Once upon a time there was a small village. They village was part of a large collection of villages, which together formed the basis of a kingdom. It was kind of a strange kingdom, as it wasn’t governed by a king in the traditional sense, with the king living in a big castle in the center of the kingdom, and poor serfs living outside the castle walls. This village/kingdom was a semi-independent collection of villages. Some villages were better at certain things than others, and there were various trade agreements between villages. For example, some villages were good metalwork, and others were good at farming. They would all meet once a month in a large flat treeless area to set up and exchange the goods they could produce for the goods that they needed. This was a time before money, so they all enjoyed bartering and trading and all the ensuing arguing that happened naturally when people got together and tried to get the best deal.
The great meeting usually lasted three or four days. After everybody was satisfied, the traders would stay for one extra night to have a large celebratory party. Of course the most popular person at this large celebratory party were the villagers that made the mead that was used to drink at this festival.
The particular village of this story was the village that specialized in making horseshoes. Because several of the villages depended on horses for travel and farming, horseshoes were in great demand. In the horseshoe village, boys were trained from a very early age to find the raw materials to make the steel, and forge the iron that would be used to make horseshoes to use in trade with the other villagers.
But recently there had been a problem. The hills where they would go out into and collect the materials for making the steel were becoming less and less fruitful. They had known about this for several years, and they finally decided it was time to do something about it. The village elders demanded a solution be found when it was determined that the raw materials wouldn’t last for more than three more seasons.
So after they finished the month end celebrations for the trade, the horseshoe village decided to have a meeting of the elders and the senior horseshoe makers to determine what they could do. After much arguing and consulting with oracles, they decided that they would simply need to find another source of raw material. This wasn’t entirely unheard of, as other villages had moved in the past in order to better produce whatever they were good at producing. The loose collection of villages comprised a large enough area that it wouldn’t be a problem to maintain their monthly meetings.
Then the tough decision was made. Who to choose to send out in search of new material? They would need at four teams of scouts. One for each direction, north, south, east and west. And it was expected that each team of scouts would be gone for six months at the very least. They would be trained to be able to determine from the earth which hills would support a new village for at least another generation. They decided they would choose four teams of three-member search. A total of twelve young boys who would be tasked to finding the resources that would keep the village alive for another generation.
After their decision, they made an announcement, and asked for volunteers. They were completely surprised by the number of applicants. Every single boy in the village that was old enough to be an apprentice was accepted as an applicant. They put them through a series of rigorous mental and physical tests, and made their selections. The time finally came for the boys to depart.
Nobody had any illusions about the safety of the boys. They would be gone for at least six months, and despite the loose collection of villages, there was much danger. Predators, both beast and man, threatened to kill the boys just to take their supplies. It was expected that half of the boys would not return. The boys knew, however, that if they returned with a location sufficient to sustain the village for another generation, they would forever be loved by the village. Having the status of a provider, an explorer, a discoverer of resources was well worth a fifty percent chance of death.
The village had a celebration for three days to pray to the gods and celebrate the bravery of the young boys whose discoveries would carry the life and safety of the village on into the next generation. After much singing and weeping, and several tearful goodbyes, the boys, who were by now being only referred to as The North, The South, The East, and The West, gathered their equipment, and departed.
To be continuedâ€¦