The woman known to some as the Great Master and to Engagé as Amie chewed on meat jerky while a snow flurry blew at her face in June. She watched streams of smoke drift from the tiny villages of the Libren and Paix peoples. The flurries mixed with the smoke streams and then scattered. The smoke rivulets returned to slowly rising and disappearing.
Engagé, known to others as Gage, had gone ahead to connect with people and scout the area. His past vocation continued to prove very useful.
She saw movement in the woods, touched a hand to the hilt of her sword. Gage emerged.
She relaxed. She handed him a piece of jerky of a local animal that neither had cared to identify. Food was food here in the barren north.
He took it and chewed.
“It’s bad,” he said after swallowing. “The local guilds tell me there’s a lot of suffering. The people have been beat down by the Julmusians. Most of the leaders are gone. Some killed. Some imprisoned. Some fled south. They say a few are in hiding, but they’re not forthcoming beyond that. It was hard enough to get that bit of information.” He rubbed his ribs.
She put a hand on his shoulder. He put one of his on top. He took another breath.
“As is their custom, Julmusian upper class women manage the economies. Around here, they dominate the logging and hunting, and people are forced into slavery to do those jobs.” He relaxed. “That said, the guilds say there are probably no more than two thousand invaders. The peoples of the region amount to maybe twenty thousand.”
The Great Master nodded and stared with greater focus at the villages.
“Amazing. So few can control so many,” Gage remarked, tearing off another piece of jerky.
“We have to find out if they want to be free,” she commented.
He raised his eyebrows. “I guess you’re right.”
“What do your contacts recommend?”
“They say to enter separately and find jobs to help.”
“What do they need?”
“They said harvesters and gatherers to find native plant foods and medicines. Also people who can mend clothing, home builders, waste disposal, and a few other things. The Julmusians don’t value those things, but the locals do.”
“I can sew things together. You?”
She smiled. “How about waste disposal?”
With half a smile, he responded, “Why not?”
They split up, leaving their weapons hidden in a small cave.
Gage entered from a hidden route while the Great Master went through the west main entrance. Two soldiers questioned her for twenty minutes. She artfully described fleeing an arranged marriage and her vocation as a seamstress in Chanter. Begrudgingly, they permitted her.
The next several weeks, both Gage and the Great Master struggled to find work. The occupation had made the locals hypervigilant for outsider subjugation and cruelty.
During that time, the Great Master evaluated the people closely. In the few moments she and Gage reconnected at a rendezvous spot, They’d discuss what they found.
Mostly, it was dejection and despair.
Then, they’d move to another village.
And find much the same.
One day, they came to the village of Déterminé. The Great Master felt a difference.
“We can work with these ones,” she said to Gge as he washed clothes in a river. Helping with waste disposal had made his clothes more than a little ripe.
“They aren’t falling in line, but the reprisals….” Gage trailed off.
Beatings, whippings, and monthly hangings occurred regularly.
“It’s so cruel.”
“The Julmusians are in a lot of pain,” she replied.
The Great Master looked through Gage’s weapons, some of which he’d been sharpening. “These won’t work.”
“They won’t work for must be done. You have to get ready.”
Gage thought about it. Agreed. “The Julmusians aren’t going to give up their swords to me. But I can get one.” He smiled grimly.
She laid a hand on his arm. “That will come. But there’s another way. The town blacksmith.”
They arranged to meet at the blacksmith’s early in the morning when he first opened before most people were about. The guards tended to still be asleep, passed out from late night drinking that they did virtually every evening.
Thick smoke billowed upwards from two chimneys as a man named Leder stoked the flames of one of the forges. A shorter man than most, his brown arms were big ropes of thick muscle, strong from his craft. He effortlessly chucked chunks of wood into the fire and arranged his tools to begin work.
The Great Master greeted him. “You are Leder?”
He grunted, squinted at her. “Whaddya want?”
“Don’t need none. Have an apprentice.”
The Great Master and Gage could hear banging in the other workroom.
“I have work. I thought I could help in other ways.”
Leder squinted harder at her, and she caught his look with her deep gaze. “I’ve been mending people’s clothes. I helped Janice. Made clothes for the Kim children.” She stepped closer. “But some things don’t need mending or can’t be mended. Some need to be torn apart before they can be whole again.”
She kept looking into his eyes. “Do you think you’d need help like that?”
Gaze felt their silent gaze, the deep communication. Then without a nod or a word, they silently went into a small backroom, closing the door.
He looked around at the forge and decided to see who was in the other room. He followed the noise of the banging, but nearly stepped back in surprise as he found a huge man pounding metal into a wagon wheel. Sweat ran down his body early in the morning. His powerful strokes crafted the raw metal into a useful item. Sparks flew as the hammer fell again and again. He turned the item and hammered more.
The man looked up, feeling Gage’s gaze.
“Hello!” Gage replied. “That is impressive.”
“Thank you. Still learning a lot from the master.”
“I know the feeling.”
The apprentice took off a glove and reached out a hand. “Kendrick Smythe. Friends call me Brix.”
“Brix,” Gage acknowledged. “Friends call me Gage.”
“Can we do something for you?” He smiled brightly, white teeth contrasting against dark as night skin.
“No. My friend is speaking with your master. I’m waiting to know how to be of service. My friend always says to stay open. Things will come.”
Brix nodded. “What else does she say?”
“She says very little most of the time. But when she does speak, I really listen.”
Brix tossed more logs into the fire of the forge.
“What are you working on?”
“A wheel for one of the ladies’ carriages.” His tone grew somber.
“You’re new here.”
“Why come to an enslaved village?” Brix wondered.
“Is it enslaved?”
Brix frowned. “There are guards and soldiers everywhere.”
“Yes. There are.” Gage stepped closed to the big man. “But are you enslaved?”
“They’ll hurt and kill us if we don’t do what they want.”
“Yes. But are you enslaved?”
Their eyes locked, and then something happened. Brix’s eyes widened. The morning light and flames of the forge caught fire in his eyes.
“I have a choice,” Brix realized, stepping back as if the idea had hit him.
Brix wrapped an arm around himself and brought a hand to his face. He began to shake. The shaking turned to a deep rumbling laugh. Then waves of laughter erupted. He laughed, and he laughed.
Gage felt a hand from behind touch his shoulder. He turned to see the Great Master smiling.
Brix kept laughing, and Gage couldn’t help but join. So too did the Great Master.
“I have never felt this joy before,” Brix said in gasps between laughs.
The Great Master hugged him, surprising Brix. They laughed together in a deep embrace.
“Who are you?” Brix asked as the laughing subsided.
She smiled and looked into his eyes. “You may call me Acharné.”
Gage frowned at the name in confusion, but stopped as she turned to him.
“They need a special ore from Mt. Egrind. You need to go to a region near the top of it where an old mine is. Retrieve as much as you can.”
Gage nodded. Brix resumed laughing; his joy resounded in the early morning and echoed out into the surrounding village.
It had begun.
Interpretation of the Spiritual Allegory
A variety of different things are going on in this story.
One important element is the assessment of if someone wants to be free.
Too often spiritual teachers and other people on the spiritual path assume that people do.
But most don’t.
The reality is that people like familiarity, and freedom is a deep acceptance to the vast unknown around us. Ultimately it is always there just like our freedom to do anything that is possible for us.
But most people don’t want to see that.
They want the sense of certainty provided to them by their illusions.
Thus, we see the Great Master going from village to village until she finds one that actually wants the path she can point to.
Consciously Using Unconscious Means
Another theme running through the series of stories with the Great Master is that she is able to use anything consciously.
This should not be taken lightly.
It is not a level of realization that almost anyone is at in society. If you think you are, then you most definitely are NOT.
We have seen her consciously use violence and now deceit in support of helping to free people. She’s also indirectly using the criminal underground through Gage, who is a former assassin, which was mentioned in The Weeping Man.
That’s pretty intense stuff that she’s involved with, and she’s on the path to fomenting a rebellion.
Again, most people reading this are not ready to use unconscious means like this. She is an example that it can be done. It’s a sign of her level of realization. But she’s only doing it because it actually is necessary, which is very different from how the ego may justify something as being necessary. We’ve seen all kinds of ways that wars and violence have been unconsciously justified. This is not what is happening here.
Weapons That Won’t Work
Yet another theme is around “weapons”–think of this as spiritual tools.
There are spiritual tools that work for some things on our paths, and then they no longer are useful. I often discuss the practice of affirmation as extraordinarily helpful when people have never practiced thinking in that way.
But once you can, this tool loses its “sharpness.” It’s no longer useful. In fact, it can even get in the way of doing the work to let go of the attachments that cause depression, anxiety, anger, irritation, and so forth.
New ways of understanding are now necessary.
This is the metaphor at work when the Great Master tells Gage that his weapons won’t work. His past ways of doing things are no longer applicable. They got him to this point, but they will take him no further.
Thus, part of this story is her guiding him towards a new level of spiritual self realization that will take him to Mt. Egrind–Ego Grind.
Brix–the Freed Soul
In this story, we’re beginning to see how the Great Master’s influence on Gage is evolving him. In Gage’s engagement with Brix, he helps Brix to see that he is not enslaved.
More spiritually put, Brix doesn’t have to believe who he thinks himself to be. He is not a slave to his ego–he is inherently free.
In Brix’s moment of realization, the ridiculousness of his misconception hits him. The only thing he can is to laugh at the absurdity of it.
This now sets Brix on a brand new course, and he will be a character all of you will get to see more of in other stories.
The Start of Freedom
As this series of stories concludes, things are just beginning. Nothing magical or fast has happened because the Great Master is involved. Instead, there’s been a lot of pain and discomfort for her and Gage.
Will she be able to help the Librens and Paix realize freedom?
How will she help Xerxes to be rebuilt?
Where is Gage going in his development? What will Mt. Egrind demand of him?
More to come. Please share these stories with others if you are enjoying them!