The Traveler Chronicles 6

 RHEA’S TALE

PART ONE: THE PRINCE OF MARIAMNE

It was a perfectly sunny day in the beautiful Glad-well Park in the Fijian Island of Mariamne (formerly the Island of Tavueni) which was then a part of a the thriving Mortal Realm Kingdom ruled by the legendary King Xander and Queen Areneas, the most famous ruling monarchs in the First Plane of Existence in the 23rd Century.

Prince Xerxes was one of the most famous musicians of the time as were all his siblings by virtue of an affinity for music passed onto them by their mother. As such, the prince was often found channeling heart and soul into all his works particularly when the fourth born and only son of the ruling Monarchs finally found a woman befitting of the title of princess and his mate for all eternity.

The Prince and his fiancee Rhea, enjoyed a private picnic in the beautiful park under the shade of a Japanese Cherry Blossom whilst seated on the ground enjoying the delicacies so lovingly prepared by Rhea. Inspired by his love’s perfect beauty and the graciousness of a full stomach, the Prince took out his guitar and began to play his favorite tune ‘The Ballad of Rhea’

The Ballad was Rhea’s favorite song too and she smiled and blushed as the Prince played the tune while serenading her with his crisp baritone voice. A gentle breeze blew away cherry blossom leaves onto their heads and Rhea’s beautiful hair blew like a flag in the wind even as her chosen life-mate sang the song he had wrote her. Once he completed the ballad, she kissed him full on the lips and requested that he played the tune yet again which he happily obliged.

Rhea batted her eyelashes shyly and leaned in closer to the prince with the shiny 100-karat sapphire and gold engagement ring he had made her adorning her left ring finger glistening ethereally in the sun. The sight of his ring on her finger only inspired him to continue belting the ballad to the best of his abilities. All seemed right and perfect with the world and he focused his attention on Rhea ignoring everything else surrounding them at that moment in time as he usually did until all hell broke loose…

At first, the Prince continued serenading his future bride without a care in the world but it was impossible to ignore the sudden sound of a horse galloping towards them from seemingly out of nowhere. It was impossible to imagine how a horse could be allowed in the Park that existed inside the hosting pocket dimension of a Banyan tree.

Soon afterwards, he saw the horse’s cavalryman reach out and pull out a bow and some arrows from their satchel, immediately aiming them at his bride. Without a second thought, the rider shot arrows straight at Rhea, accurately striking her head, heart, stomach and legs. The arrows appeared to be fashioned from a bark he had never seen before then.Further, the arrows were decorated with multiple special fire-bird feathers, a rare yet potent weapon choice.

The Cavalryman then muttered a spell while Rhea struggled to get rid of the arrows pining her down to the ground but the arrows  soon all ignited starting from the fire bird feather ends all the way down to the tips of the arrows. The warriors that were assigned to protect the Prince and his bride rushed to defend them even as Rhea caught on fire, Greek fire flames greedily devouring her body.

The Prince was so distraught, he didn’t seem to notice that the flames were catching onto his clothing even as he tried to put out the insatiable fire consuming his love. He was barely aware of the fighting happening around him as the cavalryman stormed the warriors fighting them with uncommon ferocity and making quick work of them.

Rhea turned to him even as she burned and held onto him so that they begun to burn together. The beloved face he loved to behold was so hideously disfigured, it was hard to imagine that he had so obsessed with it before especially when a wicked smirk was etched on her face. The fire consumed them both and he saw something in the place of his beloved that would forever haunt his dreams…

Rhea appeared to be a monster and she laughed even as they continued to expire together. The laughter coming out from her was the stuff of nightmares as it was very low-pitched and terrifying. She then begun to melt as if she was made of ice as opposed to expiring like the dryad she was purported to be.

The mysterious cavalryman rode to where they were after defeating the Prince’s Guard and chopped off what was left of Rhea’s arms that held Prince Xerxes as she burned and it squealed in agony and hissed at the masked rider. The rider then extinguished the flames burning the Prince and grabbed a hold of him, immediately placing the severely injured prince on the horse and riding away through a portal the Cavalryman had opened up.

Before long, the Prince had passed out and when he next arose, he looked around him to see a rocky cave ceiling above him. There were stalactites rich with calcium salts above him and the constant sound of water rushing and dripping somewhere close to him. When he sat up, he saw stalagmites all over the floor. He then knew that he had been taken to a cave somewhere deep underground and as frightened as he was, he could seldom remember a time he had felt so refreshed.

The Prince expected that his skin would still be completely singed and would hurt but an examination of his body revealed that he had made a miraculous recovery. He searched for the clothes he had worn on the day of his botched picnic date but found nothing but newly fashioned clothes on the bed he had been resting on.

Xerxes took his time dressing up as he familiarized himself with the foreign environment of the cave. He walked around surprised that his captors would allow him so much freedom. He even managed to walk out of the cave entrance to the room he had occupied and walk around. He walked for a good 15 minutes before meeting another person. He was astounded that the person he found was a female of their kind.

“Ah, he lives!” she sarcastically announced.

“Excuse me… why have you held me captive? My family are searching for me and you shall be in grave danger even though you are a female of our kind if you do not willingly hand me over,”

The woman did not seem the least bit perturbed by his warning.

“I’ll go inform Shayara that you are awake,”

“Shay-Shayara, you say? Is she the mastermind behind my kidnap? What did she do to my fiancee? Where is Rhea?”

The woman did not answer any of his questions but instead walked away from him. He tried following her but got lost somewhere along the intricate labyrinth of interconnected caves. He tried to find a way out but he was soon just wandering about occasionally running into more females in the cave system all of whom gave him dirty looks. The Prince wandered how so many dryad females could be found gathered in that place while the males of their kind struggled to secure females of their own for mates but no questions he asked of the women were answered.

“Prince Xerxes of Mariamne. I can see that you have made a full recovery,” spoke Shayara suddenly appearing before him.

“Who are you?”

“I am Shayara. Please come with me,”

“Why should I? You kidnapped me- you- you hurt me- you killed my fiancee,”

“We saved your life. The woman you assume was your fiancee was nothing more than an evil golem created to beguile you. The real Rhea was the one who saved you,”

“The real Rhea? Golem? What are you talking about?”

“I should be happy to introduce you to the real Rhea, if you follow me,”

The Prince hesitated but knew he wouldn’t be able to survive down in those caves without help or at least getting a map of the cave system so he followed Shayara reluctantly trying to ignore the dirty looks and sometimes angry hisses of the dryad females they encountered on the way. The cave system was beautifully constructed, incorporating the naturally forming stalactites and stalagmites into the decor of the City of Caves.

“What is this place?” he asked Shayara.

“A place where every dryad woman can be free,”

“That was… vague. Where are we exactly? How far away are we from Mariamne? How long have I been down here?”

Shayara did not respond but instead led him further into the caves until they arrived at what appeared to be a dead end but Shayara placed her hand on the cave wall and it caved in accommodating a doorway large enough to let a person in which she then climbed in through and encouraged him to do the same. Once inside, the cave wall closed in on them and the suddenly dark cave-room was illuminated by floating balls of white light.

“Please have a seat, your majesty. Rhea will be right with you,” Shayara said ushering him to seat on the carved bench that was part of her office decorated with ecologically-friendly made cushions and throw pillows.

“No, thank you,” he responded stubbornly folding up his arms and remained standing in defiance.

Shayara soon disappeared through another end of the cave wall  and was promptly replaced by presence of Rhea in the office.

“Rhea, my love, you live! I- I thought I’d lost you forever. What happened? I thought that I was kidnapped and that you died,”

“Your majesty, please have a seat, I have a lot to explain to you,”

“Rhea- are you- are you my Rhea?” the Prince asked surprised by her sudden formality.

Rhea shook her head. “Please allow me to explain,”

The Prince settled down as asked to and turned to face Rhea who sat down next to him.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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