Isle of Estillyen
Far but Near:
Beyond the Storied Sea, where mariners and pilgrims long to sail, lies the ancient Isle of Estillyen. Though equally far from everywhere, those who wish to explore the isle shall find it mystically near.
Still, a challenge awaits everyone who embarks on an Estillyen voyage. To reach the isle, one must willingly breach the Estillyen mist. Most pilgrims do so eagerly, but some voyagers choose to skirt the mist. Although close to their destination, they encounter the mist and simply refuse to enter. The mist confounds their wits, and they sail away.
Long ago, it’s true, a strange incident occurred upon the isle. One clear Estillyen day, a thick veil of darkness rose out of the western sky, swept over the isle, and blotted out the sun. The darkness descended in a thick, hazy form that cloaked one and all. According to the reports, people moved about as “walking eyes,” calling out to one another amidst the haze.
To counter the darkness, an iridescent mist spontaneously arose from the Storied Sea. At first the mist hovered faintly over the waves. Soon, how- ever, broad swaths of shimmering mist encircled the isle a mile or so from shore. Then the mystical glow moved inland, consumed the darkness, and settled in, blanketing the isle with its reassuring presence.
Mysterious Sightings in the Storied Sea:
Yet mystery remains. Many seafarers claim that in the dead of night, the Estillyen mist shimmers with a kind of frost-like light. In olden days sailors told of crewless crafts sailing amidst the mist. They swore that vessels suddenly appeared sporting long slender oars that sliced thorough the water in perfect harmony. Not a sailor or even a shadow on board—just oars sweeping past awestruck mariners taking in what they feared and saw.
Such sightings also tell of blissful figures dancing on the waves. Among them, a tale persists concerning a one-armed figure sporting a large tambourine. As the story goes, the phantom bounced his tambourine feverishly from knee to knee until tears of joy filled his eyes. Then the rhythmic beats would cease and prolonged periods of silence would follow.
During such interludes, the percussionist would draw the tambourine tight to his chest and glide over the waters, as still as a statue soaking in the Estillyen mist. The most ardent believers of this long-held tale swear that the rolling sea flattened a path, aiding the phantom’s passage.
Folklore nestled in Estillyen life:
No one knows, of course, what elements of truth rest in these ancient tales. Nevertheless folklore of this ilk nestles quite well in the nooks and crannies of everyday Estillyen life. It affords the isle a certain levity and mystery that pilgrims have long enjoyed.
Those who skirt the Estillyen mist miss the warm reception which awaits all who disembark in Port Estillyen. The skirters leave no footprints along Estillyen shores. Estillyen’s noted monastery and abbey they do not tour. Nor do they watch sailboats chase about on Lakes Three.
At Gatherers Hall, where the skirters could have stayed, joyful pilgrims occupy their rooms, their beds. They sit at their tables in the dining hall. The pilgrims savor scrumptious fare the skirters might have shared.
Gatherers Hall strips away all comparisons in terms of culinary claim. Locals routinely observe departing guests sniffing the air, attempting to take in one last aromatic whiff emanating from the kitchen. Some visitors actually weep upon departure, knowing they’ll not savor delicacies so delightful again until they return to Estillyen.
Steeped in time, Estillyen possesses a very unique atmosphere, a distinct Estillyen-sphere. A rich communal spirit permeates the isle, pleasant to the core but subtly couched in the contemplative nature of Estillyenites.
Order of Message Makers 1637:
The complexion of the isle has a great deal to do with the Order of Message Makers, founded in 1637 by a gentleman named Bevin Roberts.
Roberts’ quiet impression and spiritual conviction afforded him a character of noble humility. For twenty-nine years, Roberts and his troupe traveled throughout the continent giving dramatic readings drawn from Scripture narratives. From tiny hamlets to vast hallowed halls, audiences eagerly gathered to take in Roberts’ dramatic readings.
Then finally the day came when time laid its hands on Roberts and the troupe. No one knows the full press of circumstances, but outside a small village pub, Bevin Roberts suddenly stopped. As if commanded from on high, he halted. Roberts stood in the middle of the rutted street, raised his eyes of blue, and gazed down the long, jagged lane of darkened gray.
The late afternoon sun had slipped well behind the clouds and lay low in the winter sky. A fierce, biting wind slapped Roberts in the face as the troupe huddled tight, their backs stiffened against the wind. They had spent a good portion of the afternoon on the inside of the pub, in front of an open fire, drawing warmth into their bones.
The troupe enjoyed a late, leisurely lunch and chatted freely. Yet they’d pause now and again to watch and listen to the embers crackle and hiss in the glowing hearth while ignoring the frosty windowpanes. The stilling moments fueled their musing minds.
The troupe knew their leader well, including how ardently Roberts had struggled with his voice’s fade. The fading tone and lilt had become undeniable. During their most recent engagement, Roberts spoke his final lines almost inaudibly. Many in the audience leaned forward and cupped their ears in an attempt to hear what he had to say.
Roberts’ condition had grown increasingly worse as winter set in, but among the troupe, the matter never surfaced in open discussion. On that cold afternoon Roberts surveyed his troupe, all bundled and ready. He doubted not their willingness, yet he knew full well their degree of weariness.
Eventually Roberts softly said, “Through the years we’ve traveled far, sowing seeds for gracious souls. In my mind’s eyes, I behold the vast gallery of faces, ever present. Wonderful the sights we’ve seen, but none of them down to us. We must always remember the words of the psalmist, ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.’ His doing we have seen, not ours.
“Without a doubt time has brought us here today, but not to stay. I hear a bell in a distant tower. It beckons. Time has taken its toll. We must bid farewell to what we’ve known and enter what lies ahead.
“It’s time to move on, time to welcome solitude and settle. Thus we shall strike out to find an isle of rest. For wise we must be in making move that will forward the mission of our wordy mixes. Good-bye, yesterday! Yes, yes, good-bye. Let us greet tomorrow as if it had arrived today.”
Landing on the Isle of Estillyen:
On February 4, 1637, as the record shows, Bevin Roberts and his troupe set foot on the Isle of Estillyen. There time moved at a slower pace. Months gave way to years, and years to decades. Eventually Bevin Roberts, like his voice, faded into time. One by one, the original troupe followed suit, yielding to the future present.
Yet their storytelling ways carried on, rooted deep in Estillyen soil. To- day, the Message Makers of Estillyen dutifully carry on the work of Roberts and his troupe. The ancient texts of Scripture propel them. They have a way of becoming the message. As someone once said, “They have a knack for sticking words together in ways they don’t normally run, to help you see things you don’t normally see.”
The message-making monks of Estillyen go by chosen names: Saga, Narrative, Plot, Story, and the like. Incidentally, I’m Story!