PART ONE: THE LILY
Behind the veil of cloudy-white blank eyes and a presumed mindless state, Iara was screaming and pleading and begging… She had known this hell since she was but a little fin-ling, a happy little Mermaid who had no idea of the cruelty the oceanic world was truly capable of.
From a young age, Iara and other lilies like her were told they were special. They were taught about how they were especially blessed with fertility by their goddess, Atargatis. They were taught how to be polite and kind and on how to behave towards royalty. It was also constantly drilled in them how important their roles as the chosen mates of the nobles was. They were never allowed to leave the Lily Institute and were only ever allowed to speak to each other. The training they endured was often grueling and Iara realized that it was repetitive and merciless for a reason- it was to brainwash their young minds for the nefarious purposes of the nobles of the Kingdom of Flora, lying 400 feet beneath the Ocean of Sorrow’s surface in the Mesopelagic zone of ocean where Merfolk life was possible.
And the crowning achievement of every lily, the most fertile of the Mermaids of the Kingdom of Flora was always taught to be conceiving a child for a noble; a child a lily like Iara would never see as she’d probably be raised by the Sages until she became old enough to take her place in Merfolk society with the revered title of ‘Pearl’. The lily would then continue to bear children for the nobles until she was infertile at which point, it was expected that she committed ritual suicide having accomplished her life’s true purpose.
And if a Lily could only produce male children, she would suffer the same fate as her male children… She’d be killed, die as dishonorably as Merfolk who had decided to give up the goodness in their souls and become the dreaded sirens and tritons. Iara was still terrified because of what she had been taught in the Institute… Of the fate that lay in store for those that chose to forfeit the Paradise Oceans and instead choose the life of wickedness that led to hell. In hell, it was said that sirens and tritons were killed over and over again in a fire a thousand times worse than the light of the sun that, when overexposed to could be fatal to a Mermaid. There, they’d be eternal suffering and pain and Iara was scared to think that if she bore only male children, she’d suffer this terrible fate as well. The teaching was so profound that no Mermaid even dared swim too close to the Ocean’s surface and instead lived deep in the Oceans they’d called home.
At the end of their training when they came of age at 16 years old (the human equivalent of 18 years of age), the final grand ceremony was completed and they received beautifully made jewelry especially for them. Iara was highly suspicious when upon wearing the jewelry, she began to feel inexplicably ill and then in a few days time, she did not feel like herself again. The world through the eyes that had once been her own was suddenly a perverted version of itself. All she could feel, hear or see was unnatural happiness, the illusion of a Utopia Flora had never been and yet it had been nearly impossible to keep it at bay.
Iara was told that she was lucky because she had been chosen to be the King’s own special lily along with nine others. The Kingdom was in a crisis after all, since the Queen had been unable to conceive a royal heir or heiress and so the King was meant to have ten lilies of his own to increase the chances of procuring an heir. She had been with him for 5 years since graduation from the Institute and she had known almost immediately that the King was not what he seemed to be.
The King was cruel when mating with his lilies, actually seeming to take pleasure in their pain. He openly seemed to rub his privilege in everyone’s face, uncaring of the deep hurt he was causing the mostly male population that did not have lilies or mates of their own and could not so easily acquire them since the nobles alone had access to the few Mermaids that existed in the Kingdom. Iara suspected the King had already chosen to abandon his soul to darkness a long time ago and was actually a triton but she knew trying to out him without proof would be certain death and so she kept her mouth shut.
Iara was surprised she could even have such thoughts at all. She and her fellow lilies shared a psychic bond forged at the Institute since birth as some Merfolk could sometimes form psychic bonds with especially close friends and always with their mates and family. Iara could, by virtue of this bond, see into her sisters-of-sorts minds and saw nothing there of their own accord. They all lived to serve their purpose no matter what the cost. Some part of her mind was as devoid of free will as the other lilies and yet, most of her mind had somehow, of its own accord, found a way to overcome compulsion. She, however, kept it to herself terrified of the repercussions of revealing that she was not under the psychic thaw.
One evening during a Merfolk conversion of a Major light cycle into a Major dark cycle (day to night), the King had called for his lilies to the usual mating ritual chamber that was a room magically enhanced to create a water proof chamber similar to a submarine vessel. He had chosen this route, as many Merfolk did as it was believed that mating in the human way was most likely to get a Mermaid pregnant than the lesser preferred fish mating route which Merfolk were capable of as well. Iara was horrified at seeing the wicked things that delighted the dark King’s heart as he tortured her sisters. She was at least grateful that the other lilies did not understand what the King was doing to them and were actually convinced of how passionate the King was instead, their lens perfectly veiling the King’s diabolical nature.
The King prepared to take his turn on Iara and she leaned towards the part of herself that would veil her from his cruelty. Her face remained an unreadable mask, her eyes blank as she stared at the King but she saw everything. She saw the wickedly contorted features, smelled the blood that was turning into sea salt and sea form clinging to him, saw into his twisted mind as she had been able to do for the past 5 years and saw the things he wanted to do to her, things he had done to her countless times without her consent. She wanted to scream- the Merfolk’s only means of mourning but could not break her cover then.
“Iara,” he said practically singing her name. His face stretched out in a maniacal imitation of a smile and Iara once more acknowledged that she was living in a real nightmare.
“Oh the things I want to do to you- I want to-” the King began but never got a chance to finish his sentence before all of a sudden, a large spearhead was protruding from the back of his head straight through to the front of his head, so close to Iara that she could practically feel it grazing her head even as the King’s blood sprayed all over her face. And just like that, the King was no more.
Iara looked away as the corpse quickly dissolved into sea form and sea salt and the spear dropped at her feet nearly piercing her fin and sticking her to the ground. She saw that the one who had thrown the spear was a guard and he and his colleagues immediately entered the room and turned on the lilies.
Their presumed saviors had become their new captors and Iara was terrified at what fresh perversions they were truly capable of. The Mermen who were inches away from eternal damnation themselves competed and cast lots for her who had been known as the prettiest Mermaid to grace the Ocean of Sorrow (which the Merfolk referred to the Florian Ocean). They began to fight among themselves and in the midst of the ensuing chaos, Iara began to feel a compulsion pulsing through her mind right along with the other lilies.
“The King is dead, the King has fallen, eliminate the threats,” chorused she and her sisters. The Mermen were confused and did not expect the lilies to easily overpower and kill them.
“The King is dead, he has been avenged,” they all chorused once the last Merman had been defeated before slowly, each of the lilies began to pick a weapon of their own and recited a final chorus of, “The King is dead and so is my purpose,” before each of the nine other lilies taking their lives, all except Iara who quickly swam out of the room and away from the scene of so much death headed towards the surface world going against everything she had ever been taught, more willing to face death at the hands of the sun rather than at the hands of persecutors she knew would blame her for the deaths of her sisters, King and his guards.
It seemed that the sea itself wanted to tear Iara apart as she swam up towards the surface and she wanted to scream and wail; to rest but she couldn’t for soon, she was being pursued and she had to keep swimming no matter what. She finally made it to the surface and was astounded by the stars of the night above her and how perfectly the Moonlight lit the surface of the ocean. The sudden burst of oxygen and brightness caused her to begin to choke on the fresh air and cover her eyes from the lights in the sky.
And then suddenly, before she even had a chance to process every new thing she was experiencing for having lived 21 years below the surface of the Ocean, a strange new compulsion took over her and she began to chant something entirely different. It was in her tongue of Mermish but she had never heard of such a spell. As she chanted without missing a beat, the waters around her began to glow ethereally and even bubbled. The chanting did not relent until the light of the moon seemed to touch upon every surface and lit the Ocean up even brighter before diminishing and leaving an astounded Iara gasping for breath. She felt hands beneath her pulling her back into the Ocean and she fought her captors with all the strength she could muster, managing to break free and then swam towards the shore as fast she could, quickly recovered watching her tail fin transform into a pair of legs and crawled on the beach just as the sun rose up in the sky.
Based on everything she knew, Iara knew it was only a matter of time before the sun began to douse her in merciless hellfire and so she raised her hand to protect herself from being obliterated knowing that it would not work. However, rather than being punishing to her pearly white skin, the sun’s rays felt very warm and were a welcome surprise on her exposed body. She propped herself up on her two feet by holding onto a tree in the forest past the beach as the sun continued rising in the sky. She checked all around her, admiring the entirely alien world before her while checking for any signs of her pursuers. Her pursuers, unlike her, were less willing to risk their lives with the fires of the hellish sun.
Feeling safe and free at last, Iara began to walk away from the Ocean, her newly acquired legs adjusting to land with every step she took and she began to enjoy the sun’s rays on her body. She seemed instinctively sure of where to go and was surprised that a Mermaid could have such strong navigational abilities both in water and on land. Iara continued to enjoy the scenery of the Forest, admiring the alien flora and even enjoying the sounds of the forests from the insects to its unique animals. Simply being able to walk around the forest gave her great peace and she looked forward to life after her bold escape from her previously torturous life. Iara could not wait to see what life on land truly had in store for her…
TO BE CONTINUED…
Photo credits: Blue Nile Jewelry & Google Images.