The Guardian of Eros
This is a short story that appears in Tales by the Tree: An Anthology of Holiday Flash Fiction, an anthology of fantastical Christmas stories.
The Guardian of Eros
The magical chain binding the beautiful stallion to Luna begins to dissolve, and she knows he will soon appear on earth in human form. The horse snorts, pawing at the snow as if he knows something vital has changed. Luna located his soul mate on earth and is about to bring them together.
“Go forth and unite with the other half of you. Forget this place, but always be grateful for you have been chosen.” Luna lifts her arms high as the links disappear, leaving a smattering of magical dust in the air.
She watches as the image of a café appears in the midnight sky. Rose Monty sits at her usual table in the corner with her laptop and a latte. A handsome man appears at her side, and after a short conversation, he takes a seat. When they shake hands, an undeniable magic passes between them. Luna smiles with satisfaction. “My work is done here.”
Luna has been the Guardian of Eros for as long as she can recall. A long time ago, Luna’s human heart was broken. As she poised above an icy river one December, intent on ending her life, she was given a choice: become the Guardian of Eros whose sole purpose is to strengthen and maintain the bonds of true love, or make the plunge into the dark waters. Luna never had her happy ending, but she had the chance to help others navigate their way. She agreed and was gifted with immortality. Each time a match is imminent, Luna has three earth days to unite the couple or their chance will be lost. She hasn’t missed yet.
Although her chosen locale is on a snowy mountain ridge, Luna doesn’t feel the cold. Sunshine and ice feel the same to her . . . tepid. She no longer remembers her human existence or the heartbreak that led her to climb to the top of the bridge on that long ago night.
A tingle in her left palm indicates another match is imminent. Luna glances up at the heavens, assuming it’s where her benefactors reside, though she’s never actually seen them. “So soon? Rose just met her prince! I was hoping to observe just a bit longer.”
There is no response. Luna sighs as clouds roll in, obscuring the couple in the café. Watching others find true love has been her reward all these years. Hanging her head for a moment, she turns slowly to face her new recipient. The chain, now attached to her left palm, leads to a regal white leopard. Luna tilts her head, taking in his glorious white fur.
“Welcome. You’ll be here with me until I find your match. You certainly fit in with the landscape, don’t you? I’ll call you Snow.”
The leopard stares back stoically.
Luna evokes her sky screen and begins looking for Snow’s match. After several hours of scrying with no luck, Luna starts pacing. Her movement disturbs the leopard, who stalks back and forth restlessly.
“This has never happened before. I can’t even figure out what continent your mate is on!”
Snow regards her with piercing blue-gray eyes, then roars.
Luna glares at him, hands on hips. “You think I like this? I have a perfect track record!”
Snow waves a paw crankily before curling into a ball for a nap.
On day two, Luna becomes frantic. “Please, someone up there? This isn’t working! It’s unfair to expect me to find Snow’s match and unite them within three earth days if my magic isn’t working! Hello? Hello?” She yells and gestures up at the clouds. Apparently, her magic is stuck on the snowy mountain ridge setting, too—try as she might, the landscape won’t change.
Day three is more of the same. As the hours dwindle, Luna sinks into a sobbing heap in a snowdrift. “I’m so sorry, Snow. I don’t think we’re going to make it in time.”
The leopard draws close to her side, letting out rumbling purrs.
Three hours later, Luna feels the links dissolve, and Snow simply fades away. There’s only one other time in her long existence Luna’s felt this much agony. Inconsolable over the fates of Snow and his intended, she eventually falls into a deep sleep.
Luna awakens cold, wet, and miserable. Auburn hair hangs in lank strands against her shoulders, and her bones ache deeply. Have the Gods decided to punish her for failing?
With no coat and inadequate shoes, it’s apparent Luna must find shelter. She struggles through the snow, following a faint glow in the distance and finally comes upon a stately home with candles glowing in each window. She rushes up the steps and rings the bell.
A handsome man opens the door, startled to see her.
“Sir, can you help me? It’s f-freezing.”
“What in the world are you doing way out here on foot with no coat?” He opens the door wide, welcoming her inside.
The house is warm and cozy with a fire burning in the hearth. Luna rushes over to the fire to warm her hands.
“I’m Jake Adams.”
“Really?” Jake laughs.
Luna glances over her shoulder curiously. “My name is funny to you?”
Jake shakes his head. “No, it’s just—this is going to sound really weird, but I think I have something for you.” He leaves the room for a moment and returns with an envelope, which he holds out to Luna. “Someone left it in my mailbox this morning.”
The plain white envelope has her name written on the front. Luna opens it with shaking fingers and slips a letter out.
You have been a most excellent Guardian of Eros all these years. You always go above and beyond, doing your work with grace and pride, but now it’s time to hand the reigns over to your successor.
As a reward for your past sacrifices, we are granting your most secret wish. Not being able to find Snow’s soul mate wasn’t a failure on your part; she just wasn’t human yet. Now you are.
Merry Christmas, Luna.