Moon Story-Myths of a new world (ch.1)

MOTTO:

I am the Ocean, wild and restless….Passionate and tumultuous….running from shore to shore, embracing coasts and sands….lighted up by my bold lighthouses….Goddess…Cradle….Lost in love between the Land and the Moon

Land-god: Adanes

Ocean-goddess: Eneys

Moon-goddess: Selurys

River god: Joren

River goddess: Janysse

Forest goddess: Shantania

Mountain-god: Gormell

Sun-god: Arauss

Wind-gods: Walcor

Animal kingdom: Faunes

Plants: Floriesse

There was a time when the planet was just a barren bulge of rock rolling around the sun, followed closely by its equally dull companion, the Moon. The surface of the Earth was dull-brown, cracked and dusty and the grey moon in its skies was much closer than nowadays.

In the eerie silence of the hollow space surrounding this odd pair, Time was monotonously flowing and there was no sign that things would change anytime close. Oh, but that was just an illusion! As soon as the news of an untouched and hopeful planet spread through the Universe, fleets of young and bold gods took their course towards the planetary system. They were coming from different corners of the stellar vastness, their knowledge gained and polished throughout many other such challenges. There were land-gods and water-gods, air-gods and moon-gods, ice-gods and fire-gods, wind-gods, forest and plain gods, star-gods, thunder gods, rain gods and everything imagination could bring to life. They came in various shapes and size, greeting each other as old friends. Soon, the Earth was undergoing huge changes and some of these creative young spirits were ready to call this new planet: home.

The excitement and the hardship of the challenges of reshaping of the planet brought some of the gods and goddesses close and love took flight in blaze under the new skies. The mighty Adanes, leader of the land-shaping gods had no eyes but for Eneys, the skillful goddess of the planetary ocean. They quickly teamed-up and while the young man was putting all his strength into rising rows of towering mountains, the graceful young woman was bringing the blue waters up to the rim of the land, washing the shores, smoothing the lines, filling them with soft, silken sands and colorful pebbles.

On the land, Joren, the River-god and his sweet-heart, Janysse, the River-goddess were running free, sometimes alone, sometimes together, cutting deep in the flesh of the rock, creating steep or large valleys, jumping on boulders, falling in sprinkling, splashing, roaring cascades….Their children, crystal clear springs, glittering streams, boisterous rivulets were crisscrossing the land in an huge life-giving web.

To keep close to his loved one, Adanes raised islands inside the swaying expanse of blue-green oceanic waters while Floriesse, goddess of the Vegetal Kingdom adorned them with lush greenery and exotic flowers. Then came Faunes, god of the Animal Kingdom and filled the branches with colorful, noisy birds and under his artful touch, some of the flowers took flight, becoming butterflies. Enchanted by the beauty of these unexpected gifts, Eneys’ heart was flooded by her love for Adanes and she rolled the frothing waves around the islands, building magic underwater gardens below their shores.

As the final touch of creation was done upon the planet, the gods and goddesses gathered on the top of the highest mountain to celebrate and to enjoy the fruits of the land.

-What a beautiful work we did, my friends!-exclaimed Shantania, the forest goddess. I’ve never felt so inspired like I felt here! I’ve loved to dress up in greenery your bold heights, Gormell-she continued with a charming smile towards the giant god of the mountains. I raise this cup of wine to all of you!

-Cheers!!!

Lying lazily on his comfortable chair, the Sun-god was shaking his head in slight disapproval. He made a grimace as he took a sip from his glass ….

-Yeah, you’re right Shantania. This place looks great now! But that dull piece of rock following this magnificent planet is annoying. It spoils the harmony of the entire neighborhood; it’s lifeless, colorless and hopeless…I wish it didn’t exist!

-Don’t be so cruel, Arauss!-exclaimed Eneys, distraught by the harsh judgment upon the poor little moon. It’s too small to contain life but I think it’s still a lovely companion for the planet.

The other gods laughed and that just spilled oil on the fire; the Sun-god got angry. He was a temperamental guy, usually joyful and nice but on a short fuse. He jumped to his feet and trashed his glass.

-I could send that useless pebble to the outskirts of the system!!!

-Don’t. You. Dare.

The voice saying this was something between a hiss and a growl, instantly sending shivers on the spine of the audience. They all turned towards the newcomer and so did Arauss. The Sun-god was about to deliver a shattering reply but as he faced the stranger, he reddened and swallowed his fury.

-Oh, I see….It’s you…-he muttered.

The shortness of his response left everyone stunned. They weren’t used to see the flamboyant young man stepping back from a confrontation. Who was this stranger anyway? The gods watched it with unhidden curiosity.

The young woman standing before them was tall and slender, an androgynous appearance. She was wearing a dark blue velvet tunic and slim pants and her black hair was braided in a complicated coiffure. But the most astonishing, even disturbing feature was her face: it was half black, half silver-white and the almond shaped eyes were matching the opposite colors. From the black half, the eye of liquid silver was watching them coldly, piercingly while the night black eye of the silver side had a warm but melancholic look. The woman bowed politely towards the audience.

-I salute you-she said and this time her voice was deep and soft. Let me introduce myself: I’m Selurys and Arauss is my step-brother. I came here to change the fate of the modest companion of this planet.

In a spur of a moment everyone surrounded her, talking excitedly, offering her treats and wine and a place at the table of gods. Though he stood morose at first, Arauss reconciled after a while with the presence of his step sister and the feast went on joyfully.

-I’m glad that she came to give a chance to the little moon!-said Eneys, her wide turquoise eyes twinkling happily. She seems to be a nice person.

She cuddled in the arms of her husband and Adanes laughed, squeezing her lovingly.

-You have a wonderful heart, my darling. By the way: I’ve tried to get some information about Selurys from her brother but I think that Arauss is already drunk because he mumbled something about her being a trickster or some kind of a magician.

-She looks strange but I remember my grandmother telling us stories about some elusive gods of light, called “tellurians”. It came to my mind the moment I saw her. I don’t care if she’s going to perform tricks or magic as long as she can keep the moon safe from her brother’s rage! Arauss can be so annoying sometimes…

-I’m sure she will-chuckled Adanes, kissing Eneys. Don’t worry! Let’s go dance!

Late that night, Eneys was peacefully sleeping in the arms of her love, under the dome of sparkling stars. The planetary ocean was gently rocking from shore to shore, the night breeze playfully ruffling its glossy surface. All the gods were resting except for one.

From her vantage point, Selurys was watching the world. She held up a hand, her long, graceful fingers moving in a slow, mysterious dance until a bluish white light sparked on her fingertips. Selurys caught that luminescence, rolled it carefully in both palms and then, with a swift gesture she spread it over the world bellow. Minutes later the light reached the surface of the ocean, making it translucent for the fraction of a moment. Selurys was watching intensely, searching for something hidden in the liquid abyss. When she finally spotted it, she nodded and left the place with a small sigh.

Up in the skies, not so far from the planet, the silent moon was waiting for her.

Standing in the middle of the dull-grey plain, the young goddess was spinning round and round, her long, silver streaked black hair flowing in the air like a magic veil. Black and white, black and white…the two-faced goddess was turning with arms raised to the skies…Black and white, black and white….

Mesmerized by her spinning, stars were leaving their places one by one, gathering in an enchanted flow, spreading, crashing to the ground with the sound of a million crystal bells…Swoosh! Selurys was turning and the velvet canopy trembled and stars were falling like the rain…Swoosh! The Goddess turned and the glow draped her in a silver cocoon…Swoosh! She kept turning as millions of shards and star-splinters were sinking deep in the soft dust…

Black and white, black and white…Selurys was dancing, swirling, while under her feet, graceful dandelions erupted, turning the plain into a swaying ocean of silver globes. When the last dusty grey spot was covered in silver white, the goddess stopped to catch her breath. The surface of the moon was gleaming and glittering in the milky light.

With a faint smile on her face, Selurys left the bright side of the moon and turned her attention towards the one hidden in the shadow. This side was eternally facing the star-specked darkness of the Universe and light could not survive on its surface. Nonetheless, the moon deserved beauty on both its sides so Selurys traced a few magic signs in the dust and slowly blew air over them.

A shiver ran across the dark land and the rocky crust seemed to waver…then cracked. Tall, dark stems were rising one by one from the cracks, bearing clusters of glossy, black flower bells. The thin, cold air was filling with sweet scents and tiny, silver-spotted black butterflies were flying up and down the dark plain. The work was done; the Moon, faithful friend and follower of the Earth was shining in full glory. Exhausted but happy, Selurys lay down and fell asleep. The Gates of Dawn were soon opening and Arauss was ready to give the start of a new day.

Eneys was wondering if Selurys has managed to do anything for the little moon. It was impossible to get a glimpse of it in broad daylight; Arauss was the undaunted master of the skies for now and all she could do was to wait patiently till the end of the day. Eneys sighed and turned her attention to the rolling waves of emerald and blue. A family of dolphins was splashing playfully, cutting the waves and the goddess of the Ocean joined them with a smile. She summoned a foam horse and led him towards the glowing horizon. The early wind sprayed the salty water into her face and covered her into a shimmering cloak of mist. The galloping of the Sea Horse ended as he reached the soft sands of the shore of a small but spectacular island.

It was one of Eneys’s favorites, with two high pointed peaks and lush forests. She jumped quickly off her horse’s back and run happily along the shore, splashing the water under her feet…..

A large and dark butterfly crossed her path and gracefully sat on her left shoulder. Eneys halted her run and held out her arm, inviting the butterfly to walk into her palm. It was a beautiful creature, with glossy black wings spotted with silver specks….like the night skies. The goddess was amazed; she has never seen such a butterfly before. Yet somehow this fragile creature looked familiar and Eneys was wondering where that feeling was coming from….

-You like my butterfly, Ocean Goddess?-asked a velvety voice behind her.

Eneys turned swiftly and faced the tellurian goddess. Selurys was looking at her with head slightly tilted.

-Your butterfly is beautiful-said Eneys. Now I know why it felt so familiar; it resembles you in both colors and grace. How is the moon doing?

-You’ll see it tonight-said Selurys with an enigmatic smile. You’re invited to visit. The butterfly was meant to be my messenger but then I decided to join you. Would you show me around the island? It’s been a while since I’ve talked with someone….We, the tellurians we are regarded as some oddities by the other gods-she added with a grin.

Eneys shook her head and smiled.

-I would be delighted to show you everything you’d like to see. Come, let’s take this path through the forest; there’s a beautiful waterfall at the end of it and a passageway to the Ocean that only I know.

Selurys bowed courteously and followed the turquoise eyed goddess. Soon, the curtain of greenery closed behind the two young women as they delved deep inside the sanctuary of the tropical forest.

As one footstep followed another, connection blossomed with every word the two young goddesses were exchanging. Like leaves opening one after another on the growing vines thirsty of sunlight, the ongoing conversation was constantly growing and entwining, opening new doors and paths inside the soul of each of them. By the time they reached the remote waterfall, they were both feeling like they knew each other since the beginning of times. The sudden bond was rooted somewhere so deep that they were oblivious where it lied. So when Eneys reached for Selurys and took her by the hand to show her the entrance to the underwater cave, the slim fingers closed in a familiar hold.

-Look down, Selurys!-whispered Eneys, excitement filling her sweet voice. Do you see that light in the depth?

Selurys scrutinized the shadow-filled hollow at their feet and she spotted the bluish patch of light.

-What is there?-she asked.

Eneys playfully shook her head, her long blue-green strands floating in the air and she gave a short laughter.

-There’s a row of stairs leading there. That, my dear tellurian, is my Secret Garden. It’s the place where my foolish heart is hiding to dream and I don’t know why, but I feel like showing it to you. Something tells me that you won’t laugh of me. Come!

The row of stairs was narrow and slippery, the air was damp and cold while the light was scarce in the high cave. But that dimness was not a problem for the eyes of the tellurian goddess; she was a child of Shadow and Light and she was more comfortable here than under the blazing of his brother’s sun. As they stepped off the stairs, the scenery opened before their eyes. It was a shore, a sky and an Ocean inside the planetary Ocean. An unexpected sighting. A personal area. The glow was seemingly coming from an invisible source or maybe the light was encompassed in each grain of sand, in each drop of water and each breath of air. It wasn’t the light of a sun but an inner radiance.

The sand was smooth and silky, the waves gentle and the breeze was soft and scented. Eneys and Selurys sat on the shore, quietly talking. With a few swift moves of a hand, the Ocean Goddess was building ephemeral cities of water while Selurys was sending clusters of silver spotted butterflies to fly around the translucent towers and bridges. Another gesture and the cities were crumbling just to make place to floating islands or fantastic water creatures. The velvet butterflies were gathering and splitting in complicated ballets and the two young dreamers were laughing joyfully.

-It’s getting late and I have to go-said Eneys with an apologizing smile. Adanes will soon return from the continent.

-It’s time for me as well-chuckled Selurys-or I’ll miss my appointment with the Moon. Take your loved one and watch the sky tonight!

They rushed back to the cave, taking the stairs in a hurry. Behind them, the radiance of the Secret Shore was fading. Only the soft, ivory sand was still holding the memory of the two rows of footprints…

The night embraced the world, softening the sounds and effacing contours. On the high dome of the skies the twinkling chandeliers of stars were lighting up one by one. No one was sleeping on the planet. As Eneys spread the word, gods and goddesses, nymphs and naiads and other magical creatures were gathering in excitement, watching the sky.

The wheel of stars was slowly turning when a new light glazed the rim of the horizon. The silver glow gradually spread, conquering more and more of the dark waters of the heights. A thin slice of a white disk emerged beyond the horizon and the stars retracted from its way. All murmurs died on Earth as everyone was holding breath.

One smooth push and the Moon sailed into the ocean of dark above, showering the planet in silver light, casting an eternal spell upon every corner of it, upon every living creature, upon every dreaming soul. Standing in the middle of her dandelion field, Selurys enjoyed the flow of awe mounting towards her. She searched the faces for the one she felt close and there she was! Eneys was riding her carriage of dolphins and she was leading the waves of the ocean towards the light that was falling from above. The waves were rising higher and higher, their fingers of foam reaching to the Moon and the people of mermaids and mermen were riding the rolling waters, saluting the new jewel of the night sky. Eneys stopped and bowed with a smile before Selurys, her green eyes shining like emerald, reflecting the moonlight. Selurys returned the smile and with a spin, released the seeds of the silver dandelions to fly. Millions of tiny sparks filled the air, landing in a slow and graceful swirl on the planet bellow. By the time Eneys reached the island where Adanes was waiting for her, a delicate veil of silver dandelion seedlings was covering her long, blue-green hair.

-You look like a bride, my dear with this flower veil-said Adanes teasingly and kissed her. You’re the Moon bride, I might say….

-It’s beautiful, isn’t it?! The Moon.

Eneys was truly excited by the splendor of the planet’s companion.

-I must admit that Selurys has performed nothing less of a miracle with that seemingly hopeless boulder- boomed the voice of Arauss from his chair hidden in the shadows.

-I have invited our friend to join us tonight-said Adanes to the Ocean Goddess. He wasn’t in the mood for the crowd.

-Good evening, Arauss!-said Eneys, embracing their guest. You seem to be impressed by your sister’s work. May I ask then why do I feel that there’s some bitterness between the two of you?

Arauss sighed.

-It’s not easy to talk about. The Clan of the Tellurians is a strange and challenging one. Whoever lets them in its life can be sure to live through the heights of joy and the depths of misery. They can vanish without a trace and without explanations, leaving you empty and devastated. That’s what happened to my beloved father; one day he woke up to an empty bed and was left with a troubled little girl that never fitted in our Court life. Selurys has remained an oddity despite our father’s best efforts. Not that I was of any help. I was too cocky to accept her and to defend her in front of my friends. She left the Palace as soon as she became of age and since that, we never crossed path.

-She’s very creative and I think she likes me. Despite the appearances, we seem to have a lot in common as points of interest-said Eneys cheerfully.

-And I can understand if she has fallen under your spell-chuckled Adanes. Who wouldn’t? –he asked with a blink.

-Just keep in your mind that she’s a natural charmer, Eneys-warned Arauss. But who knows; maybe your charm will prove more powerful and you will tame her.

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The Invisibles-Chapter 6.

Dim light, a dull pain in her skull and voices arguing somewhere close…She tried to move but realised that she had been strapped down to a bed. Oh well, so much for her adventure in an alien land….What happened to the little boy?-she wondered. Cora sighed, concerned. She turned her attention to the heated debate in the next room.

-How do you know she’s not a threat ?!- shouted a woman’s voice. You can’t even say she’s human! Who had ever seen a human being with wings?!

-Temper yourself, Petunia!-came the response in a deep, calm voice. Just listen to yourself: these are the exact accusations we hear against the Changers. And no, I have not seen a winged human before but I won’t fall to prejudice out of fear and ignorance.

-It’s easy for you to speak, Satoru! You can always return unharmed to the Citadel! But I fear for the life of my children and I cannot afford such trust!

-Come, come, Petunia! You’re plain unjust. Satoru has never jeopardized our lives. On the contrary! The third voice was clearly upset.

-Let her speak, Ogren. She has her point and I must take that into account. Petunia, don’t worry. I have not forgotten my duties as your leader. Go in peace and please, take care of little Avik! We don’t know yet what happened to his mother.

-Thank you, Satoru-said the woman in à much calmer voice. I’m sorry for being harsh but it’s not always easy to deal with the endless flow of orphaned children and distressed youth.

There was a moment of silence as the woman left the room. Cora held her breath, listening to the two men left in the room next to her.

-What do you intend to do with her? -asked the man named Ogren.

-She might be a stranger to our land and someone totally unexpected, but we cannot act like those who had turned us into outcasts. I will keep in mind your wife’s concerns, my friend. I value her selfless work and effort with all our children. But I need to make my own assessment before I can take a decision. Till then, she will remain confined to this perimeter and she will be closely guarded.

Cora decided that she has heard enough.

-May I speak for myself, please?!-she shouted, hoping to get their attention. She succeeded; someone came and lifted the shades from the windows, letting the morning light in. The person approached the bed, bent down, starting to unstrap her.

Blinded by the light, Cora closed her eyes, opening them gradually to adjust to the luminosity.

-I have unstrapped you but please, don’t try to run away-said the man with the deeper voice. You have no chance to leave the room without my permission.

As her eyes became accustomed to the daylight, Cora looked with unhidden curiosity to the two men facing her ; after all, these were the first people belonging to a different nation. To her slight relief, they were very much human, just like the distressed child she had picked up the previous night.There was a young, slender one, sitting in a chair facing her and a bit sturdy one, standing in the doorframe.

-Hi!-said the young man sitting in the chair. His voice was deep and soft. My name is Satoru and him – he continued pointing towards the man at the door,he is my friend, Ogren. Who are you and what are you doing here?

The girl tilted her head pensively, trying to assess the situation. Judging from his posture and the way he was addressing the question, Satoru seemed to be the leader of this place.It was also the position acknowledged by both the woman and the other man, during the previous discussion. With his pleasant features, dark eyes and shoulder-long black hair, he was quite handsome. He had two streaks of silver strands and the look in his eyes was serious and inquisitive. Ogren, on the other hand, looked more relaxed and with his light brown hair and gentle hazel eyes, he reminded her of a big bear. Cora took a deep breath and decided that the truth was the best answer:

-Hi! My name is Cora, I’m on a personal quest and I ended up here after being caught in a storm and being hauled by a whirlwind.

-Hmmm….Satoru was half-smiling, hearing such an incredible story. “This girl had guts” -he thought. -And where do you come from?

-I come from Arberia, a neighboring country and I’m a Queenie. You can find my letter of recommendation from my Queen in the backpack.

Ogren and Satoru exchanged glances. This story was becoming increasingly weird. But before anything, a voice called from outside:

-Satoru! Ogren! Are you there?! I have news from the Citadel!

In the fraction of the moment when no one payed attention, Cora sprang from the bed to the ceiling and then turned sharply to the door, flying out above Ogren and heading for the exit. She heard a feral growl behind her and something strong and heavy caught her mid-air, pushing her face down on the floor. The beast kept her immobilized until Satoru ordered to release her. Ogren helped up the girl and escorted her back before Satoru. A huge black, cat-like creature with sharp white fangs and yellow eyes was sitting at the feet of the young man, fixing Cora with suspicion. The girl sat back silently.

-I’ve told you that you cannot leave without my permission. Why were you running away?

-Because I am a free person and I did nothing to be held captive!- she replied defiantly.

-Fair enough! -chuckled Satoru. But before we fix that, allow me to speak to the messenger. I’ll be back in a moment. Till then, Ogren will give back your belongings!

The young man slipped with ease from the chair and left the room, riding the big cat. Cora was befuddled. As the door closed behind the young leader, she turned to the man left in the room. Ogren handed her the backpack and mumbled, visibly uneasy:

-He was born this way….But his spirit is bright and fearless and he is highly respected by everyone.

-I see…-murmured Cora. I can understand that; he seems to be a fair person. May I ask you something?

Ogren nodded agreeingly; despite his strong appearance, he was a bit shy and Cora’s openness made him nervous.

-What happened to the child I’ve picked up last night? How is he?

-Oh! He’s fine. His name is Avik -said Ogren with a broad smile. My wife, Petunia is taking care of him and of the rest of the orphans. In fact, he was asking about you this morning: “Where’s the lady with the cookies?” If Satoru will allow, you could come to visit him.

-I would love to! -sighed Cora happily. Thank you, Ogren.

****

Petunia was holding her baby, rocking her gently. She glanced to the window, watching the children play outside. Avik, the new boy was still standing alone in a corner; it was too soon to expect him to join the others. Petunia tucked her sleeping daughter in bed; of the five little ones in the house, only her child was born in freedom and had loving parents by her side. The young woman’s heart sank, thinking of all the other mothers and children separated from each-other….Not that the fathers would not suffer just the same; Ogren, her husband was adoring their little girl. Petunia sighed and tidied the children’s beds in the room. She took the half eaten cookie hidden under Avik’s pillow, then decided to put it back. This was not an ordinary cookie; it was a piece of those given him by the winged girl.

Huh….Suddenly, Petunia felt ashamed for her outburst at Satoru’s place. Maybe their young leader was right. Oh! Ever since she has become a mother, she’s got highly emotional. But considering all the aspects of their life in the forest, it was understandable. The former Invisibles were living in freedom outside, but the Citadel was a constant reminder that the nightmare was not over and that the crimes against the Changers were continuing…

A loving bear-hug brought her back from the moment of reverie. It was Ogren.

-Darling, I’m afraid I have bad news: the White Guards closed the northern exit after Avik’s escape. They caught his mother but we don’t know what happened to her. It will take time till we can find another breach in the wall. I’m sorry. Don’t tell the boy; at least not yet.

The laughter of the children reverberated in the heavy silence of the room. Crisscrossing between the moments of hardship, life was boldly pursuing its way..

*****

After the messenger left and Ogren to returned home, Satoru knocked on door. The girl jumped from the bed and opened the door.

-Would you join me for breakfast? You must be hungry-said the young man.

-Only if you let me help and if you dare to taste my cookies. I still have a few left.

-I will; I’ve heard that Avik likes them- said Satoru with a pleasant smile.

They moved to the other room, setting the table and sharing a simple meal together. The forest was providing the necessaries for the community of outcasts.

-It tastes almost like home-said Cora. Most of us, we live a simple and happy life in Arberia. My father is a carpenter and my mother is weaver. What is the name of your land?

Satoru watched her for a moment before answering. With her bright copper hair and the sparks in the eyes, he found her attractive. Her natural openness was comforting and the young man felt he can trust her.

-I don’t know if our land has any name at all. We were all born inside the walls of the Citadel and that was the known world for us till we were forced to leave it.

-But why? What’s happening inside that amazing city? Why was a small child like Avik running away in the middle of the night?!

-Because of what happened many years ago inside the walls, when the Silver Tree, our protective Spirit was damaged.It’s a long story…

-Then I am in the right place….-murmured Cora, remembering her dream.

Satoru was surprised by her words.

-What do you mean?-he asked.

-The night before starting my journey as a Queenie, I had an unusual dream. I woke up in a blurry place and I’ve met a spirit that kept saying “My tree is dying. My tree is dying”. It was a lonely and frighten spirit and I made a promise to find it and save it. Then I’ve heard that voice once again before the storm left me in your land. Do you think this is just a coincidence?

Satoru was taken aback by the girl’s recounting. Maybe she was just a good storyteller, someone with a load of imagination… But if she was telling the truth, it means that the Silver Tree was in grave danger and that it reached out, beyond the Citadel’s boundaries, for help. And this fiery girl had picked up that call not entirely unexpectedly.

-You call your land Arberia. Is there any particular reason for that?

-We have many trees in our land but we have one that is standing out of all. That particular Tree is our cradle and our home and we are all connected to it. We can feel its benevolent presence all over our land. And as a would-be Queen (or Queenie as we are called), we were taught and trained to gain a higher level of spiritual contact with our Tree before we started our quest. I’ve lost contact only when I landed here. But your land is also speaking to me. I can feel its spirit.

-What do you feel?

-Loss and sadness, fear….The spirit of your land is broken for some time. I find hard to detect the signal of the tree you are speaking about.

Pain washed over Satoru’s face as he listened to the girl before him. What she was telling confirmed his fear. Things were getting worse inside the Citadel each day. Asterius was endangering everyone’s life. Sooner or later, they must confront him!

Cora watched in silence this deliberation, sensing the deep emotional flow coming from him. She felt a strong communion with this outstanding young man. Her personal quest has led her in this land to join forces in saving a Tree of life and despite the scarcity of information, she knew that she was in the right place, with the right people. She wished Satoru would trust and accept her….

She leaned over the table and placed her hand on his hand, looking straight in his eyes.

-I don’t know about your history and I never knew that your land and people even existed. But I know why I am here: to help you save your Tree. If you think you can trust me, let me do it. Please, Satoru. I want to help.

He gazed inside the translucent pools of her eyes, pondering the answer. They’ve met in unusual circumstances, they were strangers to each -other, they knew almost nothing about each-other…Still, she felt like an open book, straight and trustworthy. And there was even more in her presence, something like a soothing summer breeze. He took her hand and in that split of a moment, the spirits of the two distant Trees connected through them.

-Let me show you around-said Satoru. I want you to meet my people.

The moment he stood up, the Shadowcat materialized at his feet. Cora yelped. She has almost forgotten of the impressive feline.

-You’ll get used to her; as you see, my legs are not much of help to me. Without Gondwana-said Satoru, calmingly caressing the cat’s head-I can’t take lengthy walks. We teamed up together when I came here and tamed her. It’s all about trust-he added with a smile.

-I hope she’ll accept my presence-replied Cora, returning the smile. So, where do we go?

-I want to introduce you to Savian. He’s the founder of our Colony and the one who can answer all your questions. He’s our living history book, one of the most revered Changer artists. He’s a bit of a recluse so we have to travel deep in the forest. You can ride with me if you feel it’s too much for you, though I’ve seen your admirable skills.

-Thank you, but I think I can manage. Extensive flight is part of my training and it was one of the very few things I loved to do being educated as a Queenie!-chuckled Cora.

-Let’s go then!

They plunged in the forest, heading for Savian’s tree-house.

The Invisibles-Chapter 4.

The Silver Tree was dying. It wasn’t the fire of that tragic day causing it. No, it wasn’t that. Those flames had barely touched it,as Tigra had taken upon her the destructive power, sacrificing her life. But losing her as the One connected to its spirit, the Tree was left alone and deeply saddened. He missed the love she always brought, the joy that she constantly collected and transmitted from the people of the Citadel.

Not that Asterius was neglecting his newly assumed duties. No, he was diligently checking on the Tree, day by day, round and round up to the top, climbing the scaffolding built around it. Made at the order of Asterius , it was like a golden cage and the Tree felt trapped. The Opal Gates were never again opened and light was coming only through the luminatory from above. Asterius’ visits were bringing no relief or warmth to the Silver Tree. The touch of his hands was chilling like the cold of winter. There was no love lost between them. They both held secrets and the Chief Guardian was weary about anyone connecting to the Tree. It was too much at stake to take such risk.

Without love, the Tree found no joy and reason to thrive and live on. Outside the Sanctuary love had seemingly died , being replaced by fear, hatred, silence. Dead silence. Just like the green of the leaves turning to yellowish shades, the people of the Citadel had lost their colors. In the passing twenty years, the once joyful, diverse and sizzling community turned into a quiet, down-toned conformity. Of course, they were alive and following their daily routine. They were falling in love, marrying and having children. They were building, creating and sustaining the life of the Citadel. They were listening to the words of Asterius spread by his followers and they were respecting the rules enforced by the White Guardians. They have long since stopped being preoccupied about the Silver Tree. Asterius was in charge of it so they had no reason to worry anymore. Life of the Citadel was going on well and in order.

Or maybe not? It’s not in the nature of human beings to give in to pressure for long, so it wasn’t only the Silver Tree hiding a secret. In that tragic day, Savian and à group of Changers made à narrow escape from the White Guardians and moved into the dark forest outside the Citadel. They knew no one would dare to follow them. That was a territory shrouded in legends and mystery.

It wasn’t always like that, but gradually, the people of the Silver Tree build their home around the life-giving entity and slowly, they separated themselves from the rest of the land, encompassing the Tree into their city and secluded, yet thriving culture. The decision changed the balance of the land, concentrating most of the strength of the Silver Tree inside the walls and leaving the outside world to thrive mostly on its own. Losing contact and knowledge about that world, people filled the gaps with imagination and stories about fantastic beasts. Little they knew that the darker world of the forest outside was indeed home to some exceptional animals.

The group of Changers lead by Savian soon discovered that outside the walls of the city their abilities were diminished so they had to rely on their average human side. Nonetheless, the forest proved to be an acquiring place and they’ve set foot and made a safe camp easier than they expected. So they’ve built a new life and kept close to the city to help escape their Invisible brothers and sisters.

Inside the white walls of the Citadel Asterius kept an iron grip on people and hunting down the Changers remained one of his favorite activity. There was seemingly no escape from him, his army of Guardians and the ferocious ferdogs. The Invisibles were left to lead a miserable existence, stealing food, sleeping in hidings, pushed aside by the rest of the people. Helping them was strictly forbidden and treated as an act of treason so there were a very few daring to do it.

Yet they were the ones helping the Invisibles or the uncaught Changers to escaping from the city. People couldn’t leave the city without approval and even then, it was considered a foolish act by most of the citizens. And yes, the White Guardians were patrolling the walls, followed by their ferdogs, preventing people from doing such things. But when your child in under threat inside the walls, the world outside doesn’t seem so frightening anymore. Leanna learned about the escape route by chance.

The northern wall of the city was the oldest ever built and it was hidden behind the dense shrubbery with thorns meant to scare away anyone from inside or outside. Even the guards were keeping their distance while patrolling the area. That vegetal growth was impenetrable. Well, not exactly. Once in every moonless night, the shrubbery would open a narrow passageway to the outside but finding it in the darkness was not an easy thing to do. Neither was finding this piece of knowledge as it was shrouded in myth and legends. People dismissed it as à tell-tale, but for those desperate to save their lives or that of their loved ones, even a legend could bring a ray of hope.

Myths and legends Leanna knew a lot. A large collection of ancient stories was all she had, left from her late mother. Her gentle father used to read her stories from that book when she was small and soon after she had learned to read, it became her favorite reading. Going through these stories was like walking hand in hand with her Mom in worlds beyond imagination. Leanna never learned her real name and she stopped asking when she saw the pain in her father’s eyes. Now the legacy of her mother was opening the way to save her little boy.

The young mother was all alone in her hardship. As soon as it became clear that their child was a Changer, her husband left them. He didn’t want to get involved in such a disgrace. All he could promise was to keep the secret for a while. Now mother and child were trying to reach the northern wall under the cover of the moonless night. They were lucky not to meet anyone on their way. The nights were still cold this time of the year, giving a chill to those venturing out. Chased by the boisterous early spring winds, clouds were running in the skies, filtering the light of the scattered stars. The two ducking shapes reached the premises of the shrubbery. Leanna touched the tip of the entwining of branches and surprisingly, it opened a bit before them. She pushed the child forward and followed him, listening to the noises behind. They’ve soon reached a narrow opening in the wall. Right under it, a steep slope was leading into the valley ,its rim guarded by the dark mass of the forest.

-We have to descend and get to the trees, my dear-whispered Leanna. But when she wanted to move, something caught her leg from behind and she heard the growl of the ferdog. She pushed her child forward, screaming:

-Run, Avik, run!!!!

Scared, the child tripped and rolled down the slope. He ended up dizzy and pained, with the voice of his Mom ringing in his ears:

-Run, Avik, run!!!!

He stumbled and ran and stumbled again in the darkness, sobbing…

-Mommyyyy….mommyyyy….

A sudden swoosh and something or someone picked him up, flying into the skies, holding him close, keeping him warm. A gentle voice was whispering in his ears:

-Shhhht, don’t cry little one! You’re safe with me….

***

The sudden appearance created a commotion inside the small group hiding at the rim of the forest.

-What was that?!-exclaimed some of them.

-I don’t know-responded another voice-but we must hurry to find out. That child might be in grave danger.

WATER STORY

The planet was rolling on its elongated orbit around the warm, bright yellow star. It was a world split between a gently rocking ocean, a large expanse of land and a galaxy of scattered islands. There was life on the planet, intelligent life…with all its splendors and peculiarities.

The mermaids and mermen inhabited the rolling, moving, rocking waters of the planetary ocean. Their human brothers and sisters ruled the continent while the islands were some kind of a meeting ground for both. Despite their entirely human restlessness and contradictory nature, the two nations were living in a state of magic innocence. They were cooperating in many areas but they were not mixing. There were certain boundaries that had never been crossed.

But the laws set by humans are not eternal; they are not the Laws of Nature so they become obsolete after a while and they are challenged by the bold and untamed ones, born under mysterious stars to break down the walls and push forward the boundaries. Not that anyone ever knew about when and how those stars appeared in the skies…They were elusive travelers of the high waters of the Universe, coming and going after a secret rhythm. They just suddenly blossomed in petals of diamond sparks in the meadows of the night, subtly altering the course of a new life and then disappeared without a trace from the highs. Though old wisdom says that such stars move into the heart of the chosen one and keep shining in his/her inner sky…Oh, but that’s just a saying…

The King and Queen of the Ocean were anxiously waiting for the moment their next child would be born. They already had a little girl and now they were hoping for a son. Days followed in hopeful expectation but it seemed that this child was already having a mind of his own. No full Moon, no Ocean tide, no incantation could hurry the delivery. It was a stormy night, with deep restlessness in the moss-green cradle of waters that the Queen was finally able to give birth to the greatly expected one. When the baby cried out, gasping for his first breath, a star fell from the skies, perching the liquid layers, diving to the glowing bottoms, and nested in a secret corner of the small, beating heart. The child was beautiful, with translucent green eyes and silky, black hair. The mermaids and mermen joined their beloved King and Queen in their joy. Once the child was born, the storm quieted above and the Moon glazed with silver light the face of the planet.

Up in the mountains, in a small cottage, the youngest daughter of a family of highlanders was sleeping in the wooden cradle. She has joined her two sister just days before and her dreams were peacefully flowing under the guidance of a twinkling little star. The moonlight was showering above the silent little house. The Lord of the Night was watching over the dreams of each and every creature with the same gentle care…

The river wildly rushes through the narrow and steep gorges, jumps over rugged rocks and huge boulders, splashing in bubbling spreads of cooling rainbow, then calms down and deepens, turning into a major flow of crystal clear waters. Spotted, jumping trout lives in these waters and strange shaped, emerald and magenta dragonflies crisscross above the majestic river. Thick, tall forests follow the path, from the deep-green fir and pine forests to the strong oak patches and to the light colored, trembling aspen woods. The youngest daughter of the highlanders is a young girl by now, with dreaming eyes and wildly free heart. She spends most of her free time atop one high rock, watching the hurried river and listening to its songs about the places he’s been. Her copper brown hair is cut short and her dark-lilac eyes have a bold, piercing look. She’s brisk and helpful but independent, giving her gentle mother headaches. Her two sisters married and left the house; it was her turn to be courted but she kept pushing away any attempt.

-But my dear, your sisters have settled and it’s about time for you to find a good man and marry him! Don’t you want a family of your own?

-Mom, please… I am not interested in the boys around here. I want to travel and I want to see the Ocean!

But the mother was not giving up so easily. She called for her husband’s help.

-Peter, are you listening to this silly girl of yours?

But the father knew better than being caught between the two women, so he grinned and hurriedly left the house.

-Don’t worry, Anna. Some goblin or elf will sooner or later marry her…-he said as he reached the door. Rose, don’t annoy your mother or she will burn the stew. Go, get some herbs and bark; people asked for them in the village.

Rose left a quick peck on her mother’s cheek and fled the house. She took her back pack and headed to the forest; she had something in her head and she needed to collect a few things from Nature’s generous offer.

 

In the Kingdom of the Ocean, Ryuu, the prince of Mermaids grew into a handsome young man. He was not an average merman; his beauty was elusive and somehow confusing. Even for his loving parents it was hard to point out what exactly they were seeing, looking at their son. His face was too beautiful for a man but the fire burning in the hypnotic, green eyes and the passionate, almost defiant personality were definitely manly. He was charming and untamed, with his long, black hair flowing like a cape of silk. Ruling the kingdom was not a goal for him; he was more of a dreamer and a traveler. So he roamed the seemingly endless blue waters, swimming from one island to another, from one shore to another, searching, learning and filling his eyes and heart with the beauties encountered.

He loved to follow the large vessels of the earth-people, riding the waves of the Ocean, carrying goods back and forth between the different corners of the land or the colorful islands. The more he could see about the world of these inlanders, the more curious he became about them. In nights with full Moon he used to drive his Sea-foam horse over the tip of the waves, eyes sparkling with excitement, hair flowing in the warm breeze until he reached some wild, hidden shores and sat on the cliffs, watching the flickering light of the stars and the passing ships. He became well known for the travelers, many of them being mesmerized by the magic flowing around him.

-My son, you’re always wandering –complained Queen Asami. Your father is very upset that you’re neglecting your duties as Royal Heir.

-Mom-Ryuu kissed his mother affectionately, I find politics boring. I am driven by the beauties of this world; I cannot take my eyes off from these wonders! I want to travel and see everything before I settle!

-Oh, my child….Look around you! We live in the largest and the most beautiful kingdom. All your friends have found their soul-mate and your sister’s wedding is near. What else do you want? We have never disturbed the inlanders. That is an entirely different world. You know that we never mix; how could we? They cannot live under water and the ancient law forbids close relationships with them. Please, come to your senses!

Ryuu teasingly tilted his head, smiling to Asami.

-Mom, don’t worry…If you want me to find a soul-mate, you have to let me search for her. Tell father that I’ll join him later at the Council, will you?

He swam out before the Queen could protest and headed to one of his favorite spots. It was a small bank of sands, near the place where a mighty river met the Ocean. The sand carried by the river piled up in time, hiding interesting things carried from a large distance. Ryuu loved to search and collect them and always tried to imagine the place they were coming from. The item sitting on the sand was a roll with something written on it. Ryuu carefully unfolded it, reading the letters.

“As the rivers rushes towards you, embracing Ocean, my heart runs with the waters, dreaming about you.”

Reading these words, he felt something stirring inside him. The yearning of someone from afar for the world lost in the misty horizon echoed closely in his heart. He was consumed by the same yearning for the worlds untouched. He read the words again and again, inhaling the scent of forests unknown and reaching towards the one beyond the message. The following days he kept coming back in this place, hoping for another message…

“Oh, I’m such a fool-he murmured inwardly-how do I know that I will ever get another such sign? Even if they were sent, they might get lost on their way to the Ocean…I must be crazy to even hope.”

But the river was a faithful carrier and soon, the second roll was resting atop the sand bank. Impatiently, he almost broke the water-soaked roll so he took breath, quieted down and gently unfolded the message.

“Stranded in the distance, my heart can only dream and cry out…Oh, why can’t I fly like the birds or swim like the children of your eternal waters?”

Inside the heart of the young merman the magic star of his fate began to glow; it has captured the signal sent out by its distant pair. The two stars connected through the invisible grid of light, love and cosmic energies and the heartbeat of the two youth synchronized in inner harmony. For now, they were oblivious of each other’s existence but their hearts already knew that they were one….

Rose sat on the cliff above the waterfall and her mind was drifting….Her parents were already sleeping when she slipped out the house. It was a bright night, the full Moon reigning in the skies above. In such nights, Nature opened its soul, filling the world with magic, so her mind could more easily read the hidden signs of the world. Even the whisper of the river was becoming clearer and louder and she would listen to every little word spoken. Her close friend, the boisterous flow of waters was bringing her news. Her messages have reached the shores of the ocean unharmed and somebody caught and read them.

Rose’s heart filled with sudden excitement; her inner voice has reached the places she was dreaming about. She tried to imagine another person reading her lines and…she blushed. Those lines were so foolish and intimate…Yet, the thought that her feelings reached a human shore gave her the comfort she sought. The river was whispering something about a spirit like hers but for now, that was all she could decipher from the bubbling of the waters. She took a sip of the cool, refreshing air of the night and her mind wandered…On the sand-bank, Ryuu’s mind was also wandering…Her thoughts were slowly descending the river while his dreams were swimming upstream….

And, while the youth kept dreaming, parents were busy setting their paths in life.

-Peter Long, if you’re just sitting here and say nothing to this stubborn girl of ours, you’re of no help!

Anna was quite angry; all her attempts to convince her daughter to accept the invitation made by the son of their neighbor failed. Rose refused her sharply; no, she was not going to the village gathering and no, she was not interested in this boy or any boy. Yet Anna thought that these were just outbursts of a spoiled girl and nothing more. Their neighbors were fine people and the young man could become a good husband.

-She is so stubborn!- exclaimed her. I wonder from whom she got that….

-Don’t look at me!-replied the father. I had my share of it! Eh, don’t get so angry, my dear. Talk to the match makers, if you have run out of solutions. I’m sure they’ll find something.

Peter left the kitchen and knocked on his daughter’s door. Rose was drawing something on a piece of softened aspen bark. She smiled to her father.

-Hey, Rosie. Your Mom is a bit upset about you. Be gentle to her; you know she loves you. I have to go now. Take care, girlie.

She stood up and kissed him.

-Thanks, Papa. I’ll be good, promise. But I am not going out with Jack.

-Ok, ok….just keep it low, will you? Your Mom would chew my head off if she knew I endorse you…

He closed the door and headed to the woods. There was a lot of work to do and his friends were waiting for him. Rose set back to the table and finished her drawing: it was a depiction of the mountain where she lived, with the mist crawling through the valleys and the river jumping over the rocky steps. She drew herself on the top of her favorite cliff. The ink made of forest plants quickly dried so she rolled up the thin sheet of bark, tied it with a braided piece of colored leather and put it in her pocket. She slipped out of the house inconspicuously…by jumping out the window. She ran to the river and entrusted her flowing friend with the new message for the faraway recipient. The little roll slowly disappeared in the bubbling waters…Rose exhaled happily and turned around smiling. She shook her head, letting the wind play with her hair…The light inside her was growing in intensity and the world seemed brighter than ever…

In the Great Palace of Crystal, King Hiroaki was fighting almost the same battle with his reluctant son.

-Ryuu, you are my heir and I expect you to act according to that. What is all that non-sense about travelling inland? You have nothing to do there and all you can achieve is to upset your Mother. She is very worried about you!

The young merman sighed unhappily.

-I don’t mean to upset any of you, Father. But I have this irresistible call and I cannot find my place; at least, not yet…

The king kept silent for a moment; the memory of his own restlessness was not so far…

-You might be surprised but I understand your feelings. I offer you a bit of time to come to terms with your own emotions. Follow your call but be careful; not all the inlanders like us, mermen. Take care and be back to your sister’s wedding. I expect you to make your choice then and live up to the expectations of our people.

-Thank you, Father.

The King embraced his son and released him. Queen Asami joined her husband.

-I’m still worried about him-she said, putting a hand on Hiroaki’s shoulder.

-I know, my dear, but he needs to find his own way. Otherwise, he would keep dreaming the dream he never lived. He’s strong willed and passionate; we have to deal with him, not try to break him in.

Ryuu was cutting the waves in high speed; his heart was telling him that there was a message waiting on the sand-grid. He saw it immediately and grabbed it. As the white sheet unfolded, the image of the world he was dreaming about displayed under his astonished eyes. As he focused on the drawing, the image enlarged suddenly and came to life. He saw the crenellated, grey-blue top of a mountain soaring into the azure of the sky, the deep-green blanket of the thick forests spreading over the steep slopes, the bubbling, frothing river rushing down the valley…Atop of a cliff above the steps of the waterfall, he saw a human shape. He watched closer…it was a girl, with messy auburn hair and melancholic eyes. Yet there was certain determination in her posture as she was peering into the depth. Suddenly, she raised her eyes, capturing his gaze. Ryuu felt a bolt of energy running through his entire body and he retreated instinctively. The magic broke and the image disappeared. He was sitting on the sand-bank, holding the delicate drawing in his hands. But by now he knew what he wanted:  to find that girl.

He decided to leave at night, avoiding any unexpected encounter with the inlanders. He left a letter for his parents and delved into the cool waters of the river. It was murky and the push of the huge mass of flow was powerful, testing his swimming abilities. The sweet water had a different touch and it was harder to cut through it. But Ryuu took the challenge and turned the encountered obstacles into a source of inner energies. The inhabitants of the river stood aside, opening a less difficult channel inside the river, easing his passing through. It was like they acknowledged his leading, royal traits and bowed before him. The young prince of waters slept during the day, hidden under the bowing arms of vegetation of the riversides or he took a rest inside small caves carved out by the flow in the rocky walls on its sides. The quiet times of dawn and dusk offered him the proper time to see the world he sought and fill his eyes with new beauties. He followed with great curiosity the world of humans. They were noisy, energetic and looked a bit clumsy moving on two feet. Yet, on the whole, they were just like his people: sometimes lovable, sometimes annoying. He smiled inwardly and his mind returned to the girl in the mountains…

Rose was deeply unhappy; her Mom kept her busy day by day and she couldn’t spend time by the river anymore. And to make things even worse, each evening the neighbors were visiting them and she had to stay at home, listening politely to the talking. While young Jack kept trying to capture her attention, frustration was building up inside the girl. She could hardly refrain from making him pay for the whole annoyance. It wasn’t his fault after all; it was all because of her Mom. Anna decided to turn her rebellious daughter into a proper young lady and prove her that as a parents, she had the upper hand. What strange ideas this girl of her had! Who ever heard of girls travelling into the unknown like a vagrant boy? Why would any of them want to go to the Ocean? As much as she knew, that was a dangerous place, inhabited by strange, half human, half fish people. Anna found the idea disagreeable and quickly dismissed it.

Rose on the other hand could not forget the strange dream she had one night after her drawing was sent out by the river. In her dream, she was sitting on her favorite spot, lost in thoughts when she felt that someone was watching her. As she raised her head, she caught the intent gaze of two sparkling, green eyes. For a split of a moment, their light flooded her with such an intense emotion that it got her gasping for air. As the magic broke, the loss of the momentary connection left her pained. She couldn’t see the person behind those mesmerizing eyes, but she was almost certain that it was the one receiving her messages. Now her mind was working on how to escape under surveillance and find the one in her dream. Though she didn’t want to upset her parents, she had no intention to marry Jack. She carefully worked out a plan and waited for the proper moment to act. Then, one day her parents had to travel to visit some relatives and left Rose at home on her own.

-You could stay with your sisters while we are out, Rose-suggested Anna. It’s not good to be on your own in this remote place.

Rose shook her head and smiled.

-Come on, Mom. I’m old enough to take care of myself. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. No elves or goblins around to kidnap me. Enjoy your trip! You need a break and so does Father.

Anna wasn’t convinced so she grumbled a bit but finally left. The first evening, Jack showed up at the door but Rose sent him away.

-Thank you, Jack but I’m fine. No need to visit me; it’s not appropriate, anyway. Good bye!

She shut the door in the face of the astonished young man. She felt sorry for him but sincerely hoped that it would cure him of his attachment. Rose waited until the night deepened enough to leave the house. There were enough stars in the skies to light her way until the Moon would rise. She ran down the slope, crossed the meadow and headed to the waterfall. The sound of the falling water was like music for her soul. Her only ally and closest friend, the river was waiting with news to deliver. She stopped and looked down to the valley where the river was tumultuously spreading…The Moon took a step above the rugged horizon of the mountains and then, something glittered in the waters bellow. Something was swimming upstream, something big…She could see a large tail cutting through the water but that was not a fish. She knew every living creature in this area and there was no fish of this size living in this river. Her heart was beating wildly as she ran down to the bottom of the waterfall, near the large, swirling pool. She jumped from one boulder to another in an attempt to get closer to the bubbling flow. Her eyes were franticly searching for that glittering shape fighting the stream. Her mind shut out the first moment, leaving her inner feelings to guide her search.  Bright as she was, her heart has always been her unfailing compass.

Rose stopped on a large, flat boulder and kneeled, peering inside the dark mass of liquid. And she saw….a silver shape piercing the water, coming straight in her direction. She held back a little as he rose above the water, splashing and shaking his long, dark strands of hair. He stood there, looking in her eyes with vivid curiosity. It was a young merman. She knew it without any doubt. He had those translucent, light filled green eyes she saw in her dream. And he was beautiful. His face was almost feminine in gracefulness but he had a powerful masculinity in the aura surrounding him. He was moving with ease as he came closer, smiled and hopped on the boulder next to her. Rose laughed.

-I’m sorry-she said. I must look like a fool standing here without a word. I’m Rose.

Ryuu breathed out and laughed to.

-I worried for a moment-he replied with a grin. I am Ryuu and you are the girl who sent the messages to the Ocean.

Amazing how easily conversation flows when kin spirits meet. The Moon was smiling in the skies, watching the two youth. He has never been so happily ignored….The wild Rose of the mountains and the young Dragon of the seas were talking for hours. The Lord of the skies bowed gracefully and slipped beyond the horizon, leaving the Sun to open the gates of a new day. The conversation stopped abruptly as Rose came to realize that the light was growing around them, endangering the merman.

-Oh, it’s so late! You cannot stay here in broad daylight! It’s not safe!

Ryuu shook his head and smiled.

-Don’t worry, I can find a hiding place. I saw some caves downstream.

Rose’s face lighted up.

-Caves? You don’t have to go that far. If that would suit you, I can show you one right here. Follow me!

She stood up and headed to the waterfall, jumping from one boulder to another until she came close to the huge, thundering veil. She pointed inside the flow of water and Ryuu, following her instructions, delved inside the swirling pool. Rose slipped behind the dense, pending greenery and met the merman inside the big cave hid by the river. Ryuu found a comfortable spot and sat there, leaning against the wall. Rose sat next to him. In the quickly growing light, they could see each other better. She found him incredibly attractive and not only because those ocean-deep green eyes. There was a flow of magic surrounding him, something that resonated deeply inside her heart. It was like a music that her heart understood before even learning the notes. Whatever magic he spread, it was perfectly echoed inside her soul. She blushed under his gaze and he found her lovely and really catchy with her innocent look, rebellious hair and that soft look in her eyes.

-I’m fine here, Rose. Please don’t worry. Go home and rest. I will wait for you at night.

She kneeled before him.

-Be careful, Prince. I’m not sure how the villagers would react seeing you; some of them aren’t exactly bright.

He leaned forward, caught her by the shoulders and looked deep in her eyes.

-I am not leaving this place without you, Rose. Go now, before you get in trouble because of me.

For a moment, the air between them sizzled. The stars of the inner skies were sparkling inside the field of invisible flow. Rose sighed, jumped to her feet and fled home.

Climbing the steep hill, her mind was in frenzy. A merman. A prince of those enigmatic, beautiful people she knew only from tell-tales. The Ocean answered her messages in the most beautiful and unexpected way…And now, what? They could not keep hiding endlessly; her parents would return and her Mom would start again with her attempts to marry her to Jack. No way! The moment this young man emerged from the depths before her, she knew that she would follow him to the end of the world. Rose stopped at the door, thinking; time was running short. She entered and looked for the kettle to boil some water. She needed a tea to clear her head.

There was a knock in the door and she went to open it.

-Good morning, Rosie!-chirped her sister, Mary, hugging her. Mary was a cheerful blonde, mother of two little devils. I came to see you, sis! I’ve heard you slammed the door in your groom’s face last night!-she giggled.

Rose raised an eyebrow questioningly.

-I did what?-she asked.

-Hey, don’t deny it! The boys at the pub were teasing Jack that you shut the door in his face. They even made a bet that he won’t have the courage to return here till the marriage.

-What marriage, Mary?-asked Rose in a low voice.

Her sister made a funny face at this question.

-Yours, of course. Who else? Mother and Father are at the city fare to buy you a wedding dress and all the necessaries. Didn’t you know that? Oh, I’m sorry; I thought you knew…

Though she was boiling inside, Rose took a deep breath to calm down.

-Hmmm…It seems they forgot to talk to me about this.

She poured tea in two mugs, adding some sugar and milk. She handed a cup to Mary.

-Don’t be upset, Rosie. Jack is a good boy and he’s been crazy about you ever since you were children.

-I know-murmured the girl. He even fell off the tree, trying to follow me. I have nothing against him. But I don’t love him.

Mary kicked her lovingly.

-Oh, come on. Love will come in time. Romance is for fairy tales, girl. Jack is not such a bad choice; believe me, I’ve seen worst. Now, please, give me some herbs for tea; my two babies are coughing and I ran out of my supply.

Rose filled a pouch with fragrant mix of flowers, bark and herbs and handed out to Mary. They kissed and the elder sister left for home. Rose shook her head.

-So, I have a groom. Ok.  We’ll see…

She finished her work around the house and gathered a small pack of dried fruits, cinnamon cookies and a small bottle of raspberry juice. While the light was dimming, the shadows were stretching over the land. Rose leafed through her personal belongings; she knew by now that she has to leave her home. Even if she could avoid this marriage, her parents and the community will keep pressuring her to settle and join the ranks. Her mind wandered for a moment; what was the young Prince doing?

 

Ryuu was thinking of her; what was the wild-rose doing? Will she come tonight or she changed her mind during the day? His mind was raising doubts but his heart kept diminishing every piece of such reasoning. Though they’ve just met, he knew that they were sharing a deep and magic connection that went from soul to soul. He would never leave her, unless she would clearly ask him. He wanted to take her to the Ocean and show her all the beauties of his azure-blue kingdom. The fact that she was not a mermaid was not an obstacle in the way of their….love? Is it possible that this was love? But what else could reach so deeply, stirring the waters of the soul? What else could bring such warmth in every thought and every word? What else could dwarf the difficulties, wipe out the differences and fill the very air they breathe with sparks of light?

The young merman sighed; he has met beauties before. The people of the Ocean were beautiful and some of the most wonderful mermaids were competing for his attention at home. Yet, something was always missing in every such encounter…Something he couldn’t point out exactly.  This girl, with her rebellious appearance and velvety eyes held an inner glow that radiated around her, echoing somewhere deep in his soul, like a soft voice that was there from the beginning. He has never heard that voice before, yet he could recognize it instantly. So, the beauty she held was enriched by the magic inside and that was what he was seeking for such a long time. This was love at first sight, a chance that he couldn’t miss.

 

The evening was descending over the mountain and in the house Rose was counting the hours until she could safely leave the house. There was another knock in the door and she froze.

-Rose! Rose, open the door! We have to talk!

It was Jack. She listened carefully and she heard the muffled laughter of other boys outside. Oh, Jack came with his friends to prove them he’s a man. Rose was annoyed. She opened the window.

-What do you want, Jack?

Kept outside, the young man reddened.

-Rose, open that damn door. I need to talk to you.

-Jack, please. I’ve told you before; go home. You’re very nice but I am not interested in your courtship. We are just friends, nothing more. Please…

-We are going to marry soon, Rose. You cannot keep me out like this!

Rose leaned slightly forward and looked into his eyes.

-I have made no such promises to you.

-Your parents agreed on this! Your Mother is making the preparations!

-Then you will have to marry her, Jack. Good night!

Before her wannabe groom could utter a sound she closed the window. Angered, the young man kicked the door but in vain. He left with his friends in silence. None of them were laughing.

The stars were twinkling on the high canopy of the skies and Rose left the house with a bit of anxiety. She was fully aware that Jack left their place humiliated in front of his friends. She felt sorry for him but she had no other option; he wouldn’t listen. Ah! Rose was angry on her mother; her mingling caused this mess in both of their life….Now, she was worried that Jack might try something foolish. She waited until late in the night but the moon was about to rise and it was almost full Moon. Such a big light would make her vulnerable to be sighted. She slipped silently close to the house and delved into the nearby shrubbery.

She reached the entrance of the waterfall weary and breathless. The cave was empty. She leaned against the wall and burst into tears.

-I’m here, Rose. Please don’t cry…

Ryuu emerged from the water and hopped next to her. Rose smiled and wiped off her tears. She breathed out her anxiety.

-I’m sorry…I had an annoying day.

-Tell me what’s wrong.

Rose sighed.

-My parents decided to marry me with one of the villagers but they forgot to ask my opinion. They also kept secret this arrangement. I found out from my sister, Mary and from that unfortunate guy who is my would-be groom. And my parents could be back any day from now on….

The merman tilted his head questioningly.

-And what do YOU want?

-I want to see the Ocean and I don’t want to marry any of the guys from here.

Ryuu smiled playfully.

-Let me see if I can help. I could take you to the Ocean. Would you come with me?

-Yes, I would. But how? You are at home in the water but I am…human. I have no tail to swim like you…

-Don’t worry. Tomorrow night it’ll be full Moon and my magic powers will be at full height. You will see…Now, smile, wild Rose of the mountains. Your smile fills the world with light.

 

Hiding in the shrubbery that covered the vantage point, an angry and frustrated young man was spying on the young couple sitting in the Moon light. The girl was laying in the arms of a strange creature, half man, half fish. So this was the reason of the rejection he met…she had a secret lover. But that…that wasn’t even a human being! It was…an abomination, some kind of witch or bewitching animal! How could she?! Jack’s blood boiled in fury. He left the place; he had seen enough. All he had to do now was to take revenge.

Rose got home earlier and tried to sleep. She had this nagging feeling of lurking danger and she was almost certain that her clash with Jack in the previous evening would bring misfortune. She forced herself to sleep, shutting out the thoughts; whatever was coming, she would fight back. Ryuu was sleeping to; his magic powers were building up inside as the Moon slowly rounded to the full circle. The treat Rose brought added to his bodily and heartfelt comfort. Whatever her hands touched, it filled up with the light of love. The following night would decide their fate and Ryuu looked forward the challenge with hope and determination.

The knock on the door pulled her out of the sleep. She stood up, walked to the window and peered out through the shades. Siobhan, her eldest sister was at the door. Rose rushed to let her in. Something serious must have happened if she has decided to leave her home and come to visit. Quiet Siobhan married very young and left the family house and seldom returned. She married her childhood sweetheart but her choice wasn’t exactly her parents’ favorite. So she built a life of her own, far from their influence. Rose secretly admired her and whenever she could, she visited her sister and her good husband. The family had a little girl they loved dearly. Rose embraced Siobhan.

-What happened?-she asked finally. She quickly put a kettle on the stove to make a tea.

The older sister sighed; Rose was a bright girl.

-Some nasty things are preparing down the village and Jack is in lead of the whole business. Knowing him and the others involved, I am worried about your safety, Rosie. What is going on between the two of you? And what monster do they want to chase down?

Rose felt a knot in her throat; that bastard had spied on them the previous night! Siobhan saw her sister getting pale and shaking. She caught her and forced her to sit down.

-Rose, listen to me! I won’t insist on telling me; I trust your mind and heart. I know from Mother that you want to travel to the Ocean. I know she hates the idea, I know she doesn’t understand. But let me tell you something: I knew our great-grand Mother. She was very old but she was a wonderful story teller. She told me that one of our ancestors came from the Ocean side. Maybe his blood is still yearning for his homeland. If you feel that call, go! Follow your dream! But take care; I don’t know what is in these guys’ mind. And don’t forget that I love you, Rosie. We all do…

After Siobhan left, Rose sprang in action. She collected her belongings, dressed up in pants and jacket, hiding her hair under a cap. She checked on herself in the mirror; well, in the darkness of the night, she would pass for a young boy. Good. She dimmed the light in the kitchen, made a rag doll and dressed it in her clothes and sat her at the table. She let the curtains slightly open, just enough to deceive people peeking in. She filled her small back-pack with provisions, took the money Siobhan gave her for the travel and sat in a dark corner, listening to the noises coming from outside. There were still a few hours left till the Moon rise.

She slipped out the house through a hind window as she heard them coming. There was a small gathering of young men lead by Jack, holding torches to light the way. Most of them were coming for the first time in this high area. They lived their lives in the valley and knew almost nothing of the dark forest or the wild rush of the river. They were sensing some discomfort in walking here, in the darkness of the night. They sneaked close to the house, leaving Jack to peek in.

-Ssshhht, she’s still here…-he whispered. Let’s go, let’s go!

Rose grinned in the shadow and took a short-cut to the waterfall. It was a more difficult path and she seldom used it but she had no other option. The Moon was about to rise soon; the light was growing above the crests. She almost panicked when she encountered unexpected obstacles on the way down but quickly calmed down.  There was no time for that. She kept descending, gripping old tree-roots the help her way down, slipping on rock-flows and trying to make the least noise possible. She reached the vicinity of the waterfall before Jack and his companions. But there was still a limb of open ground she had to cross and the light was increasing with every second. Well, come what may come! She ran towards the waterfall. The choir of angry voices followed her almost instantly.

-Look! Somebody is running there! Hey! Stop! Hey, Jack! Look! It’s your bride! Stop her!

Rose lost her cap on the run and her hair auburn hair was shining in the light of the Full Moon emerging above the rugged horizon. She realized that reaching the waterfall was impossible so she headed to the boulders of the river bank. The closer she would get to the river, the higher the chances to reach her Prince. Jack caught her on the boulder she used to sit with Ryuu. She freed her hand with a jerk and faced him.

-Don’t touch me! What do you want, Jack?!

The young man was furious.

-You are coming home with me, Rose! I won’t let some monster take you away from me! Obviously, you are under some spell and you  don’t think clearly. Come, let me take you home!

He reached for her but she stepped back, avoiding his touch.

-I am not coming with you, Jack and I have not lost my mind. I am leaving and I hope you won’t try to stop me.

He leaned forward and grabbed her by the shoulders.

-You’re crazy! You are my bride and I will take you home!

She pushed him angrily.

-Leave me alone!

-You’ve heard what the lady said: leave her alone.

From the foaming waters, Ryuu rose high above both of them. In the bright light of the Moon, he looked taller and impressive, standing on his powerful, glistening tail, an inner fire glowing through his green eyes. He moved closer and stopped next to Rose and smiled a bit.

-Nice outfit-he chuckled. She blushed.

Jack was visibly displeased by the show of intimacy, while on the grassy side of the river bank, the rest of the gang of young men were watching the scene with eyes wide in astonishment. Jack broke the moment of silence.

-She belongs to me! You have no right upon her! You’re not even…human! Go back to your monsters!

A sudden wave of emotions washed through the merman. Mixed feelings were building inside him and anger was one of them. But Rose’s presence, her closeness and the soft touch of her inner flow eased the inner turmoil and he cooled down. She placed a hand on his shoulder, the lilac eyes gazing deep into his eyes. Ryuu breathed out the steam and splashed the waters with his tail. Jack took a step back and so did the others on the shore.

-Who are you to say if I am human or not?! What do you know about me? You are quick to judge but in fact you know nothing! Rose- he said-do you still want to come with me? This young man seems to have a claim upon you…

She shook her head.

-He has no right upon me. I have promised him nothing. I am sorry, Jack but I’ve told you before: find someone else, a girl who would love you. I have found my love. Let’s go, my Prince.

Ryuu took her in his arms and hit the water with all his might. The crystal wave soared into the sizzling light and folded into the shape of the Water Dragon. The creature bent and offered Rose his neck to ride; she took it boldly. The silver light clearly outlined every scale and the ruby-red eyes were menacingly burning. The merman gracefully bowed to the gathering of villagers. Realizing that he’s lost the battle, Jack made a last gesture of revenge. He swiftly took out his knife and threw it towards the merman. Rose cried out when she saw Ryuu falling back into the river, with the knife thrust in his chest. The Dragon roared furiously and raised a wall of water that washed off the villagers. He then delved in the river and pulled out the merman, took him on his back and rushed down the river. A sheet of clouds covered the face of the Moon.

Rose stopped the dragon in a remote area, where the river bank was low and grassy. Ryuu was regaining consciousness. Rose was in tears while she pulled out the knife and tended the wound. She took some fresh plantain leaves from the grass and stopped the bleeding. The young merman breathed out heavily and relaxed.

-Thank you-he whispered. That was vicious. Somehow I did see it coming, yet it was so…pointless. What was he thinking?

-Oh, it was just his hurt, stupid pride…How do you feel now?

Ryuu smiled faintly.

-I’ll be fine, don’t worry. But we have to hurry; the dragon cannot carry us in daylight. We have to find a place to stay till the following night.

The Water Dragon took them on his back and jumped ahead, cutting the waters. From above the Moon followed them closely.

 

Luckily, the wound healed fast so, after a while, Ryuu was able to swim again, leading the way towards the Ocean. They were in a hurry; the marriage of Masuko, Ryuu’s sister was approaching and he didn’t want to miss that. He took the best off the chance of travelling with Rose along the river to learn more about the inlanders and their life. Humans were struggling everywhere to find happiness, yet it wasn’t something granted, despite the best of efforts. It became even clearer that once you meet that magic chance, it should be kept at all costs. The gods that created the Universe, the planetary system, the life that was thriving on it have given the freedom of choice as the biggest gift to the sentient beings. Were those gods still around, it didn’t matter anymore. Inlanders, Ocean-people, they were all in charge with their own happiness. The gods kept silent…or just departed for other horizons. They had sewn the magic seed of love and life and left their beautiful children to blossom. This was the only right thing to do and gods as they were, they knew it well. When they left, they went away with a smile of hope and trust. Ryuu was determined to contribute in his own way to this hope; he has crossed the boundaries between their people in the name of love.

With Rose by his side, they’ve already fought a battle; another one was coming soon. The river was widening and becoming heavier as it approached the Ocean. It was the last night of Full Moon when the travelers reached the meeting line between the two huge masses of water. The thick, sand-filled sweet waters reached inside the opening arms of the Ocean and diluted softly in her blue-green clearness. The river whispered his last messages, splashed its last drops of friendly kisses to Rose and Ryuu and delved in the depths. The Water Dragon turned towards the spread of islands to reach the one that was to become the home of the new Princess of the Ocean. It was a little jewel of greenery and wild flowers, of gentle animals and lively birds. The pointed peak of the mountain was adorned by a cap of iridescent clouds and a clear, fresh source bubbled up at its foot, inside a beautiful clearing. The Water Dragon stopped by the sandy shore and Rose jumped off his back. She embraced the majestic anima, whispered something in his ears, gave a kiss on his cheek and released him. The dragon made a high jump in the Moonlight and swam off, raising silver laced waves around its shining body. Ryuu followed Rose and they sat a few moments in silence, enjoying the display of joy performed by the dragon. The merman held close his wild flower with heart full of joy. Inside their inner skies, the kin stars were spreading sparkles of love.

-This is my gift to you, my wild Rose. This island is all yours; enjoy it. I have to return to the Palace, deep down. I want to share the news with my family. Sleep now and keep me in your dreams. I will return!

He kissed her and plunged in the waves. Rose followed him until the sparkle of his tail melted into the shimmering light of the Moon over the Ocean. She looked around and she almost couldn’t believe that it was real. The night was warm, the air scented and the sound of the waves soft and calming. She sat under a gracefully swaying tree and fell asleep…

 

King Hiroaki was nervously swimming up and down the Royal bedroom when one of the guards knocked on the door. Queen Asami rushed to the door.

-Did you see him?!-she asked hurriedly.

-Yes, my Queen. Your son, Prince Ryuu has returned safely. He is on his way to the palace. The dolphins announced us that he has stopped first on Pearl Island before coming this way.

The queen sighed.

-Come, my dear-said the king. Let’s greet him. Your worries are over.

Oh, if he could only know what was lying ahead….But for now, the people of Ocean breathed more easily, knowing that the adventurous heir of the kingdom has returned from his journey in the world of the inlanders. Now, everybody was preparing for the wedding of Princess Masuko with her chosen one, the young merman Yoshino. The King and the Queen descended to the Great Hall of the Throne where Ryuu was already waiting for them. Asami rushed to embrace her son, checking him like any worried mother would.

-Oh, thank the Gods, you’re back, Ryuu! How was your travel?! Aren’t you tired?! Don’t you want to eat something?!

-My dear, let him breathe, you’re smothering him…-the King chuckled, watching his wife hanging by her son’s neck. Give him time to answer your questions.

Ryuu kissed his mother and bowed his head to the King.

-I am well and I hope I didn’t give you too many reasons to worry about me. My travel was fine and I came back enriched with experience and knowledge.

Asami couldn’t stop asking.

-Is that land more beautiful than our kingdom?

-No, Mother, it isn’t. It’s beautiful in a different way; it is rich in life, colors, scents, lights, in living creatures and human inhabitants. Our kingdom it’s a Garden of wonders in the arms of the Ocean. What I saw there is an equally beautiful garden spread across the whole great land. I will happily tell you everything I have seen and encountered but it takes time. Until then, think about these two gardens the way you think about Masuko and me: we are brother and sister, we are very much alike, yet we are not the same; we are different.

King Hiroaki listened with interest to his son’s words.

-Thisis an insightful vision upon these lands, my son. I am impressed by your description. Our knowledge about each other’s kingdoms is scarce; your experience might improve that. I hope that this will add to your skills as future ruler of our people. Now, it’s time to celebrate your sister’s marriage and to choose a bride for you. You are of age to take over the responsibility of the Kingdom.

Queen Amira was excited.

-Oh, Ryuu, I have found some wonderful girls that would match you. I can hardly wait to present them. I have summoned all to the Court to teach them what a future queen should know. You might meet them after your rest!

Ryuu bowed his head thoughtfully. This was the moment to come clear.

-Mother, Father. I have to tell you something; I didn’t come home alone. I came with the girl I love.

The King and the Queen were deeply surprised; they never knew about Ryuu’s secret love.

-So, why didn’t you come with her? Where is she?

-I left her in a safe place. I didn’t come with her because she’s not who you think she is. We came together from far away; she is an inlander.

The royal couple was in shock. The King was the first to regain his voice.

-Are you out of your mind, son? You brought an Inlander here and you intend to marry her? That’s impossible!

-Why would it be impossible?

-Because our nations don’t mix! It’s against our traditions! And…you have just met her; how can you say you’re in love?!

Ryuu sighed.

-If you think that I am old and wise enough to rule, I think you can trust that I know how I feel. I love Rose and yes, I want to marry her and not another girl.

It was the Queen’s turn to plead with her son.

-This is crazy, Ryuu…We cannot accept this and you cannot do it! The two of you don’t match!

The young merman couldn’t believe his ears. He faced his Mother with passionate revolt.

-Why would you say that, Mother? She’s a human being just like you and me. We share the same heart, the same dreams and hopes and she has left behind a family and a world to follow me. What else do you expect from my future companion? You don’t even know her; how can you tell that she would not be a proper Queen for our people?

-Because she’s …different! –exclaimed Amira. She’s not…a mermaid! She’s an Inlander; our people would never accept her as their Queen. They expect you to choose one of our people, of our own race! There are so many beautiful girls around you, my son! Why would you choose a crippled person, one that could never live in the Crystal Palace?

The Queen was desperate and so was the King. This was something that they couldn’t foresee. It was almost unbelievable; such misalliance never happened in their history. On the other side, Ryuu felt deeply hurt for his parents’ lack of acceptance and understanding. He kept silent for a moment then spoke in a calm voice.

-I understand your reluctance and worries to a certain extent. I am aware that my choice will displease all the families that held hope to marry their daughters with me. But as rulers, I think we are the ones who should open new horizons. Unusual as it may seem, this might be a chance to bring closer the two nations and open the planet for everyone. But most of all, this is about my commitment to the woman I love. I would never betray her love, the love that we both share and the trust she has put in me. I can step aside from ruling and follow my fate. Masuko will be soon married to one of ours and she can step up to the throne beside her husband. I don’t intend to sacrifice my love in the name of obsolete traditions.

Ryuu left the room in a hurry; he almost knocked off Masuko who was coming to great him. The young man held her lovingly for a moment and then released the puzzled girl.

-I’m sorry, sis. I love you. Go inside, Mother and Father need you!

He fled before she could ask what was this all about. He reached his room and locked the door; he needed a moment of reflection in privacy. How could he tell Rose that his own people are not better than those she has left behind? While he was trying to assess the facts, the news of the rift inside the Royal family spread quickly, people taking sides. The perspective of a break and falling out between the parents and their independent son created a great unrest in the Palace and the people of the Ocean. Help came from the most unexpected direction. Queen Amala, the elderly mother of King Hiroaki was a highly respected person but she never got involved in the politics of the kingdom. But now, she knew that her son needed her so she swam directly to the Chamber of the Throne.

She found the King slumped in his chair, head held in the hands, while Princess Masuko was comforting her distraught mother, Queen Asami.

-Mother?-the King looked up in surprise. What are you doing here?

-I think we have to talk, Hiroaki. What do you intend to do with your son?

The King sighed and shook his head.

-I don’t know, Mother….This…this is so…unexpected. What can I do? Our people would not accept his choice. The inlanders also might come against us; after all he took one of their children. And above all, that girl cannot live in the Ocean; Ryuu and her will always be separated. What kind of marriage would be that? They won’t have children either…What would our family become?

As she was listening to her husband’s words, Queen Amira burst into tears. The Queen Mother put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

-Don’t cry, my dear. Maybe things are not as dark as they seem. Listen to me-she said, turning to the King. You are both wonderful and caring parents. Ryuu knows that and I know that he doesn’t want you to be upset. But what are you expecting him to do? Give up on the one he loves, the woman who followed him, leaving everything behind? What man would he be, doing that, tell me?  Try to look at it this way: he is the brave and right man you taught him to be! Now, are you going to support your child or not?

The King was still undecided.

-If only it would be that easy, Mother. How can I stand in front of my people and ask them to cross a rule set at the beginning of times?

-You are the King and ruler this nation trusts. They expect you to lead them, to guide them and help them evolve. This might not be an easy choice but clearly, I don’t see another option. Ryuu made a choice in the name of the most beautiful and important thing in life: LOVE. You cannot deny that. Before you step in front of your people to ask them to follow your decision, give a thought to what Ryuu told you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a grandson to meet. I die to hear the recount of his journey.

 

The tickling of the warm sunrays woke up the sleeping girl. Rose opened her eyes and for a moment she couldn’t believe her eyes. So, this wasn’t just a dream! She was sitting on the shore of the beautiful Ocean…Oh, her heart opened before the gently rocking green-blue field of scintillating waters…she breathed in the spicy-salty air…embracing the playful breeze that was ruffling her hair. A splashing wave came up the sand and embraced her bare feet, leaving bubbling laces of froth behind as he retracted inside the ocean. Other waves followed, teasingly calling her to join them….one or two of them leaving behind gifts of delicate petals of sea-shells.

Rose laughed, undressed and stepped forward. The water lovingly surrounded her as she swam into its translucent body. Schools of colorful fish followed her and flower-like jelly-fish danced gracefully at some distance. Swimming in the Ocean was easier and by far more pleasant than in the rushing, cool mountain river so she tremendously enjoyed it. A family of dolphins emerged from the depths, following her closely, jumping around her and swirling in the air. Rose was immediately captured by their acrobatic skills and their friendliness. A younger dolphin swam close enough to her and Rose gently caressed the smooth, glistening grey-blue skin. The dolphin happily whistled under her touch.

-I see that you have already made some friends-she heard Ryuu’s voice behind her. The young merman embraced and kissed her. They swam together back to the shore, splashing sometimes and laughing. By the time they reached the shore, invisible hands have set a breakfast of colorful, juicy fruits and other treats the island offered. They were set on large green leaves and bowls of seashells. Ryuu and Rose sat in the sand and shared the gifts of the place. Ryuu opened a pink-red fruit, peeled of the thin skin, revealing a mass of magenta-red, translucent, fleshy seeds. He took out a few and offered them to Rose.

-This is the Fruit-of-Love, my Wild-Rose. I share with you its seeds as a token of my love and as my wow to be yours forever. In my land’s tradition, accepting these seeds from my hands means that you will be my Queen forever.

Rose blushed and she felt her heart beating in the throat under the surge of the deepest emotions washing over her. She took the seeds from the held-out palm of the young merman and eat them one by one; the pleasant, sweet –sour taste filled her mouth. She swallowed and smiled. She took a handful of seeds and offered them to him, performing the same ritual. When the last seed disappeared, they embraced and kissed under the sun. At some distance, hiding behind the constant rolling of the waves, an elderly mermaid was watching the ritual of love unfolding. She smiled for herself and delved in the Ocean, leaving the young couple to enjoy the privacy of their magic island.

And while things were tangling and untangling in the world of the Ocean, up in the mountains people were trying to figure out what really happened. The moment the wall of water almost washed them away, the brave gang of young villagers came to their senses. One by one, they crawled out of the mud or from between the boulders where the surge of waters threw them and started to check themselves if they are in one piece…then they broke in angry shouts against their friend, Jack.

-Are you crazy, man?! What were you thinking?! You almost got us all killed!

Pretty shaken himself, Jack was slowly realizing the facts: the merman was probably dead and Rose was gone on the back of a very angry dragon. Rose’s parents were on their way home; what would he tell them? He turned to his friends but judging from the expression on their faces, the chances for further support was slim. Jack slumped on a boulder.

-What am I going to do? What am I going to do?

Touched by his sudden despair, the boys gathered around him.

-Hey, don’t be so lost, Jack. We are together in this. Let’s go home, dry and rest. Things will look better in the morning. This was more than we expected and definitely, more than we could handle together.

-But what if she’s in danger?!-cried out the unhappy young man.

-I don’t think so, Jack. That dragon would’ve eaten us alive but it was protecting her and his master. So I think she’s fine and far, far away by now. Let’s hope that the merman is well enough to; I hate to think what would happen if the dragon would decide to come back and take revenge….Trying to kill his master was quite stupid, my friend.

The one who spoke was Jack’s closest friend; the others agreed with him. Jack sighed.

-You’re probably right. I ‘m sorry for what happened…She kept telling me to leave her alone; why wasn’t I listening?

-Eh, too much pride, my friend, too much pride….But if that’s a consolation for you, it could’ve happened to any of us. Come, Jack, guys….let’s go home.

It wasn’t exactly easy to explain the situation to the distraught parents who came home just to learn that their rebellious daughter vanished on the back of a dragon. Anna couldn’t believe her ears as Jack mumbled through the short version of the story. The young man excused himself shortly and fled before any of the two baffled parents could hold him accounted for what happened.

-I’ve told you to take her with us when we left! I had a feeling that something might happen…

In pain, Anna turned against her husband.

-And I said: no. I wanted to give her time to think about what she wanted, without you constantly nagging her. I’m glad she made her choice-said Peter in a low voice.

Anna was stunned.

-You did this on purpose? But…why? I thought we both want the same for her…

He sighed and embraced her gently.

-You’re a wonderful mother, my dear and I know you want the best for our daughter. But you overlooked what she wanted for herself, dismissed her dreams and tried to force her into your dreams about her. You were so mesmerized by your plans that I was unable to make you change your mind. So, I took the chance of this travel to give her the freedom of choice.

-And you’re not worried about that…that monster she left with?

-Oh, come on, Anna. Rose has always been an independent and bright child. I trust her. Haven’t I told you that she would marry an elf or a dwarf? Well, she found a merman…

Anna was still unhappy and annoyed.

-I don’t understand; how can you joke about this?! Others would go and search for their lost child !

-I have no intention to do this and I forbid you to. She’s not a child anymore and if we ever want to see her again, we have to let her fulfill her dreams without interfering with it. This is her life, not ours. We cannot live it for her. Now: I am going to the village to gather more information about what really happened. Look, Mary and Siobhan are coming to see you; stay here and talk with them.

Anna burst into tears; Peter held her tight and kissed her until she finally relaxed.

-I know, my dear, I know. But you have to trust me; she’ll be fine. Now, the girls are almost here; be brave!

 

On the shore of the magic island, Ryuu was daydreaming, holding Rose in his arms. He was immensely happy with her but the confrontation with his parents at the Palace left him with a sore heart. His grandmother’s support eased some of the pain but he wasn’t able to tell Rose the truth. But even before he gathered enough determination to do that, she turned her face to him and asked softly:

-Your parents are not happy about me, my love, isn’t it?

-How do you know?-he asked, surprised by the question. Are you reading my mind?

She smiled and ran her fingers over his face.

-Your face is tense and tough you’re trying to conceal your worries, I can sense your anxiety. Is it that bad?

Ryuu breathed out heavily and held her closer. His eyes were sparkling while he was speaking.

-I always thought that love was our highest value but what I saw today was nothing more than politics and petty interests. I have made it clear that losing you is not an option. I’m not interested in ruling the kingdom at that price. I love my parents but I cannot comply with their request. But don’t worry, this is our island and here we will be King and Queen forever! Come, let’s swim and I’ll show you around out tiny kingdom.

The merman prince whistled and a dolphin came close to the shore, waiting for Rose. Ryuu took his Queen by the hand and they jumped into the frothing waves.  With Rose on the back of the dolphin, they swam around the island, visiting every silk sanded shore, every acquiring bay of azure waters, every spiky corner of glistening rocks and the white crescent of the coral reef. A colorful and curious procession of fish and other sea animals followed them, eager to see with their own eyes the strange girl who has turned their kingdom upside down. Though there was no sign of mermaids or mermen around, Ryuu knew they were hiding inside the translucent layers of green waters, watching them, judging or admiring the two of them. He dismissed the annoying thoughts and turned his whole mind and soul to Rose. Her eyes were following him with that heartwarming soft look and her gaze was bringing light in the troubled ocean of his soul. Their connection was beyond words and beyond others’ comprehension. It has been instant magic, light answering light, call echoing call, heart matching heart. The twin stars entwined, becoming one and that unique and bright star was blazing the inner sky of both Rose and Ryuu’s heart.

 

-What are we going to do, my dear husband?

Queen Asami was anxiously following King Hiroaki as he was pacing up and down the bedroom. She was a bit pale and her eyes were red and swollen from crying. The King was feeling lost and unhappy.

-I don’t know, my love, I really don’t know. The more I think about Ryuu’s words, I come to realize that he’s right and that deep in my heart I am on his side. I would not trade my love for you either. But the step required by the choice he made is frighteningly large. I am afraid that many of our people won’t understand it…

There was a faint knock on the door and Princess Masuko asked for permission to visit. She was a delicate and graceful mermaid, with long, golden hair and the same lively green eyes as her brother Ryuu. She was very close to him and had always admired her bright and energetic little brother. The current situation was threatening everybody’s happiness and she was determined to change that. She sat next to her Mother and claiming a moment of attention, spoke to them.

-Mother, Father. I have to tell you something: I don’t intend to become the Queen of the Ocean and I don’t want Ryuu to become an outcast. That would be unfair to him and it would be definitely wrong. Father, I know that you are worried that our people might revolt, take sides and split. But as much as I know them, despite the extensive period of time since Ocean People and Inlanders have lived separated because of a tradition, mermaids and mermen are far more acquiring and they deeply respect love. I think Ryuu will be a great King; I will always support him. Not to speak about Grandma…You should talk with her, both of you; she already saw Rose.

Masuko stood up, affectionately kissed her parents and left with a smile on her face. She was hopeful…The door closed, the King looked to his Queen and spoke softly:

-My dear, I think that when children become bold and wiser than their parents, it’s time for some true changes. After all, we brought up two brave youth and it seems that they are ready to take the challenges of life. Maybe time has come for us to step back….

The night was opening its silent wings above Land and Ocean, unfurling the black velvet canvas of the diamond specked skies. The slowly swaying cradle of waters was whispering on the sands in small ripples of waves while the depths lighted up in the dance of glowing processions of gold, electric blue or sizzling lavender umbrellas of jelly-fish. The warm air was heavy with scents of flowers and fruits, interrupted only by a fresh gush of salty sea-breeze. The Moon emerged on the thin line of the horizon and greeted the world with a bow. On a corner of the emerald island, a young merman with starry eyes and his beloved wild-flower were sitting embraced, watching the night show of lights. Suddenly, the liquid surface opened before them and a majestic silhouette rose, closely followed by a more graceful one. King Hiroaki and Queen Asami came to visit their son and to properly greet the girl that has captured his heart. The Moon smiled inwardly, watching them…Things were settling in the Kingdom of the Ocean and the magic of love was once again prevailing.

That night, the Royal couple went to sleep with peaceful heart; despite all their fears and mistrust, Rose conquered their heart. Her radiant, warm and graceful personality had an undeniable charm that broke down all the walls between them. Though the King and the Queen still regretted the fact that she couldn’t live in their wonderful Chrystal Palace, they could not think of another girl in their kingdom that would surpass her. She wasn’t the exotic beauty the mermaids were, but she was bringing a fresh breath of air, a touch of mystery echoing the dew-filled mornings of the high mountains Ryuu was speaking about. Above all, the harmony of the young couple was unmistakable. Love was constantly flowing between them, raising a glowing aura that was encompassing in magic both Rose and Ryuu.

-We did the right thing-said King Hiroaki, kissing his Queen. Oh, I feel lighter now…Good night, my love!

-Good night, my love-she whispered. Yes, my heart is at ease now….Sleep well, we have a wedding tomorrow and another one will soon follow!

 

The wedding of Princess Masuko set in motion the entire Ocean and by night, when the Moon was at his peak in the skies, the silver light pierced the green waters till it reached the Crystal Castle, spreading a magic glow around it. On the outside of the translucent walls, the colorful schools of various fish were swimming in a well orchestrated dance, glittering in rainbow sparks under the touch of the light. The mermaids and mermen of the Court were filling the large Chamber of the Throne where the King and the Queen were waiting for the Princess and her loved one. During this time, on the surface of the Ocean the Moon opened a magic window that allowed direct vision over the ceremony below. Sitting on the back of the Water Dragon, Rose was watching the ceremony with Ryuu by her side. The Prince has already kissed and congratulated the young couple and rose to the surface to accompany his Queen of the heart. The People of the Ocean were gathering in great numbers around the Castle and this time, many of them swam up to the surface to great the Prince and Rose.

Though they were looking at her with unhidden curiosity, she met all of them with a smile and without fear or any kind of restraint. She found them beautiful and friendly, she felt no rejection or enmity on their side. As the ceremony unfolded, she was more and more caught by the magic of this unique world. It was her home by now. She turned to her beloved, watching him; in these solemn moments his inner glow radiated majesty. He smiled and took her by the hand. Love rushed through the chambers of their hearts, setting in blaze the bridge of their inner connection.  Their united aura shone through the depths and for the first time, the people below saw them in a new light: the future King and Queen of the Ocean, watching over them with love.

By the time King Hiroaki announced his intention the step down and leave the Throne to his son, the mermaids and mermen were already at ease with their new King and his Queen. Those who were still reserved about Rose for being a stranger and an Inlander, were slowly dwindling in number, as the most of the people and living creatures around them found her charming and lovable. Many of the younger ones were hoping that this union would open for them to the world of the Inlanders and the gates of communication with those who were already roaming the surface of the Ocean. Before the ceremony of the Royal Wedding took place, invitations were sent out to the communities of the ocean shores. The messages were then carried inland and by the time of a new Full Moon, Richly decorated sails filled the place, with people on deck waiting in excitement to start of a ceremony they have never seen before.

Anna and Peter were sleeping when somebody knocked on their door. They soon heard the voice of Mary calling them.

-Mother, Father, wake up! Open the door; it’s us, Mary and Siobhan!

Peter jumped from the bed, took some clothes and rushed down, opening the door. He saw his two daughters and their husband and was puzzled.

-What happened? What brought you so far this time of the night?

-Nothing wrong, Father but you and Mother should dress up and prepare for travelling. We have to catch the sail that is waiting for us. The Governor has summoned our families; we are taking part to a ceremony on the sea at Full Moon.

Peter went upstairs to tell Anna about the travel. She thought for a moment and then asked in a small voice.

-Do you think we could find out something about Rose when we will be there?

Peter sighed.

-Let’s hope, my dear, let’s hope. Now, hurry up; there’s a long way ahead us and we cannot keep the Governor to wait for us. At least we will see the place Rose was dreaming about…

So, in the night of the ceremony, on the deck of one of the sails, a mother and a father and two sisters were watching with astonishment the place that, until then, existed for them only in the fairy tales of their childhood. The Moon built a dome of light above the large circle and the waters inside started to bubble up, while a sizzling blue circle of light closed to the surface. Dolphins were jumping high, whistling and rainbow flying fish were launching above the decks, splashing playfully back into the Ocean. The music of crystal clear voice filled the air and the waters opened to make place to a large platform that was glowing in the light. Mermaids and mermen were sitting on the platform and on the two Thrones, King Hiroaki and Queen Asami were waiting. Next to them, the slender Prince of the Ocean was standing in all his beauty. The King raised a hand and the music changed in to a hailing symphony. From a distant island, a huge Water Dragon emerged and was swimming at high speed towards the circle of light. In a few moments, he reached the sizzling boundaries and slowed down. He was carrying a young woman on his back. She was wearing a long, white dress of pearls and a bright star caught in her glistening, copper hair. She stepped off the back of the Dragon, gave him a gentle peck and turned with a smile to the people gathered around. She bowed gracefully towards the King and the Queen and hurried to her Prince. From that moment, she had no eyes but for him. When King Hiroaki placed the crown on Ryuu’s head and Queen Asami put her crown on Rose’s head, lights and cheers erupted from everywhere. Hand in hand the radiating young Royal Couple saluted everyone, People of the Ocean and Inlanders with warmth. A ladder was extended from one of the sails and Rose and Ryuu mounted the deck to embrace the tearful parents of the new Queen and her overjoyed sisters.

The Moon was pleased and so were the Land, The River and the Ocean. Eternal guardians and protectors of the humans, they knew that though these fragile creatures might come in various shapes and infinity of complex personalities, they all would aspire to happiness and the language of love is what they would always speak the best, even without words. The planet breathed out in joy, the galaxies flared up in celebration. The Magic of love spread around, sparkling on every tip of the waves in the Ocean, on every snow cap of the high Mountains, on every spraying Waterfall….Nine month later, a newborn baby was crying out to the stars, a child bearing the traits of two nations, at home both  in water and land. They named him Akihiko (bright prince). He was followed by a little girl named Sayuri (lily). Both children had a magic star inside. Their light opened the way for a new nation that would in time cement the bridge of love and light inside the humans of this little planet.

But the stories born out of their journey is for another time to tell…