Sun, November 4, 2007
Yet another fable I dreamed up; this one on today's jog. Enjoy.
Once upon a time there lived a spoiled young noblewoman... ok, most were spoiled, but this story pertains in particular to Nerina. Nerina was young and beautiful, accustomed to having whatever she needed or wanted at a mere pout of her pretty lips, or a snap of her delicate fingers. That is, until she became smitten...
Every Saturday she saw a particular young nobleman riding through the park with his brothers. Whenever he should ride by, she would swoon and giggle with her girlfriends. What great fun, to have such a crush! They engineered many ways that she should run into him; at balls, social teas and other such gatherings. He was always the perfect gentleman; always had a smile for the pert young miss, but no more- for his heart was already set on a dark haired lady in the next town.
Eventually she grew frustrated and tired of having her subtle hints ignored (for it was not proper to come right out and tell a man, not at her age and station.) She began to become somewhat surly at having no progress, and her girlfriends grew impatient with her. One day one of them finally suggested, why not go see the Witch of the Hill? Perhaps get a love spell, or some other such charm?
She was silent at this suggestion at first, but the light returned to her eyes and they huddled down together, all whispers and mischief- finally, there was something she could do!
Everyone in the town knew of the Witch. She was respected, feared and revered for many towns around. It was said that her spells were always incredibly accurate- even deadly so, as the rumors went. The witch was not one to be toyed with, however; she was to be paid finely, always respected, and avoided if possible.
And so their plan grew thick. One fine early autumn day, the young miss and her friends set out for the Hill. She brought for the witch a fine laying hen and a beautiful filigree barrette her uncle brought her from across the ocean. For good luck (and let's be honest, she feared the witch- and so, to ward off evil) she sewed a copper coin into her bodice. At the bottom of the hill they were flush with excitement, talking in low whispers and giggles; by the time they neared the top, their hearts were pounding and they were quite silent. The friends refused to go in, but assured her they would wait by the apple tree by the gate, watching for her.
She was afraid, but raised to believe that she could do no wrong, and that she was welcome wherever she should trod with her pretty slippers. Up to the door of the cottage she went, heart pounding but head held high. On to the porch she went; but before she could knock a voice in the garden made her start and clutch her throat.
"Good day, miss. Fine day for a walk, eh?"
She looked round, and saw a beautiful old woman standing among the herbs. This was not what she expected! At least a wart or two, perhaps, maybe a torn skirt? No, this woman was tall and willowy, with long grey hair escaping her kerchief, fingers stained green from working the herbs. Her face showed the beauty it once radiated when she was young, which had only grown more refined with the years. Somehow Nerina found this harder and more fearful.
"Good day. I was wondering if I might have...a... er... word? With you? Today?"
The woman smiled pleasantly and brushed off her hands.
"Of course! It was about time I had some tea, by the by. Why don't you join me?" She looked over at the apple tree, in time to see one rosey cheek disappear behind it. "And your friends... they would perhaps like some as well?" She said with a raised eyebrow, smiling wryly.
"Oh, no; they want to enjoy the sunshine; they didn't want to come with me but I convinced them, I'd rather let them be."
And so they went into the neat little cottage. There was lace on the windows, and the cups and saucers were fine, painted with forget-me-nots and filigreed with silver. This was not at all what she had imagined, laying in her bed last night.
"Now, tell me... what did you really come here for?"
"Ah, well. Well, there's this handsome young man, you see..."
"I see. One of those, eh? Before you go any further, let me say this- mucking about with a real love spell is not at all what you would dream up. Using magic against anyone's will only goes awry, every time. The only time a love spell genuinely works is when it was among the thousands of possibilities of occurring, and merely needed a push."
"Oh, it's meant to be, I just know it! He smiles at me, and takes the time to talk to me..."
"Yes, but his heart is set on another, am I wrong?"
"How did you know?" Nerina said, looking startled, the red coming up on her cheeks.
"That is always the way these things go. Now, again, I will say; love spells only work when it is meant to happen. It can go dangerously wrong! Very dangerously! I will ask you to forget this plan; go on your merry way with your girlfriends. You are a bonny girl, you will not have any trouble finding a suitable handsome man to wed. Forget this plan- so much that you cannot imagine can happen when you play with matters of the heart."
"I beg you! I have thought of nothing but him for months on end now! Every time I see him, my heart jumps, I feel sick inside; when he speaks to me it is as a bell in my heart. I cannot go on until he takes notice of me, until he pledges himself to me!"
And so this went on, the witch kindly trying to convince the young lass against the idea of manipulating anyone with magic. The girl would not budge, and insisted.
Finally, with a sigh, the witch gave in.
"Alright. I will give you a spell, but remember that I warned you; if it is not in the realm of possibility, it will fail and there may be consequences. Of course, the consequence may only be a belly ache, I cannot say... it could be far, far worse."
The girl watched in trepidation as the witch moved about her tidy kitchen, opening cupboards and muttering under her breath. Finally after some time, she set a cup of tea in front of the girl and bade her to drink it.
"Wait. First, you must tie this kerchief round your eyes. This is how the spell will work. Your girlfriends must lead you blindfolded until they find him. When you hear his voice, take off the kerchief- the man you are meant to love and marry forever; when he meets your eyes, he will fall in love with you and all will be well. Do not take it off until you hear his voice!" Not hearing the subtle warning disguised in her instruction, the girl eagerly tied on the kerchief and swallowed the tea in two gulps.
The witch took the payment, led her out to her friends and bade her farewell.
"I truly hope this goes as you wish, my dear."
Down the hill they set, giddy with excitement. They knew of the tavern the young man liked to visit on certain nights with his brothers to play cards; if they hurried, they could meet him outside before he went in for the evening. They gripped her arm, pulling her along, giggling and squealing in high spirits.
The young man was riding up the road with his brothers just as they came into town. They hurried her along, and when he drew up and dismounted, they pulled off her blindfold. One of them said good day to him; as he spoke, she opened her eyes, standing squarely before him... and...
"Oh, what has happened? I am blind! Oh, I am blind, I cannot see!"
"Miss, miss! Are you alright? Your eyes are open, has something happened?"
She began to breathe hard, panic taking over; she truly could not see, though her eyes were open wide.
"Are you looking in my eyes? Do they look different"
"Yes, miss! I am looking, nothing looks amiss! Brother, ride for the doctor, ride quick."
She began to cry, for this was not at all how she had imagined it to be. Not at all! She was blind, and he indifferent! Blind!
"Oh, what shall I do??? I am blind, blind!"
And so the girls led her home, and the doctor came, though he could not see anything. When Nerina's father found out what had happened he tried to rouse the town against the witch for causing blindness in the girl, but to no avail; the town loved and feared their witch. She, they were convinced, kept the crops healthy and the cows in milk; if some silly girl tried to dabble in this or that potion, she was meddling where she ought not.
She stayed in the house and would not go about the town any longer. For days and days she wept, both for the condition in which she found herself and for the man who utterly failed to fall in love with her. Her girlfriends kept her company day after day, doing up her hair and bringing over their knitting to keep her company. Several times they suggested returning to the hill to ask for a reversal but Nerina was much too distraught and distrustful for this.
"Jealous, she is, jealous! Because I am young and beautiful, and she an ugly old hag!"
Her friends merely sat and clucked over her, bringing her gossip from day to day and plotting how to get her back out into society once more.
And so the months wore on, winter came and went, and spring arrived with fresh air and the scent of plowed fields. The blindness did not abate in this time and her sullen mood prevailed.
One day, a man rode through town selling handcrafted swords and knives and such that he himself had forged. When he arrived at Nerina's home, the mistress of the house- her mother- welcomed him in; once a year he would come and his knives were of the finest quality. He would sharpen what knives they did have while he was there; and she was in the mood for a new pair of shears with which to cut the bolts of wool fabric the house produced each spring. This man had always admired Nerina, in her beauty and poise; but never cared much for the way she treated everyone around her. He was shocked, then, to see her in such a state- she was quiet, her eyes downcast, sitting with her hands folded and not adding much to the conversation the man had with her mother.
When her mother left the room to fetch the knives she needed sharpened, the man crossed the room and took her hands.
"Miss, what has happened to you, to render you into such a state? You were once so vibrant, and yet you seem so down and dreary."
Something in the timbre of his voice trickled into her subconscious, and she drew her head up, still not raising her eyes.
"I have become blinded because of my own foolishness."
"Ah. Magic, was it?"
His hands were warm on hers, and steady; she had felt so cold, so strange and lonely all the winter long. Suddenly she felt as if an arrow struck deep into her mind- she could *see* this man's character, really see it- the steadfastness, loyalty, the true heart and tender core.
"Yes. I asked for a love spell to make a hapless young man fall deeply in love with me, and it reversed itself on me because I was wrong. I tried to make another feel something he was not meant to feel."
"That never works, I know that; never. You can never change a person, you can never bring an idea into their heads as they weren't meant to have, that is the truth. The heart is what it is, and when it's right it is a stampede of galloping horses; when it is wrong, it will slip through your fingers like sand."
She raised her eyes, and if she had sight she would have met his. At that moment, however, something odd happened. A sound like a gong boomed in her mind, and the light that came then would have been blinding were she not already blind; she could *see* him, at the same moment he *saw* her; truly saw her, through the facade of spoiled child she once was, through the sadness she had nurtured all the months of winter. Slowly the light and pain abated in her head and she realized her vision was returning to her. This was the moment the thought went flitting through her head- "oh. That's what she meant. I have been such a fool."
His eyes were deep green, the skin about the edges crinkled just a bit from the sun; he was not fancy, not handsome in that creamy soft way that the noblemen were- but then, he was beautiful. Beautiful to her. She became sharply aware of his hands, his scent, his heat and nearness. He was shocked at what had just happened; both the strange sensation of wind sucking at his ears, and then realizing there was recognition in her eyes.
"I don't know... I don't understand... I can see. I can see!"
And so you can imagine the rest, as it went from there.
If there is to be a moral, and once could be had here, it would be that love is blind... until it isn't.