Zed of the Silent Spaces was a wandering soul, as fierce as she was beautiful. Wherever she went, people would stop what they were doing and watch her pass. They would never quite dare to stop her along the way, for such wild beauty is not for lesser man or woman to approach. And none had the heart to waylay her on her travels, for her joy was like a beacon.
One day, quite by chance, a trickster crossed Zed’s path and bid her stop awhile. This was a new and strange thing to Zed, who for all this time had wandered lonesome, secretly wishing that she might find a companion, and saddened in her heart that none had the courage to approach her.
“Who are you?” she asked the trickster. “And where do you travel?”
“I am the Sun Thief,” the trickster replied, “and I travel to the sun, that I might steal him away for my own.”
“How then?” Zed asked the Sun Thief in some surprise, and no small amusement. “Where do you travel to meet such a challenge, and what will you do with the sun when you have stolen him away?”
“I travel to where the sun climbs wearily into his bed,” the Sun Thief declared, “where I shall steal him away while he is befuddled and unawares. I shall take him to my garden far away, to shine upon the flowers I grow there, so that they might live and that their beauty may one day match your own.”
Zed of the Silent Spaces, never having been so addressed, was charmed by this declaration and so she agreed to travel with the Sun Thief to the place where the sun climbs wearily into his bed. They travelled many miles, following the sun day after day as he sailed overhead. But when they finally arrived, alas, they found that the sun was cantankerous and headstrong in his weariness, and could not be easily taken by the Sun Thief to shine upon his garden far away.
The Sun Thief said, “I shall travel to where the sun rises serene from his rest, then, where I shall steal him away while he is yet half-asleep.”
And Zed said, “I shall travel with you to the place where the sun rises serene from his rest.”
Many more miles they travelled, following the backtrail of the sun day after day as he sailed overhead. But when they finally arrived, alas, they found that the sun was fierce and fiery in his eagerness to start the day, and again could not be easily taken by the Sun Thief to shine upon his garden far away.
And the Sun Thief despaired, and said, “I fear that without the sun to shine upon them, my flowers will soon wither and die in the cold and the dark. And they will never be so beautiful as you.”
Zed was saddened by these words, and by the Sun Thief’s desolation. And she looked up and she said, “I can help you to steal the sun, and bring him to your garden far away,” and before the Sun Thief could say a word Zed climbed into the vault of the sky, higher and higher until she was barely a speck against the sun’s blinding light.
When she had climbed to the sun, Zed beseeched him to accompany her, so he might shine upon the Sun Thief’s flowers and keep them from death in the cold and the dark. The sun was as struck by Zed’s ferocity and beauty as was any other who saw her, and he agreed to her pleas. She took the sun’s hand and led him to the Sun Thief’s garden far away.
When Zed returned to the Sun Thief’s side, he smiled at her with tears in his eyes.
“See,” he said, “my flowers live now because of you, although I do not know if they shall ever grow to be as beautiful.”
But Zed had held hands with the sun. Her arms ended now in blackened stumps, her face was a charred ruin, her skin burned and curled like parchment tossed in a blazing fire. “They will always be more beautiful than I,” she said, “for I have held hands with the sun, and he has brought me to ruin.”
“No,” said the Sun Thief, “not even the fire of the sun can ruin such as you. He can only shed light upon what was always there. He can only reveal the true beauty beneath. He can only give things life, and let them grow just as my flowers do.”
And Zed and the Sun Thief linked arms, and they watched the flowers bloom, and – if only for a little time – they wandered no more.
“I did enjoy your recital of the ballad of Zed and the Sun Thief,” Voom told him while she poured. “I always thought it was a bit of a cheek, that the trickster got called the Sun Thief when he didn’t manage to steal anything. Zed did all the heavy lifting. The trickster, if anything, should have been called the Sun Relocation Logistics Consultant or something.”
“Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, though,” Jonnifer said, “does it? The ballad of Zed and the the Sun Relocation Logistics Consultant Who Was Also Very Emotionally Manipulative?”
“I’d listen to the ballad of Zed and the the Sun Relocation Logistics Consultant Who Was Also Very Emotionally Manipulative,” Provenance-Circa-Eleventh-Century declared.
“Now that you mention it, it would probably go down very well,” Jonnifer agreed, and sipped the wine.