Storytime: Treed.

September 20th, 2017

The ground shook as the jug dropped.
It was merited. The jug was four feet tall and three feet across at its broadest point. It was iron, ugly, half-slagged pig iron that looked as though it had been allowed to cool rock-solid before pouring. A chain dangled from its neck, with links that had been mended so many times that they were almost little balls.
Lensh picked it up in one hand and swigged it. The swig turned into a slurp, elongated itself seamlessly into a swallow, and ended at rock bottom.
“A hateful death on tiny drinking vessels,” said Lensh, and gave the jug’s side an affectionate slap, which deepened the dent in its gut. She leaned slow against the tree, nuzzling her face into its bark until the trunk groaned. “One day I’ve got to get a bigger one.”
The tree moaned at her weight.
“Oh, silence yourself. It’s a bad habit but we all need one. And it didn’t kill me yesterday, and it hasn’t killed me today, and as for tomorrow why should I or anyone else care, eh?”
“An astounding philosophy. Meritorious. Mellifluous.”
Lensh squinted up into the tree’s branches. “Is that you Allysii?”
“I would applaud but both my hands are stuck to this branch.”
“It’s you, isn’t it Allysii?”
“Such words of wisdom could only come from the innocent and pure mouth of a born child.”
Lensh sniffed. “You are Allysii. I can smell your perfume from here. They used the eggs of little purple crabs to make it. I walked down the coast seventeen years ago on my way to get married and I had an entire bushel of those crabs for breakfast for every league I walked.”
“And how many leagues did you walk, o wife of wisdom and mistress of mastery?”
“Amazing. They must have been astoundingly tasty.”
“Awful. But I was energetic, and still growing. I needed to keep healthy.” Lensh picked up the jug again, put it to her mouth, remembered it was empty and gave up with a sigh that shook the leaves. “Ah, that’s yesterdays. Yesterdays don’t matter. Tomorrows don’t matter. Now does. You are Allysii, and you are helplessly trapped and soon I am going to kill you.”
“How are you going to do that?
“I will tear down this tree, tear off your arms, tear off your legs, then tear off your head and tear apart your body,” said Lensh. “Then I will take all your pieces and drop them into the sea in different places that I find particularly pretty. This is the way I have killed all the rest of your family, Alysii, and you know that perfectly well. Do you have any more silly questions?”
“Certainly – three more, in fact!”
“Three! Such a chatterbox you make of me, Allysii. Go on, name your poisons you little squirrel!”
“Why are you going to kill me? What is the reason you carry that marvelous and wondrous and oh-so-illustriously lustrous drinking vessel? And also, last but not least, I humbly ask you this: who is this Allysii?”
Lensh laughed a lot at that. The tree’s roots buckled under her as she pounded the ground with a fist, and finally she shut herself up by tucking both her hands into her mouth and punching herself to be quiet.
“You ARE funny today Allysii. Well, I will answer you in reverse order, so your very baited questions are not left to very late in the evening. Immediacy is important! So, your third question.”
“You are Allysii. You are the very last child of the last person who offended me – well, the last who did so in such a great and unspeakable manner. For this, I have personally and gradually torn apart all of their relations (save you) and dropped their parts into different places in the sea. As you are aware.”
“I was not aware of any of this, my clever and honeytongued friend, but your elucidation is most appreciated. My goodness me! Such a long way to come to avenge the taking of your arm.”
Lensh checked her arms. “No, no. They are still here. Nobody may take my arms but me, I am very certain of this. You’re being weird, Allysii, but that is nothing new. At any rate, I have followed you for six years two months and four days and as my legs are long and strong and yours are spindly and week I have caught up with you and caught you and soon I will tear you apart into parts and drop those parts into different places in the sea, which is no surprise to you. Now, I will answer your second question!”
“I am listening with great and attentive care.”
“As you should!” said Lensh. And she raised her iron jug and toasted the tree.
“You see this dent?” she asked.
“I do indeed, revealer of secrets, speaker of truths. A grievous wound for any cup to bear, but on yours it only adds charm!”
“Absolutely. And my jug is nothing but charm. You must understand, when I went to marry seventeen years ago I was an innocent young thing that knew nothing of vice or hardship. All my life I’d been coddled in the foothills, wrestling mountains and playing with giants. But at last they were all too small for me, and I was very lonely until the day the ground shook under my feet and tore apart the hills.”
“Terrifying and fearsome! A shame for any child to endure such trauma.”
“Oh, it was wonderful! I’d never seen something so impressive! So I picked up a herd of goats to eat and a stream to drink and I walked down the hills to the coast and went looking for that earthquake, who I had fallen madly in love with.”
“Such romance at so tender an age? You are a prodigy and an ingénue in the same soul, my admirable companion.”
“Well, I was foolish and happy to be that way. What fool isn’t, eh? So I walked and sang and drank and ate, and although I ran out of goats on the third day I ate the little awful purple crabs instead, and made do.”
“And what did you drink? Surely not the sea?”
“Me and mine, no no no! So salty! It was a good-sized stream and it kept me going for half the journey, and when it ran dry I rolled it into a ball and squeezed it until the juice came out, and I drank the juice, and what was left I made into a cup, and when I was done I had a fine wedding present for my groom, who I found in the middle of destroying three cities at once.”
“So noble! It’s no wonder you fell for it on the spot.”
“He. Mind your tongue when you speak of my husband, Allysii. I give you questions, but if you trade me back impertinence I will give you my fist instead.”
“I beg the humblest of forgivenesses from the bottom of my heart to the heights of every heaven.”
“And I will grant it! Now, where was I?”
“Your husband, the earthquake.”
“Ah, yes. Well, after a week of marriage he’d shuddered down to a mere creak and could barely be bothered to knock the plates off the pantry. So I told him to do better. So he hit me. So I hit him back. So I left with my marriage gift and a couple bruises and all of his teeth. And let me tell you this: it matters no matter at all what I put in this jug, Allysii, but it tastes better than your dreams can ever know.”
“I am awed to be in its presence.”
“You should be.” Lensh shook her head mournfully. “Alas, it remains empty.”
“A sad yet joyous occasion, to take that burden of weight off the bad leg of yours.”
“Bad leg? Hah! Could I have outrun you so with a bad leg? Oh, and as for your third question, I am going to kill you because – as I am sort of sure I may have mentioned in passing, and besides, as you already know, being Allysii, who has been fleeing me for six years two months and four days in terror of my power and tremendous anger – your mother gave me horrible offense. When she did me wrong, I nearly ate her on the spot, but such was my shock and my anguish and my anger and my disbelief that I stood struck dumb as a stone for a week straight, permitting her time to escape with her person, her possessions, and her family. Which I then pursued, caught, tore into pieces, and dropped into different places in the sea, to my satisfaction and to your lack of surprise.”
“As was their just desserts, for inflicting such a blow to your poor weary heart, the fiendish louts.”
“Heart? Hah! I have none. I traded it to a tortoise in the desert past the mountains past the forest past the river past the lake past the sea to the south of here, in exchange for a good meal.”
“Was it so?”
“He tasted magnificent. I have no regrets, and never will – as you know, Allysii, yesterdays don’t matter.” Lensh clicked her tongue, scratched her side, wiped her nose, and cricked her knuckles. “Anyways, I am going to stand up and uproot this tree now. Are you satisfied?”
“Although I am spellbound, I regret to speak this most dread of words: ALMOST! That is a marvelous tale, worthy of any queen or empress’s court. But I must trouble you with one trifling detail, oh fablemaker, without which your tale lacks denouement to soothe my wary, weary soul: what offense in all the world did my mother commit to make you wish her and her family such harm?”
“Oh, that,” said Lensh. “Well, when I first walked on your family’s grounds I had never yet sampled from my old friend here, of the iron sides. And in taking my first few draughts I was a bit preoccupied, and a tad musty in the head. It was a warm night and I took all my clothes off to keep cool – there was a lovely breeze, Allysii – and as I strolled I danced, and as I danced I sang, and as I was so busy singing and dancing I smashed straight into your mother’s window, where I fell flat on my back until she came to see me.”
“And what did she do there to cause such offense, my benevolent keeper?”
“Well, I introduced myself. ‘I am Lensh, the inevitable and indestructible! Wrestler of mountains! Uprooter of trees! I married an earthquake, divorced him for his smallness and timidity, and left him with all of his teeth in my fist! Behold me!’”
“No, me.”
“Indeed! And what transpired then?”
“She threw a cup of water on me.”
“The gall!”
“I thought so!”
“The cheek!”
“And it drove you blind in your right eye?”
“Oh, my mistake. It drove you blind in your left eye?”
“What?” said Lensh irritably. “You are getting slower and stupider by the day, Allysii! It landed on my forehead between my eyes.” She rubbed her face and parted the thick fur that matted her skull. “Right here!”
“Ah! I see!”
“As well you-”
It was a very small knife, and although Allysii’s whole body was behind it, it was a very small body.
But although Lensh’s fur and hair were tough as diamonds, her skin was as soft and supple as a baby’s.
“Damnation,” said Lensh, as she fell over, flat on her back. “I am Lensh! Behold me! The great idiot!”
And she died, with a belch.

Allysii left the jug where it lay. One day, some birds made a nest in it. And my, were their eggs strange.
But that was a story of tomorrow, which doesn’t matter.

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