Far, far away in the The Realm of the Eternal Sun, His Highness took solace in the Temple of Destiny. He wore his sorrow over the separation with his children as if it were a cloak. The belief that his offspring would someday return to him was cold comfort these days, but there was consolation in the knowledge that He could indirectly communicate with his loved ones. He regularly sent messages of love and hope through the gifts he had tucked into every tiny cloak upon their departure that cold night long, long ago. Every child had fled with a dove at their side who was sent along to be a harbinger from the King – to sing messages to his sweet children and bring to Him news of each child’s progress along their Life Path.
This day the King was giving his newest message to the Royal Bard, who in turn was translating it to music. As the musician played, the Diviner instilled the song into the breast of the little dove, Eberheart, who would carry the newest declaration back to his mistress. Although she could not understand the words behind the aria, the melody would wrap itself around her heart and she would inherently feel the communiqué from afar. Eberheart sang boldly the new message he carried as he flew from His Majesty and began his long journey home…to Honor.
Meanwhile, in Banyon Cray, the little hunchbacked girl was making her way towards the eerily beautiful waterfall she had found the day before. She had heard the legend of Kelith Gorge her whole life. Soddgauble had told her story after story of young lovers, destined to be together forever, who met in the enchanted mists of the falls. It was said that a maiden could stand in the mists and her spirit-groom would be revealed to her. Honor wanted desperately to discover whether this was fact or fable and was determined to descend the rocky gorge to satisfy her curiosity. She carefully picked her way along the craggy path to the bottom of the roaring flume, then slipped and skidded across the dangerously slick stones to the thick, wet vapor rising from the pounding falls. Standing in its midst she closed her eyes and concentrated on her spirit-groom, praying the Invocation of Manifestation.
“Oh, tell me, please, that you are not another fanciful girl dreaming of her hero as she catches her death from the damp of the falls!” Twinkling brown eyes danced before her and Honor was immediately embarrassed.
“I was actually disproving the legend, if you must know!” She lowered her head to prevent the stranger from seeing her blush, but curiosity got the better of her and she peaked at him from the veil of brown curls covering her face. “Who are you?” she queried, “I don’t recognize you from the village.”
“I have just arrived in Banyon Cray with my Uncle. He is a blacksmith by trade and was summoned by the village council after the last smithy departed.”
“The last smithy died.” Honor stated.
“Either way, there was no blacksmith. Now there is.” The boy smiled. “My name is Zeephen. Most call me Zeeve.” He bowed slightly with a flourish of his arm. “Tell me your name, little sprite! You have enchanted me!”
“Bosh! Do not tease! I’m called Honor and I shall call you Zee. I live with the Chief Guardian, Authorious and Soddgauble, the Scholar.”
“So, then, I must mind my step since they’ve no doubt taught you how to cleverly defend yourself from scallywags such as I.” He chuckled and took Honor’s arm. “Let me help you back to the path, Sprite.”
“It sounds like an exciting adventure to pull up stakes and move to another village. Did you travel far?”
“Uncle and I traveled for many days. It was an adventure, yes, but one I did not wish to undertake. I left behind all that I loved to serve my uncle. I cannot wait for the day I am free from my servitude so that I can return to the place and calling that I love.” They began to scale the rocky path to the top of the gorge.
“You are an indentured servant?”
“I am. What of it?” he asked defiantly.
“Nothing! There is nothing wrong with that! I don’t imagine that I could do it…I haven’t the humble spirit one would need to follow orders.”
“Nor do I, Sprite. I’m always finding trouble with my uncle. He is never satisfied, but it won’t last forever.” The boy clasped Honor’s hand in his and pulled her along the trail.
“You don’t like helping the smithy?” Honor asked.
“It’s not my calling. I should be walking another Life Path.”
“And what is your calling, Zee?”
“You’ll laugh,” he replied, quietly.
“I would never! You will find, Zee, that I am kind and loyal as the day is long.”
Zeephen considered her words for a moment, then continued, “I want to be the Royal Culinarian.”
“Then you will be.” They had reached the top of the falls but the boy did not let go of Honor’s hand. “I think we will be great friends, Zee. I can feel it! Somehow it seems as though you’ve always been here.”
“I have a feeling, Honor, that I will never leave here.”
That night, as every night since Honor had come to them, Authorious and Soddgauble sat by the fire and discussed their charge.
“If she were capable of dancing, she would have been. She was thrilled to make a friend!”
“We don’t know who this boy even is, Soddy. I don’t have a good feeling about this.” Authorious frowned, as he so often did when thinking of Honor and the responsibility of protecting her.
“All she has ever known of friendship came from her relationships with us and her ever-faithful Eberheart. She has grown, thus far, with no playmates…no confidantes…no one her own age with whom she can dream. She needs others in her life, Guardian. We cannot teach her what she needs to learn by isolating her. What kind of life is that? Perpetual loneliness and sorrow? That is not what the King desires for her.”
Authorious sighed deeply. “I know, I know. But my priority is to keep her from harm.”
“Give her some space. Let her grow. You know you cannot stop this from happening. He appeared to her in the mists of Kelith Gorge. He is her spirit-groom. We have no right to interfere with her destiny. Providence has spoken.”
“Spirit-groom!” Authorious spat. “Why must you fill her head with all these fanciful notions? The boy doesn’t even plan to stay. You will allow her to believe that Zeeve is The One and when he has left she will be disillusioned and heartbroken. Let her live in reality, Soddgauble. At least then it isn’t dreams that will hurt her.”
“How do you know he will leave? Why must reality entail friendlessness for Honor? Do you think he cannot love her?” the Scholar challenged.
“He is young and healthy. She is…” the guardian’s voice tapered off.
“What?” Soddgauble demanded, “She is what?” He flew from his chair in the direction of Authorious.
“Special, Soddy! She has very special needs.”
“And you are pompous enough to believe that we can supply all of those needs?” the teacher asked, incredulously.
“No, but I don’t trust others to attempt it.”
“If you continue that line of thinking, it will be her downfall. Always we must do what is best for Honor.” The Scholar turned and strode from the room. Authorious buried his head in his hands and prayed for wisdom. They were entering unfamiliar territory and intuition was raising his guard. He didn’t know what was making him feel uneasy about this boy, Zeephen, but he knew enough to trust his feelings…and his feelings were telling him Honor was at risk.
Outside the little cottage, evil Ffeyjer cackled with glee. He had suspected that the little crippled girl was the One he had been hunting, but now his suspicions were confirmed. The shape-shifter’s body shimmered as it changed into human form. The desire to break down the door and rip the still-beating heart from her chest was overwhelming, but Ffeyjer instead chose to bide his time. There was so much damage he could do to the unsuspecting girl…so much pain he could inflict. It would bring such pleasure to his vile heart to destroy her mind and soul before he rendered her body in to pieces…
Painting 'Tivoli Waterfall' by Jean Charles Joseph Redmond