Monday, July 28, 2008

Storytime - Lueil's Lyre

I think it's high time I posted some fiction here, seeing as that's what I'm all about. So please take a moment to enjoy the following, a fairytale titled Lueil's Lyre.

Once upon a time a young woman named Lueil lived in the kingdom of Fith. Lueil had one desire in life, and that was to play the lyre in front of the king and queen of her kingdom. Three things stood in her way: she had no lyre, she had no way to travel to the castle, and her parents would not permit her to leave her loom in their small cottage in a small town far from Fith's capital unless she found a husband who would take them in as well.

Lueil could weave a pretty pattern on the loom, a cloth that her parents sold for a fair price at the market. Many men dreamed of the wealth she would bring when added to their estates. Time and again Lueil turned the suitors down, knowing that marriage to one would mean the end of her dream. She sat by her loom day after day and plied the strings, dreaming that they were strings on a lyre instead of warp and woof.

One day a young man called Urth came to the door selling yarn for weaving into cloth. The moment he saw Lueil, his heart leapt. His politeness and jolly nature got him an invitation for lunch, and he talked at length with the young weaver. The more they talked, the more smitten he became. After the lunch, he told Lueil that he heartily wished they'd meet again.

"You are friendly, and kind, and I wish you no disrespect," Lueil replied softly, "But you are not my dream. I can offer you nothing until I fulfill my heart's desire."

"What is that desire? I will do anything to help you win it!" Urth exclaimed.

"That I cannot say, but if you return here in three days with a lyre, I will reconsider your request."

Urth danced with joy and took off down the road. He had few means that he could use to get a lyre, but at least now he had a chance to win his own heart's desire. He woke up on the first day, thinking about the lyre. All day his thoughts stayed constant as he went about his work. He woke up on the second day, again thinking only of the lyre, but to no avail. On the dawn of the third day, he knew that somehow, he must fulfill Lueil's wish, or else die of a broken heart.

On his way through town, he saw an old man dressed in long, worn robes, leaning against the side of a building. At his feet lay a large bundle.

"Wise one, is there anything I can do to help you? The day is warm already, and you look tired."

The old man gratefully accepted the offer of assistance, and let Urth carry his bag and support his arm as they walked. Urth listened as the man told fascinating tales of all his worldly travels until at last they stopped at a house covered in vines.

"I thank you, kind young one. Many people passed me today, and you were the only one who stopped to help. In return, I will give you either small riches or your heart's desire."

Urth did not hesitate before choosing the second option.

"Excellent!" exclaimed the man, before pulling a lyre out of his carrying pack.

"What... How..." Urth sputtered, but the man just laughed.

"Now, this is a loan, mind you. I'd like you to return it when it's use is spent."

Urth thanked the man profusely, and said that he would return the lyre anytime the man wished. He could barely contain himself as he ran down the road to Lueil's house.

Lueil was surprised to see the young man, and even more surprised to see the lyre. Urth handed the instrument to the young woman, and she invited him to lunch and let him sit beside her. With one hand she caressed the burnished wood of the lyre and ran her hands over the taut strings, gently teasing out note after note. But after a time she grew restless.

"You are friendly, and kind, and I wish you no disrespect," Lueil said softly, "But still I can offer you nothing until I fulfill my heart's desire."

"Can you not tell me now that desire? I will do anything to help you win it!" Urth cried.

"That I cannot say, but if you return here in three days with a pony, I will reconsider your request."

Urth again danced with joy, and again took off down the road. He had no more chance of finding a pony than of finding a lyre, but his last wish had been fulfilled, and he had much reason to hope. He woke up on the first day, thinking about the pony. All day his thoughts stayed constant as he went about his work. He woke up on the second day, again thinking only of the pony, but to no avail. On the dawn of the third day, he knew that somehow, he would fulfill Lueil's wish.

He walked through town with no luck. On the outskirts of town, he came across an old woman trying to coax a hen down from a tree. Each time she approached, the hen squawked and flapped, making an awful racket. Urth approached the woman and asked if he could be of assistance.

"Not unless you can charm the wings off of that devil," the woman muttered, but she allowed Urth to try.

Urth cautiously approached the hen, who returned his look with a cautious one of her own. He came quite close, then raised a hand to stroke the bird. Gently, he pulled her out of the tree and held her in his arms. She warbled a bit, unsure of the situation, but did not try to escape.

"Well, I'll be!" said the old woman, as Urth handed her the complacent bird. "I thank you, kind young one. Many people passed me today, and you were the only one who stopped to help. In return, I will give you either good riches or your heart's desire."

Urth hesitated a moment before choosing the second option. Riches might buy Lueil's heart, and perhaps he'd charm her more as a moneyed man than a mere yarn-seller. But in the end, what would she be without her heart's desire?

The old woman nodded at his choice.

"You have a way with animals, and so I will trust you with my pony," she said, and led him around a stand of trees to the patiently waiting animal.

"Now, this is a loan, mind you. I'd like you to return her when her use is spent."

Urth thanked the woman profusely, and said that he would return the pony anytime the woman wished. He could barely contain himself as he rode the pony down the road to Lueil's house.

Lueil was even more surprised to see Urth this time, arriving on a pony. Her heart raced at the thought that she might after all achieve her heart's desire, that which she had hidden away for so long. Lueil asked Urth to keep the pony for her, then she invited him to lunch and let him hold her hand. After lunch she played the lyre for him, and he could tell that she had great skill even though she'd only had the instrument a few days. But again, after a time, Lueil grew restless.

"You are friendly, and kind, and I wish you no disrespect," Lueil said softly, "But once again I must let you know that I can offer you nothing until I fulfill my heart's desire."

"Can you not tell me even now what you desire? I will do anything to help you win it!" Urth said, practically bursting with suspense.

"That I cannot say, but if in three days time you can convince my parents to release me from my bondage, I will reconsider your request."

Urth thanked Lueil, and held her hand for as long as he could before heading down the road. He knew that this next task would prove most difficult of all. Everyone in the town knew the skill of Lueil's hand, and it would be no small feat to convince her parents to part with such an asset. But his last wish had been fulfilled, and he still had reason to hope. He woke up on the first day, thinking about Lueil. All day his thoughts stayed constant as he went about his work. He woke up on the second day, again thinking only of the Lueil and her plight, but to no avail. On the dawn of the third day, he knew that somehow, he would find a way to help her.

He rode Lueil's pony, which he had tended well for the past three days, through town and most of the way to Lueil's house with no luck. Desperation rose in him at the thought of turning up with no solution to her quandry, but he did not pause or waver. Then suddenly, on the road ahead, Urth heard a commotion and a cry for help. He stopped to grab a large branch, then charged ahead yelling at the top of his lungs, ill regarding the fact that he knew little of combat.

Urth saw several men scatter as he came among them, striking wildly about with his branch. He was no fighter, but the surprise of his attack gave him great advantage. Soon he found himself alone with a richly dressed man. Urth helped the man to his feet.

"How can I ever thank you enough! Those vagabonds jumped me, and I never thought anyone would come to my aid! In return for your kindness, I will give you either great riches or your heart's desire."

Urth hesitated for a time before choosing the second option. He knew not what Lueil truly desired. What if she wished only to run him around on strange quests for the rest of his life? Or worse, what if her heart's desire turned out to be the love of another man? Great riches might sway her to his cause. But Urth could not bring himself to disappoint his love.

"Come with me," the man said, and headed for Lueil's house.

Urth started to protest. Did this man plan to ask for the lady's hand in marriage? What could he want at the weaver's house? Too late, the man stood in front of Lueil's father and spoke.

"Kind sir, a long time ago you provided wise advice to my father, and your wisdom made our lands prosper. I understand that you left because of unfair events, and our house has not been the same since. I beg you to return, and promise a comfortable life for you and all your kin. Your counsel henceforth will come second to none."

Lueil's mother laughed with joy, and the eyes of Lueil's father shone. For they had not always been weavers; long ago an argument with a crooked councillor had forced them from the lord's house to find their living as they may, and now they could return to the friends and life they'd had to leave behind.

Urth watched this exchange, dumbstruck. So all his effort had come to naught? Lueil surely now possessed all she could ever wish for.. He noted also that the lord's glance did not miss her beauty; what could he offer to compete with the love of such a man as this?

Lueil stepped forward and smiled, the largest, happiest, most beautiful smile Urth had ever seen.

"I thank you, kind sir, for what you have given to my family. I'm happy, happier than I've ever been, for now I can go after my heart's desire."

Lueil turned to Urth, and in that moment he knew that all was not lost. Her parents did not understand, but eventually they agreed to let the girl choose the life she wished, and she and Urth loaded up the pony and headed towards the king's castle.

The journey took many days, and each night by the fire Urth drifted off to the music of Lueil's lyre, the notes more beautiful than those of the night before. When they finally came to play before the king, the courtiers all jeered and laughed at Lueil's simple ways and clothing, but the first sound of her music silenced them. The king immediately accepted her as his chief lyre player, and provided her with all she could ever wish for. She thanked Urth for his kindness and his help, and wished that he would stay with her always, for now he was part of her heart's desire. Urth agreed, but said that first he must bring back the lyre and the pony that kindly strangers once loaned to him in his time of need. He returned to his town, but was never able to find the owners of the gifts. So he made sure that from that day on, the pony lived a life of plenty, and Lueil chose to play the simple lyre that showed no gold leaf or pearl or jewel in front of the king and queen and all their court. Lueil and Urth wandered far and wide throughout the kingdom, and wherever they could helped others to achieve their desires. And so they lived in love and peace for the rest of their days.
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