Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Book of Feasts & Seasons

The animals gathered, one by one, outside the final city of Man, furtive, curious, and afraid.

All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset, and in the east a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the widows of the palaces, mansions, and fanes were empty as the eyes of skulls.

All about the walls of the city were the fields and houses that were empty and still, and all the gates and doors lay open.

Above the fortresses and barracks, black pillars upheld statues of golden eagles, beaks open, unmoving and still. Above the coliseum and circus, where athletes strove and acrobats danced and slaves fought and criminals were fed alive to wild beasts for the diversion of the crowds, and the noise of screams and cries rose up like incense toward heaven, statues of heroes and demigods stood on white pillars, glaring blindly down.

Within other walls were gardens whose trees were naked in the wind, and the silence was broken only by the rustle of the carpet of fallen leaves wallowing along the marble paths and pleasances.
Above the boulevards and paved squares where merchants once bought and sold ivory and incense and purple and gold, or costly fabrics of silks from the east, or ambergris from the seas beyond the Fortunate Isles, and auction houses adorned and painted stood where singing birds and dancing girls were sold to the highest bidder or given to the haughtiest peer. And here were gambling houses where princes and nobles once used gems as counters for cities and walled towns, and the fate of nations might depend upon the turn of a card. And there were pleasure houses where harlots plied their trade, and houses of healing where physicians explained which venereal disease had no cures and arranged for painless suicides, and houses of morticians where disease-raddled bodies were burnt in private, without any ceremony that might attract attention and be bad for business.

And higher on the high hill in the center of the city were the libraries of the learned and the palaces of the emperors adored as gods. But no history was read in the halls of learning and no laws were debated in the halls of power.

Not far outside the city was a mountain that had been cut in two, crown to root, by some great supernatural force. On the slopes of the dark mountain, in a dell overgrown and wild, two dark creatures met, peering cautiously toward the empty city.

A black wolf addressed a black raven sitting in a thorn-bush. “What is the news, eater of carrion? Did you fly over the city and spy out where the corpses are?”

The black raven shrugged indifferently. “I thought it unwise to intrude. What of you, bold corsair against the sheepfolds of men? Man has always feared your kind. Did you not creep into the unwatched and unguarded gates? Surely you were not afraid!”

The wolf was embarrassed and turned away. “Surely I am not a fool,” he growled.

“Who, then, will go into the city?” asked the raven.

“Long ago, Man seduced our cousin the Hound to serve him, and to betray us. The Sons of the Hound are friends of Man, and can pass into the city to discover what has become of Adam’s sons and Enoch’s grandsons. I smell one of my cousins nearby. If Man is truly vanished from the bosom of the Earth, then the old covenant is broken and he and I may speak.”

The raven with a croak and a flutter of wings rose into the air. “Surely Hound will know.”

But it proved not so. When Raven and Wolf came to where Hound and Horse and the slow and solemn Bull were all exchanging whispered eulogies and reminiscences, and put their question to him, the Hound shrugged philosophically. “I cannot tell you what has become of Man, nor what these great lightning-flares and thunders and voices mean. All I can say is that I no longer smell his scent on the air, nor smell the smoke of his bright servant, fire. For the first time since the hour when the prince of the air, Prometheus, taught Cain how to build a sacrificial fire, and taught Tubalcain how to light a forge, there has been the smell of smoke or smokestack somewhere in the world, be it campfire or holocaust or steel mills roaring with glorious flame. Now there is no sign of fire anywhere the rumor of the eight winds carries to me.”

The wolf said, “You are friendly to Man. Go there! If he should still be alive, he will pet and fondle you, and feed you soup bones and slivers of meat.”

The hound shook his shaggy head. “It would be disobedience. I cannot go where Man forbids me go.”

Wolf snarled, “And if he is vanished forever? How long will you obey his NO DOGS ALLOWED signs?”

Hound said, “If my master has gone forever, then will I obey his word forever, and never will I enter the city. The First Hound was the first beast ever to be given a name by Adam, the First Man, and that honor we have never forgotten.”

A sharp laugh came from the bushes nearby. It was Fox, with his bright, cunning eyes and his black fur. “And for your loyalty, yours was the first tribe expelled from Eden with him, O Hound!”

“He needed the company,” said Hound simply.

From THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS by John C. Wright.

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Blogger Forge the Sky December 24, 2017 9:21 AM  

‘Book Title’

John C Wright

Summon my kindle!

Not every book by him is great, but they’re always FUN without seeming vapid.

Blogger Koanic December 24, 2017 9:42 AM  

First tamed is not first named.

Blogger Beau December 24, 2017 10:40 AM  

A charming read.

Blogger Jake December 24, 2017 10:53 AM  


What is wrong with you dude? What nit are you picking? As natural as sunlight for a dog to take on that aggrandizement.

If a dog could talk, and animals bartered and exchanged stories, i could imagine them talking like that. Maybe less pretty but it's the ballad language or the fairy tale language.

Tip of my hat to Mr. Wright, which i feel he would appreciate more than most, and the back of my hand to koanic.

Blogger Pax_Romana December 24, 2017 11:25 AM  

This is my favourite collection of Wright's short stories. There are so many exceptional - and occasionally heart-wrenchingly beautiful - tales. If you haven't purchased this one yet, definitely make it a part of your Christmas (he has two stories for Christmas, one sci-fi and one he calls more "mainstream." Both are quite good.).

Blogger Thucydides December 24, 2017 1:12 PM  

"The Parliament of Beasts" is one of my favourites as well, although I hope as a bonus his (very) short story on how to build a treehouse (written as an offhand response to John Scalzi's *very* ill considered challenge about the use of the English language) is also included.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Blogger Scott C December 24, 2017 1:35 PM  

Wright's command of the English language is second to none. Great storyteller to boot!

Blogger pdwalker December 24, 2017 2:06 PM  

Time to reread it.

Maybe I'll be able to pick a favorite this time.

Anonymous Koppernicus December 24, 2017 5:21 PM  

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Clause.

Anonymous Mycroft Jones December 24, 2017 7:45 PM  

Good excerpt. I just might buy this collection of short stories as a Christmas treat. Of course, I'd have to whap the Hound on the nose with a newspaper. Where would a canine imbibe the heresies found in the Book of Enoch? :)

Blogger tz December 24, 2017 9:48 PM  

Carrion my wayward bird.
Keep crowing till your caws are heard.
Lay back weary in your nest.
Don't you fly no more.

Blogger tz December 24, 2017 9:51 PM  

Although Elijah wasn't raven about the quality of the food, he as fed. 1 Kings 17:6.

Blogger สุพรรษา ทองมี December 28, 2017 1:37 AM  


Anonymous Jay Will December 31, 2017 10:30 AM  

I found this very difficult. I think I'm on the right track though.

Both the beastly animals and the hound seem to not fully understand the city. The beasts are wary of it, the beasts won't listen they spit and snarl at the truth, the hound doesn't know why, he just knows to follow what his master said. The hound still behaves in the way best for him, he may not know why but he still follows the old ways. Maybe his master will return (MAGA, Trump)

When the covenant is broken the beasts can engage with the hound. This is why Vox says not to touch the poo. It's catching. The beast in spitting and snarling wants to bring the hounds down with him. They tell him his master, higher ups, have abandoned him to demoralize them.

My parents are hounds. Their not godly, they don't engage with higher concepts etc, it would be above their station. But they know to follow the rules, they lived in a time where those rules were enforced and understood far better (spare the rod spoil the child).

Whereas I am of the beast, I spit and snarl at their advice (should be orders, never was), I condemn them for following rules of a master, a culture, that has abandoned them. But they still humbly follow the correct way of life, in their case they are not aware of what has been lost. They never knew how important these values, these values came from above, when they stop coming from above their in trouble.

This increased the likelihood that someone of my intelligence, better than them, but most importantly not clever enough at all, "too clever for his own good" would fall into beastly ways lost in vices. I didn't have to disobey my father he never gave orders to begin with.

The children of the hound are now prey for the wicked. Which is why Walt Disney is taking Mickey Mouse away. They don't know what's being lost. They only know to follow orders, and assume those above have their best interests at heart. When they tell them "multi-culturalism" is good they are prone to believe it.

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