The Palentine’s enemies at the imperial court had secured his appointment on this rocky island. They had meant it as a punishment, a permanent exile from the centers of power. He had, at first, felt freed. He loved the gardens and groves of the island.
The Palantine declared a holiday and fled to his groves where he slept against the tree. If only he could meld into these groves and gardens, he would leave the brothers, the emperor and all of mankind behind.
He woke to the sound of a child singing. “I know of the tricks of men, and I know tricks of my own. But man or magic, there is no trick without a trick.” Looking up he saw a beautiful young girl, not yet even on the brink of womanhood. She had black hair with silver streaks and carried a basket of irises and roses. He recognized her as the younger sister.
“A gift for your honor:” She handed him an iris with blue gold ruffles, but when he looked at his hand, suddenly he was holding only dried roots. He looked up and a crooked old woman with hair the color of a crow and grey streaks. She carried stems of thorns in her hand. Her lips parted into a toothless smile.
“What have you done with the child?”
“Oh I am the same. I am a child, an old woman, all the same person at different ages, just as the roses and thorns are the same flowers at different ages of their lives. Why do you smile at one, but fear the other?”
“You are sorceress! Flee, I will have no business with you.”
“Men have business and armies and laws and Palantine. Women have only magic to move through life. I just have more than most. “
He drew his arm back as if to fling the dusty roots at her.
She smiled again, “Do not cast the flowers; Breathe them instead and you will know that they are an even greater gift in this aged dried state than as buds. Just so, I, in my age, can give you a wish more precious than childhood. In return, I ask simply to be a free citizen of the empire. Let me make my own friends and marriages and own my lands and gardens. I know that you think that your laws will not allow this because you see me as a girl, but an emperor’s representative does not need to be a sorceress to have powers.
“I wish to remain always in this grove, and always in this sun and looking at the fields. Grant this wish, and I designate you my Palentiness. You may command your own fields and watch the island.”
“Are you sure? Remember my song, every trick has a trick.”
“You have shown me your powers. You deal with the never-ending contentions of man against man; let me only contend with the breezes.”
And so it was. The Palantine ’s feet grew into a fragrant moss. His blood into resins, his golden hair into orange blossoms and his breath into lavender until he was no longer distinguishable from the grove and gardens.
SOTD Chypre Palantine