The legend of The Autopilot Dojo begins in the quietest night of yesteryore, where three strapping tots were birthed in secret, outside of the bonds of wedlock, placed in baskets sewn from brambles, and set adrift in a neighboring river, hoping upon the unlikely trace of a hope that the current might redistribute them to a safer keeping.
On the third morning of the first fortnight, the seafaring baskets reached a small fishing village, where they were discovered by an apprentice with a stick. The stick was medium-sized. Medium was only the shell of its girth though. The insides of its girth were hollow.
The apprentice that owned the hand that gripped the medium-stick, whilst not very mighty, was not hollow. His insides were present, mostly normal, and mostly available should he need them.
And when his gaze was set upon the drifting baskets, such a need arose. He gathered up his might and used every shred that his insides could muster to bat the babies really forcefully into a heap of living reeds and wish flowers by the wharf.
Once all three baskets were hooked on the river tangles at the water's edge, he waded out to them, ankle-deep through the murk and silt, and tugged them ashore. Then, one by one, he gently midwifed the babies from their baskets, as if extracting each from a wicker womb.
After two suns and as many moons of their dripping gestation of travel, the three babies had finally been birthed unto a blanket of dry land. But their bodies had not yet shed the marks of their gestation. All three of them were still really wet. And tiny. And quiver-shivering hard.
Realizing this, the apprentice reached toward the parts of the trembling baby pelvises that were vibrating the hardest and forced them to submit to stillness inside of his firm grip. He then organized the babies into a neat row on the shore. From here, he stood over them, looking down admiringly, as if inspecting his day's catch. But these were not three sopping trout; they were babies. Three sopping babies, lying together on a cold crib of sand. And beneath the apprentice's admiring eyes, the three coats of baby flesh were still collecting the bitter wind while tying the few chilled beams shed by the low winter sun to the earth beneath them.
It is then, at the height of his pride, that the young apprentice first noticed upon the middle child - little baby Rorik Seehorn - a scrap of parchment clung like a barnacle to his exposed chest.
He stretched his hollow medium-stick to baby Rorik and scraped it from his skin. Then, using the labor-stained fingers of the hand not clutching the stick, he picked up the parchment and read it out loud, which must have sounded like a conversation about some eggplants.
The curiosity his face had been wearing until that point quickly changed its fleshy garments to dress his expression in shock as he dropped both the parchment and the stick from all of his sets of fingers.
The young apprentice quickly lifted his eyes from the bodies of the babies to the row of unblooming willows set beyond the foliages just beyond the sand. Without a moment to tarry, he broke into a gangly sprint, racing the wind to the shadow of the forest. Behind him, the east wind collected its gust, rushed over the flesh of the tots, and chased his heels all the way to the rim of the trees, where it dissolved into their bark.
Several fathoms into the forest, the apprentice slowed his feet to a halt and planted them firmly beneath his winded, not-quite-mighty torso. His feet had carried him square into the circle of hollow willows, and there they stood him, aimed directly at the three Elders. The Elders were ladling soup to each other at the time. The apprentice thought the soup looked really good. But he kept a purposeful tongue.
After the Elders returned his heavy breath greeting, words began pouring from his lips about the baskets, the babies, and the parchment. The Elder Girl Fingers was the first to stop ladling soup. She requested this: "Please continue, apprentice."
"Okay." And then he began reciting the parchment exactly as it was written, incanted from a memory far older than his morning's catch of babies. And equally older than the hour before that when he had run himself hungry chasing a Cornish game crow. He didn't catch it. He wanted to, but all that he managed to do was beat it in the legs and hips hard with his medium-stick until it got away. So when he was talking to the Elders, he was still hungry. This is why he was eying their soup. And it was really hard for him to keep from asking if he could have any.
As soon as the apprentice had finished reciting the parchment, Boy Fingers spoke: "Please stay here" or some such set of instructions. The apprentice nodded. Boy Fingers nodded back. The apprentice offered a smile. None of the Elders returned the smile because they were already on their way to the river.
When they reached the shore, they found the babies lying exactly as the apprentice had left them. And exactly as he had described them.
What the Elders didn't find was the parchment. A puzzled look spread over Girl Fingers's face as she batted an inquiring eye at the other two. Appetite - the third Elder - spoke: "I bet it's in the apprentice's codpiece."
This seemed exactly as likely as it was exciting, which was quite a bit of both.
Having reached an accord on the matter, the Elders thought it best to make much haste in their return. So each of them scooped up a single baby and hustled them back to the circle of hollow willows, where they set the babies down in the dirt and called for the apprentice like this: "Apprentice!"
There was no response. Weird. So they began to splash their soups. When this didn't work, they decided to look for him.
The first place they looked was the portion of the circle he usually occupied. But they didn't find him there. All they found was a heap of garments. Girl Fingers lifted these garments from the ground to inspect them and - in doing so - realized they were the very garments that had been filled by the apprentice's form not six timepieces ago.
She quickly began to rifle through the codpiece. When she didn't find anything, she rifled harder and harder with her fingers.
What had hitherto been duty was turning into worry. But before this worry was given a voice, Boy Fingers had departed again for the riverbank. The other two didn't join him this time. Instead, they stayed behind and sang songs. Good ones. Really good songs.
When Boy Fingers reached the shore, he stood still - eyes quietly scanning the sloping landscape - until his farsighted gaze became fixed upon a distant set of tracks heading upstream.
Straight away, his brittle bones leapt into stride and had him galloping toward the site like a stallion, his feet like hooves sparking against the ground, his hair blown back in the wintry air.
When he reached the tracks, he slowed his bearing and - with the cold sun beaming overhead as a lamp of the arctic sky - he traced every step, slipping his own feet into each print the apprentice had left behind.
As he swept steadily along the path, it appeared that he was backtracking on the exact journey the babies had just undertaken in their baskets. And the further upstream this journey led him, the nearer it drew him to the wastes. And the nearer he was drawn to the wastes, the more the ground yielded as it greeted his steps. As such, the tracks he was following were quickly losing their shape, until eventually, by the time he had reached the rim of the wastes, they had all but vanished.
Upon reaching this vanished-track rim, Boy Fingers stood still for a moment, stretched his neck toward the silence, and listened carefully.
Behind him, the silence was met by a gentle verse being sung by the other Elders, waiting for him back in the circle of hollow willows. Up ahead, his silence was broken by the whispers of faraway lurkers; the weight of them thickening the air as they hissed on the wind like the adders of Thorn.
Having heard enough, Boy Fingers relieved his neck of its stretch and adopted a posture more conducive to decision making. He then decided this: there was no purpose in tracking any further. If the apprentice had indeed trod clear into Thorn, Boy Fingers would be lugging back a corpse. A really bad one. At best. And if his tracks had shifted their course before then, there was certainly no way of knowing.
So, dispirited, Boy Fingers recollected his feet and aimed their stride back to the circle.
Between the times that Boy Fingers changed directions and when he arrived at the circle, the other Elders, who had been singing, stopped singing. They did this on purpose. It was important.
After waiting quietly for several timepieces, Girl Fingers worked up the courage to ask Appetite why he sheers his hair at the nape of the neck. Before Appetite could answer, Boy Fingers sprang into the circle with a look of despair gloom-blooming across his face's parts. His expression was as unmistakable as it was tragic.
The unsinging Elders stared back at him stonily and then ate some radishes.
Sometimes they ground their radishes up with a pestle. This time they didn't do that. And this time they needed no explanation for the look that was now beaming from Boy Fingers's face's parts.
All three of them bent into a huddle. It was tight. Inside of it, they thought about things. One of them was this: if word of the Child Three had reached the black woods of Thorn, to stay where they were would be to dare the wrath of whatever came to do its bidding. Knowing what this might put them up against, they decided it best not to spend the orphaning years of the tots looking over their shoulders toward some looming threat.
So they waited until sundown.
And then they waited until a little bit after sundown. And then they kept waiting until the darkest watches of the night descended as silently as the grave. Here, as the moon and the stars took their distant passage across the sky, the Elders scooped up the Child Three once again and began to carry them deeper into the unblooming willows. They trudged forth, fathom after fathom, until they reached the very heart of the woods, where they were satisfied of safety.
Here, they began grooming the deeper willows into a new circle, hoping the depth of it could buttress the Child Three against the threats that might otherwise befall them. And hoping that, as timepieces continued to turn, and as did the babies to boys, and boys beyond, they might be counted among the forgotten race. And that the forgotten race may thereafter be obscured into fable, living only in the fictions and bedtime tales of unlettered townsfolk, bound to the villages that should spring forth where the fields then stood.
But in the interstice between this hour, and those of the many tomorrows, to decline training of the Child Three would be to tempt the fates, assuming a wooded depth was shield enough.
Thus commenced the training of the tots.
But their training would involve backbreaking toil and rigorous study. And this could not be undertaken in their current health, lest a swift death be their reward, for the babies had collected wounds in plenty during the frozen nights of their earlier journey.
So the Elders were first fraught with the restoration of their health, nursing the Child Three back to strength with tonics, ointments, and lullabies. Mostly ointments.
Upon the second sundown of the eleventh fortnight, when every wound but one had been mended, the Child Three were devoted to their training, where they would spend the remainder of their formative years. This training included, but was not limited to, rustic arts, rustic skills, and courage. A lot of it happened with sacks of grain and buttermilking.
Every night, just after the first timepiece of twilight, when the sky was plunged into its darkness, the Child Three began.
Beneath the stars as lanterns, surrounding the heart moon, their sight grew accustomed to shadow. And as the heart moon sailed upon its stream - its sheets of stars, girdling the seas below - their ears found tune in the melodies of its far-off tides.
For years, buried in the depth of the woods, they continued their studies.
Until one morning, when summer first reared its head and the sky shone brightly as the hue of a buxom lass's lips, the Child Three celebrated their coming of age.
At first light on this day, bound to each other, they set off to establish The Autopilot Dojo.
In their first departure from the willows since the day of the apprentice, they found themselves treading a new path toward the moors at the river's end. And as they walked, they said things to each other like this: "it's been morning all day outside."
This is the official origin of The Autopilot Dojo, as recounted in the hangings in the Dojo's foyer. The story has been assimilated from a collection of various artifacts such as the Synoptic Stones and the assorted histories found in ledgers, sheaves of parchment, charts and scrolls, codices and spoken tales. Like mismatched patches of linens embroidered together into a tapestry, all these histories have come together to form the fabric that follows the birth and course of the Dojo.
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