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A Gift From King Arnon

 

On a warm summer afternoon, deep in the forest of Anashim, Jemi made her way through the trees. A song was forming in her mind and she needed a quiet place to hear it clearly.

Jemi fluttered along from branch to branch, resting every now and then. She watched a butterfly hover gracefully nearby before soaring away into the sky. Jemi sighed softly as she watched the beautiful creature. If only she could fly like that . . . .

Jemi shook her head to clear her thoughts. The song circled playfully through her mind. She fluttered into the air and continued hopping between branches.

Several minutes later, Jemi spiraled gracefully downward to a sheltered spot on a large, flat rock. Thick vines and bushes surrounded the place, protecting it from intruders. The sunshine filtered through an opening in the trees, creating a warm and peaceful haven. "A perfect spot to compose a song," Jemi thought with a smile as she settled down onto the warm rock.

Closing her eyes, Jemi listened to the tune that had been circling in her thoughts all morning. In the stillness, a beautiful melody took shape. Jemi hummed the notes softly, fixing them in her mind. Then she opened the pouch she had brought with her and pulled out a small harp. The body of the harp had been carved from wood, then decorated with tiny designs of flowers and vines. The strings were made from strong vines, stretched to produce the correct notes. Jemiís father, an instrument maker, had given her the harp on her tenth birthday.

Jemiís paws stroked the curved sides of the harp. She smiled and began to play, the lovely music filling her haven. She played the new song over and over until the notes seemed to flow from the harp through her paws.

As Jemiís music filled the air, it caught the attention of a small sparrow. He fluttered down, perching on one of the bushes. He cocked his head sideways, watching Jemi carefully.

"Hello, Song-Spinner," Jemi said, smiling at the little bird. "Have you come to sing with me today?"

The sparrow chirped in reply before gliding down to the sun-warmed rock. Jemi began to play a bouncy, happy tune. Song-Spinner chirruped a merry counterpoint. The two shared duet after duet, enjoying each otherís company.

But, before long, Song-Spinner gave a happy chirp, spread his wings and soared away through the trees. "Goodbye, my friend," Jemi called. "Iíll see you again soon."

As Jemi watched the sparrow fly high above her, a wistful look crossed her face. Although her wings appeared to be normal, Jemi had never been able to fly well. Her wings were not strong, making it difficult for her to fly any great distance or height.

At first, her inability to fly like other Ursa fairies had caused Jemi to shed many tears. She could not participate in ribbon tag or games of sploosh with her friends. Over time, Jemi found that her more active companions spent less and less time with her. She often found herself sitting alone, watching games from a distance.

"Donít be discouraged, Little One," Jemiís mother said, wrapping her arms around her daughter. "Each of us has our own, unique talents. You may not be able to fly as well as some Ursa fairies, but you do have the ability to sing and create beautiful music. You make friends with the sparrows and other creatures of the forest. You are special, Jemi, just the way you are."

Although she was often forgotten by other Ursa fairies her age, Jemi had two special friends who found ways to include her in a variety of activities. Merette and Doreen spent long hours sitting and talking with Jemi or playing their instruments together. One day, to Jemiís surprise and delight, her two friends presented her with a special vest. Ribbons were woven into the vest which attached to sturdy belts that Merette and Doreen fastened around their waists. In this way, the three friends were able to fly high and far together.

"Jemi! Jemi! Where are you?" Two familiar voices broke into her thoughts. Jemi looked up to see her friends flying through the trees.

"Over here!" she called, standing up and waving a paw.

"Weíve been looking all over for you," Merette said, dropping down beside Jemi. She seemed excited and a little out of breath. "King Arnon told us to find you. He has a message for you."

"A message? For me?" Jemi asked.

Doreen pulled a golden mirror from the pouch she was carrying. "Abyn told us to find you and give you the mirror so you could talk to King Arnon." Jemi slowly took the mirror from Doreen. It had been a gift to the Ursa fairies from King Arnon. He used the mirror to show the Ursa fairies when someone was in need of help within the kingdom of Kyr.

As she gazed at the shiny surface of the mirror, it rippled and began to glow. Then the face of King Arnon appeared. "Greetings, Jemi," he said with a smile. "Iím glad your friends found you. I need your help. You are the perfect person to help in this particular situation."

"What do you want me to do?" Jemi asked.

"In a little while, a young girl named Arianne will come through the forest, right by your favorite place. I want you to give her something for me."

The image in the mirror changed. Jemi could see a beautiful golden chain with a blood-red gem hanging from it. Fire seemed to burn deep within the red jewel.

"What kind of stone is that?" Jemi asked.

"It is a haima stone," King Arnon answered. "I want you to give it to Arianne, as a token of my love for her. Tell her the story of how I freed your people and all of Kyr."

Doreen held the mirror while Jemi reached inside, taking the beautiful necklace in her paws. She pulled until the gold chain formed a small pile at her feet. The haima stone glittered in the sunshine as it was pulled from the mirror.

"Arianne will come into the forest soon," King Arnon said. "When you have done what I asked, bring her to me. I will be waiting in Alton, in the village square." After saying this, the Kingís image faded from the mirror.

Doreen took the mirror and returned it to the carrying pouch. "We have to take the mirror back to Abyn," she said. "He was making a batch of rafa and couldnít leave it unattended."

"Do you want us to stay and help you?" Merette asked.

"No," Jemi answered. "I think King Arnon wants me to do this alone. Iíll tell you all about it later."

Merette and Doreen smiled at Jemi before flying off, waving as they went. Jemi watched them until they disappeared into the trees. Then she sat down to wait.

As she waited, Jemi picked up the haima stone in her paws, pulling it into her lap. She noticed it was formed in the shape of a teardrop. The stone caught the sunlight and reflected red light on everything nearby.

Just then a rustling sound caught Jemiís attention. She set down the stone and fluttered up through the bushes to a place where she could watch the path without being seen.

A young girl was making her way through the trees. She moved awkwardly, dragging her left leg behind her. She carried a small cloth bag and a water bottle. As she walked, she was muttering to herself. Jemi strained her ears to hear what the girl was saying.

"Everyone always laughs at me," she said, kicking at a stone in the path. "They wonít let me sing. No one wants to hear me. I wonít let them make fun of me this time. Iíll stay here until it is all over!"

With that, the girl found a grassy place between several trees and sat down. She opened the water bottle and took a long drink, wiping her mouth on her sleeve when she finished. Then she reached into the bag and pulled out several rolls, an apple and some slices of cheese. "Iíll stay here all night if I have to," the girl muttered as she began to eat. "I wonít let them tease me."

"She must be Arianne," Jemi said to herself. "Iíd better go find out for sure." Leaving the necklace in her hiding place, Jemi began to flutter toward the girl.

Jemi made her way from branch to branch until she was right over the girlís head. She took a deep breath, spread her wings and spiraled gracefully downward. As she moved past the girlís head, Jemi called, "Greetings from King Arnon. Are you Arianne?"

The girl startled and turned her head to search the trees. "Who said that? Where are you?"

"Iím right here," Jemi said with a little laugh. "Look in your lap."

The girl looked down, then gave a cry of wonder. She smiled and clapped her hands in delight. "Youíre an Ursa fairy!" she cried. "Iíve heard stories of how Ursa fairies help people, but Iíve never seen one of you before."

"Well, now you have," Jemi said, fluttering to the girlís hand. "You are Arianne, arenít you?"

"Yes. But, how did you know that?" Arianne asked.

"King Arnon sent me to find you," Jemi said. "He has something to give you. Wait just a minute while I get it for you."

Jemi fluttered back to her special place. She looped the necklace over her paws so it wouldnít catch in the branches. Then she made her way back to where Arianne was waiting.

It took several minutes for Jemi to flutter down into Arianneís lap. The girl watched her curiously. "Did you hurt your wing?" she asked quietly when Jemi made an awkward landing.

Jemi shook her head. "My wings are not hurt," she said. "They are not very strong. It is hard for me to fly."

"Iím sorry," Arianne said. She shifted her legs underneath her skirt. "My leg is twisted, so I canít walk very well." Her hand brushed the scars that criss-crossed one cheek as she studied Jemi. "At least your wings are beautiful," she added shyly.

Jemi nodded in understanding. Perhaps this was the reason King Arnon had sent her to Arianne. Jemi could understand how Arianne felt about her twisted leg. "It must be hard," she said gently.

Arianne blinked as tears filled her eyes. "People tease me because I canít run or play games the way they can. And they make fun of me because of the scars on my face."

"Thatís terrible!" Jemi cried. "My friends never make fun of my wings. Sometimes, when everyone else is dancing or playing games, they sit with me and we watch together. They always make me feel part of whatís going on."

Arianne sighed. "I wish I had a friend like that." She looked down at the ground.

"I will be your friend," Jemi said.

At this, Arianne looked up, her eyes wide. "Would you, really?"

"Yes, really," Jemi answered.

A slow smile curved Arianneís lips, making her face beautiful in spite of the scars. As she studied the Ursa fairy in her lap, she noticed the gold chain that Jemi was holding. "What is that?" she asked shyly.

"This is a gift from King Arnon," Jemi said, unwinding the chain and placing it in Arianneís outstretched hand.

"A gift from King Arnon? For me?"

"He told me to give it to you as a token of his love," Jemi explained. "The gem is a haima stone. Isnít it beautiful?"

Arianne held up the chain and studied the stone. It glowed and sparkled in the sunlight. "This is for me?" she asked again.

"Yes," Jemi answered.

Arianne looked at the stone in silence. She unfastened the clasp and was about to place it around her neck when she stopped. The smile faded from her face. She let the necklace drop into her lap. She sighed, whispering, "This canít be for me."

"Why not?"

"Because King Arnon will laugh at me, just like everyone else."

Jemi looked up into the girlís face. "Oh, Arianne," she said. "King Arnon wonít laugh at you."

"Yes, he will!" she cried, covering her face with her hands. "Thatís why I ran away! Everyone is supposed to do something for the celebration to welcome King Arnon to our village. Iím supposed to sing, but I canít. Whenever Iíve tried to sing at school, everyone laughs at me Ė at my limp and the scars on my face. I never get to finish a song. King Arnon has musicians who play wonderful music for him every day. Why would he even want to hear me? Heíll laugh at me, too." She put her face in her hands and began to cry.

Jemi fluttered to Arianneís shoulder, listening to her muffled sobs. "Arianne, listen to me," she said. "I have met King Arnon. When Kazab tricked the Ursa fairies and made us his slaves, King Arnon came to our rescue. He gave his life to break Kazabís spell and set us free. He freed everyone in the kingdom of Kyr. He died for you, Arianne, because he loves you." She held up the golden chain so Arianne could see it. "King Arnon sent this to you as a reminder of how much he loves you. Please, take his gift."

Arianne wiped her eyes and sniffled. Slowly, she took the necklace. She studied the blood-red stone for a moment in silence. Then she pulled the chain over her head and let the stone rest against her chest.

A warm glow began to pulsate from the stone. Arianne felt as if strong, tender arms were holding her close. "I love you, Arianne," a voice whispered to her heart. "Always remember that I love you."

"King Arnon loves me," she whispered in wonder. "He really loves me."

Jemi clapped her hands and did an awkward jig before dropping into Arianneís lap. "Yes, he does," she said with a smile.

"I suppose I should go home now," Arianne said slowly. "Mum and Papa will be worried about me." She began to gather up the remnants of her lunch. Then she looked at Jemi. "Will you come with me?"

"I would love to," Jemi replied. "And maybe, as we walk, you can sing your song for me. Iíll try to come up with a harmony to play on my harp."

Arianne smiled. "That sounds like fun. I didnít know you played a harp."

"My father made it for me," Jemi said with a smile. "Iíll go get it."

As Arianne repacked her lunch bag, Jemi returned to her hiding place. She placed her harp in its carrying case and swung the straps over her shoulders. Arianne was just standing up when Jemi returned, fluttering to a perch on her new friendís shoulder.

"All set?" Arianne asked.

"All set," Jemi said. She pulled out her harp and ran her paws across the strings. "You sing and Iíll listen. Then Iíll see what harmonies come to my mind."

"Weíll perform a duet for King Arnon," Arianne said happily as she began limping through the forest, singing her song while Jemi played on her harp.

 

 

 

 

The afternoon was melting into evening as Arianne and Jemi reached the village of Alton. Torches had been lit, filling the square with light. Brightly colored banners and streamers hung from the trees. A small wooden stage had been set up along one end of the grassy area.

As the two friends entered the square, a nasty voice reached their ears. "What are you doing here, Scarface?" it sneered. "Donít you know that King Arnon only wants to see beautiful people? He doesnít need someone like you." A rather snobbish-looking girl stepped into Arianneís path.

"Why donít you run away?" another cruel voice added. A boy stood beside them. "Thatís right," he added with a snicker," you canít run away. Youíd have to hobble!"

Other children joined the two, adding their taunts and insults. Several adults stood by, not saying anything but not stopping those who were teasing. Tears began to well up in Arianneís eyes as she shrank away from her tormenters.

Suddenly, Jemi fluttered up beside Arainneís face. "Look!" she cried. "Thereís King Arnon!"

Arianne followed Jemiís paw to see a man laughing and playing with a group of little children. It seemed that he was enjoying the game every bit as much as they were. The gold from his crown flashed in the torchlight as he chased his young friends, tickling those he caught until they shrieked with laughter.

"Go to him," Jemi whispered in Arianneís ear. "Remember how much he loves you."

Arianne reached up to clasp the stone around her neck. She could feel its warmth pulsating through her, as if loving arms were wrapped around her heart. She held her head up and began making her way across the grass.

"Itís too late for you to sing now," someone jeered. "The program is over." But Arianne kept her hand on the haima stone and did not hear the accusing words.

Just then, King Arnon looked up from his wild game. His eyes met Arianneís and he smiled. "There is someone here that I have been waiting to see," he told the children. "I will play with you again later." With that, he left them to continue their game while he walked to meet Arainne.

The two met near the center of the square. "Greetings, Arianne," King Arnon said with a warm smile. "Iím glad you could join us." Then he scooped her up in his arms and swung her around until both were breathless with laughter. Jemi hung on tightly to Arianneís shoulder as they flew through the air.

When Arianne was back on her feet again, she asked, "Is it too late for me to sing my song?"

"It is not too late," King Arnon said. "In fact, I have waited a long time to hear you sing." He took her hand and led her toward the stage. As they walked, the King looked at Jemi and smiled. "Good work, little one," he whispered to the Ursa fairy.

King Arnon led Arianne up the steps onto the wooden stage. Those who filled the square began to move to their seats, wondering what was going to happen. The children who had been tormenting Arianne also moved closer, ready to continue their attack. "Sheíll run away before she finishes her song," someone taunted.

"You mean, limp away!"

King Arnon ignored the cruel remarks. He looked Arianne in the eye. "Donít worry about them," he told her. "Just look at me and sing." Then he stepped off the platform and took his seat.

A hush fell over the square. Arianne cleared her throat nervously, her eyes scanning the faces before her. A few titters came from the children. She could see some adults whispering behind their hands and looking at her with critical glances. "I donít think I can do this," Arianne whispered, hiding her face.

"Just look at King Arnon," Jemi hissed in her ear, getting her harp ready. "Focus on him and sing."

Arianne made herself look at the King. He was sitting on the grass in front of the stage. His face was lit with a look of eager anticipation and warm acceptance. A gentle smile curved his lips as his eyes met hers. He nodded for her to begin.

Taking a deep breath, Arianne opened her mouth. The first few notes were uncertain, but her voice grew stronger as she fixed her eyes on King Arnon. Jemi plucked the harmony on her harp, humming along softly. Everyone in the square listened in silence, enjoying the music. Even those who had teased her were still, silenced by one look from King Arnon.

When the song ended, there was silence. Arianne looked around, confused. Shouldnít there be applause? Hadnít anyone liked her song?

Just then, she heard clapping. She turned to see King Arnon on his feet, a joyful smile on his face. "Well done, Arianne!" he cried. "Well done!"

Arianne felt a warm glow coming from the haima stone around her neck. She reached up and held it in her hand, smiling at the love that encircled her heart. As King Arnon continued to applaud, others joined him. Soon everyone in the square was clapping and cheering.

King Arnon leaped onto the stage and caught Arianne up in a joyful embrace. He held her close, kissing her cheek. "That was beautiful," he said. "Thank you for singing for me."

"Did you really like it?" Arianne asked.

"Very much," King Arnon said. "In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I would like you to come to my palace and sing for me there as one of my court musicians. You and your family will live with me in my palace. Would you like that?"

Arianne smiled. "Yes!" She clapped her hands while Jemi cheered from her perch on Arainneís shoulder.

Suddenly Arainne frowned. "If I live in the palace, I wonít be able to see Jemi. Charis is too far for her to fly and it would be too far for me to walk to visit her in the forest."

"Donít worry," King Arnon said with a reassuring smile. "I will find ways for you to visit each other. True friends are never far away in my kingdom."

Arianne smiled in return. "Thank you so much," she said, giving him a hug. Jemi fluttered in the air joyfully until she landed on King Arnonís head. He laughed and swung them both in circles until they were dizzy and breathless. Others in the square joined in their laughter as the celebration continued long into the night.

And so, the Ursa fairies learned that King Arnon welcomes everyone who comes to him, for he loves and accepts each person no matter who they are. For King Arnonís love is great and his arms are open to all.

 

 



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