This story can have a powerful healing effect when read out loud
(or recorded and then played) to someone suffering from a phobia
or other effect of childhood trauma. While names, settings, and
style can be varied to suit individual tastes, the sequence which
the apprentice describes, the sequence the princess goes through,
and the vagueness of the "bad thing" descriptions should
remain unchanged and no element of the story should be left out.
in another time and another place, a kingdom of magic and beauty
knew a time of peace. No armies threatened its borders, no bandits
plundered its trade routes, no plagues sickened its people. Yet
even in such peaceful times, bad things could happen: accidents,
misunderstandings; even good people doing bad things.
The third daughter of the king was a bright and cheerful sort.
She wasn't the strongest or the prettiest of the royal princesses,
but she did have the nicest wings of anyone her age. She loved
to fly around the countryside and explore the groves and meadows
she found... they were always full of surprises.
One day she found a particularly pretty grove, with a pond glistening
in a little clearing in the middle. As she went in for a closer
look, she saw images start to form. She saw her own reflection,
and as she lightly touched the ground she saw that her reflection
was watching reflections of her own... dim watery reflections
from her past.
"So you can see the pictures." The voice from among
the trees made her jump. "Don't worry," continued the
young man as he stepped out from among the trees, "nobody
else can see the same images, Princess. It's part of the magic."
"How...?" she asked, looking him up and down. He was
a young man, no older than the princess herself, dressed in the
rough tunic of a wizard's apprentice. "Who are you? How did
you know who I am, what I saw?"
"I am apprenticed to the Court Wizard. Everybody knows who
you are, Princess... and besides, I have seen you at the palace
when I have been there with my master." He paused, glancing
at the ground and lowering his voice. "As to the images...
well, at one time I had need of their magic." "When
I entered the Wizard's service, I had a great and secret fear.
Something... bad... happened to me when I was younger. It hurt
to even think about, and after time I didn't think about it much.
But ever since that time, I had lived with the fear. When my master
learned of this, he taught me the magic of this pool and its stream."
"The pool reflects images from your mind... scenes from your
past, dreams of the future, even fantasies of the present. The
stream flows like time itself, upstream into the past, and downstream
into the future. If I followed the ritual he described, these
magicks could wash clean the fear." She made a face. "I
suppose this ritual involves deep magicks usable only by Wizards?"
"Not really. All the magic is in the waters, and anyone can
use the ritual. Even a lowly apprentice." He grinned. "It's
pretty simple. After he told me about it, he brought me here and
then stood back by the trees. He said that he would answer any
questions I had but otherwise I was on my own. I stood where I
could see my reflection in the pool, and then thought about my
fear. As I thought, my reflection watched a reflection of my thoughts...like
a stage where dimly lit actors played out the scene against a
colorless backdrop. I looked up and saw that I was still here,
in the glade. I looked back at the water, holding on to a small
part of the special feeling of fear it had given me.
I turned and looked back upstream, I saw more images...each earlier
than the last. I relaxed and let the feeling guide me back to
the earliest image. When I had that, I turned back to the pool
and found my reflection watching the same colorless players in
their dim reflection of the memory. As my reflection watched,
the image went from a time shortly before the bad thing happened,
through the whole thing, and on to a time when it was all over.
When it passed the ending that way, it stopped...like a drawing.
Then the drawing faded away, and I was just looking at my reflection.
Wizard had told me that if I stepped into that last part of the
image, it would run very quickly backwards, with full color and
sound and me living backwards through it all... all the way through
to the part before the beginning. It sounded very strange. As
I looked at my reflection again, it was watching the image go
forward again in its dim, colorless way. When it reached the drawing
at the end, I stepped into the image and was plunged into a world
going backwards! It went clear through to before the beginning
in less than a second; then stopped. Startled, I let the water
carry me downstream, through all that had happened since, with
the fear gone and the memory unable to hurt me.
I reached the here-and-now, I got out and just stood there, knowing
that the fear would trouble me no more." He stopped, and
suddenly seemed to remember where he was, and whom he was talking
to. "That was over a year ago, and the fear is still gone.
The Wizard says it is gone for good."
She thought for a moment. "So all there is to this ritual
is think of the problem until your reflection sees it, follow
a part of the feeling upstream to my earliest memory of it, wait
for my reflection to see it all the way through, step into the
ending, and live it backwards quickly? What kind of magic is that?"
He thought for a minute, shrugged, and said "Effective? If
you wish, I will withdraw to the trees while you try it."
"What makes you think that I need it?"
"Because the images only come to those who do." His
voice faded to an embarrassed silence as he realized what he
had said. "I'll go now." "Yes, do." She said
absently, already thinking. Then: "But not too far, in case
I need you." She was remembering an incident a few days back
that had set off her special fear, and just as the apprentice
had described, her reflection in the pool was watching a dim and
watery scene of the memory.
Startled, she looked up again. Yes, she was in the clearing, with
the trees all around and the apprentice all but lost among the
closer ones. She could still feel a part of that fear, so she
kept that feeling while she looked back up stream at all the images
from the past that the feeling had touched... until she found
the earliest of them all. She brought that memory back to the
pool and released it as her reflection started to watch it unfold
in its dim and watery way.
reflection seemed to have a life of its own as it watched the
pale scene start before anything happened, run through the bad
parts, and then pause at a time when it was all over. She watched
her reflection shift as she prepared for what she would do. Her
reflection settled as it watched the scene unfold again. The dim
scene passed through the beginning, through the bad time and on
past again. When it stopped, she jumped in to it.
she was there again: back where and when it had happened. Everything
was moving backwards, and in a flash she had lived backwards through
it and past the beginning. Shocked, she let the water carry her
down stream, forward through all the rest of her yesterdays without
the bad times for company. When she got to today, she stood up.
There she was... standing, dripping in a stream in the clearing.
She looked around for the apprentice, half expecting him to be
laughing at the soggy mess she must be. He was there, by the trees...
not laughing, just smiling in an understanding way.
In the years that followed, they became friends. Although they
went their separate ways... he, as wizard to one of the King's
high lords and she as wife to a neighboring prince... they valued
that friendship to the end of their days. And from that time on,
neither was ever again troubled by their great fears.