They were about half-way to the Brook Laden and time was of the essence. Abhay, Delvon and Cahira would soon begin the journey of a lifetime, but when wise, old Akilah spotted the beautiful insect he decided it would provide yet another invaluable lesson for the three young warriors.
“Ah, look! I think….” he started as he stepped off the pathway and began fishing around the tall grass and shrubbery with his Matrinemus staff. “Yes! Ha, ha! They’ve come again! How amazing and, yet how unfortunate. Still, good for good instruction!”
The old man, kneeling down on one knee, reached out and very carefully scooped a tiny, exquisitely beautiful insect into the palm of his hand. Abhay, Delvon and Cahira each knelt down beside their beloved teacher, and gazed at the marvel of four luminous little legs as yellow as the sun, two azure blue eyes, and alternating bright pink and lavender wings. For the next few moments silence seemed the only appropriate response to such curious beauty.
“The cavuscenæ,” Akilah finally broke the quiet. “They come round but once every generation, if even that often.”
“Ah! And to think we’d see something so rare and so beautiful just when you were telling us about something dark and ominous,” Cahira wondered aloud. “This must be a good omen, if ever there was one!” Abhay and Delvon nodded in agreement.
“Oh, but there is where you are so wrong, my precious Cahira! Oh so wrong, and this is precisely the lesson all of you need to learn. But first, here, smell the aroma of this cavuscena. It’s mildly sweet, like the flowers your mother loves so much, Abhay. One might even say comforting.”
The three bent forward, breathed the scent and then widened their eyes. “You’re right,” they all chimed at the same time. “Yes, so it is beauty with sweet, comforting aroma,” the Dabir said and then, lowering his voice, “Quite alluring … enchanting. But remember the proverb which teaches, ‘Beauty is deeper than skin; happiness more than a full belly.’”
Then in one horrifying, split second Akilah squashed the bug with his thumb and forefinger. “And the cavuscena, for all her alluring, outward beauty and sweet-smelling scent is nothing more than a poisonous killer. And as the cavuscenæ now come again in greater and greater numbers, they come only to steal and destroy.”
“But even that is not what is so vile and evil,” the Dabir went on. “There are many creatures, great and small, that eat flowers, consume our crops, feed on each other and would even kill and feed on us. No, the cavuscena actually consumes and destroys by being consumed and destroyed!”
“What! What do you mean?” Cahira asked, still shocked. “How could something so beautiful be so deadly? And how could it destroy by being destroyed? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“And how come we’ve never heard any of this?” Delvon added.
“Because people are quick to forget,” Akilah replied. “Or if they don’t forget, they’re quick to stop caring, and that’s easy when this particular danger only comes once in every generation, if even that often. And so, of course, when people stop thinking about it and caring so much, they stop talking about it. Most live only for today, from hand to mouth.”
“But now I’ll tell you something you’ll do well to remember. You know how much we value the ardda-sprit? How this beetle-companion helps protect our gardens from all kinds of plight and disease, worms and other small creatures that would kill our crops? How this dull brown garden-keeper lives by helping keep us alive?”
All three nodded without speaking.
“Well, the ardda-sprit is particularly attracted to the cavuscena – some say because the ardda-sprit is so dull and the cavuscena so brightly colored, and he is jealous – and the sweet aroma fiercely stirs his appetite. So, of course, the much larger and stronger ardda-sprit attacks and feeds on the cavuscena.
“And once tasting the sweet and delicate cavuscena, the ardda-sprit wants nothing else. And herein lies his destruction. You see, the cavuscena offers nothing of substance, nothing good, nothing wholesome. In fact, there is something very bad in the cavuscena, a kind of poison.
“But the more the ardda-sprit eats the cavuscena, the less he eats what is good, and the less he works in our gardens. Finally, he has an appetite only for the cavuscena and that is all he will eat, but the more he eats the more his hunger grows. And he thins and weakens, but still he consumes only the cavuscena, till finally he eats himself to death, but in so doing, curiously enough, he actually dies of starvation.”
“Imagine that! Eating yourself to death, but dying of starvation! And all of that – that wholly detestable tragedy – lies under the cover of exquisite beauty, surrounded by sweet-smelling aroma. Indeed beauty, genuine beauty, is deeper than skin; happiness more than a full belly. You three will do well, very well, to remember this, the lesson of the cavuscenæ, as you journey on …”
… And with that, off they went, down the same southwesterly path.
Note: The above is from The Fawr Choedwig Chronicles, a work-in-progress for my children. Also, the lesson in the story is certainly not limited to eating … In fact, that is not primarily what I had in mind. Many addictions lie “under the cover of exquisite beauty” and obviously prove alluring, enticing but end (ultimately) in destruction and death.