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The Cat and the Crane

Before you were born, before we all we born, and before birth was an event we should all come to know – the universe began. It did not arrive as we arrived; it did not slip into existence, it did not drop, jump up, or even bang – the universe, quite simply, awoke; and since it awoke it has been trying to come to understand just what it was doing before it awoke, since it has not been back to sleep ever since.

Now we might think of the universe as something that cannot wake or sleep, that cannot think or worry about the kind of things which keep you or I awake, although since it does not sleep then technically nothing is keeping it awake – it does however ponder, and as it ponders… things start to happen.

The first action the universe took when it awoke was to reach out, it wanted to reach outwards so that it might understand where it was, to gain some reference, but since it wasn’t really anywhere to speak of (as nothing else existed), it has simply been reaching out ever since. Thus the universe is ever expanding. As it reached it fumbled, and as it fumbled it collided against itself; moving up ways, down ways, side ways, round ways, and all ways that it could imagine possible for it to move. These collisions gave form and function to what we see as the universe; ignitions spawned meldings, and meldings led to coolings, and slowly new formings occurred. Atoms and structures, minerals and metals came to be; planets and stars and all the things we experience today emerged from the great expanse.

These things are by the by though, they exist and we know that. They have been tested, measured, mused over, and thoroughly thought about since the first conscious creature looked up, or down, at this thing or that. As interesting as all that is, it doesn’t address the obvious issue at hand, which is this: Just what has the universe been thinking about all this time? Well, it is quite simple, you too have thought it, although you think of it less than the universe does (since the universe has been thinking one thing only since the very beginning). It has been repeating the statement ‘I AM’. It was this statement which first came when it awoke, it is this statement which caused it to reach out, and it is this statement which has been feeding back to itself as each thing was formed, and as each formed thing comes to experience another formed thing, the statement is repeated. Otherness spawns the knowledge of self, of perspective. Thus, the universe is expanding. It continues to expand as there is seemingly no end to this. At times a question arises, which comes bounding back to itself, a simple question of ‘AM I?’ – I AM this, AM I that? And this question perpetuates the first thought, it loops, we loop, and in this looping we come to know all things that could be. Indeed, there is nothing that exists without the statement and the question being present,

Caranaux

The Djin, the Journeyman and the petal

Extract:

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Not all things are born wicked, indeed it is true that wickedness is never born, it is hatched, as a plan is hatched. It comes about through conception, though want and wish and the will of something so strong that it quiets the beating of one’s own heart.

It is a sad and wretched creature who lives without a heart, and it is a more wretched creature yet who lives to consume the heart of others.

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The wanderer bent down and peered closer into the droplet on the petal, as he looked closer he began to make out a shape and as he looked at the shape he began to see it was a figure and as he looked at the figure he let out a gasp as his heart stopped dead. He fell to the ground, crumpled like a marionette with it’s strings cut through. As he lay on the ground he began to die. Now contrary to what some people may tell you, it is still possible to live without a heartbeat, it just isn’t possible to live that way for very long. His heart had stopped beating and we must think of this like the furnace in a steam engine, the door was shut, the fuel finished and the embers were burning out, yet the engine is still in motion. It is the same with the human body, for a finite time the energy created by the heart moves through the body, it becomes cold as it passes but it passes still and with it’s passing there is motion. It is with this motion, as it pushed it’s way through his body that the wanderer was able to see the droplet fall from the petal and land on the earth, and as it landed the wanderer was able to see a sight which for all intents and purposes should have started his heart back up again. Where the droplet fell some smoke started to rise, and as it rose the smoke started to form itself into a recognizable shape ~ first a leg, then two. A torso appeared, then arms and finally a head.

As the final part of the energy leaving the heart of the wanderer started to fade from his eyes the last thing he saw was a dark and smokey apparition of himself leering down over his body, it opened it’s mouth to speak but as it did so the body of the wanderer finally died and he was no more.

 

If you were an observer on this day, perhaps a bird or a well hidden creature, then you would have witnessed this event and been privy to what the apparition had said to the body of the wanderer…

Le grand ouseau de la mort

Le grand ouseau de la mort/ Le grand ouseau d’lamour

There was a time, once before; when the death of a creature meant something very different to the meaning it has now. There was a time, once before; when the death of a creature meant that creature would embark upon the next stage of the greatest story every told – the search for their soul and all things between.
Now death, as we understand it, is something all together different. There used to be no need for things such as re-incarnation, there used to be no need for things such as funeral rites and there used to be no need for things such as heavens or hells or a realm of any sort which might take a creature and keep them. There were no ghosts and there was no fear of death.

And this was the key.

No creature was kept in death or, indeed, kept by death. For death, in a time once before, was known by a different name, as love. Now, it is true, that love means something entirely different, and it is true that it meant something completely different back then as it does now, the same thing in fact – But death, once before, was known as love for the simple reason that all creatures who existed knew no other word, no other turn of phrase or feeling akin to the motion which was the passing from one stage to the other, apart from love; all encompassing and wonderfully liberating love.

Now, what should really be understood is that death is a motion, much like love. Death is a process, which is all at once as mechanical as it is majickal, and all motions are the manifestation and transition of a type of energy. The love, which we now understand to be the benefactor of the word, is the energy between two or more things which have a consideration that the other is equally, or more so, important as themselves – this consideration is so strong that it has an effect on the whole being of a creature, making things all sparkly and squiggly and so on.

What should also be understood is that death, the figure of death, is no terrible spectre whose sole purpose is to steal the life away from those who would not have him. Death was once much like many of us in that he understood love in the old and truest sense of the word, he loved and was loved in return. He was once the agent of a very different purpose and whilst he has always been seen as mystical, he was very fondly thought of and known by a different name all together – The great bird of love.

Tales used to tell of the great bird of love, who knew all the secrets of each creatures’ heart and knew the murmurs of their soul.
Tales used to tell that he would know the moment of each creatures’ death and that at that moment he would understand the thing which they had come to love the most whilst they were alive.
Tales used to tell that the great bird of love would swoop down, right at the point of passing, and collect the spirit of the creature just as the life expired. He would then take that spirit and carry it away to a place where it would be surrounded by the feeing and memory of that which it loved most, whilst the soul of the creature passed onwards towards the next stage.

Now, it is important to note here that within each creature are three active parts, although the creature is most usually aware of only two – the personality and the spirit. The third is the soul and although it is really the soul who governs all action and is the primary cause of any manifestation, it is the personality and spirit of the creature which thinks it is steering the ship.

This tale will be the tale of the great bird of death, who used to be known as the great bird of love – who has the most secret of secret names and was once the companion of Hillundria, queen of the underworld.

Irrevocably

“What did you say cat?” asked Tsuru.

The cat lifted her head and looked toward the crane as he sat beside her against the old tree Yuumina-sur.

“Nothing boy, I’m sitting here listening to the moon…” replied Bastet.

“…Strange.” said the crane, “I could have sworn I heard you say something.”

“Nyet.” purred the cat, when all of a sudden a beetle landed on her hind as she lay in the light.
“Gah!” she cried out, “…away with you Kabuto!”

Bastet wriggled the insect free from her and glared at it with a scowling glare.

“Did you see that?!… The nerve of him!” said Bastet.

She turned to Tsuru to find him staring at her,
“WHAT!!… What!!… Is it back again?” she cried spinning around.

“No…” whispered the crane, “What you just said is what I heard you say only just before.”

“Hmmm… Then what does this mean?” asked Bastet.

But she had no answer from Tsuru; he stood and stared all wide eyed at where the cat was, for now all he could see were spirals of light.

“Hey… What’s wrong with your…”
But Bastet didn’t finish her sentence, as she spoke she saw something in Tsuru’s eyes, something ancient yet familiar and all at once the crane began to unravel before her eyes – Where his head was now shone white light and what were his eyes were now galaxies of infinite stars.
The cat heard a sound like the rush of wind between mountains and she slipped into his eyes, falling towards brightly coloured clusters of stars. Bastet turned her head to look back at herself as she fell and there, within the eyes of her lover, she saw the most curious thing:

The cat raised her face eye to eye with her own, it was her – Her own face, as wide and tall as the universe, smiling back at her; made of millions of stars and galaxies.
Bastet opened her mouth to speak but no words came, she raised her arm to the face and saw that her paw was a hand and she had become a girl again, just as it spoke:

“Hello love, we have missed you – Come now, turn in these pieces and…”

Bastet blinked and opened her eyes to see Tsuru-san staring at her…

“What did you say?” he asked her.

“…Nothing boy” she replied, “I’m just sitting, listening to the moon.”

“What does she say?” asked the crane.

“She says that I love you,” said the cat.

The crane stepped over to the window and tipped his head to listen. He looked at the cat and shrugged his shoulders with a grin.

“Wicked boy!” said the cat.

The crane giggled.

“Come lay with me,” said the cat. “I dreamt I was the universe earlier, come fall into me.”

The crane curled around the cat and tickled her nose with his feathers.
“You are the universe cat,” he said. “You are all things manifest for me, that is the song the moon sings.”

The crane began to hum for her and the cat closed her eyes, drawing herself closer to the crane. She breathed him in and allowed herself to sink into his chest. As she began to drift into sleep she heard her own voice make a wish; a wish to remain as a girl and for that boy to always be the song sung to her by the moon.

There is a question asked from time to time…

Some time ago now the cat was walking along the edge of a river, occasionally passing over stones and clumps of sticks… sometimes looking to the twinkle of the moon as it reflected off the rippling water. After some time she came across a sleeping man beside the river, now, being one for adventure, the cat padded up to the man and gave a slight cough to wake him.

“Ahem… Good evening dear sir.” she said, “What a fine night we have

The cat awoke with a start; she was being called by Tsuru.

“…Hmm… What is it boy?” she asked, “… Is everything ok?”

The crane looked at her for some time, and Bastet noticed his eyes were more grey than blue.

“…Boy?” she asked again.

“… I had the strangest dream cat, the strangest dream,” he said finally.

The cat lent forward and gave him a kiss.
“We all have strange dreams dear boy,” she said. “Why only just now I dreamt I was…”

Tsuru looked at her and he began to cry a little.

“Oh boy!” cried the cat, jumping up. “What is it? Tell me…”

“I dreamt…” began the crane, “That I was an old, old man who had lived his life but had lost his way in the world. I had tended to the land for all my years but had missed love.”

“Oh that is sad!” said the cat, and nuzzled into Tsuru’s feathers.

The crane moved back a little and lifted Bastet’s face.
“That isn’t it though,” he said as he looked at her. “There is more,”

“I was this old man and I had missed love as I said, so I travelled to the great river and sat beside it to consider my life, to review my time. As I sat and looked into the waters I suddenly saw all the stars and all the moons and all the galaxies there flowing within the river and I knew that this was the love I had missed, that the stars and I were the same. And, as I looked, I saw my face looking back at me but I wasn’t looking into the water, I was looking out from the river at my face.”

Bastet sat and stared at the boy as he spoke. And the boy, giving glances up at Bastet, continued:
“You see cat, I was the stars – The stars reflected in the water and through the reflection of the river I could see the face of the old man who I had been but who I wasn’t. I loved this man cat and I realised that this was all I ever was, the love for this man and his life and his love for his world. And I felt sad for him, because he felt he had missed love, because he had been alone with his land for so long, but really he was loved all the time and he gave love as he helped everything grow around him.”

The crane moved in towards the cat and looked her in the eyes before saying:
“The thing is this though cat… As I looked back and up at the man I saw an old woman walk up to him, and I thought how lovely she looked, how kindly and how much like the beauty of the galaxies with her hair and eyes. And I thought I should love this person as much as I love this man. I thought I should imagine he would love her dearly himself, and as I thought that, the woman spoke to the man and all of a sudden I was the man again and no longer the stars, and I opened my eyes which I didn’t even realise were closed and I breathed a breath which I didn’t even realise had stopped and I spoke to the woman in a voice I had all but forgotten was mine… And then I woke up!”

The crane looked at the cat, who had suddenly begun to cry a little…

“Oh cat what is it! Have I upset you?” he asked, drawing her in close to him.

She told him about her dream, and about how she hadn’t even realised she was dreaming until he had woken her up…

“What does this mean?” he asked her, “What are we to make of all this?”

“I’m not sure!” replied the cat, “Does this mean that we are those old people… But what are we to make of us now? Is this a dream here that we are having? A life within a dream?”

Tsuru looked blankly for a while and then shook his head
“I don’t feel that I am that old man.” he said, “But I didn’t feel that I was really him anyway. I think cat…” he continued, “That if I am anything I should like to be the love I felt for him, but it was a faded thing, like forgetting a dream… only, maybe more like forgetting you are dreaming. Bah, now I am confused!”

The cat sat up and looked thoughtfully at Tsuru.

“I think also…” she said, “That if I were to forget that I ever was myself and become someone else that I should like to remember love amongst all things, I should never like to forget that!”

They spoke of this for some time, each one thinking but then becoming lost in their own reasoning until, tired at last, they both fell asleep again, curled in each others arms.
As they slept, the moon smiled down on them as it always does and the stars whispered softly:
‘We love you old man… We love you old woman… Hurry home again soon.’

Presently the dawn shall find us

The cat lay curled up in the moonlight, breathing ever so lightly; not even a whisker twitched as she slept.

The crane sat watching her and tried to time his breathing with hers, slow his heartbeat down and in this way feel a little of where she was.

As she slept and as he shared her breathing he looked up, out the window and toward the stars.

‘I love you so very much.’ he said to them in his mind, ‘I love you more than I love myself and each night when I see you I miss you all terribly.’

The stars looked down on him, silent and twinkling in the night sky.

‘I love you all, I truly do.’ he said, but this time he sent the words out from his chest.

The stars looked down on him, beside the cat and silently twinkled in the night sky.

‘I love each and everyone one of you and it feels like an ache.’ he said, and he felt his chest rise and his heart pour out.

The stars looked down on him, small and distant from them in the night sky as they sat silently.

‘As much as I love you and as much as I miss you,’ he began, ‘I love this creature beside me in a way that makes me feel outside of myself.’ he continued as he looked down at the cat.

‘I love this girl here more than I could ever say and when I feel this love I don’t think I am myself any-more.’ he said, watching the cat breathe. ‘I feel like I am up there with you, like I am a star.’ he said and bent down to kiss the sleeping cat.

The cat felt him brush against her and stirred a little, opening her eyes she saw the crane with the night sky behind him and she smiled a wide and kindly smile.

“Oh I love you crane.” she said, “You look so beautiful with the stars behind you, just like a dream I was having.”

The cat rose herself up a little and kissed the crane softly.

“Come lay with me.” she whispered, “See if we can’t fall into the same dream.”

The crane lay down beside the cat and they curled up with each other, soon enough they fell asleep and soon enough they both began to dream.

The stars looked down upon them, silent and distant in the night sky as the cat and the crane slept, both breathing in time with each other… Both twinkling…

And their beauty caused the stars to ache, and whisper to each other how wonderful they felt when they thought of how much they loved that boy and that girl.

Hagu

A terrible thing lives in the south, a wretched thing they call her; though to say that ‘it’ is a she is pure folly for it holds only partial characteristics of a woman by any reasoning.
Within the heart of the swamps lurks this creature and she is known by the name Hagu.

‘Hagu.’ whisper grandparents to children, ‘Hagu will find you and make an awful meal of you should you become lost!’

…And children scare themselves at the edge of the swamp, and in their rooms at night through imagining shadows to be the creature, coming for the fat on their bones.
Now, there is the tale of Hagu of which grandparents speak which, frightening enough, keeps young kin away from shadowy corners – and then there is the truth of Hagu, of which no grandparent or child speaks because none that knows can ever tell, or ever return to their homes and this is proof of her wickedness… For all who meet this end, indeed… Meet their own end!
However, as with all things, there are some that have knowledge of hidden facts and obscured findings; there are some who learnt from the howling of the wolf, or the chatter of the fireflies what it is that lies within the woods or cave… Or swamp.

So, here is the truth of the Hagu tale, and a terrible truth it is for one as kindly as you to uncover!

Around 4000 years ago lived a woman by the name of Sunjinna, which means flower of the sun.
She was a pretty woman and daughter to the merchant of the province in which they lived. Sunjinna would want for nothing as her father, though rich, was a kindly man and loved his daughter so. Sunjinna’s love however was for her garden, which she filled with rare and beautiful plants and flowers from across the lands, which were brought to her by the traders with whom her father did business.

Sunjinna had a wall built around her garden to keep trespassers out, which were usually children coming for the fruit on her trees. This sent Sunjinna into a howling rage and if she ever caught a child she would beat them with a switch made from her rosebushes, which had grown strong and fierce, fed by the blood from the whipped children that fell upon the soil.
Her father, though saddened by his daughter’s selfishness, loved her still and desperately wanted her to be happy.
Since her mother had died many years before she was all he had left in the world and this was worth more to him than all the gold he ever gained.

One day a trader came from the seas, and upon seeing Sunjinna’s garden he told her that he had heard of a tree on an island which belonged to an ancient turtle and bore the most amazing fruit which if you were to taste it would immediately send you into bliss. Sunjinna was beside herself with this story and demanded to know where this island was. The man confessed he did not know and had only heard of it by way of a cat, which had travelled with him on his ship for a time.
Sunjinna would have none of this explanation and pressed the man with her finger demanding again to know where this island is. The sailor confessed, once again, that he did not know, but he could tell her of the island where he picked up the cat, for it was there that the cat had told him the turtle carried her from his island on his back.
Sunjinna took this information to her father and told him she wished to have the tree for her garden! The merchant, not wanting to deny his child, agreed to send a ship to search out the tree and return with it. Sunjinna scowled at her father, telling him that his men knew nothing of handling such a treasure, and sailors knew less for they spent no time on land and had no fingers for soil; she demanded instead that she lead the venture and recover the tree using her skills and her ‘green fingers’.
At first the merchant denied his daughter, for he feared losing her at sea, but so great was her crying and wailing at him that he eventually gave in and Sunjinna set sail for the turtle’s island.

They travelled for 3 months before they came to the island where the cat had met the sailor, and in this time had lost 4 men to sea beasts that attacked the ship and 2 to a storm, which almost had them turned over and sunk the vessel!
When upon the island Sunjinna felt at a loss, for no one knew or would tell her of the turtle’s island as they could see by her eyes the plan within her heart and these people loved the legend of old Goyanakazu the snapping turtle for he was as old as old could be in this world and such things must be respected, though kept away from in case they were to bite you in their grumpy way.
Sunjinna wailed at them but they paid her no mind, as to them she was simply a brat.
She stood by the water and was screaming out at the sea when she said something that no mortal should ever say:
She screamed at the top of her lungs that she wanted the tree and she wanted the people dead for crossing her plans, she screamed that she would give anything to have her way!

Sunjinna collapsed on the sand and sobbed pitiful tears for her own greed when suddenly she heard a voice:
“Hoi there girl,” came the voice, “Why is a pretty thing such as you crying so?”

Sunjinna looked up and saw a small man with grey skin and white hair standing over her, he wore a white suit with gold edging and carried a bag by his side, which all at once seemed to be made of a shimmering cloth and looked like it moved.
The man smiled at Sunjinna, and she saw his eyes were dark, like the well in her garden back home… Her garden back home…
‘Yes!’ thought Sunjinna, ‘My garden… MY tree!’

And, before she had time to really think she had told the old man of her desires and her hatred for the people of the island!
While she spoke, the old man cooed to her and tutted when she told him she was ignored… The old man called her pretty, and dear and said things to Sunjinna of how wicked they were to cross her… And in this way her anger grew and her righteousness overtook her anger until she finally said again, what no mortal should ever say:
‘I would give anything to get my way!’

The old man smiled at Sunjinna, and leant in close; his breath, which smelled of sweetened milk, fell on her face as he echoed:
“Anything?”

Sunjinna looked at the old man and answered back:
“I want that tree!”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, aha!” cried the man in a shrill voice, “And you shall have it, pretty!” he said, as he danced a dervishes’ jig on the sand.
“The island is less than a day to the west of this beach, keep true your course through the fog and you shall find your tree!”

Sunjinna sprang up and ran to her boat without pause or question, leaving the old man chuckling to himself as he danced. A group of children saw the dancing man and screamed, they picked up sticks and rocks which they threw at him shouting:
“Devil, devil what have you done!? What have you done!?”

The old man turned to them, bared his teeth and vanished in a whirlwind of sand. The youngest of the children started to cry as they knew this man, this devil, to be an ancient Djin and nothing good can come of his presence; worst still within his bag he held the hearts of all who struck a deal with him and, though she knew nothing of it, this was to be Sunjinna’s fate and much more yet to come and too terrible to tell of now!

Sunjinna’s boat travelled west for a day and, as the old man had said, they came upon the island. Almost maddened now with the hunt she bid the crew to take the boat around the island and leave her on the shore with her tools, for she trusted no man. They did as asked, leaving Sunjinna heading inland.
In time, as the island was small, she came across the tree, the well-worn path leading straight from the beach through to the centre of the woods. Her mouth fell open and drool poured over her lip when she saw the fruit on the tree. Immediately she pulled a piece off and ate it… Colours! Flavours! Music! Bliss!
She took another, and another, gobbling them down, and with each one her hunger for more grew and with each one her little piece of bliss dissolved faster for this fruit was never meant for humans, in truth it was maddening to them; a kind of poison that doesn’t kill but enslaves you instead!

Sunjinna, her eyes now wild and wicked, filled her mouth with the fruit and whirled around to strike a blow at the root of the tree with hope of stealing it away as fast as she could. For now it was her tree and she belonged to it in return! Sunjinna fell to the ground, her tool shattering in her hand! The root of the tree was tougher than stone and Sunjinna howled a terrible howl at this foiling. She was just about to collapse as she did on the beach when she heard a voice through the woods.

“Hoi there, hoi there! Who is howling, who is in my woods!? I shall snap at you with my beak! I have no time for strangers!”

“The turtle!” hissed Sunjinna, “That greedy Beast wants my tree!”

Dark thoughts formed in her mind and she hid herself in the bushes.
Goyanakazu came up to the tree and spied the stones from the fruit on the ground; he was just about to start snapping wildly when everything went black!
Sunjinna knelt on the ground, her broken tool in her hands and blood over her dress… Before her lay the head of Goyanakazu, the oldest turtle that ever lived, he who tasted the first drop of water as it fell to the earth, the grumpy old man of the sea, now dead; his sad looking shell lying flat on the ground.

“Stupid turtle!” she hissed, “It is my tree…” she raged, “Miiine!”

As she screamed, the Djin from the beach appeared from the woods clapping his hands.
“Bravo pretty… Bravo!” he said, “I have wished that turtle dead for aeons now, and you have delivered him for me!”

Sunjinna turned to the man, her eyes were wild and she opened her mouth to scream at him… To keep clear of her tree… But instead, a terrible braying came and it echoed like a whine in a cavern. She went to cry out but again the sound came wrong, this time a hiss.
The old, dark eyed Djin looked down at her kneeling on the ground, blooded and guttural… A grin crept across his face as he said:
“Stupid greedy human…” he lithed at her, “You have killed the old man of the sea… Now his island is mine… Now his tree is yours, along with its curse, for no mortal should ever taste its fruit!”

The Djin leaned in closer to Sunjinna, his breath this time like soured milk.

“And this…” he hissed, plunging his hand into Sunjinna’s chest, “Is mine also!!”

And he pulled out her beating heart!

Sunjinna howled a long and painful howl, the sound ran through the island to the boat where the men shivered, fearing some great beast had been awoken by the brutish girl they had delivered to the shore; even the Djin looked shaken by the sound and turning to her quickly said:
“You have struck a deal with a Djin girl and the price you pay is your heart. You have killed old Goyanakazu girl and the price you pay is your humanity. You have eaten the fruit of this tree girl and the price you pay… Is your soul!”

He stood above her now, as she writhed on the floor and tutted, shaking his head he whispered:
“We must have you off this island now, for a terrible creature you will become and I have no wish to keep you here!”

With that he kicked Sunjinna, and the world turned black for her.

In the tree Caranaux huddled himself in the leaves and began to cry. He took to the air cawing out:
“Devil… Devil… What have you done… What have you done!?”

The Djin looked up at the crow and just laughed a black laugh.

A month later, 2 children were skipping classes and hunting for bullfrogs by the river which ebbed from the swamps in the southern isles of the known world when they noticed a flag flying above the dunes, they ran to the top and upon looking down they saw a ship beached and broken upon the sand.

“Pirates!” cried out the boy, and ran down the dune before the girl could stop him; she chased him to the hull of the ship where he had stopped in his tracks. He was looking at something in the sand; marks that looked like something had been dragged. Before she could reach him the boy was off again, this time into the swamp whooping and hollering about treasure as he went!
She called to him to wait for her and he called back at her to catch up and all the while, within the hull of the ship no one called after them, no sound came save for the buzzing of flies over the lifeless bodies of the crew, piled up together; half eaten, each one with its heart missing!

The girl reached the boy again as he stood, stopped in his tracks. She began scolding him when she noticed he wasn’t paying her attention. She was about to poke him when he whispered:
“Look Eljá, look at this marvel.”

The girl looked ahead and saw, within a clearing a great and beautiful tree from which hung the most delicious looking fruit! Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened and she stared to salivate when suddenly she was knocked over by the boy running to the tree. He jumped up grabbing for the fruit, his eyes wild with desire; he flailed desperately at the fruit but was too small and was just turning to call Eljá to help him reach when he coughed, he looked up coughing again, and saw a pale horror on the girl’s face, he thought he could see her screaming his name but the sound was wrong, instead of ‘Lœun’ he heard a terrible rasping sound, he coughed again and saw what looked a little like green twigs sprout from his chest before blackness took him.

Eljá ran, she never looked back, she ran… Even when the sound behind her became like a terrifying cry of a hundred horses fleeing from lightning she didn’t look, or stop. She ran until she burst through the doors of the schoolhouse and collapsed on the floor unconscious and spattered with blood.
It was 2 days before she woke to tell the townspeople what had happened, and, as she spoke a dark cloud fell over the land. When she had finished everyone in the room was pale with fright and some had quietly started to cry.
A search party was sent out as far as the ship, but none dared venture further, and some who were there swore they heard crying coming from the swamp, though all knew Lœun to be lost to them.

Since recounting her story, Eljá had fallen into a feverish sleep where she would howl and reach out for some unknown thing. The next morning her father was woken by a scream and rushed to find her mother in the room and the girl’s bed empty!
Again a search party was sent out as far as the ship but once again all were too scared to enter the swamp even though they all knew Eljá had returned to it, drawn by the fruit of the tree!

Deep within the swamp Eljá came to the tree; entranced she approached it half awake, half asleep. She didn’t even hear the hissing sound or see as the creature, once Sunjinna; beloved daughter of the merchant, made its way toward her. Its black hollow eyes looking over her with disgust as, crouching on old Goyanakazu’s shell she floated on the air behind Eljá, her long spindly, green fingers reaching out to pull the heart from the girl, and stuff it in the withered hold left by the Djin!

Eljá stood transfixed by the tree, she heard nothing and only slightly felt herself cough, she looked at the strange spots of red appearing on her night-gown as darkness closed in around her.

There is a tale told of an old and hidden island

Some time ago, long before the blossoming of the lotus in fact.
And, come to think of it, even before the setting of the great mountain Triiutanna into stone, lived a turtle named Goyanakazu.

Now Goyanakazu was an old turtle indeed…
So old, some say, that he tasted the first drop of water on the earth when it fell from the sky. Fine old Goyanakazu liked nothing better than to sit in the sun by the oceans edge and feel it lap up against his shell. He could sit there for hours on end when the water was gentle; simply dreaming away time…. AND if any creature passing came near this old man of the sea he would play dead until they got close enough when he would snap at them with his beak- for time had caused Goyanakazu to grow grumpy and he liked to be left alone with his time, holding no care or where-how for the likes of passers by.

Before this story carries on we must correct one thing, but it is one thing that you would not readily know needs correcting… for Goyanakazu held a secret… and his secret was this:
Goyanakazu loved to sit in the sun, by the oceans edge and feel it lap against his shell second in the whole world and not first above all things as we had previously been led to believe. His first love was for the berries of the brilliant tree in the centre of the Tzuninna woods just up from his beach. He had watched that tree grow from the seed, which had been planted by Tsuru-san when he returned from the Eastern islands many many moons ago. He watched that tree grow and come to bear fruit and he had been the first to taste it and the first to love it. But poor Goyanakazu who had lived so very very long; the tree, which had begun as a tiny stem, was now a great and brilliant tree, with silver bark and thin beautiful leaves which moved with the wind… and Goyanakazu, grumpy old Goyanakazu was now too small to reach any berry and too weak to knock any down – hence his grumpy disposition.

So he sat each day, by the ocean and dreamt of berries while the water lapped gently against his shell.
That is… until…
… one Sunday…
at around midday…
… probably 1.25 but possibly later since Goyanakazu had been dreaming time away and who could possibly say what was when or when was how?

Goyanakazu was sitting with the water…

*Bump*

“Gwahwuffhua ah ah ah!” went Goyanakazu as he woke and he stuck his head out and started snapping with his beak!
Left and right he snapped while ‘gwahwuffhuaing’ away.
But nothing, not a yelp or a cry… nor did he feel his beak pinch anything or anyone…
He gave one last ‘gwahwuffhua’ just for good measure and was about to settle back down to dreaming of berries when he felt something move… something on his shell!
“Who goes there?” he cried out, a little afraid but very much more annoyed.

Silence.
“Hoi there, who goes there!!??” he said again, a little more afraid this time.

“Master turtle,” said a little voice. “Please no more snapping with your beak, I am here on your shell quite by accident you see and I mean not to be bitten for it”.

Goyanakazu gave a ‘gwahwuffhua’ and said:
“Come down then off my shell little voice and we shall see what kind of accident you are”.

*Plop*…*Plop*… Heard Goyanakazu in the wet sand and into his vision, looking very un-happy about being near the water, was a young black cat.

“My name…” said the cat, “Is Bastet, and I am no accident – I am an adventurer!”

Goyanakazu eyed the cat up and down.

“Well, well, well…” he said, “And what is an adventurer doing sitting on my shell and waking me from my dreams?!?”
Then he added:
“I should bite you with my beak I believe, and bite you hard – I have no time for passers by, even accidental adventuring ones!” And he glared at the cat with a squinty eye while he rocked his head menacingly.

“Master turtle…” said the cat in a forceful tone.
“I am a guest of yours, delivered by the sea. I set off in that coconut shell, which bumped you, for the Eastern islands but became lost when the wind changed. So I ended up here, on your island, on your shell; because I didn’t wish to get my paws wet when I crashed.” she explained and looked at her soggy paws with an annoyed look.

“That is as maybe… and maybe it is that, but maybe it isn’t. I have time for neither so away with you now black cat, before my beak gets the better of my judgement and decides to bite you itself!” Goyanakazu said.

“You are a grumpy thing master turtle, a grumpy thing indeed… I shall leave you then and explore this island!” said the black cat and started up the beach.
“Good day!”

“Good mid-day riddance to YOU!” Goyanakazu grumbled after her.
… Now he was just about to settle down to dreaming again when the cats words set in and he jumped with a start.
“HOI… HOI I say,” he called after the cat. “HOI! You can’t just arrive on my shell and leave to explore MY island!”

Bastet stopped and looked over her shoulder.
“Master turtle, what would you have me do? I am an adventurer and I have landed on this island, quite by accident it is true… but since I am here I shall explore. Good mid-day to you.” she said turning around and starting up the beach again.
The cat stepped into the woods, leaving behind her the grumbling and puffing sounds coming from the turtle. She jumped over logs, and from stone to stone with one eye trained on the trees and one on the ground which she thought was best because then she could quickly spot anything interesting and pounce upon it or pad with her paws before they scurried or flapped, away as interesting things sometimes do. Whilst doing all this she thought to herself ‘What a fine adventure today has become, how she should love to discover a treasure or a secret or some such wonder!’
Bastet hopped and flipped up onto the top of a stone then sat back to have a better look around.
‘What a funny wood this is,’ she thought. ‘There are no birds to speak of and no butterflies, no bright coloured bugs or marching ants.’
As she looked around she noticed all the trees were very old trees and the air was very still and very quiet…
‘Curious,’ thought Bastet, and smiled a wide cat smile.

Goyanakazu pulled himself up the beach grumbling between huffs and puffs.

‘That cat,’ he thought, ‘That cat, on my island… nosing around my woods… It’s not right, not proper behaviour of a guest!’
“Gwahwuffhua!” he cried out, “Not a guest! Not a guest, an intruder!” he stammered and gave an angry snap at the air with his beak.
Goyanakazu dropped his head, ‘I haven’t had a guest in over a thousand years…’ he thought to himself and he shed a salty tear.

*Bump*

“Hoi there, who goes there!!??” Goyanakazu cried out and whirled his head around and around, beak open!

“Master turtle…” came a little voice, “You are such grumpy thing!”
“…It’s me, your adventuring guest of course.” said the cat.

“Bwah… mmmm,” muttered the turtle.

“Master turtle…” said the cat hopping down and sitting in front of him,
“On my grand adventure of your even grander island I have discovered that there are no birds to speak of, no bugs to be seen and all the trees seem curiously old… Why is this so?” she purred at him.

“Hmmph…” said the turtle, but then straightened up because he had liked the part of her question where she said his island was a grand island. So, all happy with himself for simply this reason Goyanakazu replied:

“Little miss cat, this island is a very old island… it is at least as old as I am because it was here when I arrived and it was when I arrived that everything was here so it’s quite possibly older than I am, though it is also quite probable that I am older than it – but in any case, it is an old island.”
As he said this Goyanakazu waved a flipper as if he was painting out his last statement in the air.
“Therefore…” he continued, “It has reached its oldest age as an island and when things are as old as we are they become crystallised, they become correct and they no longer need new additions.”

The cat looked at him with wild eyes, then frowned and said:
“Master turtle, are you implying that old things have no use of new things?”
“Why I’m positive that I could be of use to you, I can jump and I can hop and I can hunt, I can see in the dark, I can sing and I can climb trees!” she said smartly.

“Boo…” said the turtle, “I have no need for these things… I can swim and dive and catch fish, I sleep at night, the whales sing to me and I… I… you can climb trees??” he stammered.

“Oh yes,” said the cat, “Right to the top.” she added proudly.

Goyanakazu was smiling a hungry, hungry smile which the cat noticed and made her feel a little strange.
He looked at her, smiled and said:
“Dear miss adventuring cat… This island of mine is very lucky to have such a fine explorer visit our shores… It just so happens that there is a great and wonderful tree within the woods that I would dearly love to climb but simply cannot… Would you kindly climb it for me?”

Bastet flicked her tail and said:
“Why master turtle, I should very much like to climb this tree for you; we should go at once!”

“Indeed we should!” cried the turtle and clapped his flippers together.

So the cat and the turtle started up the beach into the woods toward the great and wonderful tree.
On the journey Bastet hopped from rock to rock hoping to impress Goyanakazu.
Goyanakazu however, with little interest in this, turned to the cat and said to her in a grave voice:
“Little miss… Before we reach this tree there is something I must tell you…”

The cat stopped and looked at him, her head cocked to the side.

“The thing is,” the turtle continued, “This tree is no ordinary tree, its fruit is poison to all but a few creatures and those creatures are few and far between… So you must promise me you won’t taste of the tree!”

The cat looked at the turtle for a moment before she smiled and laughing a little she said:
“Oh master turtle, you are funny… I’m a cat… I don’t eat fruit!” and she hopped across some rocks just to prove her catness!

The turtle blushed a little because he felt foolish but he was also happy, as he knew the dangers of the tree and although he was a grumpy old thing he wished no real harm to anyone.

Presently they came across a clearing and there before them, swaying in the wind was the great and brilliant tree with its silver bark and its thin beautiful leaves.
Bastet started up the tree straight away making a shrill whinny sound. She hopped up branches and bounced on limbs.

“Hoi.. HOi!!” came a voice.

Bastet stopped and looked down at Goyanakazu, but the turtle was looking up at her with a confused look on his face.

“Hoi there… Who is making all that shaking?!?” came the voice again.

“Does the tree… TALK?!?” cried Bastet down to the turtle.

Goyanakazu was about to open his mouth when Bastet was startled by a movement above her, she scrambled back along the branch just as a large crow poked his head down and jerked it around… When it spied the cat it gave out a cry and ruffled itself up calling out:
“Caww!! Caww!! A cat in my tree!!”

Now, up until this point Goyanakazu had been so shocked at the whole goings on that he was simply staring in silence, beak open and eyes wide… But this was too much for him now – He called out:
“Hoi there crow, this tree is MY tree… MY TREE!! Not yours!”

Well, the crow hadn’t even seen the turtle and upon hearing this he jerked his head down, beady eye twitching and cried out while flapping his wings:
“Invaded!! I’m being invaded!!… Oh mercy!!”

Bastet took this opportunity to pounce on the crow; because this is what cats do best! She took care not to hurt him but held him tight and with a menacing look said:
“Hold still Mr Crow or I shall eat you up then ask questions!”

The crow, muttering ‘mercy, mercy’, shook and shivered but did as he was told.

“Now…” said the cat, “What are you doing in the turtles tree?!?”

“Ask him what he is doing in my tree!?” cried Goyanakazu.

“I did,” shouted the cat.

“Well, what is he saying?” cried the turtle.

“He hasn’t answered,” cried the cat. “He just mutters mercy, mercy.”

“Well, ask him again!” cried the turtle.

The cat breathed a slightly annoyed sigh, she was quite adept at catching things and asking questions; being a curious cat and all.

“Ok…” she cried down.
“Now, again Mr Crow… What are you doing in the turtle’s tree?”

The crow stammered a little and replied:
“T..t..THIS is my tree and my father’s tree before me. Why I’ve lived here all my life, eaten these berries all my life and slept in these branches all my life!”
The crow then cried out, “OH PLEASE DON’T EAT ME FINE AND WONDEROUS CAT!”

The cat shouted this down to the turtle, who looking very annoyed, pondered for a moment before replying that he had never seen this crow before and therefore he must be lying!
The crow heard this and started to panic saying:
“No. No! I’m not lying, I’ve lived here all my life, ALL MY LIFE and I’ve never once spied a turtle or any other living thing on this island, I sit in this tree and eat these berries and dream the greatest of dreams.”

Now Bastet was getting confused, both said the tree was theirs and neither had ever met before which seemed rather curious. Thinking on this she called down to the turtle:
“When was the last time you were here Master Turtle?”

“Why only the other day.” came the reply.

“No.. Nooo.. Mercy!” cried the crow.

“Well, when exactly was that?” Asked the cat.

“Oh… Who can tell…” said the turtle waving a flipper. “Sometime in the last 200 years I guess.”

The cat and the crow looked at each other, looked down at the turtle and cried out in unison:
“The last 200 years or so!?”

“Yep…” said the turtle, “It’s my shell you see, getting so heavy these days and the tree keeps growing so now I can’t reach the fruit or bash any down so I just visit the tree every now and then in the hope of finding some berries on the ground.”

“Oh, there won’t be any berries on the ground…” the crow said smartly. “I gobble up all the fresh ones each da…”
He stopped before he finished his sentence, suddenly aware of what he was saying.

“YOU eat all the fruit!?” the turtle cried up. “YOU EAT ALL THE FRUIT!!”

The crow looked down at the angry turtle and then turned to the cat and let out the most pitying cry of: “MERCY!”

“EAT HIM… Eat him up, the berry thief!” shouted up Goyanakazu to the cat.

Now although Bastet was a good hunter and a meat-eating creature she wasn’t used to simply eating anything, let alone a talking crow.

It is here we should take a pause from this tale and come to understand something:
It is true to say that animals cannot talk as humans do; each animal has their own language… BUT… It is true to say that certain animals and certain people CAN speak the same language, which can be understood by any creature alike. Now, these beings are few and far between but one can learn to understand this language if it is in their heart to do so. And if it is in their heart to do so then in all good conscience they understand one thing above all others – That they share the same essence of spirit and it is this that allows them to communicate.
As far as those are concerned who cannot understand this language then they are either simple creatures, creatures that have not yet come to understand themselves or creatures of a different spirit.
Therefore it would be a terrible thing for Bastet to eat this crow because they share the same spirit. It is equally a terrible thing that Goyanakazu is so annoyed that he has forgotten this kinship!

Bastet turned and shouted down to the turtle:
“I shall not eat our brother the crow Master turtle, as well you should know… Now, I propose that we discuss this situation again and see if we cannot find a solution!”

The crow looked down and the turtle with pleading eyes and the turtle looked up at the crow slightly ashamed and they began to talk again.

Amongst their discussions they came to the following conclusion:
That the turtle and the crow, whose name was Caranaux, would become friends and they would share the berries from the tree. Each day Goyanakazu would journey up into the woods and Caranaux would drop down fruit for him. They would both dream the loveliest of dream and would share stories with each other.

In return for her help in the matter Goyanakazu offered to take the cat across the sea on his back to the Eastern islands and it is here that we rejoin the story.

Bastet hopped up onto Goyanakazu’s shell as he pulled himself into the water. He swam across the seas and into a thick fog, which seemed to cover the whole horizon.

“This fog is a majickal fog,” proclaimed Goyanakazu. “It stops… It’s supposed to stop visitors from arriving at my island. As I said before, that tree is a very dangerous tree and it must be kept safe!”

“Then I shall keep the location of your island a secret master turtle, but I shall tell tales of you as they are wondrous tales to be told!” said the cat smartly.

The turtle was pleased with this and he said no more on the matter.

After some time they arrived at the shore where the cat hopped off and turned, giving the turtle a kiss:
“Thank you ever so much master turtle,” said the cat.

“You are welcome little one,” replied the turtle, blushing.

“Well… Adventure awaits!” cried the cat and with her tale twitching turned and hopped up the beach toward the town.

“Good luck to you, girl,” whispered the turtle as he returned to the ocean.

As Goyanakazu sank under the waves a figure moved in the shadows at the edge of town, a figure that had been watching.

There is a tale told in the east ~ one which is whispered by the sea

Of a child who came from the western woods, and entered the town, his skin was as pale as the moon and his eyes as blue as the ocean, when asked where he came from the child simply smiled and hummed. In his voice the townsfolk heard their own hearts and recognised their souls.
And as he hummed they too began their own tune and the sound grew in this way.

The people in the town each sang a separate song but in unity, their voices joined together and the song rose up into the heart of the sun like a ray of light.

The child held out his hands and placed them together by his heart, then moved them in front of his face and up to his forehead. He took one last look at the townsfolk who were staring to the sun and he closed his eyes, he opened his hands and held them out again.

A brilliant white light came from his skin and enveloped his body, spirals of light moved around him and the tune he was humming grew until there was nothing where the child had been standing but a ball of light. The light was so bright that the townsfolk closed their eyes and then, when it faded the child was no more. In his place was a blue-eyed crane with feathers of black and white.

The townsfolk stared at the crane, some had stopped singing, others continued to sing but their voices trembled. The crane raised his wings and flew up into the ray of light and into the sun.

The townsfolk cried out after the crane each breaking the tune they were singing, and the light to the sun dropped lower and lower until there was no more.
The townsfolk started to turn to each other.
“Let us sing once again to call him back!” cried the people.

So they sang, but each one tried to sing the song that the boy had sung, but they could not remember his song and their voices turned to cries, which headed to the sun like arrows.

And they cried:
“Why did he leave us… The boy like the moon?”
“Why did he give us his song and fly to the sun to leave us here?”

Their voices hit the sun again and again until the sun could take no more and it turned away from them to hide its face and it cried for the townsfolk.

The next, day the sun rose black with its face away from the town and the people cried:
“We cannot see the sun ~ we cannot sing his song.”
“We can do nothing now that the light has gone and we are so alone!”

Beside the town was a lake, and beside the lake stood the crane who had watched the townsfolk with sadness and with regret. He saw what he had done and what had become of the townsfolk.
He whispered gently to his reflection in the water:
“But I too am lonely, and I too wished to sing and now I’m left as I began… A child of the moon with oceans in my eyes and a song on my lips forevermore.”

The crows in the fields cried out to the sun that he should turn around and light the town so that they could be warmed and learn to sing again in unity as the boy once did, but the sun refused to turn and the town remained in darkness,