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The island

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Sir Trefor slithers slowly off the horse
that bore him once before from wyvern’s fire.
He wonders if he’s earned Gaheris' ire,
but reasons he is dead. Thus no remorse
feels he for riding Meirion in this
adventure through the far-flung Northern night,
intending that the fairy’s flutt’ring flight
should bring the dying earth sweet summer’s kiss.
He thinks of all of those who urged him on -
Merlin and Arthur, fluttering forest Fay -
of Giles, and all the others on his way –
for them, he goes where only Robert’s gone.
The lead rope that he fastens on the mare
enables him to guide her steps with care.

He climbs the stony wall around the gate,
then clings exhausted, resting on the top,
remembering the day has seen no stop
from morning in the field to evening late.
He ushers Meirion down the bank by rein
along the shallow waters by the edge,
and slowly walks her, seeking any ledge
that shows below an underwater lane.
Beside the bank, the tunnel’s slope is slow,
and soon he sees the mare pick up her hoof.
She stumbles by the rising of the roof;
he turns her with a flick, not far below.
He knows this horse has felt the weight of knights,
and leaps upon her back from stony heights.

The mare just swished her tail, and gave a snort,
as if to tell him, ‘have a little care’.
He nudged her with his knees towards the lair
in which the wild skies’ darling once was caught.
Slowly the warhorse walked the tunnel roof,
not knowing that the water wouldn’t float
the weight of any steed that braved this moat;
so proud at first, she held herself aloof.
But as her shoulders sank, she faced her fears –
unsure, she stopped, to use her rider’s brains;
with Trefor clinging grimly to the reins,
she held her ground, and pricked her dappled ears.
This boy had walked with her through many days,
and now she looked to him to guide her ways.

The first thing Trefor learned about a horse
was trust will move a steed to do great things.
A caring master who through trouble brings
his mount unscathed can lead her any course.
With knees and gentle words he urged her south,
not showing her his rapid rising fear,
letting her hooves decide the course to steer,
the bit left loose inside her tender mouth.
Now Meirion would normally have swum,
and hesitant her hooves, when in the cold
her body sank far down, in depths untold;
but trained obedience fear will overcome.
So slowly as the boy hung on half-drowned,
the mare began to climb to higher ground.

Now as the isle approached, there shone a light;
a glimm'ring in the air between the trees.
The scent of fairy realms was on the breeze,
such worlds as mortal men could never sight -
unless the power of purity came down,
and slept upon a little ship-like isle
like pleasure barges floating down the Nile,
with incense deep and sweet in which to drown.
At last the dripping horse, through trust and toil,
could place her soaking hooves on warm dry ground.
The very earth groaned slowly all around,
where roots enchanted raced to take the soil.
At last, at last he’d find the Fairy Queen,
and see the face few men had ever seen!

Now leaving Meirion to graze her fill,
he struggled through the verdure t’wards the gleams;
an iridescent light that upward beams
out from the lonely island's little hill.
Then forcing through the foliage he came
within the little grove where earthly reigned
o’er nature what rapacious Robert gained
by treachery, to hag’s eternal fame.
But now Sir Trefor finds the fatal danger
that strikes him by surprise with sudden blows -
that wounds his heart with love no other knows -
to look upon the wondrous heavenly stranger.
No man had ever seen without disguise
Aurorielle, whose glory shines the skies.

In the early hours of morning,
under stars before the dawning,
‘neath the moon, without a warning,
Trefor sees Aurorielle.
All amongst the wistful trees
blows the gentle fairy breeze;
Trefor sinks on quaking knees,
groans in wonder now he sees
Faerie’s Queen, who dreams of hell.

Here the swans make downy pillows
underneath the creaking willows
growing fast in heaves and billows
round the sprite, Aurorielle.
Fair of face and dark of hair,
see the pretty fairy there!
Captive held in Robert’s lair,
sleeping through her long despair –
loveliness too sweet to tell.

Moments seem to pass like hours;
all around her perfect flowers
turn to her whose radiance showers
Robert’s realm with heaven’s best.
Flutt’ring wingtips stroke the breeze,
downy pillows bring her ease;
moonlight shines between the trees
on her who blessed the fields and leas
so much, the reapers never rest.

Trefor gazed upon her, scared -
longed to touch her, if he dared;
wond’ring how in dreams she fared,
all overcome by worries wild?
Slowly then he bent toward
the one who once through heaven soared,
now captured by his host, the lord
who ruled enchanted field and sward;
then radiantly, in dreams she smiled.

Her smile was not a smile like other smiles;
it shone as though it lit up Trefor’s life!
And though he did not come to seek a wife,
it shattered all his thoughts and plans and wiles.
Despite him coming close with purpose clear
to speak the words that Summer made his call,
prepared to give for God his one and all,
he couldn’t know the sight would be so dear.
That day had Summer stirred his waking heart -
a fantasy of fleeting female form -
but where she blew a breeze, now raged a storm,
that tore the heart of Trefor clean apart.
He’d known the eyes could seal a lover’s plight;
but lightning in his veins exceeded sight.

“Oh agony! I cannot speak the rhyme;
for if I wake her up, then I must sleep!
How can I enter darkling dreamworlds deep,
if I’m denied her sight throughout all time?
But yet, if I do not, Sir Robert comes;
he scarcely can ignore my empty cell!
And where I rode the muffling cloths show well;
new depths of agony my poor heart plumbs.
Although I never feared the fatal stone,
and went to die for God without a groan
to join the martyrs mingled round his throne,
I did not know the fear I’d be alone
from her, my flesh of flesh, and bone of bone,
when love more dear than life was yet unknown.”

Aldebaran rises, calling out for dawn -
but still some time remains before the sun
will rise to tell the stars their dance is done,
and cockerels crow, that men may rise and yawn.

“And yet, I tell myself delusions deep;
my problem’s truly not that she’s asleep –
for I am but a man, and she is Fay;
our paths were plotted lone and far away.
We could not be together if she woke;
for even if enchanted sleep we broke,
she first beheld our God when time began -
why would she ever love a son of man?
There is no hope of love from angels pure;
a fleeting flash in heav’n would I endure,
while wonderful her never-ending life
extends forever; never earthly wife
a Fay was taken, nor shall ever be,
though earth should die, and dry up all the sea.

I am forlorn. I have no hopes at all;
in life or death, forever incomplete.
Woe to the day when men bright angels meet! -
who guard eternal Paradise’s wall
to keep him out. But what if they themselves
should yet become the flaming heart’s desire?
For man descends still deeper down the mire,
if ever he desires bright heaven’s Elves!
Oh stars above! You beautify the night,
and when the sun goes slowly down to rest,
your angel-lights I always loved the best.
Here in your pretty glimmer lies my plight:
I dared to dream and die in deadly hell -
yet how can I forsake Aurorielle?

Well then, so I am lost;
in every case forlorn.
How shall I face the cost
when foes arise this morn
if I do not my part,
this dire and dreadful day;
oblivion my heart
shall welcome, when I say –

I take her dream, and therefore sleep
to hold the dream in slumbers deep
while she shall wake, and sow, and reap.
This, till her name shall pass, I keep.”

He gasps; the fairy breathes a sweeter breath,
like that of one who sleeps at peace alone;
the deep and dark enchantments of the crone
had kept inside the halls of dreadful death
the bright sky’s darling, fair Aurorielle.
But though he’s chosen dreaming in her stead,
she does not wake to rise from downy bed,
and Trefor cannot even enter hell.
He knows not what to do, but stands there crushed -
all lost for thoughts, or words with which to wail.
Within a little time the sun shall sail,
and all the eastern sky at once have blushed.
Time flies, the night sky turns, and Pollux rises;
he waits in case his plight takes other guises.

The story concludes with seven further poems. To see them, buy the book: Aurorielle.

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