omewhere on a crossroads in the
vast Santharian province of Vardưnn, not too far from the six Aerelian Lakes,
there stood a signpost. To be precise, he was placed 25 strals from the village
of Mirenn to the east, 40 from the equally large settlement of Helenath to the
west, a whopping 120 from the fertile Aurora Fields up north and still a good 45
from the main city of the region, Salsair, which was next to Salviswood and Lake
All that was also what the signpost informed everyone about, because thus it was
written on its boards. He had four large arrows attached to its pole which
pointed in the various directions and on each you found the place – or places –
and the distance one needed to travel to get there. Hopefully the arrows also
gave anyone passing by a better idea where to head, for that was what the
signpost was there for. Giving directions was his purpose, and he enjoyed it
quite a bit.
One summer afternoon a swallow took rest on the signpost. Leisurely she chuntered
"Oh, what a lovely, lovely day this is!
It gives me so much joy and ease:
The sky so blue, the sun so bright,
and gentle winds carry my flight!"
"Have a glorious journey then!" the signpost said.
The swallow looked down, dumbfounded by a talking signpost. "I didn't know you
talked!" she tweeted excitedly.
"What you don't say! Same here by the way," the signpost replied. "Not all birds
have something to say. But I'm glad you do, for I haven't had a conversation in
"Well then," the swallow said. "So what is life like for someone like you? Don't
you get tired from standing around all day in the middle of nowhere?"
"Not really, my dear swallow," the signpost replied. "I wouldn't want to do
"Is that so?" The swallow looked in disbelief at the strange construction
consisting of pole and arrows, which didn't amount to much as far as she was
concerned. "But you don't do a thing!"
"Ah, I can imagine that it doesn't look like much," the signpost
answered. "But I do. I point, you know: north, south, east and west. Even
if I'm standing in the middle of nowhere, from where I stand I'm the link to
everywhere, to all corners of the world if you like. And I do my work all day
long, all night long, even on holy Prayday; never ever do I rest. Unlike
creatures like you who have to find a branch or a pole like mine to sit on every
now and then. You even have to build nests and sleep for hours there – just so
that you can continue on and do whatever you are supposed to do."
"Well, anyway, a strange kind of work that is, which you do," the swallow
chirped, who secretly believed the signpost to be just lazy. "This would be
nothing for the likes of me. Unlike you I am up in the air as soon as day
breaks, and I head out to celebrate it! I do my rounds over fields, forests,
lakes and towns, and I wouldn't dream about being anything else but someone
who's soaring into the skies, who greets the sun and enjoys the breeze. A mate I
must find, little ones I have to rear..." The swallow had quite a few
things to tell about all that made her life exciting.
"Lots and lots you have to do, indeed! Me, I just point," the signpost remarked
curtly. "Each to his own, I guess."
"Hmm..." the swallow made and turned her beak upwards in silent contempt.
At this moment an almost entirely round redbreasted robin happened to be flying
by the signpost. As the swallow saw him she signalled him to join her on the
signpost, and so he came down. As the sparrow was sitting already on top of the
pole, he chose the upmost arrow.
"Chirp, chirp, chirpety chirp!" he tweeted melodiously, enjoying the warm
afternoon sun. "What's up with you, swallow? Lovely day we have, haven't we?
Chirpety chirp, don't you agree?"
"Sure, what a wonderful day, my dear robin! Couldn't have said it any better,"
the other bird nodded with his little head. "But listen, my fellow bird, why I
asked you to come down here," she then went on. "I've just had a discussion with
this signpost fellow..."
"The signpost fellow? What are you talking about?" The robin looked surprised
and peeked down. "This one?"
"Hello there," the signpost said calmly. "Nice to meet you too!"
The robin just stared.
The swallow went right on speaking. "As I said: I've just been talking with this
signpost fellow – you know, about being a signpost and things like that."
"Ah I see," the robin chirped, still taken aback a bit by the fact that there
even was a talking signpost. He never had heard of such a thing. To catch up he
asked: "Well then, what's the gist of it?"
"He says he's happy being a signpost and doing just that one tedious task, and
that is..." – the swallow made a dramatic pause while rolling her eyes, sure
that the signpost couldn't see her – "...pointing!" she finally concluded
as if one had to be ashamed about it. "Isn't that a bit weird to say the least?"
The robin tilted his little round head to one side, then to the other, and
considered it a bit, and then chirped: "Never thought of it before, but now that
you mention it, that is indeed odd. Then again, I also thought signposts can't
talk. Why would someone be happy doing absolutely nothing? There's nothing one
can gain from just pointing, right? Plus, it can't be healthy standing around
all day. Shouldn't a signpost aspire for more?"
"What do you birds know about signposts anyway? You're just vagrants of the
skies, for your homes are ever changing, while I'm a faithful creature of the
earth!" our particular example of a signpost pointed out, for the signpost liked
pointing – pointing at things and pointing out things, he just didn't have that
many opportunities for the latter. "You're ignorant of what I am and how I am,
for you didn't even know that I could talk! Maybe that's because you never tried
speaking to me? Ever thought of that? So how could you ever understand the likes
"Well, that might be so," the swallow admitted. "But we have two eyes and can
see that you don't want to do something else except being there, like
walking, least of all flying like we do! And you don't even try any of
that the way you speak. That's why you are the way you are!"
"Can't you see yourself that your ways are quite peculiar?" the robin chipped
in, or rather chirped in, in the same vein as his colleague. "That's just a
general observation about your ways you should think about. We can see it both,
"Peculiar ways, you say? And what would you birds know about ways? Ways are a
signpost's domain!" the signpost grumbled. "For one you don't even use ways,
which is what signposts are all about. However, petty as you are you're judging
me by your own skills and expectations. But that's just what you birds want to
see in me. You think I just stand around and that's all there is to it, while
flying about should be everything everyone has to aspire to! But if you'd only
look at me and read my arrows you'd understand the world a bit better. You'd
actually had an idea where you're going. Ways, pshaw!" the signpost pouted.
"Hrmpfh..." the swallow commented, which – admittedly – wasn't very specific.
There approached a tiny sparrow thereafter, who had seen the other birds come
together on the signpost. Deciding to join in he descended on another arrow of
the signpost and greeted his fellow birds. He finished off his greetings by
bending down, warbling: "Tiriloo, tiriloo, and a good day to you too, my dear
signpost!" to which the signpost replied with a hearty "Welcome, as well, my
The swallow looked at the tiny sparrow and then at the round robin, then at the
sparrow again and said: "How come you know about the talking signpost?"
"What's the big secret there?" the newcomer answered and groomed his plumage a
bit as he got comfortable on his position. "Didn't you know? Maybe you
don't pay that much attention what's going on down here on the ground when
you're roaming the skies all day? Well, if you must know, we've been friends for
quite a while, for the dear signpost always offers me his arrows to sit on and
he's really marvellous company. So we talk a lot whenever I'm in the region, for
he's always there."
"Now what could you two possibly be talking about?" the robin said cheekily,
wagging his round head. "A bird and a signpost! You have nothing in common
"Oh, we always find something to talk about, don't worry! He's very, very wise,"
the sparrow elaborated. "Besides, as I can see you all are talking to my friend
as well right now, so there must be some common ground, no? At least for
arguing, and that's at least a start..." He let out an amused cackle. "But to
answer your question, my dear: Mostly I tell the dear signpost news about the
places he's pointing to and where I've been recently. He's very thirsty for
knowledge and truly a great listener, a prime example of patience. Unlike some
chatty feathered friends, who certainly could learn a thing or two from a
signpost like him, who is so well educated and profound."
Swallow and robin muttered disapprovingly to that insinuation of the swallow,
however they said nothing.
The signpost smiled impishly. "It's true, I find learning about the towns and
villages, the Aerelian Lakes and the Aurora Fields really interesting. After
all, it doesn't make much sense to point to something you hardly know anything
about. I owe it to those places to have an idea what they are."
"And yet you stay here and don't even contemplate a visit!" the swallow reminded
the signpost snippily. "It's all hearsay you live on!"
Image description. A signpost
like many others, doing his job. Illustration drawn by
"Neither have I got wings or legs," the
signpost clarified once more. "All I have is a single pole, and that's
because I have to be grounded, so that I cannot simply be torn away by a
"Now don't tell me that you wouldn't love to be flying, though?" the robin
wanted to know.
"Oh, I would, if I only could, dear robin, I dream about it every day. Yet
so do humans, I guess," said the signpost. "But think about it: It's all
for good reason how the Gods made me, believe you me! Walking, flying,
swimming, none of these things I'm destined to, and in the same way it's
not in a bird's nature to be stiff and immobile as I am. One has to accept
what one was made of and not lament about what one clearly is not –
for only then one can live up to what one was indeed made for. If
you only try to be something else and don't accept what you are in the
first place, you will neither become that other, nor will you ever be
"But..." The swallow wanted to interject something as a matter of
principle in defiance to the signpost's stance, however, the signpost
wasn't finished yet, and the swallow sensed that somehow he was making a
"For what you must recognize is that a signpost cannot walk the path he's
pointing to, my dear friends, that's something meant for others," the
signpost said. "That's just how it is, and it is right so. What would be
the point if I actually could walk around? I'd head off, say, to
Salsair – after all I know where it is – and, once arrived, people would
look at me and they'd say: Oh, Salsair, 45 strals to the south, and they'd
follow my advice, while in fact they are right there already. So instead
of guiding them I'd lead them astray. Thus, my venturesome birds, I have
to ask: Wouldn't that be weird to say the least?"
And in order to end his speech, the signpost added: "I heard the swallow
sing when she landed on my pole, greeting the day and celebrating the
beauty of her flight, which is just what she rejoices in. And that is
right so. But let me try some verse as well to celebrate what I do:
For the Gods have given some creatures wings,
others they've provided with legs or fins,
however I, a signpost, am made of wood,
and as such I'm patient, steadfast, strong –
I'm here that others go the way they should
I stay behind, and travelers move along."
Thus spoke the signpost and then it was quiet in the middle of nowhere at
the spot that linked nowhere with everywhere. The sparrow nodded, for he
had always been aware that the signpost was quite a sage and by now he had
learned that he was a little poet as well. Even the swallow and the robin
at last had to admit that his words sounded wise and true, and as a matter
of fact they would even relate them to others in the future.
For thus it happened that the signpost also eventually became good friends
with the swallow and the robin, and the birds from now on visited him
regularly to talk about the world in general and birds and signposts in
particular. The birds of course also told him about Mirenn, about
Helenath, the vast Aurora Fields, magnificent Salsair, Salviswood and the
brilliant Aerelian Lakes, all those places the signpost had always been
used to point to, and he listened intently asking many a question, so
fascinated was he with everything they shared with him. Just as it had
always been the signpost therefore continued giving his directions, for
that was his purpose, and all the birds he knew were fine with it.
And should you once get lost, remember the signpost – he's here to help.
Sometimes I bet you'd even wish there were more like him. Don't forget:
You might even want to ask a signpost, for you know, he talks, and he can
tell you everything about here and there and how to get somewhere, why to
avoid nowhere and what's the deal with everywhere. Come summer, winter,
rain or wind, he braves all weathers, is steadfast and anchored on his
spot. He might just be waiting for you to provide you with directions. –
Remember: All it takes to understand a signpost's ways is someone who's
willing to listen.