The Forbidden Vase (A Fantasy Short)
This short story is a twist on the Greek Myth of Pandora's Box . It is written in Sapphire's point of view and takes place in the fictional, magical kingdom of Suentia.
*The Day We Met Anesidora*
She travelled, on foot, day and night, stopping only for a sip of water from a well or a bite of a sweet fruit. If she stopped, she risked being caught. From day to day, she changed her appearance. Her once red hair had been stained with blueberries, ink and whatever else the woman could get her hands on. She often wore a veil over her mouth to further conceal her identity.
At 23, she was 3 years my senior and had been carrying a burden that weighed her down for as long as I have lived. She had to carry this burden with her at all times, the burden that wasn’t even hers to begin with. Her beauty was a waste, for no one would ever marry her if they knew who she was. No one would even want to set eyes on her, except to capture her for the bounty.
Sure she was a wanted woman, but not for the reasons she hoped. She would never have a family, a child… not unless she wanted to pass on the curse to another innocent human being.
I met this woman on the road while travelling with my brother, Kyanite. My brother seems to have an internal magnet that draws legends into his path. He once found a Griffin, a majestic animal—part lion, part eagle—that was thought to be extinct in our realm. Now my brother is in search of a dragon, which I highly doubt exists, but hey, the Griffin turned out to be real.
Instead of finding that dragon, we found this woman. She sat beside a pile of logs, her grey hair and her clothes drenched although my brother and I didn’t recall there being any rain. She seemed to have been making a fire but had obviously given up. Now she sat crying, hard and loud. I sensed her pain immediately and it brought tears to my eyes.
“Are you alright?” I asked the woman.
She looked up, startled by my voice. She thought she was alone, safe from those who wished to do her harm. Immediately, she snatched up the canvas bag she carried and slung it onto her back as she struggled to her feet. She tried to run, but tripped on an obviously injured leg and fell into the dirt. Crying out in pain as she tried to stand again, she clutched her calf and continued hobbling away.
“Wait!” I called after her.
The woman continued hobbling along. It didn’t take much effort to catch up to her. A few long strides on my part and I was right beside her. I grasped her arm and felt her trembling. She was afraid of me, but why?
“Please, let me go. I don’t have much money, but you can have all that I have.”
“I don’t want your money,” I said.
Her veil began slipping from her face and she quickly pulled it back over her mouth. She thought that I would notice her but instead, she noticed me. She collapsed into a deep bow, both knees on the ground, her forehead against the back of her hands that pressed into the soil. I stooped down to her and placed my hands underneath her chin. It was the bow of a bondservant and I refused to accept it from her.
As I raised her head, large, frightened brown eyes looked into my blue ones. “Y-Your Majesty,” she stuttered.
My brother came and stood beside me and the woman immediately pressed her forehead into the back of her hands again. “Your Highness,” she said to Kyanite.
“We’re supposed to be undercover,” said my brother. At fifteen, he was extremely mature for his age but at that moment, he sounded quite the opposite.
“Please, call me Sapphire,” I said.
“Please, spare my life, Your Majesty,” she said.
Why is it that people always insist that they address me formally? It’s a real pain sometimes. The King, Larios, gets annoyed with me sometimes for encouraging people to call me by my first name. My sentry, Mont, also doesn't approve of me allowing people to be informal with me. He says making them my equal puts me at greater risk to be harmed.
As I spoke to the woman, could feel my sentry’s presence close. Mont was a large man with awesome warrior of sorcery powers but, fortunately for me, he had a gentle nature. He probably found out that I had gone off with Kyanite five minutes after we left. He had probably been on my tail for hours. I wonder why I didn’t sense him before.
My sensory endowment is strange that way. Sometimes I can sense someone from hundreds of miles away… not that day I guess.
What I did sense was that this woman’s leg was broken. It was painful. I could feel it. Still, the pain she felt wasn’t as overbearing as her fear.
“Let me help you,” I said. I placed my hands over her leg and directed my healing energy into the injury. Blue light pooled around my hands and I felt warmth flood the woman’s leg. She avoided contact with my eyes but I found a way to look into hers regardless.
The woman’s past, clear as day, began to flash through my mind. Her name came to me first: Anesidora.
From inception, Anesidora knew it was no good. "It" was a vase made of clourful stained glass fragments that that fit together like jigsaw. The vase had been set on a pedestal where Apollo’s rays shone through the ceiling, causing rainbows from the vase's stained glass to dance on the white walls of the small room. Why had she touched the vase? She knew it was forbidden. Epimetheus told her not to touch the vase. He told her not to even think about going into the room.
Anesidora had sat on the ground of what had been a room a few seconds before… before she uncorked the vase and broke the seal… before a destructive cyclone, harboring raindrops and hail the size of golf balls and streaks lightning, ripped through the room, obliterating the room’s very existence.
Her clothes and red hair was drenched from the tempest that tore away at the walls of her home and left the floors scorched. Her house ceased to exist. Rubble lay all around her—The streets had been littered with debris and the land had become baren.
Standing up, Anesidora had looked around at the ruin, at the people who lay in the streets, now all homeless… because of her. An epidemic spread across the nation, across the land and the sea, affecting the entire world.
People and animals alike dropped dead. Murderers and thieves ran rampant.
Anesidora continued to cling to the vase, refusing to let go of the cork that she had sealed the vase with before the last "thing" escaped along with the other sins. This last "thing" was a good thing and she refused to let it escape. She pulled a canvas bag out of the rubble and quickly tossed the vase into the bag.
I continued to look into the present-day Anesidora’s eyes and realized that the woman in my vision wasn’t Anesidora after all.
“You’re a descendant of Pandora,” I said. I was fascinated, but Anesidora interpreted my expression differently. She held her arms over her face as though expecting to be struck. I eyed the canvas bag that the woman carried. “Is that the forbidden vase?” I inquired.
Anesidora didn’t respond. “Would you mind if I see it?” I asked.
“N-no, Your Majesty. You wouldn’t want to do that.”
“Don’t tell me… you still believe in the curse.”
“Believe in it!?” the woman shrieked. “I live it.”
Her eyes brimmed with tears before they spilled from her eyes onto her flushed cheeks. She fastened the veil around her mouth and nose again and got to her feet. Now able to walk on her newly healed leg, she could move faster.
“Anes,” I called. “The curse isn’t true.”
“Your Majesty, with all due respect, I have to go,” said the woman.
“Anesidora,” Kyanite called. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the canvas bag. “My sister’s usually right about these things.” What can I say? I am usually right about these things... not to brag or anything.
Anesidora stopped mid stride but didn’t look back. I held out my hand and closed my eyes, concentrating on activating my telekinesis. I could feel Anesidora’s fright increase tenfold because the bag began pulling out of her grip. She held tighter to the bag but it was no use. Her grasp was no match for my powers... not to brag or anything (again). You probably think I'm conceited, listening to my narration.
Anyway--The bag flew right out of the despaired woman’s hand and right into mine. As I was about to open the bag, Anesidora let out a distressed cry, a plea. She dropped weakly to her knees and clasped her hands in front of her. “Please, Your Majesty. Don’t do this,” she cried. “Hope is all humanity has! Please don’t open the bag. The seal on the vase isn’t very sturdy.”
I looked at the bag she now held in her hand. “Ane—” I was going to tell her that was ridiculous but she cut me off.
“Please,” Anesidora sobbed. “For the sake of humanity. Please don’t open the bag. Please, please!” She began crawling desperately towards me, shaking from head to toe with apprehension of what would happen if hope, the only remainder, was released from the forbidden vase.
I couldn't bare to see the fright I was causing her. I handed the bag over to Kyanite and telepathically told him: don’t you dare think about opening it
I heard Kyanite sigh as he watched me approach Anesidora. I got down onto my knees and wrapped my arms around Anesidora’s trembling body. “Please, please,” Anesidora continued to plead.
“Okay, okay,” I said, rubbing the woman’s back.
Anesidora continued crying. “Hope is all we have,” she cried.
“Anes,” I gently said. “I know the myth said that Pandora released all the evils of the world from the jar and that hope is the only thing remaining in the jar… but… I refuse to believe that’s true.” I placed my hands on Anesidora’s shoulder and looked deep into her eyes again.
“Because you carry this vase around, you’re constantly afraid. Look at your hair; it’s turned gray from the burden you carry. You have to let go of it.”
“If I let go of it, the world will lose the only thing left in the vase.”
“Hope isn’t in that vase, Anesidora. Hope can only be found in one place.”
Anesidora looked at me with curiosity in her eyes. “Where?” she asked.
“In your heart. Anesidora, you have to let go of that vase.”
Books About Pandora's Box
Anesidora seemed to be thinking hard about it but then she slowly shook her head. She squeezed her eyes shut and more tears poured out. “Please, let me have my vase and I’ll be on my way,” she said.
I sighed and took my hands off Anesidora’s shoulders. Anesidora stood shakily to her feet and began approaching Kyanite. “Please, Your Highness,” she said to him.
Kyanite looked at me for permission and when I nodded, Kyanite reluctantly handed the bag over. Anesidora took the bag, dropped into another bow and then quickly ran out of sight.
I sadly watched the woman run out of view.
“There goes another treasure,” said Kyanite.
I punched Kyanite in his shoulder. “Don’t be so selfish!” I exclaimed.
“I’m sorry,” said Kyanite.
“Come on,” I grumbled. “Let’s find a place to rest for the night. Mont will catch up to us soon. So be prepared.”
“Why should I be prepared. You’re the one who’s gonna be in trouble.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. I sighed again and plopped down onto the dirt. “Let’s just camp here,” I told him. I was too heart broken at the time to go on.
Kyanite took his backpack off his back and sat beside me. He detached two sleeping bags from the backpack and began unrolling them. I stared into mid air for a moment before saying, “Mont, has stopped for the night too.”
“Good,” said Kyanite. “We already lost one treasure. I don’t need Mont halting my hunt for the dragon."
"There's no dragon!" I exclaimed, now peevish because of Anesidora's predicament. "Just like there is no Pandora’s curse!”
Kyanite wasn't even offended. “Tell that to Anesidora,” he said.
“Poor woman,” I said. “I can’t imagine living my life that way: afraid that crazy superstitious people would catch up to me and kill me, thinking I can never marry or have a family—living hopeless.
Kyanite looked amused. “What are you smiling about!” I yelled, upset that he found the situation funny.
“It’s ironic how the thing that Anesidora believes keeps the world hopeful, is making her hopeless.”
He’s right. Isn't that something? I stared down into my lap and began fiddling with my thumbs. Suddenly, I felt I should go after Anesidora. I was suddenly very “hopeful” again. I no longer felt heartbroken for the woman but I wasn’t sure why. “Um… Kyanite,” I said. “You mind if we keep walking?”
“What?” He looked at me as though I was crazy.
“How are we supposed to see? It’s dark.”
I squeezed the palms of my hands together and slowly drew them apart, creating a small ball of light. I held the ball in the palm of one hand, illuminating the small area around us.
“Of course,” said Kyanite, rolling his eyes. He gets annoyed with my endowment sometimes because at the age of 13, we found out that he wouldn’t develop any powers of his own.
I helped Kyanite roll up the sleeping bags and I volunteered to carry them, to take some of the load off my brother’s back.
Within five minutes, we were back on the trail again, waking through the forest. We continued walking in silence—Kyanite knew better than to interrupt me when I was tracking—for almost half an hour. Finally, I spotted a flat object laying on the forest floor ahead of us.
I ran to the object and knelt in front of it, tossing our sleeping bags aside as I did so. The object was a canvas bag. Anesidora’s canvas bag! I snatched up the bag and realized immediately that it was empty.
“The vase,” Kyanite whispered.
Placing the canvas bag aside, I felt the soil that was beneath it. I could feel that the soil had been tampered with. Beside the tampered area was a tree branch, covered with moist soil—the tool used for digging perhaps.
“Kyanite, help me,” I ordered, beginning to claw at the dirt.
“You think she buried it?” Kyanite asked.
I didn’t answer him; I just continued digging. Kyanite took his backpack off and began assisting me in my efforts. “Sapphire,” he whispered after a while of digging.
His whispering was making me nervous. I don’t know why. “Stop whispering,” I said, hypocritically whispering myself.
“I found it,” Kyanite told me.
This was the moment. Why was I suddenly feeling as though the myth about Pandora’s box could be true. What if I dug up the thing and broke the seal again? What if I became the one responsible for destroying the hope, the only good thing, that remained in this realm?
I definitely understood Anesidora’s fear. Kyanite wasn’t very fearful though. He lifted the vase right out of the dirt and began brushing it off. I held my breath, expecting fire to pour forth from the sky or something dramatic like that.
Kyanite began polishing the vase with his sleeve, that sparkle of amazement in his eyes. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
Then I noticed something. There was no seal on the vase. It was open. I looked down at the dirt we dug up and saw a thin cork, the seal. I held my hand out and Kyanite passed the vase to me. I closed my eyes and reached inside myself to feel for the vase’s magical power… but I felt nothing. It was just a vase. A plain, ordinary vase.
A year later...
I had never forgotten about Anesidora. I wished that one day I would see her again. Then that day came. Anesidora showed up at my palace, looking gorgeous. Her hair had returned to its original vibrant red colour and her brown eyes were bright and free of worry.
Anesidora bowed deeply to me as I sat on my throne. “I buried the vase,” she told me, satisfied with her actions. “Hope will stay safe that way. Now, humanity can’t lose hope.”
I stood from my throne and knelt so I was level with Anesidora. “You’re right,” I said. “Humanity can’t lose hope.” I pointed to the window to my right, where I had proudly displayed the vase on the sill.
Anesidora’s jaw dropped in shock and she was lost for words, speechless.
“There was nothing inside the vase,” Anesidora. “Hope has been inside of you all along.”
Anesidora stood and approached the vase, tears steadily tumbling out of her eyes. She gently touched the vase with the tips of her fingers and asked the way a small child would, “Hope is safe?”
As she looked towards me, I nodded my head and said, “Hope can never be destroyed.”
Anesidora smiled a bright, tearful smile and ran towards me, completely forgetting her rank and throwing her arms around me for a tight embrace. I returned her hug and felt her heart overflowing with the hope of the world. It's a feeling I would never forget!
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