Online:Rajhin and the Stone Maiden
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Many years ago, as Rajhin passed by a river, he heard weeping from the far shore. There, a woman filled her pockets with stones. When she finished, the woman walked into the river.
Rajhin could not let her drown, so he ran across the river's surface and pulled the woman from her would-be grave.
"Why did you save me, my lord?" she asked. "Does Rajhin, the Trickster God, not know my intent?"
"I know the what, my lady, but not the why."
The woman frowned and turned her back. "You could not possibly understand my plight. Please, let me gather my stones and continue on my way."
But Rajhin would not let her continue until she shared her story.
The woman, Munilli, had a fiancee named Mazaram, and the two were much beloved. But Munilli's step-father Azelit-ra, was a greedy man. Before he would give them permission to marry, he insisted on a bride-price beyond Mazaram's considerable means, and well beyond all reason.
Azelit-ra was headman of the village in which they lived and none dared speak against him for his injustice. But Mazaram was not cowed by Azelit-ra, which made the step-father hate him all the more. Still, Mazaram would not dishonor Munilli by eloping. Rather than see her fiancee ruined by her step-father's demands, Munilli chose the river.
"You say your step-father rules your village?"
"With an iron paw, my lord," Munilli replied sadly. "Those he does not bribe owe him money. Only a few, such as Mazaram, remain free of his grasp … and he does what he can to ruin them."
"Do you think your step-father is satisfied ruling a tiny village?" Rajhin asked.
"Satisfied?" Munilli scoffed, wiping her tears away. "He does not know the meaning of the word."
"Then perhaps I can help. Come, let us find Mazaram."
As they went to the village, Rajhin explained his plan to the young woman.
That afternoon, Mazaram and Munilli approached Azelit-ra upon the porch of his great moon-sugar plantation house. Seeing the hand-in-hand angered Azelit-ra, even though they were properly affianced. "So, my little pauper," the step-father greeted Mazaram, "have you agreed to my bride-price, or shall we finally see the last of you?"
Mazaram refused to take offense and instead bowed briefly. "While it is true I cannot meet your bride-price, my lord, I can offer you something better."
Azelit-ra's ears twitched, but he sneered with skepticism. "Better? Better than the sum I demand for my only daughter? Fine, tell me of this offer. If it is generous, then so be it. But if not, I would see your tail as you leave forever!"
"Very well," Mazaram sighed. He explained that one of his agents—for Mazaram made his money in shipping—told him of a nearby land without a ruler. "It is far greater than this village, yet shines like a pearl in the darkness. A place to which you can lay claim, but that you'll never reach without my agent's aid."
Azelit-ra laughed scornfully, "No such land exists! Is this some crude ploy to get me out of the way while you marry my daughter? Fah! I'll not fall for your tricks!"
"It is no trick, step-father," Munilli asserted. "On my mother's honor, I have seen this land—as have you! It is renowned for its beauty in story and song!"
At this, Azelit-ra was taken aback. As much as he knew Munilli wished to marry Mazaram, he also knew her as a truthful girl … and she valued her late mother's honor as much as her own life. But still he doubted, for an untrustworthy man does not trust easily.
"Very well. What is this great land of which you speak, that I have seen yet do not know?"
Mazaram waggled one finger, "No, no … if I tell you freely, how do I know you won't try to conquer it without me? I insist you'll need my agent's help, but you might try something foolish on your own."
"Very well," Azelit-ra harrumphed. "If you won't tell me, then how will I know you speak the truth?"
"My agent," Mazaram replied, "will take you there tonight. If he does so, will you agree I've met the bride-price?"
'A ruse,' thought the greedy step-father. 'They hope to escape while I prepare for my "journey" to this land of theirs. Well, I can fix them!'
"Agreed!" Azelit-ra exclaimed, much to the surprise of the servants around him. "But I insist if we're to go on a journey, we must have your engagement feast beforehand! You, Mazaram, shall sit upon my right and Munilli shall sit upon my left!"
'Ha,' he thought, 'try to escape while you're in arm's reach!'
But the two agreed. Azelit-ra had no choice but to open his larder and wine cellar to the entire village. They feasted all afternoon. As was his habit, the plantation owner ate greedily, making sure no one else got more than he. The couple ate sparingly and never moved from his side. Soon, Azelit-ra grew sleepy, and then annoyed.
"The moons are rising, Mazaram! Where is this agent of yours?" he asked.
"I am right behind you, my lord," a voice purred in Azelit-ra's ear.
The old man jumped, but quickly recovered. When he turned, he saw what looked like a vagabond in a wide-brimmed hat. The traveler's tail twitched, but whether it was with nervousness or amusement, Azelit-ra could not tell.
"Well, then, where is this land of yours!" Azelit-ra bellowed at the man. "I'm ready to go … or to see the back of you and Mazaram both!"
"You are ready?" the vagabond asked. "Then let us go now!" With a flash, the vagabond discarded his wide-brimmed hat. There stood Rajhin the Trickster God in all his glory. Without another word, Rajhin seized the fat man by his stained tunic and the two flew upward like shooting stars. Soon, their glow disappeared into the pearl-wide aura of Jode, the largest moon.
"Truly," Munilli mused aloud, "it is a land we can see from our village."
"And one that shines as beautiful as a pearl."
When the villagers recovered from their shock, the engagement feast turned into a wedding feast. By the time both moons had set, Mazaram and Munilli were married.
But as they lay in their bower, a chill overcame both of them. The candles guttered. The darkness grew. Munilli cried out, and Mazaram groped in the dark for his sword.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light. Rajhin stood before them, brushing moon-dust off his garments. "Now, then, where are you?" he mused as the two lovers gaped. "Ah, there you are!"
With a movement too quick for the eye to follow, Rajhin reached out and grabbed at the air. Then he shoved his hand into one of the many small pouches on his person. The room grew light once more.
"What was that, my lord? What did you seize?" Munilli asked.
"The fat man's shadow! I took him to his new land so quickly, he jumped right out of it!"
Their laughter echoed across the riverbank.