Tuesday, November 16, 2004
the child, part 1, chapter 5 - ‘sword work’
Two days later, as the Child was strolling across the green lawn with the Master, he asked her gently, 'Starr, my dear, why do you never wear my gift?'
'Your - your gift?' Puzzlement bombarded her. What gift?
'Yes. The gift I left for you when I brought you here. The one Mathilda presented you with when you awakened.'
Starr gasped. 'The sword!'
'Yes, my love. The sword. Which you keep hidden between your mattress and the wall. Go and fetch it here, dear.'
Starr turned away to go to the house. And as she did, a huge weight of shame and anguish settled over her. She had disappointed the Master! She had hidden his gift to her. Surely he was displeased with her. Surely he was angry, she thought as she walked towards the house.
Miserable, she turned again to face him.
'Little girl,' said he. 'Do you want me to forgive you?'
She couldn't speak for the lump in her throat. So she nodded.
'You need only ask me.' His voice was so gentle.
'Please...' she breathed. 'For-forgive me...' She was crying too hard now to say more.
'You are forgiven,' he responded. And opened his arms to her.
She pelted to him, burying her face in his chest, sobbing, sobbing...
When she could finally speak again, she looked up in his dear face right there above her. 'Forgive me,' she said again.
He tilted his head. 'I already did.'
'Disappointed me? Yes. But I have forgiven you.'
She shook her head, not quite believing it. 'That's it? It's that simple? I ask, and you forgive? You don't hold it over me, or make me work for it?'
'Make you jump through hoops as it were, to be restored to me? No. You don't have to earn my forgiveness. You can't earn it. You need only ask for it - and receive it - and then walk in it.'
'Walk in it?' she asked.
'Yes, dear. By not doing again the thing that displeased me.'
She hung her head again at the word 'displeased.' 'I never want to displease you. Ever.'
'That shows the reality of your heart beating after mine. It is your love for me that will protect you from doing what displeases me. In that way will you walk in my forgiveness. But...' And that word 'but' brought her attention sharply to his face. 'Be on guard against anything that would draw your heart away, to love it more than you love me. Whatever you love more than me is an idol, and it will destroy you.'
She searched her heart. 'There is nothing I love more than you,' she said.
'I know. But many things will crowd in to try to drown out that love. So be on guard. Also, fear will seek to paralyze you. So you must guard against that as well.'
'By staying close to me, and putting your love for me first before everything else. I know that sounds selfish of me. It isn't. It is safe for you though. And...'
He smiled on her. 'And do not let these things that you do not understand worry you. Simply trust me. And you will do well.'
She chuckled. 'Oh, you know me so well! Because I didn't quite understand that last part...'
'No worries. No fears. Only trust. Yes?'
She looked up into his face, that sweet dear kind face. 'Yes,' said she.
'Because,' he added, 'if you understood everything, you would not need to trust. Do you see?'
'Umm... No...' she said.
A sweet chuckle bubbled up out of him as he lightly kissed her on the forehead. 'My little girl,' he said. 'You please me. Now go and fetch here the sword, my love.'
She went, this time in lightness as if her feet were barely skimming the ground. Into the house, into her chamber, took up the sword, back out into the sunshine, and quickly to his side again. 'Here it is, my Beloved,' said she.
He took it from her and fastened it about her waist. 'This is my gift to you, dear Starr. I want you to wear it. Wear it always. For me.'
'I will,' she promised.
'My good girl. Now,' he said, taking her hand and beginning to walk, 'tell me why you have not been wearing it, or using it.'
'I didn't know how to use it,' she replied, her eyes cast down.
'Is that your whole reason?'
Ah, he knew her! He knew there was more reason to it than that.
'N-no. I - I was...' Tears began to spill from her eyes. '...afraid...'
'You don't have to be afraid, love,' said he. 'Not of my gifts to you. I do not give you bad gifts, or gifts that would harm you. This sword I gave to you is for your protection. It will not harm you.'
'I was scared to draw it,' she whispered, confessing. 'I was scared I would cut my hand on it.'
'Draw it now,' said he. They stopped walking, and he took her hands, placing the one on the hilt and the other on the scabbard, safely positioning them where the sword would not touch either hand as she drew it forth. Slowly, carefully, she pulled the sword from its sheath. And gasped.
'It's beautiful!' she cried. And it was, with fine silvered filigree running the length of the flashing blade.
He chuckled. 'Did you think it would not be?'
'But the scabbard was so plain...'
'Much that I have made, I hide within plain things, so that only those who are truly searching for the things of me will find them.' And at the blank look she gave, he said again, 'Do not worry about the things you do not understand. Now. Feel the edge.'
She quailed. 'But it will cut me!' she cried.
'Starr. Love. Will I ask thee to do a thing that will harm thee? Do you not know me better than that?'
Shame colored her cheeks. 'I'm sorry,' she breathed.
'And thou art forgiven. Do what I asked now, dearheart.'
Trembling, she put forth her hand and gingerly touched the edge. And blinked in surprise. 'It's dull!'
'It has never been sharpened. You will do that.'
She gazed up at him and gave a hiccup of a laugh. 'All - all this time - I was afraid of a sword - that wasn't even sharp?'
He nodded. 'Yes, dear. You were.'
She leaned against him, and he drew her close. 'I feel so foolish...' said she.
'You are learning though, dear. It is when one refuses to learn that one becomes a fool. Now. Shall we begin your training with the sword?'
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.'
'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?
The Child hardly knew which way to look. In front of her, where the Master now stood looking perfectly normal again. Or behind her, at the unknown person who had caught her to keep her from falling.
The arms that had caught her now steadied her, setting her back upon her feet. 'Can you stand up? Do you need to sit down? Are you going to be all right?'
She turned to see who it was speaking to her. A man. Quite ordinary he was, with ruddy skin and shy eyes. 'You're all right?' he asked again.
'I - I think so,' she replied.
He smiled. 'Good. I've seen you around here for a few days now, practicing with your sword. My name is Stone.'
'Mine is Starr,' she replied.
'Starr!' he said. 'Now see, that's a pretty name. Not dull like Stone. You look up to see your name. To see mine, though, you look down.'
And she did look down, feeling somehow confused and fluttery inside herself, to be in this man's presence.
'You sure you'll be all right?' he asked once more.
'Good. Hope to see you later. I'm learning to use one of these things myself.' And he tapped the scabbard that he wore at his side. A tilt of his head as a notion hit him. 'Maybe we could practice together some time. Would you like that?'
She nodded, suddenly not trusting her voice.
'That would be great,' he said, beaming. 'But I have to hurry right now. See you later, Starr-girl. Or wait. Catch you later!' And he grinned at his own joke as he went on his way, walking backwards the first few steps as he waved good-bye to her.
Starr waved as well, stunned. A long time she stood there, watching him out of sight. Till a voice spoke behind her. 'What do you think?'
The Master. She turned back to him, feeling completely dazed. 'Who was that?' she asked.
'As he told you. He is Stone. He is one of the sons of my house.'
'Why have I never seen him before? In fact...' She was totally confused now. 'Why have I never seen anyone else here? Only you, and Mathilda, and she who walks the mountain.' She shook her head. 'Why have I never wondered this till now? Your house is huge. Of course it must be filled with people. And yet...'
He touched her cheek. 'You have been gifted, my love, with uncommon sight. You see the things I show you. And part of that is that you do not see many things until I show them to you. Yes, my house is filled with people. I have many sons and daughters in this house of mine. Until now, you needed the solitude of being with me alone. Now you will begin to see the others, and to take part in the life of this house. Come, dear.'
And as before, when he had first showed her Mathilda unveiled, so now he kissed her closed eyes - one, two - and breathed his breath upon her. She breathed in the sweet fragrance of him, and looked up.
'See now, my love,' said he. And turned her to look.
But at first she saw nothing. The house was as it had been, the grounds green and empty. And she started to say this to him.
But then there arose a shimmering before her eyes, as when the air shimmers and dances in the heat of summer. And in the shimmering she began to see as it were shadows. And the shadows became solid. Became real. Became people.
So many people! Again the sight staggered her.
How had she walked so many days amidst so many people, and never saw any of them till now?
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