Paint the Sky
Athena Aralna was cast out of her family’s household at an early age. The legend says as early as twelve, but no one really knows for sure, as time that passed so long ago is fuzzy in the mind of the present. Her parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins and brothers found her guilty of the sin of original thought. She dreamed of painting what was inside her head and her heart and her gut instead of marching in step with the Aralna family business (something involving precious metals).
“Foolish girl!” her father barked in her tear-stricken face. “A traitor like you is no daughter of mine.”
And so Athena wandered the streets and the alleys, the hills and the valleys, the woods and the plains, until her naked feet bled from cuts and ached from blisters, and her clothes regressed into rags, and her once-radiant golden hair faded to the color of old straw. At long last, she sat with her arms curled around her knees on a forlorn little hilltop, weeping into the dirt, with only a few stray ants to console her.
Years of drifting ‘round the land like a gypsy, lugging ‘round her brushes and pigments and canvas, delicately extracting a piece of her restless soul with every brushstroke and baring it to the world…all for naught. “Go home, little girl,” the world scoffed at her (and still did, even after she reached womanhood). “You’re wasting your time with this childish nonsense.”
It was those words that echoed in her mind on the top of that hill, piercing at her wounded heart with mocking glee. And yet when all seemed lost, when Athena’s calloused hands inched toward her brushes and pigments and canvas in preparation for hurling them off the hilltop, and then herself, a sudden inspiration sprung to life within her, like a lantern in the depths of the darkest labyrinth.
Over the years, Athena had wondered why the sun rose and set so lifelessly, as if its daily ascent and descent over the horizon was a joyless chore. She’d watched the sky turn from blue to black with not one acknowledgement of the beauty and grandeur contained within the very notion of dawn and dusk. Now, as she looked upon the sun slipping downward with its characteristic visual tedium, Athena knew what she needed to do. She had the energy left for one final painting, and she made up her mind to pull every last bit of soul left in her body and leave it splashed across the greatest canvas that she — or any other painter — could call their own.
With that, Athena grabbed her paint and her brushes and stepped off the hilltop, but rather than falling to her death, she rose up and (some say by the strength of her spirit alone) ascended into the twilight, where she proceeded to paint the masterpiece that hangs with us to this day. She’s still up there, Athena Aralna, maybe not as her world knew her, but as all the generations since then have come to know her. Every day when the light’s just right, between the brightness and the night, you can see her embracing the horizon — every last bit of soul in her body transformed into a heavenly tapestry of lively, spectacular, sensual, spiritual, overwhelmingly beautiful color. She might not have been loved in her time, but no one alive can say they don’t love what she left behind, for she was Athena Aralna, the woman who painted the sky.
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