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The Silver Rose


"Forgive me, my love! Today I didn't bring you the head of a dragon..." the same dreamingly warm eyes, the same smile, the same light mockery in his voice. Only the sword gathered more notches, the cloack became grey and torn in places, the boots got holes in the soles. What was she to start with? Where to run? How could she hug him and at the same time give orders for dinner, bath and everything else? At least the Fostress was witted enough to start giving orders herself, so the Wife could just quietly hug her Husband, that returned from the lands far and away. It seemed like an eternity to her.
"I am sorry, my love. I've seen Maurs and amels, golden minarets and river horses... but not a single dragon... People say, they are extinct...
"What do we need a dragon for, my love?"
"What do you mean! I am your Knight!"
"Only the latter matters... I am so happy that you are here!"

However the denser were the autumn clouds, the harder to pass were the roads because of the freezing to the marrow of one's bones rains, the more early snows covered the fields, the more depressive was the atmosphere in the palace, because even if the Knight was physically present, his heart was elsewhere. After the Alban Arthan it seemed that only the impassable snows kept the Knight inside.
"Where are you in your thoughts?" asked the Wife.
"Far North," the Knight replied, "I've been told, that out there in the lands of the Celts lives a witch. She knows, where the Silver Rose grows."
"Why do you need a silver rose?"
"What do you mean? I am a Knight!"
"What does this Rose do?"
"It gives peace to all people. He, who tries even the smallest drop of its nectar, will stop fighting once and for all. Just imagine, I could put an end to all wars!"
"There are so many people and just one Rose..."
"My silly little girl," suddenly the Knight smiled with the same warmth that there was just after their wedding. He touched her hair gently. "It is a magic Rose! It can do magic! I just need to get to that witch!"

And as soon as the first sprouts of spring grass showed up, the Knight set out to search for the celtic witch.
"Do you believe me, my love?"
"Of course, my love," the Wife answered. The Knight looked ahead with confidence. His mind was too far away to see how right there next to him his wife's eyes filled with large tears.

He rode North for many days, sleeping in the tree roots and in caves between the rocks. Only the thought of the northern witch gave him the power to walk on during the rampant spring thunders. He often remembered the blasing sun of the arabian deserts, the burning sands, capable of replacing the air and force entire armies to flee. Why did they go to fight? They wanted to... They told themselves they were looking for the holy Grail, that they were looking for the sacred knowledge, that they were eager to liberate the barbarians of theig ignorance... but the first battle put everything back in place. Most went there only for the sake of that battle, for that feeling of flight, when there is no future and no past, when you easily see who is your friend and who is your enemy. When the sword clears your way to the top, when your hand becomes stronger with every stroke and all your thoughts become short and clear. Right. Left. Strike. Duck. Shield. Strike. Attack... And it doesn't matter, that you reach such a state of mind only during battle... Later on one could remember the old victories, blabber about achievements... And one didn't need to think about what urged them to seek this state of mind and whom were they actually fighting with - the enemy or themselves. None of those he knew personally got anywhere close to inding the Grail, however they all quenched their thirst for blood... Ad the cries of women and children were their triumphant bugles... a horror of a memory!

"Hey you, Knight, looks like you lost your horse!" informed someone's rusty voice. Either during the winter spent at home he lost the skill of sensitive sleep, or he was just too tired. The pinkish rays of the sun were just beginning to melt the morning mist, the first ants set out oh their house to attend their daily duties and the birds were just starting to warm up. He was not in a desert and not in the middle of the battle - that was what really mattered. He was surrounded by a bunch of wretches. They wore light boots without heeltaps and smiled widely with their toothless mouths. At least the maurs looked after themselves!

"So where were you heading to, loony?"
"North, to the Lands of the Celts..."
"He is loony indeed!" - the wretches laughed, "What in world did you lose there?"
"A witch."
"Well, if a witch is the reason, then you'd have to walk!" the fattest one of them roared, "or are you in the mood to fight?"
"I'm not. I am done with fighting."
"That's the right approach! And where did you fight?"

Little by little he told them how he was in the Crusades. How they were told to fight for the Holy Grail, but they wanted to fight for the sake of fighting. And that now he was looking for a witch in the Celtic Lands, who knew where the Silver Rose grew.
"You're stupid, Knight!" one of the wretches said, "You should have stayed at home with your Wife and know no sadness. Instead you lost your horse and armour..."
"I wouldn't need armour once I have the Rose.."
"And what if the people wouldn't want to drink your nectar?" another bandit asked, "Us, for example... we're mean people, we do not want to plough through the fields, to give most of our harvest to the landlord... whereas fighting and speeding up the bloodflow is just the right thing for us!"
"So, fight!" the Knight smiled.
"And we shall!" exclaimed the crook happily and swung a fist into the Knight's face.

The Knight's blood momentarily ran hot. He leapt up trying to grasp the sword, that was only recently stolen from him. Than he remembered about the people who fight only for the sake of fighting and forced himself to sit down again,
"I shall not fight!"
"You really are some broken knight..." the wretch said and everyone started laughing happily.

They took his horse, armour and weapons. In return they gave him a satchel with some food and water and even a couple of coins for his journey. The rest they said had to be presented to their wives, whom, unlike him, they weren't even thinking of abandoning. Once again they recommended him to turn back and instead of going into nowhere, to go home. After all, all the best is always at home. Having said that, they parted.

Now the Knight was walking light, and surprisingly, he found it made his journey much more pleasant and easy. Now he could easily make shortcuts through the woods, he could hear every hare and every squirrel, also he could enjoy the birds singing for hours. It was strange: these were different woods, unfamiliar. Home was so far away, yet the birds sand just like they did in the woods around his castle... He kept listening to their singing as he was walking further to the North, until he heard people's singing too. A couple of turns ahead there was a clearing. On the clearing there was a carriage that belonged to some strolling musicians.
"Who are you?" the oldest of them asked.
"I'm a Knight!" The Knight repleid proudly, and it took him some time to understand what were they all laughing at.
"You could have told us straight away you were a buffoon," the Eldest smiled into his beard, "where are you heading to?"
"To the Celtic Woods, to the Witch of the North."
"That's some luck! We're going there too! Do you sing or do you play?"

The Knight was just about to tell them that every noble knight is taught to play several musical instruments, to sing and even to dance, but timely enough he remembered that least of all he now resembled a knight. Instead he humbly stated the instruments. The musicians were glad to have him with them and said, that if he agrees to perform with them in every village they pass, he would get a place in their carriage.

Musicians were people of the road. He met such people in his crusades. They could never enjoy the battle as much as people of the battle, however as soon as they were on the move, their happiness knew no limits. They weren't interested in the Grail. Of course, they sought it, but for them it was nothing more, than a direction of movement. Just as these musicians strolled across the country with songs and tales, and only for the Alban Hefin they always made sure to be present on the Ball of Fairies held by the Witch of the North, where they learned new songs and new stories. However the Knight had a handful of stories for them too - stories of lands far and away, of sandstorms, of bloodthirsty Maurs, humbly kneeling to the sun, of the tanned oriental belly dancers with fire in their eyes, of the luring songs of the blasing oriental sun, which streamed so exotically here amid the northern woods. He was astonished, that not so long time ago he was telling these stories to his wife, she was astonished with these stories, but it mattered so little to him back then...

"Why do you need the Witch of the North?" asked the Musicians after one of his stories, "You have enough stories to tell!"
"She knows where does the Silver Rose grow."
"Why do you need a silver rose?" the Eldest Musician's wife asked him.
"It grants peace to all the people. He, who tastes the tiniest drop of its nectar shall never fight again. Just imagine: all the wars would stop! You wouldn't have to worry about any mean people crossing your path!"
"There are so many people and only one rose..." said a five year old child in the carriage, the youngest in their company.
"I heard about this Rose once," the Eldest Musician's Wife said thoughtfully, "not everybody is able to see her. We, people of the road, wouldn't see her, even of she grows out of the mud between the boards of this carriage. You could spend a lifetime looking for her just to find out, that all this time she had been struggling for survival in your back yard. She will never show herself to him who keeps looking back, as well as to him, who keeps looking forward. One can't take her with him by force, but if she likes you, she would stay with you forever, as long as you remember about her and feed her..."
"How does one feed her?" the Knight asked.
"He, who can see Her, will figure something out," the woman smiled.
"And didn't you ever want to find her?"
"What for? We don't fight anyway..."

The carriage moved North slowly among the hidden between the rocks and hills villages. Time to time they passed the castles of other knights and even gave performances there. But none of the knights, even those, he fought side to side with and shared food in the Crusades recognised him. In time he started wondering if he was a knight at all. The quest for the Rose was the last thing he had left from being a Knight. He had no horse, no armour, no sword, he slept in the corner of a strolling musicians' carriage and sang songs he learned in the Crusade only because for them the musicians received more coins and sweets for their children. Many knights were pleased to remember the past achievements now when the difficulties were almost forgotten.

"Look at these knights, my Friend," said the Eldest Musician once to the Knight, "They have everything: homes, families, loving wives... that's why the Road doesn't call for them any more."
"It still calls some of them..." the Knight protested.
"Not these ones. Just look into their satisfied eyes."
"Are you trying to say that there is nothing they wish for any more?"
"Everybody wishes for something," the Musician smiled, "but not everything we wish for is good for us. It is just like with your Rose: wishing to find Her somewhere in the North, you step on her the moment you make your first step in that direction."
"Those, who are at home, wish to leave, and those who left wish to return... So where can one find happiness, Friend?"
"I don't know..." the Musician shrugged his shoulders, "I am happy! My wife and kids are with me. I have the Music and the Road. I meet interesting people and at nights I talk to the stars.What else could I wish for?"

The night became shorter and the woods became darker. At nights it seemed that the forests were moving onto their fire, trying to swallow it. Even though the Knight has seen many things in his life, he felt his heart beat faster either from fear or from excitement. He found no dragons in the South, yet here in the North it seemed that one of them could fly out of the forest any moment. Many things seemed now. It seemed, that the trees were moving their branches independently from the wind, as if jesting while discussing the uninvited guests. It seemed, that apart from the squirrels and hares the bushes were hiding all sorts of magical creatures: elves, dwarves, fairies... and all of them, as well as the tree leaves, the grass, flower buds and even the stars and the wind kept whispering: "Who are you? Why are you here?"

Next time they made a stop, the Knight went into the woods to gather some wild berries. Suddenly he heard something like a silver bell. Could it be the Rose? Carefully, catching any change in the sound, he followed it, being more and more convinced, that this wasn't a common sound of the woods. However the more he walked to it, the further away it seemed. Than he remembered the Musician's Wife's words, that one can't find the Rose while looking forward, so he sat on a fallen tree trunk, closed his eyes and just listened. And suddenly the sound began to approach, until it stopped entirely.

"What are you doing in my woods?" a girl's voice demanded. The Knight opened his eyes and saw a yound maiden wearing a wreath of wild plants and flowers.
"I'm a Knight. I know, I don't look like one, but I am a Knight. And I am looking for the Witch of the North."
"Indeed, you do not look like a knight!" the girl laughed, "A Knight would have been chasing the bell till sunrise! And what do you need the Witch for? Perhaps, you would like to marry her?"
"I... I am married..."
"And where is your wife then?"
"At home," the Knight blushed.
"And where is your home?"
"It is far away... in the South..."
"Oh, you, mischievous thing... what made you get this far from home?" the girl asked gently and compassionately, caressing his hair and his unshaved cheeks.
"I was looking for the Silver Rose, whose nectar brings people peace, and from the tiniest drop of which they atop fighting..."
"You don't look like someone who likes to fight."
"I don't... I wanted to give it to people..."
"Dreamer..." the girl sighed, "so be it. Accompany me on the Ball, and I shall show you your Rose."

Suddenly she stepped back and clapped her hands. The clearing filled with all sorts of magical creatures. She told them to put him in order, because someone accompanying her should look worthy. Having said that she ran away. When he was shaved and dressed in thinest finest silks, she returned, this time dressed like a true queen. She took his hand and walked him to a large clearing. In the middle and at the edges of it there were big fires, and all sorts of magical creatures were dancing and having fun around them.
"Is this how you imagined it?" she asked him loudly.
"This is magnificent!"
"And is this how you imagined the Witch of the North?" she asked again.

He looked at her carefully and realized, that her splendid gown consists of many colourful butterflies, seductively waving their wings around her decollete and flowing into numerous folds of her overblown skirt.
"No, not like this..." he said suddenly.
"Way to go!" the Witch laughed and the same moment all the butterflies flew up and away, disappearing in the trees. Now she was wearing a temptingly sleek dress made from oriental silks and decorated with gold and precious stones, glazing in the light of the fires.
"Maybe, this is how you imagined the Witch of the North?"
"No, not like this either." As soon as he said these words, all the precious stones turned into sand and fell on the ground, leaving behind a half see-through silk robe.
"So how can I please you? Do you really want me to turn into a decrepit mean woman, as your southern priests depict us?"
"No-no!" the Knight exclaimed, "be whomever you want, or rather just be yourself!"
"You really do not act like a knight..." sha said, dazzled, "Why then do you need the Rose? Don't you know, that everyone has his own Rose, and the nectar of someone else's Rose can even poison people?"
"What do you mean?" the Knight was puzzled, "so all of this was for nothing?"
"Of course, not! You will certainly find your Rose, and even taste her nectar."
"So, where is my Rose?"
"That depends on how this Ball ends! Let's dance!"

And they danced all night long, laughed at the eccentricities of the elves and the tricks of the driads, listened to the mermaids' songs and leapt over the fire. When the sky in the east started to become lighter, the Witch approached him and whispered into his ear.
"You could stay here for good, you know. And then I myself shall offer you the nectar of the Silver Rose. It is starting to bloom right now. All you have to do is say yes. There shall always be peace and quiet in this forest, there will be fires and balls, magic... remember how you were bored at home...
"Balls, fires, desires... tell me, Witch, since that is what we started with, what are you like in reality?"
"In reality..." the Witch sighed, and the silky see-through gown became a simple linen embroidered rode, the dazzling make-up disappeared and the complicated hairdress became a simple plait, "In reality every witch is first of all a simple woman... with her own weaknesses and sadnesses, and some of them only a true knight can help to cope with. Only it has to be her own Knight, not somebody else's, or else, once again, the Silver Rose would become spiky and poisonous... are you sure, you do not want to stay? No?"

He shook his head sadly.
"...In fact, this is exactly how it was supposed to be. You are not my Knight, and your Rose is not here. It is still there, in your castle in the South, although, a little longer and it would pine away entirely."
"But... what about you?" the Knight hardly pushed the words out of his throat.
"I shall wait here for another Knight, he should be here by the Harvest Festivities! Oh, and don't expect much from the clothes you are wearing - they were created from your dreams and impossible desires, which you had just abandoned. This means that these gowns shall disappear after sunrise. Go home now, Knight of the Silver Rose, and hurry! You did a very good job!" the Witch was smiling, although her eyes were full of tears, "I really love storries that end well!"

The way back took him much less time. The days were now longer and the roads now seemed familiar. In the beginning of the way he saw the carriage of the strolling musicians, and to his surprise he saw on its side a blossoming rose: she was silver and magical indeed... but not his own. It was their Rose, of the Eldest Musician and his Wife. On his way back he saw more Silver Roses. Sometimes on the window pane of a shack, sometimes in the garden of wealthy farmers. People didn't seem to notice them, but all that had Silver Roses had some unexplainable inner glow of true happiness.

He made it to his castle, when the leaves already fell from the trees and the nights became long and pitchy dark, followed by the dark clouds, filled with cold rains. Many carriages got stuck in the mud, and only he kept walking light, occasionally helping to get te stuck carriages out of the mud. At the dawn of day and at the dawn of October he knocked on the gates of his own castle. Dirty, shagged and dressed in rags. And in the doors stood his Silver Rose. Just as beautiful, as when he left her.
"Forgive me, my love! I didn't bring you the head of a dragon or a silver rose..." his love stood there, being afraid to believe what she saw, "they say, the dragons are all extinct. And the Silver Rose was right here all this time... you are my Silver Rose!!!"

A huge tear rolled down her emaciated cheek, and this time he noticed it. It took some wretches, that freed him from his horse and armour, some strolling musicians that freed him from his illusions and a witch that freed him from his impossible desires and aspirations... It was only now that he really came home from his Crusade. It was so goo, that she was waiting for him all this time! He was finally home and finally he did not want to fight any more. For that huge tear was in fact that magical nectar.

(с) Alice Permiakova, June 2015

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
blackpauk
Oct. 27th, 2017 08:39 am (UTC)
Ду ю спик Раша?
arlyonka
Oct. 29th, 2017 04:23 pm (UTC)
раша чутка понижа ))))))) я просто перевод сделала очередной
blackpauk
Oct. 30th, 2017 08:46 am (UTC)
ааа понятно)))моя просто не фернштейн по аглицки)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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