There once was a girl whose father was the West Wind and her mother the weeping frankincense tree.
I could describe her eyes, and laud their colors, or speak movingly of the way her hair fell, or the cunning curve in at her waist or the fair shade of her flesh, but being the daughter of Olibanum and the very air itself, she shifted and changed. Sometimes she was thin and brambly like her mother; other times fair and lovely as her father. At other times, she was a storm in the form of a girl, and she blew harsh and swift from place to place, raging and calming without rhyme or reason.
Truth be told, she was plain, but sweet-scented at most times, and as her mother bore her in flight from her father, she was not often like a tree. She lived in a ruined house at the edge of a village, unremarked upon by most of the villagers, and she cared for the pigs and goats there, selling them to market whenever she needed coin for clothes or food.
Each morning before her father rose and blew out through the door, she would rise and open it. Each day before he howled in a gale down the hill, she would descend one hundred stairs into the village and fetch water from the well in the village. Each day when the sun set, she waited for her father to come howling up the hill, ready to open the door lest he blow it from the hinges.
Often he came in a swift rush, tangling her resin-scented hair; other times he merely crept up trickle by trickle until he sat at the dinner table with stories of the goats and sheep in the pastures, of the faces he'd touched, of lovers he'd united by his soft breath and villains ruined by his fierce and sudden storms.
One day, as she waited, the door stayed open and the air stayed still, so still that it became oppressive and hot. And as the sun sunk below the verge of the hill, the door did not sway, and her father did not come in laughing, or trickle in, whispering, or come in with a raging to set the curtains to tangling and the crockery to smashing.
And so she waited, and the colors of the sky were washed out of her aunt's cloak, and the stars came up, heroes and villains both shining in the sky, and the air was dead and still. Finally, forlornly, leaving the door open, she prepared for bed and laid herself down. It was a long time until she slept.
When she woke in the morning, she shooed a pair of confused mourning doves from a half-made nest in her hair and a deer from where it nibbled at her bedspread.
Her father had not gone out through the door, which still swung open: he had not slept in his bed, and his dinner sat spoiled and cold on the table. She threw his dinner to the pigs, and washed and dressed her hair, then went down into the village where her mother and her sisters sat weeping in a cluster of twisting limbs in the village square. As she went among the villagers, the scent of frankincense hung heavy, with no wind to disperse it.
Her mother sat still, her leaves drooping, sorrowing in drop upon drop of resinous grief.The daughter leaned against the tree and spoke to it as trees speak to each other, and as she did, the mourning doves, still puzzled by the loss of their nest, circled overhead and settled, cooing softly.
♪♫ "There is no wind,"♪♫ they sang. ♪"The fields are still,"♪♫ they sang. ♪♫"The rain will not come,"♪ they sang. ♪♫"The stream will not run." ♪♫
A few leaves drifted from her mother's limbs as she bent in around her daughter, and the girl rose from the trunk, sticky with the tears of her mother Olibanum and said to the doves, "Where is my father? Did he float beneath your wings yesterday to carry you? Where is my father? Has he flown deep into a ravine to seduce the spirits there? Where is my father? Has he offended the gods on the mountain high?"
♪ "There is a witch, there is a woman,"♪♫ they sang. ♪"There is a loom, there is a lullaby. He sleeps, she weeps. She is old, but bold."♪♫
And they fluttered their wings as if to rise, and they stirred their feathers as if to fly, but there was no wind left beneath them, and they leaned together, mourning softly.
A thick tear of frankincense rolled down her mother's trunk, covering the girl's hand, and she gathered it up into a ball and kissed the knot where Olibanum's cheek might have been. Then she took the doves, and said "You cannot nest between my mother's branches, for your feathers will stick fast, but if I allow you to nest into my hair, will you guide me to my father and the witchwoman?"
They cooed softly their agreement, and she took them from the tree and set them in her hair (which, inspired by her mother, had already set to tangling), giving them a bit of frankincense to gum together a nest with. Then, shaking her skirts clean, she fetched the jug from the house at the top of the hill and the water from the well in the village and set off down the road. Nestled amidst the brambles of her hair, the doves sang soft directions to her as she went.
The days were long, the road was hard, and each creek she passed flowed slower than the last. She sipped more and more from the jug under her arm, weary at the end of each day, and the doves sang her soothing songs from their nest, lulling her to sleep each night. Still, the air was warmer and warmer, even under the thickest shadow of trees along the road, and the plants to either side withered more and more. Her sandals grew thin with the walking: her clothes grew ragged.
Finally, at the end of the tenth day along the road, she came to the path into the ravine, and found it green and full of life. With the doves singing softly of courage in her ears, she came down into the valley and found it wet and lush and sweet. A soft breeze, whispering faintly in the upper reaches of the valley, brushed through her hair: as it went, it carried the scent of resin with it, and she found herself comforted. Strengthened, she hurried on through blossoming flowers, surrounded by the lullaby of birds and the voice of her father.
The walls of the ravine rose high and stony to either side, but she went down and down until she found a singing brook to fill her jug from, and along it, a small village of white plaster and blue tile, and a witchwoman who sat with warp and weft and a rug of green and gold spider silk.
And as the daughter of the West Wind and Olibanum approached, the wind blew fierce through her hair and carried the scent to the crone, and the old woman paled and prostrated herself before the sweet-scented girl.
The rug shuddered, twisting with the raging gale of her father's anger. The air stirred, muttering scornful, angry things. The woman wept and begged forgiveness, and the birds in the girl's hair sang tranquil, sweet songs, fanning their wings in the air.
"Forgive me," the crone cried out. "Forgive me, for we have no choice! Five hundred years we have lived in this place and paid homage to the spirits of the air and the gods on their mountain! But a demon has taken roost at the bottom, and he rages at the flight of his bride, my daughter, who he took unwillingly. Each day he comes howling up the ravine to blow her from my house and into his arms, and each day I have driven him back. Where first I bargained with each year of my life, now I am old and withered, and soon cannot give more."
"Your father howled each day over the rocky cliffs, and so one day I caught him in a bag, and each day, he is woven into this rug. In the day, he drives back the demon: in the evening, it is that which I throw over my daughter to hide her from sight while I sleep. Have pity on us, o fair-aspected one!"
"You cannot keep my father, old woman." Olibanum's daughter said. "Each day, the crops out of this valley wilt and wither. Each day, the birds cannot fly to roost. Each day, the creeks and streams grow more and more dry. Unweave your weft, untangle the threads. You must release my father."
"The demon will take my daughter!" the woman cried out. The doves chorused in mourning. "He is cruel and callous; he will beat her and scar her, and she will bear foul fruit that will destroy her!"
The wind blew strong against the face of Olibanum's daughter; the doves sang loud in her ears, first of the fields and the plight of the feathered, then of the emerald green eyes of the daughter who peeked from one of the houses. At her feet, the crone groveled, and the rug twisted. Olibanum's daughter tucked her jug of water more firmly under one arm, and took the ball of frankincense in her hand, and said, "Old woman, you need not keep my father. Remain here and I will deal with the demon."
And so, with the wind at her back and the crone sobbing by the stream, she descended further into the ravine.
The wind whispered between the stones as they grew closer together; the stream sang in the rocky channel as she walked. A desolate howling became clear above the voice of her father, and as she reached the sloping bottom of the gasp in the earth, she found an ibex-horned demon crouched at the end of the waters, mourning over a ribbon such as might come from the hair of a maiden.
"Demon," said the girl. "Why do you howl up the ravine for the daughter of the witchwoman?"
The demon wailed, the demon wept, and it said "She promised herself to me, three times. Once for her fair golden hair, once for her smooth white skin, once for her green eyes. First she gave me this ribbon, then a kiss upon the cheek, and for the last, I demanded her hand in marriage, but she spurned me for a farmer boy and left me here! Each day I would come calling to her door, but she has lied and lied to the witchwoman, and she drives me back now with the voice of the West Wind kept woven in a carpet."
"Now she has the fair golden hair that was mine, the smooth white skin I once wore as my own, and the green eyes I cut from emeralds for my bride, and I cannot leave this place until I have my ribbon, my kiss, and a bride."
Olibanum's daughter thought vile things of the witchwoman's daughter, then, and said, "She must return her gifts, and the trade must be equal. If she will not take the ribbon from your hand, I shall deliver it on the wings of the doves, should you but set one sailing to bear the strand to the witchwoman."
The doves sang sweetly at this, and the ibex demon bowed his horned head at this, and with a howl, he sent the female of the cooing birds flying up the ravine with a ribbon. It fluttered thrice around the witchwoman and dropped the ribbon into her hands.
"Mourning bird, what is this?" the crone demanded. "A favor given by a girl? Why, I see my own weave in this, and my own daughter claimed it lost..." As she thought on this, her fingers slipped, and the weaving of the rug slipped, and the whispering voice of the West Wind slipped a bit free and stole away the golden hair from the head of the witchwoman's daughter.
Far below, the ibex demon shook his head, and from it, fair golden hair shone, and he seemed less horrible, and rather more handsome. As the female dove sang overhead, circling with her wings flashing ivory in the sunlight, he said, "My hair is returned and I loosened a bit more. But the witchwoman's daughter will never come here for me to kiss her cheek, and I can never defeat the West Wind to demand it."
Olibanum's daughter thought vile things of the witchwoman's daughter, then, but said "I am the daughter of the West Wind and Olibanum who is sweet resin on the breath of air. Will not a kiss from me set loose your bonds a bit more?"
And the ibex demon gazed on her and admitted that this was so. And so, gingerly, she kissed his cheek, and found he was slightly less demonic to her eyes. With a bellow like that of a strong young goat he sent the second dove winging up the ravine, where the witchwoman was touching her daughter's unkempt, unremarkable, and thoroughly ungilded hair with wondering fingers.
"Daughter, have my eyes been deceived, or did you weave your hair to gold and a spell to fool me?" the witchwoman wondered. "Darling girl, have you lied to me, or did you steal the very light of the sun to charm me?"
The girl lied and and pleaded, and the witchwoman might have believed her, but the mourning dove circled and sang of her spurned lover in the gorge, and the false tears in her emerald eyes suddenly dripped from unremarkable dust-colored eyes. As the doves twirled overhead, the witchwoman scolded her daughter again and again, and her weaving slipped further, stirring apart into threads that shifted in the growing wind.
The ibex-horned demon's eyes went green, and he said, "My hair, my eyes, all but my skin remain. But I will force no woman to marry, much less take a liar to my home in the far lands."
Olibanum's daughter thought vile things of the witchwoman's daughter again. Thinking, then, she gazed upon the demon, and found him fair, and thought of her father in the rug. And she thought further of her mother wilting for many days, and said, "Wait here, o demon," and came walking up from where he sat at the end of the waters.
As she walked, her father murmured in her ear; as she walked, sweetness followed. As she came to the witchwoman's hut, she found the woman, no longer as aged as before, scolding her daughter furiously. Gazing past them, she found the rug abandoned by the water's side. Slipping past mother and daughter, she knelt beside the carpet, and with swift fingers, undid the loosened knots of the witchwoman. Bit by bit, her father whispered from the threads. Finally, with a soft exhalation, he stood beside her.
The West Wind looked to the witchwoman's daughter and struck her skin rough and spotted, and her voice mute, and said "Now your skin is not stolen; now your voice cannot lie."
Then he looked upon her mother said said, "You stole me away in a bag to starve the land, but to save your treacherous daughter. Be glad I am not the Queen of the Heavens high above, for I will forgive your foolishness in the name of love."
Then bending low, he said to his resin-scented daughter, "You are good and true and devoted. The lands need me, and I must blow home to sleep. Take your dowry, o Olibanum's fairest and first, and know yourself strong and freed from my rule."
And the daughter knew her name, and her name was Pieria, and she trickled then, sometimes a stream, sometimes a wind, sometimes the scent of resin, down to where the demon dwelled, and brought in her hands the white resin of frankincense, which she gave over to him. Gazing upon the ibex demon, she said, "I am Pieria, and I am the daughter of the West Wind and Olibanum."
"You have returned the ribbon, and I have given you my kiss: my dowry is the scent carried on the West Wind and his blessings to fly swiftly wherever I will. And my will is to stand by your side. Take me as yours, and carry me to your home, and be freed from this place."
And so the ibex-horned demon took her in his arms, and together they called up the breeze. She gave him a ribbon from her hair; he gave her a kiss upon the mouth. With mourning doves in her resin-scented hair caroling their marriage hymn, husband and wife flew upon the air itself and far from the gorge in the earth and the lies of the witchwoman's daughter.
Each night the West Wind comes home, stirring the leaves in the bramble of his wife's fair and sweet-scented head. Each night, he blows the door from the hinges of his house, and the villagers must rise the next morning and climb one hundred stairs to set it back in the arch. Each day, in the shadow of the mountain where the gods sit, Pieria, his daughter, rises in the morning, and wafts out the door like sweet incense. She goes with her lover, the ibex-horned immortal. Where they go, inspiration comes on the wings of doves, and sweetness follows.
A sappy story from a long time ago on request from Zephronias, who was sick of tragedies.