Below is a fable that belongs in the world of my current work-in-progress, Vaganto, a novel.
Retellings punishable by the Swarth
In a hidden cellar near Io’s old homestead,
The Tale of Five Kingdoms
Once upon a time there were five mountains gathered around a valley like vagantoj around a campfire. On each mountain there was a kingdom. All five kingdoms lived peacefully together because they all relied upon each other.
The first kingdom, Ith, was full of music and art. However, Ithians had very frail spines which broke as easily as fine china. The kingdom of Ith had long since abandoned any attempt at farming or trade. One false move and snap! They would be invalid for life. As they aged, invariably the snap would come. Inured as they were to that way of life, Ithian youth were accustomed to caring for their elders, and others who needed it. This is why they were so sensitive. They understood pain. Their music and art came from an intimate relationship with death, and therefore a heightened gratitude for life.
The second kingdom, Lolo, had very frail skin. It would tear like tissue paper at nothing more than a strong wind. The Loloi developed a special kind of sticky fabric that they wore at all times to keep their skin in place. Because their bones were nice and strong, they could tend to building and farming, but because their skin was covered, their senses were dulled and they could not feel. They listened closely to the music of the Ith, and closely inspected the art, because it made them feel when so little else could.
The third kingdom of Mot was entirely blind, for their eyes were sheathed with a second eyelid that would not open. Because of this, they became excellent hunters with keen ears and noses, able to hunt at night when most of the creatures roam. All rejoiced in their hunting prowess, for these were the days when humans survived on the flesh of animals.
The fourth kingdom, Terod, had lungs like stormclouds and voices like thunderclaps, which they could not soften. Even the softest whisper from a Terodite would level villages and deafen the inabitants, especially the Mots. Thus, they did not speak. However, the kingdom of Terod was on the tallest mountain, so they kept constant watch over the other four kingdoms. At the first sign of danger, they would speak warning to their neighbors from the mountaintop. Then they would turn to their enemies, and with voices like gods they would terrify them and drive them out.
The fifth and final kingdom was the kingdom of Dink. The Dink had actually no impediments of any sort. But living with their neighbors as they did, and seeing how these bodily obstructions shaped and guided every aspect of their culture, the Dink were extremely concerned with matters of the body, and of the self. They believed that the flesh and soul were truly one thing, and that therefore the expansion of the flesh meant expansion of the soul. They grew very large as they tried to amass life. Seeing how the dead became skeletons with no flesh at all, they feared thinness as they feared death. The kingdom of Dink became a kingdom of bureaucrats and intellectuals, due to their time spent sitting still and thinking. So they managed the affairs of all kingdoms in exchange for goods and protection. All matters economic, infrastructure, distribution and education went through the Dink, and they were careful not to favor anyone, not even themselves.
No one ever fell in love with anyone outside their own kingdom, and they never lived as one. They were too afraid of having children with broken skin and frail bones, or with lame eyes and terrible voices.
Then one day The Doctors came. They came to the base of the mountain in the night when the Terod could not see them, and then they crossed the mountain in the morning when the Mots were asleep. So by that afternoon the doctors had camped in the valley of the five kingdoms and raised a flag of peace.
We will cure your spines and skin with medicine! They said. We will fix your eyes and lungs with surgery! We will heal your minds with our proven psychoanalytic methods!!
How will we hunt? Cried the Mots. What about our banquet at the end of spring?
How will we warn the others of danger? Whispered the Terodite at the top of their mountain.
What will we do with so much sensation? Wondered the Loloi.
What will we make music about? Wept the Ith.
Have you come to kill us? Gasped the Dink.
You will live full and complete lives as we do, answered the doctors. You will no longer be confined to your own kingdom. You can marry and mate with anyone you choose. You can still keep all your customs and all of your specialities, because they are your traditions. But you will no longer be bound to them.
And so the doctors cured all five kingdoms that they became the same, and they became one. Many hundreds of years later, the children of the One Kingdom asked Why do we do things this way? Why do we have the nighttime feasts of Mot and the songs of Ith?
But no one could remember.