Chapter Twenty-Six

Now, as the people journeyed on, provisions began to run low, and land grew barren. Sometimes they marched northward, sometimes westward, sometimes even heading back south, but ever toward the setting sun did they go, ever east, further into the hills, closer to the mountains.
2 Now, many of the people began to complain that the whole trip was unnecessary, that it was foolishness. Had not The King said they could stay? The people now respected and feared them. They should turn back, go back to Tr. The King would welcome them. Why should they starve here in this unbearable wilderness?
3 Now, Gray Dove brought these murmurings to The Old Fox. "These foolish people!" The Old Fox told him, "Did Spirit not promise us a land of our own, a place where we could grow to great numbers? They say they believe, but they have no truth in their hearts. They do not trust The Lords. They want only the easy path."
4 "But Lord," argued Gray Dove, "they are right. There ARE problems. WE have found no water in many days. Our skins are almost dry. The feed for our cattle and the other stores are almost gone. It is now early spring. In a short time the heat of summer will be on us. We have journeyed all these days, yet found only wilderness. Where IS this land, Lord, where IS this place?
5 The Old Fox looked to the east. "It is there," he answered, "beyond the mountains. It is there. I have seen it in a Dream. Many flowing rivers, and a fine lake, good soil for farms, and land for pasture. It is there. The people must be patient! In a few days we will have ample supplies. The Lords have promised this. For now, tell the people to go easy on the water, and, food. Soon they will have plenty."
6 Now, for several more days they journeyed, then one midday as The Old Fox and his Elders topped a rise, he halted the caravan. "Let those who have grumbled," he cried, "let those who have complained come forward. Let them see what The Lords have provided."
7 All the people hurried to the head of the column and stood upon the rise. Ahead of them was a long, narrow valley, with high cliffs on either side. Along the cliffs were fruit trees and nut trees, heavy with their bounty The floor of the valley was covered with Tabr plants. On the hills on either side were fields of wild grain.
8 "You spoke of provisions," The Old Fox cried, "you complained you lack supplies. Today we will make our way into the valley, harvesting the Tabr as we go. Then, we will make camp and harvest this bounty. We will fill our barrels and our sacks, heap our carts with feed for our cattle. It is many day's work before we journey on.
9 But hear me, and hear me well, for The Lords give you a dire warning! There are fine springs at the head of the valley. The water is good and pure. Of this you may drink and fill your skins. But of any water that is on the sides of the valley, touch you not. Do not drink it, or even wash your faces with it, for it is death.
10 Now, bring your spades, your rakes, and shovels. Let every able bodied man go before the column and clear a path through the Tabr. Tonight we feast!"
11 So it was, the people worked. As the men harvested the plants, the women separated the roots, put them in baskets, and carrried them back to their ox carts while the children gathered the plants, to be dried for feed.
12 It was late into the evening when they finally reached the head of the valley and clearedc camping spaces. But the women had prepared the evening meal. The scent of roasted Tabr and fresh killed meat filled the air. Fruit was brought in from the nearest trees, and the people had a meal like none that had been enjoyed for many years.
13 Now, the following day they sat to work in earnest on the harvest. Hunters went out to the surrounding land. And there was game to be had. They also brought back word of other fruit trees and Tabr less than half a day's journey away.
14 "Good," praised The Old Fox, "we will need it all."
15 Now, in the third day that they had been camped, three of the men who had been the worst complainers and shirkers of their work were harvesting nuts near the middle of the valley. The day was hot, and they wasted their water. So, by midday, their skins were empty. Now there was a spring near the trees where they were working. The water was clear and shaded and looked invitingly cool.
16 "Why," their leader complained, "should one of us go all the way back to the head of the valley for more water, when there is fine water right here? The Old Fox does not know everything, nor do The Lords. We are men of reasoning minds! We can make our own decisions!"
17 So they filled their skins in the spring, drank deeply of the water, then returned to their work. Come the evening, Gray Dove was at the entrance to the camp counting heads as they returned. The last of the people were just about in when he noticed three men go by him with virtually full water skins! His curiosity was aroused!
18 "Sirs," he asked, "how is it your water skins are full, and those of the people about you are empty?"
19 The leader of the men spoke, saying, "At the side of the valley we found an excellent spring. The water was clear and cold. We saw no reason why we should return to the head of the valley for refreshment. So we filled our skins there."
20 Gray Dove looked at them in disbelief. "Did you not hear The Old Fox's warning?" he asked.
21 "We did," the man replied, "but we paid it no heed. He does not know everything!"
22 "Come with me!" ordered Gray Dove, and he took the men to The Old Fox. "Lord," he announced, "these men have disobeyed you, and of the water on the sides of the valley did they drink."

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