Snow, like newly fallen stardust painted across his brow, was the frigid crown bestowed on the knight by the earth and its season. O how it shimmered in the moonlight as he trampled down the frozen ground in search of the land where his heart and his manor would eventually be founded. And lo! how it changed with the earth's changes and the knight's changing of those things within and without him.
Long the knight, prized and loved by his king, searched for the place in which his body and his soul could finally find contentment. So tempered was his resolve when it came to this particular mission of his, that he began to evolve into a being that was beyond the confines of what is considered by some to be human nature.
Nature. Healing. Compassion. These are the humble less-traveled roads that led Sir William to the land of the Lady Hawk, the foundation destined to bear his manor. High up in a cherry tree, he spied her among the blossoms. Her golden feathers and her silvery song were so beautiful that he dared not disturb her, less she fly away and leave him wandering the world alone; for as soon as the knight laid eyes upon her, he knew that he could never love another, so rare and lovely was the sight of her. Just when he thought he could stand the aching of his heart no longer, she turned to him. Their eyes met, and her song became lost in the short distance and infinite space between them.
With knowing, and with wings that captured the sun's rays and held them with a lady's grace, she lifted his heart and delivered it gently to her eyrie. There Love embraced them, and in its embrace they were mated one to the other. Bound together for all eternity, they toiled through the seasons, fostering life and healing life already fostered, until one day, appearing with gleaming newness, came a maiden adorned with a halo that was fair and strong. Borne to them by Love, the knight and the lady happily added the maiden to their house of healing, where they bathed her spirit day after day with knowledge and affection. Sheltered in the warm glow of their parental adoration, the maiden flourished and blossomed and grew to follow the path of the sages.
Not long after the maiden's arrival, on an evening before the first caress of winter, Lady Hawk stroked the cheek of her beloved with a hand that was as soft and as delicate as gossamer. So happy was she, and was he, at the many gifts given to them by the maiden -- gifts that sparkled like jewels but were immeasurable with the silversmith's tools -- that they fell into Love's embrace once again. When they parted, the lady held out her hand and presented her husband with a gift far more precious than any to be found within the earth.
Overwhelming joy filled the knight, and he lifted the flower from his lady's palm and held it close to his heart.
“Rosebud you are to me and forever you shall remain,” he whispered to the flower, before he inhaled its perfume. To his delight, the flower sighed and drew its petals back to reveal a small maiden swaddled deep inside its golden hues.
The mother -- the infinite nurturer, gathered up the maiden and bid her lord to seek out their eldest, who was away tending to the lilies of the field. Then tired, but content, she lay down with their newborn and sang in a maternal voice of virtues and graces.
When Sir William returned with his eldest child, the Lady of the Field, he found his wife and freshly-scrubbed babe aglow with comfortable familiarity; their quiet breathing played in perfect harmony as they slept cradled together in the protective arms of family bliss. The two sages, father and daughter, looked upon the new arrival with hearts that were captivated by innocence laced with divinity. After a few sweet moments of silent observation, the eldest turned to her father and spoke gently: “As she is Rosebud to you, so shall she be to me, for surely I shall never love one so well who is not of my own making.” Then the two sages smelled the breath of new life before leaving to attend to life in need of tending to.
Several summers and winters passed, and with each turn of the seasons the two maidens, born to those true of heart and strong of virtue, grew more fair and talented in the arts of healing and charity. Their compassion for all living things made them fairer still, and over time transformed them into monuments that honored the king and his testament.
With eyes that held worlds, and worlds beyond worlds, the king looked down from his thrown On-High at the mortar (prepared on a spring day when events led a mortal man to the land of a lady anointed with a name which spoke of noble truths) that bound the hearts of those who made the knight's manor a home instead of mere stones molded into floors, walls and a roof. With every tribal heartbeat, another stone was laid before the hearth, pleasing the king greatly, for this was the manner of home that he envisioned for all those he marked and called his own.
In celebration of the king and the love he inspired, Joy, the constant companion of Lady Rosebud, danced with her fair friend upon the sparkling sands of humanity.
“Rosebud.” The name became music to all those who heard it or spoke it through lips freshly dewed with milk and honey. And gardens, full of Four O'clocks and Forget-Me-Nots, sprang up from the youngest maiden's steps whenever she danced before the Lord her graceful dance of serenity.
Once the celebration had waxed and then waned, the knight and his three ladies fair were carried home on the king's breath which had been laden with prayers. Awash with the Lord's spirit, they sat at the family table speaking thanks for all the blessings that they had received through giving. Then, upon finishing the wonderfully delectable dishes prepared and set before them by the fair hands of the lady Rosebud, they said their good-nights and their I love yous and bore themselves each to bed, where they dreamed of all the wonderful tomorrows that were still left to be had by them.
After the last of the candles had given up their flames and silence had engulfed the land, shadows, foul and full of selfishness, began twisting toward the sleeping knight's home; shadows that belonged to two dragons of the most cowardly dispositions. Fear of the knight's sword and shield and his fierce protectiveness of his wards, kept the monsters at bay until the early hours of the morn when they slithered in through the manor's cellar door.
The sub-betas, for that is the name most suited for such creatures, crept up to the slumbering alpha and bashed him about the head with their tails. Sir William awoke, only to swoon under the might of the blows that fell down upon him like an undertaker's hammer on a coffin's nails. When the knight could no longer move, the dragons bound him hand to foot and then, to the horror of all who loved goodness, they went forth on slimy bellies to search out the ladies of the house.
Many indescribable torments saturated with indignities did the beasts inflict upon the ladies, leaving their delicate feathers and petals strewn across the ground. After every feather and petal had been plucked, and every worthless treasure had been plundered, the dragons set the manor aflame and then fled like the cowardly things that creep with no name beneath the earth; however, before the brutes could get beyond Sir William's land, dawn appeared accompanied by the trumpeting of horns that were carried by knights-errant on a mission for their lord, the High King.
The knights, with weapons at the ready, secured the dragons with sturdy chains and dragged them deep down into the dungeons that would house them far away from the innocent while they reflected upon their shame and the shame that they had brought upon their own houses. Then, when the knights deemed that enough time for reflection had passed, the dragons were each cast into a funeral pyre of their own making.
Night and day attendants visited the bedside of the bruised and battered knight, bathing him with tears and caressing him and coaxing him back to the land of the living. Finally from his darken slumber he did awake, and with heavily saddened footsteps made his way to the cherry tree that overlooked the manor that had at once upon a time contained his home.
“Once upon a time,” wept the knight, as he knelt down among the ruins that had become his life. His eyes welling with tears, he reached out a trembling hand and lifted what remained of his wife and their two precious daughters: a singed feather and two wilted petals.
“Why, Lord?!” Sir William cried in a voice that was full of heartbreaking despair. “Why? Why in such a cruel and hideous fashion have you taken from me my three ladies fair? Have I not served you and loved you well with all that I am, and through my faith entreated those that you have given charge over my heart to do the same? Homage I have paid you time and time again, and this is how I am to be rewarded for all of my years of loyal service? Well, I shall not have it!” He held up his fist and shouted at the sky. “Now give them back! Give them back, I say!” But in his heart the knight knew that the king was as saddened as he and unable to obey his command.
Physically and spiritually exhausted, Sir William collapsed to the ground where he lay weeping, surrounded by his pain. As he lay upon the charred earth beneath him, his mind replayed the tragic events over and over again, searching for the little things that he could have done -- should have done -- to change their outcome. And when he tried to think of a reason why any creature, even a brute, would delight in such wanton destruction that resulted in the loss of beings as exquisite and as irreplaceable as his Lady Hawk and his two young daughters, he could not think of one.
Not a solitary one.
An idea, dark but welcoming, entered into his dominion then. If his cherished darlings (for darlings and cherished they were) could not come back to him, then he would go to them. He then, with his grief temporarily drying on his sleeve, pulled his dagger from its sheath and, with eyes closed, pressed its cold tip to his heart.
“Of this they would not approve,” spoke a voice near to him, a voice that was warm and knowing.
The knight slowly opened his eyes and looked upon the king's son, the Prince of Peace and Prosperity.
“Why have you come to me now instead of when I was in most need of you?” Sir William asked, while at the same time releasing the dagger from his grip. Then he looked down at his other hand, still clutching what was left of his most valuable treasures, and was overcome with grief again.
Side by side, the prince and the knight wept openly for those who had been taken from the earth before their time. And when, although no less grief-stricken, the prince and the knight could no longer draw tears from their spiritual wells, they stood and turned to the lilies of the field.
The prince, with hands that were as warm and as comforting as the sun, took from the knight's possession the feather and the petals. Next, with undeniable reverence, he held up the remnants of Sir William's treasures and blew his living breath upon them. Instantly -- miraculously -- before the mortal knight's wonder-filled eyes, the feather and the petals sprang to life in the form of three perfect lilies.
“My father, the king, has bid me not to carry these to the field,” said the prince of Peace and Prosperity, “but to bring them forthwith and plant them in his crown where they will bloom and remain until that moment when you come to reclaim them.”
Sir William caressed the three lilies ever so gently. “But what of me? I do not even know who I am without the ones I love. What shall I be now, if not guardian of the family that has been given to me? ”
The prince smiled tenderly. “Listen with your heart and you shall hear the answer, and upon hearing the answer, hopefully will you see again.”
Sir William did not understand at first, but did as the prince instructed, and soon, very soon, he heard singing, sweet and ethereal.
“Can you hear them?” asked the prince, holding up the flowers, which glimmered in his hand like stars from the heavens. “Their song is sung especially for you.”
The knight wiped his eyes and offered up his spirit, as a weary clam offers up its pearl. Listening with his heart instead of his ears, he heard the familiar voices that he had cherished for so long, sing lovingly: “Continue to be the determined guardian, O Beloved, and you will be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Sir William sighed, and then whispered: “Yes, the guardian I have been, and am, and now the change I must become.” He then gratefully kissed each flower and each of the prince's cheeks, who quickly departed afterward with the heavenly beings that were to be loved and cared for personally by the king.
As the prince disappeared over the horizon, Sir William's fellow knights were left in his wake. Together, they banded around their brother, lending this shoulder than that when needed. Then, with the arrival of the proper time, they each knelt down humbly upon bended knee to help gather Lady Rosebud's Four O'Clocks and the Lady of the Field's lilies which they dispersed across Earth in hopes of one day bringing to its people a lasting peace obtained through an understanding of humanity.
Unlike the many love stories that have over time proven to be ephemeral, the love of this family -- these very real and beautiful beings -- has proven to be unbreakable, eternal. So that is why when the romantics ask the bards to recount a love both true and rare, they bring forth their harps and their lyres and tenderly recite the poignant tale of Sir William and his three ladies fair.
© Copyright 2016 Gideon Elrod. All rights reserved.