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Author Topic: The Harlequin Lover  (Read 5015 times)
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Elendilwyn
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« on: 08 February 2006, 11:11:00 »

The Harlequin Lover by Master Tribell
(As recorded in Master Tribell’s Miraculous Narrations, Scholar’s Edition)

With quivering hands, the old woodworker lovingly added the final details to the face. It was a strange face, beautiful and enchanting in its strangeness, one that enthralled and held its admirer captive with just one glance. How should I describe it? Words will forever be inadequate but if I could paint a mental image, it would go something like this.

It was a pale white face, shaped like a heart and tilted at an angle from the body, to give the suggestion of thought. Azure eyes set into the wood gave it (or should I say ‘him’) an unearthly quality, an inanimate thing that seemed to demand that you think otherwise. The dark outline around the eyes made it deep and contemplative. The lips were something else altogether. At first glance, one would think that it was smiling at you, that mischievous grin that harlequins often wear but on closer look, one would realise that it is just the red paint that made the smile, not an overly luscious one, but enough to give the illusion of happiness. Without all that paint, it would be a terribly sad face, heart-breaking in essence. Staring upon it, one cannot help but wonder what stories are laid to rest behind that mask.

The clothing worn by the puppet was at best inconsequential, at worst offending in its gaiety- a stark contrast to the deep thoughtful face, as much as it was skillfully sewn. I do not care for the clothes, but the face, oh the face… that which has haunted me on many a waking nights, something that I believe I will not easily forget.

The old woodworker placed the freshly painted harlequin puppet on the shelf, a lone figure amidst an array of oddities. How lonely I thought, if only there was another like him to share his solitude… and as if reading my thoughts, the old woodworker replied, “there was once another…” turning at the same time to look me in the eye. I was struck by his nostalgic countenance and I knew there was a story to be heard. Having a great thirst and curiosity for stories, I found myself a seat uninvited, knowing for certain that he would take it as a cue for him to tell his tale, as is the way of the elderly…  

______________________________

A long time ago, in a town near the mountains, there once lived a young man who was a harlequin by profession. In those days, the towns were a little less busy and the roads less traveled. People were more open in their expression as unfamiliar faces were far and few between. Yet, the harlequin man, as he was called by the young children of the town, was unreadable. Harlequins were not common then and neither are they now, but they were great entertainment, with a wonderful ability to mimic those around them, silently or otherwise.

In the day, this young man would dance the lives of the everyday for his keep and on special occasions, he would dance, with the help of hand-puppets, the story of two lovers. Now, these were no ordinary lovers. They were the son and daughter of the two richest household in town and were the envy of the ordinary folk. If anything, they were far from star-crossed. Their families were only all too happy to be joined in marriage and all the town looked forward to that day for they knew it meant consecutive nights of feasting. And so you can imagine the movements of our young harlequin who depicted the joy and anticipation in a mixture of long melodious moves that spoke of romance and successions of flighty steps that depicted the excitement of the town.

And so the day of marriage came to pass and the town scrubbed anew for this day that was to be marked by a great celebration. As was customary, everyone brought gifts but perhaps the strangest gift of all was a pair of harlequin puppets, a male and female. The puppets were perhaps the most exquisite the town had ever seen, refined in woodwork and painted delicately. The giver was a stranger passing through. These puppets, he said, had a life of their own and as long as they were never separated, the newly-wed lovers would always be one. If the people were not so caught up with the feasting and dancing, they would perhaps have asked themselves why would such an unusual gift be given by a complete stranger, or perhaps questioned the ability of puppets to have a life of their own but in the good spirit of the occasion, the gifts were accepted in gratitude without questions or doubt and the celebration went as well as any could go.

That said, being superstitious folk, the lovers proceeded to guard their harlequins with care, afraid that any harm that should befall these puppets would have implications for them. But, as with all great stories, happiness is often succeeded by pain and tragedy the way pride comes before a fall. The harlequins were lost soon after the birth of the first-born child. They had mysteriously disappeared as if they were meant to curse the marriage. The couple soon fell into despair and consumed by the thought that something would happen to them, they allowed their sadness to rule their lives. Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps it was witchcraft; the stranger came again and to him their woes they repeated, claiming that upon losing the harlequins they could no longer feel the love they once had for each other.

As is usually the case when dealing with the powers of magic, the couple’s happiness could be redeemed at a cost—that of their first-born. They were horrified at the prospect and wanted to drive the stranger away, adamant in professing that the love for their son was more valuable than anything in the world. But the stranger stayed and requested them to remember their days of happiness, telling them also that they could conceive again and one son was no loss. The seeds were sowed and they eventually succumbed. The son was given and the illusion of happiness restored. The couple believed they were happy but they never conceived again. Over the years, the seeds of doubt about the exchange grew in them until one day, the thought grew so big they went mad and died.

It was a morbid performance to be playing at festivities but the crowd loved it for it had all the earmarks of a storyline they enjoyed: love, magic, the lurking of evil, mystery and the irresolute. The story always ended with the couple passing away but puppets were pretty figures and it was hard to feel sad while staring at the always-smiling face of the harlequin man. There was no doubt that he was good at what he did, his movements always conveying the emotions he depicted to pin-point precision. But while the crowd was willing to allow themselves to be swept up in the whole romance of the performance, they never carried it beyond that and the magic of it ended when the curtain fell. Yet, unknown to them was the truth behind the story, the impulse of the harlequin man to perform that story again and again.  

Unknown to all, he was the young son that was taken away at a young age, trained as a curse to be a harlequin. While he owned the male harlequin puppet, he had not the female and until he finds the female puppet, he was destined to be a harlequin, his truth lost to the world and his emotions forever concealed, unknowable and unknowing. The connection was not something simple town-minds could easily make and that was part of the curse, to perform until the person with the female harlequin revealed herself (and it would be a ‘her’ as his prophecy dictated). The town he was currently at had not shown much promise and it was only a matter time before he moved again.

In his mind, he was doomed to love and doomed to fail. He could love no one but the phantom image in his mind. He did not know what she looked like but he could only love her and no other. The years went by and still she remained as part of his imagination. How could he not see himself as doomed? He had become the male harlequin—the lover but not the loved for who could ever love a harlequin? To all he was just a mask, a façade that filled himself with the lives of others he acted out so much so that in time, he too would lose a sense of himself, becoming truly an empty shell whose only purpose was to be filled.

Such was the prophecy given to him.

It was quiet in the clearing as the harlequin danced,
Once for the memory and twice for the One
Whose image plays as a phantom’s shadow,
Doomed to love and born to follow
Sheltered in the shadows of the over-reacher,
Trees whose branches go each the higher
The silence of infinity that stretches beyond
A time that traps and renders forlorn
The dancer in the middle counting his steps,
Burning with fervor against time’s threat
Basking in the moonlight as upon a stage,
Turning with grace as each move is made
For each is a memory that has no end
Telling a story that could not be penned
And so life’s path the harlequin takes,
Until the day his debt his paid
Find the girl who has the other,
And outside time he’ll cease to wander.


The harlequin lover existed outside time. He had no memory of his family or village, and few memories of the enigmatic master who raised him without revealing his face, choosing instead to live behind the mask. He only knew that his parents had left him a debt he had to pay, incurred by the loss of the puppets and made worse by the selfish love of his parents. In return, he was doomed to seek for love in silence, wandering through the years, never aging and always lonely, trapped within time yet living outside it. He was not allowed to tell his story in writing nor in words so his only way was to dance and hope that somehow, it would lead him back to the path of life. The dance of the harlequin was both the curse and the gift of his master who turned him out at the age of puberty, never to be seen again.

From the mountain town the harlequin lover moved and he was to move for many years before he came to a village near a forest at the other end of the continent. At first glance, it was like any other village but something hung in the air like a thick fog on a cold morning that would not go away. If there was a word to describe it, it would be something close to despair. The people of the village found no joy in living. They did their work well and lived well enough but it seemed that that was all they did. They had no capacity to take in entertainment and for once, the harlequin found himself at a loss. He felt for them and understood despair only all too well. For the first time in his life, the harlequin lover thought beyond his own situation and put aside his despair that had been eating at his heart. He wished for happiness, not for himself but for those around him. He danced his best and tried to bring them some semblance of laughter. It took a while but one by one, the villagers learnt to put aside their work to watch his daily performance. They started to smile and then one day, someone laughed and with that one, the others followed.

What is joy if one could not share it? The harlequin himself felt joy that he had never felt before and with that joy, his dreams of his phantom love went away. In its place, another dream came. He dreamt of the woods beyond the village, dark yet welcoming, full of shadows yet lighted and peaceful. It called to him like a lover, caressing his sleep and warming his bed, coming to him each night with a taste of indescribable bliss. Then one day, unable to bear it any longer, he took his leave from the village and went on his journey to seek the woods. They were sad to see him go but bade him well for from him, they had received the gift of laughter, more precious to them than fruits of labour.

The closer he got to the woods, the more intense the dreams and it drove him to seek the woods with growing anticipation. He had no idea what it was that was calling him save that he had to go and seek. The journey was not long but for the pining soul, it felt twice as long and rest was only a source of frustration.

The woods were dark and menacing, not at all welcoming the way his dreams made it out to be. In the nights, the shadows danced and the trees that surrounded him with their far-reaching branches, filling his heart with fear, made bearable only by the thought of what was beyond. In the nights, there were lights that beckoned within the shadowy spaces between trees and along with these lights, voices called. It was with great restraint that he did not leave the path, lighted as well but dim to the point of invisibility. On the seventh night, he came to a copse of trees surrounding a clearing, where for once, the moon shone through in a direct beam of light, coming to rest right in the centre that was empty of trees. He knew at once what he was to do and in that circle of light, he danced. He poured his heart and emptied his soul, filling his steps with all the years of pain and loneliness, each move more emotive than the last till it climaxed in his parents’ death and with his eyes closed, he lay on the ground, finally exhausted from all the years of dancing and puppeting.

When he opened his eyes, he saw her, she who was the dream that had haunted him for most of his life, looking at him with a smile upon her pale but beautiful face. In her hands she held the female harlequin doll and to him, she said, “I have been waiting for you a long time. I have always been here and I have always known you, seeing you the way you see me, in my mind and in my dreams. Like you, I was doomed to wait for the other that had the doll, paying a debt that was given to me by my parents. The wood is my home and in it, I am not confined by time, sustained by what the wood could provide. I had to wait for the day that you learnt to love that which was outside your own despair and beyond a selfish desire to find me only for the sake of breaking the curse. You had to love me not for the prophecy but for myself and now that you have, the curse has ended.” With that, she took his hand and they crossed over the clearing together, away from the dark and into the light.

______________________________

As he ended the story, the old woodworker slipped into his own world, staring at the harlequin doll and then closing his eyes as if trying to hold on to the magic that he had woven for a little while longer. The silence was pregnant, filled with meaning and if I may say, magic. Not wishing to rupture the moment, I quietly got up and slid into the street and away into the night for the story had ran beyond the setting of the sun.

Some questions are not meant to be asked and not all stories can be explained. In my heart, I thanked the woodworker for his story but as to why the harlequin meant so much to him, I left it unspoken. Stories are better when you do not know everything that led to its creation and sometimes we have to be content to leave it as that, believing that all stories find their own place and time as it always is in the magical ways of the world.  

Edited by: Artimidor Federkiel at: 2/18/06 10:23
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Elendilwyn
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« Reply #1 on: 08 February 2006, 12:14:00 »

This is still work in progress but please feel free to comment. I'm still working out the ending so do look out for it.  

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Ta`lia of the Seven Jewels
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« Reply #2 on: 08 February 2006, 12:44:00 »

Ahhh, I dislike this : to be continued

Won't comment on this great beginning!>:  

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« Reply #3 on: 09 February 2006, 14:50:00 »

Aaaaaaargh... I also am longing for the next part or even the conclusion of the story, Elen! It reads very well and keeps the reader interested - toooo interested for my taste, now that you wrote "to be continued" at the end... :lol  Where's part 2? :drool  - At any rate I guess you're very much at home here with writing such tales - I'm happy that you had started with these stories, you're making nice progress here at our fairy-tales department! :)

Just a few technical things on this part:

You have a bit of a tense problem here at the beginning paragraphs, writing past tense mixed with present tense:

The dark outline around the eyes made it deep and contemplating. [...] The lips were something else altogether.  [...] The clothes worn by the puppet are at best inconsequential [...] etc.

Or these kind of passages should be put in italics to mark a thought - I got a bit confused initially as I didn't know if someone just remembers or is with the woodworker:
I do not care for the clothes, but the face, oh the face… that which has haunted me on many a waking nights, something that I believe I will not easily forget.

A bit of a repetition here:
"that spoke of romance and successions of flighty steps that spoke of the excitement of the town."

"were" is missing here:
"They perhaps the most exquisite the town "

"Mysteriously" here:
"They had mysterious disappeared"

"they" wrong here:
As with the magical ways of the world, they happiness

Something missing here:
The town he was currently had


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« Reply #4 on: 10 February 2006, 09:12:00 »

Yikes... Sorry about the tenses. I saw some of the mistakes you mentioned but missed a number. There are lines that are supposed to be in italics, I copied and pasted from words so the italics didn't get transfered. I will edit it together with the second part. I promise to put them together properly and proof-read everything again.

In anycase, glad that it reads well for the moment.
*looks around for her mentor...* 8o  

Edited by: Elendilwyn at: 2/9/06 16:12
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« Reply #5 on: 15 February 2006, 08:29:00 »

And so it is that the story of "The Harlequin Lover" is completed. :worship  

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« Reply #6 on: 15 February 2006, 09:33:00 »

*sigh*

Thank you!

I like it even more now than before, its 'moral' as Art will say is great, but what I really appreciate is the last paragraph, the best end you could find!

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"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path   that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly. ~Don Juan"

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« Reply #7 on: 15 February 2006, 10:20:00 »

Thank you Talia, you have no idea how much I appreciate the fact that you guys enjoy the stories. In fact, I really need to thank you, Judith, Art and all the rest in Santharia for giving me this chance to write. While I wrote occasionally, it was hardly ever fiction (I mostly do commentaries on current affairs) and I guess writing a lot of academic stuff just made me not want to write creatively as much as I would like to and for a while I was worried I lost the ability to write fictional stories. In other words, Santharia gave me a reason to write stories again and to explore my own writing skills.

Deciding to commit to Santharia is perhaps one of the best things that can happen to me. If I said I would just contribute when I am free then you can be sure I won’t really do so since when are we ever really free? RL gets to all of us so sometimes it is just making time to do something that you enjoy and believe in. Promising to write forces me to make time and that is important in the sense that I ensure that no matter how busy I get, I find time to write creatively.

I am not as certain as my own writing even though I may sound so… I do have a problem with pacing and tenses. Sometimes my pace just fizzles out halfway through the story or I forget to use punctuation properly to moderate the story and end up running off with it without sparing a thought for the person reading it. You can sure that I really appreciate constructive comments on how to improve.

Before I get too sentimental, I guess what I really want to say is thank you to all of you. I really enjoy being here.

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« Reply #8 on: 15 February 2006, 11:29:00 »

Elendilwyn, you just started to write (again). I needed five years to write my first story apart from some myths. I never thought I could do it for I never did it before (apart from some phantasy-essays in school as a kid, but only my mother liked them, all others including the teacher laughed at me, just because I invented a monster in a known little pond). So let us see, what you will write in five years! And practise helps with the own faults :D  

***Astropic of the day***
"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path   that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly. ~Don Juan"

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"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path  that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking,  breathlessly. ~Don Juan"
***Astropicture of the Day***Talia's Long, Long List***
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« Reply #9 on: 15 February 2006, 16:05:00 »

Yay, I've finished reading part II of the story now as well, and I also like how it turned out!

:number1

As Talia already pointed out, there's this second layer of the story with the woodworker, which adds more meaning to the main story, even if it's not explicitely explained - and that's great the way it is, it opens questions the reader has to answer. I like it if a tale gives the reader something to think.of!

I'm definitely happy that you've discovered your writing skills again, Elen, I wouldn't want to miss such tales here in Santharia, they are such an important part of this world defining the mood. Especially in the last time quite a bunch of tales were written from various people, and we're collecting fabulous stuff here, which I enjoy very much - we could fill a whole book already! Actually Santharia is also an incentive for me personally to try my hand in creative writing, just like it helps you to write down a story - and it's very pleasing to see that you've managed to get it done, and be satisifed with the result yourself. And if there are others who enjoy the tale the same way you do, the better!

Very nice story, Elen - happy to have you with us in Santharia sharing your creativity with us, it's our pleasure:D  


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« Reply #10 on: 15 February 2006, 20:32:00 »

Your mentor wishes to apologize for not commenting/critiquing/praising soon, Elendilwyn!  I finally settled my schedule at work so that I have Mondays off (as I work Saturdays) - but then spent my entire 'new weekend' sick in bed... :(

Anyhow, Katryna Joyeuse is asleep, the spouse is happily reading his latest library book, and I have some time - if not a lot of energy - to go over this marvelous contribution with care.

Changes marked in yellow - comments added in orange.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------


With quivering hands, the old woodworker lovingly added the final details to the face. It was a strange face, beautiful and enchanting in its strangeness, one that disallowed the removal of attention (awkwardly phrased - perhaps ";a face that focused one's attention" would be smoother). How should I describe it? Words will forever be inadequate but if I could paint a mental image, it would go something like this.

It was a pale white face, shaped like a heart and tilted at an angle from the body, to give the suggestion of thought. Azure eyes set into the wood gave it (or should I say ‘him’) an unearthly quality, an inanimate thing that seemed to demand that you think otherwise. The dark outline around the eyes made it deep and contemplative. The lips were something else altogether. At first glance, one would think that it was smiling at you, that mischievous grin that harlequins often wear but on closer look, one would realise that it is just the red paint that made the smile, not an overly luscious one, but enough to give the illusion of happiness. Without all that paint, it would be a terribly sad face, heart-breaking in essence. It makes one wonder what stories lie behind the mask.   (awkward switches of pov and tense here, could be smoothed out?)

The clothing worn by the puppet was at best inconsequential, at worst offending in its gaiety - a stark contrast to the deep thoughtful face, as much as it was skillfully sewn. I did not care for the clothes, but the face, oh the face… that has haunted me many a waking night, something that I believe I will not easily forget.

The old woodworker placed the freshly painted harlequin puppet on the shelf, a lone figure amidst an array of oddities. How lonely, I thought, if only there was another like him to share his solitude… and as if reading my thoughts, the old woodworker replied, “There was once another...” turning at the same time to look me in the eye. I was struck by his nostalgic countenance (the nostalgic ex-pression on his countenance, perhaps?) and I knew there was a story to be heard. Being my usual self, I found myself a corner and sat myself down, uninvited but knowing for certain that he would take it as a cue for him to tell his tale, as is the way of the older folks. (Could be tightened up: "As was my wont, I found myself a seat uninvited, knowing that he would take it as a cue to tell his tell, as is the way of the elderly...";)


______________________________

A long time ago, in a town near the mountains, there once lived a young man who was a harlequin by profession. In those days, the towns were a little less busy and the roads less traveled. People were more open in their expression as unfamiliar faces were far and few between. Yet, the harlequin man, as he was called by the young children of the town, was unreadable. Harlequins were not common then and neither are they now, but they were great entertainment, with a wonderful ability to mimic those around them, silently or otherwise.

In the day, this young man would dance the lives of the everyday for his keep and on special occasions, he would dance, with the help of hand-puppets, the story of two lovers. Now, these were no ordinary lovers. They were the son and daughter of the two richest household in town and were the envy of the ordinary folk. If anything, they were far from star-crossed. Their families were only all too happy to be joined in marriage, and all the town looked forward to that day, for they knew it meant consecutive nights of feasting. And so you can imagine the movements of our young harlequin who depicted the joy and anticipation in a mixture of long melodious moves that spoke of romance, and successions of flighty steps that depicted the excitement of the town.

And so the day of marriage came to pass and the town scrubbed anew for this day that was to be marked by a great celebration. As was customary, everyone brought gifts but perhaps the strangest gift of all was a pair of harlequin puppets, a male and female. The puppets were perhaps the most exquisite the town had ever seen, refined in woodwork and painted delicately. The giver was a stranger passing through. These puppets, he said, had a life of their own and as long as they were never separated, the newly-wed lovers would always be one. If the people were not so caught up with the feasting and dancing, they would perhaps have asked themselves why would such an unusual gift be given by a complete stranger, or perhaps would have questioned the ability of puppets to have a life of their own but in the good spirit of the occasion, the gifts were accepted in gratitude without questions or doubt and the celebration went as well as any could go.

That said, being superstitious folk, the lovers proceeded to guard their harlequins with care, afraid that any harm that should befall these puppets would have implications for them. But, as with all great stories, happiness is often succeeded by pain and tragedy the way pride comes before a fall. The harlequins were lost soon after the birth of the first-born child. They had mysteriously disappeared as if they were meant to curse the marriage. The couple soon fell into despair and consumed by the thought that something would happen to them, they allowed their sadness to rule their lives. Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps it was witchcraft; the stranger came again and to him their woes they repeated, claiming that upon losing the harlequins they could no longer feel the love they once had for each other.

As so often when dealing with the powers of magic, their happiness could be redeemed at a cost, that of their first-born. They were horrified at the prospect and wanted to drive the stranger away, adamant in professing that the love for their son was more valuable than anything in the world. But the stranger stayed and requested them to remember their days of happiness, telling them also that they could conceive again and one son was no loss. The seeds were sowed and eventually they succumbed. The son was given and the illusion of happiness restored. The couple believed they were happy but they never conceived again and over the years.  The seeds of doubt about the exchange grew in them till one day, the thought grew so big they went mad and died.

It was a morbid performance to be playing at festivities but the crowd loved it for it had all the earmarks of a storyline they enjoyed: love, magic, the lurking of evil, mystery and the irresolute. The story always ended with the couple passing away but puppets were pretty figures and it was hard to feel sad while staring at the always-smiling face of the harlequin man. There was no doubt that he was good at what he did, his movements always conveying the emotions he depicted to pin-point precision. But while the crowd was willing to allow themselves to be swept up in the whole romance of the performance, they never carried it beyond that and the magic of it ended when the curtain fell. Yet, unknown to them was the truth behind the story, the impulse of the harlequin man to perform that story again and again.

Unknown to many (surely you mean 'all'?) he was the young son that was taken away at a young age, trained as a curse to be a harlequin. He owned the male harlequin puppet but the female was lost and until he finds the female, he is destined to be a harlequin, his truth lost to the world and his emotions forever concealed, unknowable and unknowing.   (tenses inconsistent in this sentence! ) The connection was not something simple town-minds could easily make and that was part of the curse, to perform until the person with the female harlequin revealed herself (and it would be a ‘her’ as his prophecy dictated). The town he was currently at had not shown much promise and it was only a matter time before he moved again.

In his mind, he was doomed to love and doomed to fail. He could love no one but the phantom image in his mind. He did not know what she looked like but he could only love her and no other. The years went by and still she remained as part of his imagination. How could he not see himself as doomed? He had become the male harlequin—the lover but not the loved for who could ever love a harlequin? To all he was just a mask, a façade that filled himself with the lives of others he acted out so much so that in time, he too would lose a sense of himself, becoming truly an empty shell whose only purpose was to be filled.

Such was the prophecy given to him.

It was quiet in the clearing as the harlequin danced,
Once for the memory and twice for the One
Whose image plays as a phantom’s shadow,
Doomed to love and born to follow
Sheltered in the shadows of the over-reacher,
Trees whose branches go each the higher
The silence of infinity that stretches beyond
A time that traps and renders forlorn
The dancer in the middle counting his steps,
Burning with fervor against time’s threat
Basking in the moonlight as upon a stage,
Turning with grace as each move is made
For each is a memory that has no end
Telling a story that could not be penned
And so life’s path he must merrily  (rings false) take,
Until the day his debt is paid
Find the girl who has the other,
And outside time he’ll cease to wander.


The harlequin lover existed outside time. He had no memory of his family or village, and few memories of the enigmatic master who had raised him and never revealed his face, choosing instead to live behind the mask. He had only been told that his parents had left him a debt he had to pay, incurred by the loss of the puppets and made worse by the selfish love of his parents, that they would rather have their love than their son. (unnecessary, omit) In return, he was doomed to seek for love in silence, wandering through the years, never aging and always lonely, trapped within time yet living outside it. He was not allowed to tell his story in writing nor in words so his only way was to dance and hope that somehow, it would lead him back to the path of life. The dance of the harlequin was both the curse and the gift of his master who turned him out at the age of puberty, never to be seen again.

From the mountain town the harlequin lover moved and he was to move for many years before he came to a village near a forest at the other end of the continent. At first glance, it was like any other village but something hung in the air like a thick fog on a cold morning that would not go away. If there was a word to describe it, it would be something close to despair. The people of the village found no joy in living. They did their work well and lived well enough but it seemed that that was all they did. They had no capacity to take in entertainment and for once, the harlequin found himself at a loss. He felt for them and understood despair only all too well. For the first time in his life, the harlequin lover thought beyond his own situation and put aside his despair that had been eating at his heart. He wished for happiness, not for himself but for those around him. He danced his best and tried to bring them some semblance of laughter. It took a while but one by one, the villagers learnt to put aside their work to watch his daily performance. They started to smile and then one day, someone laughed and with that one, the others followed.

What is joy if one could not share it? The harlequin himself felt joy that he had never felt before and with that joy, his dreams of his phantom love went away. In its place, another dream came. He dreamt of the woods beyond the village, dark yet welcoming, full of shadows, yet lighted and peaceful. It called to him like a lover, caressing his sleep and warming his bed, coming to him each night with a taste of paradise (hmmm... we don't have a 'paradise' concept specifically in Caelereth) . Then one day, unable to bear it any longer, he took his leave from the village and went on his journey to seek the woods. They were sad to see him go but bade him 'fare well!',  for from him, they had received the gift of laughter, more precious to them than fruits of labour.

The closer he got to the woods, the more intense the dreams and it drove him to seek the woods with growing anticipation. He had no idea what it was that was calling him save that he had to go and seek. The journey was not long but for the pining soul, it felt twice as long and rest was only a source of frustration.

The woods were dark and menacing, not at all welcoming the way his dreams made it out to be. In the nights, the shadows danced and the trees that surrounded him with their far-reaching branches, filling his heart with fear, made bearable only by the thought of what was beyond. In the nights, there were lights that beckoned within the liminal (? luminescent? linear? minimal?  :confused  ) spaces between trees and along with these lights, voices called. It was with great restraint that he did not leave the path, lighted as well but dim almost to the point of invisibility. On the seventh night, he came to a copse of trees where for once, the moon shone through in a direct beam of light, coming to rest in a circular shape directly in the cleared centre.   He knew at once what he was to do and in that circle of light, he danced. He poured his heart and emptied his soul, filling his steps with all the years of pain and loneliness, each move more emotive than the last till it climaxed in his parents’ death and with his eyes closed, he lay on the ground, finally exhausted from all the years of dancing and puppeting.

When he opened his eyes, he saw her, she who was the dream that had haunted him for most of his life, looking at him with a smile upon her pale but beautiful face. In her hands she held the female harlequin doll and to him, she said, “I have been waiting for you a long time. I have always been here and I have always known you, seeing you the way you see me, in my mind and in my dreams. Like you, I was doomed to wait for the other that had the doll, paying a debt that was given to me by my parents. The wood is my home and in it, I am not confined by time, sustained by what the wood could provide. I had to wait for the day that you learnt to love that which was outside your own despair and beyond a selfish desire to find me only for the sake of breaking the curse. You had to love me not for the prophecy but for myself and now that you have, the curse has ended.” With that, she took his hand and they crossed over the clearing (together, dancing) away from the dark and into the light.

______________________________

As he ended the story, the old woodworker slipped into his own world, staring at the harlequin doll and then closing his eyes as if trying to hold on to the magic that he had woven for a little while longer. The silence was pregnant, filled with meaning and if I may say, magic. Not wishing to rupture the moment, I quietly got up and slid into the street and away into the night for the story had run beyond the setting of the sun.  

Some questions are not meant to be asked and not all stories can be explained. In my heart, I thanked the woodworker for his story but as to why the harlequin meant so much to him, I left it unspoken. Stories are better when you do not know everything that led to its creation and sometimes we have to be content to leave it as that, believing that all stories find their own place and time as it always is in the magical ways of the world.



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"Give me a land of boughs in leaf /  a land of trees that stand; / where trees are fallen there is grief; /  I love no leafless land."   --A.E. Housman
 
Elendilwyn
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« Reply #11 on: 16 February 2006, 21:59:00 »

Thanks Judith... Sorry for chasing you. We missed you. Haha. Anyway, the changes are wonderful. :hug   Will get down to editing it once I get back from Washington since I am going to have to leave behind my dear computer from tomorrow onwards.

I just wanted to say that liminal is a word, though not as commonly used. A liminal space is a space that is used to connote an in-between kind of place. For example, limbo, the place between death and life is liminal. Likewise, a liminal state could be the time when you are neither awake nor asleep. It does have a supernatural feel to it but such states or places can very well exist in reality. I chose that word because I was thinking of a wood where time was not linear and not definable since it lay outside time and therefore, the spaces in-between the trees where shadows dance are likely to be liminal spaces.

I guess that's all for now :D  

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« Reply #12 on: 16 February 2006, 23:55:00 »

Great!  Glad to have been of some assistance... in a mentorly sort of way (she says, her voice becoming abashed during the latter half of the sentence) and overdue at that...

And thank you for the addition to an already over-stuffed vocabulary; I was not familiar with 'liminal', lovely word that it is.  

As you've defined it, the usage is completely appropriate - however, it's a rare bird which sits ill in the nest with its sparrow-common fellows (if I may be permitted to stretch a metaphor) and so sings somewhat out of tune.  

If your writing were denser - not necessarily a positive or negative btw - it would be less out-of-place.  I probably would have missed it altogether in a piece of Coren's, for example!  (grins cheekily at Coren, who knows the Bard loves him...)   However, given the wistful, elegant simplicity of your style in this story, perhaps a less arcane word choice?

Ah, well, I leave it in your hands - which do not require holding.   I must say it's a delight having such a competent 'apprentice' who will no doubt graduate with honours in short order.  Bravo again for this lovely piece!


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"Give me a land of boughs in leaf /  a land of trees that stand; / where trees are fallen there is grief; /  I love no leafless land."   --A.E. Housman
 
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« Reply #13 on: 17 February 2006, 09:32:00 »

*Elen blushes and shuffles her feet staring at the floor* Well...

What you said makes perfect sense. I never saw that problem with the language... see, I need a mentor to point it out. Will find another word for it.

*Elen goes off to find a dictionary*

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« Reply #14 on: 17 February 2006, 15:04:00 »

Don't know if you can find the time to go through Judy's comments before Sunday or before you leave, Elen, but if so, the story could already be added in this week's update:)  


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