Once upon a time,
the Giants existed in a land of fire and a land of ice, surrounded by deep blackness and millions of stars. The fire giants to the south lived amongst fields of rolling lava, spouts of magma, mountains of glass obsidian so high you couldn’t see the tops amongst the clouds of ash, and valleys so low they filled with layers of soot and grew the brightest coals and the most radiant sparks in the land. The ice giants to the north preferred their mountains to be snow-capped icebergs and their valleys filled with the fluffiest snowbanks.
In between these two lands was a small strip, where fire met ice and each element was transformed into something magical. They transformed into life.
The ice became a raging river nearly 50 feet wide, filled with fat salmon, slithering tadpoles and even frogs singing into the warm dusk air. The land of fire gave way to a glassy beach, teeming with grasses and cattails and snowdrops of every color of the rainbow. And as the salmon leapt in the water and the sparks of fire blossomed into flowers, the birds came to perch amongst the reeds and ring in the warm night.
Now, amongst the fire giants there was a lad by the name of Cen. He was a beautiful young man, with hair that flowed down his back like rivulets of magma, eyes as bright as the last embers in the night,skin glossy and black. But the best part of him was his imagination. All of his life, he had sat at the feet of the storytellers and listened as they wove tales of a magical place where the heat of the land was tempered by a rush of icy air, a place where more colors existed than anyone had ever dreamed of before, a place where music filled the air like the ash and soot he had always known. Cen listened to these tales and his eyes grew bigger and bigger and before long his imagination had caught fire and all he could think about was colors and music.
Instead of doing chores, he spent his time learning to whistle. Instead of sleeping, he lay in the red glow of the night and tried to imagine what other colors there could possibly be. He drew snowflakes in the ash of the great stone hearth and imagined what cold felt like. And his resolve grew with each passing day: someday he would travel to that magical land and see these colors with his own eyes.
In the land of ice, a young girl grew up hearing the same stories. Isa could not imagine a world that was not cold, where things moved and did not freeze. In the land of ice there was music, but it was the crack of the icecaps, the ting of icicles as they grew and fell, the muffled sounds of movement across the snow. Sounds started and stopped, died amidst the layers of white. What other sounds could there possible be? And soon she too had resolved to discover the answer for herself one day.
So each child grew, buffered by their lands, silently dreaming of a day when they would be old enough to journey out like the adventurers they had heard so much about. And when the day finally came, they each slipped out of their houses, silent as a snowflake, and headed towards the direction of the magical land.
Cen arrived first. The sound of the birds and frogs broke over the last dunes in greeting and he dropped his bag and ran. What he saw stopped him in his tracks. He had seen reds and yellows and oranges before, he had even glimpsed hints of blues and purples in the ritual fires, but here was pink and magenta and green and amber and even white, as pure and unblemished as he had imagined the stars to be! He leaned forward to touch the petals and almost cried when they wilted and turned to ash in his hands. And the frogs and birds ran away at the mere sight of him. He was going to have to be content with sitting on the black banks of the river, silent as a stone, and absorbing his surroundings in the stillness. And as he sat, the birds and the frogs grew bolder and went back to singing.
And that was how he was sitting when Isa arrived.
Cen was completely enthralled. He had never seen such a vision before. Instead of long flowing hair, hers sat up in blue shocks, sharp and brilliant. Her eyes were as bright as the flowers along the banks and her skin was crystal clear and white, instead of the dark glossy skin he was used to. In all the stories he had heard throughout his childhood, why had no one mentioned the other people, glittering as the night sky?
Isa didn’t see Cen at first. She was shocked by how rich and dark the sand on the other shore was and deafened by the music of the birds and the frogs and the voice of the rushing, raging river. It was louder than anything she had ever heard before. Instead of the short staccato notes or the snow and ice, this was a rolling symphony that filled her head and made her a little afraid. As she crouched down in the reeds with her hands over her ears, she caught sight of Cen staring at her from the opposite shore.
What was this? he looked like her but instead of being of the ice, he looked like he was made of the sun and the black of the night! There might have been a few moments of shocked silence between the two of them.
The stories don’t tell who spoke first or who made the first overture of friendship. They do speak of the passing days that became months, as Isa and Cen returned to the bank of the river to talk to each other over the rush of the water. Each became fascinated with the tales the other would bring of their home, stories of embers and icicles, snowflakes and soot. They never did brave the currents of the raging river, knowing that it was dangerous and that the jagged rocks could tear them apart. But they taught the birds to fly from bank to bank, and then from home to home, carrying hidden messages of friendship and love in their music.
Then the day came that Cen went down to the shore and Isa was not there. He came the next day and the next and still she did not show. At first the birds came back with no answer, then they began to refuse to fly north at all and Cen grew sick with worry. He stopped doing chores and working. he stopped sleeping and eating. He spent every day and night on the shore, staring across the waters and wondering where Isa was.
He had no idea of knowing that the land of ice was locked into a terrible storm. The roads had become impassible and the ice giants had taken to slumbering in their homes, waiting for the storm to pass, much as our bears do in the world. Isa was completely unaware of Cen’s panic. She thought the birds would tell him of the weather and so she slept without worry. I don’t know how many months the ice storms raged or how long Cen waiting. How many months does it take to build up enough courage to pass through a raging river? For that was his resolve. He didn’t listen to the pleas of his family, that a fire giant could not survive in the water, much less the ice. He didn’t listen to their promise that she would return when she could. He only knew that he had to find her.
But the moment his feet touched the water of the river, something horrible happened. He began to turn to steam. His cries of anguish and love and terror wrenched the hearts of the birds, and they began to lift of their voices in song. The words are unknown but they were magic, magic born of patience and love. And the words of their song mixed with the steam of poor Cen and lifted him into the air and painted him in brilliant colors across the night sky. The boy who had dreamed of colors was forever engraved amongst the stars. You can still see him, if you travel north towards the ice and snow.
Isa awoke from the storms after many moons and ran down to the banks of the river to find Cen. She had dreamt of him for nights on end and long for his company again. But the river was empty and as she stood there in the dusk, she listened to the song of the birds and began to understand. Cen was gone! He had tried to find her and had sacrificed himself in the attempt. As the truth dawned on her, Isa cried. She did not want to live without him. What was life without love? So Isa did the only thing she could think of to do, she stepped into the river, ready to join him wherever he might have gone. And the magic of the birds music, coupled with the immense love of the two young giants, transformed her as she shattered in the water. Instead of ice falling to the bottom of the river, tiny, multicolored pieces of quartz glinted from the water. You can still find her to this day, hidden in mines and caves and stones by the river.
I wrote this after being inspired by a discussion on Facebook. While driving in the car on my way to work, I asked the giants if they had any stories or fairytales that had been lost in the mists of time. This was the story they told me. The entirety of this is based on UPG.