THE STONE MAIDEN

A SANTHARIAN FAIRY TALE

 
Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations   
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Introduction. If you only look careful enough, you can find a sleeping beauty made entirely of stone in the ancient woods of the Aellenrhím elves. It's a serene place there for an eternal rest, with the babbling waters of a brook, chirping birds and luxuriant vegetation. But how did the Stone Maiden end up there, and what might she be dreaming? Well, once upon a time, there was a young giantess...

 

ut in the Bolder, the ancient woods of the Aellenrhím elves, which among scholars is also known as the “Forest of Wisdom”, one may happen upon many an odd sight. Like trees growing in perfect circles, or small temporary streams that cut through the landscape in summer time when the snow of the nearby mountain peaks melts away. Arcane shrines can be found hidden deep within the underbrush, and a curious kind of labyrinthine thicket covers many places. One of the most fascinating sights may be spotted on the wood’s eastern border, upon following the Undunn, a small rivulet that travels south coming from the northern mountains. There you come across a rocky passage through which the stream winds itself, and along one of the many creeks leading into the Undunn – if you search long enough, that is – you may see her. The exact site is hard to find, but she’s still there, trust me, peacefully resting, and she has done so for a long, long time.
 

The Stone Maiden

View picture in full size Image description. The Stone Maiden as she can be found on the eastern border of the Bolder Forest. Illustration drawn by Morjer.

She, that’s Ajellda, the Stone Maiden, as the locals call her by now, the sleeping beauty of the forest. The way she’s lying in midst of the trees, the babbling brooks and the chirping birds, it appears she's at peace with herself and the whole world around, and nothing can disturb her slumber. Quite a beautiful, delicate girl she is, made entirely out of stone rather than of flesh and blood; and because of the fact that her head is five times the size of a regular human’s, she’s bound to make quite an impression on unsuspecting trespassers. Look careful though if you want to get a glimpse of her, for the body is buried in moss, only her shoulders, arms and face are to be made out clearly, and only if you free it from the overgrowth: So if you’re looking for her, watch out for the maiden's head, which is resting on the side of a mound, snuggling against some rocks, her arm serving as a pillow. The brook's fresh water keeps flowing over her side, falling down in tiny, yet lively waterfalls as if it were her actual hair. There's no doubt that Ajellda's features are indeed recognizable in the rock face – face and hands are much more than the product of just coincidentally shaped fissures. Some say, a sculptor must have tried his chisel on the stone, inspired by an unusual rock formation. Well, believe what you like. But there's another explanation, so let me relate to you the following story:

There once lived a giant and a giantess in a vale of the southern Úrna'cáey Mountains. As it so happened, they came together one day, and from their love sprang a child – and they were overjoyed! Offsprings, you should know, are very rare among giants, and thus the new parents were contended at first that they had been blessed with a daughter. Alas, what happened was that the little giantess grew to be a truly gorgeous creature – gorgeous at least in the eyes of other folk aside the parents’ own race, likes elves, halflings and men, hence the ‘alas’. For shapeliness and grace aren't particularly common traits among giants, quite to the contrary: they elicit suspicion! So it came that even the girl’s own father and mother were increasingly concerned and looked at her only daughter with pity; her size aside, she didn’t appear like one of their kind at all: The little giantess’ skin wasn't as rough as theirs, her teeth had turned out to grow evenly, the nose was round and soft, the hair thick and flowing, and while her parents loved her very much, the young giantess felt more and more like an outcast among others of her kind.

“She’s almost like the little ones,” one of the giant elders would say, disgusted, referring to the humans of course. – “Indeed,” another instantly agreed. “If we didn’t know any better, I would doubt she’s the child of two giants at all!” That was uttered by a half-ogre by the way, himself a half-breed, but ugly enough to still be considered a proper giant. – “There must be something wrong with her mother!” someone else suggested. "Maybe she suffers from a rare illness? Anyway, it's so tragic!" – “What if the little one’s children will too turn out that way?” the next raised his voice. However, these concerns were quickly brushed aside with the remark: “With looks like these no giant in the world will take you as his wife!” – But it all culminated in an old crone croaking belligerently: “Cursed she is, that child! Cursed! And if we let her walk amongst us, we play along with that foul magic, wherever it hails from! Are we willing to let that happen?” As you can see, superstition, fear and mistrust reign not only in human gossip, but are as common and no less hurtful where mighty giants dwell.

The once happy parents were saddened by all this, and made a hurtful decision: Moving away from the cave they lived in, they settled at the other side of the mountains, away from all the tattle, the bad mouthing and the back-stabbing. Though it wasn't an easy life there for the three of them, all alone, separated from the other giants.

However, the young giantess also made unexpected friends because of this. Finally she got to know those little people to which others have always compared her: Human villages were just a short distance away from where they had settled – at least in a giant's terms – and so the young giantess once came across a host of children playing in a glade. Innocent, light-hearted and untroubled as children are, they took the big girl in their circle, thinking nothing of it. After all she had a child’s heart and mind like any other boy or girl, and together they enjoyed doing things most little ones enjoy doing. In fact, all the children envied the newcomer for her stupendous size, which made her so special. – "Can you see as far as the sea from up there?" they would ask. – "Sure I can," the little giantess answered, for if she climbed on a hill she was even larger than a full-grown tree! "I see the sea, and ships sailing on it, and a lighthouse on the coast... And along the southern street I see vast plains, littered with windmills, and then more windmills, and way in the distance there’s sparkling dome of what must be a temple…" Brimming with excitement the children beseeched her new friend to pick them up and let them overlook the forest from above as well. Readily the little giantess obliged and showed them what she saw, and everyone was merry.

Alas – aye, there is that word again! –, alas, these good times lasted only for a very short while. You see, the children eagerly told their parents about their new giant friend. While their elders at first dismissed the children’s bragging about riding on a giantess' shoulder as products of their vivid imagination, they eventually found out that it was true. Frightfully so! Which put an end to all the fun. "Giants are no friends of ours!" the little ones were told. "They may crush any of you in an instant, even unwittingly – they wouldn't even notice! If they so choose they might even wipe out whole villages! Giants live in caves, are mean-spirited and treacherous, which includes their little ones – why else would such a brute lure you to play with her if she doesn't have vile plans in her despicable mind?" – "But she's a little girl like us," the other little girls would argue. "Only much bigger! And she just wants to play!" – "What do you human children know about what giants like to play with?" their parents however reprimanded them. "To her you must be nothing but tiny dolls she can order around. To a giant you're like one of those carved wooden figurines you play with or the tin soldiers your fathers brought home from Voldar. Now we've seen what you do when you get angry: You throw your toys against the wall! Just imagine what would happen if a giant gets irate!"

Thereupon the children were forbidden to play with the young giantess. When the giant parents heard of all this they sighed. The girl’s father even agreed that meeting human children probably wasn't the right thing to do – after all she was a giant, and who knew? To which the mother objected, but it mattered little. So what had once begun as a child-blessed union now turned sour, and the little giantess was caught up in the middle. She had lost her former giant friends, thereafter her little ones and now whenever she was home in the cave there were discord and arguments.

Is it any surprise that the beautiful young giantess loathed to spend time back home in the cave? Instead she went out in the woods all by herself, and often she sat down with her back to a tree and wept uncontrollably, overcome by her feelings. The only comfort she found was in the carefree songs of the birds. She used to listen and smile at the jaunty chirping and whistling, and her feathered comrades quite liked that; sometimes they came in whole flocks to sing a concert just for her. And as the birds came, so did the does, the raccoons and the beavers, marvelling about the fascinatingly different creature that she was, something so unusual to be found in their forest! They didn't ask themselves whether she was gorgeous, homely or ugly, for they were neither giants nor men and didn't have an opinion one way or the other.

And yet, the little giantess felt that she missed another life the way she lived hers now. Aye, how she longed for being smaller, how she longed for being a human child! Her looks were no different to humans anyway, and the children from the village had made her feel so welcome, that her heart ached now when she thought about them. Right now they might be playing out somewhere in the yard without her, laughing and cheering, having fun, she thought. Thoughts like these reminded her how lonely she was. While the birds and the animals of the forest succeeded in cheering up the little giantess again and again, her melancholy prevailed in the end, and she felt more and more worn-out and listless, wishing her life would just end, quietly and peacefully, and that nobody would ever hear from her again.

One day when the little giantess trudged through the woods with her heart full of sorrow and gloom, she heard subdued sounds of flowing water not too far away. Indeed, nearby she found a place with a babbling creek, and it felt placid and serene. Thereupon her feet came to a halt, and she listened to the soothing murmur of the water for a while, for it calmed her soul so much. High up in the trees singing birds were chuntering away in the afternoon sun, and as she was tired, the girl lay down on the mossy bed to take a rest.

Exhausted by the long walk, the little giantess at last fell into a deep, deep sleep. It would turn out to be a sleep blessed by a dream of eerie beauty:
 

The Dream of Ajellda

View picture in full size Image description. The Dream of Ajellda. Illustration drawn by Morjer.

As she had done all day with her eyes open, now that she was asleep the giantess dreamed of being a little girl too, a little human girl. She dreamed that she wasn't special at all, rather that she was like every other human child: a girl with friends to play with and parents that accepted her and took care of her. As a human girl she was small, her teeth grew evenly, the nose was round, the skin soft and her hair long, thick and flowing – and there was nothing wrong with any of that. She also had her very own bed, which was as tiny as herself, and she dreamed herself right into it, snuggling against a fluffy pillow, tucked in her favorite blanket. It made her feel safe, cozy and warm and forget all her sorrows…

The little giantess dreamed that even her dreams became just like a little human girl's. So she imagined that the rough charcoal drawings she had made and put on her bedside table became part of what she dreamed: like the rough houses she had drawn, the little turrets, the hills, the fir trees, the brook and the wooden bridge leading over it. As she dreamed on, it appeared to her as if she was bedded in midst of that very landscape she had been sketching the whole afternoon; and those buildings and trees she felt, began weighing on her, for the more she dreamed the more they seemed to be spread all over the blanket she was so comfortably wrapped in. A strange understanding overcame the girl that she must not get up, lest she'd tip over everything that was so carefully sitting on the bulges in the cloth. So now that the cloth had turned into real mounds, she kept still and sank deeper and deeper into the sweet land of dreams…

The next moment the little girl found herself in front of her bed. Yet she was also still lying on it as well, sleeping soundly. ‘What a strange dream,’ she thought, but then felt an urge to move on. With a final glance back at her resting self she turned around, feeling drawn towards something she couldn't quite fathom. She left behind her sleeping shadow, and headed outside, right through the wall she travelled as if there was nothing to it. In the yard then she saw children playing, having fun, enjoying each others company, and the girl smiled heartily when she passed them. However, on she drifted, for on she had to go for whatever dreamy reason, past houses, hills, turrets and trees she floated, along a river, over a bridge... On and on she travelled, into the woods, deep, deep down into the woods...

Which was where she stopped.

She stood in front of a peculiar stone with a symbol on it she had never seen before. The engraved pattern described a spiral of sorts, and from it, so she sensed, emanated a strange, oddly fascinating power that was luring and repelling at the same time. It must have been some kind of magical force, so strong that it almost hurt her when she drew closer – and so the little girl backed off from it again, fearing it might harm her.

As the dreameress retreated, she startled. Just beneath the mysterious sign there it was, clear as day: the stone face. Resting on the side of a mound, snuggling against some rocks, her arm serving as a pillow, were the distinct features of a girl: the Stone Maiden. A brook's fresh water kept flowing over her side, falling down in tiny, yet lively waterfalls as if it were her actual hair...

The little girl just stood there, frozen as she saw the face, not only because it all of a sudden had appeared in the middle of nowhere, no, it was not only that. It was also because she recognized it: The face was her own.

So, my dear listeners, goes the story of the Stone Maiden. How do we know about all this, I hear you ask? – Well, not from the young giantess, for she never woke again. Most of it was related to us by a little girl by the name of Ajellda from Roseacre, a village quite a distance south of the Bolder. The rest was pieced together from local stories. But it all started with Ajellda: It was she who told her father about a bewildering dream of hers, which she considered a nightmare, and being a scribe who kept a diary, her father committed everything to paper, for he too found it unusual and mysterious. Maybe there was some deeper meaning to it all, he thought, and vowed to investigate the matter. And so he did.

The writer searched for references to ancient rune covered stones and – lo and behold! – they existed indeed! One day, almost by accident, he came upon a tome that talked about the legendary elven dream stones, which matched his daughter's account with amazing precision. Dream stones, so it was written, are relicts of the light elves from times of yore; how they work exactly is shrouded in mystery, but they may fulfill one's heartfelt wishes if they so choose, however, often this comes with a price...

Had our writer only known about that stone face in the Bolder! Well, he hadn't, and though he believed firmly that there was more to his daughter's dream than a child's vivid imagination, it would last decades until an attentive reader, a sage from Voldar by the name of Halvar, found this peculiar dream mentioned in a footnote in one of the scribe's works. Having heard about the Bolder's mysterious sleeping beauty, it was he who finally connected the dots. Up he went to northern Vardýnn on his mission to seek proof. Crossing the Undunn rivulet, past turrets, hills and fir trees the sage travelled, eagerly looking for one of the small river’s feeding brooks. Even the voyage reminded the sage of the girl's dream! Halvar found the famous Stone Maiden alright, and once he had cleared her overgrown face from the luxuriant vegetation, he uncovered what he was looking for: the rune that marked the ancient dream stone.

Since then the Stone Maiden has also been known by the name of Ajellda. Even though it must in fact be the giantess who is still lying there somewhere in the wood’s eastern border of the Bolder. Yet the giantess' name has been lost in the sands of time, as if she had never existed. And you know, in a way, that was what she had wished for. But somehow both seem to be still alive: the little girl and the one who wanted to be just exactly that, nothing more – a little girl. Even if we cannot fully grasp what wondrous wizardry the dream stone wrought, the Stone Maiden has remained as a testament that ancient elven magic still exists in our world. And it serves as a reminder that dreams sometimes do become reality, albeit for a price…
 


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Fairy tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile