Saturday, July 14, 2012

False Dawn: Part 1.

[Early Third Age.]

When Seven Macaw was born, there was only one village in the whole world. The two oldest people, First Father and First Mother, were still living. He had been made from a coral tree and she from the heart of bullrushes, and they lived as long as trees; but like trees, they too grew withered and old. As time went on, they spoke and moved less and less, until they became two wooden statues. But when Seven Macaw was young, Coral and Bullrushes still spoke and walked; and all of the people, the People of Wood, lived there together with them.

In those days, there was no sun or moon. It was dark and cold in the world. The only light came from a thin crack at the horizon's edge, spilling out from underneath the earth where the unborn essence of moon and sun lay swirling in formless, cloudlike nebulae. When those rays shone through faintly, like the first light of dawn, the roof of the sky-earth was dark grey, like slate; it never got brighter than that. At other times, the sky turned pitch-black, and then sometimes strange signs could be seen. That is was what the day-nights were like.

Back then, the magic of Creation was still strong in the Earth, and it was possible for things to grow even without a sun. But it took great toil and labor to bring forth food from the earth; toil and labor, and the blood of sacrifice. The first people had been created in the warmest part of the world, near the earth's very center. But without a sun, it was still often very cold. When the day-nights were at their coldest and darkest, the animals shivered in the forest, and the people huddled around their house-fires.

It was said that in those days before the sun, the lands to the North and South were all locked up with ice. And, as time went by, groups of people went across the ice and crossed over to other masses of land, and that was how the Wooden People spread all over the world.

The Wooden People knew little besides hard work and hunger, and the constant fear of death. But they had been made strong and tough, like wood; and as they struggled to survive in the cold, hostile world, they became even more hard and stiff, stubborn and proud. They stood straight and tall and unbending like trees in the harsh winds, and their hardness was counted for virtue and beauty among them. But the gods, who had made them, found them rough and ungainly and too slow to obey, and cared for them less and less.

Yet the people remained faithful to one hope: they had been promised there would be a Sun. They made a statue in his image: One Hunahpu, the shining, smiling young man clothed in green corn-husks, whose hair was cornsilk, whose bright teeth shone like golden kernels of maize. And on the appointed day-nights, they gathered to watch the eastern horizon, and wait for him to rise. They waited, and prayed, and sacrificed. They came and waited for years, for decades, for generations. And still there was no sun; but their hope burned in their hearts like burning resin, a bright flame that would not be quenched.

One day-night, when Seven Macaw was a very small boy, he went with his family to the Ceremony of Waiting. All the people of the village climbed up a mountain where they could see far to the horizon. There they stood, looking out over the cliff, in the black day-night. Coral and Bullrushes stood hand in hand near the cliff's edge, and the people stood behind and around them. Everything was hushed and solemn. Long, black bars of cloud came up the horizon; then there came a pale, yellow light between the bars. The people waited, hushed, their breath bated. They could see only the streaks of black and yellow. They waited, praying silently, for the light to grow brighter, for the great glowing yellow orb to rise at last.

But there was nothing more than the pale streaks between the horizon and clouds.

[To be continued.]

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