Buzzards, Hawks and Ravens
(Account of Six Friends' Lives in the "Dark" Ages)
- The Pilgrimage -
- God's Wiz Kids -
The stiff morning breeze had already cleared the valley of the smoke from the Bealltuinn fire. The silvery chimes of a small church bell invited the pilgrims to the First-of-May service. Shivering in the chilly air the crowd pushed impatiently through the entrance, eager to pray for forgiveness for the gluttony and the sexual excesses of the evening before.
Ruwen and his friends arrived at the chapel late. Edging their way through densely packed crowd, they found a place left of the altar.
Jannes looked around open-mouthed. He couldn't believe his eyes. "Is this Oranna's Chapel, the magic nave, we saw yesterday Ruwen?" while Thimus asked surprised, "Anzo, big brother, where has the burning rock gone? Where has the flickering light gone, radiating from the abyssal depth?"
The blazing rock of the night before was now only a flat dark boulder guarding the well spring, its rugged surface sprinkled with pale candle wax. Where the rock touched the surface of dark water in the wide basin, it was overgrown with moss. Today the altar was illuminated by the light of twelve arm-thick candles, six of them on each side of the ragged cross. Their soft light was reflected from the golden mosaic of St. Oranna and her brother, St. Wendalis, and filled the nave.
The celebrant, a small bearded monk in an earthen coloured habit and a turban of white cloth, was already performing the introductory prayers. Eying the small man carefully, Ruwen pondered if this was the monk who had been lying prostrated in front of the altar the night before. At first he could only see the monk's drab back. But when the fragile man turned around to read the gospel to the pilgrims, Ruwen was amazed by the wide golden stole and even more by the heavy pectorale worn by the celebrant. The cross was very different from the cross with the crucified Saviour that the monks in the monastery of Niwenburg had been wearing. This pectoral was a small replica of the big withered wayside cross in the centre of the altar. It was not adorned with the crucified Saviour; instead its upper bar was replaced by the Sun-Wheel.
The service moved on from the Asperges to the Confiteor and the Kyrie, and the pilgrims and the the priest humbly beseeched the Lord for mercy. When the Gloria in excelsis Deo rang out, ample incense was burned by the altar men, so that the fumes of francincense, mhyrr and rockrose nearly choked anyone next to the altar.
The seated people listened to the Epistel and rose when the Gospel was proclaimed, bending down their heads to the words, in deep gratitude.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.------ "
Reciting the words, "May the words of the gospel wipe away our sins," the celebrant descended from the pulpit, fixed his gaze on the pilgrims, and then climbed upon the rugged rock sheltering Oranna's well.
"Brothers and Sisters, My dear Brothers and Sisters,"
he began his sermon, raising his arms as if to embrace a long missed friend,
"Jesus has prepared a home for you, dear Brothers and Sisters, a home full of light, a light more brilliant than the light of the sun! He has prepared for you a home smelling of ambrosia, with water tastier than sweet wine, with food tastier than manna, with beds softer than the down of wild geese."
Pausing for a moment and fixing his audience with a gaze, he continued,
"Brothers and Sisters, forget about the burning rock, the blazing of the fire in the Bealltuinn night, the wavering smoke of burning incense dazzling your senses..."
Ruwen raised his eyes and let his glance pass from the blackened stone to the altar. The blazing light of the candles burned images into the background of his eyes. He had to close the lids, but they could not annihilate the blazing image. In an instant the after-image of the candle-flames changed into the firestorm that had engulfed his hometown. The blazing fire rushed through the narrow alleys, incinerating the houses, the barns, the churches. The buildings collapsed, screeching. Up on the hill the castle was on fire, the voracious flames annihilated the manor, the stables, the wooden stories of the donjon and the people and animals trapped inside. More than eight years later, Ruwen still smelled the acrid smoke of burned flesh of the people and the livestock. His ears resounded with the shrieks of dying horses, the cries of raped women and the wailing of molested children. His eyes still burned and watered from caustic smoke hovering over the city. He still saw the bleeding body of the inn-keeper nailed eagle-spread onto the door of the tavern across the square. Up on the hill Ruwen still saw the bloodied corpse of a man of suspended feet up on a charred oak-tree. He saw his father's body. He saw the chopped off head of his father as the enemy's trophy, on the point of a spear high on the castle walls. His ears still heard the oppressed wailing of his tormented mother after she came creeping back to the prison camp after she was raped by a company of marauding soldiers. He still heard her final gasps when the last trop of blood left her torn up. Ruwen still heard the desperate cries of his small sister "Mommy, Mommy!"
This nightmarish state was broken by the words of the celebrant: "Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands..." Ruwen awoke from his short absence and his body collapsed. Just before he hit the ground four hands caught him, two big ones, two small ones. Bastian and Jannes steadied him and held him tight, while words of the consecration resounded in the chapel, "Take and eat of this, all of you, FOR THIS IS MY BODY."
At the same instant Ruwen became aware of another voice, the desperate shouts of woman's voice, "Where is Jessie? Who has seen my Jessie? My little Jessie?" A woman in torn clothing stormed into the chapel, shouting hysterically again and again, "Where is Jessie? Where is my little boy, my darling?"
The altar-men tried to hold her back, but she threw herself down on the steps of the altar, embracing the ankles of the celebrant. "Oh Lord, my Lord! Give me back my Jessie!"
The elders advanced to lift her off the ground and drag her away, but the monk stopped the men. He put down the consecrated bread and asked, "What happened poor woman? Who is Jessie?"
The desperate woman cried out again: "Jessie, Jessie is my little son! My only boy! He has vanished; he is gone. I can't find him. Someone has taken him away, has stolen him!"
She then rose and turned to the audience, wild with fear. Spotting the healers in the first row, she pointed at their group shouting with shrill voice, "The wicked healers have taken him away! The sorcerers have captured my boy! I know they have slaughtered him; made wizard's brew out of his blood, made black ointment out of his fat and devil's dust out of his bones! I know it, they have slain him. They are murderers!"
The elders had to hold her back when she tried to jump Berrit. The small monk tried to calm her down, "Nobody has harmed your son, woman! Stop crying, start praying! Stop accusing good men! Ask the Lord for mercy!"
Then he turned to the pilgrims, "In the name of God the Almighty, I will discontinue the service till the boy is back with his mother. Elders, you take reliable men, then go and search the valley for Jessie. You others, however, will stay with me in front of the altar and ask the Lord for mercy!"
Collecting his mind for a moment, he turned to the healers and apologized with a bow. "Please, be not upset, and forgive a worried mother her harsh words. Please stay with us! Please pray with us! I know the Lord takes delight in the intercessions of you, his dear sons."
From the moment they had been accused by the woman, Jannes and Thimus were firmly convinced it was on them to prove the accusation wrong. By looking at each other they knew immediately they had to take part in the search for Jessie. They looked at each others eyes and knew where to search for the small boy.
Wide-awake as he was, Thimus immediately realized the only chance to take part at the search was to leave the chapel in advance of the men. He took Jannesī hand and rushed out of the chapel. Jeroen followed without asking. The three boys hurried along Orn Creek without wasting any time looking in the tent-town.
"Remember the dammed up pond where the Orn drains into the foothills?" Thimus asked Jeroen, "That's the place Jessie is hiding! I know it! That would be the place I would like to play games unwatched by my mother."
Just where Orn Creek left Oranna's vale and entered the foothills by a small rapid, the flow of the swift Orn Creek was held back by a weir, forming a wide reservoir. To the right, the swiftly flowing water passed along a gravel-bank and drained into the forestland. To the left the body of water was nearly stagnant and the murky water touched a swampy beachfront, overgrown heavily by Sweet Gale, Great Sallow and Black Alder.
The three boys carefully searched both banks and the stony weir for the small boy. Thimus, Jannes and Jeroen detected no trace of Jessie at either at the gravel-beach or the heavily overgrown bank. While they painstakingly scanned every possible hiding place, Jannes began to shout "Jessie, Jessie! Where are you hiding? We are friends of yours. Don't hide; your mother crying for you!" Jeroen and Thimus joined in with loud voices. No answer!
Jannes climbed onto a big willow tree to get a better view of the surroundings. At first he scanned every part of the vegetation carefully, then he turned his attention to the water body and finally concentrated on the rim of the stony weir. The water drained from the reservoir by a slightly deepened outlet. This passage was clogged with broken branches and logs, washed up after the thaw. Suddenly a small grey bundle between some logs attracted his attention. "Look over there! Look Thimus. There Jeroen! Look at the bundle of wet cloth caught in between the braches at the outlet! That has to be Jessie; I just know it!"
Thimus and Jeroen rushed to the edge of the weir and Thimus began to walk through the ice-cold water to the outlet. The water close to the weir was far deeper than expected and the ground was slippery! Thimus lost footing and disappeared with a piercing shriek, into the icy water. Emerging again, he began to yell frantically, "Get me out! Get me out! I can't swim!"
Meanwhile Jannes had also arrived on the spot. Holding onto Jeroen's healthy arm, he advanced into the water, seized his frightened friend by the collar and pulled him ashore.
Thimus as well as Jannes were now soaking wet, but they didn't feel the cold, because Jeroen pointed at the bundle in the water, "Look! Look its Jessie! I can see one of his arms and a hand clinging to the branches."
With chattering teeth they debated how to get to the boy. "I will try to balance along the crest of the weir to get to Jessie. It's the only way to get there! The water is too cold to swim!" Jannes decided quickly.
"You can't, Jannes! It's too dangerous. You will slip from rim of the weir and skid down into the rapids," Thimus warned him. Meanwhile Jeroen, being a peasant's son and used to dealing with situations like this, picked two long branches out of the water. "We have to make a rescue-chain. You go first Jannes and hold onto the branch Thimus is holding. You, Thimus, will safeguard Jannes, while I will safeguard you with my branch."
Luckily the rescue-chain was long enough to get Jannes close to Jessie. Lying flat on the jammed up branches at the outlet, he was finally able to seize the bundle of cloth with one hand and pull it free. With the help of his friends he finally got the water soaked bundle safely ashore.
Jessie's body was limp. His face, as well as his hands were blue and ice-cold. He seemed not to breathe at all. However after removing the wet clothing, Thimus could feel a feeble heart beat. The boys tried to wake him. First they held him head down. Water drained out of his mouth however he didn't start to breathe. He didn't open his eyes! The boys got anxious. A short time passed and still Jessie didn't come back to life.
"What can we do to revive him?" Thimus asked his friends desperately. Closing his eyes, Jannes remembered a story he had heard in the church, at first faintly but after concentrating he remembered the gospel of the animation of Adam by the creator: The Lord breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being!
Now Jannes knew how to get Jessie back to life. "We have to fill his lungs with our breath! That's the way the creator animated Adam," he told his friends. "Thimus, Jeroen, this is the only chance we have to revive Jessie!"
They placed the icy body of the boy on Jeroen's dry surcoat and wrapped him up as good as possible. While Thimus was attempting to warm up Jessie's cold body by kneading his limbs, Jannes was the first one to try to reanimate Jessie. He joined his mouth with Jessie's and tried to blow air into the boy's lungs. Again and again he tried to inflate Jessie's lungs. When he got tired, Thimus took his place, and after that, Jeroen. For a long time their efforts seemed to be in vain. Jessie didn't open his eyes, and he didn't start breathing.
Just when they began to become totally desperate, and Thimus began to cry, Jannes could feel Jessie moving slightly. "Go on, Jeroen, try it again; blow air into his lungs. He is moving! Jessie's heart is starting to beat harder!"
Jeroen doubled his efforts and soon the little boy's heart started to beat steadier and faster. He began to breathe. "Listen, Jessie. He is starting to breathe on his own! His body is getting warmer." Thimus shouted, relieved. "He is opening his eyes! Listen, he starts coughing!" Jannes shouted happily.
"I'll hurry back to the chapel!" Jeroen announced proudly. "I'll tell his mother we have found him! I will tell her Jessie is alive! I'll tell all the people," and off he bolted, leaving behind his two happy friends and the reviving Jessie.
Forced to stay in the chapel, Ruwen became a nervous wreck. It wasn't the missing boy, Jessie, what made him heartsick; it was the false accusations of his mother. In all of his short life his natural desire was to help innocent creatures, birds, mammals, men, and especially children. And now, someone had accused him of slaughtering an innocent boy! A mother had accused him and his friends of murdering an innocent boy. The fundaments of his life suddenly seemed to break to pieces, to shatter like a glass falling on rock.
As soon the search party had left the chapel, the pilgrims had begun to pray.
The small monk began with Litany of the Saints:
God, the Father of Heaven,
and the pilgrims answered in unison:
have mercy on us.
They appealed to the Son, the redeemer of the world, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Then the litany went on by asking the intercession of the archangels of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St Raphael. Then they appealed to the community of saints, beginning with St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Andrew, St. James, and finally they asked all Holy Men and Women for mercy.
The monotonous voices of the praying calmed Ruwen, calmed Jessie's mother and calmed the pilgrims in the chapel. Everyone waited. When the Litany had ended, the monk began to recite the rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries.
Just at the moment when the celebrant asked the pilgrims to contemplate the fourth of the Sorrowful Mysteries He, who has carried the heavy cross for our sins, his voice was drowned out by the loud shouts of men drawing nearer and nearer. At first the pilgrims in the chapel were scared, fearing the worst, but then they caught the meaning of the shouts. The men shouted: "They have found Jessie! Jessie is alive! Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen have rescued Jessie! Thank God! Jessie is alive! God's Wiz Kids have saved his life!"
All heads turned to the door and joined the whoops, "Jessie is alive, Jessie is alive!" and then the crowd pressed forward to the gate. The gate opened and a parade came marching in. At the head of the group the village elder paraded, holding little Jessie wrapped up in his arms. Then three beaming lads followed, carrying the drenched rescuers on their shoulders. "Jannes, Thimus, Jeroen! Hail to you! Hail to God's Wiz kids" the people shouted.
Full of joy and overflowing with gratitude the tear-stained mother took her little Jessie in her arms and began to cry uncontrollably. The three rescuers jumped down from the shoulders of the men and rushed into the arms of their big friends, the healers, telling then how they had rescued little Jessie.
While Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen's big friend carried them to the wagon to get dry clothes, the celebration of the Holy mass continued with the Glorious Mysteries. The service culminated in the Te Deum laudamus filling the chapel, and the whole valley, with the grateful sound of this joyful hymn.
Packed up in heavy blankets, the still freezing boys huddled close to the fire, while Bastian stirred a simmering broth in the kettle hanging on a tripod over the low burning campfire. Six hungry eyes followed his big wooden spoon. "Let me taste the broth!" Thimus demanded impatiently. "The broth must be done by now!"
"No! Me! Let me taste your magic broth first, Bastian; you always want to be the first, Thimus," Jannes called, indignant. "It was me who pulled Jessie out of the pool!"
Jeroen's stomach rumbled at least as much as those of the others, but he didn't dare ask Bastian, because he still felt too new in the healers circle. Secretly he hoped Bastian would let him taste the broth first, knowing the big blond guy had taken a secret liking to him.
At the court of the travelling healers, Bastian had taken over the function of odd-job man. He was responsible for everything, except healing and preparing medications. He was marshal as well as steward, captain as well as armourer, coachman as well as wainwright. His favourite duty however besides making love to Ruwen, was cooking. To celebrate the day, he had opted for a rabbit in broth, the tasty "Connynges in grauey". This dish needed some time to prepare and several rare spices besides the meat of a fat rabbit, some rare spices. "Get me some ground pepper from your sacred store of drugs, Anzo! Don't forget the cumin and the saffron!" When Anzo didn't comply immediately, he added, "Don't be thrifty as an old hag! The boys deserve the best! They revived little Jessie!"
Meanwhile, for diversion, Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen had started to play a game of dice. The boys played "tres cane", a game preferred by peasants. Jeroen had just cast the dice. "First Dog: One, Second Dog: One, Third Dog: ------oh shit!" he shouted disappointed, "Now I got a Six!"
"You are in the lead anyway!" Thimus consoled his new friend. "I only cast Two, Two and Four and Jannes even got the Five three times!"
Jannes, pulling a face, remarked, "Now you have the first pick at dinner and I'll bet you'll take the drumstick and leave us only the ribs."
"A rabbit has two drumsticks, you stupid. But I'll step back in favour of Jannes," Jeroen smiled, "because Jannes saw Jessie first."
The friendly hassling stopped when a strange parade came into the view on its way up to the healersī camp. The parade was headed by a short, fat woman in a long apron. She walked cautiously, a steaming bowl propped up against her big breast. A step back, three maidens followed carrying bowls and dishes overflowing with delicious smelling food. Next in line was a chubby man in white, carrying three roasted chickens on a spit. He was followed by some lads carrying planks and stands for a big table and several benches. Finishing off the group was the village elder and his son, bringing along a big keg and cups.
Small boys and girls bustled around the parade, while curious adults twisted their heads to get a closer look at the event happening up on the hummock. Coming closer, Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen could make out the song the kids were singing: "God's Little Wizards have rescued Little Jessie! God's Little Wizards have rescued Little Jessie! Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen are God's special Kids! Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen are God's Wiz Kids!" Catching the words, Jannes and Thimus beamed proudly, while Jeroen blushed and looked bashfully at the ground.
The grateful pilgrims had decided to prepare a big feast for the three rescuers, and their friends. The dinner-table had been arranged in front of their wagon. Jannes, Thimus and Jeroen were asked to take the place of honour, framed by Bastian and Ruwen to the right, and Anzo and Berrit to the left. After all were seated, the elder expressed the thanks of all the villagers for the brave deed. He finished the praise with a hearty "Three cheers to God's Wiz Kids and the healers."
Just then a small riding donkey came climbing up the hummock. The grey animal carried an even smaller man in an earthen coloured habit and a turban of white cloth. It was the strange monk with the Sun-Cross around his neck. In a very soft voice he greeted the company, "Peace be with you! Praise the Lord! For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever." Taking a seat between Jannes and Thimus, he bowed first to the healers and then to the others around the table: "My name is Simaan, our Lord's humble servant; Monk Simaan, born far to the south beyond the Mare Nostrum in a town called Aswan on the river of Nile."
Contemplating for a moment, with closed eyes, he then disclosed his secret to the audience. "When I was the age of these boys, a child of only ten, the Lord showed me this valley in a dream. In the morning I asked my father about it, but he had never heard of a valley as green as this. He advised me to consult the wise men in the monastery, Deir Anba Simaan. Even before breakfast, I had set out for this long walk into the desert. Late in the evening, I arrived at the gate of the monastery, where I told the abbot about my dream and asked for help. He hadn't heard of this paradise either. He consulted his brethren, but not one of them, not even the oldest monks, had heard of it. They consulted the scrolls in the library, but these contained no clue. I was worn out from the march and I fell asleep at the steps of the church."
Taking a long sip of water and smiling to everybody at the table, Monk Simaan continued, "In the depth of the night a small boy roused me out of my deep sleep. He had fair hair and his blue eyes sparkled in the pale moonlight.
He touched my shoulder and whispered: I will guide you to this place!
Impatiently I asked: When? When?
But he just answered: Wait! Wait!
Then he turned and walked out into the never-ending, moonlit desert. I cried. But he kept his promise. He returned to me in my dreams, not every night, but every time I went astray and missed the right way. Now, forty years later, after walking thousands of miles, meeting thousands of people, and learning dozens of languages, I have finally arrived at my destination, the green, green valley."
Looking in a circle, Monk Simaan realized the hungry eyes of those gathered at the table. Lifting his dark eyes to the golden sun high up in the sky, he took a loaf of bread, broke it to pieces, and passed these around. "Brothers, taste the sweet gift of the sun; taste the sweet gift of the Almighty and remember from where we came!"
I would like to express my special thanks to B. for doing an unbelievable great job by correcting all the wrong expressions and the punctuation used by a non native English writer. Copywrite 2009
Comments, reviews, questions and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would like to add, thanks for reading.
Stories by the author:
Buzzards, Hawks and Ravens (2007 still going on; posted on nifty.org, awesomedude.com, storylover.us)
Fate and Fortune (2008 still going on; posted on nifty.org; awesomedude.com; storylover.us)
Palm Sunday Magic (2007, posted on awesomedude.com; storylover.us)
Ran-Dy Va-Mp Visits his Friend (2009, posted on nifty.org, high school section)
Sean E & Ruwen Rouhs:
Terry and Sam, a Christmas Story (2008, posted on nifty.org; awesomedude.com; storylover.us; codeysworld.com)