Once upon a time there was a strong and gentle maiden named Azure Sea. She lived a quiet, humble life in a small and simple home. Azure worked hard but it was work that brought resonant joy. She had few friends yet she didn’t mind because the friends she had were true. Azure was happy.
She was content with her work, her art, her music and her small, ordinary life.
“I want nothing more,” she thought. “I have everything I need in my ordinary life.”
One day she noticed a commotion outside her window. A man new to the village was making his way down the main thoroughfare. As he strolled the man pulled sweets from the pockets of his cloak and offered them to children. He stopped to bow deep for every maiden who met him in the market square. He shook hands with every man. This stranger, named Keertri-Rudra, had many talents. Among them was the fact that he was a great story-teller and a gifted alchemist.
With his many talents it wasn’t long before Keertri-Rudra had accumulated wealth and power.
Everyone loved Keertri-Rudra.
Azure Sea watched from her window as all the men from the village handed Keertri-Rudra their gold coins. She watched as the town built Keertri-Rudra a large house on the highest hill. She watched as maidens from the village primped and fluffed and called out for Keertri-Rudra’s attention.
But Azure wanted none of it. She didn’t understand why gold coins had more value than books, or why the hearth of a big house on a hill burned warmer than a small cottage in the valley. She thought the attention and praise lavished on Keertri-Rudra funny, and wanted nothing more than her humble life and her humble work.
She was happy being ordinary.
A year passed.
One day Azure opened her door to find Keertri-Rudra’s shadow blocking the light.
“Of all the maidens in this town, Azure Sea, you are the only one who has not tried to catch my eye.”
“I am an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. I do not want the eye of Keertri-Rudra.”
Keertri-Rudra left, only to return the next day.
“Of all the maidens in this town, Azure Sea, you are the only one who has not been to my house on the hill.”
“I am an ordinary woman with an ordinary home. I do not need to see Keertri-Rudra’s house on the hill.”
Keertri-Rudra left again. But he returned the next day.
“Of all the maidens in this town Azure Sea, you are the only one who has not walked with me.”
“I am an ordinary woman with my own, ordinary path. I do not need to walk with Keertri-Rudra.”
“Then, before I leave for the last time, let me show you this.”
Keertri-Rudra held in his hand a bouquet of tangled brier.
Azure Sea looked at the thorny stems and then into the eyes of Keertri-Rudra.
“What have you brought into my home, Keertri-Rudra?”
“Look past the thorns, Azure Sea.”
She looked past the thorns and saw that a light glowed from the heart of the briers. Where was the light coming from? Azure Sea peered deep into the wooded knot and saw that the light came from a golden pearl encased in a precious crystal. A strange feeling came over Azure Sea. It was a spell cast by Keertri-Rudra. When Azure Sea gazed at the golden pearl she saw what her life might be like with gold coins and mansions, fine clothes and exotic foods.
It felt strange to suddenly want those things.
She knew that Keertri-Rudra had used his magic. She knew she had to resist the feelings rising up in her, that choked her. But she could not take her eyes off the golden pearl. Looking at the pearl gave Azure a vision of the riches she might have if Keertri-Rudra took her as his own.
If she went with Keertri-Rudra she would trade her ordinary life for one that was extraordinary.
Is that what she wanted?
“This is yours to have, Azure Sea.”
“I do not want it, Keertri-Rudra. I have everything I need.”
And yet Azure Sea could not turn her eyes away from the golden pearl.
“You are not telling the truth. I can see you like my gift. Why don’t you keep the brier and the pearl for one night? I will return tomorrow and if you no longer want it, I will gladly take it back.”
Azure Sea considered Keertri-Rudra’s proposal.
“I don’t suppose it will do any harm to hold it for just one night, Keertri-Rudra.” She felt her heart soften. “And it will be lovely having your golden light filling my home when darkness falls.”
She took the bouquet from Keertri-Rudra’s hands, being careful to not cut her fingers on the brier’s thorns.
“There’s one promise you must keep, Azure Sea.You must promise to never touch the pearl.”
Keetri-Rudra lightly touched a finger to her palm.
“And be mindful of the briers. You have such beautiful hands.
It would be a pity for them to be bloodied by the thorns.”
With that, Keertri-Rudra turned and left. Azure Sea closed the door behind him and placed the briar bouquet at the center of the rough-hewn table where she took her meals.
As night fell the pulsing glow of the golden pearl grew more intense.
It filled the room and distracted her from the reading and writing with which she ended her day.
Finally she could take it no longer.
“Just one touch. If I could just touch the pearl…”
Azure Sea reached through the tangled branches and past the prickly thorns. But the moment her finger brushed against the precious crystal holding the golden pearl the crystal turned to black coal and then shattered into a million pieces. The golden pearl turned to dust and, caught in a draft from a window, blew away. Her home fell into darkness. In shock and despair, Azure Sea pulled her hand away from the tangled briar too quickly. A thorn broke loose and pierced her heart.
It was not blood but a gush of salty tears that poured from Azure Sea’s wound. Nothing could staunch the torrent that spilled from her heart. Very soon Azure Sea’s ordinary home was filled with briny water. The force of the salty tears that gushed from her heart shattered the windows of her small cottage and filled the streets until the town where Azure Sea lived was swallowed by the tears that flowed from her gaping wound.
Everything Azure Sea had known and loved was drowning in the despair of her mournful heart. Nothing in her home or in her town could be saved. The only house spared was the house on the highest hill. The house of Keertri-Rudra. She could feel his eyes watching and she knew this was his doing, his trickery.
And she knew he would do nothing to help.
Azure Sea felt herself floating, weightless. Her tears became a deep lake. The currents carried her to the center of the lake. Alone, Azure Sea prepared to die.
She closed her eyes, wanting nothing more than to sink beneath the waters.
As the weight of her sodden clothes began to pull her beneath the surface she heard her name being called over and over again.
“Azure Sea, Azure Sea….”
Her body continued to sink deeper in her own salty waters.
“Azure Sea, Azure Sea…”
Finally, Azure Sea opened her eyes.
It was her own face looking back at her. It was her own voice calling her name.
“Take out the thorn, Azure Sea. Pull the thorn from your heart.”
Azure Sea didn’t know how she would find the strength.
But she knew she had to try.
She reached into the wound and wrapped her hand around the sharp thorn. With all her strength she pulled and pulled until the thorn released its hold. When it did, her wound closed and the torrent of salty tears ceased. The lake began to drain and her ordinary home reemerged from the water.
Azure Sea looked at the thorn in her hand.
“How could I let such a tiny briar thorn tear such a wound in my heart?”
With that, smiling and happy to have found her own life again, with one small breath Azure Sea blew the little thorn away.