written January 31, 2006
Once upon a time and long ago, there was a small village named Lean, nestled among the northern foothills of a larger land, called Yurn. Lean was a simple, often happy place to live, where the people could go about their lives without fear. Because they were indeed a simple people they were ruled by a simple chief named Quins- who was also the town’s baker and postman. The rolling hills a short distance from the cluster of houses and stores were of poor soil and not much good for growing, but the tiny acreage just outside the doorstep of Lean was satisfactorily fertile. And so, the villagers were by most accounts farmers, tilling the ground and growing from it crops tall and green which sustained them throughout the coming year and the long, dreadful cold of winter.
Then one day a boy named Alfie awoke early in the morning with the plan to go fishing at a pond he knew of a few miles from town. With the moon still hanging high above, Alfie stepped out into the dark morning air and began to make his way down his little street that would take him to the westward road out of Lean. Yet as he rounded the final turn he suddenly stopped and his prized fishing rod fell. He could not believe it. Before his eyes, instead of fields of corn, rows of turnips and patches of cabbage was… nothing. In its place was only the deep brown of exposed soil and a few meager remnants of plant life strewn about the ground. In another instant Alfie was off, running through the tiny streets of the still slumbering village, desperate to find someone, anyone to tell. The first door he stopped at there was no answer, only a loud call to end the racket he was causing with his frantic pounding. So it was the second door, and the third. Finally, a woman who would sometimes teach Alfie in school answered her door. Alfie explained as best though as fast as he could what he has seen of the decimated fields, hoping he would not be turned away. The woman, Mrs. Topp, knew Alfie well enough to believe him, and herself hurried to the largest house on the street, that of Chief Quins.
Within the hour the town was assembled in the public square. Alfie could not hear a single individual as most were yelling to and at each other. Some were crying, at a loss of anything else to do, and others merely gazed down at the ground before them, but all were of the same desperation: what would become of them with no food? In another moment the door to Chief Quin’s house opened, with the noise lowering but not entirely ending. From the insides filed out a handful of the town’s elders, including Bon Brom, the Captain of the Lean Guard, and Fessius Flew , the town’s presiding Councilman. Brom wore a grim look, gazing only straight ahead, with Flew’s eyes cast about everywhere and nowhere as they took they places before the crowd. Chief Quins finally emerged several moments later as the murmur had begun to rise again, still dressed in his night attire, his head adorned by a sleeping cap.
“My people,” Chief Quins began, raising his arms for a moment, “A most tragic thing has occurred, as I am sure you are now aware. The town’s field’s were destroyed in the night, leaving barely a stock or vine behind.” From the back of the crowd came a high voice, asking what the cause could have been. Fessius Flew took a step froward as he grasped at his hands.
“Well, the few bits of crop remaining are torn from numerous bite marks. The marks can only be that of sarribs, now-” yet the Councilman was drowned out by the throng. It was not that the crowd had assumed it to have been the small, rabbit-like creatures called sarribs, but only that now they had a name in which to direct their anger.” The Councilman tried vainly to be heard again but could not. The Chief raised his hands once more.
“Please, please. I understand greatly how you feel, but I must insist, the only way we are going to get through this great tragedy is by coming together. Only then will Lean survive.” The words of the Chief had a calming effect on the crowd, and the commotion died to hear what was to be said next. “Now, as Councilman Flew was correct in saying, sarribs were responsible for this, and action must be taken to prevent another sarrib attack. From what I have been told we have enough stores to get through the remainder of the year, but another loss like this would be the end to our town.” The sleeping cap of the Chief’s had begun to slip down into his eyes, so that he had to stop for a moment to slide it back over his head. “Tonight I will meet with our elders, and we will take the necessary steps to ensure our survival.” With that the Chief motioned for his elders to follow him into back into his house and the door was shut. With little else to do the townspeople shuffled out to the fields, salvaging whatever the sarribs had been too full to eat.
That night was the longest ever known by a Leanian, Alfie getting little sleep himself. When he finally did drift off he had a dream in which he was fishing by a lake, yet the lake’s waters began to recede. Before long the lake was dry, but the ground all around him was turned brown and withered away, until he found himself sitting in the midst an endlessly dry, cracked world.
Not a shop was open nor a single child played in the streets the next morning as all waited to hear what plan had been made. When the door opened again the elders and Chief Quins were met by an eager crowd. The night clothes had been replaced by the Chief’s regular attire he wore when baking the town’s breads or delivering their post. The only thing different about him was a small golden bracelet around his left wrist, into which was cut the emblem of the city of Lean and adorned with little green hert stones for which the people were known. The crowd as one pushed even nearer.
“My townspeople, I want to first say that we have made a plan to address this problem, to be carried out as quickly as possible,” the Cheif said in an even tone. ” I know we will stand as one and will not back down to this challenge we have been given. If anything, we will be a stronger people for it.” The crowd remained silent. “Last night a party led by Captain Brom concluded that a great swarm of sarribs had swept in from the south and then turned east. It seems logical that then we must send a Guard force also east, and tonight the Captain leaves for the eastern plains of Yurn with a company of thirty men.” This news sent the people into a buzz, with a few men’s voices in the rear volunteering to go as well. Alfie wished he could be one of those lucky thirty to hunt down the sarribs as well.
“But that is not all. It is essential that we protect ourselves again from any future swarm of sarribs so that the events of yesterday never happen again. As long as I am your Chief I will do whatever I can to make this a reality, you have my word.” A few broke out into hopeful smiles for which they could not help and could not be ashamed of. Alfie tried making his way around a large man for a better view of Chief Quins. “To this end, it is imperative to increase the protection of this town and its crops as to never again befall harm. That is why I have commissioned the building of a wall around the village as well as the fields, one that a serrib cannot breach.” A thunder of applause burst from the crowd. “These steps, taking united and as one, will ensure our victory.” With that the Chief once again turned and disappeared into this house, with Fessius Flew and Bon Brom behind him.
The people of course had many other questions to ask and many more things left unanswered. If one had been inclined that day, a question could have been posed what the town of Lean was to do with the distant southern town of Los. Los’s main source of economy was in fact the growing of serribs, for they were very prized for their long, warm furs, perfect for the cold winters of the northern land. For the moment though, the people of Lean took comfort in the idea that safety and security may again be possible, and left these questions for another day.
(The second part to follow)