Over the course of a few days, the serpent Wile became the god Wile. He grew arms and legs, and his scales fell off to reveal snow white skin beneath. Kyron begrudgingly began the task of teaching the pair together.
Wile was not diligent. While Kyron worked non-stop, without pause, Wile would take long extended breaks where he would slowly, and maybe even intentionally drag out questions for Kyron which brought the lesson off into a confusing tangent. If Kyron said, “the sky was blue,” Wile would point out that at dusk and dawn, it can take on the many hues, from orange to purple. If Kyron said ants were always busy, Wile would point out that the queen sat around most of the day in luxury, being attended to by workers.
Kyron was beginning to feel that Wile was undermining his teachings to the point of truly doing damage to Yaway. One morning he told Wile to do the days chores and spend his spare time however he wished, for he and Yaway were going to see a friend of his. Wile rolled over in his bed and went back to sleep as Kyron and Yaway set out.
When Yaway asked who they were going to meet, Kyron said told him it was a surprise. Kyron then told Yaway the tale of the man who wanted to buy a horse.
A purchaser at a stable asked the owner if he might give a horse a try before purchasing it, to ensure its constitution. The owner agreed to give him a one week trial. Upon bringing the horse home, the man set it out to pasture with his other horses. After a few minutes, the horse left the group and trotted up to his laziest horse, which was notably stubborn and gluttonous. The man bridled the horse, walked it back to the stable, and informed the owner that he did not want the horse. When asked how he could tell in such a short time, the man replied, “I could tell by the company it kept.”
Yaway thought for a minute and asked, “But what if the horse was just kind and didn’t want that horse to be alone?”
“Perhaps,” replied Kyron.
Kyron then told him the story of the travelers and the bear.
Two travelers were walking when a bear appeared and stood before them, then roared. As one of the travelers fumbled for his weapon, the other traveler bolted towards the nearest tree and climbed up as high as he could. As the bear galloped at the one standing his ground, he fell to the ground and held his breath, remaining as still as possible. From the tree, the other man saw the bear circle his friend, sniff at his head, then saunter away. He climbed down and asked his companion what happened. He replied, “The bear whispered in my ear that I should not travel with cowards who move more quickly than I do.”
“Do you know what the moral of that story is?” asked Kyron.
“I should surround myself with people who are less athletic than me?”
“No. It is that a friendship is tested during times of peril. Sometimes the only way to see who your real friends are is when things are looking grim.”
Yaway pondered this for a time.
They came to the base of a mountain, where a raw was standing stoically on the precipice of a rock outcrop. He wore a green Phrygian cap and studded leather armor.
“Josh, it’s me, Kyron.”
“Kyron! What brings you here?”
The two exchanged pleasantries and embraced, laughing about old times and taking light-hearted jabs at each other. Yaway stood with his arms crossed, surveying the area. Kyron introduced the two and they sat down outside the entrance to a burrow.
“Yaway, I beg a favor of you. I fear that you simply don’t know many people, and that’s partly my own fault. I want to introduce you to someone who may be the ideal companion. But he won’t join us without testing you.”
“So let me get this straight,” said Yaway. “He has to know whether I’m worthy of him becoming a god?”
“Unlike your serpentine friend, I will swear loyalty to you to the bitter end, and I am a hero you won’t regret having on your side. The only thing is, I have no interest in following a fool.”
“Only if I get to ask a riddle of you, in order to make sure you’re as smart as you claim.”
The ram snorted and chuckled. “Fair enough. Answer me this: Whenever you add to this, you subtract from it. What is it?”
Yaway stood up and began to pace. He began to grind his teeth and furrow his brow. He wracked his brain… until he smiled. “Truth.”
“I’m impressed. I should have guessed as much from a fellow student of Kyron. Well, time to test my mettle.”
“Yes, hmm.” Yaway continued pacing, thinking for a bit. “Okay, what is it that you keep when you give it to someone else?”
“Your word,” said Josh.
“Well, it’s settled then,” said Kyron. “Let’s head back. I hate to leave Wile alone with my stuff.”
“Boy, he sounds like quite a joy,” said Josh.