This series of short stories are basically a fun peek into a B story happening behind the scenes of the prequel I’m currently working on to The Beauty Thief.
July #BlogBattle MYTH
Genre: sweet romance, fantasy fiction
“Legend of Jerishn”
by Rachael Ritchey
Helein touched her lips. The lingering memory of Kendric’s kiss, she thought, had the power to crush her. She’d fallen for him five years ago–in mythical fashion, no less–but she’d never indulged the niggling, annoying dream that he could ever be more than a first kiss, a first love, or a first heartbreak.
A frown pulled down the corners of her mouth as she reached to rub the wrinkles suddenly forming on her brow.
“Oh Helein,” she whispered to herself in the shadows of the hall as she wandered toward Ismene’s chamber.
Helein thought she’d have more privacy waiting there for her mistress to return from the banquet than going to the room she shared with two chamber maids. It would give her time to think and time to dimiss her emotions.
It wouldn’t be long before Ismene–no, she must think of her now as a princess, or, truly, the future queen of Taisce. Saying “highness” to Ismene, though, sounded so strange in her mind. They’d been more like friends for the eight years where Helein had been employed in Ismene’s family home. Only in public had she ever addressed Ismene by any title, but here, at the castle of their realm, she’d have to change in more ways than one. And it would need to start with distancing herself from Ismene.
The princess, then, would retire any time, so at least there would be that distraction to take Helein’s mind off one dimpled cheek and a rougish smile. She sighed. Foolish. Her heart’s rapid beat betrayed her feelings to her rational mind.
She opened the door to the salon between Ismene’s–her highness’s–door and the prince’s and then tiptoed to the entry of her highness’s chamber. Kendric’s face lingered in her mind’s eye. “Let him go, Helein,” she said as she opened the door to the inner chamber.
Helein gasped and grabbed at her chest. “My lady!” Pulse pounding, she glared at Ismene who stood at the vanity table removing pins from her hair.
“I’m sorry to startle you, Helein.” Ismene shrugged and kept working at her hair, leaving it a tangle in the absence of the hair pins. “I wasn’t feeling well.”
Helein knew this was an excuse Ismene must have used to leave the banquet early. Over the last several days she’d watched the new princess try her best to behave as her father and mother would expect, to represent the Tenbow family with honor, but Ismene had never been much for large gatherings and had always struggled with the social graces that seemed to come so easily to her mother.
Helein, though, still thought Ismene carried herself with a different sort of grace and a hidden strength. She didn’t think Ismene thought of herself as brave or strong, but Helein could see it and admired that about her.
“Now, who are we letting go of?” Ismene asked in an exagerrated and playful way as she pulled the final pin from her hair.
Helein watched the rest of Ismene’s dark waves of hair cascade down around her shoulders. A mixture of triumph and mischief lit Ismene’s eyes.
“What?” Helein closed the door and leaned back against it.
“Playing coy are we? I saw the way that groom tripped all over himself when we went riding yesterday. Have you already fallen for a handsome face?”
Helein swallowed and choked as Kendric’s face flashed across her mind’s eye. “What–no. No, of course not. There’s no one.” She pressed off from the door and moved to busy herself by helping Ismene out of her gown.
Ismene grinned and refused to turn around at Helein’s prompting. “Oh, so there is someone! Please tell me, for I could use something interesting to take my mind off my own . . . well, my . . .”
Helein watched anxiety and sorrow build in Ismene’s eyes, her mouth forced into a smile despite the unhappiness she’d fought since being informed of her betrothal to Prince Othniel. Helein forced her own worries aside–worries and fears and longings that were not as pressing as Ismene’s–and hugged her friend.
“It’s all right.” She stepped back and gently turned Ismene, giving her a light shove to sit down on the stool. Picking up the brush, she began running it through the tangled ends of Ismene’s hair. “That groom was rather handsome, wasn’t he?”
“If you ignore the smear of what we can hope was mud on his cheek,” Ismene said, attempting to lighten her voice as if speaking something amusing.
“Oh, no, that only added to his rugged handsomeness.”
Ismene didn’t respond, but Helein could feel some of the tension melting from her shoulders. The act of brushing Ismene’s hair had the effect of soothing both the young women’s fraught emotions.
Helein had only taken on the position of lady’s maid after offering to go with Ismene when she was to leave for Castle Tasice from the Tenbow family manor. Before that, she’d been a chamber maid, and while new this process of preparing Ismene’s hair for the day and for the night had become one of her favorite tasks. It reminded her of caring for her younger siblings hair to help her own mother. Thinking of her mother, though, brought a heavy feeling to her chest, so she dispelled the thought and focused again on Ismene’s difficult situation of being married to a stranger who was also the prince of Taisce, future king of the realm.
What might help bring her solace? What had her mother done to allay Helein’s fears when life would weigh heavy? “Do you remember hearing the story of Jerishn Cloet as a child?”
“That old myth? Of course.”
“I don’t think it’s a myth.” Helein smoothed her hand over Ismene’s hair following the brush through her thick locks.
“How can it be true? There’s no such thing as magic.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’ve heard things servants from other households used to speak of when they’d visit with their noblemen. I think there is an evil in this world beyond our understanding.”
Helein worked to separate Ismene’s hair into three sections, but Ismene’ turned and grabbed her hand, pulling her toward the bed. “Well, I can’t recall all the details, so I suppose you best tell me this old story.”
Helein smiled and both sat upon the bed, lying back across it and staring up at the canopy. Ismene closed her eyes, waiting for Helein.
Jerishn Cloet was a weaver’s son. As a child he helped to shear the sheep and gather the wool his father and mother used to create their cloth. His mother’s woolen thread was so fine and the wool so soft, but they lived far from the cities and villages where merchants visited and they remained poor.
His father traveled long distances to take their beautiful cloth to market, but as he aged, the travel became more difficult. Jerishn was their only son, and his mother refused to let him leave their home for fear he’d never return.
But their situation worsened when his father did not return when they expected. Life was already difficult, but it would only grow worse if Jerishn’s mother continued to insist he stay home instead of taking their cloth to market as his father had done.
Finally, when their food ran low and neighbors were unwilling to share with them anymore, Jerishn’s mother relented and told him he could go to market with the wool thread she’d spun. But before he could finish packing, his father—thin and looking near death—stumbled in the door.
Jerishn’s mother helped her son carry his father to the bed. His father pulled from his pocket a small, smooth rock with a hole in the center that fit in the palm of his hand. He told them the plain little whorl was the answer to all their problems.
The whorl fit perfectly on Jerishn’s mother’s spindle, and as she spun the wool, it gleamed with a soft shimmer.
His father explained that a merchant had told him of a far-off land where the cloth was soft and shone with light, and that if he went there he could get what he needed to make his own woven cloth do the same. His father wanted to help his family, so he’d gone and found the place.
A man there offered to sell him this whorl—a magic whorl that would make beautiful thread for weaving—and Jerishn’s father gave him all the money he had left.
His mother spun the wool, his father wove it, and the cloth shone. Soon, word spread of the beautiful cloth and merchants traveled from far and wide to buy it for lords and ladies across the lands.
Many believed and told tales of magic being used to create the cloth. No one believed that Jerishn’s mother spun the thread or that the ordinary sheep in their fields yielded the soft wool. Jerishn’s family knew the truth of the spindle’s whorl, but they kept the secret. And word traveled and so did the merchants.
Jerishn’s family prospered and eventually word of their amazing cloth reached the ears of the king. He sent ten knights to bring Jerishn’s father to the castle with his wares, but Jerishn sensed a trap. The king was known to frown upon magic, and if the king believed they used it to make their cloth, who knew what would become of his father.
When his father did not return home, Jerishn’s mother relented and said he could travel to the castle to find his father. Arriving at the castle, Jerishn learned that the king had imprisoned his father and he was refused entrance to see the king by a group of advisors who wrung their hands.
The princess saw Jerishn and watched him beg for his father’s release, but she grew angry toward the desperate young man. She had her maid bring him to her and told him it was his father’s fault that her father was sick and dying.
Jerishn didn’t believe it, but the princess explained long ago magic had infested the land and brought darkness to its people. A king was raised up as protector to undo the magics of the past and free the land from the burdens it created.
To heal the land and bring it peace, he had to absorb the magic. And so, through the ages, the rulers of the land were forever affected by the power of magic in the land. Their fate was both to rule and to save. If magic came, the ruler of the kingdom would slowly die under the weight of its power but preserve the land. The lore was passed down through the royal family as a secret, but she explained that magic, no matter its use, could ruin their lands and leave them in chaos without a ruler. It was Jerishn’s father who had brought magic that was killing her father.
Jerishn’s heart broke for the sad princess and he vowed to remove the magic whorl in order to save both their fathers, but she said it was too late—and not enough. The only way to protect the land was to marry her and take on the burden her father had carried all these years.
Jerishn loved his father and felt responsible for the burden his family brought upon the land, so he agreed to marry the princess and take on the responsibility of protecting the land from magic. He sent word to his mother to take the whorl and throw it into the sea, that it must be done to restore her husband to her, and that he would not be coming home.
But in his sacrifice, the land was saved, his father lived, and he fell in love with the princess who became his wife. Together they kept the land in peace and harmony all the days of his life.
Thank you so much for reading my short story. I hope you’ll head over to bbprompt.com and read more MYTH stories this month!