Monthly Archives: July 2017

SELECTED SHADOWS 25

A high, imposing arch pierced the long frontage of the Academy; Kor-Sen stepped boldly under it and was making for the inner courtyard thus revealed, when a stern voice cried, ‘Hey! Where do you think you’re a-going of, without so much as please-may-I?’

Kor-Sen turned, and saw an indignant old man dressed in livery, who had just come out of a door set in the side-wall of the archway.

‘And who might you be, my crusty old friend?’

The porter’s face grew purple.  ‘None of your impudence!’ he spluttered. ‘You can’t come a-marching in here like you owned the place! This is the Academy of Drelk, this is, which I doubt you knew, young ragamuffin. And I am the porter on duty, and it is my job to ensure that none don’t get in here as has no business here. So! Either state your business – which I doubt you have any – or be off. ‘

Kor-Sen bowed, a deep and courtly bow that startled the porter and nearly overbalanced him.  ‘Most reverend keeper of the portals of learning, I am Kor-Sen, Scholar of the Temple of Jaren in the land of IssKor, come to bestow the benefit of my wisdom upon this humble establishment. My business is with the Convenor and the Council, and is, I submit, urgent. They will not thank you if you allow this opportunity to slip away, while you cavil on the doorstep. I might decide to endow my learning elsewhere.’

The porter’s confusion was deepened by this speech. He was further discomfited by the laughter of several students, men and women just a little younger than Kor-Sen, who, passing through the gateway, had stopped to watch the battle of wits.

‘Better let him in, Moran. Sounds as if he could tie the Convenor up in knots, let alone you.’

Kor-Sen bowed to the speaker, and winked at the women, who smiled at him.

Moran spluttered again, but then made up his mind. ‘Well, Aspirant Coren, if you would stay here and have an eye to this – person – I will go and enquire.’

DOOR OF DRELK ACADEMY

SELECTED SHADOWS 24

Kor-Sen himself found his fate pleasing enough as he strode though the busy market streets of Drelk. The town was busier and noisier and happier than his native city, and the people were brightly dressed and prosperous-looking, going about their business with more cheerfulness than in priest-ridden Sen-Mar.  Some called out a greeting to him as he passed, and if others looked down their noses at his homespun robe and worn leather sandals, that was no trouble to him. He wandered happily about for some time, looking at everything as if he were new-born into a world of delights; then he paused for refreshment outside an inn that had benches and tables spilling over onto the roadway outside its little tap-room. Children materialised like magic at his feet.

‘Got a spare coin, Sir?’

‘IssKor money, Sir?’

‘How do you know that I am from IssKor? I might be a wandering fiend from the northern wastes, come here to eat up wicked children.’

He thrust his face towards them and growled, scattering them all screaming in every direction. One girl stuck her head back round a corner to hiss, ‘Smelly old goat-hair – must be from IssKor.  ‘Smell like a goat and stupid as a donkey, do what the priest says, OR YOU’RE DEAD!’’

The land of IssKor

SELECTED SHADOWS 23

‘I was lost in the city. I got separated from Reva-mal and came across something wonderful. It was a statue….

‘Lost? That should not happen. Are you sure that you were lost?’

Drewin hesitated before answering.  ‘Why, yes. At least I think so. Yes, I was definitely lost: I did not know how to get to where I was going.  But eventually I remembered that I could swim up, and so I came back here.  I want to tell you what I have learnt.’

But Arnuma was not listening to him: he was walking around in little circles and looking puzzled.  ‘Oh dear. I do not understand this at all. It is impossible to get lost in Leartenda because there is nowhere to go. How did you know that you were lost?’

‘I did not know which way to go.’

‘Oh dear! And where were you trying to get to?’

‘I don’t know. I lost Reva-mal and so I tried to go where we had been going.’

‘And where had you been going?’

‘I don’t know. If I had known I would not have been lost.’

‘But there is nowhere to go. Do you not see that? You cannot get lost if there is nowhere to go.’

LEARTENDA 2

SELECTED SHADOWS 22

Sometimes he found himself at a place that looked familiar, and tried to pick a different route, but he could never remember what his original choice had been and so he went round in circles.  He became aware of this when he came, for the third time, to an open space with a statue at its centre.  He walked towards the statue and then round it.  When he reached the far side he nearly tripped over a small creature lying on the ground gazing up at the stone figure.  He jumped back in surprise.

‘Oh! I did not know that you were there.’

The being, which looked more like a fish than a person, looked at Drewin coldly.  ‘Why should you?’ it murmured, and returned its attention to the statue.

Drewin waited for some further response, but none came.  ‘I wonder if you could help me. I am lost.’

The creature continued to stare at the statue and spoke as if to itself.  ‘Do you? Are you?’

Drewin nudged it with his foot to attract its attention.  ‘Will you help me?’

‘What do you think of this statue?’

Drewin stepped back and looked up at the statue for the first time: he let out a cry and backed away, staring.  It was the perfect image of Saranna.  Every detail was correct; her hair, her eyes, the texture of her skin, the way she held her head.  The creature looked at him languidly.  ‘It is good, isn’t it?’

‘It is my sister!’

‘Is it?’

‘Why, how, is there a statue of my sister here?’

‘Why not?  How not?’ the creature asked, and returned its attention to the work of art.

SARANNA STATUE

SELECTED SHADOWS 21

Reva-mal rose wearily from the floor and blinked at Drewin. ‘Come, I have a surprise for you.’ The guardian took Drewin’s hand and led him to the far side of the chamber where there was an opening in the wall. There was no stairway or ramp leading down to the city below, just a vertical drop. Drewin pulled back, but Reva-mal gripped his hand firmly and leapt through the gap. They floated downwards while Arnuma watched them from above. Reva-mal released Drewin and started to dive and swoop through the water with his arms outstretched, laughing. ‘Guide yourself with your arms. Pretend you are a fish!’
Drewin flapped his arms and succeeded in turning himself upside-down. He closed his eyes and screamed in terror, but Reva-mal came to his side and showed him how to control his swimming.
Gradually, Drewin learnt to glide and swoop like a bird above the city, and he was able to follow Reva-mal down to a safe landing on the roof of one of the buildings. Reva-mal landed in front of Drewin and bowed. ‘Welcome to my home! This way. Follow me!’

Shadows of the Trees

FOREST

SELECTED SHADOWS 20

Arnuma gazed at Drewin for a long while before speaking.  ‘No – that is not the whole story. A story is not just the what, it must also be the why.  You say a whale brought you down here?  Well, there is a reason for that.  We must find the reason.  What could be the reason? Do you know, Drewin?’

‘No. I do not.’

‘Yes you do.’

‘No I don’t.’

‘Yes you do. You may not think you do, but you do. Tell me, why were you in this boat?  What passed before you were in the boat, before you met the whale?’

‘We lived together on the island of the West Wind.’

‘Then you are under the care of Iranor? You see, we do know many things; we know of Iranor.’

‘She was our mother, but she cast us out.  We may not return to our home, and we will die.’

Arnuma leapt up off the throne with a great cry.  ‘This is it! Here we have a reason!  If Iranor, beloved of the islanders, cast you out with your sister you must have done some great evil.  You have been brought here for a reason!  Tell me, what did you and your sister do?  What crime justifies such punishment?’

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SELECTED SHADOWS 19

A pink structure rose up from the floor, turning as it rose.  When it had risen to twice the height of Drewin, its top opened like a flower to reveal Arnuma-leaa seated on a crystalline throne, laughing.

‘Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Come, sit and talk with me.’

Drewin looked up at Arnuma-leaa in amazement. The figure on the throne looked similar to Reva-mal except that its scales were golden red its the hair was green, but the face that gazed down on him was the face of a monstrous fish with round staring eyes and a mouth full of sharp thin teeth that gave the impression of a permanent predatory grin.  ‘Sit down.  Sit down.  No standing on ceremony here.  Sit and tell me your story.  Why are you here? Where have you come from?  How did you get here?  Where are you going?  What is your name?  Tell me all.’

Drewin and Reva-mal sat down on low stools nearby and Arnuma-leaa lowered the pink throne to the floor.  ‘My name is Drewin and I come from above the sea. I …’

‘Above the sea, you say.  We know of this.  Oh yes, you may think we are ignorant down here in the depths, but we know many things.  Is that not so Reva-mal?’

Reva-mal turned to Drewin and spoke earnestly.  ‘It is true Drewin, my friend- we know many things.’

‘I did not think that you did not,’ protested Drewin.  ‘Shall I continue?’

‘Drewin did not think that we did not,’ Reva-mal reported.

Dolphin art

SELECTED SHADOWS 18

The guardian took Drewin’s hand and led him down into the city. He followed, as if in a trance, along a tortuous route between the flowing shapes of the dwellings of Leartenda.  There were no straight roads and most of the inhabitants travelled by swimming above the roofs of their houses.  In spite of this Drewin often found his path obstructed by the fishlike beings who stood singly or in groups all about the place: some were deep in conversation, some were singing, some were dancing, some lay across the way and some stood on their heads.  The swimmers hurried this way and that in the water above.

‘There seems to be great agitation here. Is there some trouble?’

‘They dance the dance of life, as all creatures do.  This is a time of haste.  Come, we must hurry too.’  With this the being pulled Drewin onward, and rushed faster than before in and out of the narrow passages, under rippling arches and past all the living obstructions.  Drewin often failed to keep his feet but he was nevertheless pulled along at an ever-increasing pace.  The sights of the city became a blur and he had little time to take in the scenes that passed by, and no time at all to ask questions.

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SELECTED SHADOWS 17

From time to time the light would fade and then he would stop and wait until he could see it clearly, before proceeding.  He carried on in this way for hours but he did not seem to be getting nearer to the source of the green glow.  Drewin stopped walking, sat down on the road and closed his eyes. His feet were sore, his eyes were stinging and his body ached with the cold.  Around him there was no sound, no movement except the gentle strong surge of the sea pushing this way and that.  He rested his head on his knees and fell asleep.  When he opened his eyes he found that he was buried almost up to his waist in sand, and small brightly-coloured fish were nibbling inquisitively at his hair and ears.  He struggled upright and the fish darted away in all directions.  Drewin found that he felt much less stiff and weary, and decided he must have been asleep for a long time.  He looked towards the light, far off in the distance, and set out along the path in the hope of finally reaching it.  After he had trudged for hours with only the wandering shoals of fish for company, the light looked brighter, more blue than green, and it flickered and danced in swirling patterns that confused the eye. Drewin moved forward, his eyes confused by the turning patterns in the light that now seemed to surround him.  His legs carried him into the midst of the confusion then stopped.  Shapes dived and danced about him in the dark, half seen in the hazy blue glow.  He turned to right and left trying to gain a clear view of them, but when he looked they were no longer there. He stepped back but they followed him, coming so close that he could feel the disturbance they made in the water.  Once or twice he felt a cold touch on his cheek and there was a sound that might have been laughter.  He spun round to avoid them, he waved his arms about to fend them off, he shouted soundlessly at them, but it made no difference and finally he closed his eyes, fell to the ground, and covered his head with his arms.  But this had no effect: his tormentors carried on their furious dance.  Feeling around in the dark, Drewin found something solid.  It was a thick strand of seaweed.  Grasping it tightly he suddenly leapt to his feet and flailed blindly about.  The maddening motion ceased and he opened his eyes to see what had happened.  Everything was still and the blue glow was steady.  In its light Drewin could make out eleven figures suspended in the water ahead of him.  Their green and scaly bodies undulated in the ebb and flow of the sea-current and long white hair streamed out behind their pale faces.  They were pointing at Drewin: they seemed to think him very funny.

Beneath the waves

SELECTED SHADOWS 16

‘When first you sailed away,

Alone to roam the sea:

Lonely the waves

on the winter shore

of the quiet island.

 

When you did not come home

I waited by the trees:

Silent the leaves

in the empty grove

drifting down to earth.

 

When they first said that you

Would not come home to me:

Quiet the tears

that streak my face

when I think of you.

 

When I think of you alone

Far away from me:

Sore is my heart

when I hear your name

and you are not near me.

 

Now I cannot speak your name

There is no-one to hear

Silent my grief

as the falling leaves

in the empty land.’

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