Note: The tales of Kaska-Ta can be described as a semi-fictional, metaphorical auto-biography. It builds off of previous “Kaska-Ta” entries and will likely resurface from time to time when I wish to present situations without specific details. (It’s my blog, deal with it.) The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are essentially true.
Indecision has been the death of many men over many years. Even for those as strong and stubborn as Kaska-Ta, we are all as little as two steps from oblivion on any given day. To think yourself otherwise is usually the beginning of the end for you. Thoughts like this echoed in Kaska-Ta’s head as he realized his own end lay before him… as the last glimmer of hope escaped him and he descended quite literally into darkness…
After speaking with the shepherd, Kaska-Ta went ahead to his farm to get a feel for the surroundings. He was welcomed here and regained some of his strength among new friends and a few of his old tribe-mates who had indeed come from the east. “It would be easy…” he thought “to remain here. It feels like home used to.” But something weighed on his mind, something felt wrong.
The shepherd had made many promises: shelter, friends and (perhaps most importantly) an abundance of supplies. As had been mentioned, the rains had already begun to fall in a light drizzle and early the following morning Kaska-Ta travelled west to the edge of the high ground to survey the land beyond. From this point it was easy to tell the shepherd was right: the canyon beyond was deep and irregular and would be a difficult trip under the best circumstances. With the rains, even before the flood it would be a treacherous path, and one with no visible end in sight. What occurred to him in that moment though, was that there was no path. No road, no indication of recent travel. Certainly it could be done (though judging from the canyons with a great deal of hardship) How then, had some of the villagers come from the west?
“Be careful.” The voice chimed in. “Your questions and decisions might affect more than just you.”
They ate together at lunch and Kaska-Ta asked the villagers and tribe members to speak of the western village. With little pause, they answered and spoke of a great city beyond the village that supported and traded with it. Many riches passed through the area and great opportunity existed for all who settled there.
“Why then… would you make the trip here? Just to help the shepherd?” Kaska-Ta asked himself. But he was careful and asked instead if the village was affected by the flooding. This drew a slightly larger pause but they recovered quickly enough and assured him the village lay beyond the reach of the flooding. The rest of lunch was small talk, Kaska-Ta already had his suspicions and it would do him no good to press the issue now.
That night Kaska-Ta found the shepherd with his flock near the eastern boarder of the farm. The sheep could graze here but the land was already showing signs of the barren desert from which Kaska-Ta had emerged a few days before. The sheep’s wool glistened in the soft rain under the shepherd’s lantern. “Good evening shepherd.” Kaska-Ta greeted. “Same to you traveler! Glad to have you among the family.” the shepherd replied. “What brings you out for a visit? You should still be resting after the desert…”
A shadow darker than the twilight grew over Kaska-Ta’s face. “I’ve come for the truth. I know there is no village to west… at least, not that any here know of. Why do they lie? And what is really to the west?”
“Death.” The shepherd replied. “For you, death lies in every direction but here. Just as it did for for those who came before you.”
Kaska-Ta was quickly moving from irritated to angry. “Enough riddles, enough cryptic prophesy. You know I know, so come out with it.”
“Or what?” The shepherd mused. He was right of course, violence would serve nothing in this case. But the shepherd continued “Those that are here have been here. One or two arrive every third cycle or so. Rugged adventurers like you who have survived the desert and one even reformed from the badlands. They work the farm and live in peace here. I asked them to lie about what I promised you before… to keep you here. I need more than workers, I need leaders and protectors.” The shepherd paused and spread his arms toward the farmland. “This farm will be a community and you have a place here, building it! We can be a beacon of light in this desolate land and save all those who wander this way from what will otherwise be death. Or worse!” he gestured to toward the south where the badlands lay.
“You mean we can trick them and trap them, as you intended to do to me?” Kaska-Ta was calm and cold, he already knew what he had to do.
The shepherd was now eyeing Kaska-Ta with a gaze both condescending and full of pity. “Think what you will of me friend, but you would have died out there. Any of them would have. I did what I had to do to save them, and said what I had to say to save you. That’s the truth of it.” The shepherd looked up at the night sky. “Now the rains have come and you can spend them sulking in your quarters if you like, or you can help me build something great for us and those to come. Either way, I saved you, so I think you’ll find some way to forgive me.”
Kaska-Ta grinned but there was fire in his eyes. “I forgive you… perhaps you did save me.”
The shepherd’s face brightened immediately “Good! Good! I knew you were the rational and…”
“And I’m leaving.” Kaska-Ta interrupted. “At first light.”
“What!?” The shepherd’s composure quickly disintegrated. “What!? Where!? The rains have come! There’s nowhere to go! I understand you’re angry but don’t be a fool!!”
“I’ll find my path and it will be true.” Kaska-Ta resolved this, he realized, as much for himself as to the shepherd.
“The hells with you and your path!” The shepherd cried. You’re insane! Within a moon the floods will set, and another moon after that nothing will be seen but water… water and your stubborn, floating corpse!”
“He’s not lying about that…” the voice chimed in, but Kaska-Ta was already turning back for the farm. “Thank you shepherd, I forgive you in return for the supplies you grant me… perhaps I’ll see you again.”
The shepherd said nothing, he simply stared at Kaska-Ta as he made his way back to the farm.
Later as Kaska-Ta filled his water sack and packed what supplies allowed to him, many of the tribe members expressed their regret and a couple asked him to stay despite the lies. Logically it made sense, Kaska-Ta could make a life here. But something deeper knew that it was not his path… not like this. Had everything been as said, he might’ve stayed and found a reason to settle here, but as it was it was wrong going into it and three cycles thinking of that might well drive him mad.
The rain was slightly more tangible than it had been the previous day as the first light crept over the horizon. It felt better than the relentless sun and the ground was slightly softer through Kaska-Ta’s boots. (He was grateful he had kept them through the desert, they were heavy, but protective and waterproof.) The rains would undoubtedly soak him over time, but with his feet dry and his long coat preserving his body heat, he would last a while.
“Where will you go now?” The ever-vigilant voice chimed in, as if it didn’t already know. Kaska-Ta was well aware the banter of the voice was for his sake as opposed to actual curiosity.
“South.” he replied. “Time is short, and at least there I already know they will lie to me. I’ll use them as I need to and see the path that lies beyond.”
“I don’t think I have to tell you that may not go as planned.”
“Did you have a better idea?” Kaska-Ta smiled to himself, waited through the expected silence, and continued. “It never does. But I have to keep moving and if I stay here, I’ll die for sure.”
And so the rains came, and Kaska-Ta descended south into what he expected would be darkness. Darkness he found, but it was nothing like he had hoped.