One day, there was a change in all spheres.
Lara felt the change like a pulse of electricity.
In a jewelled palace, high above us, in a golden city, a troubled prince sat upon a throne. Its jewels dug into his back as he sat there. His citizens brought in a tapestry meant for the wall of his bedchamber. It depicted an angel, a beautiful, happy angel, sitting atop a mountain. She was golden-haired, and her eyes were cornflower blue. The prince regarded the thing almost disdainfully.
“My liege,” Damariel said, “Don’t you like it?”
The prince’s eyes stared at the tapestry with dying embers.
Then, quite suddenly, he rose and walked up to the thing. He reached out and touched the angel’s silk threaded face with his ringed finger. He smiled faintly.
“Her skin is accurate,” said he, “She is pale. Skin like snow,” his eyes calmed golden…then this burned to red. “But she is an angel. I did not ask for an angel!”
“But she has our wings,” said Damariel, upset, “And our hair. She was an angel…just a funny sort of angel. A freak of nature, they happen sometimes.”
“Angels’ hair is dark,” he muttered, “Dark, soft, and…and their eyes are like flame, but not an angry flame. A flame of misery-ah yet! But I forget. She was not an Angel. She could never have been an angel…Oh, my dark Celestial one, I hope you died as soon as you hit the ground. I hope the earth threw you into the universe from whence I took you. No one may have you-argh-”
Here the prince clutched at his heart as it failed him once again. “She is not right. I tell you that I threw the first and last angel Strange One the end of the world. She is dead now, or else has been seduced by my wretched brother, who comes so swift now,” he fell back into his throne, wheezing, struggling to keep hold of himself. Illness.
On a wash plain below, a daughter prepared to leave her earthly parents.
“Mummy and Daddy will be back by lunchtime tomorrow,” said mummy, to Lara, “Reykjavik is not so far away from here.”
When they had left, Lara removed her hair ribbons, her silk shoes and her golden circlet. She laid them upon the kitchen table, and walked out to the mountains. There they were, her ever-watchful allies. Climb again, they said to her. Climb. We will take care of you. We will take you to the sky, and if it is shut to you we shall pierce it open with our summits.
Lara reached out and touched the cold wet surface of her chosen mountain, and kissed it. Then she smiled, and leaned her head against the Titan. She stayed there a long while, breathing in for the millionth time the barren beauty of the plane onto which she was fallen. The Titan put its arms round her, for who wishes to ever let go of a Strange One’s embrace? Lara had blessed it with her love, yet for sadness did the mountain hold her close. For well it knew what lay ahead.
Lara made her way back to the house.
She opened the door and stood inside.
She felt the beauty of the earth and the cold mountain stone flood through her soul.
She breathed like a tree, unstirred.
She said a prayer to a passing star……
And she cast an Angel spell.
When mummy and daddy returned, they found that the house had been transformed.
The whole place was cleaner than they had ever seen it before, and filled with the sweet scent of crocuses. There were new furs upon the floor and French crockery in the drawers, and soft new Spanish shawls in the wardrobe for mummy and velvet cloaks lined with reindeer fur for daddy. In the kitchen, the cupboards had been filled with food from the mainland; soft white breads, fruits of the Caribbean, cream, chocolates, wine, pastries, muttons, vegetables. All the wood was chopped and stacked by the fire, which was lit with a roaring blaze. All the shirts were mended and the lined folded. The beds now wore fresh sheets and were covered with new fur blankets. There were flowers in vases in every room; roses, Delphinium and freesia; the house was lit with fresh candles in crystal candelabras, all of which were trimmed and wicked, and burning confidently.
“Oh- oh my goodness,” said mummy, “K-Karì my love, come and look! Look what’s happened!”
“There you are, mother,” said Lara, emerging from the staircase dressed in the dress she had always worn before she fell to the lower plane. “I was worried something might have happened to you. It’s so late now, you said you would be back by-“
“-Now listen here, you little minx,” said mummy, “I’m mummy, not mother-what on earth has happened? Did you do this?!”
“Perhaps.” Lara smiled and flicked her wrist.
“But-there’s coffee in the spice pot- and look, my love, sugar. White sugar!” Daddy began to laugh out of sheer delight. Mummy laughed too, uncontrollably, and Daddy pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek. “We’ve…I mean, it’ like Christmas! This is…oh mummy. I fear that our daughter is a fairy who lives on the mountain side.”
“Not a fairy, an angel!” cried mummy, coming towards Lara and taking her daughter’s face tenderly in her hands, “A real-life, good angel!”
Lara’s soul laughed with its eyes at those words.
When Mummy and Daddy sat down to eat, they found that there were new china plates waiting for them alongside the French cutlery at the table. They ate better than they ever had before.
“It’s a pity you don’t eat, ‘prinssessa’,” said mummy, “You must have worked so hard to get this all ready.”
Lara felt her angel-spell pulse and waver.
“Mummy, daddy,” said she, “I have to tell you something. Tomorrow I am going to climb the mountain.”
Daddy stopped eating, abruptly. Mummy didn’t even look up.
“Don’t you always climb the mountain, princess?”
“Tomorrow I am going to climb to the sky, mummy.”
Mummy stopped eating. “Climb to the sky?”
“No.” She threw down her cutlery. “I’ll have no more of this nonsense. It’s not safe. The sky might swallow you up. Or then again, you might fall-!”
“-I have this last year fallen and fallen again,” replied Lara. “I pined. I wept. But I took care that you didn’t hear me. I want to stay here. But I feel it like a pulse of electricity, and I need to go now.”
“Why now?!” said mummy, erupting into sobs.
“See? You’ve made mummy cry now, Lara,” Karì put his arms protectively round his wife. “Naughty girl. Say sorry.”
“I am so sorry,” Lara reached out to take her mother’s hands, but she pulled away. “You’re not winning me over with that again,” she sobbed.
“Father?” Lara looked over to Karì.
“He’s not father. He’s Daddy. And I am Mummy. It’s been that way ever since you were little.”
“Mummy, I was never little here. You know that, you’re just pretending.” Lara got up and pulled her mother into her arms. “ I need to go back to the sky, it’s important. It is inconceivable to most-”Mummy clung on, like a child.
“Lara, daughter-of-Karì,” sighed daddy, regarding his wondrous child, “Why do say these strange things? It puzzles me.”
“It frightens me,” said mummy, trying to dry her eyes.
That night as they slept, Lara filled her parents’ dreams with light.
“Odd,” said mummy, on waking, “I dreamt of our wedding day, Karì. But Lara was there. She was dressed in that strange white dress we found her in. She carried my veil along with the other bridesmaids. And when you dropped the ring, she went to pick it up.”
“I dreamt of our courting days, and of the haunted forest where we used to meet, do you remember?” Karì said. “I wonder if Lara has anything to do with this.”
Mummy didn’t reply. For at the end of her dream, she had seen a phoenix fly over her wedding party, holding in its beak a crown of black roses. She had looked to the distance and saw the mountains there, and knew somehow that her daughter was right to go, for something was indeed calling her. At 3 o’clock, Lara kissed her mother goodbye.
“Be sure to be back by eight o’clock, princess,” mummy smiled, but even more tears were spilling down her cheeks. “Come back soon. Very soon.”
Lara embraced her mother. Perhaps they both knew that Lara would not be back nearly so soon, but mummy couldn’t quite face that possibility . Taking with her only the silken doll that Mummy had given her, Lara went with her father to the highest mountain on the Plane. “I will come with you for the first bit,” said Karì, not wanting to leave his daughter just yet.
The two began to climb, followed at their heels by Arne.
At first, it was easy. Then it became hard. Lara had never needed to breathe but Arne did, and Daddy certainly did. As the air grew thinner and thinner still, he soon came to realise that he could not go very far.
“Lara!” he cried, “Lara, my child, I am weak. I am too old to go any further now. Please don’t go, your mother will never recover if you leave us, and-oh God, and nor shall I.”
Lara gave him strength. “Every time you feel worried, then look to the mountains and think of me. If you do that then I will hear your thoughts, wherever I am.”
And seeing he could not dissuade her, Karì only nodded and embraced his daughter one last time. His heart remained attached to her shoulders. Arne looked up at her and knowing her thoughts, left his little soul on the mountainside for her to walk over.
“Farewell, my child,” said Daddy, calling Arne to him. “When we look to the mountains, we shall think of you.”
And they left.
Lara climbed on.
Up and up and up she went, though long the way and hard that out of hell leads up to light.
Lara was almost at the summit.