Leaving the High Road


“Am I to take it then that you approve?”

Natasha reached her arms up out of the steaming water and stretched them along the deep sides of the cedar bathtub in front of the roaring stone fireplace.

“That would be like saying an elephant is not small, Gwyn. True, but a hell of an understatement.”

“You are not one to give up control of anything. I’m surprised you let me make all of these secret renovations in here without any questions or peeking.”

“I wanted to give you a chance to prove yourself as my Shadow. And you have.”

“I’m not convinced about that myself, m’lady. I cannot fathom why you are wearing a mask in the bathtub.”

Natasha adjusted the leaf shaped leather mask covering her forehead, eyes, and nose, sighing deeply.

“Because I’m weak. And they’re everywhere. The bastards. They find me.”

“Who?”

“The ones who want help. Who need help. So I help. But it rarely ends up being ‘help’ they want, truthfully. Helping people is not taking over their problems on their behalf. I always end up doing that. Then wondering why I get so damn tired. I never get to see all the beautiful stuff in the valleys, Gwyn, because I insist on taking The High Road. And dammit, all I get up there are nose bleeds!”

Gwyn hopped from his perch by the fire to the edge of the tub.

“I’m shocked to hear you talk like this.”

“Disappointed?”

He stretched his wings wide and flapped them thrice to emphasize his response:

“Relieved! There’s hope for you! That halo you wear acts like a beacon and a bullseye. You wonder why you never get any peace? You wonder why the Dragons come from far and wide? I’ve lived with and listened to you long enough to understand you are on a quest for moral perfection. It is admirable. I’ll give you that. However…”

“However?”

“However…though I can’t quite put my claws on it, so much about you advertises your quest and seems to dare people and Dragons to make you prove yourself. My darling…that halo invites abuse. You need to start wearing a hat.”

For a moment it was as though she didn’t hear him, but then, running a hand slowly through her red curly hair she smiled a big smile.

“You’re smiling. You’re not angry?”

“I never looked good in hats but I just don’t think I found the right one. I happen to love hats. I thought I’d start with a mask to cover up the ‘sucker’ sign on my forehead. I didn’t see it in the mirror but I’m sure it’s there.”

“Do you like the bath soak I created for you?”

“It’s lovely. Soothing. What’s in it?”

“Sage, to cleanse the spirit, clove oil to relax the body, and magnesium from the earth to replenish your minerals. You spend so much of your life in your mind, m’lady, and neglect your body. If you permit me, I will see to it that you are wholly nourished. We must be more than our thoughts and desires or our fires will eventually die out…as you have learned the hard way. You are a human Being. I am your Shadow. Together, we will Be, again.”

Natasha, the helper, the saviour, the loner, unused to offers of nourishment, didn’t know what to say, and so she reached over and gently touched the tip of Gwyn’s beak for just a moment and asked, “But what will I be if I’m not a helper, Gwyn? You’re part of the solution or you’re part of the solution. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”

The wise white crow walked around the perimeter of the large tub and back again considering his reply.

“Were you ever a helper, darling? Maybe once upon a time. But at some point you strayed into that wretched territory of Saviour. Or tried to. I am wise and ancient, m’lady, with magic in me, but even I cannot be a Saviour. Are you more than I? I am many things, but I have come this far and lived this long because I have never tried to be something I am not intended to be. I know what I am and it is enough. It has had to be.”

Slipping down deeper into the soothing water Natasha pulled off her mask and let it fall to the floor in resignation.

“I hear what you’re saying, friend. I do. I’m a terrible excuse for a Saviour. That’s become abundantly clear. I’ve done well by many! I have! I will give myself credit. But it’s not good if you lose yourself in the process. If you can’t keep your flame alive. And most especially if you lose the ability to tell the difference between the users and the ones being used.

“But I see things. Have seen things. Too much now for too long to slip into that neutral territory between the good guys and the bad guys. I can never be silent because I have learned how much the wicked depend upon silence as their most efficient weapon. If there is a life for someone like me that lies between slaying Dragons and sticking my head in the sand then I’d love to know about it. I have lost my taste for running into burning buildings and kicking monsters in the shins. Can you help me find a path I can live with, Gwyn? Is there any hope? At all?”
Stretching his wings wide and flapping them thrice for effect, Gwyn replied:

“We will go hat hunting first thing tomorrow! All will be well, my child. All will be well.”

Stephanie Kirsten Hansen copyright 2014

Me and my Shadow

“Are you Natasha?”

“Jeezus!” Whirling around in a panic looking for the speaker all I see is a white bird sitting on a log.

“I inquired about you at the manor and was told you had just gone out for a walk. I was shown to the parlour but asked how I might recognize you if I went to look for you. You were described as a beautiful woman with striking red hair and blue eyes.”

“Nice. And you are?”

“Gwyn.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Gwyn. You’re beautiful yourself, but I don’t recognize what kind of bird you are. You look familiar somehow but I can’t place you.”

“I’m a raven.”

“But you’re white!”

“All ravens used to be white. When we saw humans losing their spirituality we gave them our light. When all of humanity regains its spirituality the light will be returned to the ravens.”

“Why are you still white?”

“I belong to a small sect of ravens on the coast of Canada. We are messengers and guides for Shamans and Seekers. That is why I am here. A Shaman informed me that a Peace Warrior, one who calls herself a Dragon Slayer, is in need of a guide and companion with special abilities. She believed I may be the one to help you.”

“A raven as a Shadow?! I – I was thinking of a Shadow in…my form. Like…a shadow of myself.”

“I can take any form necessary as the occasion arises. If you need to see yourself, Natasha, why don’t you simply look in the mirror?”

Okay. The little…bird…has me there. This is nothing I had in mind. I have no idea what to say to him. “Mind if I sit?”

“Please.”

“I asked for some…uh…someone with experience as a Dragon Slayer’s Shadow. You?”

“All Healers and Seekers are slayers of some kind of demon. I have spent all my years around bravery and cowardice, devotion and doubt. Humanity is my raison d’etre. I have no other purpose except to serve.”

“A white Shadow, huh?”

“You concern yourself too much with shadows, if I may be so bold.”

“You don’t know me. You don’t know my fight. What you say is not bold. It is not even arrogant. It is stupid. You won’t be needed. Thank you for coming.”

I’m several feet away when I hear a whoosh and the little bastard’s voice in my ear. Oh right. It flies.

“There are more elements than just fire, than the fire that shines the light that casts the shadow that concerns you. All of the elements are equally necessary. They are interdependent. If you’re missing one, how do you know you’re not missing the others?”

I stop so suddenly he nearly gets tangled in my hair. The little shit. “Shadows – real shadows – for one thing, never fucking run into you.”

“My apologies. Won’t happen again.”

“And for another thing–”

“Yes?”

“Give me a minute. Okay. Air. Air is an element. How can I be missing air?”

I remembered what Baba Yaga told me about the Dragon’s fire suffocating me and mumbled, “Never mind.” Then I said, “Okay…earth is an element. How can I be deficient in earth?”

Standing on the forest floor the odd white raven thoughtfully said, “It seems to me, Natasha, that we have some interesting things to discuss. Would it be agreeable to you if I become your Shadow until such time you decide that you are quite certain I cannot offer services that are valuable, unique, and necessary?”

Valuable and unique? It’s what I was looking for, but I also wanted – expected – to LIKE my Shadow.

“What about the humour and compassion I stated in the requirements?”

“I have a great sense of humour. I appreciate irony, sarcasm, and absurdity equally.”

“That’s not exactly…comforting.”

“Get a dog.”

“Am I going to regret you, Gwyn?”

“You might.”

“Regrets are nothing new to me. Let me show you to my chambers, darling.”

“I bet you say that to all the birds.”

Natasha

welcome to the Fireside Room

Welcome to The Fireside Room.
My original choice of rooms at Riversleigh Manor was chosen for its quiet, unassuming comfort. A place for me to sleep deeply, well, often and undisturbed. Since my meeting with Baba Yaga I have had a change of heart and a change of plans. I welcome a little disturbance. Well I should be disturbed!

Gone is the fluffy white bed where the princess may sleep evermore behind drawn white sheers until her hero awakes her. It seems a Dragon Slayer needs be her own hero. If I am to be a force of Nature I must reconnect with the forces of Nature that formed me. To re-learn its strength, solidity, balance, flow and nurturance.

This is not a bed to fade away in…it is a place for ongoing vision quest.

Natasha

For a Shadow is…

A Dragon Slayer’s Shadow is her sixth sense, her scout, her conscience and companion. Shadowless, she is vulnerable and may go astray in so many ways.

When following, her Shadow alerts her to what she may have missed along the way; when preceding, her Shadow warns her of danger ahead; traveling alongside, her Shadow consoles, clarifies, and amuses.

A Slayer’s Shadow is the essence, the spirit of the Slayer, sans burden, sans regret. The Shadow watches while the Slayer sleeps, and dances by the light of the moon through the window when the Dragon Slayer is too tired to do anything but watch on in delight; it is her body that is tired, but her essence, her spirit, her Shadow dances on.

Every Dragon Slayer needs a Shadow. When she lets that inner fire go out she also loses that Shadow.

Natasha

WANTED: Shadow

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Dragon Slayer Shadow
PERMANENT FULL TIME
PAY: Room & Board at the exclusive Riversleigh Manor locate in the heart of the private Riversleigh Woods.
REQUIREMENTS: Experience as Dragon Slayer Shadow. May consider applicants sans personal experience as Shadows who have known Slayers personally if they possess Wisdom, Compassion, Humour, Bravery, Patience, and are Keenly Alert and Highly Adaptive to such an unusual and important job.

SEND DETAILED APPLICATIONS ADDRESSED TO:
Natasha, Fireside Room, Riversleigh Manor, Riversleigh Wood.

Notice Given

I’ve been sleeping a lot less since my terrifying run in with Baba Yaga. I always thought the best any of us could hope for was to die in our sleep, but there’s a hell of a difference between simply winding down, then peacefully drifting off, and letting the Dragon bastards snuff me out.

Many years ago some fool boy-man was trying to control me, control my life. He had me pretty good, too, because I was in dire straights and he knew it, he used it. But I finally birthed some pride and he had to go. He said, “Nuh uh!” He argued. Told me all of the things I needed him for. I told him I’d willingly do without. Then he pulled what he thought was his ‘ace’, “You owe me your life!”

Without a blink I told him, “Well you can’t have it! It’s mine and I’m still using it!” I shoved him out the door and locked it. I was dizzy with relief but couldn’t stop laughing either because I was sure the last time I used those words I was five and my brother wanted my Tonka truck. Then I cried. Because I knew I’d slayed my first Dragon. And I cried because I knew it wouldn’t be my last. I cried because I knew the Dragons on the list, that they were mightier and meaner than that one, and that I had loved them once.

I can’t figure out how to get their fire out of my head just yet, but notice of ownership of my Life has been announced once again. I know they heard me because there’s a bustle in the hedgerow by my hippocampus. They’re pissed.

Because I’m onto them now, watching and listening for them by day, they have invaded my dreams, criticizing me nightly. But I know they’re Dragon games. First, you make them angry, then, you win. HA!

Steph

Hidden Fires

All I wanted was to get out of my room for a while. Go for a walk in the Riversleigh Forest. I’m on a peaceful, healing retreat, right? This is MY time to myself, right? Riversleigh…the safe, healing haven. So I’m strolling along listening to the sounds of my feet swooshing softly through the grasses on the ground, the twittering and cheeping of birds flitting among the high treetops, the rhythmic, hypnotic shishing of light winds through the leaves, when suddenly I hear a supernatural shriek as the ground shakes and I turn to see…yeah…I shit you not…giant chicken feet bearing down on me. Well I fuckin’ FLY in the opposite direction. Wouldn’t you? You know you can’t outrun a bear. You’re supposed to play dead and all that, but ain’t no rules when it comes to chicken feet.

So I’m running, right? Fast as I can. No…faster than I can. Anyone who has ever been truly terror-crazed knows you will miraculously find yourself doing what was hitherto before not possible for you to accomplish. Until I fall. Because (a) we’ve all seen horror movies and the person running for her life always falls, and (b) you can’t run away from giant chicken feet without looking over your shoulder, resisting looking what’s after your ass. But as soon as I fall, I don’t want to see the chicken feet anymore. I don’t want to watch this. I know it won’t be good. My eyes are closed. No one has to sew them shut. A pry bar couldn’t open them.

You remember Halloween when you were a kid? All those women on your block giving out candy who dressed up like witches? I remember the fake scary witchy voices they used. They should have taken lessons from the bloodcurdling broad that shrieked at me from the top of the chicken feet. “You foolish child! You’re going to break your neck! It’s bad enough that you haven’t completed the task I gave you but then you go and try to kill yourself!” It was Baba Yaga.

Mind open. Eyes still shut. Didn’t want to see her either. “What do you mean? What task, Baba Yaga?!”

“Your fire, you fool! You let the fire go out. I told you to relight the fire and all you have done is sleep. I know what you do. Or do NOT do! You think you can hide. From me. From the World. From yourself.”

“I’m not hiding, Baba. I’m…resting. I’m tired. I have fought so hard for so long that I have become exhausted. Surely even you have seen the good fight I have put up. I have done well! Am I not to be admired?! Am I not to be granted some rest now? Is that not my expected reward? Is that not reasonable?”

I suppose the bitch was laughing but it sounded more like someone was squeezing the breath out of an old cat. “Rest? Rest, child? You’re not RESTING? You’re DYING!!! If you don’t re-light that fire like I told you to you’re going to die in your sleep!”

Dying? “I’m not dying, old mother. I’m just…tired. So…tired!”

“You’re weak. And getting weaker. Don’t you know the difference? You slayed a few Dragons. Hurrah. Excuse me for not clapping my bony hands. I eat them as low-fat snacks. I wear their ears as pretty little pendants and decorate my Christmas tree with their eyes. Their scales shine like sequins. Better than cheap-ass tinsel. But you let most of them go. Chased them off. Such a good girl you are. Not wanting to HURT anyone. Happy just to save yourself. ‘Oh look at me! I’m so compassionate and forgiving! I’m such a GOOD girl!’ You’re a dying Dragon Slayer is what you are. You so despised the Dragons and all that they stood for you saw none of what made them strong. You rejected everything about them. You learned NOTHING from them at all!!!”

“Of course I learned! I learned not to be like them. I learned that I didn’t want to be a Dragon. I don’t want to hurt and bully and frighten people. I don’t want to go around burning down people’s lives for my own amusement. I don’t want to go to any lengths just to get my way. Dragons are SELFISH! I don’t want to be selfish. I saw what that can do. It devastates people.”

“I’m trying to think of another word for foolish. I’m sick of repeating it. But you define it so well. Look at yourself. Not a selfish bone in your dying body. Think about it. Without its fire a Dragon will die. And so will a Dragon Slayer. You are without Self. And equally sans fire. Nature abhors a vacuum, child. You were supposed to keep some of the Dragons’ fire for yourself. To use it for your own purposes. But you were so damn busy being self-righteous you rejected All and came away from your battles empty-handed. Now you don’t live, you merely exist. The Dragons saw that vacuum in you in the end of your Dragon Slaying days, the absence of your inner fire, and they snuck some of their own fire into your mind. It is the Dragon fire that burns in you, for THEIR ends and means, not your own. You don’t even know it’s there! That is why you are so tired. A Dragon’s fire sucks up all the oxygen around it. You are not tired, my child. You are suffocating. That is why you sleep. That is why you can’t wake up. Your mind is filled with a destructive fire and your body is drowning in dirty ash.”

I opened my eyes then. What could be more frightening than the truth? I knew there was something inside of me that didn’t belong there. I felt as though I was being consumed by something. I thought it was exhaustion. But after sleeping for so many years, if it was only simple exhaustion, surely it would have been satisfied. I tried to reason it out in my waking hours. What was it? I searched for the answer in my dreams. I was blind to it. Could Baba Yaga be right?

“What can I do about it? How do I fight a fire I can’t see? Can’t feel?”

Exasperated, Baba Yaga shrieked, “YOU DO WHAT I TOLD YOU TO DO! YOU LIGHT YOU’RE OWN DAMN FIRE! You fight fire with fire. A Dragon Slayer’s fire is different from Dragon fire. Dragon fire depletes oxygen. It burns everything in its wake. It destroys everything and everyone. It is destructive. Every seed of inspiration, every morsel of self-nourishment you put into yourself these last years has vanished in the flames. But a Dragon Slayer’s fire is fuel that feeds you and gives you energy, it warms you, it is a powerful light that guides you and everyone around you. A Dragon Slayer’s fire is LIFE! No Dragon fire can survive it.”

“But…how do I re-light the fire?”

“That, child, is what you must find out for yourself. I can only suggest that you find out why your person Dragons hated you so much. Find out what they so desperately don’t want you to have. What they don’t want you to be. Then go and get it. Be that which so frightens them they believe they must destroy you. It was precisely that, your personal Inner Flame, which they saw burning brightly once and were so intimidated by it they were drawn to extinguish it. And you let them.”

Again, the forest shook as Baba withdrew and the enormous feet turned direction to stomp off leaving me as shattered as though they’d stepped on me. A Dragon’s fire burning inside of ME? I felt violated. Ashamed. Stupid. Weak. Hopeful. I had Dragons to slay!

Steph

how to recognize a Dragon…

People who don’t love you want you to believe you don’t deserve to be safe.

People who don’t love you want you to believe you don’t deserve to have a home.

People who don’t love you want you to believe you deserve to fail.

People who don’t love you want you to believe you deserve to be abandoned.

People who don’t love you want you to believe you aren’t good enough.

People who don’t love you don’t want you to believe in yourself

People who don’t love you are Dragons.
[REFERRING NOW TO PREVIOUS POST]
Dragons like being Dragons.
Dragons never apologize.
Dragons don’t love Dragon Slayers…
because…
though they tend to be small creatures…
Dragon Slayers kick Dragon ass.

The psychological weapons of the Dragons often make the Dragon Slayers falter, but never fall. For Dragon Slayers are funny and irreverent beings who think for themselves. They are compassionate. The don’t live for others; they live with others. They do not believe anyone is more important than them nor that they are more important than anyone else.

Dragon Slayers, then, don’t think like Dragons. The only time we get into difficulty is when we don’t recognize that we are, in fact, dealing with a Dragon, who are the most unconscionable and remorseless of all Shapeshifters. There is no guise they will not, and have not, taken. There are Dragon Priests, Mothers and Brothers! There are Dragon Teachers, Bosses and Neighbours! But…even the smallest child might be a Dragon Slayer.

I knew one of those children. She was stunning! Quietly, calmly, she would lean back in her chair, cross one leg over the other, and say, “No,” utterly refusing to engage in the Dragons’ nonsense. She would not, could not, be moved by their trickery and temptations when she sensed they were up to no good. A really talented Dragon Slayer is a sight to behold.

Steph

about Dragon Slayers

Yohann Schepacz: "Dragon Slayer"

Yohann Schepacz: “Dragon Slayer”

RULES FOR DRAGON SLAYERS

#1 Not all Dragons are yours to slay.

#2 You cannot slay a Dragon that is not yours to slay.

#3 There are a finite number of Dragons assigned to you.

#4 Not all of your Dragons can be slain. If you banish some of them from your realm thereby    saving yourself and your castle, you win!

#5 Nine out of ten Dragon Slayers do not believe #4.

#6 Dragon Slayers tend to become lost and depressed when there are no more Dragons for them to slay.

#7 Dragon Slayers eventually embrace the Peace they were fighting for all along.

#8 First, they sleep.

RULES FOR DRAGONS:

#1 Dragons like being Dragons

#2 Dragons do not apologize.

#3 Dragons to not love Dragon Slayers

#4 Dragons will not become happy, friendly little puppies.

 

Steph

lost…

Beyond lost... Life has a way of kicking you around. Makes you lose your sense of direction.“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau

How do we know we are lost?

When we have followed every road and path we can see yet none has led us to where we belong, or we no longer belong there, we are lost.

When we cannot see a path or trail of any sort from where we stand, we are lost.

When our intuition does not guide us to move in any direction at all, we are lost.

All Survival Guides will tell us, The Lost, that it is imperative, then, to stay where we are. To put our energy into making sure we have adequate shelter and nourishment. When and if we are truly and deeply Lost, we must care for ourselves to our utmost ability where we are and then whatever may save us will find us if we do not wander blindly, starving and exhausted, in the wilderness of our Discontent. Rushing about unprotected and malnourished is madness. Madness!

“But we have to do something!” Yes. Listen. Feel. Observe. We are still, but the whole world moves. Watch it. It will tell us what we need to know. In time. In time.

The stillest creature in the Forest is very busy. Very busy.

Steph