A MIGHTY host were we. Around the citadel we set our tents,
and brought our iron and fire before their gate. The defenders jeered, and flung down
stones. Some fired arrows, but all this we ignored. We were grim and silent, at our
tasks in the bright hard dawn.
Then didst a pillar of smoke and light come down from the heavens to our midst,
and we fell to our knees. There was great commotion, like the sound of a sudden
springtime storm. And there was a voice like thunder in the sky,
"Ye need no fell host for my design. There shall be a better way.
One among ye may win this field; and in peace, be he equal to my task."
Many stood forward, though I was not among them. The voice said more, but
quieter now, drumming as a summer rain. I heard not what was said, for it seemed
there was another voice; clear to me, though soft as an autumn mist,
"I have no armed host for my tasks, yet there is much else to be done, and
even some that is not yet writ. For all that should be, it is not so fixed by here
and now." I looked around, yet no other seemed to hear.
There was a sound of beating shields, and I looked at those that stepped before.
One stood forth, and cried, "Lord, here I am; send me. I cast down my sword.
I cast aside my shield, for you will be my protection. Let me take up thy book;
with my good right hand, I pledge thy task. I would walk in Light."
And the voice replied, "Then thou art a priest forever."
There was much celebration, and we took down our tents and left that place.
Only one stayed behind in the mid-day sun. We heard that he was welcomed in peace.
Into the citadel, he entered. He did many good deeds, and was much respected.
At dusk we halted our march, and much wine was passed around the watchfires. I drank
but little, for my thoughts were of a voice, calling to me like through an autumn mist.
A voice I would not want forgot. I was the last awake, and gazing silent in my flickering fire.
I heard that voice again, yet this time, settling in my mind; still and silent as a
winter snow, "Why dost thou wait, and listen to the night, when I should not be
heard by man?"
And I stood to, with arms, "I hear, and that is enough for me, though I know not why.
Thus I heard much more, though I need not speak of that. And then I knew what I must do,
and spoke, "Lady, I am here; take me. I cast aside my bow and flights.
Let me take up thy quill; with my good left hand, I embrace this task."
And that lovely voice replied, with sorrow, "Do not say it so; there would be a
price to pay, and thee knowest not what We do."
In long silence I watched a fading star fall across the wheeling sky. At last I said,
"I will pay that price, and know not what I do; in the Dark, I walk.
Only gift me with the sound of thy voice for all my nights."
And that lovely voice replied in rebuke, yet with a wondrous, gentle joy,
"Then truly th'art a priest forever. Yet take back thine bow;
have a care to hold string dry. Gather up yon darts, and keepen well-sharp.
For where your path leads, I cannot protect thee. There will be no respect.
And when it pleases me, so to thee shall I speak. By daylight and by darkness
thou may'st know of my command."
Much later, another door opened in the night. Into your citadel, I entered.