Circe Invidiosa ("Circe, abounding in envy") by John William Waterhouse: in the magical tradition, invidia was a danger that could be provoked or turned away by spells
For Stella, Queen of the Fairies, a magical tale.
The child stared at the man’s scarred and wrinkled face,
Her grandfather moaned settling slowly in his place.
A hearth fire glow flickered about the hallowed hall,
As shadows were cast on a rough hewn log wall.
Outside the howl of a fierce winter blizzard storm,
Beat for entry upon the house safe and warm.
She reached out a perfect tiny pink fleshed hand,
Touching the heart and life of this wise aged man.
“Poppy” she called to catch his ear,
He turned his head so to better hear.
“Poppy, tell me the story about a maiden fair,
A tale of Maerwynn with tasseled sun golden hair.”
As she spoke the name the moment seemed to sigh,
A sparkle shown in the old man’s light blue eyes.
Thus he began to weave a tale of long past glory,
The tale of how Maerwynn closed her life story.
“Twas so long ago, far, far in the distant past,
Where lived Maerwynn on the high mountain pass.
Alone with her tomes of forgotten magical lore,
Piled about her on shelves and the cold stone floor.
She had studied all there was to the dark craft,
It had taken her soul, her smile, stolen her laugh.
This life of magic had left her in a word, bored,
A failing the Wizard Maerwynn could not afford.
Flaring her hooded wizard cape she twirled about,
Strode to a parapet, with resolution stepped out.
She wished for more than the powers she possessed,
She wished for more than the gods had her thus blessed.
From her castle keep she saw the village in the valley below,
The windows of the houses lit the night with cheery glow.
She stood in the thin chilled air as it swirled with glee,
Where possessed she kept only a castle as her company.
From the parapet she heard music rising to her height,
The villagers sang and danced this festive winter night.
She was envious of their joy, their warmth and their place,
She longed to sit at their tables, to touch each human face.
Their safety and their hearts became none of her concern,
Gripped with need for her own succor, her desire burned.
She was spirit protector charged with keeping strong the spell,
That held at bay the evil rushing through the gates of hell.
The kingdom was a place of beauty – a paradise it was said,
Though all that looked toward the pass did so with dread.
Maerwynn was one of the ancients of many through the years,
The thought of her filled villagers with awe and silent fear.
Her name was not spoken lest even whispered it was heard,
Carried to Maerwynn by a spellbound black wing spying bird.
She could see beyond the forests and glide through any door,
Though never leaving her escarpment to walk the valley floor.
A captive to her magical obligation, an eternity’s yoke to bear,
Maerwynn was a hopeless prisoner to her own destiny there.
From within her a voice as beautiful as this maiden of olde,
Cast out a chant into the moonlit mountain’s frigid cold.
The spell awoke a Roc to soar up to her from a craggy knoll,
The long forgotten mythical bird grasped her weakened lonely soul.
The giant beast swooped and cried in raucous raptor delight,
Snatching her from the ramparts it flew into the starry night.
In the wink of an eye there appeared in the castle keep,
A figure dressed in scarlet, gold fringed, and silken sleek.
Surrounded by imps and fairies spreading fairy dust everywhere,
The god’s choice for the new Maerwynn had already arrive there.
Thus the Roc set her down at the village mighty iron gate,
Where she stood still in silence to accept her ultimate fate.
The gods had cast a spell upon this maiden wizard’s brow,
Her time prophesied had come, her moment was now.
As Maerwynn slipped her cloak, slowly her form slide beneath,
Accepting what the ancient gods for her had thus bequeathed.
Upon entering the realm of mortals the spell cast did take,
Maerwynn the woman now became a Plume Feathered Snake.
As she had once been she would now forever be,
No more a life far above mortal humanity,
No more a castle on the mountains high,
No more to commune with spirits coursing the sky,
No more to know the lore and magical potion books,
No more to command all eagles, ogres, dragons and rooks.
When she became consumed with what she was not to be,
She broke her kismet thus written on the pages of eternity.
Maerwynn now saw only the feet of those she had once reigned,
Slithering on her belly she was viewed with disgust and disdain.”
Then the old man smiled at his granddaughter with eyes of love,
Reaching out he touched her hair as soft as a feathered dove.
“The lesson my granddaughter; when one has such great might,
Do not covet another creature’s possessions or their meager plight.
For your wish may be granted from a fleeting careless desire,
That, once given, can consume your being in a sin of mortal fire.
Maerwynn the Plume Feathered Snake haunts forests and dales,
A hissing product of wishes granted by an oath taken and misused spells.
Be true to yourself, be proud to carry your family name,
Do not envy others, utter not oaths and do not pass blame.”
Rising the child smiled and kissed the crown of his head,
“Thank you Poppy, I like that story,” then she toddle off to bed.
The old man sat alone for a moment feeling the warmth of the air,
Barely speaking he said, “Maerwynn, I know you are there.”
Hidden in a corner recess where spirits lived in the gloom.
A Plume Feathered Snake opened haunted eyes peering into the room.
©2012, Donald Harbour