Chapters 5 & 6 of a fable for children, Jack and Bear, about a boy and his teddy bear who engage in some unexpected diplomacy.
5.Jack looked quickly over to Bear and was dismayed to see that even Bear looked a little frightened by the thought of meeting an ogre face to face so soon, however it was that that might come about. But they didn't have time to think about it for long, as Chop-bone immediately hurried them over to one of the tables that was less crowded. "Make way, friends, here's our rescuers," he announced, and the dwarves shuffled over to make room for Jack and Bear. "Red-Hand," he said to a lean dwarf with a bony, smiling face and a thin yellowish beard, "fill them in on the situation. But let them eat first."
Red-Hand nodded and gestured to the boy and the bear to sit by him. "I was hoping I would get to see you soon. It's been a long time since we had people from the Upper World here."
"Have there been others?" Jack asked.
"Not in my lifetime. But there are stories. They say that in the old days, we lived above among your kind. But ever since men began unlearning magic, we've kept to ourselves down here. Our people, we like to live close to the earth. Yours don't seem to. Here, eat."
He handed Jack a plate of potatoes, onions, and mushrooms, and to Bear he gave a bowl of golden honey that seemed to glow and flicker, as if a torch were in it deep inside. Jack looked at his own plate and then looked enviously at the honey, but Bear held up a paw and told him, "No, Jack. I don't think this food is for humans."
"Right," Red-Hand said. "Bear's one of the magic ones. Even I, and I'm a dwarf, I wouldn't touch it. The crows can eat it, and maybe a wizard or two, if there are any left in the Upper World. And the likes of Bear. What I've served you is what we eat, but it's more than you think it is, little man. Go ahead and try it."
Jack picked up the smallest piece he could hold on the golden fork. To his surprise, it didn't taste all rubbery and greasy as it looked, but it somehow made him think of fresh grass and a sunny wind on the day after a good rain. He quickly ate up everything on his plate and then drank down a huge golden cup of sweet water. Meanwhile Bear was busily spooning up the honey.
When they had finished, Red-Hand gave them cloths to wipe their hands and faces with, and then began his story.
"I have been among men," he said. "Three times in the last one hundred years, as you count time. I can't say I ever found it very pleasant. Any world where music's bought and sold for money, that's no world for a dwarf. Or human, either, but your people have chosen their way, and we've chosen ours. But there was a time when men and women, dwarves and humans, all lived and sang together. There was magic then--not what men call magic in the Upper World these days, which is nothing but tricks, deceptions--only a human would call that 'magic'. In those days, men and dwarves alike could hear the singing of the very stones they walked among--as we still do, down here. As children do, even in the Upper World." He looked directly at Jack as he said this. "But if you sing with the stones you must treat even stones as you would a brother or a sister, and some of your ancestors became ambitious. They wanted to rule, not to love. They became mechanics of oppression, oppression of the earth, of each other--even of us. It was they," he said sadly, "who taught us war, something we have not yet managed to forget. I'm a warrior, so I'm proof of that." He frowned as he said it. "So we fought with men, out of love for a dead ideal. But eventually we simply walked away, and came down here. And we brought our magic with us.
"Not even a dwarf can remember everything. We brought a book with us, one written by dwarf and human wizards working desperately together in that time of disappointment and confusion. And we need it. Too many of us are like Iron-Bender and Chop-Bone and me, and too few like Goldheart. They say a small portion of the blood of men is mixed with ours, from marriages in the days of magic in the Upper World. I think it's true, and I think that some of the disease that makes men want to rule instead of love came to us with it. Without the book we start to forget our magic, and without our magic, we will be as lost here as a blind baby would be in the wildest mountains of the Upper World."
"But where did the ogres come from?" Jack asked. "The ones that stole your book? And why did they steal it? And why d--"
Red-Hand laughed. "One question at a time, little man. The ogres are as old a race as the dwarves, and where they came from, we don't know, any more than we know where we came from ourselves. They are here, and we are here, and we live and die out of time. As to why they stole the book--we don't know that either. We're counting on you and Bear to tell us. Maybe you can just ask the first ogre you see. Here comes one now."
6.The typical clamor of the dwarves suddenly quieted to a nervous murmur, and Jack and Bear saw them shuffle aside to make room for a small group to go through. As the three shadowy figures passed into the glare of a torch, the boy and the bear saw the ogre--there was no mistaking him. Though he was of the same height and build as the dwarves, he was almost naked, wearing only a rough gray vest over the great muscles of his chest and shoulders, and an equally rough gray cloth wrapped curiously around his hips and the upper parts of his legs. His head was large and round, and his skin seemed smooth and hard, like saddle-leather, and he had no hair at all--no hair, no beard, not even eyebrows. His eyes were large, his ears were small, and his mouth was a wide, lipless slit in the broad lower part of his face, through which four short, thick pointed teeth protruded, two up and two down. His hands and his bare feet bore short, hooked claws instead of fingernails and toenails. He walked with a stateliness that made him seem heavier than he probably was. Chop-Bone and another dwarf walked behind him. The three came directly to the table.
The ogre looked at Jack and Bear, his eyes shifting from one to the other as he slowly blinked. Bear looked back at him calmly. When the ogre looked at Jack again, Jack simply said, "Hi! I'm Jack," and stuck out his hand.
The ogre stared at him a moment with his slowly-blinking eyes and then held out his own hand. "Hallo, Jack," he said. His voice was low and clear. "My name is Glok."
"Are you a prisoner here?" Jack said.
The ogre smiled and blinked again. "Not at all. Not at all." He blinked dreamily a few more times. "I am an ambassador from my people to the people of the dwarves. Though there are some in both nations who would like to see me imprisoned."
"Oh," Jack said. "Is that because you can't stop the war?"
"Some, because they think I can't prevent the war. Some others, because they know I will try to prevent it. My people," he added, "do not love war any more than the dwarves do. Most of them."
This statement raised another murmur from the dwarves.
"But why did they steal the book then?"
The skin on Glok's forehead wrinkled as he blinked. Jack and Bear noticed the dwarves muttering and nodding to each other in the background. "Many hands inscribed in that great book. A few of them looked just like this one," he said, holding out his strong, clawed fingers. "Is that not true, Red-Hand?"
The dwarf nodded. "True enough. But you can't deny that the keeping of the book was given to us, the dwarves, Glok. You know that."
"Given by men, Red-Hand. Not by us, who were also party to its making. We have lost much in the time that you have kept it from us."
"And what have you gotten from taking it? Only the threat of war," said Red-Hand.
"And now, the chance for peace," Glok said.
After Glok had left, Red-Hand spoke to Jack and Bear alone. "Speeches," he said. "That's all he's good for. We've heard his points a thousand times, always the same."
"But," Jack said, "you said that what he said was true, didn't you?"
Red-Hand stroked his thin yellow beard and nodded. "I did. And it is true enough, as far as it goes."
"And how far is that?" Jack asked.
Red-Hand thought for a moment and then laughed. "You've got me there, little man. Maybe farther than I'd like to say. But that's why you're here, you and Bear. We've gotten so mixed up and angry about it all, on both sides now. They've got their Iron-Benders on their side, too, who've become more interested in winning a war than in living by the book they want to fight over. The problem is, while the book stays hidden, the magic stays hidden too, and so just having the book doesn't help them any more than it helped us when we had it last. We're angry when they have it, and we're nervous when we have it, and the same with them. And after a while you've made a habit of the fighting and the anger. Just like your people did, in the Upper World."
Red-Hand sighed a big sigh and got up from the table. "So it's up to you, little man, you and Bear. But mostly you, I think. The book was written by three races, and only two of them live here."
"One more question," Jack said. "Why did you tell me a little while ago that the book was written by dwarves and humans only, when you knew it wasn't?"
Red-Hand sighed again. "I told you I'm a warrior. I wanted you to be on our side in the fight."
"But there isn't going to be a fight," Jack said.