“I’m sorry for missing that ball Rick.” Essie said regretfully. “Cerissa’s move there, the setter dump.... I didn’t see that coming....”
“No worries, I’m having a blast playing with you, even if we aren’t winning.” Rick said reassuringly, putting his hand on Essie’s shoulder. “Besides, we’re gonna get that point back, then score more points after. You with me?”
Essie smiled and gave Rick a quick embrace.
“Always Rick. Let’s get that point back now.”
Cerissa sent a jump serve over the net. Essie received the serve and sent it over Rick’s head. Rick set to Dirk, who sent a powerful spike over the net. Doug dove into the sand and kept the ball in the air with his fist. Cerissa set the ball to Mitch, and he spiked the ball past Rick and Dirk. Essie dove at the back of her team’s side and used a bump to keep the ball from going out of bounds. Dirk volleyed the ball back over the net, and Doug managed to keep it from hitting the sand with his knee. Mitch ran to the ball and passed it airborne over Cerissa. Cerissa lept into the air and spiked the ball, but a well timed jump from Essie blocked her attack, sending the ball crashing into the sand behind Cerissa and between Mitch and Doug.
“Great block!” Rick cheered, Dirk also running over to offer praise.
“Now we’re tied, thanks to you!” Dirk said proudly. “Soon we’ll be ahead!”
“Well played Essie!” Cerissa called out. “But you won’t stop me again.” She added with a friendly smile.
“I accept your challenge Cerissa.” Essie replied, grinning ear to ear.
Before the game could continue, a familiar young woman in a sundress approached the group. Her eyes were puffy and red, with fresh tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Janet?” Mitch said tenderly as he ran to her. “What’s wrong?”
Find out why Janet is upset here: https://old.theprose.com/post/429105/leftovers-crushing-victory
To be continued....
Back On Vacation
With the threats of Anti-Hero, Petunia, and Glicko averted, the beach was safe once again. Dirk and Doug escorted the beachgoers back, and the Pirate and his crew switched back to their swimsuits. While Rick and Essie were enjoying a friendly water gun battle in the ocean, Cerissa found Mitch standing in the water fishing. She waded in and stood beside him.
"How are you holding up Mitch? You've been quiet, and I wanted to check on you."
"I'm better, thanks to you and everyone else." Mitch replied, smiling at his mage ally. "I am sad for what Petunia has become, but I have hope that everything will work out in the end. I can't thank you enough for encouraging me to be vulnerable. I needed that, and I feel much better now."
"Anytime my friend!" Cerissa said brightly. "I know you would do the same for any one of us too."
"We really do have a great crew, and I am confident that we will stop Petunia and Glicko. We will prepare for their next moves. But as long as no other unexpected guests show up, let's enjoy the rest of our beach day!"
"Sounds great to me Mitch. I think we all need this!"
Cerissa, Doug, Rick, Essie, Dirk and Mitch met back up, lounging on their beach towels. They were enjoying cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sodas that Dirk had purchased for everyone. They enjoyed each other's company and discussed their plans for the future.
"I probably don't need to say this Essie, but you were amazing today." Mitch said proudly. "I know you are also seeking your memories, and you are welcome to stay with us in the meantime."
"Thank you Mitch, I would love that!" Essie said happily. Rick made a silent vow to make Essie smile her beautiful smile as often as possible.
"How about you guys?" Mitch asked Dirk and Doug. "Want to join us too?"
To be continued.....
Dancing in the Night
The spotter got my buddy, the Chip to my Dale. I'm not sure what I'm to do. My power lives under the stars, a boon for the world. At home I'm a teenager, my parents have no idea. I was dropped here by the Goddess and when I leave my body at night, there isn't a soul who can see me, except the Spotter who found us one at a time. I know I'm the last of us, how do I go on?
I'm a dancer, and good one, I'm going to be Clara in the Nutcracker this coming Christmas, blonde wavy hair, down to my waist. Blue eyes in a perfect oval face. And as long as I'm dancing I can face the world from the stage. Just don't make me talk to anyone about anything strange. A ballerina I'll be, devoted to my art, apart from the ugly, I see only beauty in the mirror as I stretch at the barre.
At night, I slip from my body, and become Dale, the chipmunk who can't be seen, except by a spotter with a bow from Death's own lair. I have to survive, there's so much bad in this world. I have the power to fix it, I can heal their sick minds. Killer becomes lover, con artist turns honest as I meet them, and see them, they fall to my spell. Fraudster or bully they cannot resist, when the ray from my finger, hits their evil mindset.
And as I wander this night, seeking the evil in man, I sense the Spotter his arrow in hand. Which of us survives, me or him? I lock on his eyes, a black soulless pit, and fire my ray as he lets the arrow fly. I'll give my Dale to stop his hate. And I see the change, the horror, regret. And as I the dark takes me I will dance on again.
The Pirate’s New Gifts
The Pirate was on his back in the sand, the dire situation resulting from dodging Petunia's attacks. He still had his blade, but Petunia's two diamond arms were overwhelming. He held back one diamond arm with his sword while she closed in with her other arm.
Cerissa sent the new sword gently to the Pirate via a floating spell. The sword landed in the Pirate's hand just in time for him to protect himself from being stabbed by Petunia's second diamond blade. Taking advantage of Petunia's shocked expression and distraction, he slid under his foe and lept to his feet, facing her once again as she turned around.
"So you have a new toy, huh?" Petunia mocked. "Big deal! Do you even know how to fight with two swords at once?"
"This will be a first for me honestly, but guess it's learn on the fly or die!" The Pirate laughed, both swords at the ready.
"Pirate, that sword was created from copies of Rick, Dirk and Doug's blades!" Cerissa called out. "That makes it three times as strong, and it also has the ability to light up into a laser sword!"
"Nice, I've always wanted one of these!" The Pirate said happily. "Thank you all for this gift. I'll take it for a test run right now!"
The Pirate lit up his weapon into a laser sword, and charged at Petunia. He couldn't understand how, but swinging two swords in combat felt perfectly natural to him. He wondered if the pirate that had given him his powers had dual wielded swords before, and if that experience somehow became built into his Pirate transformation's abilities. Regardless, he was thankful to be able to take the offensive with his new weapon and skills.
Despite the power of the Pirate's new weapon and innate talent for dual wielding, Petunia's diamond arms remained intact. She blocked the barrage of strikes, even fending off the laser sword's power.
To be continued....
A New Blade Forged
"We won't interfere with The Pirate's fight, this is something Mitch needs to settle with Petunia." Cerissa advised. "However, he won't be able to avoid those two diamond arms of hers with one blade."
"So are we going to provide another blade for him?" Essie asked.
"Exactly!" Cerissa said happily.
"Tam gave my helmet an upgrade that I could use to get another sword sent here by requesting it by thought." Rick suggested. "But it can take at least five minutes to arrive, and I don't know if Mitch can hold out that long."
"Essie and I will combine our magic to make a new sword for him instead." Cerissa replied. "We can only use so much magic right now due to our memory losses, but if we use our abilities together, we will each have some energy left over in case we have to fight Petunia too. Do you know a copy spell Essie?"
"Yes, I do!" Essie said enthusiastically. "Tell me what you need me to do!"
"First, I will need help from you three." Cerissa told Rick, Doug, and Dirk. "Please summon your swords and stick them in the sand."
Rick, Doug, and Dirk made their swords appear in their hands, then they thrust the swords into the sand.
"Alright Essie, now make copies of the three swords."
Essie waved her hand over the swords, and three duplicate swords appeared in front of each of the originals.
"Thank you Essie. Now gentlemen, you may take your swords back."
Rick, Doug, and Dirk retrieved their swords and made them disappear again by thought.
"Thank you friends. Now it's my turn!"
Cerissa waved her hand over the three new swords, and the swords floated into the air. Two of the swords flew rapidly into the third one, absorbing into it. The lone sword shone majestically in the sky, distracting The Pirate and Petunia from their fight.
"This should even the odds." Cerissa said confidently. "Pirate, catch!"
To be continued....
Passing The Torch
Before the snake could devour Dirk and Doug, the brothers were surrounded by a white cloud of smoke.
"What's happening?" Dirk asked aloud. "Are we dead?"
"No, we were able to save you at the last minute, thanks to my brother's latest invention."
"You two won't be dying today. Your time hasn't come yet."
Doug and Dirk turned around to find two figures wearing dark helmets and body armor.
"I'm Mirk, and this is my brother Tam. We work for Hugh's hero network. We were on our way to Prosperity to meet with the king, when Hugh told us to stop here at this beach first."
"It seems like it was a good call." Tam continued. "That snake would have killed you for sure, but your bravery is to be commended. Which is why we're giving you both these."
Mirk and Tam each handed Dirk and Doug a dark helmet. After they put the helmets on, Dirk and Doug were covered in the same body armor as their rescuers. They also sensed that they could summon weapons and tools by thinking about them.
"We think the two of you would be great additions to the team." Mirk said proudly. "Hugh has already given his approval too. The choice is all yours, of course."
"Whatever you chose to do, you can use these powers to topple that snake and protect these people." Tam added. "Then go help your friends. Hugh will contact you later, and you can give your answer then."
"King Lenny Overature is expecting us, but we can stay if needed." Mirk said. "What are your thoughts?"
"You guys can get back to your own mission, with the tools you gave us we can fight." Doug answered confidently. "What do you say, bro?"
"Yeah, I agree." Dirk responded. "Let's save these people, then our friends!"
The white cloud of smoke cleared, revealing Doug's evil imposter and the giant snake eagerly awaiting their prey.
To be continued....
Romance of the Twenty-Four Realms pt.1
Cruel Ombras, tropic foaming,
Whose vast deeps hide demon powers,
Saw the Brethren afloat roaming,
In barque Afric for many hours.
Gainst the high seas through the gloaming,
Battened tight from ocean towers,
Timbers shuddered with her riding,
Afric over great waves gliding.
Bold warriors, of Gepek isle,
By the Basileus knighted,
Voyage forth in princely style,
Six as one, by oath united,
Over many a weary mile
In each others trust delighted.
Chaste and pious tryst they raveled
While to Kushta shores they traveled.
Stand forth these few, skins of umber,
Marcus, Gascon, Jordan, Peter,
David, Justin, six in number,
Afric gains, meter by meter,
Through waking and through their slumber
On to Kushta. Duty sweeter
Than comforts or civic glory
In Gepek where began our story.
Bold Marcus rose, noble foeman
Of all evils, known to them all.
Master swordsman, master bowman
In Afric’s prow he rising tall
Stood forth this bronz’d hearty yeoman
In the midst of a tropic squall
He the other five addressed
With thoughts from his unwearied breast.
“Forth we now to Kushta rushing
Crost Ombrasi high evil tide
For the troth of princess blushing
Margathea, our virgin bride,
To the lord of rivers gushing
Amarys, king of mountainside
In Bror he sits on golden throne
And of Gepek claims her for own.”
“Forth we now for preparations
Of the joining of man and wife
For the forging of our nations
Into allies without strife
Earning us congratulations
And honors jointly ours for life
When both kingdoms by our labors
Shall become the best of neighbors.”
Spoke next David, kindred spirit,
"We who answer the Basileus
Come for duty and for merit
Not for what Gepek will pay us
Though what comes we surely share it
Sweet or sour, set or chaos,
We are brothers, bound by duty,
But for merit, not for booty."
Pearl Before Swine ch 31: Evidence
The fire strokes my curves as the sea’s waves once did. It roars and whimpers, flows and ebbs, telling the same short tale again and again. It chases the ice and wages war when they meet, but nothing changes.
Water joins the waltz with a competing rhythm. It jars the circle. A break. A difference. A beginning and an end.
My fire rejects this foreign energy with spitting hisses. Whose is it? Not Halcyon’s or Lance’s. It smells too much of the sea that once trapped me, as malleable as a wave, skittish as a fish, and course as sand.
I chant a mantra that the Sea is not my enemy. This energy, however disgusting, is a hand offering help. Yet, fire does not bow to reason. Fire eats, and this fire is picky. It shoves back ten times what was given, and the ice reigns for a while.
The fire grumbles at the setback, and I tell it this would not have happened if it listened to me. The water could have been our ally.
The water does not return.
In time, voices find their way here alongside tiny morsels of heat. A touch to my arm, my neck, my forehead. Some skitter away. Some linger.
“I don’t care what the dean said,” Sal snaps. “Nothing’s more important than making sure she’s okay.”
Sal. He watches over me. I need to tell him everything.
Time burns faster than my fire, but with the will of the rising sun, I open my eyes. My first sight of Southern Shores University greets me again—a ceiling carved with flowers. The flimsy chairs and cloth walls remain, but instead of Pike’s smiles and chatter, crossed arms and dagger-sharp lips greet me.
The slightest upturn quirks the corner of his mouth, but stillness’ rigid fingers encase him, granting only the freedom of a tapping foot. His hair, pulled high in a short tail, patters like distant rain against the wall. Though it resembles the Golems’ paintbrushes, none of its darkness transfers to the beige fabric.
My nerves walk the edge of the blade in his hand, losing limbs on either side of it. I want him with me always. I want to craft his smiles and collect each one. Yet, his unease is a deluge, and I am a sponge made of salt. Only the cradle of his hand beneath mine keeps me from dissolving completely.
No, it cannot be his hand. His are both visible, their copper tint pale against the stygian flow of his new jacket.
My gaze shifts to the limb in question, follows the fingers to an arm, the arm to a shoulder, and a collar to a face.
Relief loosens his shoulders and cheeks, but tightness remains around his eyes. They cut to Jun for a hummingbird’s wingbeat, then return to me, gray-green streaked with the same gold that powdered Jun’s previous jacket—a jacket I no longer wear as I sit up. Instead, thin fabric matching the walls hangs loose on me. It smells of ash.
With a heavy exhale, Sal lowers his head to our clasped hands. “You’re alive.”
A thousand notions flock to my tongue, none of them willing to morph into the words I need. I have so much to tell Sal and no idea where to begin, especially with Jun present.
One insufficient syllable escapes. “Beau?”
Jun leans forward. “Third-degree burns, but he’ll live.”
My attention catches on his own burn just above his high collar.
“Whatever he drugged you with, I was sure…” Sal drops the sentence and looks up at me, chin on our knuckles and brow wrinkled beneath starlight-colored bangs. “No matter what we tried, you weren’t responding.”
“Did you share energy with me, Sal?” I ask as I extricate one of my hands and reach toward Jun.
My islander flinches but does not pull away as I press my fingers to his throat. Beneath my touch, the darkened wound fades.
He catches my wrist. “Can you walk? We have to leave fast.”
“No, Jun,” Sal warns.
My blue-eyed human ignores him, staring into my face and into my soul. “The dean ordered that one of Aunties’ students have to guard you at all times. It took a lot to convince them I should get a shift, and after that—”
“No, Jun.” Sal reaches for him, and the knife swings. The healer slides between Jun and I, breaking our connection and filling my view with golden jacket.
They fall, kick, and roll. A chain rattles. The knife impales the floor.
“If you want to die, Jun, trust me, you’d rather that happened here. Quickly.”
They still, tangled but with Sal mostly on top. The tip of an injector needle hovers above Jun’s eye. He struggles, but the chain wrapping them both leaves him no leverage.
I scramble to the floor, and my hand encircles Sal’s on the syringe. “I will protect him. Always.”
Sal snorts but does not resist as I relieve him of the needle. “We’ve had this conversation before.”
“Yes, and like you said, when my protection fails, I will heal him. I will learn so that I do not fail again.”
Sal scoffs. “I’m sure he wants to live through Mare dismembering him over and over because you keep putting him back together for her.”
“As many times as it takes,” Jun says, voice strained beneath Sal’s weight on his chest, “for me to kill her.”
This is where I should tell him no, that I am not taking him to Mare even if it means I lose the bet. That this is my best way of protecting him.
Yet, Sal responds first. “You’ll what?”
“This jacket? Go ahead, take the knife. Try to stab through it. It’s made from the hide of a captured Coral.”
Jaw slack, Sal retreats as if the basalt-like fabric is diseased.
Jun sits up, partly of his own will, partly because the chain still binds them together. “Beau’s drug knocked out a Creature of Essence for a whole night and then some. We’ve captured two Swine. We’re ready for this fight. We’re ready to claim this world.”
Sal speaks through his teeth as he unwinds the chain. “Fine. I’m done caring about you.”
“Never expected you to in the first place.” As Jun crawls free, he kicks Sal’s side.
Sal collapses, a hiss crumbling into a groan as I plant myself between them, my back to Jun. The healer cannot catch his breath. His fingers curl against the floor, dotted with scabs and bruises.
“Is that all from Aurora?” My hand hovers inches above his. “Did no one—”
“Don’t touch me.” He pulls in his arms and wipes his face on a sleeve. “Please. I’ll be alright. Just tell me you’re not taking that islander to Mare.”
He asks me to speak nothing but the truth, yet I would not wish for this to be its dressing. A “no” can land with a butterfly’s grace. This one has been forced into the frock of a hammer.
Jun’s touch presses into my back, the shift of his weight requesting I turn to him. As on the roof, he is so very close. Even the air carries a taste of him—sugar and iron. The butterflies I wish my rejection could be flutter in my core, their wings aflame.
A clatter precedes a shout, and Pike’s arms are tight around me, my name repeating a dozen times.
“She gets the point.” Jun drags him back, and the last render of my name squeaks as Pike’s collar pinches his throat. “Didn’t you have class?”
“Ended.” He shrugs away from Jun and gathers the bundles he dropped. “I wanted to run some of my inventions by Sal, but now we can all look. The more brains you put together, the more complete the puzzle, right?”
“As long as everyone’s brains get to stay in their own skulls.” Sal sighs as he attains a crooked sit, his legs crossed in front of him. One end of the chain shackles his ankle, while the other finishes in a half loop lined with spinning gears and anchored to the floor.
I frown at it.
He notices, and his shoulders hunch in a sad parody of a shrug. “I saw some things I wasn’t supposed to.”
“That’s an interesting way of putting it. Now he’s my captive audience.” With a chuckle, Pike unfurls the first bundle. “I give you exhibit A.”
It is a sack of sealskin with tubes, vents, and pulleys.
“It’s for taking air with you when you go underwater.”
With mild interest, Sal leans forward and pokes at it. “You’re really set on this ‘humans going into the ocean thing.’”
“Yep.” With a canyon-like smile and an avalanche of nods, Pike launches into an explanation of what each segment does.
As he chatters, my mind tears in too many directions. I still need to tell Jun—gently—that I will leave him here where he is safe. I need to tell Sal of my realm and ask his help in attaining my freedom. Yet, I see where Pike’s inventions for the Sea fill the holes in Beau’s inventions for the Stars.
I hear the tension crackle between Sal and Jun, and I wonder if perhaps my blue-eyed human is correct. These things will allow humans to breathe beneath the waves, to swim like dolphins, to secure themselves like clams.
Armored with the imagination of scientists, humans might really take the sea from Mare.
As the sun reaches the apex of its leap, the angle of the light through the high windows shifts.
Jag comes to relieve Jun, but my islander refuses to switch out, and Jag slinks away with distrustful backward glances aimed oddly at Sal.
Before I can ask their meaning, Halcyon fills the narrow gap in the curtain door, laden with bags. A knot within me uncoils to see him animate again and wearing an unharmed human disguise. From his burden wafts the scent of warm foods, and a primal string along my spine straightens. I am not hungry—the energy I have already burns and jitters, begging to be set free—but the lure of curious tastes persists, and I incline toward him.
His attention glides over Sal and the chain that tethers him to the floor before he offers one of the bags. “Lunch.”
With a muted, “Thanks,” Sal opens the package. Steam billows from the opening and quickly clears to reveal shredded meat drenched in brown and white sauces, wrapped in thin bread.
I stare, mouth watering, hardly able to sit still on the edge of my medical cot as the Dragon hands off a second bag to Pike.
He takes it with his fingertips, nose wrinkled. “Why does this reek of fish?”
“I selected the sushi for you. It has seaweed.”
Pike thrusts it back at him. “I’ve told you I don’t eat things that used to move around of their own free will.”
“You only want to eat prisoner fish?” Halcyon’s gaze jumps to Sal again, lip curling in a feral smile. “Do they taste better?”
Sal bites into his wrapped meat and returns the Dragon’s look with a subtle shake of his head.
“You like seaweed.” Halcyon pushes the bag back, and it thuds against Pike’s chest with a hollow thud. “Only eat that part if that is all you want.”
With a dramatic eye roll, Pike plops on a chair. “This one time, Halcyon. Because I’m considerate. Next time, could you be considerate?”
“I am considerate. I brought food you like.”
“Wrapped around evidence of murder I don’t morally approve of.”
Halcyon’s chin lifts. “You care more about it than the fish do. This is difficult to understand.” Folding his legs, he sits in front of Sal. “Can you explain?”
“Can and want to are two different things,” Sal mutters and stuffs his mouth with food again.
I inch forward, balancing over the bed’s edge. My gaze is a rope lassoing each of the Dragon’s five remaining bags. Which one does he intend for me? What does it contain? My patience is a lizard upon hot sand, in danger of frying if I succumb to stillness.
“Halcyon…” The name escapes despite my best efforts, the ending stretched and crimped, and he turns to me, eyes like glimpses of the sky through bronze leaves. Embarrassed of my impatience, I shy from the topic of the food, lip squelching between my teeth as I search for another subject. “Can you heal Sal?”
The Dragon’s head swivels back to my wise healer. “Can and want are two different things.”
Pike laughs. It is a sound of dew, sand, and waves sparkling beneath morning’s caress. “Halcyon, are you going to hand out the rest of the lunches, or is that all for you?”
“These are for me.” He clutches the five bags tighter, and I droop like a flower bereft of spring.
Pike slides his eyes from the task of unrolling his food, meat laid out reverently on one corner of the napkin across his lap and a long strand of seaweed dangling from his hand. He lifts an eyebrow.
Halcyon glances at me, then Jun. “I did not know the Pearl would awaken nor who her guard would be and what he would like.”
Sitting alongside the curtain, Jun clears his throat. “You’ve brought plenty anyway. You could share.”
“I only brought things I want to try,” Halcyon says, neck hiding between his shoulders. “I will not get to try them if you eat them.”
Chuckling, Pike cups a hand to the side of his mouth as if to direct his false whisper, though Halcyon sits between us. “That’s a dangerous venture. Yesterday, he decided to try my shoes. As in, eat them.” He points at the scuffed boots on his feet. “I had to borrow these, and trust me, no one should have to wear anything of Vidal’s.” He shudders.
Both Vidals rise to the surface of my memory: the one who introduced me to chocolate and the other who offered to let me try cockroach. They were nice enough, but I would much rather wear Jun’s jacket than theirs.
Wise Sal swallows the last of his meal, eyes on his sticky fingers. “Why not share like a good little lizard, and whatever you don’t get, you can try tomorrow.”
“Can and want—”
The sword of Sal’s glare cuts the quote, and Halcyon swallows his tongue with a flinch. From where does the authority in Sal’s look stem? Why should a Dragon fear a human, especially one injured and chained?
Unless the golden blood on Beau’s floor was Sal’s, and he is not human at all. He has met the Essences of Sea and Sky and fears them both. He rescues pirates, travels the world, and…
I peek at Jun alongside me, standing between two Creatures of Essence and trying to convince a Dragon to give up his food. Sal has met other Koa. He claims it is only book knowledge, yet it is more than that. I feel this just as I felt the truths in Issoria’s description of the stars. Either he has gone to their islands or he is old enough to have met the last ones who traveled. Perhaps both.
I sink into my knees, a puddle given to parched earth. Jun said they captured two Swine. Saburra escaped, but Sal sits here chained, with more knowledge about the sea than Pike who grew up on it. If he is the second Swine, is he the one sent to sabotage me? Even if he isn’t, can I trust him?
Here I am, wanting to tell him everything, even if he is a Creature of the Sea. Did I not want to make Pike my ally when I thought he was the Swine? When I fell in Terra’s cave, one of Mare’s minions did not laugh. He looked at me with envy because I had a freedom he did not and a chance to keep it.
The Sea is not my enemy, and I should not label a Creature of the Sea villainous by default. Yet…
I fear Sal is a Sea Swine, and how very much I wish to be wrong.
It was the only place we could ever be alone together.
An ancient sanctuary that cast long shadows & stood proud like an impenetrable fortress.
A place where the rest of the world could not enter & where the veil between worlds no longer existed.
A place where only the indifferent eyes of the forest animals and the Guardian Fay could see us.
His family could never accept the truth.
Mine would never accept him.
Yet, ever since that fateful day, when I was alone with my somber thoughts in my secret place and he found me, our hearts have been irreversibly intertwined.
His blue-green eyes danced with my own golden brown. In that instant, somewhere deep inside, we both felt it - an inexplicable sigh of relief. As if though our souls had been holding their breaths until that very moment and they suddenly remembered how to breathe again.
Even the green wood around us seemed to awaken from its’ silent reverie - a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the trees and letting sunbeams shine through the canopy of branches to alight on us. Birdsong emanated from somewhere nearby - their voices, unknowingly to us at the time, anouncing the work of destiny.
His gaze was piercing - like an arrow to my heart.
My eyes both moved and transfixed him - like an icy fire in his veins.
I had never seen someone so handsome before.
Even in his dishevelled state, he stood tall and strong.
His chestnut hair fell just above his long lashes, which, along with strong cheekbones and a rosy flush, framed his beautiful eyes.
His lips, full and enticingly pink, slowly turned upwards into a soft smile.
His dress, though strange in fashion, was woven of the finest fabrics - alluding to his station in the world.
When he spoke - it was the deep, undulating, and rich tones of a baritone cello.
I felt myself smiling back warmly at him - and our fates were sealed.
We spoke that day of everything and nothing all at once, as if we’d known each other for lifetimes rather the few moments the Sun declared. Before we could notice, the hours flew by, and the Moon began to dance her way into the sky.
Niether of us wanted to part ways, but propreity forced us to.
With a promise to meet again on the morrow, we bade each other goodnight and left - feeling lighter and fuller than either of us had ever felt before.
And so our chance meeting turned into days, weeks, and months of us meeting in our private safe haven - Each moment together becoming more and more intimate than the last.
Some days we played and laughed like children.
Others, we comforted each other from the pain and stress the outside world inflicted on us - the weight of our stations and lineages burdening us.
Then it happened.
One day, as we played on the overgrown ruins of an ancient Fay temple, he caught hold of me, pressed me close to his firm body and did not let go.
I laughed jovially until I caught myself trapped gazing at the warm and tender look in his eyes. They were like the sea amid a raging storm - countless thoughts and emotions swimming through them. His soft expression held me & then, as if in a trance, he pressed his lips to mine.
My soul soared within me & without thought my hand flew up to caress his cheek as the kiss deepened.
He pulled away to catch his breath for a second before his placing another soft kiss to my forehead.
“I love you...” he whispered.
His grip on me tightened, as if afraid I would vanish in that instant.
“I want to be like this, with you, forever...”
Tears, unbidden, sprung from my eyes. Joy and sorrow raging within me.
I held his face in my hands, his beard stubble scratching warmly against my palms, and kissed him once more - savouring the taste and the feel of him.
“I love you, my heart is yours - always....”
He wiped my tears with his thumb...understanding passing through him as I spoke the next words.
“But they will never let us be... This is forbiden and they will stop at nothing to keep us apart.”
We held each other as my words sunk in. His nose buried itself into my hair and breathed in deeply.
″ I don’t care...”
He stepped away from me for a moment, only to kneel on the grass beneath us and pull me down with him. He held both my hands firmly clasped in his own, as if in prayer.
His eyes became serious and, in the distance, I could feel the presence of the Fay Guardians observing us with interest, their power forcing even the lost spirits of the woods and the fauna to turn to us.
My heart beat wildly within as he spoke, each word radiating such power that I could feel its vibration flow through me, through the air around us, and the earth beneath us.
“This is a vow that cannot be broken.
My fate, my heart, and my soul unto you, and only you, do I bind.
No matter the consequence, no matter the cost, no matter the time,
to you, my true love, all of myself I bind.
Niether the Earth, the Seas, nor the Heavens shall keep me
Nor shall the beasts nor Man best me.
I will always find my way back to you, I will always keep my love and my promise to you true.
All my labours and trials will be for you, because all of me I bind, from now until the end of time, to you.”
He reached for the signet ring that sat on his left hand, a proud symbol of his birthright and status. In a swift motion, he stamped it into the Earth before pulling it off his finger and slipping it onto mine.
The gilded piece felt ablaze as it carressed my skin and settled swiftly into its place - as if it were mine all along.
My soul stirred within me, and without a second thought I let it take hold.
I reached around my collar and unclasped the necklace that hung there - a heavy weight that marked both my ancient lineage and me as the "infante" of my people.
The trees around us groaned and swayed as a strong gust of wind swept through them. On its breath was the scent of rain.
“I accept this vow that has been spoken,
and, in turn, offer this - a sacred token.
My heart, my soul, my fate I bind to you
Because I know your love to be true.
Your heart and mine will forever beat as one.
These vows shall be protected by The Divine, The Moon & The Sun.”
I wrapped the silver chain around his neck, his pulse beating fiercly against my wrist as I latched the clasp into place.
My hand followed the chain down to the glimmering pendant and held it for a moment before he reached up to feel it too. The metal, shaped like a crescent moon eclipsing a sun, caught the light and glowed for a moment.
He looked at me, eyes intense, before kissing me firmly once more.
There was a clap of thunder & in an instant the sky let loose a great shower of cool rain.
We laughed and began to run for cover.
Our hands never once letting go of the other.
We were happy, living out this secret love affair, for a time.
The faint glow of a lantern or the resplendent shine of the full Moon guided us through the labrynth of trees on the nights we couldn't bare to be away from each other.
We became careless.
One Moonless night, while our hearts beat in intimate embrace, we were caught.
A bitterly jealous maiden followed him that night to see what secret he held, to find the reason why he would not take her hand or reciprocate her affection.
She made no noise - simply observed with vengeful eyes and then left to indicte us to our families.
Her tale poisoned their hearts against us.
His family was ruthless.
He was beaten and lashed soundly with iron tipped whips before they sent him far away - heavily guarded by mercenaries at all times.
He tried many times to escape.
His body bore the marks of every punishment he recieved for his disobedience. He did not care.
His eyes and ears searched for any news of my fate. Even when the beating began to become more violent and his body lay broken for extended lengths of time.
The poison which so enraged my family drove the Patriarch to extreme fury. It was inconcievable that one of his own and of high rank would engage in such heresy. I was imprisoned for a brief moment while he gave into dark impulses and began to 'cleanse' his court by first murdering his wife, and then his servants. In his madness, and as I fled to the forest after escaping my prison, he rode his mount furiously. With the eyes of a hawk he set his target upon me and let loose an arrow.
My death was almost instant - the arrowhead sticking out from within my chest assured that. I couldn't scream, I could barely lift my arms to touch the fatal wound. I looked ahead to the eyes of the Fay just beyond the trees.
My body fell lifeless at the foot of the forest at the same moment my spirit walked out of it and stepped past the first trees in the wood.
The patriarch approached the cadaver - contempt and malice on his proud face, blind to the spirit that stood before or the Fay observing. He held no remorse for murdering his family or his youngest son before him now.
He unsaddled from the horse and withdrew a great broadsword - Intent on removing my head and using it as a prop to instill a reign of fear within our people.
He lifted his sword, and, in what can only be called divine retribution, was struck not once, but thrice by thunderous bolts of lightening. He screamed in agonizing pain as his flesh burned - the jeweled and metal adornements he wore glowed red and crackled as they broiled him alive.
From within the woods, The Fay watched, apathetic to his wails.
Even as his charred and smoking corpse fell to the ground, they stood still as statues.
They waited for another.
For the first time, I could see them clearly.
Tall, exquisite, and radiant beings.
Their eyes befell me and I felt their voices echo in my mind
“Come....Come to us, child.
Our Forest Prince has arrived at last!”
I cast one last sorrowful glance at my lifeless body and the tall towers of my ex home in the distance before turning and walking forward into the embrace of my new forest folk.
Their ancient tongue became as mine, their vast knowledge was my own, and the trees and wind that blew around us now beckond to my every call. This new family held me close to their hearts and nurtured my liberated spirit.
Yet, Despite their warmth and tenderness. They could not protect me from the deep sorrow and longing that invaded my being each night as I awaited my lost love. This new life, though warm and welcoming, kept me bound to the Forest.
They knew of this and let me be, gaurding the woods all around me as I held a signet ring close to my heart.
Their vision into the future, though sometimes shared, was one thing they kept to themselves and was still far beyond my understanding. They were Gaurdians of far more than just the trees.
The passage of time can be as cruel to spirits as it is to mortals, so I learned.
I sat and kept vigil in our secret place - waiting for the day he would come.
Each day and night felt longer and lonelier than the last...
One day, years after my own death and rebirth, as I held his ring close to my heart, I was overcome by unimaginable pain.
My entire being felt as if it had been set ablaze and I felt almost human again as an unholy scream ripped through me. I grasped onto the crumbling wall of the ruin I stood in and gasped for breath - quivering as the sensation passed.
Elsewhere, on the edge of the Forest, The Fay stood watch...awaiting once again.
Their ears deaf to the screams they heard in front and behind them.
The pain subsided completely and I could feel myself shudder - a breeze tickling my ethereal form.
I wandered over to where I could sit and held my hand to my chest, eyes glistening with invisible tears. Something had happened to him...I just knew it. The pain that had overcome me had happened to him.
Above, the canopy of trees swayed, Midday Sun poured into the green ruins and warmed my aether skin.
I sat still and listened to the words of the gales above...
It couldn't be true! He couldn't have died!
I buried my face into my hands, glittering stardust falling from eyes instead of the tears my human body had once shed. I couldn't leave the forest. I couldn't go see him or save him.
I felt myself about to begin sobbing when I felt it...
A strong ghostly hand alighted gently on my arm.
The touch almost too delicate - as if someone was handling fine glass.
I turned and found myself caught in the same beautiful oceanic gaze that I had bound myself to long ago.
″ I made a vow that could not be broken,
to always come back to you, to keep my promise of love true ”
My aether heart pulsed strongly and I felt myself filled with joy.
He lifted me into his arms and spun me around as we laughed like children once more. The ring on my finger sparkled, the pendant on his neck glowed, and when we kissed the forest around us shone radiantly bright - an explosion of light and life pervading through the thick trunks of all the trees and embedding itself into the soil and every fern.
We peppered each other with kisses and his warm embrace was so perfect.
He held me to his chest firmly, strong arms refusing to ever let me go again.
"I'm home..." he murmured softly into nape of my neck as he breathed me in.
"No... WE'RE home.." I smiled and snuggled into him more.
The Fay gathered around us and smiled warmly.
It was the only place we could ever be together.
An ancient sanctuary that cast long shadows & stood proud like an impenetrable fortress.
A place where the rest of the world could not enter & where the veil between worlds no longer existed.
A place where only the indifferent eyes of the forest animals and the Guardian Fay could see us.
It was our Enchanted Forest
It was our home....
Daisy pinched her cheeks as she sat on the bench- waiting,~ and waiting. She stared at the large screen that showed the different colour markers & points of the various train routes. ‘‘Where was the train she needed to head back home?’’ She thought to herself.
Just as she got ready to close her eyes for a short nap, she heard the familiar sound of the train moving on the tracks and the sound of the powerful engine. Her heart beat fast. She did not want to miss her train!
She rose to her feet & quickly grabbed her luggage. The train came to a halt and she soon heard the conductor shout: ‘‘Get on ‘board!’’
Daisy dashed toward the train & hopped on. She slowly moved along the side of the path next to the reserved seats. Once she found a spot to seat past the reserved section, she crashed onto the leather seat. She was ready to sleep all the way to her final destination.
The sudden break on the tracks startled Daisy. She looked around wondering how long she’d been in dreamland.
Without even trying to ask where she was, Daisy decided to grab her luggage from the bottom of her seat— ready to disembark the train.
She managed to carefully use the steps & hop onto the sandy ground. Daisy heard the crunch of something below her feet. She looked down and spotted fragments of something brighly glowing in the sand.
Daisy bent down to examine the materials in the sand a bit closer. With her free hand, she picked up a tiny piece of the material to take an even much closer look.
She gasped. Was this the precious stone that she had heard stories about from her parents when she was a kid? She shook her head. That was not right. Her home town was not known to have such resources.
Daisy dropped the precious stone & wiped her hand on her ankle length pleated skirt. She stopped to really take a better look around her. The moment she did, she dropped to her knees and she shook her head: ‘‘What town is this?’’
She began to panic and turned around to see if the train was not too far away. But the train was gone. Well, actually there were no train tracks anywhere she tried to peer.
Daisy squinted her eyes and waved her free hand in the air. She couldn’t see a thing. This place wherever she was had such thick fog.
The only thing that she could spot from where she was were some lights. She scurried toward them.
When she was near the lights, the fog started to clear. Her eyes came to view a town with creatures that were all seemed to be busy. She spotted a toad wearing a giant yellow coat by a stand. The toad croaked & bellowed: ‘‘Why are all the oranges gone? Who bought the last ones?’’
Was this some kind of open market? She stood and blinked her eyes in awe. This was probably not real. She closed her eyes & counted backwards from 34 to 1. (That was how far she could manage to count backwards, for now).
She was about to finish counting backwards when she heard another croak & bellow: ‘‘You whatever you are~ don’t just stand there with your eyes closed! Did you buy the last oranges?’’
Daisy opened her eyes and blinked again. She pointed to herself, & looked to her left and right. The toad hopped toward her. She wanted to run, but it seemed as if her legs were not ready to do that.
The toad stared at Daisy as soon as he was right in front of her. She cleared her throat ready to speak..the toad interrupted her- ‘‘Oh my...You’re a human. What are you doing in our town? Go back to your own realm!’’
Daisy could not understand what that meant. Had she traveled here by some kind of magic? Then it came back to her in a flash, she had not paid attention when she boarded the train.
She reached into her bag & found what her train ticket. Daisy’s hand trembled. On her ticket the route number was: 13. The train she needed to take was route 31. How did make such a silly mistake of purchasing the wrong ticket route?
The toad watched Daisy. She looked as if she had heard news that someone was sick. Daisy stared at the toad & quietly asked: ‘‘How do I get back home?’’
#13 (C) 15.08.2021