Eanrin sprinted on an unfamiliar Path in the Wood Between. Blast that man! He thought. The mortal human had stolen a book from Imraldera’s Haven. His book of poems. Very peculiar indeed. So now, he had to follow this lunatic. Nasty, uncivilized sort of person! Who does he think he is? Stealing my poetry! And so Eanrin ran on through the wood between. His nose twitched, and he followed the scent of the human. Up the Path he went, searching. At last, his search ended. The smell of warm grass, a burst of cool air, and the sound of a human in clanking armor reached him.
“Who goes there?” A guard shouted.
“Who goes there?” A guard shouted.
“Eanrin, chief poet of Rudiobus, and knight of Farthestshore!”
“What do you want?”
“A vagabond ruffian who stole some, ehem, records ran this way.”
“Hmm. Perhaps you had better speak to our lady. Come with me.”
“Who is your lady?”
Eanrin followed the sound of clanking metal. Finally, he heard the screech of metal gears.
Must be the gate, he thought to himself. The ground changed to a smooth and cool surface beneath his feet. Glass, Eanrin realized.
“Your royal highness, this man claims he is following someone who stole some records,” the guard boomed.
“Greetings, good man! What is your name?”
“Eanrin, chief poet of Rudiobus, and knight of Farthestshore.”
“And you say that some man stole records? What sort of records are they?”
“They were taken from the Haven near Inera. The record contains much of my poetry, dedicated to fairest Gleamdren, the incomparable immortal, the jewel of Rudiobus.”
“A noble cause, fair night, to woo this lady if she is as fair as you say! I assure you, we shall not rest until this thief is found. I will command search parties to hunt him down. Are you able to describe him?”
“The Lady of the Haven said he was tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. There was a scar in the shape of a V on his palm.”
“Jerkin!” Vitria cried, summoning her captain.
“Yes, my lady?”
“Search for the ruffian throughout the kingdom. When he is caught, bring him to me.”
“It shall be done.”
He walked off.
“Now Eanrin, you must stay with us until the rascal is found. I hope the glass castle will be suitable to your liking.”
Eanrin thought for a moment. This will be a good break. No missions, no stress, no wandering about, and none of that pesky Imraldera! Instead I will have comfort, a genteel lady for company, and quiet. Surely my Master would not deny me this! After all, I have worked faithfully for weeks without a break!
“My lady, I would be honored if I could stay here until the culprit is brought back so that I may return the records to the Haven.”
“Wonderful! We will give you the best of what the Glass Realm has to offer.”
Eanrin was lead to a comfortable room with a soft rug on the floor and a softer bed.
Meanwhile, the Queen talked with her captain.
“My lady, does our guest see through our ruse?” He itched his palm, a V clearly evident on it.
“No. He is too blinded by pride. Pride will be his downfall.”
Eanrin woke up the next morning quite refreshed. It was as if his cloudy troubles were as clear as glass now. In his cat form, he stretched his golden body. A while later, a servant rang a little bell at the door.
A human page stepped in, looking around.
The cat scoffed, “Mortals.”
The poor page jumped, his eyes wide. Eanrin could feel his surprise. “I’m going mad… talking cats!”
Frustrated, Eanrin switched his form to that of a man cloaked in furs with golden hair. The page jumped again and squeaked.
“Well?!” Eanrin demanded.
“Her majesty wishes for you to eat with her this morning.”
He followed the servant down to what he guessed was the dining hall. “Good morning, Eanrin, my noble knight!”
“Good morning, Lady Vitria!” The catman smiled and sat down at a glass chair.
“Noble knight, you must recite some of your poetry!”
Eanrin smiled and bowed.
“Of course, my lady!
“Gleamdren fair, Gleamdren true!
If only thy eyes could see how I pine away,
How your scorn turns me blue,
If only you would turn your eye,
If only you would recognize my love,
For Gleamdren I fear I shall die,
Without your sparking eyes of gold,
Without your smile bright,
But I shall wait for you to love me until I am old,
Gleamdren fair, Gleamdren true!”
“Wonderful, wonderful!” The lady applauded. “Now, Eanrin, you must tell me all about your life as a knight of Farthestshore!”
“It is an extremely hard but rewarding job.”
“And your Master, the Prince of Farthestshore, is he a good Master? Is he kind?” Her voice was smooth as glass, sweet, and tender.
“He is most certainly good and kind.”
“And is he powerful?”
Silence fell for a minute. “Is something wrong, my lady?
“It’s only, well only that I am surprised that the Prince hasn’t given you your sight. If he is so good and powerful, as you say, why are you blind? He must surely know how difficult it is for you without your sight.”
Eanrin was startled. He had never thought about his sight in this way. Whyhadn’t his good and powerful Master healed him? Hadn’t he done enough to deserve it? “I… I never thought about it that way.”
“What a shame to let such a wonderful, faithful, and dedicated knight stay blind! Are you sure he is such a good Master as you thought?”
A shadow and a doubt crept into Eanrin’s mind. Does this mean that he is either too weak to heal me or perhaps, not as good as I believed? He said nothing.
“Well, I have duties to perform. I hope you will think on what I have said. Perhaps you would be better on your own.”
All that day, Eanrin paced through the castle in his human form, the same words coming back to him. “Are you sure he is such a good Master as you thought?”
Later, he was again summoned by the page.
At the dinner, Vitria asked, “well, have you thought about what I said?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“And do you want to be free?” Her voice swelled with, Eanrin thought, righteous anger. “You don’t have to serve him. He is a tyrant. Why not serve someone else?”
The Queen of the Glass Realm leaned over and whispered in his ear. “I can give you your sight, Eanrin. You can see again.”
“You… you can?”
“Yes, my precious Eanrin. I only ask one thing in return: that you be mine, not his. Will you serve me instead? Surely someone who is either weak or cruel cannot be a good Master!”
NO! Some part of the catman’s conscience cried. But the other, dark and prideful side, drowned out the small voice. You have served your Master faithfully! And what has that gotten you? Nothing but a life of slavery!The second side shouted.
Remember, Eanrin, the words you said yourself! “To be bound is to be free! To be free is to be bound!” His conscience reminded him. “And yet,”the other shouted again, “He could give you back your sight! He is cruel enough to leave you in utter darkness! Surely this woman who will give you your sight is a thousand times kinder than the Master who refuses!”
Eanrin could almost see the sunlight reflected on rippling water, the bright colors of the blue bird, the trees tall and magnificent. His conscience made one final attempt, but it was too late. He kneeled.
“I will, my lady.”
Vitria, queen of the Glass Realm, walked over and muttered words in a dark, demonic-sounding language. Eanrin shivered. Silence fell like a glass blade. Then she spoke. “Open your eyes, Eanrin.” And he did. At first, all he could see was brightness, brighter than the sun shining through a glass window. Then there was blackness. He was in a Glass Realm, yes, but a dark Glass Realm. Instead of sunlight, sickly green lanterns hung in the darkness. And then he looked up and saw the face he had sworn to serve. She had black eyes, black hair, and a hungry, vicious smile. She smiled and licked her venomous lips. “My dear little slave! Welcome to the Glass Realm!” She laughed wickedly, her cackle terrible to behold.
“AAAAAAAAAH!” Eanrin screamed and covered his ears.
“Take him away!” She grabbed his shirt. “I will break your spirit! You will do anything for a drop of light!”
Eanrin was dragged off towards the dungeons. Down the dark corridors they tread. “NOOO!” the desperate catman screamed. “MASTER! HELP ME! MY LORD! SAVE ME!” But no help came. Finally they came to a dark cell with a high window and a green lantern. The guards roughly threw him in. He shook the bars wildly. “Please! Let me go! Let me out!” Sobbing filled the empty dungeon. At last, Eanrin became exhausted and fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Imraldera worried in the Haven. What is that retched cat up to! He should have been back ages ago! Keep him safe, my Lord. She had hoped Eanrin would return quickly. Now, fear crept into her mind. “Imraldera.”
She quickly turned around. It was the Prince. “My Lord?”
“Eanrin is in trouble. He has tried to sell his heart to the Master of the Glass Realm. He swore to serve her, and thus betrayed me.”
Imraldera gasped and paled.
“Imraldera, you must come with me to save him. Bring food and water.”
“Yes my Lord.” She bowed, then quickly gathered what she needed. When she returned to the library, the Prince was reading Eanrin’s story. “There will be much to add to this tale when he returns!” He led Imraldera out of the Haven and onto a Path. Imraldera looked troubled. “What is wrong, my child?”
“My Lord, I wonder why you have chosen me for this rescue.”
“Dearest, I know all. I have seen how much you care for Eanrin, how much you truly love him. Not just a romantic love, but real love. Love is being willing to sacrifice. Love is being willing to put other’s needs before your own. Love is being able to endure when times are hard. Love is made up of actions, not feelings. You love Eanrin.”
They walked along quietly for some time. Finally Imraldera said softly, “Yes, I love him, but does he love me? Would he be willing to sacrifice for me? My Lord, I believe he is afraid of commitment. He does not want to give his love to me.” She sighed.
“My beloved, do not fear. Trust me. Trust that I am in control of whatever happens.”
“I do, my Lord.”
The Prince smiled. “I know.” He took her hand and kissed her forehead. “I will be back. Tell Eanrin that I am coming, and then wait for me. There are things I must do. But remember, I am always with you. ” With that, he disappeared. Imraldera took a deep breath and continued on. At last she reached the glass realm. This was not what the Lady of the Haven had imagined. Instead of a picturesque clear glass castle and crystal bridges, they were met with darkness. The glass was black. It was completely dark except for lanterns with ghostly green lights.
The woman was terrified, but recited the Prince’s words in her head: “I am always with you.” In the shadows, she spotted a guard, and she quickly disappeared, not wanting to be caught. She crossed a black bridge, stealthily keeping low. Now where would the prison be? She contemplated. Most certainly not at the front, she decided, and began to creep around the castle. Carefully looking inside the open windows (the windows were square holes of empty space in the castle), she searched for Eanrin. At last she found a small window (perhaps only a foot wide and a half a foot tall near to the ground.
This has to be it. None of the other windows are this close to the ground.
“Hello?” She whispered. There was no response. She tried a little louder. “Hello!” A little gasp came from inside.
“Imraldera! It’s me, Eanrin!” He stuck his arm out the window. Imraldera lowered herself to her stomach. “Dragons blast you, cat!”
“Imraldera, I have been a dragon eaten fool! I…” he chocked, “I betrayed my Master, Imraldera, I betrayed him!” He started to sob. Imraldera took his hand. He tensed a little, but did not pull his hand back. “After all he has done for me, I sold my heart for another!”
“She promised me my sight. She made me think that our Master was bad or weak because he had not healed me.”
“How could Lumil Eliasul, the creator of the sphere songs be weak? And how could he ever be bad? Didn’t you remember to trust him? Didn’t you think that perhaps there was a purpose for your blindness, that everything out of our control is allowed for a reason?”
“I was so clouded by my selfishness that I did not listen to my conscience. And now, the future I believed would be beautiful as clear crystal is a dark ocean of glass. Imraldera, I am sorry. I have been a pompous fool, a clown. Is there forgiveness for one such as me?
“Yes. But it is not me you have sinned against this time, it is he. And he is always ready to forgive.”
“But I did do you wrong. I never once thought about how what I did might affect my friends, how it might affect you. I never considered that the queen might be false and that you would have to come and save me. Will you forgive my ignorant stupidity?”
“Yes. Now I must ask you a question in return. Are you hungry? I brought you some bread and water.”
“Oh thank you! I was afraid I would have nothing but this moldy piece of… this unidentifiable food… and slimy water! Disgusting!”
She let go of his hand and handed him the food and water. Then she drank some water, and moved close to the wall, preparing to go to sleep. Looking up, Maid Starflower wished there were stars. But there was only inky blackness. It was cold. Some heat came from the ground, but the land was well named. It was cold as glass.
“Imraldera,” Eanrin worried, “what will I say to him?”
“Perhaps you will not have to say anything.” She waited for morning.
The cold dew on the grass woke her up. There was no sun. It was then that Imraldera realized the sun did not shine through this place. No wonder it is so cold here. She heard someone coming and jerked up, drawing her sword. It was Lumil Eliasul.
“My Lord,” she bowed.
“Good morning my child.” He turned to the cell window. “I will speak to the witch now, Eanrin, and find a way to free you.”
“My Lord, please forgive me!” the distraught man cried. “Let my crimes be reprieved! I know I deserve nothing, but without you I have only darkness! While I thought sight would be a gift, it became a curse! There is only this wretched green light!”
“We shall talk later, Eanrin. For now, I will deal with the queen and do what must be done. Imraldera, come with me. They will not give up their prized slave so easily. We may have to fight.”
Together the pair headed towards the dreaded entrance of the dark glass castle. As they reached the gate, a guard shouted, “halt! Who goes there!”
“The Prince of Farthestshore and his knight!”
“Wait here.” The guard said, looking at them warily. Finally, he returned.
They followed the brusque guard into the hall of shadows. Echoing steps sounded eerie in the dead place. Finally, they were before a cruel looking throne.
“Greetings, Prince of Farthestshore!” The queen of the Glass Realm spat.
“Greetings, Vitria.” The so-named Prince replied.
“Why have you come?”
“To take back what is mine.
“Do you really want a man who betrayed you back in your service?”
“I have forgiven his crimes against me.”
“I will not give him up freely!”
“Then I will fight you.”
“So be it.” She rose off her wicked throne and drew her sword. It was black, black as the glass citadel.
Thus a great duel begun. The first blow came from Vitria. A counterblow was given by the Prince. The fighting quickly became furious. A slash here, a parry there. Imraldera’s heart pounded in her chest. Sweat dripped from their bodies. All was silence except for the furious exchange of blows, which echoed menacingly through the vaulted palace. Finally, the Prince mortally wounded the dark queen. Angry red blood seeped out.
She screamed. “Guards, kill him!” The queen of the Glass Realm breathed her last. Elsewhere in the castle, Eanrin was again blind.
“Imraldera,” The Prince shouted, “follow me!”
They quickly hurried through the castle, going towards the prison. There was a narrow corridor leading to the cells.
“Imraldera, I will guard the entrance! Go get Eanrin!”
She ran, the shouts of the guards reverberating behind her. The corridor was clammy and dim lit with the horrid green lights. She longed for sunlight, for pure brightness that brought life and hope. At last, she reached the cells. “Eanrin?!”
“I’m here!” He shouted.
She followed the sound. There was that troublemaker! She looked around, and finally found the keys on a nearby hook. They jangled noisily in the lock.
Imraldera quickly hugged Eanrin. “You retched cat!” She said, trying to sound angry, but failing. Her voice was laced with worry. “Come! We must go!” She shouted, pulling his hand.
“Imraldera, slow down, I can’t see!”
“Oh Eanrin! I am so sorry!”
“So am I, but I must trust him.” The once Silent Lady and the immortal cat ran through the corridor. They reached the end of the tunnel, where the Prince was waiting for them. Half a dozen guards were unconscious on the ground.
“Let us leave,” the Prince commanded. Through the darkness Eanrin and Imraldera followed their Lord’s footsteps. At last they came to the path. And oh! There was brilliant light! Imraldera was half blinded by it. After the time in the pale green light, the pure, bright and clean light of the sun was a blessing. Safe on the Path, the Prince slowed to a walk.
Suddenly, Eanrin shouted, “Dragons eat it all! I forgot my poetry!”
Imraldera and the Prince laughed.
Lumil Eliasul turned to Imraldera. “I need to speak with Eanrin.”
The lady of the Haven nodded and went ahead of the men, thinking that Eanrin was about to be reprimanded.
“Eanrin,” the Prince begin.
“My Lord!” Eanrin interrupted. “I am ashamed! I have shamed you, the order of the Knights of Farthestshore, …”
“Peace. What has been done has been done. You are forgiven. What you fell for is pride. Pride is like the Glass Realm. Pride is blinding. The person it afflicts cannot see it themselves, though everyone else can. While you were blind, you imagined the glass to be attractive, strong, and beautiful. Instead it was dark, cold, and lonesome. When you were confronted with the sight of truth, your pride shattered. You believed I had wronged you by not giving you your sight. You thought, ‘If I was the Prince, I would never withhold someone’s sight!’ You placed yourself in a position that was mine. That was pride. Eanrin, you must learn to trust me. Believe that everything beyond your control is there for a reason. Nothing I do is pointless. Trust me.”
“I will, my Lord.”
“Now, there is something else I want to speak to you about.”
The cat man’s ears twitched.
“Did you know that Imraldera cares for you?”
“Yes, she has been a loyal friend, even though I have not.”
“And she is just a friend? Eanrin, she truly loves you. Even with all your faults and failures. Not just a romantic love, but real love. Love is being willing to sacrifice. Love is being willing to put other’s needs before your own. Love is being able to endure when times are hard. Love is made up of actions, not feelings. Imraldera loves you.”
“I… I think I love her.”
“Yes. But you need to admit it to yourself and to her. Eanrin, it’s time to stop running, and commit.”
“Do you mean marriage?”
“I think I had better talk to her.”
He strode up to Imraldera. “Wonderful weather we’re having, eh?”
“You already apologized. But if you still feel the need, I think that it is always better to get apologizing over with instead of skirting it.”
“Oh that too!”
“Oh, sorry! I truly apologise sorry for my horrendous actions! I am sorry for being an outrageously daft fool! Now that we have that over with, I have something else to say.” He wiped his brow. “I… I love you!”
The Dame of the Haven had never looked so stricken.
Eanrin got on one knee. “And… will you marry me?”
“Yes!” She hugged him. “I love you, even though you are a naughty, dragon eaten cat!”
The Prince smiled.