Sunday, August 18, 2013

Aiven's Lament, by Beka

The orange-smeared sky stared down at the woman standing on the hill, smirking with crimson-cloud teeth at her misery. Dry yellow grass peppered the ground beneath her feet, sloping to meet the charred remains of the earldom of Aiven. Once-strong stone walls had crumbled, and the city gate had been torn to shreds.
Tears trickled down the woman's cheeks. Gripping the handle of the sword she held, she staggered forward. Rage and sorrow battled within, one screeching for revenge, the other pleading with her to give in and simply mourn.
Her throat tightened, more tears stinging her eyes. Her home had been destroyed, the only living remnant the image and sounds branded into her memory. The screams. The flare of fire. The roar of the Dragon. The glazed stares of those poisoned by the Smoke.
And the wide, gaping Gateway to Death. Her steps faltered and she retreated, the sword dragging in the dirt. She had ventured too far, suffered too much, to be stupid now. She would be risking her life to save a city full of nothing but corpses and Death.
The Dragon owned Aiven--but at least he did not have the Prince's weapon to use against those who belonged to the land of Farthestshore.
A dry wind swept up from the doomed city below, scratching against her cheek and idling its fingers through her red-gold hair. She sank to her knees and bowed her head, her hair sliding to cover her face.
From behind her came the crunch of grass beneath a heavy tread. She sucked back her tears, raising her head to meet the dark gaze watching her from a gray, craggy face. "Gargron," she whispered.
His arm reached out, his hand clasping hers as he helped her to her feet. "I'm sorry," he said. In his voice she heard the empathetic sorrow of one who had lost his home as well--and not just his home, but the person he had once been.
He wasn't Gargron anymore, wasn't the handsome, olive-skinned man whose looks had been second only to those of his brother, Vahe.
Now, he was.... "Oeric," she said.
He looked down at her. His ugly face was enough to scare the life out of mortals. But, staring into those kind, gentle eyes, all she wanted to do was allow him to hold her as she wept.
Instead, she set her chin and planted her feet, facing once more the destruction of her people. "Where am I to go now?" she asked the empty air before her, though she directed the question at Oeric.
"With me," he said, and her pulse quickened.
"Into the Wood?"
He smiled at her. "Into the Wood, my lady. Our Lord wishes you to return Fireword to Him--and you never know. Perhaps He has a plan for you neither of us can foresee." His deep, gravelly voice buoyed her up, daring her to hope.
At his back stood the trees of the Between, waiting, dark and green and watching.
In that moment, suspended between the ashes of her home and the lush life of the mysterious trees beyond all she had ever known, the Lady of Aiven made her choice.
And so the Lady turned, Fireword at her side, and vanished into the Wood, leaving the hill and smoke-smote Aiven behind.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Assignment, by Rebecca S.

       “I have an assignment for you, Sir Eanrin.”
       The blind poet kneeled by Gorm-Uisce lake at the feet of his Master, the Prince of Farthestshore.  Eanrin’s Lord had made his presence known to the cat-man inside the Hall of Red and Green and the poet had sidled his way outside to say hello. In truth, he would always come at his Master’s call. The Prince of Farthestshore was the only one who could command Eanrin.

       “What may I do for you, my Prince? Walk the very Path of Death? Aid Oeric in searching out the hidden land of Arpiar? Help a lost mortal fulfill his prophesied destiny?”
The Prince smiled. “No. But this is an important mission. It will not be easy.”
Eanrin rose to speak to his Master. “Just tell me and I will go, my Lord.”
“I would like you to guard someone for me. She is a princess. Princess Una of Parumvir.”
        The cat-man’s eyebrows rose at this. “As in Parumvir in the Near world Parumvir?”
        “The same. “
        “Is she in danger, then?”
        “She is my Beloved.”
        That one sentence alone spoke more than a whole volume of one of Imraldera’s history accounts ever could. If this Princess Una was the one the Prince’s Father had chosen for Him to marry, then she was, indeed, in danger. She was in peril simply for being the Prince’s Beloved. The Prince was the mortal Enemy of the Dragon.  He had, after all, been the one who had chained Death-in-Life to the Goldstone. Once released from the Goldstone, Death-in-Life had made it his mission to exact revenge for what the Prince did. Revenge in the form of stealing the heart of his Beloved and burning it up within her.
         “I understand entirely, my Prince.”
         “You know what you must do then. Watch over her and make sure she does not cross the Bridge. You’re vigilance is of the utmost importance in this mission.”
         “Yes, yes, guard the girl until you come charging in to save the day and don’t let her cross the Bridge. I can assure you, Sire, that even the Black Dogs won’t be able to wrest her away from my protection. And if the girl chafes under my protective guardianship, I’ll let her know in no uncertain terms that even a princess doesn’t always get her way!
        “This brings me to my next instruction. You must not speak to Princess Una.”
        The poet –cat’s eyebrows shot up into his golden hairline. But Eanrin heard understanding in his Lord’s words. The Prince knew how hard it would be for those instructions to be carried out. Iubdan’s Chief poet’s fame in history had come from the golden words that flowed forth from his smiling mouth. If there was anything the bard loved, it was hearing the sound of his own voice. This task could be more difficult than Sir Eanrin had first imagined.
         “My Prince, if it was something I said during the course of the last assignment you gave me, I assure you I will watch my words more carefully this time.“
         “You have said nothing wrong, Eanrin. This is not a punishment.”
         “But…but… surely the girl could benefit from my lyrical genius. I am the most celebrated poet in both the Near World and the Far. She could learn from my romantic expertise as well. I am fluent in the language of love due to my undying devotion to the fair Lady Gleamdren.”
         “I have no doubt that you would only wish to benefit the princess. But you must remain a cat during your time in Parumvir and assume the role of a household pet. The people of the Near World are not used to talking animals, and a talking pet would draw too much attention to beings that need not be alerted.”
          With a great sigh the cat replied “As you wish, my Prince.”
          Eanrin turned to go. But before he could take a step, the Prince called him once more, His voice full of compassion. 

  “The time has not yet come for the Dragon’s doom. But he will find the princess. In the meantime, I will do everything I can for her and everything I can to aid you. You are not alone in this, Eanrin.”
          “Thank you, my Prince.” The world fell silent and Eanrin sensed that the Prince of Farthestshore had vanished.
          This was an assignment the cat was not looking forward to. In all the centuries of his involvement with mortals, Eanrin had always come and gone as he pleased. Pop in here. Check a disturbance in a gate there. Never had he had actually been inclined to stay in that stinking, mortal realm. Not only that, but to make matters worse he had to keep silent!
           His Prince had asked, though, and so Eanrin would follow through. But that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.
          Orfhlaith, King Iubdan’s mare, came trotting from behind Fionghuala Lynn.
          “Do you need a ride then, king’s poet?” said the horse in the language of horses. Eanrin grinned. “Well I certainly wasn’t going to swim across.” Eanrin hopped on and the mare and poet started across the lake.
           “Where do your adventures take you this time?” the horse asked.
           “Parumvir in the Near World. I am to guard a mortal princess. It seems I can’t keep from getting mixed up in mortal affairs. Just because I have somewhat of a soft spot for them doesn’t mean I want to spend unprecedented amounts of time in their decaying world!”
          “Mortals are fragile creatures. You should feel honored that the Prince has entrusted you with such a delicate being’s protection.”
         “I would feel more honored if the Prince would just lock the girl up in a tower somewhere she wouldn’t be found. I could check in on her now and then and everyone involved would be the happier for it. Well, perhaps the princess wouldn’t be too happy. But her Prince would eventually come running in to save the day and she would forget all about her confinement soon enough. It would save me the trouble of chasing after her all the time and it would save my Lord the trouble of worrying about whether or not she’s in danger all the time.”
         Their journey across the lake ended and Eanrin dismounted. “I can’t say when I’ll be back. So cheery-bye for now, Orflaith!”
         “Until we meet again, Sir Eanrin.”
         Iubdan’s mare watched Eanrin cross over the borders of Rudiobus. Though the poet may not be happy about it, Orflaith knew that his assignment was not only meant for the girl’s protection and shaping of her destiny. The knight would find at the end of this mission that he had been changed for the better as well.


  Eanrin switched to his cat form when he smelled the water that told him he was close to the border of the Between. He didn’t expect to meet anyone just yet, but better to be on the cautious side. No one really entered the Woods because of the stigma surrounding it. It was an unwritten rule anymore that to go in Goldstone Wood was to invite danger.
         Today was apparently different. Today, there were two children in the Wood. One was splashing around in the stream loud enough to wake the dead. The other one clomped down to the bridge and sat down.
        Eanrin would have liked to jump out and shove the one on the bridge back to the other side of the Wood where he or she belonged. Didn’t these children know how dangerous it was to be in this part of the forest? These two were obviously ignorant of the dangers of Goldstone Wood.
        “Well, it isn’t my job to babysit these hooligans!” Right now he had to find the Princess Una. She’d be safe in her home, Oriana Palace, stitching some tapestry or deep in study most likely.
        Guarding the princess really wouldn’t be the hardest assignment the knight had ever had. Keeping an eye on her would include a lot of laying on her lap, giving a good purr to invite a nice scratch on the ear. It wasn’t the worst mission he’d ever been sent on. He’d best make his way up Goldstone Hill-
        “Is this it, Una?”  It was a young boy’s voice.
        “Does that look like flowing gold?” The voice was that of a girl a little older than the boy. Odd that she should have the same name as Eanrin’s charge…
        Oh no! The cat’s ears went back and he started twitching his fluffy tail.
        She was the Princess Una!? How did she manage to get away from her nurse? Surely they wouldn’t let her run about like a wild child. It was a good thing Eanrin had come along when he did. Who knows what kind of peril the ignorant girl would have gotten into without his watchful guardianship? Obviously the knight would have no help from the Oriana’s servants during this assignment. None of them were apparently competent enough to watch over a young, mischievous girl.
        “Is this it, Una?” the boy asked a second time. He was Una’s brother, Crown Prince Felix. Eanrin could smell the overpowering scent of a life of privilege on him.
        “What do you think?” the princess replied.
        “Well, it’s flowing!”
        “Is it gold?”
        It was obvious to Eanrin that Princess Una was only making her brother look for the Flowing Gold of Rudiobus so she could snatch a few minutes to herself. He’d never find the Flowing Gold here.
        The cat’s sharp ears could hear the scratching of a pencil on paper and the rustle of a page being turned. She was writing. Perhaps journaling.
        The cat tucked his tail close. He relaxed a bit after his initial concern that the girl was going to take it into her head to go exploring in the Wood. All she was doing was sitting on the bridge writing. Surely there could not be much harm in that? Maybe she wouldn’t do anything too foolish after all.
        At the moment Felix was tormenting his sister by splashing water on her. I feel your pain, dear girl. Eanrin hated water. In fact, it was difficult to decide whether he hated water or dogs more.
        “What are you writing?” Prince Felix asked.
        “Nothing.”  Una’s voice held all the hostility of an older sister who felt that this question was in direct violation of her privacy that was her right by order of birth.
        “Are you composing verses?” The bard’s ears pricked up. Was she an aspiring poet? Perhaps she had heard of him and wanted to write just like him, although no one could ever ascend to his genius.
        Eanrin was interrupted out of his thoughts by a “Let me see!” from young Felix. There was a moment of silence, then the flipping of pages and then the recitation began.

I ask the silent sky
Tell me why
As I look so high
Into the leaf-laced sky
You do not reply
So I-“

        Hearing enough of Una’s poetry, Felix burst into a high pitched falsetto and put in his own awful rhymes.
        The poet felt sick to his stomach. What a way to give a bad name to poetry. The girl was awful!
         Eanrin again questioned what his Prince had been thinking when he had told the poet that he couldn’t talk to the princess. The Lights Above only knew she needed all the help she get with her poetry. And who better to give lyrical help than the legendary Bard Eanrin himself? Orders were orders, though, and he would just have to endure her poor attempts at writing.
         Now that Eanrin had found the princess, the only thing left to do was to procure her trust and ensure a place in the royal family where he could keep careful guard over her. But how to introduce himself? He certainly wasn’t crossing the Old Bridge. And he would never dream of setting foot in the stream when there were two children perfectly capable of picking him up and ferrying him across. He had just had to get their attention…
         “I’m going to cross over.” Princess Una announced. By crossing over she could only mean one thing. Whether by way of the bridge or across the stream, Una was threatening to cross to the other side of Goldstone Wood.  The side that faerie people called the Wood Between.
         But she wasn’t really going to do it. Of course Princess Una merely wanted to shock her brother by suggesting that she was going to do the most daring thing she could think of doing. When she had had enough of her fun, she would laugh and step back onto the other, safer side of the bridge.
        Instead of retreat, though, the knight heard the clunk of Una’s heels on the bridge as she advanced closer to where he was and then stopped. “Yes. I’m going to cross over.” Princess Una seemed to be trying to convince herself as much as her brother that she really was going to do cross the bridge. But this time he could smell her determination.
        No, no, no! Foolish girl, stay where you are
        Unfortunately, this was one of the very few times Eanrin had been wrong.
        “When?” Prince Felix asked. His sister didn’t answer right away. Eanrin heard the boy get up and stand beside her.

The Wood beckoned them into its shade. A breeze started up toward the direction of the brother and sister, as if to entice them over.
        The Wood Between was more alive than most mortals could guess. It loved to get its branches on anyone who was stupid enough to be swayed over by its sweet, mysterious song. That was how the Wood had its fun. It pulled mortals in, and some never came out again.
        “Now. I’ll go right now,” the princess whispered.
         Una took two more steps across the wooden planks.
Without thinking the cat let out the most unattractive racket he had ever let fly from his smiling lips in his long, immortal life. The girl gasped and Eanrin heard her jump back. Good. He had startled her. Now it was time to make his entrance. The knighted cat stepped out from the Wood.
          “Ha!" Felix laughed. “You were scared of a kitty cat!”
          “Was not!” Eanrin sensed Una was still recovering from her surprise. But he also smelled that she was indignant that she had let herself act so scared in front of her little brother.
          Eanrin stepped slowly and carefully  to the edge of the stream. He could have gotten there much faster had he not been trying to play the role of the helpless, blind cat.
          “What’s wrong with it?” Princess Una asked.
          Eanrin made his way to the stream and pretended to sniff out the water so he could get a drink. In fact, he knew perfectly well where the water was and he didn’t want to touch it. But the act would be what mortals considered “cute”, so he endured the cold liquid for a moment and then looked up.
          “Oh, the poor thing!” Una exclaimed. “The poor little cat! Do you see that, Felix?”
         The cat smiled a smug, cattish smile. He had the girl eating from the palm of his hand.
         “Poor little cat, my foot.” Felix said with a snort. “He’s ugly as a goblin. A regular monster.” 
         Eanrin’s smug look fell from his face. I’ll have you know that I have seen goblins, young prince. I don’t look anything like them! I’m a thousand times better looking.
         “She’s blind!” He heard Una make her way to the opposite edge of the stream. He looked toward her as he knew she was looking at him. He with his senses, she with her eyes.

         You’re even more insane than I thought you were if you think I’m going to take one step into that muddy water, girl.
        Eanrin started grooming his paw. She would get the idea soon enough. He was in no hurry.
         “Felix! Felix get her for me”

          Now we understand each other, princess.
“Why?” Felix replied.
          “She needs help!”
          “No, he doesn’t.”
          “She’s blind!”
          “Not my problem.”
          “Felix.” Huffed the princess.
          If the cat had eyes he would have rolled them. All three of them knew Prince Felix would eventually fetch him. Why did the boy have to be so difficult?
          “She’s the Flowing Gold, Felix. Don’t you see? The gold fur… the flowing, um, tail?”
          Eanrin’s fur really was a fine golden color. And yes, his tail did flow, didn’t it? But alas, fate had declared that Eanrin was not Rudiobus’ Flowing Gold. That title belonged to another.
          Nonetheless Felix splashed into the water and started across the stream. Eanrin raised his head and gave a sweet “Meeaa.” This, astoundingly, did nothing to soften the boy, who picked him up rather roughly and flung him over his shoulder.
          “He’s heavy.” Felix complained.
I’ll have you know, it’s all muscle.
          The cat dug his claws into Felix’ shoulder to make sure his displeasureat about how he was being thrown around was known. You could be more careful. You are carrying a legend!
“The Flowing Gold to save your fair kingdom, my lady.” Felix declared when he got back to other side and plunked Eanrin into Una’s arms. The knight started purring as soon as he reached the girl he was to guard. Partly to spite Felix, partly to make sure his place as adopted pet was secure.
          “We’ll take her home” Una said as she started back up Goldstone Hill. “I’ll brush her fur and give her a good meal-“
          “He doesn’t need a good meal. He’s heavy!”
          Mind your own business, boy!  A nice brushing sounded lovely. From the way the Princess talked, Eanrin could tell he was in a for a nice, comfortable life of pampering while he was in Parumvir.
          Eanrin smiled his cattish smile again. Wouldn’t Imraldera roll her eyes if she could see how he was being doted on right now!
Imraldera! How could the knight have forgotten to stop by the Haven on his way to the bridge and tell Imraldera where he was going like he always did? She worried about him when he was gone for long periods of time.
         Now when he got back, he would get the silent treatment with some carefully thought out, but nonetheless brusque and stand offish words mixed in.
         But the cat’s smug smile returned with a new thought. Let Imraldera wonder where he’d gone! She had ran off without telling him where she was going more than once in the past. What goes around comes around, as the saying goes.
His fellow knight wouldn’t stay mad for long, anyway. Imraldera would say what she needed to say, he would jump onto her lap and give a good purr, she would scratch his ears and then everything would go back to the way it had been.
          As the Princess Una and her brother made their way back to Oriana Palace, Eanrin realized he would be content to stay in the palace for a while. A warm bed to sleep in, a doting charge to pamper and pet him. Yes, perhaps this assignment wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The Between, by Rebekah

Here in the Woods Between,

I tremble and be still.

And I hear the Master sing,

Softly stating His will.

I bow, I listen;

Perhaps I may wonder.

But however incomprehensible,

On His Path I do not wander.

It has a purpose,

The greatst of plans.

Wherever the direction,

I will go to those lands.

Lord, please aid me.

I am so confused.

So weak, and shallow minded.

Hold my hand.  Carry me through.

I'm sorry, I'll get up.

I will stand and fight again.

When I reach the Final Waters...

You'll be with me, even then.

Captured, by Christy

     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.

    “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?”

    “Queen Vitria of the Glass Realm.”

    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.
    “Come in!”

    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?”

    “Terribly so.”

   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.

   “This way!”

   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.”

    “I agree.”

    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.