A tale of 1004 nights....
|The Tale of the Unwept Sea
For it was in the time of the Sailor’s Moon that the 7th son of Singhbad set sail on his first voyage as Captain. His ship, known barely, as Haifase, or Wise Woman, was named after his aging grandmother who, if truth be told, was not wise at all, but thought she was, and if a further truth be admitted, had given him the funds to build the ship. So, being a prudent lad, he named his ship after his grandmother and set sail for what he hoped would be a most prosperous voyage.
Selim, for that was our prudent sailor’s name, brought with him on this trip a Chrittenwald. Now a Chrittenwald is a creature with aspects of fox and monkey, behaviors of parrot and dog and a mind both cunning and magical. Now this Chrittenwald was not above resorting either tears or bribery to get his way, and while not exactly eager to be on a small ship on a very big sea, was practical enough to realize that the grandmother would be left far behind. The Chrittenwald did not like the grandmother at all, for you see, the grandmother was wise in the ways of certain things unknown to Selim, but not, unbeknownst to the Chrittenwald.
Thus the unlikely pair sailed off under the full moon with adventurous hearts if no accurate maps for the ones Selim could afford were drawn by the youngest son of the bookseller Akvard, who, if truth be told, drew more from his imagination than from the map he was supposed to copy. And Selim, being more prone to following a prevailing wind than a map in the first place, was quite happy following the path the moon set before him and ignoring the chittering of the Chrittenwald high in the rigging.
Several weeks passed in which the ship and her crew survived several terrible storms without losing more than one of the sails and a lesser cabin boy overboard. Having put in on an unknown island (for it must have been undiscovered as it was not on his map) for water and whatever beasts they might hunt down, Selim and the Chrittenwald opted for a companionable jaunt down the beach. Out of sight of the ship, they noticed a path that seemed to disappear into the thick overgrowth at the edge of the beach. Selim was all for exploring the path, but the Chrittenwald perched on his shoulder suggested it might not be wise. Selim, upon contemplation of the Chrittenwald’s words, promptly ignored him and set off down the path.
After a space of time during which Selim discovered that while the Chrittenwald was covered by a thick layer of fur, he was not and thus at the mercy of the hummingbugs that seemed especially thirsty for his blood, the pair found themselves at the end of the path and in sight of a sparkling waterfall which churned the turquoise waters of a small and sun dappled lagoon. Splashing happily into the water and swimming over to the waterfall, Selim ignored the chittering of the Chrittenwald as it called him a dictionary full of names for getting him wet. Underneath the waterfall was a small cavern and in the middle of the cavern was a a long, pink carpet. In the middle of the carpet was an open chest overflowing with all manner of glorious gemstones, ropes of creamy pink and black pearls, piles of golden coins and a small black rock. Hanging from the ceiling of the cavern and rising from the floor were large sharp pillars of white rock, pointed at the ends and glistening faintly. From beyond the waterfall he could hear the Chrittenwald yelling to him, but the words were diluted by the falling waters, and, to Selim’s way of thinking, no where near as interesting as the treasure resting in easy reach before him.
Reaching out to take a large shiny diamond from the pile and busy deciding the best way to transport this treasure to his ship, Selim was suddenly terrified when the rug beneath him vibrated and he heard a deep rumbling voice.
“Answer my riddle, wandering one and thou may have one of my treasures, but only one on the pain of your death. Answer my riddle not and thou shall unleash thy death.”
Frozen, with his hand mere inches away from the diamond, Selim tried to, but could not discern from whence came the voice.
“I,” it continued, “am the beginning of eternity. The end of time and space. The beginning of every end, and the end of every place.”
Now, Selim, not being particularly bright to begin with was completely puzzled. The beginning of eternity? The end of time and space? From beyond the waterfall he could hear the Chrittenwald yelling but it sounded more like he was screaming “aaaannnnneeeeee,” which made no sense at all to Selim. The beginning of every end? Poor Selim had no clue and was beginning to ponder how else he might take this treasure and get out of here alive. It was about this time that Selim realized that the white pillars resembled teeth which meant that the pink carpet was, in reality, no rug but a giant tongue.
“Annnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” screamed the Chrittenwald. Selim shook his head. He never had liked riddles much and this was proving to be more than his mind could figure out. Suddenly through the pouring water, the Chrittenwald came shaking and sputtering, his eyes whirling and shooking out emerald sparks. “An E you dunderhead. The letter E.”
“You have solved the riddle that had thus far been unsolved.” said the dragon. “You make take one of my treasure, but only one. Choose well.”
“Take the rock,” said the Chrittenwald. Selim reached out for the huge diamond. “No! I said take the rock,” said the Chrittenwald pointing to the small black rock in the middle of the pile.
“But I want the diamond. Surely ‘tis worth more than a small black rock.” Again Selim reached towards the diamond. “Fool!” cried the Chrittenwald and ended the discussion for once and for all by grabbing the small black rock and scampering back towards shore.
“Be gone!” said the dragon as he began closing his mouth, the great serrated teeth coming together. Selim bolted out of the dragon’s mouth mere seconds before the teeth gnashed together.
Back on the ship and sailing into rising seas, Selim sat in his cabin and contemplated the small, black rock. It seemed to be a worthless thing and certainly of no value that he could see at all. He put it in his pocket and upon hearing the shouts of his crewmen, forgot it was there at all as he ran topsides and beheld the storm.
Great waves crashed over the prow of the ship as he steered directly into the storm. His men scrambled to bring down the sails before they blew into tatters. The Chrittenwald entwined himself around Selim moaning and muttering about being wet yet again this day. The small boat rode up and up the approaching wave only to reach the crest and begin to slide down the other side…down and down, seemingly to the bottom of the sea before struggling to once again climb the next immense wave. All night the ship battled the storm, losing first the main mast and then the mizzen. The ship creaked and groaned under the stress. At long last a particularly gigantic wave ripped Selim’s tired and aching fingers from the wheel and swept both him and the Chrittenwald overboard.
The next morning, dawn found the soggy pair half on what had been the door to Selim’s cabin. Upon waking, the first thing the Chrittenwald did was cuff Selim in the head for getting him wetter than he ever intended being ever again. For days the pair floated aimlessly upon the waters. Thirst and hunger parched. By day the sun beat down mercilessly and by night the cold and the wet made him long for the day. By the fourth day, the pair were nigh onto dead and only sheer luck kept the Chrittenwald clinging to Selim and Selim clinging to his cabin door. Unconsciousness was perhaps a blessing that final day as they drifted towards a black smudge on the horizon.
Selim’s eyes opened. He watched a small crablike creature scuttle across his hand before realizing that he was lying on a sandy beach. The last thing he remembered was another storm and a wave tearing him from their makeshift raft. Sitting up and looking around him, he was amazed that he wasn’t on a beach after all. Of sand, here was plenty yet he could see no water: there was no ocean in sight. No matter where he looked, there was naught but sand.
As Selim’s mind turned yet again to wanting fresh water, drinkable water, the Chrittenwald woke and shook himself free of the sand. At least his fur was dry again. Gloriously dry.
“Where did the ocean go?” wondered Selim.
“Oh, I wished it away. I was tired of being wet!” answered the Chrittenwald.
“But where are we? We need water!”
“Then I suggest we start walking and find some.” With those words, the Chrittenwald began walking over the nearest dune.
For several days the pair walked, then dragged themselves across dunes towards what seemed to be an oasis in the distance. When they finally reached what they thought was the oasis, it always seemed to reappear just a little farther along. In desperation, Selim put the small black rock in his mouth and sucked on it, fooling his mouth into producing small amount of saliva.
“Can’t you wish up some water?” asked Selim. “I am so thirsty. We will die without water/”
“That worthless rock has helped keep you alive thus far.”
Selim removed the small rock from his mouth and looked at it lying in his opened palm. It seemed smaller that it had and upon closer inspection it seemed as if there were tiny hinges and a minute clasp. He lifted the tiny clasp and open the rock.
Water gushed forth. Clear, blue drinkable water poured forth from the rock. Selim danced and drank the clear, delicious water never noticing that it was still pouring from the rock. The Chrittenwald sprang noisily to Selim’s head screaming about being wet yet again! The water rose, eating the sandy desert and spreading out as far as his eyes could see. Soon Selim had to swim to stay afloat.
But the sun seemed to foat lazily in the sky, and soon cool breezes blew. Nests floated by with eggs, fresh and delicious. Soon, in the distance was an island with trees swaying in the breeze. As they reached the island, Selim saw a beautiful maiden walking towards him. She, of tawny tresses that swept the ground behind her, she of eyes that mirrored the sky and she with a smile that promised a thousand delights came up to him and bowed before him.
“Thank you for freeing me from my prison. I am Michiela. This hand-shaped land is where my grandfather sent me long ago. Shall I tell you my story?”
As Selim was led to a table laden with all manner of foods and delights, and settled upon silken pillows, Michiela served her hero a plate piled high with food. The Chrittenwald, in the meantime had made the wonderful discovery of Michiela’s companion in her solitude, and the two Chrittenwalds wandered off to exchange their histories which are another story for yet another time. But for now, we are privy to Michiela’s tale.
“When my mother was young, and fair and beautiful, she lived at the edge of the sea. It wasn’t the salty sea of which you know and sail, but a sea of clear, cool waters that gave life to all who drank of it. Across this water came a young man with eyes as green as the grasses that lined the water’s edge and skin fair as the clouds overhead. They fell in love and he invited her to return with him to his home across the waters. My grandfather overheard them and sent the young man away telling him that his daughter wanted no part of the young man’s far away land. The young man left with a heavy heart and without seeing my mother again. From each side of the waters they yearned and cried for each other, their tears flooding into the waters and turning it to salt. When I was born my mother left me behind to search for her love. I never saw her again. My grandfather imprisoned me here, on my island in clear waters to keep me safe until such time I was released by he that would love and cherish me. Thus you found me here in the Unwept Sea. If you will stay with me and love me, I will take you and all my treasures home to your land and we can live happily ever after.”
Selim smiled and held her close. With a wave of her hand he saw all her treasures. Emerald flashed in what he’d thought was grass. Flying redbirds dropped rubies as they flew by. Sparkling sapphires rested in the clear water. Treasure rare and precious and worth many fortunes. Yet Selim could not take his eyes off hers for long and he knew he held the greatest treasure of all. In a moment’s brief wisp Michiela and Selim, the Chrittenwalds and the treasure were all transported back to Selim’s home. There, he was welcomed by his grandmother and all the others who thought he’d been long lost at sea.
“Thus ends the Tale of the Unwept Sea and of Selim who learned much about what treasures surely are.” Scheherazade ended her tale in perfect timing as the Sultan yet again was deep, deep asleep, lost in the mesmerizing tales woven with her silken voice. He lay trapped within the threads of her tale, unable to move as she bit deeply into the Sultan’s neck for that which would sustain her for yet another day.