Chapter III. Boundaries / Walls

She awakened early, refreshed, somehow eager to begin the day. She moved quickly to her studio where an unfinished painting rested on an easel. She had been working trying to capture the iridescence of one of the dragonflies who lived within the walls of her castle. She was waiting for the light to be just right so she could reproduce it on the canvas before her. Over the years she had developed her taste and sense of beauty and sought to manifest her vision through various art forms. But no one had ever seen her work for she kept it secure and hidden there behind the walls.


Her studio was placed within the upper floors of the place. Adjacent to the studio was a balcony which caught the sun’s first rays and gave her a panoramic view of the countryside and the township below. She was sitting, awaiting the light when she saw him silhouetted in the rising sun. He was astride a huge war horse walking slowly into the town square. The town itself was beginning to stir. The sounds of doors, smells from cooking fires, the laughter of children, and conversations of the market were beginning to rise and fill the air. She watched him as he dismounted and began to interact with the town’s folk. She noticed that he was tall and handsome and had an easy manner about him. As he moved through the growing crowd she heard the laughter ringing through the streets, saw the smiles, the good-natured hand slaps given and received as though he had known these people all of his life. But the most unusual aspect of it all was that as his laughter echoed through the castle hundreds of dragonflies took flight, stirring the air and filling the space with light. The castle was aflutter and to some degree so was she. She had seen handsome men before and would on occasion take a lover but this was a very different thing. Something in her shifted. It was small, almost unnoticeable, like the beginning of a thaw in the spring. Only one drop, but that one drop proceeds the latter rushing of the waters.

Her eyes sought him out, curious about this new sensation and its genesis. “Surely he was not the cause of the disturbance in her castle,” she mused. He was closer now. She watched his gentle swagger as he moved through the town and its people. She moved closer to the edge of the balcony for a better view while unconsciously straightening her gown and hair. “Silly” she thought to herself. “No one can see me here. And who is he anyway? Just another traveler – – warrior – – wanderer – – loud, full of himself, selfish, shallow – -,” she thought. But even as she dismissed him with her thoughts her eyes continued to study him. The dragonflies had quieted themselves once more but there was still an energy, a palpable buzz that filled the room. It was as though the creatures were poised ready to spring into flight once more upon the slightest provocation.

She appraised him, unconsciously seeking a reason to avert her eyes, move on, and return to her pursuits. But the more she studied him the more she wanted to see. She was anxious, curious, and excited at once. She liked the way he filled the shopkeeper’s doorway across the street. His hands were above his head holding his weight as he rested against the facing. She listened as he spoke. His voice was gentle yet commanding, questioning, commenting, and was infused with that infectious laughter. His smile could light up a darkened room. She watched as he moved up the street interacting with people and moving on as if searching for something or seeking directions. What ever he was doing brought him ever nearer her castle. She found herself intrigued by this stranger. “Amazingly handsome with a strong broad chest and shoulders,” she noticed. But it was the energy about him that held her attention. She had never encountered such a person. He seemed somehow familiar yet totally outside her waking experience. The dragonflies shimmered as he neared. She noticed him looking about as if seeking a lost treasure or some guide for his next steps. She followed his eyes trying to discover the intention of his actions. He was now within feet of the castle wall. But she, confident in her concealment, was bold as she leaned over the balcony to view him from a better angle. She saw his head turn and she turned with him. Her eyes locked on a small silver creature flying just ahead of him. Her heart leaped! She knew her friend in an instant! It had been years since she had seen those silver white wings. It seemed a lifetime ago since it had left her with a kiss and flew away. Now her friend was back and moving directly towards her. Unknowing, the eyes of the stranger also followed the arc of the creature’s flight. As they both sought the shimmering point of light it flew as if strategically so that their vision crossed paths. The Dragonfly flew into the castle past the Princess but her eyes were locked with his. She found herself transfixed, caught in his gaze. Deep dark brown eyes like tunnels into his soul. Recognition of finding something she had not known was lost. The royal blood flowed, pumping wild and untamed life into her. Heat more profound than flesh engulfed her. As he gazed into those eyes the slight shifting tilted. The single drop was joined by others and became a melt. She felt opened up. The old longings arose and were somehow answered. Deep within her contentment peace and beauty settled upon her and left her breathless on the sound of her long deep sigh. That eternal moment was broken as she noticed him blink, tip his hat to her, and then quickly turn and walk away. She was startled, jarred, confused. She was not shocked by him walking away or even seeing into this man’s soul. She had long studied people and many had come and gone. But when he tipped his hat she knew he knew. She realized that he had somehow seen through her concealment. Her boldness morphed into modesty. She tried to still her racing mind and heart. She felt exposed but not endangered, innocently naked under those eyes. But what had he seen? Where did he go? It happened so suddenly. He had seen through the veil. That had never happened before. She did not know what it meant. He had seen her and was gone before she fully realized that it had happened. All she really knew was that a spark had gone off inside her and her heart was bursting into thin air.

He had traveled through the night making his way along the lake-shore. He moved at an easy pace following the winged light but now he knew somehow that his destination waited for him a few miles ahead. He observed his surroundings. He watched the stars and moon move across the sky. He studied the vague outlines of the landscape in the dim starlight. He cataloged the sights, smells, and night sounds as he moved. It was second nature for him to observe and study things. After all the many years of wandering it was by now an unconscious act. His conscious mind was somewhere else. As he moved toward his ultimate goal his mind journeyed back along the many paths he had wandered. The restlessness, the feeling of being unfinished, and no matter what he accomplished or strength acquired, the weakness and insecurity remained. He was not without confidence for in most things he had it in abundance. But he remembered the day of his father’s gifting. His father had given him the medallion and instructed him to find the missing piece, to fill the void. He had hinted that he would be forever restless until he did and that no amount of success or defeat would fully satisfy. Only the filing of the emptiness would suffice. He had lived his life searching, striving, creating, winning, and losing, and moving on.

He wondered what the morning would bring as he became aware of dawn’s first light. He sensed the need for ceremony to mark the day. He turned toward a sandy shore. There he attended his horse and then moved toward the water. He disrobed and began bathing himself. The cold water and the grey dawn covered him with goose-flesh. His nakedness revealed scars from battles and wounds received along his long road. Few had seen his scaring. None had seen them all fully revealed. He shaved himself and oiled his body and hair. He dressed himself in fine linens and soft deerskin boots. He carefully groomed his warhorse and brushed him till his coat began to shine. He checked his appearance in dawn’s reflection on the still water by the shore and prepared himself for the last leg of the journey.

As the morning light made its way into the valley he saw the little township snuggled between the hills and the lake-shore. He found a road which ran straight west into the village. He felt the rising sun on his back as his destination was slowly illuminated before him. As he studied the town he wondered where his guide had gone. But given no direction he followed the road. As he arrived on the outskirts he saw that the townspeople were beginning the stir. He was also aware of the growing anxiety in his gut. Part of it was that he was never fully comfortable in towns. Though he had conquered many he had never managed to feel at ease in them. He did not trust them. But this particular feeling was deeper, more profound, and was tinged with excitement. His heart beat a little faster and as he entered the town he repeated “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly.” He reached down inside himself and found his friendliest smile as he approached a farmer setting up his wares in the market. His smile was infectious and people were naturally drawn to him. He easily entered into conversations about the town, themselves, and such. The effect on the people was that many times they found themselves discussing the deeper things of their hearts. No matter the person or the topics engaged they always seemed to feel better about themselves. Whether from the shared laughter or the flattering honest attention paid to them by the stranger, it felt as if they had known him forever. It seemed to brighten them, to lift them up. As he met each one he always managed to inquire after information regarding his medallion. They were to the person, all curious, interested and helpful, but none offered any clue to the connection between this place and his quest. Frustration and doubt began to stir in his belly. He quickened his pace and interactions as he moved through the town. Until, he found himself at the end of it. All that was left was a little shop that had yet to open and an elegant structure that unnerved him. He turned aside from the structure and his growing unease and approached the shop. He stood in the doorway leaning casually on it as he called for the proprietor. In a short time they could be seen laughing together but he soon excused himself and moved on. He turned toward the castle. It was all that remained of the town. He sought guidance, direction, an excuse, not to go that way. And with each step dread and hope mingled and arose like a physical force within him. As he spoke to the last remaining people he heard the buzzing of wings and caught a shimmering out of the corner of his eye. He turned to follow in a direction which led straight toward the castle. What happened next took only a few seconds but for him it seemed that time was frozen in an instant. He was now very near the outer parts of the castle and watched the creature as it flew up and over the wall through the balcony and then – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – stillness.

He saw her. Their eyes met and locked. He was transfixed by the beauty before him. With racing heart and stolen breath he felt at once terribly weak and terribly strong. The impulse to simultaneously flee and pursue almost ripped him apart. Longing flooded him. Beauty washed over him in waves and threatened to cast him adrift. Primal terror rose in him. Feelings he had not experienced since childhood returned with a vengeance. Mocking, laughing, alone, humiliated, he remembered and it shook him to the core. He had always been a loner of sort. His journey demanded that his ties be loose to those he encountered. But that one look reopened a wound he thought long healed. A soul wound he had carried, a void in the deep recesses of his heart. But those eyes, they knew him it seemed, and he knew them somehow. To have seen her yet remain apart, separated by castle walls demonstrated, announced, and uncovered his shame and his abject aloneness. Nothing he had seen or done or accomplished had come close to that one look. It all faded and evaporated like dew in the bright morning sun. He felt unworthy, yet amidst the dark tumult of that moment a spark, a seed of hope began to take root. With that he came to himself, blinked away the moment, tipped his hat to break the contact, then turned and walked away. He had to think, to figure this out. This was so far from anything he had imagined or anticipated. His world had tilted and he needed to regain his footing.