In The Land of Rain, there was fire.
The inhabitants of Imber hadn’t seen fire in hundreds of years, and yet this was not a night for celebration.
Why, you might ask? It’s a dark tale.
~ ~ ~
It began with a princess, the heir to the crown of Imber. When she was young, hardly a decade old, she happened across a hare, wallowing in a deep puddle. The animal was soaked and shivering, its fur matted with blood and dirt. Its eyes were leaden with exhaustion.
The girl pitied it, scooping it out of the puddle and into her warm arms. She carried it with her, tucked under her lavender silk umbrella, back to the castle.
“Princess Eeria?” a palace maid called. “Oh, there you are! Did you stray from the path? The hem of your gown is caked with mud!”
Princess Eeria held out the shivering rabbit, bowing her head. “Forgive me. I had to save this creature from drowning--it’s injured and exhausted.”
The maid’s scowl slipped, and she smiled slightly. “Very well, bring it inside. But you’d do well not to stray from the path again, Majesty. These mountains are tall and ridden with cliffs--you could fall. Nothing, save perhaps a faerie, could revive what would be left of you.”
Eeria laughed, a twinkling sound; her rosy cheeks became lined with dimples.
“Thank you for your concern. Now, may we save this creature?”
The two carried the hare inside, fed it soup from the kitchens, cleaned it under the sink with warm water, and treated its wound, a snapped leg, with supplies from the infirmary.
“It should not be alive,” the maid said in wonder after setting the rabbit’s leg. “It must be the work of faeries,” she cried.
“It is,” the rabbit spoke, its nose twitching. Turning to Eeria, he declared, “You saved my life, and as a reward, you shall have anything you wish for in your years to come.”
Eeria beamed wide again, hastily curtsying. “Thank you, faerie.”
The faerie transformed from a hare into a curtain of dandelion florets, and he floated out the window into the sky.
Eeria, eager to try out her new gift, exclaimed, “I wish I was taller!”
And with a puff of white dandelion florets, she grew. And kept growing, her head bumping the ceiling and her grey eyes a long way from the ground. Yet still, she kept growing!
She shrieked in fear, and the maid was shouting up to her in a panic. “I wish I was my normal height again!” she yelped. Nothing happened. She kept growing. The shrieking increased in pitch.
“There must be a cooldown,” the maid shouted up to her. “Yes, just keep trying!”
And ten long minutes later, after her body had elongated and curled around the room like an enormous snake, her wish finally worked. With a snap and a puff of dandelion wisps, her height was back to normal.
“What is this commotion about?” The door slammed open to admit a severe-looking man, gleaming crown upon his head.
“Father,” Princess Eeria exclaimed. “I have been gifted by the Faeries! Anything I wish comes true!”
King Adelric’s frown flipped and he roared with excitement, spinning his daughter around in a hug. “You must tell me everything!”
Several years passed, and tensions were growing in the land of Imber. For the princess had wished for the rain to stop in Imber. Outside kingdoms grew envious of The Land of Rain; the kingdom once ravaged with floods and endless storms was a glowing paradise. Crops that once drowned flourished and the land turned green. The lowlands that were once oceans now were accessible. The peoples of Imber were not cramped in their mountain perches, but rather stretched their legs and moved about. Sun shined for weeks on end, and the Imberians, once malnourished, grew healthy and content. Word spread of beautiful Princess Eeria, and her gift from the faeries.
Eeria looked happily over her kingdom from a balcony adorned with honeysuckle, roses, ivy, marigolds, carnations, and all manner of pleasant flowers that hadn’t been able to grow in the rainy days before. Yet she had a sick feeling in her gut.
It was always warmest before nightfall. It was always calm before a storm.
In that night came the enemy. They skirted away from pools of moonlight, they shied around thorned rose and blackberry bushes. Their feet were quiet against the green grass, and they stepped over lands that were once filled with mud and rainfall. They were quiet, efficient, and armed in both knowledge and weaponry. A unlucky guard strayed into their path; he was never to be seen again. Finally they reached Princess Eeria’s room, a tower shooting off the main palace.
Eeria heard a creak at her bedroom door. The princess leapt up, slipping the curtain of roses separating the balcony from her room shut. She climbed over the marble balustrade, the only noise the swishing of her silk nightgown. She knew a day would come when the enemies of Imber came for her. It appeared that day had arrived.
She heard murmured voices. “It’s empty,” and, “where’s the girl?” Her heart pounded so loudly she felt sure the intruders would hear.
She could hear them searching the room, and she readied herself. Any moment...any moment now….
“There you are!”
She had been discovered. With a sharp inhale, she leapt off the balcony and shouted, “I wish I could fly!”
Eeria fell into a flurry of the dandelion florets she had become so familiar with. She exited the cloud with long, rainbow-feathered wings sprouting from her back.
“She’s gone, sir! Flew away on one of her wishes!” One of the intruders reported to the tallest of the four.
The tall man cursed. “If we can’t use her gift, we’ll make her kingdom pay! Burn the castle to the ground!”
Six hundred, Eeria thought desperately. That was how many seconds until she could wish again. But as she watched her castle light up with flames, she knew she would be too late. Orange tongues lit up the cloudless night, and thick smoke wafted into the sky.
“It’s all my fault,” she cried. “If only I hadn’t wished the rain and floods away, the fire would be doused! If only I hadn’t wished at all, then the other kingdoms would have little to envy of our land, and none of this would have happened!”
Eeria flew towards the rubble on her fluttering wings, the wind making her tears into beads of ice. She burnt rubble and smoking embers of the castle desperately, but no. The wood was dry without the rain that had ravaged Imber in the past, and the inhabitants were sleeping when the fire struck. None survived. Not even, she saw, her father. His crown lay bent in the ash, and she gingerly picked it up.
Even as six hundred seconds came and went, Eeria knew not even her wishes could not bring back King Adelric.
The princess howled, launching herself into the sky with a powerful beat of her wings.
It’s all my fault, it’s all because of my wishes. It’s all my fault, it’s all because of my wishes. The mantra was a constant drumming in the base of her skull.
She soared over her kingdom, at its blissful paradise, and felt a bitterness grow like a parasite inside her. “I wish that the rain would return to Imber,” she said, “but now fire, which had once warmed my people in the rainiest of nights, shall never burn in Imber again!”
From here the tale grows darker still. It is said that Princess Eeria’s heart turned to stone that night, and the weight of her grief pulled her out of the sky and she fell to her death.
And now The Land of Rain lives up to its name once more, and the people no longer can warm themselves by their fires. Plagues, hypothermia, and starvation riddled the peoples of Imber until all that was left was the crumbling ruins of Eeria's palace.
Only a single faerie was able to produce fire, but there was no one left to give it to. The hare produced a spark with a twitch of his nose and a burst of dandelion florets. He warmed his weary heart by the fire and sighed.
No one was careful what they wished for. The Land of Rain was dead because of him.