Part 4. The Second Gift and The Second Trial
Five winters fell and, by her tenth birthday, Weo was the wisest wizard in all Kenglund but it had not been an easy five years and all of the hair upon the left side of Weo’s head had turned snowy white while all the hair upon the right side burned twice as red as it had before and the other children in the village would tease her and she was so powerful that she would have to restrain herself from smiting them all with terrible hexes.
And, just as the great goddess had promised, on Weo’s tenth birthday, she returned with her second gift and her second challenge and this time the goddess appeared in the form of a white pony with white wings upon its back; a golden bridle and saddle and golden horse shoes upon its hooves and, in its mouth, it held the second gift, a golden shield.
“This”, said the pony, “Is the Sun shield of Lexonus. Lexonus was one of the greatest heroes of old Kenglund; a brave and virtuous warrior. The sun shield will protect all who hold it from sword and stone, earth, wind,water,fire and lightning. It will repel magic fireballs and all the magical spells in evils book but, like all my gifts, it comes with a warning”.
“What warning?”, asked Weo, the frown of a much older person spreading across her ten year old face.
“Evil sometimes strikes you with a smile; a gentle hand or a soothing voice. What it cannot break with fire and steel it will try and soften with rose petals ”, said the pony, and, winking its right eye, it vanished.
Then suddenly, where the pony had stood, there appeared a young stranger, a ten year old girl like Weo but, unlike Weo, the young stranger did not look like a peasant in a patchwork dress but like a young lady dressed in a purple velvet gown with a necklace of gold and pearls and long jet-black hair. “Hello, Weo”, said the stranger.
“Who are you?”, asked Weo, suspiciously.
“I am Rudrella, the daughter of Klawhanna”, answered the girl, “and you are the famous Weo of Kenglund who has defeated my mothers every effort to get rid of you”.
“That’s right”, said Weo,proudly, “And I will go on beating her. Your mother is an evil woman and, if you are her daughter then you must be evil too and I warn you that I’m quite capable of defending myself against you”.
“I know that”, said Rudrella, “But I didn’t come here to fight you. I was sent here to make you an offer”.
And Rudrella held out her hand and upon it was a purple velvet glove and, in the palm of that glove, appeared a glowing crystal ball and,in the crystal ball, Weo saw herself and her parents, happy together, living the life of nobles rather than peasants and then she saw herself surrounded by hundreds of smiling children and they were all her friends and then Rudrella said, “ I know that you are lonely, Weo. All the people of your village hate you. They look at you like a freak or a joke because they can’t appreciate how special you are but you could have so many friends and the kind of life that you and your parents deserve, not the life of struggling peasants but the life of nobles”.
Weo gazed at the pretty pictures of a perfect life as they moved inside the crystal ball and was mesmerized as if lost in a daydream but then she remembered whose hand was holding the crystal ball.
“No”, said Weo, “I was given greater gifts than those and for a purpose, to defend my people wether they love me or hate me”.
Rudrella smiled and Weo noticed just how beautiful she was though she knew that underneath all her beauty and finery she was evil, “You were chosen by the goddess but did the goddess give you the life befitting such a special person. There are useless, idle princesses sitting on golden thrones and silk cushions while God’s chosen, Weo, is sleepinng on the floor of a shack. Do you think that is fair?”.
“They have golden thrones but they can never have the gifts that god has given me. A peasants life is what I know and what I love. I’m happy”, said Weo.
“But, surely you don’t like your parents to live in poverty. Your mother used to be a great beauty but now she has the face of a peasant woman;
pale, undernourished, worn out from all her worries and her labours. Your father is smarter than the duke whose land he tills but he will never be anything more than a peasant and another man’s servant”, said Rudrella and, in the crystal ball, Weo saw her mother dressed as a lady,
as young and beautiful and happy as she had once been and she saw her father in the clothes of a lord doing great things with his life rather than being a common labourer.
But Weo said, “I am proud of my parents. My mother, to me, is already a lady and will always be beautiful; my father, to me, will always be a lord and always be an important man. I love them and we have love to make up for our poverty and that is something which you shall never have or know”.
“Your love is foolish”, said Rudrella, “You could have admiration, power,respect but you and your family are shunned by all”.
“What you call admiration I call envy. What you call respect, I call fear. Those who sing your praises secretly curse you under their breath; those who bow down to you would rather cut off your head but one day I shall have a chance to serve my people and when I do I shall earn their friendship and as I respect them they shall respect me and as I love them they shall love me”, said Weo, thumping her heart.
“Oh, Weo”, sighed Rudrella, “We two could have been good friends. We each could have had our pretty castles and played together in the sun and had such fun together but if you’d rather be my enemy then so be it”, and, saying this, Rudrella hurled her crystal ball to the ground and,as it hit the stony earth, it shattered and up from its broken pieces rose three winding,green plumes of smoke and the three plumes of smoke became three hissing snakes as tall as unmown grass and the snakes had tongues of lightning that lashed out and would have struck Weo dead if it were not for her magic shield which raised itself up and protected her while she grabbed her fathers sharp scythe by the handle and, with one sweep of her skillful arm, cut all three hissing heads right off of their wriggling bodies and then, when they were dead, Weo ran to her Father, Andyarrow and hugged him round his waist.