So It Grows

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A fictional account of a time, way back when, about a shepherd family, mystical things, and the beginning of a god.

Submitted: April 27, 2016

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Submitted: April 27, 2016

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In a place where laws were dictated by family beliefs, at a time before time was counted, shepherd families lived as many shepherds do to this day; isolated, self sufficient, and in extended family groups. This story is about one such group and the beliefs that they lived by, and a belief that they acquired.

 

"Papa, Papa, the clouds have said wolves will come tonight and attack the sheep."

"Tonight, are you sure Tal?

"Yes!"

"Could they have been coyotes in the clouds?"

"They were wolves, I could tell by their great size," Tal replied. "A part of the cloud changed into what looked like a large family of wolves and a part of the cloud changed and that looked like a few sheep, but I could not tell how many. Then the wolves moved toward the sheep and then the sheep seemed to be blown away, as smoke from the campfire lifts and blows into the night."

The father asked, "What happened to the wolves?"

"I do not know, that part of the cloud just flowed downward and disappeared into the rest of the cloud," Replied Tal.

Tal is 11 years old currently, his hair is as yellow as summer wheat and his eyes as green as the clover that grows in the valley below. His skin is well tanned, and freckled, except for the small red birthmark that is just above his right eyebrow; the mark resembles a falcon in flight.

He seemed to be a normal child until the age of four, but his gifts started to be noticeable by the age of five.

Tal's great-grandmother was a Tushmalah, {"A healer and a mystic."}. She told Una that one of his son's would take her place in the family and would have several spirits of benefit within him; he would be the new Tushmalah and his powers would be stronger than hers.

The strength of Tal's powers were first noted when Una took Tal with him to pick berries, medicinal herbs, grasses, and other helpful items that grew in the valley below.

Riding on his father shoulders, Tal enjoyed reciting the names of everything he saw, birds, animals, plants, and even bugs. Many of the bugs that Tal named were unknown to Una, so he just thought that the child was inventing his own names for the bugs.

As the two traveled over a rise in the terrain they saw a bear. It was sitting on its haunches and groaning terribly.

It was obvious that the bear was in pain for it was groaning and huffing in a low rumbling voice.

Tal slid off Una's shoulders and dropped to the ground. "I must help the bear!" Tal exclaimed as he started towards the creature.

"You are not to go near any wounded creature, ever." Una cautioned. "We will leave it alone and leave the area before it knows that we are here; that is the wise thing to do," Una whispered to Tal.

Tal countered, "Papa, this is my purpose. If I do nothing today, then I am useless and disgrace my gifts. I must help the bear so that the rope of the living will not be broken. If it is broken, then it will take much mending to restore it. This is the last female bear in the area and she carries two female cubs. Please let me go."

Una was shocked, such words and understanding coming from a child of five.

"If you let me go, I promise, all will be well. I saw this bear and spoke with her in a dream last night, she will not harm me," Tal said with a smile.

With that Tal slipped away and walked toward the bear. Una readied his spear.

When Tal came near the bear he made a low, childlike, growl sound, which got the bear's attention. That is when the bear did something that Una thought he would never see, the bear laid down on its side, right in front of Tal.

Tal approached the bear and saw bee stings all around the bears eyes, which were swollen shut.

Tal began chanting as he slid between the bears two front legs. Then the child spat right onto the swollen areas, then he chanted a second song that sounded like a lullaby, but no real words were spoken.

The bear seemed as calm as could be, even sleepy.

Tal took dust from the ground and threw it at the bear’s eyes, then he spat and threw more dust. He did this several times while still chanting the same tune, which Una had never heard before.

Tal took some dirt from the ground and spit into it, then he rubbed the dirt and the moisture together, all the while adding bits of flower and other materials. After doing so, he rubbed the mixture gently onto the bear’s bee stings.

Tal looked at the wounds once more before moving away from the bear and walking back to Una.

"She will sleep for a time and when she awakens she will be able to see again, but even more important, she will be able to hunt. The wounds will not grow worse because she will not feel the need to rub them anymore," Tal remarked as he was lifted back up on Una's shoulders.

From that day on, Una never questioned what Tal asked to do.

 

Well, when Tal told Una the story of the clouds and the wolves, Una sounded the alarm with a Calling-horn.

All the men that were in and around the camp came together.

"Wolves are coming," Una declared.

Then the men that were present went to their tents and retrieved their weapons, water pouches, torches, flints and food rations. When reassembled they followed Una up to the hillsides where their sheep were being watched.

 

"To the pins with the sheep,” Una yelled, as they approached the shepherds on the hillside.

"Why," was the reply?

Looking around Una replied, "Wolves!"

All the shepherds immediately went into action to round up the sheep.

Una inquired, "Where is my brother Mar?"

"There are four sheep wandering," exclaimed Tayth, an older cousin, "Mar has gone to fetch them."

"Which direction did he go," Una inquired.

"To the north, he passed between the rocky faces," replied Una's step-son, Kay, as he pointed toward a rocky outcropping.

Una looked at the group and said, "Kay, you come with me, the rest of you do as Tayth instructs you to do.

Tayth, we have brought enough torches to light much of the perimeter of the pin, pin the sheep and set guards in shifts!" 

With that said, Una took one unlit torch and the two Shepherds headed north.

Once they passed through the gap in the outcropping, they could see a valley and more hillsides to the north-east.   There was another outcropping bigger than the one that they had just passed through, it was massive, a mountain in it's own right. Una knew of that massive outcropping and the many caves that were scattered throughout its great expanse. Over Una's lifetime he had heard stories of villagers and shepherds entering some of those caves, never to be heard from again. 

There are stories that are told around campfires, in villages, and shepherd's camps. The stories say that mountain is a place that spirits dwell and spirits that dwell there have no mercy, they seek the blood of man and animal alike. They swallow whoever and whatever enters the mouths of those demon caves.

Yes, this mountain of coal-black stone is steeped in superstition by the families and tribes that live in the area. And most of the shepherds stay away from Glam, the name tribes have always called it. They stay away out of fear, out of respect, or just because it is an easy place to lose a sheep.

 

Kay, a thin and agile man had what many believed to be a spider spirit within him. He possessed an almost super human ability to climb, and he could jump farther than anyone in the tribe. That is why when Kay scampered up the side of some fallen stones to get a better view, Una thought nothing of it.

It was not long before Kay spotted Mar on a cliff, across the valley and on the mountain of Glam. It looked to Kay as if the sheep were unable, or unwilling, to move from the rocky cliff that they had wandered onto. One shepherd would not be enough to guide them down.

Kay climbed down from his perch and the two men headed across the valley in Mar's direction. They hoped to reach him before darkness set in.

 

"Mar, Maaar, Maaarrr!" Kay and Una called out as soon as they reach the base of the rocks.

"Here, I am up here!" Mar called back.

The last of daylight was being swept from the face of the outcroppings and the hour of dusk was settling into the hills and valleys below, which is when they found Mar.

Mar and the sheep were huddled in the mouth of a cave surrounded by a very large dish-shaped ledge. The ledge was odd even to the mind of a shepherd, its shape and its massive size, together with the fact that it was angled inward toward the mouth of the cave was strange.

The surface of the stones were smooth as a finely crafted shepherd's staff. But a debate about the ledge would have to wait for another time, they had more pressing business to attend to.

It was too late to climb down from Glam tonight, so Una decided to light the torch and start a campfire; Mar and Kay gathered as much material to burn as they could find.

As Luna bent down to strike the flint-rocks he glanced down at the hillsides and the valley below. And as he did, he saw the unmistakable outlines of eight wolves heading in the direction of the outcropping and the gap that would give them easy access to the grazing hills and valley beyond; they were heading in the direction of the sheep pin.

Although they sniffed the ground as they went, they stopped from time to time and stuck their noses high in the air, as if sampling it.

Suddenly the Alfa male stopped and started sniffing in a circle, then back and forth, that is when he changed direction; he had picked up the scent of lamb's blood.

The lamb, that Mar was tending to had somehow cut itself. That somewhat minor dripping wound would soon lead the wolves to their cave; they were trapped with little choices for defense.

Una lit the torch and told everyone to move back into the cave with the sheep, then all three shepherds formed a pile of campfire material at the cave entrance and Una set it on fire.

The fire grew quickly, thanks to the torch, and the wolves arrived soon afterward.

These were no ordinary wolves, from what Una could see of them, they were very large.

"The fire will hold them back for as long as it lasts," Una said with hope in his voice. Let us see where this cave leads us," he remarked as he moved passed everyone with the torch in hand.

Down and down the cave gently flowed, bending and twisting to the point that none of them knew which direction that they were going.

After a very long time, what seemed to be hours of walking, the end of the cave was reached. And the only way to describe the end of this cave was to say that it ended in a very large room.

The room was almost perfectly round and the walls of the room was as smooth as bone; maybe even smoother. There was bones lying around everywhere, those of men and of beast alike, but none showed signs of being eaten. The bones, too, were as smooth as the walls.

 

Tired and bewildered, the men sat to rest.

 

Una kept thinking about the clouds Tal spoke of. And he talked openly, "Was the message saying that they were going to die tonight with the sheep?"

That is when he realized that the amount of sheep depicted in the clouds was fewer than the flock as a whole. The cloud must have been referring to the four sheep that were with them, it had to be.

But what of the three shepherds? And if that was the message, then what was the message about the sheep vanishing? "as smoke rises from a fire and disappears into the night".

As Mar and Una discussed what Tal had said, Kay listened. All a sudden Kay's eyes grew very big and he started to laugh. "I've got the answer," Kay remarked.

Kay took the torch from Una and holding the torch high in the air he watched the smoke rise. He noticed that before the smoke touched the ceiling, it drifted sideways and disappeared into what looked like the walls. Kay motioned for Mar and Una to come near the wall, then he climbed on their shoulders and held the torch up higher.

"There is a ledge up here and another cave," he excitedly exclaimed! With that said, he asked for the rope from Mar's hip and managed to snag it on a jagged rock-face; up he went, torch and all.

Before long the shepherds and the sheep were on the upper ledge and in the other cave entrance, the timing could not have been better.

Sounds of wolves snarling could be heard echoing along the cave walls, but when they arrived in the smooth walled room, the wolves could not jump high enough to reach the ledge.

Mar said, "Never have I seen wolves of this size, they are a half size larger than any wolf that I have ever seen. I do not know where they come from, but I know we will find it hard to keep sheep safe with them in our valley."

Una was disheartened and remarked, "We must get back to the sheep-pin and our brothers, if that is possible, before these monsters get out of this mountain. I hope that a kinder spirit will guide us so that we reach the sheep-pin before the wolves find us again."

"True," replied Kay, "this wolf-pack will be even hungrier tomorrow and the battle that will rage will be more than we have ever had to face, given their size and strength."

 

The shepherds followed the new cave and it was not long before they came to its end, and its exit. As they exited the cave there was a sheer cliff below, and if not for Mar's quick thinking one sheep would have been lost in a terrible fall.

It was a hazardous but manageable climb down along narrow ledges and all went well as could be expected with three men guiding four sheep.

As this rag-tag party reached the edge of the grassland, which was at the base of the mountain, it began raining and the wind blew in heavy gusts.

It was a fearful downpour and if it had not been for an overhung ledge and shelter beneath, they might have been swept down the hillside with the wind, or washed away by the rivers of water coming off the rock-faces of the mountain.

The monstrous wolves did not have the same outcome, for the cave that they were in was one of the natural drains for the mountain's rain.

Water ran down the mountain faces and onto the plate-shaped ledge where they first gathered and where Una lit the torch. From that ledge the water ran into the cave, down the tunnel, and into that big round room. Whatever creatures that were caught in such a downpour, inside the cave, was washed into the round room that filled with swirling water. And whatever creature that did not drown in that round room, they would be lifted and swept into the second cave.

And in the second cave, anything that was caught in that torrent of water was tossed out and down the mountain face, to the jagged rocks below.

Not one wolf survived the water, the fall, or the jagged rocks below.

Once the rain stopped, the three shepherds had to stay near the mountain for two more days, until the ground became more stable and hardened enough to walk on.

During that time the three shepherds skinned the wolves and took only the pelts and those parts of the wolves that they were allowed to eat by family tradition; the rest they left for the buzzards and other scavengers.

At the base of the mountain, not far from where the wolves were found dead, the shepherds built a shrine and left a burnt offering to the spirit that had befriended and delivered them from the wolf pack. 

At the center of the shrine was left the skull of the Alfa Male, a shepherd's crook, and a blood offering from the hand of each shepherd.

From that day foreword, and at every meal these shepherds and their families gave thanks to Sim-lam, which means, the Shepherd's Friend, for delivering them from the Monster Wolves.

The shepherds consulted Tal and he gave them these instructions, "Give thanks to Sim-lam for this deliverance, but ask for nothing more. The payment we received is far greater than we can ever repay. Be content with it." 

 

Wolves in these regions are highly unusual, packs of coyotes, yes, big cats, occasionally, wolves, very seldom and usually a lone male.

Where such large wolves came from, no one seemed to know for sure. Even the Soothsayers and the Sages were baffled. Many of them travel through many regions and none had ever seen or heard of wolves so large.

The great size of these creatures and the large number in the pack leaves some to speculate that they were not wolves at all. Their reasoning tells them that the wolves were demons who escaped from a mysterious place within Glam. They think that this band of bloodthirsty spirits took wolf forms to feed their need for flesh.

These same people are convinced that Sim-lam must be a good spirit that lives in the clouds, giving him control of the rain and wind. Sim-lam must be the Gate-keeper and executioner of wayward demons.

It was not long before villagers and farmers were taking offerings to Sim-lam's shrine, asking all manners of favors.

And just as Tal foretold, much food was wasted on the rock alter, and many animals and people died to appease their new god. Even Tal was taken and sacrificed for speaking against such slaughter and wast.

 

D. Thurmond / JEF  ---  04-26-2016


© Copyright 2018 D. Thurmond, aka, JEF. All rights reserved.

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