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Saranina, Bellara, and Catilia were all sisters. Each was not immensely attractive, but each had just one feature that put them above most womens' beauty. For Saranina, it was her luscious locks that were as black as the night sky. Bellara was well-known in her town for her gorgeous hands that tended to capture the attention of audiences, performing, in a so very graceful manner, the simplest of tasks. For Catilia, it was her fiery eyes that kept her admirers coming after her day after day. All of the town’s men and women spoke of the maiden’s dazzling eyes, saying that they sparkled with all the captivation of life’s wonder.
One day the town caught news of three princes making their way to their town. It was said that they each would choose a maiden to rule with them when it came time for them to take the thrown. All of the town’s people were sure that the three sisters would capture the attention of the three princes. So, it was no surprise when, of course, the first of the princes showed up to the door of the three sisters, rapping urgently.
Rap, rap, rap. “My fair Saranina, it is your prince that awaits. Come out, for I know here dwells the maiden with hair as black as the night sky, and as luscious as a water fall, and I do believe that it is a woman’s hair that makes her beauty. So, come out, will you, and let me make you my bride.”
Joyfully, the fair maiden did as the prince, so charmingly obliged. Bidding her sisters goodbye and good luck, she took way to her new home in the kingdom.
The next morning, Bellara and Catilia strolled through the marketplace, picking up items here and there for the household, when their path was cut off abruptly by a handsome man.
He spoke to Bellara “It is you, I know it is. The lovely maiden with such elegant hands that move so gracefully that they would attract an audience, doing even the most simplest of tasks. I have always believed it is a maiden’s hands that account for her beauty, and now I know it’s true. Come away with me, for I am a fair prince, and wish to make you my bride.”
Bellara did exactly that, with no hesitance at all. The sisters bid their farewells, and wished one another good luck. Bellara set off unto her new home in a nearby kingdom. But before setting off with her future husband she turned to her sister and sang, “Just wait, Catilia, for tomorrow your prince will show. And then, all three of us sisters will revel in the riches of a princess’s life. I know this is true.”
So Catilia took her words confidently, assured that a prince would come for her, and make her his bride. Excitedly, she trotted around, humming light tunes, bringing merry smiles to the people of her town. Singing happy tunes “I’ll soon be married, I will. What a glorious fate is in store for me. La dee la dee la… ”. She fluttered gleefully the entire next day, and, when that day flitted to an end, she, barely fazed, continued her glee filled merriment unto the next day. It wasn’t until that day flitted to an end, and the following morning peeked up its mellow head, that her excitement began to wither.
“No prince.” She said to her father. “Can it be that he will not come for me? Will my sisters each be merrily wed, and have a handsome prince to share their bed, while I remain here a withering maid, under my father’s roof for the rest of my days?” She cried out in exasperation. “What odd fortune has been placed upon me.”
Her father merely scoffed, and told her not to worry her pretty little head about such matters. So she did not.
The next morning, as Catilia strolled through her village, a young vvillagemaiden halted right in front of her. She spoke to Catilia exasperatedly. She told her that the prince did come to their vvillageas it was told he would, and he was wooed by the abilities of the town’s baker’s daughter, for he finds that a woman’s skills in the kitchen are what make her beauty. And asked her to cook for him for the rest of their days. “Marry me”, he said “and make me a fat man.” The maiden accepted, and was off to be wed to the prince.
To the town’s astonishment it would seem Catilia would not follow in her sisters’ fate and marry a prince. The young maiden was completely distressed.
For the next several days townsman after townsman came to devote their love to the unhappy maiden, but, each after the other, she turned down their proposals. Her father in wonder asked why none was worthy for her hand, and she replied “it is not that at all, but I’ve decided I might, if not marry a prince, devote myself to nunnery.”
Her father detested the proclamation, “No. Not at all will I accept that devotion. To live life as a nun would be to put to waste those beautiful eyes. I will not have my daughter denounce a life of love for the boring life of a nun.”
“But father that is what I wish. Will you deny me what want? Even though that would chance me living a life of misery and wishfulness?”
And so it was that Catilia became a nun, and the most devout nun at that. She was always praised for her devotion to the church, and her eyes of the heavens. Even her elders sought her advice at times, striving to learn her ways.
And one day her devotion caught the attention of the Gods themselves. One of these Gods grew so intrigued in fact. “It cannot be, this maid so young has caught on to such holiness as though she has one hundred years experience. How can it be? And with such awe-striking eyes.” And so the God stole away to the earth, deciding he would test Catilia’s devoutness. Three times he thought, he would pursue her then engage her with the most desirable proposals.
First he disguised himself as a handsome and wealthy man, pretending to be a student of the church. He soon proclaimed his love for Catilia, but she refused him. He promised her love, devotion, and plenty of wealth. Still she said no. “Marry me, Catilia, why won’t you?”
“You are a fine sir, sire, and you offer all a woman could want. But I am engaged, you see, in very heavenly marriage, to the holiest of sirs. So, I cannot marry you.”
“I see”, said the God. “Then I will leave you this gift even so for sharing with me your beauty.” Then he, from a sleeve embroidered with diamonds of the finest sorts, pulled out a scroll.
“What is this?”
“A lease”, said the young man, “to a cottage beyond that hill there. It is yours always. Goodbye, my love. I will miss embarking upon those eyes for the rest of my days.” And off the young man went. And when Catilia crossed over that hill, sure enough, there lied a beautiful cottage. She read there, and incited poems, and went there daily to recite her prayers. When she wrote about the young man and the cottage to her sisters they became grew of their sister’s odd fortune, and wrote her stating so.
Not long after, the church received another guest. Or not so much a new guest as a new version of the God. This disguise he wore was even more handsome and had even greater wealth. He appeared on the steps of the church the night of the storm. Catilia courteously volunteered to nurse him back to health.
“Oh, virtuous Catilia, do peirce me with those eyes.” He soon began to praise her with lovely sonnets and lover’s quips. “It is, oh it is a woman’s eyes that make her beauty. So, it must be that you are the most beautiful maiden on the face of the earth.”
Soon she grew soft for the handsome man’s beautiful words, but even so declined his love. “Fine sir, you speak inappropriately, for you know I am devoted to the holy lord above. Would you embark so on another man’s wife?”
“You are no man’s wife. Desert this life of nunnery, and devote yourself to me instead. I’m sure God will understand. He expects no one of such beauty to live without love.”
“I do not live without love. I simply live with our God’s, and it is plenty for me.”
“Fine”, the young man faltered his pursuance, “then if you will not come with me, you will accept this token as gratitude for nursing me to health. I will take no refusal.”
Then from his sleeve embroidered in the finest silver he took out a seed.
“So you will not get lonely, wish upon this seed and it will give you any companion you desire.” The man left Catilia with the seed.
Catilia set the seed down and wished upon it. She wished for a steed as white as snow and as gentle as a swan, and there from the seed grew a steed. A steed the palest white, with his head bowed like a swan’s. And everywhere the nun took her steed, people watched curiously as the beautiful horse strode with its head bent as though it was a mellow swam blissfully gliding across a bed of murky water. He served as a fine companion. The young nun once again wrote to her sisters about the odd turn of events, and the sisters immediately insisted they visit her to see for themselves these fine gifts.
Her sisters took shock upon seeing the fortunes their sister had inquired. Though a modest nun, she was living as fortunately as they were with their princes back at their kingdoms. A strange sense of jealousy came over the two sisters. Bellara asked her, “If so you are a nun, sister, then why do you accept these gifts from handsome men?”
“They say upon giving them to me that they are gifts of their hearts, and I can’t very well refuse a gift of the heart, can I?”
The sisters still even so, felt cheated, for they had to marry to receive such gifts.
Not long after the sisters arrived at the church, the God, disguised as a man far more beautiful and far wealthier than his former two facades. When the sisters set eyes upon him, their jaws dropped, and they were envious to see that he only had eyes for their sister. The man said he was religious philosopher, traveling to spread the word of God. The church granted him shelter, so that he could rest and gather strength for the rest of his travels.
He and Catilia as it turned out had much to talk about. And often took long walks speaking of spirituality and all things relating. The young nun soon found herself hopelessly in love with the young philosopher. And he began implying that he shared these feelings with sweets notes on her beauty and kindliness. “Sweet, Catilia”, he one day said, “tell me if you feel the same. I’m sure you do, for, when I look into those intoxicating eyes, your love is spelled out to me so plain.”
“You are not wrong, and I will not lie, but you of all men should understand my denial of this love.”
“I know, I do. And I know that your devotion to our God comes from that kindheartedness of yours that I so love. I know it may be wrong, but I ask you to leave this life behind, to live a life with me in love, and let us be married.”
“I-“, as soon as Catilia began to speak, out sprung her sisters from where they had spied upon their sister and the philosopher.
“Of course she accepts your proposal, fine sir”, assumed Saranina.
Bellara spoke to Catilia, “He’s handsome, and rich, and can give you the world, dear sister. Do not make the mistake of denying your heart any longer.”
“You’re right, fair Bellara. He’s kind very worthy, but I would not be if I broke my given devotion to the one who’s so holy. I’ve made a promise, one I intend to keep. Don’t push mush no further, for I’ll meet all your arguments victoriously.”
The young man did not argue, “I respect how strongly you stand by your promise, and will not push you any further for your hand, for your truth to your God is a noble stance, and I would not from you expect any less. But, if it shall be that we cannot marry, then I ask you to accept this gift of remembrance.”
From his sleeve embroidered in gold, he pulled a small tote. “In this bag is precisely three pinches of magic dust. It will grant you anything you desire. Just pinch it between your fingers, circle it around your head then make your wish and sprinkle on your head. But be sure that only you use these wishes, for if they are not used as intended, misfortune will they bring.” With that the man set off.
That night, the two sisters stayed for their last night. Though they heard the philosopher’s warning, curiosity got the best of them. At dead of the night, they snuck into their sister’s room.
Saranina and Bellara stuck their fingers into the toe bag, and each grabbed a pinch or more of the magic dust. They each circled their heads and sprinkled the dust upon their foreheads, stating their desires.
“I wish for three handsome and wealthy men to approach me, as did our sister”, stated Saranina.
“I wish to carry all three of our beautiful traits. Luscious hair, as you do, fiery eyes, like that of our sister’s, and my captivating hands, as I’ve always had.”
At that moment the sisters were granted neither of their wishes, but Bellara’s hands swelled with blisters and roughened with calices. She wailed as she lifted her hands that now moved with the quality of an ugly duckling.
Saranina wailed, too, as her hair became frumpy and knotted. Her hair, once filled with lustrous shine now was the consistency of a stack of hay.
Catilia walked in as this disastrous frenzy was taking place. She was shocked into horror when she saw her sisters’ despair. She instantly knew what had occurred. She pinched the last of the magic dust, circled her head then wished, “I pray that my sister’s disaster be undone, and that each restored with the gift they were born with.”
Instantly their wrongs had been reversed. They each cried in relief and thanked their sister profusely for her kindness, having used her last wish to restore their happiness.