice, she said, 'There's not many SviideStones around anymore, and besides, all the ones I have known of have belonged to Himble Wizards. It must be for some great reason that a SviideStone came to be in the possession of a commoner, and a Wadft besides.'
'Is that what you call us?'
'Well, what do you call yourselves?'
'We call ourselves foresters, since we left the outsiders, the 'moderns,' and entered the forest to live.'
'I see. My, it's gotten late,' she said, for indeed, they had been talking some large time and the sun had long been on its journey below the horizon. 'It's time for evemeal and sleep. Tals!' she called. When he arrived, she continued. 'Jaas, you will stay with Tals's family. Tals, inform your mother that he eats no meat, and bring him back here in the morning.'
So, thus entrusted into the care of Tals, who, for his small size was about Jaas's age, Jaas followed him in silence. Several times he tried to engage Tals in conversation, but Tals, stared stony-faced ahead. 'Come on, Tals,' he said, puzzled and exasperated. 'Cat got your tongue?'
Tals turned to Jaas and nodded solemnly. He opened his mouth, and Jaas peered inside. Sure enough, Tals was short one tongue. He kneeled down, Jaas following his lead, and drew a picture in the dust of the path, a large cat. He rose. Only then did Jaas see the scars below Tals's chin. He cringed as he stood up, and Tals laid a comforting hand on his arm. 'Don't worry,' his eyes seemed to say, 'we'll communicate, someday.' Jaas smiled at him and they continued on their way.
The Legend of Jaas: The First Training
So Jaas stayed that night with Tals and his family. His mother explained to Jaas that Tals worked for the Wise Woman because of something she had foreseen. She taught Tals the mind-arts, and he was to one day teach them to everyone. Tals's mother didn't know the whole story; only ValeRse and Tals did, and they weren't talking.
As Jaas had last spoken with his sviide the previous night, he drew the stone out of its bag once he was in his sleep-room. Quietly, so he wouldn't bother anyone, he addressed the stone. 'Sviide.'
'Yes, well, how've you done?'
'I spoke with the Wise Woman.'
'Good, good. Where are you now?'
'At the house of Tals. He works with ValeRse- the Wise Woman.'
'Oh, already on a first-name basis, are we?'
'Oh- moderns have last names, even middle names, as well as first names. There's so many people, they need the extra names to tell them apart!'
'Oh- when'd I learn that?'
'But- that's impossible. You can't just learn something out of nothing.'
'We already discussed this. Don't worry about it.'
While they had been conversing, Tals had silently slid into the room. He laid a hand on Jaas's arm, and Jaas jumped. 'Oh, it's you, Tals.'
'Tals says, 'Hello. I didn't realize you had a SviideStone,' ' the stone told Jaas.
'What? Oh- of course, the mind-arts.'
'Tals says, 'Whose sviide is in there?' '
'My own, from some time in the future.'
'Tals says, 'Your SviideStone would make it easier to converse, but you need to learn yourself. Now is the first Training.' '
A wave of agony swept through Jaas's head. He would have screamed if not for Tals's hand clamped tightly over his mouth. ' 'Pain is the easiest way to start,' ' his sviide told him. ' 'Words are hard to comprehend at first. Let's try something a little different. I'll send you a picture of something, and you'll describe it back to me.' '
'Okay.' Jaas concentrated hard, to try to receive the picture, but he could sense nothing.
' 'Relax. Don't force it; let it come,' ' his sviide advised him.
'I see... a tree.'
' 'What kind?' '
'It's... wait, I've got it... sassafras!'
' 'Yes!' '
They worked at this for a few more hours, until Jaas could receive both pictures and feelings much more easily. He wanted to move on to the next stage right away, but Tals insisted that they both get some sleep, as ValeRse didn't take kindly to tardiness. When they saw her the next morning they would find out the next step. Tals returned to his sleep-room and they both went to sleep.
Sometime during the night, Tals woke Jaas up, and, through the stone, said, ' 'I'm hearing your dreams. You were unconsciously sending. That's good, but try to keep it down. Or give me a good adventure.' ' Jaas laughed, and Tals smiled as he went in his silent way back to his sleep-room.
The Legend of Jaas: Jame Hando
The next day, after mornmeal, as Tals led Jaas back to ValeRse, Tals tried to tell Jaas a story by sending him pictures, duplicating their earlier success, but, try as they might, Jaas couldn't receive words.
When the reached ValeRse's hut, she welcomed them in, and said to Jaas, 'Stay here.' She led Tals into another room where she talked with him for a scant minute. They didn't talk properly, of course Tals was unable to, so Jaas decided they were probably using the mind-arts, and occasionally ValeRse would say something.
Soon they emerged. 'Tals tells me you've survived the First Training,' she reported. Jaas nodded. 'Good. From now-on you will be staying with the man who brought you here yesterday, Jame Hando, and, hopefully, learning from him. He's a bit possessive of what he knows.'
'Possessive- of knowledge! You can't be possessive of knowledge! Knowledge is to be shared!'
ValeRse snorted. 'First you want us to be friends with deer, now you want Jame Hando to freely share his knowledge. You're a revolutionizer, child, and outspoken! He'll like you. He might even teach you something.'
After that strange outburst, Jaas wasn't quite sure what to say. Finally, he asked ValeRse to tell him more about Jame Hando. Obliging, she replied, 'Well, he's not actually from around here. He's not a Himble by birth, but rather by choice. You've noticed his accent, or you will, as you met him earlier when you first arrived here and were disoriented from the poison berries. He's a modern, so he has the two names, Jame, his first name, and Hando, his last name. We will go to him now. If Jame agrees, Tals may stay with you.'
The three left ValeRse's house and headed through the marketplace to see Jame Hando.
The Legend of Jaas: Convincing Jame
They got to Jame Hando's house and knocked on the door. His housekeeper answered.
'Good day, Liba,' ValeRse greeted her.
'Good day, ValeRse. Please, come in.' She led them into a sitting room. 'Please, make yourselves comfortable here. I'll tell Jame he has guests.' She left to find Jame.
Jaas and Tals fidgeted in their seats, but ValeRse seemed oblivious to their discomfort. Minutes passed and they were still waiting for Jame to make to his appearance. 'Maybe he isn't coming. Maybe we should leave,' Jaas suggested uneasily.
'Nonsense,' replied ValeRse matter-of-factly. 'Jame may not always be prompt, but he would have sent word were he not able to see us. Anyway, he isn't always this rude,' she added as Jame entered the room. She turned to face him with a calm and knowing expression on her face, almost giving the impression that she had eyes in the back of her head. 'Greetings, Jame.'
'Greetin's, ValeRse,' he responded, just as reservedly. He cast a measured curious look at Jaas and Tals.
'This is Tals, and Jaas is a Wadft from the lake.' Jaas and Tals nodded Jame a greeting.
'An' they would be 'ere why, 'xactly?'
'Tals has been my assistant, and he and Jaas have come to learn from you.'
'I'm not lookin' for 'prentices.'
'They have come to learn from you.'
'They're not stayin' 'ere. Thank you for this visit, milady. Sure an' you mus' 'ave somethin' to be doin'. You may be wantin' to be leavin' now.'
'But-' Jaas stammered.
'Thank you for your hospitality, Jame. Come, Jaas, Tals.' She led Jaas and Tals out the door and down the street, as impassively as she had come.
'ValeRse! Why'd you just accept him dismissing us like that?'
'He did not agree to teach you. Even so influential a person as I finds it hard to convince one such as Jame Hando when he has made up his mind. We shall try again tomorrow. Tals, you and Jaas may go. Do what you will.' Jaas and Tals left.
The next few days passed much as the previous had. They went to see Jame Hando, but were unable to convince him to teach them.
The fifth day, they arrived at Jame Hando's house once again and knocked on the door only to find his housekeeper there alone. 'Why, Jame just left a few minutes ago. I'm sure he had no idea you were coming, or he would of course have been here to greet you.'
'As you say. Do you know where he went?'
'Well, it's the ninth day of the mooncycle, so he wouldn't've gone shopping at the market. He and I always shop on the fourth, fourteenth, and twenty-fourth days of the mooncycle. He likes the number four, you know.'
'Yes, well do you know where he might have gone?'
'I seem to remember him saying something about helping his friend Bayhr build a house for his son Dhani, who's to be married next mooncycle.'
'I know where Bayhr's building the house for Dhani. We'll go to see him there. Thank you.'
'You're welcome. I hope he'll talk to you!'
The Legend of Jaas: The Building of Dhani's House
So ValeRse led Jaas and Tals down the street to the site where Bayhr was building the house for his son Dhani.
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