OF THE BLUE
nce upon a time, as all stories starts, the ones we no longer believe
anyway and think them myths or legends, there lived and still live to this day a
tribe of fierce, proud and strong people called the Azhorhria, who resided in
the Ysthalinth Desert of the continent of Aeruillin.
They were fierce but they weren’t vicious, mean or unthinkingly hostile, but they knew how to fight if need arises and many times, there was need. For the Azhorhria bred the most wonderful horses in the world, fast as the west wind and possessing of grace and power in every color imaginable - glossy chestnuts, ebony blacks, snowy whites or fiery reds. Thus there were others who would conduct periodic raids upon the tribe and try to steal these horses and sometimes, they would try to steal away the children of the Azhorhria as well, for why limit yourself to mere horse thievery when one can be a profitable slaver as well?
However the Azhorhria defended themselves successfully and fought off such intermittent raids for years and years, passing down their fighting skills and knowledge of the precious wells, located at key positions within the length of the burning hot desert, to their children. For the wells were the lifeblood of the Azhorhria, next to their horses. Without water, there could be nothing. The infinitely precious wells that would never run low or dry up completely as long as one Azhorhria remained, breathing the air of their homeland. The gift of which the First Istiwa paid the price for and the price was that of her eyes, scorched out of her sockets by the violent force of their Goddess’s double-edged blessings.
Nothing is free eventually.
Yet, it came to pass one fateful, black day that a slaver caught hold of an Azhorhria child and gleaned from her, with help of sharp knives and rusty needles, the location of one such well. The doomed child died in the end when she told them what little she knew and the slavers slit her throat as her usefulness was ended. But she told them enough.
The slavers would never have found one of the wells by themselves and a person who was not privy to the secrets of the tribe could walk pass an innocent outcropping of sandy rock a hundred times, a thousand times, in a day and not realized that beneath that innocuous jutting of stone, ran a stream of pure, fresh and sweet water.
And thus the slavers found the well and poisoned it with ease, laughing merrily as they did so, perhaps dreaming of all the Azhorhria horses that would be ripe for the picking once the tribe was drastically eliminated.
Because the waters were joined by a single underground source, all the other wells became tainted too and as the slavers hoped, in the space of a single day, many of the tribe died or if their constitution were strong enough, the poison reacted slower, but the end result would still have been the same.
Seniah, the eldest daughter of Tumoh and Nuriah of the Ash-hadu. Image drawn by Enayla.
Those who not poisoned were not better off, for they had no water to drink. One
of these survivors who had only certain death to await her was a young woman
called Seniah, the eldest daughter of Tumoh and Nuriah of the Ash-hadu, one of
the five clans that made up the Azhorhria.
Her father and mother had been among the first to die, clutching their bellies in miserable agony as the venom worked its will and took swift, deadly effect. Yellow bile drooled out of their gaping mouths as they gasped out their last choked breaths. There was no time to bury them for the dead were falling over each other in piles and the surviving could only watch, helpless, frightened out of their wits.
However, Seniah wasn’t scared; the emotion that rose in her breast was one of darkest rage and fury, as pure in its way as the wells of the Azhorhria had been once. For besides the death of her parents, the child who so ill fatedly sacrificed the lives of her clan-people in exchange for an end to her torture had been none other than Seniah’s younger sister.
Orphaned and soon to be clan-less, she had no time to waste on tears for even that was too much of a luxury to squander at this dire time.
Leaping up upon her own horse, she rode into the heart of Ysthalinth, in despair, in anguish and most of all, in soaring frenzy that reached to the sky and burned a baleful scarlet like the blistering sun which beat down relentlessly upon her unprotected head. But within her core, the heat could not reach her and she was cold and barren.
There was only one place she could go and on she spurred her horse forth, fleet and merciless. Her hair, loosened from the scarves that normally bound her tresses, streamed a midnight black banner behind, and the veil covering the lower part of her face was whipped away as the horse streaked ever faster over desert soil until both girl and beast were blurred as a mirage.
When she reached her destination, she halted the horse and the blazing heat struck her uncovered head. Skin, not hidden by cloth, prickled unpleasantly and she almost reeled as the white rays blasted around her until the line of the horizon shimmered and wavered faintly. Here, where she came, was the hottest part of the desert and only tiny insects could survive in this pitiless inferno. Nevertheless, even in her harsh rage, she did not forget the faithful steed that brought her thus far.
“Go,” she told the horse gently, not doubting it would understand her. “Return to my people.” If any were still left, she thought bitterly.
When she was alone, she turned her full attention to a pile of rocks, stacked upon each seamlessly so that it resembled any other formation that was familiar in the arid region. Slowly, with determination, Seniah heaved aside the rocks, carrying one at a time, until an innocuous seeming hole of medium size dug and hewed from the sheer stony earth was revealed.
It was the first well that the slavers had found and poisoned. Sacred before but defiled now by harams. This was where the Prophetess had given her sight so that her people could live and now Seniah was here, to plead for the survival of her tribe once more. But she was no Istiwa, revered by all; she was just a girl of the Ash-hadu, once a daughter and once an elder sister and contented to be so. Now she was naught and she had naught.
Still, she had to try.
Seniah peered in and the wet, humid stench of tainted water was overpowering but she forced herself to look.
The poison, at first colorless and odorless in the beginning stages, was festering. The waters of the well were an odd, murky greenish-black hue and it was utterly undrinkable.
She stood at the edge for a long time, staring as her flesh burned but she cared not. Then, she flung her head upwards, squeezed her eyes shut and shrieked, a long howling sound of absolute desolation and anguish. Her face was barely recognizable as human, so distorted it was by her grief.
She did not know when but somehow words became coherent within her inarticulate dirge and she was screaming speech.
“Help us! I come before you as Your Prophetess did, hundreds of years ago, and like her I beseech You to send us deliverance once more!” Her plea rose high, shrill and powerful into the unmoving scorching air. “Come to us…to me!”
On and on she shrieked madly until her throat hurt and was sore.
And still the Allahra did not answer.
Tears, long denied, were running freely down her face but they dried up immediately, the sun thirstily drinking her sorrow from her cheeks. Sobbing dry, she dropped to her knees and beat her fists impotently against the sands until the skin tore and blood flowed salty and rich. The pain was small compared to the emptiness inside her. Even her wrath against the harams who visited this upon her people was gone and she could only weep from hopelessness.
Her blood flowed in a thin stream, staining the sands deep crimson and a drop, just a drop, quivered at the well’s edge for an undying moment, before falling in and she heard the thin sound of it merging with the corrupted liquid below.
Just a single drop but as it struck the surface, Seniah saw, to her dawning incredulity, the waters of the well flashed pure and clear briefly before the poison returned and the repulsive pale greenness was back.
So she knew, with a sudden wild joy that hurt agonizingly in its way as much as her previous frenzied grief had, that the Goddess had heard her prayers. And she understood as well with a bright, unclouded knowledge of what she had to do. She was not afraid, her trust and faith made up for the lack of fear.
She drew a dagger, small and cunning made, slid in neatly between her flesh and her boot and walked over to the well once more. The glint of the dagger reflected mirror-intense shards of light as it caught the sun and the sharpness was proven when the edge sliced through her wrist to bite into veins, without pain almost, just a quick sting as she did that.
Sitting down, her back supported by a slab of rock, she held the cut hand outstretched so that the blood fell into the well, not a precious drop of it could be wasted, and was caught by the basin of water below. A drop, lonely in its solitude, could not possibly be enough. Not nearly enough. One did not bargain with the Goddess. An entreaty was answered and therefore, a sacrifice of equal measure had to be made.
Shading her eyes with her other hand against the deadly countenance of the sun for she was no Prophetess to be able to withstand its golden brilliance, Seniah gazed at the lucid deep blueness of the sky instead, unreservedly beautiful and faultless. She wondered how long it would be before she would see the stern features of her father, always so in contrast with the roundness of her mother’s loving face and she was eager, even, to gaze again at her sister’s impish smirk of a younger sibling's superiority which had previously irked her before.
Soon, she hoped, very soon.
When her tribe found her, guided as they were by her horse which had returned to the tents safely, she was long dead, the wound on her wrist had stopped bleeding and her body was husk-dry and the waters of the well, all of the wells, ran sweet and untainted again.
The tribe carried her back and there was time once more for rejoicing and for mourning as they buried her with her mother and father. Of the sister’s body, they could not find it as the slavers had thrown it to the desert and carrion birds had devoured the carcass. Instead, they placed a treasured item of the sister, her birth sword, in the grave dug with reverence into the hard earth, next to Seniah and her parents. For the Azhorhria knew - flesh was only flesh.
The tribe was lessened drastically but it survived and in time, the numbers of the Azhorhria grew to former strength again.
Many years later, they found that upon the spot where Seniah was laid to rest, a
mass of overgrown vines, complete with glossy green heart-shaped leaves had
taken root to grow unimpeded. Any green thing rooting in Ysthalinth was viewed
strange indeed for only desert plants like cactus and weed could take seed in
the barren soil. However, most strange of all was that the plant was flowering.
Delicate flowers of the mystifying deep azure shade of the Ysthalinth desert
sky. They were of the night-blooming variety and would blossom in the evening
and once only in a year.
Then more years passed, and an honest trader ventured deep into the desert to commerce with the Azhorhria. He stumbled upon Seniah’s grave on the one night where the flowers would bloom in profusion. Charmed by the roses, for they were roses but the Azhorhria did not know that because simply, they had never seen one before, the trader plucked one and carried it back to the northern lands and to the city of Voldar. To his great surprise and delight, that one stalk did not fade or wither away during the arduous journey to Erpheronian realms. The petals of the rose stayed fresh and seemingly newly picked as yesterday.
The harams had many gods and goddesses, which might account for the confusion of their minds at times but Seyella, their destiny god, was the trader’s particular patron and he gave the blue rose as an offering to her. The priestesses of this goddess accepted the rose and planted it within temple grounds where it took root easily and grew to become a bush. It would not bloom anywhere else in the lands and any stalks taken would die swiftly.
And in time again, it flowered and when it did so, the temple of Seyella would become infused with a sultry, elusive scent that lingered long after each and every rose on the bush withered, in preparation for the next budding. Those who had the fortune to gaze on one such rare rose would inevitably exclaim in wonder of their lustrous beauty.
But no one knew, could know, that Seyella's Rose as they were soon called by the Erpheronians, originally grew above the grave of an Azhorhria girl and that the blue roses in the temple gardens, carefully cultivated and groomed, were but pale shadow-selves of the ones that bloomed wild and untouched in a desert so far away that it had gained a dreamlike aspect for northern adventurers and explorers.
Only the Azhorhria knew and only they remembered, long after kings, queens and their magnificent realms crumbled to ashes and to grey dust.
How true is the story, you ask? Well then, ask yourself this - how strongly do you want to believe?
Story written by Dalá'Valannía