The Story of Sparrow
The Story of Sparrow
By Mary Cernyar
The Story of Sparrow:
Long ago, an ancient book was written by the Deep Magic that ruled the Land of Benerna. What is this book? You ask. Legend says that the Book had the power of kings and emperors. In low tones, it was whispered that it held the fortunes of the world. Seldom did the citizens of Benerna speak of the Deep Magic, or its’ Book, but they waited till once again they could taste the sweetness of Freedom that the Book was promised to bring.
This story, unlike any other stories, isn’t of a dashing, underdog hero, who searches desperately for the prize, overcomes an obstacle-saves the day. If you are looking for such a story, read elsewhere, for I do hate to disappoint. Rather, if you are looking for something meaningful, something unusual, something refreshing, here is where you will find it.
But first, before I prove to you, of the Deep Magic, let me introduce myself. You know me already, of course, but in case you don’t, let me explain. I am in you, sweeping the globe, bringing catastrophe, and sunshine. I am the hot, uncomfortable breath in the heat of summer, and I am the bitterly chilled blast that bites your soul. I am your very breath.
Welcome to the Land of Benerna.
I first met Staren when the Hedgehog first held him in her arms. I was bringing relief to the slaves when I heard wailing. Curious, I drifted over to the little dugout house in the green hill. Blind, bent, and prophetic, the Hedgehog nurse maid held the centaur in short stubby arms. Incredibly, the colt was about the size of her, but she held him still.
She sniffed the air, sensing my presence. I had seen her many a day, and unlike most people, I was her friend, of a sort. She breathed deeply in, and the Deep Magic seemed to fill her lungs. Then, dizzy, and overcome with power she spoke softly to the young centaur:
“One day, a creature humble and strong,
A heart free from wrong,
Shall be the key
That will set the captives free.
In darkness’s finest hour,
He shall steal the emperor’s power.”
She exhaled, and the Deep Magic flowed out of her prickly body and ascended to wait. She went on, singing to the colt. But the watching parents did not forget the song. Neither did Staren.
When I occasionally passed through the valley, I looked for Staren. The Deep Magic wasn’t pleased that I did so, but I wanted to see the Promised One. Like I, you might believe that Staren will be the one to find the Book, bring it back, and rescue his people. I did too. But forgive me, I am getting ahead of myself. Let us rewind, shall we?
The Land of Benerna was ruled by the Emperor. That is the only name his people ever called him. I know his real name. It is too terrible to mention. He was the one who found the Book. I was there.
I, with my usual winter work, was dusting the mountain white. The snow howled joyfully along with me, swirling, dancing, landing softly before I picked it up and resumed the process. The smell of thunder- that static, electrifying scent- swirled around that holy ground. It was then, I saw him. His face was tenser than a bowstring, and a canyon curved his lips down. He, disregarding my masterpiece, stomped through the snow; the crunch of my fallen friends broke our joyful song. Claiming him as part of that sacred place, I started whipping it up in his face, for fun.
This emperor stood tall, and had a smile that would appear as often as a elephant in Times Square. A handsome and rare sight he was- a man. unusually tall for even His species, he was blond, and he hair that constantly swept up into a cowlick. He was searching for the book, and like most that had gone before him, wanted to know his fortune.
The Deep Magic isn’t pleased with His created tapering with fate. The Deep Magic killed the others who tried. He found the cave, and I howled at the entrance, warning him. He, like the others, didn’t listen. The Book, itself, is good. It is just too powerful to be held by the created. It is like the sun, the searing heat, and the burning. Always the burning, always rancid red, but never scorched. The color was a dark purply, like the eyes of a dying star.
I don’t know why the Deep Magic didn’t kill him on the spot, but he lived to pick up the book. The faint gasp as air filled his lungs. He turned the pages. I could feel his heart beat as he read.
****A QUICK NOTE ABOUT THE DEEP MAGIC:****
HE IS NOT SAFE. HE IS NOT TAME. SOMETIMES, HE DOES UNEXPECTED THINGS. BUT TRUST ME, HE IS GOOD.
I tasted a deep sadness as he read the page, soon replaced with anger. The Book poisoned his heart- it was not meant for him to hold. It spread as quickly as when you spill water on a table; thick, far spread, impossible to clean. It seemed to make him long and lengthy, and a shadow fell over his hair. His eyes glowed like coals. He rose, and exited the cave, carrying the Book in his arms, the way a mother holds a sick child. I pushed against him, trying to blow him back to the cave. He broke my arms and soldiered down the cliff.
With the power of the Book, he built and empire, enslaved the creatures, and corrupted his own soul.
And now we are back where we started…
Staren grew into a kind, strong Centaur. He worked diligently alongside his family, plowing the fields, planting the seeds, and other things you already know. His mane and tail were my favorite. I loved to twist and tangle it as he ran, pressing it to the sky. He had a handsome face, with a ruby red colored body and death black tail and mane.
One day, the scouts for the emperors’ army found him, and swept him off to training. The young, innocent colt whom the hedgehog once held in her arms, the one I loved with all my heart and guided his feet-grew proud, and cold. I didn’t know him anymore. Winters and summers passed. Leaves fells, and grew once more. The days waned and waxed. And the shadows of fear deepened. He returned. His head, bursting with swords, wars, and death.
Glory, fame, fortune, power-aren’t these what most want? And it is so with Staren, who, in his anger against his slave drivers, need for freedom, and lust for Glory, set out to retrieve the Book. He did not have a plan, or a decent weapon, or an army. But he had his promise like a heartbeat. “One day, a creature humble and strong, a heart free from wrong, shall be the key, that will set the captives free, and in darkness’s finest hour, he shall steal the emperor’s power” …
Now, if I may, sweep you, carry you in my arms, many, many miles ahead of Staren. If you will, imagine tall, prickling evergreens, shimmering aspens, and blue statrons vines, climbing up and down the red, rusty rocks. A gurgling creek trickles and drips down through the valley. This is my land- the trees bow down their heads as I pass through. The whole place breathes and singing the songs of fresh, clean, new, and untouched.
This is how Sparrow remembered it. This was the valley of her birth, where she first felt me tickling her feathers; it is where I taught her to fly. It holds the short, loving memory of her parents and her brother.
****A QUICK NOTE ABOUT SPARROW****
SHE AND I ARE BEST FRIENDS, THOUGH ONE KNOWS IT NOT. IT WAS I WHO GUIDED HER TO HER WINGS, HELD HER UP, AND TAUGHT HER THE JOYS OF FLIGHT. HOW I AND SPARROW USED TO PLAY. I HANG ON TO THOSE MEMORIES WITH MY LIFE. IT IS ALL I HAVE LEFT OF HER…
My beautiful trees have been slain and torched, scared, and bruised, used for the emperor’s fires and fortress. The creek which shone like the sky; black and consumed with death. And her loving parents, their blood still river-stained on the sunset rocks along with their people. Instead of the sweet song of the trees, the ground itself cries out, “Woe, woe, woe. Fallen has the great. Woe, woe, woe.” It is where her brother and herself where enslaved.
The emperors’ minions stole Sparrow and her brother away and raised them to be spies. Sparrows, the perfect agents for the secret police, they were told. When her brother, a chick with bulging eyes, shivered constantly. The food fouled on his plate, the way sadness ruins every kind of happiness. And soon, he too was ruined. His body fell with a thud from his nest. His small, wasted body lay still among the fallen leaves. Sadness embraced like wet clothes.
Drowning in her sorrow, she flew around the castle. By some odd, cruel, twisting of fate, she flew into an unguarded room. Closing the door, she perched on a desk. The soul of that room seemed to swell with a lonely song of sadness. A broken heartbeat echoed in Sparrow’s chest.
The strange, uncomfortable feeling of unknown eyes prickled Sparrow’s neck. Slowly, she turned around. There lay the Book.
With feet trembling, like an earthquake, and overwhelmed sense of power, she looked at the Book. It was opened to a certain page. It read, A TRAITOR’S DEATH. The Deep Magic whispered to her soul, “You”. Panicked, she flew out of the room. Fear gripped her heart the way the icicle grips a roof. She languished that she would one day, she would betray her beloved Benernains.
It was then that Sparrow knew she had to resist, resist the evil. She vowed that though they owned her body, they would never own her spirit. She hoped one day when she could break free, and she wouldn’t serve them anymore. The Deep Magic would soon answer her wish.
Now, come with me as I tie the threads and finish my tapestry. Let us bring the two together and see what will happen.
One day, Sparrow was on a scouting mission. I guided her to white, leafless tree. She sat there, until the sun stretched the shadows and the moon showed promise. Sudden hoof beats like the coming thunder aroused her attention. Staren tipped toed through the dead forest.
“Who goes there?” She whispered softly, “Friend or foe?”
“Friend or foe to whom?” asked the centaur back.
“Friend to the free creatures of Benerna?”
She fluttered down from her branch, “Then what is your purpose here? It is dangerous.”
“I have come to retrieve the…” he leaned closer, “the Book.”
A gasp. “What? How? You can’t get it, it is heavily guarded, and you are much too big. They will see you!”
Staren was stumped. He hadn’t thought this far in his plan. I gently breathed to them my plan. Of course, they didn’t hear.
“I don’t know then, but we have to do something. The creatures of Benerna have been suffering for far too long. We have to bring down the emperor.” Staren whispered urgently. His heart desperately imagined a glorious return, to be worshiped by the whole land.
Sparrow nodded, and plan was being formed in her small brain.
“Here’s the plan, you stay here, and at midnight, I will return with the Book. You take it and run as fast as you can from this wretched place. Don’t look back.”
And with that, she took off. Along the way, she grabbed a couple of Blaner berries. The taste of Blaner berries are feared by the land, for an overdose of them could result fatal. I sent her speeding back to the castle, where she crushed the berries into the guards’ wine, before handing them to a servant. In several minutes, they were out.
Not knowing how long the sleeping potion would work, she flew on silent wings into the room and grabbed the Book. She struggled to lift it in the air. Instantly, horrid thoughts swarmed her brain, thoughts too terrible to mention. She shook her head, similar to shaking mosquitos off her face. The thoughts didn’t go away.
She struggled to keep her heart pure, she battled to love. The flight back to the forest seemed long, it stretched past eternity. Behind her, the castle was in chaos. Her heart, like her beloved Benerna, was slowly being poisoned. She fought it with each breath.
Sweat dripped from her wings has her muscles slowly tore apart under the weight of the Book. The weight of the Book was killing her, inside and out. Her feet were marred beyond recognition. No matter what I did, I could not help her. The poison that she so desperately fought was winning.
With exhausted wings and heart, she dropped the book into the waiting hands of Staren. He galloped off as Sparrow collapsed to the ground. Her body was spent. With great effort, she still breathed.
Not long after, the emperor and his wolves found her lying there.
“You,” whispered the emperor, “you betrayed me.”
Sparrow could not answer back.
“Wolves,” howled the emperor, “do your work.”
The wolves closed in, grinning teeth. Sparrow closed her eyes. The wolves pounced.
Staren ripped past with me, flying through the dead wood. He ran so fast, he didn’t notice the darkness that shadowed over him. It spread to his heart and caused it to stop. He fell close to his home town.
The wolves hunted him out. They circled his body. They howled in triumph. The forest seemed to shiver in dread anticipation.
The villagers found Staren’s body the next morning. They buried him, but the Book mysteriously disappeared. He was worshipped as the one who saved Benerna. Parades, statues, and a holiday were dedicated to him. He finally got what he wanted.
Without his Book, the emperor grew like a bull covered in a red blanket. He started wiping out entire villages, searching for the book. I hated the way the flames made me look: dark, smelly, repulsive. The stench of flames swept over the land. Sadness felt like a heartbeat. The land had never experienced such sorrow or misery. But eventually, his power crumbled, and without his power, his darkness, his dominion, and he himself, faded away.
And as for the Book, I believe it is back up in its cave, being written in by the Deep Magic, who rules Benerna. I wonder who will try to claim its power next.
Sparrow was forgotten by all but me, who still sings her song. I swept the dust over what remained of her body. Though many would disagree, I believe she is the one the Hedgehog prophesied about.
***A fulfillment of an Early Promise.****
I promised no saving-the-day-hero, no rescue, no damsel in destress. Did I make good on my promise? Should these dead be considered heroes and did their actions save or condemn the poor, oppressed, creatures of Benerna?
And that’s the end of my story, or, excuse me, Sparrow’s tale.
****Note to the Reader****
She is like you, dear reader. We all do risk much, do good, and get little in return and time forgets us. But you are significant, you can change your life, the world and someone else’s future. It is all part of His plan and you will never be forgotten by Him.
And the Wind blew away.