The Full Moon Night
There is a legend told by the natives across the generations that our lake – the one that couldn’t be embraced by one’s sight and around which many isles of villages were sprinkled – is the place where two great river spirits met.
Once upon a time a river spirit called Yeyrei, with an impetuous and rebellious temper, able to overcome whatever obstructions in his way, was tiding over another string of obstacles when he saw beautiful Angtera in the distance – a river spirit with fascinating azure waters known for her calmness and grace. One glance at her was enough to make him fall in love with her. Not having borne this kind of feelings in his heart before, Yeyrei turned all his resolution to be together with his beloved one. He sent birds to convey his feelings to her. Angtera had heard about Yeyrei: the woods along her sides were full of rumours about a brave and intrepid river spirit making his course past the neighbouring mountain chain; and it evoked Angtera’s interest. After hearing the conveyed confession, her heart fell into a joyful flutter. Several months passed by in exchanging messages through messenger birds. They couldn’t meet because of the mighty mountain chain peaks of which rose high up without any fear of icy air and harsh winds.
The mountain spirit Horuei didn’t concern himself with two lovers and the image of raging Yeyrei didn’t scary him. The only thing of his concern was to reach the very edge of the lands, to stretch his mountain chain till the very seas. And then Angtera turned to Begala, the goddess of the Moon, and asked to help them and say how far the mountain spirit had already gone. The Moon was shining high above the Earth, and everyone was sleeping as well as the mountain spirit, and he didn’t notice when Begala swept over him with her light and found his weak spot – a large valley that he couldn’t seem to conquer. Begala told Angtera and Yeyrei about this – and two rivers in love dashed forward to that place not waiting for the dawn to show up. Angtera was flowing promptly, Yeyrei was pressing forward with all his indomitable nature. At dawn the mountain spirit awoke and saw that two rivers at his sides had rushed far away, having in mind to reach the valley. The mountains boiled up, the ground shook under them. Yeyrei heard the sounds of trembling anger of the mountain spirit and speeded up with all his might and fearlessness not to let the mountain spirit overtake them.
Yeyrei was tossing away all stones and Angtera was cooling down all lava: the mountain spirit wasn’t able to stop and catch them. The waters of Yeyrei burst into the valley and the waters of Angtera joined him. The rivers filled quickly all the valley, and in front of the mountain chain a lake appeared – so vast and so deep that it was impossible for the mountain spirit to pass through or around it. Vexed by being barred the way, Horuei threw a huge stone into the lake. A giant wave arose, caught the stone, enfolded it in its waters and then cast the stone back upon the shore, having made its shape follow the lineaments of the Moon. Seeing how strong the love of two rivers was, the mountain spirit had to retreat. And the stone itself became a symbol of love and a place of betrothal for many couples seeking happiness.
The two lovers are now forever together and happy to be in the embraces of each other. They are flowing out of this lake as one river, the waters of which are running smoothly. Angtera softened Yeyrei’s impetuous temper and became more courageous by being beside him. And they passed through all the northern lands and reached the Glacial Ocean.
And as an eternal gratitude for their blissful life the waters of the lake always reflect the moonlight at night emitting a glowing mystical mist over its surface, reminding everyone of the kindness of goddess Begala.
* * *
The lake along the shores of which small islands of villages were scattered, and I was born in one of them, might have been mistaken for the sea – so spanless it was for one’s eyesight – if not for the distant opposite side hidden by a damp mantle of mist on foggy days. And there, on that side, was a village, hardly seen in the bright daytime but the presence of which was proved by tiny lights at night.
That village and ours did their best to maintain their friendship despite of the difference between our life patterns. Our village on the south side worshipped the god of farming and harvest. We had a village head and a priest. And the village on the distant northern side was led by their shaman, and the whole living of the village was under the council of chosen inhabitants.
Both villages and other neighbouring settlements ranging along the mountain ridge gathered for festivities a few times a year.
The stately lake could be crossed by boat in summer – the main thing was to avoid bad weather; in winter, it was covered with ice and then one could get across on foot – to give travelers some rest, warm tents were put up in the middle of the frozen path.
Moreover, there was a secret kept by the villagers from that side. The women of the settlement were bestowed with the gift of flight. Their legend said that Begala, the goddess of the Moon, the patroness of women and family homes, gifted all the women of indigenous families with the ability to fly in gratitude to a local woman who’d once saved a magical bird, one of her companions, repelling the temptation of taking its precious feathers and jewels. However, this ability revealed itself only in the light of the Moon, and the distance of flight was dependent on the fullness of its look.
‘Four days till a full Moon…’
‘What are these sighs for, Yurei? And why are you waiting for a full Moon?’
‘How could it be nothing when you’re not stopping sighing?’
‘Just take it as I’ve simply become a little bit tender. And don’t pay much attention to my sighs.’
‘I can suppose they’re not about me,’ his friend laughed. ‘The tenderness evokes in a man in two cases – when he falls in love and when his child is born. The second one is not about you yet. And then it comes to a love matter.’
‘If everything is clear for you, why are you poking about?’
‘I’m interested in a person who you’re sighing for. Could it be that girl with straight black hair? With the eyes of the same colour as the water in this lake…’
‘Her appearance has stuck even in your mind…’
‘I remember her because you were dancing only with that girl without giving a chance to other girls of our villages, and this, of course, was good for me. Are you sure, my friend, that she took a liking to you as well as you did?’
Yurei gave his childhood friend a wry glance.
‘You’ll have to wait long, you know, your chance to meet again… The next feast is still far away…’
‘No. I won’t have to wait long. It’s only till a full Moon…’
And with the heart full of hope and agitation, Yurei raised his eyes up to the Moon that was hiding only its little edge in the darkness.
And then the full Moon shone forth above these lands, being mirrored as a round white disc in the lake and imbuing it with its mystical light.
A young man came to the shingly shore. The pebbles shaped by the tepid waters of the lake were rolling under his feet. Having put his lantern on a boulder covered with moss, the lad came down to the water.
In the blackness of the night he tried to see a familiar silhouette or notice even the slightest movement in the air. The moonlight seemed to be fully absorbed by the lake and wasn’t of any help to him in discerning anything in the dark distance. He saw only a black combed strip of woods on the opposite side and feeble orange lights in its foreground.
And suddenly, he captured his name as if being whispered into his ear. He shuddered and started to peer more intensely into the darkness. In the middle of the lake, above its waters, a familiar silhouette appeared. It was approaching the shore where Yurei was standing. The light thin cape enveloping the silhouette was wavering under the head tides of air, and its cloth was reflecting the seized moonlight wavingly.
‘She’s come… She’s definitely come to me flying… I’m so glad…’ Yurei whispered. He was so overflowing with joy that he almost stepped into the water.
‘Does she see me?’ the young man grabbed the lamp and began to move it from side to side.
He had this strong feeling that Ayu knew where she was heading for. Despite his certainty he wanted to show that he had been longing for her, for their meeting all this time.
And now she was close and getting closer. He could distinguish his beloved one’s face revealed so clearly by the Moon. Her black hair were fluttering in the wind melding into the surrounding substance of the night sky. The ornaments made in the traditions of her village were glistening embroidered with silver thread.
A little bit more, and he’d be able to touch her. As soon as Ayu reached the shore front, she slowed down and, having flown up closely to Yurei, hovered in mid-air. In her wavering clothes she resembled a soaring ethereal spirit that came to give its blessing to these lands. Yurei spread his hands towards her, and Ayu went down unhesitatingly letting her darling one catch her right into his embrace.
‘I’ve been waiting for you!’
Yurei held Ayu tightly in his arms.
‘How long is our date going to be?’
‘I’ll stay with you till the dawn.’
‘It’s not enough. I want to spend all my life with you, not a couple of hours.’
‘Wait a little… And I will be with you forever.’
‘But I’ve heard you can’t leave your village for good. Even if our villages keep their friendship, we are separated not only by the lake but by our traditions and customs as well. And it’s unsure if I can settle down at your place…’
‘Birds have told our shaman that a caravan will be passing soon by our region and it’s going to faraway northern lands. Let’s get married in front of the Engagement Stone and leave with that caravan. And when we come back as a family, nobody will dare to break us apart.’
‘How soon will it be?’
‘In a few months. The caravan visits every settlement and stays there for a couple of days. That’s why we’ll have to wait.’
‘It seems to take so long. But I’m willing to wait even longer if afterwards there will be eternity with you, my love.’
‘I feel it will be so, my heart. And meanwhile all full moon nights are for the two of us…’
Two lovers were cuddling on the shore of the lake in which two rivers fused in their embrace.