Viive Noor – Ágnes Mészöly: Sira and Drishnavar

El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares, Hungría
Translated by Erika Kertész

Amongst mountains reaching toward the sky there was the hidden Country of Blue Lakes. There was no happier or richer country in the world. On the lakes shining with turquoise snow- white swans swam proudly and people ploughed with happy smile on their faces on the shore on the fields. The swans were fighters protecting the empire with sharp beaks and enormous wings. Ever since there are words for storytelling there was no enemy to be able to cross the border, even though many wished to rule the beautiful wally. People prized and honoured the birds and provided them with all they needed during peacetime and prepared lightweight but impenetrable mails for them. The king ruling the country was very special: a human-in-swan, swan-in-human since he was a shape-shifter, a skin-changer. The ability of shape-shifting inherited from father to son became the symbol and surety of the fellowship between the two species.

His palace was built on a floating island, opened for both humans and swans. The king and his beautiful wife lived in the most gorgeous suit of his palace. They had only one son over the elf-age of childhood, he commanded the fights at the eastern edges. There was no braver than him in the country, beloved and respected by everyone for his pure soul and gentle heart similar to the mirroring lakes in calm. One day the king called for his son. Drishnavar flied back reluctantly from the country of mountain passes. He shook his feathers in front of his father’s throne, fuming.

– What is so important, my majestic father, that you summoned me – asked impatiently. – The fights have renewed, the army needs his leader.
– There are many leaders in the army – his father said – but there is only one crown prince. – More important tasks are waiting for you.
– Our time leaks away soon and you will make our place – added his mother tenderly. – Before your coronation you have to find a wife. You have to go far over the mountains to bring a wife from a foreign land, just like your father did and his father had done before.
– How will I know who has been ordered for me by the destiny -asked Drishnavar.
– Your will feel it in your heart – his mother calmed him.
– You have enough time – his father encouraged him. – You would wandering for three years from now to find your fianceé. You should be back till the midst of the third summer. But do not forget one thing! You cannot show up in the swan-shape. If your chosen one kissed your feathers before the wedding your feathers would have been lost forever.

Illustration made by Viive Noor, estonian artist

Illustration made by Viive Noor, estonian artist

Drishnawar listened to his parents, bowing his head. Learning the old legends he knew the time to leave would come once and he would have to hit the road like all his ancestors did before. For the first time in his life he feared the task.
– What if I had no luck? – asked in low voice.
– We would sin kin chaos and the country would be lost – said his father gloomily./ Drishnawar left with a glamorous escort. He has been around the word, traveling from the north to the east and from the west to the south. Ladies of fancy palaces were fighting for a single glimpse of his eye, the most powerful kings invited him and the richest merchants offered lodging. But all the things, the girls dressed in silk and lace, the shy smiles and flirtatious glimpses, the parties and balls had no use. His heart not raced even for a bit.
Early in the second year he dismissed his escort. He gave his ornate and the bridle of his horse shining with diamonds to the first beggar. The prince slept under the sky, beded in caves and stables, keeping his origin and his intention in secret wherever he went. He befriended with daughters of peasants, with histrions and with pickpockets, spent his time with hookups and talked with town girls of honour. All this in vain, his heart beated at the same pace.
Int he third year he put on his glamorous clothes of his rank. Even though he traveled alone he went to the most dangerous and goddamned places of the world. He visited vamps, enchantresses and mages, run around with changelings and gnomes. He knew that even the mightiest witch would have thrown away all the power for his single word, it didn’t matter to him since he could find no-one of his taste.
On the third spring he headed back home in a dark mood. The path led through a damned wally. At it’s deepest point a gloomy swamp streched in front of him. Since the sun was going down, he took off the harness of his horse and went to sleep under an oak tree.
Next day as he opened his eyes, he saw a beautiful girl standing in the midst of the black lake combing her ebony hair. Her figure was covered by an alga-green dress, her wisps of hair were merged in the lake, rippling and riffling together with the dark water. The girl was so beautiful he thought he was dreaming. His heart wanted to jump out of his place as if willing to run away.
– I am Drishnawar, the lord-to-be of the Country of Blue Lakes – he managed to say finally. Who are you, beautiful girl?
She answered without throwing a glimpse at the prince.
– I am Sira, the daughter of the swamp. You were able to see the morning sun only because of my good intention. You dared to come dangerously close to my empire. If I had not ordered it back, the swamp would have swallowed you for ever.
Drishnavar listened to this in embarrassment, admiring the girl as she combed her hair. She was disturbed by his gaze.
– Do not stare at me like a stupid ox waiting for the swamp to consume him. Return till I say it in a nice way!
Drishnawar had no intention to go. He told his story to Sira, than asked her on his knees to come back with him to the Country of Blue Lakes.
-Come on! – Sira laughed. – Why should I leave my realm for a fickle princeling?
But Drishnavar kept persuading her about the truthfulness of his love so Sira finally started to feel pity for him.
– Well, then. I will marry you if yo prove yourself three times. The fist one: spend a day here, on the shore of the swamp. After a couple of hours my little friends, the mosquitoes will wake up. They will bite you trying to banish you. But be careful not to kill a single one! Tomorrow, if you are still here, I will tell you the next task – laughed maliciously and sank in the swamp.
Drishnavar stood there baffled but he had no intention of running away. When the mosquitoes arrived he shifted to swan-shape, put his head under his wing. His feathers protected him from the bites. Sira rested without worry in her palace deep in the swamp. She knew the mosquito bite causes not only pain but oblivion. A few hours later Drishnavar would not remember the purpose of being there on the shore and he would leave like many others did before him. When she emerged from the black mud and beheld him she was truly surprised .
– I’ve proven myself! Tell me, what should I do to win your hand?
The top of the mountain is dressed in white over there. Bring some snow by dawn, I want take a closer look what sort of thing it is – and she went back to the deep of the swamp. Drishnavar smiled confidently when he had learned about the task.
Sira roamed in dismay but relieved in her palace. She knew there was no man able to go to the mountain and come back in a day. Even if the young prince could do it, the snow would melt away in the way back. She felt real sorrow for him, but she knew it would be the best for both of them if he failed. Drishnavar left right before sundown. Putting on his swan-shape, he flied to the highest peak, than filled his haversack with fresh snow. He left when the rays of rising sun painted the eastern sky pale red. She was scared when accepted the good handful of snow from the prince. She let the white snowball sink in the muddy water with a sour smile, watching with sorrow whilst it melted away.
For fulfilling the third task you have to go to the palace of enchanting elves. They guard my wedding dress. If you brought it for me by tomorrow, there would be no objection to our wedding.
Drisnavar left filled with hope. Sira rushed to her deep- in- the- swamp palace, cried and sighed all night. She knew the beauty of enchanting elves charmed everyone. She was sure Drisnavar wouldn’t return to her anymore. She loved the prince with all her heart so she begged all the lords of the skies, the air and the waters for him that he would be able to find a girl among the enchanting elves and could take her home back to the Country of Blue Lakes as a wife.
But next down the young prince stood at the edge of the swamp, holding the white wedding dress decorated with feathers in his hand.
-Haven’t you found the enchanting elves more beautiful than me? –asked Sira woefully.
-I’ve found them more beautiful – the prince answered. But there is no place in my heart for others than you. I’ve proven myself, now it’s your turn. Come with me and be the queen of my country.
– I am so sorry Drishnavar, but I’ve lied – Sira said bowing her head. – I love you but I can’t be your spouse. I am the child of the swamp which doesn’t let go anyone. In the moment I put my foot on the shore I am dead.
Drisnavar stood there petrified, than he went berserk. Finally he found a solution. Switching to his swan-shape he doesn’t sink neither in the water nor in the swamp. He could swim to his darling and take her without Sira putting a foot on the shore.
The girl was fearful but she accepted the plan. She watched with eyes wide open the young man becoming an enormous bird, pacing into the water and swimming toward her.
She grabbed his neck full of hope and Drishnavar helped her onto his back. They emerged from the mud to the air. Sira kissed the swan in a daze of happiness, and in that minute his father’s warning came to Drishnavar’s mind. It was to late, he started to lose his feathers and switched back to human shape. He fell down to the black swamp and the mud started to draw him down into the deep. Sira was not able to hold him on the surface, the swamp was stronger and the prince of the Country of Blue Lake drowned in the arms of his darling. She cried and cried, till she run out of tears and lost her vision, too. She couldn’t see when Drishnavar white feathers became pure, flawless flowers on the black water of the swamp. The white lotuses have been there since then to testify the love of Drisvavar and Sira.

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