Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Return of Denu

   Denu had remained hidden from the sight of Neron, in the far desert. He had taken the shape of a fearsome dragon and no animals came near. The fire that spurted from his eyes singed a great tract of the desert and it never gave birth to life again.
   Still he missed Onera.
   At last, he left the desert and flew as a bird to espy the peaks of Neron’s domain. He saw with amazement that magnificent palaces had sprouted from Amalteron and that they were heavily populated with a bronzed and beautiful race. He alighted in the old orchards of Nomra and watched the children play.
   From whence these fleet and fair people? They were not his children. Where were the children he had abandoned? What had Neron done to them? He dared not reveal himself upon that holy mountain, but he lingered long, watching and listening. He found Nez, sitting on the cliff, watching the horizon.
   Ariaj tried still to lure him into a smile, but Nez was still heartbroken.
   “At least play with your grandchildren!” Ariaj implored. “You have lost Onera, but she is still here, all around you!”
   So. This brazen being was the father of this strange race. And Onera…with an anguished cry, Denu flew from Amalteron. How had Onera done this thing? Had Denu really been gone for so long? Had she forgotten him? He had never forgotten her…not even when entwined in the arms of Triona beneath the sea.
   He circled Neron’s mountain again.
   Perhaps he need not hate Onera…she had done no worse thing than he…but he could hate this gold-haired seducer. He could hate him and he would hate his children.
   Where were the children of Denu?

   He flew over the sea, and skimmed the boughs of Onerae with his blue wings. He saw Onera beside the healing stream, alone and sad. He alighted beside her and chirped.
   “Be gone,” she said. “I wish to see none but my Denu.
   Denu transformed into a dragon and roared furiously, rippling the waters of Nyr. Onera leapt back with a cry, but she saw his fiery eyes and ran to him, throwing her arms around his scaly neck.
   “Denu!” she wailed. “I have missed you more than any one thing in the world!”
   “Then why did you love another?” Denu hissed as he resumed his original form.
   Onera looked into his starry eyes and hers filled with tears.
   “Denu, forgive me!” she said. “I never meant to! He—he deceived me with a magic brew…I’m sorry, I thought, I thought he was you, for the potion he gave me befuddled my mind and reason. As soon as I realized what was done, I was very furious, but it was too late! Eanez, Arathez…their children now flood my father’s palace as ours once did.”
   “Ours?” Denu asked.
   “Yes!” Onera beamed. “We had seven. Ner, Deru, Nom, Ee, Nerus, Nu, and Dena. But Ner was vicious. It was he that gave Nez the potion that confused me. I am sorry, Denu. I love only you!”
   “I forgive you,” Denu said slowly. He paused, thinking of Triona’s lips. “I only love you, too,” he said, and his shadow loosened from him.
   “And Neron?” Onera asked. “He does not know you are here?”
   “He believes me dead,” Denu said.
   “He never told me,” Onera said indignantly.
   “No,” said Denu, glad that she had not heard of Triona another way.
   “Well, we shall be able to live here happily, then!” Onera said. “Neron is not looking for you! No more fleeing and hiding, we can be happy at last!”
   “I wish to see my children,” Neron said. “What happened to them?”
   “They had many children of their own and grew until father became displeased with their number and so Ner led them away and they dwell now beneath Neronimahnon, in their city, Nemraltus."
   “Let us go and see them!” Denu exclaimed in delight.
   “But Neron—” Onera began.
   “Fie in Neron!” said Denu. “He will not hear of it, and anyway, I have discovered his power and no longer fear him.”
   “Of what do you speak?” Onera asked. But Denu would not tell her of the eyeless semblance he had called forth. He changed into a dragon and flew to Nemraltus, with his shadow barely clinging to him. Ner had not yet aged and died, but he was beginning to show more age than the father he greeted with respect and a shadow of wariness.
   Here was the father that had abandoned them…was this a time for vengeance, or a time to unite in hatred of Neron whose distrust had caused the rift?
   Ner was double-minded and it was no trouble for him to hold both sentiments in his heart. Denu, too, was confused. Here was his long lost son, also the sorcerer to blame for aiding Nez in the seduction of Onera. But Denu was as capable as his son in the holding of hatred and love together at once.
   And he planned a vengeance and a blessing in one as Ner brought him to banquet with the other six children. Nu at once spotted the fluttery shadow of Denu and remembered the old tales that Ariaj had whispered of the days when shadows were rent from flesh and heinous acts were committed.
   If she had known what was to come, she would have silenced her brother Deru when he spoke of the pilgrimage to see Nomra beneath the earth. He told of the sparkling chambers where Nomra was preparing to receive them when Nemrus’ curse would cause them to die like animals. He told of her seas of gold and milk, of her fantastic creatures and of her Night Light, Mihr.
   Denu’s eyes sparkled at the tales.
   He remained with Onera in the city of their children, disguising again in the form of a dragon, lest Ariaj should espy him from the air.
   And the words of prophecy spoken by Unonera still troubled him.

   They will be reviled! The Race of Nez will take your eyes!

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