Friday, August 20, 2010

The City in the Clouds--Conclusion

(continued from part two)

Many years passed.

The archway was removed and the new leader proclaimed the inhabitants of the Battle Lands enemies no longer.

A new stairway was built, broader and unguarded.

And the clans from the Battle Lands poured into the City in the Clouds.
And all staked a claim as the greatest clan in the city...all that is, except the remaining Eagle Clan.
Fights broke out.
Those who still pledged their allegiance to the Law of Eagles were hunted down by the Wolf Clan and cast out of the city, down the new stairway...back to the Battle Lands.
The Bear Clan built prisons for those refused to work for them.

The Snake Clan spied for the Wolf Clan and routed out the people who hid their loyalty to the Eagle Clan.

One day, as the City went about their business, they felt a great tremor.
Buildings began to topple.
People screamed and scattered in fear.

The new leader rushed to the balcony of his newly-built palace. He watched in horror as a great rift appeared in the clouds that supported the city.
More and more clouds thinned and parted, opening in wider gaps.
And the city with all its inhabitants fell through the gaps to the Battle Lands below.
When the dust settled, the people looked up to the sky and gasped.
The dome of clouds which had held the city together for centuries…had disappeared.
The sky darkened. The people wailed in despair.
They ran for the hills, and scattered throughout the valleys.
The City in the Clouds was no more.

The former leader, now bent with age, his eyes watery with grief, watched the buildings crumble and crunch against each other as they rolled down the valleys and into the great lakes.
His eyes followed the people as fled for their lives into the darkened land.
He turned his back and made his way slowly up the mountaintop where his ancestors had once asked the wisdom of the eagle.
He saw an eagle flying high above and cried out for help in a feeble voice.
The eagle floated down to the old man and spoke.
“Why do you cry out for my help?” the eagle calmly asked.
“My need is great, Mighty One,” the former leader said.
“Tell me of your need, then,” the eagle said.
“We had a great City in the Clouds,” the old man said. “But now it is crumbled to dust. How do we rebuild it?”
“You cannot,” the eagle replied. “For you have forgotten the Law of Eagles…and without the Law, you cannot live free in the clouds.”
“I did not forget the Law,” protested the leader. “And there are others who did not forget.”
“Why did you not soar in vigilance then?” asked the eagle. “You chose your leadership carelessly; you allowed the flocks below to grow greater than you and they cast you out. You did not own the sky as the eagles do. You became ashamed. That is why you can no longer live free in the clouds.”
“What if we started anew?” asked the former leader in desperation. “What if we gathered the Eagle clan together and built a new stairway and promised to keep the Law? Could we build a new City in the Clouds?”
The eagle inclined his beak toward the sky.

The old man followed with his eyes.
The dark expanse of evening showed the new starlight clearly.
Not a wisp of cloud floated in the midnight sky. It was crisp as a newly washed sheet. All traces of the City in the Cloud and its majestic beginnings...wiped clean.
“The dome of clouds is gone,” the eagle said. “It will not return for many generations.”
“But it will return one day?” the former leaders voice quavered with faint hope.
“Perhaps,” said the eagle. “In the meantime, what will you do?”
The former leader looked over the cliffs to the valleys below. Devastation met his eye at every turn. No one could be seen among the ruins of the once-beautiful City in the Clouds.
“I will teach the Law of Eagles to those who will listen,” he said. “Then maybe one day, they will be ready to rebuild when the clouds return.”

And he thanked the eagle, walking slowly back down the mountain to the Battle Lands below.



The City in the Clouds--Part Two

(continued from part one)

Down below in the Battle Lands, the war intensified.
For all the people of the clans had heard that the City in the Clouds was a place of true freedom and prosperity, where no man lived at the whim of another.

The Bear Clan kept their slaves from escaping by building a stone wall to surround them. They beat the people who rebelled and took their children to raise as loyal Bear warriors.

The Snake Clan did not have the strength to keep their people from escaping, so they crafted rumors to spread among the clan.
They said the City in the Clouds was really a trap for those who were foolish enough to go.
They said no one could survive in the clouds and those who did were really demons.
They said anyone who dared to enter the archway to the city was immediately captured and eaten at their feasts.
And the tribes of the Snake Clan trembled in fear of the City.
But still their people escaped...risking everything for the chance to live free.

The Wolf Clan was enraged. They did not want the City in the Clouds to exist at all.
They remembered well the loss of their best warriors in the battle to win the stairway.
They howled their anger and vowed revenge.
To this end, the Wolf Clan made plans to infiltrate the City in the Clouds and tear it down from within.

They discovered the Eagle Clan allowed refugees into the city merely by making a promise of loyalty.

So, the Wolf Clan decided to send their spies to the archway. They would enter the City in the Clouds by taking the Eagle pledge…but it would be a lie.
For the Wolf Clan would always remain the Wolf Clan, no matter what pledge they spoke aloud.

The years wore on.

The City in the Clouds grew. The refugees became part of the Eagle Clan and helped to build the city bigger and better than before.
But the spies from the Wolf Clan prospered also. And they taught their children and their children’s children that they must never forget they were not really Eagle—they were Wolf, and their duty was always to their Clan.

The day came when a new leader was chosen from among the people. Many came forth to claim the title of leader to the City in the Clouds. Each of them eager to serve as their Eagle Clan ancestors had served.
One man, however, stood taller and prouder than the rest. His voice was like honey, sweet to the ears of the gathering crowds. He made such promises and his eyes glowed with such fierceness, that the people were dazzled.
They cried out for this man to be the next leader.
One voice rose in warning. It was a former leader, who lived his days in less honor than of old. For the people of the City had begun to tire of the Eagle Clan ways and many adopted the new ways of all the other clans.
"We do not know this man," he protested. "From which clan does he descend? All the leaders of the City in the Clouds must be Eagle Clan."
The crowd hushed him. Some told him to mind his own business. Some said it made no difference anymore, for there were so many different clans now. And it was right and good that a leader should be from any clan. After all, were they not all residents of the City?
The former leader again raised his voice in protest. "He has not the wisdom of age."

But the people had grown careless and thought this new man wonderfully well-spoken and able to lead their beautiful city better because of his youth and vibrancy.
The voice of the former leader was drowned out by the eagerness of many.
And the tall young man with the shining eyes became the new leader of the City in the Clouds.
The Wolf Clan secretly rejoiced. For they knew the young man to be a descendent of their clan.
They knew he did not really love the City in the Clouds, and despised the ways of the Eagle Clan.
The new leader stood high above the crowds and declared an end to the evening readings of the Law of Eagles. An uneasy silence spread, for though the people no longer gathered to hear the Law...still, it was tradition, they mumbled.
The leader spoke instead of all the contributions made by the other clans.
Every night, he spoke of the Bear Clan's great strength; the Snake Clan's great wisdom; and the Wolf Clan's noble heritage.
Soon those descendents of the Eagle Clan began to lower their gaze whenever the leader spoke. Soon they stopped coming to the gatherings...and their shame grew. Many moved to the outskirts of the City to escape the glowering looks from other clans at the evening oratory.

At the end of the year, the new leader replaced the guardians of the archway with men specially chosen from the Wolf Clan.
Men from the Bear Clan removed the monument at the bottom of the stairway and required all citizens to submit their ancestry papers if they wanted to leave the City in the Clouds.
The Eagle Clan no longer told their neighbor from which clan they descended.
Fear and suspicion darkened the clouds of the city.

One day the former leader of the city, desired to go down the stairway to pay his respects to the fallen of long ago. The guards refused him.
“Why?” he asked. “I have made this pilgrimage to the bottom of the stairway every year on the eve of the Last Land War. It is my right as a free citizen of the city.”
“The monument is no longer there,” said one of the guards.
“What!?” gasped the former leader.
“It was dismantled at the request of the people,” the guard smirked. “The new leader asked if they really wanted to remember a war in which they oppressed so many in the Battle Lands.”
“But we were not the oppressor!” protested the former leader. “We were the liberators!”
“That is not what the new leader says,” the guard yawned.
“It is written in the archives!” the former leader shouted. “You can look it up!”
“You look it up, old man,” the guard waved the former leader away with a flick of his hand. “No one goes down the stairway anymore, except with approval from the new leader.”
The former leader strode angrily to the city archives. He would bring out the written account of the battle and read it to all the citizens. Then they would demand the new leader put the monument back.
But when he arrived at the library, the entrance was barred.

He could not go in.
“All archives are sealed by order of the new leader,” the librarian said.
“Those archives belong to the people of the city!” the former leader cried. “I demand entrance!”
“The people have asked the new leader to seal the archives,” the librarian said.
“Why?” the former leader felt nothing but dread by now.
“Because they do not want them read aloud anymore,” said the librarian with the confidence of one born to the Snake Clan. “It embarrasses the people of the city. The Eagle Clan was so oppressive.”
The former leader backed away from the building, stunned and confused.
“…but we were the liberators,” he whispered.

( be continued in part three)


The City in the Clouds--Part One

(a parable in three parts)

Once upon a time, in a great and beautiful land, there lived many people and they named themselves after the animal that best symbolized their desires.

The Bear Clan was the largest and most powerful. They grew proud and fierce and desired the subjugation of all the other clans. The Snake Clan was also large, but not so powerful and they learned to survive through subtlety and deceit. The Wolf Clan was the most feared, because they hunted the other clans at night, in packs, killing those who would not pledge their allegiance to them and enslaving those who did.
But the Eagle Clan desired only to live free; to work and raise their children in peace and safety.

And so the once great and beautiful land was torn and laid waste through centuries of war, and it became known as The Battle Lands.

Now the Eagle Clan knew they would never have peace and safety within the Battle Lands. They gathered the wisest of their leaders and made a journey up the tallest mountain where the eagle lived to seek wisdom from their namesake.
They found the eagle soaring high above the mountaintop and called desperately for his help. The eagle heard their cries and calmly floated down to greet the leaders.
“Why do you cry out for my help?” asked the eagle.
“We have a great need, Mighty One,” a leader said.
“Tell me your need then,” the eagle responded.
“We desire only to live in freedom, but the inhabitants of the Battle Lands will not let us,” said another leader. “They refuse to make a treaty so we may all live in peace. What are we to do? Our only choice is slavery or death…and that is no choice at all.”
The eagle turned his head this way and that to stare at each of the leaders. Finally he asked a question. “Why do you name yourselves after the eagle?”
“Because we desire to live free as you do. We want to spread out, as you spread your wings and soar among the clouds.”
“Then build your city in the clouds,” the eagle said.
The leaders looked to the dome of clouds above them. “Is it possible?” they asked each other.
“Of course it is possible,” the eagle continued. “But once you attain your freedom, what will you do to keep it?”
“What do you do to keep your freedom in the skies?” the leaders asked.
“We learn at first hatch of the Law of Eagles,” it said. “The sky is ours, but only if we use it.”
“What does this mean?” the leaders asked in puzzlement.
The eagle patiently explained. “If the eagle does not soar above the other birds, they must give way to them, for they are many and we are few. If we did not soar among the clouds in constant vigilance, the other birds would gather in great flocks and cast us out. You must always be on guard. Your city in the clouds will not survive if you do not use your freedom daily.”
“We understand,” they said.
The Eagle Clan leaders thanked the mighty bird and left the mountaintop to tell their tribes the good news. They would build a city in the clouds.

The first thing the Eagle Clan built was a massive stairway of stone.
Up and up it went until it reached the clouds.
An archway of granite was put in place above the stairway and inscribed with the wise words of the eagle: “Soar in vigilance.”

But the Bear Clan, the Snake Clan and the Wolf Clan all heard about the stairway to the city in the clouds, and they sent their warriors to claim it for themselves.
The Eagle Clan prepared for the attack, digging a deep gorge around the stairway and covering it with leaves and dead branches. When the advancing army charged, the ground opened beneath their feet and they fell to their deaths at the bottom of the gorge. But the remainder of the army fired their arrows and though the Eagle Clan had armed every man, woman and child, many still lost their lives. The battle lasted through the night, and when the dawn rose, the warring clans realized they were decimated and fled.
They did not attack again.

A monument to the fallen was placed at the foot of the stairway.
And the battle was named The Last Land War, for the Eagle Clan vowed never to fight in the Battle Lands again.

When the seasons had moved in a full circle, the City in the Clouds was ready.
The Eagle Clan had a great ceremony at the archway, swearing allegiance to the City and the Law of Eagles.
They agreed to choose one man to lead the City.
He would be old enough for wisdom, but young enough to serve the people for ten years.
He would read the Law of Eagles every evening.
He would choose guardians for the archway to the City and when he had served his time as leader, he would live out the remainder of his days in honor among the Eagle Clan.
It was decided by the people to allow asylum for those who escaped from the Battle Lands.
The guards placed at the archway asked the refugees for a pledge of allegiance to the Eagle Clan and a promise to follow their ways. The people who made it to the archway, eagerly pledged their loyalty. They were grateful for the chance to live in such a place of freedom and called themselves the Eagle Clan with great pride.
The City in the Clouds prospered as the people worked hard and raised their children in peace and plenty. They kept the Law of the Eagles and guarded the archway with vigilance.

( be continued)