Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Sheep, The Shepherd, and The Wolf King

In the seven connecting valleys of Heron there lived a heard of sheep. These were not the normal sheep we are familiar with today. They were not slow witted and bullish nor were they pinned or kept by anyone. They were magnificent sheep that roamed the seven valleys navigating by keen intellect and sharp instincts.
They had lived in this valley as far back as they could remember. Time was not something that was measured more of something that was realized as it passed. They did not count the seasons but knew that when it started turning cold it was time to move down the seven valleys into the southern areas. When they reached the last of the seven valleys in the south they would turn around and migrate back to the north. Thus they passed the years moving north and south as the weather dictated.
The sheep themselves were aware. They gave great thought to what there place was in the world. The did not consider themselves above or below any other animal on the ground or in the air. They knew about the other animals and watched as they went about their business as the sheep went about their own. Migrating and eating grass, migrating and eating grass. The sheep enjoyed the simpleness of life and the conversation amongst themselves on the many wonders of it.
The sheep were different from one another as we are different from each other. Not only in color but in propensity. They all looked different with colors as widely displayed as a rainbow but they also had different outlooks on the world around them and shared them freely. They bred when the group was lacking in numbers and they kept a sort of equilibrium with the quantities of grass available and the amount of sheep in the group.
Inhabiting the valleys were also a pack of wolves. The wolves were fine animals as well. More exotic and intelligent than any wolf of our day. In fact the sheep would not have minded the wolves at all except that sometimes they would feed on the sheep. The sheep were always wary of the pack because of this and tried to make sure that no sheep strayed off on its own. They failed in this sometime and one of the sheep would stray and be taken by the wolf pack. They always reminded themselves that in numbers they were far superior to the wolves and all they had to do was stick together.
The wolves lived on the outskirts of the valleys in the forests and behind the hills of the wide open spaces that the sheep frequented. They roamed and played, raised their pups, and hunted for food. Like most animals they too migrated from the northern valleys to the southern valleys and back again with the seasons. They were a jovial pack and had a strong sense of family. They all had different personalities and nuances but for the most part they formed a tight unit.
They did not hunt the sheep singularly but took sustenance when and where it came. In fact sometimes the wolves would sit on the edge of the forest and listen to the herd of sheep talk amongst themselves, discussing everything under the sun, and think about these things too. Like the time did not pass for them, they just existed. They thought about themselves and the place they made for the pack in the world and were happy with it.
One day a shepherd came amongst the sheep and talked with them. He told them stories of things they had never before heard from outside the seven valleys. He told them stories of his life and his family and his adventures. The sheep grew to love the shepherd and the shepherd grew to love the sheep. He stayed with the sheep for many years. He was amiable, and a great companion for the sheep.
One day while the shepherd was walking he came upon a lamb who had strayed from the herd and was surrounded by the wolf pack who was steadily closing in. The shepherd picked up a knobby branch of an old oak tree, gave a ferocious roar and charged into the wolf pack. The wolves were taken by surprise and began to turn and run. The shepherd however was faster still and struck one of the wolves on the head. The rest of the wolves ran back into the forest and hid among the trees, whispering amongst themselves about this new animal. Wondering why he chased them from food that rightfully belonged to them.
The Shepherd picked up the unmolested lamb that had strayed and took it back to the herd. The lamb told all the other sheep the story of the shepherd and how he had saved him from certain death at the hands of the wolves. He recounted how the shepherd had yelled and hit one of the wolves with a staff. The lambs were at first confused by the actions of the shepherd who had killed a wolf but they became so overjoyed at the return of the lamb they soon forgot their uneasiness.
Meanwhile the wolves had come back to the spot of the attack by the Shepherd. They were utterly amazed to find the wolf who had been struck still laying in the same spot dead. They talked this over for many nights and came to the conclusion that the shepherd did not want the wolves for food, the shepherd wanted the wolves destruction.
This incensed the wolves. They made forays into the herd of sheep in the darkest of night to retaliate against the sheep and the shepherd. Now no longer did they kill sheep for food but for revenge on the shepherd. The shepherd had kept his staff however and anytime the wolves would attack the shepherd was there to drive them away. Due to the heroics of the shepherd the sheep made him the leader of the pack.
From then on the Shepherd would protect the herd from the wolves. He would still lose sheep sometimes but it was not because he did not try and protect them. Sometimes they still wandered off. He also took charge of moving the sheep to a different valley when he thought the valley they were in was getting to full of wolves.
No more were the days of the sheep slowly progressing through the valleys as the seasons dictated. Now the Shepherd and the wolves dictated the pace. Sometimes the sheep would leave the valley before the grass had all been eaten, other times the sheep would stay to long and some of the flock would die of hunger.
The shepherd pushed the sheep to reproduce more to make up for the lost numbers that the wolves would take and that died from hunger. The sheep trusted the shepherd and promised to do just that. In fact even though more sheep died in the next few years than had ever died before the sheep flourished as a species. The sheep hardly ever noticed when a sheep would be taken because of the abundance of sheep in the herd.
This was also true of the wolf pack. They flourished as the sheep did. They had an abundant food source and lusted after the meet of the sheep. Sometimes they would forgo other animals in the forest because they liked sheep better than anything else. This went on for generations of wolves and sheep. It lasted for eight thousand years.
During this time the shepherd had grown very old while his herd of sheep had flourished in numbers never before reached. It was not the same herd as he had once known thousands of years before. It was very rare that any of the sheep talked to the shepherd. In fact a sheep had not talked to him for a couple thousand years. These sheep only ate and slept. He had to move them to southern and northern valleys when the weather turned with his will, and sometimes with violence by striking out at them with his old staff of oak. He was lonely and old, and he knew that his time in the valleys would soon be over.
Even though he no longer had the same relationship with the sheep as he had before he still felt obligated to make sure they were cared for after he left. The sheep were stubborn and unintelligent now and in no shape to care for themselves. He thought about this problem for twenty years until he came to the only conclusion that the shepherd could think of that would save his sheep from total annihilation. He would have to talk with the only other species that needed the sheep for their own survival.
The Shepherd left the sheep one day and strode into the forest. He could sense that the wolf pack was all around so he called out in his voice to the wolves that he wanted an audience with them. The wolves responded with growls and howls, barks and gnashing of teeth. They were no longer the wolves that they had been either. They had become killers, hunters, rippers, cutters, shredders. They knew that the shepherd had killed hundreds, if not thousands, of wolves in his life time. They could smell death on him and they longed to bring that to him.
The Shepherd did not give up on his idea however and soon found the most ancient of all the wolves. The leader of the pack. The pack leader was thousands of years old and was the son of the first wolf that the Shepherd had ever killed. Though he hated the Shepherd for his waste and theft that day, he also respected the Shepherd as a warrior and pack leader of the sheep so he allowed him to come forward.
The Shepherd told the pack leader that he was going to die soon and that when he did the sheep in their current state would be totally open to complete destruction by the wolf pack. Without him they would not move in cold weather and would not stay together to protect themselves against the wolves. The wolf smiled at this knowing the Shepherd was telling the truth. The Shepherd continued by saying the destruction of the entire herd by the pack of wolves would not be in the best interest of the wolves themselves.
The shepherd then outlined a plan where the wolf could feed his pack for an eternity. He taught the wolf how to be a shepherd. He taught him about the seasons and when the sheep needed to be moved. He taught the wolf that by using the herds own fear he could move them when they needed to be moved. He taught the wolves everything he had learned about how to make the sheep flourish. The pack leader listened to everything the shepherd said and thought about it for some time. He then asked the Shepherd why he should follow the plan laid out for him. The Shepherd gave the pack leader the only thing he had to give, his life. He promised the pack leader that his pack could have him with no fight if the wolves would swear on his oak staff, with the blood of a thousand wolves on it, that they would follow the plan.
That night the pack leader agreed to the terms set out by the Shepherd and swore his most solemn oath on the oak staff. When he was finished the Shepherd dropped his staff to the ground allowing the wolf pack to tear him apart. They fed upon him all night until the early morning when not one drop of blood from the Shepherd was left. They then set about the task that the Shepherd had outlined for them. Using fear to control the sheep and drive them where they needed them to go. This lasted for many years.
One day a black sheep was born. Due to the way the sheep were breading a black sheep had not been born in some time. The sheep were mostly white and were not different from each other like the colors of the rainbow as they were before. This black sheep was not just different to the others in color, this black sheep was born aware.
The black sheep was aware of what his species had become, a herd of dumb animals. He was aware of who was herding them through the old valleys that were their home, the violent and ferocious wolves that fed on them. He knew what he had to do to stop the sheep from living in fear and desperation, always needing someone to drive them instead of taking care of themselves as individuals. The black sheep that was aware had to awaken his brothers and sisters and make them aware as well. He hoped it was not to late and his fellows would be able to grasp what he was trying to say.
The black sheep called to his fellows, in the way they all used to talk, and tried to explain to them what was happening. He spoke for hours and tried over and over again to reach the sheep but to no avail. Soon he became frustrated with the sheep as they fought over clumps of grass and fought between themselves and yelled at them, roared at them with everything he could muster. This startled the sheep and they became hushed and stared this way and that trying to see the threat to them. This they understood, this they followed. A roar, a bark, a nip at the heels. It was then the black sheep realized what he needed to do.
The black sheep roared behind the herd, nipping at their forelegs, and for the first time the sheep forgot about the dangers of the forest and as a group rushed toward it at an awesome pace. The earth shook as thousands upon thousands of sheep screamed while pounding the ground in a mad pace to get clear of whatever was behind them. The sheep were so frightened that they ran right into the camp of the wolf pack. As the herd outnumbered the wolves one hundred to one they trampled every single wolf to the last one.
The black sheep wept for joy but his joy was short lived. The sheep herd turned and kept running back toward the black sheep now in sheer terror and madness of everything that had happened. The drove straight down upon the black sheep crushing him as they had the wolf pack.
Later that day the sheep calmed and went back to grazing in the valley they currently were located in having completely forgotten the events that took place that morning. They did not even wonder where the black sheep had gone. A month later the grass in that valley ran out and the sheep began to starve. The temperature became colder and the sheep did not know what to do. In the spring thaw the valley was almost completely white from the bones of dead sheep. Not one made it, not one.
That spring the birds came out and sang as they had been for thousands of years. The bears rolled around with their pups, the otters played in the streams, the flowers bloomed and not one of the living things in the seven valleys of Heron missed the sheep or the wolves. I would say though they were affected none the less. The grass was especially tall that year.

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