The Many Facets of Illusion
[Muse Story Contest 2nd Place Winner: "The Many Facets of Illusion" by Torea]
Meoky was born and raised in the village of Seorak-dong, watched over by the impressive mountains of Seoraksan. The mountains blew cold over the village and its frigidness seemed to find a home in the heart of this young child at an early age. Solitary and introverted, her parents could never seem to reach her and freely give her the love she needed. Instead, Meoky amused herself by experimenting with her uncanny ability to blend in with the shadows in her room, cast by the moonlight. Many times, her parents would wake the village, calling for aid in helping to find the young girl, who would merely appear out of nowhere after agonizing hours of searching.
The young girl bloomed into a beautiful yet sullen young woman. Would-be suitors were taken aback by her standoffishness, mistaking it for conceit instead. However, puberty warped her sense of self, so Meoky believed it was her physical appearance that caused others to shun her. Still practiced in the art of deception in the shadows and darkness, she expanded her skills in the craft of disguise in the light, using the herbs found at the foot of Mt. Seoraksan in such a way that they enhanced her already stunning beauty. With a new glow and a more confident step, she captured the attention of a visiting young nobleman in the village.
For a while, Meoky was happy. She held the favor of a distinguished gentleman, her beauty making her the envy of the other young women in the village. Her happiness was shortlived, sadly. Jealous tongues wagged and she was accused of supernatural means of maintaining her beauty, from lies of dancing nude in the moonlight to drinking the blood of a freshly killed dove. She fought back with silence, angrily staring down people as she went on her business of everyday life in the village. Anger turned to hatred, the strong negative emotions showing apparent on her pretty face, with a twist to her red lips and glittering eye slits. Her suitor grew apart from her, but so absorbed was she in her own selfish and cruel world that she blamed his departure on the envious women in the village, whose lies must have gotten through to him. Her assumption was given more credence when he was seen around town with one of her more vocal accusers.
Once again, Meoky withdrew into herself, taking the time in solitary contemplation to perfect her ability to manipulate the physical realm at her whim. With a simple flick of her wrist or a wag of her finger, she was able to change her surroundings, from a modest sitting room to a pebbled beach by a tranquil waterfall. Raking her fingers through her hair just the right way, she could change her hair's length, color, and texture. While experimenting with incantations for facial changing, she heard revelry from her window. It was a wedding parade, in which the bride and groom were being brought to the center of the village to the fountain which provided the village with clean water from within the mountain. To her shock, the groom was her old suitor and the bride was the same vile accuser.
Donning a dark cape, she gathered it close around her, the darkness enveloping her as she made her way to the fountain unnoticed. Amidst the joy in the air, her heart was filled with bitterness and rage. After all, this man was supposed to be hers! If it wasn't for this wench, she would be wearing the wedding gown and exchanging vows with him at this moment. She moved with the breeze in the air until she reached the bride. Taking her by surprise, she swung her cape around the woman, taken quite by surprise. The bride found herself in a dark cave, but little did she know she was in an illusion made up by Meoky. The glint of the wedding ring caught Meoky's eye in the darkness, the facets reflecting what little light shone through the illusion cave. She tore the ring off the bride's finger, spitting her rage.
"This was supposed to be mine! You took him away with your lies! But, no longer will you take what is mine, for tonight I shall take him back!"
Meoky placed the wedding ring on her own finger, which proved to be her downfall, completely disregarding an old myth in the village that gave much power to a wedding ring once the marriage between two people was consecrated and witnessed by the village. The ring glowed and a strange energy flowed up her hand to her arm, right to the center of her body, from which her own special magic was held. She shuddered, the differing forces fighting for power within her. Panicking, she tried to calm herself by repeating words from her spells randomly, not realizing that she was in fact repeating the last spell she was perfecting, that of physical mimicry. Nervously, she twisted the ring on her finger as it glowed and grew hot. Suddenly, a burst of energy shot from the jeweled surface of the ring, directly at the bride, still in absolute shock. The bride disappeared in a cloud of smoke, which seemed to move in Meoky's direction. The ring's bright glow subsided, as did her anger at her apparent revenge.
Meoky flapped the sides of the cape and found herself at the side of the fountain. Thinking she was still under the cloak of darkness, she was taken by surprise when the groom took her hand gently in his and kissed her. "You have made me the happiest man alive." Taken by surprise and with a bit of arrogance, she simply smiled cruelly. The smile froze on her lips when she looked deep in his eyes, for reflected in his eyes was the face of the other woman. The ring on her finger sent an ominous tingling up her arm. She lifted the ring to see it more clearer, but the groom mistook the gesture and brought it up the rest of the way to his lips. Meoky watched the slow movement, squinting to focus on the ring. In one of the many facets of the jewel on the wedding ring was the horror-struck face of the bride whose face she now wore on her own. Pushing the groom away in fright, she swept the cape around her and ran away under the guise of darkness once more, away from her village home.
She moved from town to town, never finding rest, for many were suspicious of a young woman alone, especially at night. Sometimes, the suspicions gave way to anger once again, and the facets of the ring found new inhabitants. Eventually, Meoky learned to manipulate the ring to her advantage, playing to the crowds and performing acts of illusion to pay for food and lodging, as well as buy herbs to learn a way to get rid of the accursed ring, for she found that she could not take it off. She used the mimicry to call upon the faces of the hapless women trapped within the ring not only for entertainment, but as the years rolled by, to also preserve her youth in the many unfortunate lovely ladies whose face she fancied for her own. No town was called home because when she came to town, young women tended to disappear and more suspicions arose until she packed her bags to travel to the next town, where the cycle would repeat itself.
Eventually, time took its toll on her mortal body. On her deathbed in an unfamiliar town in an unfamiliar bed, the curse lifted, the ring falling freely from her finger and she was buried with her original face intact from the time long ago when she first placed the powerful ring on her finger. The innkeep, a simple woman, picked up the ring, but was afraid to place it on her finger, suspecting powerful magic involved in such a strange event. Not wanting to keep such a ring, the innkeep eventually sold it as costume jewelry to a traveling gypsy, who found out its true nature. It now resides in the muses' circle for pure entertainment value, the call of revenge finally silent and at peace with Meoky's death.