The Wood Between shivered with the wave of magic that was released. Imraldera felt it in the Haven. A whisper floated through the breeze. “Silent Lady, help me… come to Inada…” Startled, the dame blinked. Then she decided to go. Inada was the kingdom of a half fish, half human population— the merpeople. They were cold and calculating, focused on logic rather than emotions. “Silent lady, help me…” rang through Imraldera’s mind over and over again as she took provisions.
She left a note for Eanrin, who happened to be coming that day. In the letter she asked him to make sure someone stayed at the Haven while she was gone. And she stepped into the Wood Between.
After searching for what might have been five minutes or an hour, for time is of little consequence in the Wood Between, she found the Path she was looking for. At last she reached her destination, Inada. There was only one slight problem. Inada was underwater. As she walked along the pure white shore, the dame wondered how she was going to find the person who had called her.
She sat down a little while away from the beach on a grassy area, and waited under the shade of a palm tree. Luckily for Imraldera, the sun was large, red, and dull. After some time, with the water quietly lapping at the edge and the sun going down, she fell asleep.
“Silent lady!” Imraldera jerked up. She searched the beach. “Silent lady!” Came the call again. She saw a young girl, perhaps no older than fourteen, floating near the shore. She was dressed in wozen seaweed. Imraldera quickly floundered through the sand. “I am the so-called Silent Lady, and I am no longer silent. Are you the one that summoned me?”
“Yes! We have a magic well, which we use to fill our lanterns with light. I used much of the magic to call you. I wanted to ask you something.”
“You called me here to ask a question?”
The girl continued. Her face showed no emotion, but her eyes were bright and earnest. “It is a very important question. I want to know… to know what Love is.” Imraldera stared at her.
“What is your name?”
“I do not know my true name. My given name is Syrena.”
The girl continued, “You see, all my life I have felt like I was missing something. I searched all the great libraries of Inada. And then I saw it, the word that struck me to the bone. Love. And ever since, I have pondered every day what that word means. Please, Silent Lady, tell me! I must know. Is it a place, a name, or a feeling?”
“How do you know my name? Did you see it in a book?”
“A book? What is a book?”
“What is the library filled with, if not books?”
“Stones with words on them.”
“Ah, I see. Anyway, some would argue that Love is a feeling. But I believe different, because I have seen. Love is a person.”
“Who?” The mergirl whispered.
“Lumil Eliasul… Lumil Eliasul…” Syrena mulled over the strange name. “I want to meet this person. But first, will you see my world? Will you see a world with no emotions?”
“Then take my hand.”
Imraldera did. A strange change over came her. Suddenly her legs felt slimy, and were joining together. They turned into a single green tail. Her long robes turned into green seaweed.
“Come with me, Silent Lady, come see the cold world.”
Together they descended into the darkness. Imraldera was afraid. Her lungs almost burst with the want of air. At last she gave in. A gasp full of water filled her lungs. And she found she could breath. Her neck felt strange. Putting her hand up to it, she felt small gills. On through the murky darkness they glided. At first, Imraldera let the girl pull her, but soon learned how to control her tail. Finally, they reached their destination. Small blue lanterns glowed eerily through the murky darkness.
A civilization came into view. Tall, white columns arched in the pale light. Syrena dropped Imraldera’s hand. “No emotions are allowed to show. It is the law. Be careful you do not break it.” The merpeople stared at her. What frightened the dame, however, was not the stares. It was the blank, impassive faces. They were lifeless, hopeless. Their faces, without life, were like zombies, or phantoms. It was like walking into a city of the dead.
“This is my world.”
“These people have smothered emotion, and by doing so have smothered life.”
“I want to come with you.” The girl whispered. “I do not want to say this, I am not supposed to speak of emotions, but I am afraid to leave Inada! Oh, if my father had heard me say that!” The girl trembled.
“What would your father have done?”
“What he always does: tell me that emotions are silly, that we are strong without them, that to love is to lose.”
“Without Love, life is not worth the living. I believe to love is to lose, but not to love is a greater loss.”
“I asked him what Love was a few weeks ago, and that is what he said. He is always like that. Everyone is like that. There is no smiling or laughing, no crying or screaming. No emotions are allowed to show, for emotions are weak.”
“Do you believe that emotions are weak?”
“I… I don’t know. Without them, life is cold, but we are strong. With them, there is pain but freedom. Will you show me Love?”
“Yes. Love is not just a person, though. Love is when we act like Lumil Eliasul, when we copy his actions.”
“I want to know Love. I want to feel it. I will come with you.”
As they swam towards shore, they turned into humans again.
“The shore is magical,” Syrena explained.
Suddenly, she stilled. And then she heard a song.
Beyond the Final Water falling,
The Songs of Spheres recalling,
If you look for Love,
You will follow me.
The girl gasped, then she laughed, clumsily running around (and falling numerous times).
“I know my true name! Search-and-Find!”
“And your name suits you well. You have found. Come, we will go to my lord’s Haven. And then you will see Lumil Eliasul.”
The girl laughed and danced, her delicate feet barely touching the earth. Her joy was contagious. As she laughed, Imraldera laughed with her. Giggling and running, they reached the haven. Lights were on inside. Eanrin has done his job and had someone watch the Haven, Imraldera thought.
Suddenly, arms were around her. “You dragon eaten girl! Running off into the blue! What were you thinking! Oh you crazy, crazy girl!”
Imraldera laughed. “Eanrin! Dragons eat you, cat!”
And then she saw not only Eanrin was there, but Lumil Eliasul himself. Search-and-Find smiled.
The Prince of the Farthest Shore laughed and smiled kindly. “Greetings, my child.” He took her sholders gently. “I am Love, and I love you. Will you be my knight? Will you serve me in exchange for my love?”