A Legend of Middle Earth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 18, 2019

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Submitted: February 18, 2019

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A Legend of Middle Earth

As told to me by the Bard, Christian Slaye, before his essence left for parts unknown.

Recorded by

Arthur Moss

 

Anna Faye was daughter to some long-forgotten memory. In summer, when afternoon met eventide, she often rambled through the meadows that bound the Sugar Woods on either side and well confined the Halstead River to its winding banks.

Now, there were days when Travelers (those ancient folk) would stop to rest along the quiet way of road that wandered past her cottage.  They'd say: Summer was a lazy time that they enjoyed and walking was a way for them to leave where they had been behind!  Anna knew when they approached.  She could see them coming from afar; through the gap that framed the valley just this side of Mount McCain.  Here eagles nested in the crags along the cliffs whose tops caressed the sky.  The hours passed as she would watch them make their way along the trails.

If Anna cooked a meal of barley bread and onion soup, and made some sweet mint tea, with ice cold water from her spring, the travelers would catch the scent of it borne upon the mountain wind. Then, they'd seek her out; and that is when she'd have them!  A story for some food and drink (a reasonable request, I think).  "Come, sit beside my hearth," she'd say; and they would sit to end the day telling Anna stories. Those walkers had, inside their heads, a thousand stories from the past for they had lived forever at the edge of time.

The fire kept the whole lot warm and, after eating, after current news from down along the valley floor where villagers were, here and there, nestled all together round their common wells like pumpkins in a garden; where Tussah lived and plied their handy crafts, then Anna's eyes would ask and Travelers would graciously consent, spinning stories for her far, far into the night until all then fell asleep, there before the fire light. Anna loved the stories so!  She loved the dreams that followed as she slept the night away.

***

Shortly after Solstice, about three days I'd say, the wind began to howl down upon the land.  It raked the alpine meadows and ran its course through narrow passes.  With it came the mist and rain that watered down the roughness of Anna's mountain hideaway and flowers blossomed everywhere.

Down in the gap she thought she saw a deep green hat upon a head connected to a lanky soul who, with a friend, proceeded toward her place with obvious determination.  As they came much nearer, she recognized them both: "Matthew Shane and Horace Breeley!  How wonderful!"  She thought. Of all the people she had known, of all the stories told her, no Travelers could spin a tale as Mat and Horace could!  And here they sought her, again, to be her company.  These two were the absolute at being nothing but the best!  They told stories from the past that most Sapins now forgot.

As Mat approached her modest house, his voice gave out a cry: "Hail, Anna Faye, my honey bee, it's good to see your eyes!"

"Hail, Matthew! Hail, Horace!" Anna quickly replied.  Leaving work aside, she scurried off to meet the two men, making happy sounds as she did, and fell upon the two of them with hugs and loving kisses!

Their presence filled her heart with joy and she was glad to see them.  They loved her back with hugs and kisses too, and followed her toward her little round house.  Then, taking sacks from off their backs, produced two tidy gifts: a locket with a diamond face upon a chain of gold and one small book of poetry that they knew she'd love the most.

"Our journey takes us far; throughout the land of Kaah this year," said Horace with his squeaky voice."  And, when we thought that we could taste a bowl of Onion soup, we knew to come out here to your place!"  With that, laughter burst from all their lips.  Anna beckoned them inside.

Mat and Horace settled down upon the kitchen stools while Anna fussed about to put the bowls and spoons and knives and forks around. She fetched the soup from off the hearth and sliced the bread and put the butter out. "There's broiled fish," she said, "it's good; and sweet potatoes too." She set their plates before them.

"Now, Anna love," said Mat, "calm down!" He clasped her little hand. "We shall not eat until you sit and sup with us."

"Aye!" Agreed Horace.  "We've come this far to see you!"

"Right!" Mat continued.  "Your cooking is an added treat upon the sheer delight of seeing our dearest friend!"  Anna smiled warmly and sat with them.

***

Later, as the night fell upon the peaceful countryside, the three friends sipped their tea. Anna begged: "A story, Mat; a special one, filled with ancient mystery!" Mat poked the fire with a stick.  The burning wood spat myriads of little sparks that drifted up the chimney.

"Anna, lass, it's time I taught you of your people's past and why it is the Tussah have all but come by this great world of earth and sky.  You need to know the reasons for your unique existence; why we Travelers have never meddled in your business."

"Tonight, I aim to tell you about Wormwood, the left hand of our kind, and how it crushed the race that brought me into this world!"  Mat lowered his voice to almost a whisper.

"Now this is history," piped Horace, "and there's no need for nightmares when your dream time comes around!  It's not our plan to frighten you."

"Aye, that's true" Mat continued, "but now let's get the story told for we perceive that you can handle history…"  Mat watched a flame devour the end of his stick. "…and use it all inside your lovely poetry to benefit your people."

Anna's eyes grew wide with Tussah curiosity. "Wormwood?" She asked in a soft voice.

"Aye, Wormwood." Mat replied.

(Then Mat began to spin his tale --a long-forgotten chronicle)

Back, back through time; before the Peace; before the Tussah first appeared. Come back with me sweet Anna girl and gather up your thoughts to take them with you on this trek to once upon a time when Sapins ruled the Earth from great towers by the sea.  Five hundred thousand years ago --before the advent of your people, the Sapins learned of ways to break reality in pieces.  They broke it into tiny parts for rational consumption.  And, as their knowledge of it grew, they found themselves awash in new ideas that they thought quite exciting!

At first, they bettered their machines and then perfected new ones.  Yet, because their faith perceived a God who wanted them to have all the kinds of things that Sapins dreamt of getting for themselves, they kept on building until their dreams controlled their lives.

No one really made the case to God—for his opinion about what was right and what was wrong. So, in their arrogance, they kept a pace upon their learning and soon invented things that they could shake together to destroy most any opposition; whatever it might be.  They sought to cage reality!

Now, Sapins were a race of beings quite unlike the Tussah.  They loved progress and, it seems, they loved declaring war!  If not upon themselves, then upon the creatures all around them; or even life itself!  They were an adulterous people and soon turned their backs on the very God of their perception to plow their own way through the Universe!

In time they found that their ideas poisoned all the Earth. This brought on much suffering and things began to die in numbers so vast it's even hard to speculate.  The Sapins died too—following great famines that raged across the countryside.  The Sapins were astonished with this calamity for, at that time, there had been no war within the space of fifty years or more!

There were many Sapins who tried to save their regions.  They pleaded with their fellows to stop the reckless progress.  But, most continued on enamored with technology—they loved the smell of chemicals and artificial ether, and spread filth about the Earth with ignorant abandon!

The Sapins in the outlands were made to make a living for those folks in the settlements who made machines and other things.  This stuff the Sapins used to rip and tear the Earth apart; to build more towns, more roads, more cars, more ships, more trains, more planes.  They worked their ideas into plans of generous proportions!  Like worker ants...they messed about until some felt the killing made trouble with their souls.  Some ridiculed their leaders for raping the environment that, they knew, everybody needed to survive!  These people were called: Radicals—because they favored nature more than plastic.

Authorities were clever though...they drew lines.  They pit one against his brother.  On one side were the Radicals, men of progress on the other.  The game kept the aristocracy in power for quite a while; the middle class in bondage; the poor forever wanting.

About the same time Sapins started reaching for the stars, the Earth began to die as Saint Rachel said it would.  A third of this; a third of that; the rivers, fishes, trees, and grass.  All the things their Sapin bodies craved. All the things that gave the poor fools life lay rotting in the morning sun or decaying through the night.  For all this time, their leaders knew a crisis had begun and, certainly if left unchecked, it soon would finish all of them!

But...the ideas kept a' coming and the tinkering went on.  Soon the Sapin scientists discovered ways to construct other living things.  With childish delight they poked around and found that they could fashion themselves into any shape desired or color, size, capacity, intelligence and capability.

Why, it was in those first experiments, borne down upon the glass, the matrix of a very strange but gentle being was formed from Sapin flesh!  The Sapins claimed these creatures useful for a multitude of things that benefitted research and all society.  Of course, the ruling class determined what was suitable...genetic engineering, or so it was called.

So they passed about these little animals, by the thousands, to anyone who would buy them for scientific study and an awful lot of testing.  These beasts had Sapin features in a peculiar way and gave the great minds of that epoch a brand-new game to play: to torment, with hypothesis, these creatures—just like rats, I guess.

They placed them down like little chicks in clusters, I recall.  The little barins, wrapped in yoke, were cared for by the females, who tenderly attended them with motherly devotion.  The males spun hammocks, made of silk, to hold the babies' sacks and placed them, safe, between the rocks until the infants hatched.

Back then, these creatures lived a span of twenty years or so but, when they died, the Sapin found these little fellows fraught with grief at the passing of their kind.  The younger Sapins understood the meaning of this conduct.  "Stop killing them!"  The young folks cried.  "And let them live in peace!"

The news began to spread abroad: a new life form was with us; occupying, as it were, the same place in the scheme of things that Sapins thought to be their own!  The Sapin taught them language and let them learn to read and they soon found the little folk helping them with many problems.

For a short while things went well; it was a pleasant time.  The whole world was mesmerized with interest in these new-found friends.  The creatures studied everything about the Sapin ways.  Yet, once they learned enough, they began to show concern.  You see, these wee folks thought the Sapin reckless for they understood, with great foresight, all the dangers.

Of this one difficulty, they could not help the Sapin to surmount: it was the Sapin nature to destroy all the things around them.  As time went on the Sapin lost their interest in their new friends and took up their old pugnacity.  Ah, well ... I do suppose it had to happen.

Aside from all the industry with which the Sapin ruined, carelessly, a third of all the Earth, they also found the power of the Sun! And, when they found a way to put it in a box, they hurled it upon each other's homes! The landscape soon became as much a waste as was their race; even God was disillusioned, I suppose, to find the acme of His handiwork to be so daft!

When millions of them, everywhere, lay dying on the poisoned ground…ah, you can be sure the taste of life was bitter in their scheming, wretched mouths!  This was what the God of their perception had warned them of: Wormwood! Evil virulence, the venom in their souls.  They thought themselves to be like God; commanding their reality in violent desperation.

Imprisoned In their horrid suffering, they opened their eyes to find the little creatures, that they had once fashioned from their own flesh, attending to their grave distress and, in utter anguish, praying!  Aye, Anna, praying for deliverance!  Many Sapin passed away beset by horrid pain—the product of their own doing.  Still, a few survived to heal and grow strong again.  As time went on the Sapin found that they had stopped growing old.  It's true!Death forever passed from them then.  They lacked reason to be thankful for this remarkable condition for there weren't enough, among the living, to bury all of those that had died.  The bodies were thrown on huge piles to rot. Eventually, the heaps of sun-bleached bones became landmarks and those who had survived found their way among them!Such things can crush the spirit so those who had the strength journeyed to the wilderness.  The wee folk followed them, though at a pace much slower and from a distance.  Why, you could see their tidy camps—their fairy fires lit the valley floors each night.  In their madness, the Sapin felt a need to run until they fell but their benefactors cared for
them, nonetheless, aye, preserved them from their hell.

One day—or so the legend goes—a  Sapin saw his little friends walking with a rugged fellow out amongst the pines...at eventide...out in the quiet cool of a peaceful summer night.  Approaching cautiously, he noticed the tiny creatures moved about the stranger as little children would.  Their faces were aglow with fascination!  "Ho!"  This Sapin says to the stranger as he advanced.

The stranger turned and fixed his gaze upon the Traveler who saw within the stranger's eyes the searing light of Truth!  At once, the Sapin recognized the face before him and, trembling, fell upon his knees to grovel in the dew and grass before the stranger's feet!

Guilt consumed the Sapin's spirit.  He was filled with shame at what he knew his Master's eyes beheld: the whole of the living Earth had been maimed beyond recognition.  "Oh!"  The Sapin cried.  "Oh, what evil we have raised about for you to come to see!  Forgive us—as you will plain agree, we are unfit to live here!"  The Sapin wept aloud: "We cannot live with what we've done! It drives us mad!"

He turned his head to shield his eyes and looked upon the God of his perception. "Have mercy, Master...help us."  The Sapin asked, his eyes awash in tears.  God answered with a nod.  The creatures, moved with pity, comforted their friend saying: "Don't be so sad; you frighten us with your overwhelming grief!"

Then God spoke but in a gentle voice. "I'm disappointed to find that you did not like my gifts of life-sustaining beauty."  He then reached out and helped the Sapin stand and brushed the tears from off his cheeks so he could plainly see the soul, down deep inside that Sapin heart, confined in misery.

"You shall not die" continued God, "but live forever more.  The mercy I shall show you now is here before your sorrow."  God pointed to the little creature that clung to his robe: "I call these Tussah. They are spinners, gardeners—they suit me fine.  These gentle souls shall now inherit your estate since you have, obviously, let it go. With all their hearts they'll toil away and, someday soon, rebuild my Paradise."

"And what of us?"  The Sapin carefully asked.  To this God casually answered:  "I made things that reason and made them very well—to manifest my vision...my will...my judgement through eternity." Then the two began to walk; the Tussah followed quietly.  "I made every living thing to carry out my plans but when the strong decline to prevail upon my ambitions, then the meek and humble shall."

Then, pointing to the Tussah underfoot, the Master continued.  "These creatures belong to me." And He drew his arms out as he slowly walked along.  "It all belongs to me!  My atoms, molecules, creatures, world and universe!  Everything your eyes perceive exists to demonstrate the wisdom of my convictions!"  God stopped and turned again to the Sapin."Redeem yourself.  Show that you are worthy of my extraordinary love for you.Have I not preserved you for a time when only honest men would live and breathe and walk the Earth?"

There was a moment of silence for the Sapin had not caught hold of God's thought just yet.  "You must be their protectors."  God continued.

"Protectors, Master?"  The Sapin asked.  "Aye," God returned, "the roles are now reversed. In this splendid Wood shall you begin your task—I shall begin to build again.  Preserve your stewardship this time and, in a little while, I shall return to this peaceful place and consummate this vocation with a blessing the likes of which you have never seen nor will you see again!"

"Well?" The Master inquired.  "What's your reply?"  The Sapin, taken back as he was with his Master's good nature, stood as would a fool before a sack of gold.  Then, understanding the gravity of his mission, the Sapin quietly replied: "Thy Will be done!"With that the Master smiled such a gentle smile and, abruptly, disappeared!

Well then, the Sapin looked down and saw his companions and, kneeling, he gave one a loving nudge upon the little fellow's tummy.  The Tussah all giggled softly.  At once the Sapin fathomed the meaning of it all.  Solitude, he reckoned, makes you strong, yes, but only love can apportion freedom.  And this, he reasoned, was what he wanted most: his freedom.

(When all this had been said Mat fell quiet, giving place to Anna who looked at him in amazement)

Then she said: "Are we then flesh of your flesh, Mat?"

"Aye," he confirmed in such a gentle tone that Anna thought he was ashamed of that which was their common past.  "Why so sad, Mat?" Anna asked.  "Have I inquired shamelessly?"

"Oh no!" Mat countered. "It's just that I must get this message out.  You see, the Sapin to whom God spoke ... well that fellow in the story...the one who made the pact…was me!" Mat fell silent again, staring into the fire.

Then Mat said to Anna: "Anna, love; look below your thigh and count the segments to your fairy light. Anna looked down and slowly pulled her coat above her tail Counting softly, she then looked up and said: "Thirteen." 

Mat continued without looking from the fire.  "Have you...have you seen the barins in their clusters lately, Anna, love?"

"Why no, I haven't." She replied.  "I've not had time enough to travel to the village for I'm making jam you see."

"They've got just ten segments, Anna." Mat said as he leaned forward in his chair.  But Anna wasn't sure she understood a single word Mat said.

"Their tails are getting shorter with each generation born," said Horace in voice that was just above a whisper.

"Aye, and their legs appear some distance closer to their waist." Added Mat.  "Their legs are getting longer too!" Said Horace. Mat nodded in agreement.  Anna looked into the fire. The meaning of the conversation came to her and, in a whisper, she asked: "Are we becoming Sapin, Mat?"

"Aye," he replied, "you see, Anna, our race was frivolous with life and we carelessly fashioned your kind into any image that would do.  But God...ah, now He owns the whole of everything that is.  It is His will that fashions all reality.  Remember the story? The word 'Sapin' is a Tussah word. In my youth—oh it was so long ago—we called ourselves: homo sapiens.  It is an ancient way of saying: wise man. But, as my tale implies, we weren't so wise. Were we?"

"I suppose not." Anna replied.  "Yet, I'll not judge you Mat!"  She looked a bit distressed. It was a matter of Tussah doctrine.

"Oh no, lass, I'll not have you breaking the Law!" Mat reassured her. "But, Anna, just think about the implications."

"Have you ever seen a Sapin bairn?"  Horace asked her.

"Why, no, I don't believe I ever have!" Anna replied.

"Can't have 'em, don't you know." Horace added. "The Master says this place belongs to you." Anna paused and thought about it all. She looked lovingly upon the faces of her two friends and said: "Whatever will become of you?"

Mat broke a crumb of bread from off the loaf upon the table and ate it with a smile.  "We are becoming patrons... angels, if you like—free spirits.  It's our reward for honest effort.  Evil shall not enter our hearts forever more.  Besides being unquestionably practical, it's quite enjoyable."  At that the rising tide of sorrow left her and she felt better inside.

***

Later, sleep descended on them all and the dream time came into their heads. Inside her dream Anna saw herself above the forest, upon a bluff that overlooked the broad valley far below the peak of Mount McCain. She was a woman; graced with wisdom from her centuries of life and very beautiful in her peculiar Sapin way.

Within the dream her mind recalled the verses from a poem that some long-forgotten Tussah sage had carved into the stone of Mount McCain:

God drew a circle, long ago, into the stuff of life.  Sapins broke it with their will,
rebellion, pride and hate.

They filled their minds with evil things and changed them as they would a shoe
or sock or time of day pretending it was good.

Their arrogance condemned the Earth to utter wretchedness. They followed
mindless cravings and devoured innocence.

Destroying all before them, they ftnaI1y consumed their own lives in a fit of rage
that brought about their end

Remember this, you Tussah folk, should ever you prevail upon yourselves to
tamper with the circle in your soul

For history is precious; as precious as was when the warning wrapped inside the
past did caution all of them.

To see the Wormwood in your heart and fight it all your days.  That we might be
more like our God; not following alien ways.

***

Legend has it that above the Grand Falls of the Halstead River, in the alpine meadows that lie between the forested slopes of the Shane Mountains, a sweet, peculiar people live.  They are said to be free spirits—creatures of little substance and great intellect.  They do not build or spin or weave.  Neither do they plant or harvest nor do they buy and sell but, the bards will tell you that, within the scheme of things, no creatures are more beautiful!

The End


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