It once happened, early in the first year of Issaiku, that an orphan was made. A tunshmall* attacked a husband and his young wife, who was carrying their child. In fleeing, the woman dropped her child in a bush, hoping to keep it safe while she ran for her life. The child was indeed safe, but the parents were devoured. Left alone in the woods, the child opened her mouth and began to cry piteously. Though she cried for a long time, no one was near, so no one heard. After the day began to recede, she lost her voice and her cries became hushed gasping and sobbing. Then, by the grace of God, a young faery, a male of early maturity, happened to cross through. As is the nature of faeries, he was silent in his passing, and so heard the occasional sob of the child. He sought her and found her. Noting the heavy footprints followed by tunshmall prints, he realized what had happened and lifted the frightened child from her hiding place. She clung to him tremulously, and even when he returned to the abode of the faeries she refused to let go. As faeries do not condone force, she was permitted to remain with her rescuer for as long as she wished. She clung to him for many days. After a time, she regained her independence. As she had no parents, all the faeries became her parents. She was a bright child, but her voice never returned after she lost it the night her parents died. She was mute. Her name became, “Tolalant,” which means “Without Voice.” She seemed to love people, and smiled always, but somehow she carried herself apart. A distance in her eyes warned those who saw that, deep down, she was unreachable. Even when she reached young maturity and became very beautiful, no male could capture her heart. Many tried despite her muteness.
As she aged and her old playmates began to pair off, she would wander alone in the forest increasingly often. She seemed captivated by the labyrinths of worlds it held. There came a day when she would spend all daylight hours in the woods. The elder faeries began to worry, but she heeded not their counsel, so they were helpless in the matter. One day as she wandered, more deep in the woods than the day before, which was farther than the days before, she came upon a pool. She was greatly astonished. It’s depth went on forever, but it was so clear that only the distance kept her from seeing the bottom. She could see flashes of light, however, and longed to have the gift of the Liltalnen that she might swim down and fathom it’s unreachable depths. Her curiosity tortured her, begging to know what caused the flashes of colorful light. For an entire day and a night, she stayed, pondering, watching, listening. She started with delight when the day faded and the colors of the night sky swirled in reflection upon the still water. Never had she seen anything so beautiful! As she watched, rapt, the water began to stir. Ripples rose along the surface where it reflected the colors, and followed the dancing reflections exactly. With the guileless wonder of a child, she watched.
Above the water the air sparked and snapped apart, creating a tear in space, a circle of nothingness. As she strained her eyes to try to see within, she saw a small spot flying toward her extremely rapidly. As it drew nearer, she realized its shape was familiar. A giant silver dragonfly suddenly shot out of the hole, which closed instantly behind him, and upwards into the sky. It hovered directly above her head for a moment, the strong, rapid beat of its wings thumping a rhythm straight though her. She gazed at the iridescent sky through the glimmering pulse of his wings, and a single tear fell. This seemed to open a fountain within her, and soon tears streamed unheeded down her face. the dragonfly hung there a moment, then shot forward, out of sight. An intense sorrow filled her at the loss of so much beauty, and she cried out, a keening wail of pain. It took her a moment to realize she had made a sound, and the wonder of it took her breath away. She tentatively tried again. A stream of sound issued forth. Bewildered but delirious with joy, she sang and laughed and chattered and cried some more, for hours upon hours. Her voice was so pure and perfect that the very night itself stopped to listen. Around her, the trees were struck into rigidity by their awe at her voice, and later the resident dryads and naiads said they thought it was the voice of water come to life. There is a flower that only blossoms in that pool, called the Voice of None, which is said to have come into existence as she sang.
Finally, the light began to creep back into the sky, and suddenly the silver dragonfly flew up so quickly it was as if he just appeared from nowhere. He hovered over her head a moment. Stunned again by his beauty, she stood still. The rent in space opened once more and the dragonfly flashed through it, the hole gone a second after he. She sighed, and stood still a moment looking over the pool. Then she picked up her song where she had left off... or tried to. Once more she had become mute. She wept bitterly though silently as she headed back for the vale of the faeries. The people exclaimed upon seeing her, for she had been gone several days, and they exclaimed further on seeing how terribly sad she was. She tried to explain, but they took her gestures for hysteria, and insisted that she sleep. Tolalant slept all that day, then journeyed back to the pool in time for dusk. The same phenomenon occurred. At the deepening of the sky, the dragonfly would emerge, hover, and leave. She would sing and laugh and shout and whisper until he returned, at which time she would be so struck by his beauty she would not make a sound, and then after he disappeared she would be mute again. This went on for eleven days. Each day it seemed the dragonfly hovered over her head a bit longer before he left.
Tolalant was desperate to thank the dragonfly, because she was certain he had something to do with her being able to use her voice. She was so very grateful, and her gratitude became something deeper, more profound. She was learning to love. But to her frustration and sorrow, she could not express that because his beauty would stun her into silence each time. Finally she devised a plan. She wrote a song, practiced it, and watched carefully in the direction he always returned from. As soon as she glimpsed him returning, she closed her eyes. When she felt the rhythm of his wings again, she began singing her song. At first she hurried, afraid that he’d leave before she finished, but when the wings continued to vibrate steadily she slowed down and poured her whole heart out. She even added a few verses as she went along. When she was finished, the wing beat stopped. Thinking that he had left, she opened her eyes to see a brightly glowing male faery standing on the water in front of her. He was shimmering silver from head to toe, and his wings glittered like a thousand diamonds. He had the wing shape of a dragonfly, and his eyes were those of a dragonfly. He smiled softly. She just stood for a moment, trying to grasp the meaning of this. A feeling of relief washed over her, the relief of one who has found what was long sought. “What is your name?” she asked eagerly, then giggled with sheer delight at the sound of her own voice. She had never talked to someone else before. A look of gentle sorrow came over his face, and he shook his head, patting his throat with two fingers. Tolalant burst into tears. What a horrible thing, to be mute! She felt her own long sorrow to suddenly explode, multiplied by the pain of sharing it with this wonderful being that she loved, and she fell to her knees. He looked very distressed, and hastened to kneel down beside her. Placing a hand on her shoulder and another under her chin, he ever so gently bade her look at him. When she did, he placed two fingers on her throat, then his own. The sound of her weeping ceased instantly. He smiled again. “I am not mute, my lover. I choose to share my voice with you. When you first stood by the pool and marveled at its beauty, wondering with delight, I saw you and loved you instantly. I knew that you were mute, so on that night I gave you my voice to use. When you appeared each successive night, my heart knew no greater joy. Tonight I cannot express how you have made me feel with your song. A more beautiful sound I have never heard! Your soul colors my voice with the vibrant scarlet of your passion.” Tolalant blinked hard and her lips held the trace of a smile. Her eyes glowed. “But it is morning, and I must go,” he added regretfully. She shook her head rapidly and threw her arms around him, clasping him tight. He held her a moment, then stood and stepped out of her embrace, still standing on the water. With a flash he became the dragonfly, the tear in space reopened, and he flew through, the hole instantly closing behind him. She forlornly returned to the village.
After the night she first sang to him, the silver dragonfly always flew out, returning and becoming faery to be with her a short while before leaving again. Though they only had a small amount of time together, they drew ever closer, and in due course they gave Vows of Faithfulness to each other. Meanwhile, the faeries grew more worried about Tolalant. They came to the conclusion that an evil spirit called her each night and forced her to serve him, resulting in her return with a downcast face and sleeping all day. They called a counsel, and decided to follow her and rescue her. Their chief archer, Trimunuo, who was of Elven caliber with the bow, elected to follow her the next night and slay the demon. However, he lost her trail and it took him most of the night to find it again. When he finally came to the pool, he found Tolalant and the silver faery wrapped together in passion. In a deep fury at what he judged to be an evil spirit violating Tolalant, Trimunuo strung an arrow, but his fingers slipped and the arrow dropped into the pool. They both snapped alert, but did not otherwise move until he strung another arrow. Tolalant cried out and twisted in the path of the arrow, but it went straight through her heart and into the silver faery’s as well, killing them both. Trimunuo screamed as he realized what he had done, and hurried to the other side of the pool. But when he pushed the brush aside and looked on where they had lain, he found only a giant red dragonfly with silver wings, pierced through the heart.
*a tunshmall is a panther-like creature
Thank you phrankenstyne, paperwings21 and Nisha for your interest in my writing!