All The Woes Of A World. Part 8
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"A long, long, long, long time ago and long before the trees had grown..," Brielga settled himself into his task with surprising ease and continued, "...there lived a man called Daedalus. Now, he lived in a world that had magic all around and everywhere. The magic was very important because there were lots of people who knew how to use the magic in lots of different ways. If they wanted to light a fire they had only to snap their fingers and a great blaze would crackle in the fireplace. If they wanted something to eat, they had only to sit at the table and say, 'Yum, Yum', and there would appear a banquet fit for a prince. In fact, there was so much magic that all the people were very lazy and wouldn't do any work like ploughing the fields or milking the beasts or washing their clothes or mending things that were broken.
"Now, in the biggest town in the world there was a very special man whose name was Umbriel. He was very special because he knew everything there was to know about the magic and how to use it. Everyone in the town said that Umbriel was the wisest man around and that they could ask him many things and he would always have the answers. However, there were also lots of people who thought that he was also a bit silly. They would say to each other, 'Look! There goes Umbriel to fetch the water from the well. Isn't he just silly? Why, with a click of his tongue he could magic all the water he wants into his buckets and sit in the sunshine and do nothing all day long...'"
Dione sat with the grace of a Lady, with a complexion of alabaster, with wide-open eyes and open-mouthed wonder. A more avid listener Brielga couldn't have wished for. It became a game, a challenge. How long could his storytelling hold her attention? Did he have the magic that would keep its spell over the child and make for her a world only she could live in?
"...But Umbriel knew he wasn't silly. He knew that one day all the magic would be all used up and that there wouldn't be any left to do the kind of things that really needed to be done by magic. And so it was, that day after day he fetched the water from the well and made the fire and cooked his food and looked after his little garden where he grew all the things he would eat for his dinner.
"One day, while Umbriel sat mending an old clock that had broken, there was a knock at the door. He put down his tools and answered the door. Standing there with his hat in his hand was no other than the town's Mayor! He had come to Umbriel's little house with his very important Chain of Office around his neck and two very important Councillors by his sides.
"The Mayor and his Councillors looked very worried and asked Umbriel very politely if he could spare the time to speak to them. Umbriel was so surprised that he invited them in and sat them at his table and made them all a drink of teh with hot water from his kettle by the fire.
"Umbriel knew that teh was a very special drink that helped to stop people being very worried. When the Mayor and his Councillors felt better Umbriel asked them why they had come all this way from the big Town Hall to see him in his little house.
'Well!' said the Mayor, still looking worried, 'You are said to be the wisest man in the town. When anyone has a question you always manage to find an answer for them.'
'Well, thank you, Mr Mayor,' said Umbriel. 'If you have a question then of course I will do my best to find you an answer.'
"The Mayor looked at both of his Councillors and then said, 'This morning I had a visit from lots of people in the town. They said to me, 'Mr Mayor, something is very wrong in the town.' I said, 'What could be wrong? Have your houses fallen down?'
'No,' they said.
'Well, are your children poorly?'
'No!' they said. 'Don't tell me someone has stolen all your possessions?'
'No!' they said.
'Then the first man said to me, 'Mr Mayor, I am the Baker in the town and just this morning I whistled like I always do for the magic to make my bread and instead of all my loaves appearing on my shelves I saw only ten loaves of bread. Now, Mr Mayor, how can I give all my customers what they want with only ten loaves of bread?'
'The second man said, 'Mr Mayor, I am the Tailor in the town and just this morning Mrs Miranda came into my shop to buy a new suit of clothes for her husband. Well, I stood next to my tailor's dummy and I clapped my hands for the magic to make the suit and all that appeared was a pair of baggy trousers. Now, Mr Mayor, how can I sell just a pair of baggy trousers when Mrs Miranda wants a whole suit?'
'Next came a third man who said, 'Mr Mayor, I am the Barber in the town and just this morning two gentlemen with very fine heads of hair came into my shop for a trim. Well, I stamped my foot for the magic to trim up their hair and low-and-behold! All their hair fell out and flew all over my nice tidy shop! Well, Mr Mayor, those gentlemen have gone straight to the Constable and he tells me that I am in very serious trouble!'
'Stop! Stop!' I said. 'Enough is enough! I will go this very afternoon to see the wisest man in the town. I will go and talk to Umbriel, for surely he will know what must be done!' And so, Umbriel, here I am with my Councillors. Can you tell us what is going wrong? Can you tell us what must be done?'
"Umbriel sat still for a moment and finished his cup of teh. Then, he put down his cup and looked the Mayor right in the eye.
"Mr Mayor!' said Umbriel. 'For a long, long time now, all the people have said that although I am the wisest man in the town I am also just a little bit silly. You see, Mr Mayor, they think I'm silly because I don't ask the magic to do all the things that I can do for myself. I go to the well and fetch my water. I dig in the garden and I sow the seeds for my vegetables all by myself. And when things are broken I jolly well sit down and do my best to mend them!'
'Now I can hear you thinking, 'Why do I do all these things myself when, with a little bit of magic, these things could do themselves?' Well, Mr Mayor, I am going to tell you the answer and I am afraid you are not going to like what I am going to say.'
"Mr Mayor and his Councillors looked at each other again and then turned to Umbriel and looked very worried indeed and waited for Umbriel to say what he had to say.
'When the world was made...,' said Umbriel, '...it was completely covered with magic and because the world was new, the magic was very, very strong. Then along came all the people and very soon they found out how to use the magic in just the way you have been telling me about. I found out along time ago that because there are so many people in the world, all the magic is being used up.
Then, because I knew that nobody would listen to me, I decided that I shouldn't use the magic if I could help it, because one day there wouldn't be any magic left anywhere in the whole wide world!
'Now, Mr Mayor! You can see that I was right. The magic isn't strong enough to do all the things in the world that all the people want. I'm afraid that you must tell everyone to stop using the magic and learn to do things for themselves because very soon, there won't be any magic left at all.'
"Suddenly, the Mayor stood up and banged his fist on the table and got very angry indeed. He went very red in the face and was very rude.
'How dare you tell me that everyone must stop using the magic! I thought that you were a very wise man, but now I can see that you are very silly and that you don't know what to do. Just because you don't use the magic doesn't mean that we all have to do the same!'
"And with that the Mayor and his councillors stormed out of Umbriel's house and slammed the door behind them. Umbriel felt very sad. He knew that he was right and felt very sorry for all the people in the whole wide world.
"Well, day after day, more and more people found that the magic wouldn't work anymore. No matter how they clapped their hands or stamped their feet or snapped their fingers, things didn't get done. The bread didn't get baked, the suits didn't get sewn and the hair didn't get cut.
"Slowly, after many days and weeks, all the people in the world stopped trying to use the magic. Instead, they learnt how to do things for themselves just like Umbriel had been doing for years and years.
"Now, you remember when I started this story that I mentioned a man called Daedalus? Well, Daedalus lived out in the countryside and had always ploughed the fields with the help of his horse and had sown the seeds that grew the crops and harvested the wheat and generally did everything by himself without using any magic at all. You see, Daedalus had never heard of magic because he had lived in the countryside all of his life and had never met anyone who could tell him about it.
"Not too long after everyone in the town stared to learn how to do things for themselves Umbriel decided it was about time he went and had a holiday. So he packed up a bag with all the things he thought he might need (which wasn't very much) and walked off through the town and out into the countryside. After many miles of walking Umbriel passed by some fields of corn that were obviously well looked after. In the distance he saw a man who was cutting down the corn because it was ripe and ready for harvesting. Umbriel walked on until he was close enough to call to the man who was of course, Daedalus!
"That's a nice field of corn you have there, my friend!' said Umbriel.
'Why, thank you, sir!' replied Daedalus.
'If you have a kind heart, I should like to have some of it to make into my bread, for I have walked many miles and I am very hungry.'
"Daedalus picked up many ears of corn and put them into a bag and gave them to Umbriel saying, 'You may take this bag and much more if you like, but there isn't a baker for many miles around. I usually grind my corn and make my own bread, but I shan't be doing that for at least a day or two yet.'
'That's alright,' said Umbriel. 'I'll use just a tiny bit of magic and we'll both have enough bread for a bite to eat.'
"And with that, Umbriel whistled at the bag and low-and-behold! Out popped a freshly baked loaf of bread!
"Now Umbriel was as pleased as punch for he knew that the magic hadn't all been used up and that there was just enough left for doing little things like making a loaf of bread.
'My goodness!' said Daedalus. 'How in the world did you do that?'
"Very soon Umbriel and Daedalus were sitting on the ground eating bread and drinking some wine that Daedalus had with him. Umbriel told Daedalus all about the magic and how it had nearly all been used up by the people in the world.
"Daedalus was very, very surprised and asked Umbriel to show him some more magic. By now Umbriel was just a little bit drunk from drinking the strong wine and agreed to give Daedalus a demonstration.
'If you could turn into a creature of the wild, what would you like to be?'
"Daedalus knew the answer to that straight away.
'Well, Umbriel. If I could be anything I wanted I'd be a beautiful bird so that I could fly all over the world and sing beautiful songs just like the birds in the hedgerows around my fields.'
"Umbriel stood up and walked around Daedalus and thought very hard. Then, with a click of his tongue and a whistle and a clap of his hands he called to the magic to turn Daedalus into a bird.
"Slowly, ever so slowly, two tiny wings began to grow out of Daedalus' back. They grew and grew and as they grew they sprouted beautiful feathers with all the colours of a rainbow. Still they grew until they very nearly touched the ground. At the same time, Daedalus' legs started to grow long and thin, and instead of feet he soon found that he had claws just like an eagle. He wasn't sure he liked his new legs but as he wanted to be a bird he supposed that he would have to make do with them.
"Very soon, Daedalus found that he could walk around and flap his wings and with every flap his wings lifted him from the ground.
'Why, this is wonderful, Umbriel. I can almost fly. When will I get my beak and the rest of my feathers? I just can't wait to fly like a real bird.'
"Suddenly, Umbriel realised his mistake. Daedalus had stopped turning into a bird. He grew no more feathers, and he didn't grow a beak and in fact, he was really half man and half bird. There just wasn't enough magic left to finish the job.
"Well, Umbriel tried and tried to turn Daedalus back into a man. Daedalus cried and cried, but there just wasn't anything that could be done to help him.
"Umbriel, after hours and hours of trying said, 'I'm so sorry, Daedalus. There is only one thing to do. You must fly around the world and look for some magic to change you back into a man. I'm very sorry, but there just isn't enough magic here to help you.'
"Daedalus was very upset. He ran around the field and flapped his new wings and cried, 'What have you done? What have you done?'
"Then, suddenly, with a huge beat of his wings, Daedalus was up in the air. With another, he was even higher. He beat his wings harder and harder and flew higher and higher until he was just a tiny speck in the sky.
"Umbriel waited and waited. He waited so long that his beard grew down to his tummy button and his clothes became rags. But no matter how long he waited never saw Daedalus again.
"All this happened a long, long time ago of course, but sometimes, if you look very carefully up in the sky, you might, just might, see a tiny little speck. And if you have really powerful eyes, you might see Daedalus, the half man, half bird. And if you have really good ears, you might just hear him saying, 'What have you done? I can fly! I can fly! I can fly!"
Dione jumped off the bed and ran toward the window. Brielga noticed then the bumps at her shoulders that in time would become stumps and then sticks and then wings and then rip their way out of the cocoon of skin on her back that had been their womb to greet the dawning of her womanhood. In time. During puberty.
Beyond the glass Dione tried to see the dream, see the tale. It was dark outside and the glass reflected light from inside the room.
"I can't see him. Is he gone to bed now?"
Brielga smiled and was about to answer when the curtain drew back and the woman answered for him.
"I expect he has. And that's just your pathway, young Dione."
Dione turned slowly, knowingly trying to delay recognition of her mother's appearance and so delay bedtime. But she knew there was no escape and capitulated saying, "Brielga Winged told me a story, but I couldn't see the Daddylus."
"That's Daedalus, and I heard every word." She looked to the recumbent Winged and smiled. "It was a lovely tale. Thank you."
He waved away her thanks. "You have a lovely daughter. She'll make a wonderful Winged."
Dione was in her mother's arms, secure and tired. He saw the resemblance and saw the pride; the pride of a mother in her daughter and the pride of a daughter in her future.
"Thank you again! I'll tend to her bed and I'll come back. Is there anything you need?"
Brielga rested his head back on the pillow, tired of lifting it to as he spoke. "Just a drink. Something more than water perhaps?"
"Of course," she smiled. "I won't be long."
She wasn't. Cowl and Fresher on a tray. It dawned on Brielga that he was to be spoon fed. He wasn't to be allowed to move his broken wing and that meant his entire body. If he moved, the huge muscles anchored to his sternum might by reflex action activate the wing and cause involuntary damage. What nagged in the back of his mind was the amount of time the wing needed to heal: but more urgently, he hungered and the smell of the cowl was driving him insane.
She placed the tray on a small table near his left-wing support bench, sat by his side and offered up his meal. He ate each spoonful slowly. He had no desire to choke to death. As he ate, he considered her face and her eyes. Clear and bright. Did she know of the disaster to come? Perhaps not, he decided. She didn't have that haunted look he had seen in so many. Nor was he about to shatter her life with his knowledge.
"Who are you? Apart from being Dione's mother, I mean."
"Lady Io Mars-Sariel," she said with a smile. She waited for the realisation to set in, just as she knew it would. It had become a game to her, years after a childhood of wondering why, to gauge in advance the kind of reaction a particular person would allow to cross their face. It ranged from blank stares to looks of outright horror. Her father had a lot to answer for and she never allowed anyone to take it out on her. By remaining imperious she was respected, even held in awe and sometimes, even feared. "I am known as Lady Io. I try not to embarrass but I see that you are and for that I apologise." She held his gaze sternly and yet with compassion. "I do not however, apologize for the actions of my father, nor any member of my family. He must do that for himself. Ah, Ah! Don't say anything. I know what he was responsible for and I also know that he's dead. I am left with a name, not a responsibility or a reputation."
It occurred to Brielga to find the reasoning behind the woman who had chosen to retain her family name. It was as if she wished to alert everyone to the fact of her father's actions and yet denounce him in that her family were not of his ilk, bloodline or no.
He drank the fresher from a cup sealed against spill. He took it greedily for it was all he had really wanted. She'd put the cup in his hands certain that he was aware of his condition and would do nothing to jeopardize it. Drinking was suddenly difficult, but at least it was under his control.
"Will you allow me one question?" He handed her the cup, his thirst slaked for the time being.
"No," she said firmly. "But I'll tell you the answer to it. For good or for bad Lord Mars did what he thought was right. I do not, nor ever have completely understood. I am only certain that I cannot undo his works and that I shall take no blame save that I carry his name. If nothing else, he was my father."
The words sounded rehearsed and brooked no response. To attempt to speak further on the subject would, he was sure, incur her wrath and he had no desires in that direction. The last thing he needed was to destroy a relationship with yet another Lady.
But she was speaking to him again, and had changed the subject.
"So! You have Crossed to Charon along with so many others. You have risked the Mountains of Triton." She omitted her knowledge of Oiska's death. "And all for what, I wonder? Will you tell me, or must I await my husband's alighting?"
"You do not know?" Brielga kept the emotion from his face and voice.
Lady Io shook her head. "It's very important, this much I will tell you. As for the rest...? Well, perhaps I'm not the one...Maybe you should watch the dawn...?"
Lady Io smiled a smile of understanding and released him.
"Such gallantry! But I have watched the dawn. Your task is known to me and I will hear no more of it from you. I ask only that what you must do is done well."
She left him then and to his own thoughts and as darkness crept around the dimming lights his thoughts turned into dimming dreams.
(Continued in Part 9)
- September 2, 2011
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