“Once upon a time,” that’s how stories start don’t they? The really good ones you remember from childhood, right? Those words held promise of adventure and heroism and romantic notions. They transported you. Or, at least, that’s what they did for me. I could escape through the spaces of the words and the pages of the book and the loops of the letters. I didn’t have a voice of my own, not then. So, the stories allowed me to be as brave and as big as I wanted.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Naomh. I’m a fairy princess. See? Here I am! I’m a dreamer that’s for sure. I was so young and innocent, but that was about to change.
When I was young, I did not have a voice of my own. Someone always told me what to do, where to go, and how to think. They even tried to tell me who to love. I was not allowed to love the brave knight, who had been my boon companion for many years, because he was promised to another. I was not allowed to love the peasant boy because he was beneath me according to custom nor was I allowed to befriend the fairies from the next village because they were different. They were worker fairies.
I might not have had a voice yet, but I had a mind of my own, or so I thought. I was young and naïve, but I knew my own mind about as well as any fairy who hadn’t gone through the rites. I had secretly befriended one of the worker fairies, Bandia. We struck up the most glorious of friendships sharing secrets and wishes. It is amazing what you can communicate and find out even when you don’t have a voice of your own.
One day, Bandia introduced me to her prince. She said he had admired me from afar for a long time and wanted to meet me. I was so excited. I had never met a prince before because my father tried to keep me hidden within the palace walls and only allowed me to go to my tutor’s house for my lessons. It was on one such journey that Bandia had arranged to introduce me to Hatari.
It was wasn’t long before I was stealing away to my lessons early in order to spend more time with Hatari. I had never known anyone like him. He was so full of life and plans to explore the world beyond our borders. He talked of us going together to new places across the crystal sea to the shores of Ahadi where dreams became reality and no talent was every wasted. It sounded wonderful, so we planned for me to runaway with him. We were in love and nothing was going to stand in our way.
But things were not what they seemed. As soon as were out of site of the palace, Hatari blindfolded me and took me across the desert to Maksur, a dark and lonely place where talent goes to die. I could not even cry out for help because I did not have a voice and I did not know anyone. Bandia was long gone. I had heard her on the road to Maksur. She had been paid well for luring me into the trap. I was alone.
The sun did not shine in Maksur except twice a year when you dared not go outside for fear of being burned alive. And so, for seven years I was kept in Hatari’s crumbling shack where I was forced to be his servant. During that time I gave him two children; a daughter, Zuri, and a son, Jasiri. It was after the birth of Jasiri that I knew I must escape. For the sake of my children, I could no longer live in silence in the darkness. I set out to find my voice and find the light. One night while Hatari was sleeping, I gathered the children and fled from the shack. I did not know where to go only that I needed to get away.
We stayed off the roads as much as we could. Zuri complained about aching feet and Jasiri cried because he had no voice. After three days, we came to a village where I was able to send word to my father, and he sent his bravest men to retrieve me. He embraced me warmly upon my return, and told me never to leave again. I was put under the care of my sister, Jeuri.
For the first year, I did as I was told, but I was starting to find my voice and my wings that had once been broken, were beginning to heal. While Zuri grew and prospered, Jasiri did not. He could not communicate his needs. He had no voice like me, but unlike me, he could find no other way to communicate except to cry. He was banished from the palace and Zuri and I along with him until he was able to speak.
I began to stretch my voice and, speaking only to Jasiri at first, sound began to emerge from my lips. Together, Jasiri and I found our own language, and eventually I was able to speak for both of us. I was able to say in my voice, quiet at first, that I wanted to leave. That I wanted to take Zuri and Jasiri to Ahadi and I was strong enough to go. I fought and fought and screamed for the ability to find my own way to Ahadi. After a time, my father acquiesced, and I was allowed to leave with the children.
Although we had a strong bond, Zuri eventually left us along the road. She said it was too hard to speak for Jasiri. She did not know his language like I did. They loved each other, but they could not find a common tongue. So, Jasiri and I made our way along the shores of the crystal sea together. He was learning new skills everyday and sometimes he was able to speak to others from the villages we traveled to, but mostly he talked to me.
I alone was able to understand Jasiri and comfort him when Hatari found us and threatened to take him away. Although Hatari tried, he was unable to break my wings again. I had a voice now, I could call for aid or fly away because once I was freed from the darkness and isolation of Maksur, my soul found new life. My voice was strong and steady, and it scared Hatari who never knew how strong I had become. After I defeated him, he never returned. I hear stories from time to time that he has taken a new princess, but she doesn’t seem to mind the dark.
My voice continued to get stronger and so did Jasiri. He began to interact and play with the other children. I still need to be his voice from time to time, but he has found a language that works for him and his friends. I have also found friends who speak my language and encourage me to use my voice and my wings.
My journey is not complete. I have many adventures before me. Ahadi still lies across the crystal sea, and I hear it calling to me.