The Last Lion of Aziza (Part I)

Fiction By Jsilas // 8/28/2010

 The Last Lion of Aziza.

It was in the Summer of 2009 that I met The Prophet, in a small Ukrainian village through which I chanced to be traveling.  In the early morning hours, after having walked through much of the night, I paused briefly to rest in a crowded town square.  Presently, I spotted a peculiar man strolling casually near the fountain which gurgled unassumingly in the center of the cobble-paved common.  Intrigued by this man, who wore a tattered cloth hat and a road-worn cloak of scarlet satin, I approached slowly, unsure what to make of his strange dress and manner.  He seemed to be lost in deep reflection, and leaned heavily upon the hefty oak staff which he bore in his right hand.  As I drew closer, the man turned to face me, and smiled in greeting, as if he had expected our meeting.  At my questioning look, he began to explain who he was, and gestured for me to sit on the edge of the fountain. 

 

“I am [the man began] the last Lion of Aziza, whose eyes pierce veils with splendorous seeing.  Sit, ye, that I may gaze into the years of thy life, backwards and forward, as if unraveling the tape by which thy soul shall be measured. 

Hark!  the Chagrin dances cross thy path:  spined, deep-purple, snout atwitter, scenting thy coming doom.  Ye, nay, we teeter, teeter upon the brink.  And lo!  the Lord with black mane flowing;  eyes of coal, the furnace of all making and unmaking!”

The Prophet saw that I was unsettled, and smiled comfortingly.  When he spoke again, his voice was more soothing. 

“Sit, ye, and still thy hands,” he said,  “Be easy of mind; know that birth and death asketh not for our permission.  In the dance of Worlds there's only being, without doing.  What steady hand steers the course of the Spheres?  What spasmodic hand prods man along, hurrying him, in blindness and fever, towards misery and death?  Bearing the burden of thy mortality, to be is to be in pain; yet, it is from the dragon-maw of grief that ye must snacheth the deepest holiness of thine own Godhood. ”  

 

The Prophet closed his eyes, and, as he resumed, his tone grew sure and compelling;

"Sift, then, the grit in search of jewels!  Lay thyself upon the altar, though it be tainted, and sing–even unto the bursting of thy heart–the praises of Glory!  Fear not the madness in thine own eyes, for that madness runs contrary to the grain of death.  What wealth could buy for thee what ye have?  What guard can stave-off that which creeps towards thee even now, like a thief in the night, come to plunder all which ye hold dear–and, rending thee from thy comforts, cast thee adrift into the course of thine own actions? 

“This world throws up dust in storms, hold open thine eyes and they shall be seared;  clamp them shut, and what reason have ye left to live?  Hood them, then, in serenity, even as tears carve a course upon thy dust-caked face.  Smile, to crack thy dirt-mask at the edges, even as sorrow plummets towards thee, burying all like a landslide.”

The Lion of Aziza gathered his cloak around himself, and, bracing himself against his staff, spoke the words which I would one day realize held the marrow of his teachings:  “Accepteth thy breath with gratitude, and, even if Providence extendeth to thee no other gift, know that thy blessing is beyond measure.”

 

Having spoken, The Prophet turned on his heels and strode away, into the forest at the village's edge.  I sat for a time, reflecting on all he had said, before rising;  asking the surrounding people if they knew the gentleman to whom I had spoken.  None could tell me who he was, for he had never been seen before in the town. 

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