Monday, November 15, 2004

 

the child, fifteen


And so Starr began training in the use of the sword. Day after day the Master taught her to wield it, both in attack and defense. She practiced till the sweat made her hair cling damply to her forehead, till her hand was so cramped round the hilt she needed to use the other hand to pry her fingers loose. She dropped into bed exhausted at the end of the days, and woke again in the mornings to the knowledge that again today, she would work with the Master, learning his skills. Her love for him, her deep desire to please him and to not disappoint him, made the training seem light and delightsome.

One day, as he called for a break so that she might rest, as he massaged the spasms from her weary fingers, he looked at her and said, 'Ask.'

'You always know when I am full of questions,' she replied.

He smiled. 'Ask,' he said again.

'Why am I to learn to wield this sword?' she asked. 'I remember Mathilda telling me that I was not to defend myself. And then you said you would ever be with me. So why is it I need to know how to use this sword?'

His smile deepened. 'You ask wonderful questions, my love. No, you are not to defend yourself, for I shall do that, and you shall rest in my defense of you. The use of the sword is not to defend yourself, not to promote your own ways. But it is to defend others, to protect them from the wiles of the enemy. Not alone, for you will not be alone. I will, as I have promised, ever be with you even when you do not see me.'

He paused and added, 'When you use the sword, it will be me wielding the sword through you.'

'Oh. I...' She laughed a bit. 'I really do not understand that!'

'It is cooperation, my love. I could do it all, and my people do nothing. But I prefer for my people to work alongside me, to work with me as I work. You are learning the use of the sword, that you may go with me to my work, going to the enemy's fortress. You shall there aid me in rescuing others who are in that bondage. As you once were.'

'Oh!' The thought had never occurred to her. To go back...?

'Yes,' said the Master. 'You are one of my firstfruits, and after you shall come forth many more out of the same bondage. You shall be privileged to have a part in rescuing them.'

A privilege - then why did she feel scared?

'There is no need to fear, dear Starr,' he said. 'I will be with you. I will not be seen when we return to the fortress, but I will be with you. I will,' he added, 'be in you. It will be the strength of my arms that wields this sword of yours, through the weakness of your gentle frame. Do you understand?'

Again the bit of a laugh. 'No.'

A kind smile. 'Do they weary you, my Starr, these things which you do not understand?'

She paused. The truth, now. A sigh. 'Sometimes...' And she dropped her head, feeling a bit guilty. A bit stupid.

'Starr,' he said. Gently. Sweetly. 'Look on me. Look and see what I will show you now.'

She looked.

'Many times,' he said, 'have you asked me who I am. And each time I have given you an answer that revealed to you an aspect of me. Now will I show you another aspect of me, something you have not considered and have glimpsed only vaguely. Look on me, Starr, and you will see why it is that you cannot understand.'

And as she watched, he stepped back from her, spreading his hands, spreading his arms. Again he stepped back from her. Except... except...

Except, no. He was not stepping backwards. He was...

Her mind fought to accept what she was seeing. He was... expanding... becoming greater. Larger. Huger. Greater than the trees they stood under. Greater than the mountain they stood by.

Greater than the sky. Than the world. Than the universe.

Starr stood, staring, trembling. Reeling. Collapsing.

And arms caught her before she could hit the ground. 'Hey! What's wrong? What are you staring at? Are you all right?'

It was not the Master, returning now to the size of an ordinary man before her sight, who had caught her. Nor was it Mathilda's voice of many waters that fell upon her ear now. So...

Who was that?

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