Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A pebble in the moonlight

This is one of my favourite pieces of writing.  It's from a novel called Waylander, by David Gemmell.
I love how it describes fear, and overcoming it.


Danyal was awake, her lip swollen and a bruise on her cheek. Caymal sat beside her. The wagon was cramped and the baker's two young children were sleeping beside Danyal.
'Thank you', she said, forcing a smile.
'They will not trouble you again.'
Caymal eased himself past Waylander and climbed out over the tailboard. Waylander moved up to sit beside Danyal. 'Are you hurt?' he asked.
'No. Not much anyway. Did you kill them?'
'Yes.'
'How is it you can do these things?'
'Practice,' he said.
'No, that's not what I meant. Caymal tried to stop the man...and Caymal is strong, but he was brushed aside like a child.'
'It is all about fear, Danyal. Do you want to rest now?'
'No, I want some air. Let's walk somewhere.'
He helped her from the wagon and they walked to the cliff face and sat on the rocks.
'Tell me about fear,' she said.
He walked away from her and stooped to lift a pebble.
'Catch this,' he said, flicking the stone towards her. Her hand snaked out and she caught the pebble deftly. 'That was easy, was it not?'
'Yes,' she admitted.
'Now if I had Krylla and Miriel here, and two men had knives at their throats and you were told that if you missed the pebble they would die, would it still be easy to catch? Think of those times in your life when you were nervous, and your movements became disjointed.
'Fear makes fools of us all. So too does anger, rage and excitement. And then we move too fast and there is no control. You follow me?'
'I think so. When I had to give my first performance before the King of Drenan, I froze. All I had to do was walk across the stage, but my legs felt as if they were carved from wood.'
'That is it. Exactly! The onset of fear makes the simplest of actions complex and difficult. No more so than when we fight...and I can fight better than most because I bring all my concentration to bear on the small things. The pebble remains a pebble, no matter what hangs upon success or failure.
'Can you teach me?'
'I don't have time.'
'You are not obeying your own mantra. This is a small thing. Forget the quest and concentrate on me, Waylander – I need to learn.'
'How to fight?'
'No – how to conquer fear. Then you can teach me to fight.'
'Very well. Start by telling me what is fear?'
'An ending.'
'Make it worse.'
'Maggots and grey rotting flesh?'
'Good. And where are you?'
'Gone. Finished.'
'Do you feel anything?'
'No...perhaps. If there is a paradise.'
'Forget paradise.'
'Then I feel nothing. I am no longer alive.'
'This death, can you avoid it?'
'Of course not.'
'But you can delay it?'
'Yes.'
'And what will that give you?'
'The prospect of more happiness.'
'But at worst?'
'The prospect of more pain,' she said. 'Old age, wrinkles, decay.'
'Which is worse? Death or decay?'
'I am young. At the moment I fear both.'
'To conquer fear, you must realise that there is no escape from what you dread. You must absorb it/. Live with it. Taste it. Understand it. Overcome it.'
'I understand that,' she said.
'Good. What do you fear most at this moment?'
'I fear losing you.'
He moved away from her and lifted a pebble. Clouds partly obscured the moonlight and she strained to see his hand.
'I am going to throw this to you,' he said. 'If you catch it, you stay – if you miss it, you return to Skarta.'
'No, that's not fair! The light is poor.'
'Life is not fair, Danyal. If you do not agree, I shall ride away from the wagons alone.'
'Then I agree.'
Without another word he flicked the stone towards her – a bad throw, moving fast and to her left. Her hand flashed out and the pebble bounced against her palm, but she caught it at the second attempt. Relief swept through her and her eyes were triumphant.
'Why so pleased?' he asked.
'I won!'
'No. Tell me what you did.'
'I conquered my fear?'
'No.'
'Well, what then? I don't understand you.'
'But you must, if you wish to learn.'
Suddenly she smiles. 'I understand they mystery, Waylander.'
'Then tell me what you did.'
'I caught a pebble in the moonlight.'


Just catch the pebble.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................

Anonymous said...

卡爾.桑得柏:「除非先有夢,否則一切皆不成。」共勉!............................................................

Anonymous said...

Quietude is the crown of life.............................................................

Anonymous said...

thank you for you to make me learn more,thank you∩0∩..................................................................

Anonymous said...

格主的部落格內容真豐富~~看得很開心..................................................................

Anonymous said...

培養健全孩子最好的方法是父母先成為健全的人。............................................................

Anonymous said...

耐斯的部落格值得推蔫!............................................................

Anonymous said...

很棒,令人期待............................................................

Guru Mike said...

Also one of my favorite passages. I love Gemmell's work.

Dr fez said...

Love everything by Gemmell. Just got the Druss's iron code tattooed on my arm