Epoch on the Rock
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Post by Bishop Fairchild on Mon May 14, 2018 9:18 pm

BORN AGAIN BISHOP PART 1: One for Madness.

Coal black is better than another hue,
in that it scorns to bear another hue;
for all the water in the ocean
can never turn the swan’s legs to white,
although she lave them hourly in the flood.

  -Aaron the Moor, Titus Andronicus.

 The corpse wore his clothes.

Branches and briar whipped at his face, but he didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. He ran aimlessly through the thick underbrush trying to forget what he saw, what it might mean, what might have happened. It was impossible to un-see, a polaroid nailed to the inside of his skull, forced to stare at it every time he closed his eyes, re-living the horror over and over to madness.

 The corpse held his blade.

 It had to be him. The limbs were mutilated beyond recognition, but the face was untouched. The blue eyes held a final expression of horror.

 How surreal it must be to stare into your own vacant eyes.  

 And that wasn’t the worst part.

 Bishop clasped his hand to his mouth, trying not to vomit as he remembered the image yet again.

 The cause of death was clear.

 The corpse grasped a tiny curved blade in it’s only remaining hand. In life, Bishop had used it for field-dressing small game for dinner, but now found himself on the receiving end, self-immolated by his own hand, his own knife, ripped root to rib, spilling vital organs over dead pine needles.

  Bishop keeled over, letting the contents of his stomach spatter amongst moss-covered roots. What used to be partridge berries and raw rabbit burned his throat, half expecting the sour reflux to smoke and hiss, corroding a hole in the dirt.

 His own retching reminded him of the guttural noises the lizards made as they feasted on his flesh, and he keeled over a second time, dry-heaves muffled by the dense foliage.

 He struggled to remember anything after the attack.

 Why hadn’t somebody found him? He wasn’t that far from town. They could have regrown his limbs, they could have —

 Understanding dawned.

 Bishop knew himself well, knew there was only one reason he would empty his guts across his own front doorstep.

 It was the same reason he was alone at his camp when they attacked, why he lived there alone despite the warm invitation of free board and bread in Holdfast. It was why he refused a borrowed sword from Auron when his was stolen, and why he didn’t give a fuck what happened to the town.

 Stubborn independence.

  One of many stains across his character. To accept help from anybody was to accept weakness. To accept defeat. Even if it meant the only other option was death.

 And what had he been doing that very day? Trying to buy property rights to his spot in the woods. A fence to keep that little prancing goat from gathering plants as the sun rose, disturbing every breakfast.

 Perhaps he had over-romanticized the ideas of that Halfling philosopher bloke H. D. Thoreau. Perhaps his personality was too coarse and disagreeable for life in Holdfast, too independence-oriented in a place where everything was shared.

 He tried to imagine allowing a medic to regrow his limbs, swallowing his obstinance to accept help. He couldn’t do it.

The day I can’t take care of myself is the day I die.

 And so it was.

 That situation had come, and he’d made his choice.  

 But what now? Was he dead? Had he appeared over his corpse as a wayward spirit, forced to walk the earth to eternity just out of touch with the natural world? Was this a last glimpse at life before he flashed into oblivion?

 With the question came a pang of pure panic, face stretched and contorted to match the horror of his corpse’s.

 He ran, thinking only of escaping this hell.

 After a time the panic was replaced by hunger, a deep vacuous famine that narrowed the edges of his vision, driving him into single-minded mania, as if this incarnation of his body never delighted on a meal before.

 The shred of mind that was left wondered if this was hell, the eternal punishment of a bottomless appetite, Tantalus perpetually grasping for fruit.

 He scoured for food, his barren belly unable to be sated by the partridge berries underfoot.  

 Eventually Bishop’s consciousness caved in completely and he went feral, acting on instinct alone for some time. Any memory of the next few hours fell into hazed obscurity.

 A speck of sanity returned with the warm rabbit blood, running over his chin, painting a crimson picture on his bare chest.

 As he gorged on the animal, a single truth bubbled to the surface of his brutal mind.

 I can affect this world. I am not in hell.

 But did it matter? Eternal suffering in hell traded for the suffering of living. Was one any better than the other?

 All he knew was that somehow, he was alive. He looked down to find himself naked, covered in bloody lashes and stuck with thorns. He was given a fresh body and had already begun to wreck it.

 He kept running. Stumbling. Vomiting. There was nothing else. Time slipped away, past and present blending as one, fragments of memory and snippets of conversation fluttering in and out of the darkening edges of existence.

It’s not my town.

There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.

Aye, a right hoary tentacle juss up-an snatched ‘em!

Get off my lawn little goat, or I’ll make you my dirty ditchwater slattern.

We need the tonic of wilderness.

I smell like Beef, I smell like Beeeef.

There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.

Straight in the direction she was staring, was the island where YOU’RE from, Mister Warfield.

The fens were made rank and poisonous, the breeding place of flies.

Seven for a Secret.

What makes the feather black?


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.

the horror … the horror …

Pour me another one, Talia. The strong one.

There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.

There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.


 The echoed voice was his own, gaining momentum until it erupted into a full blown monologue.

"What you have to know, is that there aren’t many birds in Fairlocke.

 Sure, seagulls fly overhead, and dive for their supper in the waves, and the rock pigeons make nests in our hundred foot wall, but for the most part, that’s it. There’s ducks and chickens in the market, sure, but they’re hanging naked from their feet.

 As far as I was concerned blue jays were a myth, ravens; an old wives tale. Magpies? A thing of legend."

 It was part of a speech he’d committed to memory. But for what? He struggled to remember. A celebration? A wedding? Who’s wedding had it been?

 The thought evaporated, consumed by hunger, and he fell back into the tameless embrace of his unconscious.

 In his next memory he was hunched over a campfire spooning boiling stew down his throat.

 It wasn’t his campfire.

 It’s owner returned, startled, fumbling with his sword belt, unable to draw before the wild man was upon him.

 Bishop bludgeoned the man’s head with bare knuckles until they became broken and bloodied, yelling with each blow.















“There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.”


“There aren’t many birds in Fairloche.”


“Magpies are myths.”


Bishop’s cheeks were wet with tears and blood. He finished the stew and dressed himself in his opponent’s clothes as best he could with cracked knuckles. The boots were too big, heel slipping under every stride.
 A low huff sounded nearby, of a large animal forcing breath through gaping nostrils. The dead man’s piebald gelding had watched the encounter with empty eyes, letting the victor climb his back and canter away.

  Six for rebirth he thought, knowing deep in his failing mind he couldn’t return until he’d somehow changed.

 Bishop rode for weeks, living meal to meal, aimlessly drifting without purpose or goal. He stowed on ships, hitchhiked in carts, rode stolen horses, wandering without caring where he ended up.

 Months later, he found himself on the edge of an arid landscape. Behind him choked cactuses and harsh grasses, finding root in the sparse covering of dirt, dotting the landscape with patches of greens and browns. Ahead there was nothing but cracked hardpan; a web of intricate grooves and channels too firm for roots, stretching unbroken to meet the cloudless sky.

 He didn’t know it’s name, only it’s reputation condensed as a rhyme in the nearby towns, and that crossing it was certain death.

The devil in hell, we're told was chained
A thousand years he there remained
He neither complained nor did he groan but
Was determined to start a hell of his own
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being chained in a prison pen
He began by killing all of the trees
And mixing the sand with millions of fleas
The heat in the summer is a hundred and ten
Too hot for the devil, too hot for men
The buffalo looms on a high chapparel
It's a hell of a place that he has for hell

 He patted his coarse haired mule, wondering if his stubby legs could handle the journey. Not likely. The saddlebags were already bowing Kharon’s back, although the load would be lightened once hunger set in.

 And so travelled Kharon the mule and Bishop the wanderer, sleeping away the high sun in a domed canvas tent, marching quick and tireless through the breathless night. The stars kept their course.

 Some days he had courage enough to stride with the sun, resting only long enough to chew a strip of salted bison or take a long drag on his canteen. A loose bolt of cloth wrapped his head, the regional draping robes sheltering him from exposure.

 Kharon panted frequently, tongue lolling in desperation to cool her body of stifling heat.

  The further they travelled, the further the terrain evolved. The thin web of fractured grooves underfoot began filling with red sand until it spilled from their edges to coat the ground. In a few days it was all they could see; dunes rippling in bedforms and waves of carmine and copper.

 Bishop thought of the ocean, wishing he could dive into the bloodshot sea and swim the rest of the way.

 His boots sank an extra inch with every step, impeding progress, and Kharon lagged behind despite her lightened load. Wind scoured the drifts, regularly whipping the travellers with dust and powdered earth.

 Days later, Bishop awoke to find Kharon on her side collapsed from exhaustion. He punctured her heart, spilling pulpy innards to match the sand.

The memory of his own opened corpse rose once again.

 Hefting the lone saddle-bag across his shoulders he kept on, drowning the image with the sweat of his brow. He continued through the day, not knowing how much longer he could last.

 That night the wind shredded his tent.

 That day a wall of dust engulfed him; a black blinding blizzard that tore at his clothes with gritty hands, mounting sediment threatening to bury him if he didn’t keep moving. He was forced to cover his face and trudge through the darkness.

 The storm lasted three days. Sleep was impossible. Bishop did his best to make his energy and his provisions last, savouring the last of the salted bison and the last of his water at the end of day two, although he had no concept of how much time had passed. He relinquished the empty saddlebag to the wind, dropping the empty canteen to be consumed by the shifting sands.

 When the hellstorm passed he was exhausted to the point of delirium, lips chapped and dry, joints creaking as he limped ever onwards, heart pounding in his ears.

 He continued despite not resting for days, forgetting there was anything else but footing it forwards. He muttered a half-remembered trail song, voice nothing more than a slight grating rasp.

I run through a barren isle
And I chase the sunlight mile after mile
I stare at a bright red sun
Though I search all day, I never find anyone
And I feel I should know this place
As the road winds on into wide-open space
The wind plays a haunting tone
As I make my way through the night all alone

 As the sun set Bishop was on his last legs, body failing and weary, forcing himself forwards through sheer stubbornness. He didn’t recognize the stars.
I lie under starlit sky
And the seasons change in the blink of an eye
I watch as the planets turn
And the old stars die and the young stars burn
But I don't really know this place,
And it's lonesome here in the wide-open space
Can it be as real as it seems?
Maybe this time I won't wake from the dream.

 When the sun awoke, spilling it’s splendour across the cherry dunes, his knees had taken their final lurching step. Bishop’s legs crumbled to ruin, toppling him to a lonely grave of red sand and sunburst sky.

  He wondered if this time he would wake up next to his body. He wondered if his life was worth it. He started to feel cold, using the last of his energy to flip himself onto his back to bask in the sun. Before he drifted out of consciousness, he saw a shape at the edge of his vision, too high to pick out, circling around and around. A bird.

 Was it one for madness, or one for sadness?

 The speech came back to him then, for a final time.

"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for love,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.

 I recognized their black-heads and white bodies from the picture, and remembered the poem. Pretty soon, Magpies were flying around Asher's head. They lighted on the parapet next to her, and I got a good count. One, two, three, four, five. Five for love.

But what did she love? I thought. Freedom? Escape? The sea?

 And then one magpie flew away, diving from the wall to play with the gulls, leaving behind Four. Four for a boy.

 And, I know now what I didn’t know then; that straight from the Berth wall of Fairloche where we were standing, straight in the direction she was staring, was the island where YOU’RE from, Mister Warfield.

 The romantic in me would like to think that on that day you were looking back at her, Auron. Perhaps there’s a day in your childhood you remember staring at the horizon with five magpies fluttering around your head, before two disappeared and there were only three. Three for a girl.

 And I knew then, that if I was ever asked to speak at your wedding, this was the story I would tell.”

 Around his crumbled corpse, boundless and bare, the lone level sands stretched far away.

* * *
Bishop Fairchild
Bishop Fairchild

Posts : 7
Join date : 2017-05-25

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Post by Bishop Fairchild on Mon May 14, 2018 9:32 pm


Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos.

 -John Milton, Paradise Lost.

 There was darkness for some time. His mind retreated deep, submerged in shadow until enough of his body was healed.

 Shapeless grey forms danced behind his eyelids, now spinning together in a waltzing embrace, now devouring each other, growing brighter with each mouthful. He wasn’t sure if these were dreams or visions from another branch of reality. He tried to speak but no sound came.

 The shapes dazzled on, rolling as one until there was only a brilliant white nebula. Its beauty choked him. Or, would have choked him if he had a body; a magnificent all-encompassing plain of white alabaster impossible to replicate in reality. It threatened to blind him, pulling him into the alluring soft-edged embrace of iris petals and iceberg roses. How easy it would have been to let it win.

 A discordant shriek sounded as a vantablack tendril emerged unchallenged from the depths, shattering the purity. It curled and coiled around the light, silhouette soon joined by others in twisting anarchy. The white plain began to revolve, ensnaring the web of starless chaos. The lines wove together, streams of white bonding with bands of black, tangling together until the blending boundaries disappeared, washed with the dusky dye of ghostly grey, unified as a single colourless plain once again.

 At last his eyes opened.

 A striped sailcloth billowed in the breeze, it’s ruddy red colour striking after so long in monochrome. It extended to the edges of his vision.

  I’m on my back. Bishop managed to reason, although he did not know where. He tried to move his head, but there was only pain. He tried to move his limbs with the same result. Forced to stare at the cloth canopy, he realized it was stained the same colour as the crimson dunes on which he collapsed.

 His other senses came back one by one. A gingered spice stung the inside of his nose, and he heard the sizzle and pop of a boiling pot, and the shuffling chef that tended it. The bitter dryness of his mouth made him wonder how long it had been since he’d finished the salted Bison and dropped his canteen.

 Bishop tried to speak, but managed only a guttural groan.

 A clicking warble answered him. “CAWW -click—click- Toe Poe! Toe Poe! -click-clack-CAWW”.

 “Shut it, would ya? I’ll be hearin yer clicks when I eat it.” The voice was a rich baritone, minor accent making music of the letter r, rasped around the edges.


 “Yeh’ll spoil the dish, yeh mangy bird.”

 “Toe-Poe! Toe-Poe! -clickclackclick-

 “Enough, Williwaw.”

 There was silence for some time, the only sound coming from the broiling pot and the rippling canvas canopy until Williwaw made a single provoking noise.


 There was the thump of heavy footfalls, the frantic flutter of wings, and an apologetic “TOE-POE! TOE-POE!” as Williwaw retreated to the sky’s refuge.

 When the form turned back around, he noticed Bishop’s eyes were open. He muttered under his breath;

“Rejoice, my friend, the birthing breeze, and sing,
the wind returned him as some living thing,
though breaths were faint and heartbeat slight
in this calm hut with sailcloths fretting light.”

 He shuffled across the room until he was looking down at Bishop, a thick grey-streaked beard and sad sunken eyes revealed in the corner of his vision.

“Rest, child. Never mind Willi, he’s a suckling babe wailing for a mother that’ll never come.”

 The stranger fumbled about behind him, and returned with a bowl, tipping it to Bishop’s lips, using his other hand to tip his head forwards.

“Drink. It’ll give you some eh your strength back.”

 It was warm and sweet and sent him back to his dream of twisting grey shapes and black grasping nightmares.

 When he awoke once again it was dark. He wondered how many days had passed.

 He immediately tested his limbs, wiggling his fingers and toes, finding that he could move his body without pain. I’m not paralyzed, at least. He thought briefly, turning his attention towards his surroundings.  

 He propped himself up, resting his back against a woven pillow of rough dried grass. It pricked him uncomfortably. A fur blanket covered him, stitched together from a dozen or so individual short-haired pelts. Didn’t know any sort of wild dogs could live out here. He thought. Hyena, maybe, but looks closer to Coyote. We must be near the other side of the desert.

 He was in the centre of a small room, walls a rough red sandstone cracked and crumbling, leaving holes and breaks at even intervals. Bound bone and netted grass served as shutters. Hints of eroded engravings showed on the walls, once beautiful and intricate, now mere echoes of former delicate artistry. Shelves and small possessions lined the room, seemingly without order. There was no wood to be seen either; a seemingly scarce material here.

 The canvas ceiling had been rolled back, uncovering the heavens and the perpetual pinpricks of light that bathed everything in an even blue glow. Bishop looked for a constellation, any pattern or cluster he could recognize, but there were none.  

 A bird perched atop the sandstone wall, nails clicking as it bounded side to side, beak closed out of respect. It must have been Williwaw — jet black head and body, stomach white and streaking into the wings. Williwaw was a magpie.

 Before Bishop sat a brutal man at a circular stone table. A carved dragon snaked along it’s perimeter, protecting the lines and symbols ingrained on it’s red surface.

 He shuffled a deck of oversized cards, placing them face-up on the table one by one, before scooping them all up and shuffling again.

 A crested corinthian helmet had been pushed up onto his head, the long spiked cheek guards jutting over his brow instead of by his jaw. His grey-black beard half covered a grimy chest plate, scratched and mottled with rust and green-streaked decay. A thick pelt was slung across his shoulders. The star-light glow made him appear a spectre, a well-practiced wraith dealing hands of fortune and misery.

 “You’re the first one t’come through in a while.” Rasped the man. “Almost twenty years since the last.”

 He placed the deck facedown on the side of the table, looking Bishop in the eyes.

 “Men aren’t as callous as they used ter be. One time we’d get a man a month seeking what yeh seek. One time I’d leave a man to the scavengers if I found em like I found yeh — but those times are past. Sure, I pulled yeh the last leg of the race, but we can forget about that. Long time since I’ve ‘ad te perform my rites. Even longer since I’ve ‘ad proper company.”

 “--click-clackclack-” snapped Williwaw, offended.

 “Pah, yeh aren’t much company te squawk about, Willi.”

 The bird bowed his head in dejection.

“Any man who makes it this far must ‘ave a reason. I’d like te know yer name, traveller.”

 “Bishop” he managed, as a ragged whisper, throat feeling tender and raw. “Where am I?”
 “Ahh yeh know where yeh are, dun be a fool. Only one reason a man foots it all the way te Tehom.”

 Bishop furrowed his brow in confusion.

 “The Bishop must’ve heard the legend, the Bishop must have come in search of Mandos.”

 “I — I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said, a harsh whisper.

 “Desert winds must’ve scoured yer skull. The Bishop seeks Mandos, he’s just forgotten.”

 The man adjusted his helm and leaned forwards.

 “Mount Mandos holds the meaning of life, and the secret to immortality.”

 His booming baritone ferried the folk song across the breathless desert night, painting a picture in Bishop’s head.  

A barren bluff of ashen grey,
Long was the way that fate him bore,
The Sasht-e Kavir between him lay,
And Tehom garbed in bloody dress.

Through halls of iron and darkling door,
Upon the crest the secret lay
If you complete the traveller’s chore,
Of Mandos Mountain’s coarse caress.

 There was a moment of perfect silence before he spoke again.

 “I was never certain if the Tehom garbed in bloody dress referred to our red dyed clothes from the Sasht-e Kavir’s dunes, or foreshadowed the bloody destruction of our people when I was a boy.”

 As Bishop looked closer at the man, he realized that the helmet wasn’t resting on top of his head to keep it from his face, but because it was too small, designed for a younger version of himself.

 “What happened?” Bishop strained to say.

 “Many men came across the red sands whistling songs of secrets and treasure, thinking they could steal it by force. They had no idea our only treasure was the mountain behind us, that Tehom’s only purpose was to prepare travellers for their upwards journey.”  

 He let out a grim exhale.

“Our army was small, we stood no chance. They burned our temples, killed our men, raped our women. With enough carnage you can taste metal in the air, hear screaming souls ripped from bodies. I was seventeen.”

 The light caught his eyes, wet and glistening in the starlight.  

 “I laid prone amongst me bloodied family until they left. Having found no treasure they took the survivors as slaves, leaving the same way they came. I should have tried ter save them. I should have tried — something. But I couldn’t risk it. As far as I knew I was the last of us — and if I died, who else would shepherd travellers up Mount Mandos and guide the worthy to it’s secret?”

 He grabbed the deck of cards and leaned back in his chair, shuffling once more.

 “I am Ticallion. The last of the Tehom.”

 “Callion! Cal! Cal!” cawed Williwaw.

 Bishop didn’t know what to say, letting silence fall over them for some time, letting the information absorb before he spoke. “What’s at the top that’s so important?”

 “Ahh, yeh’ll make the journey soon enough. I’ve been guiding lost souls up Mandos Mountain for fifty years or more. Every man who makes it reacts differently, but all are changed. For most, it’s everything they need to see.”

 Bishop tried to imagine the Mountain, only managing a hazy purple outline on a distant horizon; a memory from the top of the Fairloche wall.

 “Come closer, child. We begin with the Reaping of the Four.”

 Bishop pushed himself on sore limbs until he sat at the end of the bed overlooking the red stone table. The stars marked the grooves and engravings along it’s surface. He drew the coyote pelt blanket tight around his shoulders.

  “There is no need to tell me what yeh seek, no need to explain your past, your faults, your hopes or regrets. The cards will speak for yeh. With this deck I will divine the truth, laying bare your faults and the proper path forwards.”

 He held the deck across the table.

 “The Bishop must shuffle. The deck must get to know him.”

 Bishop tentatively took the deck, shuffling the oversized cards with difficulty, unsure of what might happen, afraid of dropping them or messing up the ritual in some way and damning himself.

 On the back of each card was a curling stylized Tree, black trunk on white background, roots grasping a circle. Beneath, an upside down tree did the same with inverted colours, so that the black and white roots twirled together in celtic geometric patterns, spreading around to border each card.

 He passed the deck back.

 Ticallion laid it down, and drew the top four cards one by one, placing them in a row. He spoke in a deep throaty husk. His dialect disappeared, as if another voice was talking through him.

“Into this wild Abyss,
The womb of Nature and perhaps her grave--
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds,--

Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage;
for no narrow frith, He had to cross.”

 The four dual-trees stared blankly up at him, each concealing a secret, begging to be flipped. Ticallion placed a hand over a card, and spoke again.

“He made it to the distant shore
With hallowed husks at every door
Before him lies a noble chore
To guide him we must Reap the Four.”

 He flipped the first card. It showed a skeleton in a canoe full of trash paddling down a river. Heaps of garbage and junk piled to his knees, and he paddled from the rear like a gondola.

 “El tarot sin nombre. The Tarot without a name. The Bishop is obsessed with order, unable to rest until he understands his world. He lives in a river of chaos, unable to stop paddling until he’s reached the end and escaped it. But the Bishop doesn’t realize that the chaos isn’t just in the river, but that he takes the chaos with him wherever he goes.”

 Ticallion gestured towards the junk in the canoe, and then to his forehead.  

 “No matter how far he paddles down the river, he will never escape it’s grasp. He paddles until he is a skeleton. The Bishop dies, too stubborn to choose a different path.”

 “Obsessed with order?” Bishop retorted, “These bullshit cards have no idea who I am. You’ve been living out here on your own for too long, you’re a raving fool.” A piece of the old Bishop shone through with the insult.

 “Aye. Maybe. Or maybe if the Bishop took a moment to think about it, he would know it to be true.”

  If anything, I’ve been a force of chaos. He took a rare moment of self reflection. If anything I’m an abrasive, erratic, detached, self-indulging hedonist. I drink myself silly, insult people for fun, care little about anything other than myself. At times I help defend the town seemingly out of character, but it’s actually out of boredom. But obsessed with order? Couldn’t be further from the truth.

 Ticallion seemingly read his mind.

 “The Bishop will come to respect his teacher. He will understand, in time. A man unable to affect the world around him is a sick man, drowning in chaos. The drowning man will find a pocket world he can control and build walls of ordered comfort around it, be this a make-believe land in the woods where he acts out life as a different character, or an isolated cabin of comfort. If this escapism isn’t strong enough, the man will further drown himself with tonic and tablet to forget about his dread.”

 Bishop turned it over in his head a second time, letting the idea form into place. It started to make more sense to him.

 Ticallion knows my struggle. Somehow. Holdfast was a chaos I could not control. I tried to put up walls of order around my cabin in the woods to no effect. Perfect order is impossible. Even in Eden a reptile found it’s way in to disrupt the plan, just like the lizard-men snuffing me out on my front garden. And when I left the comfort of my house? I made sure I was good and drunk, mocking the townsfolk for how serious they took everything, a genuine asshole. I drowned myself further, too afraid to confront a lawless town I couldn’t affect.

 He thought about the Order of Iron, how captivated they were with bringing order to the free-for-all anarchy of Holdfast, the town’s main antidote to the unpredictable onslaught of monsters and nameless nightly terrors. How close his desire for order was to theirs, yet how far apart in execution.

  They were hopeful, and I was not. They thought if they fought hard enough and long enough they could bring peace to Holdfast. I laughed at their never-ending efforts for an Order impossible to achieve. In the face of true chaos I adopted indifference, and retreated to a place I could control.

 The revelations came one after another, lining up blocks in Bishops mind that previously lay scattered. Ticallion watched Bishop’s eyes dart around the room deep in thought. He smiled to himself, knowing so many of the man’s cluttered thoughts had been tidied up after only a single card.

 Once Bishop’s eyes re-focused themselves, Ticallion turned over the second card.

 A star-nosed Mole with swirling tufts of hair squat inside a circle of darkness, digging for the strip of warm yellow light that rimmed the edges of the card.

 “El Topo. The Mole.”

 “Toe-Poe! Toe-Poe! -clickclick-” Echoed Williwaw.

 “El Topo spends his whole life digging for the light, only to become blinded when at last he finds it. El Topo either returns underground where it is safe and ordered, or he evolves to confront the chaos. El Topo has a purpose, knows where he is going, keeps digging until he finds it. The Bishop is El Topo, but he has stopped digging and lost his way. He wallows helpless in the darkness. The Bishop lacks purpose, lacks resposibility, has become dislodged and disoriented, adrift and wandering. But even in absent wandering there lies purpose — that’s how the Bishop ended up here, exactly where he needs to be.”

 “I — “ Bishop’s mind was reeling. “So what is my purpose? How do I find it?”

 “A Bishop must stand on the board with clear purpose — to defend his King, and capture the rival one. His movement is inhibited, forced diagonally on black squares, his other half on white, so that he cannot play alone. The Bishop must work with the Knight and the Rook to accomplish the goal. A Bishop that has relinquished the game of black and white has broken the rules. He is exiled from the board, and has lost his way.”

  The Knight and the Rook. Bishop thought, wondering if he would ever make it back to Holdfast, and if he even wanted to.

 “He who has a why can bear any how. For now, Mandos Mountain is your purpose. The Bishop must climb. The Bishop must learn. Only then, can he evolve.”

 Ticallion flipped over the third card before Bishop could process the information. A tortoise marched into darkness. A lantern dangled in front of his face from a pole fastened to his shell, illuminating his path.

 “El Ermitaño. The Hermit. La tortuga carries his home on his back, where he can retreat at any time. If he gathers enough strength to emerge, his light is bright. The Bishop can withdraw from the sufferings of the world — that possibility is open to him and accords with his nature — but perhaps that withdrawal is the only suffering he might be able to avoid. He must learn to cast his light forwards instead of inwards.”

 How deeply this man seems to know me, to know the sources of my suffering and how to lift me from them. Thought Bishop.

 “If The Bishop wishes to travel quickly, he travels alone. If The Bishop wishes to travel far, he must travel with company.”

 The final card was flipped. A baby chick teetered on the edge of a small branch, one foot poised in the open air mid-step, seconds from a fatal drop.

 Ticallion started a hearty belly-laugh, to Bishop’s annoyance.

 “What.” He said flatly.

  “Le Mat. El Pollito. The Fool. A perfect card for The Bishop. El Pollito combats suffering with ignorance. El Pollito does not realize he is one step from death, has not yet understood the nature of suffering. The Bishop combats suffering so much like the budding chick, but by choice. The Bishop understands that suffering is the only universal truth of this world, and immerses himself in willful ignorance to ignore it. He drowns his senses and refrains from playing the game. Until he learns responsibility, he remains a fool.”

 Bishop had a string of his favourite four-letter expletives ready to fire at Ticallion, but stopped himself. Bishop felt his hard exterior cracking, wondered why this shell had built up in the first place, scared of what might lay underneath. Everything Ticallion said was true.

 “How we deal with suffering reveals who we are. The Bishop refuses to accept help. He lives alone, stubborn and bitter. But why? Perhaps the Bishop accepts the help he thinks he deserves. So then, why does the Bishop hate himself?”

 Bishop’s hardened and calloused defence he’d built-up over so many years cracked and crumbled before Ticallion’s eyes. Tears welled up and burst as he finally understood the root of his problems. His words came as a torrent, released after being pent up for so long.

 “I miss home.” he said between sobs. “I miss Fairloche, I miss feeling safe behind the impenetrable walls, the innocence and predictability of everything when I was young. I miss knowing what I’m going to be when I grow up. A knight like my brothers, or a merchant like my Dad. But what have I become? I’m a nothing. An angry wanderer unwilling to face his problems, unable to look in the mirror and see the devil I’ve become. I’m a disgrace.”

 Bishop’s brow was creased in distress, his cheeks streaked with tears. The coyote pelt fell from his shoulders like the discarded molt of his former self

 “I understand,” said Ticallion. “The Bishop grew up in safe and perfect order, and has been cast from Paradise. He flounders in chaos without the means to wrangle it. His attempts to drown it out, or to retreat to a place of order have cast him further into the abyss.”

 Ticallion took off his helmet, and laid it on the table next to the cards. The face was still marked with dried blood, many years old.

 “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve — unless you purge your fear through ignorance. Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are, you’ll cut yourself. Before we tackle Mandos, the Bishop must be broken down and re-cast from the ground up. The Bishop must first learn to love himself.”

 Bishop didn’t know what to say, what to think. He abandoned the string of thoughts running through his mind, surrendering himself completely to Ticallion.

 “There are four paths to escape suffering.” He continued. “The Bishop has already tried three of them to no effect, so the proper path should remain clear. First, there is the blissful ignorance of youth — once lost, it can never be regained. Next is the willful ignorance of The Bishop — the man who retreats from life, unable to accept the truth of lasting suffering. He uses escapism as a sword against the world, pretending to live in a different land as a different man, or remaining tanked and blind in this one. He lives inside the husk of la tortuga, alone and afraid. Down the third path, the man comes to understand suffering, and is crushed under it’s boot heel. He gives in to the edge of his own blade. The Bishop knows these roads lead nowhere.”

 Weighted silence hung in the air, suspending time.

 “Down the fourth road, the man accepts and understands suffering; is able to live in armistice beside it, despite it. He wrangles it to submission, appreciates it’s fathomless grasp, and remains at peace. This is the path the Bishop must take if he is to become whole again.”

 Despite the pain, Bishop rose from the edge of the bed, sank to his knees, and clasped his hands together in a begging plea. He spoke a series of words he thought he would never be able to say.

“Teach me, Ticallion. I need your help.”

* * *
Bishop Fairchild
Bishop Fairchild

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Post by Bishop Fairchild on Mon May 14, 2018 9:48 pm


Punctured bicycle
On a hillside desolate
Will nature make a man of me yet?
When in this charming car
This charming man
Why pamper life's complexity
When the leather runs smooth
On the passenger's seat?

 -The Smiths, This Charming Man.

 The sun caressed Bishop’s face, gently rousing him awake. He shielded his eyes from it’s red glow, and sat up. It was months since he’d arrived at Tehom, months since he’d started his ascent up Mandos Mountain with Ticallion as his sherpa guide.

 They camped next to a weather-beaten statue, inscription eroded away, illegible, facial features grinded down to an even plane. It had once grasped a sword, raised proudly as a sentinel of the city below, but the hand was now empty, arm half-cocked at an awkward angle.

 Far below sat the ruins of Tehom, nothing more than a litter of rocks scattered on the dunes, easily glanced over if you didn’t know the story, or where to look. The city was being consumed by the Sasht-e Kavir, stretching boundless to the horizon.

 Ticallion was up and sharing a long-eared jackrabbit with Williwaw. He threw the cooked bones to the ground, knowing the magpie to become irritable if he didn’t get enough calcium-rich marrow in his diet.

 “Today’s lesson.” He said, between mouthfuls, “Even the greatest of men crumble when nobody remembers them.” He nodded towards the statue. “How then, is a man to be remembered?”

 “A man must leave a legacy.” Bishop answered.

 “Wrong!” burst Ticallion. “A man obsessed with only his legacy quickly becomes lost. We remember terrible men as often as we remember the great ones. Try again.”
 “A man must leave a legacy, but through his love.”

 Ticallion smacked Bishop with his walking stick, engraved up and down with quotes and passages.

 “Do not say must. A legacy is not essential. A legacy is a product of action. It is a future one cannot control with any reasonable certainty, and focusing on a future you cannot control is the root of all anxiety. Do not attempt to order that which cannot be ordered. The future is chaos. One must focus on the present, not fairy tales of the future. A man will be remembered if a man loves, but a man must not think on such things, even as an afterthought. Otherwise, his love is cheapened as a means to an end, a means to secure a legacy.”

 Ticallion had begun bombarding Bishop with lectures and teachings like this one even before he regained his strength and ability to walk, before they had even left Tehom for the Mountain.

 “I understand”. Bishop bowed his head out of respect.

 “Good. Let’s head out, we’ve a lot of ground to cover today.”

 The way to enlightenment as described to him had seemed simple enough — to accept suffering and live peaceably alongside it — but there were many paths to the same destination, many forks and pitfalls jutting out to tempt and distract him, especially along the mountain trail.

 At times Ticallion led him along broad stony steps, across alpine meadowed fields, past rocky cabins comfortable enough for a single night’s respite. Occasionally the path was reduced to a thin line of planks nailed to the side of the rock, or halted entirely, forced to continue vertically with nothing but rope, bloody fingers, and a make-shift cam. But in-between these tangible threats of the mountain were the true challenges; the Trials of Mandos Mountain.

 The Trials were many, each as harrowing and dignified as the one before, each stripping and reforming an element of the man that had been Bishop Fairchild.

 He’d shed his clothes and belongings, his name and past, his self-image and ego when he passed through the Tannhauser Gate; the first Trial of Mandos Mountain. He sewed a simple tunic from a length of un-dyed beige cloth, the traditional get-up of the Mandos Mountain Wayfarer, of El Topo — the man in search of the light that blinds him.

We’ll dye it with red clay from the Sasht-e Kavir if you return with the secret. Ticallion had said.

 IF you return. Bishop echoed, not liking the way it sounded.

 He tamed a pair of wild stallions under the Shoulder of Orion, drank from the Great Wellspring of Ecclesia, choked a panther to death in the Pit of Kharkhorin, resisted the temptations of the Sastruga of Lotus Island. He slept with the Sword of Damocles, burned the ten wings of Bak Mei, plunged from the Rapids of Reincarnation, sacrificed a front tooth to pass the corridor of San Juan de la Salette.

But the most difficult Trial so far was Carapace Cottage; a small nordic cabin next to a quiet mountain stream. A carved wooden tortoise squat at the crest of the overhanging roof, stout windows glowing orange from the hearth within. The garden was groomed and well-kempt, full of budding white flowers he didn’t recognize, decorated with bleached benches, vined arbours, and tiny limestone pagodas. Behind the cottage was a stand of stunted black ash, cultivated for firewood.

To Bishop it was pure comfort, pure order, everything he’d ever dreamed of owning. When he entered, he found it unlocked, and uninhabited. He could live here indefinitely, subsisting on clean spring water, mountain hare, and unbroken silence. Ticallion and his magpie waited by the road, giving Bishop forty days to resist the trial, or be lost.

 The charming cottage drew him in for thirty-eight days, unable to resist the pull of absolute comfort and solitude. On the thirty-ninth day, he felled a black ash for firewood, expecting the thin stump to bear the rings of a young tree, instead displaying hundreds of concentric circles. The tree was an elder, it’s growth stagnated on this cushy mountain plateau.

 Bishop refused to suffer the same fate, pressing on back towards the road.

 The long months of travel and the Trials of Mandos gave him plenty of time for deep uninterrupted thought about the nature of suffering and how to live alongside this unbroken truth. Every day he broke new ground, sensed himself inching closer and closer towards a revelation, but struggled to clutch the final goal.

 He continued his endless hike behind Ticallion, Williwaw nowhere to be seen, searching for a meal.

 “The worst is over with.” Ticallion called back to him. “At this pace, we’ve only four nights left.”

Bishop plunged himself back into thought.

  Four nights until I know the answer; The secret to immortality and the meaning of life.

 He thought about what might lie at the peak of the mountain, what ancient relic or artifact hundreds of simply-robed travellers had hiked thousands of miles to see, months of labor for only a glimpse; the same treasure that spawned the genocide of it’s Tehom protectors. It had to be valuable, worth the hundreds of lives of Ticallion’s people, a relic his family died to protect. Would he learn to live forever? Would he escape suffering? Would he be granted the power of a God?

 The air was colder at this altitude. Bishop threw a hand-stitched hooded cloak over his head, much too thin to block the biting wind.

 I am El Topo. he told himself. I search for the light that blinds me. El Topo must never stop digging.

 As they travelled the last leg of their hike, the ground began to level out. Hardy long-rooted grass poked up in-between the wind scoured rocks despite the elevation. A thin covering of alpine tussock and moss reached over the earth, a comfort they were denied for many miles.
 Ticallion took off his shoes and left them by the side of the path. Bishop did the same, feeling each gentle stroke of the mountain’s carpet soothe his calloused feet.

 A day later the grass was joined by shrubs, then slowly by trees — white pine, golden larch and black spruce, tall and mighty, towering to scrape the sky.

“How is it that these trees can grow so high here? Aren’t we above the tree line?” Bishop asked.

 “A tree can only grow to Heaven if it's roots reach down to Hell, El Topo.” answered Ticallion, an imprecise answer that left him puzzled.

Another day and a night passed under the trees, the secret of Mandos fast approaching. Tiny mushrooms began to sprout under the shaded boughs, thin stalks glowing faintly of captured starlight in their folds. Delicate five pointed flowers gathered in circles around them, a congregation flocking to the only brilliance in the shade.

 Bishop picked one, pulling it from it’s parish, turning the pallid form over in his hands, admiring the delicate structure as he walked. He pulled each petal free and threw the empty husk to the ground.

 Bishop’s anxious mind raced as he hiked closer and closer to the top. He feared the worst; that he would falter at the peak unable to understand, unable to see the truth, unable to change.  

 Who is to blame for suffering? Is suffering the act of a malevolent god? Maybe. But to blame a God is the easy way out. Pretending every act of chaos is simply the un-seen will of an almighty entity instantly gives it order; it’s part of his plan. Blaming the world for your suffering is another way out, but blaming the world only breeds resentment. I can blame myself for my outlook and reaction to suffering, however; both things I can strive to improve and change. But is that the right answer?

 Short hours later they came across one of the rock cabins that lined the mountain path. Giant slabs of ancient stone had been piled into a crude dome shelter hundreds of years ago, now covered in moss, pocked with weathering. Both men entered through a small arch leaving Williwaw perched outside.  

 Inside, a large circle of starlight mushrooms glimmered, surrounded by an assembly of the five-pointed flowers. He felt as if they were interrupting a somber meeting of fungus and flora. Ticallion sat on one side, motioning for Bishop to sit across from him.

 “This is the final waystation, El Topo.” He spoke in a hushed tone. ”In a few hours you must travel the rest of the way on your own. I will wait here for your return as a changed man. Are you ready?”

 The soft blue haze was enchanting, both men staring at the fungus as they spoke.  
 “ — No. I feel like I keep asking the same questions without finding any answers. I keep hitting the same walls over and over, going in circles.”

 “You are not going in circles, El Topo. You are going upwards. The path is a spiral, and you have already climbed a thousand steps.”

 Bishop felt his mind clutter with things he wished to ask Ticallion, afraid of being without his guidance.

 “What will I meet? An Immortal Elder? A Passage to another realm? Unspeakable treasure? Will I know what to do when I find it?”

 Ticallion smiled to himself.

 “Your final lesson, El Topo, is that wisdom cannot be imparted, only knowledge. My wisdom must sound like foolishness to you, like the shadows in Plato’s cave, although by now you’ve probably figured that much out. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it. You must learn the rest for yourself. Be a pupil of yourself, get to know yourself, the mystery of Bishop Fairchild. You must see what lies at the peak through your own eyes.”

 Bishop was silent. He didn’t understand.

 Ticallion began to sing. The starlight mushrooms grew brighter, intent on listening.

“A barren bluff of ashen grey,
Long was the way that fate him bore,
The Sasht-e Kavir between him lay,
And Tehom garbed in bloody dress.

Through halls of iron and darkling door,
Upon the crest the secret lay
If you complete the traveller’s chore,
Of Mandos Mountain’s coarse caress.”

 “There is only one task left, El Topo. In front of you lies the petrichor, the pale flower of Mandos Mountain. You must meditate here until you see them through your own eyes, until you look at the flowers as if for the first time. Only then are you ready to mount the summit.”

 Ticallion stepped outside the hut, leaving Bishop to complete the rest of the journey on his own.

 He sat cross-legged for some time, purging himself of all thought until his cluttered mind reached a perfect stillness. He was grateful for each heartbeat, each breath, the quiet glow on his eyelids, the silent brush of a flower petal on his calf.

 He opened his eyes to let it in, to see the starlight mushroom and the pale petrichor carpeting the surroundings.

  Look at the flowers as if for the first time.

 He plucked the petrichor brushing his leg, cupped it in his palms. He could see his hands through the delicate petals, translucent white, faintly lined with veins and thin streaks of black.

  It thrives in the dark. It doesn’t wish to grow taller than the trees, is happy underneath their boughs. Why?

Bishop began to understand.

  It’s happy with this faint glow because it knows nothing of the sun. It isn’t until it strays from the pack, from a teacher, that it finds it’s own way. Finds the sun. It’s beautiful — but by plucking it, I’ve doomed it. It’ll wither and die within a day. Does that matter? No. This instant of fleeting beauty is all that matters — worth any fairy-tale future of hell.

  I must leave the faint glow of Ticallion’s teaching. In order to find the Sun I must first be a pupil of myself, to know myself and the mystery of Bishop Fairchild. I must see the flower through my own eyes.

 As he stared the flower began to change. He saw it in the windowsill of his house in Fairlocke, as part of a wreath on a grave, in the woods around Holdfast, in his sister’s hair, in the little goat’s bag as part of a potion, loose petals floating across the surface of a pond.
 He could not grasp or fathom what he saw, felt only a distant memory, godly voices.

  I am ready.

 Bishop rose, still cupping the flower. He passed Ticallion without a word, leaving his teachings and the Last Waystation behind him.

* * *
Bishop Fairchild
Bishop Fairchild

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Post by Bishop Fairchild on Mon May 14, 2018 10:19 pm

BORN AGAIN BISHOP PART 4: A Fistful of Feathers.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
 -Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

 Bishop walked the path, mindful of every step, carefully lifting and placing each foot. Patches of tussock tickled his soles. White pine and golden larch towered on either side, starlight mushroom and petrichor still living under their boughs. He strained his neck to see their lofty tips.

 He heard the faint trickle of water, the bubble of a stream, and followed it.

 Is that the Mountain’s treasure? The secret to immortality? The meaning of life? A wellspring of youth — a fountain of godly origin?

 In a short time the path swelled, trees retreating to an even distance. The clearing was blurred with steam, mist clinging to Bishop’s skin. He rubbed a hand over his face, revitalized by the slick layer of warm water. He walked until he came to the edge of a rippling pool.

 Stooping by it’s edge, he gazed at the frothing crystalline lines, the silent bubbles drifting across the surface, bright beads rising from the depths.

 He tucked the white flower in his belt, made a bowl of his hands, broke the water’s surface, and drank from them.

 The warmth spread through his belly, through his limbs. It nourished him, feeling freshness and vitality return, blood warming his palms, his toes, his scalp. But it wasn’t heavenly, he wasn’t shown the way by any celestial body, didn’t come to a supernatural revelation. He was just thirsty, and it was just water.

 He felt disappointed.

Maybe I have to bathe in it for it’s magic to work, for the spell to take effect.

 Bishop undressed frantically, eager to be shown the way, to be guided towards immortality, to escape suffering.
 He slipped into the pool.

 The bottom was rocky and the warm water was pleasant, nurturing his worn-out legs, his tired frame. He floated a while enjoying the bath, but no revelation came. It was just a wellspring; there was no magic in it.

 Bishop exited the pool, discouraged. He’d been led astray. He had to be missing something. There had to be a secret on Mandos Mountain.

 He sat at the water’s edge, turning the pale flower over in his hand, thinking.

 Perhaps this is the lesson. Perhaps what I’m meant to learn is that there is no immortality; only reality.

He remembered the song about the Mountain;

  A barren bluff of ashen grey. A barren bluff. There really is nothing up here, it’s right in the song! A barren lie.

 In that moment, it dawned on him that this was the truth.
 In that moment, El Topo was blinded.

 It was as if the ground had fallen beneath him, the hope he’d built his future on collapsing to ruin.

  Immortality is a lie, an easy cure for future suffering, a false distraction, a fool’s excuse for the meaning of life. There is no secret on Mandos Mountain. I was led here by a red herring. What, then, is the answer? What must I see?

 As he sat in thought, an early breeze cleared the thick mist from the air, revealing the other side of the clearing. At the end of the pool wound a small stream that plunged through a break in the trees to unseen depths.

 Bishop rose, still naked, still clinging the flower.

 What he saw was sublime.

 It stole the wind from his lungs, it’s beauty transcending possibility, shaking him to his core.

 The stream fell before his feet, cascading down the far side of the mountain. It disappeared amongst the treetops, winding around the trunks, twisting and growing through hills and lowlands, meandering through rapids and rubble, pooling in canyons and basins before spilling into the ocean far below.

 The first light of the sun rose above the purple mountains across the distant sea, burnishing the tree-tops, sparkling on the distant tide.

  I wish this moment would last forever. He thought. But even this moment cannot obtain immortality. It’s just a view, like the water is just a wellspring. I can’t mistake beauty of experience for the divine.

 He looked at the glistening tree-tops, heard Ticallion’s voice.

  A tree can only grow to Heaven if it's roots reach down to Hell, El Topo. Echoed Ticallion. You must be a pupil of yourself.

 The words finally made sense.

 He saw the ocean as if from the top of the Fairlocke wall. He was standing next to his father, next to his sister. How eager he’d been to leave, then. He saw the same view from the bow of his ship, from a layover in a port city, from Holdfast. It was all the same ocean.

 The trace fragrance of salt water was brought to him on the wind. He smelled it as if for the first time, filling his head with dreams. It renewed his childhood wonder at the endless blue expanse, of how it dwarfed his father’s colossal ship, of it’s infinite depth, it’s hidden lurking creatures.

 All this time he’d been trying to run from the demons of his past, to push his fell deeds deep into his subconscious where they could be forgotten and focus on the good, rising to the light — but to do that was to cut off his roots, and forget who he was.

  A tree can only grow to Heaven if its roots reach down to Hell.

 Bishop understood. He had no friends in Holdfast for a reason — he wasn’t very pleasant to be around. He remembered something he’d once read.

Coal black is better than another hue,
in that it scorns to bear another hue;
for all the water in the ocean
can never turn the swan’s legs to white,
although she lave them hourly in the flood.

 He is who he is. He must first accept it, accept the blackness of his past, the many stains on his soul, and grow from it, learn from it, not run from it or excise it — that was impossible. That was the first step.

 He dropped the flower in the wellspring, watching it circle and crest in the current until it was caught in the stream, lost to the waterfall.

 Birds started fluttering amongst the trees, feeding their young. Were they Grey Jays? Woodpeckers? No. He recognized them. The thresh of their wings, the streak of white, it could be only one bird. He remembered the wedding speech, was brought back to the exact moment of the story atop the Fairloche wall.

A flock of birds started to approach. You were oblivious, thousand yard staring, but I saw them. And when they got close enough, I saw their black heads and white bodies, a bird I’d never seen in person.

 I had a book of fabled beasts. Right in between the unicorns and the hypogriffs were the magpies. And underneath the black headed, white bodied picture of one, was a little poem about how this fabled beast could be used for divination.

one for sorrow
two for joy
three for a girl
four for a boy
five for love
six for gold
seven for a secret never to be told

 “Seven for a secret never to be told!” he said aloud. The Magpie holds the secret of Mandos Mountain. Why else would Ticallion have one? But what could it be?

 He reflected on it, pacing around the misty clearing.

 He thought of the simple delights of an animal, an overjoyed puppy greeting it’s owner, a wolverine defending her cubs, tooth and bone, to her death, a deer sprinting through the brush in fear. How pure and pointed the emotion of an animal.

They always seem to know exactly what they’re doing, never thinking of the consequences, fixed towards a single goal. he thought,

The fish thinks about his hunger, not about the fisherman. But why? How?

 He thought about his feral hunger upon first awakening, how pointed his purpose was, how definite his goal, how absolute his elation upon catching and feasting on the rabbit. In that moment there was no suffering. Humans are animals too, but why can’t we recapture Paradise?

 The clearing was littered with stray feathers, strewn around the pool as if the birds had first disrobed before a bath. He absently picked them up as he paced, attention focused and far away.

 After some time, he gave up, sitting next to the stream’s mouth as the new sun painted the sky with violent red, impassioned orange.
 By now he’d collected a fistful of feathers, white and black, streaked and spotted. One by one he dropped them in the stream, watched them disappear in the waterfall, meeting their end as all things must.

 The feathers were dropped until only two were left; one white, one black. He looked them over.

 What makes these feathers so different? Does one absorb more light? How can this be so?

 He looked over their forms, ran his hand along the spine, the soft branching ribs that clumped at will, the downy tuft around the base. He wondered if the bird missed it, if it had hurt when the hollow quill came loose, or was pulled. Such a strange and beautiful creation.

 And then he saw the feathers as if for the first time, saw their forms wholly and completely, their imperceptible quirks, their microscopic anatomy. He felt something snap into place; the puzzle was nearing completion.

 He understood why one was black, and the other was white.    

 He saw it then, so final, so complete.

 The black feather did not absorb the light, it scattered it. The thin barbs were made of jagged shapes, so infinitesimally small, a disarray impossible to perceive, shattering the light into perfect chaos, pure darkness. The spines of the white feather were structured in neat rows, reflecting the light perfectly, completely.

The black feather gains it’s colour from chaos, the white one from order.  

 The magpie embodies both colours, a creature of chaos and order, keeping the two most primal forces of the universe in perfect balance, singing an alluring harmony.

  It’s the reason there are two halves of the brain; one for order, for logic, for things you know, the other for the unknown, for the chaos of creation, for imagining new worlds.

 To be whole I must not pick a side, but tow the line as the magpie does. A perfect balance.

 He let the feathers fall, understanding. But they too, were consumed by the waterfall.

The final piece was still missing.

He watched the stream, it’s birth in the wellspring, it’s twists and turns, it’s end at the sea.

 And there it was. The way to escape suffering. He heard it in the wellspring. It gazed at him with a thousand eyes.

By dropping a feather in the stream, he limited his perception. This was not the truth of the river. The river did not carry a feather to it’s end, the river itself was everywhere at once, at its source and at its mouth, at the waterfall, in the sea, in the tide. It touched Holdfast, touched the Berth wall of Fairlocke, touched the wreck of his ship deep beneath the swell. It was everywhere at once, so that only the present existed for it, and not the shadow of the future.

 The illumination made him deeply blissful. Were not all sufferings time? A troubled time long past, or troubled time yet to come? All animals are in constant flow, constantly present — the secret to their happiness.

 A smile crossed his face, smoothing his furrowed brow.

 I was obsessed with order, even now, so late in my journey. I tried too hard to force my world into being, forcing myself up and up to enlightenment without first welcoming the unknown, the chaos of being, of my past, of the future. Welcoming and accepting inevitable chaos is the key.

It may be important to great thinkers and scientists to examine the world, to explain and despise it, but this is of least importance. It is only important to love the world, to love each flower for it's impossibly fleeting beauty, to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect, to see everybody as they are, as if for the first time, completely aware of the bliss of the present moment without being shadowed by the chaos of a future you will never control.

 And in that moment, his aura found perfect balance. He found eternity in the present, and breathed the divine; a warrior on the edge of time. El Topo became La Urraca. The Mole became the Magpie. Bishop Fairchild became enlightened.

* * *
Bishop Fairchild
Bishop Fairchild

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Post by Bishop Fairchild on Mon May 14, 2018 10:33 pm

EPILOGUE: La Urraca.

 Bishop’s smile grew and grew with each passing day, enchanting, as pure and blissful as a child’s.

 He stayed with Ticallion for months in the ruins of Tehom, wishing to help him shepherd travellers up Mandos Mountain, but no travellers came.

 “To stay here is to become La Tortuga. A hermit, hiding from chaos. What use is our gift if we don’t share it?” Bishop said.

 And so, they crossed the Sasht-e Kavir to search the villages for beings in need of brightening, enlightening.

 The first man Bishop encountered cursed him as another peyote-crazed lunatic from the dunes.

 Ticallion laughed.

 “Nobody will take you seriously until you clean yourself up, Bishop. You hair is coarse and matted like a savage! Nothing can make a good looking man more beautiful, or an ugly man more terrifying than long hair. I’ve spent most of my life trying to decide which side I fall on.”

 And so Bishop brushed out his hair, tied it back with beads, dressed simply in the white and black of the magpie, sheltered himself from the whipping sands of the Sash-e Kavir with a cheap patterned robe and a ruddy red blanket, basic and beautiful.

 He made many trips back and forth, up and down, guiding souls to blissful peace atop Mandos Mountain alongside Ticallion.

 And when Ticallion passed away, Bishop buried him in a shallow grave, and picked up where the man left off, caring for Williwaw, guiding lost souls. It gave him purpose. Meaning.

And he remains there to this day as Bishop the Magpie, la Urraca, the Hermit of Tehom, the Shepherd of the Dunes, the last Sherpa of Mandos Mountain.

* * *
Bishop Fairchild
Bishop Fairchild

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Post by Morpha on Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:34 pm

Good story

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