Today is Saturday! It is story day in the realm of Queen Arcadia.
Shhhh ……. the Queen takes an Ancient Book out of the library and sits on the Opal Throne, its rainbow colours shimmering and dancing in the light. The Opal Throne is carved from a solid block of Australian opal. Can you imaging that?
All around her is the soft flicking of wings as the sprites and faeries gather round.
If you go into your garden and sit beside a particularly beautiful flower, and listen very very carefully, perhaps you may hear the soft flicking sound as your garden faeries fly among the flowers. If you are very very quiet ..... perhaps.
“Read us the story Queen Arcadia. Read us the story.”
Queen Arcadia smiles.
“Do you like to sit in your garden and look at the butterflies chasing the wind and playing among the flowers?”
The sprites and faeries all nod and laugh. Three fly over to sit on her shoulder, whispering to each other and pointing down to the ancient storybook. Another sprite hovers just above her right ear, he wants to be able to see all the illustrations as Queen Arcadia turns the pages.
The Queen begins to read the story.
“This is a story of two special butterflies. Princess Cethosia, a beautiful lacewing butterfly, and Papilio Ulysses, a handsome mountain-blue butterfly. Shall I read you the story?”
The sprites and faeries all clap their hands in excitement and gather round Queen Arcadia ……………
Shhh ……. perhaps we can listen too
Cethosia had just come out of her chrysalis and was stretching her wings for the very first time. It was so glorious to be out and about in the sunshine. It was so glorious to feel the breeze and see all the colours of the world.
Just then, a breath of wind toppled her off the branch.
She fell and fell, down past the eucalypt flowers, down past the spiky banksia leaves and down to the running stream where catfish swam and waited for tasty morsels to land on the water.
“Beat your wings! Beat your wings!”
Cethosia tried to beat her wings but it only made her tumble more.
“Beat your wings and fly!”
Cethosia concentrated and concentrated and beat her wings. She began to fly! It was like when you flap your arms and pretend to fly, except that you DO go up in the air. Wouldn't that be good!
She was just in time.
She stopped falling and rather unsteadily began to fly, just like the butterflies you see in your garden: up, and uuuup, and across, and over, and across, and down. For an instant, her left wing touched the water just above the nose of a waiting catfish. The catfish stirred and opened its mouth, but Cethosia had flown away. She flew over to a wattle tree, its rich golden flowers bursting all around, and stepped lightly on to one of the silvery green leaves.
The grumpy catfish sank back into the stream.
The other butterfly flew over and settled next to her. She could see he was a very handsome butterfly with beautiful blue colours on his wings.
“Thank you for saving me,” said Cethosia, a little shyly.
“Oh, that's all right,” replied Papilio in a rather bored voice, as though he saved beautiful butterflies all the time.
“What is your name?” asked Cethosia.
“My name is Papilio Ulysses. I am named after an ancient Greek hero,” he replied. “What is your name?”
“My name is ........, Oh, I am not sure what my name is. No one has told me. How do we find out our name?”
“We have to find another butterfly who looks like you. Let's go and look together.”
“Yes, I would like that!” said Cethosia, and with a little whoop of joy she jumped off the leaf and spread her wings.
“It is so lovely flying about!” cried Cethosia. “I should like to do it for ever and ever!”
Just then, a gust of wind tumbled both butterflies over and over. They went down, and then across, and then up and up and up. Then the gust of wind passed them on to a flowing breeze. Cethosia was still getting used to flying and sometimes she would stumble as she tripped on a particularly difficult crosscurrent of air. Papilio smiled and stumbled as well, pretending it was a game. That way, he was able to show her how to fly without, which would make any butterfly exceedingly cross, always correcting her or telling her how.
They flew with the breeze: over the dappled green carpet of tree tops; over a craggy outcrop of rocks, that looked just like a grandfather bent over and leaning on his walking stick; over a tumbling stream with silver wattles and white bottlebrush protecting the banks; over thorny bushes where little fairy wrens darted in and about, flashes of brilliant blue.
“I'm puffed!” cried out Cethosia.
“Yes, so am I!” yelled Papilio.
Just then, the wind decided to play with something else and it let them go. The butterflies tumbled over one last time, then started to drop down to the ground, down into a little grove of wattle trees where they were hidden among the long green leaves and little puffs of gold. They lightly stepped onto one of the leaves, and after gently raising and lowering their wings three times, they raised them one last time and looked around.
“That was fun,” Papilio panted softly. “ I wonder where we are.”
“Look at all those beautiful golden flowers. Are you hungry, Papilio? I am starving.” Cethosia walked over to some wattle flowers and delicately started to eat the nectar. Papilio joined her and they feasted together.
Soon they flew over to another leaf to have a rest in the shade. They were both very tired from flying and before long their eyelids became droopy. They tried and tried to stop their eyelids from shutting but it became harder and harder, until...................
“What are you doing here!?” demanded a butterfly who looked just like Cethosia, but her wings were black and fiery-red.
Cethosia's and Papilio's eyes opened instantly.
“I beg your pardon,” asked Cethosia looking up.
“I said, what are you doing here?” repeated the butterfly with the fiery-red wings, her eyes sparkling with amusement. She smiled to show she was not to be feared.
“We came on the wind. Who are you?” replied Cethosia.
“My name is Cethosia cydippe chrysippe. Quite a mouthful, isn't it?”
“I am not sure what my name is,” said Cethosia.
“Oh, that is easy. It is Cethosia cydippe, without the chrysippe. You are a cousin of mine. See, our wings are just the same shape and we have the same patterns. It's just that you have different colours. Yours are blue and mine are black and red.”
“Thank you, ........... Cethosia.” said Cethosia, who then turned to introduce Papilio. “This is Papilio, my friend.”
“Hello, Papilio,” said Cethosia's cousin.
Papilio smiled and then, after an awkward pause, exclaimed, “Cethosia!”
“Yes!” the two cousins replied.
“No, Cethosia, Cethosia without the chrysippe. Do you like your name?” asked Papilio.
“Oh yes!” cried Cethosia, “It is a lovely name!”
“Yes, it is a pretty name. It suits you as you are a very beautiful butterfly,” said Papilio, as though he said very pleasing things to girl butterflies all the time.
Cethosia blushed a little and started to play with a wattle flower.
“Where are you planning to go now?” asked Cethosia's cousin.
“We hadn't thought about it,” said Papilio. “ But I would very much like to go exploring. What about you, Cethosia, ……… and Cethosia, would you like to come too?”
“I am much too old to go exploring,” said Cethosia's cousin. “But before you go, I would like to tell about Arcadia, the Queen of the butterflies. Perhaps you would like to try to find her castle. Would you like to hear?”
Cethosia and Papilio looked at each other.
“Yes!” they cried out together, “we would very much like to hear about Queen Arcadia!”
Cethosia's cousin settled down on a leaf beside a wattle flower and after taking a small sip of nectar from the flower, she began.
Arcadia was the first butterfly.
She had grown up as a gum blossom fairy.
One day she had a bitter argument with one of her sisters, Regan. Regan had been born with a black heart and was always bullying the smaller fairies. Arcadia caught Regan just as she was about to lead a group of little fairy children into the Dark Glen. The Dark Glen was a forbidden place ruled by an evil king who had been imprisoned there by the High Kings. Regan had to answer to the High Kings and she was banished. Two Princes led her to the edge of the kingdom. They cast her out, reading the High Judgement, 'Regan is to suffer banishment from our Kingdom and is never to return'.
Regan went only a little way, and then she hid behind a tree.
“I will live close by the kingdom until Arcadia grows up. Then I will return to see how I can gain my revenge”.
Regan then searched around in the forest to find a place where she could live until that time came.
Now, in the ancient times, when a gum blossom fairy grew up she would become the queen of a new species of insect. That is how all the different types of insects came into existence. The High Kings allowed each gum blossom fairy to choose her own new species. Some gum blossom fairies had become bees, some had become ants and some of the mischievous ones had become spiders. One gum blossom fairy, who was especially good at jumping, became the queen of grasshoppers. When Arcadia grew up, and it was her time to choose, she decided she would like to give the world colour and beauty.
She knelt down before the High Kings and pulled her brightly coloured cape about her. Mist rose out of the ground and covered Arcadia. Then the sun and the moon sent out rays of light, which joined into a single brilliant beam shining directly onto Arcadia.
Instantly the mist dispersed. A rainbow arched out from the quivering cape and disappeared into the sky, where the gods are said to live.
The cape lay huddled on the ground, quite still. Then it started to move, ever so slowly. A pair of dazzlingly exquisite, rainbow-coloured wings slowly emerged. They grew and grew. Arcadia arched her neck and two beautiful large eyes looked up at the Kings, who all smiled down at her.
“You have chosen well,” they said.
Arcadia flew up and stepped lightly onto the golden crown of one of the Kings.
The king laughed.
“Go Arcadia and dwell in the kingdom around the sacred mountain. From you will issue forth a new species called 'butterfly'. They will be gentle creatures who will spread to all areas of the world and bring colour and joy to many people.”
Watching all this was Regan, who had sneaked back into the kingdom just as she had planned to do all those years before. As she watched Arcadia turn into a butterfly her face contorted into a sneer. Turning her back, she ran straight to the Evil king who ruled the Dark Glen. She prostrated herself before him and begged for one last wish before she left the kingdom, forever.
The evil king gazed at her for a long time.
Finally, the Evil King's withered face shattered into a grimace and he croaked, “What is it you wish my dear?”
“I have grown up.” Regan replied. “I am now entitled to be a queen. I want to be queen of wasps. I will feed on butterflies, especially while they are helpless caterpillars, for all eternity.”
The evil old king chuckled, and then with a roar he bought forth a great wind that dashed her from the kingdom. In the wind his voice screamed, “Your wish is granted!”
Cethosia and Papilio sat still, not talking, their eyes wide with wonderment.
Cethosia's cousin continued ........
Arcadia built her Castle at the base of the sacred mountain. The mountain is in the centre of a rich valley. It has three rivers that start in the foothills of the mountain and then wind their way around to finally meet at a place called 'Tumbulgum' which means 'meeting of the waters'. The three small rivers then become one great river, which slowly meanders down to the sea. First it travels through rich rain forest and then, as it gets closer to the sea, through sandy mangroves full of scuttling blue crabs.
Legend says that to get to the valley you must fly with the sea to your left wing. You cannot miss the mountain as it can be seen for many day's travel. It looks like this:
Cethosia's cousin then drew a shape in the dust. Three waves, each lower than the other. The first wave was sharp and proud. The second was rounded and lower than the first. The third, lower again, was broad and soft.
Follow the coast until you reach the river. Follow the river up the valley and it will lead you to the sacred mountain where you will find Arcadia's castle.
If you can find her castle, and you can enter it, you will live forever.
“We will go,” said Papilio bravely.
Cethosia's cousin smiled.
Beware! When Regan became queen of the wasps she was not content to let them live in peace. She split the wasps into two Kingdoms. A Kingdom of fierce Killer Wasps under King Exeirus and a Kingdom of smaller, gentler Wasps, under King Diapriid. She then caused them to have great enmity towards each other by casting a dark spell of hatred. The two Kingdoms have fought each other to this day, yet no one can remember how their hatred began or why they fight each other still. It just is.
At one time, in the early days, the gentle wasps under King Diapriid tried to fight against Regan's power. However she was too strong and turned against them. In her spite, she made the Killer Wasps her favourites and gave King Exeirus special dark powers.
In the early days Regan tried many times to destroy Queen Arcadia's castle, however her power was not quite strong enough.
Unable to destroy the castle, Regan chose the Killer Wasps as guards to surround the castle and imprison Queen Arcadia. King Exeirus swore a special 'Dark Oath' never to let Queen Arcadia out of her castle or to let any butterfly in.
If the Killer Wasps catch you, they will kill you. That is why very few butterflies have ever tried.
None have ever reached the castle.
Cethosia's cousin, having finished her story, sat back and waited.
Papilio looked at Cethosia. Cethosia felt a strange sensation. The story had frightened her, yet she felt strong. Somehow, she knew, she was destined to reach the castle.
She walked over to her cousin and taking her hand said, “Thank you for telling us the story. I would like to try, with Papilio. I wish you could come with us.”
“I have been very happy with my life, and my days of adventure are over, yours have just begun. Go carefully,” replied Cethosia's cousin.
She had indeed been on many adventures. She was one of Queen Arcadia's Heralds who had been sent specially to tell Cethosia the story.
The story was a seed planted in Cethosia's mind.
It was her destiny.