(Continued from Tlisli – Ambushed part of the Tlisli Series)
Azzesh made an almost instant decision to use the boat left by the God-Emperor’s troops. It would be faster, and now that she was certain these were scouts for the Grand Empire of the Sun, she felt it was urgent to get word to the authorities in Tevelin that scouts of the Grand empire were this close.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters, places, and events to those in the real world is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012
Henry E. Neufeld
Tlisli was too small to be much use in rowing the boat, so Azzesh chose simply to drift with the current while guiding the boat from the rear. It was a rather well made boat in the style of the human tribes in the area. That meant a solid frame of wood with animal skins stretched over it, sealed with pitch taken from one of several species of trees. It was waterproof, easy to guide (if you knew how), and unlikely to break up, as some human boats were.
Following the river, it was less than a day before they were approaching the confluence, as it was known. Two rather substantial rivers, both flowing northward, joined into one. What was extraordinary about it was how close to the coast this took place. Another day of drifting downstream and they would be in Tevelin itself. But Azzesh knew the commander of the Inralin garrison at the fort and trading post here, known uncreatively as Fort Confluence, though it sounded much better in the Inraline language: Vorenvir, “fort joining two flowing waters.”
To be fair, one should consider that Azzesh had never told Tlisli that they would first arrive at an outpost of the city. It had never occurred to her to mention this because it was so obvious that there would be such. What would be more natural than to stop here and spend the night? There was both an excellent inn and a trader’s hostelry that provided more ordinary accommodations and a reasonable price. So perhaps her reaction can be justified.
“Wow!” said Tlisli. “Look at those wharves! I had never imagined that Tevelin would be so large!”
In fact, Tevelin was slightly smaller in population than Tlisli’s home town, but it was larger both in area and in the number of buildings to be found. In particular, few of the buildings in Tlisli’s home town were made of stone. A temple and the palace, yes, but even the guards lived in simpler buildings. The sight of stone piers extending into the river, capable of handling sea-going ships, of stone fortifications surrounding the outpost, and dozens of stone buildings suggested to Tlisli a city much larger than any she had known.
“Don’t be stupid!” said Azzesh. “This is merely an outpost. Yes, it is the largest outpost of Tevelin, but an outpost nonetheless. Tevelin itself is many times this size.”
At that Tlisli fell silent. She was strangely afraid, though she didn’t know what of. They tied up at the pier. Tlisli was silent and followed Azzesh. Even when one of the dock workers tried to talk to her, she just gestured. She wasn’t sure what to say. She knew she was dressed strangely, but that didn’t worry her so much. She was also surprised that all these humans–how long had it been since she’d seen another human other than the Grand Empire soldiers?–seemed to know and respect Azzesh.
She continued to follow Azzesh when she was led to the garrison commander’s office. Inside the stone buildings was even more of a shock to her than seeing so many of them from the outside. They were clean and really quite beautiful, with works of art scattered about. Tlisli couldn’t imagine how a garrison commander could be rich enough to own so many works of art. She expected to wait while Azzesh conducted her business. She also expected that both of them would have some time to clean up before they were taken in to see such an important official. If that happened what would she wear? But both she and Azzesh were directed into the commnder’s quarters, and when Tlisli hesitated to enter, Azzesh pushed her forward so hard she almost fell.
“Well if it isn’t the great Azzesh as I live and breathe!” said the commander, a human who looked like he might be just short of middle age. He was taller than any man Ttlisli had ever seen, and resembled the description of the gods. Tlisli thought she had never seen anyone so handsome.
“I see that nothing has diminished your firm grasp of the obvious,” said Azzesh. Tlisli cringed at both the familiarity and the disrespect. She also noticed a shift in Azzesh’s speech. She seemed to be speaking more formally. Her grammar was, perhaps more educated. Tlisli wasn’t sure.
“Indeed it hasn’t. I see you have acquired an assistant.” The way he said “assistant” seemed to imply something else, but Tlisli wasn’t sure what. There was just an edge of humor and perhaps contempt in the commander’s tone.
“Partner, commander, partner.”
“So you’re going to give her a full share of the proceeds?”
“Junior partner,” said Azzesh.
“Very well. That is, of course, up to you and her.”
“Indeed it is. Up to me. Not to her.”
“Very junior partner,” the commander drawled.
“Very senior parner,” replied Azzesh, tapping her own chest with a claw, which produced a audible click.
“I stand corrected.” The commander snickered. “And what brings you to my office before you’ve even had time to clean up from the journey?”
“Clean up?” asked Azzesh. “Who needs to clean up?” She paused. “I arrived here in a boat.”
“That is surprising, considering your contempt for that mode of transportation, but hardly requires that I be informed.”
Tlisli heard the words, which were light, but she also noticed that there was increased tension in the commander’s voice. He heard more in the term “boat” than his words suggested.
“Indeed I have contempt for that mode of transportation. It prevents one from seeing and benefiting from large tracts of countryside. On the other hand, it is fast. This particular boat handles well in the river, though it rides high and requires attention to keep it headed in the right direction. Skins cover a framework of wood.”
Tlislli noted the increase in tension with each step in the description. “And you found this abandoned?” asked the commander.
“No, not precisely. It’s former owners ceased to have need of it. There were nine of them, and they wore symbols of their office and their emperor.”
“Nine? You killed nine Grand Empire scouts?”
“No, Tlisli here accounted for three, or perhaps four.”
The commander looked at Tlisli with new respect. “And this occurred where?”
“About a day’s drift up the eastern branch,” said Azzesh. “The boat is at the dock. I have no need of it. But if there should be a purchaser after you have examined it, a junior’s share, 2 of 5, should go to Tlisli here.”
“Very well,” said the commander, “We will examine the boat and its contents. I trust you have removed anything that is yours.”
“I’ll be in touch if I need anything more.”
“No doubt you will.”
Azzesh started to leave, and as she saw Tlisli still rooted to the spot, she grabbed her arm and got her moving. They left the commander’s office, then the building, and headed to the market.
In the market Azzesh sold a portion of the materials she had collected. When Tlisli asked her why she sold some, but not all, she laughed. “Think, small human,” she said. “What makes prices high?”
“When things are rare,” said Tlisli.
“So where will I get the best price for anything I carry?”
“Where it is rare.”
“Indeed. You have come a long way from the time I first considered cooking you for lunch, though you are still almost unimaginably stupid.”
Tlisli chose not to respond.
As they left the market, Azzesh handed Tlisli a small bag of coins. This is your share of what I have sold thus far. For the things collected after you joined me, you shall receive a share of the profits. For some, you must wait until I arrive in the city.”
“Thank you,” said Tlisli.
“Some ferocious warrior you are,” said Azzesh. But there was no sting in it this time.
Tlisli agreed to meet Azzesh at the docks in the morning where there was a commercial riverboat they could take to the city. Azzesh seemed to think that Tlisli could take care of herself in town. It was just in the wilderness that she needed a keeper.
Tlisli found that she really did have little trouble making her way around the outpost. Prices were somewhat higher than she was used to, at least measured by the weight of metal in the coins she used. She actually had a couple of gold coins. Gold was never used in ordinary commerce in her home town. She included a scabbard for her sword in her purchases and also bought a small knife.
Evening found her cleaned up and clothed in something reasonably civilized, or so she thought. She’d found it hard to get clothes that would be regarded as modest by her home town standards, but she simply couldn’t make herself wear the rather more revealing garments that seemed to be favored here. There were two distinct groups of people. Local folks who spoke a dialect closely related to her own, and the Inraline who were lighter skinned, generally taller, and seemed to be in charge. She was informed that Tevelin was a trading colony and seaport of the Inraline. Their colony was just the city of Tevelin itself, which was, people thought, perhaps 20 or 30 times the size of this outpost.
Tlisli was having a hard time comprehending that. With the money she had, she found that she could stay in the more comfortable inn, and its facilities were better than those at her father’s home. He had been one of the richest folks in town! But then she wondered how much it would cost to live for a period of time, so she found a place at the trader’s hostelry. She was surprised to find that nobody even questioned the idea of a woman traveling alone. The hostelry’s manager also told her, when she asked, that there was no restriction on carrying personal weapons within the outpost.
The feeling of having money gave her the courage to head to the bar in the evening–the one at the larger, more expensive inn. And that was where the trouble started. At one time Tlisli had considered herself an extremely beautiful and sexy young woman. Weeks of travel through the jungle and of measuring herself against Azzesh’s standard of usefulness had made her forget that. It turned out, however, that other than the odd scratch on her face, arms, and hands that hadn’t healed yet–and her more modest than average clothing covered most of those–her experience in the wilderness had not decreased her charm. She wasn’t yet ready for male company, however, and so other than accepting a couple of free drinks and talking she pushed away the various men who approached her.
It was no later than around 10 pm that she headed out to walk the few blocks to the hostelry. As she passed an alley just two blocks from the inn a man stepped out in front of her.
“Just where do you think you’re going little girl?” he asked.
“I’m going to the hostelry. Get out of my way,” she answered and tried to step forward.
He reached out to grab her arm. Almost without thinking she dodged. At the same time she noticed another man in the entrance to the alleyway. He was coming at her with fists. Neither was paying much attention to the sword at her side. She leaned back, forcing the second man to miss, while the first barely kept his balance. It was too bad, she thought, that she hadn’t gotten him off balance the other way, so that he’d walk into his companion’s fist. Still, they were both off balance for a moment, and she drew her sword.
One of the men apparently didn’t believe she knew how to use the sword, and stepped forward again, well into her reach. He seemed to be reaching for her sword arm. What he got for his pains was a nasty gash almost the length of his forearm. She recovered before he did and stabbed him squarely in the belly with her sword.
As she drew out the sword there was the sound of a whistle and a voice shouting “freeze.” Then they were all surrounded by soldiers. These were the Inraline troops, not locals. Tlisli could still calculate her odds, and they didn’t look good. In fact, it looked like she had no odds again. Only hours after again finding herself in a civilized town, she found herself under arrest.
(To be continued … for those who note that this episode was written two years after the previous one, let me note that the next episode, Tlisli – An Inraline Court, is already written and will appear on November 12, 2012.)
Chapel of St John the Baptist, Masson hillside
Private chapel, built just before 1900 by the Arts and Crafts inspired architect Sir Guy Dawber. It was never consecrated and is now maintained by the Friends of Friendless Churches and sadly is only open on Heritage open days.
© Copyright Phil Berry and licensed for reuse under this
In October of 1999 I was engaged to be married. At 42 years of age I was acquiring a ready-made family all in one move. Over the years, that family has grown to include nine grandchildren. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
The wedding was planned for November 28, Thanksgiving weekend, but in October I was headed to Europe. For the most part I was going to be traveling with a group of speakers offering revival services to various Methodist churches in England. I was kind of the junior member of the team, but in many ways that made it more fun. Friends told Jody, my wife to be, that I was getting cold feet. Otherwise why would I run off to Europe for three weeks that close to the wedding?
My story isn’t about the portion of the trip that was in England. In the middle of the trip, I was to leave the group, fly to Germany, and speak at a conference there. Then I’d return and join my group. I separated from the group in the town of Matlock, and was left with a day on my own before taking the bus back to London where I would fly out to Frankfurt.
I spent that day walking and looking for spiritual encouragement for the days ahead. I’m not a good traveler. I’m not that good at encountering new situations. I was quite comfortable being the junior member of a substantial team and wasn’t all that happy to be heading off for several days on my own.
I had been told by someone that there was a chapel near Matlock Bath, which is just south of Matlock, and so I walked that way. I was in much better shape in those days! Just looking at the map as I prepared to write this story made me tired. I asked about the chapel a couple of times and nobody seemed to know.
One of the things an American needs to learn about Europe is that “old” doesn’t precisely mean the same thing there. A century or so old is “old” here. I attend the oldest Methodist church in Florida, founded in 1822, in a building constructed in 1908-1910. This is a decently old building around here, but it’s a thing of yesterday by European standards. (I studied a good deal of ancient near eastern history, so I was acquainted with “really old,” but the intermediate level in Europe hadn’t really hit me.)
Finally, as I was following my map back from Matlock Bath toward Matlock, I came across a chapel. In preparing to write this post I looked it up on the map and found a picture. I don’t always trust my memory, but both the location and the appearance of St. John the Baptist’s Chapel in Johns Road match my memory of the place. I’m glad to see that since that time it has been designated a Listed Building.
At the time I couldn’t get in, and it was not in great repair. Again, it appears that some work has been done on it, which is noted in the Wikipedia article linked above. Below the chapel on the road there was some water leaking and running under (I believe) Johns road. The view in the picture with the Wikipedia article is precisely the direction from which I approached. Seeing the water coming from below the closed chapel, I suddenly felt God’s presence. You can call me crazy, but I knelt down and splashed the water on my head and felt incredibly refreshed. In that most unlikely place I had found the encouragement I needed.
For me the chapel was as old as the hills and as new as tomorrow. It may be a thing of yesterday by English standards, but it was worth the walk to me. I don’t suppose it will become a major tourist attraction. But the importance of a place and experience is, in most ways, a matter of perspective.
(This was written for and submitted to the one word at a time blog carnival – old. Unlike what I usually write for the carnival, this story is true, as best as I recall.)
“I want an ornate cathedral, one suitable to my rank,” said the Duke.
Pierre Otzmann tried to keep his eyes from wandering around the room, surely a sign of disrespect since he should be listening to his duke, but the walls were covered with paintings of cathedrals, including the great cathedral from the imperial capital. They weren’t very good paintings. Rather, they were the sort of cheap art that one could buy from a tourist stand in the street. They weren’t displayed properly either. They were just sort of slapped up on the wall.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of persons, places, or events to anything in the real world is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012
Otzmann was an architect. He liked order.
The duke cleared his throat ominously.
“Yes, your grace. I understand.”
“You’ll have 30,000 universals to accomplish this. You are the best architect in my duchy. You will not fail me in this commission.” Otzmann’s heart sank. A universal was a small silver coin, the standard for imperial exchange. Just the semi-skilled laborers for the project would cost him around 6,000, and that was if he could get the project done efficiently. With only 24,000 for the artists, materials, and skilled labor? Not a chance!
Again the duke cleared his throat.
“Yes, your grace,” said Otzmann. “I will prepare plans for your approval.” What else could he say?
“You will not,” said the duke. This brought a look of surprise to Otzmann’s face. Very briefly. “What you will do is block off the site of the new cathedral with a high wall. Then you will build this cathedral within that wall. I will not see it until it is completed.” This was a long speech for the duke.
After a long pause, he continued. “I cannot decide what my cathedral should look like. I have seen all the major cathedrals of the realm. I know they are all better than mine. Their appearance brings respect to the rulers who commissioned them. Mine brings me snickers. You will create for me a cathedral of which I can be proud, one that will bring me honor and glory. You are the most talented man I know. You will do this for me. Fail at your peril!” The duke’s look matched his final words.
Otzmann went home to his workshop. He tinkered with paper and drafting tools. He looked at the ceiling and thought. Nothing came to him.
He commissioned the wooden wall that would be high enough to keep the duke from seeing the cathedral as it was being built. He wondered how he would keep the workers from talking, but he decided there would be time enough to worry about that later. Right now they could only talk about an empty city block!
About a week after he had received the commission, Otzmann decided to visit the town’s current cathedral, the one the duke thought was such a disgrace. He had intended to pray, but nothing came to mind, so he just sat in a pew. As he watched a woman came into the sanctuary. He couldn’t tell her age, but she was clearly poor. He knew it was not polite, but he kept watching her. She didn’t seem to notice. She dropped some coins in the offering box. She lit a candle. She knelt down on an old, worn kneeling rail to pray. He had to move a bit to see her face, but as she knelt, her face lit up and it looked like years fell off her. Finally, she got up and left, showing no sign that she had ever noticed Otzmann.
“I don’t know about honor,” thought Otzmann, “but there’s glory for you. That woman’s face shows the real glory of a cathedral. Now if I can just catch that in stone …”
It was still a couple of weeks before Otzmann went to the building site. He threatened all the workers with hanging if they told anyone what was going on. He did so on the authority of the duke. He was certain the duke would back him up. If he asked for another 100 universals, he would doubtless be denied. The neck of one of the workers? No problem!
The workers believed him.
The duke was happy to see work going on. He wondered why there was some work in the new cathedral when he went on one of his rare visits, but he didn’t argue. He had, after all, ordered his most creative subject to accomplish a mission, and people accomplished those missions given them by their duke. Well, or bad things happened to them, that is.
The big day came. The new cathedral was finished. The duke was to be given a tour of the new building before the church took it over and consecrated it.
Otzmann led the duke into the enclosure. The duke had been able to see the a couple of towers toward the front of the cathedral over the wall. They looked pretty plain to him, but he supposed that they would look ornate when connected with the remainder of the building.
The duke had never suffered such a shock in his life as the one he felt when he saw his new, ornate cathedral. It was drab. It was ordinary. It looked like pieces of other buildings around his duchy. He walked into the nave. He looked around the inside. There was stained glass in the windows, yes, but the designs were simple, almost childish. The pews were made of local wood. They were well built, but very ordinary looking. The altar was carved and decorated, yes, but again it was very simple work.
The kneeling rails looked like they must have come from the old cathedral. They were old, smooth, worn.
The duke was coming out of his shock, and becoming enraged. Otzmann thought to himself how much easier it was to think that if he was going to disappoint the duke, he might as well do it thoroughly, when there was no disappointed duke right there working up a good rage.
Then the duke appeared to physically take control of his temper. He turned to Otzmann. “You’re the best architect in my duchy,” he said. “Tell me. Is this the best my duchy can produce?”
“May I have a few moments to tell you about this cathedral first?” asked Otzmann.
Reluctantly the duke nodded.
“You wanted a cathedral to bring you honor and glory, one you could be proud of. You had pictures of the great cathedrals of the empire, and I knew you wanted something like them. So if your anger falls on me once I have explained myself and this building, you know that I did understand.” It was a bold statement. The duke appreciated boldness. In measure. Rarely.
So I asked myself what a cathedral is for, and how it might best be made truly ornate. I got my answer when a woman prayed in the old cathedral.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed the Duke. “Women pray every day in every cathedral and misbegotten chapel of my duchy. There’s nothing special in that!”
“Perhaps, your grace, you need to look with the eyes of an artist. If I might show you …”
Otzmann led the duke to the outside wall of the church. Do you see these stones? Every one, you can see, has a name inscribed on it.”
“More like ‘scratched’ you mean.”
“Well, some are better at inscribing than others. Each stone comes from a cathedral or a chapel somewhere in your duchy. The stones were chosen by the people and sent here. Each piece of glass was made by a separate glassblower. Well, there weren’t enough for each piece, but every known glassblower in your realm is represented here.
“The designs were each made by the children of a different school in your realm. No artist outside of your duchy contributed anything. The altar was built here in the capital, but then travelled around the country as various people I chose added something to the carvings. The altar cloths and vestments were sewn in some of your smaller villages.”
“How did you keep all this secret?” asked the duke.
Otzmann refrained from noting that the duke could easily miss an earthquake provided it happened more than a block or so from his castle. “I threatened them with death, but in the end, I don’t think that mattered. I think they just wanted to surprise you.”
The duke looked almost thoughtful, a look that nobody could recall him having before.
“Each piece was prayed over and consecrated in the town or village it came from. I just fitted them into the resulting church.”
“And for this you spent my 30,000 universals?” asked the Duke.
“No,” said Otzmann. “Nobody would accept payment. I haven’t touched your fund. Your people have given you your cathedral.” He wanted to add, “And God gave you such people,” but he didn’t think that would be as well received.
“I don’t know what to think,” said the duke, in a rare moment of sincerity. “I think I will not have you hung. How could I? But I have no idea how to explain this cathedral to my peers.”
I’d tell them they should be fortunate enough to have such an ornate cathedral, thought Otzmann. But he didn’t say it.
((This story was written for and submitted to the one day at a time blog carnival – ornate.)
In the southeastern portion of the Enzar continent there is a great river, known in Enzar as the Ygulanor, but to local people as the Ig, or perhaps the great Ig. It flows south, and it’s mouth is a major port. For around 4,000 kilometers from its mouth it is navigable. It has its source somewhere in the huge mountain range that splits this portion of the continent. That somewhere is not generally known. Wherein lies our tale.
There was a very wise man who lived along the lower reaches of the Ig. We’ll use the shorter name. Those Enzar are so boring with their long, multi-syllable, unpronounceable names. One day three young men came to the wise man and asked him what they thought was a rather simple question. They all met with him at once, because the very wise man, being wise, only met with people at certain times. Otherwise he would have done nothing but answer questions, which would be no fun. Even wise men have to have fun.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of persons, places, or events to anything in the real world is strictly coincidental.
Copyright © 2012
Henry E. Neufeld
So the three young men found themselves together, and found that they had one question. Surely there would be one answer.
They asked the wise man this: “How should one go about acquiring wisdom?”
The wise man looked at the three young men, and realized they were very different. He didn’t think the answer to the question would be the same for all three. In fact, he was pretty sure the one on his right was never going to attain wisdom at all, and the one in the center was at best a coin toss. But they were unlikely to accept that wisdom might be attained in different ways, and might even take to fighting over different answers.
So after some thought he said, “He who would attain wisdom must first seek the true source of the Ig.” Then he fell silent. He refused to comment further. He made shooing motions with his hands to indicate they were to leave.
The three young men did so.
The first young man, who had been on the wise man’s right, went to the library in the great cosmopolitan city that graced the mouth of the Ig. He found there a book detailing the geography of the river, as far as it was known. In the book it said simply that it was rumored that one explorer had tracked the Ig to its source in the mountains to a point where water spurted out of a large whole in a cliff. This first young man looked at that statement, and decided that the person who wrote the book was very smart, and had written the book many years before, and thus doubtless was correct, or at least correct enough. He put down the book and went on his way. He didn’t feel much wiser, though he did congratulate himself on his wisdom in going no further, and thus saving himself much time, money, and effort.
The second young man, who had been in the center, read the same book, but he wondered if the rumor was true. He wanted to be wise, and so he decided to pursue this question a bit further. He hired a boat, some guards, and a river guide and began to follow the river. Soon he passed the navigable portions but he was determined, and his expedition continued on foot. They had to fight bandits and tribesmen. But after many months of travel and of making what he hoped was the proper choice of various tributaries (and having been wrong a couple of times), he arrived at the great cliff. There was a veritable river of water flowing out of the cliff in what was clearly the source of the Ig.
He was a bit disappointed that he had merely confirmed what he had found in the book, but he also realized that he had learned many skills, including fighting and how to lead people in hard circumstances. He had also found a number of ways in which he could make money from his knowledge of these regions. So he headed back to the big city to put his plans into action. He wasn’t sure he was wiser, but he most certainly was richer. He was fairly sure he was richer than he might ever have managed to become simply by doing business in the city, so he was satisfied.
The third young man read the same book. Having read the book, he also wanted to know whether what the book said was true. So he followed the second young man up the river. He had taken a bit more time on his research, so he actually met the second young man when he was returning from the source.
“You don’t need to go further,” said the second young man to the third. “The source is indeed water flowing from a cliff just as the book said.”
“Thank you!” said the third young man. Then he and his guards and porters made camp for the night, along with the second young man and his guides and porters.
During the night, he kept considering the situation. He couldn’t quite get comfortable.
In the morning he told the second young man, “I think I’ll still go and look at this water coming from a cliff. The wise man said, ‘the true source of the Ig.’”
“Suit yourself,” said the second young man. He had plenty of things to pursue during his own lifetime, however long he managed to live.
So the third young man continued the trek. When he got to the cliff he saw the water coming out of the rock, and he asked himself, “Where does the water come from that is coming out of the cliff?”
He set about climbing the cliff, which was close to 1000 meters high. He nearly fell to his death twice, and two of the guards who were brave enough to go with him actually did fall, at which point two more guards abandoned him as well.
But finally he was at the top of the cliff. Above the cliff there was a dry plateau. Now he truly wondered where the water came from. He travelled for many days across the plateau. He was nearly out of water when he came to the foot of some mountains that were even higher. He found there a tiny stream that came out of the mountain. From it he refilled his water jugs. He tried to follow the stream, but it disappeared into the ground, but that was not nearly enough water to provide the source of the Ig. So he continued to travel along the base of these new mountains. Stream after stream came down to the plain and then disappeared underground.
He followed some of the streams backwards into the mountains, but he soon realized they did not meet there either. Each of the streams had its source in a spring, flowed through the mountains, often having small tributaries of its own, and then the streams disappeared under the dry plateau. Then suddenly it struck him.
There was no true source of the Ig. It was like an explosion of enlightenment in his mind.
Of the three young men, only this third one ever returned to thank the very wise man. There came a day when the very wise man tired of answering questions, and he invited this third young man to take his place.
“I want to be replaced by someone who knows the true source of the Ig,” he said.
“I’m going to tell you a story about the time when the orange sky gleamed,” said the old man.
The children gathered around the fire moved closer. Some of them leaned forward so that they could hear the story. One of the older children wasn’t quite as interested.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between persons, places, and events and those in the real world are purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012
Henry E. Neufeld
“The sky is blue in the day, and black at night. There are clouds. Sometimes they turn orange in the evening, at sunset. But the sky is never orange and it doesn’t gleam.” He was just into his teens and pretty smart. He wasn’t going to be awed by eerie sounding opening lines to old men’s stories.”On this day, it was orange, and it gleamed,” said the old man. Before the confident kid could interrupt him again, he continued. “We got up in the morning and there was just a bit of orange in the southern sky. It was a bad omen.” The confident kid rolled his eyes.
“The shaman said it was a bad day. ‘When there’s orange in the south, stay under your roof,’ he told us. But the chief wouldn’t listen. He needed to get a caravan going to pick up gold, gems, and various items of bronze, iron, and even steel from the south. The shaman told him again not to go.
“‘How long should I wait?’ asked the chief. ‘Until the orange sky no longer gleams,” said the shaman. But the chief wouldn’t listen, especially when the shaman wouldn’t tell him how long the gleaming would take to go away. So he sent out the caravan anyhow. In fact, he went with it. I begged to go. I was about your age.” He pointed to the confident kid. “I was just as stupid too. But they wouldn’t let me go.
“Days went by. Almost the entire sky to the south turned orange, and it gleamed, sometimes with white, sometimes with various colors, but always with an orange tint. To the north, over the sea, the sky was pretty much clear. It was windy, but the whether was not too bad. Nobody had an explanation for the time when the orange sky gleamed.” The confident kid rolled his eyes again. He wasn’t going to be taken in by the repetition of the eerie phrase.
Other children weren’t so jaded. “What happened?” they asked eagerly, leaning forward to hear the old man’s answer.
“A week went by, and the orange started to fade from the southern sky. But the caravan didn’t come back.” The old man paused for a moment and pretended to be falling asleep. The children started to ask what happened next. They were acquainted with waiting for a caravan to return. It was how their town made its money. But they couldn’t remember a time when a caravan just didn’t return.
“Another week went by and the sky was completely back to normal. But the caravan still didn’t return. The shaman didn’t say ‘I told you so,’ but one could see it on his face. It was really quite obscene to be so happy about a disaster. The chief’s son, who was in charge in his absence still thought the caravan might have been delayed. Maybe the load hadn’t been ready. But after three weeks it was hard to pretend that there wasn’t something terribly wrong.
“So the chief’s son sent out a patrol to look for the caravan. They rode horses, so they moved faster than a caravan. They couldn’t find any sign of the caravan. They did find that the sand dunes looked somewhat different. The men were used to the sands moving about some with the winds, but this was like they were traveling through a different country. Finally they arrived at the foot of the southern mountains where the town was where they usually picked up their loads.”
He paused again and pretended to be falling asleep.
“What did he find there?” asked an eager voice.
“Oh what?” The old man pretended to wake up suddenly.
“What did he find? Did he find the caravan? Did they get back home?”
“So many questions!” said the old man. “Well, no, they didn’t find the caravan. In fact, they didn’t find anything at all.”
“You mean, except the town,” said the confident kid, not sounding quite as confident as he had before.
“No, there was no town there. They could see the mountains rising up from the sand. They had all the landmarks. But where they were there was nothing but sand.”
The confident kid made a dismissive motion with his hand, got up, and walked away. The other kids were horrified. They demanded another story, claiming they couldn’t possibly go to sleep now.
The confident kid grew up, and he never forgot the story. He became a caravan merchant himself. New towns had grown up at the northern edge of the mountains. They bought things from the miners in the mountains as they always had. Caravans from the northern coastal towns came and carried them across the strip of desert land between the mountains and the coast and then sold them to trading ships. The winds rearranged the sand a bit, but not so much that one couldn’t find one’s way.
Then one day the confident kid sat down around another campfire and heard another story. It was an old man from the mountains. He also told about the time when the orange sky gleamed. His story was a bit different. The gleaming started to the east and built quickly. He described a bit of fire in the sky to the south as well
“What did everyone do?” asked the young man who had once been the confident kid.
“Oh, nothing in particular. We just stayed inside for a few days mostly,” said the old man. Then he paused, expectantly. But the confident young man wasn’t going to ask. Finally he couldn’t resist. He had to finish his story. “After the sky cleared we took our next load north to the town at the base of the mountains, but the town was gone.”
The confident young man was startled. He thought it had been an old man’s tale, but here was another tale to match. He wasn’t sure it was the same town even, but the stories matched so closely.
It took him some weeks to find someone who knew where that town at the base of the mountains had been. The current town was in an oasis which had a spring. It was entirely a new town. The elder who finally admitted to remembering where the old town had been could only tell him it was no more than a mile or so off to the east of the new one.
“But the town is lost, young man,” he said. “There’s no reason to worry about it. It’s buried in the sand.”
That was precisely what the young man thought. “Who owns that land?” he asked the elder.
“Owns a piece of the desert?” said the old man slowly. “Well, nobody.”
“So the confident young man went back to the coast to hire some men. Nobody was very interested in his plan, but he was able to find enough people who needed the work. He took them back to the place where the village had disappeared, and set them to digging. It required a month of digging.
The townspeople were delighted with all the money they were paid for food and water for the men digging in the desert. It never occurred to them to question the motives of the crazy man from the coast. But after a month he found what he wanted. There was the town, and there was the bodies of people, hidden in houses and covered in sand. He found even more than he expected. Though there was no way he could identify the people involved, he could tell there had been a caravan in town, and their cargo was well preserved under the sand.
The confident kid who had grown up into the confident young man became quite a rich man. But he never told the townspeople what he had found. His workers were more than happy to share the wealth and head for home.
Every few months after he returned home he would go to the great campfire in the town square and tell children a story. It was often the story of when the orange sky gleamed. And then he’d tell them the moral of the story. “Pay attention to the stories your elders tell. They might just have something important in them to help you grow up and become rich.”
(This story was written for and submitted to the one word at a time blog carnival – orange.)
There was a new town by the stream near the base of the mountain
One of the features of my Sunday School class is that we try to respond to the lesson of the day in the form of art, poetry, and stories. So what does one do with Ephesians 2 in terms of art?
I like to experiment, so I read up on Haiku (English forms) and decided to give it a try. I’ve read a bit of Haiku before, but I’ve never tried to write it that I recall.
So here’s my two attempts related to Ephesians 2.
Dying in the cold
Distant life-light given free
Being turns to meet
Dry growth failing, dead
Confusion to infusion
Fusion makes conclusion
Here are my more exegetical notes on the chapter Ephesians 2: The Radical Nature of the Gospel
AKA pursuing rabbits through the brambles …
As I write and edit this post, it appears that GoDaddy serviced web sites are down, and a member of Anonymous is claiming credit for causing the problem. There were a couple of posts I couldn’t access, and I believe that was due to this problem.
This is my first time hosting the Christian Carnival since it went monthly, and I’m impressed with the quality of submissions. I give you all a “great notes” award for actually telling something about your posts in the notes! That was great. I just had to confirm that your post is about what you said it was and that it was within the date range, and off we went.
And speaking of dates, Posts should have been just from August, but I let a couple of out of date posts go through because they were so good, and besides, people are still getting used to this monthly thing, right? So it’s a one time indulgence, and you don’t even have to pay John Tetzel, nor must anyone post 95 theses to make me stop. Speaking of which, what’s with 95 theses? Loquacious fellow, this Luther, methinks!
Unlike me, who never strays from the topic.
In any case, I will throw around the odd award [noted in brackets] and then I’ll add a few posts from around the blogosphere. While I do feel that we might recategorize these posts (and my spell checker doesn’t like “recategorize”), I’m going to (mostly) leave yours where you put them, even if I create new categories.
So on with the posts!
(Putting an incomplete sentence, or better fragment, on a line by itself, as in “at all” is a literary device, not an error.)
Danny Kofke offered How Much Money Should The Tooth Fairy Pay? at One Money Design
Notes: How much do you think the tooth fairy should pay and how can you explain the difference in the amounts she leaves different households. This is never an easy conversation with your kids! [Papa's critical information award!]
Luther Wesley offered Friendship with the World is a Siren Song at LivingNGrace
Notes: I want to follow…it looks so easy and my legs are so weary. My heart is heavy and my soul burdened with the trials and cares of this world. My failings, both past and present, play like a never-ending High Def screen show with the rumble of surround sound filling my ears. These sins…..these chains that so easily beset me are cumbersome…dragging me down to the depths of despair. The song, the allure of the Broad Path, and Friendship with the World bids me come…..and my knees buckle under the weight…..
Chris Gehrz offered Mister Rogers: “An Offering of Love” at The Pietist Schoolman
Notes: Yes, that Mr. Rogers — sharing his profoundly Christian vision of how “you can be an agent of what’s good and not have to be terribly direct about it.”
Maryann Spikes offered JC Lamont’s “Prophecy of the Heir” on the problem of judgment at Ichthus77
Notes: My absolute favorite thing about “Prophecy of the Heir” is how Lamont unapologetically, yet with the prowess of an apologist, answers the problem of the harshness of judgment.
Rob Kuban offered Should Churches Borrow Money? at One Money Design
Notes: Churches shouldn’t over extend so much that they have trouble paying operating costs and carrying out God’s ministry. Churches, like you and I, need to make sure they are good stewards of God’s resources.
Tom Gilson offered The Professor Who Thought He Knew Bigotry When He Saw It at Thinking Christian
Notes: A University of Central Florida prof sent an email to 500 students claiming it is bigotry for Christians to proclaim ours is the “most valid” religion. The email has gone viral, and yet it still appears the prof doesn’t recognize his own self-contradictions. [Finding the nutty professor award!]
I will nominate (and promptly accept) Allan Bevere’s post Science and the Eschatological Challenge to Theology (Part 4) (no less). Allan is a major force in United Methodist blogging and gets pretty deep on some of his theological material.
Dan Chesney offered God Think Man Think at getlifegroup.com
Notes: God thinks very differently than we do, and the more we understand this the more successful we are at living a vital Christian life. [Christianity is not for the fainthearted? This gets the "a bunch of people will be disappointed and they should be" award!]
Maurice Kande offered Make a start with little things at The Dreamcatcher
Notes: This post aims at teaching people to value the little things in life. Understanding that everything started small becomes a defining moment for those who have hard time starting to live their Divine Purpose.
Josh Wiley submitted 22 Quotes About The Cross by Daryl Evans at What Christians Want To Know
Notes: This article was sobering to write as I again wrestle with the amazing gift of Jesus being the sacrifice for me willingly on a cross over 2000 years ago. I hope these quotes move you to thank God today for Jesus.
Gbenga Owotoki offered Celebrate Your Marriage Union at Gbenga Owotoki – Impart for Impact
Notes: Marriage is honorable. You should be thankful you are married and had remained so. Many had gone that way and never enjoyed the ride. For some, it resulted in their demise. But eh! You made it. You may argue, you may sometimes find the marriage voyage turbulent but in all of your challenges, you are still together. You should celebrate this. Your once-in-a-year wedding anniversary is not enough. Find reason to spend more time together in a celebratory mode. When you do this often, it helps to keep the bond of love intact.
Krista Manchuck offered Unleash the Beast at Run For Your Life
Notes: Being a Christian is about more than going to church a couple of times a week and reading your Bible. It is about living out Biblical principles in every area of our lives. As a Christian and as a runner, the Lord has taught me a lot about Him through the discipline of running. This post talks about how who God has made us on the inside effects who we are on the outside.
Josh Wiley submitted Apostle Paul Biography and Timeline by David Peach at What Christians Want To Know
Notes: We are first introduced to Paul when he was Saul of Tarsus. He was standing over the first Christian martyr Stephen looking on as Stephen was stoned to death. From this gruesome introduction to the completion of his missionary journeys Paul has become a champion and hero in the Christian faith.
Shannon Christman submitted The Simple Gospel by Ridge Burns at Ridge’s Blog
Notes: ” . . . we need to go back to determine what the essence of our faith is. What is it that we need to believe?”
Benjamin Williams offered Yes, Really, The Armor of God at The Form of a Servant
Notes: If you’re anything like me, when you read Paul’s command to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) you immediately want to know what it is that constitutes the armor of God and how it is that we might put it on. Anything to stand up to the schemes of the devil would be welcome; it’s no surprise to anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time that there is a constant battle against the spiritual forces of evil.
I submitted my wife Jody Neufeld’s post Heart Check from Jody’s Devotionals.
Notes: How do we really think about others? How do we respond to those who are different? Can they tell that we are welcoming?
Stephanie offered 3 Ways To Parent the Way God Has Called Us To Parent at The Christian Housewife
Notes: “How many times have we, as mothers, been subjected to a thoughtless comment or even a look from another person that leaves us feeling like we are complete failures at parenting? Unfortunately, all too often, people are too quick to throw out their opinions and thoughts on how we are choosing to parent and this can often leave us questioning our abilities in the role God has put us in.
So, how can we remain confident in the choices we’re making as moms while still remaining teachable when the time comes? It’s a delicate balance, that’s for sure, but one that is very important to maintain. We certainly want to learn from others, but we need to guard our hearts to make sure that only the truth is penetrating our views on child rearing. The enemy’s lies can quickly ruin the good work we’re doing. Sometimes one person’s “helpful advice” can be misconstrued as an attack on us. Pretty soon thoughts of inadequacy and failure settle into our minds and our hearts and those feelings can wreak havoc on our self-worth.
So, here are 3 ways that I believe we can be sure we’re parenting the way God has called us to parent.”…..
Chris Price offered The World of Historical Revisionism Turned Upside Down at American Church History
Notes: Christians frequently complain of revisionist history that attempts to relegate the founding fathers to the background. What about those that attempt to revise history to make even the most unorthodox religious thinkers among the founders into orthodox Christians?
James Nakamura offered That Punky Kid In The Youth Group: Ode To My Hero Jeremy Powers at Nakadude – Knowing the Extraordinary from an ordinary’s perspective.
Notes: Remember that rough, loud, crazy kid in the youth group? The one that was in the youth group that I led is one my personal heroes. I know that when Christ sees him, He smiles at his reckless passion to live. My hope is we all continue to live from the heart.
Shannon Christman submitted Running Late by Kristen Cain at InFaith’s Mission Blog
Notes: Kristen Cain was reminded of God’s abilities when she ran late for a ministry meeting.
Bob MacDonald offered Muttering and perishing, a thought on Psalm 1 and 2 at Dust
Notes: the consequences of the mutterings we listen to
Carl Ayers offered Jesus’ Pronouncements on Divorce and Remarriage, 2 of 2 at Theological Pursuit
Notes: This post is a continuation of an ongoing series on how the bible views divorce and remarriage. This is the second post of 2 specifically on what Jesus (or better, the gospel accounts of Jesus) have to say about the matter. Wasn’t Jesus very strict? We find that Jesus was both more and less strict than we often see it. [This gets an award for complexity. But it's an important and complex topic!]
Dan Navin offered Love at Pursued By God
Extract: The love I focused on in the former paragraph was one that was often closely tied to my same sex attractions. This love lied, manipulated and deceived the object of my affection into lowering his defenses. It was a love that sought comfort through sex as repayment for my good deeds and loving actions. It was a love that always saw the end game as being conquest through sex. And when the goal was attained, the “love” often revealed itself to be little more than lust or excitement which came from pursuing the challenge.
I’m offering my own post Silly Who from The Jevlir Caravansary.
Notes: I wrote this story for the one-word-at-a-time blog carnival. You can find links to the carnival in the post. The word for the carnival was “silly.” I like to look for various ways to use it and to do it in a short story.
Paul Kuritz submitted Voting in Two Kingdoms by Paul Kuritz at Paul Kuritz. Opinions
Notes: How does a Christian think about voting in this election?
I’m adding Rachel Held Evans with her post God and Our Political Platforms.
How important is the presence of the word “God” in our political platforms? What does it mean?
And for a very different view of the same topic, I submit (and accept forthwith) The Truth in an Unscripted Moment by Elgin Hushbeck, Jr.
Moving in yet another direction, Bob Cornwall of Ponderings on a Faith Journey believes God has a preferential option for the poor in God’s Preferential Option.
I have a bunch more links available, but I have to stop somewhere.
Don’t forget to submit posts for next months carnival to be hosted at American Church History on October 3, 2012. You can submit your posts through the submission form.
If any hosts are interested, I created a spreadsheet for OpenOffice Calc. You can download the submissions and it will create the basic links and formatting. Doubtless it could be improved a good deal if someone wants to take the time.
If I missed something, comment, and if it fits the criteria, I’ll promote it into the post and you get your link.
I will post the Christian Carnival for September 9 on September 10. I kind of used today as a submission deadline. I’ll accept submissions until midnight tonight.
There are still not that many. Get your submission in!