The Power of Formations - Chapter 2 - Old man Maury
Two parents and two ten-year-old boys sat at a small dinner table in a small cabin space. They all helped themselves to some bread and a loaf of unspecified meat sitting in the center.
“The tribe elder put in a word today,” a man that had blue eyes and black hair just like Emmet remarked, bringing a forkful of meat to his mouth.
“Really, dear?” The woman with brown hair turned toward him and exclaimed. “Old man Maury himself?”
“Yes, honey. Old man Maury himself,” the man smiled slightly, ripping the chunk of meat from the fork and taking a few tentative chews. “He noticed the increase of our harvest the previous month and wanted to praise us for the good work.”
Hearing the good news, the woman’s expression brightened. “That’s great!”
The two boys at the table all felt their eyes brighten as well. Old man Maury? Everyone loved to receive his good words.
The man met the woman’s eyes and smiled proudly. “…so I told him the truth, about all about the wily contraptions our lil’ Emmet made, how they helped us increase our crop this past year. He wanted to see one for himself, so I took ‘em to see one of those sunstone scarecrows.” He smiled broadly and turned his gaze toward the boy to his left. “And… he was impressed!”
“Mm?” Meeting eyes with his father and hearing the praise, Emmet couldn’t help but become a bit excited. “Really?”
“Yeah!” Emmet’s father laughed, reaching over and patting his son on the shoulder. “Boy, how could I have known? When you were first growing up, I thought you were a crazy child! No interest in farmwork, all interested in those puzzles and contraptions… I never thought it would become this useful!”
“Haha…” Emmet couldn’t help but be embarrassed and averted his gaze. It was true that when growing up, his eccentric interests had confused his parents. However, they had never actively worked to stop them.
“Anyway, he says he has a present for you!” Emmet’s father tapped his son’s shoulder fondly. “Haha, you lucky boy, old man Maury rarely gives out gifts! You’re blessed!”
“A present?” Emmet’s eyes lit up. The tribe head had a present for him?
At this moment, the other boy at the table spoke up. It was a bigger boy with green hair. His name was Yorick. He stood up and pounded his fist onto the table. “How come… how come he gets a gift? That’s unfair!”
“Hehe…” The boys’ mother reached over and rubbed Yorick’s head teasingly. “If you want a prize, you’ve gotta work for it! Besides, you’ve gotten plenty of praise already, being such a lively and strong boy!”
“Ugh…” Yorick crossed his arms and grumbled. “Emmet can’t even till the field properly… he’s too weak. I should be the one getting the prize!”
The boys’ father guffawed. “That’s true… you really do have the makings of a truly elite farmer! Next time, next time. Emmet’s contraptions really did come in handy this year – our harvest was nearly 10% larger!”
Emmet met the tribe head, Old man Maury, the next time he and Yorick walked through the village.
“Emmet! Yorick! My boys!” An aging, white-haired, white-bearded man waved in greeting toward the two boys, his face smiling broadly. “Come here, come here!”
“Tribe head Maury!” Both Emmet and Yorick’s faces lit up. They quickly ran over toward the village head, and as they reached him, took a deep bow. “Tribe head, how are you today?”
“Haha… such good manners!” Old man Maury reached over and patted both the boys on the head. “No need to be so formal, this old man is family…”
“Haha,” Emmet and Yorick laughed and stood back up. “So nice to see you, tribe head!”
Their faces were full of smiles. Growing up, they had always loved their tribe head. Not just them, everyone in the village nearly universally loved him – he had always been kind and generous, putting his tribe’s people ahead of even his own self.
“Thank you boys, you too,” old man Maury smiled. “How is the family? Good, I’m assuming?”
“Yes, they’re good!” The two boys assented in unison. This was a common question that the tribe head routinely asked, so they had a very practiced answer.
“Great, great…” Maury smiled. He bent over and began searching through his bag, finally pulling out a large book with some abstract shapes on the cover. He glanced toward Emmet. “Emmet, you heard I have a gift for you, right?”
“Yes!” Emmet nodded excitedly, impatiently eyeing the book Maury had pulled out of the bag. Was that the gift?
Sure enough, Maury chuckled and extended the book over toward Emmet. “A year back, I received a few books from some friends I made in town. One of them was this book here, which has a ton of interesting puzzles inside! I feel like you would really enjoy it. After seeing your genius scarecrow contraption, and hearing from your father how you always liked puzzles, I thought of the book, and had to gift it to you!”
Emmet let out a breath and accepted the book, looking down and inspecting it. It was basic-looking enough, with a brown cover decorated by a few basic shapes – other than that, it didn’t have a title or any other markings.
However, he still pursed his lips, still having some misgivings. “Is there… are there lots lots of words inside? I…”
“Don’t worry,” Maury reached over and patted Emmet on the shoulder. “Even though I know you’re better than many others in the tribe, I know that it would still be hard for you to read a text-heavy book. But this book is special – I looked through, it’s largely a picture book, and just contains a lot of easy-to-understand diagrams and symbols, with very little words!”
Meeting old man Maury’s kind gaze, Emmet let out a breath and nodded. As a child of a simple farmer family and member of migrant farming tribe, he was never really taught to read. It just wasn’t a priority – in the tribe, children were first taught to till the fields and take care of the livestock before learning any letters of the alphabet. Emmet had to go out of his way to learn from some others in the tribe before he knew some words – although, it wasn’t as if those people could read too well either. Although he knew some words, he still wasn’t confident he could read a full book on his own, especially if it consisted mainly of text.
Thus, it was a relief that the book wasn’t very word-heavy.
“Thank you, tribe head!” Emmet bowed his head and exclaimed, making sure to profusely thank his elder. He truly was grateful – a book like this was priceless! As a farmer’s child with very little resources, Emmet had very little exposure to this kind of thing. He was thirsty for knowledge, but there wasn’t much available! In fact, in his life, he rarely saw any books at all. Even if he couldn’t understand anything in the book, just looking at the diagrams would likely be fascinating.
Thus, to him, this book was now the most precious thing in the world.
“Of course my son!” Maury laughed happily, the corners of his lips tipping upward uncontrollably. “Work hard, and become a great farmer! One might expect strength and tilling speed to be the primary aspects of a farmer, but problem-solving is an equally important aspect – our tribe will definitely need people like you in the future!”
Emmet felt his face turn red. Looking down at the ground, he felt grateful emotions run through him. The tribe head was so kind.
He suddenly had a desire to become the best farmer he could be!
“Ok, I have to take off now,” old man Maury smiled and took a few steps back, waving his hand. “But be well, and say hi to your parents for me!”
“Hehe, of course!” Emmet waved back rigorously, excitement flowing through his body like a river. As he watched Maury turn around and walk off, his entire body suddenly itched, as if about to go into overdrive. He wanted nothing more than to just shut himself off into a room and stare at the book for a few days.
“Eh, I’m not jealous anymore,” Yorick scrunched his face and said casually, bringing his hands behind his head and whistling an upbeat tune. “Books are boring!”
“Heh, that’s your opinion,” Emmet couldn’t keep the smile off his face, his face already faced downward. His hands hurriedly flipped through the pages of the book. “This was the best possible gift anyone could have given me!’