A couple things about today's post. First of all it may seem the wrong type of post for Monday Dairy, but there is truth to it in an allagorical sense. Secondly, those of you who have read Adam's Ale for a number of years know that when I come back from retreat there is always at least one odd post such as this. Let's just live through it together. Things should return to normal tomorrow.
Anyway - here is the story - no title as of yet. Hope you enjoy.
Father Victor placed the object on the empty refectory table. His young apprentice Charles looked at the long object wrapped in old oil cloth and asked, “Can I see it?”
Father Victor sighed. “Are you sure you want to? I told you that it was very evil.” The echo in the empty room made his words sound even more ominous.
Charles shrugged. “It won’t kill me will it?”
“No. Not physically. Not just looking at it on the table.”
“Then let’s have a look.”
“Unwrap it then.”
Carefully Charles unwrapped the oil clothe. Inside was a dark, sleek, shiny stick of some sort about three feet in length. It gleamed from the evening light passing though the leaded windows.
“It doesn’t look so dangerous.”
“Not looking dangerous is part of its danger.” Father Victor leaned over and quickly but carefully wrapped it up again which he then secured with leather strapping. “I have to get this where it will no longer be a source of danger to us. The journey will not be an easy one. You were chosen to accompany me because of your intelligence and your fortitude.”
“Not my holiness?” the young man asked jokingly. But it was responded to with a cool, “No. It is hoped that this journey will help you grow in that area.” The young man blushed and looked down. The priest continued, “I need you to take this seriously. If you think you don’t want to do this tell me now. I won’t have you doing more damage than good.” His stare was level and cool.
More to stall for time than anything else the young man asked, “I suppose there is a reason we can’t just bury it or put it in a closet or throw it out and forget about it.”
“You are correct. But you already knew that.”
The priest held the young man’s glare for a considerable time. Their stomachs growled for they had been fasting in preparation for the journey. The younger one broke the stare first. “Whatever,” he said picking up his journey sack, “Let’s get going.”
“No,” the priest said, “Not ‘whatever.’ You are either committed to this or not. This is not something to be taken lightly. If you don’t take it seriously the very souls you are trying to protect may come to deeper harm. Now, are you ready to take this seriously?”
“Yes,” the young man said with a bit of resignation and then hoisted his pack higher on his back.
“Not yet though,” said the priest, “First we eat.”
“I thought we were fasting.”
“We did. Now we need food for the journey.” And so they ate.
They set out into the night passing through the gates that kept them protected from the dark of the forest that surrounded them. The young man grew alarmed for the trees blocked out most of the light from the moon and many strange noises emanated from unseen places to their left and right, sometimes high up and sometimes seemingly from under their feet. He kept close on the heels of the priest who seemed to have a preternatural instinct for where they were going.
“Nice forest.” It was the first time either of them had spoken for some time and the young man said it with a certain amount of sarcasm hoping that his voice did not betray his fear.
“This forest is from where you came,” said the priest.
“Any particular reason we have to go by night?”
The priest merely responded, “Because it is night. Possibly just the beginning. Or maybe the end of night. But it is night.” A comment which seemed both obvious and mystical. Either way it was met with the roll of the eyes unseen by the priest in the dark.
They walked on for an hour more when Father Victor suddenly stopped and held up an unseen hand which was met by collision from behind. “Hey!” the young man called in surprise.
“Shhhhhhhh.” They were still for a moment. The young apprentice tried hard to detect something but could not discern anything different from what they had been hearing since they set out in the woods. Suddenly a hand grabbed him by the collar of his shirt that took him to the side of the path and then forced him down in a crouch. “Quiet,” said the priest. “Look over there in the field.”
There were lambs; hundreds of them. Their white fleece glowed in the light of the moon. Something like an ominous black shadow crept slowly across the field inching its way closer and closer to the sheep who seemed oblivious to its approach. When it came close to the nearest of the sheep it suddenly leapt forward enveloping the sheep, destroying it, devouring it without a sound though by the way the sheep thrashed it was in obvious pain. The shadow continued across the field to the next and the next and the next, taking the sheep while not causing much of a stir. Soon the young man could make out that the shadow was actually a dragon. He felt for the dagger in his belt and began to leap up to go after it.
“No,” said the priest in a loud whisper.
“What do you mean, ‘no?’ Don’t you see what it is doing to all of those sheep out there?”
“Yes! Of course I do!” Father Victor replied with a certain amount of irritation. “But that is not our mission right now!”
“How can it NOT be our mission?”
“Because it could become even worse if we do not stay focused on what we set out to do! This is a wicked, wicked thing, and we need fight that dragon too, but not today.” And he grabbed the young man by the collar again and they continued their journey through the woods.
Another half a mile brought them to a woman sitting on a stump. She had her face in her hands and her long hair cascaded in front of her. It was obvious that she was crying. The young man stopped looking as though he wanted to go over to her to comfort her. “Steady my friend,” said the priest, “this is not the time.” Despite this warning he walked up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Are you Okay?” he asked.
The lady looked up and though her face was streaked with tears glimmering in the faint moonlight, the young man was surprised to find a smile on her face. “I’m fine. In fact I’m more than fine. I am exactly where I should be doing exactly what I should be doing. I am achieving my goals.”
The young man took a couple of steps back. “I am terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you. I thought you were crying.” The priest let out a discreet cough behind him.
“Why would I be crying?” Then she thought for a moment, “Well, maybe I was crying, but it was silly. I am really quite happy. My oracle told me so.”
“Yes. Here.” She held up a blue glowing orb in her hand. “It suggests ways to me that will make me happy and then tells me how to achieve them. So far I am right on schedule and life is really, really good. Honestly. It is. I am right where I want to be. All I have to do is take this potion.”
She held it out to the young man who took a whiff of it. “Smells vile.”
“It’s poison,” said the priest.
“It is not poison!” protested the lady. “It is power!”
“How can poisoning your body make you more powerful?”
“But it does! And it is not poison. Do you not see how happy I am? How much happier I am than people were in the past?” she asked still retaining the smile on her face but tears still streaming down her cheeks. “I am achieving things. I am on schedule and in control. I am really very happy.”
“Excuse me, but you don’t really seem it.”
“Boy,” said the priest in a warning tone, “This is not our mission.”
“How dare you!” cried the woman. “Just like you and your kind to say such a thing! I should know if I am happy. Not you!” A chorus of “Yes!” came from deeper in the woods. “Who is the destroyer of dreams and happiness?” came a call of thousands of voices.
The woman turned to the woods, “There is a young man here and a priest! They tell me I am eating poison! They tell me I am sad! They want to destroy my happiness!”
The young man was grabbed by the collar again and in his ear the priest hissed, “We are losing sight of our mission. Let’s go while she summons up her troops or we may never make it to our destination.”
The young man stammered a, “Yes!” and they were off into the darkness before they could be caught in a quagmire that would swallow them up and keep them from their journey.
“Now will you listen to me when I tell you to ignore these distractions?” the priest asked quite sternly.
“But they just seemed so important,” was his lame reply.
“They ARE important. That’s what makes them so distracting. One day we may come back to them but they are not our mission today. Tell me that you are finally understanding this.”
In a humble tone the young man said, “Yes Father.” But no sooner had he mumbled these words that came across three men in suits standing around a cauldron in the middle of the path. “Who are they?” whispered the young man to the priest.
“Pay no attention to them. Just keep walking.”
“Ah young man,” one of the men beckoned, “I have some interesting news for you.”
“Keep walking,” said the priest.
“I am not to listen to you. We are on a mission and I cannot be distracted!”
“But my news is about your mission.”
“Yes. Very important news.”
“Keep walking,” the priest pressed.
“Yes Father.” But one of the men threw something in a pot and hundreds of tiny red figures came flying out. Then at then at the end a couple of sickly green figures flew out. The young man stopped in amazement despite himself. “What in the world . . .”
The man said, “The red darts that you see . . .these are everybody who thinks that your mission is silly at best, deadly at worst. The few sickly green moths you see fluttering about are those who think your mission worthy. One of them represents that priest there.”
“Boy,” the priest yelled, “Don’t listen to that siren! Don’t assume everything he tells you is truth.”
“But it is!” said the man.
“And even if it is,” continued the priest, “truth is not determined by majority vote!”
“Well said priest,” said the man, “But what say you to this?” Visions of people popped up. Some were happy some were sad. “The happy ones, they are the ones that listen to the oracle. See how happy they are? See how many things they have? See how much freedom they enjoy? These sad ones? This is how your priest wants everyone to live.”
“Listen to me,” said the priest to the youth, “They can dress it up any way they want to. With selective editing you can make any point seem true. Don’t fall for the oracles the way you saw the others down the road!”
“Ah, but see this!” This time an image of the priest appeared but one that him look ancient, his clothes outdated, and horns protruding from his head suggesting that he was the devil himself. It was the priest and it was not the priest. It was truth and a lie married together.
The last image was too much for the youth. He had been lulled into the images the men were showing him but this last marring of the image of someone he cared for revolted him. “No,” he cried out, “That is outrageous! Make it go away.”
“Why should we?” the third man asked. “Can you not handle the truth?”
“That is not truth!”
“No? Come sit with us. We will debate you. You will soon see that it is truth.”
“How could you possibly?”
“Here. Come sit. We have all the time in the world.”
“Do you hear what they were saying?” the youth cried out to the priest. But the priest was gone. Only a dark figure could be seen walking away. The youth then realized he had been sidetracked from his mission once again and with a cry of exasperation tool off after the priest.
“Come back coward!” cried the men, “You are losing the argument!” But the boy continued running until he not only caught up to the priest but passed him and walked in front of him leading the way. Neither said a word.
Finally they came to a break in the woods and saw what appeared to be a giant, treeless mound. The youth was about to march over it when he was grabbed once again by the collar. “Stop,” the priest said, “We are here.”
“Where is here?” the youth asked perplexed. “I don’t see anything here but this giant mound of sand.”
“That isn’t sand,” said the priest. “Touch it.”
The young man reached out to the towering heap and found that indeed it was not sand at all but fur; mounds and mounds of fur. “What in the name of our God . . .”
“Come, let’s walk around it.” As they walked the mound seemed to suggest some shape. Though much of it seemed like mounds of fur covered fat, there was a suggestion of giant paw, possibly an outline of a leg, and a tail that at its base was over the youth’s head. Finally they came to what appeared to be the head. There were rhythmic gusts of wind and lips that went, “bbbbbbbb” with every breath. A giant ear that must have done deaf stuck up in the air. When youth tripped in a rock and fell on his knee and cried out, there was not the slightest reaction from the giant beast. “Can you tell yet what it is?” asked the priest.
“I think it’s a lion. A gigantic lion. But then again, distorted somehow.”
“It has been asleep for a long, long time. It’s grown fat and lazy. It is very comfortable here in the woods and as long as it stays quiet nobody bothers it much. But it’s time to wake it up.”
“How do you wake up a giant, deaf, next to comatose lion?” asked the youth.
For the first time in a while the priest smiled. “I am so glad you asked. I will show you.”
They took a journey back around to the other side of end of the lion where its motionless tail laid out like a long furry freight train.
“Catch,” said the priest and he tossed the oilcloth package he had carried on the journey to the young man. “Open it up.”
The youth obeyed and picked up the object inside – the evil thing that the priest said threatened to destroy them. “It’s a sword,” the youth said. I hadn’t realized that before.”
“Read the inscription on the blade.”
“It says, ‘His Royal Majesty’s Sword, the Lion Slayer.’”
“Now,” said the priest, “Jab it as hard and deep as you can into the lions haunches.”
“I though the lion was on our side, that we were here to save the lion from the king.”
“Then why am I stabbing it with what you called the evil, deadly sword?”
“Because the lion has fallen into a deep sleep. Sometimes it takes something this shocking to awaken it. Sometimes it takes a good stab in the haunches to get the lion to wake up, summon its power, and defend itself. It will sting, but an angry lion is better than a dead lion. You can do something with an angry lion, a dead lion just needs to be buried. Now, go on. Take aim at the fattest part you can find and stick it in with all of your might and say a prayer that it works.”
The youth held up the sword with both hands, pulled back over his head and thrust with all his might.