Friday, October 22, 2004

 

the child, part 1, chapter 2 - the mountain of spices


She did not hit the floor. For the tall being Mathilda caught her - caught her so swiftly that the Child had not enough time to realize she was falling before there were strong arms about her, bearing her up.

'You have much healing yet to be attained. Much strength yet to be regained. To walk is yet too much for you, little one.'

Tears sprang to the Child's eyes as it sank in on her: if she could not walk, she could not go outside. Why this trip outside should be so immensely important to her, she was not sure. But to suddenly find that she was not going outside after all was overwhelming.

'Why do you cry?' asked Mathilda.

'Because now I won't be able to go outside,' the Child sniffled.

'Indeed? Who told you such a thing?'

"But I can't walk...'

'And so we shall bear you outside. The freshness of the air and the warmth of the sunshine shall do you much good. Come.' And the strong arms took up the Child as if she weighed nothing at all. And out they went.

The halls were a bewildering maze to the Child as she was borne along. And then came the door - and a dazzle of light nearly as great as the one that had emanated from Mathilda - and the spectacle of tall trees and bright flowers and soft green grass. And the Child was set down gently in the lush grass at the base of a sturdy tree, surrounded by fragrant flowers.

She sat, stunned, her soul within her swelling like a sponge as she soaked in all the beauty about her. She could all but feel the strength flowing into her weakened limbs, just as the sunlight soaked into her skin. Bliss...

And so it went for the next few days. Mathilda would bear the Child out into the sunshine, where the Child would sit and grow strong, fed by the beauty of the outdoors. Soon, she felt strong enough to attempt again to stand. Soon after that, she was standing, albeit swaying. And in the next few days, gradually, the Child ventured to walk, and then to run...

And then she thought to climb the Mountain of Spices.

~~~~~~~


The path wound upwards through great boulders and sparse bushes and little twisty trees. The Child stood at the bottom, looking up, hesitating. Was she truly ready for this?

Slowly she took the first step. And then the next. And the next...

Strange, she thought as she climbed higher and still higher. If this is the Mountain of Spices - why are the plants so sparse, so few, so far between? Should it not be lush?

Before long, she was puffing and panting as she mounted still higher along the path. To take the next step was soon an effort. To take the next breath was as well. Chest heaving, she paused in her walk, wondering if she had foolishly tried to do too much too soon.

'Be not afraid.'

The Child spun about, coming nigh to losing her balance. But even as she did, a steadying hand touched her arm.

'Mathilda! What are you doing here?'

'Following you,' said the voice like many waters. 'That we might offer strength as you weaken.'

The Child cast down her eyes. The other slipped an arm through hers, bearing her up, renewing her strength.

'Soon will you have the strength to make this climb, little one. Very soon. You are making good progress. But for now...'

The Child leaned on Mathilda and let the tall one guide her where she willed. And so Mathilda brought her to see the myrrh plants, with the golden tears of sap clotted on the thick stems. 'Myrrh means bitter,' the tall one explained, 'for the tears are bitter to the taste. They ooze out where the stem has been gashed - wounded, if you will. And yet - the bitterness of the myrrh, when crushed to a powder - brings healing.'

They moved on, Mathilda bearing the Child gently along. 'We shall see the cinnamon next,' the tall one said.

'Please...' said the Child. And hesitated.

'Ask what you will,' Mathilda replied.

'Where are all the plants? I mean, there are plants, yes. But not as many as I thought there would be. If this is the Mountain of Spices, shouldn't it be overflowing with spices? But there are so few...'

'You see truly. It was not always thus. Nor will it always be so. But for now, the plants have indeed withered, many of them, as before the blast of an angry wind. But fear nothing: soon will this Mountain flourish once more with verdure. And now here,' Mathilda added, 'is the cinnamon...'

The Child suddenly gasped and clutched at Mathilda's arm. 'What is that?' the Child cried. She pointed with a shaky hand.

Someone was coming towards them, swiftly over the rocky path. A woman, strong and angry. She too was pointing with her hand, as she came up to Mathilda and the Child. Pointing with fury in her face at the Child.

'What is that weakling doing here?' she cried. 'What are you thinking, Mathilda, to bring such a weak little excuse for a human being up here? This place is for the strong! Not for her!'

"Good afternoon,' said the voice of many waters. Softly. Meekly. Subdued and gentle.

'Take her away! She does not belong here!' the newcomer demanded. 'Are you mad, bringing such a frail little child up here? And you!' The woman swung viciously to face the Child. 'Look well and see what you came to see. For this is the only time you shall ever come here. Puny one!'

'Thank you,' said Mathilda sweetly, her eyes meeting mildly with those of the strong woman. There was a bemused look upon the tall one's face as she added, 'Thank you for your compassionate concern for the well-being of this little one. We will go down the mountain now.'

The strong woman stared at Mathilda, trying to fathom what spirit was behind such words. 'Well,' she said at last. 'Well. So long as you take her down the mountain safely. Do not bring her back up again!'

Mathilda smiled and turned away, leading the Child from the strong woman's presence.

The Child craned to look behind them, at the lone figure standing with folded arms, smirking with pleasure to see them go. 'Who was that?' she asked of Mathilda.

'One who hates you.'

~~~~~~~


Hates? Hates? That word seemed to suck the vitality out of the Child's already-weak limbs. 'Hates me? But she doesn't even know me!' she cried, as Mathilda gently but firmly bore her along.

Swiftly they reached the foot of the Mountain of Spices and the tall one all but carried the Child to her favorite spot under the trees, among the flowers. There Mathilda set the Child softly down, then knelt at her side. 'Here,' said the rushing voice, 'we shall answer your questions, which are many.'

The Child paused, catching her breath, catching at her scattering thoughts. Which question first... 'Who is she?'

'She is the daughter of an enemy.'

'An enemy? But why is she here?'

'She has lived here for years. She lives at the foot of the Mountain of Spices, but on the other side.'

Oh. Then... 'She owns the Mountain?'

'By no means. The Mountain belongs to he who brought you here.'

The Child frowned in bafflement. 'But she acted like she owned the Mountain. She ordered us off the Mountain. And you obeyed her.'

A smile. 'Little one, we did not leave in obedience to her. Rather, we left to protect you from her - from her angry and vicious tongue. Sharp as a sword is her tongue, and she wields it against any who stay in this house.'

'Why?'

'Because you have what she can only pretend to.' Mathilda gestured towards the Mountain. 'She often walks the Mountain, pretending to own it. Because of her bluster, you thought she actually did own it. She does not, but lays claim to it by claiming to be a family relation to he who does own it. She claims to be the wife of the Master.'

The Child gasped.

'But she is not,' Mathilda went on. 'She envies you.'

'Me? Why should she envy me?'

'Because he brought you here. You are here because he wants you to be here. She is here because she stole in and laid claim to the small house on the far side of the Mountain. She remains here, because the Master is kind. He has no desire to throw her out, in the hopes that his kindness will break through to her. That she will come to her senses, renounce the heritage of her father, and humbly petition to become in fact what she pretends to be - a member of the Master's family.'

A silence. Then, 'Am I a member of the Master's family?'

A smile. 'You are.'

'But how could that be?'

'By bringing you here, the Master laid claim to you for one of his own. He loves you, and risked much to rescue you, that he might break the chains from off you, and place you in the heart of his house here, where you may heal and grow strong.'

A warm feeling spread over the Child. Like being wrapped in a blanket. 'When will he return?' she asked breathlessly.

'Soon. His coming for you is soon, little one.'

The Child cast her eyes upon the lofty mountain height nigh to them - and saw again the strong woman, the daughter of the enemy. She shuddered.

'Do not fear her. She can only speak against you; she dares not touch you.'

The Child cast down her eyes. 'I feel like we ran before her.'

'It was not cowardice, little one. The woman is blind. Not a blindness of eyes, but of spirit. She cannot see Truth. To stand before such a one and try to convince her of Truth - that is to waste one's breath. You cannot defend yourself to her. You can only be gracious and loving and kind - which is to be a daughter of this house.'

Mathilda rose to her - their? - feet. 'When the Master comes, he shall set all to rights. He shall defend you, little one. You need never defend yourself.'

~first~ (previous) ~next~

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