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 (contd.)




   We fast forward 18 years and we find that Tonii and her father have grown their business and now have four boats in their fishing fleet. Tonii has an education that is reserved more for those families that could afford to send their children to the best academies within Lollashire and those select few that have made the trip beyond the ‘shires and been able to travel abroad. Her father oversaw her education, teaching her all that he knew and by the time she was nine he knew that she needed more than what he was able to provide having exhausted his knowledge base the year before and was now learning as he taught her.

   He made an appeal to the council that oversaw such matters within the ‘shire and they agreed to have Tonii tested. None among the council believed that a girl coming from such a background would ever be able to pass such rigorous exams but her father was well respected among his peers and among those, some of whom were on the council, that purchased the fish that he caught. He was known to be honest and just with his customers, helpful to those in need, and it was evident that he had some kind of rudimentary education.

   Tonii’s father brought her before the council 12 days before her tenth year and walked with her to the massive wood and iron doors of the council’s chambers. He knew he would have to leave her but he also knew that she was more than ready. He grabbed the oversized iron forged rings and opened the heavy doors and as they swung outward he stepped to the side, leaving Tonii standing alone in the entrance. This is how it was done, a ritual of sorts. She had to stand in the entrance and then be called on to enter into the chamber. She stood looking into the depths of the chamber realizing that it had one continuous wall. There weren't any corners within. It was just a large circular room with a ceiling that seemed to go on to the heavens. She let her eyes drift upwards careful not to move her head. She didn't want to appear nervous or in awe of such a room. As her gaze shifted upward she realized that she couldn't actually see where the ceiling or roof ended. It was so high that there was just a dim point of light, a skylight of some sort perhaps, to give it an end. The members of the council were seated inside. A  man’s voice shrouded in ages of wisdom called out to her to enter into the chamber and to stand before them.

   The five members of the council all wore blood red robes with the crest of Lollashire emblazoned across the shapeless fronts of the robes and they were seated in a semi-circle with a lone chair known as the Intwistatien set out from them at a distance of about 10 feet. Tonii made her way into the chamber and stood in front of the chair, facing the council. She was asked her name and her age and what kind of schooling she had. She answered and then was instructed to sit in the chair for the questions that would determine whether or not she would gain admittance into one of the academies. She answered them correctly and as quickly as they were asked until the oldest member of the council, an old crone known as “Re” leaned her red robed body forward and focused her ancient yellowed eyes on Tonii and asked in a halting voice that was a cross between a screech and a whisper, “What is the true nature of the Loch?”

   Tonii was taken aback by the unexpected question. Up until this point all of the questions were based on numbers, letters, general knowledge of the known world, the history of the Islands, but this was something that she didn't know the answer to and as she sat there for what seemed an eternity but really was but a few seconds she wondered if this was one of the questions her father had warned might be asked. He called it a Kehraeic question, one which didn't have an answer. There was no right or wrong response other than not to respond at all and she thought that might be what she was going to have to do. She slowly drew in a breath as she looked slowly from one wizened face to another and then back to Re whom she saw had a bit of a thin crooked smile stretched across her age cracked face.

   She lowered her head just a bit. A test, everything is a test; her father had told her often enough and surely this was a test as well. Not the question but how she responded to the question that had no answer.

   She quickly flashed to a mental image that she had of the mother she never knew. It was made up from descriptions that she had elicited from her father over the years. She could see her, the mother that never held her in her arms, never sang her to sleep while rocking her gently, an image that was so clear she felt as if she was real. In the few brief seconds that had seemingly stretched to several lifetimes she had an answer for Re and the council.

   She brought her eyes level with theirs, sat up a little straighter and said in a clear, melodic voice, “The true nature of the Loch is something that cannot be seen or touched. It must be felt with your heart for the true nature of the Loch is what we are, what we have been, what we will be and what the Loch will be is because of what we do now.”

   The council gasped collectively and they all looked stunned except for Re. She sat there staring at Tonii, nodding her head and mouthed silently to her “Yes”

    Tonii had not only answered all their questions correctly but she also provided an answer to the last question, a question that had been asked of every potential student and to date there had only been a handful that had dared answer, the last being Seejay Keeves. She was however the first girl to ever put forth an answer to the council’s query.

   Her admittance was approved and she entered the Academie Valan vo’ Du. The head of the academy was Re. Re turned out to be much kinder than she looked in person and personally oversaw Tonii’s first year at the school. With Re overseeing her first year Tonii progressed quickly with her studies and by the start of her third year at the academy the council had to meet to decide on Re’s request to have Tonii advanced a couple of academic levels. There was little debate as the council knew that Tonii had more than proven herself in the short time she had been at the school and her advancement was readily approved.

    The school was just a few hours walk from the fishing village so Tonii was able to come home often to see and work with her father on his boat. He worried that she was spending too much time with him when she should be making friends and spending time with children her own age. It’s not that she was without friends for she had become quite popular at the academy despite being something of a curiosity with her background. She was with children who came from a life she couldn't possibly imagine but she thought to herself they could never imagine the wonderment and beauty of her life either.

   She missed her father and she knew that he missed her as he had no one else in his life. He always seemed to be working or in motion, a non-stop blur of energy. If he wasn't out on the water catching fish he was cleaning the ones he did catch to take to market, or mending the sails, or doing much needed repairs and upkeep to the Holt. The only time he ever slowed was when she came home from school to visit. He would make them something to eat and ask her questions about the things she was learning. He would sit and listen in awe, realizing that his little girl was growing up right before his eyes. He could swear he could see her change as she spoke. He knew that her course was set and was going to have a good life ahead of her.

   If he really knew what her future held he wouldn't have ever let her leave.

   To be continued…..