Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Village & The Monsters

A long time ago, far away, there was a little, isolated village.

The people in that village were ordinary people. Some were farmers, some were millers. There was a baker and a butcher and a tanner. People lived their lives in the mundane, ordinary way that people have done in villages for thousands of years.

Most were good, some were bad, and some were indifferent. The village wasn't special, nor was it meaningless. It was one of many others that existed and where people lived their lives from birth until death.

What this village did have though was a ring of magic surrounding it. Put there 5 years ago by the local wise man. It kept back a horde of monsters that sometimes came to the village.

The villagers were terrified of the monsters. Huge, scaly things with wings, that would roar and hiss and fly close to the houses and the local tavern and the windmill. The children would cry and the women would weep and the men would shake with fear as the monsters circled their village. After several attacks the villagers approached the wise man and begged for his help. He listened to what they had to say and smoked his pipe and then leaned forward into the candlelight and said that needed very strong magic to keep these monsters at bay. He sold them magic and told them to sew it like corn it on the borders of the village and, he said, next time the monsters came, they would not be able to fly over the village or attack anyone.

The people did as they were told and the next time the monsters came, as the folk cowered in their homes, the creatures could not pass the lines of magic. They howled and hissed in the darkness but could come no closer.

Relieved, the people thanked the wise man and every day would sew the magic again as instructed, paying the wise man each time they did so.

After 5 years a visitor came to the village. A wanderer with long hair and artwork carved into his skin. The village didn't get many visitors and when the man came into the tavern to ask for a meal, some wine and a bed for the night, the villagers flocked to talk to him.

He told tales of being a soldier in the army of their long distant King. He said that he had seen the ocean and hunted for treasures at its depths. He talked of being trained to fight but that one should know when there was more courage in walking away from confrontation. He talked of how he was still in love with a woman but had never had the courage to tell her how he felt until it was too late...and her heart had been won by another man, a clerk in the King's treasury.

Eventually one of the villagers asked the man if he'd heard of the monsters that they kept at bay and the man was surprised. He had never heard of them. The villagers gasped together and two spoke together, telling the man in rushed voices that they had dangerous, winged creatures that terrorised their homes every now and then.

The man wiped his mouth with a napkin and took a gulp of his wine. He asked if he could see the monsters for himself. The villagers gaped but then agreed that it was fine, if he stood back behind the limits of their magic that they depended on to keep them safe from harm.

Walking out to the outskirts of the village, they could hear in the distance a terrible keening. The monsters were not too far away. Some people ran home, clutching their children while others stood still, unwilling to go any further.

When they reached the edge of the village there were only 10 people left with the man and they were all frightened but too proud to run. The man stood at the limit of the magic and as the creatures roared in, swirling and twisting in the air, their breath hot and their size horrifying, the villagers trembled. The creatures stayed at the very limit of the magic's power, roaring and rolling in the air.

Then, the man threw back his head and laughed and before anyone could stop him he put out his foot and crushed the magic on the boundary. The villagers screamed "No, what are you doing. They will kill us!!!" and the man stepped back as one monster swooped down towards him.

The villagers expected him to be devoured, and themselves shortly after but instead the monster settled down on its haunches and folded its wings.

The man held out his hand and the creature sniffed it and then the man rubbed its head and scratched it behind its ear. It rumbled its appreciation and closed its eyes, waddling after the man as he stepped back and the other monsters followed.

Still frightened out of their wits but not believing what they saw, the villagers did not know what to do until the man spoke again.

"These are not monsters. They are just normal creatures. They look terrifying because you made no attempt to understand them or really see them. Did they ever once attack your village before you placed your magic to prevent them coming close to you?"

As he spoke the other monsters were moving past him, yellow, green, blue. Many, many colours. They were misshapen, huge and scary looking but they appeared curious and not at all threatening now they had landed and could be seen. The man continued to rub the head of the monster as he turned to the nearest villager and said "Reach out, touch him as I do. He means you no harm".

The villager gulped but with a trembling hand reached out and petted the nearest creature. The reaction was the same. The villagers laughed as they saw this and one at a time they tried the same thing, stroking and petting the creatures who reacted like a dog or a cat to the contact, purring and rumbling contentedly.

The man spoke again, saying: "These are not your enemies. They make noise as that is their way. Your wise man thought he was helping you when he gave you this magic to keep them back but by banishing them like this you have made it so much harder to conquer your fear of them. Up close they are not so scary, or so terrible."

The villagers agreed and the next day they removed all the magic from the boundaries and the monsters never scared them again.

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