WHAT THE SIGNPOST HAD TO SAY

A SANTHARIAN FAIRY TALE

 
Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations   
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Introduction. Did you know that signposts talk? Well, they do, and they also have something to say if you're only willing to listen. So pray hear him out when he converses with some birds, who have troubles understanding what a signpost is all about...

 

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 Aelignós.

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 away:

"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 a while."

"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 anything else."

"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 of me?"

"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, you know."

"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 dear sparrow!"

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 whatsoever!"

"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!"
 

A Signpost

View picture in full size Image description. A signpost like many others, doing his job. Illustration drawn by Morjer.

"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 mighty gale."

"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 yourself."

"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 valid point.

"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.
 


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Fairy tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile