Worried that the 3 parts of this recently written story will be too much for this thread I have chosen to submit Part 1 and 2 of 3 in this competition.
MORDA (Part 1)
In a magnificent grove, circled by acres upon acres of pine forest there lies a lake. Located at the exact centre of the grove, and measuring some eight hundred meters across at its widest points, this lake is like a giant cauldron set into the ground and filled to the brim with sacred water.
At the northern edge of this great lake there lies an old, weather-beaten timber home, fashioned from the pine logs of the forest that surround it. This timber framed home, strong in construction, was built half a century ago by an old man called Feriwa. Although Feriwa now sits by his small campfire within a stone’s throw of this timber house, tending to the cauldron at its centre, he was once a young man. Called to by the Goddess to seek out this lake, he did so, building the timber home by its edge. And it was he who planted eight circular rows that are now the pine forest that radiates out from the grove like living ripples that travellers must journey through to reach the lake.
Sitting here by the warmth of a fire that has burned on and off throughout these long years, Feriwa watches the cauldron at its centre. Hanging on a metal tripod so that its base sits evenly just above the embers, this cauldron, like the old man now tending it, is ancient, its maker unknown: a gift to Feriwa by a traveller many years ago.
With long white hair down past his shoulders and a beard equally as long, Feriwa wears the long years in the lines that criss-cross his forehead and face. Lines of wisdom he will tell those who ask. Lines, like the roads that meander through the surrounding valley, which speak of countless journeys and stories few are privileged to hear. Tonight, however, the light of the Moon and the fire push back the darkness, Feriwa awaits the traveller.
A young boy appears suddenly within the light of the campfire to find an old man attending to a large cauldron dangling above the fire.
‘Excuse me, sir,’ the boy says in a small voice as he comes to stand by one of the many stones that encircle the fire.
Feriwa looks up and appraises the young boy. The only item the boy has is a canvas knapsack which is slung over his shoulder. His face, like the clothes he wears, is filthy. Feriwa notices the boy’s bare feet. They too are covered in dirt.
‘Come, boy,’ Feriwa gestures with his hand. ‘Come and warm yourself by the fire.’
The boy immediately drops the knapsack and moves towards the fire in such a manner that it appears as if he will climb into the fire itself.
Noticing the boy visibly shaking, Feriwa produces a wooden bowl that had been lying unseen at his feet. ‘I’m assuming you have not eaten,’ Feriwa says rather than asks as he reaches up and takes a ladle that hangs from the side of the cauldron.
‘I have been walking all day and night to reach you…’ the boy began to explain before Feriwa waved him silent.
‘It is okay, little one. Eat first,’ he soothes, handing the boy a bowl of steaming stew.
The boy takes the bowl carefully and sits cross-legged by the edge of the fire. Blowing on the stew to cool it, before ignoring the burns for his impatience, the boy quickly eats the contents of the bowl. It isn’t until he has finished his second bowl and drunk heavily from a clay pitcher filled with water that the old man eventually speaks.
‘Tell me, little one, what is your name?’
‘My name is Maridwe.’
‘Ah, yes, Maridwe,’ Feriwa says. ‘I have been waiting for you.’
The boy looks at the old man sharply. ‘You have?’
Feriwa simply nods. The name Maridwe had been given to him in a recent dream. The Goddess herself had whispered it and asked Feriwa to guide the boy. With many of the dreams Feriwa has, some are prophetic, others symbolic. This boy, for reasons Feriwa did not understand yet, needed his help and She had asked that he be guided. As was often the case, it was up to Feriwa to determine what that guidance would be.
‘Why have you come here, Maridwe?’
‘My father,’ was Maridwe’s short reply. Seeing that the old man still waited, he continued. ‘My father is not well. The older people in our village say that he has the mind sickness because he forgets where he is sometimes and even who he is,’ Maridwe explains, his head dropping in despair.
‘Go on, Maridwe,’ Feriwa urges the boy.
‘The old people in the village say that he will get worse. I don’t want my father to die. I want him to remember me. I want him to stop talking about old things,’ the boy continued, tears flowing now.
‘Old things?’ Feriwa asks although sensing its meaning.
‘Yes,’ replied Maridwe, ‘he keeps talking about his horse. He doesn’t have a horse. He tells me to go and get some hay and to make sure the stable is cleaned,’ Maridwe continues more quickly, ‘but we don’t have a stable or a horse! We don’t have hay!’
‘Okay, Maridwe,’ Feriwa says softly, moving to sit by the boy. ‘I will help you. Will you calm yourself for me?’
Given the slightest possibility to help his father, Maridwe instantly calms himself. Looking up at the old man expectantly, he wipes away his tears. ‘Can you really help him?’
‘Yes. Yes, I can. But I will need your help. Will you help me?’
The boy nods that he will.
‘Good. Take this ladle and this bowl and wash it in the lake just there. Be sure to make sure they are completely clean. Once you have done that bring them both back to me.’
Mardiwe stands, and taking both the bowl and ladle from Feriwa, moves quickly and purposefully over to the lake’s edge.
While Maridwe cleans the bowl and ladle, Feriwa carefully tips out the contents of the cauldron using a thin piece of metal. With the cauldron empty, he pours the remaining water out of the pitcher and into the cauldron. Using this water, he removes any small bits of stew that remain. Finally, he once again empties the contents.
Maridwe returns from the lake with the bowl and ladle. He hands them to Feriwa. Feriwa examines the bowl then the ladle and satisfied, hands them back to Maridwe.
‘Now, I want you to go back to the lake’s edge. Using the ladle, I want you to carefully scoop up three full ladle’s of the lake’s water and place each into the bowl. Be careful not to touch the water with anything except for the ladle. Once you have filled the bowl, carefully bring the bowl to me making sure that you do not spill even a single drop. Can you do this?’
‘Yes,’ Maridwe replied sensing the seriousness of the task.
Feriwa watches as the boy returns to the lake. Kneeling down, Maridwe is careful to follow Feriwa’s instructions to the letter. As soon as he has poured out the third ladleful of water he slowly stands and, concentrating on the contents of the bowl, he carries the bowl of water to Feriwa.
‘Now,’ Feriwa explained, ‘slowly reach out and pour the water from the bowl into the cauldron. Again, make sure you do not touch the water yourself or spill even a drop.’
Once again, Maridwe follows Feriwa’s instructions, carefully pouring the water into the cauldron.
‘You can sit down again, Maridwe,’ Feriwa says, gesturing to the spot by the fire where Maridwe had sat earlier. ‘You have done well.’
‘What must I do now?’ Maridwe asked impatiently.
‘We must wait. We will boil the water until nothing but a few drops remain. It is these drops that will help your father,’ explained Feriwa.
While the water within the cauldron slowly boils, Feriwa used this time to explain to talk to maridwe about the Goddess.
‘Do you know of the Goddess?’
‘I have heard of her,’ Mardiwe hesitates. ‘But, I don’t understand who she is.’
‘The Goddess is many things to many people. She can be the voice you hear inside you, the voice you hear in others or she can be the voice you hear in the trees and the wind. She is everywhere. This is Her grove,’ Feriwa explains, sweeping the air around him with his hands. ‘She nourishes and cares for all things inside and outside this grove.’
‘Even the rocks?’ Maridwe asks then, interrupting the old man.
Feriwa smiles. ‘Even the rocks. Here,’ he says as he picks up a small stone and places into the young boy’s palm. ‘Can you feel that heat, its warmth? Its life?’
‘That warmth comes from the fire. This fire comes from the Goddess. The Goddess, then, is the fire and this stone the earth. She is also the water in this lake. If you spent as much time here as I do you, too would hear Her voice in the shuffling of the trees. The wind is also the Goddess. She is all of these things and much, much more.’ Feriwa turns abruptly to stare at the cauldron. ‘The knowledge and wisdom that is in all things is the Goddess and she in turn is wisdom. The water in this cauldron for example,’ he says pointing at the steaming cauldron, ‘contains the Goddess. She is the water. The earth contains the fire, the fire heats the water and the water evaporates until only Her wisdom remains.’
‘Can we see Her?’ Maridwe asks, barely containing his excitement.
Feriwa laughs at this. ‘No, child, but She is here, in this grove, with us. Someday you will see Her.
‘I will meet Her?’
‘Yes, Maridwe. One day I will introduce you to Her. Now,’ he said, his eyes returning to the cauldron, ‘it appears that the water is almost gone. We must be sure to save a few drops.’
Both Feriwa and Maridwe stood over the boiling pot as Feriwa waved the steam away so he could see what remained. ‘Ah, yes,’ he smiles, ‘we are done. Hand me that wooden bowl.’
Maridwe handed Feriwa the same bowl he had carried the water from the lake with. Taking the bowl from the boy, Feriwa carefully tips the cauldron up so that three small drops fall from its lip into the bowl.
‘There,’ he said, showing Maridwe the bowl. ‘The wisdom of the Goddess.’
‘What do I do with it?’ asked Maridwe.
‘You must carry this bowl back to your father. If he drinks these three drops his memory will return and the mind sickness you spoke of will be gone.’
Maridwe’s expression was one of happiness. ‘Will it really work?’
Maridwe reaches up to take the bowl, eager to be on his way. Feriwa, however, pulls the bowl back from the young boy’s reach.
‘A warning, Maridwe,’ Feriwa begins, his expression serious. ‘While these three drops will cure your father, any person who drinks these three drops will gain great wisdom. You will have to get this bowl home to your father without spilling the drops or…’
‘Or what?’ Maridwe pleads, eager to know more.
‘Or…drinking these three drops yourself.’
Maridwe seems to take a few seconds to digest this before he responds. ‘I will not drink them,’ he says sternly. ‘I will take this bowl home and save my father.’
Feriwa simply smiles. He already knows what will become of the boy and the three drops of wisdom. The Goddess had shown him that, too. He had done his part. The rest was up to the boy.
‘I am glad to hear that, Maridwe.’
With that said, Maridwe looks from Feriwa to the forest behind him, eager to begin but suddenly hesitant.
Seeing the boy’s hesitation, Feriwa consoles him. ‘Do not worry about your journey through the forest, Maridwe. The Goddess will make sure that you pass through her grove safely. Hurry now, your father waits for you.’
With that, Maridwe thanks Feriwa and disappears into the forest, the moonlight guiding him through the darkness.
Sitting by the edge of the great lake, the campfire burning low before him, Feriwa looks across its surface, marvelling at its beauty. With considerable difficulty, he uses a long wooden staff to stand. He walks slowly and over to the lake he has known for most of his life.
‘My time on this earth is coming to an end, my Goddess. You know this,’ he says, his voice echoing across the lake. ‘What will become of your grove when I am gone?’
Studying the reflection of the Moon upon the lake’s surface, he does not have to wait long. Her face slowly materialises.
‘I see you, my Goddess,’ he says reverently.
‘And I you, Feriwa my faithful follower.’
As always, Feriwa is filled with an inner warmth and strength with on seeing Her image, or rather, one image of Her. And, as always, he is aware that when he does eventually turn away from Her, the image he now sees will vanish as quickly as it had appeared. Having learned to enjoy these moments with Her, Feriwa savours these conversations, reliving them in his daily meditations.
‘My bones ache more than ever and I have felt rather than seen that my time is almost here,’ Feriwa explains without a hint of remorse.
‘Fear not, Feriwa. Your physical death is inevitable, but only the beginning. You will continue to tend this grove, if you so choose, for as long as you desire after you have left your physical body behind.’
Feriwa smiles at this.
‘Dear Feriwa,’ she says then with great fondness. ‘Your visitors are here now, you must go.
As Feriwa turns back towards his campfire he sees two silhouettes approaching. Tuning back he is not surprised to find that She is gone. As he slowly walks back to the fire he hears Her say, ‘Don’t forget your promise, dear Feriwa.’ With no time to contemplate what She means, he arrives by his fire as a middle-aged man and his son enter the light of the fire.
‘Hello, Feriwa,’ the man says upon seeing him. ‘It has been many long years since we last met.’
Feriwa studied the man closely. While there was something about this man that kindled a distant memory, he could not put his finger on it. The young boy besides the man, perhaps eight years old, was not a face Feriwa would forget so easily. A handsome boy yet his eyes were glazed over, a white film covering his irises.
‘Welcome,’ Feriwa says, gesturing for them to sit. ‘I’m afraid my memory is not what it used to be. The Goddess only knows how long ago we may have met for it seems that your face tugs at my memory. Yet I must apologise for I do not recognise you.’
‘It is quite understandable, Feriwa, guardian of the lake, servant of the Goddess,’ the man explained, ‘as some twenty years have passed since last I sat by this fire.’
Feriwa seemed genuinely surprised at having been addressed in such a manner. A manner, he realised, none would know save the Goddess. Yet there was something familiar about him.
‘Perhaps,’ the man continued, pulling something from his pocket, ‘you will remember this and recall our meeting?’
Feriwa saw the item the man brought forward and it took a further few seconds before he did indeed recall their previous meeting.
‘Maridwe?’ Feriwa smiled.
‘You see,’ Maridwe said then, ‘your memory serves you well.’
Seeing the old man look from him to the young boy at his side, Maridwe wrapped his arm around the boy. ‘And this is my son, Morda,’ Maridwe said with pride, ‘may the Goddess continue to watch over him.’
It was then that Feriwa suddenly recalled the Goddess’s words. Don’t forget your promise. Now he understood what She had meant, remembering the promise he had made the young Maridwe when they had last met. And as if a sacred stone had just been dropped into the lake within him, the ripples were suddenly clear to Feriwa and he knew than what he would do.
‘Your son, Morda,’ Feriwa asked, ‘he is blind?’
‘Yes,’ was Maridwe’s reply. ‘And mute; he has not spoken a single word in the eight winters he has lived on this earth.’ Seeing Feriwa’s eyebrows arch, he continued. ‘But he is very intelligent. He understands everything.’
‘Can you see me?’ Feriwa suddenly asked Morda.
‘As I said―’ Maridwe began but was waved silent by Feriwa.
‘Tell me, Morda,’ Feriwa continued. ‘With your mind’s eye, can you see me?’
Maridwe’s uncertain expression turned to shock when his son nodded his head once.
‘Good,’ continued Feriwa.
‘How can that be?’ Maridwe gasped. ‘How can I not have known that? I know so much yet I did not know that my son could see. What is great wisdom without knowing the heart of my own flesh and blood?’
‘You drank the three drops yourself?’ Feriwa asked then, remembering the events that transpired last time they met. It was a question without judgement.
Maridwe looked Feriwa directly in the eyes. When he spoke it was with considerable anguish and sadness. Looking to his right, at his son, he hesitated briefly before answering. ‘My father…had left this world by the time I returned with those sacred drops,’ he spoke slowly. ‘I, I didn’t get the chance to save him, to heal him.’ He wanted to tell Feriwa that his father had taken his own life fearing Mardiwe had run away, never to return. He wanted to tell Feriwa that he only drank the sacred drops, the Goddess’s wisdom, because he never again wanted to ‘not know’ things. Looking into Feriwa’s eyes, Maridwe did not see disappointment or judgement but an old man who seemed to understand.
Feriwa nodded then smiled at Maridwe. ‘It is not my place to judge your actions, Maridwe,’ Feriwa explained.
‘I drank those drops and instantly acquired great knowledge,’ Maridwe explained. ‘It is that knowledge that has brought me back to you.’
‘Go on,’ Feriwa urged.
‘My son,’ he continued, ‘was born blind and mute. He has neither seen the wonders of this world nor can he write or speak of them. Surely there is no greater loss than being unable to see and speak of the Goddess’s infinite manifestations?’ He paused briefly before continuing. ‘Despite my knowledge of many things, and despite trying countless natural remedies to help my son speak, nothing has worked. Knowing of the gift you gave my father,―you gave me, I had hoped that perhaps the sacred drops could somehow help Morda.’
‘What of the boy’s mother?’ Feriwa asked then.
The sorrow remained etched across Maridwe’s face as he spoke. ‘Morda’s mother, a gypsy, disappeared shortly after giving birth to Morda. I do not, we do not know why. I can only hope that she is alive and well somewhere but,’ Maridwe let his words trail off as he turned once more to look at his son.
‘I understand,’ Feriwa said then and indeed he did. He could see the great love and sorrow felt by Maridwe towards his son and knew well that great wisdom rarely equated to good fortune. He also knew without doubt that Maridwe was a good person.
‘Tell me, Maridwe,’ Feriwa asked him then, ‘do you remember the promise I made to you when you last sat by this fire, feeling its warmth?’
Maridwe thought about the question but could not recall the promise. ‘No, I’m sorry. I do not.’
‘You sat where your son now sits. As we sat, waiting for the sacred water to boil, I placed a stone in your hand and spoke of the Goddess,’ Feriwa began.
‘Yes,’ Maridwe suddenly said, interrupting the old man. ‘You promised that you would introduce me to the Goddess one day. Did you not?’
Feriwa smiled. ‘I did indeed.’ Seeing Maridwe’s frown he continued. ‘Would you both help an old man get to his feet?’ he asked, using his staff to try and lift himself off the ground. Mardiwe and Morda went to the old man then and helped him to stand.
‘To the lake,’ is all Feriwa said and they helped him walk down to the lip of the great lake.
Away from the firelight, the three figures stood by the lake, the Moon their only light.
‘I want you both to look down into the water. Look at the reflection of the Moon.’
‘Maridwe is about to remind Feriwa that his son cannot see when Feriwa continues, as if reading his thoughts.
‘Your son does not need eyes to see,’ Feriwa said then. ‘Look at the Moon’s reflection and if you are blessed, She will show Herself to you both.’
Maridwe did as Feriwa asked. Turning to his son, he wasn’t surprised to find that he stood motionless. Clearly he could not see what his father saw.
As Maridwe stared at the reflection, he at first saw nothing. Then, he noticed gentle ripples alter the appearance of the Moon. As he continued to watch, a woman’s face slowly materialised where the Moon had been seconds earlier.
‘You are indeed blessed,’ Feriwa whispered upon seeing his Goddess appear.
‘No!’ Maridwe suddenly exclaimed. ‘It cannot be!’
Maridwe’s attention is suddenly diverted by his son Morda who drops to the lake’s edge and, as if seeing with his eyes, speaks for the first time.
(PART 3) (...to be continued next competition)
Peace to all living spirits...2011 LI