Warning: This poem contains some controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features historic ideas of disability, some harsh language about same, summary removal of a teen from an abusive family, possible autism or similar minimally-verbal condition, Igor's baggage from past abuse, hygiene issues, Bertolf is still pretty much a wild thing, Adam jumps in a pond without knowing how to swim, because his body is stiff, roughhousing, an absent-minded but accommodating teacher, discussions of normality, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Dreaming Idiots and Trusting Fools"
Victor was carefully pruning
the roses when Igor came home
towing a half-naked boy on a rope.
They were not, as Victor first thought,
actually tied together, but instead,
each held onto one end of the rope.
"Why a rope?" Victor wondered.
"He doesn't like holding hands,"
Igor said, "and I didn't want
to risk getting separated."
"Well then, he doesn't
have to," Victor said.
The boy made a happy noise
and swung the rope in his hand.
"Would you care to tell me
more about what's going on?"
Victor asked, looking at Igor.
"I might possibly have told
some travelers to leave this valley,"
Igor said, "and never come back."
Victor narrowed his eyes.
"What were they doing?"
Igor twirled a finger in the air.
The boy turned around,
showing a back covered
in welts of varying ages.
"That," Igor said, "and when I
objected, they shoved him at me
and shouted that I was welcome
to try and tame Toma myself."
"Well done," Victor said.
"Put it about that if they return,
they are to be brought before
the mazil immediately."
Then he took a closer look
at Toma. The boy seemed to be
in his early to middle teens, with
black eyes and black hair.
He was well muscled,
but his ribs showed through
sallow skin, suggesting a life
with too much hard work
and far too little food.
As Victor watched,
Toma lifted a hand and
at his mop of hair.
"I imagine he has lice,"
Igor said. "They didn't take
very good care of him."
"He'll be wanting a bath
first off," Victor said, but that
sent Toma dancing back to
the far end of the rope.
"Or perhaps a swim,"
Victor amended, and
the boy looked around for
a natural source of water.
Bertolf dashed out of the bushes
in boy form, changed to a wolf cub,
and grabbed the rope in his teeth.
He was far more vigorous about
pulling Toma toward the duck pond
than Igor had been, but the teen
didn't seem to mind that.
After all, he could have let go.
Of course that was when Adam
lumbered past and flung himself
into the pond, clothes and all.
Then he flailed and sputtered
because he couldn't coordinate
his stiff limbs well enough to swim,
which didn't stop him from trying.
Victor and Igor had only made
a few steps in their dash toward him
before Toma tossed Adam onto the bank.
Adam grabbed handfuls of grass and
leaves to throw right back at him.
The other boys splashed Adam with
water, and it was a glorious fight.
Ena showed up with a jug of
the apple cider vinegar that
the werewolves used to
kill lice, and doused all
the boys with that.
Later, as they toweled off
the shivering boys, Victor
asked Igor, "What inspired
you to bring Toma home?"
"I don't like the way people treat
village idiots," Igor said, scowling.
"Some of us are smarter than they
think. I believe Toma knows more than
he says -- he doesn't seem to talk much."
"Well, we talk enough to make up for it,"
Victor said. "Toma can just listen,
if that's what he prefers."
At the moment, Toma was
trying to squirm away from Ena,
who was liberally dusting him
with a can of herbal flea powder.
Igor chuckled as she let him go
and turned her attention to Bertolf.
Toma trotted over and pressed himself
against Igor's side, evidently having
decided that Igor was trustworthy.
Cleaned by the pond, the welts
had gone down enough that Victor
didn't feel compelled to treat them
and possibly spook Toma again.
"It will be interesting to see what
Răzvan makes of Toma," said Igor.
"I think they'll get along famously,"
said Victor. "Răzvan doesn't mind
Ena and Bertolf wearing little or nothing --
or fur! -- and Adam bashing into things
all the time. A strong, quiet boy should be
no trouble at all, or at least, no more than
any other, since all children make mischief."
Răzvan was the itinerant teacher who
rambled around several neighboring valleys
bringing hornbooks and slates for children
to learn from. He also carried news for
the adults, making him quite popular.
Over the last year or two, Răzvan had
started spending more and more time in
their valley, because here nobody would
bother him about being absent-minded.
Quite the contrary, he had learned
many clever tricks to organize his life,
which he could teach to others. It was
just easier with a shorter circuit, and
he felt safer around Victor and Igor
because they would protect him from
those who might take advantage.
Victor and Igor encouraged this
not just for the sake of Răzvan's safety,
but because it gave them someone else
educated to converse with occasionally.
"We'll introduce them the next time
Răzvan comes up to see Adam
and Bertolf," said Igor.
"I look forward to watching
that lesson," Victor said as
the boys collapsed in a heap
and quickly fell asleep.
"Do you think any of them will
ever be, well, normal?" Igor said.
Victor shrugged. "I don't know, and
it doesn't matter. Norms are defined by
culture, and culture is bounded by time.
What was normal in Rome of old would be
thought mad today," he said. "The children
have a place here, however they turn out.
I'm sure they will all be quite fine."
Igor looked at the boys napping
in the late afternoon sunlight.
"I have heard it said," he mused,
"that we must work as a people for
everything that makes a better country
and a better world. We are dreaming idiots
and trusting fools to do anything less."
"In my observation," Victor replied,
"it is the dreaming idiots and trusting fools
who make the world a better place, while
their 'betters' indulge in barbarism."
"I think," Igor said, "you have the right of it."
* * *
Toma is a teenaged boy who doesn't talk much.
Răzvan travels around several adjacent valleys to offer lessons.
* * *
"We must fight as a race for everything that makes for a better country and a better world. We are dreaming idiots and trusting fools to do anything less."
-- Ralph Bunche
This is the duck pond by the castle.
There are herbal remedies for lice and fleas.
Autism is one form of neurodiversity. Victor and Igor seem to take the scientific perspective that every species shows a range of natural variation, and that's nothing to fuss about. Assorted language disorders or other issues can make someone nonverbal. That doesn't mean they can't think or communicate in other ways. Toma doesn't talk much, and balks at a lot ov civilization, but he can understand language and respond to people.
Dyspraxia can have a variety of motor and cognitive effects. Adam has stiff limbs and difficulty with movement, but the impact on speech seems minimal if any. There are tips for coping with dyspraxia or caring for someone who has it.
Executive Function Disorder can manifest as absent-mindedness or various other ways. Răzvan has figured out how to handle his and can teach others to deal with it.