Before the fall of Orison, the saudad dwelt among the other residents of their home city. They fell in love, intermingled, and married.
But not all were open to the mixing of classes and cultures.
This is a legend of one such division and how Dimitrie won the hand of Clara, his love.
The Proving of Dimitrie: An Age of Azuria Short Story
In the days when the world was new and Orison, the home of the saudad, had not yet been destroyed, there was a young saudad male, Dimitrie, who fell in love with an Orisonian noblewoman named Clara, and she with him. But Clara’s father, a proud, cruel man, didn’t believe Dimitrie worthy of his daughter or his house. He intended for her to marry someone “of her kind” instead and would announce his choice at the final fall harvest. Clara was to be married by the winter solstice.
Dimitrie was heartbroken, and were it not for the strength of his friends… and Clara’s cunning, we might have a very different story—if any story at all.
At the time, because the saudad lived in such close proximity to the people of Orison—they were people of Orison, in a way, themselves—they shared many of their customs with those in the city, and the Orisonians well knew the traditions of the saudad.
One day, in the early years of their courtship, Dimitrie had shared with Clara an old saudad custom of a prospective groom who wished to prove himself to the woman he loved by undertaking a series of challenges to demonstrate his love and devotion.
Clara did not recognize the roots of that story as a retelling of Apollo’s courting of Cassandra, but that is a tale for another time.
The noblewoman readied her heart for the days ahead and acquiesced to her father’s demands, giving him a single condition: The man who won her hand would need to prove himself through a series of tests of Clara’s devising, using only his mind, body, and senses to aid him. If the noblemen were truly as superior as her father believed, she said, they would undoubtedly excel at the tasks she and her friends devised.
Heedless of Clara’s schemes, her father agreed.
Clara and her handmaidens set to work that night. The harvest was in three days’ time.
The day of the harvest dawned, and Dimitrie and his friends awoke early, making their way through the city streets to the home of Clara and her father. Dimitrie stopped short—the entire estate had been transformed.
Colorful streamers hung between the boughs of the trees, and faerylights glimmered in the branches. Clara had brought the world of his story to life, the wooing of Cassandra in the autumn fae court. It taught him to hope that not all was lost.
“Her father will throw you out the minute you step forward to compete,” one of his friends warned.
But Dimitrie had no time for such discouragement.
An estate servant stepped forward. “At the lady’s bidding,” he said, handing out a mask to each of them.
Dimitrie smiled and bowed at the waist. “As my lady commands.”
The contingent of seven saudad men was far from the only set interested in winning the wealthy noblewoman’s hand.
Dimitrie’s friends sought to reassure him. Strong hands squeezed his shoulders as they all took in those who had gathered to compete in Clara’s challenges. He and his companions gathered on the lawn. They stood in a tight ring together, arms crossed. The wiser of their fellow competitors granted them space. Those less careful sized them up openly. Dimitrie’s friends noted every sideways glance.
But the saudad groom had no eyes for posturing. His breath caught in his chest as Clara emerged on a balcony, clad in silky white.
A hush fell on those assembled, the groups of men spread across her yard, interspersed with servants, faerylights, and the autumn streamers.
Clara addressed the crowd, explaining that only the man who proved himself worthy—with the help of his companions—would be deserving of her hand. But as for the others…
She smiled and stretched out her hands. The doors of the estate opened, and a throng of young women emerged, each clad in a white dress identical to Clara’s, with feathered masks across their faces. On the balcony, Clara secured her own mask. “Let the trials begin.”
Clara’s handmaidens had not been idle in the lovers’ days apart. They left signs for Dimitrie and his companions, clues as to the nature of the tasks to come. They explained, “He must show that he has eyes for Clara and no other.”
The saudad men nodded. This was a test, they knew, in which Dimitrie would succeed.
I hope you enjoyed part one of “The Proving of Dimitrie”! Part Two will arrive on the blog soon.
Several of the tales in Story Magic also recount the legends of Orison from after its fall. It was then that the saudad’s special relationship with Cassandra began.
If you’d like to read another short story set in Azuria, try “The Forbidden Love of Sylris and Aurora.”