Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The First Death Of Tjesmond

Tjesmond was born in Estlunde, and he was dead.

His family was poor, and used to hardship and suffering; his parents shed no more than a few tears over Tjesmond's unbreathing body before they took it to the river and threw it in. His mother, supported by her two oldest sons, watched the body float away until it passed around a curve and vanished from sight; then, slowly, she turned away, and put an end to the sad affair.

 But it did not end there.

 Not far down the river lived a village of Old Men who still followed the old religion. That day, the day of Tjesmond's stillbirth, was a fest-day for them, celebrating the deeds of a savior carried along a river's currents. Perhaps this savior was prophesied - or perhaps he lived long ago, his deeds ancient and shrouded in a mystery near so great as the future's. The libraries of the Old Men burned when the New Men came - the answer is known now to none. But - when Tjesmond's lifeless body tumbled down the river, and washed upon the shore of this river-festival - well, who could blame them for some excitement?

 And when they saw he was dead - well!

 Their first instinct was to treat it as a matter of omen. One priest cried out in dread - ah, a child on the river (as our savior was/will be!) - and it is dead, unbreathing! What horror, what a foul thing does this portend! Another cried out in delight - a dead child, yes, and of the race of the New Men! It is a sign that their day is done - that we shall rise again, and Estlunde once more be ours! And a third priest -

 Well, he doubled back quickly into the gathering crowd, and returned bringing wise-women and midwives. One finger pointing at Tjesmond, still lying on the river-bank, he cried, "Save this child's life!"

 So they did.

 With herbs and poultices they worked, massaging Tjesmond's tender tissues, feeding him strange and witchy brews. His heart began, slowly, to pump; his lungs began to breathe. He gasped - once - twice - and screamed -

 So was Tjesmond rescued from his first death.

 They raised him to be their savior. His name was not Tjesmond, then -  instead it was another word, in the local dialect used to mean 'savior'. He was given the best of everything, and lectured on his responsibilities from a young age, and despite all of that he grew courageous and strong. The people of the village gave him a cause, the reclamation of Estlunde from the Great Enemy, the New People; and Tjesmond dedicated himself to it mind, flesh, and soul.

 It was a butterfly, of all things, which changed Tjesmond's life. It alit upon the third priest's nose, as he shouted to the screaming crowd ("the annihilation of the Darkness comes ever closer!), and when Tjesmond looked at hit, he saw something wrong in the priest's eyes. Something missing; something hollow.

Quickly Tjesmond turned away, tried to set the vision aside; but it would not leave him. He looked elsewhere: the sky, the ground, the people - but in the people's eyes he saw the same emptiness, and his fear, inexpressible in words, grew worse.

At the ceremony's end, Tjesmond excused himself. He walked to the river and stood a while, working up the courage, the will. Then he looked in his own eyes -

 - and saw that same emptiness, growing there -

 A person is composed of three parts: mind, flesh, soul. The flesh provides the appearance of action; the mind provides the reasons for actions; and the soul makes the choice of actions. Each is physical; each relates with the other. So a flaw in one must, naturally, sooner or later, spread to the others - so that a person who grows weak of flesh will eventually grow weak of mind, and a person twisted in soul will eventually grow twisted of body.

 So - and Tjesmond knew this, more or less, by the teachings of the priests - to forget one's humanity is to lose it; and those who forget their humanity by rejecting the personhood of others are called monsters.

 Tjesmond brooded on the matter as noon turned into evening turned into night; then he returned to the village. "I am sorry, O Holy Father," he told the third priest, "but I think we have gone astray. Something - something at the heart of our Great Crusade - is twisted. Corrupt. And if we do not turn away, then - "

 The monster the people of that village had become was called the Silver Dawn. It had a hundred bodies and a hundred faces, but one mind; and that mind thought only of hate. Infuriated by Tjesmond's discovery, it hounded him through the woods, howling in its hundred voices for him to repent. Tjesmond fled from it, terrified, fleeing to the very edge of the river from which he had come. The monster charged him; Tjesmond sidestepped and lifted and sent it into the river, and there drowned it. He watched the bodies that floated down the river, blue and bloated; and then, half-insane with confusion and grief, he tried to join them.

 Tjesmond was eleven years of age at the time.

 After a time, Tjesmond discovered that he could not drown himself (tending to float to the surface and right himself whenever he lost consciousness); so he did his level best to starve instead. He went into the forest and waited; but he found that when he was hungry enough, he would pick berries and eat, stalk rabbits and strike, almost without his own volition. He had not the will to die.

 A year and a half later, Tjesmond still trying (and failing) to starve, a royal trapper by the name of Elspeth found him. She took him in - against his inarticulate protests - taught him the New Tongue, and nursed him back to health. In the winter they shared a bed for warmth, and, all involved being entirely comfortable with this arrangement, they continued it through spring and into summer.

In mid-summer, Elspeth returned to Rejjvik to sell her furs to the King, as was the condition of her being allowed to trap those forests. Tjesmond, naturally, accompanied her, seeking to continue their relationship -

 - but in the palace of King Hjormond he slew his second monster; and thereafter, Tjesmond and Elspeth parted ways.

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