Saturday, May 25, 2013

May to Z: S

There were so many possible names to choose from for the letter S. Multiple cultures have great names with strong, profound meanings that begin with S. It was incredibly hard to settle on just one. So I went with one that I normally don't gravitate towards - Finnish.

S is for Saia (pronounced sigh-ah or say-uh, depending on your preference). It is a derivative of Sarah, Saija, and Sari - all of which mean "lady or princess". To this I am adding the second name of Kalan'gwyn, a combination of Old English and Welsh, meaning "beautiful flower" and "white, fair, blessed."

When King Perceval is leading his people inland/upriver from the coast, he enters the dense forest of Greenwood - I know, not a greatly original name, but it's my homage to Ed Greenwood. It is among the fringes and glades that Perceval sees a gorgeous elf maiden dancing with white flowers in her shining hair. Her gown shimmers and floats as she twirls and weaves about the trees. Awestruck he stops and gazes in wonder at the most beautiful creature he has ever beheld.

After a moment that seems to draw out for years, Perceval notices that he has forgotten even to breathe. As he draws a gasping breath, the maiden's keen ears catch the sound and she whips about, stunned at the presence of this intruder. She is so shocked by the sight of this scout that is like no other elf archer she's ever seen, she too can only stare in wonder. Their eyes meet only briefly before she turns and flees deep into the woods.

Walking as if in a dream, Perceval returns to his camp where he finds the vision exceedingly hard to describe to his people. They had thought that the forest was only home to monsters and boogeymen. They have a difficult time believing that Perceval alone has seen this angelic being, who is like them, yet so unlike them. They decide that they must investigate further.

Meanwhile, Saia Kalan'gwyn has run to the heart of the forest where she struggles to tell her own frightful encounter. Whereas Perceval tells that she is surely and literally the most breathtaking creature in existence, the princess describes him to her court as thick, brutish, and ungainly. Many elves are fearful of these trespassers and what it means to the sanctity of their woodlands. Some want to gaze upon them from a safe and concealed distance, some want to ignore them and hope they bypass the forest, and others want to forcefully drive them away - shedding blood if necessary to protect their home.

It is this confusion and misconception of differences that leads to the War of the Woods - a bloody entanglement of humans and elves that sets the tone of the two cultures' relations for generations to come. It is only through the curiosity and wise counsel of an already aged elf, Elmeryn, that the war is stopped. Perceval and Elmeryn strike and accord that is named after his meeting with the elf princess - the first time the two races ever laid eyes on one another - the Whiteflower Treaty.

Elmeryn re-enters the story later, becoming the mage and advisor (an obvious Merlin reference) to Perceval's grandson and heir, Arthur. When the humans abandon Highvale and descend back into the flatlands, it is Elmeryn that steps up in their defense to keep the elves from wiping them out, being that the terms of the treaty were that no human would ever set foot in the forest uninvited.

Elmeryn takes Arthur to the same glade where his grandfather first glimpsed Saia Kalan'gwyn. The clearing, ringed with young saplings when Perceval saw it, is now surrounded by the thick trunks of trees nearly 100 years old. Though it has been almost a century since Perceval's sighting, Princess Whiteflower is still amazingly youthful, looking to still be years shy of 30. When Arthur sees the legendary elf beauty, he is overcome and falls to his knees. He remains bowed with his eyes down, believing he cannot possibly be worthy to look upon elven royalty. She smiles at Elmeryn and gently raises Arthur's head with her fingers beneath his chin. She bows in return and lightly kisses him on the forehead. She then takes him by the shoulders and helps him to his feet. Looking directly into his eyes she says "Rise you up. This is a new beginning for both our people." She embraces Elmeryn warmly and whispers in his ear "Your path is to see him along his." He takes both her hands and kisses each in obedience to the future queen. At the edge of the trees, Saia Kalan'gwyn waves them farewell.

Arthur is the second and last mortal to ever lay eyes on her.

It's thought that without Elmeryn's wise counsel over many decades, humanity would not have survived at the level that it did.

His advice to Perceval and later his heir is to find what matters and hold it well. Whether it is love, good earth, your sword, gold and riches, or knowledge; find what means most to you and let it guide you. You must remain true to it to remain true to yourself.

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