Fantasy themed quest for the discovery of True Love and the price it require...
A man dances within a ballroom with a beautiful young woman, surrounding him hundreds of others do the same, following the slow steady rhythm of the music. The pair moves with such a grace and elegance that many of spectators simply stand gawking at them.
On a balcony, placed at a higher level than the ballroom a spry old man sits in a throne, dressed in richly decorated vests he appear both elegant and imposing, with an aura of austerity that exude from him. All changes when his wrinkly hand is grabbed tightly by a feminine hand, the skin not as soft as it had been years before while, still giving away a warmth that help the old man to relax and bask in the glow of his wife beauty, even in her old age.
This is the court of King Trent, ruler of the lands of the East. The occasion is the betrothal of his son, Lucius, to the Princess of a nearby kingdom.
Lucius dance graciously with his partner, his betrothed, in the middle of the ballroom, as all the other guests are staring at them. Some are looking at him with envy while many others are just sending him lustful gazes. He’s, after all, known in the entire Kingdom as Prince Charming, for he seems to be the epitome of beauty and prowess in battle. Even with his golden armor on he keep moving swiftly, dancing with a woman he doesn’t love.
Love, such a strange word for him.
What is love if not an emotion that is built with time?
He knew it was like that. His father had told him so, countless of times.
There was no such things as True Love.
As he moved, so did his stare, until his eyes were drawn to those of a woman standing still near a fountain. Suddenly his gaze couldn’t be moved from those eyes, those beautiful, beautiful eyes. Everything around him disappeared, the guests, the ballroom, even his betrothed. Nothing mattered to him anymore if not for the woman with those emerald eyes.
As the dance finished, he courtly accompanied the young Princess, which he had to marry, to their table, and he left her there, as he moved through the crowd trying to reach that mysterious woman. He had to know her, he had to speak with her. He felt as if an unstoppable force was driving him, letting him focus solely on Her.
It was with relief the he found her still near that fountain, as she lightly touched the surface of the water with her fingertips, as a smile appeared on her face. Lucius felt himself grow weak only by seeing that smile on her alabaster skin and, as he neared her, he felt himself grow weaker and weaker, as her beauty radiated more and more for his eyes.
As soon as he had reached her, and had begun working his best to charm her to him, as she looked at him in silence, when suddenly her mischievous smile appeared once again, stunning him into silence.
“What is it, My Lord? Have you lost your tongue? Where are now all those sweet little words you were gifting to me?”
Lucius stood baffled. He couldn’t speak. He wanted to keep his charade, he wanted to impress that unknown woman and still, he hadn’t any more control over his own tongue. He stood there, silently, basking in the radiance that she seemed to be exuding. Suppressing those feelings he managed to utter a few words but, they were quickly shushed by the mysterious woman.
“My Lady, I…I would…”
“Please, Lord Lucius…or should I say, Prince Charming?...Go back to your destiny, My lord, your betrothed is waiting for you. She’s searching for your gaze to find hers. Go back to her and forget about me, I’m not worth it.”
With those words Lucius saw the mysterious woman go back to the fountain, dipping her fingers in the water one last time, before turning around and disappearing into the crowd. The last thing he saw of her, was her magnificent sea green dress, covered in beautiful patterns of small emerald gemstones.
As that woman disappeared, his cold, logical mind told him to forget about her, to return to his guests, to his soon to be wife but, his heart, his beating, irrational heart, pushed him in the opposite direction.
He had to see her again, he had to see that smile, those eyes. But what forced his decision, at the end was his pride.
Supported by the fiery emotions from his beating heart, his pride pushed him to follow her, to show her that he was The Prince Charming.
Any other woman had fallen prey of him, how could that one resist him?
Yet, even if in the depth of his soul, he knew it was only an excuse. But even with the raging battle within himself he moved swiftly, leaving the ballroom, trying to figure out where that woman could have been gone, under the surprised glare of all the guests in the ballroom.
As soon as he was out he began asking to any who he encountered, maids, servants, until he found an answer he didn’t like, coming from one of the guards that manned the gate of the castle.
“What…” Lucius growled ferociously “…have you said?”
“M-My lord! We saw a woman in a flowing green dress...L-Leaving the castle on her coach…She…She seemed to be going toward the town, My lord.”
Lucius knew it was madness but he couldn’t stop. He had to see her again.
Quickly he ran inside the stable, saddling his horse and mounting it in a hurry. He couldn’t delay a moment longer, he couldn’t afford to lose her traces but, as he began moving his horse toward the exit, there appeared the figure of his father.
“Lucius, my son, what is the meaning of this folly? Why are you here, as if ready to travel, when your guest and your Princess are waiting for you inside?”
“Nonsense! You will stand down from that horse and you will come back with me.”
Lucius knew that it was the most sensible thing to do. He knew he should follow his father, even humiliating himself so low as to kneel and invoke his betrothed to forgive him. But those emerald eyes and that mischievous smile kept taunting him. He could almost hear her voice in his mind.
‘Catch me…Reach me…Show me that you’re really the Prince Charming of Legends…’
The king moved forward, sensing that something had deeply perturbed his only son. Slowly he placed a wrinkly hand on the youthful leg of his son, still seated on the saddled horse.
“Son? What has happened to you? What has caused you to lose your control? You, always in control, you who follow the cold logic, instead of letting emotions overcame your senses.
What has happened? Tell me, my Son, and I shall assist you in any way I can.”
Lucius gritted his teeth, as another fiery, burning pang enveloped his hearth. He did not know where his usually cold logic had gone, but gone it was. He couldn’t delay any longer. He had to go, now!
Without a single word, and taking advantage of the freed access to the exit, Lucius pushed his horse forward, forcing it to erupt in a gallop just as soon as they were out of the stables. The king, fallen on the ground after the sudden departure, could only moan in pain as he saw his only son running away from the castle, from his future, from his own family, without knowing what sort of madness had descended upon him.
Lucius galloped like a madman on the mountain trail which led to the town of Manrdt. The town itself, even though supporting the castle of the King, wasn’t much to look at. Still, he knew that if he didn’t manage to gain on the fugitive woman, he could easily lose her there. Frantically, he pushed more and more his faithful beast, trying desperately to increase its speed. And his steed, loyal to a fault, did its best to please its master.
The sun was already starting to appear on the horizon as Lord Lucius reached the town, still he didn’t stop, even though he felt tired and drained of his energies, he pushed onward, asking question, gathering information until he managed to trace his quarry at the port. Always running he managed to reach the port, even though he had to shove away some of the citizens with undue harshness. His mind tried again to stop him, to stop this mad chase but his emotion were overruling his logic. He had this feeling inside him, this emotion with no known name that pushed him forward, that forced him to keep following that mystery woman who had managed to break his defenses, leaving him a gaping wound in his heart.
One that only she could close.
Reaching the port he stopped when he saw her coach, parked and empty looking. With a burbled cry of anguish he strode forward, grabbing the coach driver and pulling him close to him, as he released from its scabbard his sword, placing it right under the driver’s neck.
“Where is your Mistress? Where has she gone?”
The driver stood speechless, with a blade on his neck and a pair of crazed eyes looking right into his.
“I…I don’t know whe…”
Lord Lucius, roaring in rage, almost skewered the man with his blade, trying to force an answer from his lips.
“Tell me where, or I swear I’m going to kill you.”
For a moment, Lucius stood baffled from the words he heard himself pronounce. Was he really ready to kill an innocent, for that mysterious woman? What was happening to him? This raging monster wasn’t him.
It couldn’t be him.
With shock he released the man, letting him fall to the ground in fear, as he tried to collect his thoughts, as he tried to calm himself.
The coach driver didn’t speak, he hadn’t any voice left, filled with terror as he was. He simply raised his arm, pointing at one of the sailing ships. Lucius didn’t wait any longer but, when he reached the dock, the ship had already sailed. In that moment he began feeling the sense of tiredness, the way his body was telling him that he was void of energies.
As he stared at the ship though, he saw her. For a moment only he snatched her figure standing at the port side and for a minute he was sure she was looking at him with those alluring eyes.
An anguished cry emerged from his throat, as he fell on his knees on the wooden planks of the dock. Tears fell from his eyes as he realized he had lost her. He wouldn’t be able to see her again.
‘No!’ he thought as he slowly rose from his kneeling stance, as a new vigor filled him, as he fought his own body to stand once more.
‘No, I won’t lose you. Not when I’m so close to reach you.’
For the son of the King, finding a ship had been a joke, he had only to promise an hefty reward to the captain of a small sloop and already they were sailing, cutting the waves as the small ship ran on the ocean, trying to catch the bulkier merchant that was hiding the woman that had enchanted him.
Lord Lucius stood on deck, day and night, under the sun or the rain, unable to move, unable to pry his eye from the LongEye used to watch the horizon in search of other ships and lands. He was using it to see Her ship. He could see it, far far away, almost at the limit of the LongEye. Still, the captain of the sloop tried to give him comfort, informing him that they were gaining, informing him that soon they would have reached the other vessel.
That was until the cargo vessel approached what seemed to be a dense wall of greyness.
Lucius could hear the other shipmates whispering among themselves about that wall, about the unnamable horrors that were laying behind it, about how all ships who had entered had never returned.
It was then that Lucius learned the name of the region where his mysterious woman was directing herself.
The Dark Depths.
He had heard stories of that place, legends told to him when he was but a kid. Of monsters who dwelled there, sinking whatever vessel navigated through that region or of nightmarish creatures which plucked men and women alike from those ships that passed there, dragging them screaming into the depths.
No one on board of the sloop wanted to get near that place. Even the greedy captain began refusing each and every offer Lucius made to him to push him, to force him to continue. Eventually, seeing as the cargo vessel passed the wall of fog that separated the Dark Depths from the common ocean, Lucius managed to get one last request from the ship crew.
To get as near as possible to the Wall and leave him on a rowboat, so that He alone was to brave those dangerous waters. Before going, though, he gave to the captain the second part of the compensation he had to give them. The agreement was to give away the money only when safely back in his Kingdom but, knowing that he, probably, wasn’t going to be back made it decide to give now the bounty.
The greedy captain felt, for a moment a pang of misery in his rotten heart.
Here he was, abandoning a man to certain death, and that same man was even going to respect their contract even more then he truly had to. As the captain made to speak, Lucius interrupted him.
“No, Sir. It is a quest of mine and I cannot ask you or any of your crew to join me. It’s true, I’m probably condemning myself to death but it is a sacrifice I have to do, I feel it deep within me. I’ve never felt such an emotion, Captain, I wish I knew what was its name but it is a mystery I will solve on my own.
Take the gold, Sir, where I’m going, I’m not going to need it.
As Lucius stood in the rowboat, a small barrel of pure water and some supplies to last him a week, he began rowing toward the Wall, staring as the sloop that had brought him there turned back and toward their kingdom.
“Farewell Mother, Farewell Father. I’ve got to go, I can’t surrender now that I’m so close to her.
Farewell, Fair Princess. I wish my eyes were able to see only you but, alas, that has not happened.”
He knew to be speaking to the wind but, he felt somewhat relieved after that and it was at that time that his boat went through the fog, letting him enter the Dark Depths.
He rowed for the entire day and the full night, even when he was so tired he would have fallen asleep, he kept rowing. The burning sensation within his heart pushing forward, pushing him to continue the search for that woman, to search for her eyes, to search for her lips. For her mischievous smile who seemed to have casted a spell over his hearth.
It was at the following day, when the sun was high in the sky, that he saw the first wreckage. That his hearth began to beat faster in his chest. As he pushed forward, more and more wreckage surrounded him and it was with a heavy hearth that he finally recognized the flag of the vessel he was searching, drifting lazily on the surface of those dark waters.
As Lucius saw the flag, something inside of him seemed to break apart. For hours he stood silently in the rowboat, unmoving and waiting for the unnamed monsters to come and take away his life. He had given everything away following that madly search, his family, his duties, all he had managed to gather for himself had been thrown away on a fool’s errand.
Suddenly a fire roared in his broken hearth.
No, he wasn’t the kind of man to sit there and cry himself out.
He had always been a warrior and as a warrior he was going to leave that world.
Taking out his sword from its scabbard he readied himself to jump inside those waters to, at least try, kill or be killed in a combat. But just as he was ready to jump, something entered his field of vision, something that stopped him in his tracks. Something that made his heart beat even faster.
For right in front of him, on a piece of wood, he saw the woman he had chased up to the Dark Depths, quietly sleeping with her head resting on her arms, and those locked against the wreckage slowly drifting on the surface. He was at loss for words. She was there, right in front of him, and once again he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move.
He could only stay there, still as a statue, watching at her beauty. Somehow, he realized, she seemed even more beautiful now that her skin and her hair were completely wet. He marveled at her for countless time until she opened her eyes and she looked at that man on a rowboat, closed in his suit of golden armor.
She gave him a sad stare, always resting her head and arms on the wooden wreckage.
“My Lord, what are you doing here? Why haven’t you stayed at your castle, with that poor woman who was betrothed to you?”
“How could I? Ever since seeing you, there hasn’t been any other thoughts than you. Not my Father or Mother, not my Princess nor my duties. Nothing seemed more important than seeing you again. To hear your voice, to watch you smile.
Come with me, I will renounce to all I have, to all I ever have been, if that is your wish. Come back with me, let’s leave this place, M’lady.”
“Go. Go away, My Lord. Escape this place until you can. Please, My Lord, save yourself before it’s too late!”
“No. I won’t leave you behind, Fair Lady. No matter the price, I will stay by your side. The only thought of abandoning you, cause me to suffer from a terrible wound in my heart. I can’t…I shan’t leave you, now or ever.”
As those words were pronounced, the water that had been dead still up to that moment, began to move as if a current had just now woken up from its slumber. Lucius fought with all his might to remain in one place but, the sea was too strong a force for him to beat, slowly, his boat began following that current, which seemed to spiraling down, toward a twirl that had formed itself not too far away from where he had first found the wreckage of the cargo vessel.
“M’Lady! Come to the boat, I shall protect you!” he shouted just as he saw her head disappear beneath the sea. Already he began to remove his armor, ready to abandon the safety of his boat to save that woman, when she emerged beside his boat.
“Very well, My Lord. Come with me, and I shall show you, your fate. Come, take my hands, My Lord Lucius.”
He didn’t hesitate. Swiftly he brought his hands to those of the woman for which he had given away everything and he suddenly felt himself being dragged underwater. As he plunged into those waters he couldn’t stop from thinking at how much more beautiful she was. Her lustrous hairs moving underwater as if they were alive. Her eyes, sparkling with life and sadness, he noticed.
But what left him without words were her legs. For where any other human had two legs, the woman that he had followed had a long and scaly fin.
‘A mermaid!’ He thought.
‘Yes’ he heard her voice in his mind ‘Yes, My Lord. And this will be the cause of your down fall…’
She expected the young human to start trashing, to fight her hold on him, and was entirely surprised when he simply hugged her, keeping her as close as he could.
‘I don’t care what you are. I don’t care what is the price of being with you. I find you the most beautiful creature of both sea and land. How could I resist you? How could I fight you?
All I want is to stay with you…and to know your name, so that I could cherish it for the rest of my life.’
‘Pree’ he heard her melodious voice in his mind. ‘My name is Pree.
And this is the price of your folly…’
Lucius felt himself being turn around, toward the source of the vortex that had started few minutes before. He couldn’t believe his eyes. For in front of him he saw a huge mouth twitching feverishly, dragging down whatever there was on the surface, toward a quick death by thousands of sharp fang like protrusions.
‘What is that!?’
‘That is the Queen of the Depths. That is my mother.
Long ago, she was just like me, but then something caused her to feel such pain that she changed. She became a monster, a devourer. She…She doesn’t hurt me but…She never spoke to me…She has never approached me.
Only when humans come, she seems to arouse from her slumber. And she does so only to destroy them.
You should have stayed in your Castle, My Lord, for I have to give you to her.
I can’t…I can’t…’
Lucius felt the hold on his hand slacken and soon he felt himself falling down, toward that mouth ready to crush him to death. Still, as he slowly fell, dragged down by his armor, he couldn’t stop thinking to his Pree.
‘Yes, My Lord?’
‘There has been a question that had tormented me all my life. A question for which I never had found the answer. Now, I have found it.’
‘What question, My Lord?’
‘You keep calling me that, even though I’m nothing compared to you.
The question that tormented me was…What is love?’
Lucius felt himself almost over the wide mouth, which teeth were ready to annihilate him.
‘And now I know the answer.
My answer is…Pree.’
Lucius closed his eyes, preparing himself for the unimaginable pain of being crushed alive but, he suddenly felt a soft, but strong pair of hands grabbing him, holding him steady. Turning around he found himself, face to face with another mermaid. Visibly older than Pree, but nonetheless almost as beautiful with a long, wild mane of silvery hairs.
‘Who are you?’
‘I am… Scylla.’
Lucius was so surprised he tried to inhale, only to realize that he couldn’t. Before he could panic, however, the voice of the older mermaid relaxed him.
‘Don’t you worry, Human. As long as a Mermaid has a hold on you, the sea will not harm you. Are your thoughts true? Were you truly ready to give away your life for the chance of being with my daughter?
No, don’t answer yet. Let me tell you a story, first.’
As Scylla prepared to mentally convolute her message, Lucius felt the soft fingers of Pree on his shoulders, silently awaiting for her mother words, as small crystal like tears fell from her eyes, just from seeing her mother true identity for the first time.
‘It was eons ago. I was young and foolish. As I was walking through earth, as my daughter did not long ago, I met a man which impressed me and favored me. He was full of sweet words and compliments for me…and I…I fell in love.
I gave him my most valuable treasure, something that once lost, I could not recover again. As I did, as I opened myself to him…he abandoned me. He fled the sea and hidden himself on land, where I couldn’t find him.
The pain in my heart grew to become hate for mankind and, right after my only offspring was born, I let that hate possess me. I became the monster that He had created. A monster who swore to annihilate mankind if it ever crossed these waters.
Today, I felt your emotions for my only daughter and those have awakened again the love I feel for her, letting me abandon the hate toward mankind, to provide love for Pree, my only daughter.
Now, young human, were those words true? Are you sure you’re willing to pay the price, whatever it is, to love her? ’
‘Yes. No matter the price.
I now know what love is and I have to thank Pree for it. How could there be any price that would be too steep to pay? No, no price will ever be too high for her. ’
As Lucius thought so, he entwined his fingers with those of the younger mermaid, relishing the sensation of being with his True Love.
‘We shall see, Human. For if you lie, we both will die…and our race disappear from this world.
This is the price you’ll have to pay.
You shall be immortal, as we are, and no malady, no hunger, no thirst, nor weapon will be able to take your life. But as we are able to walk the land one day every hundred years…So you shall be able to swim for one day, every hundred years.
You may be able to listen us, to speak with us. But you shall wait a hundred years before you could stay with her for one day.
This…is the price you shall have to pay.
Are your words, still true?’
Ages has come and passed, old kingdoms have fallen and new ones were raised, wars erupted and rebellions ended. The world of mankind was always changing, always moving with the times.
But in the region known as the Dark Depths, something seemed to stay frozen in time. On a small island a small hut had been erected countless of times, made from the wooden scraps brought forth by the sea, it was under continuous repair but was always there.
As there was always a man there, wearing an old and rusty suit of armor, sitting on the sand near the water that surrounded the small isle. There, the man, sat listening at the sounds of the sea, at the movements of the waves and at the songs of his True Love, that sang for him during the night, as he sang for her during the day, waiting for that fateful day on which they could finally be together once again, finally able to enter the sea or walk the land, together.
‘No’ thought the man while hearing a mischievous laugh in his mind
‘No price will ever be too high for you, my beautiful, beautiful Pree…’