A folktale-esque short story about the power of love even against the forces of nature.
Once there were two lovers: a strong and brave soldier and a fair young maiden. Their souls, it seemed, were entwined like two rose briars, and they had been even before they drew their first breaths on this earth, for although they were different in some ways, they were the same in many more ways.
One day, the news came of war in the south, and the soldier was called upon to fight. Before he left, he told his lover to be as strong and brave as he was, and they would be together as soon as time would allow it. He also gave her a ring, with a pattern of leaves running all the way round it, like an eternal circle of love. This was his promise to her: when he returned to her, they would be together, side by side, forever.
The young maiden watched him leave with a heavy heart and a tear in her eye, but she thought of their future together when he would return. She continued with her daily life, wearing the ring on her finger for everyone to see. Still, they doubted and criticised, saying that he would win the heart of another woman and stay with her there. She paid them no heed, for they had never felt anything near to the love that she and her lover shared: he was always at the centre of her heart and mind, and every movement that she made uttered his name. At night, she would look out to the stars that shone over him too. They twinkled and shone, and she knew that he was well.
One night however, as she watched the stars from her casement, the young maiden saw the brightest of them flicker and fall out of the sky. Her heart dropped, and a tear came to her eye, for she knew that her lover had fallen. As she lay in bed tossing and turning, the voice of her lover came into her head:
“Come and find me, my love. I need you here with me – I need to see your face once more, and feel your soft lips on mine one last time...” Immediately, the maiden sat up, and leaped out of bed. She gathered all the things that were dear to her, and ran out into the dead of night.
Out onto the barren and open moors she ran, where wolves and other dangerous beasts lurked. She wasn’t afraid though, and she didn’t stop walking, even if the wind pressed her backwards to try and stop her.
“Go back!” It howled.
“Never! I need to see my lover, and he needs me.” She said, and used all her will and strength to push on through the wind.
She reached a sheltered area, where the wind could no longer bother her, and clambered over the rocks, but they decided to loosen and roll backwards to try and keep the young maiden from going any further.
“Go back!” They chattered.
“Never! I need to see my lover, and he needs me.” She said, and leapt over the rolling rocks with all her will and might.
She then entered a dense forest, full of darkness and leaves, where the thick thorns trailing around the thick trunks of the trees tore at her clothes and scratched her face.
“Go back!” They screamed.
“Never! I need to see my lover, and he needs me.” She said, and clambered underneath the thorns until she made it out the other side.
She had made it into the middle of this forest, and suddenly she could see again: a river ran through the middle of this forest. As the maiden stood at its shores, her heart told her that it lead to her lover. Her scratches burned, her feet were swollen and sore, and her muscles ached. They all begged her, “go back!” but she paid them no heed, for she was so close now. Into the water she waded, and then she let the water carry her along its path.
Before long, she saw ahead of her a waterfall, but beyond that she could see a campground of soldiers, and she knew she was almost there. She was so weary, and the sound of rushing water was so comforting that she was tempted to sleep, but she dared not. Down, down, down that waterfall she fell, and into the deep water she was plunged. The water hammered down on her, trying to drum all hope, faith and life out of her, but a school of fish saw her, took pity on her, and pulled her to shore.
There she lay, body broken and clothes tattered, on the bank of the river. It wasn’t long before a soldier saw her, picked her up, and carried her over his shoulder to the doctor’s tent. There she was lain, and when her eyes slowly flickered open, there lay her lover in the bed next to her. He was gazing at her, his eyes faint yet full of joy that she had come.
“You made it.” He breathed, for that was all he could muster.
“Of course. I knew you needed me, and I needed you too.”
“Neither of us have much time left, I fear. I am sorry I couldn’t give you what I promised.”
The maiden did not reply. Instead, she pulled herself up with what little energy she had left, and squeezed herself in beside her lover on his bed, resting her head on his chest so she could feel his slow and constant, but now dwindling heartbeat. He wrapped his sword-stricken arms around her, enveloping her, creating their own little peaceful world in the middle of all this chaos and bitterness. At exactly the same time, they breathed in together, and let their last breaths leave their exhausted bodies.
The maiden never resented fate for bringing them to such an end, for her lover did in fact deliver his promise: for they were buried together to rest forever, side by side.
If you see their graves now, you will see that two rose briars grow over them, and they reach out to wrap themselves tightly around each other, forever entwined just like their souls.