Presenting the winners of the 2008 Worthington Libraries Teen Poetry and Short Story Competition. Amanda Kustomo and Emma Mayhood, the 2nd place winners for high school short story, read "Brynhild's Blessing and Adelysia's Gift (aka The Jule Sisters)."
Never trust the gypsies.
They may sweet-talk you, offer a prize you can't resist, but don't listen. If they torture you, blackmail everyone you love, never trust the gypsies. Heed the unheard one, and listen to her advice. Wisely listen to me. I know Opull is the true Jule and most importantly, I know to never trust the gypsies.
The moment I saw her, I knew I loved her. But we all know stable boys don't belong with countesses, even if she was just the daughter of one. Her fate was decided the day she started loving horses and the day I started loving her. She was my only joy and my one regret.
I was born into a modest family; keeping money and food on the table was a constant struggle. When I recall my earliest memories, all I can remember is work and disappointment. It was inevitable that when I became of age that I was put to work. My father found me a job rather quickly. We must have been put high upon fortune's wheel, for the job was a well-paid one.
That was how Idalaine and I met. The horse I was caring for was a radiant white mare, it was Idalaine's. At exactly noon, she walked into the stable. It was a magnificent sight. She had blonde hair, the color of wheat, and starlight green eyes, an unusual combination, but pretty nonetheless. Every day she would take the reins of her horse and lead it to the pastures. Idalaine would ride for hours, and then delicately bring her back. That was her daily routine, and for the years I worked in the stables, it never changed.
I loved her with every drop my heart could squeeze. She never seemed to notice my presence; the only acknowledgements she ever gave were the occasional "hello" or "thank-you." But still, I admired her from afar. My secret affection for Idalaine grew more with each rising day. But I knew she would never love me.
On the day of my 12th birthday, my father gave me some money. I remember his words, "Jestford, use this wisely," and said to buy something practical. Hunger seemed to be the problem these days and I knew that he was implying food.
So off I went to the heart of the village where farmers and merchants had stalls of food and trinkets. I thought of sweetmeats and pastries and other delightful delicacies. Then I heard a voice.
"Come to the Jule Sisters' stall. We have some pretty baubles and concoctions of all sorts! Come, come and have a look."
My curiosity took hold and led me to the booth. Three women dressed in bright colors and an assortment of cloths were showcasing their wares. One woman though stood out, as if she was there against her will. I later realized she could not speak for reasons unknown to me. They were gypsies.
I sorted through some jewelry; I thought I might buy a necklace for Idalaine, something that complimented her eyes.
"Are you looking for a gift for a special someone?" the one in the middle asked me. "My name is Dyaminde and these are my sisters Opull and Safyre. The Jule Sisters." Dyaminde's flawless eyes pierced through my naivety, with a single glance it felt as if all my memories were passed to her. Opull's hazy eyes lifted with caution to meet mine. Opull's lips parted to speak, but Safyre's cerulean eyes silenced her.
Nothing seemed to interest me until Safyre said, "Not only do we sell jewels, but potions and charms, too."
That was when the idea struck me. "Do you have love potions?"
Opull gestured resentment, turn away she mimed. Despite Opull's motions, Dyaminde's words were more luring. Dyaminde pronounced, "Of course, child. Is there anything we don't have?" Her sisters nodded; Safyre willingly, Opull reluctantly.
"Jestford, meet us shortly after midnight, it takes time to prepare." Dyaminde instructed, "In the outskirts of Ceah. At a big elm tree."
"Why not tomorrow?" I asked rather foolishly. If you know anything about gypsies, not only never trust them, but never cross them.
"Why not tomorrow?" Dyaminde mocked, "Because it cannot be given after dawn."
"We pack up our booth tomorrow morning." Safyre supplied in a nagging voice.
"I'll come." I said, oh, how I regret that day.
I arose late in the evening and silently left our cottage. I took only a lantern, for I saved my hands for carrying the potion safely to my princess's chateau. I had an awful time fighting my way through the crowded forest. When I got past the last tulip tree, I saw it. The great and gorgeous elm tree was standing before me.
As the gypsies had promised, they waited patiently below it. As I approached, I saw that Dyaminde stood in the middle, her sisters on either side. Safyre held a bottle of liquid. The potion, I gathered. I noticed that Opull's face expressed remorse, her eyes said to leave and don't ever consider coming back. How much I wished to have listened to her! Obviously I didn't for all I heard was Dyaminde's voice.
The coins in my pocket jingled as I walked closer. Dyaminde's mouth lifted into a grim smile. "Ah, so it is that you have come."
I nodded. Safyre put up a toothy grin and said, "Do you have the money?"
"Do you have the potion?" I countered.
Dyaminde seized the bottle from Safyre and thrust it into my face. I extended my arm to grasp the tiny vial but Dyaminde refrained. "The money?" she said expectantly.
Before surrendering my precious few coins, I glanced into the bottle. It looked to be water, but it was far too transparent to even be contemplated. "What ingredients did you use?" I didn't want Idalaine to have to drink something disgusting such as rabbit's blood or skink sweat.
Safyre glared at me and took the bottle back from her sister. "Gypsies must never reveal the contents of their potion."
Dyaminde rolled her eyes, "But if you must know, it is mostly made of the sacred waters from the Lake of Adelysia, Brynhild the Water Goddess's dwelling."
I knew the place well. If you were the proper sort of person, telling a falsehood in the same sentence with "Adelysia" or "Brynhild" was considered a sin. In my 12-year-old mind, I knew that they told the truth. Another important fact about Brynhild the Water Goddess was that if you drank from her lake you would be blessed for life as the water of Adelysia was majestic. Although, Brynhild's blessings could be any matter of things.
Reluctantly, I reached for the coins in my pocket and with a tremble handed them to Dyaminde. The smug look on Dyaminde's face was unnoticed through my youthful eyes, as was Opull's wary expression.
Safyre forced the bottle into my hands, causing it to almost slip through my fingers. "Better be careful with that Jestford, love transformations can do the unexpected." she warned.
At that moment, we all faced our separate ways, our separate destinies. As I looked back over my shoulder, they had vanished. That was the last time I saw the Jule Sisters in our country.
The sun began to rise as I scuttled back to my family's cottage. As I reached for the door handle, I heard movement through the thin walls. Not wanting my family to know I was gone, I sprinted towards the stables.
My eagerness grew stronger as noon drew near. I waited impatiently for any sign of Idalaine. Noon came and went with no sign of life, but the horses. I thought perhaps she was delayed and I stayed in the stables longer. Evening faded to night. I heard footsteps in the distance and my heart started to beat faster.
I called out her name but it was just the night guard. He told me that I shouldn't be there but I protested. "Where is Idalaine?" I demanded.
"In Bunter with Henry, her betrothed," he managed with the cigar hanging out of his mouth. Bunter was Ceah's neighboring country.
"Oh," I said quietly, for if I had said any more, I would have had enough tears to make a garden grow.
When I reached home, I spoke to no one and headed straight to my bed. Remembering the bottle, I slipped it out of my pocket. It was still the same clear color that it was the night before. Deciding to put it somewhere safe, I placed it under the floorboard, a hidden spot that none of my siblings knew about.
I don't remember much about the years that passed by except that I lived each day as I had the day before. I mourned silently for the girl that I cared much about, not only was she gone, but betrothed. It was intended that Idalaine would stay in Henry's country until their wedding, so I saw no more of her.
The days were a blur and the months a mush of endless misery. I tried to forget about her but the vision of her face always came to haunt me. What I did forget was the potion, sitting under the floorboard ready for use. When it seemed as if she would never come back, she finally arrived.
Almost five years had passed since I last saw her, every detail of her face was the same but less childish. I was grooming her horse in the stable and at exactly noon, the doors of stable opened. Thinking it was just another stable hand, I ignored the entrance.
She crept quietly up to her horse and spoke, her voice startling me. "I see that you have taken good care of my horse for the past five years."
I was too stunned to speak and only nodded.
"Thank you." She said then took the horse's reins.
I noticed that she was cheerless, usually upon entering the stable she would smile with content, but today that smile was gone. "You are not happy." I stated.
"Yes," she replied, "I am not." Not thinking she would speak more, I turned away. But she kept speaking. "My father has said I must marry Lord Henry, whom I do not love. He is the most disagreeable man. I think that the only thing I could love is my horse." She said petting the horse's mane.
She left abruptly and went out into the pastures. It was then I remembered the potion. Begging leave for an hour, I headed home for the Jule Sisters' bottle. I found it precisely where it was laid five years ago, and lifted it from the floorboard. The tiny vial was dusty and the glass was tinted a yellowish color.
Brushing the grime off the bottle I peered inside it. Perhaps I had exaggerated its looks that night the Jule Sisters had given it to me because now it appeared to be a milky swirl of silver and cream. It was the night's darkness that made it appear transparent before I decided and stuffed the bottle into my vest.
I arrived at the stables just as Idalaine was stepping out. "My lady, wait!" I cried out. She halted and looked in my direction.
I presented the bottle to her and placed it into her hand closing her fingers around it. "This is a drink that will cure your deepest troubles. Drink it and you will feel better." Of course, I lied. By then I knew that someone wouldn't drink something that would make them love you. Despite how cunning I thought I was, I wish that I had the wisdom to not give it to her.
"Thank you." she said and I received a beaming smile. Now you must know that we were close to the forest and it was dark out. The moon was not shining, nor were the stars.
I watched carefully as she pulled the stopper out of the bottle and raised it to her lips. Then she drank it. At first it seemed as if the potion did nothing and I immediately felt wrath upon those Jule Sisters, but then she spoke.
"I think I fe—" she stopped speaking and grasped her throat. At first I thought she was choking, but then she let out a loud neigh. She dropped to her hands and knees and coughed hoarsely. Then before my eyes I watched her transform into a glorious horse. She was a wheat colored horse with green eyes, an unusual combination, but pretty nonetheless.
I started to panic, and I heard the voices of guards in the distance. They were looking for Idalaine. Afraid that they would think I did something to her, I leapt onto her back as she charged through the forest.
She stopped at the Lake of Adelysia and I dismounted. Idalaine neighed softly and I stroked her mane. I stepped back and with a breath, Idalaine ran into the forest.
That is where I am now, the Lake of Adelysia. I am sitting on a rock by the water, waiting in the darkness. It has been nearly 50 years.
Every year on the day Idalaine transformed I come to this lake. Regrettably, I remember the words that I should have heeded more carefully. Dyaminde and Safyre spoke in riddles I knew not the true meaning of, and Opull spoke not at all. She said nothing but gave me the wisest advice, never trust the gypsies.
Now upon this day, Idalaine comes back to this lake and for one day a year she is a human. I watch her as she approaches me. I am the only one who knows of her secret and therefore her only company. We talk quietly. When the day ends, I watch her disappear into the darkness and fog of the lake. It will be a year before I see her again.
I still love her, and she now loves me, but our love can never be. That was the blessing of Brynhild in a cruel form.
As Idalaine moves farther away, I see movement in the trees. I take a closer look. I hardly believe my eyes. The Jule Sisters are standing by an elm tree with a young girl. I know what is about to happen and interfere their conversation. Opull is quick to recognize me and she smiles as I say what I have said many times before. "Never trust the gypsies."
Amanda Kustomo and Emma Mayhood
2nd Place, High School Short Story
2008 Worthington Libraries Teen Poetry and Short Story Competition
See all the winners of the Worthington Libraries Teen Poetry and Short Story Competition!