HEART'S DESIRE
BY TALIA STURMWIND


This story tells us about the heart‘s desire of a young elf of the Maeverhim, a tribe who lives high in the canopy of the Sharadon Forest, whose members never touch the ground and those few who do are shunned...

"What is love? Not to tether your heart‘s desire." (Shendar Lore)


is feet never touched the ground.

Dreaming high in a coastal redwood he looked out over the lands in the South, wondering what secrets they might harbour. Far reached his eye, for the tree he had chosen as his favourite place grew at the south-western edge of the Sharadon, his home forest.

Teliko was the name of the young elf; he often came to this place to look out over the vast Narfost Plain, to observe the aj‘nuvics grazing and the oracau hunting. Sometimes, though rarely, people were crossing the plain, Shendar riding on their beloved animals or travellers from towns far beyond the horizon. But being a Maeverhim and grown up in the lofty heights of the forest he had never had the opportunity to climb down nor the desire to see these things himself. Sometimes he had dreamt to be able to gaze at the wonders of the Town of Thousand Blooms which lay across the Bay, but these were only childish wishes and as he had grown older he had visited this tree to a lesser extent. But then came a time when he was sitting in this place daily and he wished he had wings to fly over the land like the desert aguia.

The cause of this unusual desire had dark hair with a spark of the Injèrá‘s fire in it and dreamy grey eyes which let him think at mists hanging between the trees. Her face was heart shaped and her skin white, though slightly tanned; hands and feet were covered with the most intricate brown pattern he had ever seen. With her slender frame and a light step she seemed to float over the ground and not to touch it at all. Her movements in the trees were not very gracious, for she was not used to walk in airy heights, but by then he was already enthralled by her beauty, so that he didn‘t notice it anymore. Her name was At‘anua, "light of the early morning".

 

She had been a visitor, a gifted apprentice of Grothar as he was one and since the human tribe living in the southern desert had good relations to the elves of the Sharadon, she had come to watch and learn what only the elves knew about the worship of Grothar. Three long months they had prayed together,had sat together in meditation, blessed with the ability to gather clouds and let it rain when the sky was blue or to catch a wind and direct it to chase the clouds away again. Three long months, and they had passed so quickly. He had kissed her, when she went away to return to her people, and she had kissed him back, a surprised look in her eyes. Then she had smiled at him, so lovely, oh so lovely. And he had lost his heart to a woman who was earthburned.

Now he sat in his tree and looked over the lands in the south, wondering what secrets they might harbour. Of one he knew by now, and his heart was there. And with it came the desire to fly over the lands, to see the sea of golden dunes she had told him of, to look at the splendours of the lakes which lay like jewels in the dry desert and to hear the thunder of the water which filled the air over the Sharadon Falls. And, that was his greatest wish, to see her again, to at least be able to watch her if he couldn‘t kiss her or hold her tight. But he saw no path he could take to realise his dreams, for he was Maeverhim and touching the ground meant to become earthburned and to be expelled from his tribe, from his beloved forest.

As the days passed he kept on dreaming and wishing and fancying unthinkable things: If only he could fly! If he could fly he would boom over the treeless land and see what he now could only imagine. He would soar like the aguia high in the air and search his prey. He would rush down and catch his love and lift her up in the blue sky and carry her back to the forest. If only he could fly!

And he buried his head in his arms and if the tears would have come, he might have been relieved, but his eyes stayed dry and his desire hot and he saw no use in living without her any more. But Teliko was a faithful young man and so he brought his misery before his god. Those who are despairing and calling out for help, those who believe truly in their gods get their wishes granted - sometime. Having bared his soul to Grothar, he felt better. The next day he went to his mentor, the oldest priest of Grothar within the Sharadon and told him about the burden he carried. The old elf had a gentle heart and was a wise man. He had watched his apprentice and knew, that no words would help to soothe the burning soul and that unfulfilled love could well search for Queprur‘s arms. Teliko had to learn for himself, that he had to decide what he wanted, this woman and her love, or his live with his tribe within the forest - and that he couldn‘t have both. So he visited the young man the next day and brought him a present. It was a long robe, its colours changed from Santhran violet to waterberry blue, depending on how the sun shone onto it. A white rim framed it and white waterstars ran along its edge. He put it slowly around the shoulders of the young man, closed the brooch on his chest and said to him:

"Teliko, this robe I give to you today is not a present I hand you over with a light heart. It is more a burden than a gift and I hope, it will not be the cause of more sorrow and distress. Close the brooch and with this robe you will be able to fly if you wish it dearly. But keep in mind one thing: Life does not grant you all your wish. More often you have to decide where your heart‘s desire lies. "

Teliko was stunned, he was grateful and confused at the same time. To see the possibility that his wishes suddenly could be realised filled him with great joy but caused anxiety as well, fear of what would happen if he used the robe. To be able to take his destiny in his own hands filled him with awe.

He didn‘t rush in this adventure, but spent some days with prayer and meditation till he left the canopy of trees far below him and took of into the sky. Once used to the robe, he felt nothing than blitheness. He saw the aj‘nuvics grazing on the Narfost Plain, the oracau hunting and travellers traversing the grassland. The Kyn‘shi‘Kri River glittered in the Injèrá‘s rays to the right, he crossed the Sharadon river and admired the huge waterfalls, he watched the waters of the Déra‘mar vanishing into the sands of the wide desert which spread under him. Here it was, the sea of golden dunes, seemingly endless stretching like her blue sister to the east. And there in the far distance the snow covered top of a volcano shimmered of which he knew only from tales. It was like a dream, he felt no hunger and no thirst, weightlessly he aviated and he felt like he could stay there forever. But then he saw a tiny spark on the ground hidden behind a huge dune and when he came nearer the jewels of the Ráhaz-Dáth presented themselves in their most magnificent dresses. The lakes glistered and glared and sparkled in the bright sun as if their only purpose was to delight the eye of an airborne elf.

The gemstones beneath him however reminded him of the jewel of his heart. Now, that the splendour of the world had overwhelmed him, he felt confident, that what he had planned was the right thing to do, all doubts had left him and he knew he would succeed.

And succeed he did, though the way he managed to do it was less glamourous as he had anticipated. He did find the domes At‘anua had told him of, he found the right lake where she lived and he did find her. But in order not to touch the earth while looking out for her and deciding about the right time to abduct her, he had to sit on and to hide in a dar‘ii tree and we all know, that this tree has quite some nice and long thorns. However, nothing could hold him back and so when he saw his chance coming, he snatched his love and took off in the air with her. First At‘anua struggled a bit, but then she kept quiet and held him tight as he embraced her - be it out of fear to fall or because she was happy to be close to him? She never would have talked about it.

The robe being a magical robe was not bound to the limits of birds or even dragons what the flying concerns, and so it took only a short time till both were back in the Sharadon.

‚The young lovers were married soon and from there on they lived in peace, raised many children and were happy to serve as priests of Grothar within the forest till Queprur called them and if they haven‘t died yet they still live on.‘

At least this was how Teliko had imagined his future with At‘anua. And so he was taken aback quite a bit when his heart‘s desire did not act as he had anticipated. She did not lay her arms around his neck and draw him near, she did not kiss him long and tenderly, she did not weep out of joy that he had come and brought her back to his beloved forest, she did not smile at him as sweetly and lovingly as she had done before she left. No. She disengaged from his grip, stepped back carefully on the high and lofty pathway, looked for something to hold onto and then gazed at him with no loving nor lovely face and her first sentence she said to him was:

" What do you think who you are to hijack me and bereave me of my family, my aj and the sands I love?"

His illusions splattered like a soap-bubble. He couldn‘t believe it. Bewildered he sat down on the path in front of her and was barely able to stutter a few words:

"But you are my heart‘s desire, I love you more than anything else!"

At‘anua was still furious and so she just said with a cool voice:

"Do you know what love means? Not to tether your heart‘s desire."

And then she turned away from him and went to look for the old priest who had been her mentor at the time she lived in the Sharadon to deepen her relation to Grothar.

Teliko‘s dreams were broken in pieces and looking out for a comforting place he climbed the tree which had served him so often as a lookout. But this time he didn‘t see the aj‘nuvics grazing nor the oracau hunting nor the travellers crossing the plain, for tears streamed down his face till finally some time after Darkreign he fell asleep, exhausted from his inner turmoil.

At‘anua‘s feelings were not less disturbed than Teliko‘s. She had fallen in love with this tall gentle elf as well when they had studied together, but never had she imagined that a man from a long lived and noble race would take to a mere human girl. So she had hidden her feelings well and when he had kissed her the last day, she hdn‘t believed it could be meant seriously. When back home, she had tried to forget this elf, though it seemed to be an impossible task. Her dreams at night had been filled with Teliko and often she had imagined him being close to her at daytime as well. She had not been without help though; her true companion, her aj‘nuvic Desertwind had comforted her, when the pain in her heart seemed to be unbearable. With the time she had mastered her desires. She was a strong Shendar woman with a clear mind and knew when wishes were not to come true and so she had banned her love from her daily life and had buried it deep in her heart.

The morning Teliko had come to carry her away and back to his home she had doubted her senses. First she had thought she must have gone crazy with love, but it had all ben too real, she had seen the domes vanishing and what was the worst, her aj‘nuvic crying out in fear. At the time they had reached the Sharadon her mind had been clear again, her love buried deep in her heart and her rage in high gear. How could he dare to take her away from her family without asking her? How could he dare to separate her from her Desertwind? How could he... - In all his dreams the young elf had not considered, that he was about to abduct a young, self-confident and self-determinated girl from a tribe where the women proposed a marriage.

At‘anua‘s anger was nearly gone when she found the old cleric. He welcomed her, invited her into his home and after hours of talking she came to a decision. She would stay here, with Teliko, would give their love a chance - if his people would accept her. Her desire, buried deep inside her, had broken its weak chains and was back stronger than before. His looks when he had been sitting at the path before her confessing his love to her had brought back all her feelings for him and her anger with which she tried to fend him off had merely been a blunt weapon.

So when the Injèrá‘s first rays touched the tops of the highest trees in the forest she went back to look out for Teliko. Knowing of this tree she found him quickly. There he lay and even in his sleep his face was not peaceful but showed his sorrow. Bending down she touched his cheeks tenderly to wipe away the moistness. Had he wept in his sleep? The sun‘s rays conquered the forest and when they hit the place where Teliko had spent the night, he awoke. And the first thing he saw was At‘anua leaning close to him on the trunk of the tree and watching him, the early rays of the sun caressing her figure. He quickly rose to a sitting position and stared at her, but was unable to utter a single word.

It was not easy for At‘anua either to start a conversation, but after several times of lowering her eyes to the floor, then looking into his eyes and avoiding them again she managed finally to say:
"I‘m sorry, I should not have been so angry with you yesterday, but I‘m a woman of the Shendar and I‘m not used to be treated like a sack of old tuberroots. You should have asked me to come with you."
"At‘anua, my light of the early morning!" was all he answered.
There was not much more to say, they looked at each other and the next was a kiss so long that a food-gathering varcosparrow took them for a part of that tree and sat on Teliko‘s shoulder till it realised some unusual movement. And after that they did what all lovers do and we won‘t describe it in detail.

They got soon married and were happy with each other, though the restrictions laid upon the couple made the young wife sad at times. At‘anua was welcomed in the elven tribe, for she was a gifted cleric of Grothar by now - and the Maeverhim worshipped Grothar most of all gods of the Aviaría How could they have not allowed her in her midst? But she was seen as a Maeverhim now - and therefore not allowed to leave the lofty canopy of the forest. Seeing her family, walking with bare feet through the warm sands in the evening, enjoying a cool bath in the lakes - all that was not possible any more. Her family did not even know, what had happened to her, that she was still alive.

The first year of their marriage went by and the human woman looked as beautiful as ever, her smile was as lovely as it had been when Teliko had seen it for the first time. But he felt, that something was wrong with his wife. Her skin was not as tanned as it used to be, but that made her even more attractive to him, her frame had become more lithe and while she had seemed to float over the ground when he met her once, she walked now the hanging bridges with grace and used the swinging robes as easily as any elf. But there was something missing and he didn‘t know what. It was her beautiful, reassuring, affectionate and happy laugh. He hadn‘t heard it for a long time now.

At‘anua loved her elven husband dearly. He was her heart‘s desire. She had never thought, that such an illimitable devotion was possible. But the biggest love is not immune against the small and bigger inconveniences of life.
At‘anua, as a daughter of the desert suffered under the often wet and chilly weather in the forest. She knew frost and had experienced snow as well, but though she loved the mists in the trees, she could not adapt to the moisture. The elves were friendly and helpful towards her - but she missed the hearty laughter of her sisters and mothers which often filled the domes, she craved for the traditional sitting around a blazing fire in the night with the sparkling stars above and a good story to hear. However, what she was longing for most was her aj‘nuvic Desertwind. Not only that she missed her terribly, she was concerned about her well-being. An aj‘nuvic and its human partner were meant to spend their lives together. It was possible to set a husband aside, but it was not thinkable to part with the aj‘nuvic. The death of one partner followed most often the suicide of the other.

At‘anua didn‘t realise first that she visited more and more often their tree of happiness, as they had called the coastal redwood where they had found together. But when she noticed it, she didn‘t care anymore. There she sat and looked out over the land, there she observed the aj‘nuvic grazing and the oracau hunting and the travellers crossing the plain. And in her thoughts she joined the travellers and journeyed to the lands where the sands were as high as the waves of the sea east to them and then she thought at the soft fur of Desertwind and she feared the day she would have lost the memory of how it felt when the wind was hitting her face while riding on her fast aj‘nuvic. She never cried, but she got slimmer and her eyes were misty and grey and rarely a smile crossed her face anymore.

One night Teliko, who suffered with her, though he could not really understand what she missed, asked her what her greatest wish would be. After a long silence she answered him:
"I would like to see Desertwind again, I need to know if she is well. But I know, I can‘t go, for otherwise I will become earthburned and then I‘m not allowed back."

She lowered her head, and now the tears began to run freely. Her husband took her in his arms and swore himself, that he would make it possible.

The next day he brought her a present. It was the magic robe which enabled its wearer to fly. This way she could visit the desert and look out for her animal without having to touch the ground.

At‘anua hesitated at first, she didn‘t like the robe very much, for it reminded her how she had come to the Sharadon and she was still not happy about the way Teliko had taken her away from the life she had loved. But her desire to see her aj‘nuvic was so great, that she put all objections down and climbed up their tree from which she could see the Narfost Plain. Teliko himself put the robe around her shoulders and kissed her sadly good bye. His heart was aching and his body tight for his fear was great, that she would not come back.

She came back, after three long days and nights, crying desperately. She had not only touched the ground while away, but her aj‘nuvic was dying, being deprived of its human bonding-partner. At‘anua had found Desertwind in a desolate state, with ragged fur and thin and fragile as a frozen sand lily at night. She could have endured not to see her family and share their company for the sake of Teliko, her love, but if Desertwind would die - how could she be happy any longer? It would press down on her and her love to her husband would suffer - inevitably. So she looked for comfort in his arms, but was planning to leave him at the same time, and he knew it. Teliko, holding her tight, said to her one night with a low voice, barely to hear: "At‘anua, your are my heart‘s desire, what shall I do without you?" She kept silent for some time, then answered: "My love, you shall not tether your heart‘s desire, I told you that Shendar wisdom when we met again, remember. It is not the whole saying, it goes like this:

What is love?
Not to tether your heart‘s desire.
Bind it, lose it;
Set it free, gain it;
Search it, find it."

After some time she continued:

"My mother told me once, that the most important thing to do is, to follow your own heart. It will guide you to do the right thing at the right time in the right place. And the right thing is now to save the life of my aj‘nuvic who was given in my care, who loves me, who is dependent on me, more than anybody else. We will see, what the future brings." He didn‘t know what to answer. He loved her, because of her caring and loving nature, but now this turned against him, and he suffered.

At‘anua stayed for another cycle of the moon, thinking that she could never part, but when the silvery companion of the night veiled his face, she left, using the robe again.

Teliko was alone. And again he sat in his tree and watched the aj‘nuvics grazing and the oracau hunting and the travellers crossing the plain. But this time he pondered whether the travellers would go beyond the plain and meet a dark-haired woman with fair skin and he looked at the young aj‘nuvics and wondered if they would meet a young Shendar child and bond with it and even the cinna-brown fur of the oracau let him think of golden dunes moving as elegantly as the agile hunter below him.

A year had passed after she had left him, but Teliko hadn‘t noticed it. One day was like the next - without any reason to laugh or live. For him the forest which he had loved so much, once shimmering in all shades of green from styruine to sognastheen, had lost all his colour, the mists between the trees reminded him of grey dreamy eyes and even the company of his family or his friend, the old priest could not bring a smile to his face. One day, the old cleric asked him to visit him in his home. He said not much, but one sentence.

"Teliko, I told you once: You have to decide, where your heart‘s desire lies."

And Teliko stared at him as if he had just heard a revelation and for the first time after long weeks he seemed to be aware of his surroundings. The glanced absently in the green canopy and murmured like he would remember something:

"Bind it, lose it;
Set it free, gain it;
Search it, find it."

He embraced the old man, whispered a "Thank you!" and was gone.

The next morning found him at the edge of the forest, where no high bridges, swings and rope ladders could be found any more. A long rope, fastened to a branch, reached to the ground. Slowly, but decidedly Teliko lowered himself down.

And his feet touched the ground.

 

Story written by Talia Sturmwind View Profile