I am Ztoef

I am Ztoef, chief of the Ancestors of April 9. I have to keep telling myself that because sometimes I hear voices in my head from another being who believes he lives in the Real World. He keeps whispering strange things in my head that I don’t understand. Like retro turn-based PBEM. What the hell can that possibly mean?

Just the other day I was out the back of the shipyard having a quiet pipe of prairie weed, and heard this voice whisper, “It’s all a game of growth and management.”

I looked around for somebody in case it was one of the young inactives playing a joke.

It really is no joke being a chief. It’s bloody hard work. Here I am trying to micro-manage a bunch of fellow tribespeople, while all along I have to keep myself aware of what other tribes are doing and thinking strategically about a diplomatic position on local economies, rumblings about military expansion and some crazed idea about a religion that’s about to sweep across The Vast Plain.

It’s no laughing matter. Hell, I have keep tabs on each village – what they are making, what skills to develop. Should we be refining ores or baking bread?

Another voice broke my reverie. This was a real one.

“How’s the shipyard and village defences going, Ztoef?”

“We’re ready to build barges, mate. And get a few guys into longboats to check out the lake,” I said. “And we should be able to start on the defensive walls in a month or so. The moats are done.”

“Great work, mate. We’d be lost without you.”

Well, at least I’m appreciated. I heard on the interdrum – don’t ask, don’t ask. It’s just something that I hear. It’s how I’m able to keep in touch with other tribes and our far-flung element scouting the world about 3000 miles away – anyway, look, I heard on the interdrum that other tribes have been trading in olives. Wtf? Olives! Crazy! We stick to silver. The world is hard enough to negotiate without using olives as a currency. But they say others trade in frankincense and gold. We might have villages but we have a long way to go before we have enough of those luxuries to spare.

“Wait till you get to the point where you can make liquor.”

I started to answer, then realised my companion had gone and that damn voice had come back. I tried to ignore it but it just wouldn’t go away. It started on that weird terminology thing that makes no sense to me. ”When you submit your next TribNet orders to Peter you should think about going for one of the research skills.”

Meaningless garbage! What’s this TribeNet thing? Who the hell is Peter, or what is it? True enough I’ve thought about research. It’d be great to be able to do something completely different and discover new types of tools or maybe weapons that’ll surprise any would-be attacker, but that’s for the future. We’re still working out which way to go forward.

Last Harvestend we had a big clan gathering where my people are allowed to voice any idea they want. There were submissions from Builder’s Union, the Trader Federation, the Explorer’s Co-op and the Fighters Arena. Man, it was hard going facing that lot. They all wanted the Clan to develop in their own image.

Look, I told them, I’ve tried my best to balance everybody’s interests, to the point where we have 5 tribes in the Clan. You’ve got to weigh up the balance of self-interest, specialisation and just keeping the buggers fed. Y’all spout this guff about making us great and winning total domination of the world or concentrating just on our little world. But you can’t do that. You can’t act as if there is nobody else around or that they don’t have feelings and their own aspirations. Leading a clan is not about getting to destinations, it’s about planning journeys. It’s like life – sometimes there are disappointments, sometimes there are exhilarating moments of success. It’s not about slick and mindless sound bites; you have to engage with the totality of everything.

“Yes. You need to read the subtlety of the rules to find the best way forward. And be honest, when have spreadsheets ever been more interesting?”

Stupid voice. I close my eyes and say, “I am Ztoef …”