A different voice for you, and one I admire more every day. This story, in parts, is by Madeleine Shrewsday. She has developed a modern fairy-tale style I love, though of course I would say that: I am her mother. She wrote it all in January: it surfaces from today. There are thirteen parts to this story (for a particular kind of luck.)
To Cast an Angel Spell
I form light, and create darkness, I bring peace and I bring disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.”
“Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth, unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost.
The govenor’s subjects are not all the same, but they are all very alike.
Their hair is yellow cornfield, their faces bright and clear. Their eyes are blue mertensia, and their mouths never curl in sadness. They know no pain. They cannot feel pain. They are good, and they are always good because they feel no desire; only unending contentment, eternal bliss.
It is true that the Governor’s citizens have small dainty wings of white feather growing on their back. This is of course for balance. The myth of flight is only a myth, for why should angels fly when their creator is so wonderful that they never wish to fly anywhere? No, the citizens of the jewelled city felt no desire for sky and mountains.
Lara was one of them. Had always been one of them, but she had not been made right, she thought, for her hair was not cornfield but earth after rainfall. Her face was not golden, but like snow. Her eyes were a silent, brilliant flame. She could not be happy as the other citizens of the Governor’s kingdom. They sung songs of praise to their ruler, but Lara felt numb when she lifted her voice to these.
Instead, she loved the songs of the wind, for they told of cool mountains and clear streams. They told of places strange and far-off homes, and feelings that fed the fire that burned within her heart every second of her life.
Each of the citizens knew their Governor well. He ruled them with kindness. He cared for them, and allowed them to do whatever they wished.
“How good is our Governor to us,” sung the citizens, “We praise and glorify him. May our kingdom last until the pulling in of matter- why, Lara? Ho, there? Why do you not sing with us? Do you not feel as we do?”
Lara sat at the end of The Very Long Table in Governor’s palace each day, along with all the other citizens of Governor’s kingdom. When they gathered each day in this way, they gathered as the senate, to discuss the eternal war that their ruler had waged for millennia with the ruler of the other Kingdom, Prince Midgard.
“Prince Midgard is clearly the aggressor,” said Senator Damariel. “He incites the people of the Lower Plane to rebellion. He untunes their ears to the music of the universe.”
“I have not heard tell of that before,” thought Lara, “Perhaps that is the name of the sweet music that I hear on the wind.”
“The people of the Lower Plane are lost anyway, Senator,” said Governor. He rose from his seat at the end of The Very Long Table, “I fear that we may have to once again try to reason with him. But he refuses to visit us. He will not hear of Peace talks.”
“How foolish he is to reject your advice, my liege,” said another senator, Gabriella.
Soon the whole Senate was agreeing with Gabriella. They praised and praised until their reasoned words were insensible. Governor held up his hand politely for silence. He turned his head to look at Lara. He smiled.
“And what do you think, Senator Lara? What do you believe we should do?”
Lara smiled, but felt her smile emerge as mist over a mountain. “I think…”
The governor nodded reassuringly.
“Well, in truth, I think that we should know a little more about our enemy before we launch another offensive.” Lara looked up. Every eye in the Senate was upon her. The Governor was regarding her with gentle interest. Lara looked around. Her people’s faces were for once unsmiling, their brows were furrowed in an almost quaint confusion.
Later, as the Senate dispersed and dusk settled on the marble pavements of the jewelled city, a crowd of citizens gathered around Lara as she passed.
“Why, Lara? Senator Lara?” they called, “Why did you say such a strange thing at council today?”
Lara once again tried a smile, allowing her dark wall of knowledge to surround her protectively.
“Well, I only raised it because it was what seemed wise to me,” said she.
“-wise?” One citizen replied, “why is it wise to want to meet Prince Midgard?”
“No, I mean it just seemed wisest to hear both sides of the matter, as in a court of law.”
The citizens stared in growing confusion, for their happy minds could not go ay further. “But…why would you want to meet the one who hates our Governor?”asked Damariel.
‘To see his reason. Perhaps he is more justified in his hatred than we have been led to believe,” said Lara. The crowd regarded her with astonishment.
“Senator, do you mean that you think our Governor has done something wrong? Your logic is strange…you cannot love him as we do!”
Lara’s heart burned. She built a barrage in herself to stop it spilling out its fiery waters.
“I do love the Governor,” said she, “He asked my advice and so I gave it to him. I only wanted to please him and so I gave him my answer.”
“Lara, strange one, you puzzle me,” said Damariel. ‘The Govenor asked your advice and your answer puzzled me.”
“It frightened me,” said Gabriella, and the crowd dispersed.
And Lara went to the end of the world and looked over the edge at the mountains below. The tops of them pointed out of the clouds; gargantuan, cold titans. She shut her eyes, and let the stone cold breeze caress her face and calm her. As she knelt gently and peered over the end of the world, she tuned her ears into the music. She could hear the ancient song she could always hear; the whispering of the mountain streams, the pedal of the wind threading between the snowy summits, the ostinato of all the Planes; highest, lower and Dark, where Midgard apparently resided, in harmony.
It was by no means the first time that Lara had visited the end of the world.
‘I must be of thy descent, mountains,” said Lara. “My hair is the same dark as the rock that forms thee. My skin is the snow that settles on thy summits, my eyes are the flame of the sun as it strikes thy glaciers. I crave the streams that run from thy peaks, I wish I could walk in thy solitude.”
As if answering her, a breath of wind came spiralling slowly from the barren, beautiful mountains below. It brushed past Lara’s hair and lifted the wings that were furled up on her back, just a little. Fly then, said the mountains, fly to us. Spread thy wings and come to our summits.
Lara unfurled her wings. Sometimes, she had heard tell of the fairy story that wings were meant to fly. But the Citizens always laughed when they heard this; wings are meant to balance a citizen so that when they walk they do not fall forward. No-one she knew had ever flown before, certainly. But the citizens’ wings were small and dainty. They fluttered like a butterfly’s wings on their backs. Her’s were not like that. They were large, and alive. When she opened them, the white feathered tips reached right above her head, and the ends of each wing brushed the floor as she walked. When she curled them up, she could feel them breathing on her back.
Perhaps I could fly- yes, perhaps she could. She leaned further over the edge of the world and told the mountains of the brightest flame of her heart.
“I have candles that burn inside me,” she told them. “They burn with a horrible pain, a sweet pain. One candle burns as brightly as my flame of sorrow. And that candle is this.”
Lara did indeed love her Governor, but not as the other citizens did. For when she looked upon him, or felt his spirit move in some way, every candle inside her grew to an inferno and even scorched her soul, sometimes. There didn’t seem to be a word for that feeling in the language that they spoke in the jeweled city. The feeling gave Lara great shame, but happiness also. Only the mountains knew her secret.