Saturday, June 3, 2017

WARRIORS OF THE WAY EPISODE 21 Signs and Wonders and Saying Goodbye

Life Must Have it's Mysteries by Hans Zimmer


     I awoke very early the next morning covered in dew and with eight curious eyes staring at me impatiently. I gasped startled, moaned and snuggled way down in the blankets and covered my head. “Go away!” I protested, my voice muffled by the thick skins. “Rise and shine thy light!” the man sang melodiously. ”No!” I snapped back, “My head hurts! My stomach aches! I think I am dying.” “No, you’re not.” he assured me, “You just think you are. I felt the same way when first I awoke. But I’m all better now. Here, drink this.” He waited for my head to find it’s way back into fresh air and handed me a steaming cup of something that smelled repugnant. “Drink it!” he commanded and forced the cup to my lips against my will. I drank and gagged. Drank again and gagged. Drank again….and felt remarkably better! I looked at his stern face in the soft morning light and he nodded and smiled, “See? You should always listen to me. I know what I’m doing.” “Yes, Physician.” I grumbled, falling back upon the blanket. “So, you just happened to have an antidote for something you’d never heard of before, is that it? Well, I……” But my words were silenced by the deer grabbing the top blankets in his teeth and pulling them off my legs.

     “Stop that, thou naughty boy!” I scolded him but he kept pulling and I seized the blanket corners and returned them to my lap. Tenaciously, he snatched them back and we launched into a battle of wills and strength that lasted until the man shouted, “Enough!” and picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and headed for the camp fire. I started to beat him about the head and shoulders but remembered his battle wounds at the last moment and relented. Silently I endured his domination and lifted my head to see the horses and deer following behind us in a sort of bizarre parade. If animals could smirk, I imagined that I saw smirks on their faces, though the deer dropped his head when I caught his eye. Depositing me upon my appointed stump, the man handed me a bowl of vegetable broth with big chunks of carrots, potatoes and onions and the other vegetable we couldn’t name. He threw in a piece of hard bread and placed a cup of hot leftover tea in my other hand. “I’ve already had my breakfast and got us all packed and prepared to leave. As soon as you're ready, we shall begin our little journey. But please hurry.” I nodded and began to devour the hot food. The deer took his place by my side, watching every move that I made. I found him a carrot and he ate it with gusto and signaled for more. It was almost as though he knew that this would be our last meal together.

     I hurried to the arbor with a pail of water, washed myself and changed into fresh clothing. He had warned me that we would be riding into changing weather so I dressed in long black trousers, a white collared shirt and black tunic. I fumbled through my belongings to find the pair of black knee high boots that I had left behind at the tree and gladly pulled them on. Brushing my tangled hair, I discovered that one of my gold earrings was missing and gave out a cry of distress. I pulled my long hair over my left shoulder and tied it with a velvet ribbon. Then I grabbed a heavy black hooded cloak and covered everything else up with the skins, wondering if they would be safe there while we were away. I’d never gone off and left my things behind. I scurried to ask the man about it and he greeted me with my missing earring. “It was on the blanket.” he explained while I attached it to my ear. “It must have fallen off while we……” and he stopped speaking and turned away with a red face.

     “I believe our belongings will be safe here while we travel. I don’t sense any danger but here are your weapons. One never knows.” And I took my daggers and put them in my boots and climbed upon Snow’s back who was already saddled and bridled and chomping to go. He handed me my sword, bow and quiver and I put them in their convenient sheaths and nodded. Our saddle bags were packed with water and food and whatever else he had thought necessary to take. “The box is in my bag.” he said at the precise moment I thought of it. I had no intention of leaving that behind! Everything else a thief might take, but not that treasure. It was irreplaceable. I had four sets of clothing, two pairs of boots, one pair of shoes and various and sundry other items and most of that I could part with if I had to but not that magical gift. The most important things were in the leather bags hanging on either side of the horses. “Ready?” he asked and swung himself up in the saddle. “Yes.” I answered and we turned away from the cold, smoking fire with the deer trotting between us. He threw me a red apple and took a bite of one of his own and we headed out to begin our tour of a place I did not believe existed. If only I could be given a sign! A sign that would make me know that he spoke the truth.

     We rode for some time, stopping to water the animals at a spot that only the man had visited. The oasis stream was part of a much larger body of water that had split off into two streams, one going east towards the oasis and the original flowing southward. It was there that he had caught the fish and had found the vegetables growing north of it’s banks. We pulled up fresh carrots for the deer and exclaimed over the red juicy vegetables we found growing on bright green vines. “Never saw those before.” the man said, making a bewildered face. “We’ll gather a supply when we come back through.” We had to cajole and then force the deer to leave the garden for he was munching happily on all sorts of things and had no inclination to go. He kept balking and making us delay our departure, and finally, I tied a carrot on the end of a stick and held it behind me as we rode away. He spied the carrot and soon caught up, trying his best to reach the treat but was never able to. “Where did you learn that trick?” the man asked me, smiling. “From my friend.” I answered. “When I was a little girl. There was a baby lamb I wanted to keep as a pet and it refused to come with me. I couldn’t carry it and I couldn’t make it do what I wanted but my friend showed me what to do and it worked. Although, when I got it home, the servants wouldn’t allow it into the house. My teacher got word of it and gave me a long lecture about taking things that didn’t belong to me and my friend’s father came and took it away and later, I heard that he beat my friend severely for giving me the lamb.”

     I grew sad at the distant childhood memory and shook my head. “His father was a very cruel man. The only cruel man in the whole village that I can recall. Everyone feared his sharp tongue and terrible temper. He lived on the outskirts of the village and owned many sheep but spent most of his time away from home and left his son in charge of the flock. He was the best shepherd in all the land. Everyone said so. He was nothing like his father. He was kind and gentle and loved people and animals. But I was his only real friend.” I brushed a tear away and remembered something that I’d wondered about.. “Why did you call me ‘Princess’ yesterday when you gave me the feather and rose?” The man shrugged. “No reason. I just thought you looked like a princess sitting there. Very regal and royal and princess…y. You are of a royal house, are you not?” He grinned and I laughed aloud. “I’m not a princess. No one has ever called me that. I’m only a girl who happens to be the daughter of a king.”

     He listened with interest and then he exclaimed as we rode on through the clearing that soon turned into a well defined road, “Vaangelika, look!” And off to my right, I beheld several large bushes upon a small hill growing outward and upward into the sky. They were unthinkable and implausible. An inconceivably wondrous sight outside of imagination. We stopped the horses and stared in silence as a soft wind came and stirred them gently, back and forth, back and forth. Instead of limbs, leaves, fronds or flowers, every amazing bush in that shrubbery was covered in vivid, lush beautiful feathers, like those of a peacock! I gasped and looked at him in amazement and he lifted his eyebrow and gave me a knowing look, very smug, very self-satisfied. He rode ahead and I sat there for a moment, still staring, wishing I had something to sketch the image on so that I might keep it forever and as proof of what I had seen. I reluctantly lifted the reins and Snow broke into a swift cantor to catch up with our three friends. And as I did, the man looked back at me and said softly, “There’s your sign.”

     For the next two hours or so, we rode through relatively ordinary scenery, stopping again to water the animals at a small spring and partaking once more of the long yellow fruit we had brought with us. The deer took a short nap while we rested and as we roused him, the man said, “I believe his home is near by. I’ve seen many deer in the forest ahead.” My heart panged me at the thought of leaving our pet behind but I knew that it was the right thing to do. How, after all, does one travel about the land with a deer in tow? Even a courageous and heroic deer such as he? We looked back at the sun as it rose in the east and rode further into the west. In the distance, I saw several tall mountains standing majestically against the sky. A number of large birds appeared and accompanied us for a while, gliding and dipping in the currents and then flew away out of our sight. Soon, we came upon a green wooded area and the deer stopped in his tracks as he recognized familiar territory. “You’re home, my friend.” the man said to him and beckoned us to follow him into the forest. It was cool and verdant, alive with ferns and wild life and the sound of falling water. We made our way carefully through the thick trees, moving in the direction of the waterfall and shortly we came upon it falling down the side of a green hill covered with moss and vines. We dismounted and stood admiring the silvery flow of it before it hit it’s mark in a round pool and then disappeared under a natural stone cavity and dropped deep underground. “Shhh!” the man whispered loudly above the noise of the water and nodded his head to the right of me.

     Two deer peeked their heads around two trees. Then they vanished. Our deer froze in mid stride and made a small noise in his throat. His tail went up and then wagged and he sniffed the air. The other deer peeked out again and waited and none of us moved for some time. Then cautiously they approached and stood just beyond a huge and ancient looking tree. Snow and Redemption watched silently as their friend took two or three tentative steps and then suddenly took off and flew in the direction of the tree. He ran up to the other deer and nuzzled them, his tail wagging happily. They turned to leave and he looked back at us and a tear ran down my cheek. I removed a bunch of carrots from a bag and had started to lay them on the ground, when he bounded back in our direction and almost knocked me down. I laughed and rubbed his neck as he put his forehead against mine and butted me. Then he did the same to the horses and lastly, to the man. “Take care, sweet boy.” I said, “And stay out of strange forests. Keep close to home. Don’t go wandering off on dangerous paths. I shall never forget you. Never.” He looked at me with those big liquid brown eyes and it seemed that a kind of understanding passed between us. Then he snatched up the carrots and ran swiftly away  as though worried that I might change my mind.

     “Farewell!” we called to him, “Goodbye!” and turned back to the horses, feeling already his absence in our hearts. We rode through the forest, taking in all the sights and regaling one another with memorable moments with the deer. I was certain that he would miss us as much as we would miss him. In a hour’s time, we came out of the woodlands and saw before us a huge rounded stone mountain gleaming white in the mid-day sun. It curved like a wall. There seemed to be no way around it or through it. It went on forever. I could see evidence of past travelers on the road beneath our feet but none recently. There lay a white dust upon the road that matched the white stone mountain. Soon, I began to notice white flowers growing all around us, some growing on great vines upon the very rocks themselves and hanging down like trumpets, some more delicate blooms covered various trees and their petals fell in the breeze and floated down and made a scented carpet for our feet. The horses kept putting their noses down on the road to smell the fragrance and neighed at one another, sharing secrets that I could only guess. White birds flew over our heads and disappeared on the other side of the high endless wall. I was wondering exactly where we were when the man put up his hand and stopped his horse. “Put on your cloak, Little Flower.” He threw his cloak around his shoulders while I reached behind the saddle to get mine and when we were finished, he said, “This way.” and turned in front of me and rode into an opening that was quite hidden from the road and from my view.

     Before I even drew near, I felt a cold and chilly wind blast into my face and I drew the cloak closer around my throat. Outside, the sun was still shining and warm, the grass was green, the air full of perfume and Springtime. I had no idea what I was riding into and no time to prepare myself for it even though I had imagined a hundred different scenes in my mind after we had left the camp. I had been sure that he was jesting about the magical garden and having me on but the moment I’d seen the feathered shrub, that thought  had certainty left me and I’d begun to doubt my doubts. If he had been telling the truth about that, why would he be lying about the rest? I couldn't wait to find out. He had ridden on ahead and beyond and stood waiting inside for me to follow. Snow walked up a small incline and approached an indention in the side of the mountain. From the outside, one might never notice the opening but as you grew closer, you could see an entrance to pass through. The reason I discovered for the illusion was that both the outside of the mountain and the interior were snow white so from the road, one could not see when the mountain ended and the inside began. Snow and I inhaled deep breaths and exhaled frosty steam from our mouths and entered. Then we stopped and beheld a landscape that was so different from what we had just left behind that it seemed unreal. More incredible than that, it was an exact replica of the winter wonderland scene in the iridescent silver box!

                      WHEN HE SAVED THE WORLD | by Efisio Cross

                       To Be Continued in Episode yet, unwritten

WARRIORS OF THE WAY EPISODE 20 Strange Fruit at Midnight

Spanish guitar solo




      It all began innocently enough. The singing. The music. The laughter. The two of us entertaining ourselves. We sang every song we knew and I listened to songs that only he knew as he accompanied himself on the richly toned instrument. Then he strummed along on songs that only I knew and we sang until we were tired of our own voices. As some time passed, he brought out a strange black flask and some more of the treasures that Snow had carried on her back for her former master. We went through the bags with interest and carefully laid each thing out upon the ground to examine it at length. There were ancient books and manuscripts in foreign languages. There were silver chains and cups and bowls and two white hooded robes with long tasseled belts. In a small velvet bag, we found three keys with strange symbols on either side. In one of the saddle bags, we discovered several sealed bags of dried fruits and meats and a strange hollow tube of some sort with gold lettering on it. We did not know what it was. There were scrolls tied up with silver cords that were so fragile we were afraid to open them. An engraved silver chest with the letters M K contained silver coins and sewed up in the corner of a white handkerchief, we found a perfect snow white pearl.

      While we made an adventure of it, at the same time, I felt guilty for our actions. It made me feel as though I was invading the dead man's life and violating his privacy. I wondered what Snow would make of it. Had she been as loyal and loving to him as she had been thus far to me? She was no ordinary horse so I did not suppose that he had been an ordinary man, whoever he was. I was more than a little curious. I wondered if we should try and find out where he came from and give all his belongings to his family. Knowing that he had been an elderly man made that difficult but still, I felt very sad for him and what we were doing. I hated to think of his body lying at the bottom of that cliff all alone. It didn't seem right. "You've a good heart, Vaangelika," the man said interrupting my remorse, "But I don't think there's anything we can do. He was a traveler, like we are. He could have come from anywhere, been going anywhere. But I promise you this: If I find any information about him, other than these initials M K, I will do my best to make things right as far as his possessions go. Minus the box, of course." And he winked at me and said, "Do you really think you could give that up, now that you've seen it?" I shook my head and the thought of my own music box being gazed upon by that shaggy beast pierced me like an arrow. I couldn't reconcile the gain of this to the loss of that but neither could I give up this wonderful new treasure.

     We packed everything away again with great care and discovered that we were famished. We ate some leftover fish and shared a cold potato between us. "What's in that flask?" I asked, noticing it setting on the ground by his feet. "I don't know. Water, perhaps. Shall we see?" I picked the heavy black container up, opened the top and held it to my nose. It smelled very....fragrant. Juice, I thought. From a vineyard. I loved fresh juice. I reached for my cup and poured the purplish liquid into it. Filled it halfway. The man sat watching me with an amused look on his face. "I think it might be wine." he said. I took a sip. "No, it's juice. And very good." And I poured him a cup. And then another. And another for myself. Except a full cup this time. We washed our dishes and utensils in a pot of clean water and secured the leftover food for the night. We had plenty left. And enough potatoes for an army. We put more wood on the fire and built it up and soon the whole camp glowed with a cheerful orange glow. "Do you think we'll have any visitors from the forest tonight?" I asked and he shook his head. "I don't anticipate it. The full moon has passed now and the forest seems very quiet. I don't believe any man or animal would dare set foot here again. Don't you feel the peace here?" And I did and acknowledged it. He picked up the guitar again and strummed absently upon it's strings. I poured us each another cup of the aromatic juice, enjoying the beauty of his music.

      What happened next, I cannot say. One moment, we were sitting there with only the music and the crackling of the fire to break the silence and the next, we were laughing and singing and I had grabbed the tambourine and began dancing around the fire. He played an exotic, fiery melody that grew louder and louder with each note. All my senses alive, my body, feet and hands took on a life of their own, twirling and swirling in frenzied excitement. I had never danced that way ever in my life and it felt wonderfully, sinfully, good. My teacher would have swatted me and kept me in isolation for a month! As I danced, my brown eyes met his blue and locked there in the fire glow and the light of the stars. We could not look away. My heart began to pound, my breathing became rapid and ragged. I felt a wildness come over me that I had never known. I danced and I danced and I became someone that I didn't know I could be. I saw his beautiful eyes sweep over me in a new way, felt his pulse quicken, saw perspiration break out upon his forehead. I shook the tambourine and drummed it in a rhythm that was foreign to me. And everything in the world vanished except for the two of us and the fire and the music.

      Suddenly the music ceased and he rushed to me and pulled me into his arms so tightly I couldn't breathe. My hands found their way to his ears and I felt his lips on my neck. "Vaangelika, you are so beautiful!" he cried out and we held onto one another while moving to the grassy area and fell onto the blanket we'd used at suppertime. We melded together, my hands, his hands, running over shoulders and arms and backs and twisting in one another's hair. We were spellbound. Writhing there, we wrestled with a desperate desire that was almost more pain than pleasure. "Kiss me!" I pleaded, with his face above mine. "Please..... Please.........Please.............!" "I've never wanted anything more in my life!" he exclaimed and I waited, eyes closed but he did not kiss me. I felt him battle within himself and give in and back up and give in again. On and on the battle raged while I waited for him to taste my lips that burned with a unknown fire.

      It was torture and I could not endure it. The pain I had experienced last night when I'd thought he was dead surpassed this pain, but only a little. This was a new kind of pain that begged to be put out of it's misery with a sweet slow death. Suddenly he thrust himself off of me and rolled to the farthest side of the blanket, breathing heavily and groaning as if he hurt. I was stunned and shaken with a startling awareness of what we were doing, what we almost had done. What I still wanted to do! I was mortified. I curled myself up into a ball and closed my eyes and willed my body to become familiar again. I could see the flames from the fire through my eyelids, feel the night breeze as it brushed against my fevered skin. I had never felt more like a woman. I had never felt so wanted, so desirable, so rejected, so confused, so thoroughly ashamed. And yet....... if he but reached out to me, I knew I would not push him away. I lay there thinking, not thinking, living, dying, holding my breath, pleading, repenting, needing, wanting, wanting..............

     My mouth was dry. I got to my feet and went in search of liquid. I stumbled to the fire and reached for the black flask and my cup. "Vaangelika, no!" I heard him shout before the juice hit the cup. "What?" I asked in confusion and looked back at him. "Don't drink it!" he cried, "It's not juice! We are intoxicated!" "Whh...what?" I repeated."I'm not intoxicated. I've never been intoxicated. What do you mean, intoxicated?" And everything began to go round and round and the fire began to dance back and forth and I moved away before I fell into it. I felt an arm go around me and he led me clumsily back to the blanket and we collapsed there on top of the scattered, wilted flowers from my handmade crown.

     Waking from our stupor, our eyes opened almost at the same moment and we untangled ourselves and straightened our clothes and brushed the hair out of our faces. We were rumpled and crumpled and creased and dazed. And I had never thought the man more beautiful. My head ached and I held my hand across my face and peered at him through my fingers. I waited for him to speak. Raking his hands through his hair, he wrinkled his forehead and started to but cleared his throat and then fell silent.Then he did the same thing all over again. I arched a brow and hid an impish grin. "Yes?" I whispered and propped myself up on an elbow, adoring every inch of his face.

     He frowned again. "What I was attempting to tell you...was..." and he groaned and rubbed his head. "What I am trying to!....that was not juice and that was not wine! I don't know what it was but it was neither. I am amazed that we are still alive." "Are you trying to tell me that we drank something deadly? Some kind of potion? A black magic brew? What? Are we going to die?" "I don't think so," he said, blinking his eyes, "Though I certainly feel close to it. How do you feel?" "Thirsty." I replied, yawning. "And hungry again." "Me, too." he said sheepishly and for a moment, his eyes darkened and he looked at me as he had earlier while I danced. A thrill ran up my spine and the hair stood on the back of my neck. I licked my mouth and tore my gaze away from his, pretending to search for water in the light of the dimming fire. He got to his feet and moved toward the flames, pulling his shirt down and smoothing it with his hands.

     He found one of our water flasks and took a deep drink and brought it to me. Water had never tasted so good! While I drank, he went and scrounged around in the covered supplies and came back with two of the long yellow fruits we had neglected to eat with our supper. "What is this thing?" he asked, handing me one. "And how do you peel it?" I made a face and shrugged and we made several attempts before we discovered the secret. At long last, the peels came away and inside was the most amazing soft yellow fruit. Yet another new thing to experience in this incredible, dangerous place! "Let's spend the night here." he said finishing, and before I could answer, he had gone off to pile more wood on the fire and retrieve more blankets. When he returned, he brought weapons with him along with the blankets and laid them down close by. Then he snuggled down beside me while I pretended to be sound asleep. He kissed my cheek and then brushed it with his finger, put one arm underneath my head and the other one around my waist. But it was a long, long while before I could slow the beating of my heart and put the memory of that wondrous, wicked dance out of my mind and fall into what could truly be called sleep.

                                                                       (Aye Yai Yai!!!!)

                Spanish Guitar Flamenco Malaguena !!! Great Guitar by Yannick lebossé


To be Continued in Episode 21........................





     Arriving back at camp, we were greeted by the horses, who pushed their noses into our bags of apples and demanded dessert. We generously poured several out upon the grass and looked around for the deer. Finally, we spotted him asleep in the shade of a tree and smiled at one another. “You know we need to make sure he gets back to his home safely, don’t you?” the man said to me, setting his load down carefully. I did the same and then turned to him. “Must we? I’ve come to love him like a pet.” “I know.” he answered, “But even though he is a very big boy, he is still quite young. His antlers are fairly small, really and yet soft. I wonder how he came to be in that dangerous forest alone. Lost, most probably. Anyway, I think I might know from whence he came and how to get him back there.”

     He reached to take my two hands in his and breathed deeply. “Which brings me to this…… would you like to go on a journey with me in the morning?” My face lit up with joy and I gasped. “You mean that I can go with you? You said you had to leave and that…..” But he shook his head. No, I meanI want to take you west of here. To show you some of the places I told you about. The Garden of Four Seasons and the Water………” I shook my head at him. “Surely you don’t mean to go through that forest? I will not go in there ever again if I can help it!” And he laughed and assured me, “No, no, not into the forest. We will ride down below it and then through that brown meadow between the camp and the oasis. It is beyond the dark trees and is quite safe. You will see wonders there that will make the oasis pale in comparison. I want to share it with you. It will only take a few hours to reach it and we can be back here before dark.” “Alright.” I said, curious. “But….” And he cut me off and began to build a new fire, busying himself with supper preparations. I watched him for a few minutes and then asked what I could do to help.

     We baked twenty potatoes. We boiled carrots and onions and some vegetable that we’d never seen before but that tasted delicious. He found a bag of brown rice in his provisions and we cooked that. He cleaned and cooked the fish he had caught and I laid out the long yellow fruit that I’d picked and brewed up some tea that I’d forgotten I had in my saddle bag. Between the two of us we came up with quite a feast! He even brought forth a round of goat cheese and the last remnants of hard bread that we planned to soften up in the vegetable broth. The air soon began to smell of the kitchens at home. Overflowing with all sorts of tasty things to eat. I only wished we had some butter and cake. “If only we had some butter.” he said, reading my thoughts and I nodded, “Mmmm, yes, butter…..” The deer awoke and came trotting over and stood by like a faithful dog. We gave him some raw carrots and he munched them with a great deal of noise and nuzzled up against us affectionately. “Are you ready to go home?” I asked him, petting his neck. “Do you have a family somewhere looking for thee?” He merely looked at me with his big liquid eyes and snatched up an apple and ran back to the tree.

     While the potatoes continued to bake and the rice boiled and the vegetables stewed, we poured cups of tea and went to sit under the tree with the deer. It had been a very long time since I had leisurely enjoyed a cup of tea with anyone. It made me homesick. I was just about to stroll down the road to home in my mind when the man cleared his throat and said, “Have you decided on a name for me yet?” I finished my tea and said “No. I’m still pondering over that. What do you think of Zaqnu?” And he suddenly spewed tea out of his mouth in a fit of laughter and scared the deer, who ran off toward the horses in a great hurry. Trying to control himself, the man wiped his eyes and asked, “Pray tell, where didst thou learn that word?” And he continued to laugh while I frowned at him. “Oh, I don’t recall. I think I heard someone say it once while travelling through a strange village. Why? What does it mean?” And still wiping his laughing eyes, he managed to get out “Well, it’s an ancient word and I don’t know for a certainty, but I think you just called me a…. bearded lady.” And we laughed uproariously together and I filed that word away for future reference.

     When the food was done, we filled our wooden bowls and spread a blanket out on the grass and ate to our hearts’ content. It was delicious! We sang and shared stories and fed one another morsels of food and had a most marvelous time. As our stomachs grumbled at us to stop, we began quoting the rhyme that we had quoted our first night together. I softly began: “I do not have a table and chair, but do you care to dine? I do not have a cup and bowl but what I have is thine.” He took a sip from his cup and recited the next verse of the old familiar poem. “I do not have a coat or cloak to shield you from the rain but I have love enough to give to help you bear your pain.” And we stopped and looked at one another and then looked away in shyness, wondering if we should continue. How my heart leapt as he had spoken those words! Never before had they touched me in such a wonderful rush of emotion, though the poem never failed to touch me. I felt as though my heart was caught in my throat and I dared not speak. A wave of longing rushed through my veins and I thought I would burst with the intensity of it.

     “Let us ride the horses down to the stream!” he said suddenly and stood to his feet. I nodded mutely and began to gather up our bowls and utensils. We covered everything up and washed our hands and faces and went to get the horses. They met us in anticipation, ready for exercise. Throwing on the saddle, I rubbed Snow’s neck. “You look bored. Shall we have a run?” And she nodded up and down and neighed. Redemption snorted as his rider swung upon his broad back and I hurried to catch up as they headed away from the camp. We started out at a trot but before we were fully out of the enclosure, both horses raced at full gallop out into the brown field and toward the oasis. We were side by side for a time, the man and I grinning at each other and then I spurred Snow with my heels and she quickened her gait and with a surprising agility, flew past her competitor and friend like the very wind. We sped past the oasis, up the field toward the long hill I had traversed only days before. Redemption neighed loudly and overtook us, mane and tail flying victoriously. Then he slowed and let Snow fall in beside him and we rode along at a brisk pace, enjoying the wind in our hair.

     We rode to the bottom of the hill and then turned and headed back the way we had come, noticing the sun’s position in the western sky. Sunset was minutes away. We cantered toward the oasis and the clear stream, letting the horses cool down from their run. They headed to the water and finding a more shallow part downstream, waded out and drank their fill and splashed one another like children at play. We explored the banks further on, enjoying the solitude as the sun began it’s slow descent. Dismounting on some lush green grass, we let them graze and we sat there watching the gold on the water turn to every shade of the rainbow before our lazy eyes. We were leaning against one another, each of us thinking our own thoughts and for once, I didn’t worry that he was reading mine for he was occupied elsewhere. I put my arm around his back and said, “Is there any place more beautiful than this?” “In the morning, you will answer your own question, Little Flower.” he murmured and put his arm around me. We watched the sun sink and twilight fall and we sighed in unison.

     Riding back to camp, I tried not to think of anything but the morning and the promises he had made about wonders and amazing sights. I looked forward to them but I knew that at the ending of that day, the beginning of another day might bring me sorrow. But I would not think about that now. For in my heart, I did not believe that he would leave me. I could not believe it. And I did not think he meant to. He turned his head and looked at me and I looked quickly away. I made myself think of peacocks and he gave a small laugh. I flicked the reins and Snow caught my meaning and sprinted away and left them in her dust. Night was almost upon us now as we entered the circle of the camp and I led her to the arbor and released her from saddle and bridle and told her goodnight and thank you. As I walked away, the deer rose up from his sleep and pushed his nose against my back. “And goodnight to thee, my friend. Sweet sleep.”

     I was stoking the fire from one dying ember when the man rode into view and disappeared into the horse’s shelter. He remained there for some time and I was glad, for I needed time to clear my thoughts and reclaim my good humor. It had been a very good day after all and I did not want to spoil it. Last night’s horror seemed a million lifetimes ago. And yet, if I allowed myself, I knew that it would come jolting back and pulling me down in it’s grasp. I determined to give it no opportunity. I put the leftover pot of tea back on the fire and sat back and waited for it to heat up. There were two log stumps there by the fire and while they were convenient, they were not very comfortable. I squirmed back and forth, waiting impatiently for the tea to boil. Without warning, two hands were placed over my eyes from behind and I gasped and fought to remove them. “You must be more vigilant, O, Distracted One!” the man cautioned and smiled and sat down on the stump beside me. “I didn’t hear thee.” I said, pouring the hot liquid into two cups. “Why not?” he asked, “I was stomping around like an ox!” I glared at him and took a sip. “Either I am hard of hearing or you hover over the ground like a spirit.” He sipped from his cup and whispered, “Do spirits burn their tongues?” and he grimaced and set his cup aside.

     We were not sleepy and the night was still young, though we discussed rising early in the morning to begin our day journey. He told me to bring a heavy cloak and to be prepared to be astounded. He had been to that magical place on several occasions and never grew tired of his visits. Of course, always before, he had simply ridden down the hill into the brown valley and straight past the dark forest and into the west. There had been no camp enclosure and no oasis. I still found that very hard to believe and continued to think he was making it up. It was beyond my reasoning. We talked at length about many things and then he stood and asked, “How about some music?” Immediately, he regretted it for the pain raced across my face and tears sprang from my eyes. I put my hands over my face and said, “The creature took my music box. Did you not know?” He was silent, then drew me up and into his arms. “Yes, I saw it happen. And believe me, Vaangelika, if I could have done anything to prevent it, I would have! I know how much that box means to you. It is a treasure above gold and you have made me come to love it also by sharing your song. I would give the world to return it to you!”

     He kissed my face and comforted me with his gentle caress. “But since I cannot retrieve it for you, I have something that may help lessen the loss of it. Stay here.”  He walked up to the horse’s shelter and I sat on the stump and waited for his return. Every time the image of the wolf-man holding my music box came into my mind, I brushed it away and shut it down. I couldn’t bear it. I made myself think of trivial silly things until the man stood before me presenting a most unusual and incredible object. I had never seen anything like it. It was silver and yet, iridescent. It was an oblong shaped box with a wind-up key in the back and when I wound it,  the image of a girl in a white dress came up out of the box and began to dance on top of it. A most beautiful tune played as she danced. I looked at the man with delight and he smiled back at me.  ”Now look inside it.” he whispered and I put my eye up to one of the tiny windows on each side of the object. I could not believe what I saw! I gasped and pulled back in amazement. 

      Then I peered inside again. There was a miniature scene of a winter’s day. Snow was falling. A tiny deer walked by a tall tree. A boy and girl played in the snow and I could almost swear I heard them laughing. Could almost think I felt the cold wind blow upon me. I laughed out loud and hurried to look inside another window. There was an Autumn scenario, with falling leaves of orange and gold and a waterfall and a tiny lake. A bird flew across the lake and came to rest in the top of the tree. “How can this be?” I asked the man. “It is too real!” “I agree.” he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it myself.” “But where did you get it?” I implored and put my eye to the third window. There was a perfect sunny day inside that window. A golden sun shone down and flowers grew everywhere. A fish swam lazily in a small pond of clear water and butterflies visited the flowers. I didn’t understand how anyone could create such a thing and make it look so convincing. It did not appear mechanical or man-made. It was a thing of magic.

     “Now the last one,” he said, turning the box to the fourth side, “The best of all.” And I put my eye close up and became speechless. For there inside, was portrayed a beautiful Spring day. There was a brilliant emerald green meadow and white fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. There was the feeling of freshness and new-ness and miracles. And my heart came near to bursting with joy as I beheld a black horse with small white sprays come bounding out of the right side of the spring-like landscape and disappear into the left side and then appear again from the right. “Starshine!” I exclaimed, “It looks just like Starshine!” I stared in shock at the blue eyed exultant man holding the silver box and I alternated between jumping up and down and clapping my hands and gasping for breath. “I can’t believe this! Who made this? Where did you get it? How can this be? Oh, how did they make this?”  He waited till the river of questions slowed to a stop and sat us both down on the stumps and said quietly, “I do not know who created it or where it came from but I found it in Snow’s saddle bags when I rescued her.” My eyes widened and I waited for him to continue. “You remember I told you that her master had fallen to his death? I found Snow wandering upon a high cliff and when I had calmed her and got her to trust me, I looked over the cliff and saw a man lying on the jagged rocks far below. I could not see him clearly but by his white garb and the possessions I found on his horse, I surmised he was some kind of holy man.

     “I also found these.” he said, producing two musical instruments from a brown cloth bag. One, a guitar-like item and the other, a kind of tambourine. “That’s where I got the goat cheese and the bread from, too.” “Do you have any idea who he was or where he was going?” I asked, taking the tambourine. “None whatsoever.” he answered. “I’ve never seen him before to my knowledge. He was an older man with white hair. I don’t know how he came to fall. And I didn’t quite know what to do with Snow because I was on my way to the east….and…and I needed to…I mean to say, until I climbed up in that tree and saw you and what happened to your horse, I didn’t know what to do with her but then I knew she was meant for you. I just wasn’t sure how to get her to you. But I was led onto the right pathway and it all worked out in the end.” We sat there quietly for a few minutes, the silver box at our feet and the instruments in our hands. “I want you to have the box.” he said at last. “I was waiting for the right time to give it to you. And that time has come. I only hope it will give you a small measure of comfort. You have suffered so many losses in your life.” “Yes,” I nodded at him, “As have you. But thank you for all the gifts you have given me. I will never forget your kindness. I will never…….” And I trailed off and looked off into the distance at the deepening night. A lovely melody broke my reverie and I looked back to see him strumming the instrument he held and humming a song. I smiled at him and straightened the crown of flowers I had made and pushed back tendrils of hair that had fallen around my face. “Yes! Let’s have some music!


                                         Zaqnu  ?????

                      To be continued in Episode 20.......................

Friday, June 2, 2017

WARRIORS OF THE WAY EPISODE 18 Dost Thou Not Know That The Future Lies in the Dreams of Yesterday?



     Some time during the twilight hours of pre-dawn, I opened my eyes and beheld a most incredible and tender sight.  I was bundled snugly in soft skins and blankets on a hard ground. There was an arm around my waist holding me tightly. It belonged to my mysterious friend and co-warrior of the Night From Hell and the Battle-That-No-One-Would Ever- Believe. At the man's backside hovered the gray boulders. Redemption stood resolutely at our heads, Snow stood at our feet and the deer lay on the ground in front of us with his back nestled up close to me. We were, all four of us, snoring softly in a much deserved and blessed slumber. I looked at the scene in wonder, put out my hand and patted the deer's back and mumbled, "Sweet, sweet boy." and something about my mother. Then I instantly fell back into healing and dreamless sleep. Even if it were not so, I had never felt so safe and secure.

     I do not know how long we slept there in our little cocoon. I do not know how long I slept after my four companions left me. I did not even know if what I thought I remembered even happened. For I  awoke alone, tangled in the skins, pawing my way out of dim-lit thoughts and memories so bizarre that no storyteller could write them. I lay there puzzling over dreams that were not dreams and feelings that poured through me like liquid fire. I had not felt this way since my childhood illness. When the fever had silenced me for long days at a time and I lay in cool darkness hearing words unspeakable and full of wonder pouring into my soul. When I had come out of it at last, I was a much different girl. I felt reborn into a new world though the old world still clutched at me with jealous fingers. My surroundings looked cleaner and clearer and the people that populated my life seemed dearer to me. I found myself thinking about them more so than myself. I took a greater interest in a life that till then, I had taken for granted. But with the passage of time, that, too changed with the circumstances that fell on my young heart like the discharge of leaves in the wind.

     "Everything changes." my teacher had remarked one day when I ran to him with questions about my friend, the shepherd boy. "Everything except what matters most. Those things never change." It would be a long time before I came to understand the truth of that and still, even now, burrowed in the warmth of my makeshift bed, I did not fathom the depth of it. And I wondered if I ever would. For I did not like sharp changes in my life. I did not like it when people came and went and left me behind like a unwanted toy. It always made me feel that I had done something wrong, like there was something wrong with me.
(And the only thing that would ever make me feel right would be to fulfill the mission that came to me in the eleventh year of my life.)

     I fell back to sleep thinking of that momentous day and the fate of the shepherd boy and the void he had left in my heart. It was something that hurt deeply, even now in my obliviousness. Even now, as my soul strove to escape it. At some point, I began to sense a presence and to smell a wonderful aroma coming from a far distance to envelope me and awaken my hunger. I opened my eyes a tiny bit at a time and saw the man lying beside me on the ground, brushing back my hair and singing a soft lullaby. At the same time, the deer's head appeared over his shoulder looking at me with his huge and gentle eyes. The man smiled. He kissed my cheek. The deer nudged his. We both smiled. I reached out from under the blankets and touched the uninjured side of the man's face with the softest of touches. I don't think I had ever touched anyone so tenderly. My eyes filled with tears. "Shhh... shhh." He whispered, kissing my hand. "It's alright. Everything is alright. Don't think of anything but this moment. Forget to remember for a while. Can you?" And I nodded and my stomach rumbled and he laughed. "Somebody is hungry!" "And thirsty." I said and he pulled a flask of water from behind him and I sat up and drained it dry. He reached for an apple, took a bite of it and put it to my lips. I took a big bite and threw it to the deer who devoured it and curled up at the man's feet.

     "Are you strong enough to walk?" he asked, pulling himself up to his knees. "I have made a roasted fowl.........." "How foul is it?" I said, trying very hard not to smile. He looked at me for a moment and pulled my hair. "No breakfast for thee, my disgruntled lady!" And I groaned in mock anger. "But I starve!" He gingerly touched his wounded arm and it's dirty bandage and sniffed, "Then you must tell me I am the greatest of all cooks and that you marvel at my recipes!"  "Oh, I do! I do!" I cried, pushing back my disheveled hair. "I marvel that anyone survives them!" And he pushed me down and began tickling me like a child and we laughed happily. Abruptly serious, he paused over my body, surveying my face with emotions dancing across his own, his lips hovering inches from mine. "How I rejoice to hear your laughter." He said huskily. "You have no idea how I rejoice to hear it. I thought I might never hear it again." And he hung there, suspended over me as we looked intensely at one another and the air we breathed became charged and our hearts hammered like a thousand thunders. The deer stuck his face in between ours and licked the man's chin. He collapsed on the blankets beside me and we erupted in helpless laughter, rolling back and forth as the deer stared at us like we were mad.

     Oh, how we needed that mirth! If ever two people in all of the world needed joy, it was we two. It was a healing balm to my wounded soul. But without warning, memories of last night came flashing in and scampering through my mind like insidious traitors. I pushed them back but on they came. Faster and faster. Images of terrible, terrible things, dreadful sounds, horrific feelings. Of unacceptable loss. Of dementia and mindlessness, of utter and total hopelessness. My companion snatched me up and stood me to my feet like a rag doll. "The feast awaits!" he exclaimed and all but dragged me away out of the enclosure and into the sunshine. The deer followed us. My legs gave way underneath me and the man grabbed me up in his arms and hurried to the camp fire, trying desperately to pull me back from that dark, dark place. He sat me upon a block of wood and handed me a piece of fruit and a cup of water. "Eat!" he commanded and prepared to carve up the bird that was perfectly roasted. The smell was beyond wonderful. It brought me back to reality and I ate and drank gratefully, never taking my eyes from the one who had cooked it. He stood over me, eating a drumstick and watching me as intently as a doctor, his patient. And as long as I kept my eyes on his, my mind stayed out of that nether region and in this world.

        When I had eaten my fill, I stood up and tested my limbs. I felt stronger. My head swam and I fought the dizziness but I meant to overcome the derangement. I pulled the blanket (that he had grabbed up with me) tightly around my shoulders and began to march around in circles. I stomped my feet. I punched the air with my fists. I yelled out in a loud voice and then I screamed. The horses munching grass nearby stopped. The deer stopped. The man stood frozen by the fire, his mouth full of fruit. Then I laughed, "Ha!" and smacked my forehead with the heel of my hand. All was silent for a moment, then I rushed back to the fireside and grabbed another piece of fruit  and said into the startled man's face. "I feel better now." He stared at me, swallowing hard and murmured, "Good, good. I'm glad to hear it."
He didn't know what to make of me. I didn't know what to make of me.
I just knew I was almost me again. Little by little pulling myself out of an unknown place that I never wanted to visit again. The place where you give up on yourself and on life. The Valley of the Shadow, as my nursemaid had called it. The place where Death held sway and all who entered fell at it's feet. I let out a long and freeing sigh. "Well!" I said, "I feel like a swim!"

      He'd been extremely busy as I'd slept the morning away. The arbor had been repaired and restored upon the ledge. The skins were once more secured to the trees, the campsite had been picked up and made straight. All our possessions and weapons lay neatly and in order.
Containers of fruit and water sat close by, firewood and provisions were at hand. Except for the deep hoove prints in the dried mud, it would have looked as it had before. I looked all around the place. I inspected the arbor, front and back and then I stopped in my tracks.
"Where is it?" I asked, puzzled. "Where is what?" he asked back, still standing as he had been during my extraordinary performance. "The wolf creature!" I shouted. "It was right here! Dead on the ground! And there was a white arrow in it's chest and over here, a severed arm from the other one." He watched me as I walked round and round, searching. I couldn't understand it. I walked back to where he stood and looked into his eyes. He seemed to stare at me in a daze, then shook himself and said, "Oh! The white arrow is in my quiver but gone." "Gone!?" I questioned him, perplexed, "How can it be gone?" "It just is," he said, "They usually disappear after death. Did I not tell you?" "No." "Well, tis true. The arm, too is gone. Believe me." "I've never seen an arrow like that one. It burned me. Is there a special potion or poison you....?" "Yes." he answered quietly. "A special poison for Weremen. I thought I had explained......?" "No." I said and we dropped the subject.

       We decided to go swimming together and made our preparations. Taking soap and clean clothes, bandages, towels, pails, weapons and anything else we thought we needed, we headed for the oasis. The horses and deer decided to stay behind and we let them rest, determining to go riding later. There was no hint of danger in the air, no watching eyes, no threat that we were aware of. It was exhilarating. We walked to the stream at a swift pace, not talking but not needing to. I was resolved to put the events of the past night out of my mind and behind me, if possible. I felt very fragile in a hundred ways but stubbornness was one trait I had never been delivered from and that stubbornness now dictated that I fight this thing and come out victorious. I simply would not allow myself to think of anything other than what I chose to. And all I thought of now was plunging into the cool sweet water. I hurried to the banks, threw down my burdens and swam out to the deepest depths with all my clothes on except for my boots. The man joined me and we swam for several minutes, up and down, over and across, washing and washing and washing away all of the dirt and sweat and stains that threatened to become part of us. We swam until we were exhausted and then went back to the shore and fell heavily upon the grass, soaking wet and feeling renewed. I scooted over to put my head on his shoulder and he put out his arm and pulled me close to his side. And there we lay basking in the sun and letting ourselves mend in the silence.

     After our nap, I sleepily informed him, with my eyes still closed, "I have some questions." "Of course you do." he teased, awake but not moving. "What was that song you were singing when I woke up?" He gave a small laugh and told me, "Oh, just a little song I picked up somewhere. Something about yesterdays and tomorrows and the future and things like that. Kind of a children's song, really." "I liked it." I said, "I've never heard it before. It was nice. But what does it mean?" But before he could answer, I asked another more pertinent question. "What do you mean, you have no name?!" He grunted and pulled his arm out from under me, rolling over on the grass and looking at me with shaded eyes. The sun was high and shining very brightly. "I don't. I meant that. Everyone who meets me calls me by a different name. You can call me whatever you choose. It's alright." I got to my knees and pushed the wet hair out of my face. "That's ridiculous. Everyone has a name. What did your mother call you? That's your real name."

     "I never knew my mother." he said in a pained voice. "Or my father. I was adopted and...." I was stunned. I thought that I alone bore the sad fate of the mother-less child! How strange this was to hear! He chewed on a piece of grass and watched me. "What would you like to call me, Vaangelika?" "Oh, I don't know but I'm very tired of calling you the man-with-sky-colored- eyes!" I teased. "Though it is a lovely thing to call you and think of is no proper name. Perhaps that is why you have never become widely known as a famous warrior.......they don't know what to call thee!" "You may be right." he granted, rolling back over, "But in some respects, it's a form of privacy. The villains don't know who to come looking for when they want to tear your head off!" He was having fun with me but deep inside, I sensed that he felt lonely and a bit of a misfit because he had no name. "I will find a name for you!" I promised him. "A great name befitting a hero and a warrior." And I began to call up every name I had ever heard or remembered but none seemed suitable.

      After a time, he got to his feet and put his boots on. "I am going to stroll down the way and try to find more potatoes and such. Then you can take your leisure here in the stream. I'll be back shortly." And he walked away carrying empty bags and flasks, turning every few seconds to look longingly at me and wave. I got to my feet and waved back, feeling his absence with every step. Finally he disappeared from view and I got the soap and washed my filthy garments and hung them on a branch nearby, then dove back in and bathed and washed my hair. It was a glorious, sunny, clear day. A perfect day. Not one cloud cluttered the azure sky, not one thought cluttered my fractured mind. I swam and swam, enjoying the rippling of my body through the water, the sensation of flying through a liquid firmament.

      Thoroughly refreshed, I wrapped my long hair in some toweling and began to dress. It felt good to be clean. It felt wonderful to be clean! I pulled some ivory colored trousers and a tunic out of my bag and tried to smooth the wrinkles out of them. The fabric was soft and comfortable against my skin. I put some clean shoes on my feet and fastened the wide gold necklace around my neck and the matching round earrings in my ears. Then I spread out a skin and sat upon it, drying my hair. I heard the fluttering of wings and looked around me but saw nothing. When my hair was almost completely dry, I plucked a bunch of flowers growing in abundance nearby and braided them into a circlet for my head and sat there reminding myself that I was still the daughter of a king, no matter what circumstances had befallen me.

     "Princess! A gift….!" a soft voice said behind me and I turned to find the man with a single pink rose in his hand and a jewel colored feather, not unlike a peacock's but more exquisitely bright and beautiful. I had not heard his approach and wondered at his stealthiness. Surely he was the craftiest of men! There was no end to his skill and cunning! I smiled and took the rose and feather. "How beautiful. Did you steal this from the bird itself or find it on the ground?" He stood with his hands behind his back, his eyebrow lifted. "Oh, I shall not tell. Oh, yes, I will! I came upon a shrubbery made entirely out of feathers……..and it was from that bush that I took this feather. It cried out quite painfully when I plucked it but I told it to be quiet and ran." I caressed my face with the tip of the feather and giggled like a school girl, "Oh, you did not." And we began to go back and forth with the silly quarrel. It was such fun. I noticed that he had set three or four full bags on the ground behind him and he nodded and told me that we would have plenty of onions and potatoes and other vegetables for several days hence. Plus several fish that shimmered on their wooden spears. We would indeed be feasting tonight! Last night's meal had been so full of fear and apprehension that I barely remembered eating it. Tonight, we would eat in style and I would help. "May I say how lovely and charming you look?" he said observing me quietly. I blushed and looked at my shoes. "Thank you." "Without doubt, the prettiest thing my eyes have ever witnessed. Truly." My sudden shyness made me tongue-tied and I could not think of a single witty thing to say in retort. Now I understood why the ladies of the court blushed and turned away at the attentions of an approaching male. At the time I just thought they were absurd.

     "Now, if you will excuse me, it's my turn to make myself charming." he said and removed his boots and torn tunic. I gasped when I saw the numerous bruises on his tanned back and shoulders. There were cuts and scrapes and evidence of the battle all over his upper body. The dirty bandage on his arm was about to fall off and I was overcome with concern and compassion for him. "How are you feeling?" I asked, getting to my feet. "Somewhat as if Redemption and Snow had run a violent race and used me for the road." he smiled. "But nothing that time will not heal. The balms you tended me with have already begun their work. It is no matter. When I am clean, I will ask you to doctor me again." I nodded and walked away to allow him his privacy. I did not walk in the direction of the multi-fruited tree. I did not wish to see it again so soon, if ever. Instead, I walked in the other direction, down past the willow trees and berry bushes, taking two pails with me to fill with fruit.

     I came upon a small pond. In the middle of the pond was a tiny island covered with strange and wonderful plants. It had been hidden from view by trees with dark pink leaves, hanging almost to the ground. I was captivated by the sight of it. I saw gold colored fish jump up out of the water as though they were trying to draw my attention. I clapped my hands in delight. Multi-colored birds flew across the pond, trilling to one another and flying in and out of the pink trees. There were flowers of every size and description growing all around the banks of the pond and the fragrance was indescribable. It was a veritable paradise in the middle of a veritable paradise. I walked around the perimeter, closely examining everything I saw. Butterflies flitted here and there, hungrily claiming every flower they passed. I saw a tree hanging full of yellow fruit, long and sleek and unknown to me. I picked several of them and put them in my pail. Then I hurried to see what else I might find. There was so much! The beauty overwhelmed the senses. 

     Sitting down upon a log that looked as though it had been placed there for that purpose, I watched the fish play in the water and swim up to the edge of the pond to gather at my feet. Such lively little things they were! I wondered if I should feed them. They seemed to expect it. As I contemplated, I heard the loud rush of wings and the large white bird flew out of the sky and sat down in the middle of the island on a small, dark tree with strong branches. As it settled itself no more than ten feet away from me, I saw that it was looking at me with it's piercing eyes and I felt a shudder go through me and then stared back at it just as boldly as it stared at me. It was quite beautiful. Snow white, with a kind of glistening sheen to it's feathers. It's beak was black and so were it's feet. We sat there looking at one another for some time, not moving. I felt that I should say something but could not think what to say.

     Suddenly, the bird flew from it's perch and scooped up a golden fish in mid jump above the pond. It returned to the perch and throwing the fish up into the air, swallowed it in one gulp. Then I thought it looked at me as if with the pride of a man. Like it had done something wonderful and terrible. To show me that it was capable. My stomach lurched and I got to my feet and grabbed the pails. The paradise felt suddenly tainted. I hurried out of the enclosure and away from the pond, trembling. I didn't know why it had frightened me so but it did. I gathered more of the purple berries and some other fruit I had not seen and walked back to the banks of the brook to see if the man was finished with his bath. He was. He was dressed in fresh trousers and drying his dark hair. It looked to be a painful effort, so I went to him and took the towel and began to dry it for him. The bandage had come off his arm and the wound looked angry and dangerous. I rubbed his head briskly and drew the moisture from his locks. He withstood my efforts without saying a word until my hand brushed against his cheek and he let out a cry. "Sorry." I apologized, my mind still on the white bird and her callous demonstration.

      He took the towel from my hand and held both as he searched my face. "Not another encounter?" He asked worriedly and I shook my head. "Not with that creature." He asked no further question and I continued drying his hair and combing my fingers through it to untangle the snarls. Before he slipped into a clean shirt, I put healing salves on his bruises and wounds and dressed them with fresh bandages. Then I made him sit on the blanket and I brushed his hair. Soft breezes came through the trees and lulled us with their whispers. A large white cloud came to hover over our heads, shading us from the sun. The atmosphere was delicious. That was the only word to describe it. Delicious. I put down the brush because I saw he was drifting away with the stimulation of it and he protested mildly and chuckled. "Now who has the hands of a physician? I would that you continue for the space of another hour!" But I would not. We took our leisure there, eating peaches and drinking spring water from the newly filled flasks. We shared leftover roasted fowl and I made no jest about it but ate it with relish. "Good, no?" he asked mischievously and I said, "The best I have ever eaten! I tell you no lie!" And that seemed to make him joyful.

Reluctantly, we stood to head back to camp. He pulled the fish out of a shallow pool of water and we gathered up everything and began our walk. What a different walk from the last! Last night, my every step had slowed with his words. Words that brought me terror. Terror that had been nothing compared to what awaited us. This journey was one filled with amiability and contentment. I wouldn't let myself think of what he had said last night or what had transpired. This night would be different. Would be ours and no one else's. "About that song, " I said, taking up the subject just where I had left off. "You said you would tell me what it means." He sighed deeply and answered in a thoughtful tone, "Yes. Well, you know how you regress into the past and all it's memories? How you frequently flee away into that place inside you where you feel safe and can escape your present circumstances?"

      And I opened my mouth in shock, wondering how he knew about that place that I escaped to but remembering his gift, I closed it again and said nothing. He continued. "I am more a forward looking person, myself, while you, on the other hand, like the familiarity of things past. No, don't protest! You know 'tis true. You think somehow that if you can repair the things that happened in the past, that everything can go on as it should and that you will be happy." I had no answer to that, knowing it was mostly true but had never considered it before. No one had ever confronted me with my beliefs. At least not like that. My teacher had confronted me with many things and my Father had confronted me on several things but no one in my life had wrapped me up in a nutshell and laid me neatly out for all to see. I felt transparent and exposed. It was…. unsettling.

      "So, are you saying that I should forget the past and look only at the future? That there is something wrong with wanting to fix what was broken and surrounding myself with memory?" I was curious but mildly stung. "My girl, I am only trying to teach you a new lesson." He said, sounding exactly like my old teacher! It was astounding. "Hmmph." I huffed, wondering if I was really annoyed or merely amazed. "And what would that be?" "Well, you brought it up, remember? So, in answer to your question about the song and the song in relation to you, here it is: Everything in your past has culminated to make you into the person you are today. Every heartbreak, every joy, every sorrow. Even the worst of experiences have made you stronger. The deepest woundings have made you more unflinching, the most cutting losses have filled you with resolve. The very lack of love has made you all the more ravenous for it. The past has very powerful holds over us but we must break them and move away. Use them for our victories instead of our defeats. They are all interconnected but only as instruments for us to employ, not become imprisoned by. Do you understand? In other words, my butterfly with wings of iron, learn from the song. "Dost thou not know that the future lies….in the dreams of yesterday?" And he began to sing it again and I began to listen. Really listen. And my eyes shone with tears and I knew I was hearing something very important.

To Be Continued in Episode 19...........................

Thursday, June 1, 2017




Precious Things, Broken

Like a jar of clay, cracked
My life has spilled out before you
Floods of tears have flowed like rivers
And still they do not stop.

Why, Lord? I ask and ask again
And You haven't deemed to answer
I look to see Your face
Where it's always been before.

And there is nothing but a shadow
Of the joys of yesterday
Nothing but a whisper
Of the love songs that were played.

Why, Lord? Why?
Why these endless tests and trials
These mazes with no doors?
These sad rooms with no floors?

Yesterday, I thought I'd won the battle
I thought I'd run the course
I thought I'd made You proud of me
I thought I'd get to rest.

And then without warning,
The sky fell down, the sea arose
The sun turned black
And nothing, nothing, made sense anymore.

Every time I grow up
I become a child again
Every time I am free
I become entangled with sorrow.

You know my heart
You know how I think and how I feel
You know who I am and who I'll never be
You know me, Lord! Don't You?

I thought I knew who I was,  at last
And where I was going 
And what I was going to do for You
But now I  see nothing and know even less.

How can a mortal die a thousand deaths
And still survive?
How can a heart keep beating
When it no longer has a life?

If I were an alabaster box, Lord
I could pour out
A fragrance fit to wash Your feet
But there is nothing in me now that's sweet.

I am a crushed red rose lying on a road
And all the enemies I ever had
Are marching over me, laughing
Taunting me, saying, "Where's your God?!"

And I'll admit: I don't know where You are
Not now, not since......this...this....test
That I have so obviously failed
Again for the millionth time.

Yesterday I had the faith to move mountains
Yesterday I had the fire shut up in my bones
Yesterday I had the tongue of a preacher
And my lips were as the pen of a ready writer.

But all the words are gone
Dried up like dust in an abandoned mine
And the spark inside me is so low
I can't even see it in the dark.

Lord, help me!!!! Hear my heart!
Give me back Your presence
And the safety of Your wings
I am tossed to and fro like a sparrow's feather.

A sparrow, that's what You called me
And that's all I ever wanted to be
A baby bird growing to maturity
Under Your care and the shelter of Your love.

I didn't think I could ever hurt like this again
I didn't think You'd ever allow it
But You did, You did and I don't know what to do now
I don't know how to feel because I no longer feel...You.

Are You watching me from somewhere up there in Heaven?
Are You putting these words in my mind
And making me write them down?
Or is this the only way I have to cry out to You?

Everything I have ever loved has been taken, Lord!
Every safety net has been pulled out from under me
Every thing I trusted in has stabbed me in the back
And every hope I had has fled away in destitution.

Why, Lord? Why? I thought the wheel had stopped
And I had been remade enough to make the grade
All those years of polishing, refinishing, refining
And yet here I am again in a pile of broken plates.

All those precious things..............
All the people I loved.....
All the prayers I prayed.....
All broken now and scattered to the wind, unanswered.

And even now, Lord, I love You enough to say
Let me come home, let me be where You are
Let me lay every broken thing in my life, in me
At Your feet, at the only place that they can be made whole.

©by Voo
Jan 20, 2015
12:55 a.m.

Falling Slowly by Brian Crain