Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Road Goes Ever On


“Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows till the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight.” (JRR Tolkien)

Why does the past often feel safer than the present?  And why is it that our memories often seem more secure than the future?  

This question has haunted me for many seasons, as I constantly found myself looking back, turning my head over time’s shoulder to see what had been.  I saw both memories of love and trials I have overcome.   But again, the query remains.   Even when the facts will tell me that my past wasn’t all daffodils and roses, that life wasn’t as carefree as perhaps I remember it, it still feels safer, and I often long to go back there.  Just for awhile, I wish to lose myself somewhere in time. 

I suppose it might be because as the years yellow and grow golden in our hearts, much of the uncertainty and pain of those moments is glossed over, sifted out, and blended more perfectly into a whole picture.  Or perhaps it is because our lives are steadily growing more difficult and more challenging and we long to return to simplicity.  But my personal experience leads me to believe that the overarching theme is very basic.  The past feels secure simply because we know we made it, we got through.   The future bears no such guarantee.  It is a haze of night-fog and sunshine, twirling together in a kaleidoscope window of uncertainty.   In it there is no “Big Picture,” only a darkened road, one that we often walk with  the guiding lamp bound to our feet, taking steps into lands indistinct.  In this the path is only lit when we have lifted a foot and taken a step. 

And that is what life itself is, a long road that goes ever on and on, a grand adventure in which each character’s existence is a woven and complex tapestry intermingling with the threads of others, with the world, and with the spiritual realm.  No man is an island, and each man’s song of life is a winding course that consists of darkness and danger, joy and light, mountains, valleys, and oceans deep.  But the consistent factor in each is that every incredible journey begins in one place and heads towards another.  We were not meant to remain in one place, forever unchanged and immovable.  The past is as its title indicates; it has passed.  And we must hold onto it in our hearts while striking boldly into the adventure that is sent to us.     



Bob Dylan once said, 
“I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be, and so I’m on my way home.” 
Despite the seemingly circular or backwards feel to our paths, the ultimate goal of every human is Heaven, our home.  And this, friends, is a marvelous promise, one that we must cling to.  Heaven will be far brighter and more beautiful than anything we have left behind us.  Even a clean-swept blue sky or a shower of sunshine on a field of dancing green cannot compare with what lies ahead.  As C.S. Lewis wrote, we were born for another world, and the hand of the Father is ever drawing forth His children and calling out to their hearts.  He beckons us forward, always forward.  We keep our memories safe in our hearts as they remind us of lessons learned, joys treasured, and above all they lead us to offer thanksgiving.  Gratitude is the memory of the heart.   But we are not called to dwell in those memories, for in doing so we may miss the even grander moments that are yet to come, if we’ll only trust the one who is leading us on.

It is not guaranteed to be easy.  In fact we know the Way will often been steep and marked well with suffering.  But, as the film War Horse points out, “You have to look forward, or you’ll never get home.  I ask you, what could be braver than that?” 



It is easy to reminisce, wearing our rose tinted lenses and sighing for what once was.  But the trick is to strike a balance, to walk the line between the gratitude of memory and the thrill of the life ahead.  And what have we to tremble at?  The one who has overcome the world is constantly in a state of rescuing his beloved.  This does not indicate that we will be snatched from all danger and trial, but the original word for rescue is rhuomai which means “to draw to oneself.”  The Father is using our great adventure as the ultimate means of rescue.  Ever on and on, He is drawing us to Himself. 

We were born very far from where we’re supposed to be, and so let us be on our way home, wherever that may lead. 


“Roads go ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins some other way,
Where many paths and errands meet
And wither then, I cannot say.
Roads go ever on and on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.” 

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. " (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Images via: digitalwallpapers.net, tumblr, imgend.  


 All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He Lives!


“Lonely and fettered, shrouded by night,
Who will right the wrongs, return the light?
             Can songs of love restore my name,
             Call orphans home, and break the chains?” 
                Orphan murmured the song along with the others, sifting through the garbage of the Dump.  There was little food, and the previous night’s wind had blown some of their ramshackle homes to pieces.  Methodically, Orphan stacked the rotting boards and rusted metal, which might be used as a meager defense against the long fingers of winter, which sought out all cracks and crannies, bringing the chill of the night inside. 
Lost hummed beside him, her knotted red pigtails tied back in a tangled mess.  Every once in awhile, Orphan caught her gaze darting northwards, to the far wall.  Orphan did not dare allow himself to think Braveheart might return, or that the place she spoke of actually existed. 
A dirty tear made a slow descent down Lost’s freckled cheek, as she picked up a tatter of canvas and sang. 
“The darkness is a feral thing, it prowls the shade of night.
To howl away all laughter’s balm, and swallow up the light.
When Winter comes, the soot and cold, that faith and hope shall slay
The ashes of our joy grow cold.  Love-lost, we dwell in gray.” 
Orphan moved away from Lost, following the beaten track through the hollow hills of trash.  Without meaning to, he began to sing another song.  It was as if his heart knew it before his mouth remembered the words. 
“Mightier still is the Prince’s hand, the Grave’s abyss rings forth in Life,
The greatest story ever told, Heaven’s balm to painful strife.” 
“You honor me, child.” 
Orphan spun in the direction of the voice, and was surprised to see a brown bearded man dressed in clean clothes.  The white shirt, trousers, and suspenders indicated an ordinary City man, excepting that his head and feet were bare, and there was an uncommonly bright glint to his eyes. 
“Where did you come from?”  Orphan stuttered, dropping the piece of tin he’d been holding.  He wondered if he should run. 
“I heard you singing,” the man replied simply.  “I came from over the Wall.”  
“It’s locked,” Orphan said.  “There’s an Enchantment.” 
The man laughed, and the sound of it was like deep music over water.  “There is no locked door that I cannot open,” he said.  “And there is no Enchantment that may bind me.  Tell me, child, do you want to be free?” 
Orphan scuffed his bare feet in the dirt.  “More than anything,” he whispered. 
The man extended his hand to the boy.  “Then come, let us make an end to this darkness.  Let us wake the light.” 
Orphan took the man’s calloused palm.  It was huge and strong, and yet more gentle than even a mother’s loving touch.  The feel of it was a whirlwind of a sensation that stirred in Orphan’s chest, an elusive smell that brought to Orphan’s mind everything that could ever remind him of home, though he’d forgotten till now. 
Leading the man back to the village, Orphan found the children gathered and watching their approach anxiously.  Seeing Lost’s tear stained face, the man knelt in the dirt and smiled at her, beckoning gently. 
“Is it really you?”  Lost cried, taking a step towards you.  “Is it?” 
“I have come, Grace.”  The man spread his arms wide, as Lost darted forward like a hare and leapt into his embrace without hesitation.  Immediately, the stranger began to call each orphan by name.  The names rang out clear and bright, sounding like a defiant battle cry in the soot-laden air. 
“Faithful!”  the man called, looking to Orphan.  And in the flutter of an eye, Orphan remembered.   The name came back to him and was at home within his soul.  So strong was the reunion that the boy wondered how in the world he’d ever forgotten it. 
The children around him danced for joy, some turning cartwheels in the dust and circling round the stranger.  It was as if the darkness had been peeled back to expose their true selves, fitting together the missing piece of the puzzle.  Faithful rolled the syllables of his name over and over in his mind, delighting in the delicious sensation of being known.   
With a playful cry, the man caught up a small girl and set her on his shoulders.  She was to be called Lonely no more.  At his command, the gates burst from their hinges, falling in a shameful heap on the ground.  The exodus of outcasts poured out into the City, and suddenly others were joining them on all sides and from every direction.  These people shed their cloaks and caps, and Faithful saw Braveheart running up to him, singing along with the rest of the newcomers. A dark haired man wearing a sword began to wind a horn, strong and sweet.    
 “He laughs to dance on summer winds, gives rest to weary souls. 
He mends the broken shards of hearts, in love, he makes them whole.
At last, we sing, No more!  O’ Truth, come forth and stand.
No more, no more shall be enslaved, by the darkness of this land.”
Those who dwelt in the City reacted differently to the breaking of the Enchantment.  Some ran in fear and terror, fleeing into houses or out of the City altogether.  A great many watched from the shadows, skeptical, disapproving, and often indifferent.  But there were some who took one look at the stranger’s face and loved him.  These happy few, who dropped their picks and shovels or ran happily from the doorways of crowded houses, joined the merry throng.
             “I’ll sing his song, I’ll tell his tale, for he calls the orphans home.
Restores their names up from the pit, as the darkness trembling moans.
The north cannot withhold his sons, and the south he keeps at bay,
The west cannot hold his daughters back, in the east, he sings the day!”   
Faithful tugged on the man’s sleeve, now knowing him to be the Prince.  “Sir,” he said.  “Tell me, what happened to the children of Graving.” 
Gently, the man smiled at him.  “They are safe in my Country far from here,” he said.  “Where neither Enchantment nor Darkness can ever touch them.   For in that place there is light, beauty, joy, and laughter abundant.  There is no sorrow in that land. ” 
“I wish to see your Country, sir,” Faithful said.  “Will you take me there?” 
“One day you will come home there to stay,” he replied, putting a hand on the boy’s head.  “But there are still many prisoners to be freed and many great deeds to be done, before you make that journey.” 
“I would you join your people,” Faithful said. 
“And so you shall, for within my family, there is no such thing as an orphan.”   
The music and the dance traveled through the entire City and out into the wilderness once more.   Grace found Faithful’s side, wondering what would happen next. 
It was then that they were greeted by a tall olive skinned woman and the armed man, who appeared to be a Captain within the Prince’s people. 
“My name is Loving,” said the woman.  “And this is my husband, Steadfast.  Come to our city, and there you will find your home.  You are mine.” 
“I don’t understand, ma’am,” Grace replied.  “We don’t belong to anyone, and we have no home.” 
The woman smiled.  “Nay, children.  You are mine.  You are mine, because you are His.” 
“Come,” Steadfast said.  “All goes not well, for there are other cities in which enchantments hold sway.  But do not fear, for the greatest enchantment has been broken forever, and the Prince is master of all.  Together, we will go into the world and tell the story of love.” 
“But where is the Prince,” Faithful asked, looking round for the laughing man, who seemed to have disappeared. 
“He comes and He goes,” Loving said.  “One day you will see Him clearly, and at other times, He will wear disguises.  You must learn to see through them and to know His voice.” 
Together, the band of the Prince’s people started back towards their own lands, taking any with them who were willing.  Grace walked at Faithful’s side, singing a new song as the words of Loving echoed in the ears of every former orphan for the first time, you are mine. 
Love has come for the world to know, the truth behind the light.
Beauty’s depth of glorious hope, to shatter the chains of Winter’s might.
Though shadows linger sharp and still , in the hearts of Adam’s brood,
Hear the angel’s trumpet cry, these days shall be renewed!” 

"I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants."  (Deuteronomy 30:19)  

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)  
         
 Note: Thanks to "Tales of the Kingdom" and the "Tales of the Resistance" by David and Karen Mains for inspiring the last three stories.  Also, thank you to the band "My Epic" for inspiring the series of titles.  

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  

  


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

But, Behold...


A hesitant finger prodded Orphan’s shoulder.  The boy grunted and rolled over, still neatly tucked into his threadbare blankets. 
“Orphan,” came a small and wavering voice.  “Orphan, wake up.” 
Orphan sat up abruptly and shook his head to clear it.  Gouging the sleep from his eyes, Orphan turned to face the intruder who had woken him.  Waif sat crouched beside him, rocking back on his heels and hugging his knees to his chest.  The new boy’s fair hair was dirty, and his face was smudged and streaked with grimy tears. 
“What is it?”  Orphan asked. 
“My sister is hungry, and I can’t find any food for her.   I don’t know what to do.” 
Orphan sighed and stood, pulling the other boy to his feet.  Taking Waif by the shoulders, Orphan spun him towards the door of the shack and pointed towards the nearest gate.  The wrought iron doors looked cold and pitiless even in the light of the pale morning sun.   
“Twice a week, the Master comes and gives us something to eat for the next few days,” Orphan said.  “It’s him that’s got to give you food, not I.”  
The two boys walked out into the crude center of the village, and Waif looked doubtfully at the locked gate. 
“Does this Master always come?”  he asked. 
Orphan shrugged and looked away.  “Mostly, unless he has a mind not to.” 
The truth was that the Orphan Master was a hard man, and a harsh one.  Long ago, he had been appointed by The City to feed, clothe, and provide some semblance of life for the orphans at the Dump.  But he was a man given both to heavy drinking and to cruelty.  Occasionally, he would cut the orphan’s rations due to some perceived infraction on their part, and on several days, he had simply ceased to come at all.  It was the men in his pay who carefully cleaned and polished the bronze plaque set into the whitewashed wall next to the gate inside the City. 
The City Loves Children, it read. 
Waif disappeared behind a rickety shack wall, and Orphan could hear the pitiful sound of Lonely crying inside.
Approaching the bars, Orphan scanned the ground at the foot of the gate’s iron teeth.  From time to time, well-meaning citizens would slip parcels and bundles of fresh food through the bars, hurrying away into the gloom, lest they be caught by the Night Watch.  But the ground was bare today.  And it was no use trying to get through the gate or over the wall.  No one and no thing could get in or out except by the locked gate, not while the enchantment lasted. 
Around Orphan, another morning song lifted into the soot-gray air, as children’s voices rose to greet another day. 
“Abandoned, outcast, claimed by no hand.
I was born to be broken in a city of sand.
Orphan! Orphan!  the voices shout.
Bound is my fate.  Marked is my brow.
But my Deliverer is coming
To stand in the innocent’s stead
From broken souls to cut away
The shackles of the dead. 
My heart will know his face,
When he calls me home to stay,
Though darkness weeps, I rise to seek,
The morning and the day.”  
Inside the shack, Lonely was still crying.  She was hungry, and she could not understand.  Orphan sighed again, drawing back his right foot, he kicked a rusted tin can across the open space.  It skittered to a stop next to the gate, and Orphan slipped out of the ramshackle village, hunting through the garbage.  Picking through the piles of decay, he looked for a broken toy, a bit of shiny metal, anything that might pacify Lonely until food arrived. 
Soon, he had come to the northern wall, ten feet high and made of dingy red brick. Suddenly, a scraping sound reached Orphan’s ears from above.  Looking up, he gasped and dove behind a pile of scrap boards.  Someone was climbing over the wall! 
Orphan peeked over the top of his hiding place.  A chestnut haired girl was hanging from the edge of the wall.  With a laugh, she let go and dropped gracefully to the ground, dusting off her hands on the skirt of her dress. 
Orphan watched her for a moment, as she turned to survey the Dump.  She was about his own age, though a bit smaller, and she wore a mint dress, boots, and leggings.  She looked like one of the children from the City, only she was somehow cleaner, healthier, and she had managed to climb the wall. 
Curiosity overcame Orphan, and he stepped from concealment. 
“How did you do that?” he asked.  The girl spun towards him and smiled. 
“Oh, hullo.  I didn’t see you there.” 
Orphan pointed to the wall.  “How did you do that?”  he repeated. 
The girl frowned, puzzling over his question.  “Do you mean the wall?”  she asked.  Orphan nodded.  “Oh, that’s easy.  I’ve always been awfully good at climbing.” 
“But you can’t,” Orphan insisted.  “There’s an enchantment.” 
The girl smiled and shook her chestnut hair.  “I don’t know anything about an enchantment, but I can climb any wall while He lives.”  Orphan scratched his head, wondering who “he” was, and if he had anything to do with the enchantment. 
“I say,” the girl began, looking round.  “What a strange place.  Do you live here?” 
“Yes.” 
“My name is Braveheart.  What’s yours?” 
“I can’t remember, so I don’t have one,” the boy replied.  “They call me Orphan.” 
“Why, that’s silly.  Not have a name?  Everyone does.  I’m certain if Loving were here, she could tell you yours.” 
Orphan frowned.  “Loving?” 
Braveheart smiled.  “Of course,” she said simply.  “Love knows every child’s name.” 
Braveheart followed Orphan back to the village, and they talked as the boy led them on safe paths through the rot and ruin.  Braveheart spoke endlessly of another place, far from the City, where there were less soot and far more green.  
The children in the village crowded round the newcomer, examining her small figure and looking north with disbelief towards the far brick wall.  This was no warrior or soldier who had scaled the wall.  This was a mere slip of a girl with ever-ready laughter. 
The ragged children gathered in a circle about Braveheart, listening to hear the stories of her strange home to the north where the outcast was welcomed and where there was no such thing as an orphan.  Braveheart spoke of the Great Sacrifice, in which the Prince shattered the enchantment that held prisoner the whole world, breaking the magic forever.  She told them of a rebellion, in which men and women of her people traveled from city to city, town to town, in order to rescue captives from the darkness still binding many lands. 
“Are you one of them?”  Lost asked.  “Have you come to free us?” 
Braveheart bit her lip.  “I cannot,” she replied.  “But I know one who can, and I will tell him about this City.  No enchantment can stand against the Prince’s sword.” 
But will he come?  Orphan wondered.  For who would stoop to lift up the forgotten children and rescue the innocent from the horror of the Graving?  No one could possibly possess such strength.  
As Braveheart talked, she also sang, teaching them a new song, one that they must keep singing until the Prince had come. 
The dark is great, the enchantment falls, this yawning pit of winter’s lies,
Calls Adam’s sons to oft’ despair, daughters of Eve to forlorn cries. 
Mightier still is the Prince’s hand, the Grave’s abyss rings forth in Life,
The greatest story ever told, Heaven’s balm to painful strife.
He laughs to dance on summer winds, gives rest to weary souls. 
He mends the broken shards of hearts, in love, he makes them whole.
At last, we sing, No more!  O’ Truth, come forth and stand.
No more, no more shall be enslaved, by the darkness of this land.
I’ll sing his song, I’ll tell his tale, for he calls the orphans home.
Restores their names up from the pit, as the darkness trembling moans.
The north cannot withhold his sons, and the south he keeps at bay,
The west cannot hold his daughters back, in the east, he sings the day!” 
The hinges of the gate let out a pained whine, and Braveheart stopped.  The Master’s tall black hat could be seen approaching.  But before he could walk through and into the Dump, Orphan snagged Braveheart by the arm and practically threw her inside a nearby shack, placing himself adamantly in front of the doorway. 
The Master appeared, dressed in a fine black suit.  His beard was immaculately trimmed, and his eyes were flint-like and dark.  With a wave of his hand, a pair of workmen walked through the gateway carrying crates of food.  Usually, they brought three, but today there were only two. 
“I’m certain you all appreciate the deep charity and kindness of this City, which provides such a rich bounty,” the Master said.  And not one child disagreed, for fear of being given even less to eat the next time. 
Orphan looked at the two solitary crates, his hands clenching into fists.  “Yes, Master,” he mumbled along with the others.
The moment the gate had clanged shut behind the Master, Orphan jerked Braveheart from her hiding place and began running towards the northern wall, dodging piles of trash. 
“You have to leave,” he told her.  “They can’t find you here.”  The girl didn’t protest, as she was dragged through the Dump back the way she had come.  Once there, Orphan knelt and laced his fingers together.  Braveheart placed her boot in his hands and accepted the boost towards the top of the wall.  She pulled herself astride the wall and looked down at Orphan. 
“Don’t stop singing,” she warned, offering a smile in spite of the danger.  With that she slipped over the far edge and disappeared from sight. 

To Be Concluded...

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Monday, February 3, 2014

I Have Come to Die

Orphan scrambled atop a mountain of decaying trash in the reek of the City Dump.  A chill January wind swept through this rag clothing, which hung like shreds of a tattered sail from his bony frame.  Here Orphan stood each morning, watching a golden sun tip her glorious head over the rim of the earth for one tremulous moment, before her light was lost in the sallow haze of the wasted winter world.


It was only fitting, Orphan reasoned, looking with flint-eyes at the dismal sun.  Today was Graving.   
Brushing back coal-dark hair, Orphan could well make out the topmost tower of the mounting City buildings that stood behind the safety of Southern Wall.  Swallows were diving and stretching high in the air above the building.  Orphan thought about being a bird.  With wings he could fly over the Dump and far away.  The thought pricked his heart, and Orphan pushed the thought aside.    
Located on the southern outskirts of the City, the Dump was home to the outcasts, the foundlings, and to Orphan himself.  From his perch, Orphan could also see the bleached bone of Southern Wall, in which two separate gates of iron had been cut leading into the City.  The people of the City whitewashed Southern Wall every three months, and they no longer asked why the cuckoo birds wailed at twilight.     
At the mouth of one gate, a crooked village of broken boards and sheet metal stood.  The ramshackle home looked as though a puff of stubborn wind might blow it away.  This gate in Southern Wall opened occasionally to admit more children from the City to the Dump.  Many were simply unwanted.  All were unclaimed.  It had been so ever since the Enchantment.  No one could remember when it first fell upon the City, but a cold and clammy tangle of black magic hung over it now.  The very air was stiff with it, and Orphan could feel it.        
Below Orphan, ragged children began to sing.  They wove in and among the familiar hills of rust and rot, raising forlorn voices to greet the day.  The heart-wrenching melody leapt into the wind, filling the air with the lament of the unwanted children.
“Abandoned, outcast, claimed by no hand.
I was born to be broken in a city of sand.
Orphan! Orphan!  the voices shout.
Bound is my fate.  Marked is my brow.
But my Deliverer is coming
To stand in the innocent’s stead
From broken souls to cut away
The shackles of the dead. 
My heart will know his face,
When he calls me home to stay,
Though darkness weeps, I rise to seek,
The morning and the day.”   
The thin figure of a copper headed girl pulled and fought her way to the top of the heap next to Orphan.  She was called Lost.  No one knew her real name.  No one knew anybody’s name.  Orphan had long forgotten his.    
“Today is Graving,” Lost said quietly. 
“I know,” Orphan replied. 
“We should go.” 
Orphan nodded and slid over the edge of the pile, slipping and scrambling down through the garbage.  Lost followed closely behind him.  Together, they added their voices to the aching melody of the outcast’s song and led the line of other children towards the second southern gate, Rachel’s Gate. 
“A cavern deep, a valley long
Near twilight linger we.
Unwanted, forgotten, cast away
Nameless shoots of Adam’s tree.  
Day on day, we linger still. 
In mercy’s name, look down
Upon the cry of the broken-heart
Who sing’s the wanderer’s song.”
Rachel’s Gate was dark, bounded by the part of the City in which patches of shadow were never touched by the light of the sun.  Here the gloom of night lingered and ghosts flickered pale at the coming of evening twilight.  The children waited at the wrought iron gate, watching for the white wagon that always came at Graving. 
One child sniffled; another scuffed his toes in the dust.  Orphan didn’t know why they cried.  Long ago, Graving had frightened him as well.  Now it merely left him hard eyed and hollow inside, his fists clenching until the knuckles turned white. 
The clattering rhythm of hooves announced the wagon before it arrived.  It eased around a shadowed corner and approached Rachel’s Gate in the whitewashed Southern Wall.  Two workmen in suspenders and derby caps leapt down from the wagon.  Their white vehicle bore the unmistakable bright red cross of the hospital staining its side. 
The workmen unlocked the gate, and the children gathered to watch, silent and still.  The men lifted ten small boxes from the wagon and one by one carefully stacked them on top of a pile of ash on top of the burning place.   The winter wind caught traces of old soot and carried it high to be mingled with the blackness smoking from the stacks of City chimneys.  Once the boxes had been placed, one worker knelt with a bottle of kerosene.  He lit a fire under the boxes and then turned and hurried back to his wagon without once looking back.    
The gates shut once more with a jarring clang, and Lost flinched at Orphan’s side.   The definitive click of the lock signaled the departure of the men, who jumped into the wagon and hurried away.  They were eager to put as much distance between themselves and the burning place as they could. 
Soon, the fire licked all around the boxes, growing hotter and hungrily consuming them.  Waif and Lonely held one another and began to cry.  As brother and sister, they had only recently been sent to this side of Southern Wall at the death of their parents.  They wept for their loss.  And they wept before the Graving fire. 
These burning boxes contained the truly unwanted and castaway.  These were twilight children.   They were flickers of life snuffed out even before birth, the remains of beating hearts silenced in the womb.   A few were cripples, simple ones, and imperfect bodies deemed burdensome to the City.  It was considered merciful to forget about them, to destroy them and then bring them to this place where they could no longer be seen.  Many things determined the length of a child’s life in the City, and those who were impaired in thinking, broken in body, or simply unwanted were often denied birth.  The Enchantment was thick indeed.  The children were brought here to be burned and to be forgotten, where they could no longer haunt the City. Tonight, the cuckoo birds would sit on Southern Wall by Rachel's Gate and cry until darkness fell.  No longer did the people dare to ask why.            
Orphan watched the fire consume the small wooden boxes, cast out with the remainder of the City’s trash.  He and his companions kept a silent vigil until the fire climbed high, stretching and straining up to heaven, before sinking down to the earth in silence.     
Softly, the children rejoined their song, the lament mingling with the crackling of the dying flames.    
Lonely and fettered, shrouded by night,
Who will right the wrongs, return the light?
             Can songs of love restore my name,
             Call orphans home, and break the chains?
These wasteland flames, so silent and cold,
Cannot give life, but only withhold.
Shard of lightning, hear my cry!
Roll of thunder, I have come to die!”
Orphan led the others back to the village once night had come.  Huddled beneath a bundle of blankets and old clothes, Orphan could hear Waif and Lonely crying once more. 
Jamming the edges of a blanket into his ears, Orphan rolled over.  Through a hole in the scrap-board roof, he could just make out the fiery twinkle of the night stars.  They had always filled him with a measure of comfort, however small it was.  Their glimmering blaze remained defiant, unstained by the dark of the City. 
But today, at Graving, the stars only reminded him of embers from the fire.  An unbidden tear rolled down Orphan’s cheek. 
We are undone, Orphan thought.  As long as the Enchantment lasts. 
Softly, he chanted the remains of the day’s song, the tattered remnants falling from his tongue. 
“Shard of Lightning, hear my cry. 
Roll of Thunder, I have come to die.” 

To Be Continued….   
        
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