The Priestess stood and called to the Raven. "Come Raven. Light upon my arm. Do not fear." The Hero Raven took flight, circling the Priestess, cautiously approaching, wings fluttering, landing smoothly on her arm. He twitched nervously and cocked his head to look at her.
The Hero Raven loved the Priestess. She was kind and generous. Her beauty was as the bloom of a pink rose. Her skin was soft and warm. Graciousness and compassion shone from her eyes. Deep mahogany tresses curled gently around her face. Glimmers of silver highlighted the loveliness of her thick hair in the sun.
"Speak the human tongue, Hero Raven. There is none to hear thee but I. And surely thou knowest that thy great secret is safe with me. Tell me what thou did see this day in flight."
The Hero Raven began, "This day I saw a maiden fair with hair as black as coal, skin as exquisite as ivory, and a voice pristine as a chime--lithe in step and a joy to look upon as she swayed in the breeze. She circled a fire, dancing with a feathery step, arms outstretched as to welcome a lover."
"Dost thou know of this maiden? From whence does she come? And her countenance? What of her countenance? Didst she smile upon thee and melt thy heart?"
A quiver ran through the Hero Raven as he remembered the maiden's smile, which graced a beautiful delicate face, ruby lips, with a blush of pink to her cheeks, and the kindest eyes he had ever seen. The violet of her flowing gown made her eyes appear sapphire.
Hidden high in the branches of the old Oak tree, he had watched her dance--swirling, turning, skipping lightly with bare feet in harmony with the embers of the fire. She had stopped dancing suddenly and looked in his direction. "Who's there? Where art thou? Come hither. Let me look upon thee and esteem thee as my friend."
The Priestess read his thoughts. "And tell me, Hero Raven, didst thou go unto her? Didst thou open thy wizardry to the maiden?" The Priestess noted the Hero Raven's tremble, "Be not frightened, my gallant Hero Raven. Truth is thy armor and virtue thy shield. Thy obedience shall be rewarded."
"Reward? I seek only one reward." the Hero Raven replied.
"Tell me what is thy desire and it shall be thine?" the Priestess ran her hand down his spine. He felt a quiver go through him from the smoothness and warmth of her hand on his feathers.
The Hero Raven did love the Priestess, but did he dare reveal the pleasure and passion he felt for the maiden? The Priestess had saved him from the depths of hell. The loneliness of the tower had encompassed him until her coming. He was grateful for her presence. She had fed him, nurtured him, taught him to speak the human tongue, and healed his broken wing so that he could soar again.
The Priestess was held captive in the tower, never to see the outside world. All she had asked of him was to fly daily, and return to share his visions with her. And this he had done, willingly as her servant, since he could escape the dreariness of the tower at any time. Yet he returned faithfully each day sharing the sights and wonders he had observed.
"My desire, Sweet Priestess, is to be changed from this Raven form to a strong, firm body. One that demands respect, is feared by all, and is free to go whence I please at my leisure." A pleading look crossed the dark eyes of the Hero Raven. He bowed his head in humility. "Set me free. Release me from my servitude to thee."
"Oh, Hero Raven, thou art free. Thou hast always been free. I have not held thee prisoner. It is thee that hast bound thyself. I cannot change thee but I can give thee the secret to change thyself." she smiled warmly at him rubbing her cheek across his wing. "But there is a price to pay. Art thou willing?"
"Set the measure of thy rate and it is thine." he said, with a new excitement in his voice.
"First, thou must tell me if thou hast spoken the human tongue to the maiden," she asked.
The Hero Raven responded, "No. I flew to her feet. She offered me grains of wheat and barley. I wanted to thank her, but I did not speak. I could feel her fear of me. I was apprehensive that she would run from me. I have spoken only to thee in the human tongue."
The Priestess lifted her arm. "Indeed, thou art valiant and obedient. Fly to the field below the tower. There pick Mandrake. Bring it to me uncut and free of thistle. I shall make a bread for thee to take to the maiden. Thou canst but offer the bread to her. She must willingly and freely partake and she must offer to thee a morsel that you may bring it to me from her hand. When she does this, all will be well with thee. And I, too, shall be free from this tower. You will have three days to perform this task of love. Art thou still willing? Wilt thou be obedient to the task?"
"Yes, oh yes," was his eager response. "But what is the price? You have not mentioned the price."
The Priestess looked upon the Hero Raven. "Thou shall be free of servitude to me. And shall become the master to the maiden. If the task is not completed in three days, you shall be changed, but not to a form of your choosing, and the maiden shall be thy master forever more."
"I can do this," spoke he with great confidence. "It is agreed." The Hero Raven flew to the field below the tower, and sprig by sprig, brought Mandrake, uncut and free of thistle, to the Priestess.
Grinding the Mandrake fine as silk, the Priestess added it to the bread dough she had prepared, and baked it over the open flame of the fireplace.
The next day the Hero Raven set upon his duty, carrying a slice of the bread in his beak. Flying to the highest branch of the old Oak tree he waited for the maiden to return. Hours passed. Two days passed. He was about to surrender his hope of seeing her, when at last she appeared at the base of the Oak tree, carrying with her a basket of berries.
The Hero Raven watched as she lifted each berry to her mouth and slowly dined upon its sweetness. A squirrel darted up the tree and down again, curious to see what the maiden had to offer that was better than his acorns. Timidly approaching her, the squirrel sat up on his hind legs, laying an acorn at her feet and hoping she would exchange a part of her treasure.
The Hero Raven saw the maiden consume every last berry, offering none to the squirrel. "Well, surely she will offer ME a piece of the bread, for she has given me grains of wheat and barley." He flew to her side and dropped the bread near her hand.
The maiden looked at the Hero Raven. "Aw, my friend, the Raven. What art thou about this day? Where didst thou get this fine bread? I am indeed hungry for I have eaten but these berries. Thank you, but I have no grain to offer thee." The maiden took the bread and partook, willingly, lingering and savoring each bite. "Shall I sing for thee? Or dance? How shall I repay thee?"
The Hero Raven watched as she ate, never offering him a morsel for the Priestess. "What shall I do?" he thought. "She must offer me a morsel from her hand."
He was about to leave with immense disappointment, when suddenly she took the last piece of bread and held it out to him. "Here, kind Raven, this is all I have to offer thee."
He took the bread from her hand and hastily flew back to the tower that imprisoned the Priestess. "I'm here. I'm here. I have the morsel. Quickly, partake so that the change can take place."
"Oh, no! She has given up!" the Hero Raven saw the Priestess lying on her straw cot with a dagger in her hand and a large bleeding wound in her wrist. He flew to her, "Priestess, wake up! Wake up! Soon the sun will go down and the time will be elapsed. Oh, please! Wake up! What have you done?"
His wings rippled nervously above her face. He gently pecked at her ear, her nose, and her cheek. Finally her eyes opened. "You've returned. I am so weak. Place the morsel in my mouth, and then fly back to the maiden. Your change will take place because of your obedience."
The Hero Raven did as he was told. Scarcely had he left the tower when he heard the sound of a tinkling wind and saw a mist from the highest tower window.
He hurried forward to the maiden. He could feel a change taking place in his body. Flying faster and faster, he could see the maiden beneath him. "Alas, she too, is sleeping."
The Hero Raven landed with a thump on four feet, lost his balance and rolled down the slight incline to the pond. Standing, he shook himself, "This feels very different. What am I?" He leaned down to the edge of the pond to see his reflection and jumped back, startled at what he saw. "I'm a black Jaguar? A Jaguar? How can I be master to the maiden if I am a Jaguar? Something is terribly wrong."
Just as he was turning to run to the tower, in his peripheral vision he saw a movement. There, laying under the tree where the maiden had been, was a Jaguar with a rich rusty orange coat and black rosette spots in the shape of paw prints, an almost black line down the center of her back and large amber eyes.
He stood frozen, watching her stretch and claw the base of the old Oak tree. She lazily rolled in the grass, stretched again and yawned. Finally seeing the New Hero Raven, she said, "Well, hello. Where did you come from? I haven't seen you before. I'm Tabia Rasida. Who are you?"
"Uh, I'm uh, I'm Kalif Siad." He didn't know where the name came from, but he knew it was his name. He was amazed. She spoke the human tongue. "Have you seen a fair maiden? She has raven hair, skin like ivory pearls and is very beautiful. I'm looking for her."
Tabia gave Kalif the once-over. "What do you want with her?" Nonchalantly, she slapped at a butterfly.
Kalif looked at Tabia, "Well, I used to be a Raven. You won't believe this, but by a magic spell I was changed to THIS. I'm supposed to rule over her. I don't see how I can. She was frightened of me as a Raven. I can just imagine what her reaction will be to me as a black Jaguar. And I am so in love with her." Kalif plopped down on the ground in disgust. "This didn't work out the way I wanted it to. Now what do I do?"
"Did you give her a piece of bread? And did she give you a morsel for your Priestess?" Tabia ask. "And has your Priestess offered her blood in sacrifice? Did you see a wound?"
"Yes! Yes! But wait. How do YOU know of my Priestess? And how do you know of the bread? Just who are you? If you've hurt her, I'll kill you!" Kalif snarled and released a deep guttural growl.
"Oh, calm down. It's me. I'm the maiden. And your Priestess helped me change back to a Jaguar. I had been human to see what it was like. They seemed so powerful. I found them to be weak-minded and callous--destructive and mean. The Priestess said I was to give you the last morsel of bread from my hand. You did take it back to her, didn't you? And she did eat it, right?" A worried look crossed Tabia's eyes. "You did get there in time, didn't you? Before sundown?"
"Yes, I had to wake her up but she ate it. I was told to fly to you, that is, the maiden, immediately so my change could take place. I didn't know YOU were going to change too. Some weird thing was happening when I left. The sound of wind and then a mist from the tower. I need to check on her to see if she's all right." Kalif began running toward the tower with Tabia close behind.
As they approached the base of the tower he saw a white dove fly from the highest window. "Oh, no! She's still prisoner there. Perhaps the dove will serve her well."
"Kalif, have you not heard of metamorphose? The rebirth? The renewal? The Priestess has now graduated. She has been transformed. She IS THE DOVE. She is free to come and go as she pleases. To go where she pleases. And to do as she pleases. Her magic is likened to infinity, to which there is no end or beginning. She is Queen of Harmony and Peace. She will govern with a soft hand and a strong will, watching over us, protecting us, warning us of danger, of enemies, and lead us to safety. Did you not know WHO she was?"
"I only knew her as my guardian. She saved my life. Who was she?" Kalif asked?
"Oh, Kalif. I wish you had known who she really was. She was THE GUARDIAN, THE TEACHER, THE PROTECTOR. One of THE ANCIENTS. Her life in the tower was by her own choice--solitude and silence brought her inner knowledge and peace, the knowledge and peace necessary to rule as the Queen she is."
"Will I ever see her again? I will miss her," said Kalif, hanging his head down in great sadness.
Tabia saw the moisture in Kalif's eyes, "Yes, but not as a Dove. She will come to us in another form, and in spirit. She can take any form she wishes. She will always be with us. If you're very quiet right now, you'll feel her presence. Don't mourn for her. She is powerful now."
Kalif stood perfectly still, barely breathing. A warm hand touched his back, running down his spine, and he thought he felt a cheek to his shoulder. Thoughts raced across his mind. "Hero Raven, I am only a thought away. I will always protect you. Thank you for your obedience. You were a good and faithful servant--you served me well. Now go, rule over Tabia. She is your life mate. Be happy."
Tabia strolled to Kalif, lay down in front of him on her back in submission, baring her neck to him.
Kalif accepted her meekness, walked to her, "Come, we have a long distance to travel. We must make a home which her Majesty, Queen of Harmony and Peace, will want to visit often."
Kalif led the way, strong and alert. He did not look back. His life in the tower was past. Kalif and Tabia were now on their way to a new day--a new beginning.
A pure white dove watched them from the top of the old Oak as they faded out of sight. "THIS IS A GOOD DAY." The end of the old and the beginning of the new.