The weather outside was miserable, but inside the cave it was warm and dry. Nevertheless, it had been a harrowing day for the entire tribe . . . they were electing a new leader and the first vote revealed that none of the candidates had received a majority of the pebbles. This had never happened before and the tribe was having difficulty figuring out how to proceed. But the old rule was clear. A majority of pebbles was required before a new leader could be elected, unless . . . .
Hok stood next to the fire, his shadow looming large against the cave wall. He held his weapon in his hand but did not raise it. He had made that mistake too many times before and he had the broken bones to remind him. Instead of fighting, he proposed that the shaman be called in to settle the election. “Throw the bones, read the entrails, eat the mushrooms . . . I don’t care what she does to learn who should be our leader. But that’s my solution!”
From the back of the sitting group, a small voice rose in answer. It was Ayak and he said, “But what if the election was tampered with, Hok? What if someone added or subtracted a pebble during the counting process? Shouldn’t we submit the pebble counters to the ‘fire ritual’ to get the truth before we ask the shaman to decide? What do you all say to that?”
There was a clamor around the fire at the suggestion that the election might have been rigged. “Kill the pebble counters!” came a cry from the rear of the cave. “Cut off the pebble counter’s hands!” came another. Ugg shook his head in disgust as he stood. He was well respected and the best hunter in the group so all listened to what he was about to say. “Why don’t we just have another election, but with just the top two still in the running? And, we will have people watching the pebble counters this time!”
Many yelled in agreement, but Ika asked, “How close will the watchers be allowed to the pebble counters? Will they really be able to see their hands and the pebbles? Or will they be too far away? And what if there is a tie?”
“That’s why we should put the pebble counters to the ‘fire ritual’!” Ayak repeated. “Put great fear into them so that they won’t try any tricks! That’s my solution!”
“Good luck getting any pebble counters for future elections if you do that,” Tara laughed. “My solution is that each member of the tribe be given several pebbles. Once they vote for one person for leader, they then go to another part of the cave and leave the same pebble there. If at the end of the voting, the stacks of pebbles are identical in each part of the cave, we will know we have an honest election and a new leader!”
“But so few of us can count! Can we trust the counters who will be counting all the piles?” Amoukar asked. There was more rumbling, but the tribe knew Amoukar had a good point.
After several moments, Ruwdhi stood and pronounced, “Our current leader did not receive enough pebbles to remain as leader. So, I suggest that because of the doubt we all have in the truth of the results of this election, we retain Zog as our leader going forward until we can again have faith in the election process!”
“But for how long will Zog be our leader?” Mikr wondered.
Ruwdhi just shrugged, his hands palms up, and replied, “Who knows?”