Friday, July 8, 2016

Who He Was

Bernie a Green?

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The Envoy of Mr. Cogito

By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated by Bogdana Carpenter
(h/t BLCKDGRD: This Is How You Attain the Good You Will Not Attain)

Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever you hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let your sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards—they will win
they will go to your funeral and with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown’s face in the mirror
repeat: I was called—weren’t there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak

light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don’t need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant—when the light on the mountains gives the sign—arise and go
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way will you be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes

Be faithful Go 

A Solitary Crow - Elkall-Anuz - 2

In the Fields

But the guards did not even question the legionnaire, in fact took no notice of him at all – almost as if he were invisible. In the man's mind, this would not do – he should have at least received an occasional salute, in difference to his rank – if they knew what it was. Out towards the gates, over the bridge along the wide river Kald, and over the fields which supplied most of the food with the exception of fish that were from the river- he went. Though he still noticed that he was given a wide berth. He shook his head, this sort of thing would not be permitted on any of the kingdoms or principalities which he had visited in his lifetime – and certainly not from the Azeyrani Empire. 

Where nothing was finalized until at least two different units had approved it, and stamped their seal.

Hour by hour more people were going from the road, and out on to the fields. Some were common areas, while some were owned. One could tell this, in some cases, by whether there were trees planted closed together; if there were not, it was common area; if there were, then it was owned by either a Lord, or one of the churches. Gradually, the vast rush of people had thinned – and by night fall he was the only person that saw. The sun had about an hour until sunset, and he saw crows grabbing on to the rails of the fence – that was falling down. This meant, of course, that while there was theoretically an owner, in practice, no one had recently touched these in many a year.

Then the crows scattered like the wind, and up ahead he saw a figure. It was not like a human – but more the outline of a human. It was about 100 yards away – and he ran towards it. But about halfway there it shimmered – and was gone. When he got up to it, he saw what was garb, made of black – but no footprints, either human, animal, or being. So he had not been imagining things. He looked both ways, but saw nothing. He was sure that something had been there, but he did not know what. He was puzzled and lifted his hand to his chin, and stroked it. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps – he did not know what it was but he was thinking on it. But he had to go forward, in two the oaks and maples which dotted the fields. There was absolutely no one who was working these fields – perhaps it was just that they were fallow, and would be worked next year.

Then the sun was interesting the lip of the world, and rapidly would be setting behind the hills. He decided that he would sleep the night, and take a fresh start. So he wondered away from the road, and sent up a small tent – about 200 yards away. You could tell that he was not in any particular hurry, though he felt that the marker which he sought for was close at hand. Better, he thought, to meet it in the morning – then blunder past.

It could not be said that it was a fit night for sleeping, he woke for a five times – but other than the naked sky he could see nothing and only heard the distant cries of a hoot owl. And though he felt that there was something nearby, he did not see anything, though he searched the field rather closely, before going back to sleep. At last he woke into just before twilight. He knew because there were a cacophony of birds chorusing the dawn. The light from the sky was just a little bit awakening, and he got up from his sleeping, put on his armor, and was trudging along up to the gate.

Over the fence he went, and was stiffly marching on his way. The field changed to woodland, which signaled to him that the idol which he looked for was probably close at hand. Just then the sun rose up a little bit to the left of the road. He still did not see any people, which was odd – usually a few people would be on this same road – since it was the major East-West byway out of Kaldor – and in to that space which was owned by no one. Evael was up ahead - the kingdom of the Sindarin – and beyond that between the large lake and the kingdoms of the West. But those were many moons away. Right now he was looking at the base of the road, and searching for his object.

Then he looked up – the sun was about an hour in to its course, and while there were a few birds chirping, and various kinds of rabbits – which froze when they thought they had been noticed – there were no signs of either larger life, or people. This was odd, because he thought he would have seen someone – because it was unlikely that no one had shown himself since yesterday. So he said of course directly perpendicular to the road, and into the woods – for it was not yet a forest.

Turning his head to and fro, he saw nothing – and a little bit of dread came up on him. It might be nothing, but it was a very loud nothing. Why was there no people – or anything else for that matter? At this point, he kept himself straight, and listened for anything which would tell him that it was normal. Only the birds did so. Thus he hid himself behind a very large maple tree, which was at least 50 years old. It was also dying, because he could see rot grown from its roots. He knew this meant something, but what he was not quite sure.

And men in an instant, the branches clasped around himself – sticking to him like glue. The leaves felt not like leaves, but like they were fingers grasping around him. They were at his hands, his chest, and finally his face – where they were plastering in his eyes. In fact, all over his head they were trying to subdue him.

It was at this moment that his training as a soldier came in to play: first he squatted down along his massive legs, and joined together his strong arms – making it very hard to displace him. His face was locked in a grip of intense will, making it hard to do anything but concentrate on his main objective – that is, releasing himself from the flurry of fingers formed as leaves. At first it seemed like he was going to fail, and if he had been a normal man – he would have – but his will dominated the motions that he made, and finally, he was able to break free. It was not an easy process, and his legs arms and torso were only slow to move. But move they did. He pivoted around on his right foot, pulling back on his left foot. Then see it was not the tree that bound him, but something controlling leaves – it was black, and shadowed – though he did not know what it was. He got a flash that it was the same thing that he saw the last evening, the shadow of a human form. But first of all he shifted to his right foot and begin the process of levering backwards again. Thus, he was still facing the tree – bought going away from it.

Gradually the leaves were torn away from his face, then from his arms. It was at this point that he was more able to deal with what saw – the shadow had placed its arms within the tree, and leaving them. He saw that the tree mimicked the motions, and at this point he drew his short sword – and tried to stab the intruder. But his sword passed right through its torso – not once but again and again as he plunged it in. then he thought it must be immune to normal weapons. The shadow moved to a higher branch, and swatted him down with it. Obviously it was not just immune to no weapons, but it could cause no damage to himself. So they were both laboring under disadvantages, but he had yet to find a way that he could hurt the shadow.

It was then that he saw from his left eye the form of an arrow loosed in flight. It was a long arrow from a long, and even then it was large. But he did not hit him but instead his opponent, which cried a noiseless scream. He only heard it in his head, where it was a bellowing sound. A host of crows jumped up from the oak tree, and infant birds of different kinds rose from their nests and screeched, though they knew not what caused it.

He looked around, and saw the most extraordinary site – he had been used to elves which were slightly smaller than humans. But instead he saw something quite different indeed. It was a female elf, but one which was at least 6 1/2 feet high, taller than he was, and that was saying something. He was used to being the tallest person in any group, so much so that when saw someone taller than he was, it almost made him wonder if the person was a giant. But this female elf was slender, but powerfully muscled. The sinews had not an ounce of fat that he could see, though it was only 30 yards away. And then he caught the face of this elf: and it was incredibly beautiful. The long white hair, and blue eyes set above the high cheekbones, and a face which was gaunt – but not overly so – wearing a green cloak with a long white dress underneath. There was a shifting aura about her, which tangled in her hair – it was white, but also slightly blue in nature. With a moment of care, she began:

“Are you hurt in the least? That was a follower of the Dark God – Morgath – who has fallen in two the state of serving only its master.”

The man was still dazed, but then replied back: “I have never seen a follower of the dark God, our you sure that that is the case? Or are you ...” he tried to find the local word for surmising, but then substituted “...guessing.”

Though he could not tell exactly what she was thinking, he guessed that it was a look of pity. “If matters are open to speculating, it would be my to say so. Remember that most elves you meet have been on the worlds great deal longer. Usually we do not openly speculate about something, it is not our way. You may call me Loria. What shall I call you.”

“You may just call me legionnaire. That will do. You are right, I had forgotten the difference in our lifespans. Where were you all this time?”

“I find you last night, and was here every minute of the day. You just got notice me, there was magic involved in that. I saw no reason to distract you, in your course of action. That would be rude. By the way, I just call you legionnaire many people will assume that are from Tharda, which uses Republic names for things.”

“Excuse me, you said magic?” He ignored all of the other details, and fixated on the thing that she said which was most important to him.

“A spell which makes me less easy to be observed, as well as protects from injury. It is not high magic, but it helps.”

The ease with which she spoke of an incantation was surprising to him in itself. Normally people would talk quietly about such things, obviously elves were somewhat different – they were like the giants and other folk of the North.

“And why were you so interested in my patterns and movements?”

“A friend of mine over heard to people talking at the small temple dedicated Peoni – she recognized that you were hunting for her. So she relayed the conversation of that encounter – because we were not certain whether you were a friend or foe. By the way, the priests of Peoni have led slip to various other members of other sects of your interest. And not all of them are friendly to you. In fact, one could almost say they were deeply unfriendly to you.”

Then it hit him. “You are talking about Gwynwyffer, the person I was sent to find. You realize that could have made this great deal easier by announcing yourselves at Tashal.”

“The problem that, is that we hired a magician to conceal you from the guards … you did not think that they would detain you if they knew that you were there?”

A great deal of what seemed to be coincidence, was in fact planned. He was meant to meet the two of them out here, not in the Tashal. The reason was simple: whatever force caused the shadow figure would have even more resources in the city, then out here on the road. He was just able to force one shadow underneath the tree, he doubted he would have done better against two – left alone more than that. He whistle, realizing that he had guardians that he did not know of, and it was these guardians who had made his life so easy. He was not going to forget that.

“So when are we going to meet your traveling companion?”

“She is up the road by the idol you were looking for.”

He was beginning to realize that elves were not merely long lived humans, and that how he would do things, is not how they would. But then he realized, that they were being careful – and it also occurred to him that the normal way for most individuals was that they were drunk most of the time. A bit of tipsiness was the usual state of affairs. It was not for him – and it was certainly not for them either – but most of the world liked a drink before breakfast, a drink before lunch, and several before dinner. In fact dinner would be superfluous, and they would begin drinking at sundown. Then he realized he had to say something.

“You will find that I am like you.” he wished the local language distinguished between you singular and you plural - “In that I do not drink except at the end of a day, when I am not on duty the next.” 

He softened his stance, because he wanted to express a kind of sympathy. This went well. Then he looked back, and saw the same thing that he had seen on the road – a black garb. The he went away with the elf, and into what he regarded as the unknown. But what he saw so far did not give him much hope – either it was unwashed, or it was populated by all manner of unearthly creatures.

Eventually, they meant a person – a rather saying woman, dressed in green who was of average height – but like her companion – was thin. In fact the helmeted men almost thought he could be thicker than the ball of them. But it was an enormous surprise when she spoke his native tongue, not fluently, but well enough. He gave her the letter, introducing himself and explaining the proposal that they were going to be on. She read it carefully, and then began to talk, and talk, and talk. She was burbling with questions, and unfortunately he did not have very good answers. He knew that they were supposed to go to Elkall-Anuz, a secret place inside the forest north of a place called Trobridge. It was very old, older than even elves and dwarves, back to the Earthmasters – who were the first people on the world as far as anyone knew.

Trobridge was a few days distance, even on foot. Then they would get off the salt Road – which was where they were – and strike out to the north. Enclosed was a map of the general region, and another one which was specific to the place where they would find the ruined monument, and all that was around it.

She looked at it closely, more closely than he had done, and found that there were three distinct regions. The youngest one was of a tyrant who had conquered a huge stretch of the South, except where the elves ruled. His name was Lothrim, called the Foulspawner. This had not been of interest to him, because it was a small empire, on a distant isle. So Gwynwyffer explained to him that this empire was run by a thoroughly nasty man – this everyone agreed with – who ruled the lower third of Hârn. His most devious plot was creating Gargun, a bipedal ape man who was very clever – several species of the same breed. Even without any course behind them they spread. And spread. Until they had warns in almost every place that was not settled. Then a second layer was from before Lothrim built, by an ancient people known as the Jarin, to venerate this place. And then at the heart was a fortress built of what is now called pseudo-stone, which is attributed to the Earthmasters themselves.

Finally she explained that they were to enter in to the secret entrance, and magically manipulate the pseudo-stone.

“And what are we to do with this stone?” The legionary asked.

“We are going to travel in almost an instant, to another place, also containing a pseudo-stone. The person who wants you to employ our services has contained something which will help. Which is how he is buying us. And unfortunately it will work - Loria has occasionally moved from stone to stone, but more often she is unconscious.” It was said in tone of voice that echo.

This was more than the legionnaire had bargained for, but he was on commission – and would not argue. If it was possible – and she assured him it was – he would do his duty. Whatever that was. He also noted, that they had had adventures in the past. And that the stones were part of this.

“So shall we go? It is getting on in the day, and I, for one, want to spend one day outside, not more.” Loria asked. She was patient, but not that patient - it was clear that even she had limits to letting Gwynwyffer talk.

So away a went on to the road, crossing ever more deeply – from fields, to fallows, to woods, and then in the forest, occasionally hearing a river in the southern part. In the forest, the canopy covered much of the sky – and clouds were coming in bespeaking of a rainstorm.

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