"Do you hear that roar father?" Shireen asked as their small wagon wobbled in and out of deep ruts once made of soft mud but now hardened in the deep summer heat. Their lone plow horse, known as Bull, pulled them along laboriously, as father and daughter made the four-hour journey from farm to town.
For Shireen, a child of only eight, it was the first long trip she had ever made from her home in the mountain plains, but for her father, it was a trip he made several times a year to sell his latest harvest and buy supplies for the coming months. The back of the wagon was filled with various types of vegetables and fruits; including mushrooms, fur berries, black potatoes and late season carrots.
"I do," replied her father. "That is what is left of the dao's anger you hear up ahead."
"Who's the dao father?" she asked. "And why is he angry?"
"Not him, sweetie," her father said. "The dao is a she. The dao is the name given to the river up ahead and her anger is the sound you hear as the water falls many feet to the valley floor below."
It was at that moment that the white arched bridge that crossed the river came into view for the first time.
As the wagon wheeled closer to the top and traveled the last few feet of incline, Shireen could gaze out past the white structure that stood at the edge of a high cliff and see across the deep green valley below. Beyond, trees became one with the fields and disappeared into distant mountains. Underneath the bridge, the crystal clear waters of the dao flowed rapidly and disappeared over the cliff.
"A waterfall," Shireen said excitedly. "Father, can we stop and rest Bull at the top? I bet he would very much enjoy the fresh water."
"I'm afraid not," he said looking down at her sadly. "You see, the dao's waters are salty. Her waters were created by the woman from whom she is named, who lived long ago, and it’s her tears that roll from the heart of the mountain and into the valley below. The water, while beautiful, is not drinkable."
"Her tears father?" Shireen asked puzzled. "I don't understand?"
Recognizing the source of his daughter’s confusion, Shireen’s father thought long and hard on the best way to explain the river’s history.
"Long ago," he finally began. "The valley below was the home to a kingdom ruled by a family called the Atrays. The last of the Atray line of kings was King Bernhard Atray the Gentle, who lived many many years ago.
"King Bernhard had two sons. His eldest son, Jon, was a simple man with many traits of his father and as the eldest son, was the rightful successor to his father’s kingdom. However, it is agreed by those who have past the history throughout the ages, that Prince Jon had little interest in one day succeeding his father’s throne. But unfortunately for the first-born son, sometimes birth right makes choices in life for you, and Jon was pre-destined to one day rule his father’s kingdom.
"This scenario did not set well with Jon’s younger brother Aidon, who unlike Jon, had great aspirations for one day ruling in his father’s place. Prince Aidon spent many days and nights stewing over his brother’s birth advantage and eventually came to the conclusion that if he were going to overtake his brother’s place in line without bringing him harm, it would take a spectacular feat to prove himself as the most worthy son to be the next king.
"The problem for Prince Aidon was not whether he could prove himself, but how?
"The solution came soon after, when Prince Aidon met a singer who was passing through his father’s lands and one of the song’s the bard sang was of a terrible wizard who lived somewhere in the nearby mountains.
"It was during that song that Prince Aidon decided he would find the wizard, slay him, prove himself to his father and his father would declare Prince Aidon the rightful successor to his throne in place of his brother.
"For two days, Prince Aidon questioned the singer about the whereabouts of the wizard for whom he sang and of the wizard’s powers. The singer told him all he knew. He told him the wizard lived high in the mountains and his castle was surround by stone gargoyles of the people he had turned to stone. He told him that the wizard was capable of wielding fire and lightning as other men wield swords. He told him the wizard could speak a word, and a man would become his pawn, willing to act on any suggestion the wizard may speak.
"These tales did not deter Prince Aidon. On the third day, Aidon left the confines of his father’s castle and began searching for the wizard he thought he must kill.
"Aidon traveled for weeks in search of the famed wizard’s castle, but found nothing. He traveled the same mountain range not once, but twice, and then again, but to no avail. Then when he was about to give up and head home, as luck would have it, he spotted a young maiden retrieving water from a slender stream.
"But Aidon immediately noticed something strange about this maiden. She did not simply dip a pail into the stream water; she floated several buckets in mid-air around her and dipped each of them in the water one-by-one without ever reaching out to touch them.
"Aidon knew immediately that this was a work of magic and knew this maiden must be associated in someway with the wizard he was seeking.
"Quickly Aidon worked his way down to the maiden and called out to her in greeting. The buckets fell from the air with his approach, but the girl did not run. Instead, she cautiously greeted him and after some amount of time, they became fast friends.
"The girls name was Elayne and she explained her power over the pails as being a gift of her father. She said she did not have the powers her father did, but was able to think of great things and make them become true. She called herself a dao.
"Aidon asked why he had not seen the castle from where she came, and she said that it was nearby, but hidden by magic.
"Elayne said she could not take Aidon to her father’s keep because he would be put into grave danger. She told him if her father knew of his existance, he would surely kill him. But she did promise to meet him on the following day.
"Elayne and Aidon started to meet each morning by the streambed and their time together was joyous. She would bring him food from her father’s castle so that he had enough provisions to stay camped nearby for many days and nights. Eventually Aidon requested her to return to his own castle, where he promised she would have the greatest of gifts, but she refused because she said she could never permanently escape her father.
"Each day Aidon tried to convince Elayne to come home with him, but she always refused. Until one day Aidon suggested to Elayne that she poison her father to gain her freedom. He told her if she could escape her father, he would take her back to the valley, taker her hand in marriage and they would live out the rest of their lives together. He promised her children, he promised her riches and he promised her happiness. And then Aidon told her he would have to leave on the following day and the recent happiness they had shared together would be at threat to end.
"The temptation was too great for Elayne and so she agreed. Aidon helped her plan the treachery and told her to bring a personal item of her father’s back with her, so that one day their children would have something to remember their grandfather by.
"Aidon knew that he would never be able get close enough to the wizard to slay him himself, so he was immensely satisfied with his plan. Elayne never spoke of the dark deed, but returned the following day with the wizard’s staff.
"As soon as Aidon saw Elayne, he picked her up, kissed her and professed his unending love for her. Within the hour they were traveling to his home in the valley.
"Everything went as planned until the couple returned, for Aidon received almost everything he wanted. But not everything.
"Aidon presented the wizard’s staff to his father and there was much celebration for such a heroic feat. Aidon also received his wish to be elevated to heir to his father’s throne.
"But what Aidon did not anticipate was his father's refusal of Elayne.
"Before Aidon would be elevated to heir by his father; his father decreed he would be married to a princess from a foreign land. Aidon argued, but lost. In the end, he did not have the courage to face Elayne himself. Instead, he sent a castle guard to inform her and had her escorted from the castle.
"He refused to ever see her again."
"The dao Elayne was grief stricken, for she had lost everything. She had nowhere else to go, so she returned to her mountain home. Once home, her grief was overwhelming and it is said that she buried herself, her love and her anger in the stones of the mountain.
"On the day she died, the dao’s tears gave birth to the river. A great storm formed and it rained for days and months. The water from the storm rolled off the mountain in ferocious anger and flooded the entire valley. Everything was washed away, including the entire Atray kingdom.
"Some have tried to rebuild the kingdom, but every time they do, another storm comes along and washes the valley clean again," Shireen’s father said. "And that is why the river is called the dao and the valley and fields below are only populated by farmers like us."
By the time her father had finished the tale, the wagon had passed over the arched bridge and was making its way down the other side of the mountain.
"That’s very sad," replied Shireen after the story was complete. "I would never do that to you father. I’m glad you are not a wizard."
Daivos, The Dao’s Tears
Slightly off-topic, because there actually is no confrontation between Wizard and Warrior, the story reminds me of a fairy-tale. It has its own speed, especially because the story is been told by the father – and you feel it in every sentence. This is no horror story, no action-story; it is just perfectly suited for the young daugther. Maybe that’s why several questions are left unanswered, especially what has happened to the wizard, or if there was a wizard at all. And maybe that’s why there are no developed characters. Although you might argue that this belongs to a short story, and especially to a fairy-tale, I still missed these things.
This and the rather peaceful sing-sang of the story (and several repetitions, for example of “Prince Aidon”) didn’t thrill me enough to give it a better rating.
------------------------------- Flow/Pacing: (3.5/5) Quality of Structure: (4/5) Quality of Content: (3/5) Originality of Content: (4/5) Grammar: (3.5/5)
------------------------------- Overall Score: :rate5::rate5::rate5::rate3: (18/25)
Flow/Pacing Score: 4.5 Comments: A great piece that moved fluidly from beginning to end, it was well thought out and fit its content together well. I suppose it would've been cliché, but I half expected the farmer and his daughter to be somehow connected or related to the Atrays.
Quality of Structure Score: 3 Comments: Again, well thought out, and the story worked well with what it had. I think some of the details could've been elaborated on more. There really wasn't a confrontation.
Quality of Content Score: 4 Comments: I know this is a flashback story, but in my opinion, I felt you should've went to the italics and told the story from a flashback vantage point. What I'm saying is that half the time I visualized the story, I visualized the father talking rather than the actual story the father was conveying to his child. I still enjoyed it.
Originality of Content Score: 4 Comments: Again, I thought this was a good concept, and it kept my interest rather easily. I think one or two more twists would've given this point a perfect 5.
Grammar Score: 4.5 Comments: A few typos here and there.