Tothelea: Chapter 19

In ages past, in Ararsel where the Aran dwell, the goddess Aramonea ruled
Springtime.   There she lived with her betrothed, Aramathokoa, ruler of
Autumn.  Summer and Winter were theirs together, while each in their season
attended the sacred tasks set to them by the Aravolir.

It was Aramonea's joyful duty to travel the lands of the World each year,
commanding all the flowering plants to set forth their blossoms.  In this way,
she brought to the world colorful beauty and all the fruits eaten by the races
and beasts.  In every field of wildflowers, at every blossoming tree, she
would stop.  No plant wanted for her attention.  Even in the Aravolir's garden
itself was her work done.  Touching each bud gently with Monolshoeat she would
say "Open, little blossom, to the warm sunshine and the rain.  Bring forth
your nectar and bestow life upon the world."  Aramonea took great pleasure in
her task, depsite knowing that the fruits of her labor were short-lived upon
the World, for without her Spring could not flourish and pass into Summer.

Year by year, Aramonea came to know the lands of the World as well as Arshoeoa
the creator himself.  And always she hid from mortals, as was commanded of all
the cycle-gods.

In those days was a pious man, a student of nature, named Eman.  It is said
that Eman was a man of both great strength and quickness, but also a man of
surpassing compassion and gentleness.  Careful with his words, he preferred to
listen to the world rather than speak to it.  Legends of Eman's true origins
are almost certainly exaggerated, but it is said that he no man could best
him, even if he bore no weapon of his own, and that he could travel as rapidly
as Eagles over the harshest of terrain, for neither walls nor sheer cliffs
were obstacles for him.

Springtime was Eman's favorite time of year, when the shrouds of winter were
lifted and the world was made new again.  Each year, Eman would travel to a
new land to witness spring, and as he went he tried to spread his piety and
love of nature to anyone who would watch his example.

Eman would observe the dawn of the first day of spring with reverence.  In
whatever part of the world his travels had put him, he would always find a
secluded spot to pass the night.  He would sit, ponder the cycle of life, and
wait for Spring to arrive.  Often he would bring an extra skin of water, and a
bowl of blood-meal with which to nourish some needy plant, as his offering to
the cycle.

That first year, Aramonea did not notice the man. She passed so rapidly
through the fields of the world, that in the darkness before the dawn of the
first day of spring, she did not see him.  Eman himself felt only a brush of
wind and a murmur of voices as he waited for the dawn, which he put down to
the effects of fatigue.

The second year, Eman happened to be sitting on the crest of a hill when
Aramonea passed him, outlined against the dawn sky.  Startled, she only
hastened her steps and lowered her voice, that she could pass him by without
being seen by him.  Again, Eman only felt a light breeze.

The third year, she watched for him, wanting to know what manner of mortal
would sit and wait for the first dawn of spring.  She found him on a sand dune
near the sea, sitting crosslegged in front of a scrub--brush and contemplating
the buds of its tiny purple flowers.  Quietly, as only a goddess can be quiet,
she glided up behind him where he could not see her, and watched him pour
blood-meal and water at the base of the plant, saying "Grow well, little bush.
Would that I could do the same for all of your kind."  Aramonea was very
moved, but frightened that he would turn and see her, she stole away, as
quickly as she had come, to complete her labors.

The fourth year, Aramonea could stand it no longer.  She went to Aralohinea
and asked for an enchanted cloak, by which she could not be seen, but might
still be heard.  Aralohinea called forth two of each kind of spinning-moth in
the World, and commanded them to create such a cloak and leave it hanging on
the Border Yew.  As the cloak was spun, Aramonea went to Aramathokoa saying
"Betrothed, I must make my rounds one day early this year; the seeds were set
so heavily on the eastern lands last year that I must leave now, lest my work
go unfinished by the first dawn of Summer."

And saying so, Aramonea left from Ararsel, taking her cloak as she left, and
went to search for the man.  Again, she found him, this time in a boggy
marshland, where grow the wide-leaved so'o lilies, with the waxy white flowers
that fill with morning dew. Emboldened in her cloak, she sat across the so'o
lily from him, watching again as he made his offering to the plant.  As he
finished she took Monolshoeat and touched the plant's swollen buds.  Not the
mere fleeting touch she could afford the other plants of the world, but long,
slow caresses over each bud.

Seeing no one, Eman saw only that when he finished his offering to the plant,
one of the plant's buds began to open before his very eyes.  Astonished, he
watched the flower open to its fullest extent, displaying for him its radiant
new beauty and pure whiteness.  So shocked was he that he did not hear the
goddess whisper her command to the flower.  Then, double of miracles, another
bud became blossom while he watched.  Louder did Aramonea say her command, and
it was as though the plant itself were speaking to him.

Finally, when the lily's five blossoms were fully open and sparkling in the
first rays of sunrise, did she speak to him, saying "Why do I find you thus,
each first dawn of spring, in a different part of the world?"

Eman sprang to his feet so quickly that, had she been a mortal herself, she
thought she could not have seen him do it.  "Who's there?  Show yourself!" he
called out.

She replied "I am Aramonea, goddess of flowers and queen of springtime.  I
make the flowers bloom, and bring new life and beauty to the world, that
spring may pass into summer and the cycle may continue.  But I may not show
myself to you."

And so it was that Aramonea spent a whole day in the World speaking to a
mortal man, but never being seen by him.  Eman, for all his ability to defend
himself, was at first quite nervous to be in the company of a goddess,
particularly the queen of spring herself.  They talked of the cycle, of the
many types of plants and flowers in the world, and of how each is in its own
way beautiful.  Aramonea was quite surprised to learn that a mortal could have
found such a deep understanding of life, and the cycle, and of the flowers she
loved so.  And as the day wore on, Eman became more comfortable with the
goddess, and talked freely with her about many subjects.  She explained about
Monolshoeat, and he told stories of his many travels through the World and
asked her about the plants that grow in Ararsel.

At last the day came to a close.  Aramonea left to complete her labors, saying
"Not since my first springtime have I so enjoyed a day.  May the Aran protect
you where you go, Eman.  Your love for my work has left me refreshed and
invigorated.  Thank you."  And with a puff of wind, she was gone.

For his part, Eman felt truly blessed to have been so favored by Aramonea. As
the days wore on, he became truly smitten with her.  Even though he had no
idea what she might look like, he thought she must be as beautiful as all the
world's flowers rolled into one; the memory of her voice was the sweetest
music in his ears.  For the remaining months of spring he wandered through
flowering fields, his feet barely touching the ground.

When summer arrived, he found himself again in the inhabited lands of the
east. To his surprise he found that his usual quietness had been replaced with
a burning desire to tell everyone about the goddess Aramonea.  Summer, autumn,
and winter of that year he spent collecting anyone who would listen, and
follow his words.  To them he taught both his ways of self-defense and the
knowledge of flowers he had gained from Aramonea.  But as spring approached
the next year, he felt drawn to leave his disciples and again journey alone
into the wilderness, hoping to meet her.

Instructing his disciples, of which there were then eleven, to spend the
springtime establishing a school at which to teach their philosophies, Eman
provisioned himself with food, water, and blood-meal, and set off into the
wilderness.  Again Aramonea found him, among a cluster of violets, waiting for
the first dawn of spring.  And again the spent the whole of the day, from
sunrise to nightfall, talking.  He told her of his disciples, and how he was
spreading the knowledge she had blessed him with as far and wide as he could.
She was very flattered, and truly it can be said that she blushed strongly at
the admiration and compliment of his words.  But he saw none of it, as she was
safely hidden behind her cloak.  Eman wanted very much to see her, but he did
not ask for fear that a goddess could never love a mortal like himself.

For several years they met, for one glorious day each Spring.  And as the
years passed, Eman's school became well known throughout the east, and drew
many students.  Eman himself became known as the Master of Flowers, for his
school was always surrounded by the most lovely and healthy of flowering
plants.  And also as the years passed, Aramonea found herself growing ever
fonder of him.  Less and less did she feel that she and Aramathokoa were a
good pair, even though their betrotal was arranged by the Aravolir themselves.
She felt so much more affinity for the mortal man who seemed to understand her
calling more than any other being, even among the Aran.  Finally, she admitted
to herself that she had truly fallen in love with a mortal man.

The very next spring, Aramonea again left Ararsel one day early.  But this
time she did not bring her enchanted cloak, hiding it instead on a cold, dry
mountain top, for she wished to show herself to Eman despite the laws of the
cycle-gods.  She found him again, in a humid tropical forest among flowering
plants that have no names among men.  Making no attempt to hide herself, she
strode up to him unclothed and unashamed, saying "Greetings to you, Eman, my
best beloved of men." Eman was struck dumb at the vision of her.  Indeed, she
was as lovely as he had imagined, and more so.  Every curve of her was
reflected in his memories of the shapes of all the world's flowers.  Hanging
on a fine silver chain between her breasts was the sparkling, colorful
Monolshoeat, itself reflecting the colors of those same flowers.  Finally, he
stood to greet her, stammering out "Greetings to you, Goddess."  It was all he
could say before she took him into her arms, and was enfolded in his.

But even as Aramonea was not hidden from Eman, neither was she hidden from the
eyes of Aramathokoa, watching from Ararsel.  His face flushed and the blood
rushed into his ears until he could hear nothing but his own heart, pounding
as if to crush mountains into sand.  When he could watch no longer, he tore
his eyes away and rushed into the Aravolir's audience hall, crying out that
Aramonea had broken the laws of the cycle-gods and must be punished.  The king
and queen of the gods looked into the World and saw that it was true.

"It is as you say," said Ar-areidoa.

"She shall be punished indeed," said Ar-areidea.  

And so saying, Aramonea was taken from the World and found herself standing
before the Aravolir and her enraged betrothed, surprised and ashamed.

As one voice, the Aravolir pronounced judgement on Aramonea, saying "Aramonea,
you have broken the laws imposed upon the cycle-gods.  You have shown yourself
to a mortal man.  We decree that henceforth you shall no longer be counted
among the Aran.  You are cast out of Ararsel.  Until such time as you will be
able to abide by the laws and can again perform your duties shall you live
yourself a mortal among mortals.  Let none among the Aran assist you, and may
you find your own way in the world."

And with those words, Aramonea felt her immortality and all her powers flow
from her, like water from a broken urn.  She cried out "But who will open the
flowers?  Shall there be no more Springtime upon the world?"

Before she could receive an answer, Aramathokoa in his rage bellowed "You are
cast out, harlot!"

He picked her up and threw her from Ararsel, down to the world where Eman
waited, confused and alone, in the humid forest.  She felt as if she would
fall forever, so far did Aramathokoa throw her.  Tumbling over mountains,
through clouds, above all the lands she knew so well, she crashed down at
Eman's feet, cushioned only by a few of the small nameless flowers.

Quickly he went to her, holding her in his arms.  Both knew she was mortally
wounded.  They looked at each other, saying more with their eyes than they
ever could with words, knowing that nothing could be done to save her.

With the last of her strength, she said to Eman "I am judged by the Aravolir.
Remember me, my love."

With tears streaming from his eyes and falling on her broken body, he clasped
his hand around hers and said "I shall always remember."

They kissed one last time as her eyes closed, and she died in his arms.  He
buried her there among the flowers she loved.

Aramathokoa saw this, and laughed a vile and cruel laugh.  He called to
Aramanamoa, who governs the souls of those whose time in the World has
elapsed, to take her mortal soul into his keeping.

But Aramanamoa instead appeared in the audience hall, saying "For two reasons
I cannot.  The Aravolir decreed that she live as a mortal until she can again
fulfill her duties.  Also, this was not decreed by Fate; you have killed her
before her time.  You have broken your own law, Aramathokoa.  Her soul was
never fated to enter my realm, and I shall not break my law by bringing it

Aramathokoa turned instantly pale, knowing the truth of the words.  Without
hesitation, the Aravolir cast him down too, where he lives long, unhappy years
as a bitter, withered old man.

Eman sat, alone and grieving, for two whole days by her gravesite.  And then,
as if Aramonea's plea before the Aravolir were echoing in his mind, he
resolved to carry on her work.  As fast as his feet could carry him, he rushed
back to his school.  He gathered his best students to him, and told them of
Aramonea's falling, and how it thus fell to them to spread springtime around
the world.

Instructing his students how to mix blood-meal and certain powders in a way
that Aramonea had taught him, he sent them out to travel the land, creating as
much spring as they could.

Spring came slowly that year, carried on the feet of Eman and his disciples.
Though they pushed themselves to utter exhaustion and beyond, they could
complete only a fraction of Aramonea's work.  Eman, on the strength of love
and fury, did the work of three disciples, himself bringing spring to the
entire tropical region of the world. But by spring's end only one third of the
lands of the world had been visited, and there was much hunger in the coming
autumn and winter.  That they completed as much as they did is miracle enough,
and some have said that the Aravolir themselves must have assisted them.

When summer came, and the disciples returned to Eman's school, they found him
already returned, but a shell of his former self.  The sparkle was gone from
his eyes.  The love that had compelled him to do his works still burned in his
heart, but no longer moved him to action.  He left the school soon after,
saying to his disciples that he must retreat from the lands of men, until his
heart was well again.  And with a final command to continue the work of the
school, and above all to bring spring when it was again due, he left them.

The Aravolir watched from their audience hall, and were moved by the purity of
Eman's love, the seriousness with which he treated Aramonea's work, and the
depth of his grief.  Therefore, they watched him for the whole of the summer,
as he wandered the lands, and slowly they helped abate his grief.  When the
summer was ended, they brought him before them.  Eman was awed to be in the
presence of the King and the Queen of the gods.

"Do not be afraid, Eman" they bade him.  "We are moved by your love and your
deeds.  Ever more you shall take your love's place in Ararsel.  You shall be
Aremesoa, and evermore shall you rule springtime."  Eman felt such light and
energy as a thousand suns pouring into him, as the Aravolir granted him
immortality and the powers to fulfill his new office.

"But take care, Aremesoa," they warned, "always obey the laws of the Aran, and
always fulfill the duties of your office."

So ever after until the present time Aremesoa has brought spring to the world,
sparing his former disciples from a heroic yearly effort.  And ever after has
Aramonea been reborn into the world, her soul never entering Aramanamoa's
realms.  Life after life she lives, dimly remembering her past life and her
true love as if a dream.  And though they cannot be together, for he would
break the law to be seen by her, often Aremesoa looks down into the world, his
heart awash in love and sadness, to gaze at the face of his immortal mortal