Elyrian Fairy Tales ☆

      𝕰𝖑𝖞𝖗𝖎𝖆𝖓 𝕱𝖆𝖎𝖗𝖞 𝕿𝖆𝖑𝖊𝖘

There are few things in this world as enduring as the impressions made upon children. Those stories which have stood the test of time, through no duty to preserve a word revered as holy, but only for the lasting influences left between parent and child, are the very foundations of Elyria's civilizations. Indeed, folktales and fables are rivaled only by the religious texts of our world in terms of foundation and influence.

The Golden Phoenix

Two men duel to see who claims ownership of a golden phoenix.

King Crownless

A self-proclaimed king makes demands of everyone he meets.

The Fox and the Shrew

A shrew hides from a wolf in the company of a fox.

The Daemon Prince

As part of a deal, a man agrees to let a daemon court his daughter.

The Man Who Learned to Die

The God of Pride shows a man how to cheat death.

11/28/2016 10:52:46 PM #1

The Golden Phoenix

Two men, each of which had found no good fortune in his life of hard labor, had partnered together for a life of adventure in search of Elyria’s grandest treasures. One of the men was the younger, and though he was swifter and stronger, he had not yet the hard experiences of the world; and the other was the elder, and though he was sharper of mind, he had not as much strength at the end of each day. It had been many days since they had been in town, and they had run out of rations, so the two endeavored to lay a trap for an animal to break their fast the following morning. The elder of them foraged out into the thick wood to gather vine and braided it together such that no beast could break it. After he did this, the younger used this vine and fashioned together a blanket made of loose rope, and he laid the snare ‘neath the lowest branch of a tree, hidden under a bushel of ivy grown haphazard on the forest floor. With their work done, the men retired to their camp and rested away the pangs of their hunger.

When they awoke, they came upon the tree to find trapped in the snare a phoenix with feathers of brightest shimmering gold, a color which had not yet been witnessed by all the wealthiest kings nor queens nor soul nor spirit of the realm. At the sight of the two men, the phoenix’s wings fluttered against the vine that held them, and it warbled:

“O Light! How swift my fate is fraught

No justice ‘til I’m set ablaze

He who keeps and slays me not

Shan’t want for grace the rest of days.”

The elder man thought upon the prestige this could offer him, of the children that would know long after he was dead that he found the golden phoenix, and the man said aloud, “This is a fine reward for the one who brought forth the vines and braided them together with such skill that the bird could not escape.”

The younger man looked upon its pristine feathers, where even one plucked from its back could afford him to purchase the largest manor on the coast, and he replied, “Surely the one who deserves it is the one who fastened and set the trap, for without my keen eye for the low-hanging branch and the ivy that covered the ground the bird would not be caught.”

The elder did not agree—instead, he insisted he deserved it more than the younger, as the phoenix may have come upon the snare even without the ivy cover. The younger said that perhaps the phoenix didn’t even need to be caught in the snare at all, and it may simply have caught itself on the branch otherwise. Yet the two could not agree on who deserved to own the golden phoenix more than the other. Finally, the younger proposed to settle the matter with a duel that evening. The elder was not as quick with the sabre as he once was, but he knew this was the honorable way to settle the matter and agreed.

In the meantime, the two of them made their separate ways in search of food elsewhere. The younger of them, advantaged though he may have been, did not want to even suffer the risk of a loss. No sooner did he step out of sight than he retraced his steps to the phoenix in secret. “Phoenix,” he asked it, “What shall I do to ensure my opponent submits before I?”

The phoenix replied:

“There lies a sword of magic steel

Beneath the stump rot thrice times deep

Beware on whom the blade can feel;

The one it pricks is sent to sleep.”

The youngest went just as the phoenix had instructed, to the rotted stump they had spotted half a mile back. He dug one, two, three feet underneath, and the glint of the magic blade peeked through the dirt at last. With pure concentration and care, he lifted it by the flat edges on either side and removed his own sabre to make room in the sheathe.

Yet on his way back, the man worried that the blade’s power may not be real. “What if the phoenix tricked me,” thought he, “for dishonoring the integrity of this duel for which I asked?” As he thought this, he came upon an otterbear as it walked toward the riverbank. It payed him little mind as it went past, so he delicately pricked the back of the beast’s hind leg, and in an instant it fell onto its back in a deep slumber. He knew then the magic of the sword was genuine, and all that he asked the phoenix would come true, and he left the otterbear there to sleep.

Now it so happened that the older man had not soon afterward given up in his search for food, and he, too retraced his steps so that he could also meet with the phoenix in secret. As he was at the clear disadvantage, he thought it only fair to ask guidance. “Phoenix,” he asked it, “What shall I do to ensure my opponent does not win?”

The phoenix replied:

“Hidden round the east foothill

You’ll find a blessed coat aglow

For every wound upon that twill,

The same appears upon your foe.”

The eldest went in the direction apart from the sun, just as the phoenix had instructed, to the foothill a short distance away. He had only searched for an hour before he spotted where hung a dimly shining coat about a high tree branch. With all the care in the world, he climbed the tree until his reach met the highest branch, and he pulled the coat from its perch and let it fall to the ground, where he followed not long afterward.

Yet on his way back, the man worried that the coat may not have any power after all. “What if the truly magical coat was half a mile off,” thought he, “and this coat I found just happened to be an ordinary one?” As he thought this, he came upon a lone canis rabbit as it stalked the woods. Thinking fast, the man put on the coat and allowed it to bite at his wrist. After only a moment, the canis rabbit ceased its attack and cried out in pain, for an identical bite had formed at its foreleg around the paw. He knew then the magic of the coat was genuine, and that all he asked of the phoenix would come true, and he left the canis rabbit there to lick at its wound.

Once it was time for their duel, both men met back at the clearing where the phoenix was caught. When the elder saw the younger, he said, “I do not remember your sword. From where did you find it?”

The younger replied, “Your memory must have failed with your age. I’ve had this from the beginning.” Then he asked, “And you, old friend? I do not remember your coat. From where did you find that?”

The elder answered, “You must have missed it while you were busy chasing glory. I came to own this coat ages ago.”

The golden phoenix screeched at the deception to which it bore witness, but it otherwise did not make a sound. The men took this as their start, circling about each other with swords drawn. The younger struck out with his magic sword, but the elder ducked. As they passed by each other, the younger hit the elder upon his coat-covered back with the flat side of the sword. The younger then felt an identical hit upon his own back, but wherever he looked around him he could not place what had done it. He asked aloud, “Have we a phantom here?” yet the elder took advantage of his moment of distraction to attack. The younger fell back as he dodged, and the blade of his sword was cushioned by a bed of flowers, each of which instantly closed their petals as if it were nighttime.

The elder noticed this, and he said, “Indeed, even the plants behave strangely.” Seizing this moment for himself, the younger made the slightest prick upon his elder’s breast. In an instant, the elder passed out where he stood. The younger cheered, “Ah-ha! I’ve won!” for only a moment before he, too, was fast asleep. Out of sight of them both, the golden phoenix fell to ashes through the holes in the snare and carried itself away in the wind.

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11/30/2016 5:05:20 PM #2

King Crownless

There once lived a bricklayer in the very capital of a kingdom, and he had not a mother nor a father, nor a wife nor husband, nor children nor pet to greet at the end of the day. This bricklayer had not a modicum of wealth in the world he could claim as his own, and though he was very lonely and poor indeed, he did not resent it. In this city, it was not uncommon to see nobles and aristocrats come and go in their carriages of ornate wood, sheltered with curtains of silk, and donned in fine-embroidered clothes. But the bricklayer’s wants were simple, and he was content to afford his room in the inn and eat his meal after work. Since the day he was born, not a single ambition had engendered in his mind, and as his ordinary luck had become his excuse, it was also his comfort.

One day, as he was laying stone foundation, the bricklayer witnessed the king himself pass through the street. At the king’s heels walked two knights, and at the knights’ heels walked three hounds each. Then the king gave orders to a passing guard, and went on his way. As this occurred, the bricklayer thought to himself, "How simple is it to take orders from a man merely because he says he is king?" And he aspired to do this for himself. He set aside the stone he was to set, and he walked up to his foreman and said, "Pay me double what I am owed, for I am the king."

And the foreman grew indignant with his employee and answered, "Are you daft? You cannot make such demands of me. Get out of here!"

The bricklayer said, “But I have granted myself the highest authority in the land. He who walked through the street just now has to only call himself king, and that makes him no different than I.”

Yet the foreman said, “Your authority is dwarfed even by mine. Leave here, bricklayer!”

"Treason!" the bricklayer cried. “Shame on the blasphemer! You will rue the day you acted not upon the will of your king!” Yet this still did not inspire the foreman to action. Then the bricklayer strode up to the city guard, who was still standing nearby, and said to him, "You must arrest that foreman over there, for he denies my rightful rule over this kingdom!"

And the guard appraised the man in front of him and answered, “Do you jest? Do not make such bold claims.”

The bricklayer said, “But I have granted myself the highest authority in the land. He who gave you an order a moment ago has to only call himself king, and that makes him no different than I.”

Yet the guard said, “From where I stand, there is every difference between you and a king.”

"Treason!" the bricklayer cried. “Shame on the blasphemer! You will rue the day you acted not upon the will of your king!” Yet this still did not inspire the guard to action. Then the bricklayer ran at once to the courthouse in the city, and he said to the judge, "You must pass judgment upon the foreman and the guard outside, for they deny my rightful rule over this kingdom!"

And the judge gave the man a curious look and answered, "I have no such obligation to you, sir."

The bricklayer said, “But I have granted myself the highest authority in the land. He who appointed you to pass judgment in his stead has to only call himself king, and that makes him no different than I.”

Yet the judge said, “Have a care with your words, bricklayer, or your true judge may have a harsher hand.”

"Treason!" the bricklayer cried. “Shame on the blasphemer! You will rue the day you acted not upon the will of your king!” Yet this still did not inspire the judge to action. Then the bricklayer ran to the nearest temple, and he said to the priest, "You must ask the Gods to smite the foreman and the guard and the judge, for they deny my rightful rule over this kingdom!"

And the priest answered, "I cannot ask such a thing of the Gods for a man who knows not what he is."

The bricklayer said, “But I have granted myself the highest authority in the land. He who built this temple has to only call himself king, and that makes him no different than I.”

Yet the priest said, “There is not a god in Elyria yet who has looked upon you as a king of mannkind.”

"Treason!" the bricklayer cried. “Shame on the blasphemer! You will rue the day you acted not upon the will of your king!” Yet this still did not inspire the priest to action. Then the bricklayer ran into the square, where he made such a commotion that he caught the attention of all passersby in the square and shouted, "You all must rebel against the foreman and the guard and the judge and the priest, who all deny my rightful rule over this kingdom!"

Yet the people in the square were incited not against the foreman nor the guard nor the judge nor the priest, but against the bricklayer who sought to cause such disrupt in their community, and they all called upon the hangman to deal with him.

“Treason!” the bricklayer cried. “Shame on the blasphemers! All will rue the day they acted not upon the will of their king!” Yet even this did not inspire the people to action. When the hangman arrived, the bricklayer said, “You must hang every person in this city, for they all deny my rightful rule over this kingdom!”

“Of course,” said the hangman. “But first, you must attend your coronation,” and he put shackles upon the bricklayer’s wrists.

The bricklayer cried, “How dare you treat me like a common criminal!”

The hangman replied, “These? No, these are your royal cuffs, my Lord. A smith slaved day and night to craft these to perfection.” Then he led the bricklayer through the street, where at the very end stood the gallows.

The bricklayer cried, “Only a fool would dare send the king to the gallows!”

The hangman replied, “That? No, that is your throne, my Lord.” With a hand to the bricklayer’s shoulder, they both ascended the stairs of the platform, where the hangman pulled a noose over the bricklayer’s head.

The bricklayer cried, “Cursed be the one who hangs a noose around the king’s neck!”

The hangman replied, “This? No, this is your crown, my Lord.” He motioned to the crowd that had formed in front of the gallows, all eyes upon the bricklayer. He said, “Look how your subjects come to watch with reverence for you.” Then he pulled the lever that released the floor beneath the bricklayer’s feet, and said the hangman, “Long may he reign.”

Thus a new bricklayer came to town for work, and to rent the room at the inn, and to eat the meal at the end of the day, and all of what transpired that morning was forgot.

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12/2/2016 10:03:49 PM #3

The Fox and the Shrew

There was once a shrew who happened upon a den, for it had been searching for shelter from the wolf who pursued it. As it entered, the shrew realized the den was already occupied by its creator the fox, who could just as easily have the shrew for its meal. But the shrew was a guest in the fox’s home, and if it could not rely upon the fox to uphold its responsibilities as a host, the shrew had no chance. It had run for six days, and it knew it had little time before the wolf would catch up to it. As the wolf was not far behind, the shrew said, “White-fox, though I can offer nothing in return, I ask you to hide me from the wolf on your honor.”

Now the fox was not a noble or honest creature, but even it respected the laws of receiving a guest in its home, and so it replied, “Then hide in my teeth, shrew.” But the shrew would not do so, because it feared the fox would gobble it up in one go. Would that the shrew could hide instead beneath the fox’s tail, or behind its leg, or cradled on the back of its neck, but the fox said, “If you will not take shelter with me, you must ask the flowers outside to grow from your back, so the wolf knows you only as part of a simple garden.”

And so the shrew left the den to meet the flowers burgeoned from the earth, brittle and small as they were in the winter. The shrew asked them to grow instead in its back, to which the flowers answered, “First, you must give us your vow that you’ll tell no one of our joining, and that you’ll reveal to no one that a shrew lives beneath us when we’re in bloom.” The shrew knew it could not truly promise this, as the fox had already known of the plan. Yet the shrew, in its desperation, swore the vow even so. Then the flowers withered and died on the ground, and just as easily as they had done this, they sprouted and grew their stalks and flowered upon the shrew’s back. So the shrew and its flowers laid out beside the entrance to the fox’s den, and there they waited.

Hardly a moment later, the wolf came upon the fox’s den, and though it passed right over the shrew, it saw only flowers, and the wolf continued in. The wolf saw that the fox had made the den its home, and the wolf said, “White-fox, please excuse the interruption. Have you seen a shrew running about in your direction?”

The fox replied, “If such a creature had come through here, I would have found it before it could go any further. At present there is naught here but the flowers outside, friend.”

The wolf appeared quite haggard and starved, and it spoke to the fox, “This must be a sign that I should give up my search. Flowers are no feast, but you would be kind to allow me the meal even so.”

The fox knew the shrew could not hear and so answered: “Grant me a final day to admire them, and tomorrow you may come and abate your hunger.” And the wolf agreed to this.

When the wolf departed, the fox approached the modest garden beside its den and said aloud, “Shrew, the wolf is relentless; after it’s done looking for you, it will return on the morrow to eat the flowers upon your back.”

The flowers heard the fox’s words, and they knew the shrew had not kept its promise. In an instant, they blew away in the wind, and the shrew could only bark after them. “With or without them, I’m cursed!” it cried.

The fox said, “Perhaps not. The wolf will surely not think to look in my mouth.”

The shrew continued to weep, because it yet feared the fox would gobble it up in one go, and it spoke to the fox, “I may as well be dead! What else is there to do but run?”

But the fox warned the shrew, saying, “Do not make so hasty a decision. Of all the creatures in the world, only I know flowers may grow upon a shrew’s back. If your flowers do return before the wolf, I can pluck them from you and place them in the earth, and the wolf will eat them in your stead.”

So the shrew begged through the night for its flowers to grow on its back once more, and hour after hour passed without a sprout. The shrew pleaded again and again, “If only my flowers came back, I would never tell another soul of our joining, and I would never reveal to anyone that a shrew lives beneath the flowers when they’re in bloom.” Soon enough, night ended as the sun broke over, and the shrew cried out, “O merciless tomorrow! Why must you come!”

The fox brought its nose to the ground and said, “You are out of time, shrew. Please, find refuge in my teeth.”

More than ever before, the shrew feared the fox would gobble it up in one go, but it spoke with false faith: “That should be the way, white-fox, for you have been my only friend enduring,” and it did climb into the jaws of the fox.

The wolf returned then to the white-fox’s den and asked, “Have you seen where traveled the flowers outside your home?”

The fox swallowed, and answered, “No.”

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12/7/2016 3:02:18 AM #4

The Daemon Prince

Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who ventured deeper into a forest than had anyone before him, for he sought the oldest and densest wood to sell. As he walked deeper and deeper into the wood, the sun shone through the tree tops lesser and lesser, until he was forced to burn the oil in his lantern. He ventured then even further, past where even the birds and small animals dared go, and soon enough there was not a chirp in the air or a rustle in the thickets save for his own footsteps. Once he could no longer see even the bottoms of the treetops above him, the woodcutter happened upon a daemoness sat atop a boulder. She was a great beast, with more scales upon her back than all the stars seen in the sky, and her wings could each shelter a hundred children. This gave the woodcutter a fright to be so plain and defenseless before such a creature, but the daemoness spoke, “Do not be afraid, woodcutter. A beast though I may be, I mean you no harm, and I know you hold your axe to cut wood and not to hunt.”

His anxiety abated enough to calm his heart, yet the woodcutter knew little how to act. He finally said, “I’m afraid I don’t know how to greet a daemoness. How shall I show you respect?”

The daemoness was pleased by his words, and she replied, “We daemons see no need for etiquette, but you are a kinder man than most. As a gesture of good faith, I will trade something with you. Be not afraid to ask what I can offer; there are few wishes a powerful daemoness cannot grant.”

On a whim, the woodcutter asked, “Would you barter for a kingdom?”

The daemoness said, “I am a queen in my own right. Shall I take you as my husband?”

The woodcutter said, “Certainly not. I wish to be a king of mannkind, like myself.”

“Very well. I know of a woman queen who owes me a favor,” said the daemoness. “She will wed you and make you prince-consort if I ask it. Your repayment shall be only this: if your firstborn is a daughter, you must not allow anyone to court her before my son has had the chance.”

The woodcutter readily agreed, for he thought the trade favored only him. So the daemoness carved their contract into the boulder with fire, and the woodcutter signed his name onto it. Then she breathed into the air a mote of white flame that guided the woodcutter back home.

When the woodcutter ventured out of the forest, there was a horse-drawn carriage already there waiting for him, which brought him directly to his new home in the castle. He and the queen wed that same day, and thus the woodcutter became a king of mannkind, as the daemoness had promised.

Soon enough, the queen became pregnant. The king remembered his deal with the daemoness, and he pleaded, “Dear wife, you must eat of the hawthorn berries in the garden, for only then can you ensure your firstborn is a son.”

Though the queen cared not about the sex of the child, she respected her commoner husband, and she answered, “Then it will be done.” As this was said, an imp loyal to the daemoness overheard them. With much haste, the imp collected as many cranberries as its arms could carry and hid in the satchel of the queen.

In the morning, the queen went into the garden to pluck the hawthorn berries herself, and all the while the imp sat in the satchel she bore on her hip. With each berry she dropped into the satchel, the imp ate it whole, without even spitting out the seed. And each time the queen groped into her bag for a hawthorn berry to eat, the imp handed her instead a cranberry, and when the queen chewed on a cranberry and spit out the seeds, she remarked, “How sour the hawthorn berries grow in my garden!”

After months of this, the queen gave birth to a beautiful daughter. The king was nervous to learn of this, but he remembered his agreement with the daemoness, and he knew the daemon queen’s son did not have a promise of betrothal, but of courtship.

When he met with his wife he beseeched, “How beautiful is our daughter that she would be unsafe outside of her chambers. We must not allow any man to know she lives until she is married.”

The queen understood little of his concern, though she knew him to be a protective man, and she answered, “Let it be done.” As this was said, the imp overheard them once more, and the creature resolved to reveal the royal couple’s secret child when the time came.

The princess lived then only inside the walls of the garden from the day she was born, and never in the presence of foreigners. The only people the princess ever saw was her mother and father, and the gardener who passed through each day to pull the weeds. She grew up this way until she became a young woman. On the eve of the princess’s coming-of-age, a daemon of considerable size landed in the courtyard of the castle, and it bellowed, “I am the daemon queen’s son, and I am here to announce myself as a suitor to the king’s daughter.”

The king answered, “You have been ill-informed, daemon. I have no daughter here.”

Without evidence, the daemon had no choice but to leave. When he returned to his home, the daemon prince said to the imp, “You must bring me proof that the king’s daughter lives.” So the imp stole away into the princess’s garden in the night, past the gardener who had been working late that night. While the princess slept on her bed made of soft ivy and flowers, the imp plucked a single hair from her head. This woke the delicate girl, who couldn't see the imp in the darkness, and so she spoke: “Who disturbs me?”

The lone gardener was ashamed to think he had awoken the princess, and he said, “‘Tis only I,” so she resumed her sleep. With much haste, the imp returned to the daemon prince and gave him the hair. The next day, the daemon prince arrived again in the courtyard, and he said, “I have here a strand of hair from the princess’s head. I would like to announce myself as a suitor for her.”

The king answered, “I have no obligation to allow this. Begone, now.”

Again, the daemon had no choice but to leave, but he told this news to his mother, who advised him: “Be thankful your clever mother made the agreement in writing. Go to the densest part of the forest, where the trees let no sunlight in, and where no animals live, and you will find the king’s contract.”

The next day, the daemon prince arrived again at the king’s court, and carried in his teeth was the slab of stone where the king signed an agreement with the daemoness. “Written in stone is the trade you made with my mother,” said the daemon prince. “May I now announce my suit for your daughter’s hand?”

Yet the proud king was embarrassed to admit his dealings with the daemoness, and he again refused to honor the daemon prince’s request. The great daemon said, “King though you may be, you will not honor me with the truth, and you will not honor me as a guest, and you will not honor your own word.” The king opposed this challenge to his integrity, yet he did not demand satisfaction. The daemon said then, “If this is how you defend your honor, then there’s only one thing to do.”

The daemon took to the sky, making as though to leave, but he descended as he passed over the garden and stole away the princess in his talons. Together, they flew over the forest and the seas to the opposite side of the world, and landed atop the highest mountain. With the princess safely grounded, the daemon prince at last looked into her eyes. At once, his wings receded into his back, and his scales melted from his skin, and he appeared then as a young man.

The princess, now so mystified and naive, asked, “From where did this man inside the daemon come?”

The prince answered, “It is an ability possessed by members of my family. I had to take you here to announce my suit for your hand.”

But she was displeased with his audacity, and the princess gave him no reply other than, “I wish for you to fly me home, now.” The prince apologized and told her he was unable to fly, and that he would have to take her back home as he was. As she had no one else, the princess accepted his help. After the night had passed, she traveled with the prince down the mountain, where the slope became steeper. The princess had little trouble maneuvering down, yet the prince grabbed hold of the princess in his arms. Curious, she said, “There is no need to carry me.”

The prince asked, “Is this not how one courts a princess?” to which she told him she could not accept such a gesture from a man who turned into a monster, and the prince answered, “Then I must tell you this: As long as I’m with you, I will not turn back into a daemon.” And so the princess allowed him to carry her until they at last reached the bottom.

Then they came to the coast, where the prince hired a ship to take them aboard and carry them across the sea. As they set sail, the prince began to sing a romantic song for the princess. Curious, she said, “Why do you sing?”

The prince asked, “Is this not how one courts a princess?” to which she told him she could not accept such a song from a daemon who masks himself as a man, and the prince answered, “Then I must tell you this: A warlock cursed my family many generations ago. Our shape as daemons is only the result of that curse.” And so the princess allowed him to sing to her until they at last reached the shore.

Then they came to the forest, where the prince rented a horse to lead them through the thicket. As they passed a fell tree, the prince took a piece of bark and carved a trinket for the princess. Curious, she said, “Why do you give me this?”

The prince asked, “Is this not how one courts a princess?” to which she told him she could not accept such a gift from a cursed soul, and the prince answered, “Then I must tell you this: We appear only as daemons unless we are of calm mind and calm heart. Yet the first time ever I looked upon your face, and every moment since, my thoughts lay still as pond water, and my heart marches steady as a soldier.”

His words moved the princess’s heart to such affection that she could do naught but to love him. Even so, she knew her father would never forgive the daemon prince for stealing her away, and she lamented that she should not be allowed to see him: “Oh how I wish my father would let us be wed!”

The prince said, “There is nothing to fear, for I will tell your father only the truth.”

The princess thought poorly of this plan, yet she put her trust in her love that he would succeed. She went with him back to the castle, where her father awaited her in a frenzy. “You must refuse the daemon prince’s suit, daughter!” he bellowed.

The prince said, “The daemon prince lives no longer. With your daughter's help, I have conquered him.”

Overjoyed by this news, the king rewarded the prince with his daughter’s hand in marriage. The two were wed in a ceremony of such splendor and flourish that the kingdom celebrated it for a whole year. To marry his love brought such peace to the daemon prince’s heart that he remained a man for the rest of his days, and his mother the daemoness appeared as a woman whenever she was witness to his happiness. Thus, all of their prayers were answered: the king saw his daughter marry a man, and the daemoness saw her son's curse broken.

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12/10/2016 3:32:32 AM #5

The Man Who Learned to Die

Many years ago, there lived a pious young man who had devoted his life to priesthood in the name of the Virtuous Gods, and this priest spent every seventh hour of the day in prayer to the God of Humility. Though he had no children of his own, he went to his sister’s house every day and gave each of her two sons sweets to eat after supper, and in turn they gave their uncle milk of the cow they kept. And as the priest went about his business, he acted as though Humility watched over him, and Humility viewed him favorably for it.

It so happened that Humility’s rival, the God of Pride, was witness to the priest’s devotion. Pride could not fathom the motive of a man who acted only according to the virtue of Humility, and he decided with a sense of mirth that the priest was not genuine in his faith. He went to Humility and said, “Your follower may seem loyal now, but he has never endured a true test of humility.”

Said Humility to Pride, “‘Tis not the domain of me nor my brethren to demand proof. Test the priest, if it so rouses you, but do not trick him with lies.”

And so Pride disguised himself as an old man with only a patchwork shirt and trousers to clothe him, and he went to the priest as a poor man would. After the priest had fed and bathed him, Pride said, “The Gods have been talking of you, brother.”

The priest, living under Humility’s example, said to the old man, “I am none to whom a God would glance. From where did you presume this?”

Pride answered honestly, “I am as old as time, and I can teach you to hide from death itself, if only you’ll allow me.”

This piqued the priest’s curiosity, though his faith and his youth granted him no fear of his own mortality, and he answered, “I don’t intend to evade my just death, but you may teach me even so.”

Thus Pride pulled from his modest clothing a stone which had been hollowed out and held together with a rope, and he instructed, “As long as your heart beats in here, none can take the life from your body.”

The priest saw how dangerous this was, and when he placed his hands upon the stone, he felt the power it contained, and he said, “You have done well, old man. This dark thing should be in the possession of a servant of Humility, who will not abuse it.”

The priest parted ways with the old man and continued on his way. On the path home, he stepped upon a snake which bit his ankle with venom. As he lay alone and dying, he thought, “I vowed I would not evade my just death, but there is no justice in dying like this.” And so he took out his heart from his chest and placed it inside of the hollowed-out stone given of Pride, and when death came for the priest’s life, it was nowhere to be found. Then he retrieved his heart from the stone, where he believed it would never return.

The priest enjoyed fifty more years of life, and when he became too weak to stand, he laid in his bed, and he feared the debt he owed death. He said to himself, “If I live forever, ‘twill be all the more time to spread the glory of the Gods.” So when he felt the essence of death once more, he hid his heart back into his hollowed-out stone.

When his sister saw how his health had improved, she asked, “Dear brother, tell me, from where did you recover your energy so?”

He answered, “I put my heart inside of a stone given to me by a strange man many years ago.”

His sister said with a cry, “Fool! That was the God of Pride! As long as your life is held in that stone, he will rule over you! You must allow me to destroy it.”

Again, the priest showed reticence, as he knew he would die if he removed his heart from the stone. Wanting to preserve his life even further, he lied and said, “This stone is hidden by the bridge in the river.”

The priest’s sister told her sons where she would be that night, and she went to the river, but wherever she searched the river by the bridge, she could not find any stone large enough to fit a heart, until at last she tripped over a root and fell into the water and drowned.

After she had gone for four hours, her elder son went to the river to search for his mother, but he could find neither his mother nor the stone large enough to fit a heart, until at last he tripped over the same root by the bridge and drowned.

Now the both of them had been gone for four hours more, and her younger son also went to the river to search for his family, but he could find neither his mother nor his brother nor the stone large enough to fit a heart, until in the end he too tripped over the same root by the bridge and drowned.

The next morning, the priest went to the river, passing by a boy who lived there.

“Boy,” called out the priest, “Where did my sister and her children go?”

The boy answered, “They all of them drowned in the river last night.”

The priest, grief-stricken and ashamed, handed his hollowed-out stone to the boy and said to him, “Smash this stone and set free my soul. And remember these words: If you must die, accept it with Humility. For as long as death cannot find you, Pride surely will.” And that is indeed the way of the world.

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