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The Seven Stones

The Bell

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Gordan walked down three steps into the hallway. Its grandeur stirred his heart yet again. As far as his eyes could see, the hall snaked in either direction, to his left and right, and possessed an arched ceiling. From a quick inspection, he noticed the walls consisted of rammed earth. But its architect had used different clay compositions, varying in texture and color, for great visual effects. This he had not witnessed in any other burrow of his life. Gordan now examined the wall closely.

Stacked from floor to ceiling were different layers of earth, like the geologic stratification of rock. The first layer matched the floor and appeared like marble. Such was its likeness that it raised the possibility that the architect actually created quartz in situ. Pride welled up in him—his kind were masters of earth. Beneath his feet, the glossy floor felt cool. And it possessed a translucent depth of shades ranging from white to light-green. But a pattern hid in the shades.

Patterns of green, about the size of his hand, faded outwards like long skinny fingers groping for another green patch. And in this manner, the entire floor looked like some strange host of organisms that fossilized in place upon contact with one another. But the tips of their tendrils were gnarled as if under the agony of frustration. Gordan examined it no longer. For at a glance it was magnificent. But under inspection, frightful became its beauty.

He felt an urge to sit down, close his eyes, and think—to ponder the message the architect had wrought under his feet. But the hall was teeming with smurfs, creating distractions of footsteps, commotion, and doors. So he decided to shift his examination to the second layer.

The first and second layer upon the wall interfaced at about the height of his waist. And this interfacial line curved like a ripple of water stretching down the corridor. The second layer resembled the first layer, except that patches of white marble faded to black obsidian. Round doors, lining the grand hallway on both sides, interrupted the second layer at regular intervals. Three steps of the first layer led up to each door. And each door was void black and over twice his size in diameter. However, a round window of exquisitely etched glass, beveled at the edges, perforated each door and appeared like stacked snowflakes, melting in the sunlight from the classroom inside.

The message of the architect began to unfold in Gordan's mind. The message lay not in a single layer, but in the relationship among all the layers. Thus, he shifted his inspection to the last layer, which lay upon the wall above the doors and covered the ceiling.

This last layer of earth stunned his senses. He closed his eyes to ease the dizziness and slowly opened one eye, focusing on a singular point of the ceiling. And marvelously, this layer looked like the embers of a fire, warm and soothing to his eye. However, if he wandered his vision across this layer, it leaped into terrifying flames. He could not roam his gaze upon this layer too long before the panic of death by fire overcame his senses. How the architect wrought this art was beyond his comprehension. But now he understood the mind of the architect.

Gordan thought to himself, as if answering a riddle, ‘The first layer represents life. Specifically, it represents the stage when life-forms begin seeking other life-forms. They seek to understand their connections to all other life. And from this layer, the smurfling walks up the steps into the second layer of the classroom. The second layer represents ideas. Specifically, it represents the stage when ideas, like life-forms, begin seeking other ideas to understand their relationship amongst them. And the goal of this school is to educate smurfs and help them on this journey of enlightenment. The third layer is both an encouragement and a warning. Keep focus and you will remain warm and full of life. But if diligence fails, you will die dreadfully.’

And thus, in less than five minutes, Gordan received a great lecture from the past, rising out of the depths of time from the architect of the school. And he was deeply reflective. And he decided his lessons were over for the day. ‘Interpretation is naught without transformation,’ he thought to himself. And thus he meandered down the great hall towards the exit in thought.

He reached the exit and poked his head out. An east breeze, whistling through the nearby pines of Conehenge Forest, blew across his face. Around him, bunches of grass climbed to twice his height. Their yellow tips flapped in the wind, darkening to green serrated blades as wide as his hand. Brown stems with fine bristles hedged a road leading southwest to the Lazytoe River. A small footpath disappeared northwest.

‘Better to tarry then to hasten home to toil,’ he thought to himself. And thus, he climbed out of the school and walked along the footpath. Small fitterpitters leaped from blade to blade. The path gently ascended, twisting northeast underneath a pine tree. He ducked under a bundle of needles and climbed over a decomposing cone.

Cucumber plants slowly populated the surrounding grass, forming a canopy of dark green leaves. He climbed to the top of one and saw he had entered a large field, the Pickledickle Clearing, which consisted of wild cucumbers extending several leagues northwest to a thick tree line. Conehenge Forest recommenced leisurely a furlong to the north, revealing snow-capped mountains far in the distance. To his immediate right rose a gargantuan white bell. He slid down the plant and ran up the path. Under the bell sat Garvey like a fly under a cup.

“Hard work to toll the bell, lad,” Garvey said, while sweating profusely. He sat on a slat of wood, spanning a hole slightly less than the diameter of the bell.

“Indeed. I don’t even see how you swung that ball! It’s as big as you! Where did this thing come from? Who could have wrought this? It’s magnificent!” yelled Gordan.

Garvey smiled. “Those be the best questions a smurf has ever asked ole Garvey! I’m not a teacher of any sorts, but I can tell ya a lil something bout this bell. Fer this be my favorite spot in the whole school! In the early days, this huge shaft, beneath my here feet, were dug. My ole smarfer, rest his soul, tole me that I be a descendant of the chief archie-tec. Well, this big hole branches and leads to hunderds of classrooms. Ya only seen one wing of this school yet. The older wings be sealed off, layin dormant fer a long time now. Only I have the keys and I don’t wander there—very creepy. This shaft lets in fresh air and keeps the students sharp. After expandin, the school got kindly donations from patrons, former students who grew up and became, well I’m guessin, rich. The school ordered this fine bell from the Dwarves of Dunlop, yonder the Snowhite Mountains,” he pointed northward behind his head. “The bell was wrought there with chrony. This be chrontite.” He tapped the ball next to him. It ringed a high pitch note. “No tellin how though. Some secrets of the dwarves, I suppose. Come here,” he beckoned Gordan to the far side of the bell. “This be the founders of our school reliefed on the surface. With great ceremony the town placed the bell in its final resting place—over this here opening, which served two purposes hence.”

“Wow when was this?” asked Gordan.

“Well don’t ya listen to me, but I heard it was near creation itself! That this be the place where the white light gave us the Great Stone. But that this be the place are tales that ran along here when I were a boy. But I don’t hear them no more. But I do know one thing! That from all over smurfland, youngins marched every morning to get some structions. Those be the proud days of this lil hamlet. Most don’t even have this hamlet on a map no more. But I’m guessin our pride now lay in the name itself. Fer we be the only locale of horpy flowers still,” Garvey said.

“I am but a young boy. These things are beyond wonder to me. Creation? I am only 6, Garvey!” Gordan cried. “But I have thought deep thoughts and toiled hard toils, bearing burdens that may crush some elders. Old Garvey, your words are as wise as any teacher I’ve heard today, though maybe not as fair. But more pleasant and common to my ears, for sure! They are soft and from the heart. They are not strained through proprieties. And I will think of them long after our parting.” With that Gordan’s face grew solemn. “To tell you the truth, Garvey, I’m not even supposed to be here. My folks think I’m pulling roots right now! I don’t think I’ll last the night, once I get home, to hear this bell ring tomorrow!”

“Pullin roots?” asked Garvey. “That be outrageous! Gordan yer hands be to young fer that kinda work, though your mind be far older seemin to me. And ya’d be missin structions, which every smurfling needs to be a good smurf. And heck, ya’d be missin Ms. Wormwas! But say, if you be meant fer pullin roots, than how’d ya get on the roll of Ms. Wormwas? Many don’t get on that roll. Many don’t wanna. But even then, ya gotta get mission from higher up—Mr. Cloppertropper…er Clapclopper…er ya know the principality. Fer that class can be mighty dangerous. I’ve seen some stuff in my time,” said Garvey.

“Again, I shall tell you the truth. I scribbled my name on the roll,” confessed Gordan with pride.

“Why, ya know yer letters already?” asked Garvey.

“Yes,” continued Gordan, “I learned most in my first class session today. Fascinating are our smurf letters! Why by the end of class, I was reading a marvelous story about some beetle named Barley. But some kids made fun of me, saying I was reading the book upside down. I think that’s how I actually learned them today, upside down, Garvey!” cried Gordan. “I was really upset at the names they called me and so I left the class early. And I stumbled upon a class roll-sheet taped to the window of a door. Now that I think about it, it must have been taped upside down. For I read it easily. I don’t know what shapeshifting means, Garvey, but it sounded interesting. And I saw that I wasn’t assigned to this interesting class. So I scribbled my name in the last slot. And since the paper was upside down, my name came out alright because Ms. Wormwas didn't have to flip the paper, although she did have a hard time recognizing my letters. I need to work on them better—and more right side up—to become a good smurf.”

“Wow!” gasped Garvey, “I ain’t never heard of a smurf learnin his letters in one day, much less how to read! Ya sure ya be a smurf?” asked Garvey. He eyed Gordan suspiciously. “Ya be a smurf alright, unless my eye cheats me. But ya be a smurf that hasn’t been…I dare say…in my whole lifetime! Ya be cunning!”

“Old Garvey, life has forced cunning upon me! It’s all I have I’m afraid,” cried Gordan.

“No, my boy, ya got more. I reckon yer mind be starving for learnin, ya look awful and deprived. But I hazard to say that it be more even than this. Ya ain’t been made for pickin herbs! Not after them mighty words that Ms. Wormwas gave ya. I ain’t ever heard her speak like that before if ya know what I mean. Come now, follow me! I think this ole smurf gonna make them ole wings useful after all,” said Garvey.

“What do you mean, Garvey?” asked Gordan.

“This be what I mean,” Garvey said adamantly, wagging a finger to stress his decision. “There be an ole freezer in an ole wing of the school. At least the letters say as much on it. It’s been there fer who knows how long, placed their durin the Great War I bet. I’m sure it’s full of roots. And I have a mind to take ya down there with me. Let’s pop the top and look fer ourselves. If I’m not a smurf then smurfs aren’t masters of herbs. I be bettin the roots inside still be fresh in the barrel, preservin fer over a thousand years! And if I be right, ya can keep yer roots and your structions too, everyday henceforth!”

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Chapter 2