First of all, happy New Year! May your children be fat and your paychecks plentiful, or somesuch. I always forget which is which.
Mine started with a migraine attack, the first one in years, and hopefully the last for the time being. Which reminded me of a writing project that started with another migraine attack, about fifteen years ago. One of those that gives you visions. And this delirious corker produced an epic fantasy storyline that I jotted down when I finally came to. I kept adding to it, fleshing out characters, etc. But no actual writing of the story. Still, it stayed with me.
Fast forward to NaNoWriMo 2011, when I decided to give this story a go. Of course I had realised this should be poetry. In English. A found fragments kind of thing. Sure, sure. Not over-ambitious at all. I did manage a good chunk that year. And kept at it, on & off, the following year. And then, nothing.
Look, I’m an Aries, and therefore starting is far more interesting to me than actually finishing something. Totally blaming the stars. Also, I had run into trouble with the plot. And some of the ideas I took for granted I no longer subscribe to as much. Moreover, I realised that no one would believe I saw this story, long before Avatar, and without ever having read Terry Brooks’ Shannara. So for it to work, it would require a major rewriting, quite apart from the fact that I was only at the beginning of the storyline, halfway Volume I. I’m not sure I will ever be up to the task of rewriting, let alone finishing!
Still, despite that all I have is a written-by-headlights romp of a Draft Zero, madly retconning & with gaping holes, showing very plainly who my favourite author of all time is (bonus points if you can guess), it is a labour of love that I would like to share with you! So I’m going to post this epic poem as a weekly feuilleton on this blog, and I hope it entertains you.
Please bear with me for the first bit which is a lot of exposure. Don’t forget to check out the truly stunning Tumblr I made as a vision board at the time, for some fantastic images to guide your imagination.
Now, let our reluctant poetess start her singing….
SONGS OF NINGUNZA
No other sound will ever sound here
Crashing waters, wheeling birds
Scouring sands are hissing softly
Clouds fly low across the world.
Endlessly the waves keep rolling
Crested greyish on dark green
Endlessly the birds keep calling
On the mudflats by the sea.
Sometimes a voice harsh and despairing
Keens with the birds above the stormwinds
Footsteps filled with muddy water,
Slender, shallow, but determined.
And in my head the songs are raging
Louder than the howling storms
Screaming to be let out, be singing
Their golden fingers claw my throat
Shining images they shimmer
Blind my eyes with their past glories
Fill my heart with stupid wonder
Fill it till I’m burst with stories.
I tried to flee them, through the forests
Through the vast icy plains they were
Through three deserts, cross six mountains
Back through time, and forwards again.
Stranded on these bleak cold sea shores
Living on eggs, sea weed and shells
I curse the goddess of the poets
I curse the stories that she tells
My head throbbing, my ears ringing
My eyes see madness, wildness, truth
My tongue stunned, my throat is choking
My fingers drip with my cheek’s blood.
No, my Muse, I will not hail you
Your whisperations drive me mad
I am not the one to sing this
I ‘m no singer, I’m nothing else.
But for fear that this will kill me
But for I’ve nowhere left to run
I will tell the tales that fill me
So my endless fight is done.
No one else alive remembers
The times in which these songs were born.
I am but a glowing ember
Of the golden world that was
Maybe my little spark will warm you
Maybe it will do more than that
But even if it deadly bores you
At least it flies out of my head.
Book I: The Living Palace
I Hymn to the Palace
Sing, my sisters, to the Palace
Living Temple of our Mother
Maidens, raise your joyful voices
So the Palace may keep growing
Blossoms sprouting, tendrils crawling
Out of her walls, my own safe haven.
Miracles will happen daily
All night long the leaves will whisper
Let the Palace drink my praises
Let the lintels eat my verses
Roots will fasten down my bedposts
Vines will keep the roof from flying.
O my Palace, o my Temple
Blossoms decorate your windows
Fruit is sprouting from your courtyards
Life itself streams throught your wall veins
Sap is pulsing in your branches
Floors are heaving with your grow roots.
Beams shoot up like slender palm trees
Oak-like stems hold up your towers
Rounded breasts are your cupolas
Balconies like virgin’s bosoms
Fountains sparkle love and coolness
Pergolas that spread your shadow.
Glory to you, gracious Palace
Miracle of growth and loving
May you nurture Her, our Mother
May you shield Her from the tempest
May you drink the rain, our Father
May you grow forever after.
II Song of Savandra – Morning
How proud the Palace stands, how lovely are
Its graceful lines against the sun’s first light.
With towers soaring, walkways arching over
Rooftop gardens. The gates will open soon,
Revealing stunning halls and charming rooms
And sunny courtyards dappled with the shadows
Of leaves and blossoms sprouting from the walls.
The birds are flitting through the hallways, flying
Everywhere they please. Their voices mingle
With the sleepy hymns a priestess is singing
To calm the Palace down, for it seems restless:
A turret sprouted freshly overnight.
Andrion suspects the incessant hymning
Of the youngest priestesses is to blame.
Forever urging blooming growth, new sprouts,
Fertility, will have effect. The prince
Smiles at all the whims and moods of the Palace
His much beloved home, exasperating
Miracle, surprising every day,
Mindlessly growing, mindlessly loving
As well, you can’t be cross with it for long
Even if every other week your door welds
Itself to the doorpost, covered in bark
And has to be coaxed, patiently, gently,
Into opening again, by singing
The Song of Doors, and polishing with oil.
He turns towards the throne room, where his mother
Will already be Seated, and surrounded
By priestesses, and she’s expecting him.
The hall has doorless gates, it is so vast
It would be mean to close it in with doors
It’s like a forest with its tree-high pillars.
The light is filtered through branches and leaves,
Brightens the colours of the ladies’s gowns,
The rich shades of their hair, their jewels
Sparking little rains of stars. Embroidered
Corsetry supports their glowing bosoms
Their naked nipples, rouged and round, stand proud
In honour of the Mother. But the most precious
Is their astoundingly long hair, that grows
Prodigiously for all their lifetime, so
It must be done up and must be supported
By branch-like scaffolding on their shoulders
So they look like walking trees, to honour
The Mother Tree that keeps the world alive.
Her High Priestess is Savandra, the Queen,
Embodiment of all the life force in the realm
Her power is that of the land itself
And of the Mother Tree. It is the queen who
Makes the land grow, and the Palace, and her
Wisdom runs through everything. There’s no word
For what she is: Priestess, Queen, living Goddess,
Everyone simply knows her as their Mother,
And the land is called by her name: Savandra.
Although her rule runs deep into the soil
She rules in spirit only. All the daily
Business of reigning and running a country
A Council of Ministers takes good care of,
Who are all learned, wise men. So the balance
Is kept. That is how it has been forever.
They are not present now. But wise Savandra
Sits on her throne, resplendently in white,
Her red hair glowing like a rising sun
Her breasts still fresh, her eyes like emerald twins.
Andrion’s sister stands beside the throne,
Orydia, also in white, and she dares him
With her eyes to notice her strong resemblance
To their mother, although her hair is dark
Like his. He refuses to let her see
His annoyance with her. Why does she keep
Wearing her ambition for all to see?
It hurts his standing, and his mother’s too,
The Wise One. Always he feels this strange mixture
Of awe and affection when he sees her.
Her passion, her mildness, her dedication
Of every single bone in her body
To her great task, her preposterous burden.
His sister however seems to see only
An obstacle to her own plans and wishes.
She does not seem to have a clue of what
Has been plain to all for quite some years now.
This brave Andrion cannot understand.
He suspects that his mother cannot fathom
It either, but that it pains her, and adds
To her cares. Things have come so far by now
That seeing Orydia next to the throne,
Smiling and nodding, sets his teeth on edge.
O, but she is beautiful as her mother,
Radiant, intelligent, funny too.
He loves her dearly, but dearly would love
To shake her until her earrings rattle.
Savandra, of course, is aware of this
Tension between her two children, and so
She has prayed for a vision, a Prophecy.
This procedure alone is so grueling
She doubts her daughter would ever be able
To understand what awaits her, if she
Would succeed to the throne. For of course this
Is what it all is about: the succession.
Andrion, being a man, cannot succeed
But his offspring could, if necessary,
And if he would, however unlikely,
Decide to settle down. Despite his fickle
Ways she has great hopes for him. Orydia
Knows this. She also has great hopes- for her.
And now there’s an Oracle the Queen must tell
That will upset them both- and all the land as well.
II Oracle chant – to be whispered by serpent voices
We the sacred serpents sing
We are fed on blood and cream
Whisper words that soothe and sting
We the sacred serpents dream
What is fate and what is chance
We spin threads out of the stream
We the sacred serpents dance
Into being what will be
Lines that swirl in Heaven’s hands
We the sacred serpents see
Not your child will rule the land
A child’s child will follow thee
We the serpents bite your hand
So your blood will sting and heal
And its streams will feed the land
III Song of Savandra – Noon
Your feet are running,
Running, daughter, your beautiful soft kitten
Feet, their arched soles rouged, their toes ringed and jewelled
They strike the ground, they strike the priceless Palace floors
In anger, in sobbing stubbornness, like the little hooves of the pony
You had as a little girl, little sharp hooves that sent sparks flying,
Quick to anger, just like you, with flying mane, as yours is flying now,
Escaping its braids, escaping its supports, like you escaped my Presence
Even if you cannot. Your running steps strike my belly, tremble through
My spine. The Palace hurts, your anger strikes it like a blow, but it still loves you.
As do I, as do I, my daughter, my beauty, my own soul. My own soul bleeds
For you, like yours.
Calm down, lie down, on
Your bed of flowers, your bedspread of grass, fresh with dew,
Fragrant with sunlight. Your bed will cradle you, the bedposts
Will rock you, gently, like swaying trees. The Palace grieves
With you. Do not turn it away. Let it comfort you, let it
Sing to you, little Orydia, my little fruit,
The apple of my eye.
IV Song of Savandra – Evening
The Council of Ministers are not best pleased
With the Oracle Savandra has sung to her children.
Even though they were not present when this happened
The solemn words reverberate throughout the Palace
The leaves and flowers whisper them around, as do
The priestesses. An Oracle is women’s business, a mystery
And that is just as well. But the Council, businesslike,
Would have preferred to have received preliminary notice,
Some inkling of what their line should be. To reign is to anticipate.
But there it is. Falchion, the High Priest and Vizier, draws himself up to his
Full height, which is considerable. His oiled shoulders gleam beneath
His graying, flowing curls, his hand grasps the staff and it
Strikes the ground. The Table hushes. Falchion opens his
Learned mouth, and speaks words such as follow:
“Esteemed Ministers, no doubt you know why I called this gathering.
No doubt your ears have caught the words our Mother spoke.
This is no rumour, but a Prophecy. This is what will happen. And even
Though it pains me, I will have to state what is on all your minds:
That it is not a real surprise.” Looks are exchanged, but not a sound.
Falchion’s sharp eyes scan the room. He nods, and then proceeds.
“It has been an open secret for some years now that Savandra has
Had her doubts about her daughter, the rightful heiress. Even though
Orydia is still young, by now she should have shown some real
Indication that she can be our Mother. Strength of spirit, wisdom beyond
Her years. My father, may Goddess rest him, used to tell
How young Savandra played with snakes and talked to birds
Before she was even ten years old. How the Songs just came to her,
The old ones and brand new ones alike. How easily she fell into the trance, how
She could drum till her fingers bled without ever missing a beat. It was clear
The Spirit was upon her. Orydia, though very talented in other ways, has shown
No such signs. But there is no other daughter, and there will not be. The prince
Andrion, however, if he but were a girl, would be a better candidate. There is
Power in him, and he will be a great priest and magician, and from what
His teachers tell me, already is a brave warrior as well. All of this
Is widely known, at court and in the land.” A hesitation. He who is
Never hesitant, pauses. But then Falchion sighs, and speaks as follows:
“It is my duty to always speak the truth. To go to every lenght, to leave
No ground uncovered. I know that some of you, or even most or all of you,
Have thought, deep in your heart, what I will tell you now, and do not deny it:
That this Oracle is very convenient to Savandra’s wishes, without favouring
Either of her children.” The hush around the table deepens. In a stern voice
Falchion continues: “Now I do not, and will never, even think that the Wise One
Has somehow contrived to have the answer she wished for, or even composed it.”
Shouts arise, a fist bangs on the table. The golden staff in Falchion’s hand again hammers
On the ground. Grudgingly, the order is restored. “ I repeat, it is not a possibility
I would ever consider. She is too great a priestess, and besides – it is not her wish at all
To pass over Orydia, for she loves her and gives her all she wants. But we, the Council,
Have to reflect on the chance that others might entertain such a notion. Not least
The princess herself, and her friends. We have to consider that the Prophecy
Will likely breed factions at court, and in the land. It will be some time before
Any offspring will ensue, from either prince or princess – and Orydia will no doubt use this time
To her advantage, to come up with some plan. I know that some of you feel
My suspicions of her are unfounded. That she is but a maid, spoiled and wilful.
But I have been her tutor for many years, before I was appointed to my present post.
And I tell you this princess is a born schemer. She has a mind as sharp as a chisel
And from her earliest years she has used it to get what she wants. She can turn people
Against each other without them even realising. As a child, she did this in all
Innocence, amoral as children are, without knowing this could in any way be wrong.
Orydia is a child no more. She is a powerful young woman, feeling slighted.”
At this, the learned members shift in their seats, uneasy. Such words
Should not have to be spoken out loud. It does not befit a sacred court.
But still, they feel better, now that it is out in the open. Now they can ponder
What all of this will mean, now and in years to come. It is unprecedented
To pass over the heiress apparent, without there being an alternative – yet.
Well, one has to trust that the Mother Tree and Her High Priestess
Know what they are doing. But there is another question waiting to be asked.
It need not wait long: “What of the prince, of Andrion? What does he think of this?”
(to be continued next week….)
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