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Our MessengerThe messenger was first seen in the kingdom asking for directions to the marketplace.
"I have news that will turn this desert into a garden. It is a wonderful message. You will all be very, very happy."
News of the messenger's coming preceded him. People lined the road to get a glimpse of this man from the outside world.
"See his sandals?" One cobbler nudged his partner for attention. "Blue leather. They say the people of Tarnac wear sandals of blue leather. Therefore, this messenger must be from Tarnac."
The cobbler was known as a man of logic, and no one disputed him. People fought with each other for a better view as the messenger passed along the road. News was scarce, and generally limited to weather and grain yields. People hungered for a taste of something exotic.
"Excuse me," the messenger asked of a woman who carried a clay jar on her head. "Would you direct me to the marketplace? I've come a long way and am very thirsty."
"Why, I'm going to the well myself. Make way! Make way!" she called ahead. "The messenger needs water."
The crowds parted. People mumbled among themselves "He needs water. What is he going to do with water? He came here for water? Where is he going? Why is he here?"
Soon the large procession swirled into the marketplace and surrounded the fountains. The messenger drank deep and smiled.
"Out of my way! Move aside!" Several men in matching tunics pushed through the crowd and formed a line before the well.
"We're from the Most High Ruler. You are to come with us."
The men started back towards The Largest House, followed by the messenger, the woman with the water jar, the cobblers, and the curious. It was a fine day for a holiday. In minutes the parade trooped up before The Largest House, where waited a short man titled the Most High Ruler. He wasn't smiling. He accepted the scroll offered by the messenger and tossed it to an associate. The messenger smiled and began to speak.
"I bring you a wonderful message - "
"I'll ask the questions here! Why didn't you come directly to me first? How did you get here? Guards!" Two men stepped forward.
"He didn't pass us," they said.
"So." squinted the Most High Ruler, "it's a mystery, hey? And just what did you intend to do here?"
"I am a messenger, sir, who - "
"I'll ask the questions here! Do you see me stand here? I stand in the middle of the kingdom, which stands in the middle of the universe! Even the Sun passes me by at a safe distance. Do you know who I am?!?"
While the Ruler raged, men in the crowd nodded to one another. Here was a man others could rally around. Perhaps he would help them overthrow the Ruler.
Others shook their heads sadly. Here is yet another messenger with yet another message, but still the grain needs to be reaped and the goats milked. Could any message save them from these chores? And if not, what good was it?
Still others smiled and clapped their hands. Afternoon entertainment like this was too rare.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Screamed the Ruler. "Never mind, I'll ask the questions here. Take your papers and go!"
He grabbed the scroll and threw it into the face of the messenger. The scroll unraveled into a dozen bits of paper, each caught by a caprice of the rising afternoon breeze and carried away in a dozen different directions. The messenger ignored the papers as he turned and walked into the crowd.
No one saw him leave. Maybe he left that night, some said. Others preferred to keep it a mystery, and it fueled many an afternoon's gossip around the marketplace fountains. In time people came to point out the spot where the messenger drank from the fountain. The woman with the jar was sought after, for she guided him to the marketplace; and the cobbler explained again and again how he knew the messenger came from Tarnac. Instead of being forgotten, the clamor grew. He was described and redescribed. Everyone had a story about him - it seems he spoke to everyone and shared special secrets with each.
Various bits of the original message were found throughout the kingdom, and people guessed at the other portions. Some thought the message was about fishes, or lilies, or sheep. Others with more insight guessed the message must be of deeper meaning. But no one could say for sure, and each really knew only their little bit of it. So the messenger's fame grew, and soon there were messengers on the road bringing the story of his coming to other kingdoms. And tossed among the weeds and pebbles, bits of the original message still drifted with the breeze, forgotten and fading.