The Ballad of Ren and Lah

Submitted into Contest #9 in response to: Write a story about unrequited love.... view prompt

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Romance

It was as if he was reaching, speaking through water, to another, one which he could never again hear sweet, longing words emanate from. He knew somehow one day she would have to return to her home but he had only hoped that this transition would be delayed just a little longer, just enough to hear her speak words again, pure and untainted. He remembered her voice at one time melodic and rhythmic, like a heartbeat. She stood tall and proud, silent, looking down upon him with a faceless expression. Just before she had returned to her original form she had seemed to approach the tantalizing notion of giving herself fully to him, Ren, a soldier, working with the very army that sought to use her power for their own, dark, selfish gain. As a soldier, Ren should have been obedient, but should is a funny word in this case only offering the possibility of submission. Now he asked only forgiveness for not seeing her unshackled beauty sooner.

 

She or rather, Lah, being her true name was a moon goddess, having the power to move the world around her. Lah possessing supernatural abilities even in her human form, existed through most of her lifetime in the form of a surveyor nestled in the night sky, witnessing all of the deeds and misgivings of mankind across the ages. Those who were inhabited by monsters or demons could only see her, in her human form, as a tool for the acquisition of selfish endeavors, but those driven by altruism, who secretly, longingly, sought only meaning and understanding found beauty. Hopeless, raw, desire to become one with Lah drove Ren to deny his allegiance with his fellows which he once fought side by side with and commanded through many tragic battles, giving up everything he thought he once stood for. Ren was a soldier that rose from nothing an became something at the cost of his own virtue. In the presence of Lah though, Ren felt his identity slip away as if it were sinking into the dark waters of the ocean. In the short time which she inhabited a vessel of flesh and blood, few men graced Lah with the looks that Ren bestowed upon her for Lah of course knew little of true love and therefore did not understand Ren's reactions to her.

 

Lah was born alone as a grown woman, under the light of a full moon, on sacred ground, becoming the first being known to mankind to channel the power of the heavens. All that mortal men knew of Lah and what she was danced across the pages of story books and through the ears of children and as the grew they dispersed such fairy tales. The moon goddess was supposed to be a fantasy. Ren had first met her when he came across her, deep in the woods, lying in a small open plain of grass under the evening sky guarded by a thick barrier of trees. It was clear what his fellow soldier’s intentions were only after they lifted Lah off of the ground and confined her to chains. Most men naturally sought to capture and use what they did not understand, for their advancement or dominance over their rivals, or at least they did in this world . While Lah was being taken by soldiers that found her in the clearing, Ren was becoming captivated by his prisoner.

 

As the party arrived at their lord’s castle, Ren dismissed himself hoping to visit the local tavern and retreated into a sea of onlookers, who were witnessing to the beginning of Lah’s imprisonment at Castle Elderich. Ren stole another glance at Lah as she disappeared under the shadow of the gaping stone archway at the mouth of the castle and not before nor after had he known chastity or purity simply by gazing upon this maiden wonder. Though he couldn’t explain it, he felt innocence and yet great power when his gaze fell upon her for the first time and every time thereafter. It was as if basking in her glory was like noting and admiring the facets of a diamond under a summer sun. Only once did Lah meet his wandering eyes only to retract her gaze and to Ren for that moment it was somehow as if the world made sense to him once again. Lah looked away and it seemed that she may have let the image, the idea of the soldier fade from her memory into obscurity.

 

At this time in Ren’s life, he had been eagerly indulging in drink in an attempt to forget his life as a soldier during the times of war, because of what he had done and seen, yet after witnessing Lah, this soldier never again wanted to forget. As her head turned away from him in the courtyard, Ren had never felt such rejection and swore then and there that he would win her love, at the expense of everything he knew and was. Each attempt to win the love of Lah, however, ended in failure or rejection, as the moon goddess saw no value in Ren's efforts to win her, during her imprisonment in the castle. He was the very reason she was bound by metal to the earth. What Ren had not known, however, was Lah's ideas of man. All she thought of them, were that they were savage, bitter, power hungry creatures, and therefore Ren was the same through her silver, timeless eyes. 

 

Ren attempted in vain to give her the meager gifts that he could as he visited her cell, sometimes leaving silverleaf roses and sneaking her extra food from the kitchens. Lah continued to meet his gestures with silent opposition. The lords attempts, his scientific experiments, failed to draw out or utilize her powers, which only seemed to strengthen her resolve. Lah’s distaste for common man was consecrated by their treatment of her, not as a guest, but as a potential weapon. Though the part Ren played in the events involving Lah seemed to confuse her. Many nights the soldier had quietly crept to her cell in the castle, making feeble excuses to his fellow guards about his comings and goings to and from the dungeon. The only deterrent from raising suspicion among his peers came in the form of his history in battle and rank within the military, as Ren was identified as a notorious general, his name synonymous with victory and submission. Of these facts, Ren was ashamed though he rarely let these feelings shine through his flat and often expressionless affect. Many times Ren stood outside of Lah's quarters in attempts to speak with her, attempts met only with silence and disdain. Lah, being the moon goddess had at one time looked down upon Ren's actions as a military command and viewed the atrocities that this mortal man committed. Little did she know he regretted this darkness with all his heart, being blinded by his desire for the approval of his superiors and his peers. Now though, he felt his heart being pulled in a different direction.

 

Lust and greed were companions that Ren was familiar with. Few times before had been denied by a woman and his visits with Lah awoke something inside of him, something that at first he could not understand. At first it felt as though a deep sadness ran through his veins as if this were the application of gasoline before lighting an ever burning fire.

 

"I've known many men like you, really only men like you" Lah had said to Ren one night under a shimmering starlit sky. "I'm sure you think you have," he replied. "I'm sure you think that with all that we take from around us that we hold no appreciation for the beauty of the natural world." Lah was quiet, her rhythmic breathing was her only reply. "I've known pain and loss, I've done things that I can never make amends for. I've lived many lifetimes in my one but until I laid eyes on you, I've never understood..." he trailed off and succumbed to the encroaching silence hosted by the moon goddess. "Men like you, men, will never know what it's like to expect nothing from things around you, people to you are things, I am just a thing to you," Lah said, which is why I am here, it's why your kind has chosen to use me as a tool for gaining more, always you want more, how could you ever understand what it means to love." Love, the word that Ren could not bring himself to say, cut through him, bitterness, guilt, and remorse penetrated his being. No words came to Ren's lips as he knew Lah spoke the truth.

 

Ren was again denied what he wanted. His peers and superiors had taken all that they wanted by force but there were few things in this world that couldn't be obtained by exerting one's will over another. Ren's government military position made sense to him. Cause and effect was law, decisions had calculated consequences, and his troops maintained order and submission when he commanded them to. Ren did not however, understand how to make Lah see that he wasn't like all other men. How would he make her understand while he bore the garb and responsibilities of his clansmen. Thus, Ren concluded to do the only thing he knew how to do, a declaration of his feelings not only for Lah but an attempt to purge himself of his allegiance to a cause that consumed and spread darkness throughout the world.

 

Lah stared up at the stars, that once danced around her like sparks revolving around a roaring flame. She concluded that she would never need to bend her knee to any power, she would rather give her life than submit to anyone or anything. In her cold cell, chained to the rough stone bench, she was considering how she'd fallen so far when she heard a loud click at the door. She turned to see a dull glow of a lantern in the opening at the top of her cell. Thinking this was another attempt to get her to consume mortal sustenance, she closed her eyes in silent protest towards her captors. Lah heard the door quietly creak open and then soft footsteps. The voice she heard was familiar. "You said I was like everyone else, that I was incapable of love, you would have been right once. Let me prove you wrong now." Lah opened her eyes to see the face of Ren staring down at her. He wore his military uniform, a grey cloak draped over his back and shoulders, covering his torso with a hood pulled loosely over his face. Ren unlatched the chains that bound her to the stone bench and handed her a hooded cloak. Lah exchanged Ren's actions with a furrowed brow but declined to protest as she pulled the cloak over her head and shoulders. The two left the cell.

 

Ren and Lah were making their way through the woods when the sound of a bell clanged, penetrating the thick forest. "It's about time," Ren said, smirking at Lah. Lah returned his gaze with only the slightest of smiles. A burning spread through Ren, one that was a novelty among his interactions with others. "We've either got to move fast or hide," Ren said to her as he carefully stepped over thick roots covering the ground. His lantern was the only ward against the darkness that threatened to swallow them. Far away, he began to hear the clanking of armor and the echoing of shouts of men.

 

Ren and Lah finally made their way to a clearing bathed in the glow of star from above. As Ren stopped to catch his breath, he glanced up at Lah's face. Many times before he had watched her, noticing her incomparable beauty, each time as though he felt he saw her for the first time. Even though Ren believed that in no world could the moon goddess love a mere mortal man, he couldn't help but feel that he would be hopelessly lost without her. No matter what was destined to take place, he would never be the same after meeting Lah.

 

As the footsteps grew louder, the first few soldiers crashed through the trees. The military men surrounded Ren and Law, bows and arrows drawn, swords unleashed from their prisons pointing deliberately forward. "You're weak," shouted one of the men as he approached Ren. Kaloss was Ren's superior and had suspected him after he heard reports of him visiting Lah's cell on several occasions. "You don't understand Kaloss, human beings are a force of chaos, we destroy everything around us." "How unfortunate," Kaloss retorted, "the pretty little girl has poisoned your mind." "I've done things Kaloss, things that I can't live with anymore," said Ren. "We've all done things" Kaloss said, "If we didn't do those things, someone else would, then we'd be in cages just like your little bird was, step aside Ren, I'm willing to forgive this clear act of treason". Ren didn't move. His back was turned toward Lah, missing her mild expression of surprise, the first of only two signs she'd offer that portrayed her changing beliefs about the ways of men.

 

"So be it," Kaloss spat. "Fire at the girl" yelled the merciless commander. The archers hesitated. "I will not repeat myself" yelled Kaloss. Ren slowly turned his head towards Lah standing behind her, "I want you to know you've changed me, I'll never regret this." Before Lah could react, Ren blocked any clear shot. There was another yell from Kaloss, arrows were fired, and then it was over. Lah looked down at Ren, a smile on his face as his eyes wandered toward the ground. A silver, sparkling, tear fell from Lah's eye onto Ren's forehead. Wide-eyed with a face of furry and madness, Kaloss instructed that the archers notch their arrows again. "Fi..." but before the commander could finish his order a bright light erupted from the center of the clearing washing over all that were present both within and outside of the line of trees. The explosion could be seen from the castle and then all was quiet. The guards that remained in the castle thought it odd that the troops weren't returning with their guest so they sent a few men to the clearing.

 

When the men arrived, they stumbled upon an odd sight. The clearing was no longer empty, but inhabited by dozens of trees poised as if they were reaching toward a massive, silvery oak at the center. Around this shimmering oak, an auburn gold glowing tree wrapped itself around the thick trunk. The sight was made even more obscure by the fact that there was a single, blood red tree standing just on the outskirts of the forest line. The soldiers came away from the situation puzzled and concerned for there was no evidence of a battle except a collection of arrows on the ground. Stranger still was the sight of weapons, bows, arrows, and swords, trapped, half buried in each of the trees. The soldiers who surveyed the area left, never to return, sharing with others that this ground was truly sacred now.

 

It was as if he had been dreaming. The only recollection Ren had of what transpired that night was darkness followed by a silver light that enveloped him. Ren awoke lying on the ground. As he opened his eyes a magnificent sight came into view. Two trees were encompassing one another and the clearing he had been in before he passed into darkness was no more. Ren was lost and confused once again but then stared into the sky. A bright white ball of light stared back at him. This sight evoked a deep sadness that he had trouble explaining and then he remembered her. Ren sat back down at the base of the tree and closed his eyes. Where words may have been rendered useless, only a tear was left to express the memories of what was left unsaid.

October 03, 2019 23:52

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