A man, black against the horizon, crosses the crest of the mountain. He is known as Aethon in the town of his birth, one of the best of his kind, and is sorely missed. He is strongly built, but slender after his long journey. The light all round him illuminates his entire person; every detail shines like a moon, his every flaw and failing shines. He cannot bear to see himself, cannot bear to see his arms against the landscape, like darkness shining, glaring against the beauty of the world. Moving as does a weary man, he steps forward, purposed and set. As he begins to see the contents of the valley between the peaks, he slows, feet falling harder and heavier, then sits, gazing into the open land.
"Elaine," he breathes.
He exhales slowly, letting his exhaustion and pains fall away, and, first in a while, resting.
His eyes are set upon the single Lily in the center of the valley. Lily, green and white, though no brighter than all else, seemed more perfect somehow, more precious. She seems, in his eyes, like a fire is to its pit. The light seems not only to reflect from her, but to be contained within her and distributed all the more perfectly for it. Not only does she convey the light, but she receives it and chooses to share it, changing it. She is clothed in the sun.
Her light, it seems to him, is focused in the center of her bell, cupped, and held, then radiating. It has a strange color, somehow different from the light all round, but in an indistinguishable way. It is the same light, but new. He has a strange feeling that it is shining in this way just for him, that it appears so because, in some way, of his presence. And stranger still, he finds now that he can look directly into this light, that it does not burn his eyes, but is gloriously colored in some way which he could see. It seems to him, if not the same light that he had seen at his home, at least of the same palette--That it is purely light, but shining from the Lily, is mixed somehow with the Lily's nature. It is visible to him in a way unlike that of the other light, as if his eyes can somehow grasp this light more fully, that it appears more clearly to him now that he might be led to see the greater palette of light up in these mountains, which, so far as he had come, had simply shone some paler grey, subtly transcendental as if under some veil.
The light, before, had simply shone him dark and all the rest light. The light before had separated him from everything else as something of a different sort entirely, of a baser material. Now, sitting just inside this sanctuary, he can see a newness about himself. Aethon seems not to be separated from the land in his entirety, but now to be separated from himself, which is separated from the land. All the things about himself which before had seemed so smudged, in this new light, now appeared loathsome and horrid, terribly perverted. Aethon felt, however, as though, in this light, he belonged in this land. That, if only this light would remain upon him, he could find himself at home here, at peace here, in the heights. This light was the fruit, somehow, he thought, of the Lily and the land, shining together, as if the mountains dwell in the Lily just as she dwells in them. Together, they had begotten this thing so gloriously perfect, real and present as the Lily, just as visible, but also just as bright as the land.
The sun above appears larger than he had ever seen it before. It burns so much brighter than any rising he had yet beheld. The same fire, though as a newer flame, burnt in the Lily. He has forgotten all which he came here to see, all which he planned to understand. He forgets, now, the simple Christianity of his town, the happy news of a man who saves and cleans and heals us, a god who loves and blesses and knows. A god who could be understood, could be tried. A tame god. This light, this land is greater, is mysterious and mystical. He stares, fixated upon the beauty of the light of this singular, white flower, this torch in the land of light.
And so, as he slowly rises to step again forward down toward the plant, he sighs again, not out of pain or exhaustion, but of hope and of awe.