Volume 15, Issue 6: Similitudes
The Salt Fens
As they wound down a narrow path, Beow and Andrew suddenly found themselves on a level place about twenty
yards across. On the far side of this flat space, covered with rocks and small boulders, the path resumed its way down the
long hillside as though nothing had happened. There was a break in the trees, and far below them Andrew could see
what looked like a very large marsh. Off to the right, shimmering distantly, he saw what was possibly the ocean. Looking
down at the marsh, Andrew suddenly said to Beow, "I just remembered my parents' names."
Beow said nothing, as though he had been expecting this, and just tipped his horn slightly, as though to listen
"Their names are Paul and Susan. I don't know why I remembered that. But I can't remember their faces, or where
I am from." Andrew turned to Beow. "Do
you know where I am from?"
"I do," Beow said. "But I am not the one best able to explain it to you. And I am not permitted to explain it to
you unless you remember a bit more. The hermit of the Salt Fens below would be a far better one for you to question.
And perhaps you will recall more of your home by the time we get there, and it will be easier to tell you of these
thingseven for him."
With that, Andrew jumped eagerly at the trail, and led Beow on a good pace as he clambered down. He didn't
even think to ask who the hermit was. Since he had been in this Greenland, he had often wondered where he was from, but
the fact that his mind was so completely blank made it hard for him to be anxious about it. But now that he remembered
his parents' names, he found himself full of curiosity. "Who am I, and
what am I doing here?
After about half an hour, they came to the base of the hill. The path veered off to the right, toward the ocean.
"We follow the path," Beow said, "until we come to the hermit's cottage. He lives about three miles from here."
"What is his name?" Andrew asked, finally. "Who is he? What is he doing out here?"
"I believe he is from among the Kale, and his name is Aelfric. But he has lived here as a holy man with his wife
for many years now. He may have just remained when the rest of the Kale pulled back to protect themselves from
the northern raids. But the marauders respect him, and they leave him alone. Occasionally, they even bring him gifts if
they want a blessing said over them. He will bless anything of theirs except their weapons, or their raids."
"Why does he do that?" Andrew asked.
"He tells them of the Lord Christ. He wants them to give up their blood sacrifices, which they have not yet
been willing to do. But because of the blessings he gives them, they do listen to him."
"Who is the Lord Christ?" Andrew asked, somewhat embarrassed. He did not know if he ought to know, or if
this was just another thing about this world that he could not know. But he felt strange saying the words all the same.
Beow bowed his neck. "He is the true God, lord of all worlds." And so Andrew and Beow talked about these
things as they walked, with Andrew feeling an odd reluctance welling up in his chest as they talked. But for all the
reluctance, Andrew was still fascinated. Andrew had not been paying attention to the path and was startled when they rounded
a corner and saw a small, low cottage directly ahead of them made of large stones and barely higher than a full
grown man. The roof was thatched, and a slender column of smoke twisted out of the chimney. A woman in a plain white
robe was doing something by the front door when she saw them and stepped inside. A moment later a tall man came out
the door. He had a long white beard which came halfway down his chest and carried a long staff in his right hand.
Aelfric stood waiting for them, standing by his door like a king. And he was a king, a priest-king of the Salt
Fens. When Beow and Andrew came up to him, he bowed slightly to Beow and greeted him. Beow returned the greeting,
and it was obvious from how they both spoke that they had known each other for many years.
But Andrew was surprised when Aelfric turned to him. "Greetings in the name of God, Andrew. I have
permission to tell you what you seek when we have taken bread together." He gestured to a table that was sitting outside,
and Andrew sat down, with Beow taking a place behind Andrew's right shoulder. Aelfric's wife, Winifred quietly brought
out bread and set it on the table. She placed a pitcher of water beside it and disappeared back into the house. Andrew
did not at all feel that she was banished from their table, but rather that he was not worthy to enter her home.
Aelfric tore the bread and handed a piece to Andrew. "Your world is a great river. Along all great rivers there
are places that can be thought of as backwaters or eddies. This place, what Beow called Greenland, is not another world,
but simply an eddy of yours. From time to time, people come here from your world, and many times they stay. You are
not to stay, but rather are to make your way back to a place called Caroline, where your parents live. I believe your
parents call it North Caroline."