Chapter 23: Legend of The Nymphs
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Previously: Cheshire opens the pages of an old book on Wonderland mythology, and from it he reads to Madnes and friends a tale…
“Once upon a time, there was a nymph who loved to explore. She was a powerful creature among her kind, and very inquisitive. To feed her adventurous spirit, every day she took it upon herself to journey through Wonderland’s many portals opened to other worlds, investigating what lay beyond each glassy door.
One day, she came upon a portal in the shape and form of a pond. She dived through its waters and resurfaced into a different world. Sunlight slanted through wide leaves and palm trees. Everything was green and lush, the sky painted blue, this new world’s atmosphere dazzled her.
The nymph’s head turned at the pitiful sound, a croak from a dying voice. There on the grassy bank before her was a boy, crawling desperately on one knee and two flesh-eaten hands toward the water.
So horrid was his state that she gasped and rushed forward to meet him at the water’s edge. A terrible disease had taken hold of him, the nymph surmised, but she refused to listen to fear and its warning bells in the back of her mind. Instead, she reached out to him as he continued to moan and heave sobs, reaching until she touched his left hand.
Power flowed from her into him, eradicating the disease and healing him. The boy leaned back on his knees, and raising both palms inspected them with a look of wonder and awe. His body was healed, and he stared across at the nymph.
She did not know he was a human; she did not know what sort of creature he was, but she felt glad being able to end his pain. Before he could come any closer or ask questions, however, she dived back under the surface and returned to Wonderland.
The moment she touched the air and was reunited with her beloved home world, she felt something inside her unbalance. Days passed, and the feeling grew worse. Her dreams turned to nightmares, and her once lovely wings grew dark and her eyes venomous. The very air she breathed turned black, and it wasn’t long after that that the nymph died.
Those around her saw what happened. As she died a darkness seeped out of her body, a black fog that churned like a living thing and spread across the land. A darkness that Wonderlanders have since called “syn.”
Touching the human boy had contracted a darkness common to Earth but unknown to Wonderland. By the nymph’s foolish actions syn contaminated the lands and peoples. Wonderland was forever changed since that day. And since that day the nymphs bore the punishment. A foolish race, they were hated and hunted down for their crime. For who knew what next the nymphs might bring with them into Wonderland? And so their kind were made extinct.
No more do the ignorant and powerful nymphs roam the world, and as they were exterminated much of syn vanished with them—though not all. Wonderland would never be the same peaceful, pure place again.
Beware, young children and those foolish of heart, for you never know what might be lurking nearby in the shadows. Syn preys upon the weak and ignorant. Beware. You never know when syn will creep out and strike your unguarded back…”
Cheshire carefully set the old book down, finished reading the grim myth from its worn yellowed pages.
From his seat Harrey’s eyes ogled the book, “Wow. And I thought Earth had creepy, wild legends!”
Cheshire sipped tea from a porcelain tulip cup. “I remember the Tale of Syn. My mother used to tell it to me: Said syn would come and take me away if I didn’t behave—used to scare the wits out of me.” The cat chuckled against his whiskers.
“All humans have it?” asked Madnes across from him.
“It’s been said that all Earthians do, yes—to a degree—if you believe such a tale. It’s the darkness that urges a person to do terrible things; a consuming and selfish evil. And it found its way into Wonderland long ago, according to this.”
‘Oz…could that be what happened?’ Madnes rested elbows up on the table, folded hands propping up his chin, absorbing the information. “Does it affect Wonderlanders differently than Earthians?”
“I’d think it would depend on each person individually,” replied Cheshire. “But if syn is real, and is here, then I suppose we’re all infected in some way already. No one much worries about it anymore, though. Wonderlanders love to visit Earth.”
“Hmm.” The drastic change in his former best friend, who once lived among humans for a time…could that dark illness be the culprit? He needed evidence. He needed to investigate the truth about this mysterious syn. “It resembles our story about the Sacred Pond,” he recollected, turning the tale over in his mind, analyzing the pieces.
“Quite right. Though my point is that this fairy person you describe in your head sounds similar to these nymphs who no longer exist. I’m not sure about the tale itself, but the part about hunting down nymphs to extinction is true. I came across much evidence for it during my research,” Cheshire confirmed.
“Nymphs, huh. That tale sounds like a big blame game to me. A reason to get rid of their kind,” Madnes continued analyzing.
“I agree it’s a sad and wrong thing that happened. Powerful creatures are often feared or coveted.”
“You couldn’t find anything about the first Madness Solver, what the power even is. There’s nothing but bits and scraps about Wonderland’s ancient history. Don’t you find that odd?” The wheels in Madnes’ mind rotated of their own accord, his brain unable to resist working at the puzzle. “An entire race wiped out…”
Something stirred deep inside his subconscious—thoughts from the fairy. Too subtle to read, but he could feel a jumble of emotions, something screaming anger and hate. “Sounds like someone is keeping a secret.”
“You mean the King?” Cheshire raised wide cat eyes. Madnes leaned back in his chair and shrugged crossed arms. “Madnes, that’s treacherous talk! You can’t just blame the king—not without concrete evidence!” Cheshire worked to keep his voice low. “Why would he build such a lie? And for what reason? You better get your facts straight before accusing somebody.”
“Hmph, I don’t know if it was him or a previous ruler, or some creepy ol’ mage hiding under a rock, but somebody—somewhere—is keeping the past a secret…that’s what my Madness Solver gut is telling me, anyway.”
Cheshire’s face twitched and he busied himself with taking another sip. Perhaps the thought of Wonderland’s great ruler lying was too much to consider. Madnes let out a breath, cooling down the gears spinning inside his mind until their whirring calmed.
“So, if the power is one of these nymphs—a last survivor—then how does knowing that…y’know…” he leaned to the cat’s twitching ear, whispering so the others couldn’t hear: “keep it from taking my life?”
“Ah, well, I don’t know that bit yet…but one thing at a time, Madnes. Step one to solving any problem is to know what it is you’re dealing with.”
“Okay. And step two is stopping it from sipping me away as you are that cup of tea?”
“Finding a different energy for the creature to consume, yes,” Cheshire corrected with emphasis. “But it can’t be taken out of you, if that’s what you’re hoping, Madnes. We need the Madness Solver. The power must always exist and be available for use—as I’ve explained to you before. A necessary, if painful, truth.” He eyed him. “Especially if what you’re gut is telling you is true…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” Madnes flapped a hand.
Beyond a round window frame evening shifted to dusk, with a blood moon slowly waltzing its way up the sky—the craters marring its surface giving it a creepy smile down at the world below.
“My mom’s going to tear me to shreds when I don’t show up home tonight…”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Ride.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
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