Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Sea of Mud
This happened many years ago, so I'm told. It seems that the Slavs marched west into a small town in Bavaria. It happened that there was a Jewish community there and among these Jews was a very old man called Simeon. Most likely he had a surname, but nobody recalled it and he was always called either Simeon or Sir Simeon. It was said that he had read of dark and light magicks and knew things - many things that no man should know, but of which he never spoke.
The Slavs set up a garrison in the town and the people shut up their houses and would not come out. The soldiers got drunk as soldiers will and passing late through the town they came across Simeon who was the only man out at night. They began to mock him and after a while their mocking turned to insults. Then Simeon turned upon them and spoke a word. Suddenly the soldiers began to choke and cough and frogs sprang from their mouths about them. They fled in terror then, fearful of the old man.
The following morning, the men of the small town passed from cellar to cellar to their meeting house, which was locked and barred to the street. They began to quietly discuss how to get rid of the Slavs but could not agree on the method.
"It will be rain tonight perhaps and they will remember their southern homes and go home," Elisha the potter said.
"We could pretend to be be monsters at night and attack them when they are drunk," Jurgen the Smith said with a low growl.
"I recall," said Elizabeta the old weaver, "I recall an old Jewish legend about a man of clay. I forget what he is called," she said and paused to remember the name.
"A Golem will not be necessary," Simeon said quietly.
The lights of the meeting house threw flickering shadows upon the old man's face and his long beard. Nobody spoke for they were, truth to tell, a little afraid of the old man and his magicks. Wendel had seen what he had done to the Slavic soldiers and reported it to his friends until the news of it had passed around all the townsfolk.
"Still," Elizabeta said, "It would get rid of the Slavs, would it not?"
Simeon sighed and shook his head slowly. He refused to create a golem. It was risky and dangerous. The talk went on, some trying to persuade him to change his mind, but he remained adamant. After a while, he got up and went home through the cellars, muttering to himself. Once he had gone it seemed that the meeting just felt as if it was over.
"We will meet tomorrow and consider what to do then," Gottfried the town mayor said and everyone agreed.
It rained that night. It rained so heavily that rivulets formed in the streets and ran through the town. The shutters and roofs thundered with it. It rained so that the Slavs were wet through to the skin. Elisha was right that the Slavs missed their sunny southern homes then, but they would not go. It rained so heavily that the packed hard earth of the town turned to a thick mud that stank of damp and rotting things. The town awoke the following morning, worn out and weary from trying to sleep through such a noisy downpour. Some of them instantly thought that it was caused by Simeon's magicks, others that they had simply never seen or heard such a downpour since their grandparents time. The morning was grey and dull but what with the mud, neither the Slavs or the townsfolk ventured out of doors. Only Simeon put on his boots and went to visit the Slavs. He took with him a long staff that was finely carved at it's head and moved slowly as if he were a good deal older than he was.
The Slav commander was not a fool or a braggart. He was a good leader of men and he greeted Simeon civilly and asked him what he wished.
"Your invasion is frightening the townsfolk and they would rather you left," Simeon said gently.
The Slav commander smiled and answered that the town had no need to be nervous. The Slavs would not harm them, but they would claim the town as a Slav town. When the weather clears up and all returns to normal the commander would declare what was to happen henceforth.
"This is a quiet little town and not worth the great Slav invasion, sir," Simeon answered; "So it would be best if you left. There are things about this land you do not understand and your own land will be missing you and your men. Soon it will be time to sow the seeds for the new crops and the cows will be ready to calve. You would be best going home."
The Slav commander then arose, his eyes flashing with rage. Yet still he remained polite, if icily calm.
"We are not afraid of your lands sir. We have come to stay and to add these lands to our dominions. There is nothing you or your foolish little townsfolk can do to stop us. Not even Duke Henry the Quarrelsome shall stop us, this I do swear to you," he declared.
Simeon bowed his head and sighed.
"I am not come to threaten you honoured sir. Merely to advise as an old man may do for the young. Tonight the mud in the streets will form a sea and will drown your soldiers if you stay. But if you leave and return to your homes all the work of your farms may be done well and you and your men may thrive. Well I came only to advise, but I cannot make your minds for you. I bid you good day sir," he said, patting the commander's shoulder gently as a father might a son.
The commander was touched but would not be moved from his decision to leave the town. Simeon left and returned home. That evening he went through the cellars to the council house and told the townsfolk to keep their beds that night and the following morning. Before they could ask why, he turned and left them. The townsfolk wondered why and talked it over, but could not guess at Simeon's plans. They speculated that he had finally decided to create a golem and returned to their homes and their beds, well pleased at this.
That night the rain fell again and as heavily as it had the previous night. The townsfolk kept to their beds and wondered at what might be happening out in the streets. But weary from the previous night, they fell asleep. Only Friedrich the poet could not sleep for wondering and stood by the window watching. He wanted to see the golem, but instead he saw, in the moonlight the streets run as if a river of mud. Then the mud seemed to gather itself and a great tide of mud surged through the streets. It seemed to Friedrich as if the towns buildings were like ships on a sea of mud. The mud rose and swelled and the tide swell flowed towards the Slav garrison.
Friedrich's eyes widened in horror as men and horses were swept away by the mud. He went to his bed and tried to sleep, but the faces of those men and their screams filled his mind and his imagination. All that night he shivered and wept but could not sleep. When he could bear it no more he arose and gazed from his window again.
The rain had stopped and the last few drops fell from the eaves of the buildings to the hard earth streets. Friedrich blinked, but it was true. The streets were solid earth. Of the sea of mud or the Slavs there was not a sign. Only an old man walking along the street towards the cafe on the corner as he had done for many years.