Rimwalker

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Chapter 13

Jan faced his opponent. He was armed with 2 of the swords the bullfighters used, as was Dak. In a funny way as he had killed Dak already once before, and left him for stranded another time, this third time should be easier. But it wasn’t. It was the hardest of the lot. They circled and the man over 120 years old, who looked in his mid 60s by ancient standards, surveyed his opponent. Dak was old too, Jan unsure of his exact age. But Arcturian’s were capable of living a lot longer than human beings. Jan manoeuvred one of the blades in his hand into a striking position, as if stabbing someone from above, and moved in to try and hit Dak. But Dak raised one of his daggers and defended the blow, the blades sparking electricity. He went back to circling and tried another tactic – a thrust. But Dak managed to evade him and they started circling again. But this was a bit too much for both of them and they started puffing, which Lord Tannia noticed and grinned to himself because of it. The final thrust came with a feint to Dak’s left side, but with a jolting punch into his right. Dak fell to the ground, lost control of both his blades which Jan instantly picked up and Dak was instantly at the mercy of Kolby. Kolby looked down at him. He could not kill him, he knew that much. He was a fighter, a rogue, even a bounty hunter – but a cold blooded killer, which this much seemed to be – well that was not in the nature of Jan Kolby. He stood over his victim and looked up at Lord Tannia and shouted. ’I will not kill him but the victory is mine.’Lord Tannia looked down at them and spoke. ‘Blood is required in a blood duel.’ Jan thought on that and instantly bent down and cut a small shiver on Dak’s arm, drawing just a little blood. He held the blood up for Lord Tannia and shouted ’You have your blood.’Lord Tannia considered the situation. The human had fought fairly and with honour. He was the superior athlete to the Arcturian so in his grace the Lord Tannia would honour the blood debt.’You have fought bravely, Sir Jan Kolby. You have thought with a galaxy depending upon you and still would not kill to achieve the peace you desired. With such a man as this we Cheng now feel we can enter into a relationship of mutual understanding with those who are now our former enemy.’There was a cheer from the crowd and Chance in the box breathed a sigh of relief. Jan looked down at Dak, helped him to his feet, and said. ’Its your lucky day, Dak Bluddhook. But you’ll never change will you.’Dak dusted himself off and replied, ‘Not if I can help it.’ 18 Jan handled the draft negotiations with Lord Tannia personally for the protocols for peace with Kalan and Xadina being witnesses on behalf of the UFGSS to the draft treaty. The agreement came down, in the end, to a memorandum of understanding. The UFGSS would not interfere with Cheng jurisdiction of Andromeda, a point which Jan did not really like as he favoured freedom for the civilizations under Cheng control. But he realized that objective could be met in the long term and for now to agree to peace rather than quibble over something he had no immediate control over anyway. In return the Cheng would become associate members of the UFGSS, not full members, but with the same voting abilities as other members and with many other rights, but few responsibilities apart from agreeing to the standards of United Galactic law which would be gradually worked out between the two parties. They also began the formation of a trade agreement between the two galaxies which would set the seen, ultimately, for an agreed upon united currency. But all that was years away. For now they generally agreed upon an end to hostilities, the withdrawal of Cheng troops from the Milky Way, and the setting up of a tribunal to minister articles of compensation for UG losses which the Cheng agreed upon to pay, surprising Jan who had just nudged at the idea. Ultimately what Jan had wished to achieve in Andromeda he had largely done and as they were again accompanied by Zhaki Nakia back to UG space. All the way home Chance congratulated her husband and at their first port of call, Arcturia, they dropped off their one passenger, Dak Bluddhook, and caught up with their family. Arcturia was free again and the celebrations had been planet wide. Jan was the head of many official functions in his few weeks in Arcturia, finishing with Arcturia, at Jan’s invitation, accepting membership in the UFGSS. It seemed for Jan Kolby that in his latter years life had thrown him a challenge. A great and difficult challenge but one, fortunately, he had come through and dealt with in true heroic style. All that lay before them now was, hopefully, peace. Peace and the continued expansion of the UFGSS 19 It was two years later, when all the hoo-hah had died down, that Jan finally felt his age. And how old did he feel. He was 125 now and felt like old Moses and perhaps even looked like him with the lengthy beard he had grown in his final years. It was the morning of the seventh day of the week and Chance had wheeled him in his wheelchair down to the ecclesiastical service dedicated to the ‘One’. As he sat there in the temple just near New Terra’s palace Jan felt his heart beat strongly. It was time – he knew it. Later that day, after the heart attack had done its course, Jan was lying tenderly in bed. Chance knew his time had come and so did Kalan and Xadina who were right by his side. Jan looked at Chance and spoke his final words to her. ‘Chance. Chance Kibb’star. I don’t think I ever told you this but when I first met you something changed in me. I lost an edge. A hardened edge and slowly started becoming the man I have become. You changed me Chance and I want you to know this. Whatever awaits me in my destiny ahead of me in the hands of the One, I will never forget you. You will be my heart forever, Chance Kibb’star. I promise you that.’ Chance held his hand, nodded and smiled at him, and silently continued sobbing. Jan turned to Kalan.‘Kalan Kolby. And you are a Kolby. Son, you are the son I always wanted and God made you perfect right from the start. I have no doubt you will continue in my footsteps as you have indicated and I wish the One’s blessing upon you. I have only one final word of advice: beware of rogues the likes of Dak Bluddhook.’ Kalan hugged his father and just grinned at his final comments. Jan turned to Xadina. ‘Xadina, child of mine. All I can say with my final words are this. I love you.’ Xadina nodded and continued holding Jan’s hand. He died a few hours later, having grown progressively weak. But his body shook not and he silently departed this life full of years, full of wisdom, and full of success. The UFGSS was in mourning for 1 full year, most dignitaries wearing black, but when the year had passed Kalan was appointed to Jan’s position of overseer and life, for most, returned to its steady humdrum. 20 Chance Kolby passed just two years after her husband and went off to again be with him in the afterlife. Kalan, in reflection of his mothers life, said things at the eulogy he had also wanted to say about his father but had been to grief stricken to say. But perhaps this was now the right time to say both things. At the service for Chance Kolbe nee Kibb’star, Kalan spoke up from the pulpit.‘Of all the things my mother and father held dear, apart from their children, it was their sense of purpose and responsibility to the destiny the One had chosen for them. They tackled this destiny head on, never flinching, never betraying the faith placed in them. And they overcame many great and difficult barriers to bring this legacy to the universe – the legacy of peace. There has always been so much hostility and calamity in mankind and other sentient life throughout the universe, but there has also always been much good done. It is a dichotomy, of good and evil, right and wrong, and I feel our task is to learn just that. The difference between right and wrong. What my parent’s left me was the teaching that, in service to the one, we are here not just for ourselves, but we are part of a larger family, a galactic family, a universal family, all wishing those very same things. Peace, love and prosperity. My final words in memory of my father and mother are to each of you gathered here today and watching on visual screens is this. Be brave, be bold, and do not be afraid to be a peacemaker. The cost of peace is often life, but those who shed blood for the greater good will never be forgotten. Long will we remember them. I pray that my father and mother’s legacy be just that. A legacy of peace and sacrifice to a cause greater than them both – greater than all of us. Thank you.’ There was a strong round of applause and both the Kolby children stood and were again applauded by the audience. And on that day the Rimwalker, the illustrious Rimwalker, was finally laid to rest with his beloved Chance Kibb’star. But the story does not end there. No, in a way it is only the beginning. For peace was now coming upon the galaxy and the universe. A fresh wave of the blessing of the One was coming upon universal civilization and true and everlasting freedom and prosperity for all was beckoning. It was not the end, in truth. It was just the beginning. The beginning of a new and better way of life for all. PART FIVE ‘What happens next’ 1 Jan awoke. The hunt was on again as he heard the drums beating. He yawned, stretched himself, and took a sip of water from his flask. He was lucky to have a flask, very lucky. When he’d first arrived he had gradually came to his senses in a clearing were a number of objects were sitting in a small pile. He had barely had time to look at the objects, having picked up the flask, when the tribesmen appeared. They had held spears and, knowing not what else to do, he ran. They followed him for a number of kilometres, always staying just behind him, but never quite catching him for some reason unknown to himself. And then they had ceased and he had found the river in the gorge, drunk from the water, and climbed the mountain. At the top of the mountain he surveyed his new realm, hearing the drums come to an end. They had seemingly given up chase but had been satisfied he was perhaps gone from their land. That had been two years ago since arriving and now, using the mountain as his homebase, he ate the wild berries and drank the water from the river, filling his flask to take with him to the upper heights of the mountain were the tribesmen never came. But having just awoke the hunt was on again, but this time it was not him. Was there a new visitor? After all this time was there a new visitor? He decided, thinking he should know better, to go and investigate. He climbed down the mountain and carefully traced his way back towards the sounds of the drums. And then, suddenly, just coming over the rise, a figure, female, dashing in his direction, the tribesmen just behind. And when she came closer, veering towards him, his heart leapt. Thank the One. It was Chance. He yelled. ‘Quickly Chance, follow me.’ Chance leapt at him instantly and hugged him, but saw the tribesmen still chasing and quickly followed him. Soon they neared the mountain and the tribesmen gave up the chase. Jan gave her some water and then Chance fell on her husband kissing him constantly.’Oh Jan, Oh Jan. Thank the creator you are with me again. Thank the creator.’They made love then, the drums ceasing, to which Chance finally posed the question. ’So this is it then? Heaven! The Afterlife!’‘I guess so,’ responded Jan Kolby, and again hugged his wife. 2 Jan looked at the one object Chance seemed to have also managed to take from the pile of objects. It was one of those gas oven flame starters. The ones which just gave off little sparks when you pressed the button.‘Good, we can make a fire at last. I have been trying but have not had any luck. But this will probably do the trick.’ Chance nodded, glad she had contributed something. She looked at his worn down clothes.’They look pretty tatty, hon. But they still look good on you anyway. My, I don’t think I ever saw you this young.’’I feel 20 and I guess I look it too. It must be how we all start in the next world because you only look in your teens.’‘Thank you,’ she said and smiled. After getting a fire going for the first time, surrounding the fireplace with rocks, Jan explained what he had gone through for the last two years.‘Mostly just survival. Going that way,’ he said pointing in the opposite direction to the tribesmen,’ after about 3 kilometres you come to a large rim. It is about 100 metres across to the land on the other side.’’And what is at the bottom of the rim?’’It just goes down, seemingly forever, but there is not rock to climb down it. It just disappears into space.’Chance puzzled on that. It sounded strange.’What about the other directions?’’Well the rim gradually circles around back towards the tribesmen both ways and I have only been able to ever go so far before they start hunting me again and I have had to retreat. I have been wondering to myself how I would eventually get out of here for a while now, but have no firm plans yet. But now that you are here, well hon, hopefully something will change.’Chance smiled. Yes, now that she was here hopefully something would indeed change. It was a perplexing situation and not exactly the first thing you expected in the afterlife. But it was what they were faced with so they would have to live up to it.They enjoyed the fire, although Jan explained it was never to cold, and while there was a night of sorts, there were never any stars.‘It just gets a bit darker for half the day, and then lighter for the other half. It is strange, really.’ They spent the next few days catching up with Chance telling him all that had happened at home since he had passed. And they made love, often. Every few hours in fact, so randy were the couple now. Besides, there was not much else to do. They were sitting besides the fire, eating a chicken which they had managed to catch and defeather, something Jan had not bothered doing without a fire, and contemplating just what they would do next when the most unexpected visitor arrived. A most unexpected visitor indeed. 3 Jan looked again at the figure who was approaching, telling himself beyond reason that it couldn’t be, but as the figure, still puffing, at the sounds of the drums and the tribesmen having just given up chase, came into closer view he indeed knew who he at first glance thought it was: Dak Bluddhook. Dak came into the small clearing were the fire was, turned to confirm to himself that the tribesmen were indeed not following him, gave a cursory glance to Jan and Chance and chuckled a little and bent down to warm himself at the fire. Jan and Chance both just stared at him but Jan quickly reached the conclusion that Dak, in the schemes of what will be, was to be their guest from that point, so just let him be. After a while Dak spoke up.’This is it then, is it? What, do we start with some kind of test?’‘I guess,’ replied Chance. ’Jan has been here for 2 years and I just arrived and we are not really sure what this place is. Heaven or something.’Jan spoke up. ’I have been thinking about that. There is an ancient church teaching on a place between Heaven and Earth called Purgatory. Apparently many souls go there before going to heaven as a place of final purification.’‘Great!’ exclaimed Dak. ’So we are here to be purified.’‘I guess,’ responded Jan.And then, for the first time, Jan’s assigned guardian angel who had been watching Jan’s progress for the last two years came out of the shadow’s and made himself known.’It is exactly as you have both surmised.’Jan and Chance stared at the figure, but Jan was not really that surprised. He was used to unexpected guests at the moment.‘And who the hell are you?’ asked Dak Bluddhook to the new stranger.’My name is Ramiel. I am Jan’s guardian angel. All sentient life-forms have a guardian angel.’‘Yes, they are also talked about in Arcturian religious culture,’ commented Chance.‘As they are in most,’ responded Ramiel.The angel came into the circle, Jan noting the traditional wings were actually attached, and sat down in front of the fire, warming his hands. He turned to Jan and spoke.’Do you know why you are here, then, Jan?’Jan looked bewildered. ’Well, I guess if this place is purgatory I am here to be made holy or something or other.’‘Something like that,’ said Ramiel, and smiled at him. ‘Let me explain things to all three of you, now that all three are here.’ The angel got to his feet, stretched himself and then returned to sitting in front of the fire.’Life – physical life in the universe you all came from – is not the first taste of life you have experienced. All creatures begin their existence in the heart or loins of the creator, the One. It is from his creative design we all come forth. But when we are born into the physical universe we soon forget our origin, apart from dreams we have during life reminding us, subtley, were we have come from. After life comes the heavenly realms were you are destined, each of you, to live forever. This place, purgatory, is different in scope and nature for every group which is tested. It is a spiritual place between heaven and the physical universe were souls are, as you have surmised, made pure for their rebirth into the heavenly domain. And that, I think, sums it up.’‘What are the lessons we have to learn?’ asked Chance, desiring to know her religious obligations before the One.The angel smiled. ‘You will know. In fact, you already do. It is written on your heart. You just need a little coaxing in this place to remember that childhood innocence and walk in it once more.’ Chance nodded. That much seemed to make sense.‘Well,’ began the angel, getting to his feet. ‘I will be going now. But soon, very soon, one of you will make a key decision. And I will return for that decision. Farewell.’ He then proceeded to stride away from the fire into the darkness and disappeared. Watching him go things started to slot into place in the mind of Jan Kolby. The purpose – the purpose of life – seemed to be making sense now. As if he was grasping a bigger picture – a picture in which all the trials he had been through so far had a meaning and a purpose. But soon for one of them a test was coming and somehow, some way, he just knew that the test was for himself. 4 Jan looked at the thin nylon rope, the one meagre possession which Dak had taken from the pile before the hunt had begun. It was thin, but was probably strong and looked long. Perhaps 150 metres or so.‘Why the rope?’ asked Chance to Dak.’What do you mean why the rope? I was just looking at this pile of objects having woken up and picked up this rope and put it around my shoulder when suddenly the drums began and the tribesmen appeared. I didn’t wait around to ask any questions. Why do you ask?’Chance picked up the rope and looked at Jan who shrugged. ’Each of us picked up one object before the hunt began. Jan picked up a flask and I picked up a firestarter. I guess each of these objects may have a purpose in our time here.’‘That might be true,’ said Jan, taking the rope from chance and unwinding it. He placed it at an end with a rock on it and unwound it, walking into the distance. Indeed, it was about 150 metres in length, but thin. It might just take the weight of a human if it had to.‘What do we do with the rope?’ asked Chance to Jan as he returned.’I don’t know yet. But something. I am sure it will come in useful.’‘Whatever,’ said Dak, picking at the chicken for his breakfast. ’Hey, what is there to ear around here anyway?’‘Well, now that we have fire,’ there are plenty of chickens roaming around, and even the odd sheep. If we sharpen some sticks we can kill the ship and remove its wool, gut it and eat it.’‘Sounds good enough to me,’ responded Dak, who began eating some of Jan and Chance’s pile of wildberries. Having made his way through about 20 wildberries Dak turned to Jan. ’So what’s the plan, genius?’Chance thought on the Angel’s words on the lessons they needed to learn and spoke up. ’We co-operate, Dak Bluddhook. We work together as a team, putting the interests of the team ahead of our own.’‘Something you will have to learn how to do, perhaps,’ smirked Jan.‘Hey, I learned plenty of cooperation in the League of Piracy. You want co-operation I am your man,’ responded Dak.‘I am sure you are,’ said Chance, a little grin on her face. She turned to Jan who had just about finished wrapping up the rope again. ’Any ideas, hon?’’Yes, one. I don’t really know if it is a good idea or not, but it is an idea.’‘And,’ said Dak, impatiently.’We go to the rim and lower one of us down to have a look. If there is anything down there, this is the way we will find out.’‘Sounds good enough to me,’ said Chance.Dak just shrugged. At least it was a plan. 5 As they walked the few kilometres to the rim, Jan asked Dak how he had died.’Funny that, I don’t really remember for sure. The last few days are all a bit of a haze. But I do remember being on a League ship just heading out of Arcturia for somewere. And then the memory fades away until I woke up here. And that is all I remember.’Jan recalled his last moments, saying he remembered right up until the time of his death. And then a fuzzy haze for a while and then waking up in the clearing with the pile of objects. Chance had a similar story. Dak, who had been silently mulling over the Angel’s words, had been contemplating the state of his own soul. He was not really surprised he didn’t make it to heaven straight away, often thinking his soul bound for darkness because of the life choices he had made. But one thing did strike him. Deep down in his heart he had often told himself he was still a good guy, just given over to roguish behaviour. And he had his charms and other good points. Perhaps that had been enough with the One to earn his way to purgatory. It certainly seemed that way. And, because of that, and thinking over the apparent lessons he needed to learn to earn his way into heaven, he began asking Chance some basic questions about Arcturian religion, questions he had never really bothered with before. Chance was happy enough to relate her knowledge and over that hour as they walked the distance to the rim Jan listened intently to his wife explain some of the mysteries of life, as she saw them, to a new student eager to learn. It was certainly interesting conversation. When the got to the rim the three of them stared over at the land on the other side. Chance looked at the rope, knew it was long enough to go across, but could not think of any real way of getting it tied down on the other side. And Jan seemed to know Chances thoughts and replied, ’I have no idea either, Chance. I don’t see anyway we could secure it. Besides, even if we tied it to a rock, I doubt that we could secure it at the other side. That was when Dak had a suggestion.’Why not use one of these long trees as a sling and tie the end of the rope to a rock and try slinging it across. If we choose the right rock and it land well we can get Chance to go across on it.’Jan looked at Dak and considered his idea for a moment, shrugged, and started looking around for a suitable rock. They found what they felt was the right size and began work on the sling. 2 hours later they had stripped a tree and were ready to go. But to no avail. It seemed the furthest they could ever get the rock to go was about 40 metres or so and it dived down into the rim. Eventually Jan signalled that they were wearing out the rock and to give up, much to the other two’s disappointment.‘What next?’ asked Dak.‘What we originally came here for, I guess. To look down under the rim.’ That said he tied the rope to a tree near the rim and looked at Chance.’You’re the lightest sweetheart. I mean, I will go if you are afraid, but we have a better chance with you.’She nodded. She understood her obligation. As she climbed down and disappeared out of sight beyond the edge of the rim Jan looked across to the other side. He wondered to himself just what was over there when the rope started swinging. He yelled to Chance but she didn’t respond. But about a minute later she yelled out to pull her back up. When she was back in front of them she spoke up.‘There is a ledge, about 300 metres this way along the rim,’ she said pointing in what they had agreed to call north. ’But I think the only way we will reach it is by jumping off at the end of the rope. I don’t think it will reach otherwise.’‘How do you know?’ asked Jan.’Because there is an outcropping of sedimentary rock running all along the underedge of the rim. I tried swinging to test the length, but I think I know already. The rope won’t be long enough. We will have to jump if we want to make the ledge.’‘That might mean no turning back,’ said Jan.‘Perhaps,’ replied his wife.’Let’s go see anyway.’They walked along the rim, coming to the place were Chance said the ledge was, and tied the rope to an outjutting rock. Chance again climbed down and the rope swung for a little while before she yelled for them to pull them up. When she had gotten back to them she confirmed that they would have to jump and leave the rock if they wanted to try the ledge. There was simply no other way.‘Well, we will keep it as a backup plan for now then,’ said Jan. ’We will think about other ideas first.’Chance and Dak both agreed. Neither yet was prepared to try the ledge. It was there last solution. 6 When they had returned to their camp, Dak collapsed in front of the fire which was still burning. He looked at the pile of wildberries and, thinking over the lessons Chance had been teaching him, went off to gather some more to do his share of the work. Jan watched him for a while and smiled to himself. Dak was cooperating – a good sign to see.Jan looked at Chance and spoke up. ’It was good, you know. You teaching him all those lessons on your religion. It was good for him.’’I guess that is what we are here to learn, Jan. To be good. To be better than what we were. Especially now that we don’t have any reason to doubt anymore that there is some great plan at work.’‘No,’ agreed Jan. There was definitely no longer any reason to doubt. Dak returned after about half an hour and had filled his shirt with wildberries. He only had his jacket on and poured out the wildberries in the small pile which Jan and Chance had built and sat back down in front of the fire, putting his shirt back on. After a while he spoke up.’Do you think there are any fish in that river? Perhaps we could spear some.’‘I was thinking about that myself,’ responded Jan. Its getting late in the day now, but perhaps we could make some spears and try that out tomorrow.’Chance agreed, it seemed like a good idea. On the morrow they indeed made spears and while it took some time getting their aim right they managed to catch a dozen fish. Chance spent the morning cooking them, even sprinkling some wild salt on them which she had collected from a nearby salt flat which Jan had talked about. All that afternoon they ate fish and wildberries, drank water and ate chicken and talked about old times. Jan and Dak both shared their adventures in the League of Piracy and Chance discovered more and more that her husband had indeed been quite the rogue at one time himself. But Jan had relented of that lifestyle and you could tell so from his conversation. And, strangely enough, while Dak was a lot bawdier in the things he reflected upon Chance saw it in him too. Reflecting as if they were the old days, the old ways. As if a new man, a better man, was starting to emerge. And she prayed a prayer of thanks to the One on behalf of the new man Dak Bluddhook was becoming. 7 ’So they are a breed of human?’‘I suppose we have breeds,’ responded Jan. ’It is one way of looking at the racial divisions. But as far as I can tell they are human and look like pacific islanders.’‘Have you ever tried talking to them?’ Chance asked.’I once snuck up on where they camp and said ‘Hello’. But all they did was grab their spears and chase me off again. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to bypass them and get to the other side but I always end up running across 3 or 4 of the tribesmen out hunting or collecting berries or something. It’s as if they have been deliberately placed there as an obstacle to myself.’‘Perhaps that is there purpose,’ responded Dak, thinking it over. ’I mean if this is a place of trial, they are in your way for a reason. Perhaps they represent some kind of thing from your past which you need to deal with.’Jan looked at Dak, considered that point, but responded. ’I have only ever met a few islanders and never had any problems with them. If it is something from my past I have to deal with I can’t think of it. It could be from your past, Dak. The angel did imply the situation was waiting for the 3 of us to arrive to resolve itself.’‘What have I got to do with islanders,’ queried Dak, puzzled on such a thought.’No idea. Just thinking, that is all.’‘Well, are we going to then?’ queried Chance to the unasked question.Jan looked at her. ’Approach them again, is that what you are saying? Try and make peace with them?’’It is as good as an idea as any and we are out of them. Unless you plan on staying with me here for eternity.’Jan considered that and acknowledged Chance’s point. It was time to speak with the tribesmen. ’Ok, well, it is late today. Lets go tomorrow, in the morning. When we are all fresh. It might be the best time to tackle them.’Chance and Dak agreed. It was as good an idea as any.‘Remember,’ said Chance,’ the angel said we were here to learn our lessons. So try a peaceful solution. It is what you are good at.’Jan smiled, consoled by his wife’s kind words. He slept fitfully that night, worried about the morrow’s encounter. Whatever it brought it may finally resolve the situation he found himself in. Time would only tell. 8 The following morning Jan looked at Dak and Chance nervously. ’Are we really ready for this? I don’t think I could stand being hunted yet again. It is starting to get on my nerves.’‘How many of them are there?’ Dak asked.’I am not sure. But over 20.’’So fighting them is out of the question.’‘Unless you want to fight 20 warriors armed with spears,’ responded Jan sarcastically.‘We want to try a peaceful solution anyway,’ interjected Chance. ’It is what you are good at Jan.’Jan nodded. He knew that much was true. They began the trek in what they had called an easterly direction towards the camp of the tribesmen. As they neared carefully they could hear them speaking to each other around a fireplace when Dak spoke. ’Gandolo. They speak Gandolo.’Jan looked at Dak puzzled. ’What the heck is Gandolo?’’It is an old Arcturian dialect. From primitive tribal days.’‘And how the hell would you know that,’ asked Jan surprised.’Well, the reason I got into the League of Piracy was that of all things to study at university I chose ancient languages. And apart from work as a professor or teacher there is not much to do with ancient Arcturian languages. As you can see, I chose piracy thereafter as my profession.’’Well your studies might finally come in useful. Say hello to them. Try to communicate.’Dak nodded. As they approached the tribesmen, as soon as they were spotted the tribesmen again went for their spears when Dak hailed them, saying hello in their language. An elder of the tribespeople came forward and began speaking to Dak. There was a lengthy dialogue upon which Dak finally went silent. It seemed as if he had come to an impasse with them, but they stopped threatening them. Dak signalled for the other two to follow them and he lead them away from the tribesmen who watched them for a while and then returned to their fireplace. Dak spoke to Jan, saying, ’Well, I understand the situation now. They are indeed ancient tribespeople, having lived here for as long as they can remember. To the east, were we went to go, are their sacred burial lands, and they refuse to let us go in that direction. If we were to try to the leader informs us that we would have to be put to death. They are that passionate about it.’‘So they have people live and die here?’ queried Jan.’It seems that way. Did you notice the younger people in the small huts? I guess they all eventually get old and die and go off to the next world.’‘Perhaps that is their way of resolving purgatory,’ said Chance.‘Possibly,’ said Jan, who thought that may indeed be true. As they trudged back to their camp, Jan gave thought as to what they would do next. Obviously, with Dak being able to speak with them, they had the beginnings of an avenue of communication. If they could gently, but purposefully persuade the tribespeople to let them travel east they could, hopefully, see what more this world had to offer them. For now that was the plan of action.

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