|The towers of the silvery city of Wyndimere stood reflected in the lake of a blue so deeply brilliant that it outshone the sun, and at night the stars deep in its water made pale their image in the night sky. In the highest pinnacle dwelt a princess whose fair face and beauty were second only to her innate wisdom. But though she was young, her heart was taken by a man she never met, the captain of her white fleet, who voyaged home to take her hand.
On the way to the silver city, he spied a green bottle floating in the azure waters. In the crisp daylight, he recalled the ancient legends of notes floating in bottles, and, as a sign, at that very moment the sun glinted from the bottle. Giving the helm to his second, the captain embarked alone on a rowboat for the bottle, but coming to it, he saw that it contained naught but a hermit crab and some sand. He turned to row back to the ship, but a fog had engulfed the lake and he could not even see the fleet. The waters of the ever placid lake grew choppy and dark, with forboding gray vortices, and the captain was severed from his fleet. A wave capsized the boat plunged him in the cool waters. The captain let the darkness take him and fell out of conciousness.
He awoke on the shores of Wyndimere, the bottle clutched in his hand, but all had changed. Every face he passed was painted with sorrow, and though they did not recognize him drenched in brine and seaweed, the pain of his shame he saw in every angry eye. The town square was deserted, filled with the discarded trappings of a sad celebration which was meant to be of love. But all of the trumpets had blown, and he had not answered, and now he had cast himself out of all light and chance for love. Returning to the waters, he found an abandoned rowboat crafted of driftwood, and with nothing other than his clothes, he bore off into the sea.
Everywhere he went, he was known, not for who he was, but for the shadow of his abandonment of she who was adored by all. That weight he bore with steady eyes, empty of meaning, and all who saw those eyes feared him for his glaring defiance of all that anyone held dear.
When his face had weathered beyond recognition and he grew grizzled, he took up the job of a porter for an inn in an outlying province. By shear chance it was, that province the princess chose for viewing the festival of falling stars. She came into the inn, and though his face had changed, she recognized him instantly and bid her train depart so that she might speak to him alone. The fear and shame rose in his heart when he saw her, but only four words did she speak: "I still love you."
"I cannot hear what you say," said the man, "And I am weary."
"Then I wish you a sound rest so that your weariness parts," said the princess, "And I hope only that you will, seeing me here now, take that chance that before never passed."
Said the man: "It is not night that will clear that from my brow and...I wonder? Has that chapter already been penned? And is there anything left to do than walk with my head high and take pride in my desolate ignomony or to pass away out of time and fall from living memory?
"It is too bad you love me. I am sorry for that and I don't know what to do.
"But what difference does it make? It is nothing but the whistle of wind through the leaves."
The princess bowed politely, saying nothing, and went to her room.
Late into the night, the man tended the fireplace, drowning his own sorrows in the bitterest of house ales until that too drew no pleasure, and then he sat in silence for hours watching the fire die down. It was only on appearance of the star of morning that he knew his heart, and he wept. The bottle he had kept all of these years to fill with his shame. Penning a note, he sat it before the princess's door, and walked out to vanish again, but no longer could hold his eyes to those of others.
He went to the woods to disappear, but standing in the clearing was the princess, waiting for the meteor shower. "It is said," said she, "That he who spies the first shooting star shall get his wish."
Looking up, a star fell, and then the sky was filled with raining light. Not even knowing his own thoughts, he took her and kissed her lips, holding her tight against him.
"That is my wish," he said.
"Ancient legends speak of notes in bottles," said the princess, "But I do not believe in such things. What would such a note read?"
"Only that I was unworthy of you," said the man.
"Your heart is of the sea," said the princess, "And mine is of the sky. But by chance of fate we share a world together. Let us not further spend the hours on bad poetry."