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Needs a lot of work, obviously, but it's the beginning of a set of myths in a world I'm working on. Don't know what I'm gonna do with the world once I'm finished....but I want to work them into a larger story. Eventually. In the meantime, I'm just having fun messing around with making up legends:D
A long time ago, there came a king to a village in the far-off mountains of his kingdom, with a legion of his finest soldiers riding behind him. At the village, he issued a proclaimation; the village had three days to provide him a bride, it said. Should they fail to do so, their lives were forfeit, and the village would be razed.
All were surprised by this- as the capital was far away, the villagers knew very little about their ruler. There were stories, of course, but none knew the truth. Still...to be the bride of a king! All of the girls were eager to go, and after much fighting, the honor went to Starre, who was generally agreed to be the most beautiful woman in the village. In the morning, perfumed, and dressed in her finest, Starre went down to greet the king.
To her horror, what stood before her was more like a monster than a man. His hair was a coppery mess, jutting out every which way, his mouth a ghastly slit just above his chin. His nose looked as if it was at one point too large for his face- that is, until someone or something had taken a chunk out of it the size of her thumbnail. His ears were uneven, and two different sizes, and his eyes were mismatched as well. His fingernails were long, and sharp like claws.
In a deep, rough voice, he spoke. “Do you consent to be my bride?”, he asked, his tone fierce.
She shuddered instinctively at the words, and shook her head, unable to speak. He waved a massive hand at her to go, and within moments she had fled.
That evening in the village, the girls were much more subdued than they had been the night before. They had all heard Starre’s account of that morning. Each knew that one of them would have to leave their home, to go live with a monster.
One of the girls, however, was not cowed. Diane, of the silver hair and greedy eyes, boldly agreed to go down the next morning.
When dawn came to the village gate, so did Diane. Greeted by two soldiers, she was led to a tent on the far end of the camp, and sent in. All was dark, but as her eyes began to adjust she saw a tall shape across the tent. As her vision cleared, she noticed it seemed bent, as if hunched over for some reason, and as he turned around, she saw everything Starre had spoken of- and more. She saw that his eyes, though two different colors, gleamed with a frightening feral light, and the hair on his arms, and the top of his shirt looked more like the bristles on a boar than anything else.His neck was thick and corded like a bull's, and his hands were huge and clumsy.
She fought to maintain her composure, and managed a small smile. Remember, she thought, think of court. Think of money. Think of being a queen. It shouldn’t matter what he looks like, if he can give me all that.
His answering smile horrified her. More of a grimace, it pulled one side of his mouth up, baring half of his yellowed teeth. She froze, and the smile disappeared.
“Girl,” he growled, “Do you consent to be my bride? To come and live with me in the capital, and be my queen?”
Reflexively, she took a step back. Then another, and another, until she tripped at the entrance of the tent. Picking her up, the two guards that had brought her to the king's tent escorted her back to the gate, as she sobbed into her hair.
That evening, the village was utterly still. Everyone knew that someone must go- but after hearing both Starre and Diane’s accounts- the two boldest young women in the village- all were afraid of being chosen. The night passed, and the day crawled by, and still, none would go. Finally, it was decided that they would draw lots. Thin blocks of wood were painted with designs and put in a wash bucket, – one block for each girl. Fourteen different birds and bees and flowers. One snake.
The hour had arrived- if a girl did not go down to the gate and consent to marry the king, all would perish. The lots were drawn, some hesitantly, some confidently. Some girls had to be forced to draw their lot, others willingly took the risk. None were to look until all had been drawn.
As the final lots were taken, a quiet voice came from the door.
“I will go.” it said. All of the company- the eligible girls, their families, the mayor, and most of the rest of the town- looked to the entrance, and the voice.
It was Maete. A young girl, barely eligible for the drawing in any case, who they had not even bothered to consider. Her parents had brought her to the village long ago, and no one really knew where they had gone.
A hush filled the crowd. Some shook their heads, deeming it unreasonable, or outright wrong that she should go. Others felt fear for her, others relief at their own rescue.
“I will go,” she repeated. The hour was upon them- they had no time to argue the matter. A girl must be presented. The hush fell away as every villager tried to speak at once. She was too young, they said. She was too plain, they said- her skin was too pale, and she was a too tiny, her hair a strange, raven black.
She would anger him, some feared.
Once again, she found cause to repeat herself; “I will go.” At that, she turned,leaving the villagers to their arguments, and slowly made her way to the entrance of the village, a small donkey leading the way.
Armed soldiers met her at the entrance, weapons and torches high. The hour had come, the king had declared. He stood at the front of them, his wild form made more fierce by the flickering torchlight, and the dull mail coat he wore. He saw her arrive, a small figure swathed in grey wool and clutching a staff taller than she was, and he laughed.
“Is this what they send me now? Go back to your village, child. I’ll take no forced offerings!”
The girl, Maeta,looked up when he spoke, but stood her ground.
The monstrous king gasped. She looked straight at him, neither flinching nor retreating, nor showing any signs of horror. As she turned her head up to meet his gaze, he saw the reason why; the child was blind.
“It is my will to come, sir. I was sent by no man, neither by woman, and I’ll not return.” She took a small step towards him, carefully feeling her way with the stick. Another step, and then another- but still towards, and not away.
“Did they tell you I was fair, child? That I seemed kind, and decent, with a pretty face? They lied to you, girl.”
Another step, small but true. “They did not lie. They said that you were frightening to behold, sir, and it seems I am the first to discover your decency.”
He was stunned. People had run away from him, they had feared him. They had been cruel, and they had been kind- but never defiant.
She took another step, her ankle twisting on a stone. She did not cry out, but quickly rose.“Please, my lord- keep talking to me. I cannot find you, elsewise.”
“Why- why then would you come with such a beast as me? Is it my title you crave? My riches?” He began to sound angry.
“I don’t care for riches, sir. What good do tapestries and gold do me? They feel like cloth and iron. What good an empty title?” There was silence for a while, long enough for her to lose her direction.
“Then what would you have from me?”
She corrected her course, and replied “your respect. All my life I have lived here- since I was a babe in my mother’s arms. Yet they did not even think to ask if I would meet you. Here, I am nothing- an inconvenience. They pity me, my lord.” She stopped. “If that is too much for you, sir, just say so- then will I return to my village. Death is better than how I have lived.”
The last few meters would have taken her several minutes- they took him less than one, as he half-loped, half-limped to her. With his hands barely on her shoulders, he held her. “You have my respect already, lady. You have had it since I saw you.” He took her hand, and knelt. “It is said that a king kneels to no one. Such was I taught in my childhood- and yet I kneel to you, lady. To your courage. Would you consent to be my bride?” His voice was still rough, still harsh, but there was a gentless to it. His tone was one of perfect courtesy.
They left that night, the torches pitched together to create a bonfire of celebration. The village feasted, toasting each other, their king, and their new Queen, who had so bravely gone to meet the monster.
The next year, and the year after, and every year after that, they celebrated the Days of Maete, a three-day-long festival in honor of these events. The tale itself was told every year, on the eve the village had been threatened.
Many stories are yet told of the Queen-Who-Saw-Truly, and this is but one- but it is the first.
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