Work Header

Education, Evolution (the Taliesin Remix)

Work Text:

Begin as you mean to go on.


"You keep a journal?"
"I’ve been keeping one almost since writing began.

He might as well have said "I've been a student, a teacher, since before writing began." It would be as true, or truer.

The Highlander is not a student. He is not — has not been and will not be — Methos' student. But if he cares to learn (and there is no doubt of that in the observant eye, the generous heart, the curious, seeking mind behind that veiling guise of 'Highlander.' There never has been.) Methos will not stint example, riddle, tale or teasing jibe.

It's been more than two centuries since an immortal called him teacher. He's not interested in changing that. But he has never not been a teller of tales, a guide to willing hands, a teacher.

I was a slender sword
I was a drop in the air
I was a shining star
I was a letter among words
I was a word in a book
I was a book of beginnings
I was a light in a lantern
I was a bridge stretching
Over 60 estuaries

I have been an eagle in the air
I have been a coracle in the sea
I have been a spark in the fire
I have been a tree in the grove

A raindrop, a teardrop, a blood-drop,
Sprung from the cauldron of Cerridwen

Set the stage - so many stages - with sound, music, silence, wind-in-trees, the snort and rustle of animals, the chatter near or distant of lovers, friends, family, adversaries, enemies, fellow prisoners, fellow slaves. Rarely fellow immortals - Darius, Rebecca, John. Duncan. He wrote among the Horsemen, but always and only in the sanctuary of his tent. So very often the restless shuffle and energy of students: students he was teaching, students he moved among, learning with, eager minds and dull, and everything in between.

Arkansas dust filming the weathered slate of the chalkboard, motes demonstrating spin and random motion in the long slanting beams of sunlight from the open windows, the distant sounds of agriculture heralding laborious summer and the end of school. Every head bent over a splintery desk, writing away, wanting so much that he can show them, teach them, encourage them to reach for, but cannot give.

Set the stage with light - sun, moon, fire - bonfire, bone-fire, balefire, hearth-fire, wildfire, - candle, lamp, torch, taper, wick to consume tallow, wax, oil, grease, [future substance], whatever will wick up to be consumed by flame. Then, stranger lamps, consuming gas, aether, that catch the spark of atoms, that excite the invisible bodies of neon, xenon, rarer airs, that set filaments and globes and ceaseless, sourceless glows (plants, rocks, lichens, fish held suspended, fed and cared for and encouraged to glow bright and light and cool). And always, ever, sunlight, though star so named is not (always, any longer) the sun that saw his first days, centuries, millennia upon the earth. Humanity has spread far and far from the solar system, and immortals with them.

The horses dance — white horses like and unlike a clever, graceful, willful and wild grey mare that bore him leagues and years and out from unfathomable depths to reawaken at the edge of the sea. They know him, vie for his touch, but he does not stay. He never stays.

Set the stage with tastes, with smells - the scent of gall-ink, soot-ink, aniline-ink, graphite and chalk, oil and [name, name and name future] Paint and powder, permanent, fading, broad, narrow, wet, dry, visible, invisible to ordinary eye. And not always ink - styli pressing into wax, clay, resin, sand, bruising the inner bark of birch, making lines and marks of heat or cold or chemistry on stranger substances (under stranger lights). Bones and stones and blood serve too, and the incense of need, of pain and plenty, of pleasure and torment. Parchment, plaster, pergament and paper, all with their own smell.

Steel speaks its own language in the hands of a swordmaster, imparted to youths both willing and not. More of them survive because of his teaching than would otherwise. They are the ones who learned respect for the weapon, the opponent, the field of battle; the ones who were blinded by the idea of glory all too often found the opposite.

Water, wine, beer, soup, comforts of refreshment to accompany the work, the writing. The tastes of famine, of fortune, bitter, sweet, salt, savory. The very taste of the words themselves, shaping in the heart, on the tongue, spoken and silent. The secret languages, the common tongues, the arcane and the subtle, broad and stark, flowing and harsh. So many tongues, so many words, all with their own taste, their own flavor in memory, in mind.

How to shape in sound the lessons learned in silence
How to cast in words what art and skill have done
How in memory fix the slant of sun on sword-point
Or match the indrawn breath that marks a crown right won.

What binds Honor fast amidst the bitter trial
When heart & sinew strain to serve that hard ideal?
How match strength and skill with only will remaining?
& how endure the fire that tempers ore to steel?

How make ink or breath express what lies past seeing
How confine in verse what oath and act enthrone
How to set in song the shape and stamp of kingship
That's bourne within the flesh of those that geas have known

Set the stage with textures - the pleasure of paper, of pen - quill (goose, swan, chicken, dove, jay and raven and crow - any feather can be made to serve, cut and dipped and traced light on whatever surface will serve to hold the freight of meaning. Do you sit on the ground, dust or grass or sand or stone? Wooden planks or woven mats, tufted carpet or tufted pillows, leather, straw, knotted ropes strung high and fragile, suspended from tree-stems still growing, or re-rooted in other soil; masts and pillars and spans that leap depths vast or shallow. Often still it seems strange to sit on chairs, at fixed and sturdy desks, broad tables. Do the words come different when the furniture is different? Keyboards are different than typwriters, quills are different than reeds or styli made of bone or lead. Needles speak with thread, brushes with ink or paint or stain. Chisels, files, saws, gravers and acid, inlay and orpiment, cat-whisker-dots and shapes of smoke bannered across the sky.

Speak as if your words were letters of lead, graven for all eternity, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences.

Set the stage with self. What do you see-hear-taste-smell-touch-know that would be recorded? What after all this span of time is there still to write? What stories left to tell? (There are always stories left to tell, new tales and old, new points of view, new minds and ears and eyes to take the story-stuff and spin it yet anew.) What are the words that want to speak today? What songs? What seasons?

Is there an ear, an eye for wisdom
that may perceive
across the depths
across the dark
across the spiraling cycles of the stars?

Etched in the flesh of this world
will my words still speak
though I be dust and silence?

Will these stones still sing
when we again are gone
across the depths
across the dark?

Is there an ear, an eye for wisdom
that will perceive
across the spiraling cycles
the soul of what I needs must say?

Stories are the words we tell ourselves to shape the world to sense. Stories make us people, human, one-in-more-than-one. Stories make that which merely happens into meaning. Methos writes to remember. He also writes to be remembered.

Tell me your story; make it up if you like.

I was a sword in hand
I was a shield in battle
I was a string in a harp
I was a snake on a hill
I was a viper in a lake
I was a haft of a knife
I was a star, crooked at first
I was foam on a wave
Enchanted nine years

I have been a power in battle
I have lived in a hundred caers
I have held the star-knowledge
I have loved in a thousand lands

It is not me who sings not
I have sung since I was small