his was one of the rare days, when the children could not wait till Injèrá was setting and the night began. The night they were allowed to stay up for long, sitting around a burning fire and amidst them Aileen, the greatest storyteller ever - they were convinced. Aileen wasn‘t mainly a storyteller. She was a Baveras Aid who had, despite her age, chosen to travel around and not to settle down in a village somewhere in Santharia or with a group of Shendar nomads as most others did it. She was still too restless. And too fond of telling myths and stories about her Goddess, the victories and defeats she had when fighting with her kind - and about the never ending love story between Baveras and Grothar. But sometimes she told stories about other Gods as well - as it was the case today in this Shendar Dome in the middle of the Raház-Dáth.
Making herself comfortable on a warm blanket out of the wool of the aka‘pi, she prepares herself to tell her audience another of her tales. The children try to sit as near as possible, the adults settle down a bit farer away.
"Before I start with my tale," Aileen begins, "I would like to know from you, who has already travelled the road from Bardavos to Uderza after the first frost?"
"Me, me and me!" a few excited children shout.
"And have you noticed anything special while passing the cliffs near Occen‘s Lookout?"
"Oh yes," a girl answers. "You surely mean the False Heart growing there! When it turns bright red in autumn after the first frost, you can spot the place even from the hills behind Uderza on a clear day!"
"Yes, my dear, you are a good observer. Maybe you know already, that the False Heart has other names as well, Bleeding Heart, or Burning Heart. Not so well known is another name, Belmira's Hair. Has anyone of you an idea, from where this name derives?"
This time Aileen gets only shaking heads to see.
"Now, my darlings," Aileen addresses the young ones. "Today you must be brave, because I will tell you a tale of desire, love, betrayal and death. The story of Belmira." She clears her voice, takes a sip of the mil‘no tea and begins:
"It was long ago, when the races, especially the humans were still young, that a beautiful human woman lived on Caelereth. Her body was well built, her face lovely, her eyes of a deep green with golden spots in it, but nothing was as beautiful as her hair. It was slightly curled and very long, reaching nearly down to her feet, floating around her like a golden coat. And golden it was, shimmering and glaring like mithril in the night, but with a red hue by day. When the sun shone onto it, it seemed to burn, so vivid was it, like golden-red flames dancing around her. Her name was Belmira.
One day, she caught the attention of Etherus."
Aileen pauses, the eyes of the children hanging on her lips.
"Can anyone of you tell me, who Etherus is?"
The younger ones look a bit perplexed, asking with big eyes for an answer, Etherus isn‘t very known her in Shendar domes. But one of the older boys looks at Aileen for her attention.
"Yes, Severin, tell us, who Etherus is," she asks him.
"Etherus is one of the twelve gods, and his element is fire as is Foiros‘ and water Baveras‘, and he is the god of..of...excess." Seems even Jeremy has problems with this word.
"Very good, my boy, and can you tell our little ones here, what that is, excess?"
"Well," Severine hesitates, but then carries on. "Excess is if you want too much from anything, if you use more water than you need, if you carry on eating though you had already more than enough, if you..." - there he stops again, but continues shortly after - "if you want to have more women than just your companion in life, and that very often."
"Very well said, Severine, though this is not the only realm excess can exist, it isn‘t restricted to the body alone. Good, I could tell you now more about Etherus, why he is called the treacherous as well, but this would be another story. Let me tell you the story about Etherus and Belmira first....
The first time Etherus saw Belmira was when the Injèrá was setting and in this very moment her hair seemed all fire. He thought first she was a kind of a fire demon, but when he came nearer and saw her perfect body, her lovely face and beautiful eyes, he fell immediately in love with her. His desire to hold her in his arms and be able to caress this silken hair was so burning, that he couldn‘t eat, nor drink, nor sleep nor do anything else from this moment on. He didn‘t cease from her side and because he himself was a real vision of a man in her eyes, it didn‘t take long till they became lovers."
Aileen takes a sip of tea, there is no other noise heard than the pouring of another cup after she emptied her first. Then she continues.
"The two had a good time, for Belmira was as devoted to enjoy life to the full as Etherus is. So they spent their days with eating as much of the best dishes you can imagine , drinking the best wines till they fell asleep in each other arms, riding out till their horses broke down under them and if they lost interest in any of these distractions, they lay together enjoying each other's body.
It is not known how long this went on, but one day, Etherus longed for something new and he was gone when Belmira woke up in the morning. She wasn‘t annoyed, because she had felt herself, that though she had a gorgeous life with Etherus, the worm of boredom had begun to gnaw on their distractions in a hidden corner. Gladly she took some rest and when Etherus came back after a few days, they enjoyed each others company even more - till the next departure of Etherus.
Etherus and Belmira were a pair which fit very well together, both with their desire, their lust and love for excess. So it is surely no surprise, that one day, when Etherus was away, a handsome young man caught Belmira's eye. Her desire to feel his arms around her inflamed her and not having learned to restrict herself she immediately tried to seduce the young man. Pretending to love him dearly she ensnared him and who can resist a woman like Belmira? She took him as a lover, but not for long."
Aileen pauses to have some more tea, looks over her audience - and sighs.
"When Etherus got notice what had happened, he was furious. There was no thought, that he had had other women in the time Belmira was with this man, but he was so raging in his wrath as he was loving in his desire, that his ire got beyond the scope of sanity. He killed the man immediately, while Belmira tried to flee and hide in a cave. But Etherus found her, seized her and smashed her body on the steep rock of a mountain wall."
An outcry goes through the young audience, not used to hear such cruel stories from Aileen, wide eyes are looking at her and hands hide open mouths. Aileen goes on telling her story.
"However, Foiros, the God of Justice, intervened - Belmira had done nothing else than Etherus himself. He didn‘t prevent the extinction of her body though, but he allowed her to life on forever - in the False Heart. On the place where her body was killed a beautiful climber began to grow which soon covered the whole wall and spread from there over the whole of Caelereth."
It is quiet in the dome, nobody dares to be the one to break the silence, till the smallest of the children, a little girl called Jeremy raises her voice and asks:
"And why is this plant called False Heart?"
All are looking at her and she cuddles close to the next bigger girl, a little bit scared and surprised about herself. Aileen takes the tension out of the air by smiling at her.
"Good question, little one!" she assures her. "Does anyone of you want to answer this?" she asks the bigger children. But noone dares to say something, so Aileen continues.
"Well, let‘s start with an easier question. Why is the False Heart called Belmira's Hair or Burning Heart or Bleeding Heart?"
"That is easy!" Aerith, the girl sitting next to Jeremy says: "The False Heart is red when the frost has touched it and is falling down the cliff as Belmira's Hair was red and falling down her back. The other two meanings are easily explained as well. The leaves of the heart are shaped like a heart and red as the burning fire or red as blood in autumn. The heart we have in False Heart as well..."
Severine is clearing his throat: "Maybe the Heart is called false because Belmira was false to this man she pretended to love but didn‘t. She wanted him without giving him her true love. But if she would have loved him, she would have been false to Etherus....."
Aileen is smiling, these children are so bright and attentive. "Very well said, Severine. Belmira was false in her relation to this young man she met. But, and there people wrong her, when they think she was false to Etherus as well. She was not, she acted just as he did when having a lover beside him. But nowadays people often don‘t want to see this and say, she was turned into a False Heart because she betrayed Etherus."
"Aileen, Aileen! Was Etherus punished for killing Belmira?" Jeremy wants to know.
"No, my dear, Etherus is a God and Belmira was just a human woman. Who should punish a God? But..." Aileen looks at her audience. "It is said that Etherus had punished himself by killing her, because he never found another woman again with whom he had so much fun as with Belmira - and so he is still longing for her - and you can hear him calling her in the winter when the wind blows through the frozen red leaves of Belmira's Hair."
Story written by Talia Sturmwind