The Song of Ceber

Argument: Ceber is washed to the bottom of Mount Cran and on the banks of the River Vada lies comatose. She is found by Medy a mud-dauber wasp and taken to the dauber-hive's doctor.

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Terbeir on the River Vada

The storm star passing in the night
The river wasps, amazed by a halo of lightning
Around Cran’s peak, said,
“There will be wood washed down
In the river tomorrow.”

These were dauber wasps
Skilled in making nests
from wood pulp and mud
Descended from wise Whylight
They knew all crafts possible
Work was their world
They knew no laziness
So knew no hunger
Gratefully glad       good days
drove them on.
Thankful for luck       they praised the divine.

Medy, son of Myelight
Set himself tasks after the storm
Sweeping the stream       for strong wood
To feed his father’s       kiln fire
Through the rocks       and weeds he went
Testing his strength with weight.
Never had he failed to yield
Ten cords in his travels.

So!
Upon the bank
A lucky star
cast its light intensely on a heap of rushes.
Luck by some goddess’s favor
Found a shine       silver-light on Ceber.

“A storm-soaked       refugee,”
Medy mused,       pausing in work.
“Drowned by Storm
That greedy       great giant.
By the god’s       she’s beautiful.
A vision for the stars!
Cooked in       Heaven’s cauldron
To amaze a       male’s mind
Almost asleep, I’d swear,
but for the storm, her stillness.
The rushes matted on her black carapace.
Like a straw hat
and her feelers twisted in knots
Never to move again!”

It is the custom of daubers
to inter bodies in mud
least the dead rise       to devour the living
He went to her and saw that she yet moved.

Certainly Ceber had never hurt more in body.
but belying       a benign spirit
Ceber lived
The spiteful plot spinner       sundering Takara
Kept her promise.
No soul entered Ja-Kara Zăd       in that storm

Medy forgot       his day work
Elsalay had granted him a big heart.
His breast       could not bear
To see Ceber       suffer so.
The wood was lost, but Ceber found.
No greater gift       could fate give.

A medicine man was needed
Or the brave wasp would die.
In the dauber wasp’s town
Lived a cultured doctor
A devotee of Ausohara
The mistress of morning glories       made him wise
Taught him the secrets       to cure all ailments
Alcuin, wondrous sorcerer       Miracle Worker
Dauber doctor       of great dependability

Medy carried Ceber       calling
“Run and get the doctor
by his power alone will she live.”

They brought Alcuin and gathered ‘round
casting wonderings       to her wanderings
Whence came she?
What deity battered her so?
When did such strife beset her?

The doctor, good soul!       did not ask
but set to his work       singing.
Having her brought       by his house
mixing magic       with medicine
and treating her directly.
It was two things      
that brought her back       from beyond
Alcuin’s skill       Her fighting spirit
Nothing else stood between her
and the pale folk’s dark kingdom

In between the dark place
and the bright place
Ceber slept       and saw a great beast
Made of vibrant green grass
and thistle       moving like a turtle
Weaving among       the wind-formed waves
This she knew       from fairy tales
As Order
The giant governing       Genius, reason, and Structure
Slowly he waded       through the whale-road
toward an invisible end
on an island nation       beyond the sky.
Celibate Ceber       cheered for to see
Him finding his way on the sea
But!
Near his shell       she spied a bit of metal
Creeping.
And it grew       a fine gossamer
Until the giant’s       gait stumbled
And with his passing
The waves became green grease
The clouds became cogs
Stars choked and were extinguished.
Ceber slept       but not silently
No restful sleep       readied her
In dreams disturbed       she dozed.

Alcuin’s doctoring and the sweet smell of food
woke Ceber on the seventh day.
Roasted wood cricket brought by Medy
The crickets have ceased       since those days
No more will they grace       gullets of the wasps.

Ceber woke       surprised that she lived
So sure was       she of life’s defeat
“Is this a dream still?”       said she.
“Did the restless night claim me?
Where am I?
Surely no sleep-ridden corpse       could see so clearly.”

The doctor said,       “Not dead yet, wasp woman.
The worms have not       yet woven you out.
This is Terbeir on the River Vada
The same stream       you were soaked in
Rescued by our people’s hardest worker
Reliable Medy pulled you out
Saved you from death
Be kind to him       he is fond of the sleeping girl
But I see the awakened wasp is much fiercer
than he could reckon with.
Elsalay gave him a big heart
But I fear it may be too large on occasion.”

Ceber Warsong       struggled with her wrappings
Saying thus:
“I don’t need pity from folks I’ve never met.
I don’t need any Medy’s either.
I am Ceber,       Shield-Maiden of the Kuroni.
One hundred battles       mark my hide.
Enemies fear my jaws
I have ended ants on my sting
The rock-hornets of the north       know my name!
I sharpened my sting       on some for my first battle!
Barbarians,
They came to Comely for plunder       and easily pickings
but they found no rings or gold trinkets
Only death.”

The doctor deferred,
“You have no enemies here,
Ceber of Comely.
I knew your Queen Fyrness since she was a child.
A white-wasplet       of wise Sindra
No threat to anyone
But she grew       into a fine guardian
for her people.
Battle Queen, may her progeny thrive.”

“Ah,” Ceber despaired.
“How can you welcome me       so warmly
When you were friendly       with Fyrness?
You see my clipped wings.
You know I am outcast!
What shame I carry!
I’m surprised       you didn’t sting me
While I lay helpless.
No one would fault you.
No dogged cries of ‘murder’ at your heels.”

The doctor was quick in reply.
“What nonsense!       What garbage!
Why I tell you the most appealing worker
In town is smitten with you
and you call it pity.
Then you refute my care       because it is kindness!
Aye, I do think you need no pity
You pity yourself enough for mine
and Medy’s and half the town besides.
Wasp open your eyes.
A dauber town judges not.
We see you neither as criminal or victim.
You could have a life here
and the handsomest       hardest working wasp around.

Ceber shamed said,
“I beg forgiveness.
Times are hard,       I am harried
Stressed beyond measure.
I am not divine
Merely mortal       prone to meek morals
And deplorable compromised judgment
Appraise me of my accolades
Not my deficits.”

Agreement came hot,
“Only if you pay me the same honor.”

Thus Ceber came to Terbeir on Vada.
Terite nodded to see her safe,
A job well done.
Takara saw too and mischief-minded
Stole among the daubers
To watch and wait.


The Song of Ceber

Song of Ceber 0: Explanatory Notes ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ 7 ¦ 8 ¦ 9 ¦ 10 ¦ 11 ¦ 12 ¦ 13 ¦ 14 ¦ 15 ¦ 16 ¦ 17 ¦ 18 ¦ 19 ¦ 20 ¦ 21 ¦ 22 ¦ 23 ¦ 24 ¦ 25 ¦ 26 ¦ 27 ¦ 28 ¦ 29 ¦ 30 ¦ 31 ¦ 32 ¦ 33 ¦ 34 ¦ 35 ¦ 36

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