The blue mistress's chamber seemed to be the most comfortable place the mariner had ever seen. His shoes sank deep into the rugs as his eyes roamed over the smooth, blue cloths that hung from the windows and bedding. The sound of the distant sea reached his ears, and the cool breeze flooded the room. Light streamed in from a large opening that led onto a balcony. The mistress made her way across the room and sank her cheek upon a fluffy cushion. She eyed him curiously.
"They say these are the most comfortable pillows in the world," she stated casually, "From a flying island that catches the most feathery birds no less! You will come and sit with me?" she patted a pillow next to her and smoothly extended her leg past the borders of her gown. The mariner stood still, unsure of what to do. "Come to me," the mistress demanded more forcefully.
The mariner felt a small push and looked to see the handmaiden who had escorted him throughout the palace nudging him forward. To him she seemed to have a disenchanted look.
"She can sit with us too, miss?" he asked rather innocently and pointed to the young girl. The handmaiden's eyes widened. The mistress blinked a moment and laughed.
"I suppose for a moment yes, and please, call me Jalyssa."
Both took a seat upon the high bed. The mariner seemed a small boy, kicking his legs as though bored. The mistress still eyed him curiously, for he did not move to touch her. She asked him of his journeys, and the mariner felt obliged to speak of his encounter with the sea creature and the long year spent with his crewmen. The mistress twirled her curls patiently while the handmaiden asked many things, of the people he met, the storms he faced, and the reason for his voyage.
"Oh," the mariner gave a sigh, "I left seeking the most beautiful maiden, a woman from the heavens. I should say I know her, but she is all a mystery to me," he answered dreamily. The handmaiden gave an emotional sigh in her pink dress, wondering at the the man's passion.
Jalyssa perked up and asked, "Who is this wonderful maiden you speak of?"
The mariner looked past the balcony: "You could say I had a sight of her," he started, "but I saw her in my heart more than my eyes. I tried to forget her, but how could I? My memory of her grows clearer with every day, except, to describe her features seems to miss it completely, but I will say what I can.
"I remember her hair, blackening the sea in darkness," he said. The mistress let her black hair fall about her shoulders gently. "She was wrapped in the darkest blue beneath the water and her arms opened, like an invitation to life itself," the mistress smoothed her dress and placed her arm about him. He continued, "She held the sea in her blue eyes," the mistress turned his head to stare into her eyes.
"Oh you speak so favorably of me!" the mistress bubbled over in delight, and she kissed the mariner upon the cheek.
"Oh I was not speaking of you," our mariner said rather stupidly.
Now here we must pause and understand some things. Whenever a man sits in the presence of women and ventures to speak of the most beautiful woman in the world, he has immediately made a blunder. For one thing, to say there is only one woman who is the most beautiful will at least set you against all but one of the ladies present. It is not so bad however, for there would be your chosen woman to defend you. But to say that the most beautiful woman is not even present among you is to give yourself to death. We can understand that the mariner made no offenses to the mistress. Had he met her in other circumstances, he should be mesmerized by her loveliness. Even so, circumstances were not different, and the mistress could never understand the harmlessness in his comment.
"Not me?" she stated incredulously. "NOT ME?" she shrieked. "Of whom do you speak? I demand it! Tell me you do not speak of…her!" I will have this maiden's heart!" she flung her fluffiest pillows about her and ripped them in a rage.
The mariner cowered next to the trembling handmaiden and timidly felt obliged to answer, "I should say she is the mistress of the sea!" he wailed in fear.
"I AM THE MISTRESS OF THE SEA!" the woman cried. Her blue curtains blew against the wind in her anger. "I am sister to the maidens of the skies! I have darkened the waves! I cloak the path of my sea creatures! The sea is a mystery because of me!" She slapped her handmaiden in anger and burst in a fit: "I have thrown myself upon the sea day after day yet I am stuck here, lovesick for…men!" she spoke the word in disgust. "How could the sea choose her over…over….that witch!"
At this the mariner jumped up to defend his maiden, however just as he spoke, a distant but clear voice crashed with the sound of the distant waves.
Who has insulted my maiden of the heavens? The voice shook the walls of the palace, Is it not you once more Jalyssa, Daughter of the Waves? I spat you and your maidens upon your isle for you made my waters bitter with envy. You sought to steal men's hearts from their longing of me, and I did not rise to strike. Yet I will not bear you to sit upon my foundations and mock the Mistress of the Sea. She is my beloved. For such a crime, your isle is lost, and you will never know love again. Farewell Jalyssa.
The look of incredible terror overcame Mistress Jalyssa, and she burst from the chamber, shrieking for her maidens. The mariner and the pink handmaiden gazed from the door to each other uneasily
"Mistress Jalyssa has done an awful thing!" the handmaiden sniffed, "The Sea has spoken. Long has Jalyssa opposed the waves that birthed us. The sea will crash upon our isle, and we all will roam the waves, homeless once more."
The old mariner felt that a fatherly hug was in order, yet as he reached for her, her eyes became wild. "Do not fear! All is not lost for you!" She seized his hand and sped out the chamber. By this time the palace had begun to shake. The aged mariner heaved as he ran and passed numerous windows. The ravine had begun to overflow as if the island were sinking into the water. The sight of a giant wave in the distance filled his thoughts with terror.
Maidens squealed past him; he recognized his crewmen, some confused, others dashing in fright. He could not catch sight of Captain.
His speed doubled and all became a blur. The mariner could only set his eyes upon the pink color that led him down long passageways and deep stairwells. The air became musty and the light became lost. Various torches lit the way and the noises of shouting and footsteps had long since died. Soon they came to a thick, wooden door. The pink handmaiden heaved it open with a great effort before closing it behind herself and the mariner.
They were in a small cavern; a pool of dark water rested before them. The mariner stuck his foot down and found its depths immeasurable.
"We sometimes come here to swim once more into the depths of our home," the pink maiden's voice echoed against the rocks. "We have never enjoyed land as we do the water. Perhaps it is best. The sea will take us back, but it will be cruel." A tone of sadness escaped from her mouth.
"Why have you brought me here?" the mariner asked.
"Oh! Your story is so wonderful!" the maiden beamed, "The maiden you search for, I have seen her! I would not tell you in front of Jalyssa, but years ago she swam near this passage as I was entering the water. I was so amazed by here presence! I knew Mistress Jalyssa could not equal her! It seemed she motioned for me to follow, and I was about to, but, I felt that if I left, I would never see Mistress Jalyssa again," She looked from her memories to the mariner. "Far be it from me to refuse one who wishes to pursue her!"
"My strength is already weak," he flustered, "My heart tells me that I shall die trying, yet somehow I feel that even if I do not find her, my journey on her gown has been enough for a man such as myself. But how can I go now?" the mariner's eyes widened, "I shall surely drown!"
"Take the breath from a daughter of the waves," she whispered. "The depths will know the air within you. Your fill will be sweet and long." She kissed him long and full. She had much passion, and the mariner felt it wrong to stop her. Afterwards he did not feel the need to take in a breath. His chest did not rise or fall.
"You will come with me?" he begged earnestly.
"Someday I will journey to see her," the handmaiden smiled, "but not yet. My sisters will need me upon the waves."
The old mariner looked upon her with scolding eyes. "Do not tarry long. One will always have an excuse not to leave." The handmaiden smiled at his words and helped the mariner into the pool. "Where shall I go from here?" he asked.
"She is the Wonder of the Sea! She will guide you to herself if she desires," she answered and dropped him into the water. Bubbles of thanks rose to the surface and the handmaiden laughed. "Do not forget me!" he heard her voice through the water, and he started the downward swim within the dark tunnel. All was a black void yet still he swam, fingering the rocky wall until it gave way into the open sea. The sun did not shine in his waters, and he shuddered as slippery fins brushed past his arms and toes. He was at home within his mind, but the perpetual darkness was feeding a sense of panic he could not hold away for long.
Ahead he noticed a great school of harmless fish with illuminated lanterns upon their heads. Their much desired lights seemed as the last glow within a world conquered by darkness. They did not flee as he approached but rather seemed to wait for him as a guide would a slow visitor. They swam ahead and waited again as he neared; this manner went on for many hours, and the mariner's limbs soon tired. His heart pounded in fatigue, but his eyes wandered about in the light of his fish-guides.
Strange creatures entered the orb of light and passed by indifferently. Some twisted about to push themselves forward; others seemed to bulge and shrink in colors of reds and pinks. Pale orbs and dark eyes looked on the mariner before quickly fleeing to avoid his path. Many captivated the mariner with their colorless bodies and drawn out fins. Many more skirted the light just enough to give the mariner chills of horror and wonder.
He let loose many bubbles of air in surprise as he passed over the hull of a large fishing vessel, rotted and ominous. Eels poked out of portholes and he wondered how many dead men had met his end upon such a large ship.
Of course there were many wonderful things that fascinated him as well. He tickled the bellies of the more fair-looking fish and clasped a ride on their fins. Schools of colorful living things brushed about his limbs and seemed to help him along his way. A soft, musical hum broke the disturbing quiet of his journey and flowed serenely into his ears. The fish-lanterns became more excited at the sound.
They had made their way to a sandy floor that housed a number of skirting things. A cavern loomed ahead and the mariner's arms began to throb with sharp pains. His body called for stop, but he could feel the air of the sea-maiden slowly draining from his chest, and the sound of the humming had grown clearer.
The cavern held many secrets and unexplored spaces. The musical voice overflowed the cave and the fish-lanterns swayed happily to and fro as the tones grew softer or higher. It seemed to the mariner to be more of a hall of music than any deep-sea cave. Every rock and path and creature seemed to resonate with the beauty of the voice that called the mariner onward.
His muscles burned and his bubbles grew smaller, yet he could not help but spread his arms in rhythm to the voice. And here is my end, he thought to himself wearily, in the deep darkness of the world, being sung to my rest by my most beloved maiden. The last air bubble escaped his lips.
At that moment, the fish stopped at what seemed like a glistening surface. It lay only strokes away, and the old mariner struggled beyond his strength. The mariner gave his last heave and felt water flow away from his face and fall into his gasping mouth. The water flowed against a small stony beach and he floated towards it. He felt his heart beat slower.
His reeling eyes caught glimpses of small pools filled with the fish-lanterns, illuminating a fair-sized cavern and a low, stone ceiling. The water flowed brushed against his arms, yet the water felt more as cloth upon his skin. The light from the fish flowed in watery lines about the walls and illuminated what seemed to be a wonderful figure, sitting upon herself and humming softly.
The mariner shook in rapture as his eyes sank into the deep blue of his most beloved maiden.
She was not at all in likeness to the sea-maidens of the isle. Her appearance was in no way decorative, yet to the mariner, it seemed any stone or jewel would only deprive her of the beauty he beheld. Her dress was not elaborately colored nor her soaked, dark hair filled with sapphires. Her slender waist sat upon the folded imprint of her legs. Her gown reached every inch of the cavern floor and lost itself into the pool that the mariner rested within. Water dripped from her curls and fell from her shoulder down to her arms. The sea itself had soaked her in its beauty, and the heavenly wonder that flowed beneath her skin seemed to turn every drip into a small, falling crystal.
"You have found the heavenly maiden of mysteries," her voice softly patted against the cavern. Her eyes followed the flowing lights. Her voice stilled the old mariner's heart, and he gasped in delight as much as for air. "I remember you well young fisherman, and your wide eyes." She smiled sweetly, "You looked so dissatisfied at your life then, but now look at you! Your eyes are wild with delight! But tell me, why does a man leave his comfortable home that he has known all his life to brave the horrible and the wonderful of my beloved sea?"
The mariner had no strength. He dragged himself out of the water and sought frantically for every breath. "Mysteries," he hurt but chuckled, "life is….nothing…apart from them….but what an adventure…with them!" He coughed loudly.
"Though they always remain beyond your reach?" she asked humorously from afar.
"Not to grasp them," he sighed, "…but to be…in their presence…to see them.
"But you gave everything to grasp me," her eyes met his in amazement.
"No….not to have you but….to have the privilege…to look upon….the maiden of mysteries…one more time," his mind softened, "That is all I ask."
The loveliest laugh sang about the cavern as she stood and floated gracefully to the mariner. She lay herself down next to his widened eyes and reached for his hand; her fingers curled themselves inside his. She brushed aside his long hair as her lips kissed his watery eyes.
"Rest upon my lap, brave mariner. Your life is in the arms of Mystery itself."
The mariner could find no words. All faded as his mind floated blissfully along the sea of her gown and sank into the soft pillows of her thighs.
"Ah, that is good." He closed his eyes, "Very good."
The maiden of the heavens hummed softly to him for a great time.
"What is your name," he barely whispered.
"I am Melanie," the maiden answered soothingly.
"Melanie," the old mariner breathed his last, "Such a lovely name."
"So the tale is done," I say. I down another drink and wipe the sweat from my brow while listeners pay me their dues.
"I should have shorter tales," I huff, much to everyone's amusement, but I know that no one regretted staying past their time.
Author's Note: So, that's it. ^_^