Legend of the Sea
Many ages ago on the island of Atlantis I was a princess. Atlantis was a grand civilization among miles of rainforest and tropical beaches. At the northern most end of the island were cliffs where the waves would crash melodiously against the land. To the east were the great and fertile farmlands and orchards. In the west were our villages; they were filled with families, merchants, and the docks. The south was where the great temple laid, but few other than royalty ventured there. My people were powerful and yet we lived harmoniously with the natural world around us.
One spring day the great sea spirit emerged from sea foam and called to see my father, the king. The sea spirit had become furious with the king and accused him of having stolen the heart of the ocean, a powerful and magical sea pearl. My father argued with the sea spirit, saying the staff that held the magical pearl was forged for him and he would not surrender it. Angered at the king’s insolence and disrespect the spirit called out, “If you continue this façade you and all your subjects will suffer my wrath!”
“What wrath?” replied the king. “I have powerful magic and I have an armada of thousands at my disposal. What then could you do to me and mine?”
“I am one with the ocean waters that keep your island home from plunging into the depths of my seas. I give you till tomorrows midnight to return to me the heart of the ocean or I will plunge Atlantis into the sea”.
The king did hold in his possession a rather miraculous staff, toped with the largest pearl ever discovered by atlantiens; this pearl was also quite powerful. Long before the princesses birth in the time of the great queen the king was gifted his powerfully magical staff. On a late summers eve a local fisherman called upon the king. The man spun a tail of a glorious light he had witnessed as he went out for the mornings catch. The light, he told, did not fall from the sun up high but from the depths of the ocean. The king was not one for stories but this tail intrigued him. He sent a small group of soldiers to go out onto the water and beneath to investigate the matter. He ordered them to bring back anything of interest they might find. At the ocean floor the men found a giant pearl the glowed brighter than the morning sun. They brought the pearl before the king and he deemed it something to be looked at by the wise men of the temple. The high priest proclaimed that the pearl was indeed magical and very powerful. The wise men then forged a staff that could harness the power of the pearl for the sake of Atlantis. This staff was given to the king and the wise men told him that with it no one would ever dare to go against Atlantis.
My Father stood tall and smiled arrogantly, taking lightly the spirits threat. All the while I stood at my fathers side in fear of what may come. I worried for the fate of my home and people. Sadly my father clearly did not fear for the fate Atlantis. “Father do you not understand that our kingdom will perish if you don’t return the pearl? Father please, I beg you do as the Great Spirit has commanded”.
“The staff and pearl are mine and mine alone. I am king and with the power of the staff I keep Atlantis safe. If I must I shall use its power against the Great Sea Spirit” he said.
“How can you say that? The Sea Spirit is what keeps Atlantis safe, that staff will only bring destruction upon our kingdom”, I said.
“Do not argue with me! The sea spirit is not our protector but our greatest enemy. It has asked too much over the years of my kingdom and me. I should have used the magic of the staff long ago, then maybe your beloved mother would still be here.”
“That was not the fault of the sea spirit father, surely you know she only did what she knew to be right.” I took his hand in mine but he flinched at my touch.
“Leave me be! You know not of the spirits treachery, and your presence only furthers my anger” he said.
I pleaded with him to see reason but to no avail. If I could not convince my father to do the right thing than maybe our people would hear me. For the day I rode out to each of our villages and told them of our coming fate but they would not listen. They too were blind and believed that nothing could harm our great civilization.
By daybreak the next morning I had made my way out to the islands cliff edge tired and hopeless. Here I called to the sea spirit and begged it to spare my people. I called out saying I would do anything and everything in my power to set things right and save Atlantis. Suddenly out of the sea foam arose the spirit of the sea. “You must do what the king has refused to do. You young princess must bring to me the heart of the ocean”.
“But Great Spirit I have begged and pleaded with my father but he refuses to obey your command. Not even my own people will listen to reason. How then can I do as you ask?”
“It was you who claimed you’d do anything and everything to save your people, so that is what you must do. Bring me the heart of the ocean here no later then midnight or Atlantis will fall”. With that said the spirit vanished and the ocean was calm once more.
I made my way back to the castle at the center of the island, contemplating all the while of ways to get the staff away from my father. My father kept the staff at his side at all times so taking it from him would be no easy task. Even worse my father never cared to have me near him so I wouldn’t have the chance to take it from him. When not at his side the staff was heavily guarded by soldiers. That’s when a thought crossed my mind; I could take the staff while he slept. My father kept the staff at his bedside every night while he slept with only a pair of soldiers standing outside his door. I knew of the risk but I would have rather been deemed a traitor to the throne than see my beloved Atlantis punished for my father’s arrogance.
So it was that the princess was resolved to do what no other before her had, sacrifice herself for her people, or so she thought. In the time of the queen Atlantis thrived. The Queen was kind, generous, and above all others beautiful. She ruled with a kind heart and all her subjects admired and loved her for it. The king loved her for her beauty but like his people all the more for her heart. He was overjoyed when he came to know she was with child. The queens’ pregnancy was a difficult and tumultuous one, so she often sought out council with the temples wise men. They prayed, held ceremonies, and made generous offerings to the sea but nothing seemed to help quell her majesties ailments. On the night of the princesses birth all of Atlantis prayed in silence for both the queen and the princess’s well being. To the kings joy both survived in all good health.
A few days after the birth, the king and queen with the infant princess journeyed once more to the temple. There the high priest christened the child hair to the Atlantien throne. After the ceremony something unexpected happened, the great spirit of the sea appeared at the temple. The spirit said that on such a joyous occasion a sacrifice must be made. The spirit asked that one of the atlantien royal family be the offering. This came as a shock to the king and queen and the temple leaders. The king was not at all happy with the situation and was prepared to use his powerful staff to protect his family. The queen said she would not allow such behavior, that as royalty it was not for them to disobey.
The queen spoke kindly to the spirit and asked if nothing else could be done to appease this. The spirit spoke and said that if they did not make a sacrifice the princess would not live much longer. The queen’s heart broke at the thought. The king was angered and wanted to settle the matter with magic but the good queen would not allow it. The king loved his queen so much that he said he’d take on the burden of being sacrificed. The queen told her beloved king that Atlantis needed him and the wise men agreed with her. So she took the infant princess and kissed her saying that she would love her for all time and handed her back to the king. To the kings dismay the queen then offered herself as tribute. On that day the kings heart changed and became cold and hard. So it was that the great queen gave her life for her child and for Atlantis.
Later that evening I took some rope from the stables and figured out a way to sneak into my father’s room. I had taken the rope and tied one end to my balcony and let the rest fall onto my father’s balcony below. I climbed down quickly and quietly as to not attract attention to myself. I slipped off my slippers and tip toed my way through my father’s bedroom. I saw the staff leaning against his nightstand and I gently took it. I made my way back out to the balcony and back up the rope to my room. I had hidden the staff in my night robe and snuck out of my room past the guards. I had never imagined myself a heroine but I did then as I made my way through the castle. Once I was beyond the castle I heard an uproar of soldiers making their way after me. I’d been discovered and I ran to the stables and quickly mounted my horse. I rode through the villages to the islands northern edge.
I rode like never before holding tight and fast to the staff as I made my way to the sea. I thought I had done it when I had the cliff side in sight but the soldiers were fast on my trail. The soldiers caught up to me a mile from the cliff side and took the staff from me. I fought and struggled to stop them but it was no use. One Soldier held me and another held the staff as all waited for the king to appear.
Again from sea foam that crashed against the cliff arose the sea spirit. I along with the soldiers stood in awe, and then out from the crowd of men arose my father, the king. The soldier that held me let go and I ran to my father pleading with him one last time to do the right thing. He struck me and took the staff from the soldier. “Insolent girl how dare you betray me this way. How I wish now that I had let you die as a child,” He said to me.
“I did only what I had to for the sake of Atlantis. I will not allow your insane ambition to be my kingdoms downfall,” I said tearfully.
“I am king of Atlantis and only I decide what will and will not be done for the sake of my kingdom!” He retorted.
I lunged at my father taking hold of the staff. We struggled both fighting for control of it. The sea spirit roared in anger at the sight of such chaos. That’s when it happened, in one swift blow he threw me to the ground. Filled with rage he blindly took the staff and pointed it towards me. My heart broke as I looked up at him, at the unrecognizable man before me. He called upon the power of the pearl, the heart of the ocean, and released its furry upon me. I was sure that death had cursed me then and so had the king. Time seemed to stop upon us all. A flash of light flew from the staff and engulfed me. I felt as if my body was being ripped apart but I was not dying, I was changing.
I tried to scream and fight against what was happening but it was as if I was paralyzed. I slowly felt a warm cloth-like material wrap around my feet, up my legs, and up to my hips until they seemed to disappear all together. My skin felt as if it were being blanketed by thousands of smooth pebbles. Then nothing, I felt nothing, I heard nothing, just nothing.
When I felt the ground beneath me once more I was relieved. I looked around and was surprised to see the look on all the men’s faces. They looked at me as if it was the first time they’d ever seen me, almost mesmerized. That’s when I looked back at the king. He had a look of utter shock and disbelief upon his face. I tried to speak but my voice was gone. All that came out was a soft, subtle melody. I stopped and just looked at the king, he still had the staff pointed at me.
The sea spirit grew large, so much so, that it eclipsed the sun. Its voice roared over Atlantis. “Look at her, look upon what you have done! Your daughter is as beautiful as any mortal women but now she is also as wondrous as the creatures that dwell in my oceans.”
The king dropped the staff and stepped back away from me. “That thing! That is not the princess. What have you done to her? This was not of my doing, I could never, and I would never. Return her at once!” He turned to look up at the sea spirit. “You are to blame for all the misfortune of my kingdom! You were not satisfied with my generous offerings so you greedily took my lovely queen, now your greed continues as you threaten my kingdom and mean to take my power from me; but this monstrosity you have created of the princess is beyond words!” He looked down at me with disgust and distain. It was not until I looked down at myself that I understood his expression.
I no longer had feet but a tail fin; my legs were fused together and covered in iridescent scales. My torso looked normal but my skin was speckled in colors of the sea and more colorful iridescent scales covered my chest. This continued up my neck and down my arms to my hands. My hands looked so strange, my finger had webbed skin in between them. As I let my new hands roam my new body I felt odd slits in my neck and realized I wasn’t breathing normally.
I panicked and tried to scream once more but the sound that left my mouth was harsh and foreign. The sound was like screeching birds at the point of death. The king and the soldiers around me covered their ears from the noise. I stopped and looked to the sea spirit for answers, for help, and for mercy. The spirit looked upon me and sighed then looked out upon Atlantis. “The creature that now lays before you is indeed the princess. She is the only one among you worthy of being spared. She is the only one among you who was willing to do the right thing at all cost. The heart of the ocean is a power meant for no mortal to hold. This form she now holds is her salvation because your king has doomed you all”. With that said the island began to quake and the ocean began to bubble.
I looked about and saw the soldiers running towards the villages as the ground broke apart and swallowed them down. The castle crumbled in the distance and the king watched as our home fell into the water. The ground around me shifted and water rose up from beneath. I let myself fall, but I didn’t sink. Instinct took over and I began to swim to safety. Not once did I feel the need to come up for air, I could breathe under water. For that one moment I felt safe.
Once I was safely away from the destruction I swam up to the surface. I couldn’t help but cry as I watched my beloved Atlantis collapse into the water. My heart ached listening to the screams of my people. I wanted to swim back to them to save them all but I knew I could not, not then. The water swirled sucking in all of the debris. I couldn’t even think as the water calmed itself and where Atlantis once stood lay nothing. I swam back down to the very bottom of the ocean and found no remnants of my former home, just the pearl. I took it and held it gently, how could such a thing be worth all this?
As I wept the sea spirit came before me and said, “I know you are saddened by the loss of your home and family, but this was not your fault. You, so true and so good did all you could. It was their ignorance and thoughtlessness that sealed their fate”.
“I should have done more, I could have done more if only I had time. You who are so powerful and so great, you could have spared the young, the old, and the innocent. Why then did you doom them all for the fault of a king?” I said.
“I did what had to be done, the pearl spared you and you alone, for good reason. You have a heart that is pure like the water around us. You have seen what the ambition and need for power can do to men. You alone now carry the burden of protecting the heart of the ocean. You must take what has happened here and never allow it to happen again. You must protect the oceans and its inhabitants from man, and you must protect man from the power of the pearl,” said the sea spirit.
With a heavy heart I accepted my fate. “I shall do now what I could not do before, but only if you give me time”.
“Then time you shall have, all the time of the ages. You shall never age nor shall you fall ill and die. You will live as long as the pearl is safe and as long as it needs protecting”, said the spirit.
“Thank you, I shall do as you ask”. So I took the pearl and made my home at the bottom of the ocean where my beloved Atlantis once stood. From that day forward I was no longer a princess. I am now a myth of men, a story, and a warning to all that the sea is powerful and protected. I am a sea-maiden, not mortal and not fish, but an undying creature of fate. I have roamed the oceans for centuries and shall do so for all of time.