Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chapter Five, Scene Ten - philosophical diversions

I had always planned for a scene showing that Balfrith's training among the Elefdar would include instruction in the wisdom of the Elefdar. This might include proverbs, or a philosophical discussion, or something similar. I had not actually decided exactly what to do, but simply left a scene placeholder in the draft of the story.

As of this evening, I have started writing that scene. It is not complete yet, but I wanted to go ahead and share it anyway, just to give you a taste of what it might look like. Of course, this being a rough draft, it could end up being completely different. But of course that's part of the fun of writing - the adventure of composing a new story, followed by the satisfaction of polishing it until it shines, even if that means grinding away the rough edges, in order to end up with a real gem.

Well, that's enough of that extended metaphor. On to the sample...

Incidentally, I'm not happy with the character names in this scene. But they will do as placeholders until I come up with something better.

* * *

Balfrith returned to his lessons a week later, after the new year. He sat now, in a circle with a dozen other Elefdar students, as he had done on so many occasions in the past. This class was somewhat different though, as it dealt with the wisdom of the Elefdar as consolidated over thousands of years. It wasn’t exactly history, nor was it any sort of science, art or lore as he understood the words. The Elefdar simply called it "wisdom", which meant little to him. For Balfrith, wisdom was what you learned as you got older. He supposed, since the Elefdar lived so much longer than Men, they must have collected quite a bit of it over the years.

Of course, he had no idea what that meant for him, personally. From what he’d seen of his father and other older Men, wisdom only brought sadness and regret, something which he thought he’d already had enough experience with, and certainly had no desire to get more of. But it was required of him to learn, and so here he was.

Their ceinad was named Theramil, and he had graying hair like an aged Man, though he was definitely an Elefdar. This was Balfrith’s first surprise, and it caught his attention immediately. How old is he, to have gray hair? he thought.

Theramil introduced himself to the class, and then began with a question: "What is good?"

There was silence among the students, but Balfrith caught a few of them looking askance at one another, as if to see who would dare to respond first. Ceinad Theramil looked around the circle of silent students, then asked again, "What is good?"

One of the young men spoke quietly, as if to himself, "Good is that which is not evil."

Theramil turned at once toward the one who had replied, and grinning, exclaimed, "Ahhh, a dichotomist! Little did I expect to meet one among this class, one so young. Tell me therefore, my youthful student, if you can: what is evil?"

The one who had replied, who Balfrith remembered was called Sulimon, remained silent. His face flushed with embarrassment, and Balfrith felt sorry for him, but not sorry enough to speak out himself. It appeared the other students felt the same way, as they watched first Sulimon, then their ceinad, but remained silent.

Finally Sulimon sat up stiffly, hardened his expression like stone, and spoke aloud. "Evil is to deliberately cause unjustified harm to another. All else is good."

Once again there was silence, but Balfrith noticed Theramil shaking with laughter. After a moment he replied, "Truly, all that is not evil, is therefore good?" Sulimon nodded, but said nothing else. "I suppose, then, that if I approached someone on the side of the road who had been deliberately, unjustly, harmed by another, they would therefore be the victim of evil?"

The student nodded again.

"And if this harm had left the person injured, though not in a life-threatening manner, what then?"

Sulimon shook his head. "What then, what?"

"What should I do?"

Sulimon shrugged. "Do as you will. But cause him no further harm, unless you be evil yourself."

"And what if I do nothing?" Sulimon shrugged again. "Is that good - for me to do nothing? For I have done no wrong, caused no deliberate, unjust harm. Is that good?"

Sulimon replied, "If it is what you will to do, and it causes no unjust harm, then it is good."

"And yet I have left the injured man on the side of the road, with no aid, no encouragement from me."

Sulimon said only, "You have not done evil."

Balfrith now got the courage to speak up, and said, "But have you truly done good? To do nothing, is to do good - is that your belief? At least as long as it is not evil? Is there no middle ground?"

Theramil turned quickly at the sound of Balfrith’s voice. "Ahh, the young Man among us speaks! And he brings the wisdom of Men to our small discussion."