Storytime: Cragg and Clodd.

December 31st, 2014

A nice valley, a good valley, a valley halfway between rough and smooth on the world. But a noisy one right now. Lots of dispute. Lots of debate.
Cragg and Clodd, sister and brother, at it again with words and fists.
“My plains are broader than your hills.”
“My hills are taller than your plains.”
Cragg and Clodd, siblings together, on and off and on again.
“My hills have fine tall trees and are pocked by snowy white peaks. Your plains do not.”
“My plains have long waving grass and are shot through with gentle dells. Your hills do not.”
Cragg and Clodd, twins like mirrors, hot and cold.
“My hills have the hardiest beasts. They can walk through six blizzards and through four avalanches, stones AND snow, and still come back hungry. They are the best.”
“My plains have the vastest herds of beasts. They can walk by for four months and run into their friends coming back the other way, like a snake eating its own tail, and they make the ground rumble with their feet. They are the best and also yours are the worst and they are stupid.”
Cragg furrowed her brow. “No,” she said deliberately. “YOURS are stupid.”
Clodd put his fist in her face and that was that for another five minutes while they discussed things.
“Maybe,” said Clodd, through the iron hinges of Cragg’s knuckles, “we should prove it.” And besides, his teeth hurt. The ones that were left.
“Maybe,” said Cragg, past a nose that was twice the size it had been five minutes and four seconds ago, “we should do that.” And besides, she was seeing spots.
“I will fetch my smartest and bring them here in a few short decades,” said Clodd. “Then you will see.”
“I will do the same,” said Cragg. “And then you will see.”
They turned away and walked six paces each, then silently turned around and made secret obscene gestures whose meanings were unknown to all save themselves. Each pretended not to have seen that.

So Clodd walked down to his plains and his dells and he picked through the gazelles and the bison and the buffalo and the wildebeest and the horses and he started to get a little desperate.
“They are the best,” he told himself, “and that’s no lie. But they’re a little….dim.”
And Cragg walked up to her hills and her mountains and she picked through her bears and her deer and her goats and her sheep, and she was biting her lip again, split though it was.
“They’re the best,” she told herself, ignoring the red-hot blood that seeped down her chin. “But. Well. They’re nice, after all. Just. Maybe not them?”
And they both sat back, back-to-back, miles apart, and they pondered the question for about a year. And then they both sat up, clapped their hands together, and hooted loud: “I’VE GOT IT.”
First things first. Clodd took up a clod. Cragg plucked free a crag.
Second things second. Clodd moulded that clod in his hands. Cragg smacked that crag until it crumbled just so.
Third things third. They each breathed out, then breathed in, and they tried a little.
“Wham,” said Cragg.
“Bam,” said Clodd.
The things they had made just blinked at them. “This one’s going to know everything worth knowing,” said the siblings.
Then the things started to cry.
“We’ll have to work on that.”

So they did. They taught them to stand up straight and stop crawling around, to use words, to be careful about what went in your mouth and what didn’t.
This last bit was important, because Cragg and Clodd found out pretty quick that their new beasts were pretty fragile. They were bald, why were they bald? Everything had to have some sort of skin on their skin – feathers, fur, hair, rock, sod, SOMETHING – but not them. They were like big babies, right down to the big eyes and heads. And so needy all the time, all the time.
“I’m cold,” said Cragg’s beast to her. “So cold.”
“Here,” said Cragg. And she shaved the fur off a sheep with three whisks of her claw and showed the beast how to clot it together into a warm mat. “Wear that.”
“I’m cold,” said Clodd’s beast to him. “So cold.”
“Here,” said Clodd. And he struck a bison dead with his loamy fist and showed the beast how to strip the hide off and make it into a warm blanket. “Cuddle under that.”
“I’m hungry,” said Cragg’s beast. “So hungry.”
“Here,” said Cragg, getting more annoyed now. And so she showed the beast how to make a little bowl from clay, cool and round, and how to squirt milk from a goat’s udder into it. “Eat that.”
“I’m hungry,” said Clodd’s beast. “So hungry.”
“Here,” said Clodd. “I am tired of your complaints.” And he showed the beast how to put a sharp rock on a strong stick, firm and thick, and how to shove it into another beast until it stopped moving and became delicious. “Eat that.”
And so it went.
“These berries are bad,” said Clodd. “Don’t eat them.”
“These grains are good,” said Cragg. “Eat them.”
“These furs will make a good tent,” said Clodd. “Sleep in that.”
“This mud-and-stone will make a fine house,” said Cragg. “Sleep in that.”
“Do this,” said Clodd.
“Do that,” said Cragg.
And they said that for nineteen long, long years.

So down from the hills came Cragg and up from the plains came Clodd, hand in hand with their beasts. And they felt mighty pleased with themselves as they stood there in that quiet little valley again. Mighty AND pleased, all at once.
“You are early,” said Clodd, smugly. “Nervous?”
“You are late,” said Cragg, grinning ear to ear to mouth again. “Regretful?”
They threw their heads back and laughed, laughed, laughed.
Clodd’s beast waved at Cragg’s. Cragg’s beast waved back at Clodd’s.
“Right!” said Cragg. “Time to prove that the hills have made the smartest beasts.”
“The plains,” corrected Clodd.
“We will leave our beasts on my hills-” said Cragg.
“-in my plains, and whichever-“ interjected Clodd.
“-does the best will be the-” said Cragg.
“-winner.” Clodd finished.
They glared at each other.
“Mine first,” said Clodd.
“Fine,” said Cragg. “Last laughs loudest.”

So Clodd led his beast into his plains, and Cragg and her beast followed. Finally they reached the centre of the plains, where the prairie rose high and went on forever.
“Be smart!” they said.
And then they left them there, and they waited.
“Your beast will starve,” said Clodd. “Look, look – see how it fails, season after season! It is failing at this very moment to perform so simple a task as tying a sharp rock atop a strong stick! It is failing in its efforts to make a shelter! It is even eating the berries that are bad, which it should not eat! It is humorous in its stupidity!”
“You cheated,” said Cragg sullenly. “Your stupid plains have no proper stones to live in, and your stupid animals are all too fast and too wild. And besides, you taught your beast things. It cannot be so clever if it has to go about learning things.”
“I never,” said Clodd, and it was just as convincing a lie between siblings as could ever be.
“Hmm.” Cragg squinted and placed her hand to her brow. “What are they doing down there?”
Clodd looked. “What ARE they doing down there?” he said.

“What WERE you doing down there?” they asked, as they brought their beasts once more to the valley.
The beasts looked at each other. Then they looked at the plains. Then they looked at the sky. Then they looked at the ground.
“That is a strange thing to do,” said Cragg. “You should be looking at us.”
“I was tying a sharp rock atop a strong stick,” said Cragg’s beast. “I needed it to skin a-”
“Not that!” said Clodd. “That. Yes, that, but WHY that! You were talking. You were talking to my beast! Why were you talking to my beast? You have lost doubly here, Cragg. Your beast stole lessons from my beast! Truly my beast is the smartest.”
“We are halfway done,” said Cragg. “And your beast cannot be as intelligent as all that. It just did what you told it to. MY beast got on just fine in your plains. My beasts are smartest.”
“Prove it,” said Clodd. “My beast goes to your hills now. It will do just fine, see if it doesn’t. Watch as your beast stumbles around like a blind old snail. Watch it, and I will watch it, and we will both laugh.”

Cragg led, Clodd followed. This time their beasts walked behind them, a little reluctant maybe. They were chattering in their strange beastly way. Cragg and Clodd were busy ignoring each other, and did not participate.
Finally they reached the rocky, rolling heart of the hills, just beneath the mountains and where the gullies rumbled through pine forests, sputtering out rapids as they went.
“Be smart!” they said.
And then they left them there, and they waited. This time a bit more attentively.
“Hah,” said Clodd. “See? See the mind of my beast? Look! Look! See as it hunts your go-oh.”
“Look as it trips on its own feet,” said Cragg. “Look! Look! See as it shivers under thin hides. Look! Look! See as it – oh ho ho ho! – trips down cliffs and stubs its toes off. It is making a house from stones, and the stones land on its toes as it sleeps! Your beast is smart indeed – it can make me laugh like nothing else! Hah!”
“Your beast has cheated,” said Clodd. “Look! You have filled your ugly hills with nothing but gangly little meatless scrawners, and there is nowhere to live but holes in holes! Such nonsense! How could any beast live here, unless you had cheated and told them how?”
“Not me!” said Cragg in the firm convincing voice that no one could ever dispute.
Clodd’s eyes narrowed and he was going to dispute this when he saw moving things. “Look!”
“More laughs?” asked Cragg.
Then she looked.

“Why would you do this thing?” demanded Clodd.
“I was hungry and-“
“Why would you know to pull its teat and drink the milk that landed in an ugly clay saucer?”
“Well, I asked and-“
“Why would you ask the stupid beast of the hills for this advice?”
Cragg laughed, laughed, laughed. “Because he knows he is stupider! My beast is the smartest, and this is truth! Were it not for my beast your beast would be deader than your head!”
“My beast took all your beast’s secrets by means of its smartness,” said Clodd loftily. “Your beast has no claim on this. My beast is smartest and fastest and also strongest.”
“My beast is smartest and also strongest and also fastest and it could take your beast and throw it over the hills.”
“Mine could stomp yours into the grass.”
“I will find out.”
“I will also find out.”
“Right now.”
“Right. Now.”
They turned around and walked out of that quiet little valley, and they left their beasts there alone.
The beasts looked at each other.
Clodd’s beast waved at Cragg’s. Cragg’s beast waved back at Clodd’s.

“Your beast has no fight,” said Cragg smugly. “See how mine has chased it into the trees!”
“Not so,” said Clodd. “Look! It returns with great armfuls of wood! Look! It will smite it with them!”
“Ah, but my beast has stolen them and built a home! It is safe now, and your beast will perish!”
“My beast has claimed game, and returns to bury the antler-dagger in your beast! It has invaded.”
“Ahh, but my beast has emerged! It has triumphed! Look – look! It sits there, and it moulds the clay at the lake-side. It is assured of victory, and it sculpts vessels to hold the blood of the foe!”
“Mine lives yet! It has feigned death! See how it approaches it from behind at the lakeshore! Soon your beast will drown!”
“Your beast is merely fishing,” scoffed Cragg.
“And YOUR beast is just making mud-pots,” snorted Clodd.
They looked down at them more closely.
Clodd’s beast’s fishing spear missed, and it fell over.
“Your beast is a poor fisher,” said Cragg.
“Well, it’s not the plains,” said Clodd. “The fish are different here.”
Cragg’s beast carefully added sand to the clay, and the sides of the pot fell in.
“That is… not a very good mud-pot,” said Clodd.
“It’s not the hills,” said Cragg. “This clay isn’t as nice. It’s too dry.”
Nights came and went. They watched, they waited, but the house in the valley still stood, and no victor would appear.
“I’ve lost,” said Cragg. “My beast is a dullard. It can barely feed itself by itself, and that only if someone tells it what to do.”
Clodd shook his head. “I’ve lost too. My beast is just as bad. And it’s not even fighting properly. Look – they’re fighting again. And neither of them have won. Again.”
Cragg peered at them. “They do that a lot, that fighting. They must like it. But if they like it so much, one of them should have won. They are both truly stupid. How have we done this?”
Clodd shrugged.
She sighed. “Well, if they’re all so stupid, we ought to at least give them company.”
“Maybe they can keep an eye on each other like these two.”
They pulled up clay from the lakebed and a little breeze for the sky. Clodd held it, Cragg punched and kneaded it.
“Wham,” she grunted.
“Bam,” he agreed.
The things they had made looked up at them from the ground with big, alarmed eyes. They patted them on their heads. Their big, bobbly heads. And they sighed a little.
“Maybe they’ll learn to stop being so stupid someday,” they said.
Then the things started to cry.
“We’ll have to work on that.”

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