The Endurance and Patience of the Saints
When I came to the village of Wittgenstow the church was on fire. I thought that from a distance I would have seen the smoke. However the wind carried it away so that I could not see it rising. If I had, I certainly would have avoided the little hamlet. Whenever there is a church burning, you know there is real trouble about.
But the smoke rose in gusts and clouds and not in a straight black pillar, so I had no warning. When I came to the central part of town, there was the steeple aflame. The sides of it were stone and so they were able to hold, but the roof had collapsed and taken the belfry down with it. Through a broken window in the middle of the steeple I could see one of the fat bronze bells stuck in the middle, as if the tower was choking on it.
I stood watching the villages running around with buckets and trying to put out the fire. A holy man stood off on the side and prayed. I suppose that was all he could do. A large woman came up to me and before she could recognize me as a stranger, she handed me a bucket and told me to run to the well and help out, not seeming to think whether or not I knew where the well was. In fact I could have been a bucket thief, but the emergency and the heat made time for doubt and suspicion scare.
Off I went past a few shops and a blacksmith’s furnace, where the fire was left unattended. The villagers were all in a hurry to save the church and no one was able to tell me where the well was. I finally saw one young boy running with two full buckets. Whenever his feet touched the dirt road, the water hit the sides and small tears splashed over. I followed him to the church and when his buckets were emptied by his elders, I followed him as he ran to a source of water.
When he got to the well he saw that I was behind him.
“Hello, what’s your name?”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“No time for that, give me your bucket.” He filled it up and then thrust it out at me. He spilled nothing. “Take that to the church.”
I obeyed him and went to the fire. It was already starting to die down. The flames were growing weaker and no longer did the air feel so hot. I gave my bucket to a man with a long beard and he ran over with some other men to the steeple. They threw their buckets collectively on the flames and ran back to hand the empty vessels to us fetchers. I noticed that he would tuck his beard into his shirt when he got close to the fire. No use in helping it spread.
The road was a little muddy now, thanks to the water we spilled while running. There was one more trip back for all of us who still had buckets and one more charge at the steeple by the little brigade. Soon the fire was gone and all that was left were ashes and smoke. The wind had died down and now I saw that there was smoke rising in a straight path up to the distance above me. It was probably now warning another, more fortunate, traveler to stay away from Wittgensham.
Finally I was able to introduce myself. There was a crowd around me since I was the latest attraction in the village. There were a few hundred people there and perhaps a hundred of them shook my hand, rubbing dirt, mud, and ashes into both our palms. There was a mayor named Jacobs, who I assumed was self-proclaimed since he walked with his chest sticking out and a gold sash over his torso and shoulder, the sort of show that people who only have a title need to put on to be taken seriously. When everyone who wanted to meet me went back to their cottages, Jacobs took me by the hand and turned my arm into a leash as he led me around the village.
“What brings you here Mr. Miles?”
“Well, I am making my way to the coast, to see the ocean.”
“Well it’s big.”
“But you haven’t seen it.”
“I know that it will be big.”
“Well, it’s been a while since I’d seen it. Maybe it’s smaller now.”
“I’ll let you know how it is.”
“They say that you can’t really describe it to people who haven’t seen it.”
“Makes sense. But I know it’s blue sometimes, green at others. It smells like salt.”
“Ah I could smell it in my mind’s nose if it wasn’t for these ashes.”
“What caused the fire?”
He stopped and dropped my hand.
“You’ve heard of them?”
“Only from drunks who’ve passed up through my town, and beggars too when I couldn’t drop a coin in their cup. It was usually part of a threat.”
“Not every village is blessed to have one.”
“But you are?”
He laughed. “No, cursed is more like it.”
“It burns churches down?”
“From time to time.”
We continued to walked and I noticed that the village curved on itself. There was a main street and we took it past all the homes and workshops, until we came back to the church. The steeple was broken off at the top, the broken and jagged stones looked like they were teeth smiling at us.
“Yep. The Glykol did it.”
“I must ask, what is a Glykol?”
“Oh a great fat beast. With a temper and claws.”
“Does it breathe fire?”
“Not this time. It attacked the church and knocked a candle over. It was better it went up in flames, honestly, it scared the beast away. If it stayed it would have knocked the pillar over easily.”
“Better to lose the tip than the whole thing?”
“Exactly!” Jacobs noticed that his chest was no longer sticking out and re-inflated himself.
“Mr. Miles, we need you. The village needs you.”
“Yes, yes, we’re hiring and we’ve been looking for a long time.”
“Mr. Miles you’re young, independent, energetic, and strong. We think you might be just what the village needs.”
I could see a group of villagers gathering around me.
“You can see all that just looking at me? Why me?”
“You don’t even know what we are looking for.”
“Well I know you think I’m the one for it. I tell you I’m not good for much except traveling. And even then I’ve gotten lost twice already and had to go back home, unable to find the sea.”
“But you are ambitious.”
“We’ll help you get the ocean if you-”
“No, no, I think I can get there by myself.”
“What are you afraid of? Does our village displease you?” Asked a woman from behind me. I turned and saw that she had wonderful blue eyes and hair that shone like a raven’s feathers in the moonlight.
“No, not at all.”
“Then why won’t you help us?”
The fact that a crowd had circled around me so quickly made me worried about what they would ask me. In my own hometown, no one smiles at me much, and they all knew me. Here I was a stranger and they were happy instead. I thought at first that it would be for food or money, as if the entire village of Wittgenbad were sustained as beggars. But maybe they were willing to give me work instead, of some sort. Still, I preferred to be on my way now that I had helped to put out a fire. Every village I had been through tried to ensnare me one way or another. They always secretly hate a man who can pick up and go on to the next hamlet, I suppose. My leading assumption was that they wanted me to fix the church.
“I’m not a stone mason.” I told them.
“Oh, what does that have to do with it?” Jacobs asked.
“You want me to rebuild the church, don’t you?” I looked at the damage and shook my head. “I can’t do it, no, I can’t. I don’t have tools or a good enough of a brain to move them. I’m flattered you think I can do it. “
“No, no, Mr. Miles.”
“No, Mr. Kenneth,” Jacobs patted me on the shoulder, leaving behind what looked like the outline of a spider made out of ash. “That is not what we need you to do.”
“What is it then?”
“Mr. Kenneth, you have nothing to lose do you?”
“I can’t say that I do.”
“Not much in the way of possessions.”
“Or in the way of debts.” I held my pockets out to show their emptiness.
“Even better.” The mayor clapped his dirty hands together.
“Yes, I have nothing to lose except the sight of the ocean.”
“Mr. Kenneth, we need you to do a job for us, and then we will help you about the business of the sea.”
I sat down on a small cask that had been knocked out of place from the local tavern from the recent encounter with the beast.
“You see, we have been plagued.” The villagers seemed to nod in unison around me.
“Of course, who would want a beast burning down their churches?”
“No one, so you understand?”
“Yes, yes, I feel sorry for you,” I looked around at everyone grinning at me. “I am sorry for all of you.”
They continued to smile, hiding their teeth behind their lips. They were probably trying to keep me from seeing all their stains and holes.
“You are a brave one, aren’t you?”
I looked at the old woman who said it. “I’m not sure.”
“But you can travel and search and not be afraid of getting lost, or something unfortunate thing happening to you?”
“Yes, you’re right. Not many leave their villages, not many can say no to staying in one place.”
“But you can!” A young girl told me enthusiastically.
I began to slightly grin. “Yes, yes, I suppose I’m braver than most. But then again, have I ever been really tested?”
Jacobs laughed. “Then you are in luck. We have the perfect opportunity for you to let your name be known as a twin to the word bravery!”
I stood up from my cask. “No, no, I’m not risking my life for that thing’s head.”
“The Glykol?” When the mayor said the name I could see the villagers struggling to treat it as another word, the name of a plant or a type of cloud and not the designation of a wild beast. If they could not keep their smiles on their faces as slight grins, then they turned away from me outright to hide the look of horror in their eyes.
“You are the one with nothing to lose. You are the one with everything to gain!”
“Why don’t you fight it, you’re the mayor!”
“It’s not part of my job. I keep the wells filled, the roofs thatched, the tavern stocked with enough ale. You’re young, with no home, no family, you owe nothing to anyone.”
“So what do I owe to you then?”
“Nothing.” He caught my shoulder as I turned to leave.
“But we can offer you quick passage to the sea. We know where it is. And we know you have to get there soon.”
“You can? How? But why do I have to get their soon?”
“We have wheels and animals, all you have is your feet.”
“And you have to get there quickly. Quicker than your feet will take you” The girl with the blue eyes said.
“Because the sea will be on fire when you get there. The sea will go through its burning season.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Like the forests and the plains, the sea too is touched by flames.”
“But the sea is water.”
“The water of the sea is not like the water from the well. You cannot drink it. How can it be the same?” She smiled at me. I had to confess my ignorance by not responding. “It puts no fires out and is instead host to them.”
My eyes went to each face to see if she was telling a joke or was herself simply delusional. They all believed her, nodding whenever I looked at them.
“And how do you know this?”
“Because I have seen the sea and before it bursts into flames, it is as blue as my eyes.” She smiled and showed a full set of teeth, as white as her hair was black.
I admit the trick would not have worked if Jacobs pulled it out on me. He had eyes the color of the mud splattered on his boots. But they said I could be brave and that I was the only one without the fear that held everyone back. It was the most I ever received in compliments from one village, and I decided to go off and face the Glykol. It was no dragon they told me. Dragons were something to worry about, with wings it could do much more damage, but the Glykol was just a beast and a brute, and nothing else. I wondered what sort of country I had wandered into where so many terrible creatures lived. But my own town was known for its large rats and their teeth that could pierce armor. At least there was only one Glykol, I told myself, or only one in the vicinity.
They had pictures of the beast. It had horns and a large head, hardly any neck. No was sure if it had one, usually they were running and screaming and could only see a few details at a time. Now every time I mentioned the creature’s name, the villagers would hold back tears, clench fists, gnash teeth, and breathe deeply. There more I learned, the more I realized no one knew anything, for when I became as acquainted with the Glykol as they were, I felt I knew nothing. There was a tail and gray skin. But was it covered in scales, or fur? The villagers tried to imitate the call it made when angry, and no two of them could repeat it the same. Vernon told me that it had multiple eyes, like a spider. But it had two arms and two legs and walked upright as well.
No one could tell me what had happened to make it so angry with the village of Wittgenburg.
They trained me as much as they knew in the martial arts, the forms of combat that they were able to use against marauding Mongols, Danes, and Syrians, all the other enemies they told me they could easily defeat on a given day. It was only the Glykol that was too much for them. They had a sword for me and when I lifted it up to the sky, the villagers clapped and told me I was so strong.
As my training continued and I got to explore the area around the village, I began to know the people who lived there. They would invite me into their homes, where I would have dinner and stay the night. I suppose it was the heroes’ circuit, to go from bed to bed and table to table. Jacobs was very efficient in its design and so I never lost much time in wandering looking for the next place. He always had another family ready for me to visit. As I found myself making friends with more and more of the villagers, I wanted to hunt and destroy the Glykol, as much as for their well being as for my honor.
At night I would have dreams of the beast. But they would not turn into nightmares. I hated it, but I did not fear the creature, as terrible as everyone’s descriptions were. Every time I went to sleep and thought about the Glykol I would kill it a different way. Each time the animal itself changed. Sometimes it was more of a bird, and sometime more of a lizard. I wondered if the Glykol was a walking combination of every creature, or if it was something else. Perhaps it was a plant that had managed to turn its roots into feet and its branches into arms. I could easily picture a tree wanting to get revenge for all its brothers and sisters felled and killed by humans, longing for the day it could gain movement and seek revenge by making havoc.
One of the people I met in Wittgenville was an old man named Knut. He was in fact the oldest man in the village, and rumored to be one of the oldest in the whole region. He moved very slowly and each step he took had to be done with plenty of care and concern. He lived with his children’s children in a house that was still his, but which was maintained by all those who called him grandfather. Despite his old age, and his near blindness, He was still a good storyteller. Knut knew everything about the villagers there was to know. He remembered each one when they were younger and would remark how none of them were different as adults as they were when they were children.
Everyone who knew the old man told me that he did not always tell the clear truth to people. He would, of course, never lie outright. He merely sometimes put a warped or colored piece of glass over what he was talking about. But I always would listen to Knut whenever I saw him in the streets, or had the opportunity to stay either in his house or one close by.
Knut had a good memory. It was something he had inherited from his ancestors. He could repeat to me stories his grandfather had told him about the troubles the village used to face, even before the Glykol became a threat. There wee invasions, riots, and starvation. Now there was just the hideous beast that no one could describe. I asked Knut what he knew about it, but all he could tell me were the names of everyone who had been killed by the monster and what they had done for a living. He knew nothing of the size of the animal or how fast it moved. He was certain however, that I was the one who could defeat it.
One of the things that Knut had learned from his grandfather were the stories that the old man had heard from his own grandfather. It seemed that along with a good memory, the family was also blessed with longevity. Knut’s grandfather told him tales when he was young about what the world was like before the time of the troubles set in. When His grandfather’s grandfather was a young man, he had lived with luxuries and devices that I found unbelievable. This was the kind of story that everyone had warned me about. But I trusted Knut. He was not trying to sell me anything, and his descriptions were so detailed for so many objects, that I had to believe someone else had told him about them.
Before the troubles and the hard rain that fell before them, there were many more people and they lived in large cities. They had weapons that could kill people many miles away. They had large boats. Their homes were always hot in winter and cool in summer. They traveled not by foot, but by wheels, and without horses to pull them. For dinner, there was always plenty of sugar, salt, and pepper. They did not even need to talk with one another face to face. There were special boxes for them and little pets that could be stroked to give them everything they knew.
Listening to these marvelous tales I wished I had lived back then. Defeating the Glykol would have been so much easier. The people in the old days had so many ways to kill each other it seemed. I could imagine easily taking them and killing the monster. But it seems that they worked too well. It was why the good times ended and the troubles began. What my own time can be called, I have no idea. There seems to be little so golden about it, but the land is mostly at rest. I suppose this is a copper plated era.
The night before I was to go to fight the Glykol, I stayed with the blue eyed woman. I was happy to be in her company. She lived with her parents above her father’s blacksmith and swordsmith business. She had to wander around the village all day because she could never get any rest or concentrate on anything while him and his men were at work hammering away. When I finished dinner with them all she presented me with a series of daggers and a large sword that I was to use to kill the Glykol. Before I went to bed, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and smiled to me. She said that she had many dreams of me killing the beast, in each the creature had changed its form, but I would then easily slay it. I gave her a smile and then rested.
In the morning, I woke up and felt my body. I ran my hands over my limbs and chest to make sure everything was ready, nothing bruised, sore, cut, or broken. I would be wearing armor and I would have my sword and daggers, but I did not want any extra opening for the Glykol to exploit. When it appeared I was all put together, I got out of the bed and began my preparations. The blue eyed woman made me a large breakfast, but not so heavy that it made me want to lay down in rest in the bed again. When I was full I said goodbye to her and went down to see her father, where he and some other men fitted me out with armor. It felt like I had an extra layer of skin, a heavy layer, but a stronger one too.
The armor did not take long to get used to and I felt at home in it already. Soon I was being greeted by everyone in the village. They stood in front of their houses as I walked past. Each one had smiles and words of praise and encouragement for me. I wondered why they had all decided on making me the hero, why none of them felt they were up to the task. But seeing their homes and families I realized they had too much to lose in facing up to a monster, and I was free enough. All I had was the desire to see those big blue eyes again.
When I came to the church, which was still being repaired, Jacobs came out and made a speech. I’m not sure very many people heard it, not because he wasn’t loud enough, but his words were so full of flowery language and his sentences were so long, I feel that everyone got lost trying to understand the mayor and what he was saying. When he was done he shook my hand. I forgot that I was wearing iron gloves and gripped his hand hard than I should have. Jacobs tried to hide the pain but there were tears in his eyes when I left him. The villagers laughed and waved to me as I went on my way. Even Jacobs waved to me, with his red and shriveled hand.
When I left the limits of Wittgengrad, I heard a pair of feet running up behind me. They were dragging something along the ground and kicking up the dust and dirt on the road. I turned around and through the slits on my helmet I could see Vernon following. He was carrying a big bow, the lower end of it was on the ground tracing a straight line behind him. He reached me and smiled.
“I want to come with you!”
“I don’t think that’s wise.”
“I’m a good shot, I really am!”
“You should go back home. I don’t want to have to worry about you while I’m fighting the Glykol.”
“You won’t have to, I am really fast and I can climb up a tree and hide if I get in trouble!”
“Vernon,” I tried to crouch down to his level in my armor as best I could, “What does the Glykol do?”
“It kills people.”
“With its teeth and claws! It can crush people like that!” Vernon proceeded to do a demonstration of the monster snarling and crunching up an imaginary warrior or peasant in his hands. I could only stand there and imagine that I was the one being smashed and smothered by that hostile palm.
“Yes...but how else?”
“Um...with its tail?” Vernon proceeded to attach his bow to the top of his rear end and waved it behind himself to knock around some tall blades of grass.
“Oh, with fire.”
“That’s right. And what does fire burn?”
“Because churches are made of?”
“And so are...?”
Vernon lost his smile. “Trees.”
“So climbing up a tree isn’t going to do you much good, is it?”
“No. It won’t.” He looked down at the ground.
“I’ll tell you what, if I don’t make it back, I give you full permission to take on the Glykol when you’re my height. You won’t need the mayor to help you or anything.”
He took a deep childish breath and sighed. “Okay.”
We shook hands and then he was off.
I continued along the dirt road. I went through a field and rested. The sun was starting to come out behind some clouds and I took in the sight of its rays tickling the stalks of wheat and the tips of the tall grasses. It looked like a sea of amber had been ground up and spread like glistening chaff over the plain. I took the time to use the clearing to look in all directions to see if there was any evidence of the beast.
When there was none, I got up and continued. I walked until I could no longer see the smoke rising from the chimneys in the village. By then I had gone over a large hill and was deep inside a forest. The trees seemed to be part of one family, their branches joining out and embracing one another. Small creatures and rodents scurried about. None of them seemed deathly afraid, their superior hearing and sensing could not detect any nearby beasts. They put me at ease and I even slid my sword back into its sheath. It felt heavy on my side but it gave my arms some relief.
I passed through another clearing and began to wonder if there was some way I could draw the Glykol near me. No one was sure where the creature lived, or how, if it even needed to sleep or raise any young. It was some destructive thing, a combination of wind, lightening, and thunder that had to be destroyed or else it would continue to make casualties of the villagers and anyone who was travelling through the area. I wondered if staying to the road would even lead me anywhere near the monster.
After I left the second clearing, I came to another forest. This was much darker than the last one. The trees barely looked the same. Everything was growing together and tied in a hard knot of wood. The branches did not even appear to be really branches, they seemed more like thorns that were sticking out of the trunks. I looked for the same small animals to see how they were behaving and if they were as nervous as I was, but there were none that I could see. It was hard to look out of my helmet and so with much grunting I took it off.
Right ahead of me was a cart that had been flipped over. There were patches of brown pain left on it, but most of the wood had been charred black. The remains of a few barrels could be seen, and there were some white slivers over the ashes. They appeared to be bones. Someone had been trying to come through the forest and they were probably thinking the same thoughts I was, about how sinister the trees looked, how little of the sun was shining through, how few animals there were, and-
Suddenly I saw a large figure in the near distance crossing the road. I felt the ground shake with each step it took. Nothing had ever stirred the earth under me like it before. I knew that it had to be the monster I had come to kill. I managed to put my helmet on and take my sword out. The sound it made will it passed through the sheath, as if the metal were breathing, stirred the attention of the Glykol. Its large leathery head turned and saw me. I realized how much I stuck out against the background of black trees in my shining uniform.
The Glykol’s eyes were bright red and looked like two angry roses in bloom. Its head was full of bloodlusting thoughts and it was breathing hard, getting ready to tear me to pieces. I suppose I had better luck than most, at least I knew the beast was in the vicinity and was prepared to fight it. The poor merchants with their cargo had no warnings and no time to prepare. However, as the beast began to bare down on me, shaking the whole dark forest with every step, I wondered if my advantages would do me any good.
As The Glykol came forward to me and each one of its terrible features came into view, the compliments and praises of the villagers of Wittgenborg were distant and lost to me. The creature had a large square head and a body that looked like one massive block of stone. Its arms were long and at their ends were fingers that reached out and pierced the air with their sharpness. It had a long tale that waved in the air like a fat whip, making a howling sound when it moved in a circle. It flashed its teeth at me and I could see smoke coming from its nostrils. All I could do was hold out my sword and stay in place.
The shaking of the ground became worse and worse. Soon, whenever the beast took a step, my own feet came off the ground a little bit. I readied myself and could see the Glykol looking at me as a target, getting ready to attack me head-on. The distance between us closed and I raised my sword as if to bat it away. It soon was right over me, shrieking and howling to get me to flee or to simply lay down in the middle of the road and accept my fate.
However, when the beast swooped its head down hoping to bite me in half in just one broad motion, I ducked and it missed me. I ran right to the belly of the creature and not having any surgical knowledge of the Glykol, I swung my sword and tried to pierce whatever I could, hoping to strike the heart. I missed but managed to spill some of the animal’s black blood. The Glykol shrieked in pain and maneuvered to try and pin me down, or smash me with one of its feet. I got out from under the beast and swung at its tail, cutting off the tip, which was nearly as long as my arm. This was particularly painful for the Glykol and its response echoed through the woods and shook my armor. Even though I am not one to enjoy suffering I laughed at the creature as I saw it stroking its clipped tail and trying to nurse the pain I had caused it.
I had wounded it, but I wondered how long I could keep fighting. Would it simply bleed to death? Was there some small blow I could deliver that would finally make it lay down and die for good? Or would I be nothing more than a small mosquito, biting it with my sword but causing no real damage? The Glykol put its tail behind it and charged at me again. I held my sword up to fight, but I saw that the smoke in the creature’s nostrils start to grow thicker and small sparks began to shoot out. It was getting ready to cook me alive. I knew that I would have no way to defend myself. The armor might help me for a little bit, but soon it would be heated up and I would be cooked alive inside my own protection.
To my side I saw a clearing through the woods. It was small enough to let me through, but the dense branches and trees closely packed together would keep the Glykol from following after me. When the beast tried to cover me in a stream of flames, I darted quickly and tumbled through the clearing, running fast away. The Glykol had trouble getting through the woods and began breathing fire onto the trees as a way to clear a path for itself. It worked, but only slowly. I was lucky too that because of their thick bark, the trees did not all burst into flame at once, or else I would have found no way to escape the heat of the monster.
I left the forest and game to a clearing. The Glykol was steaming behind me. I could not see it or its red eyes, but there was smoke rising from the tops of the trees. Its howling and shrieking continued. It was a smart creature and a vicious one as well. It wanted not to just scare me off, but to utterly crush me. Eventually I saw it emerge from the edge of the forest, as if simply brushing the trees aside like the edges of a curtain. I knew that with so little between us, the Glykol would quickly hunt me down and with nowhere to hide in the clearing I would have to put up a fight.
If I took the road back to the village, I ran the risk of dragging the animal with me, and if I did not kill it, it would return to destroy the homes I had stayed in. The road was easy for me to take, but it was also a clear path for the Glykol to use as well, especially through the forests. I decided to get off the road and run through the fields. I could perhaps hide in some tall grasses and then jump out and surprise the beast. I threw my helmet aside and decided to fight with my vision totally in the clear. Part of me hated the villagers for not preparing me enough against the beast, but then I remembered that none of them could have gotten as good a look at it as I had, while running in terror and fleeing whenever it reared its burning head.
I found some tall grasses and hid behind them, imagining that they were spikes that could keep the Glykol away, even though I knew that once exposed to a flame, they would disappear quickly. The Glykol came out into the field and began roaring to try and scare me into coming out. I continued to hide as it moved its large body through the grass. It flattened everything in its path as if it was a plow. It wandered through one half of the field and then came over to where I was. As the Glykol came closer I got my sword ready. I must have held it at the wrong angle, because it soon gathered enough of the sun’s rays to reflect and glimmer, attracting the attention of those red eyes.
Suspecting rightly that I was the source of the light, the Glykol picked up speed and ran towards me, shaking the ground. My breathing increased and I felt my chest brushing up against my armor as it struggled for more air. My sword was prepared to strike and I held it with the point of blade sticking up. I would try and thrust it into something soft as soon as the beast came near.
But when it stuck its head right in front of me and I tried to stab at it, the Glykol opened its mouth and let its blue tongue shoot out and knock the sword from my hand. I was dazed. No one had told me that the creature had such a serpent inside its mouth. I managed to pull out a dagger into each hand and when the tongue shot out again, this time my hands maneuvered more easily. I cut the sides of the blue snake and turned it purple with pain. The Glykol howled again and I ran away while it tried to swallow the blood from its tongue.
There was a small ridge of trees and I thought that passing through it would save me some time. I could not see what was behind the thing line of trunks, or through the branches, but I assumed on the other side there was more field, or perhaps a river. The Glykol was following behind me, building up speed as its anger was growing. I was a little stubborn mouse that it simply had to catch and devour, not matter how much real damage I could do to the Glykol.
There were exposed roots all around, but I failed to see any of them. The Glykol is what my attention was focused on, and the spaces between the trees that I hoped to slip through. My foot hit a root that rose from the ground in arc like a thin wooden thread. I fell down and dropped one of the daggers I had been running with. I twisted to free my foot, but that only tightened the root’s hold on it. When I reached to cut it with the one dagger I had, I saw the Glykol standing over me, its head hanging in the air close to my face.
For a moment I thought I could see it smile, as if the creature was happy now that it had caught up to me. It curled its lips up and exposed its teeth to me, although perhaps it was simply the Glykol’s way of preparing to devour a an appetizing morsel. As it opened its mouth, I managed to finally free my foot from the root and then jumped out towards the head at an angle to avoid the teeth and lips, landing at the edge of the Glykol’s jaw, where I was within the reach of one of its red eyes.
The area from my shoulder down to my dagger became a separate part of me and did not need an order to know what to do. It reached out and stretched as far as it could and like a mountain climber attacks the rocks to gain a foothold, my arm struck the eye of the Glykol, causing it immense pain. The howl that it released was greater than anything it had given off previously and louder than any sound I had heard before. It seemed to shake the leaves off the nearby clump of trees. However I soon saw that the cause of the foliage falling was the Glykol as it stumbled from the lack of vision and the stinging feeling of the air filling the wound. Soon it broke through the branches of the trees and snapped right through them. The Glykol then fell down and disappeared.
I stood up and walked through the trees and saw that on the other side was a ravine. At its base was a massive tar pit. The monster had fallen down and was stuck in the black mass. Its body withered and tried to move but found itself stuck. In the distance it almost looked like a helpless person and I had a brief moment of instinct, wanting to find a long branch to pull the creature out. But I knew better and left the Glykol where it was.
As I walked back to Wittgenton, the Glykol began to moan. The sound was soft and sad, yet still loud enough to fill the air as I walked back. The villagers were all out of their homes by the time I came back. The sound had brought them out to wait and confirm their hopes that I was triumphant, or that in giving up my life, I had destroyed the beast. When they saw my emerging in the distance they grew excited and began to cheer me on. Soon I was back in front of the familiar homes and everyone wanted to pat my armor and the back of my head, shake my hand, and have the honor of seeing the dagger that had brought down the mighty Glykol.
Not wanting to lie and make my defeat of the animal a cause for turning me into a saint, angel, or a small deity, I led them through the woods and fields to where the Glykol was. It was stuck and it seemed it would have to starve to death. That was good enough for the villagers, who believed that soon the horrible sounds it was giving off would soon disappear. They were merely the pangs that had to be put up with before a new era of peace and tranquility would flow over the village.
However, the Glykol took longer to die than everyone thought. In addition, we learned that there was more than one of the creatures and that they were a social group, living in a colony where they helped and valued one another. The other Glykols would march down one at a time to try and help their fallen comrade, but they would fall into the pits as well and the moaning would continue. The wailing chorus was nothing but depressing to listen to and although it subsided enough during the nighttime to allow us to sleep, it filled our days with dread and anxiety, nearly as bad as what everyone had felt when the Glykols were a threat.
The sight of so many animals withering, sinking, and slowly dying was something else. Everyone in the village thought me crazy for enjoying it, often going out to the pits to see the whole nest of creatures gradually starving in the black muck. I did not enjoy the sight of so many suffering beings, I simply was drawn to watching them. The sounds they made frightened and depressed me as much as anyone else in the village. But there was some strange power that the Glykols possessed and surrendered to as they tried to help one another and kept falling down to their deaths.
Soon, life in Wittgenapolis slowed down. People could not talk to one another and even lost their appetites because of the horrible sounds. They hung over the village like a fowl smell and nothing could get rid of them. We tried as best we could to ignore them, but they were just too loud and too filled with sorrow. Some of the villagers began to accuse me of deliberately creating the situation. They said I had never meant to kill the beast and that I was trying to drive everyone in the town mad so that I could take it over. Whenever I was faced with such accusations I would ask them what use a village full of insane and crazy people would be to me. When they could not answer, they turned away and grumbled.
One day the blue eyed woman and I were sitting across from her father’s workshop. He was hammering away at his anvil and there was a steady beat to it. There was also a nice rhythm as it was backed by the cackling of the fire and the assistants who were working on their own varied projects. We had a good conversation between us and we ended up laughing from recollecting a story about an escaped frog in the marketplace we both had heard from Knut. It felt good to laugh, and then I realized that all the hammering sounds from the furnace across from us had managed to block out the depressing wails of the Glykols.
When the men stopped working, we found it hard to resume a jovial conversation. The dying sounds came back and made any attempt at humor impossible, not matter how hard we tried. When I saw Vernon strolling down the road towards us I went up to him and asked him for a favor. His eyes opened wide like the moon coming out behind a cloud, and he said he would do anything, assuming it would involve some feat of strength. Instead it was a simple request to make some organized sounds with some pots and pans that lined the blacksmith’s shop, use some sticks from a bundle nearby.
“You want me to make music?”
“Yes, yes, that’s it.”
So he played for us and we talked. Soon, he played for others who stopped by and found that they had entered a place where the Glykols did not have the power to dominate. Some of them started to sing, and some just hummed, not knowing what they could offer. We all took turns putting up something musical, while the rest talked to one another and found themselves in wonderful conversations that no longer were tinged with the fear of the Glykol.
Eventually the whole village got into the act of rotation, with each person coming up with a talent to fill the air and reclaim it for us all. Never before had such things been seen as anything other than a trifle. Jacobs gave me another award for “killing” the sound of the Glykols and I was a hero again. Every night people would come out of their homes and listen to those who wanted to perform. The audience would sit and eat in front of the players who took whatever they could find and tried to turn it into something musical. There were even some who used the wailing sounds of the Glykols and sang with it as a background, and some even spoke over it, making lyrics, but no music, and still keeping us entertained.
The blue eyed woman was a wonderful singer and she attracted the largest crowds. I worked with Vernon to turn his bow into a stringed instrument and experimented with different chords in their length and how they could be played. Knut enjoyed are performances and said that it the old days a device like mine had existed, and it made sounds by using a form of lightening that our ancestors had once managed to bottle up.
The Glykols had stopped going into the tar pits, and one by one they were now dying with no replacement. I decided that this meant the forests were safe and that the village would not have anything to fear. It would only have to endure the howling of the dying beasts. I began to think about the original cause of my travels and decided that it was time to leave and find the sea. The Village understood and they sent me off with a big party. There was more music and poetry than ever before and the streets were filled with people. Everyone was generous in feeding me and there was dancing too. The church was near completion too. Everything in Wittgenforo seemed to better than when I had first arrived.
The next day I set off with provisions and a walking stick. The villagers offered me the sword I had used to fight the Glykol, but I declined, saying it was theirs to keep because of history, and I was confident that the roads were safe for travel once again. However, I did take one of the daggers with me, to help carve and cut as I needed to help me survive. After tearful goodbyes with everyone, and an embrace with the blue eyed woman, I set off. After a few hours I found myself in the same territory that I had met the Glykol in. The woods were just as dense, but they did not seem as dark. The ground was spotted with light. The remains of the cart and its owners were long gone, the woodland creatures and the rain had carried them off. It was good to see that life was going back to normal even in the areas outside the village.
However, when I set up camp and tried to sleep that night, I felt a powerful loneliness. The mournful cries of the Glykols filled the air and there was nothing I could do to keep them away. I sang, I banged, and I hummed until my throat hurt. But nothing worked. I managed to get to sleep only because I was so tired that everything inside me could no longer resist the pull of the ground.
The next morning I had the expectation that the blue eyed woman would be there with me. I felt a hand on my chest but then realized it was just my own. The Glykols were still moaning and I felt weak inside, despite the fact I had just rested. The wailing continued as I packed my things together. It seemed an exhausting ordeal, like climbing, or cutting down a tree instead of trying to pay attention to my knots and threads and lifting everything onto my back.
I only went a few feet before I felt that I had to rest. I knew that for many miles out, the sound of the Glykols would follow me and that I would make hardly any progress by myself. I missed the songs that covered up the crying and I missed the blue eyed woman. The road ahead offered only one guarantee, loneliness. Behind me was the most warmth and care I had ever received. The lure of the sea could not compensate, I had to return to the village.
When I did, everyone was happy to receive me and there was music and dancing. Poets roamed the streets and no one was content to stay inside their own home. There were only a few hours of the day spent in private. Everyone was living and working, but out with everyone else. There was one collective embrace going on, a massive triumph over the power of the Glykols and the fear and terror they had tried to inspire. It was good to be back.
It was only after the last of the Glykols in the tar pit died, that I left Wittgenstadt. Even then, I did not leave the village immediately. Things were good as long as the beasts were dying, but when we woke up one day and found the air clean and purified of their sufferings, we stopped playing so much music. Slowly the dancing ceased and the poets went back to work. Each family returned to its home to live, as well as sleep in. I tried to keep things running as they had been, but the blue eyed woman no longer felt like singing, except inside her house, to keep the sound of her father’s hammer from setting the pace of her life. I wanted to go outside, but she said there was no point, especially if we were the only ones being musical fools.
So when the village became like any of the others I had passed through, its church repaired, its people sleeping safely, its forests free of monsters, and its streets empty at night, I decided to leave and seek my way through the fields, forest, and mountains, to find the sea. The villagers owed me for my services in fighting the Glykol, but when I went to collect the help that would get me to the ocean. Yet Jacobs had forgotten about the deal. Since I did not want to fight him and be chased out of town with knives and hammers, I decided it was best to leave without any fanfare and let those I left behind, particularly little Vernon, to cultivate some story of me resembling a legend.