Once Upon A Time: The Vast Ocean

English: Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://w...
English: Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/fish0813.htm (was http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/fish/fish0813.htm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a vast, dark, still ocean with the moonlight glittering across it.  A small ship, sails down, rocked gently with the swells.  The crew of four slept, three on her deck and one in the cabin.  With a sense of foreboding, the captain awoke in the cabin.

He stepped out onto the deck, carefully stepping over the crew, his crew, who depended on him. The captain stepped to the bow and looked out over the moonlit sea.  It seemed to him that he saw a great shadow pass beneath the boat.  A shadow so wide it would take his boat a minute to sail across it.

What to do?  Do you awaken your crew because you see shadows?  How foolish, the captain thought to himself.  But a creature that great would leave a trail of eddies that would rise to the surface, like little whirlpools.  As he watched, the boat was rocked gently by small swirling eddies that stretched almost to the horizon.

Far off, the captain saw an island break the surface.  Nothing else would describe the size of the great thing.  Should he now wake the crew, send them screaming and shouting about as their doom approached? What could they hope to do, with no wind to even outrun the thing?  Better to let them sleep through whatever horror would come.

The island approached, very slowly and very fast.  It seemed slow because of its size, but must have been moving very fast to approach so quickly.

Do you await your doom with clenched fists, white-knuckled along the railing?  Or do you simply wait?  The captain waited.  He had known from the time he was a little lad that the sea would take him in time.  Any man who devotes himself to the waves knows she will claim him at last.  But not like this, not like this.

The creature approached with a head three lengths his boat at least.  It slowed as it approached, and the ripples of its coming rocked the boat.  On the sides of its great black head were great dark pools that could only be its eyes.  A man might swim in those pools full length with three strokes or more before reaching the other side.

Perhaps the creature called out, a great rumbling, or perhaps it was just the grumbling escape of gases.  The captain awaited the opening of the great maw, the dark chasm that would swallow his ship whole.

The creature nudged the ship with its head, turning the ship so that the captain could see himself reflected in one of those great black eyes.

It is a foolish gesture, to try and make the utterly alien more familiar.  We seek even in completely unknown territory to bring some semblance of control over the uncontrollable.  The captain waved.  He waved at the eye, as one would wave at a departing shore, or a newly acquired neighbor.  It was a futile gesture, but seemed the only thing to do.

With a sound like the escaping of gas from great pipes, the creature submerged.  It was so close to the ship that the resulting waves rocked the ship hard enough that one of the crewmen awoke.

“What’s the matter, Captain?  Did we hit a squall?”

“No, nothing like that.  Just a swell.  Go back to sleep.”

The captain paused for a few moments more, watching the ocean settle.  Somehow, he knew the danger was passed.  He had met something beyond imagining, and now it was time to sleep.

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Once Upon A Time: Fjorn Ironbender

Blacksmith working hot iron
Blacksmith working hot iron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time where the mountains rise above the clouds, there was a man name Fjorn Ironbender.  Like his father, and his father before him, he was a blacksmith.  In those days the blacksmiths were necessary to any community.  They built the shovels, the plows, and the knives for farming.

Fjorn was the only blacksmith in his village, so when his Lord called to him to come to the great hall in the valley and make weapons, he was sad.  Who will build the plows now? So Fjorn worked day and night to lay up a store of horse shoes and plows for the farmers before he went down to the valley.

The blacksmiths in the great hall worked day and night to build the weapons of war.  Some times Fjorn worked nights, and sometimes he worked days and nights.  Eight of the men of the village came down as well.  How could Fjorn tell them they were well met when he knew many of the men would not return home again?

But the Lord’s greed and envy of other lands could not be turned.  The great army marched.  Because Fjorn was a blacksmith, he stayed behind the lines.  Every day bloody, broken swords were mended, spears were rebuilt, and iron casts were made for wounded men.

In the end Fjorn wasn’t sure who had won.  Perhaps his lord’s lands now extended to another river, or perhaps another village had sworn him fealty.  But Fjorn only knew that three of the eight men remained to return home with him, and two of those were wounded.

Only two years passed, and again the Lord called to Fjorn to come build the weapons of war.  Fjorn joined the three men, one of whom still limped, as they traveled down into the valley.

The Lord called his assembled army together before the great hall and they knelt before him.  As he looked about at his shrunken army, the Lord was not pleased.  “This will not do!  We will call the boys from the villages.  You will teach them the ways of war on the march.”

Something came over Fjorn then.  He stood.  His silence was so potent the Lord paused and asked him:  “What is it you want?  Why are you standing?  What is your wish?” Fjorn looked up at the Lord and said:  “I challenge you for the Lordship.  A battle of single combat.”

It had been done in the distant past.  No one had thought of it for years.  But it was the law.  A gasp swept through the men.

The Lord retired and called his advisors.  He was afraid of this strong blacksmith.  “Get me out of this challenge.”  The advisors thought this and that, but the law was clear.  “If only you hadn’t asked, he would have had no claim.  But you asked him what his wish was, and he said it in front of the assembly.  The challenge must be met.”

“What would happen if I were old or sick?”  The Lord wanted to know.  “Well, if you were old or sick, then you could have a proxy fight for you.”  That night the Lord fell down the stairs, badly spraining his ankle.  So the next day when Fjorn came for the challenge, the Lord’s largest and most experienced warrior awaited him.

Fjorn did not flinch.  “Give up now,” said the Lord, “and I will pardon you.  I need you to build my weapons of war.” Fjorn looked in the Lord’s eyes, and knew that once the weapons were finished, his life would be ended.

Every challenger has a choice of weapons, and Fjorn picked a hammer.  He picked up the great two handed hammer and held it above his head.  Fjorn’s challenger flipped his sword around expertly.  This blacksmith was no warrior.  It would be a simple matter to kill him.

Fjorn did not move.  He held the hammer rigid above him.  At last, the warrior moved in for the kill.  As he did so, Fjorn brought the hammer down.  The warrior thought to deflect the hammer with his sword, but he had forgotten that Fjorn was a blacksmith.  In the night Fjorn had forged himself a hammer with a solid iron handle, so heavy that all he could do was hold it aloft.  As the hammer struck the sword, it shattered.  The hammer kept on coming, down onto the warrior.  The battle ended as quickly as it had begun.

The Lord was banished, and Fjorn Ironbender became Lord.  He told his people that there would be no war.  He was the first of a long line of kings who ruled in peace and harmony.

Once Upon A Time: A Carpenter Named Joseph

English: Holy Family: Mary, Joseph and child Jesus
English: Holy Family: Mary, Joseph and child Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a carpenter named Joseph.  He wanted more than anything to sail the seas in a boat.  But there never seemed to be time to build a boat, and besides, what would a carpenter do sailing the seas?

Joseph did some work for an old merchant who liked how he did things.  “Come with me,” said the merchant. “We’ll go to the coast and make boats.  You make them, I’ll sell them.”  “Will we have an assured income?” said Joseph.  “No,” said the Merchant.  “We will have some risk, but I think it will be fine.”

Joseph thought about it, and decided he couldn’t take the risk.  So he stayed and worked as a carpenter.

Later on, Joseph met Mary, and she had a child that everyone knows about.

But it was Joseph who heard about King Herod and his plan to kill all the boy children.  He took Mary to the coast with him and found the old merchant.  Because he liked Joseph, the merchant arranged for the family to sail across the ocean to Egypt.  There was Joseph, sailing the ocean, because of the troubles of his family.

Sometime later, Joseph died and went up to heaven.  He was pretty upset with God.  “How could you do that to me?” he asked.  “So much trouble, so many problems.”

“But,” said God, “you kept telling me you wanted to sail the ocean.  I sent you a merchant, and you refused to do it the easy way.  So I had to do it the hard way.”

Sometimes the difficult things in our lives are there because of a heart wish that we won’t let go of and won’t let happen any other way.