Litha, Darkness in the Light




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The summer had come at last, and the light of the sun bleached the earth and sky. Grain grew in the fields, and vegetable vines spread their leaves like lizards soaking up the heat.

King Goldhelm was now at the height of his power, having rebuilt his realm to his liking. There was peace, and there was order. If there was not much laughter, it was a deficiency seldom discussed or debated. The crops were growing lushly, and although the people ate Spartan meals at the king's insistence, the promise of plenty to come kept all hopeful and obedient.

The men and women were all working long shifts in the fields now, hoeing weeds in the blinding sun, and building ditches and canals in great geometrical designs to bring water to the thirsty crops.

The king's devotion to justice had made the land a place where crime was scarcely known, and even angry words came seldom. Having judged and punished all the thieves, scoundrels, and thugs, Goldhelm turned his attention to those who were merely disorderly or discontent, or who seemed to lack the shroud of seriousness and responsibility that clothed the land and its people these days.

One man was banished for having boasted of wealth he did not possess. Goldhelm rebuked him for his dishonesty, saying "Where there are lies, no one can trust another, and evil plots hatch out."

Another was put in prison for questioning the king's laws. "Have you no decency? Where the law is not sacred, nothing is safe."

At noon on the longest day of the year, a woman was brought to the king, heavy with child. "What is this?" he asked.

"This woman is a fornicator," replied the guard. She is about to give birth to a child, yet she has not married according to the laws of home and family that your majesty has so justly established.

"Is this true?" asked the king.

The woman pulled back her long, raven hair and fixed the king with a piercing gaze.

"Your majesty," she said, "I require no king's permission to love a man, and I require no king's permission to bear a child. My life is my own to live."

The king eyed her angrily. "Look around you," he said. "See all these people hard at work in the fields, growing the grain we need to feed us through the winter. And you come before me, speaking in your pride only of yourself - to take your pleasure as you choose, to bring another hungry child into this land for others to feed. How dare you waste your days and nights in lustful self-indulgence?"

"I will feed my own child. I ask no one to give me anything I have not earned. As for lust, how do you know what is in my heart?"

Goldhelm now grew angry. "Silence!" he shouted. "The matter is simple. You are proven to have disobeyed the marriage laws. You and your kind threaten to bring chaos down upon this land of ours. It cannot be permitted. Be gone, leave this land and do not return. Guard, take her away."

The woman spat on the ground. "You cannot rule forever. You are powerful now, but one day you too will be at the mercy of another's power. You will regret your harsh judgments then."

The woman was taken away and walked through the forest until long after dark, when an old man and woman took pity on her and welcomed her into their small cottage. There she gave birth to a baby boy, with hair of jet and piercing, laughing eyes. His mother saw in him something she had not seen in Goldhelm's kingdom for a long, long time: simple joy, the joy of being alive, breathing air, being free and unfettered in a wide, wonderful world. She named him Hollyhorn, sharp and prickly and wild to defy the rigid king and his sense of order.

One day, she knew, there would be a change in the world, and a welcome cool wind would sweep away the relentless fierce light of summer.

Seasons of the God is a regular feature of Starweaver's Gems from Earth and Sky

Copyright © 2008 Tom Waters