Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess called Isa. She had two brothers who were older than her, but they were both on the battlefield. A war between three kingdoms was taking place and it seemed that it would never end.
Isa felt lonely. At the end of every day, at exactly five o’clock, and just when the Sun was yawning and stretching his arms, she stepped onto the balcony and combed her long, black hair. The Sun, knowing that she was sad, kissed her on the cheek before going to bed. The Moon, before standing at the top of the world, tickled her feet and kissed her long, black hair. That is why it always had a silvery shine.
Isa sang the most beautiful songs in the world to make her father smile, but he only had tears. He knew his beautiful daughter needed a husband, but all the worthy warriors were on the battlefield. He knew his beautiful daughter needed her brothers, but they were also on the battlefield. He knew his beautiful daughter needed a mother, but she was dead and her ashes were spread on the battlefield.
And so the days went by and Isa’s heart began to break. She forced a smile for her ageing father and for the poor women left in town. She forced a smile for the fatherless little children who fought with wooden sticks to prepare for the war. But the grey eagle brought no news from the battlefield, and Isa feared the very worst.
One day, the flowers opened their eyes, the trees shook their leaves, the air smelled of fresh baked bread, and the water in the creek chirped again. The grey eagle soared in the sky and the Sun gave great news to the King and his beloved daughter. The women and children of the town gathered at the doors of the castle and a few hours later the warriors arrived. Smiles illuminated the faces of the children who saw their fathers after three years. Tears ran down the faces of the young women whose husbands did not return. And for just a few minutes the kingdom seemed to be free. But no one was waiting for Po, and no one noticed when the warrior entered the castle. Po felt guilty. He had not managed to save Isa’s brothers during the Battle of the Moonflowers.
On that bloody night, the stars had gone to sleep, the Moon had been blinded by the clouds, and the crickets had not chirped. A peaceful night lullabied the warriors into a deep sleep. And when the soldiers of the other two kingdoms heard the silence, they decided to attack the Moonflowers’ camp. No one heard them move, and the ground did not tremble when they marched with all their might towards their enemies. When they got there, they pointed their thousand spears at the throats of the still sleepy warriors who opened their eyes only to see the capture of their two beloved princes. Po, who was hidden in a nearby cave, aimed his arrows at the hearts of the other soldiers. He tried to rescue Isa’s brothers, but a sword went straight through his leg and an arrow pierced his arm. The pain did not allow him to move.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Sun hid for a day and the tears of the weeping flowers followed the moonbeams to the site where the dead princes lay. A fire transformed them into ashes, and they were scattered, like their mother, on the battlefield.
Po needed to speak with the leaders of the other two kingdoms. He wanted to ask for a truce. His enemies knew that the decision to surrender was not his and gave him three days to visit his kingdom. In exchange for this gesture, and to assure a future of prosperity and peace, the King of Cron asked for one more thing: “Tell your King that his daughter shall marry my son.”
From her balcony, Isa saw the smiles on everyone’s faces. The children were laughing and the young warriors were happy, but when she heard Po’s footsteps her heart leapt: something told her that he was the bearer of bad tidings. Po did not see her. He just entered the King’s chambers. Isa tried to sing to soothe herself, but her voice broke when a cry of rage flooded the castle. She was summoned to her father’s chambers.
Isa sat next to her defeated father, and when she turned around and saw her brothers’ shields covered with blood, she realised her kingdom was lost. Po tried to break the silence, but the King refused to hear more. Po tried again: “The king of Cron wants to end the war and make an alliance with our kingdom. His son wants to marry our princess.”
Isa looked up to meet the eyes of the stranger who was carrying such unbearable pain. In his sweet eyes, she saw his broken heart glowing from afar. He was the mighty warrior that her mother once foretold would rescue the kingdom. He was the warrior that her brothers once foretold would become her husband. And in her heart, she knew he was the mighty warrior that would save her kingdom.
The King saw the spark in Isa and Po’s eyes. He pictured them together, but his aging heart was blinded by fear. “Tell the King of Cron that Isa will marry his son. She will be ready in ten days.” Isa begged her father to be kind, to let her chose for herself. But the King did not listen to her and ordered Po to leave immediately.
But the warrior disobeyed his King and spent the night in the garden, waiting for Isa to step onto the balcony and comb her hair. When she appeared, Po admired her beauty, her strength. And when their eyes met, a pact was made.
The next morning, Po was summoned to the King’s chambers. He was ready to announce the engagement of his beautiful daughter, and he was ready to pronounce that the war was finally over. But Po begged for one last chance, “Dear King, let me be the one to rescue our kingdom from Cron’s greed. Let me fight for your daughter’s future. She does not need to sacrifice for us.”
The King hesitated, because in his heart, he knew that there might be another way to regain his once peaceful kingdom and to make his daughter happy. “Very well,” said the King, “you have five days to end this war. If you fail, Isa will marry Cron’s son and you will not be welcomed here again. But if you win, then my son you shall become.”
The warriors said goodbye to their children, kissed their wives farewell, and carried their arrows and spears. Hope spread to every corner of the kingdom, except for Isa’s heart. Her cheeks flooded with tears, and neither the Sun nor the Moon could make her happy. The flowers tried to console her, but nothing made her smile. Her heart was broken and the fear of never seeing Po again, and having to marry someone else, was tearing her spirit apart.
Five days went by, and nothing changed. The grey eagle did not soar in sky to spread some good news. Everything was silent. But the Wind whispered to the King that Po was fighting with all his might. The King told Isa the secret, but she did not believe it. Po still had not written to her.
Another five days went by. The women stopped laughing, the children ceased playing, the flowers lost their petals, and the Sun stopped visiting. Everything was silent. The Wind came back to visit the King and whispered that Po was still fighting, but no one believed it. They wanted to see the grey eagle soaring in the sky and spreading good news.
The kingdom lost its colours and its sounds. The good tidings never arrived, and the Wind did not come back. On the twentieth day, hope vanished from the kingdom and Isa closed her eyes forever. Her chambermaids dressed her in white and braided her long, black hair. They placed her on a bed of weeping flowers. The entire town dressed in black to pay their respects one last time. The King lost all hope and his heart filled with rage. Po, who had promised to save his kingdom and marry his beautiful daughter, would have to pay.
But the very next day, a scent of triumph filled the air. Po and his warriors entered the town with pride --almost glowing. They did not realise that, on the streets, the women did not clap and the children did not smile. When they entered the castle, they saw the King sitting by himself. “Freedom has been restored to our kingdom”, announced Po. But the King only stood up, grabbed Po’s hand and guided him to Isa’s chamber.
Po’s tears and despair were felt in every house, in every heart. He kissed Isa on the forehead, and without saying a word, he carried her in his arms. Everyone gathered outside the castle to say goodbye to the royal couple that never was. Po walked endlessly. The ground was soft and held his tumbling steps all the way to the top of the mountain, where he laid Isa’s body. Po came down and went back to the King, who received him with all the honours that a son deserved.
That night a snow blizzard covered the earth. The next morning, when everyone stepped outside of their house, they saw the figure of Isa sleeping on top of the mountain. She was peacefully resting, overseeing her kingdom, thereafter free.