Wednesday, December 01, 2004
the child, part 1, chapter 7 - ‘stone’
She didn't have time to think what to do - whether to walk away, or run, or hide. For Stone spotted her immediately. 'Yo, Starr!' he called. And a smile that made her heart stop splashed over his face. 'How you doing?' he asked.
She couldn't think how to answer him, for to say 'fine' would be a lie. She was certainly not fine; she was all in a turmoil inside, just from the sudden sight of this man.
She did not want to lie, so she answered not at all.
Stone didn't seem to notice, though. In fact, he went right on talking, giving her no chance to answer him anyway. 'Your timing's perfect, Starr-girl,' he said. 'We were just about to start my lesson this morning. And Josh had just said he would like me to do a bit of sparring with one of the other new learners. And right at that moment, here you come! Wanna train with me?'
Her mind seemed to be working as fast as a snail this morning. 'Josh?' she asked, puzzled. 'Who's Josh?'
Stone chuckled. 'Well, the sword master, of course!' he said, half-turning to glance at the Master standing nigh him. 'He's been training me with the sword...' And then it was Stone's turn to be puzzled. 'I've seen him working with you as well. Didn't you know his name is Josh?'
'Starr has a different name by which she knows me,' the Master put in, coming forward to greet her. A hug and a kiss on the cheek he gave her, and with the kiss a few words he dropped into her ear: 'Say little; learn much.'
She glanced into his face to be sure she had heard him aright. He nodded to confirm that she had.
'Really?' Stone was saying. 'Another name? What is it?'
'It is time for the lesson,' the Master said, sparing Starr from having to answer. She was relieved. Somehow, for some reason, she did not want to reveal to Stone that she called the Master her Beloved.
'Now, my children,' said the Master, 'these swords you have been given are strange and unique. For they sharpen in the use of them, but dull with neglect. As you practice together, you will find that the blades will become honed, even as your skills are being honed. A word of caution then: when iron sharpens iron, the sparks may fly. So be careful to take no offense. Starr, do you understand me?'
She was embarrassed to confess it in front of this man. But she dare not lie to the Master. 'No, sir,' she admitted, her eyes cast down.
'Take nothing to heart, nor aim for the heart, in other words,' the Master said. 'In practicing with these swords, do not set out to wound. And if you receive a wound, forgive. Quickly. Yes?'
'Sure,' added Stone.
'Very well. Then begin.'
They both took their stances as the Master had taught them. Both drew their swords - then each spared a moment to admire the other's sword. For where hers was filigreed, with a look of delicacy to it, his was more rugged and hardy-looking. A man's sword.
Starr turned her eyes from the man's sword to his face. And again her heart skipped and gamboled within her at how handsome he was. Well, maybe not classically handsome. But oh, his features were certainly pleasing to her eyes!
And yet... It wasn't just the surface of him that she found pleasing. There was something about him - some indefinable something - an inner quality of this man that her heart was reacting to.
She closed her eyes briefly to steady herself.
'Ready?' That was Stone's voice.
She opened her eyes. Looked into his. They were dancing, animated. Like a young boy's. Anticipating...
She nodded. 'Yes. I'm ready,' she said.
Ready - and yet neither of them moved for a long moment. Finally, to her own surprise, it was Starr who made the first move, stretching out with her sword to tap the flat of her blade against his. Tentative, questioning, that tap was, and Stone grinned and rapped back against hers in answer.
She felt the strength of the man in that small opening clash, and immediately wondered was she in over her head. He was far stronger than she! Dismayed, she glanced to the Master. Read his smile. Felt his strength flood into her.
Again the blades clashed. And again. They were moving now, Stone and Starr - close and apart - circling, darting, closing, clashing, dancing...
Yes - dancing. This was like a dance. Stone's eyes were sparkling. He was thoroughly enjoying this.
Starr was enjoying it too.
Suddenly, without really meaning to - for she had nearly forgotten that these were in fact swords in their hands - she saw a break in his defenses and took advantage. Reaching in, she smacked him sharply with the flat of her blade, there just below his shoulder on his sword arm.
'Hey!' he cried, his free hand springing to cover the spot she had hit. His sword arm dropped, leaving him defenseless - though he did at least manage to keep hold of his sword.
Starr dropped hers entirely, stricken. 'Oh, Stone! I didn't mean to! I'm sorry!' Her hand went out to him, to touch the wound she had caused. And her heart, to heal it, if only she could. 'Are you bleeding?' she asked.
Stone was inspecting the damage now, such damage as it was. For not even the cloth of his sleeve showed any harm. 'Aw, it's only a bruise,' he said. 'Don't worry about it. I'm a big guy, Starr. You'd hafta do a lot worse than this to phase me. No, what you need to worry about, Starr-girl...' And he grinned as he brought his sword back up and got into his stance again, '...is the fact that you dropped your sword. En garde!'
'Eek!' She spun and scrambled to snatch up her weapon again, getting it into her hand and whirling to face him just in time.
For he was right there, pressing his advantage, grinning, laughing, enjoying this, enjoying the dismay in her face.
With a laugh, he reversed his blade and sheathed it. Held out his hand to her. 'Good game,' he said as she fit her small hand within his large one. A big guy he certainly was - a full head taller than she - and she saw that it would not be hard for him to hurt her, quite without meaning to.
'Is your arm all right?' she asked, still amazed that she had managed to wound him.
He flexed it and shrugged. 'Yeah, it'll be fine. Maybe a bit sore later on. But no worry. It's inevitable to take a few hits, doing sword play like this.'
'Faithful are the wounds of a friend,' said the Master, coming forward to inspect Stone's shoulder. He laid his hand over the wound briefly. 'You forgive her?' he asked.
'Oh, sure,' Stone replied. 'No big deal. Hope we can do this again soon. Oh, hey, Starr?'
'Yes?' she said, feeling shy suddenly.
'Maybe we can have lunch together.' And with a friendly wave, Stone turned and trotted off towards the house.
'What do you think?'
Yes, that same question. And once again asked of her as she was watching Stone out of sight. She turned to the Master, feeling a bit guilty to see that he had been watching her watching Stone.
She could not look him in the eye. Till his hand reached out to her and gently lifted her chin.
'Starr,' he said. 'Do not be afraid. Be at peace.' And she felt the sweetness of his breath flow over her.
'You aren't angry with me?' she whispered.
A smile. 'Tell me, Starr,' he said. 'How did you meet him?'
'How?' The question stunned her. 'But... you were right here. You know how I met him.'
'Yes, I know. But I ask you questions because I want to hear your answers. And,' he added, his eyes so deep, so deep. 'Because I want you to hear your answers.'
'Oh,' she said, not completely understanding. 'Well, you - you were becoming larger than everything.' Which was still overawing, even just to speak of it. 'And I started to fall over. And he... he caught me.'
'Yes. He was right there, at just the right moment.'
'Yes. He was, wasn't he?'
'Because I orchestrated it so. I directed his steps this way. He does not realize I did so. Anymore than you had realized it.'
'He didn't see you, either,' she recalled.
'No. That truth about me he was not given to see.'
'And he thinks you're just the sword master?'
The Master smiled. 'What Stone needs to see, when he needs to see it, I myself will show him. It is enough for you right now, my Starr, to know that I have brought Stone into your life. At this time. For a reason.'
'A-a reason?' Her heart came nigh to stopping, and her face - oh, this was quite the opposite of a blush!
'Yes, Starr. And again I ask it: what do you think? Of him.'
Her voice failed her for a moment. She swallowed. Yes, and swallowed hard. 'What,' she managed to say, 'what do you want me to think of him?'
He chuckled. 'Starr, my love, you please me. That was exactly the right answer! And my answer to you is this.' And again he tilted her face up to his, meeting her eye-to-eye.
'I want you to fall in love with him.'
She gasped. 'Fall in love?' she squeaked.
'Out of all the sons of my house, I have made choice to give you to Stone, and Stone to you. He shall be your husband.'
The earth under her feet seemed to give an unsteady lurch. For a long moment she said nothing - because she couldn't. And when at last she found her voice again, she whispered, 'Are you sure?'
'Starr,' he responded kindly. 'Is it possible for me not to be sure?'
No. No, he was right. 'Then,' said she, 'make me sure.'
'I have chosen Stone to be your husband,' he said simply and clearly. 'Mind you, you are not to tell him that,' he added.
'Oh no. When he knows it for himself, then it is for him to tell you. You understand,' he said, taking her hand and leading her along as they walked through the lush grass under the nodding trees, 'that this is part of marriage being a symbol of my people and me. As the Master, I lovingly lead, and my people are to lovingly follow. Even so, Stone shall be husband; he shall lead, and you as his wife shall follow his lead.'
He stopped and she stopped at his side, looking up into his face. 'You are to trust him, Starr. As you trust me. It will be different, for Stone is but a mere man, and he will make mistakes. But your gift to him, and to me, is for you to trust him. Trust him by trusting me. Trust me through trusting him.'
'But if he makes mistakes...' she said slowly.
'When,' the Master gently corrected. 'But do not worry about them. So long as you are trusting him in obedience to me - I will see to his mistakes.' He smiled. 'I am very good at that, Starr.'
'What do you want me to do?'
'Love him. As I have told you. And do not worry, but be at peace. Utter peace.' He looked on her for a long time, and then, to her amazement, slow tears began to slide down his cheeks.
She put her hand up to touch his tears. 'Master?' she whispered. 'Beloved? Why do you weep?'
'Little Starr, my sweet, my love...' And he sighed. How he sighed! 'Little one, this shall not be easy for you. You will feel at times as if your heart is being torn in two. And there will be times when you will desire that I should release you from this. And you shall even be angry with me, for speaking of Stone to you, for telling you to fall in love with him.'
'No...' she whispered.
'Starr.' His hand lingered on her cheek, her stricken face. 'Do not be afraid, mine own. The valley shall be dark, but endure through it. Keep your hand in mine, and follow my steps before you, even when you see those only one at a time.'
'You cannot understand all my reasons for why I do these things that I do. Only know this: I love you, and I love Stone. And it delights me to put the two of you together. What you shall be together is far more than either of you can be apart. But, Starr...'
'My enemy knows this. He knows the potential Stone and you have together, in me. He will fight this. And he is subtle. At times, he will seek to turn you against Stone and Stone against you. Be aware and watchful against such tricks.
'And always remember: Stone shall be your leader as your husband. Let him lead you in all things. Begin now. Do not put yourself forward, or pursue him. But let him lead; let him pursue. He will pursue you, in time. And in time, your love - you allowing me free flow through you towards Stone - will be a healing for him.'
He looked beyond her for a moment, his deep clear eyes clouding with the remembrance of the dungeon from which he had rescued Stone. 'Know this, my darling, that love is hard for Stone to receive. Nor is love easy for him to give.' His eyes returned to her face, and he sighed. 'As you will see.'
'He seems friendly...' she said slowly.
'He is friendly. That is no mask. But as he draws closer to you, then shall he begin to see the potential he has to be hurt by his relationship with you. And he will fear. For he has been hurt much in his life. His heart has been wounded many times, has been splintered into a myriad of sharp shards, like glass. He will fear to draw close to you, for fear of being hurt again.'
'I would never hurt him!' cried Starr, surprising herself with the strength of her cry.
'I - I will hurt him?' And Starr could feel her own heart nigh to shattering.
'Not so much you, as the enemy seeking to use you as a weapon to wound Stone. To cause him to fear you, and through you, me. For it is my intention to use you to heal Stone. To heal the deep wounds of his heart. Wounds that Stone yet carries within himself, unhealed - for fear of the pain.'
'The pain of healing, my love. You see, often in the process of healing, there will come pain. And once the healing becomes painful, many draw back from being healed. It seems to them easier to hold on to the wounds instead of being healed, instead of hurting once more.
'But they do not understand. If they would only permit me to finish the healing, then would the pain at last be over and done. But out of fear, they cling yet to their wounds - until at last they become desperate. And then, then will they finally pursue the healing, desiring to be whole no matter what it costs.' He paused and added, 'And the same shall be true of you, dear one. As you shall find.'
'Me? But there are no wounds in me, are there, that I am holding back from you?'
He smiled gently on her. 'In my timing, you shall see what it is that I am speaking of. For now, my Starr - simply be steadfast, live in my peace, ever forgive - and trust. Trust me; trust Stone. He is a rich gift given to you from my hand, as you are to him. It will not always be easy to see that the two of you are my gifts to each other. But keep your mind stayed on me, and so shall this road not be as long nor as rough as it might be.
'And for right now, Starr - for right now...' He smiled on her. 'Go back to your room and rest. Catch up the sleep that you missed overnight. Yes?'
She smiled bashfully. 'You always know everything,' she said.
'Everything,' he agreed. A sweet kiss on her forehead he gave her, and sent her off to the house to sleep.
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