Another Ring

 

Now the blood has dried on the pikes.  The ringwall has held.  The siege is over.  Ahead of his mutinous mercenaries, the Foe flies again for the North. The woven speartips on the battlements are thrust in triumph at the sky!  It is over, the ordeal of dread and deprivation!  It is over, the months of the living death!  Roll the barrels of sap up from the cellars, and let the long-delayed weddings adorn the Kingdom in white!  The air grows symphonic with honeybees as the songbirds flock in from exile. Then joyous parades for the victors blanket the green earth in blossom.

 

And now the newborn fists of the buds unclench their fingers of first tender leaves, and the roots again shoulder the plows.  Commerce in the Kingdom commences.  The alchemists, the solar priests and diviners, the lowly water-carriers and wall-builders, all labor and prosper in the reign of peace.  The healing shade is restored, and the replenishing rains arrive to the unanimous applause of the leaves.  All the new wealth brimming the treasury is invested in goodwill. How fond are the first thin choruses from the birdnests, and the hum of the golden traffic to and from the hive!  And all along in their secretive guild the confectioners are distilling their sugars, until with irrepressible pride they present the first fruits—and how worshipfully are they ripened for their consecration!  Then branch and root are one in jubilation. All praise to the Earth!  All praise to the Sun!  And all reverence to the Rain.  When the royal architects reconvene to expand their blueprints, it is a labor of love.  Every branch is to daily extend a little closer to heaven. The Kingdom is well on its way to Empire.

 

Then sparrows chitter in nervous flocks as rumors chill the leaf-stirring winds, subduing the Festival of the Fruit: the Tyrant has appeased the mutineers.  But the Sun is still so kind, and the nights so slim they can barely harbor a fear.  Blest days resume in earnest, and from the North come only more bees, their baskets spilling with pollen.  Is there not some relief from the Sun, laboring in the lengthening shadows?  Yes, the night expands—but what can hope to escape the vigilance of the full harvest Moon?  A wavering friend it is true, the Moon, but a friend nonetheless. When a prodigal leaf returns to the fold, it is greeted with less scorn than apprehension. The Foe, it is said, is rearming the famished hoards.  But who can trust these runaway shirkers?  Where are the warblers when one needs their music?  The roots are informed of the squirrels’ feverish industry with awkward humor.  But with a clamorous flyover of cranes there is writing in the sky.  The augurs are pale and unequivocal: the Foe is descending from the North, and his wake is frozen desolation! And now the casks are refilled and cellared, and the armorers return to the forge. The ramparts bristle with defending spears as all subjects retreat for the walls, and everything beyond is set afire—everything is razed to brown and gray.  The hive is sealed; the forsaken nests are shed in the gales. Then the first of the invaders drift down from the sky.  The blue-eyed white devils, no two the same.  They will blanket in white the scorched earth of the Kingdom.  For another pitched battle.  Another siege.  Another ring.