Friday, December 09, 2011

Tales for the journey: Shira (1) Bild races in pursuit of Shira


A long time ago in a land far away, lived two brothers, Bara, and Bild. They were strong and full of youth and energy for life.  Bara was very tall, with deep, blue eyes that could see a speck on the horizon.  Bild was so strong he could lift great rocks and hurl them down the mountainside to roll on to the river. 

The two brothers lived to ride.  They had horses, many of them, each with strong muscular legs that would take them racing over the hills.  They loved to race against each other.  Sometimes Bild won, and thrust his strong fist into the air with triumph, but his brother Bara won just as often and he smiled until his blue eyes shone, and he laughed with joy.

One day their father said, “There is one race that has never been won.  There is one horse that is faster than any other, the greatest horse that ever lived.  This is Shira.  He has a flying golden mane and flashing black eyes and a tail like the west wind.  Will you ride out in search of Shira?”

And so the two brothers raced onwards and onwards, night and day, to catch Shira, the fastest horse that ever lived. Soon the arguments started: “When we find Shira I will ride him because I am the oldest!” said Bara and he dashed onto the open plain.

"I am the strongest and will find Shira first. Try and catch me!" cried Bild and he spurred his horse onward and onward, deep into the forest until he could not longer see his brother.

In a clearing in the forest Bild came across an old man standing by the path.  The old man was holding a small wrapped parcel in his hand, and he reached out to Bild.  “Stop!” cried the old man.

“I can’t stop,” cried Bild.  “I have to catch Shira, the finest horse that ever lived!”  And he galloped onwards, the wind in his ears drowning out the faint sound of the man calling after him.  The old man looked sad, because in his parcel was the gift of discernment, and this young man, flying through the forest, was going to need it in his search.

At the foot of a hill, Bild saw the slight, hooded figure of a woman, standing in the centre of the path. Her head was bowed and wrapped in a fine, white cloth.  He could not see her face.  Bild steered his course around the woman, ignoring her. He galloped onwards, up to the brow of the hill where he would be able to see the horizon.  The woman raised her pale face as he passed her by.  Her face was very beautiful and filled with pity.  She turned and gazed after Bild as he and his horse galloped away, and her dark eyes where filled with tears.
 
At the hilltop Bild gazed out over the plain below him.  He was really worried.  He hadn’t caught a glimpse of his brother for some time, and they must be very near to Shira!  He looked out over the forest as far as his eyes could see, searching for some sign of the magical horse, but there was nothing.

He knew Shira was out there, if only he could catch him! He knew that the horse was the purest white with a glowing golden mane and flashing black eyes and a golden tail like the west wind.  He set off once again at a gallop, down into the valley, dreaming of Shira.   In his heart he longed to see this wondrous horse! 

For a moment he missed Bara’s sharp eyes, for Bara would surely be able to see into the deep forest for signs of that golden mane.  Yet the thought that Bara may have spotted Shira already filled him with even more urgency, and he spurred his horse onwards into the forest.

There was a sudden cry and Bild realised he had hit something. It was a little child, who lay at the side of the road crying as he passed.

"Stupid child!" cried Bild.  “I am after Shira, and I have no time for you.  You should not have got in the way!" and he rode on.  The child sat up, rubbing his legs where they were injured.  The child stared silently and sadly after Bild, and his blue, blue eyes followed after him and watched until he was a speck on the horizon, darting over the hill.

There was a small ravine ahead.  He steered his horse towards it and recklessly went into the jump.  But something was wrong!  The horse missed her footing and instead of landing firmly on the other side she slipped and slithered until the ground gave way, and horse and rider slid down into the ravine to the river below.

Fortunately there were mosses and ferns growing there, which broke his fall, but Bild was badly bruised and his horse was hardly able to move.  He lay there weeping.  The race was over. Shira would now be out of reach.  As he wiped his tears Bild realised how tired he was.   Then, looking at his horse Mara, lying panting and sweat-covered beside him, he realised that she too was hurt, and thirsty, but could not move to get a drink.

"Oh Mara! I have been cruel to you!" wept Bild, suddenly filled with remorse.  And he dragged Mara to her feet and led her gently to the river.  The man and the horse stood side by side and Mara drank, hung her head and just stood there, panting with exhaustion.  Bild felt so, so tired.  He had never felt so tired before.  He sank down to his knees and then lay there on the moss, among the ferns. Both horse and man slept all that day and through the night.

The next day they set off slowly along the river to find a place where they could climb out.  To save his horse, Bild walked beside her and let her feed where she wanted.  Bild was filled with a soul - deep weariness.  There was no race to be won; no Shira.

He lay his head on his horse’s smooth neck and slow tears of sorrow rolled down his face.  Mara stood very still, her ears pricked forward, listening.  Bild began to sob.  He wept for the loss of his wild life filled with the wind in his ears and the feel of Mara’s strong movements under him, driving him on and on.

Bild had never felt so lonely or so sad.  If he could not hunt for Shira he had no reason for living.  He lay down upon the dewy grass and dreamed of Shira.  In his dream the golden mane tickled his neck.  He reached up his hand to feel the soft mane just there, behind his head.  He stroked it gently, filled with deep contentment.  Shira was there, and there was no need to race onwards and onwards. 

He opened his eyes and looked up.  There was the golden mane, the long white nose!  He leaped up in surprise, and the huge horse turned and darted away into the dawn light, and in a moment was gone.  Bild sat there for a moment, blinking.  The dream had felt so real… but of course it was only a dream.

Then he set off again along the river.  Slowly, as Mara recovered her strength, he rode her a little as the ravine widened.  He began to look about him and enjoy the gentle ride. 

He looked back at the way he had come and there among the trees was a glimpse of a huge white horse with a flying golden mane.  He rubbed his eyes in disbelief; surely Shira was far away, out of reach of even the fastest horseman?  This surely was not Shira!  He turned away, his thoughts focussed upon the end of his journey out of the ravine.  He urged Mara to go on a little faster, but she seemed reluctant to hurry.  Yet every time he looked back or around him, there was a spark of gold just visible through the trees, or the flash of a white flank in his eye corner.

Then he knew for certain: he had been running after Shira, and all the time Shira was behind him!  He had been riding so fast that Shira couldn’t catch him. He had been running away from Shira!

He would never find Shira.   His brother Bara would win the race.   He would have to wait, and wait, until Shira came to him.   Suddenly aware of the fruitlessness of his question for happiness,  and a longing to be with his brother again, he let out a great wail of unimaginable sorrow.....

[The next part of this story will come in a blog post later this month - look out for it!]

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