Short Fiction

EROS's GUIDE

“Brother! brother!” the god of true love whispered. “I can help you save your love. Only listen; there is a flower, the only one of its kind with seven sea purple petals at the end of a valley southeast from here. It's centre is a bright pearl, and it's stalk fine emerald silk. In its roots of dark veined gold is its juice that is as white and pure as a moon beam that can wake anyone from even the deepest slumber.

“Your journey to the flower will be smooth and only five days long, but upon reaching the place where the flower abides, there will come a silver stallion with a golden mane. Do not be bewitched by it but catch its front left hoof and stick into it a thorn of hawthorn and it will go from you. Then there will come a sheep with wool as black as coal but cut the wool off of its right side with a pair of sheers and it will depart from you. You must only loosen the flower from the soil with its roots still intact after the black sheep departs. It will not hold fast to the ground as it is very lonely and yearns for its faculties to be used so that it can die.

When we pass through the valley again upon your returning, there will be a pale man with proud lips as bright red as desire who will follow behind you like a shadow. In his right hand he will hold a crooked staff of amethyst and in his left a skull dented on its right side with only its left eye in its socket, hidden under a colourless veil. Who he is, it matters not, but know that he comes from a place not seen by a god or a shadow or trod upon on by a single living thing and he can bring you great harm, for your soul is in a slumber likened to death. Strange fear will come upon you but walk on at a steady pace and do not run, for I will be with you so he can do unto you no bodily harm. 

 

He will then remind you of the horrendous things that were afflicted upon your soul because of you and though he utters the truth with a voice that sounds like the ringing of wind chimes in orange autumn, it will be vile and warped coming from his mouth. Give no sign that you hear him. Do not turn to look at him, for then you will look into his eyes which are the only eyes in all heaven and earth similar to yours, and you will be spellbound and follow him wherever he may lead you.

When we reach the core of the valley, there will be a witch with a string of beryls and jade beads around her brown neck who will tie you to a pole of jasper adorned with strange carvings and whip you with a gilded strip of bull leather. Sing in your mind the wise words of your soul and you will feel no pain. When she finds that the gilded bull leather leaves no mark on you, she will pour on you the thick fragrant oil from a single red rose. Then she will take a torch aflame with the hottest blue fire to scorch you- but only the ropes that bind you will be burned, for the fire will know my company and shift its nature.

 

The man will watch and be in awe of you but he will not cease his barbed taunts. He will slay the witch when she fails in her endeavours to injure you, and you must walk on.

 

When we reach the end of the valley, he will mimic the rueful wails of your soul and you will be unable to resist looking back at him; but resist a little longer and turn your face to the left and you will behold a rock stained scarlet with the blood of a freshly slain kid. Take the onyx mamba from beneath it and let it sting you. You will not grow sick for when the mamba sees me it will only give you a playful nip. However the pale man will think that it has stung you with its bitterest venom, for the evil can see only evil and when he sees that you do not sicken, he will grow afeared and take flight.

 

Further on, we will come across a green patch of dense moss soft to the touch, but pray do not sleep on it though you be tempted but lay on the rough hard ground beside it and I will rouse you when it is time to wake. When I rouse you, you have to wake at once. We will travel a little more and you will see a lovely spring filled with the clearest water that gives out a scent like the waters you find from the crystal mountains of the north do, but do not drink from it for in it dwells a small imp that tastes of roast mutton who longs for the flower you will have. He will beat you in a game of riddles spun from the home ground of the imps which you have no knowledge of, and seize from you the flower.

 

Instead, walk a little further and we will come upon a puddle of black muddy water which you will deem brackish. Drink that, and your thirst will be quenched and your hunger satisfied.

Then we will travel still, and arrive at your kingdom in the dead still of the night when everyone will be asleep, safe for the guards and soldiers on watch, but in my presence they will commence amiable social discourse with one another and will not notice you. Upon reaching the palace, take off your boots and thread quietly for all your men and maidservants will be asleep; they have not slept for the past days for sick fear that you would kill them all in a frenzied passion, for you seemed mad to them in your grief. They are also much wearied as they had to tend to you and the violent fits of temper you threw. They will be asleep then, with the secure knowledge that you are away. Do not wake them, for if they go another night without sleep, they will all fall ill and die.

 

When you reach the girl child, press the flower to your lips, then kiss her brow right upon its centre. Next, part her lips and squeeze the juice from the roots of the flower into her mouth. When this is done, place the flower on her breast, and the empty roots you must place by the windowsill facing the north courts. Then, you must sit beside her. At this moment, I shall leave you, because as surely as the moon is full of holes, the God of cruel travails shall catch me by my legs and hang me to a Jupiter tree that he may flay me for three days and three nights. But, you mustn't worry about me, for your troubles are yet to vanish.

 

The pale one with the proud lips as bright red as desire who followed you through the valley will stand outside your palace gates. His arrival will be marked by a peal of laughter likened to yours- that of a youthful angel’s. He will be invisible to your guards and soldiers. But do not be perturbed, for he will be unable to pass through the gates. However, you must stay awake and move not from the girl child or he will inhabit the body of a sleeping manservant and behead you; if so you are near the girl child, the manservant will see her and be free from evil's possession. 

Then, he will make you drowsy, but bear this, for it will be but for a short while. A bald black raven with eyes like cherries in the spring will cry in the night, and when you hear it, you must remember to take up vigilance. When the pale one with the proud lips as bright red as desire sees that you will not sleep, he will murmur to you in low dulcet tones many charming things about his kingdoms that he will gift to you should you follow him, but heed not his words for they are but lies contrived by his vanity and fortified by his insanity. Lies spun only to lure men of greed to their perdition.

 

When he sees that you will not be tempted, he will bid his childish, unbridled hate that will feel like an odd summer frolic that you cannot halt even if utterly spent yet only grow increasingly wild as if a spell had come down upon you, fly into your heart and you will want to plunge your knife deep into the girl child's chest. Combat this unnatural urge with all your spirit for if you do as he wills you to, all the good in this world will perish, and there will be great discord in heaven and beyond. Should it get too difficult to endure his will, alight upon the sweet remembrance of your soul’s wholesome love for you.

 

The pale one with the proud lips as bright red as desire will test you until the first light breaks, and as the girl child wakes, dread will fill him and he will flee from you forever. When she wakes, you must hasten to make known to her that which truly lies in your heart, or she will sleep again, and you will not be able to wake her for all of eternity.

 

We journey forth late morning tomorrow, when all your subjects can know of your departure, and you must divine to them that you will be traveling to the east for the pleasures of the flesh and to watch the ivory skinned geishas dance sensually with their oriental fans of argent, wine and yellow gold, and that you will not return until the next full moon. Be warned that even if a single soul discovers the true nature of your journey, you will see a blind leper shuffle pass you on the first night, and then, you will know that all I have discerned to you will not come to pass."