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Library: The Quest for the Tablets

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Author: Himmelmann
Date:Apr 30 2002

There were not many who were even close to the young Laie in beauty. Her eyes,
green as malachite and deep as the ocean, were the wonder and awe of all men
of the island. Many young men competed in tests of skill to receive her hand,
but in the end, she herself chose the candidate she liked best. That was very
bold of a young girl, but Laie had always been like that. And that boldness
was exactly the reason why she was, years later, chosen to be the chieftain of
the village and the whole island of Anaba.

The island was a small one, with a great volcano in the center. Most of the
island was covered with deep jungle. The only village was located at the
eastern coast by the beach. Most of the male villagers were fishermen while
the women stayed at the island, being mostly farmers and gatherers. The waters
were swarming with fish and most of the time the villagers could eat their
bellies full without working too hard. They spent their time in leisure,
searching for Fae (the spirit world) and learning the arts of war... and love.

The islanders' view of the world was pictured in a great drum, which was the
most sacred object of the village's shaman. The shaman, being the spiritual
leader of the village, asked the drum for advice on important problems. In the
center of the drum, there was Fae, the spirit world, the essence of all
reality. Outside that, the drum was divided in four sections: Anaba (the land,
often related with feminine qualities), Ichira (the sea, with masculine
qualities), Tarmalen ("good fire", the sun, the light, often related with
death and rebirth) and Tardagon ("bad fire", the volcano of the island,
rumored to be inhabited by hideous demons and a massive serpent, also called
Tardagon.)

Time had passed after Laie's youth. Her husband was killed in a landslide and
her three beautiful daughters, Leiana, Liela and Linni, grew to be old enough
to get married. The daughters were frequently visited and courted by the
village boys, most of all the three boys of Hardan: Harman, Harwan and Harnim.
The boys were eager and interested in having the girls on a straw carpet with
them (the islanders had no beds at the time), but the girls always discouraged
such passes as nonsense, insisting to get married first.

One day, Harman, Harwan and Harnim all walked into the chieftain's hut, each
of them asking for the hand of one daughter. Laie looked firmly at the young
men and said: "So, you boys have finally got serious. We will now see how
serious you really are." She showed the boys some tablets made of wood,
displaying some primitive art. "These tablets are about one Chi (about 17 cm)
in diameter. I had a dream last night. In the dream, there were tablets like
these but about this wide." She pulled her hands away from each other, until
they were about 10 Chi apart. "Bring me those tablets and I will grant your
bold request."

The boys soon observed that making such tablets with the available tools was
an impossible task. There were no trees that were big and healthy enough to
allow cutting of a tablet from a single tree, and the construction of a tablet
from smaller pieces was not within the technical knowledge of the islanders.
The boys decided to go to meet the shaman and to ask for advice.

The shaman started to beat the drum, with a small piece of bone jumping over
and over on the drum. Finally it ended on the section representing Tardagon,
the evil fire.

The shaman sat silently and thought. Finally he spoke: "Harman, this is for
you. The answer to you, but only you, lies within the boundaries of Tardagon."
Harman suddenly looked very frightened.

The shaman performed the same ritual for the younger brothers. Ichira (the
sea) was the fate of Harwan, and Harnim, the youngest one, was going to find
his answers from the island of Anaba itself. The brothers thanked the shaman
and then parted, hoping to see each other again.

A few days later, Harman left the village to enter the volcano. He boasted
about killing the serpent and making the finest tablets ever from its skin.
The villagers reluctantly said farewell to the one of the village's best
fishermen, certain never to see him again. The one to weep the most was
Leiana. She also realized that because of her pride, she would never in this
world get to touch her beloved.

Harman climbed the volcano and entered a small hole on the side of the peak.
He could not go very far inside before he noticed two large demons with sharp
claws and fangs, one in front of him and one behind him. He was quickly
captured, his life was tortured almost out of him, and he was finally thrown
into a pool of poison, dripping from the mouth of the serpent itself. And so,
the eldest of the three brothers slowly melted into oblivion.

Harwan went to the sea. Every morning he went to his boat, sometimes trying to
dive interesting objects from underwater, sometimes sailing to find new lands
and cultures. But he never seemed to find anything. As time went by, he went
farther and farther away, but within time his frustration and anger grew.
Finally he decided to capture Liela and take her away with him to a very small
island he had found some time earlier.

Liela, who was also tired of the waiting, was glad to join Harwan on his trip.
But when they were in the deep seas, a storm broke loose, and they were lost
at sea, never to be seen again.

(Some claim to have seen Harwan and Liela in this world. He told me that they
were stuck to a rotten inn somewhere, Liela as a prostitute and Harwan as a
spouse-beating alcoholic. It is not known if this is true.)

When his elder brother went to the sea, Harnim left his fishing boat and
started to walk in the forest, hoping to find a clue. After many hopeless
journeys, he decided to give up and to live his life on the land along with
the women. The other men soon began to laugh at him and call him unmanly, but
he also came to be liked by the women. He was eager to listen and to learn,
and he soon discovered his way to women's hearts.

Harnim was also noticed by Laie, who became interested in the young man and
his skills. The chieftain was still quite attractive in her late thirties, and
she had not yet taken another man for herself. Soon it came quite obvious to
him what he should do. He would have to seduce Laie. And then, after stealing
her heart, ask her to cancel the foolish quest, which already had driven both
of his brothers to the death. He would ask for mercy to himself and the poor
Linni, he would ask finally to be united with her without pursuing the tablets
until his own death like his brothers.

At the great spring feast of Tarmalen, Harnim finally seized his chance. In
the heat of the dance, his eyes met with Laie's. They ended up together in the
straw carpet on the chieftain's hut and during the long hours the night their
talk went very intimate. Harnim ended up confessing his love, fear, longing
and even his plans, and Laie told the youn man how very sorry she was about
the loss of his brothers, a sacrifice which she now considered unnecessary and
foolish. And so, finally, the quest for the tablets was cancelled.

The following day Harnim came back to Laie, officially to ask for Linni's
hand. Laie was sitting on her chair, noble as a chieftain ever would be. After
Harnim had asked the ritual question, Laie suddenly grinned at the youg man
and replied: "No, you may not. However, you have my permission to marry her
mother instead."

At first, Harnim was shocked. However, he suddenly realized that even during
the previous night, Laie had given him more than the young and ignorant Linni
could perhaps ever give. And by that, he realized that he already had what he
wanted most.

Some days later, the chieftain and the youngest of the brothers got married.
The shaman was present with his drum, and there was also Leiana, still wearing
the traditional sorrow mask. Linni was not there, she had cried that she would
rather die than to come to see the ceremony, and had run to the forest alone.
Liea had always been bold, and this marriage was not the first or the last
bold thing for her to do. And that boldness was exactly the reason why she was
still the chieftain of the village and the whole island of Anaba.


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