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ENLIGHTENMENT

The Priestesses words formed a rhythm in my mind as we ran in single file beside the limpid waters away from the camp. We six were the chosen ones the seventh, our guide, a great warrior and leader of his people, set an easy pace mindful of our burdens. High above in the canopy monkeys and birds shrieked warnings to each other of our coming - but they need not fear today for we would not cease our journey this day until darkness came and much distance had been covered.

   After giving thanks we ate our meal in silence, hung our bedding from the branches and left this world to the night creatures, until the new sun.

   Thus it was for eighteen days and nights; as always the waters would provide our sustenance and strength as we made our great journey to the edge of the world. Gradually the canopy began thinning until the sun's fingers began touching the very earth and our guide knew we were close to the end of our journey.

   That night we sat together round our fire, burned some of the sacred perfumed wood, and decorated our bodies in preparation to leave the comfort of the waters. We washed the holy things from our burdens and prepared our weapons for the coming day as our fathers and grandfathers had done before us.

   Already in the distance we could hear them, the great monsters of the white wizard giants eating the canopy and crushing the undergrowth. In spite of myself I shuddered upon remembering our guide's description of these devils, but I kept any negative thoughts to myself as we prepared to face the unknown.

   Upon the new Sun we began running towards the sound - huge groanings and crashings and whinings like souls tortured in the underworld until our guide motioned us to slow to a walk. Trying to hide our fear we stared all around us as we walked onward. Around and about giant ancestor trees lay dead on the ground sliced off through their enormous bases as if by some magic knife; we looked at one another in horror at such blasphemy.

   Our guide motioned us to stop and we clutched our weapons as he pointed to a movement some distance away. It was then I saw them, three of the wizard giants walking and talking together and pointing at a great ancestor tree ahead of them. They appeared much as men although their bodies were covered in extra skins, their heads wearing the strangest hats and they carried the strangest implements.

   We watched as two of them put their implements down and the third whose implement was completely different seemed to whip it until it coughed incessantly. He then began to cut into the Ancestor and pieces of her flesh flew all about him; his implement was a magic knife - a devil's knife!

The sound was deafening. I bid the others follow as I loaded my weapon and crept within range of the wizard who dared attack the Gods in this way. Taking aim I blew my pipe with all my considerable power and my arrow flew true into his neck and killed him as he stood.

The other two wizards jumped to their feet - the knife's sound had changed and they watched in amazement as their friend crumpled to the earth, his knife still making some noise following him. Grabbing their implements they ran to him and, thinking he had merely passed out began shaking him trying to awaken him until one noticed my arrow - I watched as their blood ran cold. They used their implements to make several deafening sounds and smoke appeared from their ends. The wizards then waved them around in every direction while quickly moving away whence they had come.

   After they had gone we placed seven holy things into the Ancestor's wound to help it heal and I retrieved my arrow from the dead wizards neck. I would treasure that arrow from this day forth.

   Having given thanks we followed the two wizards trail as it joined other similar trails through the ever-thinning forest, the bodies of our ancestors lying everywhere about us. I knew we were all thinking the same thought "This is what it must be like in the Underworld..."

   Presently we came to an area with not a single tree left standing large or small, and our guide stopped and pointed to the far side of the clearing.

"There" he said "there is one of their monsters."

"Is it alive?" one of us asked in reply to which the other shrugged his shoulders and led the way through the rubble towards it.

As we approached we could see it's eyes staring unblinkingly in one direction, but it was either asleep or dead, so our fear evaporating we followed the wide path to the wizards camp.

   Upon hearing voices we melted into the trees on either side of the path and watched as a large party of them, all carrying the loud implements, walked noisily by, heading past the monster towards their dead friend. I gave a bird signal and we moved silently on either side of the path until suddenly we saw the sleeping place of many different sorts of monsters, some huge, some smaller, but each with the same blank eyes as the one back in the clearing. Cautiously we moved amongst them eyes wide with amazement clutching our weapons in case one should wake up.

We knew we didn't have much time so upon finding their constructions we knew our goal wasn't far away. Our guide pointed to two huge objects connected by tubes to the constructions.

   "Those are what we're looking for" he said "those contain their water supply."

    So as quickly as we could we did the Priestesses bidding saying the ritual poem as we mixed the six powders from our six burdens and poured them into the water below. We put enough of the "Elixir of Enlightenment" into the water for not just the 20 or so wizards but also enough for all the monsters as well, and, with the final ritual flourish our immediate job was done.

    We could hear much shouting and many noise implements as the wizards reacted fearfully to their friends death, we knew it was time to wait and watch the results of their enlightenment. Each of us threw his remaining holy things into the water and thus unencumbered save our weapons we each found a tall tree and settled in to observe from on high what went on.

    After they got back two wizards threw the body of their dead brother on the back of one of the smallest monsters, and, jumping on it themselves steered it off and away from the camp, and out of sight. We watched as the rest began drinking cupfuls of water and talking amongst themselves.

    The first signs of enlightenment didn't take long to appear. Two of the wizards started laughing uncontrollably and pointing at each other. Next three others began screaming and covering their eyes. One grabbed a noise implement and caused it to make a deafening series of noises and smoke while others were running every which way. Several of them began tearing at their coverings, shedding them and running around naked like men, screaming or laughing or sobbing, or all three at once. Scattered throughout were a number who were curled up on the ground, silent and staring, and shaking like leaves.

    Gradually all sound and movement ceased as they all collapsed to the ground, only their staring eyes indicating any remaining life. For the first time it was possible to hear the Jungle's sounds slowly filling the vacuum of silence. Inquisitive monkeys birds and other animals were arriving to see if those who would dare destroy the canopy were gone, dead or just resting.

    What the wizards were seeing and feeling I could only guess from my own experience of enlightenment  during my manhood trials - strange monsters with disembodied voices, fearful devils had tested my bravery to the limit even with long preparation beforehand as proscribed by our tribal lore - and the wizards were facing all with no knowledge to protect them.

    I gave another signal and we came down together to the ground weapons at the ready, although we knew there was really no need for them. Their staring eyes saw all and yet saw nothing - they were not of this world. Enlightenment would not be complete for many more hours and at this stage their own devils were at work in their minds.

    Embracing us all one by one our guide whispered his peoples thanks in our ears and promising one day to visit us again, began his journey armed with new knowledge back to his own people. He had been shown the age-old recipe for the elixir and seen it's power. This would be the way his own people would challenge the wizards, and we, we who one day may have to do the same gave thanks, as we began the long journey beside the waters back to our own people.

 

THE END  

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