Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Well of Veritas

I'm getting ready to go work in camp next week. As I said before, I'm preaching in the vespers services. Since we have a medieval/fairy tale theme this week, I'm prefacing the messages with fairy tale-like stories. Here is Sunday night's, in which we're talking about being made in God's image.

The day had been long, and the sun had beat down upon the travelers’ heads like a sheet of iron, wearing them down. Each step, it became harder to lift their feet. At last, young Catherine looked up to see the fortress on the horizon.

It was drawing toward evening now, and she began to reflect on her journey. She had been a scullery maid–a servant girl in the kitchen of King Olaf. She didn’t like the work, but peasant girls didn’t have many options. And yet, she always believed in her heart that there was something more to life–that SHE was meant for something more!

Her companion on this journey was Harold. He was apprenticed to a village cobbler, and had hated it. He had found the work mind-numbingly dull. He wanted excitement and adventure. However, since his parents weren’t nobles, there was no chance he would ever become a knight.

One day, however, Harold had overheard the discussion of two customers who had come into his shop to have their boots repaired. They spoke about a well–the Well of Veritas, it was called. Everyone who looked into the Well of Veritas, it was said, saw their own reflection–not as they were right then–but as they were intended to be. To peer into this well was to know your true self!

As soon as it was dark, Harold sneaked out and went to King Olaf’s castle to tell his friend Catherine about the well. That night, they made plans to escape. Two days later, under cover of darkness, they met by the giant oak tree and began the quest that now led them to this place.

The Well of Veritas was protected within the walls of the great Fortress Batsar: sheer walls of solid stone rising 50 feet into the air on every side. The drawbridge was down, creating a bridge over the moat, but the entrance was flanked by four men in imposing suits of armor. Slowly, the two young people approached, footsteps thudding hollowly on the wooden bridge. They had no proper weapons with which to fight. Catherine had a small paring knife she’d borrowed from the kitchen. Harold had a walking stick made from a thick branch that would work as a club, but neither would be any use against armor.

“We mean you no harm,” Catherine called to them. “We are not enemies.”

“That’s right,” said Harold. “We’ve just come to look into the Well of Veritas.”

The guards did not move. Harold & Catherine stood before the entrance. “So, we’ll just be going in, then...” Harold said, taking a step bravely forward. Still, the guards did not move.

In a few more steps, they were both standing inside the huge, vaulted doorway of the Fortress Batsar.

“So, you made it past the guards,” said a voice from near their feet. It was little gray squirrel! “So few people make it. The sight of the guards is usually enough to frighten folks away. The truth is, there aren’t even any men inside the armor! But don’t make the same mistake with the guards around the Well. They’re quite real.”

The squirrel led them up a spiral staircase to a window overlooking the courtyard where the Well was. The four guards wore hooded robes and looked very un-human! The first had a face like a hawk and sharp claws for hands. The second was like a gorilla. The third resembled a wolf, and if Catherine or Harold had ever seen one, they would have thought the fourth looked like a furry crocodile.

Catherine asked the squirrel, “Since you’ve been so nice to us, is there any hope of defeating the guards so that we can look into the Well?”

“There is one hope,” he said. “You must make the guards look into the well themselves. Only by seeing themselves as they really are can they be defeated. But it won’t be easy.”

Harold and Catherine entered the courtyard. The first guard, the one with the hawk-face, came at them, leaping about and flashing its long sharp claws in stunningly swift martial arts maneuvers. “Wow!” Harold told the bird-man. “You’re fast! But I bet you can’t catch this.” He picked up a pebble.

“I can catch anything!” shrieked the bird-man.

Harold tossed the pebble gently to the guard. Of course, he caught it. Harold threw another and another, faster each time, and farther away. Each time, the bird-man skillfully plucked them out of the air. What he failed to notice, though, was that Harold had begun edging toward the well. Harold threw his last pebble, right into the well. The bird-headed guard reached out for it, and doing so, looked down into the water. Seeing his reflection, he disappeared in an explosion of feathers.

The second guard was the gorilla. For a weapon, he bore a long-handled axe. With a mighty whoosh, he swung his ax at Catherine, but she leaped back just in time. He raised it over his head and slashed downward, trying to split her in two. She nimbly stepped aside, and the axe’s blade rang loudly on the stone floor.

“Oh, Mr Ape,” she cried, “Your axe blade is so rusty! No wonder you can’t hit me!”

The gorilla objected loudly. “That’s not true, I polished it this morning!”

“Oh but you didn’t,” she said. “Look how dull it is in comparison with the surface of the well!”

He made the comparison, saw his reflection, and popped out of existence, leaving behind a banana-scented cloud.

The wolf-headed guard was next. He split the night with bone chilling howls. He stalked slowly toward Harold, baring his teeth and growling menacingly, yellow eyes gleaming in the moonlight. Harold was genuinely frightened, but he didn’t show it.

“Is that supposed to scare me?” he asked. “My grandma is scarier than that!”

The wolf’s hair stood on end. He snarled, gnashing his teeth and foaming at the mouth.

Harold swallowed hard. “That’s not how you make a scary face! This is a much scarier face!” and he scowled at the wolf.

The guard laughed a wolfish laugh. “That’s not a scary face!”

"It’s scarier than yours.”

“No it’s not!”

“Sure it is!”


“Yes it is, and I’ll prove it. Let’s compare our reflections in a mirror and see whose face is scarier. Do you have a mirror? No? Well then, how about checking our reflections in the well?”

The wolf agreed, and soon he was no more.

The last guard snapped his great crocodile jaws and began to chase both of them around the courtyard.

“I am so hungry, I’m going to eat both of you in one bite!”

“Eew!” screamed Catherine. “Don’t eat Harold! He’s filthy, and he’ll taste terrible, I’m sure!”

“And you don’t want to eat HER,” said Harold. “She’s all skin and bones, and will probably get stuck in your throat!”

“I’m so hungry, I don’t care!” said the croc-creature.

“Wouldn’t you rather have some nice, juicy fish?” asked Catherine. “I saw some in the well, I’m sure!”

“Oh no you don’t! You won’t trick me into looking in the well!”

“But she’s telling you the truth,” replied Harold. “Here, I’ll go catch one for you!” He went to the well and plunged his hands into it, and pretended to struggle. “I got one! Oh! He’s so big, I can’t pull him out!” So convincing was he that the reptile-like guard came to see the fish, saw himself instead, and dissolved into dust.

“You did it! You defeated them!” It was the squirrel.

“I don’t think this well really works,” said Harold. “When I looked in, I saw myself as a prince, a son of king Olaf.”

“And I was a princess,” agreed Catherine.

“And so you truly are! Children of the King! In his likeness.”

“But I saw when the guards looked into the well. They saw themselves as sons of the king, too!”

“And that is what THEY were truly meant to be,” sighed the squirrel. “But they weren’t satisfied with that, and so they rebelled against the king, and became the hideous things that you saw.”

And so it is with all who are made in the King’s image.


PaperSmyth said...

One of my favorites of your creations. I thought you did an exceptional job figuring out the ways to get all four monsters to look into the well!

Oh, and bonus points for making the animal guide a squirrel!

Allen's Brain said...

Glad you liked it, P.S.! I broke the fairy tale rule of three, but that seems to be my proclivity, as seen in the Tale of the Three Mountains.

Any points for the squirrel being named Samuel? We discovered that was his name on the next night.

Allen's Brain said...

Oh, and I fixed that sentence.

PaperSmyth said...

"Oh, and I fixed that sentence."

I told you about that privately so as not to embarrass you. :)

I'm still enjoying this piece.