Part 5. The third gift and the third trial
Now the third finger upon the third hand of life had stroked Weo with its transforming power so that, by the thumb year of that third hand, her fifteenth year; she was a most beautiful young maiden. More beautiful, was she, than all the other girls in her little village and she was secretly adored by all its young menfolk and the constraints of a heroes life were beginning to chafe upon her for,unlike the other fifteen year old girls of her village, she was not permitted to go out carousing with friends.
And, when the Goddess came to her, as promised, with her third gift, this time in the mouth of a bear cub with wings, she found that Weo was not in a good mood and Weo did not seem very interested in the gift.
The gift was a double-bladed battle axe or labrys and the Goddess placed it at Weo’s feet. “This”, said the goddess, speaking through the mouth of the bear cub, “Is the Labrys of Kangla. The mighty Warrix of old Kenglund but it is not any ordinary battle axe for it turns into a living steel kestrel upon the command of its owner and will fly to their hand in battle when it is called for”.
“And the Warning?”, said Weo impertinently, “There is always a warning”.
“Do not confuse a shield with a manacle”, replied the Goddess and, saying this, the bear cub winked its right eye and vanished.
And Weo picked up the battleaxe and saw that its blades where like feathered kestrel wings but such things did not interest her as much as they had when she was a child.
And, she was walking back to her farmhouse, when she saw a group of girls passing on the road and they looked like local village girls but dressed in their best clothes and they were all wearing masks upon their faces.
“Why are you wearing masks?”, asked Weo.
“We are going to a secret party in the forest”, they said, “There will be lots of other girls from the village there and music and dancing and wine and boys. It will be great fun”, they said, “Aren’t you going?”.
Weo sighed, “No. I am not allowed to go to parties”.
The girls laughed, “Neither are we”, said the girls, “But we’re going anyway”.
Weo really wanted to go to the party although she knew that her parents would be angry with her if she went and so Weo, who was by now a skilled Wizard, used her magic to make a copy of herself.
“Go to my house”, she told the copy, “Do my chores and then go to bed. Say as little as possible. Do not give yourself away”.
And the copy did as it was instructed and went home instead of Weo and Weo used magic to conjur herself a party mask and turn her peasants patchwork dress into one made from beautiful organza and then she followed the other girls to the party in the forest.
When they got to the forest clearing where the party was, Weo saw that all of the boys and girls were wearing masks; animal masks like foxes and cats with enormous painted grins and they were all drinking and dancing and making love to the music of fiddle, pipe and accordian.
But, as she entered the clearing, her axe suddenly shouted, “Weo, beware! This is not a party; this is a trap”.
And the girls whom Weo was with laughed and said, “You can’t bring a weapon to the party”
“I’m sorry”, said Weo, embarassed and she told the axe to be quiet.
But the axe continued to shout, “Weo. Listen to me. This is not what it appears to be. It is a trap set by the wicked Klawhanna”.
“What kind of girl carries an axe anyway?”, asked one of the masked girls, “Are you a boy or a girl?”.
“I’m sorry. I’ll get rid of it”, said Weo and, ignoring the warnings of her axe, she buried its blade in the trunk of a tree and said, “Bother me no further!”
The party was everything that Weo had dreamed it would be; although she was very shy at first. The others gave her wine and before long, all her nerves and inhibitions were gone and all the boys at the party crowded round her and, though she could not see their faces, she thought that they must be very handsome because they seemed so strong and confident.
And then all the girls and boys started to take off their clothes and Weo was afraid that they wouldn’t like her unless she did the same and, when she had hung her dress upon the limb of a tree, one of the boys started to kiss her and, with every kiss, gave her a little more wine until the mist of drunkenness had clouded her eyes and the music of the fiddle, pipe and accordian were whirling and, ontop of her, the boy was kissing her body.
But, suddenly, the music stopped and all the boys and girls took off their animal masks and, to her horror, Weo saw that they were not human but monsters; horrible changelings with twisted faces and one of them was ontop of her, holding her down and she screamed but, luckilly, she managed to get one of her arms free and, stretching out the arm, she cried, “Axe! Axe!”
And when she did this, her axe loosened itself from the tree trunk in which she had buried its blade and, transforming itself into a kestrel of steel, flew to her aid and, wherever its steel wings touched the neck of one of the changelings, it cut off their head and, flying into Weo’s hand, it turned back into a battleaxe and Weo used it to free herself from the monsters grip and, even though her head was whirling with the wine, she was stronger than all the devils that were trying to subdue her and, including the monstrous fiddle, pipe and accordian players they all soon lay dead and beheaded at her feet and, once she was safe again, Weo put her clothes back on, although they were dirty and blood stained, and walked back home, sobbing as she went but the axe whispered, “Don’t worry Weo, the goddess is on your side, things will get better”.
When Weo got back to her farmhouse, she didn’t want her mother or father to see her and so she used her magic to make herself invisible and she tried to creep back into her bedroom without anybody noticing but she was still sobbing heavilly and her sobbing woke her mother and her mother saw Weo’s tear puddles on the floor with her footprints in them and she asked, “Weo? Is that you?”.
And Weo revealed herself to her mother and her mother embraced her and said,“Thank the goddess! An impostor came here earlier pretending to be you but we knew straight away that it was not you. She messed up all her chores and she wouldn’t speak. She was empty behind the eyes but, when I prayed to the Goddess, she would not tell me where you had gone, she only said ‘Don’t worry. The real Weo will return home safe and, here you are! But where have you been and why are you crying?”
And so Weo told her mother everything that had happened but, when she was finished, her mother was not angry. “I understand”, said Homa, “Your mother was a nun who couldn’t keep her vows or live a cloistered life. I knew it was not my destiny to stay a virgin and lock myself away like spring locked in its snowy shell but that is no reason why you shouldn’t be careful. The deer is free to roam aslong as it avoids the hunter and you must remember that , because you are special, this world will always be a forest for you, crawling with Klawhannas hunters and her traps and snares posing as freedom but, if you are careful, you can be as happy or free as any girl”.
And Weo thanked her mother for being so good and loving and, kicking her “Copy” out of bed, Weo lay down to sleep.
And, while she slept, Weo had a dream that a white stag was knocking upon her door with its antlers and, when she went outside to look, she saw that the white stag was wearing a golden saddle upon its back and had golden reigns and the stag said to her, “Climb upon my back and I will show you the stars”.
“Who are you?”, asked Weo in a distant dream voice.
“I am the male aspect of the Goddess. I am God the father. I am every man that is good upon this world”, said the Stag.
And Weo stepped upon a golden stirrup and was lifted by an unseen hand onto the back of the white stag and she did not feel afraid because she saw that this creature was kind and gentle and wise like a father and the stags antlers glowed like lightning and she saw sparks upon its hooves and, when she took hold of its reigns, the stag flew up into the night sky and it flew so fast that wind rushed through Weo’s hair and, the higher that Weo climbed the more she felt that all of her body became like stars of feeling and, together, they circled all the distant spheres of the deep star ocean and Weo felt that her heart was like the planets, illuminated by the sun and Weo asked, “Is this Heaven?”
And the stag replied, “Everything is Heaven that is within the realms of love”.
And the stag became a man and the man was beautiful and they kissed and Weo woke, warm but alone, in bed.