By Aeden o Kincora
Many tales are told of the young hero Ealdormere, but the strangest tale told is the tale of her birth; for they say that she did not come to be in the usual way, but that this was the way of it:
The wise and mighty of the land desired to draw together the people, to make their land strong and glorious. For this they needed a hero, yet none was in evidence, and the omens foretold none to be soon born. Thus they resolved to create their own.
They drew her spirit and flesh from the land itself, from its wide skies and waters, from its forests and fields, and from its hard, enduring stone and soft, fertile earth. Each woman and man of them gave of their own strength, and at length a perfect infant lay before them.
All the people were called to her naming, and from the highest lord to the lowest churl they came. Not only the people, but also the hare, the wolf, and the bear came to represent the beasts of field and forest. Then each gave a gift that suited their means. The hare gave her cunning and fleetness of foot, the wolf gave his unstinting loyalty, and the bear gave his slow wisdom and great strength.
But while the people rejoiced, the first of the Three who sit by the well and work the loom of the World called to her sisters, saying, "Look, here is a hank laid ready for spinning that I never carded. Someone is joggling our elbows." Then they grew angry, and cast about for the mischiefmaker.
At length they noticed the people celebrating, and marked the newborn babe. The youngest of the Three said, "Here are those who would make themselves our equals. Sisters, let us teach them a lesson. I see that they are giving gifts. Let us each give a gift also, and gifts that they shall rue."
Thus it came about that Ealdormere received three bright gifts and three dark gifts all on the same day.
The first bright gift that the wise and mighty gave was a good mind and a steady hand, that she might be a great artisan; the first dark gift that the Three gave was this: Though she might create great wonders, yet nothing she did would outlast her.
The second gift was a strong back and a keen eye, that she might be a great archer; the second dark gift the Three gave was this: However true her shafts might fly, they would never diminish the number of her enemies.
The third gift the wise and mighty gave was a glad heart and a generous hand, that she might always have friends; the last and bitterest dark gift was this: Though she might have a multitude of friends, yet none would stand by her in her hour of extremity.
This is the tale of her birth and many more are told of her youth; how when she could barely walk she had grown too large for any house, and that while still a maid she had followed her King to war and done valiant deeds.
They tell how her people loved her, for she was not haughty, but noble and worshipful; and her honour was bright like a mirror, wherein they saw their own honour reflected bright.
Of her end no one knows the true tale, but only that on a day in that season when the hint of Spring first raises hopes and the fast following frost dashes them, word came from the king that Ealdormere was no more.
Some say that in her youthful rashness, she sounded her challenge before the gates of the bright gods themselves and was cast down in ruin; but one among the gods took pity on her brave heart and her beauty and raised her to the heavens. They say that on a winter night, when the clear sky brings biting frost, you can see her high in the southern sky, her sword at her side, guarding the borders of the land that she loves.
Others say that she was not slain at all, but laid under an enchantment of sleep, wherein she does not age, and at their hour of greatest need she shall awake and lead her people.
However true these tales may be we cannot know, but we do know that one thing is true. Before Ealdormere left, she drew forth her secret heart, and breaking it into a multitude of pieces, she gave a bit to each of her people to safeguard. And whenever a person is moved to speak of Ealdormere, and whenever the listeners are moved by what they hear, it is one piece of her secret heart that speaks, and the others listen.
(Copyright M. Jenne 1991)