– Jesus Christ
In retrospect, Oracion felt Mother had done her a greater disservice when she had recommended Oracion be auctioned for dragons, than when she had sold Oracion’s night visions to a troubled prelate, for the cost of a trikerion lamp.
After all, the dragons had done Oracion no harm, and when she, a princess but only five years old, demanded Mother tell her – what offenses dragons had committed that all of them were guilty of death (just so a princess could bear a prince) – Mother could give no answer.
“If any knight slays an innocent, unproven dragon for my sake, not tried for its case” Oracion had announced, licking honey cream casually off of her fingers (for she was eating a thick slice of current bread) “be he a knight, a prince, or even be he a king – he will never have my hand.”
Oracion had gone then to see Father, still licking her fingers.
She found him in the expansive castle library on one of the tall ladders towards the back of the room, beneath the ancient ceiling vault upon which the artists had drawn angels. He was paging through a heavy volume he had pulled from a shelf, beside an open window the height of one wall. From this emitted a gentle, summer evening breeze, that caused long, gauzy silk curtains to flutter, like wispy skirts of garden nymphs.
Father often seemed to understand Oracion, when others could not.
Indeed, he had overheard portions of Oracion and her mother’s conversation, which came echoing in from the dining chamber. It was funny how within this castle there were so few secrets, yet so many, that Oracion was wont to realize.
Glancing down at Oracion, Father was now only halfway absorbed in the fine volume, which had such outstanding, gilded lettering running down the length of its spine, luminous calligraphy seemed to jump right off of the binding, in response to the flickering candlelight.
“In your mother’s culture it was an honor for princesses to have suitors duel over them,” he stated, matter of factly, still appearing to peruse the book. “And where there was not game, the men would invent.”
Oracion crossed her arms at this remark, her brow knit with great consternation at what seemed like Eros’s error, then sat down silently into a great armchair, three times too big.
“That does not impress,” she had finally responded, which was a response that was also three times too big, for such a little girl. “So why would it honor?”
Father considered for a moment, then slid the book back into the row of bound manuscripts, closing the space. He came down from the ladder and sat down next to his little girl empty handed, drawing her lovingly – into his arms.
“Do not worry, my righteous little Oracion,” he told her. “Your mother knows it will not happen that way. For I will not let her do that to you.”
Oracion had looked up at Father then, suddenly more hopeful of a future not devoid of that virtue of which marriage claimed to promote, and which Father had taught her only too well. Father knew what love was, and he also had a habit of fixing things right.
His love for Oracion was like a deep well from which she could draw many delightful draughts, to the degree to which she was thirsty, and simply trusted he had secreted them there. Satisfaction was always there waiting. And since satiation could be so endlessly drawn – with little more than an inclination of will, or the sound of one’s voice in this kingdom, why did not everyone know joy? And why then was poor Mother, so often sad?
“How then, will it happen?” Oracion asked.
“Oh that. I do not know… for that is for you. But you are part Etherate, so you will not be won. You are also nobility… so you will rule with your king. You are a shape shifter, so you will marry like mind – with free choice – and finally – you have warrior blood within – of deep and ancient origin.”
“Warrier blood,” repeated Oracion. “Oh Daddy, I know. I will duel with the suitors and whomever can beat me – I will allow them my hand.”
At this Father had laughed robustly, even slapping one of his knees.
“I don’t know about that, my dearest, funny heart. Perhaps, but not like you imagine it. You are sure to meet him in the midst of battle, but you are going to have to be willing to be saved. The saving part is mutual, and non-negotiable – for true love is a gift freely given, and accepted.”
This explanation sat true with Oracion, so she had not pondered it further, or plumbed its depths. Until she met Cosmos, the angel-boy she called Christmas, in Father’s mysterious orange grove.
Now it made even more sense, as if Father had been mapping for her the lines of his face.
As for Mother, perhaps she had just been teasing, but Oracion decided never to tell her about the boy she had heard being called Cosmos. Telling Mother such things might worry her, hasten competitive suitors, or provoke a loosening of dragons.
And she had instantly loved that little boy like Christmas morning.
But that she was going to marry Cosmos – the boy she called Christmas – was something the Presence had revealed to her as well, so in Oracion’s mind it was already settled. There only remained decorating the ballroom with balsam and pine, not encouraging the other suitors, and planning the feast to which she planned on inviting all nobility, fairy-kind, shape-shifters, servants, commoners and animals alike, regardless of rank, species, table manners… or lack thereof.
But as the years passed, that magical and sleepy spring day in the orange grove faded like a sweet dream rather than a certain, tangible memory. Though she missed her beloved Christmas with an aching, ever-present longing, Oracion had begun to assume her angel boy was already in heaven and waiting for her there, like one of those perfect cherubs, whose images had graced Father’s ceiling.
The significance that the Divine Presence would allow her to meet Cosmos again, right before Oracion found herself, as an adult, shifting into the past to revisit her father’s death – was not lost on Oracion, whose mind was ever reflectant, and constantly sifted analogy and thought. Analogy and thought, to be effective, were like shadow and light, juxtaposed. Though she had perfected these mental skills in time travel lessons as a child, instantaneous contemplation and awareness were something she had never been without.
So truly, as an adult, Oracion knew that hearing Cosmos’s voice (even as he rescued her from a blended-dragon, who was really her brother) was at the same time what gave her strength to face this uncomfortable reality.
Should it have come then as any surprise, that the Artist who tempered the forest she loved so dear, with variant hue and melodious bird song, had balanced her life with such a great paradox, albeit in the unhurried, eleventh hour, like her own father, glancing down from a book?
But He had.
And it did.
It did come as a surprise.
The sound of her lover’s voice, when she had heard it that second time, as an adult.
Oracion noticed that during the most important events in life many things happen at once, and perhaps this was how they tended to take one unaware.
Even as she found herself shifting helplessly away from the now adult Cosmos, back into the past, visions started flashing rapidly before Oracion’s eyes like cut away still shots of life. The current buns with their sticky, dehydrated fruit – now a startling, disturbing ruby red – and her mother’s eyes, on the surface kind – but with hidden complexity.
This was a jarring disorientation, more dizzying than grains of sand in a sand storm, flying into her face.
The two visions crossed, in a sense also juxtaposed, and she saw her mother shifting into a dream snatcher. Mother’s eyes seemed to sink in her face until they were filled with heavy, deep pools of currant jam – which became dried, coagulated blood. Oracion suddenly became aware of her own eyes becoming filled with something opposite – wet, stinging, and raw.
The wetness of tears upon Oracion’s cheeks stung like a bitter salve, even as she passed over and saw below the hang man’s noose being erected by the priests – and the testers – in the castle square.
But she needed to cry to put back into her own mother’s eyes – life.
A loosening of emotions had been necessary and caused by this time shift, and Oracion wept even as she felt, and was becoming aware, of new – but past – surroundings. She felt the godmothers clinging ever more tightly to the folds of her skirt – Sweet Joy, hiding her eyes, burying her face, as if in this time shift she would be Chagrin once again. But it was also then that she heard the Madonna of the Glistening Wood saying “He thirsts”.
Her voice was both a startlingly lovely, beckoning song, and a gentle pleading. She had promised Oracion to stay near.
Suddenly all Oracion could think was “Father” – the immensity of him – and the depth of his love for her, what it had been, and what it was. She was back in the turret bedroom her parents had given her, now weeping for Father, whose death was about to begin.
This was how Oracion realized it, the day the kind lady turned her tears for her mother – into tears for Father – at the sound of her voice. For if she hadn’t spoken Oracion would have died of grief, and martyred herself – for a wrong cause.