Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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A Solitary Crow - Shoju - 4

4
The Warrior and The Woodcutter

In the courthouse, a woman was seated. We know this because the woodcutter and the monk were there, and at least the monk was interested in this inquiry. It is not that a medium was not employed – there were enough examples, and sorcerers and other folk as well. Even though many of the other Gods and Goddesses did not approve of the Dark God, there was not anything they could do about it. And when life does not answer the question, then death might – and in this time and place, in the islands of Shoju, a group of people known to speak to the undead existed. It was felt that they were not just playing with forces that they controlled – as was seen by the way their voice changed to a deep growl. The way their posture was seated, the way they flailed at the air. These things could not be just acting. Or so it seemed to many people.

So the medium had set up a ritual space – which included a board upon which were placed many iron objects. She stood up and danced around it, and then kneeled to pray to its God. Each stroke she faced down to the earth and then back up again, 13 times. No more, no less. Each time she was supplicating to the Dark God, and muttering words which had no meaning to anyone else. She was not dressed in women's clothes – but neither was she dressed in man's clothes either. It was the way of the Dark God adherents.

Then she stood up and took an iron rod, and lifted it above her head, and then slammed it into the ground. Than leaving it in the ground she came back to the board. Then she caught her breath, and for several minutes said nothing – but only panted with sweat coming to her forehead. In the backdrop a drummer was delivering a low growl from a deep bass – and was chanting.

Then she spoke: “I am in darkness now.” It was not the mediums voice at all, it was obviously a man's voice. It was deep and lower then any woman could do. “And I am suffering in this place, neither to go back to the living, nor to cross over to the dead. Curse all who sent me here.”

The standing up, the chains which were attached to her garb rattled. Prostrating herself to a little ball, deeply prone – she put her face down. For a few brief moments she clung to the earth, and then sat up abruptly.

“After the bandit had attacked her, he was on his knees – entreating her to go away with him. The even said the word 'marry'. It was obvious he was very serious. This for a low common brigand was quite a commitment. Even though it was my wife, there was some pity for him – he realized that his life would change. And change dramatically.” the medium looked in to the blue sky – and then looked down at the judge.

“I saw that she was so beautiful, that I thought she was going to say to kill her rather than dishonor her. But what did my wife respond? I will tell you.”

Looking up to the face of the brigand, with almost the barest hint of a smile, the lady said: “Wherever you want to go. Take me there.” the faintest sound of a brook murmuring in the background. The brigand right hand on her cheek. There was a hush as these features moved across everyone's mind.

The medium ranted at what the lady had said: “Can you believe what I had heard? Is that not the most evil thing that you could imagine?” The nape of her neck was glistening, as sweat poured off of it. Even her close reeked of it. “But that is not all.”

“But you must do something.” Intoned the lady. “It would be too much shame if my Lord remained alive. You must kill him.” Even the murmuring of the brook had ceased.

“That is what she said.” Cried the medium. “She had wanted the brigand to slaughter me on the stump. As if I were a chicken, or goose. And in my heart I was black again.” And a low croak came from inside of her mouth.

But the brigand hesitated. He looked at the lady, then at the warrior. At first he unsheathed his sword – but could not draw it at the man. But at that moment, the lady screamed and began running away from the glade. She was not extraordinarily quick, but quicker than the bandit. He ran to catch her, but realized it was no use. At which point, he turned to the warrior and with a strutting gate came up to him. Taking out his sword, he cut the bindings on his chest. “ she has run away – and I feel sure that she will send the Constable. So I say farewell. I will admit I wanted your wife, but it seems that she does not want me.” Then he strode off in two the forest, but a different way than the lady had gone.

“I do not know how long I was there. The brook had begun again. Then I reached down for my sword, the brigand head left it there. And with a tremendous amount of will, I committed the act. But I was not dead, or at least not totally so. My eyes were closed, but I could still hear. In the distance I could hear crying, and it was not my voice that was doing so. It was a forlorn kind of weeping, weeping at having someone kill himself. Then not long there afterwards, I felt the sword lifted from my body. Then there was darkness. Not the darkness of night – but the extreme blackness of the grave.”

The medium then grew unspeaking.

The judge did not ask any questions, almost as if there was an understanding between the medium and himself.

“That is quite a story.” Exclaimed the laborer. “Now I will say I do not exactly believe it. But it is a good story.Though it does not fit in with the other two.”

“What is wrong with it, from your point of view?”

“Well the first thing is was the warrior killed with the knife or the sword? The brigand and the warrior both said it was with the sword, but the lady said it was with the knife. If one could get to the glade, this would be a simple matter to find out. Do not you think.”

“Yes, we all questioned that, among other things.”

“And I was thinking - was he killed by a run in with the bandit, or not. Again this should be easy to find out.”

“The judge did not seem to want to hunt up the forest valley. It was not a particular concern of his. Though I do not know why.”

“Also be lady is a mystery. Was she in love with the bandit? I do not think so.”

“According to the warrior he detested her.”

“That is what I keep saying, people do things for themselves and they make-up stories to fit the deeds.”

Then the woodcutter again complained: “I tell you it is all lies.”

At this point the labor looked at the woodcutter's face and said: “What is your story. I think you have something to say, the judge is not around.”

“I do not want to get involved.”

“Do not you think it is too late for that?”

“I think you would not believe me anyway.”

“Do not you think you should try us? I think the monk would like to know, I feel he has questions to. Questions that you have not answered.”

“I tell you it is all lies.”

“So why not tell us the truth?”

The monk then added: “Do not you think you have been holding out on me for a little while? Do not you think that you deserve to tell me the story?"

At this point be woodcutter realized he would have to come out and tell the tale. The woodcutter sat next to the others in the large gate. They were covered by a small entrance, which had not been pillage or kindling.The rain was noticeably slowing, but it was not over. The woodcutter straightened his pants, and his shirt – both were dirty and umber. Then something odd – he cleaned his hair. Which was on because he had not done so in the past.

“Do not believe anything that you have heard so far. Because there is a figure, and it is not among the living. But I must reach back to the moment that I saw the glade.”

“It seems like your story is the most interesting.” Interrupted the laborer. “I think you saw everything, didn't you?”

“First I found the lady's hat, and then a few minutes later, I saw all three of them in a circle.”

“And what you see that? Who killed the warrior? Was it the brigand, the lady, or the warrior himself?”

“None of the above.”

“Did you kill the warrior?” The monk with a very serious expression on his face pleaded with him.

“No. I can ever do that. I told to, it was not living. But you will have to wait while I tell you what happened.” Thus, the two other men waited, waited with bated breath.

-

The brigand was importuning the lady.

“I will give you everything that you ever dreamed of. I have a lot of money, and many fine things over the years. Being a thief is a good living. I friends you it will be better than a warrior who has slipped from grace.” but the lady continued with her face on ground and her body recumbent. She was clearly bawling her eyes out.

“If you do not want my money, I will work. I will sell what ever I can. Just please be with me.” but again the lady would not speak.

“If I cannot get an answer from you, I will have to kill you. Is that what you want?” finally the lady looked up in to his face, but began weeping again. Until she rose up and found the dagger, neatly slicing the fibers which held her husband. But then she was weeping again, and through herself on to the ground with her fingers touching his sandals.

At this point the warrior stood up, and looking at the brigand, finally said something:

“You can keep this shameless whore, I do not want her even for an instant. She is dirt to me, you can have her if you want.” And with that he sniffed, almost as if he would say nothing more.

With an extreme look upon her face, the lady realized that this was not going the way she wanted to – and with a crooked grin briefly going across her face, though neither of the two men saw it as I did, she molded her look in to one of terror. Then moving on all four legs towards the brigand, she gripped her face on to his ear and in a loud whisper that everyone could hear: “You see what he is doing?” And it was at this point that I knew she was wicked. Or something in her was, because at that moment something like came out of her veil, something ethereal. Something that inhabited her, and was rising up like a form which was human, but only in shadow. The two men saw it, and all were petrified – but in different ways. The bandit did not know what it was, and was mystified as well as terrified. Unlike the bandit, with an eye such things – the warrior new one it was. Call it one of the undead, taking form before our very eyes.

It did not speak a word, but instead pointed his hand at the dagger – and perhaps it was the closeness – made it jerk until it was in its hand. Everyone saw this and tried to crawl away from this ghastly figure.

Then there was a dread over the glade, with each one of the three wondering if it was there turn to die. How it got in to the lady, I think I shall never know. But it was inhabited in this place, waiting for a chance to come out. Perhaps it was when she dropped things, but I do not know. It also may have transferred from one to the other as it suited its purposes. For example taking the bandit so as to enjoy the lady, and then taking the lady to try and get the two men to fight. Only when this failed due it come out, and do the deed itself.

But some choice was made, and it was for the warrior that it paced for. The terror of the warriors face was open for us to see. I do not want to think about what was going on in his mind. I knew it must have been terrible.

That is when it finally made its choice. The lady was screeching, almost at the top of her lungs. Even the bandit was crying. But it was over the prone warrior that it moved to, and it drew the dagger of over its head. But the dagger was also changed – as if it were lengthening in its reach. It towered over the warrior. Then from peak of its reach, it stabbed the once upon a time dagger – though it was near sword length now. Was terrible watch having its blade plunge in to the warrior. Then it walked away into the night, as if it were done. Leaving behind the noise of the brook, and the birds began chirping as it passed in to the distance.

Then a lady knew it was her chance to escape, since the warrior was dead and the brigand was stunned. Off in to of the wood she went. Finally the bandit roused himself, picked up the two swords, and made his escape.

Then I was alone, with only the dead warrior for company. But I was still, when something happened. The warrior seemed to dissolve into mist. I think that was the moment where he finally died. I must have been crying, for I saw the tears soaked in to my shirt, but I do not recall it happening.

At last with great effort, I began moving from my hiding place. It was an extreme trial, as if my will been drained to. Finally I stood up, and looked around. Them I to went in to the underbrush, and disappeared. And that his what really happened. I have not anything more to say, I am sorry I lied to you. But you see I was in a position – how could I tell this story, when it would not believe believed?

-

Then hit was quiet around the fire, with both the monk and the laborer immersed in a sense of deep hush. One could almost hear the mind thinking to itself from each of the three. But then the laborer said: “So now we know why you did not tell your tale. Either the judge would not believe you, or he was in the with the Dark God.” The he rattled some Oumon coins in his hand.

“It is very clear that the judge was in league with the Dark God. After all, he has to keep peace among the living and among the dead. Clearly that means that he must have an understanding with the God of the dead.”

With this, the laborer sensed that this was true. “I do not want to think what would happen if the dark God want someone was living.”

“I think we just did. Clearly the warrior had some debt to a to the Dark God.” the woodcutter said.  “And I do not think we will ever know what it was.”

“So it took only him, and left the lady and the bandit.”

“Who is to say? Perhaps he knew that he was getting the bandit soon enough.” Replied the monk, with a reproach on his voice.

“But it was the lady who carried the dagger.”

“It was not carried it, but a victim and the blade. The victim was the warrior. Who had done something remiss in his time” Reminded the monk. “the undead wanted the warrior. Perhaps for the things he had done.”

All three of them lapse back in to an embittered soundlessness. But they could hear that the rain was stopping. But then a crying was hurt. Not a man or a woman, but a child's. It almost had to feel of the bandits weeping, though that was surely impossible.

So in two the evening air went the laborer, with not a care in the world. But the monk went round the boards, and saw a baby wrapped up and left their. Then the monk wrapped up the baby and slung it on his shoulder. “I cannot leave this baby here, there is too much wrong with the world.

The monk and the woodcutter entered in to the gate. Then the woodcutter turned to the monk: “There is not much food, but I can manage for all you. You are different from most, you really do worry about what you are fellow man has to live on. That in this world is truly good.” they to through the gate, with the precipitation dried up, and even the late afternoon sun was coming up.

“You are very kind to offer. But there is an orphanage, which will put me up for the night. And they have a nurse to wean the baby. Because I do not think that he is yet of age.” The monk offered his hand. The Woodcutter shook it.


  With this the pair of them parted.

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