The Euphoric Chronicles: The Tale of Tonii the Mermaid (contd.)

                                                                            Elsewhere and Meanwhile

   Of course there were other things happening in the ‘shire while Tonii was away at school because although it was an idyllic place to live it was not without its problems. The main issue as it related to the islands and the loch was a brewing power struggle between the brothers Keeve. It seemed inevitable to those who had watched the brothers grow up over the years that there would be a conflict sooner or later between these two opposites. Gregee had been traveling more and more, often going out for years at a time to distant lands and when he would come back he would spout off about all that he had seen and done and the wonders of these places. He would talk of the money, the riches that these distant lands of wonderment were taking from the travelers who trekked from afar to visit them. He wanted to do the same thing in Lollashire and the loch. He saw the islands as a means for him to become wealthy and he already knew that with wealth came power and it was power that he craved more than anything else in this world.     

   Wealth and power would make people see beyond his twisted body and warped mind. They would respect him, love him, and most importantly, fear him. He knew in order for this to happen he would have to remove the one person standing in his way, his brother Seejay. So, he thought to himself, I will have to have him killed. Anything short of that and he could always come back and wrest control of the ‘shire from him. He would have to dispose of him in such a way as to not make him a martyr. The last thing he needed were statues being sculpted in his likeness or shrines being erected in his name. No, no. That wouldn't do at all. So it couldn't be a visible death so a poisoning, robbery or anything like that were definitely out of the question. He needed to disappear. Yes! That’s it disappear. He would just simply be gone.  One day everyone in the ‘shire would wake up and Seejay would be gone. But to where? Better that it not be a where and just be a nothing. In an instant it came to Gregee how he would dispose of his brother. He summoned his most loyal friend Bildoe and put his plan in motion.

    Tonii had enjoyed a two week stay with her father but now it was time to head back to the academy. Her father wanted to walk her back to the school but she knew how busy he was, how much of the seemingly never-ending work was left to be done so she told him that he need not worry as she had many friends and places to stop at along the well traveled Rue Tonnerre, the main road from the fishing village to the heart of Lollashire. She kissed her father goodbye and with a wave of her hand she started on her way back to school. She had no way of knowing that it was the last time she would see him alive.

   Gregee had left it up to Bildoe and his cronies as to when they would take care of Seejay. He furnished them with an overview of Seejay’s schedule for the next week and he made it clear to Bildoe that he he didn’t care when or how as long as Seejay was gone before the end of the week. Nothing, not even his brother, would stand in his way of achieving the power he so desperately craved. Deals had already been made and a timetable set.

    Seejay had set off the very afternoon that Tonii was making her way back to Lollashire and in fact they passed each other on the well traveled Rue Tonnerre. Seejay was atop his trusted stead, Avaya, a beautiful chestnut brown mare he had since he was in his teen years. He was out on one of the many rides he took during the week. He didn't call them patrols even though that was in essence what he was doing. He would stop and talk with the shop owners, innkeepers, tradesmen, and travelers that he met while on his rides. It was one of the things that had endeared him to the residents of the ‘shire and it was a trait that he had passed to the protectors or sheriffs that reported to him. He had them placed throughout the islands and they not only kept the peace but made sure that the beauty of the ‘shire and the loch was protected.

   Seejay was deep in thought, thinking over the growing rift with his brother. He had always been a little strange but he loved him even so. He was troubled that Gregee had changed somehow; he seemed darker since he came back from his last trip beyond the ‘shires. He was pressing, almost ranting, about opening up the waters of the loch to people from the outside and to Seejay that meant outside interests. There was no way that the loch would ever be opened up to outsiders to plunder its resources. The very fact that the Keeves had kept it protected these many ages was the reason why it was so coveted and was heralded as one of the Three Majestics. It must be protected at all costs. He would make Gregee understand that or he would have to exile him to the mainland.

   These were his thoughts and he had his head down when he saw a solitary figure walking towards him. As the figure grew closer he could see that it was a young woman and she looked familiar somehow. He stopped his mount as she drew near him and he let out a pleasant greeting. She walked up beside Avaya and looked up at Seejay and replied in kind to his greeting. As soon as she looked up at him Seejay was speechless. He knew her by those eyes, that iridescent blue. He had never come across anyone else with that color except for Tonii, the daughter of the fisherman. The last time he had seen her up close was when he was at the market buying some of her father’s catch. That was at least eight years ago. Could that much time really have passed? It didn't seem possible. He then remembered that she had been up at the Academie Valan vo’ Du so he hadn't seen her since.

   He suddenly felt very old although he was but seven years older than she. She knew him and his name and asked about his journey, his patrol. He was still speechless. Her eyes held his very being within them and would not let go. She put her hand upon Avaya’s mane and brushed the long hairs with her fingers. Avaya whinnied approvingly and that was enough to bring him out of this apparent stupor. He felt the need to be on the ground standing next to her and not sitting up so high. He dismounted but the heel of his boot got caught in the stirrup and he landed awkwardly on his knees in front of her, a small cloud of dust floating around him. It was said that he had been riding horses before he could walk and was regarded highly for his riding skills but at this moment he felt like a foolish boy. He stood up and stood just about half a head taller than Tonii but he still felt small in front of her. She didn't laugh at him or his mishap. In fact she asked after him, if he was all right. He replied that he was. He then asked her about her father and then her studies at the academy. She filled him in, answering all that he has asked. She then again asked about his patrol and in general how he was. He stammered a bit but managed to answer her after he collected himself. She told him that she must be on her way as she wanted to be at the school well before nightfall. It was ridiculous but he did not want to see her go. He wanted to walk with her and continue to talk about anything, he really didn't care what. He asked if he could escort her back to the academy and she told him that she appreciated his gesture but she knew he had his duties and she quite enjoyed the time alone, walking.

   He looked crestfallen, almost hurt and she saw that look come across his face although he tried to hide it well. She quickly made amends and mentioned that perhaps the next time she was on her way to or from her father’s house he could join her as she would very much appreciate a Keeve escorting her. He smiled at her and assured her that he would make himself available at her convenience. She bade him farewell and continued on her journey. He watched her walk away and he was afraid to move for fear of doing something stupid again like falling from his horse. He walked Avaya for a bit, turning his head frequently to watch her progress as she became just a distant speck on the Rue. He chuckled to himself, reliving the moment he fell to his knees in front of her. What a fool he must have made of himself, a glorious fool at that but he took comfort in knowing that he would see her again. He could not have been more wrong in his thinking.

 To be continued…………………..

The Euphoric Chronicles: The Tale Of Tonii the Mermaid

   Most fairy tales begin with “Once Upon a Time” but this is not your standard fairy tale. This is a story that has been born by pure chance, that rare occurrence when everything in the universe seems to be in some sort of cosmic harmony and then comes crashing to the ground with the speed of a meteor and years later when the stardust has settled the landscape has been forever changed.

   So our story begins not in a land far, far away but on an island in the Florida Keys only they weren’t the Florida Keys just yet. They were known by another name, the Lollashire Islands. The Lollashires were actually a chain of islands that stretched from what it is now the southernmost part of Florida to Cancun. The Gulf of Mexico was called Loch- Loch Whoostheer and was a veritable watery Garden of Eden. It was known worldwide to be one the three Majestics of Euphoria, natural wonders so grand they defied all possible descriptions although there had been many a bard and poetess that had tried. The magic that permeated all living things within the Lollashires and Loch-Loch Whoostheer was so strong that it voided the vocabulary of the people that tried to describe its beauty.

   The Lollashires were ruled in a just and fair fashion by Keeves. The Keeves were more protectors than true royals and the head of the family was more a high sheriff than a king. Over generations they had come to see it as their duty to ensure the safety and livelihoods of those that lived in the ‘shires. They were also the guardians of the Loch and all the creatures that inhabited the waters within the chain of the Lollashire Islands.

    At the time of this tale the head of the Keeves was Seejay Keeves. Seejay had been the protector and guardian for far longer than most people could remember. He was the older of two brothers and his younger brother was called Gregee. Where Seejay was kind and respected by all those in the ‘shires, Gregee was the complete opposite and was known to be vain and unnecessarily cruel. Where Seejay had skin that had been bronzed by the sun and stood tall among his fellow man, Gregee was hunched, his body twisted in ways that no mortal man could ever possibly endure and his skin had an unnatural translucence to it. It was whispered among many that if the sun was directly behind him you could see the inner workings of his body. People often wondered but never spoke aloud of how these two brothers could have ever been born within the same family. It was long rumored that Gregee was a changeling, switched for a human baby soon after birth by the Taverneer, a sea troll said to inhabit the waters outside the protection of the Lollashire Islands and who coveted the abundance of exotic sea-life within the Loch.

    Now in most romantic fairy tales there is a girl, a princess or some damsel in distress and we are not too far removed from that scenario with exception that the female in question was not a young girl, a princess, or a damsel in distress. She was the daughter of a simple fisherman of the Loch. She had grown up surrounded by the amazing, seemingly depthless crystal clear waters of Lollashire and to be sure it turned out that her first love was that of the water. To be in it, on it, or near it is what she lived for. It was said that she could swim before she crawled and could dive five meters beneath the clear waters before she could walk. When she turned ten years of age she started to go out upon the waters in her father’s boat, a fishing craft known as a Holt. The Holt was 32 feet long and 12 feet wide and boasted two sails that enabled it to make its way out onto the Loch and set its fishing nets out to catch its allotted share of fish.

    By the time she was 12 she could handle the Holt almost as well as her father, who had been working boats of its size since he was a boy of nine. His father had fished these waters as his father’s father had and so on for many generations. She was the only daughter of the fisherman and in fact was his only child. Her mother had died shortly after her birth and it had been left to her father to raise her on his own. He never sought to remarry such was the sadness at the loss of his wife but the joy and happiness of his daughter dulled the ever constant ache of lost love. He thought to name her after her mother but knew in his heart that it might be too much of a reminder of his loss. He went out in the Holt one night with his newborn daughter and sailed out onto the Loch. The wind was calm but there was enough of a breeze to fill the sails and the night sky was clear with a mass of stars staring down on him and his daughter. This is where he liked to come, out on the water, to think and contemplate what he perceived as life’s mysteries.          

    He came to a spot he knew by his heart, so much so there was no need for one of his tattered Loch charts. He dropped the sails and let them fall gently onto the worn deck. They fluttered down, falling and folding upon themselves as if they had a mind of their own. He looked down at his sleeping daughter, her breaths pushing through her slightly open mouth. He looked up and out onto what seemed like an endless expanse of water. It seemed to go on forever and although he was but a simple fisherman he was by no means simple in his thinking. He had a learned knowledge of his place in this world. He could read and write, add and subtract numbers. All useful things for someone who made his living on the water but they were by no means necessary. He knew plenty of his fellow tradesmen that could do neither but they knew the water, they knew how to fish and as far as they were concerned that was all they needed. He made himself available and taught those who wished to be taught and helped those who did not want to be bothered with such worldly concepts. It was because of his nature, his being of who he was, that he met the woman who would eventually become his wife and the mother to their daughter if but only for a few hours.

   He reached down and picked up his daughter and held her tightly in his arms. The gentle rocking motion of the boat providing something he hoped that he would be able to provide to her, comfort and peace. He looked up and was searching the patterns and shapes that the twinkling lights made. He knew the names of most of the shapes and there were some people who held those shapes responsible for their fate. He was not one of those people but he repeated the names silently to himself as his eyes swept the sky; Mantoo, Ashki, Farnk, Bolof, Eber, Crasstil, Jezeri, Bodipal, and there was one more but he could not yet see it. He lowered his gaze to the barely discernible horizon and started sweeping his eyes back and forth all while moving his head up. He was looking straight towards where the winds came during the cold time and he found the brightest spot in the sky. Now he started to look down and to the right, searching and there it was, right where it always had been and as far as he knew where it always would be. It sparkled brighter than the other points of light except for one other. It was one of two stars that were the eyes within the shape. Its twin was just to its left and it shone and sparked in the night sky just as brightly. This was Tonii, known to be to those who believed, the protector of the seas. It was at that moment he knew that this is what he would name his daughter. He pulled the blanket down from her small pink face and whispered to her “Tonii, I will protect you and and honor the memory of your mother for it is because of my love for you and your mother that I live”

   The baby girl opened her eyes, a startling iridescent blue, and looked up at her father and cooed softly. She closed her eyes, once, twice, and then was asleep once more. Her father laid her down in the bunchu, a type of bassinet, and covered her with another blanket. Once he was sure she was secure in her sleep he raised his sails and started to work the Holt back to the village. He became aware of how long he had been out on the Loch when he saw the thin sliver of light breaking across the horizon.

To Be Continued……………………