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The Golden Stars and the Gray Spots
Deep in the forest, under the hills, there lived a town, flooding with magic. In the town everyone wore long black cloaks decorated with gold stars and gray spots. Whenever a person achieved a tremendous accomplishment another town person would place a gold star on the achiever’s robe. But anytime a person made a blunder another person would give the blunderer a gray spot. So all of the town’s people would go around with their infinite supply of gold stars and gray spots, giving them to friends and foes alike.
Some of the people in the town could perform tremendous feats of magic. There was a man who could make the objects around him fly. Next to him there lived a woman that could transform revolting pests into handsome flowers. Across from her lived another woman who could spurt brilliant fountains of wine from his hands. Down the street from her lived a man that could bring statues to life, statues that could walk long stretches and tell tall tales of terrors and treats alike. Broadly beaming the town’s people would receive sparkling stars upon their cloaks.
Yet sometimes there would be people who would fail at their attempts at magic. Some would singe eyebrows when attempting blue flames. Others would lose chunks of limbs when trying to disappear and suddenly reappear in a new place. People would destroy grand goblets in efforts to transform them into cuddly creatures. They would shatter silvers into smithereens instead of multiplying them. The blunderer would walk away from the scene carrying away a new spot on his cloak and a frown on his face.
In the town there lived a little boy called Priya Tan. Now this boy didn’t seem to possess any special magical abilities and whenever he attempted magic not much would happen besides a shower of red or gold sparks. The boy would receive spot after spot on his black cloak and as he walked through the town with no stars and all spots people would point and laugh at the boy. Sadly the boy would walk on and on.
Some folks would take pity on Priya Tan and try to teach him their tricks. When Priya Tan would have trouble learning the spells some of those participating in the didactics would get frustrated and give him more gray spots. No matter how hard anyone rubbed no matter how hard a person would scrub the dots would never fall from the cloaks.
Day after day, people would see Priya Tan walk through the town with the marks he bore, like scars. Thinking he was worthless easy prey they would beat him all day. But the days which he was beaten were the lucky days. People enjoyed practicing their magic on him. They would blast him off his feet, or make his body ridged as stone, or stun him, or skin with blood. And sometimes they would perform magic that caused him such great pain that it would cause his very bones to rattle. And alas, when they finished their torture they would give him more gray spots, as they walked away laughing at the pain they were so proud to have caused the helpless boy. There was nothing he could do about it.
Priya Tan was a very sad boy and did not know what to do. There was a girl in the town named Kayam Yaar, and Kayam Yaar had no stars or spots on her black cloak. People thought she had no magic abilities and for this they would try to stick gray spots on her cloak, but all of the spots would fall off. Other people would watch the spots fall off and think that she was performing great feats of magic. They would try to reward her with gold stars, but those too would fall.
Priya Tan didn’t know any other way to alleviate his sadness, so one day he went off to Kayam Yaar’s home to ask her of her secret. One day Priya Tan knocked on her door, and she invited him in for some tea and tasty cakes. Priya Tan sat in a big armchair by the fire and when all the goodies were gone he got up his courage and asked, “Kayam Yaar, how come you don’t have any stars or spots?”
“Well,” Kayam Yaar giggled, “I just don’t really want any, for you see, gray and gold simply don’t match my eyes.” And she batted her lashes over her sparkly green eyes.
“But I don’t understand,” Said Priya Tan with a moan. “When people give you the stickers why don’t they stick on you?”
“Just like I said, I don’t want them to.”
“But they have to stick on you, other people put them on your cloaks and they can’t scrub off, if someone wants you to have one on you, you just don’t have a choice,” Priya Tan whined.
“But the thing is; you do have a choice. I don’t want any of the stickers to stick on me because I don’t care what people think,” Kayam Yaar explained.
“You mean you don’t care if people hate you or love you?” Priya Tan demanded.
“I don’t care if people hate me because I know people love me,” Kayam Yaar said. “And because of that love the stickers don’t stick.”
“But how do you know if people love you?” Priya Tan asked. His simpering eyes looked up into Kayam Yaar’s soft eyes. She extended a hand and placed it on Priya Tan’s shoulder.
“Well,” She said, “When you love someone they’ll love you back, and I love you.” And she scooped Priya Tan up into a warm embrace. Priya Tan wanted to believe her but he wasn’t so sure. After all, she had just met him. But as Priya Tan felt her embrace a spot peeled and fell from his robes.
Kayam Yaar took Priya Tan out to her backyard, where she had large tree branches leaned against her wall. Kayam Yaar took a tree branch from the wall and hopped on. She kicked her feet from the ground and flew up high, and all around. She extended a hand and swooped down, grabbing onto Priya Tan’s wrist, pulling him off the ground. They played and chased each other around and flew through the whole town.
* * *
Silently by a river, a bitter old man watched the duo fly all around. He sat in his house all alone, with no spots or starts to be seen on his cloak, for he had lived his life in seclusion, on the outskirts of town. He hated to watch through his window, the terrible practices in which his community partook, making some feel arrogant as toads, and others feel insignificant as flies. But the man had a plan.
He sat watching the ebb tide flow of the river, waiting, waiting for his moment to strike. For the man had unfathomable powers unlike any powers the town had ever seen. Powers so great that the town people would have to make new stars to place upon his cloak to reach a satisfying sum. But he did not wish to boast to others, because he understood the despicability of his town’s practice of marking people as scum.
The man planned to use his magic to swell up the river and send crashing waves, cascading down over the entire town in a great flood. Wave after wave would hit the town and the torrent would wash away every last mark on the people of the town, it would cleanse them.
So the man packed his things to make his escape. He wrapped his cloak tightly around his face and for the first time in his long life, he set foot outside of his house. He traveled down to the river. Taking one last look into the sky at the boy and the girl soaring through the sky, he set to work.
* * *
After several hours airborne, Priya Tan and Kayam Yaar were quite hungry. They went into the house and Kayam Yaar made them bacon sandwiches and a cold drink that tasted like sweet pumpkins. For dessert Priya Tan made a delectable shortbread pastry smothered in gold syrup. When their bellies were round and packed the children lounged together on the armchair.
“Well, I’m going to head off to bed,” Kayam Yaar stated, “but come back again tomorrow!”
“Wait,” said Priya Tan. “I, I don’t want to go home alone, I’m still scared.”
“Scared of what?” Kayam Yaar asked. Priya Tan looked down at his robe, which was still quite heavily dotted with gray spots. Kayam Yaar bit her lip. Then her face lit up.
“I have something that will help you.” She climbed down from the couch and went digging through a coat closet.
“Here!” she exclaimed. She pulled a large wooden box free from the closet and showed it Priya Tan, beckoning him to open it. Priya Tan lifted the lid slightly and peered into the box. Inside it was a pair of creamy brown leather boots and gloves and a grand gold bladed, silver-handled sword with a fruit sized sapphire bulging from its pommel. Kayam Yaar giggled at the look of awe on Priya Tan’s face.
“You don’t even know how they work yet!” And she began excitedly, “these gloves give your arms amazing physical strength so you can pulverize boulders and tear wood like its paper! And these boots allow you to travel tremendous leagues of distance, as steep as walls in the time it takes for lightening to flash across the sky! And this sword, the stormy sword can create a hurricane of wind with one swing!”
Priya Tan stared at Kayam Yaar, mouth agape. Kayam Yaar nudged the box into Priya Tan’s arms.
“How did you get these?” The rude question spluttered from his mouth.
“My father used magic to create these items for me, made the flying branches too. He knew I had trouble with magic so he made these for me to use outside, so people would think I could use magic well. But he also taught me about love, and because I understood I never needed to use the items. I want you to have them,” She added with another nudge of the box.
“I, c-can’t accept such a-amazing gifts,” Priya Tan stammered. “You deserve them.”
“But I don’t need them. I want to share them with people I love, just like my dad shared them with me. Take them.” Priya Tan simply stared at Kayam Yaar, unable to express his gratitude in speech.
However he said, “Alright, we can share them then,” he picked up the gloves and boots from the box and pulled them on. He also picked up the sword, but he placed the sword in Kayam Yaar’s belt. Kayam Yaar opened her mouth to protest but Priya Tan simply stated, “We can share them.”
The children decided to go out for one last flight before going to bed. They looked around at the vast mountain tops that surrounded their heads. Then they soared high above the town looking down at the all of the roofs of the houses, pointing them out the familiar ones as homes of neighbors. Kayam Yaar pointed out to the river where all the town’s people collected water. Its great waves crashed hard against the surrounding land. The river almost looked as if it was growing, water being belched out from every side. Priya Tan realized that it was growing.
The children descended down to the river and landed. They watched the river expand, each wave crashing to the surrounding land, harder than the last. A man with long silver hair and a long silver beard stood at the base of the river, wildly waving his arms around and murmuring strange words to the waters in front of him.
“What’s happening to the river?” Kayam Yaar screamed to the man over the crashing torrent.
The man turned his head fiercely to Kayam Yaar’s direction, but he looked at her with soft eyes that were deep with wisdom. He opened his mouth and said in a deep voice “A cleansing is coming.”
The man disappeared. Suddenly the waves erupted from the flow of the river. Priya Tan ran and pushed a Kayam Yaar from away from the river. A tidal wave crashed a second later on the place where Kayam Yaar stood. Priya Tan ran with Kayam Yaar in his arms, high up the mountain.
“We have to save the town!” Kayam Yaar bellowed. They looked down at the hundred foot waves that already started crashing, inches from the homes of the town and they could hear screams from the town bellow. Nobody had any idea that this was happening and all the people of the town were left helpless, their heads drowning in panic.
“What are we supposed to do, run down the mountain, grab everyone, and run them all back up?” Priya Tan demanded. “We won’t have enough time; the waves are coming down too fast!”
Kayam Yaar stared helplessly at him with wide eyes. Priya Tan looked down, avoiding his pleading eyes. He spotted the gold blade of the stormy sword hanging from her belt.
“Can your sword really create a hurricane with one swing?” Priya Tan asked her. She nodded weakly.
“Okay, then here’s the plan, you take the boots and the gloves and I’ll take the sword. You grab as many people as you can with your strong arms and run up and down the mountain. I’ll take the sword and create a tornado to hold up the waves.”
“Okay,” Kayam Yaar agreed, “But I’ll use the sword,” Priya Tan opened his mouth to protest, Kayam Yaar held up a hand, “I already have the sword with me, I, I just know it’s supposed to be me, we don’t have time to argue about it.”
Slowly Priya Tan closed his mouth and nodded. He grabbed Kayam Yaar’s hand and the children took off in their mission.
When Kayam Yaar reached the base of the river she grabbed the sword and swung it in wild strokes. A large wind erupted from the gold blade and collided against a tidal wave. With all her might, Kayam Yaar swung the blade around creating a tornado that spun against the tidal waves, preventing the wave from falling. Meanwhile Priya Tan ran around the town, scooping panicked people up, twenty at a time, running up and down the mountain.
After so much hard work all of the town people were brought to safety. Priya Tan ran down and grabbed Kayam Yaar before she gave the sword a final mighty brandish. Priya Tan ran with Kayam Yaar in his arms as the waves crashed over the diminishing tornado and flooded the whole town.
The towns people watched, their eyes burning with fierce gratitude, from the mountain top, as their saviors ran towards another mountain, the stars and spots began falling from all of the black cloaks.