Many of us have heard these legends from the ancient times; these stories that teach us how to live our lives and how to avoid the dreaded fates that ever wander the earth in wrathful anger, seeking to ensnare the humans who torment them with their lives and the possibility of death, which is unavailable to these spirits. Odd, that humans might spend their entire lives hiding from Death and his tricks, while those who cannot die dream only of the rest he holds aloft from them. Perhaps it is the nature of all those living to seek that which they cannot have, for in seeking and never possessing, we grow and change, and these are the elements of life.
Wren lived in a time when the mystical and the normal lived side-by-side, the days when many of our most treasured legends were formed. She had heard of Alan, the boy with a silver tongue who had tricked the bat out of his feathers, and of Anna, the beautiful princess who married the man in the moon, but even in such miraculous times, Wren lived by even older stories that are now lost to us, and never imagined that her days might someday be the backdrop of our most treasured legends.
Because nothing of note ever happened to her, Wren thought nothing of her boring life, even in such special times. She knew that her parents loved her dearly, and that they would arrange a marriage with a kind man who would treat her well and work hard to pay for her food and clothing and other nice things. One day, she would make a good mother. However, Wren never imagined that she might be remembered for all time immemorial because of her husband.
Of course, she'd never imagined that her husband would be anything more than one of the boys she'd grown up with. Her village was not wealthy, and most every boy was available to her, as the richest son was the son of the butcher, and even he could only dream of the legendary purple robes and embroidered clothes said to be worn by the truly rich. Wren had long imagined how she would marry one of the shepherds or blacksmiths or butchers of the village, settle down not too-far from her parents, and live out her days blissfully married.
Then, the stranger came to town.
He called himself Iktir'al'alli, which the oldest claimed was some sort of evil phrase, but nobody could quite remember what it meant. The younger, who knew that the elders were meant to be respected, nevertheless disregarded these claims, awed by the fine black robes he wore and the shiny gold he spent on goods.
The first day that Iktir'al'alli arrived in the village, he spent seventeen gold coins to buy an entire slaughtered cow. Never had anyone seen so much gold in one place, and many gathered at Levi the butcher's shop later on to gasp in awe at the small fortune he had accumulated, enough to send both his sons to a real school in the city for a full year, and to buy his wife a brand new dress made of soft blue cotton.
For hours, the town was abuzz with the news of Levi's good fortune, and they asked one another, why does one with wealth such as Iktir'al'alli waste time shopping in a village so small and so backward, it doesn't even have a name of its own? What sort of hosts must the stranger feed to need to buy so much meat, which hasn't even been cured so as not to spoil? Where does such a strange one get such an unusual name, and coins with faces painted on them that nobody recognized?
The next miracle of wealth arrived the next day, when Iktir'al'alli gave thirty-seven silver coins to the baker to bake four large loaves sweet bread for the next evening, with an additional gift of two gold coins if the baker would send her two daughters out into the nearby villages to see if they could find rare white sugar with which to frost the bread for even more delicate sweetness. Lynn could keep the bonus only for searching, even if she couldn't find the sugar.
Finally, Christina and Sean received three bolts of fine purple silk for the use of their barns the next night. All day long, as part of their agreement, the swept the barn out, which was nearly empty anyway as the cows grazed in the warm summer heat and no stores had yet been harvested for the coming winter.
At least one question was soon answered, as the news spread that Iktir'al'alli had made all his arrangements for the sake of the villagers themselves, that he might host a grand party for them at the end of the week, during which they could eat beef and sweetbread and fresh vegetables free of charge, and where they could dance to the latest songs and wear those clothes usually reserved only for Sundays.
Still thinking nothing of all the merriment, Wren came to the party wearing her undyed rough cotton dress, her only nice clothing. Like the others, she gasped at Iktir'al'alli, and noted how astonishingly attractive he was, and how lovely his young yet manly face was. She longed to dance with him as she'd done the other boys, but the mysterious rich man remained at the head of the high table, watching all those who passed below him.
Thus, Wren was particularly astounded when the next day, her parents revealed that Iktir'al'alli had asked for her hand in marriage, and they had agreed to it.