CW7 – A Tale of Three Cities

my goal for this assignment was to create a sort of fairy-land story around the “holiday” we term halloween.  let me just say up front what you will probably discover as you read it: i do not agree with halloween.  and i do not think that it is God-honoring when christians celebrate it.  i do not judge those of my brothers and sisters in Christ who choose to do so, but i do encourage you to think about it…pray about it…all of us, including myself, need to examine the traditions we so often take for granted.  my prayer is that this story will not be offensive to anyone, but will be thought-provoking to all.

~

A Tale of Three Cities

~

Once upon a time, far, far away, there was a little kingdom nestled in a valley between three mountains.  In the center of the valley lay the castle of the King, and round the castle, three cities formed a ring.  Farmers tilled the soil that lay cushioned between the inner circle of cities and the outer circle of mountains; and within the markets of the cities, merchants plied their wares.

The King and his household lived in the castle, and under his rule, the people lived peaceful and happy lives.  But a time came, as it always does, when the King had to depart from his people in order to protect them from their enemies.  Leaving behind him a book of instructions for his people to live by until his return, the King gathered his army and went to war.  The people of the kingdom lived in peace during the King’s absence, following his laws faithfully…that is, until one auspicious autumn day.  As the trees jeweled themselves in crimson and gold, and the wheat turned golden heads to the azure sky, a stranger appeared.

He was no ordinary stranger.  His hands, with their pointed nails and gaunt, gnarled fingers looked like eagle’s claws; an effect enhanced by the exaggerated hook of his nose and the black fire smoldering in his eyes.  Up the King’s Highway he wended his way, hobbling along with the help of a heavy oaken staff, until he arrived in the first city.

All the people gathered at the tavern to question him concerning the war, for news came not often to their city, and all were anxious to hear report of their King and their loved ones.  The tidings were heartbreaking.  The stranger told the people of another lord, a lord mighty and strong, who led force far vaster than that of the King, and who had come upon the King’s army and destroyed it.  This black lord, he said, was now the rightful king of their valley.  As such, he commanded the people to set aside a day of homage to him on the last day of the month of October.  If the people refused, he would release upon the city his army and put every man, woman and child to the sword.

Frightened and shaken by grief for their King and their countrymen, the elders of the city held a hurried consultation.  Some said that if the city followed the stranger’s advice and did homage to this unknown black lord, they would disobey the book of instructions that their King had left behind.  Others argued that this book was null because the King was defeated, and that the danger of destruction by the black lord’s army was too great to risk.  The latter group prevailed, and the elders of the city made preparations for the coming sad festivities, according to the detailed instructions left them by the stranger.

So the stranger, the messenger of death, went on to the next city, and they, too, in their shock and grief decided to pay tribute to the black lord on the last day of the month.  But when the stranger arrived in the third city, he found a different reaction awaiting him.  Here, the people refused to celebrate the victory of the black lord, counting the reproach of their King and loved ones more precious than life itself.  Their King, said the elders of the third city with a sort of sad dignity, would return one day, the conqueror of the black lord and of death itself, and when he did, he would find that one city had remained faithful.

The last day of the month arrived, and the black lord paraded with his cavalcade through the first and the second cities.  According to his commands, the people thronged the streets, garbed in fantastic costumes, with masks to conceal their faces.  Half-hearted laughing and shouting rang through the town as the merchants brought out great baskets of sweets to appease the hunger of the bloodthirsty army.  Every house was festooned with the black lord’s device – a huge black spider with its thick, foul web.  Red paint flowed down the streets, symbolic of the blood that the black lord’s army had spilled, and white wax, molded into the shape of hundreds of skulls, hung in garlands across the road.  When it grew dark, the townspeople set candles inside hollowed gourds on their doorsteps.  These gourds, carved over as they were with leering faces, lit the street with eerie flickers of flame.  All was done in the first two cities according to the very letter of the black lord’s new law; but even so, they did not get off completely free.  In the excess of their revelry, the followers of the black lord plundered the town, carrying off some of the daughters of the merchants and the farmers, and trampling to death anyone who tried to stop them.

But when the black lord’s army reached the third town, they were astonished to find it deserted.  The citizens of the town, having refused to participate in the black lord’s evil celebration, had fled, with their children and as many of their belongings as they could carry.  They had taken refuge high in the mountains, there to await the return of the King whose defeat they knew would one day end.  In rage, the black lord put the city to torch, cursing the sky because there were no people to vent his anger upon.   And in the heights, the people of that town rejoiced as they watched the licking flames consume their homes, because they had remained faithful to their beloved King.

~

Seven autumns passed swiftly, the last day of each harvest being given over by the first two cities to the evil masquerade commanded by the black lord.  Though these celebrations grew yearly in the excess of their wickedness, the townspeople gradually became callous to their rampaging evil, until at last the once-honest merchants and tradesmen turned into revelers as wild as the black lord’s army itself.  The yearly worship of this bloodthirsty lord, which had once repulsed the quiet citizens so thoroughly, became no longer a day of dread to them.  Instead, they began to look forward with the keenest of anticipation to this holiday that was set apart to the sole celebration of all that is vilest in the heart of man.

Meanwhile, those faithful to the King remained hidden in the mountains, safe from the evil cutthroat-minions of the black lord.  They often suffered cold, privation, hunger, thirst; but they counted these things as joy, in anticipation of the day when their King should return and carry fire and sword through the ranks of the enemy and the cities which had turned from him.

Of that bloody day I may not say much; only that when it came, the inhabitants of the faithless cities discovered that the black lord had been both terribly wrong…and terribly right.

~

For there truly is a black lord, and he did once defeat the King; yet this victory was only for a time, for the King conquered death.  There truly is a black lord, and he does hold a partial power over the kingdom; yet this power is only for a time, for one day the King will return.  There truly is a black lord, and he does command us to worship him and to join him in his blackness; but when our King returns, He will gather His faithful to Himself, and He will destroy the black lord and all his followers by fire because of their faithlessness.

~

~c. a.

 

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