The twelve stars shone brighter tonight than ever before.
The twelve stars trembled in their place ready to break into dance at any moment. The time was short and Therman was growing restless as he waited. Two hours late already. At this rate, they would never finish the ceremony in time and the twelve princesses would be lost for another two hundred years.
Therman rubbed his large, hairy hands together at the thought of the beautiful glistening figures made human form. If he could have all twelve his harem would not only be unmatched in all the world, but he would rule all twelve kingdoms. No one could stop him, no one but an incompetent delivery boy.
The trembling grew more violent till the stars almost seemed to sway in the night sky. Suddenly there was a rustling in the under growth. Therman jumped caught off guard as he was lost in his thoughts. “Who goes there!” he shouted brandishing the ancient sword of his fathers. A cloaked figure bowed and stepped forth out of the brambles.
“The stars shine brightly for such a hot night,” the stranger said bowing low. The voice and shape was not as young as Therman was expecting, they had said delivery boy, not youth, but Therman was not concerned with their ideas of the aging process.
“The stars shine brightly when the time is ripe for dancing,” Therman rattled it off as quickly as he could. “Now give me the package!”
The figure pulled his cloak tighter around himself, “They told me payment first.”
Therman glanced at the stars. The first start had begun its journey. One by one they would move till each had taken a new place, like musical chairs when the last star had taken the first’s place the dance would have ended and the time would have passed. Therman threw the coin purse at the boy, “Take it! Just give me the package!” he screamed.
The package flew through the night and into his trembling, outstretched hands. He jerked the draw string open and out burst the bright light of a rainbow of colors. Squatting down he dumped the bag of stones on the ground. Each glimmered its own color, the color of the banners of the twelve kingdoms. Therman whispered the incantation quickly as he placed each stone in order, “
Within the realms of gods have danced
Princess of power untold
Come once again to the earth below
And claim all that has been foretold
One to call, the other Grand Jewel
One to serve, the other to Rule
Power for he who owns each heart
Given to him who took not part
And so shall serve he who calls
Back to earth as has been foretold
The Princesses of beauty to behold
Now is the time “
Therman paused breathless and looked up at the stars above. They no longer moved but trembled in their places. “Now, COME HOME!” The stones light began to grow. But all Therman saw was the twelve stars suddenly leave their dance and gather to the center of the circle. As each reached the middle the light grew ten fold till the whole sky was a blaze. Therman covered his face where he crouched and let out a small scream.
“Rise slave,” came a soft sweet voice.
Therman slowly lowered his arm and there before him was a vision he could not have fathomed. All twelve stood around him, each behind her stone. They were glowing the same color as the stones before them. They didn’t look real their faces were so beautiful and their gowns and crowns were so intricate and marvelous. Tears came to Therman’s eyes as he just stared at them, forgetting all his plans in the shear amazement of their presence.
The brightest put forth her hand and pointed at Therman, “I said, Rise slave!”
Therman gave a little squeak as he felt the earth grow further from him. A ripple went though the light and Therman realized he was being laughed at. Some of the Princesses covered their mouths in fained shock but each set of eyes sparkled with myrth as Therman spun mid air before them.
“Where is the other?” The soft voice asked.
“No other my pet,” Therman stuttered. Among his own he was looked down on. He knew it would be hard for these apparitions to realize they were his, but he had fulfilled the prophesy and his they were. “I called you. I’m your ruler.”
“One to call, the other Grand Jewel
One to serve, the other to Rule.
You have called us, you are the servant.”
“Oh, I’ve missed servants!” A light pink Princess with rippling hair giggled, “I do so need my boots cleaned.”
“Where is the other?”
Therman sputtered, “I am your ruler! I called you! Put me down!” His face was growing red and his bread kept falling in his face causing him to violently paw it out of the way. Looked very like a dog who has just been sprayed by a skunk as he turned and flopped in the air. “Let me down I say! I AM the ruler!”
“No.” The Princess stepped away from the floating figure calling back over her shoulder, “Don’t have too much sport with him ladies. We need him.”
Therman’s protests were drowned out as the laughter of almost a dozen playful Princesses converged on him. The brightest Princess walked to the edge of the clearing and called, “I know you are there. The spell would only work if two were present. Come out and let us see the ruler of our hearts and kingdoms.”
“Is he over there?!” the orange princess squealed. “I’ll bet he’s strong and handsome and…”
The light trembled. The Princesses fell silent looking around at each other in confusion. Then it happened again, the lights emanating from them trembled and dimmed. The small pink Princess groaned and doubled over. “I don’t want to go back,” she cried pitifully.
The brightest Princess ran over and wrapped her arms around the young girl. “Don’t go back. Stay here. We will all stay here this time.” She lifted her head and looked around. Then her face changed from worry to pale horror. “What are you doing?!”
The cloaked figure that had brought the stones stood holding the light pink stone in his hand. The stones had all been arranged back in their order, only one was out of place and he held it in his hand, fingering it thoughtfully.
“Please, my Love” the bright white Princess stretched out her hand in pleading, “think of what we offer you. Have pitty on us. Don’t send us back. We will do anything you want, everything you desire!”
The youth pulled back his cloak and there stood a very old man.
The Princesses all gasped.
His face grew hard and he said, “I desire to retain the peace that has ruled this land since you twelve were banished. I miss you, but…” the pink stone was swiftly dropped into place and the little pink princess dimmed and vanished.
Therman dropped a few inches and flipped so he could see the night sky. A single star had reappeared. A wail went up among the dimming figures. Therman dropped again and another star appeared. Then more swiftly, inch by foot he dropped till he almost touched the ground.
“How many times will you banish us? How many times will you turn your back on your heart?”
The old man stepped from the circle of stones and took the Princess’s hand, his eyes shimmered and his whole body shook. He held the hand as if he would hold her back and then he dropped the hand and embraced the woman, “I love you!” he cried just before she vanished, leaving his arms empty and his head bowed.
Therman fell the last few inches and scrambled to his feet. The stones no longer glowed. The stars were still in the night sky. Therman pulled his clothes back into their place, the laughter and cruelty of the beautiful face lingering before his eyes.
Yet the old man stood, his head bowed, his shoulders stooped. For a moment Therman thought the man had fallen asleep or perhaps had fallen under a spell.
“I’m sorry my good man.” Came a weak, tired voice, “I have used you badly.”
Therman dusted himself off. “How do you mean? How’d you come here?”
“I am the keeper of the stones.” The old man lift his head, his eyes were weary and dull. “When someone comes to steal them, I know there will be an attempt to call my girls. So, I come to see them, to hear their laughter, to glory in their beauty, and to morn at their cruelty.” The man took a great heaving sigh and stooped down to gather the stones, saying as he did so, “And I come to make sure they do not stay. Had you succeeded my friend, you would have been their toy and the little thirteen year old thief you sent would rule the twelve kingdom and my girl’s hearts, though they be cold and hard hearts.”
Therman looked at his hands and watched as the man slipped the last stone back into the pouch. Then, as the man headed back to the woods, Therman called out, “Wait! How did they know you?”
The old man smiled sadly, “They are my daughters.”