Friday, April 30, 2010

A Story

A favorite story of mine I 'wrote' a while back. Though I didn't write it with Beltaine in mind, it seems appropriate. Enjoy!


He begins:

"Once there was a girl so beautiful the lilies hung their heads in shame; though the roses, who were the jealous type, turned theirs aside and pretended not to see. But this girl, as beautiful as she was, had absolutely no idea of it; for she had grown up alone and poor and mirrorless, and no one had ever been there to tell her so. But that was part of the nature of her beauty, for it was a defiant kind that thrives in spite of hardship and neglect, like the flower that forces its way through a crack in the paving to bloom lush and fragrant.

"And so she lived alone, as she always had since she was a child, when she had lost her mother; and she looked after her garden and tended her hens and did all right, really. But she did not mingle much with other people.

"Though every week or so she would go to the market, a couple hours' walk from her home; and there she would sell some eggs, or some vegetables if she could spare them, and pick up the few things she needed but could not grow herself. And though she might have gotten a pretty penny for them, still she never could bear to pick the lilies or the roses.

"And so this day she gathered up a basketful of eggs, and put on her old indigo dress, the one that had once been deep blue but had faded; and she set off for the market.

"Now, this time she had gotten a bit of a late start, and so she hurried more than usual, worried that she might miss the ribbon-peddler, for she needed a new needle; and she was paying less attention than she might have.

"And so she missed the turn by the hawthorn thicket, by the bend in the road; but, still, she wasn't all that addled, and after a few yards' walking she realized her mistake and turned back to go the right way.

"And then she heard the singing.

"It was coming from within the thicket, that old hawthorn thicket she'd seen countless times on her tos and fros from the marketplace; and looking closely between the tangled branches she realized there was a house in there, one she had never before noticed.

"And it came to her that because she had been running late she had left without eating; and she was suddenly quite hungry, and quite thirsty too, for she had brought no water with her.

"And so she stepped into the circle of hawthorn trees, and was lost to this world.

"Now, in that house lived a man, a man of the Shee; and he had been the one she had heard singing. And when he heard the knock on his door he was greatly puzzled; for who of mortals had ever even been able to see his home?

"He was so surprised by this he did not stop to think, and so simply opened the door, curious.

"And there before him was a beautiful, beautiful woman, in a gown the color of the sky of early springtime; and he could see immediately that her physical beauty, though considerable, was not the reason the lilies had hung their heads. For she had a strength to her that ran beyond beauty, though it had created it; and looking on her his heart was lost.

"For her part she saw the door opened by an old man with skin as smooth and brown as a hazelnut, one whose look of mischievous amusement soon turned to naked wonder; but looking in his eyes she could see there was a glamour on him.

"'I am Koeroc,' he said then, giving her his true name without thinking; and as he said it she saw him as he was, a man tall and beautiful as only the Shee are; and she knew, also, what his name meant: Hidden Heart.

"Yet she could also see that the name was suddenly no longer true. 'You are my Beloved,' she said simply, as she drew him into her arms; for her heart, too, was lost.

"And so she clear forgot about the marketplace that day, and the next, and the next; and the two of them passed their time as lovers do, though perhaps with a larger proportion of ecstasy than most; the Shee, you know, are very skilled in these matters, so they say.

"But after a few days she remembered her garden, and her hens, shut in their house with a dwindling supply of feed; 'I must tend to them,' she told him, 'They are in my care.'

"But then, 'How long has it been?' she asked, worried, for she knew that time flows differently with the Shee.

"'They are well,' he said, 'It has not been long.'

"'I must go,' she said sadly, though she knew she would be back.

"'Yes,' he said, though he was worried that she would not; and a fear grew inside him then, one borne of his experience with glamour. 'You will forget me.'

"Well, her look put the lie to that.

"And so she made ready to leave; but as she came to the hawthorn circle he said, 'Wait.'

"And she stopped, and turned to him.

"And with the middle finger of his right hand he thrice traced a circle on her forehead, then leaning in kissed the spot; and she felt something cast about her, light but warm, like a silken scarf.

"'There,' he said, 'you are marked as protected.'

"She nodded, and stepped out from the hawthorn trees.

"It was colder than she remembered, and darker; but the way was not far, after all, and she was soon home. Once there she found the hens had eaten nearly all their feed, and were quite grateful to be let out; and the garden had a few weeds, though they were easily seen to. And as she picked the vegetables she thought she would like to bring some back with her to share with him; and also that she should gather up some clothes. Though really, she thought with a smile, she had not had much need of them with him; and distracted by that fond memory she entirely failed to see the new hole that had appeared in the path, dug by some critter after her carrots no doubt. But said hole made itself suddenly quite known to her, as she caught her foot in it and fell over into the dirt with a lurch; and as she fell she heard a rather nasty crunch, coming from her ankle.

"'Christ!' she said, quite out loud, 'what's with the damned human crap?'

"And then she reeled a bit as her eyes filled with tears, for it hurt quite a lot; but after a good cry she was able to examine it, gingerly. And it was not broken, that she could see; but it was quite badly sprained.

"'Fuck, fuck, FUCK!' she cried then, for she knew she would just be able to manage the bare minimum of care for herself and her chickens; but there would be no way she could make it back to the hawthorn thicket. And no way to send a message, either, for she did not have any neighbors.

"And so for the next few days she stayed off her ankle as best she could, and tried to take care of herself and get plenty of rest, in the hopes that it would heal quickly; but it was an agonizingly slow business. And she despaired, for she knew time flowed differently for the Shee.

"But after a few days there came a knock on her door, which was quite unusual; in fact she did not recall ever having heard one. And her heart leapt; for someone was here, someone who could perhaps take a message to him; and so she hobbled slowly but with determination to the door.

"And when she opened it she saw an old peddler-woman; but she knew his true name, and could not be fooled. 'Oh, Love,' she said, 'I am hurt and cannot walk.'

"'Ah,' he said, his fear and confusion vanishing with his disguise; then seeing her ankle, 'Oh.'

"And he helped her back to her chair by the window. And he knelt beside her, and gently put his hands upon her poor, swollen ankle, and he began to sing. And she felt the torn tendons knit themselves together and become strong again; and though it would still need a few more days, it was much, much better, for such is the magic of the Shee.

"'Oh,' she said, 'I'm sorry.'

"'Shhh,' he said, 'I am here now.'

"And he looked around at her little, poor cottage, which did not even have a mirror.

"'I will stay,' he said, though he was a little afraid; and she nodded.

"And he did, and they thrived; and a circle of hawthorn grew around the yard, though no one had planted it. And though they certainly made a lot of love they remained childless, which suited them; and in time she grew old, though she was no less beautiful. But he remained young, or young-looking; for time flows differently for the Shee.

"And her life ran down towards death, as it is with mortals; and he sat with her by their bed, and held her hand between his. And he looked on her, as the light in her eyes faded and became further away.

"'I am sorry," she said, her voice only a whisper.

"'Shhh,' he said as she died, 'I am here.'"

He stops then, falling silent.

"Oh," I say, "that's very sad."

"Shhh," he says quietly, "it is not finished." And he continues:

"And then she found herself standing up in a place of light, in a body suddenly strong; and the many dull aches she had grown used to with age had now vanished. And looking down at herself she saw that she was young again, as young as the day they had met. And there he was before her, smiling at her, and holding her hand between his still.

"'Oh,' she said, in great joy.

"'Yes,' he said, 'I am here.' And he took her into his arms, and kissed her hair.

"For that is the nature of the Shee, that they live in both this world and the Other."

He pauses again, before quietly saying, "The end."


Lavanah said...

That is truly beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Hecate said...

Thank you.

Ceriadwen said...

What a beautiful story! It was lovely to read. :)