The Man with the Golden Voice
Prof. Silmarien Szilagyi
Once upon a time, when magic still existed in the world, there lived a young man named Árpád. He was a bard, traveling all over the continent, regaling kings and peasants alike with his songs and tales. His audiences often likened Árpád's voice to that of the Fey, not only because it was lovely and eerie, but also because it seemed as though it could suffuse songs with a life of their own. When Árpád sang of battles, one could almost hear the ringing of metal, the clang of swords. And when he sang of lovers, one could feel the soul-pervading warmth of their joy, the heartrending pain of their sorrow.
While his audience experienced a flurry of emotions through his songs, Árpád was immune. He had never felt the excitement and fear of battle, nor the happiness and anguish of love. He longed to feel. So, one day, he took to the roads, determined to find a new life. No longer would he be the entertainer; it was time for him to finally live as the heroes and lovers in his songs.
But little did Árpád know, his voice had caught the attention of the Fey, who would watch his performances in the guise of humans. One particular Fey was especially intrigued with the golden-voiced mortal man. She followed him from town to town, protecting him from danger, casting little enchantments on him to ensure he was always well enough to sing. She knew she was behaving foolishly, allowing herself to become bewitched by a mortal, but she didn't care; she had fallen in love, and it was every bit as glorious and terrible as Árpád's songs described. And when Árpád gave up his life as a bard to explore the world, she went with him, always far enough behind to keep her presence unnoticed.
Until one morning. Árpád stopped to drink at a stream and came face-to-face with a lovely, young woman. She beckoned to him, humming a hauntingly beautiful melody, and Árpád followed. He was in such a trance that he failed to see the woman's face transform into that of a terrible demon. Sharp teeth glistened in the sunlight, while eyes changed from warmest blue to deepest black.
Suddenly, he was pulled out of the trance and was horrified to see the she-demon's true face. A small hand on his wrist was tugging him away, but all he could think about was that he had almost met a rather messy end. He struggled against the hand, but it held on resolutely, nearly wrenching his arm from its socket in its haste to retreat. When the hold slackened, he finally looked at his rescuer and was rendered speechless...literally, as his breath was knocked from his lungs.
Before Árpád stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her ebony hair tumbled down her back in gentle waves, and her eyes were the color of thistle. He reached out to touch her alabaster skin, when logic finally caught up with him. A woman with purple eyes? His hand quickly dropped as he retreated from the woman.
"Do not be afraid, Árpád," the woman said, her voice soft and tinkling. "I mean you no harm, unlike the she-demon."
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" Árpád asked. "And who was that...woman?"
The fairy smiled. "I am Iolanta, and I have listened to your songs." Iolanta paused, wondering how much she should divulge. "And that woman was a rusalka, a member of the Fey, who would have loved nothing more than to... devour you." Her eyes sparkled with mirth.
Árpád frowned. He didn't understand what was so amusing about being eaten by a she-demon. Then he remembered why he was speaking to Iolanta.
"I am forever in your debt for saving my life."
Iolanta shrugged. "My presence was merely opportune," she said and averted her attention to the forest floor.
Árpád approached her, placing his hand beneath her chin to tilt her head up. Their gazes met, and he felt himself being drawn into her eyes, falling ever deeper, until she blinked. He staggered backwards, gasping.
"You...You're like the rusalka," Árpád accused her.
"You're half right," Iolanta replied. She held up a hand, and a purple orb of energy appeared in her palm. "I am Fey, but I don't eat handsome men." She grinned, and the sphere disappeared.
Árpád's jaw dropped. Did he just witness magic? Well, he'd clearly witnessed and experienced magic when the rusalka beckoned him, but somehow, Iolanta's orb was more shocking. Perhaps it was because the orb was the exact color of her eyes. Or perhaps it was because he was completely clear-headed, as opposed to under the rusalka's sinister enchantment. And that sparked another thought.
"If you are Fey, why am I not bewitched?"
In every song he sang and tale he told, the Fey enchanted mortals for their amusement or to do their bidding.
"Would you prefer to be?" she asked, walking towards him. His wary glance was answer enough. "No, I thought not." Iolanta turned away and sat against a tree. "I suppose I haven't enchanted you because I am different from the other Fey. I, unlike them, have been spellbound against my will," she explained sadly.
Árpád sat beside her and took her hand. "Who would do such a thing to so lovely and powerful a creature?"
Iolanta laughed, in both amusement and bitterness. "Why, you, of course."
Árpád dropped her hand. "How is that possible? I am certainly no Fey."
"You are more like the Fey than you realize," she replied. "Your voice carries magic, like the rusalka's, but it is benevolent. I have listened to you sing. We all have, but I have fallen in love."
Árpád's mouth hung open. The townspeople had always said his voice was powerful, but he'd never really believed them. Now a fairy confirmed it.
She laughed, interrupting his reverie.
"When I saw you," he said, "I felt as the lovers in my songs do." He took her hand again and gave it an affectionate squeeze. "So I believe that I, too, have fallen in love."
Iolanta smiled sweetly. "Then I believe we shall live happily ever after, like the folk in your songs do."