Young Prince Csorzhen flung his head back upon a fine silk pillow, his silver braid draped over the darker pewter of his skin. His burning amber eyes, goblin eyes that had skipped a generation, peeked up at his father who stood at the side of his bed, holding a book, bemused by his highness’s request.
“A story?” Edrehasivar asked pensively. He smiled tentatively at his son and was rewarded with a bright grin. “We are not known for our wordcraft.” His son immediately pouted.
“Thou art the emperor! And my father. Thou hast the best stories! Please tell me one!” The pout grew, and the eyes widened to small suns. Edrehasiver was suddenly amused. He knew he shouldn’t encourage whining in the Crown Prince - but the request had been polite enough, and he couldn’t help but feel his heart warm indulgently towards his own child, a treasure made flesh and born of a growing love between Emperor and Empress.
“Well, budge thee over then, my love, and I shalt begin.”
Csorzhen’s gleeful grin returned as he made room in the carved bed for his father, who delicately lowered himself upon the embroidered covers, cheerful woodland creatures gamboling in silken colors beneath his imperial weight. He set the rejected storybook aside and carefully propped his head on one hand to avoid jostling the jewels from his coiled braids. Maia gazed down at his wriggling son.
The lights dimmed behind him - Maia knew that to be Kiru’s subtle hand - and he began to stroke down the crest of his son’s head with slow fingers. Csorzhen nestled sweetly into his palm. “What story dost want to hear?”
Csorzhen frowned thoughtfully up at him. “I want to hear a story about…something scary but something brave too.”
Maia felt a chill in his heart and closed his eyes briefly. He opened them and began his story. It went like this:
In a cold dark marsh in a cold dark house lived a young dark Goblin Boy. His skin was dull and his hair was wild, but his eyes were quick and silver as fishes. He lived with an Elvish Gentleman who was colder than the marsh and house combined - but not darker. The Elvish Gentleman was cruel and careless, and Goblin Boy took care to stay out of his way. But it was not always possible.
There was a pit behind the cold dark house - it was intended to be a cellar, but it had remained unfinished. It was dank and deep and filled with creepy crawling bugs that scuttled over the earth, and soft long worms that pulsated through the...
Csorzhen shivered, and Maia paused for a moment to kiss his brow.
...pulsated through the dirt.
One day Goblin Boy was curled up in a chair, reading a book - but the chair stuck out too far from the wall and the Elvish Gentleman stumbled over its feet and struck the doorframe. In a fit of rage, the Elvish Gentleman dragged Goblin Boy out of his soft chair and in a fit of creativity, threw him into that deep dank pit, despite all the apologies and begging the Goblin Boy could summon. “We’ll get you out in the morning, boy - see how it feels to spend the night in your grave!” the Elvish Gentleman said before walking satisfied back to the house.
Twilight stretched shadowed fingers over the pit as the sun set to bed. Goblin Boy cried out for help, but there was no one living to hear - only things with many legs that rustled in the dark. He scrabbled at the sides of the pit, but it was too tall for the little Goblin Boy - and he feared to dig his fingers into the long soft worms that pulsed and the creepy crawlies that scuttled. Finally it was full dark and the Goblin Boy curled at the bottom of a pit in the gritty, grimy earth and cried from grief and despair.
Csorzhen had cuddled so fiercely into his father’s chest that Maia felt the press of his jacket buttons into his skin. He stroked the boy’s neck and rubbed his back until he felt the small body relax against him.
Suddenly Goblin Boy heard a soft fluttering beside him. What manner of horrible creature was this? Goblin Boy shivered in fear, but instead felt himself to be warmer - as if hugged by gentle arms.
Maia hugged Csorzhen and rocked him gently once and twice before continuing with his story
“Who is there?” asked Goblin Boy, warmed into bravery.
“It is I, thy mother’s cloak.”
“My mother’s cloak?” asked Goblin Boy. “But all her things wert taken from me and burned at her death - I have no such item from her.”
“I canst not be burned, Goblin Boy, nor taken. I am made from thy mother’s love - it is her sweet prayers that make my thread, her gentle smiles that weft and weave them, her joy and laughter that hems me, and her deepest love for thee that gives me life. I have been here always. Canst thou not feel me?”
And indeed Goblin Boy felt the cloak swaddle him with warmth and guide him to look up at the night sky and see the stars twinkling in Cstheio Caireizhasan’s heavenly Court. He then knew himself to be seen by a cold and graceful Goddess and was grateful, for no one is forgotten in the light of the stars.
“Remember thy mother, Goblin Boy, and I shalt grow even stronger to help thee. Finger to finger, palm to palm.”
And so Goblin Boy despaired no more, but sat as his mother had taught him and placed his hands together, finger to finger, palm to palm. He breathed in the rhythm of prayer, and felt his mother's love swell. His eyes closed and his chest rose and fell. Suddenly he felt as if she were there just behind him, holding his hands between hers in meditation and placing a gentle kiss on his head.
With his heart at peace, Goblin Boy opened his eyes - and jumped up startled to find that he was at the edge of the pit, looking down into it!
“Oh Cloak, how didst I get here?”
Cloak answered, “Thy memories empowered me, and I grew strong enough to fly us out. I am strong enough still that thou needst never fear this pit again.”
“What is thy meaning, Cloak?” asked Goblin Boy.
“Get thee to bed, Goblin Boy. Thou shalt see in the morning.”
Goblin Boy, strangely clean of earth and dirt, crept to his bed and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, as if a babe in his mothers arms.
The next morning he appeared at the breakfast table, quite startling the Elvish Gentleman who had forgotten to haul the boy out of the pit at dawn as he’d planned. The Elvish Gentleman stared, frightened at this turn of events.
“And how, pray tell, art thou here, sitting at our table?”
Goblin Boy merely stood from the table and pointed out the window. Following his finger, the Elvish Gentleman saw a clean shallow mound of dirt where the pit once was - it had been mysteriously filled, safe to walk upon and a pit no more.
The Goblin Boy sat at the table to finish his breakfast and the Elvish Gentleman slowly returned to his morning letter, knowing that a strange power had been through this house. He treated Goblin Boy cautiously for the next few weeks, even as the memory faded. And meanwhile where the pit was, a riot of flowers grew and grew and grew - the grave become a garden. Sometimes Goblin Boy sat there, finger to finger, palm to palm, and simply breathed, basking in the cloak of his mother’s love.
Maia paused with his hand on his son’s back, and felt the slow deep breaths of his child. He shifted up, slowly swinging his feet down off the bed, and shaking the pins and needles out of his propping arm. Csorzhen rolled over and smacked his mouth but did not wake. Maia sighed in relief and drew himself up to tug his jacket straight. When he looked up, he jumped to find his son’s amber eyes were upon him, sleepy slits curious and slow.
“Father, do I have a cloak of love?”
Maia smiled deeply, and his heart felt almost bruised from the love for his son.
“Prince Csorzhen, thou hast the finest coat of love. Its thread is made from my prayers, its weft and weave from my fingers on your brow, its shining buttons from my tears of joy at your birth, and it shall be with thee always. I shall button it even now.”
Maia suited deed to word, raising his son’s skinny arm from the bed to slip it into an invisible sleeve, repeating the action on the other side, and then gently pressing two fingers repeatedly down his son’s chest and tummy to button the invisible buttons. He lay a gentle hand on his son’s stomach. “Breath in and out. Can you feel the weight of the coat?”
Csorzhen lay his hand on his father’s and turned his head into his pillow. “Yes dada,” he murmured and sighed into sleep. His soft tongue poked out of his mouth starting just the first hint of drool at the corner. Maia bent to give a final kiss to that smooth forehead, pewter skin still baby soft and fine silver hairs wisping around the face like a warm fog. “Good night, my son. Sweet dreams find thee and bright stars mind thee.”
Edrehasivar the VIIth slipped out of his son’s darkened room behind Kiru Athmaza and let the door close behind him with a soft snick. He nodded firmly to the guard posted at the door and the great, golden sun mask bowed in return. Accompanied by his stalwart nohecherai, the Emperor walked back to the Court - a grand concert was planned with music from four countries, and the ambassadors were sure to attend. Edrehasivar felt curiously light on his feet despite the late hour, and before entering the bright and shining hall gently touched the lapel of his jacket - where one might adjust a cloak if one were wearing such a garment.
“His Imperial Serenity, Edrehasivar the VIIth” boomed Telimezh through the opened doors, and the Goblin Emperor stepped past the threshold and into the light.