(The Chosen Bride)
~Fe Ef-tachah V-Mashal~
In metaphors will I open my lips; declaring forth ancient mysteries.
Thoughts of beauty flood my soul; breathing out a royal Masterpiece;
My tongue is the pen of a novelist.
Tehillah 45: 1 & 78:2
(Courtesy of the Great Monarch)
The First Chapter
Deep in the woods in a multi-dimensional world called Olvinea, there lived a king who dwelt in a magnificent palace. A king who ruled his subjects with equity and fairness, whose justice is as upright as the palm and whose love, mercy and compassion is as fruitful as the vine.
Besides that, rumor has it that this king holds supernatural powers. Powers mighty enough to level a mountain and powerful enough to transform the miry clay into the purest gold.
Yet, unlike many who would use their power to exploit others, he uses his authority only for the purpose of upholding what is true, noble and just. And for this very reason all his subjects stand in awe and admiration before him.
More to it, this monarch has a son, a cherished treasure close to his heart and an apple to his eyes. Everyone in the palace loved him.
And as time passed, the young prince grew up to maturity; reflecting the image of his father. Having loved him, his father the king said: “My son, by now you have reached your proper age. I think it is about time for you to settle down. I bid you now, go into the outskirts of the city and select a bride for yourself, one who would give thy heart utmost delight.”
The young noble responded (in a very princely manner): “with your love and blessings my father, I will be glad to do your bidding.”
“You have my best wishes, child. My heart goes with you.” And after laying his blessing on his son, the prince left the royal courts. From that time on, no one heard about the prince.
The City of Dreams
I guess it won’t be necessary for me to define what life is like in the city, for as the quality of common living is today in our world, so it is in our narrative. Streets packed with multitudes having the noise of swarming bees; merchants and businessmen moving to and fro. Gossips, pickpockets, cheats, frauds, charlatans and politicians everywhere. Rich and poor alike, slave and free … you name it. It really is nothing far from the ordinary. Nevertheless, without sifting the good from the bad---it is “city life.”
After a day’s hard work, some would head off to the nearest pub (or in other terms: bar) to get a shot of liquor; to ease themselves of their misery at work and at home (and, most probably, to rid themselves from their spouses’ annoying habits). Others would flock at the village square, to spend the rest of the day in idle conversations. And, like many in our world today, there are those among them who are productive, living their life in the service of their community, while the rest like barren trees, show no sign of progress at all.
The stars that fill the night sky are brilliantly attractive; the same is true with young women of the metropolis. Fact is, the city took pride on its daughters: maidens who were highly-educated, pretty and desirable to wed. Tales about the prince swept throughout the land that young women placed all their efforts in beautifying and arraying themselves with cosmetics, expensive clothing and various jewelries in hopes of captivating the princes’ heart; in anticipation to his “coming visitation.”
As expected, their parents (who were also men of substance) were highly supportive. For indeed! What father wouldn’t be delighted in seeing his daughter walk side by side with a handsome young prince? Ooh, that would indeed be an awesome event! A spectacular sight!
Yet, not all women of the town were born attractive; some of them, like a poor girl named Marina weren’t “blessed” with “alluring” beauty. She was short of stature and plain-looking; having not the privilege of entering school due to extreme poverty. What’s more, she was a complete orphan, earning her source of income as a laundry girl.
One day, as she was walking solitarily by herself, her ears caught the taunts of children, and the derisive remarks of her neighbors calling her all sorts of derogatory epithets. She felt her heart would break. “But why should I be? It has always been the case since I was a child. Maybe I should get used to it” was the only comfort she could tell herself.
As she passed on one lane she heard the conversations of women. Beautiful educated young ladies, who seek liberation from the bondage of being employed all throughout their life. One said to the other: “If only I were rich, I would start a business of my own to help feed myself and my family.” “Ohh, stop dreaming” her companion chided. “Nothing will change the way we are now unless of course” “Unless we marry someone like the prince?” “Why, it’s so nice of you to read my thoughts. May the best girl win” the other said, laughing.
Young, stately, daring, tall, dark, and ravishingly handsome. A man of high-learning and great substance. One who wouldn’t definitely dine with burglars, thieves, beggars, unreligious and uneducated “mongrels.” Simply put, one far from the society of “the worldly.” In their mind’s eye lie all these preconceived images of an “Arthurian” prince … nothing less.
“Good for you” Marina muttered to herself. “If I were only beautiful, the prince would probably lay eyes on me. But with my looks” she sighed “I’m a hopeless case.” “What if they’re wrong?” A voice interrupted. “What if love takes more than just physical attraction”? Turning around, she saw the one who spoke. A complete stranger; poor, dark, ugly and skinny like her. “And you are …?” Marina inquired. “Marty,” the stranger replied, with his right arm extended “… you can call me Marty. Pleased to meet you, miss.”
“Ohh, hi. Me too. The name’s Marina.” It’s been awhile since I haven’t received a warm handshake from a total stranger, the orphan girl thought to herself. “And so, what do you know about love, huh?” Marina asked. “Nothing much.” Marty said. “But who knows? Even the wisest of men can make mistakes. Who knows if they’re wrong? Who can tell if the prince would pick out someone like you?” “Strange fella” the orphan girl mused.
A Mysterious Guest
It was getting late, and Marina, concerned about the welfare of the lone traveler, said: “Well, have you got any place to stay”? “None.” The stranger replied. “So far, because I’ve got nothing to pay, nobody in this city is kind enough to accommodate a poor traveler such as I.” “I’m sorry to hear that. If so then you can stay under my roof for the meantime; but I’m warning you: don’t ever think of doing any thing stupid or that would be the end of you.” She told him with sharp, unblinking eyes. Marty laughed. “Hey, hey, take it easy, gel. You’ve got nothin’ to worry about. My appearance may be quite odious but I assure you, I’m not a bad wolf. Soon as the dawn breaks I’ll leave. I promise.” “You better keep your word or else … !” Marina with a firm voice, said.
“I will … I will.”
Soon afterwards, they arrived at her place. To her guest, she said: “Well, here we are. Welcome to my humble and miserable palace. Try to make yourself comfortable.”
“Wonderful. I really appreciate your kindness of welcoming me into your lovely home.” “Yeah,” she said, “lovely except for the memories.” “Is everything all right?” The stranger asked, noticing a tear fell. “Everything’s fine” she replied. Offering a handkerchief of fine silk, Marty said “here, you’ll gonna need it.” “Thanks.”
As she was wiping off her tears she was struck with utter amazement upon noticing the piece of expensive cloth she was holding. “Silk?” thought she. “Where on earth … have you … got it?!?” She asked him, only to find her guest fast asleep. Nagging thoughts suddenly crept on the back of her head. Could he be a bandit? Or a hired killer, perhaps? “Just what in the world am I thinking?!?” Shescolded herself. Laying all her fears aside, she eventually dozed herself off to bed.
Dawn came and after a plain breakfast of steamed potatoes, Marina’s newfound friend bid her farewell. Waving goodbye (or, “God-be-with-you’s”) she said with a dash of scintillating humor: “See you around, skinny …” “Interesting young lady” Marty thought. “Another time, gel!” He said, with his eyes smiling. “Another time.”
Days rolled by and she saw him no more. Life went on as usual.
And as ill fortune befalls the children of men; time came when fate laid on her its lousy hand.
On her way home from work she was met by armed robbers who took away her entire month’s wage. Horrified, she pleaded for mercy but they heeded not her cries; instead they took away everything; smote her and left her in the mud; soaked in her own blood. It was then that the rain fell heavily as to sympathize with her miserable state. For Heaven certainly shares the grief of men when no soul on earth would dare sympathize with them. And she thought: “if this is the end of me then let it be! If there’s a God .. if there’s any such thing as God; take me now, I beg you! For death would be far sweeter than life.” With that her vision slowly faded and she fell unconscious; her hopes all drowned by the falling rain.
The Morning Draws Near
“Am I in Heaven?” Our dear orphan girl wondered. “No, you’re still on the land of the living” a familiar voice responded. “Who’s there”? She inquired. “Hi gel, glad you’re awake. Remember me?” Came the response. “It cannot be!” Turning her eyes to the one who spoke, Marina said: “Is that really you, skinny?!?”
“At your service.”
“But how was I able to … ???”
“I found you wounded by the wayside and so I carried you back all the way here to your place. How are you feeling?”
“A little better, thanks to you.”
“Good to hear that. Welcome back.”
“Look,” Marty went on to say: “Why don’t you get yourself some rest, and when you’re fully recovered, I’ll take you for a walk outside.”
And, thanks to Marty’s care and concern, it didn’t take long for our orphan girl to regain full health. As promised, Marty offered her a special treat.
The Second Chapter
It was the season of spring. As usual, the voices of ridicule didn’t subside. Some educated young ladies, upon sight of them poked fun and hurled insulting gestures. One pious lady stood up and, forgetting her manners, said scathingly: “Hey there, poor uncivilized hag. It looks as if you’ve found your ideal mate. Wonderful! So when would your wedding take place? And where would the reception be? In Hell?” “Perhaps on a pile of mounting debris, served with “a diet of worms”? A fat youngster said. Upon hearing this the crowd broke out with derisive laughter.
“Just ignore them gel,” Marty said, comforting her.
“Don’t worry. I’m used to it. She affirmed. And sighing deeply, said: Guess we’re the unluckiest persons around the planet, huh?”
“I wouldn’t say that if I were you …” “skinny” commented.
And, inspired by the wondrous scenery of the fields among flowers, the dancing light and the falling leaves; they opened up their hearts to each other. Marina was first to break the silence.
“Look. I … I just want to apologise …”
“For what …?”
“For being rude with you the time we first met.”
“Aww, there’s nothing to be sorry for, dear. I completely understand you. You’re just being “a wise serpent.” And besides, with a lot of deceivers nowadays it’s justifiably understandable to doubt anyone.”
“Uh-huh … guess you’re right. I’m just lucky you’re not one of those bad wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Her friend chuckled.
It was then that she went on to vent out her sentiments …
“Ever since I was young, I was the object of disgust and ridicule. All my face ever received was rotten tomatoes thrown at me by children every time I passed by. Am I really that unattractive?”
“You cannot always rely on men’s narrow standards as well as their petty judgments. No matter how good or bad you are; men will always find fault. Men will do everything in their power to rob you of your confidence. So what others think matters less. What matters is what you think of yourself. It matters not if men only see the darkness and the ugliness without; what matters is the light of love and beauty you hold within. The riches you have within. The joy you have inside you. More importantly, what matters is not the humiliations you hear from your accusers, but what your friends and lover say and appreciate in you.”
And touching her gently on the palm, Marty asked:
“As your friend, as the closest friend you’ll ever have; I see nothing else but beauty in you … I think you’re doin’ just fine! Do you believe me?”
For a fraction of a moment, the girl stood speechless.
“Please, I need your answer …” he said; his eyes searching through hers; probing deep into the heart of her innermost being.
Her gaze lowered. “Y-Yes …”
She bashfully nodded.
Her “strange” dark and skinny friend seem pleased with her reply. And he went on to say: “Like you, men find me unattractive, uneducated, unrefined and miserable. But all that matters to me right now aren’t their thoughts, but yours. Tell me: who am I to you?”
The scales from the girl’s eyes fell, and for the first time in her life she was able to look beyond the normal sight and exclaimed: “You’re … my friend; the loveliest thing on earth I’ve ever met in my life!”
“That’s all I need to know. So be confident, when the prince comes I’m sure he’ll choose you to be his bride, no matter what others say.”
“Ooh please. There’s no need for me to wish for a prince … ”
“Why so …?”
“Because … I’ve already found one.”
Epi. VIII A.
The Valley of Tears …
“I’m just curious, though” wondered Marina. “Where do you live?” “It’s just an inn, Marty said. “And it ain’t gloriously splendid; but I do hope you’ll come to love it.”
“As long as I’m with you, any place would be heaven” she softly said.
“You were saying something …?”
“Ooh .. nothing … forget it.”
Hours passed and they’ve finally reached Marty’s place. Just as Marty said, it was a poor old hut beside a creek. After an ordinary dinner of bread and broiled fish, she came to know more about him. She found out that he was a stone-mason by trade; oppressed by the yoke of a cruel master. Yet even then, despite his humble way of living, she resolved in her heart to abide with him at his place and to join him in his struggle.
There were the hard times, yes; days when they’ve almost given up all hope. There even came a time when Marty was thrown behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Yet, like his own shadow, Marina stood by his side.
Because they haven’t got enough money to pay, no judge would take their cause and the rulers themselves turned a deaf ear to their cries.
It was like passing through the darkest part of the night.
Marty even asked her if she wanted to leave and that he would gladly give her all the freedom to be on her own if she wished to, but his friend with unyielding fortitude remained by his side.For seven years he languished in solitary confinement. For seven long years he was tormented with the thought of losing her. For seven long years she was tempted to leave him off for another man. In the fires of despair their faith was tested. In the furnace of affliction their love was proven. And their love stood the test of time. In time, Marty was released from prison owing to the kindness of an unknown friend. This time with absolutely no place to stay---not just for him---but for both of them. For after he was discharged, (as though fate wasn’t satisfied with their flesh,) their hut was burnt down by hired arsonists, the origin of which was unknown to them. They were fortunate though, to save some of their belongings.
Sitting beside an old wooden bench, the young orphan’s arms hang limp. Tremor took hold of her spirit. “Now where on earth would we stay? We’ve lost our job and now we’ve lost our home. What hope is there left for us?!?”
Undauntedly, he said: “Don’t give up yet. We still have one thing left. We still have our luxury.
“Have you lost your mind?!? What luxury are you mumbling about?”
“Yeah, right. That’s what we’ll probably have in the afterlife.”
“No. I’m referring to this life. Take courage gel, I know of a place where we could find some answers.”
Mystified, she asked him: “But how … and where?”
“If you wish to find out, come with me.”
Upon hearing it, doubts linger at the back of her head; although deep within she is making every effort to figure the meaning of his words … as well as the anguish of his heart. Perhaps he is experiencing the after-effects of his imprisonment. Or maybe he is at the point of losing his mind. Does he know something else she doesn’t? Or is he keeping something from her? Are there some questions left unanswered? In any case, she’s not leaving him. Not now. Not after all they’ve been through.
Taking a few clothes and extra provisions with them, they soon set out on their journey.
Epi. VIII B.
Through the Wilderness …
Evening fell and the darkness was spreading towards the horizon. Along the journey, they’ve passed through a common graveyard when all of a sudden they heard a loud scream at a distance resembling the sound of wildcats mating. It was eerie. It was pure evil … and it scared her stiff.
Terrified, she clung close to him, and he calmed her fears; assuring her that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
And so they kept walking; treading their way across a seemingly endless journey. Their only light was the candle of faith, hope and love in their hearts.
Soon afterwards they entered through the woods. For three days they journeyed; pausing to rest every now and then. For three days she kept following him until her knees couldn’t bear it any longer. Spreading a tent for them to rest, Marty said: “We’ll spend the night here,” realizing that his companion is at the point of exhaustion. “Then tomorrow, when the rooster crows we’ll carry on with our journey.”
At the break of dawn, they carried on with their voyage.
They crossed lakes and passed through steep and narrow roads, through groves and meadows and trees of towering heights until her friend halted in front of a large ancient tree, vastly different from all others in beauty and grandeur, whose leaves is as the color of vermillion, and whose fruit glows with a vibrant, sweet and ethereal light.
“So, here we are.” Marty said, in his old familiar accent.
Marina stood dumbfounded.
“You still with me there … ?”
“Uhhh … but where is the entrance? She asked. “No one’s been through this place before … ”
“I’ll show you the way, gel. Come.” Marty said, offering his hand. And they both passed through a dazzling portal that opened before them.
The Third Chapter
Within the portal she witnessed wondrous sights her eyes have never before seen. Before her opened a world of wonder. Full of life, light, love and beauty. Astounded by the spectacular panorama, she said:
“I … I’m not dreaming … am I?!”
“No, absolutely not.” Her companion said, with a beautiful smile.
“So … is this what you’ve been telling me all along? Just really---who are you?!? And, is this … your world?”
“Yes. Do you find it hard to believe?”
Marina was too shocked to utter a word. And before she could utter her next statement, she saw a shining bird-like creature hovering above them in gentle flight; its glowing feathers adorned with a variety of colors.
“I … I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Said she. “What is that … thing?” Recollecting a few bed time stories from her early childhood days she said: “Is that the legendary creature I use to hear from my grandparents since I was young?”
“Most likely. Here we call it, Ulynor. In your world I believe it is called the Phoenix. It represents one who rose from death to life; and also a symbol of living hope for a dying world.”
“Such an enchanted place … said she. And, twirling around in pure joy she cried out: “Ohh dear! Oh my God! I never in my dreams thought I’d come to a place like this!”
Unknown to her, Marty in his heart was delighted to see her happy … for the very first time.
“Come now, let us get going” he said.
And so she went after him, confident that he would never leave her side.
In this wonderful paradise, her eyes feasted with awe on the incredible beauty around her. Bell-shaped flowers of the purest white lying on a luxurious bed of verdant grass, crystal lakes and mountains, lush vegetations, tall pine trees in a row and fruitful trees with emerald leaves. Rose petals blown by the wind caressed her cheeks gently. Behind her she heard the sound of cascading waterfalls and the singing of birds in joyful chorus. It was breath-taking. Wherever her eyes turned she saw nothing but beauty and she felt nothing but animated, ecstatic and overwhelming bliss.
Gradually she became aware of the fact that there must be a reason behind why she was brought in here; but still the mist of uncertainty was right in front of her she couldn’t figure out why. Still, she endeavored to know.
It was until her eyes landed on a City on a Hill. Her friend seemed to read her thoughts.
“Do you want me to take you there?” He courteously asked.
“Yes, but …”
“Come with me then … ”
Arriving at the place, exquisite beauty met her sight. In this realm, she saw the most perfect civilization; and although there were no temples and shrines therein, the whole atmosphere was filled with love and tranquility. “What a blessed place,” she mused and “how fortunate the people who dwell therein.” And yes, indeed. It is a place where misery and sadness seem quite unknown. Her eyes beheld children at play; she saw its citizens all concerned for the welfare of one another; regardless of what color of skin they wear. To them this means pure delight.
Here, the malicious spirit of hate, self-centeredness and pride were absent. And, unlike the people from the world she knew, who fritter their time in idle toying and senseless childish arguments (as to which of them is “the best among the best”); the inhabitants of this “magnificent empire” find enough time to learn from one another, even from little children; discovering new truths, and treasuring the lessons they’ve learned. More to it, each person saw himself mirrored in the face of another; in such a way that makes them impossible to wound the hearts of their brethren; for in so doing; they themselves are wounded.
There is only one rule in this place and that is: self-less giving; and one path to follow: and that is, the golden path of wisdom through charity.
There weren’t any confusion with regards to the manner of their communication: for they, clothed with the robes of joy, mercy and compassion shared one language; and that is the pure language of the heart: the Language of Love.
It is, indeed, an “out-of-this-world” experience and a direct opposite of the “City” she came from.
“What a delightful place,” she often repeated to herself; “Serene and Heavenly.”
“Come” said Marty. “Let me introduce you to our King.”
“The King!” Marina said. “Oh my, am I ready for it???” Passing through a crystal bridge, their feet stood in front of a huge castle gate. And at Marty’s signal, the gate opened before them. “What is that? Some sort of a secret password?”
Marina said, in quiet laughter. Inside she saw A Palace of Ivory surrounded by a beautifully landscaped garden with a marble fountain on it’s midst. There the royal cohorts saluted them both with a delightfully odd greeting. “You--you once served here?” She asked Marty who in turn, spoke not a word. Puzzling thoughts swept through her mind: “perhaps he’s one of the workers in the palace … or he could be the king’s cupbearer.”
In any case that would come as an opportunity for her to serve as one of the royal maidservants or perhaps attend to the needs of “his majesty.” In a wonderful place such as this, who would refuse? Waves of anticipation flooded her thoughts as they mounted the royal steps of the palace. Within, her eyes beheld nobles, royal advisors, officials, ministerial servants, harpists, trumpeters and musicians dressed regally around “his Majesty” clad in his royal robes, sitting on his crystal throne. Upon sight of these humble souls, all trumpets blew as they stood to pay homage:
Ave Princeps Althemia!
All hail, Prince of Althemia!
Heir to the throne: beloved of the King.
She stood motionless as a statue; too shocked to utter a word. She obviously was taken by surprise. All the while she thought she knew him fully well. She thought he was just an ordinary individual like any other, a poor stone-mason, a reviled being, shunned and loathed---by many. That was up till now. She really could hardly believe her ears---and her eyes. She turned to make sure if there was anyone (besides them) to whom the imperial greeting was ascribed … but there wasn’t any. Every eye in the Royal Court was fastened upon her dark, skinny friend.
But could it be? Could this man be the very prince people in her hometown been referring to in their conversations? Could this humble, dark and miserable figure be the prince whose heart young ladies were fighting for? She has to be sure! She has to be certain! But she was too overwhelmed to say a word.
Thankfully, Heaven intervened and paved the way for the least of her doubts to vanish. From the midst of the throne she heard the imperial voice saying in the presence of all:
“Behold my darling child, to whom my delight rests!”
And in a split-second, faster than a blink of an eye, his humble countenance was transformed into the image of resplendent beauty and majesty. His dark complexion glowed with a rosy hue, and his skin resembled that of an infant child; his eyes shone with the light of the dawn and his coarse apparel was changed into a princely robe entwined with gold, blessed with all the wonderful fragrance of myrrh, cassia and aloes.
This is, without a shadow of any reasonable doubt, he! There could be no mistake about it. But this is more than what she could bear, and were it not for the Prince’s support, she would’ve fainted. Rising from his throne, the king ran and with joyful tears threw his arms around his long-missed son. Kissing him, he said: “Welcome Back, Lemuel My child! My dearest boy!” After which he inquired: “Is she the one? The one whom your heart beats for?”
With gladness in his heart, he answered: “Yes, dearest father. She is my chosen dove and the one I love.”
And the King turned his glance over to Marina, comforted her and said: “Listen daughter, and give ear to my words. Forget your people and your father’s house. From now on, make Althemia your home and all her citizens---your family. Because you have loved my son, I myself have loved you. I have beheld your fidelity and love to him through thick and thin. Because of this the wealth of your heart makes you truly rich.” The King went on: “I also am fully aware of what you’ve been through; your pain and solitude. Your trouble and distress. Don’t you worry ...” He said, laying his arms around her shoulder. “I will vindicate you. I will cause your oppressors to come prostrating low with all their children, before you. Royalties themselves shall serve you and be your caretakers. They will all in humble obeisance lick the dust off your feet. Because you have been despised and rejected, I will make you eternally splendid---a joy throughout all generations! Guard my words and watch its fulfillment! For I am certainly he who comforts you and all your sadness will come to an end.”
Overwhelmed with unspeakable joy, Marina said: “Your Excellency, this is too much for me to handle. I … I really don’t know what to say.” She said with tears of joy welling. “A lifetime wouldn’t be enough for me to thank you for all your kindness.”
The king for his part arranged a Royal Wedding for his son and his “bride.” Duke’s and Duchesses, Baronesses and elders from all over the empire came. All Althemia’s citizens were naturally invited to share the joyful feast. Throughout the land was heard the sound of music and dancing. All the subjects of the kingdom rejoiced for a week.
The following day, after all necessary preparations were made; the king summoned his son before his presence and said:
“Now, my son, the time has finally arrived for you to fulfill the prophecy for which reason you were born. The veil of evil has settled over her world and it is time for you to pierce the darkness with the power of Truth, Equity and Love. Genuine Love. I am giving you all my power to restore harmony in her city. Save the poor and innocent victims therein and vanquish evil … once and for all.”
“I will, my father.” Said the prince. “My eyes have seen violence done to the helpless and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”
“All the armies of light stand ready to await your orders, sire” a high-ranking official said, in humble obeisance. “Get my father’s chariot ready and Verite, My Stallion ...