The Naked Azorian Warrior

 > Short Stories >  The Naked Azorian Warrior


In a far-off land, a faithful soldier of the common rank of bushi stood watching his tiny
son, wondering over the boy’s origination and destination. He was a good soldier and practiced
Bushido, the way of the warrior, in all of his affairs. At the birth of the boy, he had rejoiced. It
was his second child but his first son. The baby had been healthy and strong at his birth. He is
like me, thought the warrior.
In the beginning he assumed that his son would be filial, attaining and maintaining the
rank of bushi in honor of his family’s name, as the Bushi himself had done. For the first two
years there was no question of this. The other soldiers commented frequently upon the baby’s
robust frame and nature. The warrior was very proud and certain then of his patronage. But a
strange and discouraging thing came to pass when the warrior’s young wife gave birth to their
third child, a daughter.
Soon after the birth of the third child came the ceremony marking the Bushi’s son’s third
year of life, a festive celebration of survival. It was then the Bushi’s son, for the most part,
ceased eating. No one could encourage, cajole, nor even coerce the boy to allow himself proper
nourishment. The boy grew frail, and his parents dreaded, silently, the coming winter.
The warrior foresaw trouble. For he now saw with his eyes and sensed with his heart that
his child was not like him. For a bushi, any divergence, be it from rank or form, was potentially
a grave error, and so the father’s heart was grieved. He suffered in the anticipation and
eventually the realization that his son was not bushi. And, within the poverty of his own heart,
he felt dishonored.

The young mother believed that her son resented the new baby, and so he refused food, to
punish her for interrupting the perfect harmony of mother and son. This misconception grew,
knotting itself within the mother’s womb. She feared that her only son would die, and she
believed herself to be guilty.
The Bushi sensed his devoted wife’s guilt and began to silently question her fidelity, as
the boy, who had begun life so much in his own oaken image, took on a refined appearance.
Though, he reminded himself, my son’s face was always beautiful, like his mother’s.
The boy appeared oblivious to the secret distress of his parents deep and separate
concerns, but he was not. He merely dismissed their emotion and concern for what it was:
Upon his sister’s arrival, he smiled into her impish newborn face and welcomed her.
Her arrival allowed him to begin his journey. She had come willingly to intercede and
replace him in their mother’s arms and at what would have been her lonely breast. His mother
was forced to release her hold upon his being. He could now begin. For love of his mother he
had delayed his purpose this long. So began the Little Monk’s pilgrimage, with a fast.
His father’s misconception slid like a raindrop off his button nose. His mother’s worries
were but a cloud passing across the blue sky. He would grow someday, indeed, to be a great and
filial warrior in a dimension his father had not yet even glimpsed, in service to a lord far greater
than the Bushi’s.
Still but an infant in his own right, the child was no bastard, let alone, a resentful bastard.
The demon of resentment had been exiled to his future, being forbidden to duel with him until
the appointed hour, after his first gempuku, a ceremony marking the name he would choose for

himself as a man. The child was a monk, an aesthetic in its original and purest form. Yet his
parents knew him not.
Eight years passed, and the child grew, as did the misconceptions of others. Under a late
afternoon sun, on a lush hillside of conquered, foreign soil stood the Bushi, again watching his
son, this time scrutinizing him. The Bushi had been called again to war, and on the morrow, he
would travel across the ocean to defend the honor of his lord. His family would, of course,
remain behind, as they always did. The Bushi did not believe he would return. As a bushi, to
express emotion was unthinkable. His emotions were a burden which were nearly unbearable.
Believing this to be his last chance, he voiced a prayer for enlightenment and waited,
hoping that the great mystery of this child would be revealed to him, perhaps in the warm breeze
upon his face or in the song of a bird. He loved the boy, but he would not accept him. The boy
was graceful, supple, expressive, and artistic, unlike his forbearer or any other bushi the father
had ever known in every way.
Not only had the boy remained a stranger to his father, he was proven headstrong, a
quality that had bloomed into defiance under his teacher’s misconceptions and his father’s well-
used and heavy staff of punishment. Much like in his fasts, the Little Monk refused to acquiesce
or perform for others, unless, on rare occasion, it suited him. When it did, the radiance of his
keen intelligence enticed every one of them to distraction. Yet always the elders were met with
resolute obstinance, which infuriated them. Eventually, his teachers would say, “He is brilliant,
but hopelessly lazy.”
“I am not a monkey,” the Little Monk would say, “And the gymnastics of intelligence is
but a game for the unwise. I did not come here to memorize what is important to you. It is far
more important that I learn to fly.”

They tempted him, baiting him with pride and scorn to rely on his intelligence. This
grew intrusive to the boy. So, during his eighth year, he took a vow of silence, speaking only
when necessary. “He is insane,” they said, but the boy said nothing.
His elder’s punishment was so severe that it was like torture to his gentle soul. “Who are
you?” they asked of him.
“I do not know,” he would answer, “I am waiting to see.” They began to define him,
confuse, and belittle him. Deception, the demon, had been loosed already down upon him.
His Creator looked down upon these inquisitions and smiled tenderly. He had created the
Little Monk like a willow, that would bend at his father’s firm hand, and yet withstand typhoons.
He had created his lithe form to survive far greater tests than these, and the shoulders of the
Little Monk’s spirit he had made resilient and broad, well beyond his slender frame. These cruel
winds were essential to the child’s development, lest he easily become proud and ego-reliant as a
man. If the boy became so, he would be useless to the Creator and of great use to the Dragons.
Without cease, the Creator watched over the boy, guiding, and inspiring him.
It was thus that the Creator heard the prayer of the Bushi’s that spring afternoon, as both
father and Creator watched the boy skip and study the hillside all at once. Hearing the silent
prayer, the Creator took pity on the perplexed father. He had, after all, placed the boy carefully
alone, where no one would recognize him, wanting no interference and the Little Monk’s
ultimate and complete reliance upon Himself.
So, as the child meandered, as if carried by the breeze down the hillside toward his father,
the Creator whispered into the warrior’s soul. As he did, the Bushi was struck with an
overwhelming reminiscence of the Cherry Blossom Festival of home. He could smell the

beautiful, weightless blossoms and saw the blush of them on his boy’s fair cheeks as the child
passed by him.
He was overwhelmed to a rare tear, but he would not comprehend the offer of
enlightenment, for he was afraid to leave the universe of his own consciousness. Thus, the Bushi
turned away, tears streaming down his face, to go home, probably for the last time, he thought.
For surely where I am going, I will die. In a manner of speaking, he was correct.
That the falling cherry blossom is the eternal symbol of the samurai, the artisans of war
and the sword, did not crystalize in the Bushi’s mind. If it would have, he would never have
connected it to his skinny enigmatic son. Of this the Creator was understanding. For though the
warrior, indeed, had glimpsed moments in the presence of samurai during his long career of war,
he had never seen one half grown, half naked, skipping on a hillside. It was in this way the
Bushi went to war for the last time.
The next morning the Little Monk awoke, his face warmed by the midmorning sun.
Stretching like a Manx, he crawled off of his bed on the tatami. The Angel of Silence descended
upon his home when his father travelled.
The Little Monk sauntered, stomach growling, into the kitchen and awaited his mother to
serve his breakfast. A smile brightened his delicate features as she crossed the threshold. He
liked waking up in his own time, warm and dry. It was the Bushi’s practice to snatch his son
from his dreams with a cup of cold water in the early morning. His father believed him indolent,
for he did not know his son had begun to spend the nights in quiet contemplation. The boy could
now be soothed only by the moon and his own solitude.
The Little Monk spent four summers prowling and exploring the countryside and the
affection of his mother, in his father’s absence. It was the mother’s unvoiced opinion that her

husband’s treatment of their son was vicious. She resented the Bushi for it and felt ashamed for
not producing an heir acceptable. She believed she was being subtly reproached by her husband.
She felt punished herself. After all, he was so strong, like his father, in the beginning. It
was the birth of my last born. I was desperate to bear another son, so it was I who did this to my
son and to my husband. Thus, she suffered this delusion, even nursed it, as the years passed.
She was a soldier’s wife, but a farmer’s daughter. She had followed her husband,
faithfully, lovingly, and fearfully, far and wide. Though many times away, only once before had
he been away at war, and not like this war. This was different. This war was worse. When
lovers separate with great longing they meet in dreams, desperately glimpsing one another, ever
so briefly.
Far across the oceans of time and space, the Bushi’s hands were stained red. Sweet,
sticky blood dripped unceasingly from his fingertips, coagulating under his nails. It was the
blood of his enemies, the blood of his comrades, and the blood of innocents, comingled.
He had tried many times to wash them, washing them in duty, honor, indifference. Even
Bushido would not wash away the horror, and so he washed his heart when he could with the
reminiscence of his wife, the only beautiful thing he could remember. The Bushi did not realize
that in so doing he had saturated her sleep with a hopeless and endless sea of wreaking,
gruesome carnage.
Having come from her father’s house to her husband’s arms, the woman was terrified and
lonely. Always in her husband’s absence, she had granted her son freer reign. Neither son, nor
mother, realized the cruelty of her affection nor of his freedom, for both would end swiftly upon
the Bushi’s return to husbandry. The warrior was not without intuition. Upon his return he

would sense their strengthened bond. The pampering produced an ease about his son, the Little
Monk, that the warrior could smell, and which maddened him.
Like his wife, he too nursed a delusion. Like his wife, in fear he had refrained from
calling out its name, never bringing it into the light. Neither of them knowing it was these
delusions that had separated the couple spiritually and not the son they both loved and
The Bushi believed that his wife, the beautiful woman he loved truly in every fiber of his
being, had born this son for another, a man very different from the Bushi, a man who was like
this boy.
She is ashamed for what she has done to me. Yet, she obviously loved this man far more
than she has me. Were it not so, she could love the boy openly in my presence. This delusion
was fed by a dragon. who through his powers of darkness, turned a portion of the Bushi’s heart
into a wolf.
Even so, his love for her had only grown stronger, and his thirst, unslaked, for oneness
with her seared his heart like a red coal through fresh snow. So it was, the wolf would return
from the hunt, starving, wounded, to find her feeding what he believed to be the cub of another.
On this occasion, however, the Bushi and the wolf were to return to a greater dishonor.
For while he had been away, the Little Monk had grown taller, wiser, and bored with childhood.
His mother in her terror and loneliness had made a grievous error. She had anointed the Little
Monk, her son, Omaya-sama, the man of the house. Thus, it was with mother and son when
word came at last that the Bushi was on his way home and would be in her bed again in a

On the afternoon of the Bushi’s arrival, she stood at the gate with her brood in formation,
the winter’s first snow falling down upon them, numbing their fingers and toes. House, garden,
and family, neatly manicured, awaited the Bushi to appear through the grove in the distance at
the top of the hill. As the group stood at ease, the youngest fidgeted next to her brother. She was
still an imp. “Mother, why must we wait in the cold like this? My nose is frozen.”
“We are waiting here so your father will see you as soon as he comes over the hill. We
are waiting here to welcome him home properly.”
The Little Monk faced forward, looking at his mother from the corner of his sharp eye.
Ridiculous, he thought, it is a surprise inspection, but he said nothing. His mother, feeling his
eyes upon her and her euphemism, began to hum, uncomfortably.
At last, the Bushi on horseback rose, seemingly out of the earth, from the crest of the hill,
emerging through the grove of leafless trees down the path. This time it was the boy who
scrutinized his father.
The Little Monk, now three-quarters grown, stood motionless, fascinated. For what rode
on horseback was not his father. At first glance he had thought it a stranger. But his mother
called out, through her tears, “There he is. Your father has returned at last.”
Indeed, it was the body of the Bushi, but what lurked behind the eyes was the wolf and
with him, the wolf brought a creature, an imposter. An eerie stillness fell over the children as the
Angel of Silence departed to report back to the throne of the Creator. The boy could smell his
younger sister’s momentary, instinctive flicker of fear, but he was unmoved.
It was for his father alone that the Little Monk was afraid. He needed something from his
father he had never been given. The Little Monk was not afraid of the wolf, nor of this
abomination that had joined him.

The snowflakes whispered in his ear, “Beware… Beware…” until the clippity-clop of
the black stallion’s hooves drew nearer and louder, until they echoed in his ears, until the man
stepped down from its mount.
Mesmerized, entranced, the Little Monk watched his mother run, crying, and heard his
sisters squeal, skipping, into the outstretched arms of the wolf and the imposter.
With the females in his jaws, their pretty faces nuzzling his fur, the wolf looked up and
stared into the eyes of his enemy, the boy. He saw the prowess of succession in the youth’s eyes,
and he was enraged. Unlike the Bushi, the wolf sensed, and the imposter knew who the Little
Monk was, and they sought to destroy him. In fact, across the ocean, the wolf enlisted the
imposter to return with him -- first to banish the soul of the Bushi into darkness -- and then to
return with the wolf hastily to destroy the child, lest he become a man.
The females did not hear the snow falling, nor the dialogue in silence that ensued.
“So, bastard, you dethroned me in my absence.”
“Who are you?”
“I am the wolf.”
“Not you, cur. I recognized you. Who is it with you?”
The imposter answered. “I am the Dragon. I have come to destroy you.”
“I would know a dragon if ever I met one. You would be lucky to be called a lizard.”
The boy stood his ground firmly, unshaken. “Tell me your name, and where is my father?”
“You do not know my name, and I will not tell it to you. The Bushi is dead,” smirked the
“Liar, not even a clever one. Were my father dead, you could not inhabit his body.” The
Little Monk summoned all the fire in his belly, stared deeper into the black eyes before him,

attacking spiritually with all his force. “Tell me now your name and where you have hidden my
father.” But his talent was raw and unrefined.
It was the wolf who snarled back. “Bastard, skinny whelp of my bitch, this demon I have
summoned is far more powerful than you and need not obey your commands. He has come to
devour you and share the meal with me.”
Fearless, the young monk held his stance, awaiting a sign. He had released a prayer for
direction before the dismount of the two-headed abomination. Yet, no answer had come. If he
remained still much longer, he would lose the dialogue, an important battle.
The answer came. Gempuku. He must change his own name. It was time. The
revelation exhilarated the child, releasing adrenalin into his blood. He must choose the name he
will be known by as a man, and he did.
“Have we silenced you, Little Monk?” grinned the maniacal imposter, thinking he had so
easily prevailed.
The youth’s heart galloped suddenly in anticipation of the unknown that lay before him,
as he spoke. “You are insipid and ugly deformations. You cannot trap me so easily. To destroy
me, you will need a dragon”
The wolf was stunned, but the imposter spoke in true surprise. “I have called you by
your true name, Little Monk. You must submit. It is the Law of War of the Seven Dimensions.”
“You are too late. I have already changed my name, and I will speak it first. I am the
Traveler, and beware, for I am coming in after my father, and I will come out with him and with
your name.” Alas, no one had taught the boy that one cannot find their father by walking in his

So it was, on a quest to retrace the battlegrounds of his father, in search of the Bushi went
the Traveler, that he might realize and actualize his purpose. So it was, as it had to be. The
Traveler descended into the abyss, into the Valley of Shadows, and the Dragon awaited him
As the Traveler descended into the abyss, his body grew numb. Non-sensation is a
marvelous sensation to those for whom life has been painful. “I can feel nothing. With no effort
whatsoever, I can feel nothing.” The Traveler marveled, and to him this was ecstasy. “I must
explore every crevice of this dimension while I search for my father. Thus, the Traveler made
his first error: Fascination. Within the valley are many labyrinths of delusion, and most who
descend there, have never returned.
The Traveler’s victory over the abomination and the Wolf and the Creature had given
him confidence that he would need. But confidence has its price, too. His mother’s black gift to
him, her misplaced affection, had been well planned by the Dragon. It had lied to him, telling
him, “You are a man. You are a man.” This premature conquest of woman was the seed of a
delusion, a black and yet irresistible gift, indeed. The Traveler ignored the origin of his prowess,
for the pain of it was impossible to confront.
Know this of the Valley of Shadows, there is but one constant existing there: What is
most dangerous appears as most innocuous, and vice versa. In the valley, one may not depend
even upon the sun, nor in the cycle of the moons. In the valley one may sit to watch a sunset,
while a sunrise begins at his back. Time creeps along in a place of little rest. Those who do
escape the abyss often find themselves a child inside and an old man in the mirror. Such a place
is the valley.

The Traveler’s fascination with this place often caused him to misplace his objective. He
was constantly having to remind himself to get about his journey. It was in this place and in this
way that the Bushi son searched for his father.
Very early one morning, the Traveler awakened at the mouth of a little cave low on a
mountainside. Beside him was a girl, rather plain. They had slept beside one another in an effort
to find some warmth. Numbness in the valley turns gradually, yet swiftly to a bitter, biting cold.
Like a sinewy mountain lion in the coolness of the rising, searing sun, stretching, he scanned the
landscape below.
It was a vast and desolate desert. The Traveler and girl had arrived at the mountain’s
cave the night before seeking shelter, with a torch in the black of night, for the greedy moon had
grown fat from eating all the stars and had draped herself in a large dark cloud out of shame. He
was surprised it was a desert he saw below them. He had expected it to be different.
His vision stopped meandering when it fell upon an army encamped to the west.
Crouching on the precipice, he watched them carefully. He noticed some of the soldiers could
fly and rather well. This impressed the Traveler. For he had never mastered this in childhood in
a waking state. Though, he had flown skillfully in his dreams.
“I think I shall join them,” he said to the girl, who had come to crouch at his side.
“Perhaps they will lead me to my father.”
“I too am searching,” she said. “Let me follow you.”
“If you like, follow. But I am leaving now. Hesitation was a burden he was yet to carry.
The Traveler joined the soldiers in the desert, studying their skills, mimicking their
habits. “All they do is practice,” he would tell the girl. “It is horribly boring.” So he often

slipped away, taking the blanket girl with him, searching for the Bushi or any clue of him,
finding none, and often losing sight of his purpose. He was becoming tired.
One evening the young soldier returned early to his own fire, exhausted from the day’s
exercise: To March Without Purpose. The long-awaited night would be soon upon him,
bringing with it a bone-chilling cold. The Traveler turned soldier had grown accustomed to
staving off the cold nights with what warmth the blanket girl offered his being. As he entered his
little cave, his eyes fell upon another soldier warming himself at his fire, wrapped round him was
the girl. A great thunder began to roll across the sleepy purple sky, turning it red, like some great
crimson tide, as the demon of resentment was released upon him.
Now, this beast had been caged since the conception of the Traveler. In this cage it had
paced, slobbering greedily, watching not far above the Little Monk, as he grew. Never knowing
when its time would come, it waited and fed upon itself, becoming increasingly ravenous.
As the gate to its cage fell away, the Traveler had yet to take his eyes from the thief and
his blanket. He never saw the fire eat the sky. He never saw the beast charging. He never heard
it snarling, and he thought the thunder was the beating of his own heart. He couldn’t take his
eyes off the two now crouching in fear before him. With its mighty jaws the beast ripped an
enormous chunk from the chest of the Traveler. Its claws, long and twisted, covered with razor
sharp thorns, tore insanely into the gaping wound, prying his sternum open.
The Traveler stood staring in profound shock and disbelief at the nature of this pain.
Never taking his gaze from the couple before him – the girl wet the feet of the soldier beside her
– with its horrible claws the beast stretched the wound as wide as it could and at last plunged
itself deep into the Traveler

The beast was now inside him. The Traveler’s chest snapped shut. He fell backward,
howling in agony as the demon began devouring its long awaited meal, his heart. The beast had
three jagged rows of yellowed teeth; from which a vile admixture of pus and poison seeped.
With every beat of the Traveler’s heart, moments before white as snow, the stinging convulsant,
the oozing green infection delivered itself into what was before his healthy red heart. With its
thick salty tongue, the beast licked at the internal wounds, savoring the meal, regurgitating the
flesh and re-eating it, so that the flesh, the feast, nor the agony would never end.
The Traveler smeared himself with ashes from the dead fire. Then he sat entranced. The
other two fled in terror. He sat cross-legged at his smoldering fire. He rocked back and forth,
chanting a song of Torment, as the winds howled in anguish for him, and the gluttonous
demoniac within devoured and vomited up his soul, over and over again.
After the Traveler failed to return to his post, one good and loyal friend came. It had
been three moons since the Traveler remained, chanting. The friend and his woman tried to get
him to eat, but the Traveler fasted and spoke to no one. He only chanted, even in his sleep.
Early, one evening, the Beast fell into a deep and heavy sleep, gorged and at last hypnotized.
The Traveler gathered the weapons he now carried everywhere and wandered down into the
army’s camp. The few soldiers about pretended not to see him. His song of torment, augmented
by the wind’s ceaseless howling, had echoed throughout the camp since the beast had entered
him. Collectively, they judged his anguish as insanity.
Am I now invisible? wondered the Traveler, as he passed through their midst. He was not
invisible. It was that others could see the madness of the beast in his face. Terrified, they
believed, like toddling children, that if they pretended not to see him, he was not there. Mirrors

in the valley did not bear truthful reflections, so the Traveler remained unaware of his contorted
countenance. He was now in a euphoric state of pain.
Guided by the stars, he sought to return to his little cave, but found that already it no
longer existed, for the earth had swallowed it up to make a tomb. As he meandered the lower
mountainside, he approached a cave that was uninhabited last he knew. There was, he noticed, a
little fire burning just within. Mildly curious, he paused near its entrance. Leaning against the
cold stone, he drew his right hand to just under the left of his chest. It was sticky and warm. The
scabbed remnant of the once gaping wound was bleeding. Again. He gazed up at the stars and
planets. “You must rest and seek to remember your purpose,” he heard them lament. The torture
from the beast had been so cruel, he could recall nothing but his own suffering.
The Traveler walked in the cave unannounced. He sat down cross legged and close to the
fire. His exposed skin, numb from the cold night air, smarted at the fire’s heat. A child rushed
from the back of the cave to gawk at him, the uninvited guest. A woman approached cautiously
from the same direction to sit with her son across the fire. No one spoke. The Traveler began to
chant, lest the beast awaken.
After a time the child lay his head upon his mother’s lap and soon fell asleep to the
strange lullaby. The Traveler’s eyes fell upon the mother and boy, and he became quiet. Then in
a low and tender voice he said, “Your boy looks like you.”
The woman was a warrior from the same army the Traveler had abandoned. The little
boy was sturdy, like his mother. A memory came as the Traveler watched the two. A memory
of his own mother, the Bushi’s delicate, beautiful wife. The warmth of her body, the sweet
adoration in her eyes as she looked upon him, as he pretended to sleep in her lap, her delicious
smell. It began to rain softly, the tears of angels. The Traveler arose and took his large shield

and planted it into the ground behind the boy, to block the wind and weather. He knelt behind
the woman and spoke softly into her ear. “Let me stay for a time at your fire.”
The woman spoke quietly, as well, as not to wake the boy. “They say you are insane.”
His whisper was hoarse. “It is true, there is a beast inside of me. But I will not let it
harm you or your child. I have nothing to offer you, though.”
“You must give me something, else there is no bargain struck.”
“Very well,” sighed the Traveler, tiredly. Lifting her hair from her face, exposing her
neck, he began to blow an enchanted little breeze into her ear.
The woman’s spine quivered and she smiled, “The better part of this bargain I shall take.”
“So be it,” he said, laying her gently down. The fire crackled as he stretched his largest
skin over them all. Turning in to the woman, pulling the skin over his own face, the Traveler
breathed deeply and slowly, quaffing the innocent scent, intoxicated by the perfume of a woman
sleeping with her small child.
The next morning when the Traveler awoke, the woman was gone. The Traveler went
out to greet the sun and stretch his cramped form. “Boy, where is your mother?” He called.
The little boy looked up from his breakfast, squinting against the sun, “She is at war.”
“And what is it you do while your mother is at war?”
“I play.” The child said and licked his fingers clean. “Will you play with me?” He
“Perhaps. What is it you play?” queried the Traveler, wondering what games children
play in the Valley of Shadows.
The boy smiled brightly, “War!” He cried, as if declaring it. It was in this way the
Traveler came to stay at the woman’s cave. In the day he remained in the cave, dozing,

occasionally playing war with the boy. In the night he sat at the edge of the cave, staring out at
the stars. Towards dawn, he would wrap himself in the woman’s skins. He had difficulty
keeping the boy from doing the same.
Barely a moon had passed when late one night, as he lay at the woman’s full breasts,
exploring her sleeping body, his hand suddenly paused on her belly. He went to move it and
could not. “Move,” he ordered it, but. It would not. Sewn spiritually above her womb, cupping
her warm flesh, it rested there through the night as he lay next to her. He drifted in and out of
dreams, searching the crevices of his mind for the purpose of his quest, finding only fleeting
Another moon passed by in the same fashion. One afternoon, as the Traveler lay dozing
in the cave, the little boy brought a basket of pretty stones the Traveler and he had once
collected. “I am building a fort,” he said to no one in particular, as he dumped the stones onto
the red sandy floor of the cave.
The Traveler smiled. “When I was small, I lived in a world far from here which you have
never seen. There was a beautiful river and many trees.”
“Was it fun to play war there?” The boy smiled gayly up at him.
“I don’t know. I never played war, until I met you.”
Somewhat shyly, his tone becoming serious, the boy dared to querry, “When you were a
boy, did you have a father?”
“Yes, I did have a father … and he was a … warrior.”
“Is he dead now?” prodded the boy.
“No. He is not dead.”
“Then where is he?”

“My father is lost.” The Traveler sat up. “I came here to the Valley of Shadows to find
him.” His eyes opened wide.
“Well, he is not in our cave. Why do you remain here?”
“No. He is not in your cave.” The Traveler put his hand on the small boy’s soft, matted
hair. “You are a good boy. You have earned a new name. I will call you, Scout, because you
helped me find my way.” The Traveler knelt and filled with gratitude, with his hand he dug a
narrow trench snaking round the boy’s stone fort, and he filled it with fresh water from a cistern
within the cave. The boy watched intently. He had never seen a river. The Traveler spoke
quietly, describing fields of flowers and forests, and finally, fishing. As he spoke, he and the boy
poked broken bits of a desert bush for trees into the cool red sand around the little river.
“That sounds fun, to fish and to have a father.”
“Yes. They are good things,” said the Traveler. “Would you like a mountain to go with
your river, Scout?”
“Yes, I would, very much.” The boy was excited with the new game and the Traveler’s
newfound interest in him. Then he dared, “Could it be a big mountain?” He asked.
“A big mountain it is.” The Traveler pulled on his boots and went out of the cave and
down the mountainside to find a good “mountain” for Scout. He soon was scaling the slope,
lugging a small boulder, an excellent mountain. His lungs burned from the scorching heat.
As he approached the cave, Scout ran out to meet him, chattering like a little bird. “That
is a good mountain. Was there a snake under it?” The Traveler continued walking, saying
nothing. The boy had begun to hop, dancing from side to side as the sand scorched his calloused
little feet. “When my brother comes, will you build a forest for him, too?”

The Traveler was walking, only half listening. His attention had been drawn away by a
large bird of prey gliding within a stone’s throw. He answered distractedly. “I didn’t know you
had a brother. What is his name?”
“He doesn’t have one, yet.”
“You mean, he hasn’t earned one yet.”
“No. I mean, he doesn’t have any name at all.”
The Traveler surmised the boy was playing a game and was inventing a brother, as he
had done, when he had been, the Little Monk. “Where is he now, this brother of yours? Is he
away at war? Perhaps he is waiting here in the cave for us.” He said, as they crossed the
threshold of the cave’s cool shade.
“No. But he was here in the cave last night.” Scout began giggling at his riddle. The
Traveler picked his way slowly, allowing his eyes to adjust to the change of light. His arms were
burning under the weight of the large stone.
“If he was in the cave, then why did I not see him?”
The boy skipped into the Traveler’s path, “Because, he is hiding.”
The Traveler was now tired of the little game. “Hiding where? Move, boy.”
“In my mother’s stomach, and before that, he was hiding in you. My mother told me
that, and she never lies to me. So, that is the truth.”
The beast awakened instantly, famished from its coma, ripping anew into the Traveler’s
heart. The stone dropped out of his arms, crushing the toes of his right foot. His lips parted to
cry out in pain, but instead came the roar of the beast roaring forth from his mouth. Scout’s
color drained from his face. The Traveler and Scout stood staring into each other’s eyes, both
paralyzed, one by pain, one by terror.

The Traveler began to cough and choke, blood and bile spilling out of his mouth and
running down his chest. Yet he held the child’s eyes fast. “Don’t be afraid, Scout. I will not
harm you.”
Scout stared blankly back at him. It was now too painful for the man to speak. So he
sealed his lips and spoke with his soul to the child.
“Listen to me now with your eyes and with your heart. I will teach you the dialogue of
silence. It is the language of men. To be a man, to be a warrior, you must learn to speak in
silence with other men. Our dialogues are not for women’s ears.
The boy looked deeper, catching first a word, and then a phrase, here and there. The
Traveler noted his aptitude. “You are a quick study, boy. Indeed, you will become a warrior.
But when you fight, fight only to get out of this valley. There is another world beyond this
dimension. The purpose of my descent was to find my father. He is somewhere in this valley. I
will not forget I came here for my father.” At that the Traveler fell silent, sinking in agony into a
nearby pile of skins. The boy said nothing in return, and, as children are want to do, set about
behaving as though nothing unusual had happened.
The Traveler was no longer spiritually helpless over the beast inside of him, and he
battled it daily now as he watched the woman’s belly grow. One night he stared at her intently,
and the beast stared, too. It wanted the little one inside of her for its dessert. “Why do you grow
this child inside of you? Did you seek a father for the one you already have?” he asked.
“My son needed a brother.” Was all that she said, without looking up from her sword,
which she was polishing. Her remark stirred the stew of his indignance.
“Did you not think to ask before you took life from me, woman, to start another?”

“I am a warrior, too,” she said. “I can only consider myself and my own in this valley. It
is the law here.”
“I am not from here,” he countered.
“But you are here now.” She answered calmly and knowingly, rhythmically polishing
her sword.
“But I did not originate in this place. I do not know your ways. I came here looking for
my father, the Bushi. I will stay at your cave as long as I can. Though, already it seems too
long. I accept no responsibilities for you, or your son, or your – decision to procreate. I cannot
be burdened with a brood. I am the Traveler. I am not your husband.”
The woman shrugged, without looking up, completely unmoved by his declaration. “A
husband I never sought. Sons are my desire. Sons make better husbands. And you, fools,
abandon them, this treasure called a son, wondering always, “Is he mine or is he another’s, or is
he his mother’s alone?” Her face had hardened with a sardonic, sarcastic wisdom.
“Their mothers never wonder. We know that they belong to us. While you, their fathers,
forfeit your right to them long before they are born by your doubt and your fears and suspicions.
It is the spiritual law of creation and abdication. That is why most sons belong to their mothers
alone. Certainly we teach them that they belong to us alone. They believe us because we never
lie to them, not mothers like me. For what we speak is qualified as the truth merely because it
has passed through our lips, so sanctifying is our motherhood. Mothers like me love our sons
with far more passion than we ever love their fathers.”
The Traveler was silenced. His mouth hung slightly agape in horror at the pretty lips that
had softly launched such daggers of truth. She glanced up at him with some pity in her eyes, and
then spoke again to him, this time as if he were a child she was trying to appease. “I am only

speaking the truth. Do not hate me for not softening its blow. I tell you these things no woman
utters because – I do love you. I love you as much as if you were my own son.
But our sons adore us. And they are incapable of infidelity. They cannot choose another
woman over their mother. No matter how we wound them or use them, they forgive us as soon
as the deed is done. They die valiantly in our names should anyone accuse us of any evil. And
when we are dead, it is our sons who weep hardest and longest of all, canonizing their dead
mother in their hearts.”
After a moment she spoke again. “My beautiful Traveler, you fear that I sought to
ensnare you. I don’t mean to laugh at you, but you were long ago ensnared by your own mother.
She was busy again at polishing her sword. “No, my beautiful Traveler, I did not seek you as my
second husband. My second husband grows within me. For him, I offer you a gift. As for you,
you will not find your father by following in his footsteps.
The Traveler swallowed hard and blinked back tears. For this truth struck him deep at his
core, piercing even the beast. In his heart he was sick. For he had already wondered to himself
while cuddling her rounding belly, “Is it mine?” Having never known before of the law of
creation and abdication. The Traveler was silenced by the woman but to say, “I am glad I am not
your son.” He lay down and swaddled himself in his skins.
The next morning the Traveler returned to the army during the days, leaving Scout to
play alone. Most nights he returned to the cave. Others he went wandering, pacing great
distances, waiting for the child’s birth, so that he could get about his journey. He sensed keenly
now how much time had been wasted. The child’s mother had told him more than once that he
could leave at his whim, but he would not leave until the child arrived. The Bushi had been
absent at the Traveler’s birth, and he believed it had cursed their relationship, so he stayed. He

told the child he would wait, wait and give him his name, before he left to find his father, the
Very late one night as he approached the cave from his meanderings, Scout came running
out to meet him. “Scout, you should be sleeping,” he said.
Scout grabbed his hand. “Hurry,” the boy said, panting, and he heard the woman scream.
The cave was full of people. The woman wailed in agony. Wail after wail ensued. “Go
to her,” someone said to the Traveler, and so he did.
“It is too soon,” he heard a midwife say, and the woman cried out again – as women are
want to do for their husbands. The moans and the cries increased. “Breathe, girl. You must
breathe. Your baby needs air,” she encouraged the mother, who was in horror and fear.
“How can he live? He’ll be so small, too small to survive.” And then she turned to the
Traveler. “Get away. You have cursed us, me and my son. Go back to where you came from.”
And then she screamed, a high-pitched scream.
The Traveler watched as a little blue doll with so much black hair slip bloody from
between her legs. It was small enough to hold in his one hand, from head to bum. “What is it?”
He asked. All the other adults present snickered at his naïve remark, but he truly did not know
what to make of the slippery blue creature the midwife laid in his hands. He considered it may be
a type of fish. She has given birth to a -- hairy fish? He silently considered whether the fish was
a child or whether the opposite were true. He shuddered and nearly dropped his son. At which,
the child took up a deep breath and began to cry weakly, imperfectly, but enough that the
midwives began to click their tongues to celebrate and to give him credence for acknowledging
his son. Even though it did not appear the poor little thing would live through the night.

“Call a priest for him,” said the Traveler in a voice filled with such sorrow it came out
only as a hoarse whisper, as a prayer almost, as though he had been the one wailing all day to
deliver the pitiable babe into this dimension. He did not believe his tiny blue son would survive
the hour. “Warm him,” he cried as loud as he could to the midwives.
Then he sat at the fire, chanting, chanting to the mother of his own God.
As soon as the odd priest arrived, the Traveler regarded him, his high feathered helmet
dressing, his jeweled cloak, his holy books unread, apparently still brand new. Odd for a man of
his age, the new father decided.
“Come, baptize my son.” He commanded the holy man.
“Certainly not until he has reached the age of reason. Even this boy,” he said, pointing to
Scout, has not yet reached the age of reason.” Scout made a face and hid behind the traveler.
“Do I need a weapon for you to baptize my tiny son?” He asked, as he walked to the
child’s mother and scooped the newborn from her arms and breast before she had time to protest.
“Because I can find one easily round the perimeter of this cave, priest. Now take your trinkets
and come with me to flowing water to give my son a name before the living God of All

A work in progress to be continued …. For Kristov

Leave a Reply