Wednesday, August 06, 2008

vignette: Ven

from Strange Weather
forthcoming from Story Philippines

Ven bent over the line of small wet stones, flecking away the rainwater that dripped down his cowl, trying to gain a sense of the muddied oracular tidings. When he had awakened from his once-a-decade month-long druidic sleep, he had been perturbed by the news - word of which reached him through the gossip of winged insects - of an unexpected drought in lands east of his stead. For a moment, he considered not investigating the oddity; the lands outside of his domain were not his responsibility; and those very same lands where considered wild, insomuch as they fell under the influence of neither king nor state. He dismissed a more general feeling of obligation to all of nature at large – he wasn’t the kind of druid who felt the need to respond to the cry of every living thing.

In the end, it was the anticipation of activity that moved Ven to take the journey; the quotidian nature of his druidic routines made him feel older than his twenty eight years. He dressed himself in simple garments meant to deal with the anticipated heat of the land he journeyed toward, leaving his well-muscled arms uncovered. At the periphery of his stead, he dismissed his wide-eyed animal companions, opting, as usual, to travel alone. The animals, their hopes crushed yet again, lumbered, skittered or flew back to their own dens, holes and nests. It was the old one-eyed ferret who waited until his master had gone beyond his limited range of vision that was the last to abandon optimism.

Days later, Ven considered the readings his fatidic stones suggested in the muddy earth and shook his head. His confusion stemmed from the fact that the stones warned against an unnatural drought, which he fully expected, yet the evidence of rain falling around him with unabated abandon disputed the oracle. Irritation trumped confusion as Ven plucked each damp stone from the wet earth, placed them in the pouch at his belt, and moved eastward in the heavy rain, silently cursing his sodden choice of attire.

He stood shivering at the crest of a wet hill overlooking a small village that seemed to have dealt well with the unnatural rainfall. Furrows had been dug into the flatter areas of the mountainside, creating channels for the fallen water to follow, leaving a handful of less drenched paths.

Ven attuned his senses to the surroundings, seeking impressions from stone and sky and water, and affirmed his suspicions. This was, in general, where the strangeness centered, where the sky’s waterlines bent toward. Somewhere in this village, something was very wrong. This was where his power was needed.

He decided to begin with the rain. Where prior to his departure his interest had only been in action, by the time Ven began his incantation the entire set of circumstances had gained a very personal veneer. He wanted, more than anything, to end the irritating rain which had no business falling where it did and in such vast quantities, upsetting the balance of water tables and aerial waterlines in many different places. He used powerful words, repeating the secret formulas he learned at the feet of the dead druid Itus, admonishing the elements for their unruly conduct, seeking to restore matters to how they were before the unnatural rain. At the height of his incantation, he felt a degree of resistance to his will which caused his eyes to widen and his body to straighten up. With a hoarse shout, he extended a fist into the sky, scattering dull-colored powders as he opened his hand a finger at a time, and broke the unnatural pluvial pattern. By the time he lowered his arm, the rain had ceased falling.

Satisfied, Ven began to negotiate the muddy earth in the direction of the village, seeking the true cause of the anomalous precipitation.

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