By Max Hyatt
There once was a Village, located high in the Mountains. It was a beautiful Village and anyone who visited there could tell that the citizens cared, and took pride in their Mountain home. There were Farmers, Warriors, Craftsmen, Teachers, and everyone else it takes to make a Village or Tribe. Every year the residents of the Village would observe the various passings of the Seasons, with exceptional celebrations. They would gather around the sacred Bonfire and sing the praises of their deceased Ancestors, who had founded the Village long ago. On occasion they would celebrate the marriage of two young Village Residents, with religious ceremonies and a gigantic Feast. During quieter times they taught their young in the skills of the Warrior, the Farmer, the Hunter, the Craftsman, the Teacher, etc., so that the Village would live in the Future. The Elders of the Village understood the importance of Heritage and they taught the young to be loyal to the past, true to the present, and optimistic about the future. On occasion, the residents of another tribe, located in the lowlands, would attempt to sack the Village. But because of the Villagers' devotion to developing the proper skills and knowledge in their Young, the Village was always well protected, and the Warriors were able to rebuff every attack. The Village and its residents continued on like this for many decades, content in their lives. Generation after generation was born, lived, and died in their beautiful Mountain home.
Then one day a stranger arrived in the Village. Immediately, several of the Elders approached the stranger, as they always did when this happened, to discover the purpose of his visit. They were not so much concerned about the stranger, but more concerned about the Village and its residents. Before answering their questions, the stranger reached into his bag and pulled out a beautiful necklace. Next he pulled out a jewel-encrusted dagger... then a large loaf of unusual smelling bread... then a fine silk shirt, and other items as well. The Elders were stunned and speechless at the site of these very fine items. They picked them up, one by one and examined them. They were very exquisite, and appeared to be well made. Nothing in the Village was as fancy or novel as these, that was for certain, and the Elders became captivated by the stranger and his wares. Although it was true that one of the jewels fell out of the dagger, when it was handled roughly, the stranger assured them that it was the exception, rather than the rule. The stranger was invited to stay for awhile in the Village, even though many felt uneasy in his presence. Soon the Villagers were placing orders with the stranger. 50 silk shirts, 100 jewel encrusted daggers, 200 necklaces, 500 loaves of bread, etc. A few days later the stranger left, promising to deliver the goods by the next Spring.
When Spring arrived, all waited in anticipation of the stranger's arrival. Many forgot about their own chores and duties to the Village. The Young of the Village, the hope of the Future, were allowed to take several days off from study, to watch for the stranger's arrival. Suddenly they spotted him, but he was not alone. Many more strangers accompanied him, and there were horses, mules, and other strange pack-animals, laden with goods, far more than the Villagers had ordered. Soon the parade of strangers, animals and goods was within the Village Square. Before long they had set up tents and stalls, filling the Village Square to capacity. It looked like a religious Festival, with all the colored banners flying and the brightly colored goods on display. This time no one stopped the strangers to discover what the purpose of their visit was in the Village. Everyone knew what the purpose was. They were selling the most marvellous and novel items, from around the Globe. Spices from India, silk from China, weapons from Japan, bread from Egypt, etc. Thousands of items were being offered, from every corner of the Earth. The Elders of the Village declared it a special Holiday, and said that everyone should quit what it was that they were doing and come and see all the marvellous things. And so they did.
The so-called Festival of Products lasted for several weeks, and when the strangers had finally sold the very last item that they had brought, they unceremoniously packed their animals, and left. Suddenly the Village Square seemed dead and depressing. Where are all the bright colors, the Villagers cried. Where is the strange, alluring music, the Villagers asked. Where are the curious and enticing smells, they wailed? Suddenly their own lives seemed drab and unimportant. The once proud and prosperous Village of Northern Mountain Folk was now in chaos. The next day many of the Young, the hope for the Village's Future, packed and left the Village, in search of the strangers with the marvellous goods. Soon, many of the Craftsmen stopped making their goods, as there was no longer a need for them. Because of the bread from Egypt, sold by the strangers, some of the farmers had to let their crops rot in the ground. No one wanted their kind of bread now. Before long the once proud and beautiful Village was only a shadow of its former self. The Villagers started skipping the Seasonal celebrations. The Young that were left, avoided their teachers, and hung out together in the caves around the Village, discussing how one day they would escape and find the strangers and their marvellous goods.
Finally, several months later, the tribe from the lowlands attacked the Village, but this time the few Warriors that remained could not fend them off. Their weapons, purchased from the strangers in the Village Square, broke on contact with those of their attackers. The jewel-encrusted hilts now seemed almost comical, as the Warriors, one by one, laid down and were hacked to death by their attackers. Presently the once Proud and Valiant Village lay in ruins. The Warriors - all dead, and most of the Elders gone, the Young, having seen the ferocity of the battle, deserted their Village like rats leaving a burning building. The women and children who were left were sold into slavery... and the once beautiful Village, in the Mountains, was no more...
The Village - Part II
Hundreds of years passed. It was a very dark time for the former residents and descendants of the Village. They were dispersed across the land in varying degrees of hardship - as wanderers, travelling merchants, soldiers in foreign armies, and as slaves. They were a discontented lot, and soon they and their descendants became known for this trait. They were never quite satisfied with the status quo, and were always attempting to change or improve it. They became great inventors of gadgets, in an attempt to make right, what they felt was wrong. Most could not quite put their finger on the problem, but knew, deep inside themselves, that something was drastically amiss in their lives. Many of them begin following strange, foreign religions from the East, in an attempt to resolve this internal conflict. Although these cults were rather bizarre and inappropriate for a proud and courageous people, most of the descendants of the Village could no longer remember their past, or their own true heritage. Some actually adopted a foreign heritage and history, as their own, fooling themselves into thinking that they were descended from this people, or that people. Soon, the younger ones amongst the descendants of the Village, took these lies to be absolute truths, and would challenge anyone who said otherwise. They were no longer interested in hearing about the mythical Village of the Ancestors, that the Elders often spoke of. They were no longer interested in discovering who they might really be. They had become hardened with the dissatisfaction of life. And so it remained for many generations.
Meanwhile, during this time, the village itself lay in ruins, with only a few, hidden residents lingering on. It was mostly generations of rats who now occupied the buildings. The birds in the surrounding trees were the only ones who now paid homage to the passing of the seasons. And only the ghosts of Ancestors now danced around an invisible, other-world bonfire, and wondered at the lost of their descendants. Wondered at the silence that had descended on their once proud Village. Their spirits, disconnected from their offspring, aimlessly wandered through the burnt out ruins of the once proud Folk. Sometimes they sat and wept the tears of ghosts, in the now decaying rooms of their descendant's deserted homes. They roamed across the fields, now overgrown with brambles, that they had once tilled. They tried to taste the essence of the water from the sweet mountain well, but could not find the opening in the ground, as it was overgrown and filled with the dust of ages. And so it was for countless centuries for the generations of rats, and birds, and ancient ghosts.
Then one evening, by chance or by decree, a distant descendant of the Village, happened upon its ruins. He had been wounded in battle, and had become separated from his troop. His sword broken and a gash in his side, he had been left for dead on the battle field. Dazed and in pain he stumbled into the village, seeking shelter from the rain, and food for his empty stomach. He was amazed to find such a place. Although overgrown with bushes and brambles, he could see that a once great Village had thrived there. Even though in pain, he wondered as to the fate of the Villagers, not realizing that his own fate was tied to this ancient place. He continued to stumble around in the ruins looking for a bit of food, and a sheltered place to rest. Neither seemed obtainable, as the state of disrepair and rot in the village implied that his desires would likely remain unfulfilled. Finally, and in despair, he laid down to sleep in the corner of a ruined building, not realizing that his ancestors had once lived and thrived in that same spot.
That night the wounded Warrior had an fantastic dream. In the dream he suddenly found himself standing on a beautiful green, grass covered hill. In all directions he could see that the rolling green hills continued, without interruption. Here and there individual trees or stands of trees dotted the horizon. The Sun was shinning, but with a different hue and brightness, to what he was used to in the waking world. Suddenly he became aware that he was standing in the middle of a circle of men. They were clothed with ancient garb, had long hair and full beards. They, each and everyone, wore a sword in a scabbard on their belts. They carried other weapons as well, including daggers, spears, axes, and the like. All of the men in the circle were standing and facing the Warrior. He couldn't count them, but it seemed there might be 30 or more men standing there. He looked down at his own body and found that he too was now dressed in ancient garb, and there at his side was a sword and scabbard, on his belt. He thought - If I am armed, then these men are no threat to me. He looked up at the men, and they continued to stare at him in silence. They appeared very serious in their demeanor, but not aggressive or angry. He felt that they were examining him, trying to discover his true mettle - what he was really made of. He and the circle of men continued to stand there in silence for some time.
Suddenly a voice boomed in his head, and he instinctively knew that the man standing directly in front of him had placed this thought into his brain. "Come with us, there is much that we must show you." The circle of men silently broke apart and turned North, and the Warrior joined them, feeling no sense of threat from the group. Soon they arrived at what appeared to be a fortress, made out of wood and surrounded by a moat. The group crossed the small bridge and presently the Warrior was being introduced to other men, women folk, and children. There was a seriousness of purpose to all of them, except the children who laughed and played like all children do. They directed the Warrior to a large wooden table, and much food and drink were laid before him. He ate and drank and filled the hollow spot in his belly. Many voices spoke to him, but not once did the residents of this fortress open their mouths. All voices appeared in his head, bypassing his ears, and he found that he was able to answer them in the same way, by just thinking the thought. They begin to tell him stories, sagas and poems. They filled his mind with the most wondrous tales. This went on until late in the evening, until finally he passed out, on the bench, with a drinking horn in his hand.
The days spent in and around the fortress soon became a week. And then a month. He begin to forget who he had been. Even though aware that he was dreaming, in the beginning, he now had a hard time recollecting this fact. He thought - was that other life just a dream, and this is reality? Not only did the Warrior hear many sagas and tales of heros past, but he was also instructed in the arts of divination and magik. Many wondrous things were told and shown to him by these mysterious folk, and he became aware that he was being schooled in some ancient art and knowledge, long forgotten by his own people. One day, after several months living in the fortress, the same men who had been in the original circle, called to the Warrior and bade him to follow them. They walked in silence for some time, until coming upon the crest of a hill, and looked across to see a magnificent tree. The Warrior was overwhelmed with the beauty and nobility of the tree. It glowed from within, and it seemed that every leaf, every branch, was filled with a glowing life of its own. It was a tree like he had never seen before. It was not only beautiful to gaze at, but was also large in stature. The men from the circle began to tell the Warrior about the tree. They told him how all life emanated from it. But for the Warrior, no explanation was needed, for the tree began to communicate directly with him. Instantly it all made sense. Finally he understood all that was happening. Now he knew what he must do. The men moved slowly, and soon they were all surrounding him again, in a circle. He looked down at his sword and clothes, and when he looked up again, they were gone. As the images of the green land faded from his sight, as the great tree dissolved from his vision, he suddenly realized that he was back, in the ruined Village, huddled in the corner where he had fallen asleep. It had all been just a dream.
But the dream had changed the Warrior, and he now knew who he was and what he must do. He stood, although still in pain from his wound and lack of food, and proceeded to make his way out of the village. However, he did not return to his troop. Instead he made for an encampment of his blood folk - relatives of his who lived on the edge of a large city. There he was welcomed with much enthusiasm, healing herbs for his wound, and much bread and meat for his belly. Slowly and deliberately he began to tell the tale of his dream. He told of the lost Village and its location in the Mountains. He slowly and precisely recounted the tales and sagas that had been lost, but were the true inheritance of his people. Soon the word began to spread about the Warrior's tale. Many cousins from across the land began to migrate to the encampment. And when the time was right, with his wounds healed, the Warrior said - "It is time that we reclaim our heritage. We have been a wandering, frustrated, and impatient people. A people who were cut off from their past, cut off from their birthright. This is not the way we were meant to live. Leave this life to those whom it was designed for, and let us rebuild our Village, and thereby our souls. Today I leave to reclaim what is ours to claim... join me if you will."
And with those words the Warrior picked up his few possessions and headed out to find the Village once more. Several, who had been waiting in anticipation for this day, left with him. Before long, others packed their belongings and headed towards the Mountains in the North. Soon it was as a river of humans marching to reclaim their true selves.
When the Warrior arrived in the Village, much to his surprise, others were already there and had begun to clear the brush and brambles from the ruins. Some were already planting in the fertile soil. The Warrior raced forward to confront one of the workers - who were these people, how did they know of the village? He asked! "A man came to our camp" said one bright young woman, "and he told us of his marvellous dream... he told us of our heritage, and where the Village was hidden in the Mountains." Soon the Warrior found that others had been called into the circle of men, and instructed in the ways of their ancestors. Others had experienced a similar dream as his. Before long they were all working shoulder to shoulder, side by side, rebuilding their long forgotten Village. Within a few months, with new buildings built and fields planted, the old Village came alive again, like it had always been there, without ruin. Within a few years, it had again become a true home in the Mountains, with a reputation for having the most contented and cheerful citizens in the land.
Then one day a stranger arrived in the Village...
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