The Choosing - Fantasy Novella Part 1 Chapter 3
The Choosing- Part 1 Chapter 3
Next day we met again in the caves. We sat beside the stream alive with phosphorescent flashes of fish, and I told Llew I wanted to be a sorceress more than anything else.
He chuckled, and his green eyes suddenly seemed like they belonged to a man much older than his nineteen years. “I don't think you can be the Pure One.”
“And why not?” I threw my shoulders back and held my head high in defiance.
“Because you desire me. I knew it when I touched your hand, and by the manner in which you withdrew it from mine.”
A mischievous crooked smile played upon his lips.
“Who are these pure ones? They must be frigid.”
This catapulted Llew into a paroxysm of laughter. When he recovered from it, he said, “I like your candour.”
“What about all those sorcerers? Are they also without desire?”
“It is said they take vows of celibacy when they are initiated into the mysteries, but there are many tales about the covert breaking of vows.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “Why must they be celibate?”
Llew stooped to investigate a pale crab that had crawled up to his sandalled feet from the water.
“Because they cannot use the beds of crystal to recharge their powers. The crystals demand purity. Those who stray have no alternative but to follow the path of dark magic.”
Why was something as natural and human as sexual desire such a taboo for the Tribe of Sorcerers? Perhaps some day I would find the answers. Of this I was certain: I was going to the Choosing of the Pure One. If being chosen was the only way I could become a sorceress, I wanted to try.
“When is the Choosing Ceremony?” I asked Llew.
“Four days from now. They will gather all the hopefuls and await the coming of the Unicorn.”
Llew seemed to know everything and that made him more attractive.
“I suppose I will see you at the Choosing,” he said.
“I will be there.”
I did not tell him I would be one of the hopefuls. I didn't want him to laugh at me.
~ ~ ~ ~
The next morning when I told Grandma about the Secret Cave, she dropped the ladle with which she was stirring a pot of soup.
“Oh my Princess, you must be careful. What if you get caught? It’s all right to meet that boy in public places, but not in secret, or the Council will assume you are lovers." She looked at me, a question in her eyes. “Are you?”
“No Grandma. Of course we are not lovers.”
I could not promise her that we would never be lovers.
“I wouldn’t want the Council to send you into exile. Then I will never see you again.” Tears gathered in her eyes.
“I will be careful, Grandma, but t I’m glad I met Llew. He told me the Choosing of the Pure One is near.”
Her eyes lit up. “Some day you will become a being of light, Princess. Remember though, such beings do not seek lovers.”
She took the pot off the hearth and the bread out of the stone oven. The sweet aroma of bread filled the kitchen.
“Are you going to the Choosing?” she asked.
“Yes, Grandma. I want to be a Pure One.”
Yet I felt confused. Being a Pure One would mean never being kissed or held by a man, but as a sorceress I would have so much power, I would no longer yearn for the headiness that came from conquering hearts. Then I could be pure. My brain seemed in a tangle.
Grandmother put her arms around me and stroked my hair. “Are you ready for it now, my Princess?”
“I don't know. Maybe the Unicorn will tell me."
She looked into my eyes and shook her head. “You must think deep. Is it power you long for, or is it purity? Purity is about powerlessness.
“I want to try,” I said, dipping bread into the soup. No I did not understand what it meant to be pure. Who would want to be powerless, and why? How could Grandmother say that sorcery was about powerlessness? It was the opposite.
“What do you mean by powerlessness?” I asked her.
“The Pure One serves others. She does not serve herself.”
“She serves others because she has power.”
Grandmother heaved a sigh. “One day you will understand my meaning. It is only a matter of time. But remember, my Princess, I will always be on your side.”
~ ~ ~ ~
As I helped Father check the fields for pests in the gentle morning sunlight, I looked at the woods around us. Somewhere in there lived a magical creature so pure, he knew purity when he saw it.
“Have you ever seen the Unicorn?” I asked Father as he loosened the earth around the pumpkin vines.
He looked up at me. “Yes, several times. At the Choosing of the Pure One. We can go together for the ceremony if you like.”
“Father, I want to be the Pure One.”
He seemed surprised and looked away from me. After a few moments, he said:
"I thought you loved the earth like I do. It is your calling. It's always been this way in our family. As one dedicated to bringing forth good things from earth, you will lead a happy, simple life. "Forgive me, child. . . I don't understand."
"I'm not like the rest, Father. I want to be special. Isn't wishing to be pure a good thing?"
"It certainly is, child, but it depends on the motivation. Ask yourself why you want to be pure. If it's to be better and bigger than others, "special" as you call it, you will not succeed."
His words made me blush. "But doesn't everyone want to be special?"
He smiled and kneeling, he put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. "Not everyone, child. There are those who just want to be their original selves."
"You mean there's a false self and an original self?"
"Before you were born, you did not know your name, to which family you belonged, or the difference between a flower and a frog. All this did not matter to you. You had no likes or dislikes."
I could not make sense of what Father was saying. How could anyone ever return to the embryo state? I was reminded of Mother, which added to my confusion. Was he hinting that I could ask about her and he would give me an answer? I decided not to ask. I didn't want to veer away from this most important subject.
"Are you saying it's wrong to like flowers and dislike frogs?"
He chuckled. Rising from his knees, he brushed the soil and leaves from his trousers. "I know it's not easy to understand, child, but that's because you're very young. Keep thinking about it and you'll understand."
In the night I dreamed of frogs turning into flowers and flowers into frogs. I thought it a good sign. It meant I was thinking about what Father had told me.
~ ~ ~ ~
It seemed as though all of Tacta gathered for the Choosing in the woods. Tall trees surrounded the clearing, their branches meeting overhead to create green sunshine that exploded in diamond bursts through the leaves. The people, waving branches laden with white flowers, sat on a series of half moon steps arranged in tiers. Father sat among them, smiling at me. I did not want to see Llew, or think of how he made me feel when he touched me. I looked away when I saw him waving at me.
We girls, about a dozen of us, sat in a circle in the centre of the clearing, all of us dressed in white gowns, flower wreaths in our hair. Grandmother had stitched the gown for me despite being unwell.
As she sewed, she kept saying, “I’m so proud of you, Princess. I wish I could come with you.”
I looked at the other girls, and they looked at me, each apparently trying to determine the other’s degree of purity, or lack of it. An impossible attempt, I thought, or we would not need the Unicorn.
Clad in a blue robe, a leather headband with a deep blue jewel upon his brow, the High Priest of the Tribe of Sorcerers, stood upon a platform to our left. His arms were raised in invocation. Sorcerers dressed in green, flanked him, swinging censers of burning myrrh. The thick bluish smoke spiralled upwards into the green canopy.
Then a hush fell upon the gathering, and the girls froze. A flash of brilliant white among the trees moved towards us. The Unicorn! My mouth went dry, and my heart thudded against my ribs as the sacred beast approached, his movements graceful. I marvelled at his pure beauty, the delicate long legs, the sleek white body, the great noble chest, sweet as a dove’s. The pearlescent horn upon his forehead radiated light; his lustrous silver mane flowed like a cloud.
A yard from us, the Unicorn stopped and the High Priest went to receive him. The two began to circle us slowly. Wisdom and compassion shone in the Unicorn's beautiful, luminous eyes. Most of the girls bowed their heads, as though they could not bear to look at him. Except one – a girl with an exceedingly sweet mouth and long brown hair. I too could look the Unicorn straight in the eye and felt proud of it. .
As the sacred creature drew closer, I felt my heart beat slower. A feeling of peace, such as I had never before known, descended upon me. The Unicorn paused before me, pawed the earth, and nuzzled my cheek. He was going to choose me; I felt sure of it until he moved on to the girl with the sweet mouth who sat with head held high. He stood before her as she knelt, her head bent. The crowd cheered and showered them with flowers.
I was not entirely disappointed. The Unicorn had kissed my cheek. He turned and walked back into the woods. I wanted to follow him. Attendants of the High Priest lifted the Pure One upon a wooden platform decorated with flowers and bore her away. I envied the tranquillity on her face. That sweet mouth smiled and smiled, but I did not think it a proud smile. Did she not even feel a sliver of pride in her triumph? I remembered what Grandmother had said about powerlessness. The cheering crowd followed her, waving branches, throwing flowers at her. I wondered whether I too could be free of vanity. Father always said modesty was not one of my virtues.
As we walked home, I said to him, “He kissed me! The Unicorn kissed me!”
“So he did. But don’t let it go to your head, child. It is only a beginning. There is much to realign and much to discard."
It would be a long time before I understood what he meant. At home, Grandmother embraced me, her feverish eyes bright with tears.
"Grandma, the Unicorn kissed me."
“You are on the right path, my Princess. I know the Unicorn saw that in you.”
Why I Write about Elves: Terry Brooks at TEDxRainier
© 2014 Anita Saran