Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Legend of Ariae Who Loved

This is taken from the rough draft of And it was Love - a sketch of a legend that somehow began weaving itself through the story, part of River's memories and's kind of funny to look back at something I wrote such a while ago. :) 

The trees outside the window blocked most of the sky, but suddenly Jayde raised his hand, one finger pointing to the tiny patch of swiftly darkening night sky visible.
River bent her head down nearer to his, looking up where he was pointing. The flaming tip of a shooting star was just disappearing down behind the tips of the black pine. She smiled, remembering.
“Who?” He relaxed against the pillows, his face expectant, as if daring her to throw off her silent mood.
When did I start telling him bedtime stories? she wondered with an inner laugh at them both. Still, she rested her elbows on her knees, her eyes still on the night sky.
Thank you, Rachel! :D 
“Ariae. One of the princesses of the Elder Ones. Before Vastaavatkarhu… before Brynhaven… even before Ilmatara, back in the Forgotten Days. Though they are not wholly forgotten,” she added, with a smile and a glance at the invalid on the bed, suddenly throwing herself into the tale.
“The stories of the Forgotten Days live on in the traditions and tales of the Ilmataran Heralds, passed on through generations of the royal family. The Legend of Ariae Who Loved, however, is among the oldest of all old legends, and is one that all Ilmataran children hear from birth.”
“I am not Ilmataran,” he said, teasingly begging.
She smiled again, and then her face grew pensive, her voice soft as she began. “Long, long ago, hidden among the ancient tales of the Forgotten Days, is one story that can never be forgotten. It is the story of Ariae.
“Blessed by the gods before birth, she had everything heart could desire: skill, health, riches, and the love of all who knew her. Beautiful beyond telling, even among the Elder Ones, whose glory so far outshines that of our own time as the full moon does the stars, she was their most beloved daughter, and the one upon whom they hung their hopes.
“These hopes she most cruelly dashed to earth, for she upon whom the sun itself rose and set fell in love with a poor peasant boy. He had nothing to give her but his love… and the tale of a strange prophecy made over him at birth – that when he could not see, then his eyes would be opened, and the eyes of all who heard him.
“Neither of them understood what was meant by the foretelling, but the love he had he gave her, and she returned it fully. This was against all laws of the Elder Ones, that one whose blood was pure as the falling snow mingle it with that of one who tilled the soil, and when she made known her chosen, all the realm was shaken. Yet still she loved him.
“Indeed, so great was the love of the princess for the peasant boy, that when she found that he had been banished – banished, and blinded, for daring to look upon one of whom he was so unworthy – she left the Kingdom of the Elder Ones, banishing herself from all she knew and held dear, giving her life completely to search for him.
“Long years she sought him, traveling the world over, always staying just ahead of those who tracked her determined to take her back, sure that she could not so reject who she was. But she had, completely. She changed everything about herself – except her name, hoping against hope that somewhere, somehow, her love would hear that she searched for him.
“But just as she stayed ahead of those of the Elders who wished to bring her home, so too any knowledge of he whom she loved eluded her. On she traveled, asking, searching, weeping each night when the darkness again closed around her and she was yet alone. She dared not cry out to the gods, knowing she had thrown all their blessings back in their face, rejecting all they had given her for the love of a peasant boy. So she went on, utterly without aid or love of any to help her.
“Then at last, after years of futile effort, she began to hear tales of a poet who wandered the land, a blind poet whose words had the power to change the heart of all who heard them, a poet who painted pictures with his words, who created melodies sweeter than those of birds simply by speaking his poems, who opened unknown worlds to any who listened. The prophecy was recalled to her mind; scarce daring to hope it could be the one for whom she searched, she caught upon his trail as quickly as she could. But he traveled erratically, first going to one village, and then staying in the next, always a step ahead of her. As she followed him, her hope grew, and also her fear. If it was not him…
“But the more she heard, the more sure she became, and the more she tried to prepare herself for another disappointment. At last she found a man who knew where the poet was going next, and finally she was able to reach the village before he left it.
“People were coming from all directions, the town was filled to bursting, the roads crowded with roughly jostling travelers. From somewhere near the center of town, she could hear the awestruck silence that surrounded a speaker, but the voice of the speaker was indistinguishable. On she fought, trying to force her way through the crowd that grew only tighter the closer she came. The people pressed together, as if determined to block her way, but after having come so far, she would not now be denied, and at last she reached the front, her heart pounding so loudly in her ears she could scarcely hear what was being said. Here the people were carried away by his words, and they hardly noticed when she pushed through, stepping into the small clearing that surrounded him at last.
“For an instant her eyes blurred and she blinked them frantically, feeling as if she would collapse if the question were not answered, immediately. Then suddenly she could both see and hear again, and her heart stopped a moment in pure joy.
It was he.
“But the man who had told her of the poet’s whereabouts had also told others… and they had ridden swiftly to see for themselves. They arrived just as Ariae stepped out into the open, freezing an instant as if in disbelief, and one of the soldiers raised his crossbow. The chase had gone on long enough – the traitor who had stolen her heart and forced her from her people must die.
“The frozen moment passed, and Ariae took another step forward, reaching out a trembling hand towards her beloved – and saw the arrow coming, coming to punish again one who had no wrong.
“Without even a cry, she threw herself towards him, interposing her own body between. The blind poet staggered when she crashed into him, her arms suddenly wrapping tightly about his neck.
“The next instant he felt a blow strike the stranger in his arms, and then she went limp, collapsing against him with scarcely a sound. The crowd went into an uproar, some going forward to help, some attempting to run from the horror they had just witnessed. At the back of the crowd, a white-faced soldier and his captain turned their horses and galloped away.  
“But the poet knelt in silence, carefully lowering the woman to the ground, though still he held her. As if from a distance he heard a man pronounce her dead, for an arrow straight through her heart had killed her instantly. Slowly he lifted his fingers towards her face – and then he knew her.
“In that instant all the world turned blacker than the blackest night of his blindness, and the poet felt it opening up before him, beckoning to him, and summoning him deeper. But all around him rose cries and frightened screams, and he suddenly realized that if he allowed himself to follow her, he would take with him the light of all the world, for such was the power that had been given him.
“He gave a despairing cry, raising her in his arms and lifting his sightless eyes to the heavens. In that moment he whose words held such power cried out to the gods, and though they had been displeased with Ariae from the moment she threw away their greatest blessings, they were forced to listen to his most desperate plea, for so great was the strength of his command.
“They listened, but they exacted their price, and the life that had already slipped away suddenly awoke – to find itself a star in the night sky, able to see the earth and all that happened beneath. Ariae looked down, to see her beloved standing by as they buried her body. With her place in the heavens had come understanding, and when she saw him, she knew that he had given up his voice so that she might continue on.
“Each night he would come out under the stars and look up, and for a moment, they could see each other. Then he would again be locked in endless night, and she would be forced to watch as he stumbled on through it, only now he was also caught in a cage of utter silence. No more did crowds throng about him, no more could he speak and know that the hearts of all who heard him were touched and renewed by the words he spoke.
“She saw his joy in that moment at dusk, but she also saw his grief when he thought no one was watching. She could only imagine what he must be going through in that black and voiceless darkness, and though she pleaded with all her heart, begging that his voice, if not his sight, be given back to him, the heavens about her remained silent against her tears.
“At last she refused to bear any longer the torment of seeing while yet being unable to speak or touch the one she had tried to give her life for. She did not care what the gods had done or what they might yet do; she would be with her beloved. So, determined that nothing should hold her back, she threw herself from the heavens in one final attempt to reach him. Her second rejection of their greatest gift and the flagrant rebellion in her action infuriated the gods, and she was doomed to be forever returned to her place in the sky, only to perish in fire and flame over and over again, time without end.
“Yet… so great was her love… they say if ever a night goes by that you do not see a falling star, that night, by the strength of that love, she has reached the earth, and while the darkness lasts, she may remain with her beloved.”
The darkness was filled with the sorrow in her voice, and when she ceased speaking, there was only silence.

“That was horrible.
River straightened in her seat, suddenly realizing that they had been sitting in the dark for several minutes, not even moving.
“It’s sad,” she said, somewhat defensively.
“Sad? It’s twisted and depressing. What would possess someone to make up a story about that?”
“It’s about how nothing can defeat love, not even the will of the gods. What is twisted and depressing about something so beautiful as Ariae’s love for the peasant, a love so great that even now it continues on?” She swished up out of her chair, moving carefully in the dark until she found and lit a candle.
The light flared up briefly, and she could see Jayde’s green eyes fixed on her accusingly.
“You like it!” he cried softly, the only half-teasing disbelief in his voice almost making her blush. “It doesn’t even make sense! Who made the prophecy about his sight – wouldn’t they have done better to tell him to stay away from the princess so he could live a normal life? And how is he still alive? Did he get immortality too? Or how about what I really want to know: what did he do to deserve all that? He didn’t reject any gifts.”
“It’s just a story!” she exclaimed, snatching up one of the fallen pillows from the floor and throwing it at his face. Jayde blocked it with his arm, catching it before it could fall again. He shook his head at her over the top of it, and she threw up her hands in exasperation.
“It’s not supposed to make sense. You’re just supposed to listen to it.”
“Do you believe it?” he asked then, curiosity taking the place of teasing. “That that’s what a falling star is?”
“No-o…” she answered slowly. “Like I said, it’s a story. A falling star is… just that, I imagine.”
“What about the gods? Are they so cruel, their rewards so hard?”
She shrugged. “They could be I suppose – but there is only one true God, Elohim, One with his Son Christos and the Spirit He sends to guide us. His rewards are not hard, for He is Goodness, Mercy, and Love.” She looked at him, wondering how closely he held to the gods of Vastaavatkarhu, whoever they were. Probably something to do with bears. 
But he was staring at her. “Ha,” he said suddenly.
Immediately she felt herself bristle. “What? You think that is as much a legend as the other?”

“No!” he answered quickly, shaking his head emphatically. “It’s just… now I understand why you helped me – why you are the way you are.”

2 thoughts shared:

Miss Melody Muffin said...

*Re-reads this happily* This is one of my FAVORITE scenes in AIWL!!!! It's beautiful!!!

Katherine Sophia said...

XD It was really fun to write...and your last email made me very happy. :)


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