PART TWO: THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
As the Moon rose higher in the sky, Iara made it to the edge of the Island’s forest. The wonder and sense of adventure she had initially felt being on land for the first time had worn off during the day after wandering on the Island and finding no other Island inhabitants apart from its wildlife. She, however, continued to follow her instincts which eventually led her to the cliff edge of the Island that oversaw the ocean below.
Iara had been too terrified to pick any wild fruits to eat and by nightfall, her stomach growled angrily at her for her timidity. From the edge, she could see the Florian Ocean which seemed to be calling to her. She’d surely find something edible in no time at all; before her pursuers who could have followed her movement on land by sea, even noticed she’d returned to the water, she bargained with herself.
No! Iara knew that she would be simply risking too much returning to the Ocean. The scenes of her escape still played over and over again in her mind and the thought that she’d be called siren and blamed for the deaths of her sisters, the King and his guards were too much for the young Mermaid to bear…
And so Iara climbed down from the forest’s edge onto the beach ignoring the lull of the Ocean. She walked as far as she could before exhaustion dictated she hid in a cave she found somewhere along the beach where she happily fell asleep and awoke late the following morning.
By the time she woke up, Iara was even hungrier than the previous day but she pushed through by walking along the beach until she came across a sign board right where the land ended and there was nothing but miles of ocean before her.
The sign board was written in a variety of languages among them Mermish which she could understand and another mysterious language she was surprised that she could understand. She read out the strange language which formed the letters A-T-L-A-N-T-I-C-A and her instincts seemed to indicate that she followed the path to the Island on the Northern side of the Florian Ocean.
The only problem in choosing that part was that it would involve swimming in the ocean, something Iara had been avoiding for the past two days. She sat down at the sign post trembling in fear tormented by the gruesome scenes of death she had witnessed that never left her mind. She began to cry while holding onto her thighs, rocking back and forth and was surprised at how relieving it felt to do so. She sighed after spending a good amount of time crying and then stood up, gave herself a brief pep talk and slowly walked towards the Ocean.
The waters felt just right and she immediately wanted to immerse herself into the deepest depths of the Ocean but knew what lay in store for her if she dared disturb the peoples of the Kingdom of Flora. She restricted her swimming to only the shallowest depths of the Ocean as she swam northwards towards the Island of Atlantica. As she swam towards the Island, she sought and ate whatever mollusk she found at the shallow depths, appeasing her hunger slightly. She swam for hours before popping back up to the surface expecting to find the Moon. Instead, she was surprised that it was still daytime and it appeared that she had not made any significant progress even after such a long time swimming towards the Island.
Feeling frustrated and angry, Iara was just about to give up and return to the beach when she noticed the sun’s reflection on the supposedly ‘clear’ air which eerily refracted light and caused a mirage like effect . Slowly, Iara swam towards the dividing line of light and nervously outstretched her left hand, touching it. Her left hand seemed to disappear entirely into the mirage. She then slowly pushed one body part after another until she was completely immersed in the mirage world. The mirage world turned out to be a real place after all rather than just a trick of the light. In fact, Iara was sure that the mirage was generated by what was undoubtedly the most complex and powerful magic she had ever encountered.
She began looking around and saw no signs of life yet. She cautiously swam towards the beach making sure to keep her eyes peeled for any booby traps or protective magic placed in this most mysterious land surprised that she had made it thus far without any pursuers on her tail. Her cautious exploration only sought to reveal that the mirage land was of breathtaking views even from her limited vantage point. Everything about the mysterious island from its impressive tall trees to its exotic animals was truly awe-inspiring. Even the waters there felt purer there and she felt more powerful than she ever had before.
As she stepped onto the beach, abandoning her fin for feet that she took a while adjusting to, she felt as if she was being watched. She trembled involuntarily and quickly left the waters of the Ocean that appeared to be lighter than the Florian Ocean waters. Just as she was preparing herself to run away from whatever was stalking her, she saw very tall people walking towards her. The people must have been at least 8 or 9 inches tall and despite their terrifying height, were very beautiful. They, however, were not as exposed as Iara was and she suddenly felt shy and uncivilized. She quickly ran away from the people and hid in the Forest from them, hiding her shame.
The people followed her into the forest and she remained hidden, holding back tears. What if they made her go back? She couldn’t go back! She had to find a way of evading these people- she’d live in the forest as exposed as she was if that was what it took to evade punishment and certain death at the hands of her people.
“Please, Lady Iara, come out. We mean you no harm,” said one of the people who had come to apprehend her.
They knew her name! How could they possibly know that? Iara was horrified. She did not leave her hiding spot until she was assured that they were long gone seeking her in another direction. Only when she was absolutely assured that no one was following her did she stand up ready to run in the opposite direction. However, as she planned to stand up, an arm outstretched offering to help her up and she looked up to see one of those impossibly tall and imposing figures. She flinched away from his hand and crawled backwards like an animal ready to leap and take off but met another impossibly tall figure and then another and another. She was surrounded!
The woman that had spoke before came out from the men that surrounded her and bent down to her level. She smiled warmly and though Iara was terrified of her, she felt as if she could trust the woman with her very life. Was this too another trick? She was horrified at the possibility that this may very well be a dream she had concocted as she faced judgement and punishment for the deaths of the King, guards and her fellow lilies.
The woman draped some sought of object around Iara covering her shame. Iara was surprised at how warm and comfortable the object, a second skin of sorts, felt against her skin. The woman then outstretched her arms and found the scrapes and deep scratches Iara had acquired climbing down the edge of the Forest.
She smiled as her hands glowed an ethereal bluish white color and Iara felt instant relief and gasped on seeing her wounds completely healed. The woman then proceeded to do the same for Iara’s legs and cleared away any wounds she had acquired on her journey.
The woman then placed some strange objects around Iara’s feet before getting to her feet and helping Iara up on her feet as well. She practically beamed at Iara and helped cover her nakedness with the object she had placed over her bare body.”Lady Iara, allow me to introduce myself. I am Ailsa, a courtesan of Her Ladyship the Sage of the Undine Pillars, our Queen. Her Ladyship instructed me to attend to you as soon as you arrived so that you may seek audience with her,”
Iara did not know what to say about that. She had never heard of a Sage who was also a Queen and had no idea what Undine Pillars were. She, however, continued trusting her instinct and followed Lady Ailsa to her home where she was given treatment fit for a princess. She was pampered with a hot bath with sweet smelling flowers and was groomed like royalty. She was dressed into a beautiful ‘second-skin’ that Lady Ailsa called a gown and she wore beautiful objects designed for the feet that they called shoes. They applied some strange oils to her face that made her glow in a beautiful color that suited her face. Then they escorted her towards a scenic waterfall and the cave whose end led to spinney filled with beautiful, low hanging trees and shrubs and eventually, a magnificent fortified Palace atop a hill that was heavily guarded by more of Ailsa’s intimidatingly tall race of people.
The Palace was magnificent on the outside and inside as well. She was escorted from the entrance hall to the throne room where two equally large thrones made of a material Iara had never seen but one that glistened in the sun were the focal point of the room. However, everything from the stone floor to the artistically curved dome shaped room and roof was covered in beautifully drawn and curved symbols. The roof had paintings too which were reflected in church glass as well. There was a story behind the paintings and Iara began paying rapt attention to it and eventually spun around before spinning back and seeing three people entering the room, also members of Ailsa’s mysterious race of people.
The eldest female who was regal looking turned to her mate and sighed as if relieved to see Iara before rushing to her, tears already pouring from her eyes and hugging her as if she was a lost daughter. Iara had known no mother but the way this woman embraced her made her feel like she was indeed a prodigal daughter returned home at last. Iara embraced her too and for some reason began crying too.
The woman then held Iara’s crying face in her hands as if she was the most precious thing in the world. “Iara,” she called to her in such a loving way that Iara’s heart swelled with love. “Welcome home, darling,” said the woman planting a mother’s loving kiss on Iara’s forehead.
“Home?” Iara asked.
The woman nodded and hugged her once more and Iara held onto her tightly, already terrified of losing her.
She noticed the man was looking at her wearily but the younger female was beaming at her and she returned the gesture. Family. This was her family. She had no doubt about it and yet these people were not Merfolk as she was and she asked herself how she could be related to them. Were they mistaken?
“You are not mistaken, Iara. We are your family,” the woman reassured her surprisingly in Mermish. She then turned to face the other members of their family and focused on the man, her mate who was still staring at Iara bewildered.
The man approached Iara cautiously before cupping her face tenderly in his overly huge hands and crying as he embraced her too. He held her so tightly, Iara was afraid he’d break her in half but she didn’t mind. Father. This man was her father. She’d never had a family other than the lilies and yet there she was with her family. After a little while longer, the younger female came running towards her and hugged her too.
A sister. Iara had a real sister. Iara cried out of happiness. She had a family. She glowed in the light of this new knowledge. They invited her to a meal during the middle of a light cycle(day) they called ‘lunch’ which had no equivalent in the Merfolk dialect or practices since Merfolk usually only fed once or twice a day and never in between the day. The meal consisted of the most delicious vegetables she had ever had. Some of the vegetables she ate were completely foreign to her but they were absolutely delectable.
After lunch, her new family acquainted her with the Island Country of their race known as the Sprites. Her new mother explained that the Sprites were an ancient people who had been exiled to the Second Plain of Existence during the years of reckoning as many other peoples had been put through. For several years, the Sprites had led a miserable life. Though powerful beings, not a single child had been born for several centuries until a single female had been born when all hope seemed lost.
The greatest seers at the time had predicted that the female would be a savior for them all and for the peoples of the entire Second Plain of Existence but she would need to sent to another world- those which the Second Plain’s inhabitants would later refer to as the lands of the blessed ones upon learning their existence. Only she, the last Sprite child, would be able to cross over from the Second Plain of Existence to the First. In fact, prior to her birth, the seers had not been able to perceive of any other plain of existence.
Once the special child was properly weaned, she was put in an impenetrable vessel with nothing but a charmed pendant to remind her of her home. She cried as her own people sent her to the land of the blessed in a magical whirlpool that managed to send her to the First Plain.
However, the people of Atlantica had no way of ascertaining whether the child had reached there safely and had had to rely on faith of their gods until at long last, when the child was of age, she had returned to them at last albeit not what they had expected she would be.
This child came with her knowledge of the One True Religion and had pledged her loyalty and allegiance to the Creator Goddess, the only true Goddess. She taught her people, the Sprites, everything she knew about the Creator. Those who believed were saved but those who adamantly believed in false gods continued to languish in torment and saw faith alleviate the suffering of their people, inevitably joining the true faith. The people appointed her as their Sage and Queen.
The worship of the goddess earned the people her forgiveness. The Sprites went from being the most infertile race in the Second Plain to its most fertile and people from all over the Plain came to bear witness to this fact. The new Sage taught all the races of the Second Plain and many converted and believed. Some required more signs of faith and they were given to them. The Sage was a Seer unparalleled to any other seer in the entire Plain.
People came from far and wide seeking her expert counsel due to her unique insight. Furthermore, the Creator granted her a very important power- she gave her and her bloodline the power to control the Undine Pillars from whence all Oceanic life came from.
The Sage could monitor the life of the Ocean and all creatures tied to it from the Pillars reflected in a vast sea with massive waterfalls which was known as the Ocean of Creation which flowed in every known plain of existence except for the 6th Dimension where nothing good ever came out from.
The Sage could also control the pillars at will, control the life-forces of the Undine (water bound races) if she so pleased. She was also tasked in ensuring Oceanic life was protected. If ever there arose a circumstance when a certain Undine race was in danger of extinction, the Sage would have to intervene and help the people by offering sacrifices to appease the Creator. She’d also help the people in whatever way she could no matter which Plain of Existence they existed in. The Sage’s immense power was tied to the Pillars and to all Undine life. She could connect with every single Undine that had ever existed, dead or alive. Even the sirens and tritons were bound to her.
Iara was surprised to hear of the vast power the Sage was capable of. She was even more astounded to learn that the Sage was her step-mother as her father, the Protector of this immensely powerful Sage and Queen had had a relationship with Iara’s mother before knowing of his true destiny and had had a daughter by her, Iara. Her father explained that it had been the Creator’s will for Iara to be born. Iara was meant to have a great destiny and the first step to beginning her journey was her meeting with her family.
TO BE CONTINUED…