The Revolutions of Time, Chapter 12
The White Eagle
It was only a few moments after Onan and Zimri left me that the Munams arrived, for they had run, spurred on, apparently, by their great desire to meet me. In appearance they were like I had seen from afar: hairy and stooped, almost using their arms as legs, but not entirely. Their skulls were large and oddly shaped and their mouths were pushed out from their faces like an ape's. A limp, furry tail hung down from their lower backs, and their hands had a tough, leathery appearance.
There were eight of them, and when they drew near, the foremost hailed me with an eager gleam in his eyes, like one who has long hoped and long been denied. His voice was low and gravelly, but not at all uncivilized sounding, as one would have expected by his appearance, and his facial expressions were equally as livid and distinctly humanoid. He began:
"Hail, the White Eagle, sent by the gods to deliver us! Hail the redemption from paradise, coming to bring us home." With that he held out his arms and embraced me in a very warm, heartfelt manner.
"Hello," I replied, somewhat embarrassed by my lack of authority.
"I am Ramma, leader of the Munams," he told me, "And I welcome you in the name of us all."
"Greetings, Ramma," I replied, "I am Jehu."
"We are joyous at your arrival, oh Jehu of the White Eagle."
When he said this I had a flashback, a moment of memorial deja vu, when the present and the past are morphed together by one thought, when one idea from the past and the present exists in such a way as to connect the two times around it, forming a nexus between the two moments. I was brought back to two separate times, the first being my initial meeting with Onan, when I saw the muraled dome, the genetics of history, and its depiction of the events which were symbolically representative of Daem: the deformed man, the warring races, the worshipers of the White Eagle. The other was my arrival in the Temple of Time, when the King showed me the altar to Temis, the God of Time, depicted as a great White Eagle, wrought in diamond and grasping the altar in its talons. There was something about the White Eagle that connected itself to me inseparably, something that converged us into one form. I had a sense that it was somehow a key to the mystery of the end times, but I could not make the connection. I thought back to what Onan had said to me just a few moments before, that he and Zimri were close friends, and not enemies at all, while those on earth believed their rivalry was a serious conflict. Yet while I had two separate memorial deja vu's, I could not make the connection between them to figure out what they meant.
"Tell me," I asked of Ramma, "What do you mean when you call me the White Eagle?"
"The prophecy said that our kinsman redeemer, who would bring us out of the lands of desolation and into paradise, who would come to us like a giant eagle, soaring high above the sea. Across the ocean there," he said, pointing to Daem, "Is Daem, the paradise land, wherein dwell our enemies the Zards and Canitaurs. They keep us off of the island and on the mainland by force, and here we have suffered ever since the great wars, in these desolate and barren wastelands, where there is neither life nor death, but only a hazy in between. An ancient one with wings like an eagle was to come and rescue us, the White Eagle, and under his guidance we are to be led to victory against our enemies.
"To them he would be sent first, humbly he would come to redeem them from the woes of their own causing, but they would receive him not. Instead they cast him away, and he was to come to us, to bring us to the promised land. What a blessed sight it was when we saw you soaring through the sky on your white wings, and now you have come, my dear Jehu, you have come at last, in the hour of our greatest need. Come, oh White Eagle, and let us go to Kalr, our city. Tonight is the Feast of the Hershonites, celebrating the night that the prophecy was received, and on the same day shall it be fulfilled!"
With that he turned and set off with a step of exuberance to the northwest, the other Munams and myself following him. He walked quickly, and it was all that I could do to match his pace, so that I was left without breath enough to ask any more questions. From what I saw on our journey, the landscape was the same across the whole mainland that was near to the coast, and there was neither change enough nor any landmark conspicuous enough for me to take any bearings. Without the Munam's company, I would have been lost.
Ramma led us on a straight course for about half an hour, there being nothing to steer around, and when that time had elapsed, we found ourselves in a small, battered city. There were no great buildings or infrastructure like in Nunami, nor any complex labyrinths like the Canitaur's military base. Instead there were only weak, unsound huts, built with a framework of oddly shaped driftwood and covered with a thick layer of insulating sod. A road ran through the center of the city, only distinguishable because it was packed down by constant use, and on either side were groupings of the huts in semi-circular patterns, with no space between them left unfilled by soil. This created a wind barrier, preventing the strong winds that whipped across the desert lands from harassing the inhabitants as they worked and played in their communal yards. Each such grouping had a field of a strange, potato-like plant that spread across the back ends of the houses, where the fierce winds piled up loads of nutrient rich top soil from miles and miles around. In the center of the protected areas, each of the communities, for such they were called, had a well that reached hundreds of feet downwards, bringing them almost unlimited supplies of fresh water. Using these two major systems, they were able to live in a comfortable manner, not comfortable in a sense of comparison with the Zards or Canitaurs, but comfortable in the sense that they had food to eat, clothes to wear, and shelter to protect them. Under such conditions humanity can thrive, for happiness is not found in the accumulation of excess comforts, but in the accumulation of excess love. This the Munams had plenty of, and from that point of view were more the evolutionary form of humanity than the devolutionary.
The Munams all wore a sort of close fitting frock, a plain colored one piece suit that displayed their practicality and modesty. It is a hobby of mine to observe the clothing worn by different groups of people and compare it to their characteristics. As I have said before, clothes do not make the man, but the man certainly makes the clothes, and it is possible to judge a person's character by the type of attire that they wear, in that it is an expression of their tastes. The Munams were shown by their clothing to be a very friendly people, for their frocks were hung gently about the body in a manner that was at once both carefree and conservative. This is perfectly analogous to their personalities.
When we came down through the center street, which was really the whole city, for there were no other roads, the people rushed out to meet us, and when they were told that it was the White Eagle, they began to dance joyously about in the streets. There was laughter and play going on all at once, and it was like a great burden lifted from my heart to see them rejoicing, for it almost reconciled their sufferings with the Zard's and Canitaur's ease of life, in that they seemed to be much more happy, in spite of the circumstances.
Ramma gave a short speech to the people, in which he detailed the prophecy and its fulfillment and, in general, encouraged everyone to hope for what was to come. When it was over, he and I retired to his home, which was rather larger than the others and formed its own semi- circle, containing as it did both his private quarters and the official offices of the government, which, while extremely limited in number, were well outfitted. The door of this building opened into a short hallway that had several doors adjacent to it. He led me down one of these and it proved to be a dining hall, though it was not as commodious as most, with only a round wooden table with a few chairs around it and some cupboards and cabinets.
Pulling my chair out for me to sit in, Ramma went through all the normal duties of host with great ease, and within a few moments we were eating heartily from a great dish of boiled potatoes that had been brought in by a servant, or rather, a deputy minister of state, for such was his title. We did little talking before we ate, because I was greatly famished and as such was ill-inclined to be jovial, not that I was sullen, but I found it hard to be completely relaxed without a full stomach. Yet when that was remedied and I found myself satisfied and comfortable in a warm dwelling, I opened up to Ramma and we had a long and entertaining discussion, some of which I will record here, as it shines a little more light upon the mysteries of my story:
"So, my dear Jehu," Ramma began, "I trust your stay on Daem has so far been enjoyable."
I chuckled quietly and told him, "No, not entirely, for there is a war afoot on Daem, or at least there seemed to be, and it made quite a bit of trouble for me."
"I'm sorry to hear that," he replied, "But also gratified, for it will help us in our offensive if they are against each other as well as us. Still, it will be hard."
"What offensive is that?" I asked, my interest being perked.
"Our jihad, to capture the lands which were meant for us and reclaim them from the filth that now inhabit them. You are our kinsman redeemer, Jehu, but it is not with your presence alone that we will be brought victory, for we also must act. Ever since the prophecy was given we have been preparing for a strike that will catch the Zards and Canitaurs by surprise, for those are our only advantages: time and surprise. The carrying out of the surprise attack is the hardest part, and we decided long ago to dig a tunnel under the sea to bridge Daem and the mainland, for if we had made a fleet of ships, or attempted anything on the surface, they would have seen and known what we intended to do. The tunnel is very long, and it was an arduous task to undertake, but with much patience we prevailed, and now it is complete. In fact, it was only completed yesterday, though it was started more than 500 years ago."
"How is it that you started so long ago and only finished just before I arrived? I asked.
"Fate," he answered, "All the happenings of the world are controlled by a force much greater than us, and it brings everything into completion when it is needed, no sooner and no later. Many civilizations try to out wit fate, but they cannot, and in the end they do its bidding. Not, however, in the way they had planned, and with more consequences than they would like, at which point they try to change fate again and undo those consequences, and soon they are in a downward spiral of such deeds. We recognize that we are controlled by fate, and instead of fighting it, we go along with it. We know that things will happen as they are meant to happen, and we knew that 500 years ago, so it was no great trial for us to work at our task for so long and not to know when things would be brought to completion. You see, if we had worried about it and attempted to change to course of events that history dictated, than we would have only given ourselves more work for the same end. Stress is the only thing that is created when you try to alter fate, so it is our philosophy to take things as they come and trust to the powers that be. You may think it unsophisticated, but that is just as well, for what matters is not appearances, but reality, and we have the two things that matter most in life: peace and joy."
I agreed with him, for I had found the same to be true in my own experiences. I then asked him, "When will this grand offensive be undertaken?"
"Tomorrow," he said bluntly.
"Tomorrow? Isn't that rather soon?"
"Why? Fate has been fulfilled so far, why wait when it is time to act? Maybe you misunderstood my meaning: it is not our philosophy to simply let things go as they will. Instead we relax and let things take their course when it is not in our power to do anything effective, but when the time comes to act, we act swiftly and do not delay. In a word, we do not force fate, either by forcing action where patience is needed, nor by forcing patience where action is needed."
"That sounds well enough," I said, "But the difficulty lies in the correct classification of the situation, or in other words, deciding if patience or action is needed."
"Yes, of course, but in this case it has been decided to attack tomorrow, and there is nothing left to do but to attack tomorrow. But do not yet let your spirits be dampened by the onset of war, for tonight is the Feast of the Hershonites, and there will be great celebrating and rejoicing this evening. Forget about the troubles of tomorrow and enjoy the celebrations of today, as I always say. And it is now time for the celebrating to begin, so let us be off."
And with that we both rose and took our plates into the kitchen that was connected to the dining hall on the opposite side as the hallway and deposited our plates to be cleaned later (for even the leaders of a society must do their fair share of the work). Then we walked back through the dining hall, down the hallway, and out the door.
Outside we found that the people had already began to assemble on the road in front of their communities and were preparing for the festival by chattering with one another as loudly as one would think possible. A hush began to fall upon them like a descending fog when we came out, though, and within a few moments it had died down to a ghostly silence, for all that could be heard was the wind's constant blowing. Ramma took the head of the procession of Munams that had formed on the road, and I took the place next to him. With a sort of quiet anticipation of the joys to come, there was little movement, and what little there was, was hushed by a sense of subdued excitement. Then, with a somber gait, Ramma began the parade down the road, in the opposite direction as we had come from, that being northwest, and all followed him as he did.
The sun at that time was just beginning to set, and once we had crossed one of the larger hills we came face to face with the coast, the sun's great red form half sunken beneath its surface. A faint cloud layer floated by and was illuminated by the twilight so that it stretched haphazardly across the face of the sun. Never have I seen so profound a scene as that which then presented itself, with the desert sands and the ocean's still surface reflecting the last agonies of the sun's descent into the underworld with such a subtle emotional undertone so as to render it a subconscious delight. Its recognized superiority to mortal life forms left us all mute and somber, but at the same time the freedom felt from the same gave us joy beyond reckoning.
The march to the sea was slow and steady, and when we finally reached its shores it was just at the change of day and night. Several large bonfires were lit and by their light a great communal dance began, everyone jumping around, running, and doing whatever their lighthearted desire may have been. Under stars that shone like the twinkling in a newborn's eye, we had such a joyous time that it can hardly be described. We were no longer within the reach of civility or social duty, but without it we were not mean nor hurtful to one another, but were playful and joyous, like children without a care in the world. Our little games and frolics cannot be described with any accuracy, because outside of the moment's happiness, they cannot be understood, as it was a spiritual happiness, existing only in the spiritual realm. All that could be described is the physical actions that were taken because of that spiritual enjoyment, but that would do nothing to describe the feeling of the night. It was one filled with more joy than anything I have known as an adult, because we became as children in our trusting to fate, and it was natural, befitting to our natures. Man is not meant to worry, man is meant to be free from all boundaries, inward and outward, man is meant to be ruled by only one desire: love of others.
As the night dwindled away, we grew tired, but instead of returning to the city, we laid down wherever we were when we felt that we could remain awake no longer, and fell to sleep instantly when we did. It was not at all uncomfortable, for the sand was soft and a warm breeze blew in from the water, and though as an adult I would have feared sleeping so openly in the unknown, I was not at that time an adult.