Claire Pellucida – a Fable

castleOnce there was a town. In the middle of the town stood a castle, and in the middle of the castle stood a high tower, and at the highest point of the tower was the chamber of a princess. Her name was Claire Pellucida, and the people of the town loved her, because she was pretty, and her eyes shone. They found her wise, because they would come to her and ask her what she could see from the window of her chamber, and she would tell them the most wonderful things. And the town itself was called Pellucida, in honour of its wise and pretty princess.

One day the people of the town assembled in the courtyard of the castle, and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the north.”

The princess looked to the north, and said, “Far away I see mountains, with summits and pinnacles as sharp as needles. There are trees growing there, that are of solid silver, and on them hang fruits and berries that are pearls and hard diamonds. There is a river of clear crystal, like ice, that flows with such slowness. And in amongst the silver trees I see the glint of the eyes of ermines and foxes; and above the trees, on snowy wings, fly white birds like eagles, with silver beaks.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the north laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There are no such mountains to the north of here, no such trees, nor birds, nor animals, nor a crystal river!”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a beautiful young woman, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the east.”

The princess looked to the east, and said, “Far away I see a forest, standing stark against the rising sun. The trees are an army of gigantic soldiers in a livery of black and dark green, and they roar in the wind, brandishing their long spears angrily, because they cannot march upon us.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the east laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There is no such forest of roaring giants to the east of here.”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a handsome matron, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess, “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the south.

The princess looked to the south, and said, “Far away I see a land where the sands ripple as the sea does, and the mountains are like children’s bricks, stacked chequered – white limestone, red sandstone, pink granite. And the trees wave in the breeze, like many-fingered hands, and amongst them step lithe girls and boys in linen robes, gathering the amber fruits that hang on them.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the south laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There are no such mountains like children’s bricks to the south of here. Nor are there such waving trees with amber fruit.”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a stately old woman, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the west.”

The princess looked to the west, and said, “Far away I see a peaceful sea of liquid silver, where the sun shines like copper. There is an island on that silver sea, and a great city on that island, with tall towers of yellow-veined marble, on which the copper sunlight glints, and shines, and dances. And upon that silver sea sail great golden dhows.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the west laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There is no such silver sea to the west of here. Nor is there such and island city, nor golden dhows.”

But the people of the town still believed their princess, as they had always done.

The night after she had looked to the west, and told the people of the town what she had seen there, Princess Claire Pellucida was wakened by a great glow outside the window of her chamber. She rose from her bed, and looked out of her window, to the west. There was the silver sea, the copper sunset, the island with its city of yellow-veined marble; and more marvellously, a silver river was running from the silver sea right to her castle. And on that silver river was a great, golden dhow. And on that great, golden dhow stood tall mariners and fine ladies, all dressed in saffron cloaks sewn with golden-thread. There were circlets on their heads of interwoven white gold and yellow gold, and torques of copper round their necks and wrists, and rings of gold upon their fingers. And they saluted and bowed, and called out to the princess.

“Princess Claire Pellucida, come down and sail with us to the island in the silver sea; for the island city with its towers of yellow-veined marble, has need of a queen to rule it.”

So Princess Claire Pellucida came down from her chamber in the highest point of the tower, in the centre of the castle; and she sailed away with the tall mariners and fine ladies, to the sunset, to the silver sea, to the island city with its towers of yellow-veined marble. And there she ruled as their Queen for ever.

But that is not the end of things.

The next morning, the people of the town of Pellucida gathered in the courtyard of the castle, and called up to their princess. But she did not answer. One brave townsman entered the castle, and climbed the tower, and from the window of the chamber at its highest point, he called sadly for five of his friends to join him.

In the chamber, the six men stood, and looked down at the bed, on which lay Princess Claire Pellucida. She lay smiling and peaceful, as though she slept, and in her face the six men could see the fleeting prettiness that had been there when she was a girl, the beauty that had been there when she was a grown woman, the loving gentleness that had been there when she was a matron, and still, still the stately splendour of their dear princess in old age lingered also. But they knew that she was not sleeping. She had left them, and was dead.

But even that is not the end of things.

The six men carried her, with great sadness and reverence, down to the townspeople, and they all processed solemnly out of the town, and laid the body of the princess – as was their custom – a mile away, in the great, open wilderness that surrounded the town for mile upon mile, for the wild beasts and the birds to devour.

But even that is not the end of things.

The townspeople continued to tell stories to their children, of all the wonderful things that the princess had seen from her chamber in the castle tower, and of all the things she had told them. The children believe the stories, and worshipped the tower where the princess had lived. They told the same stories to their own children. These children did not believe them, but still they told the same stories to the next generation. The children of that next generation believed nothing at all, except what travellers from the north, from the east, from the south, and from the west told them.

And who knows if that is the end of things!

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I’m thinking of putting together a collection of my short stories – most of which you have not seen here on the web site, and presenting them for publication. What do you think? If you would like to read through the short stories that I have published so far on this web site, please click here.

M