Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nez and Onera

   Neron began to feel pangs of remorse for driving away Denu: Onera pined for him and their children had pleased Neron. Also the wives and husbands for the Children of Denu had not turned out so terrible. He had begun not to fear the creation of new beings, and hoped for their success, as of Nemrus and Ariaj whom he still favored.
   So Neron formed a new being with unique features and made him beautiful and named him Nez. Onera at first refused to keep company with Nez. Though he was wondrous to look upon and kind and full of mirth; she was still bitter that Denu had been driven away, and loyal to him, not knowing of his affair with Triona at the bottom of the sea.
   Nez was deeply in love with Onera. He longed to run her silky black hair between his fingers and kiss her reticent lips. He sought to win her heart, first with song, but his voice was not like Denu’s and she despised him for his attempts. So he sought to win her by playing artificially upon the instruments invented by her children. This, too, she despised.
   So he brought her bright things, flowers from the realm of Nemrus and colorful shells from the shores of Triona. He made the birds and animals caper for Onera, for the animals all loved Nez and his sweet disposition. Onera and animals had not smiled upon each other since that dark time when her soulless body had sucked the life from many creatures. So these displays did not please her. At last Nez asked Ner to help him impress Onera with words. But the florid constructions of poetic worship did not soften her disdain.
   Nez despaired of Onera ever loving him, but he could not stop loving her, for Neron had put it into him when he had created him. Ariaj, however, had watched him from the air, and her heart broke for him. She went in his behalf to Onera and begged her to have mercy on Nez.
   “Can you not see he is delightful,” said Ariaj. “He is perfect and adoring. Charm is in his every word. Look again, you will see what you have overlooked.”
   “I love another,” said Onera. “And my heart cannot be turned by all the pleasing things in the world, be they condensed artfully into one being by my vindictive father.”
   “You would hurt Nez on account of your father? On account of Denu?”
   “I will not betray Denu. Let Nez suffer. He is but another victim of Neron’s distrust.”
   “It cannot be easy for Neron,” said Ariaj. “He was alone at the first: alone with Nomra. How can he but distrust the new faces that spring into the world? He created Nez to please you. He is not born of spite or malevolence, but of mercy. He is trying to make it up to you.”
   “He should not have tried to take Denu from me,” said Onera, turning away.
   In the secret places of her heart, Ariaj was relieved. She loved Nez and now made her way to find him and distract him from his brooding.
   But Ner had found him first. Ner had taken the wine of Nerus and the perfume of Nom and concocted an elixir of befuddlement. He brought it to Nez and told him, “but let Onera drink of this, and she will be caused to love you fervently.”
   “How can that be?” asked Nez.
   “Ask not,” said Ner. “The miracle lessens with explanation. This is a gift for you, all I ask in return is that you may always smile kindly upon the Children of Denu.”
   “Always, good friend,” said Nez, taking the elixir and going in search of Onera. Onera had been collecting the fallen fruit of the golden apple trees and was weary and thirsty. Nez approached her with the drink and offered it.
   Onera was not pleased to see Nez, for his advances had become abrasive to her, but she grudgingly accepted his drink and swallowed it in a single gulp. Then the befuddlement took hold and she thought that Nez was Denu.
   “Denu!” she cried, throwing herself upon Nez in an ecstasy of tears. Nez was too startled and confused to be either delighted or questioning. “We must go, before Neron sees you!” said Onera, taking Nez’s hand and leading him down Amalteron to the sea. She called the sea beast and together they rode to Onerae, the island paradise. And Onera loved Nez, thinking he was Denu, and Nez could not help but be delighted and revel in euphoria, though he shivered with unease and horror when she called him by the wrong name.
   Ariaj searched in vain for Nez, not thinking to check long-abandoned Onerae, and she feared for him. But Ner told Neron what he had done, and Neron was delighted that Onera had at last accepted his gift of Nez.
   “I thank you, Ner,” said Neron, “for alleviating my daughter’s sorrow. You shall ever shine in my sight.”
   But before long, the elixir’s befuddling effects wore off and Onera saw that she had not been living on the island with her love, but with an impostor, with the accursed creation of mollification: poor Nez.
   “What have you done?” she screamed at Nez.
   “I have loved you,” said poor Nez.
   “You have deceived me: that is not love!”
   “I could not win your heart,” said Nez, “but Ner promised his elixir would turn it unto me. I did not mean to deceive you. I suspected all was not as it should be when you insisted upon calling me Denu, but in my weakness and delight, I did not question. Forgive me, I only ever wanted your love.”
   “You never had it, and you never shall,” said Onera. “Curse you! May no one ever bestow their love upon you, wretched thing.” And she called up the seamonster, the Nameless One and left Nez bereft upon the shore.

   Ariaj saw Onera alight upon the shore and went to her, for she saw that Onera was wroth.
   “What troubles you, dear one?” asked Ariaj.
   “That perfect and adoring creature you lauded has dealt wickedly with me,” Onera cried, fleeing into the forests below Amalteron. Ariaj immediately took to the air and flew to Onerae to look for Nez. She found him still on the beach, staring across the rippling waters over which Onera had fled.
He could not be cajoled into speaking, nor moving from that spot in the sand. As the tide drew nigh, Ariaj waxed frantic, lest he should be dragged away by the sea. She lifted him and he did not resist as she drew him up the island into the trees. She made for him there a shelter of boughs and every day brought him food from the mainland, but he would not eat and she was terrified that he would waste away.
   Meanwhile, Onera grew heavy with child and gave birth to twins, Eanez and Arathez. Onera had been determined to hate them and had prepared to hurl them from Amalteron upon their birth, but when she looked into their gentle golden eyes, she could not do it, for she loved them. She brought them to Neron for his blessing. Neron was delighted and gave them his favor and attention above the Children of Denu.
   Ariaj hastened to Onerae and told Nez of the birth of his children. He started from his trance and tried to leap to his feet, but he was too weak. He had become a skeleton; he was so light that Ariaj carried him back over the waters to Amalteron.

   Neron had bade the Children of Denu build a shelter for the new babes and Onera reclined within, nursing her twins. She refused at first to let Nez see them, but at last she relented and Nez marveled at his children. They were perfect and lovely to behold, far surpassing Nez and Onera, and even Denu in their beauty.

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