Golden Bows, Silver Arrows
The island of Lingorastro was once without any inhabitants. Seagulls soared above the sandy soil. Creeping vines dotted the rocky slopes and turtles roamed on the edge of the dark, stormy surf. Sailors had not dared get close to this piece of land jutting out of a remote part of the large sea of Terpidistro. Too many tales of ships being pulled down by monsters reputed to haunt Lingorastro for centuries. The rocks surrounding its steep harbor were of a dark color and could not be seen until it was too late.
As time passed, the legends grew among villagers on nearby islands until one day a brave young man decided to build a skiff with a very flat bottom and try his luck to at last put his foot on the dreaded, but mysteriously tempting island. Vandi was his name and he was an archer. Since he was a boy, he had carved cunning bows out of a particularly supple tree that grew on his island, called the yando trago tree. Old men would look at the young lad and shake their heads when they saw him use a very sharp knife and a small hatchet as he worked on fashioning a bow or an arrow.
"That Vandi is possessed," a gray haired man said to his companion. "None of the other children play with such dangerous tools. Too bad his mother and father died in a shipwreck, or they would surely stop his high-jinks."
"That's right," the other man replied. "Why, the lad is only four years old."
Years passed and Vandi grew into a tall, lean and sandy haired man. Although he became the best marksman on his island, which was called Terrimindo, nobody thought he could build something as big as a skiff. Shipbuilding was for far more experienced and wise men. Since fishing was their most important source of food, ships and boats were considered the life sustaining craft that made the difference between life and death. What could a thin youth who only fooled with bows and arrows know about such grown up skills?
"I'm going to enter the bow and arrow competition," Vandi announced one day to a friend.
"Why on earth do you want to put yourself in such a foolish position?" the friend asked. "You know they don't really play fair in those games and they never liked you anyway."
"I don't care," Vandi said, stubbornly. "I need the prize so I can finish building the skiff. It needs oil, wax and some special resins so the salt of the sea won't eat it up."
"You'll be sorry," the friend said. "You don't know what you're up against." He had heard men talk in the local pubs about how special lotions had been used to put on the leather gear the competing bowmen used that would sting them and thus make them miss the mark. "I've heard tales. Unfortunately, you don't go around listening and finding out what is really going on."
"I can't be bothered with all that talk," Vandi said. "I have some tricks of my own, though. There is a special flower that has a milky sap, that I figured out that it repels certain poisonous fish. I want to rub some on the outside of the hull and hope I will arrive on Lingorastro without any problems."
What Vandi did not tell anyone, not even his friend, who was his only friend, was that in a dream he was visited by three little sprites, each representing a special part of the art of archery. The first was called Kaugele, the second Kujune and the third was Otse. They were beautiful young maidens in white robes, each carrying a golden bow and a silver basket containing silver arrows.
"We live on a lonely island and we are very, very sad," they sang to him in the dream. "Come to us, come to us," they pleaded.
When Vandi woke up he knew exactly what he had to do. He also knew for certain that the island they sang about was none other than Lingorastro. But who would believe him? They would just call him names and maybe even spit at him.
The day of the competition arrived.
There were seven contestants in all, six men and one woman. Although Vandi's clothes and bow and arrows did not look very nice, for he only had one shirt, one pair of pants, and his bow and arrows were not made to look good, but to serve a purpose. He even used his thumb when in shooting position instead of the three fingers the others used. The other archers did not like anybody who looked different of who did things in a different way.
"With a smirk the archer drew his bow," said Vandi's friend, when he saw the first
contestant move into position and readied to shoot at the mark.
"Let them smirk or whatever," Vandi said. "It doesn't matter. I have the fates on my side."
"The what?" his friend said in surprise.
"Yes, three lovely maidens, who are better at shooting arrows than anyone you ever saw, will make sure I win. I have good reason to win."
"Oh, you are totally hopeless," the friend exclaimed. "If you weren't the best pal I ever had, I'd think you had lost all your marbles. Go, do your thing. I'll be rooting for you, no matter what."
Nobody understood how it happened. All the other contestants' arrows hit the mark allright, but then by a strange coincidence, they all fell to the ground. This would disqualify them, even if they had hit the dead center of the large round cross-section of wood with age circles for markings.
Vandi's arrow went dead straight into the oldest center of the wooden cross-section and stayed there firm as could be. Grudgingiy, they had to give him the prize, a bagful of coins.
Soon the handmade skiff was ready to be slid into the surf. Vandi picked an early morning, long before the sun rose, because the heat of the day could evaporate some of the substances he had carefully rubbed into the craft. It was not long before he saw the rugged shore of Lingorastro. Surprisingly, he had no trouble sliding between rocks which seemed to glow, as if to warn him not to go near them and so scratch up his boat.
He pulled the skiff onto firm beach head, a beautiful white sandy surface. He pulled his sandals off to feel the gentle, sugary beach on his toes. Suddenly he saw what seemed to be white clouds really close to the ground. They turned out to be filmy veils instead. He could have sworn he heard the same three sprites singing. But when he went to look, there were just some white sea birds flying above him.
He tried to remember the names of the damsels from the dream. They had been very unusual names. That is why he was surprised that he remembered them right away.
"Kaugele," he said. "Kujune. Otse." How unusual, he thought. "My memory is usually very bad. This island must be very magical, indeed."
When Vandi returned home, everyone in the village of Terrimindo rushed up to him to congratulate him on his voyage. He looked taller, more ruddy and had a glow about him that seemed to make everyone like him and want to be near him.
After he was given a fine feast, as good as they could muster on their sparse island, he told them what he had seen and heard. Everyone listened in disbelief. But there he was, in one piece, and his skiff was as good as new. No harm had come to him.
"What did you find over there?" they asked with great curiosity.
"Well," Vandi said thoughtfully. "I found the three secrets of life."
"Really?" they all exclaimed. "Tell us. Tell us."
"Let me put it this way," Vandi said. "Kaugele - that means you will go far, that life is an undending journey. Kujune - that means you can choose the shape of your journey, your path. Otse - walk straight ahead and you can't miss the mark."
Everyone listened with eyes wide open and mouths agape.
"Oh, and by the way," Vandi said, "If you are very lucky, you will someday have a dream of three beautiful young archers who sing only truths and who shoot silver arrows out of golden bows."