Monday, December 19, 2011

The Curse of the Village on the Cliff Face

The village on the cliff face was under a curse. None lived who truly remembered how it started but I woke up that morning with an idea. It concerned the moon, and the stars, but most of all it concerned the great mountain, who’s shadow we lived beneath, and a gift that was stolen long ago.

There was a diamond in my hand. I knew immediately it was a star, only I don’t know how I knew. The diamond had an engraving of the moon. It was old Master Algarth who told me that diamonds like that could be found in the caves beneath the great mountain.

What did it have to do with the curse? To explain that you need to know what the curse was. The people of the village on the cliff face were invisible. Anything we touched became invisible. We had been like that since we could remember. Or at least that was always what I had been told. When you are blind you didn’t notice that everyone around you is impossible to see.

So how did I know the diamond star with the engraved moon concerned the curse? Because when I felt it in my hand that morning, not only could I feel its cold hard surfaces on the tips of my fingers, I could see it. I could see it and the hand that clasped it.

But when I put it down my hand was gone, only the diamond remained in my otherwise absent sight. It worked for master Algarth too, but only if I held it against his skin, then I could see both of us.

His was the first face I ever saw. Now I know he was horribly ugly, with grime all over his wrinkled face, his beard scratchy and fuzzy, but at that moment he was beautiful.

Everyone went into a frenzy. I couldn’t escape, because they could see me, and I could not see them. But no matter how many stole the stone they would all give it back, for it was powerless without me. After everybody in the village on the cliff face had satisfied themselves that they could not steal my moonstar they began discussing things.

Being invisible may seem a great gift to some. We held no fear of attack from other villages, for one thing. Fighting an enemy you cannot see is nearly impossible. We can steal, we can cheat, but those acts do not lead to happiness. We could not see the faces of our loved ones or the tears on our children’s faces. We could not see a smile or a frown. To be invisible is to have the world blind to you, it is far worse than being blind, and for that the people of our village were in constant sorrow.

But never me. I am blind anyway, all my friends were as easy to feel, taste, smell and hear as the rest of the world. The moonstar was my curse, for it showed me the world I was missing, and taught me of my neighbours’ pain.

It was agreed I would take the moonstar to Nortima, the wise old woman who lived at the foot of the mountain. My friend Barnabus would go with me, for I could still only see what the moonstar touched, but more people demanded to come, so by the time I left we were six. The twins, Garlena and Christian were chosen by the miners’ guild, who most people in the town worked for. Our mayor, Madame Jordane sent her own daughter, Lita. And finally the town guard captain, Master Bartram, sent his nephew Olgar. Others suggested many more but a small village makes decisions well when it knows who knows best. That was the guild leaders, the mayor, the captain, and today, me.

There was so much arguing, even among the members of the group, over who was in charge. In the village people were usually so careful with words, for you never knew who could be listening. Today they forgot that, and spoke like they didn’t care who would hear. It was only when I moved to leave that they quietened, for they could see me.

I told them Nortima would know what to do, and that Barnabus would lead me to her. After that the twins, Lita and Olgar followed us, and nobody else did.

As I walked I pressed the diamond into Barnabus’ face. I knew he had soft curly hair and was taller and more solid than me, but I didn’t know how bright his hair was, or how his ruddy cheeks encased a round, friendly face.

The other four stopped their arguing then, and one by one we saw for the first time what they looked like.

Garlena was tall and slim, her dark hair hung nearly to her waist and glowed in the sun’s light. Christian’s hair was dark as well, his face was locked in a scowl and he had a scar running from his left ear to his chin. Olgar was short and muscular with arms as thick as tree trunks, and a piercing stare from his eyes. Lita also had eyes like Olgar and her hair was like Barnabus’, except that it shone like silk. Her smile was warm and comforting and made my heart race, as it still does.

They told me my hair was brown and my eyes were green. But those words mean nothing to the blind. I knew what I was. I did not need sight like they did.

When we reached Nortima’s cottage we no longer argued. If Nortima was surprised to see me she made no reaction we could hear, and we could not see her for she never once asked to be touched by the moonstar.

Instead of surprised she was fascinated, for the moonstar was truly a fascinating thing. But Nortima was also worried. Her hut smelt foreign to me, of sulphur and ash, and blood. If she was wise she was also strange. She said the moonstar came to me to be returned. It was stolen by the moon goddess Dursa, she had left her mark on it, but the mountain had punished our people, not Dursa. Someone had returned the moonstar, perhaps Dursa, perhaps another. Nortima didn’t know if it was returned for our sake, or for the mountain, only that we must return it with haste. For a storm would soon come. The old woman did not describe the storm, but it was clear in her voice that it was a thing we should fear.

I thought I would find relief leaving that strange, cramped house but once outside we could all smell the storm. Christian commented on the black clouds on the horizon, as though seeing them was even necessary.

We set off for the mountain, to find the mountain’s spirit in the caves far beneath but it was clear that the mood amongst the group had changed. The meeting with Nortima had spooked them. Olgar grumbled that she was hiding something. Christian and Garlena argued that we should not be so quick to give up the moonstar. Even Barnabus worried over the dangers of the mountain. That the caves beneath were forbidden and even miners feared to go there. Only Lita stayed brave and silent, gripping my hand as we entered the cave. Her skin was soft but her grip was firm. With her there I felt safer. I desperately wanted to touch her with the moonstar, to see her face again. But it was not the time.

The cave was dry and dusty, the air thick and old. Nothing grew, no beasts lurked, it was all stone and earth, the mountain had expelled all else. Barnabus kept muttering about turning back, Christian started to agree. Somehow I knew though, that the moonstar was nearly home.

But the others could not feel it. Christian kept questioning why we moved so quickly. He did not believe in the storm, better to face the storm than to face the mountain he said. Garlena tugged on my sleeve and whispered to me that the mountain meant us no good will. It would take back the moonstar and would punish us further. I firmly said no to them all and kept going. Olgar and Lita kept supporting me, a fact that warmed my heart.

Olgar carried a burning torch to light the way for the others. I felt so helpless, Lita leading me. The others could see, they could see me, I could see nothing except the moonstar and my own hand, could feel nothing but the stone floor through my boots and Lita’s hand in mine.

The tunnel wound deeper, and with every step my companions grew more worried, but at the same time I grew more determined. The moonstar needed me, it was so close but the others could never take it all the way to its home. Only I could. I felt like telling the rest to turn back, that I could complete the quest on my own. I no longer needed to be led. The moonstar could lead me the rest of the way. I stopped, ready to address the group, but just then I was struck by Christian and he grabbed the moonstar from me.

From then it was chaos, Barnabus fled to the surface, Olgar leapt towards Christian, who fled down the tunnel further, Lita and me joining the pursuit. Garlena could have been anywhere.

Round the corner and there was the moonstar on the ground, but no sign of Christian, till Olgar was floored by a tackle. Christian kept screaming the mountain was evil, that we shouldn’t help it.

The others fought, fought in anger and desperation, but with their torch gone they were as blind as me. Blinder than me, for I could see the moonstar still, I did not need light to see it like they did. Then I followed the tunnel walls deeper and deeper.

By the time my boots touched water the voice of the mountain spoke to me. It thanked me for returning its star, and said it would restore the villagers once more, that the pain was at an end. All I said was thank you, and dropped the star into the water, and like that it was gone.

I returned to the surface finding Lita, then Olgar and Christian, who had stopped their fighting when they realised I had left with the moonstar. I even found Garlena and Barnabus, both lost in the dark, helpless without sight, unlike me.

Once we reached the surface the others marvelled at their bodies, they could see each other perfectly, but I still could not. At first I was disappointed. Somehow I thought that the curse applied to my sight as well as to all of our appearances, but it was not the case. The others didn’t know how to respond to me, they tried to comfort me, and to describe my appearance again but I told them to stop. I may not have been able to see the curse but I still had been cursed. To be blind to the world can be a gift, but to have the world blind to you is a truly great curse.

The village rejoiced when we returned, all except Nortima who had disappeared completely. Madame Jordane declared the village be renamed Fairface, for all the fair faces they could now see. My companions never spoke of the troubles underground, they didn’t boast of heroism, nor did they share their shame.

Meanwhile I just enjoyed the moment. Even though the blind cannot share in the joy they felt. Yet thanks to the moonstar I did see her, and I’ll never forget her face. And I’ll always have her hand to hold.

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