Monday, March 30, 2009

The Legend of the Island of the Nonce

"Apparently, somewhere on the Nonce(though I've never seen them) is a tribe of winged creatures called theFathathai.  A gentle, shy people: almost like angels.  There are very few of them on the island because" -he looked at his feet- "because they don't find love very easily, and so a Fathathai wedding is a rare event.  But anyway, the legend goes that there was one of these creatures by the name of Numa Child, who did fall in love."

"Lucky him."

"Well, yes and no.  You see, he fell in love with a woman he met here on the Nonce, called Elathuria. She was, he thought, the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on.  There was only one problem."

"What was that?"

"She wasn't flesh and blood like he was."

"What was she?"

"As you know, this island is home to some very strange lifeforms.  And Elathuria was one of the strangest."  He paused then looked up at Malingo as he said: "She was a plant."

Malingo only managed to suppress a laugh because there was such a look of deadly seriousness on the dragon killer's weary face.  And though he did manage to suppress it, Finnegan nevertheless said: "You think I'm joking."


"I've learned only two things in my life.  One, that love is the beginning and ending of all meaning.  And two, that it is the same thing whatever shape our souls have taken on this journey. Love is love. Is love.... Well, when Numa Child first met Elathuria she was in full bloom.  She was perfection.  No other word for it."


"It gets stranger still, believe me.  Did I tell you Numa Child fell in love in a heartbeat?  I mean, literally, it was that fast.  He saw Elathuria, and that was that.  His fate was sealed."

"Love at first sight...Do you believe in that?"

"Oh, certainly, it happened to me.  The very moment I set eyes on the Princess Boa, I knew that there was no other soul I coul ever love...." Finnegan looked up at the rain, which was beginning to cease.  He licked some of the raindrops off his lips, then he went on telling his story.

"So, Numa Child told Elathuria instantly.  'Lady,' he said, 'I will never love anyone the way I love you.'  And much to his surprise, Elathuria invited him to kiss her.  'Quickly,' she said.  'Because the sun is hot and the hour is passing.'  Numa didn't think very much about the significance of this.  He was simply happy to be invited to kiss his beloved.  And as they kissed and talked and kissed again, the hour ticked away..."

"This isn't going to end happily, is it?"  Malingo said.

Finnegan didn't answer.  He just went on with his story.  "When Numa kissed her again, there was a little bitterness on her lips."  'What's happening?' he said to her. She told him, 'Time is passing, my beloved.'  And to his horror, he saw that her blossoms, which had been so bright and beautiful when he'd first set eyes on her, were now beginning to losethat brightness, and her green leaves beginning to turn gold and brown."

Finnegan's voice, as he told this part of the story, grew soft and full of sadness.

"Finally, she said to him: 'Don't leave me, love.  Promise me you'll never leave  Find me again, wherever I go.  Find me.... Look for me wherever the wind comes,' she said, her voice getting more and more hushed.  'I will grow again from the seed that is carried away from this place."

Numa was, of course, happy to hear this, but his mind was filled with questions and doubts.

'Will it really be you?' he said to her.
'Yes,' she told him 'It will be me in every particularity.  Except one... I won't remember you.'

"Even as she spoke these words, a breath of harsh wind sprang up and shook her violently, so that she was entirely shaken apart."

"No!" Malingo said. "Had she gone?"

"Well...yes and no.  The wind had scattered the seeds over a considerable distance, but Numa was determined to find some trace of he searched like a wild man, not resting until his search was rewarded.  At last, after a long time searching for her, he finally found her, rooted in a new place.  She was still growing, but he knew her immediately and fell in love with her again, just as he had the first time."

Now Malingo began to see the significance of what he was being told.  It was no accident that Finnegan was the bearer of this story; he was, after all, here on this island because he had lost the love of his life.  It stood to reason that this legend would capture his imagination as it so clearly did.

"So history repeated itself?" Malingo said.

"Indeed it did.  Not once, but over and over...."

"And do you really think they're still out there, loving each other, and then being separated, and him finding her again, only to be separated again?"

"Yes, I do." Finnegan said.

"What a terrible way to live."

Finnegan considered this for a moment.  "Love makes its demands, and you listen.  You can't bargain with it.  You can't fight it.  Not if it's really love."

"Are you still talking about Numa Child and Elathuria?"  Malingo said. 

Finnegan looked up at him "I'm talking about all lovers."

--from Abarat II: Days of Magic, Nights of War, by Clive Barker

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