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    drsawzall
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
This tale owes a debt of thanks to Shirly Jackson’s 1948 short story called The Lottery.  It is well worth the time to check out.

La Tombola - 6. Chapter 6

“It would be the height of hubris to assume sentience is limited to what we know or understand”.
Buck Rogers addressing the Galactic Consortium in ‘Buck Rogers and the Mystery of the Sentient Planet circa 2134 AD

Ned Boone 4

Rubbing his tired eyes as the late afternoon sunlight bathed his study in a warm diffused glow, the dust motes dancing in the beams of light that bathed the floor. Closing the oldest book of records, he set it down next to his journal. So much valuable information was contained between those two books, not to mention all the other books that recorded all the history between those two tomes. Soon the time for the next lottery would be upon them and with it the rush of bittersweet memories as well.

It felt as if there were so many things to do and not enough time to attend to all the duties that lay before him. At times like this Ned felt a bit querulous waiting for the promise to him to be realized. Shrugging his shoulders, smiling, and reminding himself that being impatient wasn’t helping anything. Wasn’t that the lesson he imparted to his children and now his grandchildren as they sat at his feet when he first taught them their lessons.

He could hear them playing outside, their mothers most likely in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. If he looked in, most likely he’d see his youngest son, giving as good as he got, working alongside his aunts and in-laws. Of his two sons, Thom the younger, was the one that took after him the most, had the same inclinations and was living contentedly with Graham, his partner. Thom was a late child, a blessing after so many years after Peter’s birth. His mother, Hanna passed shortly after his birth. An understanding woman, she understood Ned’s needs and was the perfect match, he took great comfort in her arms and greater sorrow when she passed across the great river.

Thom and Graham, took in three orphans when they lost their house and parents in a devasting fire eleven cycles ago. Brought them up to the farm and thankfully they were thriving. All told, between his two sons he had five grandchildren.

The farm had prospered as well. His oldest son Peter had taken over the day-to-day management of the farm. Peter’s twin sons Max and James worked alongside him. Wise management and careful planning had seen to it. No doubt he was grateful for the backing of the town fathers as promised when they returned from their participation in La Tombola. When time for Ned, along with Billy Dunbar and Tom Harrison to assume larger roles within the community, there was a guiding hand for the three of them. It was the communities desire to see that they got off on the right foot, in assuming the running of their parent’s farms or businesses Now it took all his sons to run the place, it had grown that large and prospered.

Tom Harrison and Billy Dunbar had also done well for themselves. Tom married Mary, the daughter of Horace Smith. They inherited the general store and warehouse. Billy successfully took over his father’s farm and did very well. Oddly, despite years of trying for sons, both had two daughters who in turn produced some very fine grandsons.

Then there was the cloth, his most valuable possession. All that was left of Peter Miller in this world was in that cloth, when it was his time, that cloth would be his guide across the great river into the welcoming arms of Peter Miller.

~~~

It never got any easier, Ned knew that each year one family would say goodbye to a cherished son, the pain of the parting obscured from the reality. A family would bid farewell to a son off on a great adventure and a new life, never to return. Such was the way and accepted custom. That now, at long last, was never questioned. The failure of the New Toledo settlement was a stark reminder.

As he recalled, whatever the reasons they had, they had given up the tradition some thirty cycles ago. They ignored the obligation to the Gnos, chased them off their hunting grounds, and failing in their gift of obligation to Mithras.

By the time anyone in New Boston was aware of the self-inflicted disaster that had befallen them, it was too late to reverse the damage Mithras wrought. Her vengeance was swift. Just over one full cycle of days, the four-hundred inhabitants suffered greatly, of that number less than thirty-five survived. Those survivors were comprised of four outlying families that refused to break with tradition and made sure to see their obligations were made. Despite the odds, they packed up what they could of their possessions and made the arduous trek to New Boston. New Toledo had become a wasteland. By the time they were halfway, they were just at the point of starvation. There had been serious doubts as to their survival when the Gnos found them.

Much to Ned’s surprise, it was Bahet brought word to New Boston of their struggle. He had long thought that the wizened old Gno had crossed the great river some time ago. It had been more than a few cycles of the sun since they had last met. It was a day that would forever be etched deeply in the very fabric of his soul. It awakened memories and reminded him of his duties to Mithras.

~

It had been a morning like any other, rising before daybreak, enjoying the serenity that came with those hours of the morning. It was a chance to reflect on the current state of farm and family affairs, the immediate world around him, and the needs of their community. And as it was for every morning since that fateful day, a few moments of quiet certitude with the memories of Peter.

Mithras had told him that her need for both boys would be a long road to walk. He found that she listened to him, for she had something most precious to him and that he, had something most precious to her. For Peter wasn’t entirely gone from Ned’s world, a part of him remained. He would be forever in Billy Dunbar’s debt, in gratitude for the gift of the cloth that covered the fatal wound. It had taken time and hours of reflection before Ned came to understand the magnitude of the gift of Peter Miller to Mithras.

They were new species of life to the planet they came to call home. Over a thousand years in the old terms of measurements, their ancestors fleeing a decimated, strife riven, and war-torn world, poisoned beyond repair to this new beginning. As best his ancestors planned for a new beginning, it was what they did not know that changed everything.

There can be no one definition of what we would call or recognize as life as seen from the perspective of Homo Sapiens. In worlds near or far, evolutionary forces will act independently from one another. Such was the case with the world Ned Boone lived in. Ecologically, everything is connected, all that exists form and make up the whole, only evolution went one step further on this planet. Ned finally came to understand that the driving life force called Mithras, expended much of herself in maintaining balance.

With the dawn of the Gnos, there was a need to give back part of that life force in payment for what was consumed. They were in communion with the larger world around them, living in harmony taking and using only what was needed. They knew of the planet’s life force and named her Mithras. They took more than they replaced, they were consumers that affected the balance. They were her children and when she spoke, they listened. In exchange for her bounty, she asked for one boy on the cusp of adulthood as an offering to her, to be made on the longest day of the cycle of days.

When Ned’s earliest ancestors came, the strain was doubled, they knew not of the delicate balance they were disturbing, threatening with destruction. Of larger concern was the damaging effects of their technology on the carefully evolved ecosystem. It was a cancer that could forever change the nature of the planet. Imperceptible changes to the planet’s electrical and magnetic fields soon rendered all their modern technology useless, left to succumb to the ravages of time.

It was the Gnos that realized why, the people who fell from the sky, as they called them, were falling ill, and dying. That they knew not the ways of Mithras. Taking it upon themselves they would honor Mithras in the name of the settlers until they were able to do so themselves. It was the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship with the Gnos. They were a semi-nomadic hunter/gather cluster of clans who followed the seasons. When contact was established between the Gnos and the settlers they were, over the course of two full cycles of the days, converse with each other. Once the settlers understood why so many of them were dying and what was needed to reverse the devastation they had suffered, things began to improve. They could never repay the gift of obligation that was made by the Gnos in their name, saving them from extinction. As their numbers grew, several smaller towns and villages were established further to the south of the Gno’s territories.

Quickly adapting, Ned’s forefathers became farmers, weavers, tradesmen, glassmakers, sawyers, merchants, and shopkeepers in the ensuing years. With a limited dearth of available natural resources such as iron or coal, what they could scavenge from the failed tech and mechanical equipment, was put to newer uses, and repurposed until it could no longer be of use.

Using crude charcoal, they were able to fashion farming implements, heat and work various repurposed metal and work raw iron ore from small, hard to find deposits. They had glassworks and made use of clay found in pits near some of the rivers. Over time they domesticated several beasts of burden to facilitate travel and farming.

~

Bahet, as he recalled was ancient when they first met, his age indeterminate. That he had lived a long life showed in the many lines reflecting the cycles of days on his visage. Adding to his impression was the manner that he carried himself and the way others naturally deferred to him.

Now, answering the urgent summons to come to the public square, Ned was shocked to see Bahet, accompanied by one Joshua Graves, a survivor of New Toledo, was greatly upset once he heard the news of the tragedy, self-inflicted as it was. Both were emaciated, nothing but skin and bones, that they had made it to New Boston was nothing short of miraculous.

The news spread quickly; many townsfolk began to gather in the square. As Ned, Tom Harrison and Billy Dunbar huddled with Bahet and Joshua, who turned over the book of records, New Toledo was no longer. They had buried the last of the fallen, packed up what they could manage to take and set out for New Boston. Before leaving they set fire to every building and the clothing they wore that day, hoping to incinerate the deadly virus and stop it in its tracks.

Fearful of further contamination they only used their own farm wagons and carts. New Toledo was one of the remotest villages, easily three full moons away. They gathered their farm animals, the bulk of the wagons carried feed for them. What belongings they could pack along with provisions were loaded into the carts. Sledges were attached to some of the domesticated cattle, the smaller barnyard critters were lashed together for the long journey.

There had been dissention within the community for some time. Three of the largest farms, were upset that they had to share with the less fortunate within the community, furious that they were restricted from the land of the Gnos. To them, it was good land there for the taking, rather than seeing lie fallow and going to waste. While nothing could be proved, the town administrator and two other prominent town officials died in mysterious circumstances. Those who sought to stand in the way of the new ‘progress’ soon were taught the error of their ways. A major land grab was underway south of New Toledo, displacing several nomadic clans of Gnos from their traditional lands.

The Graves, Jameson, Smith, and Reynolds farms, were well to the north to New Toledo, somewhat insulated from the settlement proper in a remote valley. The entrance a narrow defile alongside a swiftly flowing river. They knew trouble was coming when the first inhabitants of the town proper, fell ill and died after the old traditions of gratefulness were discarded. There were no gifts of oregano to the Gnos. The obligation to Mithras discarded. Young Timothy Smith was chosen by lottery from the eligible boys of the four families to stand when the days of summer next reached their peak. In keeping with tradition, they would seek out the nearest clan of Gnos, met them at their ancient rock on the longest day, and fulfilled their obligations.

They had simply brought too much in their effort to flee to safety, nearing the halfway point supplies were running out. They had been rationing and foraging to supplement their dwindling supplies. Had a hunting party not stumbled across an encampment of Gnos, their very survival was doubtful.

Ned and the others were stunned to learn that help was urgently needed and as soon as feasible. What was evident, that along with the starving remnants of New Toledo, the Gnos had suffered much in rendering their assistance.

Shelter was made ready, donated foodstuffs and other goods flooded the community center. Quickly a train of wagons and carts bearing provisions was made ready and sent out to meet them. The survivors were in for a grueling convalescence, it took the best part of several moons for them to get back up on their feet, before they were able to support themselves. It took some doing, space was found, the Gnos made some grasslands available and the thirty-five survivors of the four families were able to successfully reestablish their farms.

It was a sorrowful lesson for the village of New Boston, reinforcing the ancient customs. While painful as it was to say goodbye to a precious son, families no longer grumbled. They saw it as a necessity that ensured their survival.

As always, my thanks for reading the story. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated!
Copyright © 2022 drsawzall; All Rights Reserved.
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Thanks for reading, your comments and thoughts are appreciated. Please take a moment to let me know your impressions.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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On 3/10/2022 at 10:19 AM, scrubber6620 said:

We learn of a test case of the power of Mithras. and keeping the proper balance.  A village, New Toledo, gave up the ways that helped them survive and prosper.  New Toledo did not sacrifice a youth and honor Mithras and the inhabitants did not respect the Gnos and the resources of the planet. Only 35 people were saved after a perilous trek to New Boston.

Ned in New Boston understands what is happening and how his village stays strong. Meeting the old Gnos leader who brings in the New Toledo survivors deepens his appreciation and affection for him and the generosity of the Gnos who are needed by the earth settlers.

You have given us a solid, understandable, credible backstory to the sacrifice and fleshed out wonderfully some of the key characters. Thank you.

 

Thank you for your kind words and comments, they are appreciated. I think it is safe to say that the universe is bigger than what we can comprehend!

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We humans have a tendency not to learn from our mistakes. We stumble along at times, arrogant and oblivious to what's right in front of us. After destroying one world, they expected this new one to be the same... theirs for the taking. Great social commentary here, buddy. Sorry I took so long in getting back, but this is a good story. :)  Cheers! Gary.

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12 hours ago, Headstall said:

We humans have a tendency not to learn from our mistakes. We stumble along at times, arrogant and oblivious to what's right in front of us. After destroying one world, they expected this new one to be the same... theirs for the taking. Great social commentary here, buddy. Sorry I took so long in getting back, but this is a good story. :)  Cheers! Gary.

Thanks Gary, not sure why, but the following quote came to mind...

Those who do not remember the past are #condemned to repeat it.

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8 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

The lesson is the importance of balance.

And that everything is interconnected....

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26 minutes ago, Albert1434 said:

It is sad that the errors of the past must be repeated over and over. I am loving this story so good!:yes: 

Sometimes the easiest problems to address are the simplest ones...

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