Beyond Eternity by Julia Nolan


The Innocent, the Maiden without knowledge of evil, waded through the fields of poppies. Her pale green skirt dragged behind her like a wedding train while her hair, golden as the desert sun, wafted behind her like a veil. She moved through a field of flowers in full bloom, yet appeared as a flower too ~ more beautiful by far than any in the field. The flowers waved slightly in the desert breeze, alive with fertile green grasses and flame colored California poppies that spread out before her, blooming today as they did only once in a life time.

She moved to the center of a large patch of poppies sprung from the emerald sea of grasses. The field spread out from her as far as she could see, contained in the background by rolling green and purple hills, with towering, ice covered mountains behind them. She turned and the knee deep poppies spread out from her, and the grass and other yellow flowers from them. In the distance she saw the blue, blue sky, and even farther, the golden sun. She looked to the sun and, as if in awe of it, she fell to her knees in the poppies.

As she watched the sun, a golden glimmer melted from the sun, and floated down to her, pushed her back into the poppies, and smothered her in its embrace. The flame colored poppies framed her view of the sky, which then framed her view of the sun. The golden glow wrapped itself about her ivory figure, and she smiles serenely, neither knowing nor caring what was happening to her. Completely happy, the Maiden drifted off to sleep in a bed of poppies.

When the Maiden awoke, at first she thought that the marvelous vision of golden light was nothing but a dream. Yet she shortly realized that she had changed, and she knew that the golden light had been completely real. She did not know how she had changed ~ except that she knew that somehow the golden light was within her. And she knew that she could no longer stay within her childhood home of the desert fields. And so, following a call heard only to her, she left her home.



In nine months time the Maiden came to a murky cave somewhere beyond the reach of the sun. She was tired, but still enveloped in the aura of radiance that she had gained when she lay in the poppy field. She lay quietly in a dark corner and, with the help of the Witch-Queen, a kindly woman who lived in the cave, gave birth to a son.



Three years later, in the spring, the rains did not come, and the desert did not blossom. The blooms that usually grew with the rains looked desiccated and paper thin. The sun glared overhead, and the once rolling hills now looked like jagged cliffs. The red sand blew painfully over the parched earth. The Maiden sat in the dry, dying grass at the edge of a sheer cliff and watched her son play in the meadow. She sat serenely, confidently, happily.

The three Kings then came. The King of the Sea, a tall powerful man with golden hair and darkly tanned skin, came first. He was followed by his brother, the King of the Sky, a white golden man, as strongly built as his brother, and the King of the Dark Lands, a brother to the other two, who looked much like them except that he had deeply bronzed skin and blue-black hair. They had come seeking for the Child who had been born to a Maiden who might restore the earth.

As they walked along the desert, the three brothers came upon the site of the child playing and the Maiden, no more than a child herself, watching him while braiding a wreath out of the dried flowers for her head. Somehow the vision of the Maiden with eyes the color of the sky, skin the color of ivory, and hair the color of the sun watching the Child ringed in sunlight filled the Kings with awe. They knelt before the Maiden, and the Maiden, surprised, drew her son to her.

"What is your name?" the Sea King asked the Maiden.

"I am only called the Maiden," the Maiden replied demurely.

"Where do you come from?" the Sky King asked.

"I am the daughter of the Earth and the Sky," the Maiden answered. "I know nothing more. The Earth has always cared well enough for her Daughter."

"And who is this Child?" the Sea King asked.

"He is my son," the Maiden replied enigmatically.

The Sky King watched her and the Child. Finally he said to the others, "I believe that this is the Divine Child, the one who the Fates foretold would rule the Universe ~ and us."

The Kings talked among themselves, and at last agreed that the Maidenís son was indeed the Divine Child whose presence was foretold by the Oracles.

"Beautiful Maiden," the Sky King said, "may I bring you and your Child to my home? The barren desert is no place for you and your Child."

The Maiden thought for a moment, and then said, "The Fates have told me that you would come for my Child and I. I cannot leave the Earth for long, but you may foster my Child in your home, if you wish. Let him be as your Child. Raise him as your son."

The Kings rose, and departed, taking the Child with them.



When the Divine Child was seven, his father, the Sky King decided that it was time for him to begin taking control of the land. When he mentioned this to his wife, the Sky Queen, she was furious.

"How dare you replace our sons with a bastard of yours?" she screamed. "I refuse to bow before some misbegotten brat. I am your Queen and I rule the Heavens as do you. I refuse to allow this Child to rule me."

The Sky King took little heed as to what his wife said. He believed that the way to have the Divine Child rule the Universe as foretold by the Oracle was to place him on his throne. He could not have been more wrong.

The Sky King placed the Divine Child on his golden throne and ordered each of the denizens of the sky to bow before him. As they did so, his wife, the Sky Queen, ran from the Heavens to enlist the aid of those who would help her to retrieve her place. She found her help in the Giants. The Giants were a monstrous race; a monster far worse than ordinary monsters because of their appearance. While a typical monster is so hideous to the eye that most immediately shun them and believe that they are evil, the Giants, unlike their monstrous brothers, look like Gods. They are tall, muscular, and as fair of form and face as can be made. Yet they burn with hatred for all that is good and just, and were delighted to hear the Queen of the Sky beg them to destroy the Divine Child.

The Giants stormed to the palace of the Sky, and upon finding the Divine Child, brutally tore him to pieces, clawing him with their fingers, and mauling him with their teeth. They seized his flesh and ate it, relishing the taste of innocent blood.

The noise woke no one but the Warrior Maiden, who sprang to the Divine Childís rescue. But before she could get to him, he was already in pieces, mutilated by the Giants so badly that not even the best of her brotherís, the Doctorís, medicines could revive him. Yet all the same, she fought like an avenging angel and managed to retrieve the perfect heart of the Divine Child.

When the Sky King awoke, justice was fierce and cruel, but the Divine Child was already dead.



The Maiden knew nothing of what had happened to her son. She wandered far and wide until she came to a meadow by the sea to play in. She skipped across the meadow collecting flowers and putting them in her apron, when suddenly, she saw the most beautiful flower that she had ever seen. She knelt before it, and some of her hair brushed over her shoulder into her hand. For the first time she noticed how golden it was, and how perfectly white the hand was that held it. She realized herself for the first moment. She looked at the flower again, and realized that it was covered in a heavy gloss, like a mirror. As she looked into it, it reflected her face. She gazed intently into the flower, then plucked the flower, and screamed, and fell.

She was caught in the powerful arms of the King of the Dark Lands. She screamed again, and again, until she could scream no more, yet she continued to fall deeper and deeper into the canyons and caverns, until finally a rough hand was forced over her mouth and she stopped in a dark and glittering cavern.

"Iím glad youíre safe," the Dark King said.

"Why would you fear for my safely?" the girl asked.

"Your son was murdered."

"Iím sure I have more to fear from you than from whoever murdered my son," she said indignantly.

"Perhaps," said the Dark King.

"Where have you taken me, and why am I here?"

"I have taken you to my kingdom, and you are here to be my wife."

A look of horror came upon the girlís face. "I canít be your wife. I belong to the Earth."

The Dark King shrugged. "You were given to me by the Sky, who you claimed was your father."

"But I donít want to be yours!" she sobbed.

The Dark King put an arm, almost consoling around her, but she pushed it away violently. "Leave me along with my grief."

The Dark King departed, and the girl, who once was the Maiden, cried herself to sleep.



The girl awoke the next morning and was escorted by a servant to a dining hall where the Dark King sat.

"Break your fast, my dear, with me," he said.

"No," she replied. "I am too sad to eat."

She sat sadly by the table, watching the people move about. When breakfast was done, the Dark King took her hand. She let him hold it.

"I would like to show you about my realm."

"I will not resist."

He lead her through worlds that would amaze anyone who saw them. Diamonds lit the way, and gold paved the streets. Yet the gold was not as golden as the sun, nor the diamonds as bright as the stars, nor the emeralds as green as the hills.

Plants grew about the way, but only dark, unpleasant plants. Thistles bloomed, as did dark willows and black poplars. Asphodels, mint, lilies, nightshade, aconite, henbane, and other plants which the girl had always before avoided grew. Poppies bloomed, but only bleached white ones and blood red ones. Her orange poppies were forever gone. She tried to reconcile herself to this.

At last she came to the Dark Kingís garden, elegantly ornamented with streams and perfect dark plants, and ornamental jewels. As they passed by a fruit tree, one bearing pomegranates, the girl snatched one, but did not eat it. The Dark King smiled, as benevolently as he could, at her.

They walked back to the palace, and the girl set the pomegranates on a golden tray by her bed. It lasted there, never rotting, and never growing old in the magical land.



Months passed, and the girl became used to her existence, though she always yearned to return to her poppy fields and ocean shores. She became more fond of the Dark King, though she never completely forgave him for taking her to the dark lands. One night, even, when he came into her room, he kissed her, and she returned the kiss.

But it did not stop there. His advances continued, and she returned his caresses. The girl was too overwhelmed to tell him to stop or even draw back. And finally she lay exhausted on the bed, and reached over, to her pomegranate. She had retained her fast, but she decided to break it with a few seeds of the fruit, to calm her after whatever she felt was a grievous wrong. Maybe food would take her mind off of her recent betrayal to herself.

She could eat the ruby seeds. The Dark King had already left; someone was there whom he felt it was important to see. No one would even have to know that she had eaten. The lush, juicy red seeds spilled from the place where the pomegranate had been opened. She caught one with a finger, and swallowed the gleaming red seed. She followed it by five more, before she was stopped by the opening of her door.



The Warrior Maiden, after long deliberation, decided to feed the Divine Childís heart to a princess. In nine months, the princess gave birth to a son.



The Dark King stepped through the girlís door.

"The Kings have decided that you are to return to Earth. The Earth has been barren since you left. It seems to be demanding your return."

The girl got up, and threw a dress over herself, then walked to the Messenger.

"So I get to go?" she asked, her body still flushed and her lips still red from the pomegranate juice.

"Provided," the Messenger said, "that no one can find any way in which you consented to be here. The Earth demands the Maiden."

The girl could not help but feel that the Maiden had died the moment before the flower was plucked. But she followed the Messenger, trying not to think of the sad King behind her as she climbed up into the light.

But there was no light. The Earth was clouded over, if the grey dust that blew everywhere could be called Earth. The Dark Lands were more beautiful. Worst of all, the pomegranateís juice still tasted sweet on her lips, signing her betrayal sickeningly sweetly.

"Earth, embrace your daughter!" the girl said, but only the too hot wind blew, unshaded by the dark clouds.

But when, after a few seconds, the Earth did nothing, the girl fell to her knees and sobbed.

"We are all undone," said the King of the Sky sadly.

And then the clouds opened up, and the sprouts of grass peaked out from the dry dust. A hand reached down to the sobbing girl, and the Lord of Light, child of the princess who had eaten the Divine Childís heart, lifted the girl to her feet.

"You are no longer the Maiden," he said softly.

"I know." she said.

"But the Earth no longer demands the Maiden. It demands the Queen."

The girl looked confused.

"The Queen?"

"Yes. You are now the Queen of the Dark Lands..."

"And you?"

"I am the Lord of Light, your son, and King of the Earth."

"Then must I spend forever in the Dark Lands?"

"No, just some of your time. You must return to your Dark Husband, but you may spend part of the year with your flowers. Each spring, if you wish."

"Thatís all I wish."

And so the Lord of Light embraced the Queen of the Dark Lands, and the flowers bloomed.

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