26 June 2013

Leavings: Interlude House

If I were a character in a great fantasy story, I would be the keeper of an interlude house.

In the first third of the story, sometime between the last struggle and the next, the hero and his or her band of adventurers would see my light through the dark woods and, not knowing if the light belonged to friend or foe, would nevertheless find their tired feet taking them toward it. I would see them from a long way off and be the one to head out with a lamp to show them the path, and my husband would be the one to prepare bowls of hot red stew and hunks of crusty bread for when I bring them in, because he is the better cook.

The heroes will eat and rest. We will take care of their cuts, repair their clothes, sing stirring songs, and make them laugh. We will tell them good tales, and they will tell us tales to tell the next ragtag band to come our way. Outside, the cold wind in the fearsome forest will become a soothing whisper, and through my windows, the heroes will see the great beauty of the land they have been walking through: high stone mountains, trees older than your name, the very river that nearly took their lives sparkling in the moonlight — the roaring of the waters a gentle, distant murmur.

Before we show them where they sleep, we will take the heroes through the house and show them the small mysteries in each odd room. At the bottom of the house, there will be a room where one of the walls is the outside, and water from the stream will have filled a small pool in which one can see some vague prophecy about him or herself. None of my guests will understand, but some will feel better, some will feel disappointed, and some will shrug and decide that it is not for them to worry about prophecies.

Then, everyone will go to sleep too well-fed and tired to think anymore.

Whether they stay for a day or for a week, the heroes cannot stay long. On the morning that they are to set out again, we will pack them lunches and give them gifts: clothes, boots, armor, trifling tokens that come in handy at just the right moment and whose loss later will cause a small heartbreak, and some magical foodstuff that lasts longer than it should but, when it runs out, reminds you of how long it's been since you rested at my hearth and looked into the pool — it makes more sense now than it did that night — and how far you've really gone from home.

The heroes don't know that, of course. They will leave with full bellies and some regret. We will tell them they are always welcome at our door, and they will promise quickly, earnestly, that when this is all over, they will return. Knowing that they never will, we will wave them off with good wishes all the same.

Then, we will go inside and tidy up, feed the children, read our books, fool around, and take naps. I will wake up early and, when the afternoon light is orange, walk outside under the trees and up onto a rock to look at the valley below. I will wonder how far the heroes have gotten by now and whether they are all right. I will say my prayers and reports to whomever or whatever charged me with keeping the house. And then I will go home while reminding myself to sweep the leaves away from the sides of the pool and to get some more oil for the lamp.

This is what I think to myself when I read people's posts about their problems and refrain from commenting with unsolicited advice.

No comments:

Post a Comment