Nebador Archives presents an epic young-adult science fiction adventure - Deep Learning 1

J. Z. Colby's NEBADOR takes place in the wide universe around us ...
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Kibi and the Search for Happiness
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Book One Deep Learning Notes

Chapter 1: First Contact

Although they are not talked about until chapter 35, the map uses very common symbols. Can you see where the first chapter takes place? Hint: the small lake where Ilika rinsed his boots is almost exactly in the center of the map.

There are many hints in the first chapter that Ilika is from somewhere far away, and has never been in this place before. How many can you find?

Ilika's way of dealing with the angry stallion is unusual. How would most people react? How would YOU react? What does Ilika's response tell us about him?

What is Ilika's "state of mind" soon after the stallion leaves? How long would it take most people to get to that state of mind?

What assumptions does Ilika NOT make when talking to the rabbit, assumptions that most people would make?

This chapter clearly shows that the story is going outside the usual boundaries of human behavior. A "normal" person, in the medieval culture portrayed, or ours, would experience great fear in Ilika's situation with the stallion, flight or aggression to solve the problem, and then face-saving behaviors. Later, with the rabbit, most people would display some form of disrespect, perhaps capturing or killing the rabbit, or at least talking down to it. Ilika's non-typical reactions set the stage for his unusual origin.

Chapter 2: The Capital City

The map gives an aerial view of the medieval walled city. Several places important to the story are marked. Smaller sections of the map are given in later chapters so the reader won't have to constantly turn back to this map, but sometimes seeing the whole helps to understand the parts better.

A theme runs through this chapter, a simple food that deeply affects everyone's life, from slave to king. It is central, in some form, to every human culture. What is it?

In a medieval culture, a "child" is from birth to about five or six years of age. With rare exceptions, working life begins at that point, on the farm, in a family shop, or as an apprentice.

Money consisted of useful or precious metals, and was therefore highly stable in value. Money as promises printed on paper had not been invented.

Today we seldom realize it, but bread is a pre-made, ready-to-eat "snack" food that already includes much labor. In a poor culture, many people cannot afford that luxury. Mush or gruel is a soup made from coarse flour and water. If thicker and made from tasty grains like oats, it becomes porridge, ideally with milk and honey.

The baker's son was trying to move from the tiny middle class to the even-smaller upper-middle class. Doing so required an unpaid apprenticeship of seven to twelve years, at least some natural skill, and lots of hard work.

By glimpsing the thoughts and feelings of a donkey, the story steps outside normal human culture again, which would rarely pay any serious attention to such a creature, then or now.

The matron of an upper-class household would own slaves as a matter of course, just as we might own a washing machine or a lawn mower, and for the same purposes.

Earning pocket money was not easy, and the boy who fetched tarts for the soldiers risked slavery if he failed. To put it simply, a poor culture does not have the resources to protect children from risk and hardship.

Power struggles between church and state seem to be a fixture of every human culture, from cave-dwelling tribes to modern empires.

Chapter 3: Making an Entrance

This map is the same as in chapter 1, again showing Ilika's approach to the city.

As anyone who has learned a foreign language knows, classroom study does not prepare a person for the reality of speaking the language in everyday life. The local farmer's words are English, believe it or not: "It is a right beautiful day, is it not?" and "Okay, good day to you."

The gate guards have great power because it is the only way into the city. Not knowing the customs and arriving without the proper coin for a bribe might have consequences greater than just being turned away.

The people could understand Ilika's words long before he could understand them. Can you guess why?

Chapter 4: The City and Its Ways

The map shows the northwestern part of the city. By picking a street randomly, and obviously missing Market Way, Ilika was plunged into the poorest part of town.

Understanding a new language usually begins with picking out key words. In the phrase "Git'y on, oh ye be a'slavin'!" what key word did Ilika spot?

Ilika noticed three businesses with symbolic signs: a hammer, a bundle of wheat, and a plate. What were those businesses?

When the cook in the poor hostel looked Ilika "up and down," what did he see that made him think Ilika was there to hire workers?

The map of the southwestern part of the city shows its relationship to the marketplace, where Ilika finally discovered lodging and food he could tolerate.

Why were there signs with words in the marketplace, when there had been none in the western part of the city? Hint: they were often hanging from fancy ironwork.

Why did Ilika leave the first inn when asked his title? It appeared to be better than the one he chose.

A point of writing craft. The main character shared his name with the rabbit in chapter 1, but remained "the young man." When he began to move among people, he became "the newcomer." He only became "Ilika" in the narrative when he began to relate to the innkeeper. What effect does this (hopefully) have on the reader?

Gift-giving is very tricky in most cultures, and misunderstandings happen easily. People often consider a gift from a stranger to be demeaning charity. Could Ilika, or the father, have done anything to avoid the bad feelings at the end of this chapter?

Chapter 5: The Best and the Worst

While exploring Cobble Town, Ilika seemed uninterested in the shops, but enjoyed the musicians and jesters. What does this tell us about him? What would YOU most enjoy in a medieval city?

A small map shows the area to the east of Doko's Inn where Ilika began his exploration of Cobble Town.

Why did Ilika look askance at the surgical instruments in the healers' windows?

A small map shows the extreme southeastern corner of the city, where Ilika found religious orders and businesses related to religious ceremonies such as funerals.

Ilika said "Thank you" to the sky when rain started falling. There are several possible explanations for this, all of which make him unusual by our standards. Who or what do you think he was talking to?

A small map shows most of the northeastern corner of the city where Ilika stumbled into the slave market.

A general society is one that has to find a place for every sort of person who is born, including those who can't function because of handicaps, low intelligence, or anti-social behaviors. (In contrast, a select society, like a business, has the option of tossing people "out.") Slavery is one of the ways general societies have invented to deal with people who can't function adequately, and has the advantage of being highly profitable for the slave owners and traders.

Why was the baker able to give free tarts to the children with much greater success than Ilika a few days earlier?

What role did the baker begin to play that allowed Ilika to learn of the college and decide to visit the religious orders?

Chapter 6: Heavy Wooden Gates

The simple monk Ilika first met would probably be a slave if he was not in a religious order. What positive roles did religious communities play in medieval societies?

Ilika came face to face with the hard, cold reality of medieval religious beliefs and practices. His reaction was similar to when he accidentally walked into the slave market. Is there anything that the two institutions have in common?

The two orders were separate because of some difference in belief, practice, or leadership. Do Ilika's experiences give us any hints about the difference?

Chapter 7: No Stone Unturned

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the craft guild system evolved over hundreds of years during the Dark Ages (about the years 400 - 1000). It became a highly stable institution for training skilled workers, setting prices, and controlling quality. As Ilika discovered, guild policies were usually quite rigid.

The College of Nobles was just a finishing school for the nobility, analogous to a junior high school or middle school today. Education beyond that level only existed in the craft guilds and religious orders.

A small map shows the location of the candy shop in relation to Doko's Inn.

Chapter 8: Making a New Plan

The experience of being followed caused a major change of attitude to come over Ilika. How would you describe it?

Bribery is uncommon in our lives, and often illegal, although it is still widely practiced at some levels of society. It is quite normal in poorer cultures, and little gets done without it.

The baker, and everyone else, seem to be speaking normal English now. Have they changed the way they speak since the beginning of the story?

Why did Ilika not think to look in the slave market, until now, for the people he wanted to hire?

What qualities or circumstances do you, or your friends, have that could land you in slavery in that medieval kingdom?

Chapter 9: The Place of Dread

A map shows the entire north end of the city, including the slave market and the nearby streets that Ilika used.

What can we learn, or at least estimate, about a person by looking at them? What qualities show in a person's face? In their eyes? In the way they stand or walk?

What qualities did Ilika see in the twelve- or thirteen-year-old freckled lad?

Why would Ilika think that "detachment" was an "otherworldly" quality?

Ilika was able to suppress his strong feelings of dislike, dread, and shame in order to make a business deal with the slave master. What does this tell us about Ilika?

When confronted by the drunken thieves, most people would flee or fight. What does Ilika do instead?

What did Ilika learn from the slave master about carrying money?

Chapter 10: Asking the Impossible

What was Ilika looking for that, at first, seemed impossible to find?

A small map shows the extreme southwestern corner of the city where Doti lived.

Why would the young mother, and Doti herself, describe her as a "witch"?

Most of our modern concept of "witch" is derived from two sources: the Christian Inquisition, and Hollywood movie-making. If we peer beneath the surface of these stereotypes, some historical truth remains. Although they varied greatly from culture to culture, a "witch" was most often someone who attempted to deal with the unseen forces that others in society could not. During most of our history, illnesses and diseases fit into that category. "Witches" were, therefore, one of the forerunners of medical doctors.

Doti's examination technique is based on current practice. The electrical fields of the human body are known, and a few healers can sense them and attempt to interpret what they find, but the medical profession as a whole does not yet accept the process.

Chapter 11: Finding Help

What modern device did Ilika really need when he went looking for a sketch artist?

A portrait would take at least a month because oil paint takes days to dry to the point where further work can be done without smearing the previous work.

Why was Jobi sensitive about the fact that Pica was female?

When Ilika showed the papermakers how to make a pad of paper, was he breaking the "Prime Directive" of Star Trek?

Why is Ilika worried about the material in the pencils? (The answer is in the story a bit later.)

Chapter 12: A New Candidate

Ilika had an information device full of possible test questions, but winds up writing his own. Our own history of intelligence testing is littered with old tests that failed to test intelligence, but instead tested something else. Most often they succeeded in testing socio-economic class membership.

When Ilika first began his search, he asked about people ages fifteen and up. Soon he was considering a thirteen-year-old. Now Sata, age ten, is asking to be included. He is not actually changing his standards, just learning that in that culture, the openness of youth, combined with a reasonable level of maturity from life experience, comes at an earlier age than he expected.

A small map shows the location of the public bath house Ilika discovered where he could get his newly-purchased slaves cleaned up.

Chapter 13: A Matter of the Heart

When Ilika assumed he had no way to find Zini (just before learning about the crier), what incorrect assumption about that society was he making?

Deep discussion question for advanced students: In the last thousand years, the age of beginning to train for a profession has gone from less than ten, to about eighteen or more. In the future, will it be even higher, stay the same, or fall back to a lower age? What circumstances do you imagine will exist in society at that future time to justify your answer?

Chapter 14: The Hardest Decision

As can be seen in the illustration, the inn's "largest sleeping room" was extremely small by our standards. Even so, the innkeeper would have to bring in three more beds!

Ilika and Zini discovered that the cultural distance between them was too great. Both had a mental picture of what life with a partner would be like. Zini's included several children, a nice house, and slaves. Ilika's centered on the travel he would do as a ship's captain. Neither was ready to abandon their life-plans and follow a partner into the unknown.

Chapter 15: The Longest Day

When the thirty slaves first entered the common room, what assumptions about the situation did they probably have because of their previous life experience?

Two boys quickly decided they didn't want to work on a boat. By making their decision so quickly, what benefits did they miss that all the others received?

Did you find that base five counting was just as easy as our usual base ten, or did it give you trouble? Remember, as Ilika advised, not to count the dots in the square, as you'll probably use base ten out of habit, and get "twenty-five." There are really one hundred dots in the square - one hundred in base five, that is.

The personality questions are aimed at the four factors of the Myers-Briggs personality type system. Question seven is (A) extraverted or (B) introverted, question eight is (A) intuitive or (B) sensing, question nine is (A) thinking or (B) feeling, and question ten is (A) judging or (B) perceiving. The author is an introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving type, fairly common for writers and artists. If you do not know your type, it is fairly easy to discover using tests available on the internet.

Each spatial-relationship question requires different thinking skills. Rotation (23) is fairly easy for most people, but finding a correct mirror image (24) is difficult even for people who own several mirrors (which the slaves did not). Correctly identifying a detail (25) can be done with careful, methodical elimination, but seeing recursion (26) requires a leap to a completely different thinking process.

The drawing projects tested right-brain functioning and the connections between the two halves of the brain. People with poor brain hemisphere connections might be able to think about something, but are often unable to express it.

The ethical question Ilika posed is usually called "The Inquiring Murderer," and is designed to test a number of values, most notably the limits of honesty. People who grow up in a safe middle- or upper-class society are usually taught that "honesty is the best policy," even though it may not actually be practiced by adults. Even lip-service to that value breaks down in poorer or rougher society, and in nature. The slaves had little trouble seeing that honesty was not appropriate in the given situation.

Relationship or analogy problems (34 - 41) can use words or graphics, and require making inferences, and then mapping those inferences to a different situation.

The true-false questions are just a few bits and pieces from psychological tests and values assessments. Although experience has taught us (and Ilika's civilization) that certain attitudes are danger signs, it remains a mystery who will actually make a good friend, partner, or crew member.

Language questions are very important because some aspects of intelligence only show themselves in the more "social" context of communication. Suddenly we see Sata, frustrated by some of the earlier questions, leaping to the front of the "class" beside Kibi, who is six years older.

The answers (to those questions that have clear answers) are at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 16: Making Sense of It All

While dealing with the head lice, they used the word "potion" where we would use the word "medicine." What is the difference between the two as we use the words today? Is that difference relevant to the situation in the story?

Ilika's attempt to make a decision, that evening, shows an interesting aspect of creative thinking. He had all the information in front of him, and could have forced himself (or used his device) to do any calculation. The problem, however, was far too complex for any procedural (or programmed) thinking process. He experienced the same thing any artist experiences: there are times when the mind does not have sufficient clarity, or sources of inspiration are not available. The only solution is to eat, play, sleep, wait, and otherwise allow the clarity and inspiration to come in their own time.

Chapter 17: Clarity

Ilika experienced one of the most difficult decision-making situations. He could only "succeed" at what he came to do by discarding old, unworkable assumptions, and re-defining the problem. This is very difficult for us because we usually invest much time and energy in our initial assumptions and definitions. To discard them can easily feel like failure.

Specifically, a "solution" to his problem existed, but it was a list of ten names. The night before, he was looking for five names, so the ten-name solution could not even be seen. Only morning and breakfast brought the clarity needed to see the "illegal" solution.

Most schools, camps, and recreation programs today promise to keep kids "safe and sound." Why did Ilika not make the same promise to Sata's parents?

Ilika asked Sata to keep secret the things they had in common. Is this a good kind of secret, or would honesty (with the other students) be better?

After the slave master said, "They will serve you well," what was Sata tempted to say?

Ilika seemed unconcerned about getting the very best deal, and often let himself be over-charged a little. Can you think of any reason for this?

Chapter 18: Ritual

A ritual, or ceremony, is a formulaic program of celebration. In what ways was the scene at the bath house a ritual, and what were they celebrating?

Historically, the slaves probably didn't have any underwear, and were used to bathing in a cold stream without privacy. Sata, a member of the very small medieval middle-class, probably had simple underpants.

Kibi had trouble letting go of her rags. This may be hard for us to understand, but we must remember that those rags were all of her possessions in the world at that moment.

Chapter 19: Ground Rules

People who are used to constant regimentation usually have one of two reactions when it is no longer present: they either freeze and don't know what to do, or they go wild and try to do everything at once that they had not been able to do before.

Freedom is always relative. The ex-slaves are now free, but walking in a line, or in a big group, or too fast, could have negative social consequences, which (in that culture) could land them right back in slavery. Looking "lost" or "brainless" could have the same effect. To what extent is that still true in our culture?

The beds they selected in their inn room might tell us things about them. Buna chose a corner. Kibi was by the door. Mati was between two other girls, one of whom had already befriended her (Sata). Rini was beside Ilika. Neti and Miko are as close together as they can get.

Ilika proposes to only make rules "necessary to get done what we are here to do." This is a legal ideal that has been tossed around over the centuries, but has never been practiced because few people can differentiate "necessary" from "desirable" laws. The problem with "desirable" is, of course, that it is usually in relation to some person or social class, and not society as a whole.

Sata, the youngest, is the one most able to speak openly about sex. This is often the case in reality. It is also a literary device to reassure the reader that the presumed "victim" is not, in fact, a victim.

Ilika's background story lets us glimpse his early years in a factory town. His family was, like most, somewhat functional and somewhat dysfunctional, and about middle-class. He glosses over his life after leaving there at age eight because his five crew-members-to-be, and the readers, are best left to discover it for themselves later.

Chapter 20: Witch

Some people might condemn Ilika for letting the students drink small cups of ale with dinner. The real cultural situation is that there is no refrigeration, so very few beverages we are used to would be safe. In the city, even water could be dangerous. Fruit juice must be freshly squeezed, and so is rare and expensive. Tea is common and safe, so Ilika usually prefers it. The only reliable way to preserve a beverage at that time was through fermentation.

The herbal ingredients of Doti's ointments and oils were selected for their actual pharmaceutical properties. For example, goldenseal is antiseptic (neutralizes toxins from infection and kills germs), comfrey is emollient (soothing to the skin), and calendula (marigold) has both of those properties.

Whether Doti's "sight" about future relationships was correct or not, is unimportant. Travel around a medieval kingdom, and any voyage by ship, will result in injuries and illnesses. Both Doti and Ilika knew the students had to be willing to care for each other.

Did Doti "see" all the same relationships that the students would have seen or guessed?

Boro's dirty cut was very serious, and could easily lead to death, because no effective antibiotics were known. The situation is most similar to having a first aid kit, but no doctors or hospitals. If the kit is not enough, permanent disability (Mati) or death (Boro) are lurking nearby.

Chapter 21: The Puzzle

Kibi's and Buna's ability to see the picture, before the puzzle was assembled, is a kind of intuitive intelligence that not everyone has, and can't be gained by force of will. Word puzzles such as anagrams require the same kind of intelligence.

Do you agree that a leader is not responsible for the group members' happiness? What does this notion imply for leaders or teachers who are forced to deal with all people placed in the group or class, regardless of skill or attitude?

Ilika teaches his students how to make reports that only reveal their own experiences and feelings. Even though bad feelings and poor communications among the crew members on a ship give us lots of possible story plots, they can spell disaster, as any captain or pilot-in-command knows.

Chapter 22: Learning to Learn

Ilika tried to explain the difference between the competitive test, and the teamwork lessons aimed at mastery, but Toli didn't get it at first. This is a major problem in education today, as teachers are forced to teach quickly and tailor the material to some standardized test, but mastery is not required. Education that "doesn't really matter" uses this method; for example, society doesn't really care if a young adult knows long division, now that we have calculators. Genuine learning for mastery, on the other hand, cannot be forced or rushed. Pilots are a good example, as they have to learn certain skills, and it doesn't matter if it takes 20 hours, or 100 hours. They are not a pilot until the skills are mastered.

After dealing with her feelings and telling her story, Ilika makes Mati finish the problem she started to solve. What does this tell us about his teaching methods?

Counting a large number of disorganized dots is as much an organizing problem as a counting problem. Ilika gave them one method: ticking. Can you think of another?

Chapter 23: A Real Test

Some people would say Neti is "in denial" because she had been owned by three different men "for affection" but handled it gracefully (without any attempt to avoid it). What do you think? Is it possible for a person to experience something that would deeply trouble most people, but not be troubled?

Ilika challenged them to "respect all people we pass, even if they were hated masters once." By thinking about it beforehand, they were better prepared for that situation, and would probably handle it well if it came up. Would you be able to keep your mouth shut in that situation?

Why did Tori the baker not, at first, realize they were slaves? What "markers" is he used to seeing in slaves that were no longer present in nine of Ilika's students?

Unfortunately, a different situation related to their past slavery came up, one they had not discussed, and it did not go well. As the leader, Ilika apologized for not preparing them, and Miko learned how hard leadership can be.

Chapter 24: Consonant Stops and Nursery Rhymes

Throughout most of our history, women have had few rights over property and wealth. It seemed perfectly natural to Sata's parents to give the inn to their son, and marry off their daughter. This situation didn't begin to change in our world until the 20th century. It took so long because those in power (men, until recently) do not willingly give up their power.

Ilika's vowel chart may be a little different from the one you learned in school because he was only presenting, in that lesson, the pure vowel sounds, those that can be made continuously. Several sounds that are often called vowels in English are actually two sounds slurred together, such as the "long A" which is a slurring of "short E" (PET) and "long E" (KEEP).

The six consonant stops that Ilika presented are the most common, and all we need for English. Some made farther back in the mouth, such as the glottal stop, are used in other languages.

Does it appear that the bootmaker knew his pencil was made from a poisonous metal?

Chapter 25: Freedom is Worth a Million

Kibi experienced something in her younger years that most counselors who work with families have seen: if the intelligence of a young person passes that of his or her parents, the family can easily become unstable and fall apart. Luckily, this doesn't happen very often while the youth is still living at home. When it does, most parents' egos are sorely tested. If the young person had wisdom and discretion, they might be able to handle the situation gracefully. Alas, wisdom and discretion rarely come in youth, even when intelligence does.

Ilika believed boys and girls were equal in all things (except, or course, anatomy). Does this rule out any possible explanations for his origin?

On the bills of freedom, Ilika had to sign his name. As you can see, he wasn't very good at the local form of handwriting.

It is natural to wonder how the students could be counting on their fingers one day, and learning powers of ten the next day. We are used to a programmed progression of education that separates these two stages by many years. That separation is necessary because we like to teach our children to count as soon as they are able, and at that age (around five), they are just barely able to count, and only concrete objects. Their minds are not ready for the abstraction of powers of ten. Ilika's students had fully developed adult minds ready to juggle abstract concepts. The counting lessons were just filling a gap.

Chapter 26: The Gold Piece

Why was Sata motivated to keep quiet about her arrangement with Ilika involving a small gold piece?

Why did Kodi try to steal the small gold piece, instead of the great gold piece?

What does this situation tell us about Ilika?

Kodi became depressed when he lost his bill of freedom. Even though Ilika explained that it was just a copy, Kodi probably assumed that by losing the paper, he had lost his freedom. The author has observed many modern people in a panic when they lose their birth certificates, which are also just copies.

We have seen before that in this medieval culture, merchants do not give change. In our culture, change is given, but large bills may not be accepted, and few merchants like to received anything larger than $20 bills.

How did this experience change the level of trust in the rest of the group?

Chapter 27: Walking Tall

Ilika's emphasis on taking initiative began to create a distinction between his ship, and the two models we know. On merchant marine ships (private cargo and passenger ships) the crew members are just employees, with little group cohesion and no close relationships with the captain. On military ships, group cohesion is important, but initiative is forbidden.

Toli's story (as well as most of the others) reminds us what "protections" young people typically enjoy in a poor society: absolutely none. At what point in Toli's life might he have been better off leaving and attempting life on his own?

How might Kodi's life have gone differently if he had stayed with the group one more day, as Ilika offered?

Chapter 28: Pastries and Ethics

Can you make a consonant stop or a nasal sound with just your tongue and teeth?

The sound with no letter has a symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet, of course. It is sometimes represented by the letter pair ZH, but is never spelled that way in any English word. Also, it is represented by X in transliterated Chinese. Another example of it is the Z in "azure."

Buna's mother made a decision so hard that it is usually considered to be outside of human ability. It is, for most people, far harder than simply sacrificing oneself for one's child. If there had been a self-sacrificing option, Buna's mother probably would have taken it, but there was not.

Buna and Neti, who dealt with sexual abuse very differently, chose to respect each other. How would you have dealt with the same problem? How would you feel about someone who dealt with it the opposite way?

Ilika glimpsed, in the bathing pool, the operation of a fully-developed set of social rules that kept the boys from touching the girls, unless already in a relationship. These rules seem to be innate, are fully developed by puberty, and strongly enforced during adolescence even if no adults are around.

The sense of "fairness" that can operate in a small, cohesive group of young adults, and showed clearly in the ethics lesson about the pastries, unfortunately does not seem to carry over into general adult society. The author can only begin to speculate why. Every general society contains certain personalities that no captain would allow on his crew. Also, there seems to be something about the size of the group that changes the values that become dominant.

In your opinion, are altruistic attitudes, such as Miko's respect for women, possible in a general society, or only in a small, select group?

The phonetic charts in this chapter are a little different from the ones you probably learned in school because they deal with the actual sounds of the letters. They do not take into account any cultural conventions because Ilika would not have known those conventions, even if they existed. For example, we have the convention that W is a separate letter from one of the sounds of U (TUBE), but in reality it makes the same sound. The word "water" could just as easily be spelled "uater."

Can you hear the consonant stops and fricatives in the complex sounds made by CH and J?

Chapter 29: Prized Possessions

Can you guess why the hooded cloaks touched the ex-slaves so deeply?

Mati's crutch would have been a straight stick with a cross-piece at the top. Crutches with two shafts and a handle part way down are a more recent invention.

Books, in that culture, were hand-written on hand-made paper, and hand-bound, so they were very rare and expensive. Of course, few people could read.

It is often said that learning to read is easier if done earlier. It is one of those things that is hard to know, because our culture does not allow us to experiment by NOT teaching a group of otherwise-normal children to read until they are older. It is certainly true that if we start younger, then by a certain age we can read better, but that is not the same as it being easier. The author is tempted to speculate that motivation might play a larger part than age.

Chapter 30: Plans and Preparations

Every society has people and organizations that are constantly on the watch for anything out of the ordinary, anything that threatens the normal "status quo" (Latin: the state in which). Sometimes this is because they genuinely believe that society should remain unchanged (see the Naturalistic Fallacy on the Fallacies page, or any good logic book). At other times, it is to profit by the situation (either the lack of change, or the upcoming change). In this case, it appears the high priest planned to make use of Ilika to help him bring about another change: overthrowing the king. The high priest was, therefore, not actually concerned with the stability of society at all.

Ilika presented the method of mentally adding two numbers that is most often used by "auditory learners," people who learn best by hearing. Others are "visual learners," people who prefer to "see" the quantities (either in physical reality, or through visualization). Finally, "tactile learners" prefer to touch and feel the subject matter.

Rini has a personality and a value system that is always very rare. In some societies, he would be respected as a mystic, shaman, priest, or prophet. In others, he would just scrape by, staying in the bottom rungs of society, perhaps being some kind of artist. In either case, he would be happier than most people could imagine.

In our society today, most people have access to thousands of books and movies, millions if they live near a large library or can use the internet. This situation easily leads to over-stimulation. The "law of diminishing returns" sets in, and beyond a certain point, knowledge and happiness increase little with additional stimulation, and may even decrease. Ilika's students, on the other hand, are learning to read with just one book. Every word and picture in that book will be milked for all the meaning and pleasure it can bring.

Chapter 31: Learning to Walk

Until science began to understand the forces around us, starting in about the Enlightenment (18th century), most electromagnetic energy was assumed to be spiritual in nature. Those shamans or saints in the favor of deity could withstand the "burning radiance from Heaven," but most mortals had to wear sun hats. Of course, little expense was ever "wasted" on slaves.

People are often surprised to learn that their favorite charity treats the recipients of the aid with no more warmth and understanding than the tax collector does. Although we are still in the process of learning how and why, it is a fact that human group psychology is quite different from individual psychology. Expressions of love and caring seem to be a clear-cut examples of this. Only individuals can make them in ways that don't feel phony.

A small map shows Doko's Inn and Pica's attic, so the reader can imagine the route they took to visit her and return to the inn.

What temptations did Kibi avoid when she met the guard? What might have been the result if she had expressed her true feelings?

"There was one more," Neti said, "but he tried to steal a gold piece from us, so we kicked him out." What does Neti's choice of words tell us?

Have you found something you "really want" to do, "have a spark inside you for it," and look forward to "lots and lots of hard work" to get there? It probably has nothing to do with school, although you might be able to pursue it in college. It can't be forced, and may not come to you until your 20s or 30s.

Chapter 32: Learning to Run

Most people find it extremely difficult to think when confronted by an authority figure. Even if they knew their rights before the confrontation, few people can exercise them on the spot. To compound the problem, most authority figures are used to a passive response, and dislike anything else.

What sort of training do you think Ilika received that allowed him to keep his cool, and required him to try other things before doing anything "drastic"?

Other than the bribe, did the captain of the guard have any motivation to deal with Ilika fairly and give him all possible information?

What might Kodi have hoped to accomplish by ratting on Ilika?

Why do you think Ilika told Toli he hadn't yet decided on a meeting place?

What sort of working relationship is forming between Ilika and Kibi?

Chapter 33: Kibi

The limits of self-definition ("identity") are always constrained by the environment. If Kibi had simply been released from slavery, she would then face choices such as to live and forage in the wilderness, work for a living, or marry a farmer, shepherd, fisherman, etc. Ilika brought many additional possibilities to her life that she had never imagined before: get an education, work on a ship, and maybe even marry a captain. Kibi had a personality that tended to look beyond the physical and social reality around her (usually called "intuitive"), so she was aware of something else she wanted to find, but had no idea how to describe it at that point in time, even to herself.

Leadership skills are hard to practice. They are like the reflexes that catch the fragile family heirloom on its one-second journey from the shelf to the floor. It is nearly impossible to contrive situations for practice. In the author's helicopter pilot training, he could always feel the flight instructor getting ready to "chop the throttle," so it wasn't quite the same as a real engine failure. Kibi's leadership skills were tested twice in one day. How was the situation with the guard similar to the situation with Toli? How was it different?

Chapter 34: Sanctuary

"Sanctuary" is a kind of hospitality that has gone out of style in our culture, but used to be much more common. In a medieval culture, robbers and wild animals were always close at hand, and safe lodgings at night could mean life or death. Today, with most people able to afford cars, plane/train/bus tickets, taxis, and hotels, hospitality has been reduced from a nearly-sacred act, to an impersonal industry. Truly giving sanctuary, on the other hand, means protecting guests from all possible dangers, and receiving only what they can afford to give in return.

Doti could "see" forces at work that most people could not see. Did she have a psychic ability, or was she just good at gathering news around town?

Several factors may have caused Ilika to hesitate to invite Kibi to sleep near him. He noticed that she tended to choose the opposite side of the room. He may have been, like we are today, sensitive about the four- or five-year age difference (Kibi's culture would have thought nothing of it). He may have just been shy about such things. What would you have done in his situation? In Kibi's situation?

Chapter 35: In the Eye of the Storm

Ilika and Miko joked about being "fellow criminals." Some people would assume their guilt because a warrant was posted. Other people, like Doti, would make their own judgment. It is easy to see the injustices in another culture, much harder to see them in our own.

When Ilika taught them multiplication, he was also teaching them to relax and think under stressful conditions. As we have seen before in the story, since they were old enough to think abstractly, Ilika can give them the bigger picture, including the commutative property (A x B = B x A), multiplication by zero (A x 0 = 0), and the multiplicative identity (A x 1 = A).

A small map shows us the area around the capital city on the large map Doti just purchased.

Why did Miko want flint? Since Ilika was confused by that request, what can we guess about his country?

Why would Ilika show them how to place a map so north was aligned with true north?

A small map shows the road from the capital city to Port Town, along with the rough scale Ilika made.

Rini was only exposed to the idea of a "tenth" when learning the fee charged by money changers. He obviously understood the concept abstractly, and was able to generalize to "the scale could be off by two tenths either way." This is an excellent example of the difference between a child's mind ("if I change a great silver, I lose a small silver") and an adult's mind, fully able to abstract and generalize.

A small map shows the area for which Ilika selected an emergency meeting place. Can you spot the meeting place?

In your opinion, did Kodi just make a mistake (error), or did he do something knowing it was wrong (evil)? How are the two types of wrong-doing handled differently in your country/nation/state? What would your religion (if any) say about the two types of wrong-doing?

The methods proposed for telling right from wrong allow us to glimpse the variety of methods that exist, and tell us something about the students' personalities. Miko preferred concrete reality he could test himself against, and proposed experience as a guide. Sata, just out of middle-class family life, proposed laws and rules. Boro, always loyal and respectful, proposed listening to an authority. Neti, extremely social, proposed a vote. Kibi, an intuitive feeling type, proposed listening to the heart.

Sata's logic error is called "denying the antecedent." The logic form it applies to, called Modus Tollens, only works in one direction. If one thing causes another, and the effect didn't happen, then we know the cause didn't happen either. But if the cause didn't happen, the effect might still happen from another cause.

Chapter 36: Departure

Waxed cloth has shown up several times in the story. What is its modern equivalent? How long has that modern product been available?

Why would fruitcake be a good choice of food for a dangerous journey?

What advantage might someone (or a class of people) gain by sealing up entrances to the city?

What did we learn about Ilika when he accepted the sage's choice of Boro as leader?

Chapter 37: The Dark Way

The group found themselves in what is sometimes called a "zero-tolerance environment," a situation in which ANY mistake can be dangerous. This is in contrast to a "social" situation that has many buffers (or "safety nets") against hard, cold reality. Although it is probably too soon to pass judgment, the reader can begin to keep an eye on the characters (just as Ilika did) to see who can handle such zero-tolerance environments, and who can't. Do you have any opinions at this point? How are YOU in such situations?

Ilika suggested that their adventure could someday be written down and become a story book. What change in perspective, in at least one student, did this idea make possible?

In a sense, both Ilika and Boro were leading, one from the back of the group, one from the front. What was the difference in the leadership jobs they were doing?

Miko refers to the "old" Peasant's Gate, and the city map also shows an "old" Noble's Gate. What does this say about the history of the city? Could it have anything to do with the tunnels that have been (mostly) sealed up?

Chapter 38: Old Timbers and Ropes

Ilika generally avoided using big words without explaining them, but in the heat of the moment, Miko got a couple thrown at him. The students will, of course, learn about "elliptical trajectories" in Book Two.

Why would Sata be the only one to have an emotional reaction to the bones and blood?

Only certain parts of the human body can support the body's weight, especially if it is in motion (such as falling) when stopped by a safety device. A harness places the weight on the upper legs, which can usually handle it. A similar problem is attempting to pull someone up. A hand-to-hand grip will almost always fail, as we often see in stories. We rarely see what will work: both people must grab the INSIDE of the other's wrist. Even if the rescuer grabs the outside of the other's wrist, the person being pulled up can't reach the rescuer's wrist, and the hold will probably fail.

The "anchors" Ilika arranged are a basic mountain climbing method of arresting the fall of a climber "on belay" (on anchor). Normally, the anchor-person would be secured to a physical anchor, such as a piton (spike) driven into rock, or a tree. Since no physical anchor was available, Ilika used the sheer weight and friction of three or four people in a row. A successful arrest on belay requires the moving rope to first go around each person's BACK, then be held IN FRONT (in their lap) with a protected hand (leather gloves are best).

Ilika's order to Kibi to NOT try to help Boro is a hard concept for many people to understand. Boro, on the safety rope, was in little danger. If Kibi had tried to help him, a slight stumble by Boro could have knocked her into the pit, while he would remain safe. Ambulance drivers have a similar task: get to the scene quickly, but don't get injured or killed in the process. Exchanging one life for another is not helpful, and usually the original victim would remain in peril without the ambulance.

Kibi's safety line for the crutch is another concept from mountain climbing. Every tool has to be secured on the climber, even if he is shaken up and down and tossed around, unless it is actually in use, and then a wrist-strap is used whenever possible. If something falls, it is usually gone for good, and that mistake could be fatal.

Did Ilika possibly have a reason for picking Miko to be the last student to cross?

In what ways was this chapter an example of a "zero-tolerance environment"?

Chapter 39: The Way Down

As Ilika explained to his students, the human body is capable of ignoring pain for a while when excitement is high and the body is full of the "fight or flight" hormones like adrenaline. Then, when the excitement is over, the social values of pride and chauvinism (at least for males) often take over, causing people to ignore injuries even longer. Ilika is beginning to teach them ship-board procedures, like reporting injuries, long before they are anywhere near his ship.

If a half-moon is in the nighttime eastern sky, about what time is it?

Boro personally examined the outer walls, even though they could all be seen from anywhere in the room. What does this tell us about his personality?

Why would a simple rope around Boro's waist be okay in this situation?

Chapter 40: Ultimate Trust

Why did Ilika avoid using his bracelet for light until it was absolutely necessary?

When Ilika promised to stay with Buna, he gave her a gift that no one in her life had ever given her before. It is a gift that is rarely given, especially in affluent modern society. That gift allowed her to find strength inside herself that she could find in no other way. If you are ever in a position to give that same gift, beware: if it is not given with complete sincerity, it will not work, and may make things worse.

How was the situation changed when Boro blew out the lanterns?

How did Buna's mood change when she heard about the "magic bracelet"?

Chapter 41: Freedom Without Walls

We have all heard "no one gets left behind" many times. By itself, it is just a "pep talk," most often used by the military to boost morale. Every young adults knows that people die, and they hear the casualty numbers reported from the war front, just as older adults do. But Ilika adds "if there is any way to bring us all out safely." How does that phrase change the believability of the statement?

Why did Ilika pick Miko to lead?

You might notice that Boro, Mati, and Miko, who have all recovered from earlier physical or emotional challenges, are thinking clearly and giving good suggestions. Buna and Toli, on the other hand, are still dealing with deep feelings.

One of the concepts of camouflage is not to attempt to be invisible, as that is nearly impossible, but to be aware of the colors, textures, patterns, and movements of the natural environment, and attempt to blend in.

Which do you think is worse: the danger of the old tunnels in the city walls, or the danger of the roads and woods? Before you answer, recall that the roads are almost completely unpatrolled and therefore the realm of thieves, and the woods are essentially wilderness and thus full of wild animals.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of an adventure?

Book by Book

the narrow streets of a medieval walled city
Book One:
The Test
Spring 2010




Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 1 (6MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

a lonely beach along a wild seashore
Book Two:
Summer 2010


Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 13 (8MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

the colorful aurora above majestic mountains
Book Three:
Fall 2010


Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 5 (13MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

stranded on a frigid ice continent
Book Four:
Flight Training
Spring 2011


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

fascinating planets with strange life forms
Book Five:
Back to the Stars
Fall 2011


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

a shining jewel floating in the blackness of space
Book Six:
Star Station
Summer 2012


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

unseen guests at an event of universe importance
Book Seven:
The Local Universe
Summer 2013


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

stillness and silence where movement and sound should be
Book Eight:
Summer 2014


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

Heather's meeting circle at a top-secret military facility
Book Nine:
A Cry for Help
Summer 2015


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

a strange eco-system deep underground
Book Ten:
Stories from Sonmatia
Summer 2016


Letter to Readers


Where to Get It

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by J. Z. Colby
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