Buzzards, Hawks and Ravens
(Account of Six Friend's Life in the "Dark" Age)
Hi, boys and girls (are there any girls around anyway???)! You probably will wonder why the main character of this account and the narrator hold the same name. That's quite simple. Ruwen, whose fate is featured below, was my grandfather, actually my great-great-grand-father. Using three times the preposition "great" is not enough. I have to use about twenty-five times the term "great" to end up in the period Ruwen was living, in the 14th century. Originally his name was not Ruwen, but Reuwen, a Hebrew name, meaning "behold, a son". But he was careless in his letters and just scribbled Ruwen. This name stuck.
The next paragraphs deal with some basic information about the spiritual, social and geopolitical situation of the period Ruwen lived in. If you think it boring, just go ahead and start with Chapter One. But reading these few lines will help you to comprehend the acting characters and their fate.
Ruwen was born on the verge of the 14th century, either in 1299 or 1300, under the rule of Albrecht I of Hapsburg, the son of the famous Emperor Rudolf of Hapsburg and during the reign of the most controversial Pope Boniface VIII. This pope is more to my taste than Benedict XVI, a conservative thrown into turmoil of a faster and faster changing world.
Boniface, the founder of an university in the Holy City of Rome, had an extraordinary sharp mind and his insight was superior even to that of many of today's people, like for example of Creationlists or the Intelligent Engineers.
Some of his convictions were revolutionary not only for his times. To name just four:
" The Christian religion is the spawn of human mind like the faith of Jews and of Muslims."
"The Virgin Mary was not more of a virgin as my own mother, because they both gave birth to a son."
"There is no resurrection of men, like there is no resurrection of my horse that perished yesterday."
"There is not something like Dooms Day because the world will exist forever and the Dooms Day for a man is his death. But the visible world will exist forever."
And in respect of love he believed firmly:
"Carnal knowledge and satisfaction of sexual needs is as much a crime as to wash one's hands."
Do you think his contemporaries respected his insights? Guess what they called him? They called him ANTICHRIST and attempted to burn his already decayed body to ashes.
Ruwen spend his childhood and youth in the part of Europe, where nowadays Germany borders to France in the west and to Switzerland in the south. In the 14th century the Holy Roman Empire encompassed the region between Denmark in the north, the Papal State in Northern Italy in the south and even Sicily far in the south was part of this empire. This included also the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Alsace-Lorraine and Burgundy and stretched down to Marseille at the Mediterranean Sea. Situated in the East bordering to Poland and Hungary were Brandenburg, Bohemia, Moravia and Austria.
This Holy Roman Empire was not a centralized state like France or England. It was a quilt of about hundred independent states governed by local rulers like kings, dukes, margraves, counts, archbishops, bishops, abbots and of free imperial cities. The crown of the German King and the Emperor of the Roman Empire were not handed down from father to son. On the contrary, every Emperor was elected by a group of electors. The most important were the seven Prince Electors, the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz and Trier, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the King of Bohemia.
This pioneering pre-democratic constitution of the Holy Roman Empire had a drawback. It resulted in a permanent fight for supremacy between different rulers and parties, even in bloody struggles for influence, peoples and land. You can compare it to the "Darfurization", "Chechenyazation" or "Iraquization" of today's conflicts, including the incinerations of villages, killing of able-bodied men, raping of women and virgins and abducting small innocent boys to become ruthless child soldiers. This constitution however I was also a chance for personal freedom of individuals.
Now what do you think boys and girls? Was this Dark Age as dark as your teachers and preachers and talk masters told you? Do not belief in everything they are teaching you. Do not trust me too much either! However I assure you, I will try my best to tell you the true story of Ruwen and his friends, of Ruwen and Bastian, of Beritt and Anzo and of Jannes and Thimus, at least as the story was passed down to me over the last 700 years.
Now to another peculiarity of this story! The English used below is just not the English a well educated college postgraduate of Oxford or Cambridge is using. It's just the lingua franca of today, simpler: I am using MPCPE (My Personal Computer Pidgin English).
Now let me start the account with Ruwen's boyhood.
A new life found
Ruwen dragged his tired horse on its bridle through the narrow gate in the ring wall surrounding the scattered village.
"Hey, Blacky come on, don't be so stubborn! You already had your fair share of food today; but me ... I am hungry and tired and I hardly can move my legs anymore! Come on you black devil. I promised you a feed bag full of grains later."
After five frightening days in a dark and desolated forest, Ruwen had finally spotted the village from the pass high on top of the mountain ridge. Two weary figures were strapped on the bare back of a black stallion, his mother and his small sister. His seriously injured mother had not been able to keep upright, as she had lost too much of her blood from her torn up abdomen. His worn out sister Eileen was clutching to her back, sleeping. With a last, ultimate effort he managed to pull the horse through the small gate and up the gravel road towards the church overlooking the farmsteads on both sides.
The village seemed to be deserted, nobody seemed to be present. The houses, cow sheds and barns seemed to be desolated, but he did smell the stench of the cows and pigs and in his back he did feel the stares of the people behind the blinds. With tired legs he scrambled up the rampant road to the church. Suddenly the whole world went black...
Ruwen awoke from his unconsciousness on a dusky, dusty barn floor. Faint flares of light flickered through the cracks in the doors. A whimpering noise was heard to the left, a fearful sniffing. He immediately recognized it as his sister's lament. He tried to sit up, but was too tired.
Suddenly the high pitched voice of a boy came out of the dark "Father, father look, his eyelids are quivering. He is opening his eyes, he is alive!"
A small, chubby face came into view, a wet cloth wiped his forehead and small arms tried to prop him up. In front of Ruwen was a sturdy boy, slightly older than he, with freckles all over his face and a mop of light hair. He looked into his face, smiled and asked, "Are you alright? I was afraid you were dead like the women over there! I am so glad you are alive!" A streak of tears were running down the cheeks of the strange boy.
"Don't frighten the boy, just pet him" the raspy voice of an old women came out of the off.
The dark voice of man added "Be careful Bastian, he is still feeble and not fully aware of the situation".
Bastian, that was the name of the blue eyed boy, propped Ruwen up, put a wisp of straw under his back and offered him some water.
Ruwen started to look around. His sister was sitting lightly aback to his left on a blanket chewing some bread. But where was his mother? At first he did not see her, but then he recognized something familiar to the left of the barn door. There was a limp bundle on a wisp of straw clothed in the dress of his mother, the former shiny hair dull, unkempt, and lifeless. Ruwen realized the situation in a wink of an eye. His mother was dead, irrecoverably dead, lost for ever. He had seen too many dead bodies during the last few weeks, dead children, torn up women, slaughtered men. Ruwen turned around and covered his eyes with his arms. He wanted to extinguish like a candle, to vanish from earth. He could not cry. His eye stayed dry. Ruwen retreated into an inner world. Faintly he perceived the voices of arguing men, arguing women; talking about taking care of him and his sister, talking about ... He lost consciousness again.
Later in the evening Ruwen found himself crouched on a bench, muffled in a heavy blanket. The warm arm of somebody was draped over his shoulders. In the scarcely lit room someone was holding him tightly. It was Bastian, all smiles, with a clean face now and chewing some bread.
On the other side of the table two big lads towered. Fright rushed over Ruwen's back. But the two blond giants smiled at him. Then one asked "Hi Bastian, did you find a new toy? A boy as a toy?" and then to Ruwen "I am Bendrich and that's my twin brother Geroldt! Welcome to our family!"
And Geroldt added "Be careful! Bastian can be quiet a pest. If you need help call on us."
The next thing Ruwen remembered was the drink Bastian offering him proudly, a big cup of foaming milk. However, as soon the milk entered Ruwen's stomach he got sick. His stomach revolted and he puked the clotted white stuff all over the table and the floor. He felt so humiliated.
But the big boys started to laugh "Hey Basti, did you poison your new toy already at his first day? Be careful tonight, maybe you got yourself a bed-wetter. Swaddle him tightly, you have to share the bed with him not us."
Ruwen woke up in a pitch dark room. Everything smelled strange, the shirt he was wearing, the bedding, the room itself. Somebody was clasping him very tightly, was spooning him. The arm around his bare belly felt strange but soothing and something hard was propped in the cleft of his bum.
An unfamiliar snoring came from the other end of the room. Ruwen had to pee! He needed urgently to attend an outhouse. But where was he, where was the outhouse? He started to turn and toss around anxiously. He didn't want to wet the bed.
Suddenly someone came stumbling through the dark ... "What's the matter boy, are you sick?" "No, I just have to pee, urgently!!" Then this someone picked him up and carried him down the stairs like a baby. This someone was Bendrich. Side by side the big and the small boy relieved themselves onto the muckheap. "Tomorrow, you have to find your way downstairs without my help" was Bendrich's remark while he carried Ruwen back up into the bedroom.
Ruwen was aroused by ear-splitting and agitated discussions downstairs. His name was mentioned as often as the one of his little sister. He got an uneasy feeling and started to become afraid. Anxiously he slipped back under the bed cover; shut his ears with the hands; curled up like foetus. After a while his curiosity won and, even more, the responsibility for his smaller sister took over. Quietly he tiptoed downstairs wearing only a wide shirt probably belonging to one of the twins.
The large main room of the homestead was crowed by about two dozen villagers ... bearded men, heavy women and a few young people. He recognized Bastian, the twins and Bastian's four sisters. All others were strangers to him. But who was the strong, dominant man governing the meeting? Was it Bastian's father? And who was the frail, white haired women with a walking-stick sitting in the center on a winged chair? The voices of these two sounded faintly familiar. Ruwen stopped at the bottom of the staircase and tried to hide himself behind a sturdy man's back.
However Bastian spotted him immediately and exclaimed happily "Father look, it's Ruwen! He is finally awake!" and then he pulled Ruwen into the circle.
A fierce debate was on about the further fate of Ruwen and little Eileen. Their mother was dead. Who was to accept the responsibility for the two orphans now? Was it in the responsibility of Bastian's father as the provost of the village? Should the kids stay in the village in care of a family or given into the custody of a nearby monastery?
The case of Eileen was settled in a rush. Eileen was already sitting in the lap of a cheerful, middle-aged woman with a gigantic, soft bosom and wide haunches. She was cuddling the little girl, patting her constantly to make her feel at home. The women beamed proudly into the round.
"That's my girl now. I won't let her be moved to these cruel nuns. I have wanted a girl my entire life long. I have born only two sons, nice sons ... look at them, and now the Lord has bestowed me with a beautiful girl. Eileen is ours, forever."
The two boys, one about 9 and the other 12, drew closer to her mother, embraced her and started hugging the little girl.
Then a man rose, a man strong, strong like a bull, his hairs covered with flour and he simply stated "That's our Eileen now! We tried for years to have more children, but never succeeded. The girl is a godsend. She's ours!"
Everyone smiled; but some of the lads smirked knowing of the noisy trials of the couple to father a girl.
That's how Eileen became the miller's daughter.
Ruwen was trembling despite the heat radiating from the crowd. He felt even more uneasy than he had upstairs. His mind panicked. He did know the next minutes would be of vital importance for his further life.
Bastian's father rose, straightened up ... "One problem is solved, but now to the bigger one. Who volunteers to take care of the boy? Not me! I have eight mouths to feed every day; my dear wife, three strong sons and four daughters. There is never enough food on the table, there is no bed for one more boy. I don't want a boy as small and weak as this one! He will not be able to earn his living on my farm. I do not need a toy! No! I can't offer him a home."
Everyone was taken aback by this stern statement. He was the richest farmer in the village, he had plenty of cattle and sheep and sows. Who besides him, the provost, could afford to care for that poor lad?
An uneasy silence spread. Then something happened that no one was expecting. Bastian seized Ruwen's arm, pulled him towards his father, stomping with his left foot.
"I found him father! He is mine! He is my friend! He is small but strong, he is no toy! Look at his muscles. And, I need him! He does not need an extra bed, he can sleep with me! He does not need an extra bowl, he can use mine! He does not need extra food, I split mine with him! If you send him away to the monastery, I will leave too!"
The face of Bastian's father turned red in anger. His smallest son had contradicted him in front of the most important villagers. He growled "Get out of here, immediately! That's not your business, you blockhead!"
But there was more to come.
The twins stepped forward pleading in one voice. "Father please doesn't be harsh to that poor child. He has lost his mother, he has suffered so much! Listen to Bastian, he needs help. And, Bastian needs Ruwen like we both, Bendrich and Geroldt, need one another."
The ensuing silence was broken by the penetrating knocking of a cane on the tiles of the floor. The brittle voice of the white haired women rose loud ...
"Klas, son of my only brother, I gave you all the land I inherited for farming because I don't have children, but I didn't hand it down to you for ever! I may as well give it to this small boy instead of you, because you have to know I had a dream last night... I saw this boy in front of a large crowd of sick people. He took the hands of the sick and invalid and they were healed. The hobbling went away straight, the blind ones seeing, the deaf ones hearing!...... You have to care for him Klas, till he is old enough to meet his fate!"
Just in this moment the silence was broken by the neighing of a stallion, Ruwen's black stallion, the loud and triumphant neighing of a stallion having impregnated a mare, Klas's mare.
Klas remained in thought with down cast eyes. Then his wife Muriel put an arm around his shoulders ... "Take him Klas as your fourth son. Remember, yesterday you praised him: Such a small boy and already this strong. I doubt that I would have been strong enough as this boy to haul a fatally ill woman together with a little weak girl through the Dark Wood to safety. Forget all your sorrows and thank God you got another good son!"
Still years later, Ruwen was not able to resolve exactly which of the advocates turned his fate, his foster brothers Bastian, Geroldt and Bendrich or Aliah the wise woman, or the neighing stallion - probably all of them together.
I would like to express a special thank to Anthony and Paul for doing a great job by correcting all the wrong expressions and the punctuation used by a non native English writer.
Comments, reviews, questions and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would like to add, thanks for reading.
Copyright Notice - Copyright © April 2007
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form -- physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise -- without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.