Morning in the market and the blind man upon the mat with his staff upon his knees sensed the crowd was ripe. “Tales! Tales and mysteries! Mysteries and wonders! Wonders and tragedies! Tragedies and folly! Folly to bring your heart to tears and tear great rents in your faith! Tragedies to keep you holy! Tales of the terrors that come when one leans even one step to the left or to the right of righteousness! Do not be afraid! Come to me children and learn! Educate yourselves! Seek ye and find wisdom at the feet of Ch’Byartha!”
“Wisdom? At’chor feet? Hah! Fungus more like as not, Son of Failure!”
“Fungus, aye, well born finder of flora! A horticultural wealth have I as anyone with eyes can see. Just as anyone with wisdom can see that a mocker’s eyes peer no deeper than skin! Even to what lay upon the skin! Failing even to penetrate the most diaphanous of armors! Breathe easy fair maidens! Were thy so distracted as to venture forth this glaring desert day in nothing more than thy translucent night shifts, no risk would thy feminine delights have of being lecherously oogled by this near sighted owl!” he heard suppressed laughter of a feminine variety.
“Nor from a blind beggar, I reckon!”
He leapt to his feet. “Wounds! Insults! False Witness! Come near, Slanderer, and receive thy lumps from my staff or art thou a knave despising justice as well as a scoundrel farmer of falsehood?”
“Are you saying you’re not blind?”
“Blind I be! Aye, and proud of it for in blindness I see farther than your myopic marbles have peered in seven lifetimes of sightless sight! Blindness has opened my eyes! In the Great Sea Fever took my life and I have been reborn! Fever-blindness has fathered me! Wisdom has mothered me! In the darkness of her womb my eyes have seen the Light!”
“Ho! Again! Insults! Lies! Fabrications! Twice now I need demand righteous retribution!” Ch’Byartha swung the staff a few times over the tittering children he could easily hear all around him. This was a good crowd, well mixed, families, travelers and merchants. Mo was playing his part well, they should earn a pretty penny. “Sightless be my eyes now but the blindness methinks is yours! Neither mad am I nor a beggar! But a merchant! Scion of an aristocratic tree! Born a merchant prince of a merchant baron, patriarch of an ancient noble trading family! A failure and a cause of eternal shame to them I have become, tis true and a madness may yet the future hold, Yah willing, but to this very day, never have my paws procured a penny without some goods or service rendered!
A fair trade I offer. Nay! A bargain! For a purveyor of Wisdom am I now! A trader of Truth! A seller of Insight! What price wilt thou put upon Wisdom, Seeker? What price the priceless? What cost the incalculable? What value the invaluable?”
“What is he prattling on about?”
“Ah, he’s an entertainer, can’t you see? Street performer. Give ‘im a coin or two and he spins a yarn. Alright Merchant son of whatever, don’t rupture an organ, you haven’t much left to lose by the look of it. Here you go, regale us! What wisdom does a shoeless vagrant of a frontier port have? By the smell of it, all we will learn is the best place to buy cheap bourbon!”
Ch’Byartha took the coins proffered by the audience and hefted them to gauge their worth. Satisfied they would keep him in whiskey for the rest of the week even after giving Mo his cut, he rapped his staff for silence, cleared his throat and began, “What wisdom have I? A yarn ye purchased and a yarn ye shall have! And though thou malign my person and my honor, only the very best will I bring out of my storehouse for thee! For I shall tell thee of not one but the tragic fates of two sons of that great shepherd of the people! Steward of the vital emerald jewel of the continent! Captain of the courageous! Priest and Prophet of Yah and His Viceroy over the Great Western Pastureland! Chofa the Benevolent!”
“Viceroy? Chofa? Bah!” a voice complained, “Give me back my coins, imposter! I will not pay for wisdom which has gone sour upon the shelf!”
Ch’Byartha stopped. Took two steps toward the voice and reached out to find the owner’s hand. Grasping it firmly he pressed money into it and said, “Here they are and consider them payment or refund and call me a beggar if you like for it seems instead it is you who has a tale I beg you to tell!”