Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Backapcking Burro: The Tale

The fire billowed and crackled in the wind, its heat beating back the night on my naked skin. Behind me lay the backpack; I had taken it off as I sat down to listen to the old man’s tale. At the edge of the fire, he had set a small metal cooking pot of water to boil.

"Long before the Linden Clan laid claim to this land,” he started, “people lived here. Lots of people. They lived, loved, fought and died. They built cities, planted forests, cultivated land, sought mastery over the water and the air. And through it all, they were led by their shamen.”

“Shamen like you?” I ventured.

He smiled, his worn tanned face alive in the firelight, “Yes. Shamen like me. Only more so. The Old Ones were far more powerful than we few are now. They knew the true secrets of the world. They could shape land with a thought, open seas with a gesture, bring the beasts of the earth to them with a single call. Now… well, now we are diminished. The Last Great War saw to that.”

“War? The voices mentioned a war.”

“The Elders,” he corrected.

“The Elders, yes, they said a war was coming. Is this true? What kind of war do they mean?”

“If they have foreseen it, it will happen. And it will be terrible if allowed. The Last War laid ruin to the whole earth. The land died. The seas choked and the air turned foul. Once proud cities turned on each other and then, when there was no others left, themselves. A terrible dark time swallowed all. We almost lot everything.” The water in the pot had begun to roll, and he casually dropped a handful of dried leaves into it.

“But who were the Shamen fighting? What was the war over?”

“Oh,” he said his voice heavy with sadness, “what are wars always fought over? Power, land, control. All these things and more. The Old Ones had grown powerful, but with such power comes great responsibilities. Some Shamen decided that not for them were the Agreements written. They decided that the world and all its contents were their by right, to do with as they wanted. The Grove did not agree. When beings of great power disagree, even minor disagreements have devastating consequences for those around them. The disagreements quickly escalated to war. Almost too late the Elders stepped in. They stopped the war, they removed the power from the Shamen, they remoulded the world to make such a gathering of power all but impossible ever again.”

“All but impossible is not impossible,” I pointed out.


“I see. I take it you are saying someone is looking to gain the power of the Old Shamen.”

“Yes,” he repeated.

“And that someone does not have the best of intentions?”

“Yes.” He said suddenly looking tired beyond belief. He dropped a small pinch of dried herbs into the pot and let it boil on.

“But where do I fit in? I mean, why me? Out of all the people here now. Why me?”

“You have been chosen. You have been chosen to find the key to stopping the war before it starts.”

“How? And what is the key?”

“I… we do not know,” he looked into the fire, unable to meet my eye. He took the pot off the fire and slowly poured the steaming liquid into two small red cups similar to the one I had found in the back backpack earlier.

“What?” I shouted, “What do you mean you don’t know? You must! I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do now?”

“Well, the backpack chose you. Why not ask it?”, he handed me a cup over the flames, “Tea?” he offered.

I took the cup without thinking, “Ask it? Ask it? It’s a bloody backpack if you hadn’t noticed!” I swigged the tea back, ignoring the heat. “How do you suggest I ask a bloody backpack anything?” I fell sideways, unconscious by the time my head hit the ground.

My eyes opened but all was black. Less than one day had passed and this was the third time I had been rendered unconscious. I was getting a wee bit fed up if the truth was known. I sat up. I couldn’t see the floor beneath me but I could certainly feel it. “Hello?” I shouted, not too loudly but enough to suggest I was hoping for a reply.

A slight laugh reached my ears, a sound like crystal glasses rolling together.

“Hello,” I said, this time just loud enough for someone next to me to hear.

“Hello,” the glassy voice laughed in my ear, “welcome to the Inside.”


Current Population: 2 said...

Oh this is very interesting, Mr Antfarm. Be careful of rucksacks, they can be a rough bunch, but for all that they can be hardy souls.

And your new appearance is rather dashing. Oops, pardon the pun. But its nice, the horns suit you.

Fuschia Begonia

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Why thank you, my dear Miss Begonia – on matters of fashionable taste I always defer to a Lady’s view, whilst on matters of otherworldly voices, sudden changes of form and all-round general strangeness, I naturally look to one of the Fae. Therefore I am doubly blessed that you happened by my scribblings and pictures, for you above all may be able to warn me against ambling into unsafe arenas, dallying in dangerous realms, and wearing exactly the wrong kind of hat for my horns…

Yours in Travel,
HeadBurro Antfarm.

Kitchen Witch said...

You know, I'm rather enjoying this.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Hello, Miss Witch, and fancy seeing you here! I'm please to learn you are enjoying what for me was a terrifying and painful ordeal ;-)

Darien Mason said...

Mr. Antfarm,

Being the former unwilling vessel of a horned spirit myself, you have my complete sympathy in this matter. Your totemic Nature spirit, however seems to be of a less malevolent nature than the Incubus that inhabited me. I would offer to help you find a cure if you truly desired it, but it seems you were chosen for a special purpose. And as the adage goes, it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Otherwise, I would give what advice I can, but in Shamanic journeys the experience and the wisdom they impart are as important than the knowledge itself.

~Dr. Bloodwing

P.S. Esquire? You have a Law degree?

Current Population: 2 said...

I would most definitely agree with Dr Mason on that one - never mess with Mama Nature; she has a long memory and hob-nailed boots.

And I think maybe a flat cap, with two little holes cut in it, would work quite well. Or a straw boater, seeing as it's summer.


HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Dear Dr Mason,

Thank you so much for your kind offer of help removing my human form from that of my gazelle spirit guide. Be assured that if I find my relationship with this elemental side of my nature (or indeed, the backpack) has reached a point where only an immediate and dramatic divorce is needed, I shall seek your services out post haste!

As for the esquire addition to my signature, I have to admit to a mere affectation driven by vanity. If, as you enquired, I was connected to the legal profession then I fear my spirit guide would be a vulture or shark. Maybe a polecat.

Yours in Travel,
HeadBurro Antfarm, Esq., MBB, BSM.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Dear Miss Begonia,

I shall take both your advice on Mother “Mama” Nature and choice of potential headgear on board. Two questions raise themselves – do you know a quality gentleman’s milner, and would dear Mama Nature really wear hobnailed boots with she has a endless choice of pretty mules, heels and flip flops (many with shiny flower patterns) at her fingertips?

Yours in Travel. And hats.,
HeadBurro Antfarm.

Current Population: 2 said...

I do have a flat cap that might do you, Mr Antfarm, and I know Miss Virrginia Tombola has a straw boater somewhere, as does Mr Scarborough.

And every girl needs her hobnails. Mules just don't cut it when it comes to kicking shins (at least not the sort you wear on your feet).

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Dear Miss Begonia - many thanks for the lovely flat cap! I hope you received the picture I sent :)