The White Iris
(Adapted from a dream.)
Within the silent dawnlight, covered by a black cloak, Artemis jumped off the carriage and started to run. Suddenly, she stopped. Right in front of her was the unexpected silhouette of someone she least wanted to see in the whole world.
“Oh my dear love, would you like my whole person and my soul?”
“Good, my only love. I will support you no matter what you do.”
That person was fervently flirting with a noble lady by a fountain. At last they kissed each other, and the lady said goodbye to him, and left slowly and reluctantly, then disappeared in the dark as the dawnlight dimmed. That person was still there, looking to the direction that the lady just left, and the direction towards which Artemis needed to go. After the lady left, she pulled down her hood to cover her face, and tried to sneak by him.
“Artemis?” He noticed her, rapidly caught up and grabbed her hand.
Artemis frowned, quickly wrenched herself away, turned and reproached him with a low voice: “Your highness, respect yourself. You are the Prince of our nation, and look at what you have becometh!”
But he just stared at her and said nothing.
She paused for two seconds then phlegmatically raised her volume: “Your highness Prince Antaeus. Stop your unbelievably absurd behaviour, give up your ridiculous lifestyle that offends God! You will never get me, NEVER, because I belong to God and I will be blessed and consecrated.”
But he acted as if he did not understand a word she said. Smiling, he mumbled: “Good, my only love. I will support you no matter what you do.”
As he dropped the last word of the sentence, reality wavered for Artemis. She smelled a hypnotic fragrance of rose, heard the sound of wind chimes as if coming from far, far away, and even saw a translucent blackish green hand reaching for her through the air
“εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος…”In terror, she closed her eyes and made a sign of the cross quickly, then opened her eyes again. The fragrance disappeared, and the hand vanished into ashes. Dismissing it all as an illusion, she gave a perplexed glance to the person in front of her and said: “Okay, thank you for your support and I am leaving. God bless.” She turned around and ran off.
Antaeus stood still. Artemis, Artemis… He repeated the name again and again in his heart. It struck him and sobered him like thunder. What was he even doing? That was Artemis, the only one that he really loved, and she was leaving him! Now she’s gone. His heart ached as if being pierced by needles, his head hurt as if colonized by thousands of ants. Dizzy, he cupped his hands and scooped up some water from the fountain and showered himself in order to regain his senses, and ran in the direction that Artemis had gone .
Suddenly, he heard a sharp scream. Artemis was being thrown into a carriage by a man in a black robe. He scrambled onto his horse and the carriage rattled away Antaeus jumped onto a horse grazing nearby and went in pursuit.
Artemis’ hands were tied up. She looked at the man in black robe, frightened and pale as death. Before she regained the ability to think anything, the carriage had a sudden shake, and she saw Antaeus jump in the window of the carriage The man in black robe stopped the carriage and turned to investigate, but an unseen force immediately pierced his abdomen with a sword and he was kicked off the horse He twisted in pain on the ground and pressed his hands on the spot that was constantly bleeding out, but it didn’t help. He breathed heavily and his blood began to seep from his mouth. Antaeus jumped off the carriage, crouched down by the man and removed the fabric that was covering his face.
“It was you!” Antaeus was stunned.
“Hahahahaha… Unexpected huh?... You amorous, flower-loving prince! My Aphrodite! Haha!... What a joke!... I am not going to live too long, and you neither, because you were cursed! You will be cursed for ever and ever!... Come to hell with me! Haha...” He burst out in laughter with a spasm, as his volume got lower and lower. All of a sudden his body stiffened, as death took his last breath.
Artemis got off the carriage, and Antaeus untied her hands. They looked around, and found themselves on a desolated, silent wild field engulfed by the darkness of the vast night. The soft night breeze was carrying the fragrance of the fresh grass, blowing Artemis’ long, silky auburn hair in little curls.
“Artemis...” Fascinated by her beauty, Antaeus whispered gently, but got interrupted by the owner of the name-
“Thank you for saving me. Now it’s getting late, I know a place around here, would your highness please get on the horse?”
Under her guidance, they arrived in front of a mysterious stone house covered by the color of night.
Artemis went up and knocked on the door thrice, then said: “Pax tecuм!”
The door opened, and an old man in a brown robe appeared.
“Good evening, your Excellency.” Artemis knelt down and kissed his ring.
“Good evening my child, and my very special guest. Come in if you will.”
Antaeus was stunned by Artemis’ behavior but did not say anything. They followed the old man in. Inside the stone house, they walked first into a spacious hall that was without any fancy decoration but contained some pews, bookshelves and a simple marble altar. Above the altar was a crucifix and two candelabras that each held six burning candles with dancing flames. Then they walked through a side door, a hallway, then somewhere like a living room, with wooden tables and chairs.
“Your Excellency, this is Prince Antaeus. And your highness, this is Bishop Steven from the Roman Empire. ” Artemis said.
Antaeus, bewildered and out of place, nodded his head“I see, my good daughter in Christ. I’d like to talk with him first, could you please pour some water for us?” The bishop said.
“Sure, your Excellency.”
Artemis walked out and shut the door behind her. The bishop and Antaeus sat down, face to face. The bishop looked Antaeus up and down which spreaded a strange sense of fear from the bottom of Antaeus’ heart, as if the bishop had looked through his soul and knew everything about him.
He soon found out he was right, the bishop did know everything.
Bishop Steven fixed his eyes on Antaeus’ face with a kindly smile and said to him “Poor child, you still don’t know what happened, do you?”
Antaeus frowned , and shook his head with confusion.
“You are cursed by the one who tried to kidnap Artemis, ” Bishop Steven said.
“How did you know all about that? Are you the one who’s behind and plotted it all? ” Antaeus’ calmness began to evaporate and he stood up from the chair, questioning the bishop with aggression, but immediately he realized his impertinence and sat back down, “I am very sorry, your… Excellency. Please forgive my obstruction, I...”
“Don’t worry, my child. Let me tell you everything I know.”
“How do you even know all this? Tell me, who are you?”
“By my own self, I am clueless and know nothing. But with Christ, I know all the knowledge needed to save sentient beings in the world, including your past and future. I have seen all that in my revealed dream.”
Listening to what the Bishop was saying brought Antaeus back to a precious memory deeply rooted in his heart...
The first time he saw Artemis at the annual royal dance, he knew that he would never forget about her. He never liked this kind of gathering, but that day he had just come back from his errands at Rome, and the emperor insisted that he had to show up at the dance so that people could celebrate his return.
And there she was, dressed in a simple white peplos and a rose gold himation over it, which was regular and nothing special. But the most memorable part was her face. Her green eyes, reminiscent of the mountains when spring comes. Her long, wavy dark-auburn hair, decorated with a silver flower crown in the shape of irises. He would not say she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, but she seemed so demure that she caught his attention right away and it was inexplicably delightful to his heart to look at her. Other than her appearance, maybe it was the lack of interest or even contempt of the gathering that she showed in her look and expression, so rare for a girl who was attending her first gala, that caught his attention and resonated with him. Then their eyes met, very briefly, and he could see the light of innocence in her eyes. She quickly looked away, but he decided to walk up to her.
“Fair lady, may I know your name?”
“Artemis, your highness. ”
“May I have the honour to dance with you, Artemis?”
Artemis appeared to be astonished by the question, then looked in her parents’ direction helplessly.
“Prince Antaeus, my little daughter Artemis as you see, is still very young, and today it’s her first time showing up at a dance like this. I'm afraid her clumsy movements, if not offensive to your highness, will make you laugh.” Artemis’ father Pontius said to Antaeus. But Antaeus insisted that he wanted to dance with her. At the end, her father nodded as a sign of permission. The bystanders watched their interaction with mixed emotions and some gossip, but he didn’t care. Every second he spent dancing with her was so amusing and so precious to him.
After that dance, he would go to the royal gardener every day to ask for some flowers to send to Artemis but they all got sent back to him, and he would collect all of them in his own bedroom, look at the withering flowers and sigh. One day he heard from someone that her favourite kind of flower is the white iris, so he asked the royal gardener for some to send to her again, but they got sent back again. This time he put the white iris next to his pillows, because they’ll remind him of her prettiness.
But something started to go wrong, he suddenly felt inflamed with anger and eagerness to pursue other women, and he did. He forgot about Artemis, all he had was the endless desires and infatuations for women. From that day on he completely lost his mind and control over himself and started to live an infamous and scandalous life and became well-known for it. At the same time, rather strangely, no woman was able to reject him, no matter how noble and virtuous they were before, so it got to a point that all the noble families in town got in panic and started to hide their daughters from him except for a few that wished to use their daughter to possibly get more fame and wealth. And as days went by, he became more and more mentally unstable and his whole body became weaker and weaker…
“My poor child, that white iris the gardener gave you carries a very wicked spell. It would cause you endless lust, control your mind and behaviour, and the evil spirit would also possess the women that you encounter with as long as you say what it tells you to say. Soon you’ll die a most infamous death, most likely within this month, if you can’t get the remedy.” The Bishop said to Antaeus with a look of compassion and pity.
“You’re the most honorable wise man and prophet, a follower of God. Can you tell me why the gardener did this to me? I never did him any wrong.”
“The gardener…” the Bishop sighed and explained, “their family had been practicing spells and other witchcraft secretly for generations. His daughter was in love with you, so she planned to seduce you with a potion, but something went wrong when she was making the potion and she died of it. So the gardener and his wife blamed his daughter’s death on you and had been waiting for a chance for revenge.”
“How dare they!...”
“To break the spell and save your life, you have to convert to Jesus Christ and unite with your true love, the white iris of your life in Christ into one person.”
Antaeus immediately understood the white iris that the bishop was referring to and said, "When you mention Christ, are you talking about the Nazarene Jesus who was crucified hundreds of years ago? You're from a former dynasty, aren't you? If you are willing to tell me what to do and how many cattle, sheep, gold, silver and Jєωels to offer to your God, I can do it at your command. But Artemis ..."
"The gospel of Christ will not disappear with the change of dynasties, for that is the truth, Your Highness Antaeus. The Lord delights in mercy more than in sacrifice, and He wants you to be sincere and complete in your devotion, including your country, your people. Conversion to the holy religion requires understanding and repentance, and baptism for a lifetime, not offending the Supreme Lord with those rituals of Greek religion. If you wish, you will learn the doctrines of the Holy Church with me. As for Artemis, I will speak to her."
When Artemis came in with the water, the bishop stopped the conversation, beckoned her to come and sit down, and talked for a while about the gospel of Christ. After a few hours, the two of them became tired, and the bishop took them to two small rooms where they could rest. Antaeus looked back at her and gave her a deep glance.
"My child, you are willing to follow the example of that heavenly princess, the Virgin Philomena, are you not?" Before leaving, the bishop asked Artemis.
"Yes, my Lord Bishop. I was willing to keep my virginity for Christ all my life, but my family insisted on marrying me to Antheus, and that is why I originally left home and came here."
The bishop smiled lovingly, told her about the spell put on Antaeus, and said, "I am sorry, my daughter, but I do not think that your mission is here. Forgive Antaeus, for he is sincere in his heart for you, and no one can save him but you. You will be the mother of a nation, and together with your husband, you will bring the people of this nation to God and magnify His kingdom."
Artemis bowed her head, and after a long silence, replied, "If so...may His will be done."
"May the Lord bless you, my dear child." The bishop blessed Artemis and left.
During the night, Artemis suddenly heard a knock at the door. She got up and opened the door. The cold moonlight reflected the face of the visitor - it was Antaeus.
"You must be asleep, right? I'm sorry for the intrusion."
"No problem, what can I do for you?" She said that, but her expression was clearly displeased. Although she had promised the bishop, she could not suppress the resentment she felt for him.
"I just want you to know that I am deeply sorry for all of this. I was deluded, but I really loved you, and I couldn't forget you from the first time you showed up at the dance. In fact, I never liked dances or anything like that, but I thought I would see you again, so I went to every dance after that and asked around, but you never showed up again..."
"I'm not interested in these things."
"Sorry, I digress. What I wanted to say is that at first my love for you, perhaps it was only a fascination with your exterior beauty, but after all of these, although I still do not understand your religion, I feel more compassion and admiration for you. I will cherish you and respect your wishes. If you don't want to submit to me, just stay here and let me go back tomorrow by myself and buy two bottles of poison and drink it all up. This way I will at least die with dignity, not with lust. Artemis, I would gladly devote my life to you."
"Antaeus..." looking at his serious and determined eyes, she could not help but feel a little moved, but her tone did not ease up at all, "I did not expect that the descendant who helped my dim-witted uncle to conquer power and usurp the throne, slaughtered my family's ancestors, destroyed my holy religion, and then killed my uncle to take the throne, would say such things."
"Artemis, I had no control over my family's actions, nor could I choose my origins. If you wish, I can restore the glory of the former dynasty with you, or I can offer you death as thanks for your sins. Just one word from you ......"
"You do not need to rush to end your life, I did not refuse the bishop's request."
"It is late at night, please go back." Artemis closed the door.
The next day, Antaeus got up early in the morning and had a long talk with the bishop in a room behind closed doors, without food or drink. Artemis seemed to hear the sound of weeping and chanting. In the evening, the bishop opened the door and commanded Artemis, "Go to the chapel and get me the holy water and chrism."
Artemis immediately understood what he was going to do.
"Antaeus, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." After Antaeus was baptized, the bishop offered a Mass for both of them.
"Now you are a new man in Christ." The bishop said to Antaeus, then turned to Artemis, "Artemis, you ..."
Antaeus also turned to Artemis, knelt down on one knee, gently held her hand, and said, "Artemis, now I am a Christian, just like you. Will you forgive me and accept me? I mean, will you ......"
Without waiting for him to finish, Artemis nodded, and Antaeus kissed her hand happily and gratefully. He then knelt down again to the bishop and said, "My lord, please bless me."
The Bishop blessed him, let him rise, and then said, "Now go and prepare the chariots and horses. Tomorrow morning, before dawn, you will set out in time to meet Artemis' parents and teacher, the venerable Lord Pontus, Lady Hestia, and Scipio of Rome."
Everything happened swiftly.
Within days of Antaeus talking to her parents, the gardener's family were imprisoned; the king of Corfu was αssαssιnαtҽd; Antaeus became king, and step by step, he eliminated the forces left behind that opposed Christianity; the war criminals who believed in Christ were gradually released; the officials of the former dynasty were restored to their official positions and pledged their allegiance to the king; Artemis was admitted to the palace and became the queen of Corfu.
When Artemis realized it, she was already on the castle balcony with Antaeus, watching the rejoicing of the nation.
"God bless Corfu! Long live the King and Queen of Corfu!"
Their names were recorded in the history of Corfu. One hundred and fifty years later, Corfu collapsed, and the history books and all civilization, along with this small nation, sank forever into the depths of the sea. The white iris, however, is still blooming in the world, giving off its fragrance.