Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 3 part 2


The most important part of all this is the body structure. Your feet must be planted directly into the earth. Your legs must be bent at the knee for strength and springiness. Your feet turn out from your body and a little bit inward toward each other. But not much. If I am your opponent in front of you, you turn outward from me. So now your shoulder faces me. Notice how easily the seeking hand reaches out for the bridge. Then the lead foot lifts slightly and moves half a step. Not the back foot, which feels natural. The lead foot moves half a step and the body naturally moves forward because you must go back to an even balance. Not too much forwards, not too much backwards.

You lift up a little with the front foot, then take half a step forward, one more time. Now the hips swing in a circle around the front foot and the entire body turns in one motion, including the _wu sao_. Good. The _wu sao stays back as long as possible, as this generates all the power from the ground, to the feet, to the hips, to the shoulder. Then as the stance firms up, the guarding hand comes forward in a fist, from the shoulder and straightens out at the elbow only at the last moment. You do not hit with the fist, you hit from the ground.

If I push you here, you should not move if your stance is correct. You see? You moved again. Why? You are not connected to the ground. Sit down in your stance, and feel the earth spirits rise in your feet and legs. If I swing my arm against your _man sao_, like this, do you move? Yes. You do. Try again. Feel the earth. I swing my arm again. Again. You must feel the stone from the earth rise up and into your legs and hips. If I am pushing your arm like this, you should not move one hair. You are stone. Better. Once more.

2711 drew in the earth spirits and swung his arm hard against her guard. He was surprised to find a solid rock positioned in front of him and his arm stopped sharply. He pushed again, harder but she did not move. He tried one more time quickly and she did not move. The whole rotation of the earth fought against him through her body.

He smiled. Then he said, you have learnt something. Good. Now you must learn the basics of yielding. We say that you should not meet force with force. We say that you use your opponent’s strength against them. You use their strength and add your own to defeat them. If your opponent is hard and insistent, then you should yield and circle or deflect. If you opponent is soft and inquisitive, then you should hit hard and quickly. It is stone versus water. If I move in a straight punch like this, you notice my arm is strong and stony.

She tried to use _pak sao_, the slapping hand and her blow merely glanced off. He said, you have failed. I have the advantage.

She looked down and his hand was at her throat in _biu sao_, or darting hand, with the fingers pointed directly at the wound in her neck. A punch or finger jab or a knife blade would finish her in a few seconds.

He said, try again.

He moved in a straight line with stone and this time she circled around to the outside her feet moved instinctively to shift around and her _wu sao_ moved up to his chin. He smiled finally.

He said, the learning is finally settling in. Try again, if I grab your elbow like this. I am using _lop sao_ to pull on your elbow, now get out of it. No, that is not enough. I am stone, you must use water to escape. Your whole arm turns into a completely relaxed state, and you must use a circle to redirect the stone back toward me. No, you cannot do it. Let me show you. Pull on my elbow here. Yes, pull on it.

She pulled his elbow, but there was a sound of water splashing and a wriggling fish appeared. She could not hold onto the fish. Suddenly the water splashed away and she was holding a rock shaped like an arm. The sun shined over her father’s shoulder and the sudden light made her sneeze. The pain in her neck cried out like burning flames. Her father stepped back and looked at her strangely. He crossed himself with a superstitious gesture.

He said, we do not sneeze. When you sneeze, tension goes throughout your whole body and you lose control for long enough to be killed three times over. Sneezing is full or _druj_: disease, discord, disorder, deceit, and dispute. Ahriman is the one who created the first sneeze.

They did some more drills until it became too hot under the sun to continue. They went inside the yurt to escape the heat and 2711 lectured 9001 while he prepared the afternoon meal.

He said, the training of the body is mostly useless without also training the mind. The first intention of a thought is in the mind. This is the true weapon that you wield. If you look toward my arm before you strike, then you have revealed your weapon before you have even moved. You should keep your mind clear and empty of all thoughts. Strike where it is most deadly without revealing your strategy. On the other side, you must keep your mind open to observing where your opponent’s mind is going. The enemy’s mind is their weapon and you should try to observe it. If you can observe the enemy’s mind then you do not need to worry about his body, for you have already defeated them before they can move.

You can see that a tree exists by looking at the shadow. The object itself gives rise to the shadow. This is the same with the intent of the weapon. The enemy’s movements and attacks are only a shadow that emanates from the intent in their mind.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tother hand Chapter 3 part 1


Chapter Three


This discussion took place over several days as 9001 studied and rested. On the third day, she was able to move about and eat solid foods. Her father immediately moved her outside to teach the martial arts.

He said, since you are not yet skilled in mastery over the body, we will resume your training in the basics. I attempted an advanced training session, in the night, with blades and in tandem. The student never fails if the teacher is present. So that incident was not a failure. It was instead an invaluable learning lesson. We start with stretching. Stretching the muscles releases all tension from the body. You cannot hit or move quickly if there is any tension anywhere. We stretch the arms, shoulder, chest, and neck. Although you will skip the neck for now.

Next, we stretch the torso and hips, doing circles forwards and backwards. We always go to the left first and then the right. Next, we stretch the legs and feet. There must be no tension to block the flow of energy throughout the body. Now we perform the first motions to gather energy and practice the flow. Start with the _man sao_ which is the seeking hand. What are we seeking? The enemy contact. We move toward the enemy to seek a bridge, or contact with them. What will they do? Punch, kick, move, block? Whatever it is, we will make the contact and proceed. Turn the hips while switching the feet and now the _wu sao_ moves from guarding hand to the seeking hand. The seeking hand moves back to guard and prepare for a strike. Notice that we are now in the opposite form from where we started.

We repeat that once more, like this. _Man sao_ seeks a bridge, the guarding hand strikes and seeks a new bridge while the seeking hand becomes the _wu sao_. Notice how easily the hips and feet follow. Your weight should be completely evenly balanced at all times. If you lean forwards or backwards, you will fall or be pulled. If you are standing too tall or down too low, you will be easy to knock over. You will also lack the strength to hit with full force.

We do that two more times. Now the _fuk sao_ subdues the attacker’s hand and we pull it back, almost like _lop sao_. _Lop sao_ is not the grabbing hand. We do not use the thumb because the fingers are weak. The thumb stays next to the hand and is closed. Nothing can go between the fingers in the hand. Not even the edge of a blade of grass should fit between all the fingers and the thumb. The hook of the subduing hand keeps control of the bridge and contact between you and your opponent. They cannot bring the bridge up like this, and if they sink, then they yield to our subduing motion. They cannot bring the bridge closer to you without pushing their hand out away from, or even past, your body. They cannot pull the bridge away without taking you with them.

In this way, you control the space and the angles of the contact. This is the most important thing to remember as we repeat this twice more. You must always control the space and the angle of the contact. If you are not in control, you are yielding. If you are forced to yield, then you must keep control. Balance both control of force with the replenishing of energy in yielding. The flow between these is the essence of the martial arts. When you control the space, it means you set up the distances and directions of motion and body. When you control the angle, it means you direct the forces away from your body, or toward your opponent.

Now we strike. Lead with the left. Always strike in a straight line with the hands turned vertically, the thumb bent and closed on top. Keep the fingers closed so not even a blade of grass can slip between them. Pack the fingers and palm so that they are solid as one rock. We repeat this eight times for a generous helping of fists. Remember that all of these hand and arm positions are the same with or without the weapon in them. We train the same way whether we hold the blade or do not hold the blade. If we hold the weapon, then we are happy. If we do not hold the blade, we are just as content. It doesn’t matter to the form.

We repeat the eight strikes four times, a generous death. When you strike, the feet and hips move as well. We block, strike, step, and twist in one motion. This generates power from the ground. The earth spirits join our feet, go into the legs, add to the water spirits of the heart and torso, amplify with the air spirits of the mind and lungs, and combine with the fire spirits in the heart. If all of these are in complete balance, we deliver death by hitting the head. Whether you are using a knife or not, we strike at the neck on either side for targets number 1 and 2 on the right and left, respectively. If you aim lower, we cut the lung, heart, or lung in targets 3, 4 and 5 from right to left. Then, if we repeat this the last time even lower, we strike the inside of the legs at targets 6 and 7.

These are the only valid targets. Anything else will only wound an opponent and allow them to strike back, defend, or run away.

Now we practice the bridge form together. I seek the bridge thus, and you meet the bridge with your seeking hand. Now the bridge is formed, what do we do? If you go up, I can subdue for control like this. Or, I can yield and _huen sao_ or circle hand around the wrist without breaking the bridge. Always circle away from the opponent’s thumb. Do not break contact, like this. Now since you are going up, I yield but then control you from the bottom and now your arm goes flying into the air. I use the _wu sao_ that has been patiently gathering force to strike straight to the ribs in target 3. You try it.

Starting over, we seek the bridge in an open form this time. The open form is when the opponent’s angle is in the same line as yours as I am. Our seeking arms point at each other, left to right. The crossed form is when the angles are crossed like this. The seeking arms point against each other, left to left or right to right. In the open form, though, I seek the bridge and you do, so what do we do? If you turn and strike, then the receiving hand, _tan sao_ easily pushes the strike outside, away from the body. The _pak sao_, slapping hand, pushes the elbow without breaking contact and the _wu sao_ easily strikes in a straight line the ear or target 2. If they are taller than you, hit the ear or head. If they are lower, hit the jaw, neck, or try the rib.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tother hand Chapter 2 part 4


Another class of people you know about are the Miners. They collect the rocks and ore that are the basic earth spirits that can become metal. The Miners are trained from a young age to pick rocks with certain qualities: green for copper malachite, red for iron laterite, yellow for gold nuggets, black for lead and silver galena, and so on. They Miners also operate the bloomeries and forges for many purposes. The most important to us as Healers is the production of blades. As Healers are completely dependent on their bladed weapons, it is important to know Miners that we can trust. We are fortunate in our family, for I have a brother who is a Miner.

I come from a family of Miners. Our father was a Miner, and his father and so on going back twenty generations at least. I would have been a Miner if I had not been born as a left-handed twin. I was given to be raised by the Healers’ sect and trained in the arts of Healing until I was a little bit older than you are now. Most Healers never get to see their families again, but I had a connection to the only skilled and trustworthy Miners in the whole region. So I was able to reunite with my brother and father to continue to study Healing and Mining. Although this is rare, it is a very valuable trait to have and learn. I can try to teach you what I know.

Each metal has different spiritual properties, and different interactions with different materials that contain different spirits. Your copper blade is soft and malleable, and it takes this property from its affinity for water spirits. Just as emotions will bend and twist with small changes in weather or time, the copper will mould itself to outside forces. It turns green if exposed to rain or wet environments, as the water spirits join the metal. Your blade is also mixed in with tin, however, to make it stronger. The tin has earth spirits that help counteract the softness of the water spirits. Tin is very rare, and I had to have my brother obtain some rare tin at great expense from some traders to the south.

However, my blade is made from iron. Iron is a new metal only discovered in the last five generations. My grandfather, whom I only met briefly before he died when I was a boy, explained to me that iron is such a new metal that he was only trained on how to produce iron blades at the end of his life. My father, similarly, only worked on iron after my brother was born. My brother wrought this blade for me only three years ago. It may be the only iron blade in this region, and possibly in the world.

The iron metal is filled with the fire spirits. It is faster and lighter than your copper and silver. It will spark when struck against another metal or against armour. This is the angry fire spirits coming out of the blade. It takes great skill and balance of mind, body, and emotion to utilise the iron blade correctly. I am the first Healer in all the world to use one. Indeed, I have been cast out as a heretic because of my use of non-standard tools and procedures for Healing. But these new techniques are required if we are to advance the art of Healing.

When I learnt Mining with my brother, he showed me that copper and tin melted when the coals were deep red, nearly the colour of fresh blood. Blood will start out darker from the body and then turn brighter as it combines with the air spirits. This knowledge of blood from Healing and metal from Mining caused me to learn the connection that the water and air spirits have in the blood and in copper. Blood flows like a liquid, so it is mostly water. Blood flows in the heart and the heart is the seat of emotions. Everything makes sense so far and is not necessarily new.

However, when we experimented with iron ore that our father had discovered in a strange circular valley formation, we discovered that the dark blood red colour of our burning wood was not enough to melt it. After a few years of experimentation and guidance from our father before he was healed, we had created a leather box of air that we were able to squeeze so that the air spirits were forced to move very quickly into the fire of the bloomery and our coals would glow bright orange. Only then would the iron melt enough for us to work it with the hammer.

After much experimentation and deduction, I have understood that the earth spirits of the wood, which the tree absorbs from the ground, will combine with the rushing air spirits from the bellow box and form fire energies high enough and angry enough to combine with the iron in the rocks our father found. And, when we hammered the new metal to shape it, sparks and slag flew off in every direction as the spirits roared from the metal at our insistence to shape it. About the time that you were born and entrusted to my care, I had proposed that several blades my brother and I had wrought should be brought into service of the Healers. I had assumed that the Elders and my mentors at the Healing sect would be open to new ideas.

They were not open to such things so I have been banished with you. 2711 held up his hand and his eyes were bright as he looked down at his daughter. Do not worry, he said, I am proud of my heresy and I believe that it will come to fruition at some point in the future, if Ahura is pleased with me. If not, then I deserve not to be a Healer and perhaps the Elders will let me be killed myself by one of my former brothers and sisters. I am not worried about it. I welcome it. The difference between the words healed and killed is small, but Healers practice their arts on those who are already willed by Ahura, and killing is taking a life in the service of Ahriman.

But we hide from them for now because I am worried about you. I have not finished your training, and it’s obvious that you are not keeping up as I would expect. I think that I am not a good parent for you, because you probably need a mother Healer to raise you properly. I always look for explanations for things that I observe that make sense when applied as if someone else had described them. I believe that explanations produced by others can be confirmed mutually, and this makes the explanation of the event full of _asha_, or order and truth.

When you produce an explanation of events that makes sense only to one or two people but does not stand up in a group of wise adults, then the explanation is deceit and _druj_. I also have learnt the secrets of Perfect Sight, which is the power to view things as they truly are, rather than as you wish them to be. Perfect Sight can only be obtained in the later years of life, and only after all the precepts of Healing are completely mastered.

The first mastery we learn is the body. It takes at least 20 years to master just the body. You have a few more years to go. When a child is born, it is completely unable to move about on its own. As it grows, an infant is carried, then crawls, then walks, and then runs. But even children who run and jump cannot throw a fist or elbow with power and accuracy. Fighting and punching is fire, or aggression. This is actually quite easy to obtain without application or training, but it is harder to block a fist or elbow. This is the use of earth and water spirits to defend against fire. Thus, to truly master all the martial arts of self-defence and striking takes 20 years.

The second mastery is over the mind. The control over the whirling thoughts of the mind is something that many people cannot achieve on their own. Most people are often consumed with the fire of their bodies and aggression, so they never even hear the whisper of the winds of their minds. In fact, it is nearly impossible to control one’s mind without proper training and study. Only Healers, Elders, and Masked Ones are taught the intricacies of letters and language arts such as I have taught you. All other people cannot even hope to achieve mastery over the mind in 40 years. I had achieved it by the time I was 30, helped by my training and work in Mining.

When I adopted you, I was already in mastery of the physical martial arts. I had been studying and adapting my mind for several years. But the last and most difficult master is over the emotions. It could take another 20 years after mastering the mind to even come close to mastering emotions. Some say that the Elders are over 100 years old. They would practice emotional control for 50 years. Most people we know and meet will not even live to see 50 years before we Heal them.

It was after I was driven out of the Healing sect that I obtained perfect mastery over my emotions, mind, and body. It was a most _spenta_ gift that my Healing mentors taught me the final test of emotional mastery by removing me from their tuition. I could have been angry or sad or manic, but instead I achieved inner calm. Only after I was completely calm and could not be swayed by any internal or external forces that I achieved Perfect Sight. I used my Perfect Sight to observe the events of my life and appreciate them for what they actually were, rather than what I had believed them to be. This was a great lesson for me and it further instilled calm and equanimity in the face of any forces in the world.

A dog yapped and a wolf growled. She had meant, but you were angry with me and tried to kill me.

Her father looked sternly down at her and hovered over her to make his intention clear. He said sternly, you deserve to die if you will not master the skills I am teaching you. If you do not apply yourself carefully and listen to my teaching exactly, then you will not be able to practice the arts of Healing. This will mean that your life is devoid of meaning and full of _druj_. It means that I am a failure at raising you, and that you cannot succeed in any profession that is available to a woman. You will die either from a lack of focus or in the misapplication of the Healing arts. Disorder and lack of focus is death.

Speaking of death, I have not shared this with you, but you must know the urgency that has been building in my training and why we must move quickly. I have used my Perfect Sight to look ahead, into the future. This is not a natural act, and it is part of the reason I believe I was excommunicated. The future sight is very blurry and difficult to understand. However, I have looked forward and I have seen it and interpreted what it is telling me. It says that I will be dead before I have achieved 40 years. It is important that I either succeed in teaching you the Healing arts by then, or you will be unable to learn them on your own and cannot succeed on your own.

If I cannot teach you everything you need to know, or if you cannot master most of it before the next spring, then I am afraid that our line of Healers will die with us, and it is possible that the Masked Ones will control our world forever and humans will not be free to think and master the ten professions.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tother hand, Chapter 2 part 3


So all of the _druj_ must be destroyed. Yes, yes, he waved his hand. It is necessary. A child full of _asha_ is dangerous. The mind must be disciplined and rigorously trained all its life. But the _druj_ cannot be undone. A right handed twin must be killed on the fourth day after birth. It must be done quickly by an Elder who knows how. The reason we wait for days is because that is how long the guardian spirit stays with the new life after it is born. You cannot kill an infant less than four days without inciting the revenge of the guardian who protected the soul before it was born.

Once the guardian spirit is gone, the soul must disposed of properly or the _druj_ will come out and affect the world. The same process is followed that Healers know. The soul is immediately cursed. This prevents the body from coming back to life. The water and fire spirits are tempted back into the body if the curse is not performed correctly or at all. The air spirits will go anywhere at any time and do not listen to any commands, so they cannot be controlled. The body must remain still for four days to prepare itself to gather in the earth spirits and for the guardian spirit to be summoned back to guide the soul in the death realm.

On the fourth day, the body is laid out somewhere in direct contact with the ground. In the spring, the grass must be cleared. In the summer, a dusty spot must be found. In the fall, the leaves of the trees must be cleared. In the winter, snow must be cleared. The body must be in direct contact with the earth so that all four primary spirits can be in complete balance and rest. In this way the body will be absorbed back into the earth and the soul will be reunited with the guardian spirit and taken to the death realm.

Four days of life and four days of death is the shortest possible time that a soul can exist. That is the eight days, or _spenta_, signifying bounty. Every soul is given at least eight days in this world as a generous gift from Ahura Mazda. This is why the Healers must execute their craft perfectly each time. There cannot be any mistakes or we will incur an excess of _druj_ in the world. Water can become undrinkable. Food will become inedible. Animals will die. Plants will wither if we do not understand the rules and follow them exactly.

9001 had known these rules and practiced them on corpses during her training, but she did not know that these rules applied to one of her own flesh relatives.

2711 continued, the reason that the Healers follow these rules and pass them on from generation to generation is because we have an excess of _asha_, or order. Disorder, or _druj_ is what we combat. We protect life and health by killing and properly disposing of death.

There is another purpose that Healers are bound to keep. We train in the deadly arts to protect the lives of the common people by fighting the Masked Ones. Occasionally when we are in the town, walking in the market, you have seen them. They wear masks and hide behind them because they do not want their faces to be known. They operate in secret behind the walls of the palace. The Masked Ones live in unimaginable wealth and luxury. They dress in the finest silks and cloths. They wear shiny jewels on their wrists and around their necks.

Their opulence is produced by taking every output from the workers and regular people who trade and build and create things. They levy taxes and collect them with loyal minions whom they recruit and train to do their bidding. Any leader from all the great nations is led by the Masked Ones. In Mesopotamia to the west, the Anatolians are ruled by Masked Ones who live in castles on hills. In India to the south, the Maurya Maharajas for each area live inside walled cities devoted to their pleasure. In China to the east, the Zhou Huang Ti is never seen and to even look upon his face without him wearing his mask is a death sentence.

There are a few purposes to wear a mask and most are evil. The first is a death mask, which interferes with the guardian spirit joining the dead soul and guiding it to the death realm. This angers the guardian and causes _druj_ in the following ways: the guardian might enter the wrong body and be trapped in the earth; the guardian spirit might be angry and enter into a living body, causing madness and violence; or the guardian might wander the earth lost, seeking a host and bothering the living who do not know they are being accosted by a lost spirit. As a healer, we never hide the face of a dead person.

The second purpose is even worse. A person wears a mask so they can protect their face in battle. Just as armour and jewels protect against our blades, a mask can protect the eyes and mouth during battle. Ahura has forbidden rulers to wage war and cause disorder. To do so is to engage with Ahriman. A true warrior would defend their homeland against invasion and has no need to hide. With so many dead and wounded in a battlefield, there is no way to process the bodies carefully and correctly. This spreads _druj_ into the earth, air, and water. Sometimes fire is used to dispose of so many dead. This just spreads the _druj_ farther in the wind. Thus, gearing up for battle with armour and masks is evil and spreads disorder and injustice.

The third reason to wear a mask is as a barrier. The Masked Ones hide their identities and intentions. If you know someone’s identity, you cannot question their bona fides. You do not know if the person is a Farmer, a Healer, a Butcher, an Elder, or a Merchant. The Healers do not wear masks even though that might make our jobs easier. When we visit the old or the infirmed, they know who we are. They are afraid in most cases. However, we know that it is better to allow them to know who we are so that their soul will not be surprised when the guardian spirit comes to meet them. This allows the souls and guardian spirits to have a smooth transition to the death realm.

The other barrier the Masked Ones use is vanity. They want to protect their faces to preserve their supposed beauty. The masks and their protected lifestyle ensure that they do not get exposed to the aging effects of the sun, wind, or dirt and sand. This is why you look upon the face of a Farmer and see that they appear much older than they are. They also do not want anyone to tell them they are not attractive. If you look at someone and say they are unattractive, they will believe you and feel that they are ugly – even if they are not ugly. If they hide their face however, you assume they are more attractive than they actually are.

I have seen several Masked Ones up close, but never their faces. It is rumoured that Elders handle appointing Masked Ones and servicing their dead, even though that is our domain. It is a mystery why the Elders support the Masked Ones and no one knows exactly how the palace operates. The only thing we know is that the Masked Ones rule over the populace and send out edicts on how to behave and what laws to observe. They also divine the rites and times of events such as the festivals and planting and harvesting seasons. There is one smaller palace in the east in which Masked Ones consult with families on the best time for reproduction and birth. They can divine when a child will be born and what profession they should choose when they grow up.

They can prevent the birth of twins through various prediction rituals and medicines. Whenever it happens, though, they are at a loss to prevent it and the Elders step in, as you already know.

Another class of people you know about are the Miners. They collect the rocks and ore that are the basic earth spirits that can become metal. The Miners are trained from a young age to pick rocks with certain qualities: green for copper malachite, red for iron laterite, yellow for gold nuggets, black for lead and silver galena, and so on. They Miners also operate the bloomeries and forges for many purposes. The most important to us as Healers is the production of blades.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tother hand chapter 2 part 2


After she had drunk enough to feel better, her father put down the spoon and made expressive facial motions, widening his eyes and mouth, and moving his ears. This meant, relax and calm down. Listen.

He began, everyone knows the story of the Origin and how we came to the Earth. The first sprit was the air spirit, full of _druj_, or disorder and deceit. When I throw water into the air, it spreads and splashes. If I cup a stream in a bowl, it becomes orderly and calm. This is _asha_, or wisdom and truth. Lies cause confusion and distrust. Truth produces order and trust. Wind spirits whip around in disorder without discipline.

From the chaos of the air spirits, the water appeared but it was wild and thrown about by the winds and whipped into waves. The angry spirits prevailed. Air is the original spirit. It represents the mind. Water is the second spirit. It represents emotion. The mind darts about wildly while emotion is less restless. Thoughts flit by at the speed of a bird, but feelings and emotions travel more slowly into realisation. Nevertheless, they move freely.

Beneath the waters of the origin universe formed the fire spirits. Just as a son develops inside a woman’s body, fire was born from water. That is why to this day, fire spirits will enter water readily and conversely water will smother and kill fire. The fire spirits rose up from within the water and collected earth spirits about itself like a cloak. This fire-earth rose up from the bottom of the water and rose to form the land. The earth spirits settled down and formed the earth. The earth protected the lakes and rivers from the air. The air spirits were tamed by the land and the oceans wasted their energy on the shores.

The fire spirits collected in the sky and collected into the warm sun. The sun shined down upon the earth and cooled the hot tempers of the air spirits. The waters calmed and became orderly in their disorder, lapping against the ground. The fire spirits carry water into the air where it falls again to earth and goes back to the ocean.

All four elements were in balance now having arrived in this order: air, water, earth, and fire.

Order arose out of the disorder, but _druj_ can still be found here and there. We all know that the number 2 is the first letter of the ancient alphabet. It is the singular number of counting. When something is whole, it has no number. Split it in half and you have two. _Druj_ cannot exist by itself, and _asha_ cannot exist without mistakes and learning. Order arises from the chaos, at least at first. The first letter of my name is the opposition of forces: fire versus water and air versus earth.

The next letter is also the number of 4, when the two opposing forces split into two more pieces each. Fire and air versus water and earth. The number 4 is also the letter for death. When all four spirits are combined, they return to one: completely balanced but unmoving and silent. Death. This is where too much wisdom binds the mind and emotional balance has gone too far into ambivalence. Too much peace equals death. Boredom and inaction are the antithesis of life.

Between life and death, then, is the letter that has the number 3. It follows 4 as a counterbalance but it is too unstable. Nothing can rest on triangle, like your Iberian training blade. Anything that occurs in threes is unstable and becomes either two or four. Fire spirits enter the water and create vapour air. Too many water spirits smother the fire by separating it from the air it needs. Fire spirits in the air burn and scorch the earth without water intervening. Air spirits blow the earth around and create a haboob that blinds animals and stifles life without water. This is how unstable three degenerates into two.

The combination of three can become four in the following ways. Earth, fire, and air spirits join inside a volcano. The burning earth and air spirits move as water does, even though none of them have the water spirits. Out of this imbalance, the elements combine into fourths: metals, rocks, and glass. Similarly, fire spirits combine with wind and water vapours to move about, creating a fourth called lightning from the clouds. The lightning is so violent and angry that it strikes the earth repeatedly until it is spent. The sound that you hear in thunder is the expression of all this anger and violence.

2711 looked at his daughter. She knew this story by heart, but it filled her belly with warmth, just as the butter tea always did.

The 13th letter of the alphabet is the number 7. It is called _hapta_. It means heaven. Anything that is above your head is called heaven. Heaven is the embodiment of the air spirits. It is above the _mazda_, the mind, and even above the _mainyo_, where the spirits are.

Her father continued, let’s jump to the last letter of the alphabet, which is the number 1. The number 1 does not exist alone in nature. A number is plural, but the number 1 is singular.  Thus, fire needs air to move and transfer. The earth needs water or it turns to rock. Water needs fire or it freezes into ice. Air needs water or else the world would be a desert without rain. Thus, 1 is _druj_ or disorder. The number 2 is _asha_, balance and wisdom. Any even number is balanced. Add one more to that number and it results in imbalance. That’s why 2 is the first letter of the alphabet and 1 is the last. My name begins with _asha_, order, includes _hapta_, heaven, and ends with two _druj_. The two _druj_ combine to balance each other.

Orderly heaven, truth composed of two lies, he said almost too proudly. He caught himself and turned sheepish.

Your name ends in _druj_. Disorder, violence, and fury. When you were born, your mother died. She transferred to you an imbalance that I have sought to help. You were always curious, but resistant to learning. You were always active, but without purpose. You have always learned quickly, but forget easily. You are impulsive and full of fire. You move quickly but without much impact or purpose. You have too much of the air. You are eager to be angry or petulant because you have too much of the water spirits in you. You do not have enough of the grounding and solidity required to become a healer.

The 26th letter of the alphabet is 9. It means pain. Pain comes from an illusion. The difference from the illusion and reality results in a painful expression. The pain can be physical, emotional, or both. It depends on the illusion. A healthy person is under the illusion that they are well. Any illness in the body results in pain because the illusion of health is broken. Conversely, someone who is chronically sick will feel pain where some part of them is actually healthy. Similarly, the illusion of happiness is shattered when reality says that something that was expected is missing. If you expect a gift but receive none, you will suffer pain from a non-existent loss. The opposite is a sad person attached to grief who suddenly experiences a kind gesture or thought. Emotional pain registers and the person cries.

Your name is thus painful double expanse _druj_. Painful disorder. It is a sign of someone who struggles against their own nature. He looked at her significantly. She wanted to roll her eyes at his dramatics, but she loved the stories and it was just getting good.

The creator of all this was Ahura Mazda, the wise Lord. Just as nothing is whole unless composed of at least two parts, Ahura Mazda was contested by an _angra mainyu_, or angry spirit. We sometimes call this spirit Ahriman if we must mention him at all. Whenever Ahura would create a peaceful herbivore, Ahriman would create a predator. Ahura would create a peaceful and beautiful fish, to which Ahriman would send a shark to eat it. Ahura’s sparrows and doves were mere foodstuffs for Ahriman’s eagles and hawks. Soon the whole world was teaming with hunter and hunted, prey and food.

Then Ahura Mazda came up with a wise and wonderful plan to defeat the _angra mainyu_. Ahura created the human form of a woman. He dared Ahriman to retaliate, which they did by creating the human form of a man. While the woman exemplified the water spirits of emotion, the male displayed the traits of fire with aggression. However, Ahura had prevailed by creating the two halves of a whole: all of mankind was set against itself and each other. The mind was counterbalanced by the body (wind against earth). Emotional stability was counteracted by the aggression and destructive impulses (water against fire). Instead of Ahriman producing an evil creature in man, Ahura had created a woman with half of her being evil and half good. Thus, man was created half good and half evil. Both are born with equal parts of _asha_ and _druj_.

These halves are clearly visible in the symmetry of the body. The left side is slightly larger and stronger. It is orderly and expressive. The left testicle in men hangs lower and the left breast in women is larger. Conversely, the right side is bad, unkempt and sloppy. The left hand is closest to the heart and has the richest blood. Healers always lead with the left because it is the cleanest and most orderly. People who do not practice healing are right handed or evil by default. Healers are good by default.

Here 9001 pretended to agree as usual. She always felt self-conscious about her right hand and how she had to struggle with the left. Her father continued, caught up in his lecture.

Ahura had created woman first because she can give birth to a child and raise it from nothing. A man by himself can produce nothing that lives. Ahriman had been tricked. But in doing so Ahura also knew that He had created both something perfectly perfect and horribly flawed. Humans could choose to be evil or good. Depending on the choices they make in their lives, a person can create pure evil or beautiful acts of greatness. Most people do not make any choices at all or alternate between good and bad. They develop into forgettable individuals who are totally unremarkable and disappear forever when they die.

The people who default to evil and who continue to choose evil often express it in destructive and killing ways. They will consume food in excess, either wasting resources so others cannot eat, or consuming so much that the food cannot be replenished quickly enough. Those who choose instead to do good usually express it in terms of creation and life-giving ways. They grow food and tend animals. They cook and prepare meals that are sustainable and ensure everyone has enough good things to eat.

As I have said, nothing exists except as composed of a pair of opposing forces. Sometimes the pairs split for reasons that Ahura Himself only knows. So it is that a woman can have in her body one child that becomes two. These are called twins. The Elders have learnt that from twin children born at the same time to one woman, one child is created from the left side and it is born with more good than evil.

This is an imbalance that must be managed very carefully. Just as water will burst out of a dam that holds it back; and the wind will blow anything down in its path towards the low lands because it is too high; and embers that are covered up will flare when uncovered; and so with earth that is piled too high will come crashing down violently: so too will goodness break forth and become _druj_. This can be manifested as maniacal behaviours: sudden dancing and singing or joyous celebration without cause. Alternatively, too much good can manifest inwardly: the person can retreat into bliss, laying down on the floor and humming quietly, or squatting with both hands around the knees, rocking back and forth becoming unresponsive.

This is why the left-handed children of twins are taken by the Elders and raised as healers, like you and I. Your mother gave her twin children to the Elders and I was selected to raise you.

Here, the story was new and 9001 detected hesitation in his voice and deep emotion in her father’s eyes. She started at the realisation that she had a twin sister. 2711’s facial features softened and he continued with new features of the story he had not practiced.

Yes, I raised you as my own and your sister was the false half. The Elders were clear that I should raise you as a healer since 2387 had died. Here he stopped short and 9001 lifted her head and nearly cried out. The exertion and movement in her throat reignited the pain of her wound and she fell back on the straw bed. Coppery blood coated the back of her throat and she swallowed painfully. Her throat caught and pain seared her neck each time.

Her father applied more pressure with his left hand and reached to grab more strips of wool with the right. She thought she heard him cursing under his breath. He turned towards her and rewrapped her bandages more tightly.

He said, I should not have mentioned her name. You are too young to know the full truth yet. He paused, concentrated on the task of wrapping. She had difficulty breathing. She felt her pull pounding on the left side of her neck, feeling as if her heart would push the blood through her skin.

2387 is her name, he said slowly. It is _asha_, _mazda_, _spenta_, _hapta_. He covered his face with the memory. 9001 felt deeply ashamed for a reason she could not identify.

He continued, it means…but he could not continue.

9001 spoke the silent language so that her throat would not be hurt again. A robin twittered and his mate responded twice. It meant, ordered mind and bountiful heaven. She started to cry again. A rustle of wings faltered as the robin and his mate fluttered away. It conveyed the picture of a lost mother and grief. She wiped her eyes with the crook of her right arm.

Her father nodded and wiped tears from his eyes as well, except he let go of the pressure on her neck to wipe with the crook of his left arm. Mother, he said. Bountiful heaven that gave me my daughter. He tried to smile, but the corners of his mouth pulled down instead and tears streamed down his cheeks.

A river burbled and splashed on the rocks. It asked the question, a twin sister?

2711 wiped his eyes again

The right-handed children are obviously full of _druj_. It is too easy to imagine they could burst forth into _asha_ just as the opposite happens. However, Ahura has cleverly created some asymmetries that are not always obvious at first.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tother Hand Chapter 2 part 1


Chapter Two


2711 carried his daughter, 9001, back to the yurt applying pressure to the wound so tightly she was unconscious. He grabbed a section of cloth and some wool from the blanket to stuff into the side of her neck as he wrapped her neck and tightened the cloth. He made it snug enough that her throat could move up and down behind the cloth. Her eyes fluttered open and he commanded, Sleep!

And she slept.

She woke up in the middle of the next day. Her father had tied her head with something so that she could not turn her head. She tried to lift her head instinctively and searing pain from the left side of her neck. She cried out and regretted that too, because something inside the back of her throat either clicked or caught on something and she tasted warm buttery copper in the back of her throat.

Her father’s face appeared over her and he lifted his fingers to his lips. This meant, are you thirsty?

She rolled her eyes away and tears formed in the corners. The tears spilled out into her ears and collected in the concha. She could smell the butter tea her father had prepared, however, and couldn’t help feeling a sense of longing and nostalgia for her favourite drink. The unpleasant taste of blood and the pain in her neck distracted her from these feelings, however.

Her father moved over to her so she could see him better. He said, you have made a grave mistake in your training. You have almost cost yourself your life. Then he paused and annoyance replaced the look of concern in his features. He continued, I wanted to teach you a lesson, but perhaps the blade went too far. It cut into your omohyoid but narrowly avoided the arteries and vessels.

She knew the anatomy from her lessons. It was the one lesson she excelled at. She knew he had struck at the first target, number One. Anger bubbled up in her. He raised his hand in front of her face as he saw her reaction. The hand meant, calm down.

He said, I am the one who is angry. Not you. You are the one who is at fault for your training, not me.  I am responsible for your training, but at some point, you must do the learning. I cannot do it for you.

She rolled her eyes to the opposite side so she didn’t have to look at him. More tears welled up from the anger, shame, and even pain. Her ears were getting cold with the saline pools forming in the creases of her pinna. She caught sight of her friend the spider, but he (it was surely a he) moved down the yurt wall below her sightline.

Her father waved his hand over her face to draw her attention back to him. He motioned with a wooden spoon and opened his mouth. She opened her mouth and he dipped the spoon somewhere then brought it to her mouth. The butter tea was thick and delicious, salty and creamy, but it burned like fire. She coughed and sputtered. 2711 wiped at her chin and face with the rough cloth of his sleeve. He opened his mouth again and dipped the spoon to give her more. She grew accustomed to the heat but her throat still caught painfully when she swallowed. The butter tea must have helped clot the interior wound, however, because the taste of coppery blood disappeared.

After she had drunk enough to feel better, her father put down the spoon and made expressive facial motions, widening his eyes and mouth, and moving his ears. This meant, relax and calm down. Listen.

He began, everyone knows the story of the Origin and how we came to the Earth. The first sprit was the air spirit, full of _druj_, or disorder. When I throw water into the air, it spreads and splashes. If I cup a stream in a bowl, it becomes orderly and calm. This is _Ahura_, or wisdom. From the chaos of the air spirits, the water appeared but it was wild and thrown about by the winds and whipped into waves. The angry spirits prevailed.

Beneath the waters, however, formed the earth spirits. The calm and orderly earth rose up from the water and protected the waters from the angry winds. The benevolent earth gave rise to calm lakes and pushed back the angry waters. The fire spirits collected in the sky and collected into the warm sun. The winds were driven by the fire spirits, but could not continue forever. The sun shined down upon the earth and cooled the hot tempers of the air spirits. All four elements were in balance now, earth, water, air, and fire.

Order arose out of the disorder, but _druj_ can still be found here and there. We all know that the number 2 is the first letter of the ancient alphabet. It is the singular number of counting. When something is whole, it has no number. Split it in half and you have two. _Druj_ cannot exist by itself, and _Ahura_ cannot exist without mistakes and learning. Order arises from the chaos, at least at first. The first letter of my name is thus, life. Opposition of forces: fire versus water and air versus earth.

The next number is 4, when the two opposing forces split into two more pieces each. Fire and air versus water and earth. The number 4 is also the letter for death. When all four spirits are combined, they return to one: completely balanced but unmoving and silent. Death. This is where too much wisdom binds the mind and balance has gone too far. Too much peace equals death.

Between life and death, then, is the number 3. It follows 4 as a counterbalance but it is too unstable. Nothing can rest on triangle, like your Iberian training blade. Anything that occurs in threes is unstable and becomes either two or four. Fire spirits enter the water and create vapour air. Too many water spirits smother the fire by separating it from the air it needs. Fire spirits in the air burn and scorch the earth.

Her father continued, let’s jump to the last number, 1. The number 1 does not exist alone in nature. Fire needs air to move and transfer. The earth needs water or it turns to rock. Water needs fire or it freezes into ice. Air needs water or else the world would be a desert without rain. Thus, 1 is _druj_ or disorder. The number 2 is _ahura_, balance and wisdom. Any even number is balanced. Add one more to that number and it results in imbalance. That’s why 2 is the first number and 1 is the last. My name begins with _ahura_ and ends with two _druj_.

2711 looked at his daughter. She knew this story by heart, but it filled her belly with warmth, just as the butter tea always did.

He said, your name ends in _druj_. Disorder, violence, and fury. When you were born, your mother died. She transferred to you an imbalance that I have sought to help. You were always curious, but resistant to learning. You were always active, but without purpose. You have always learned quickly, but forget easily.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

T'Other Hand Chapter 1


“All Twin Children Must Be Brought To The Elders For Proper Cleansing Within Two Days Of Birth. Only The Elders Can Discern The Portent Of A Twin Birth And How To Properly Raise Twin Children. Any Persons Not Following This Order Risk A Trial And Condemnation By The Masked Ones. Any Person Who Knowingly Covers Up Such A Crime Shall Also Face Trial As If The Children Belong To Them.”

-The Book Of Elders, Section 1

Chapter One


               Tonight we practice, 2711 said.

Yes, answered 9001 sullenly. She would rather have played with the spider who lived next to her straw bed.

Her father, always business-like, nodded as if he didn’t hear the dissent. Prepare yourself. We go now.

She turned on her heel and took her beginners quillon from the sheath hanging on the yurt wall. It was a flat copper triangle with a wooden handle wrapped in leather. The weight was comfortable and the grip fit perfectly. She had wrapped and rewrapped it herself many times. She forced herself to remember which hand was left and moved the handle to that hand.

Behind her, her father frowned at the hesitation. He turned to leave by the front flap. Wait, 9001 called. He winced and stopped short.

An owl called in the distance. A cricket chirped once. Twice. It meant, we go in silence.

Another owl hooted back, twice. It said, yes. A pine weevil whirred as it chewed on a conifer half-heartedly. It meant, sorry, but implied that the weevil was not very sorry at all.

2711 continued out of the yurt and his daughter followed. She stuck out her tongue as he left. She had waited until he was out of sight because he had a knack for seeing everything that happened around him. She stuffed her blade into the folds of her cotton shift. It was a mere formality, being made from copper and too short to do much damage. It was too soft to actually hold an edge, and would bend if it hit bone. She didn’t care: it was boring being a healer. She would never learn to use a blade well, and even if she did, she hated all the rules and regulations. Lead with the left side, move at 45 degrees, block and strike at the same time. It was too much to remember and keep track of.

2711 could tell she was lagging behind and he gritted his teeth, getting ready to hiss at her. He took a silent breath instead and pulled out his rondel. It was a long, straight blade, crafted of fine iron cooked by the intense orange fire spirits inside rich, black coal. The round pommel had both a front and rear guard to protect the hand and provide a place to add additional pressure with the opposite hand, respectively. He held it in the left hand because healers always led with the left. The blade pointed back, almost to the elbow, with the sharpest edge out, away from the arm. This was the same hand position as the hook, or _fook sao_. From the _fook sao_ position, the blade mimics the hand in circling, _huen sao_, retract for pulling, _lop sao_, extend as the front hand, _man sao, or protect in close to the body as the _wu sao_, and so on.

A mantis called loudly. Hurry up. 9001 grumbled and shuffled in her woven slippers. A frog croaked three times. Quiet!

Water trickled in a stream and babbled over the rocks. Laughter. And, I know.

They moved together now as one team, the father in front, moving from corner to corner of imaginary boxes laid out in front of him. His daughter followed, concentrating fiercely now on moving her legs in the correct motion: swinging in toward the body, then out. She straddled and imaginary horse, centred on two squares. When the left side led, the right leg moved up and right, following the square on the right. Then the left leg, now in the rear position, moved up and left to the other corner of the next square. She was already breathing heavily from the exertion and soon her hip joints would squeal in pain. A lock of hair fell over her brow and she blew it away with an upward huff.

Leaves rustled in the wind. They said, breathe.

More leaves scattered hither and thither. I know, they said before settling down.

They continued this way silently to the edge of the trees near the yurt. Here the light from the fire in the yurt could not make shadows, and the sliver of the moonlight could not make it to the ground. 2711 stopped and raised his right hand, weapon low and close in the left. 9001 continued forward, knowing the drill. She stooped low, drawing the quillon smoothly between steps. She moved to the left side of her father, drawing close so that she stopped just behind his left side. Both weapons now formed one straight and deadly line.

One advance from the left would result in two attacks on an enemy: the father usually struck high, at the target numbered One. This was the easiest, most direct route and rarely failed. The daughter usually struck low, either number Six or Seven. Then, because the attack didn’t stop until the opponent was on the ground, well and truly dead, they would advance on the right side and strike lower: the father at Two or Four, the daughter at Five, Six, or Seven. Because these targets are lethal, only the healers know them and which parts the numbers refer to. Lethal targets are the only targets worth striking. Wounding a target means that you must heal them, which is the job for butchers, not healers.

But first, before the strikes, the healers control the light spirits in a special way that allows them to move faster than any human can move. When the technique is applied correctly, the healer can move so swiftly that they can strike three or four times before their target can start to blink. 2711 knows that the best time to strike is when the eyes blink closed, for then the target cannot see what their fate is and they will be dead before they open their eyes again. This also helps with cursing the body so that the soul will leave properly. They eyes will be closed as the victim falls to the floor and no time is wasted in the preparations after death.

They time their signal with a twig snapping. It means, now.

As usual, the daughter is slow on the draw and whereas her father sees the bright, dappled light of the forest standing out clearly, his daughter sees the dimmest of shadows and white shapes where trees might be. Her eyes are only half-open, and her eyelashes form vertical patterns that confuse the scene. She moves her hand and weapon in disorganised motions that are poorly memorised. She ducks lower on the second advance, but sees too late she is one step off – her father has already retracted his knife to the _wu sao_, or back, position and the blade glints as her eyes are open slightly more widely now. Her father was too quick and would have struck three times to her one or maybe one and a half times.

She continues her second strike to position Seven anyway, her father’s left leg plants solidly where her right leg moves. She sees the impact on the cloth first; her eyes are opening more and she can see everything moving eerily slowly and calmly. Her breath and rhythm are improving, even if she is slower; it just takes her longer to get into the proper frame of mind, is all. The impact moves along both limbs slowly, she knows that it will hurt her shin, but the impact has not even reached her knee yet. Her right hand moves toward her father’s belt to steady herself and him. She thinks it is funny how she will laugh at the misstep, like she has done a thousand times before. He will be angry and chastise her, similarly. She looks in satisfaction at the entire scene, frozen completely now as her eyes are fully open and she can see every detail of every branch, trunk, leaf, blade of grass, crumble of dirt, and stillness in every particle of the entire universe.

Too late, she sees that she has actually stumbled too close to her father, and his blade is just below her chin. His hand is gripped too firmly on the pommel to be safe this close to her. The blade doesn’t move for what seems like an eternity, but she knows is less than one blink. Her eyes are already starting to close from their widest point.

She collapses as the spell fails, time rushes forward, and blood pours from her neck. She drops her blade and falls to the ground. Her father’s hand crushes her wind pipe. He growls, if you do not take your training seriously, I will gladly kill you and curse your soul so that it never returns.

She looks at her father’s face contorted with rage and thinks to herself, I welcome the darkness. Something gurgles and a deer makes a snuffling sound with its nose. This means, I die.

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