Monday, July 18, 2011

Tall Tales

After dinner this night we stayed in as a rare rain shower, all be it light, was moving through the area and the Guslar's song for the evening was cancelled.  My stomach was still feeling stuffed when there came a knocking at our front door.  My father answered to find a four fold surprise.  It was two of his older brothers, Rushash and Benib (visiting from Macedon's village) together with Tiras and the Gusler.

After some merry catching up and general socializing our four visitors, Grip, and my father moved off to one corner of the great room.  Engaged, as I was, in some play with the younger children and at some distance from the men's huddle I was only able to make out a word or two here and a phrase or two there of the lengthy and serious conversation taking place among the elders.  And, before too long I was wiscked off to bed where these snippets of ominous adult situations at hand were enough to prevent the good night sleep my father had predicted for me earlier in the day.

Here below I will clue you the reader into what escaped me then.  Rushash and Benib had made the rugged trip up the cost of the sea in order to share with Kimmeril and the elders the horrible news of the recent attach on their village by the very heartless villains that now threatened the peace and safty of our community.  The attach, some three weeks before their visit, was brutal but short lived.  Gog himself led the marauders on a night time raid of Macedon's village.  The sparingly few guards that had been posted had been swiftly dispatched, impaled on their own spears.  Gog's hoard then turned on the long houses, setting them a blaze.

As the families fled their burning homes, the children were cut down, the men beheaded, and the women raped and beaten.  The attach had begun so suddenly, savagely, and soundly that the village could only muster pockets of resistance.  All seemed lost when while fleeing from his long house Macedon himself was pined to the outside wall of his dwelling by the spear of Gog.  The point of the heavy weapon had caught Macedon's frontright shoulder between the collarbone and the arm socket.  Gog approached Macedon ready to disemboule or behead or in some way cause this torturous death with his blade now drawn.  But instead, after close inspection of Macedon's face (birth mark) he relents.  Not only is Macedon spared his life but the entire onslaught, by the trumpeters horn, is called off and the invaders slip as quickly into the night as they had appeared from it.  The village was left torched and bloodied but not crushed.

The Guslar contributes that the abortion of Gog's attach is most uncharacteristic of the barbarian.  Grip and the Guslar then contemplated the possibility that some aspect of the encounter with Macedon might have freighted Gog.  Perhaps the shape of Macedon's birthmark has a spiritual significance and Gog disengaged out of respect for the gods.  The Gusler assured all that Gog feared nothing - the gods included.  Grip concluded that it must be the birthmark and although he has seen it many times asks Kimmeril, Gushash, and Benib to discribe it in detail.  Tiras then interrupted the conversation with a pound of his fist against the top of the small table in the midst of the men.

All the men were then silent as they gave full attention to the patriarch.  He began to sketch out some intricate designs onto an unraveled skroll.  After some time Grip voiced his conjecture that whatever Tiras was drawing it was not consistent with Macedon's birthmark.  The brothers concured.  Kimmeril asked softly "Dad, what are you doing?"  As he did so he attempted to get Tiras's attention so that he would look at Kimmeril's face as he asked the question.  This was consistently our only hope that Tiras woold understand any of what we wished to communicate to him.  But in this instance Tiras did not even lift his eyes from his etching on the scroll to attempt to read his son's body language in order to understand.

What confinement of spirit it must have been for Tiras to live freely among his family yet only communicate with them on the most rudimentary level.  The etched pictures were growing in number and complexity when the Gusler finally recognized one of them.  "These are of the first tongue!"  He said, standing with excitement.  The ancients would make such shapes to record a story, or instructions, or any knowledge they deemed of improtance to preserve or communicate orer a period of time or space.

"Well, what does it say?"  Asked Grip.  The Guslar's memory of the symbols was shaky.  He said that only some of the drawings were first tonguge.  "This one for instance is not."  It was a large tree like structure with figures of people at each separation of the branches.  At the pinicle of the diagram was a closed boat of some kind and three branches protruding from it.  The left and right branch did not splinter off but ended.  The center branch split off in many directions, from two of these branches sprang yet another generation of branches.  The Guslar noticed that the symbol for one was not a symbol of a person but rather a first tongue symbol for self.  The Guslar pointed at the figure and pointed at Tiras simultaneously while he looked raised eyebrows at the old artist as if to question if Tiras occupied that position in the diagram.

Tiras smiled with satisfaction and touched the tip of his nose as to signal the Guslar and everyone else that that was exactly correct.  He started to chuckle a little as he resumed his work with increased vigor as he was now energized with the confidence the men had made connection with his pictures.  It would not be long now until ther whole of his thoughts would be made known.

You see, Gog, son of Tiras's brother Magog was a boyhood playmate of Macedon.  They spent a great deal of time together and shared their early lives as close companions (much the same as Billaad and I were up to).  Not only was Gog a strapping young man but he was smart as well.  So smart that he found his own fathers level of intellectual exercise wanting.  He grew less and less interested in what his father had to say and more and more interested in spending time with Macedon and listening to what Tiras had to say.

God had blessed Tiras with a mind unparralled.  He was engineering, artistic, well versed, even philosophical.  Tiras seemed to just know how everythig worked and could solve any problem or riddle.  He was born as the growing camp moved along the newly formed river networks after the flood.  Aimless at first it was the adolesent Tiras who first noticed that the temperatures were generally colder as they traveled with the sunrise to their right and generally warmer as they traveled with the sun rise on their left.  This was a new phenomenon.  The pre-flood world had temperatures much more consistent from place to place.  The new direction precipitated the companies entry into the virginning fertile basin between the two great rivers.  Tiras was first again to recognize the value of the heads on the wild grasses that grew in the plain.  He congectured that this source of food could not only be harvested on the fly as the camp moved about but man could engineer control over its product and therefore settle permanently searching no farther than the planted fields for sustenance.  And so, a settlement was erected.  Baked brick and then quarried stone was used to build a large city - Babel.  The camp had multiplied from 8 to 80 to 800 to 8000 to 80000.

So vast and successful were the endeavors of man that the whole city was filled with a sense of accomplishment.  There was no end to the patting on one another's back on how sapient, skillful, self sufficient, and superior was man.  Again it was Tiras who led this time in rhetoric.  He proposed the construction of a tower.

This tower of Babel would be a testimony to man and his supremacy.  All were captivated by these high minded speeches filled with praise reiterating over and over all the accomplishments attained since the catastrophe.  It was as if each man, woman, and child began to speak in one voice and the one voice sang of the glory of man, what he could do, and what he knew.  That is; all but the ones of the ark.

These few elders had seen such foolhardiness before and raised their voices in protest.  Too few were they.  Too unbelievable were their stories.  Too depressing was their testimony of man's true nature.  It was not long before every word from their mouths was regarded with scorn. A laughing stock, pathetic old men and unstable old women, these once dear precious patriarchs were driven to disgrace and seclusion.

One individual in particular was completely won over by Tiras and his great swelling words.  That one was Gog.  Sold out in service to Tiras and his ideas he became as a son to him as he shoot out of his life his true father Magog.  It is not that Magog was opposed to his brother.  It was more that he could't care less about him, his son, Gog, or anyone else but himself.  As devoted as Gog became to Tiras so was Magog devoted to pleasing Magog.

Work on the tower began with great enthusiasm and progress was being made at a pace that even Tiras was amazed by.  He recalls contemplating that even God must now sing the praise of man and that truly no power could stand in man's way.  It seems so absurd now as he scratches out the history on a tatered skroll unable to speak coherently, even to his own son.

What happened next is well known but not well understood.  In the wink of an eye the one tongue of all humanity was confused.  They no longer understood one an others speech.

Noah and his sons, together with the 1st generation after Shem, Ham, and Jepheth (the patriarchs) all continued to speak the first tongue.  All others could no longer speak it nor understand it.  Each line of the third generation spoke a new and distinct language.  For example; all descendents of Tiras spoke a new language foreign to all others.  Likewise, all descendents of Magog spoke anothrer new language, again foreign to all others.  Overnight, the peaceful unified effort of all civilization to construct the great Tower of Babel and dedicate it to the glory of man was swallowed up by the shock and awe of the greater confusion of tongues.

Mysterious was the arrival of new laguages; more mysterious was the perception of the speakers of those new languages.  No individual person was aware of any change in the language they spoke and understood.  The only change seemed to be that in what others spoke and understood.

My father had explained it to me a year or so before this meeting of elders in the corner of our great room.  Even though the language Kimmeril spoke after the confusion was completely different than first tongue, Kimmeril could swear that he continued to speak the first tonge after the confusion.  From his perspective, it was only the language of others that had changed.  he thought even his father Tiras, who in actuality retained the first tongue, was speaking some strange new language.

We can only imagine the frustration.  One moment he is talking to his father and the next neither one of them has any idea what the other is saying.  Both of them think they are speaking the same language and think the other is playing some cruel trick.  That is until they find out how widespread the problem.  Very soon in fact fear, anger, and suspicion began to drive the civilization apart.  The sons of Tiras fallowed their now effectively mute father up the Euphraties.  Ours was one of the first tribes to abandon Babel.  This was in no small way a consequence of Tiras and his strong leadership in the building of the tower.  A clash with the tribe of Gomer, Tiras's older brother was obverted when they were allowed to pass our tribe and in so doing took the lead as both tribes headed up stream toward the legendary mountains where the ark had come to rest after the flood.  it was at this juncture that Kimmeril came to know for the first time the cunning of Ashkenaz, son of Gomer.

The once wide-eyed Gog was devastated by the events surrounding the confusion.  For it caused the summery dismissal of the Tower and all it stood for.  Work on the structure quickly came to a standstill and the high ideals so eloquently orated to the masses by Tiras began to disintegrate into their base components of greed, pride, and self.  The whereabouts of the tribe of Magog were unknown to us until the trader's testimony and gusler's tail began to circulate the treacherous deeds of the ruthless Gog.

As the elders meeting came to a close, the group, still huddled around the elaborate drawings, concluded that Gog, recognizing the birth mark, had disengaged the attach on our sister village in response to the remnant of emotion felt for the friend of his youth.  How these factors might effect our camp was left for another meeting.

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