The next day, the surprises came, and both of them shining.
First, Karì came in from the barn and gave Lara a soft bundle of material. It resembled a human…a young female. It had hair made from black wool, and its eyes were tiny circular pieces of wood. Its face was made from white silk.
“It’s a doll,” said Mrs. Karì. “I know you might be a bit old for that, but…well. It’s just lucky that I only had dark wool when I made it, wasn’t it? Your hair is dark. She would have been blonde otherwise, I expect.”
Lara held the silky present against her cheek. “Thank-you, Mother.”
Dolly was not the only surprise, however. For the following evening, Mummy put a strip of black material over Lara’s cooling embers and led her, along with Daddy, out to the barn. Karì heaved the door open, and the family walked respectfully through the sheep, to the back of the building where a strong wooden ladder led up to the hayloft.
“Most people don’t bother to keep sheep in barns,” said Karì, “But Fjalladrottning is always so cold. And as there isn’t really enough room for a girl to expand properly in the house, we thought it might be best for you to have your surprise in the barn.”
The three of them climbed up the ladder, into the hayloft. At the top, was Lara’s bedroom. The Karìs had gathered together all the things that they had brought in preparation for the time that the angel they had prayed for was grown-up, and ready for a room of her own; elegant dresses, warm woolen shawls, dainty cotton slippers with gossamer bows, veils, necklaces, rings, and a great many of other beautiful things.
At the back of the loft was a goose feather bed, piled high with blankets and embroidered cushions. It was shrouded by a thick canopy of pink Charmeuse.
“Look at this dressing table, Lara!” Mummy led Lara over to a white dressing table with a French crystal boudoir mirror. “It’s from Sweden. And if you open those draws here; aha.” The draw had inside it a small golden circlet, which Mummy crowned Lara with as soon as she came to kiss Lara goodnight.
The next day, when she heard Karì leave with Arne in the morning, Mummy opened her eyes and felt the flutter of butterflies in her stomach. The glow it made swarmed down and flooded into her palms, giving an agonizing excitement. She rose, threw a shawl over her nightgown, put on her shoes and went directly out to the barn to see her daughter.
So lovely to her was the sight of the sleeping Lara, that for a moment, Mummy could only stand watching her, and feel the light radiating out of her. Then she reached out and touched Lara’s shoulder.
“Lara?” She smiled, “How did you sleep, my princess?”
“Very well, thank-you mummy,” Lara sat up in bed, having watched the sun rise and set, “Where’s daddy?”
“He’s gone out to work already,” Mrs Karì went to the draw and pulled out two blue hair ribbons. “Now, come along. I want to plait your hair today. But what kind of plait…ooh, I think I shall try a Frankish Braid. Then tomorrow we can do Danish braids. Do you like this colour ribbon? You can choose another if you like.”
From that day on, Lara passed each day with her mother, who put her hair into two braids. In the evenings when father came home she would eat her dinner and go to bed. And Lara forgot her troubles, and became Lara, Daughter-of-Karì.
Only the mountains remembered. Mountains see all.
One night, as Lara Daughter-of-Karì lay in her bed, her Long-lost appeared to her in a dream. It was sunset, and the barn where she slept was flooded with dazzling sun-death. Abiel sat on her bed; golden-haired, calm eyed, sweet, so, so sweet. Lara felt her love for him well up inside her like a Human’s swollen wound. She reached out her hand and touched him. He smiled. His teeth were sharp, pointed, and uneven. The largest ones grew off at jagged, horrifying angles.
“Alone again, fallen one?” he asked. He reached out his hand and picked up the silken doll that lay on Lara’s pillow. And Lara’s love mingled with bitterness, and yet more love. “Leave me be. Please leave me alone. I beg you.”
Abiel’s eyes were red, with specks of gold. Lara felt that there was really no difference between Abiel and Midgard, his brother.
“What do you want?” she asked.
Abiel opened and closed his talons. His attention was caught suddenly by Dolly, whom Lara held in her hand. The Hova watched it a minute. Then he reached out and took it, and held the silken doll against his ravaged face. He closed his eyes.
“I won’t come with you,” Lara wept furiously at Abiel’s calm, cruel face. “You are shambollic. You have ruined all Planes. And you ruined me, my life is a shell, a piece of wind in the sky, compared to when I was-“
“Yes but who did this to you?” Fired Abiel, and Lara felt her eyes alight in time with his as their embers kindled into life once more. “Abiel, or Midgard?”
And in her dreams, the mountains cried out “Jehova!”
And Abiel’s eyes disappeared, leaving only a smooth strip of skin above his nose and mouth. And suddenly his teeth were stained with Blood; Angel’s blood, silver and sweet as honey, and Humans’ blood; red, metallic. Her vision swooped down, past the lower plane, onto the darker plane, where Midgard reigned as Emperor. She saw a marble black throne upon which he sat. His repulsive hellions giggled and slavered hatefully around him. Their jagged teeth grew at strange overlapping angles, their milky blind eyes threaded through with black veins. Granite.
Lara cried out. Mummy came running.
“Lara? Lara?!” She tore up the ladder and into the hayloft.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Mummy’s face was filled with worry now. She picked up Dolly who was on the floor of the hay loft, and tucked it in beside her daughter.
“It was just a dream,’ said Lara, softly, “Only a bad dream.” But Lara never felt safe at sun-sleep ever again. The next day in the evening when the sun had set, Lara went to Daddy and asked him a question.
“Daddy, are you a follower of God?” she asked.
“Yes, Princess. I suppose I am. Why?”
How can you be? Tortured Lara that night as she thought over her father’s response, How can you be so blind? Why don’t you look up into the sky and see how it is cold and shut?
“Lara,” asked Mummy, who was getting a bit worried about Lara, “Why are you so anxious, Princess?”
“I’m worried about who God is,” Lara whispered.
“About God? Why?”
“It is inconceivable to most,” Lara looked out of the place in the wall where the glass lay between them and the outside world, “I believe that I must return to my homeland, mother. I think Bad Things will happen if I do not.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Mummy turned around and began to wash Lara’s plate. She forgot to take off her wedding ring. “You can’t possibly go. We would…well. Dolly would get lonely, and Arne would get lonely, and you’re…well. You can’t go.”
“Mother, I need to.”
She turned to the sky and saw the mountains watching her, calling her back. Come home, said the mountains. Go to the place you were exiled from. We will bear you back there, if you can only find out how.
I need to go to the mountains.
‘Lara, Daughter-of-Karì,” sterned Mummy, “If you dare leave this house all by yourself, I shall be very, very cross indeed.”
That evening, Lara went outside and stood at the front of the house. Daddy was there too, tying Arne up by the side and pouring out some water for him in a wooden bowl. She lifted her face to the cold grey sky and looked to the mountains to ask her question.
“Daddy,” said she, “Daddy, where do those mountains lead?”
“Where do they lead?” Karì scratched his head, “Why, to the sky, I should think, Poppet.” Lara watched as the mountains faded into the heavens. “And how would one get to the sky, Daddy?”
Karì looked at her sideways. “I should think you would have to fly, Princess,” Daddy chuckled, “With those wings of yours, perhaps?”
Perhaps I could fly…“My wings have never worked,” said Lara, sending her dream to the wind.
“Well, then. I suppose you would have to climb.”
Climb. Lara’s wings braced on her back, as if to unfurl.
“Do you want to go to the sky, Princess?” asked Daddy, quietly.
“Yes. I would, father.”
“Right then. I see,” Daddy reached down and tickled Arne’s ears. Arne would not be so easily fooled and looked at Lara pointedly, ears forward, head tilted quaintly.
“I suppose that’s what all this pining has been about, then, Princess?” Karì said.
Lara had not had a peaceful day since her dream. She feared what the sky would bring her very much, but ignorance was now a rag doll that had been misplaced outside of home, irretrievable, lost. And soon, nothing but a blur of love and pain in the eye of a ghosting storm. But what if I collapse at the foot of a mountain what if what if I fall down again what if Abiel what if what if what if what if what if I fall into a spiral and break what if what if a broken twisted doll again what if what if what if what if…
The only way to climb a mountain is to