Chapter 3 Lilly
Lilly pulled herself onto the sand, her weight making the sand give way leaving a wet trail behind her. Her head throbbed as the intelligence potion made her take in everything around her from the square shape of the grains of sand, to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, the position of the stars and how many windows there were on this side of the castle. Forty eight, she counted, but they were covered with what looked like a shiny transparent material. She could hear the night birds her sisters had told her so much about and for a minute she wished everything would just be silent.
Lilly lifted herself up the granules scraping at her sensitive skin and sat herself up. She was coated in a layer of sand and felt terribly uncomfortable. Try as she might she couldn’t wipe it away. She wondered if this was a common problem with humans, then decided to contemplate her last potential moments as a mermaid. In her hand the potion bottle felt heavy. There was no turning back from this moment in time and she was at the cross roads. The smooth glass grated as she turned the bottles in her hands from the sand. How long was the intelligence potion supposed to last again? She couldn’t recall, but what if it stopped working before she was able to pick up vital information? She wiped that fear aside; it only increased the rate she could pick up information.
Lilly could see light in the distance as the sky began to brighten to hues of soft gold. She waited patiently to see the golden orb rise lazily in the distance filling the world with colors she had never seen taking her breath away. She pulled herself to the shelter of the rocks not wanting to be seen. Her fins had begun to dry out and felt hard and stiff. She knew that she needed to make her decision soon. What would she be losing if she gave up her life as a mermaid? Would all her fears be put aside? Would someone protect her when things in her world got out of control or would she be left alone to fend for herself? Would this castle bring her in as their guest or their enemy? Was everything with her family truly so bad that she could not make amends?
Lilly uncorked the bottle and sniffed the contents inside. The viscous liquid was a dark violet in this pale sunlight and smelled of rot and decay. She was no sure if she could stomach the contents no matter how strong her desire to become human was. She thought of the prince and considered, was it worth this? She was about to pour the contents out onto the sand when she saw several faces rise from the water black eyes glinting in the morning light.
Her sisters pulled themselves onto the sand faster than she could have thought possible their faces contorting into horrible pale masks as they reached out their hands for her. Their dainty hands sporting long dagger like claws. Lilly struggles back away from them fighting not to spill the potion. Their claws dove down into her fins, the pain searing through her mind. She could feel the flesh give way under their attacks. Dropping the potion bottle she cried out in pain covering her face with her arms. Soon they gave up the assault against her, but not before they had left her whimpering in pain on the sand, bleeding from the injuries crisscrossing her body.
Lilly lifted herself off the sand weakly to examine her fins and howled at the sight of them. In their attack they had nearly ripped the entire lower half of her fins off. Blood soaked the sand around her and flowed into the water. She couldn’t return to the water now, she could no longer outswim any dangers and would sooner be dead than be able to return to her home. She considered how long it would take for infection to set in. Desperately she searched the area around her for the potion bottle. Half the contents had leaked onto the sand. With a sigh she for brought the bottle to her lips, swallowing the entire contents in one gulp. The pain was not immediate, but the dry heaves from the disgusting contents were. She gasped for air before another round of dry heaves set in; and then the pain.
Lilly screamed out in pain as the fire boiled up into her throat searing her vocal cords slowing turning her agonized scream into only a mere gurgle. She was sure someone had to have heard her screams as she reached out to grab something, anything to ease the pain surging through her body. Desperately she clawed the sand until the pain was too strong for her body to handle and her silent cried for relief was met with the forgiving darkness.
Lilly could hear voices around her but at first it was like a buzz or hum around her. Her head began to clear as though someone was slowly pulling cotton out of her ears and she could hear a man and woman standing over her.
“Is she dead?” the man inquired.
“No not dead, but I’m sure she wishes she was.” The woman said. Lilly could almost see the woman crossing her arms in her mind.
“What will we tell them?”
“Do we need to tell them anything?”
“Something I suppose.” The man said. A cover was tossed over her body, just the weight alone wanted to make her cry out but she was too weak. Strong arms scooped underneath her and she opened her eyes weakly. A pair of faces starred down at her and for a moment she thought she was seeing double until she realized it was a set of twins, one female and one male both with blonde hair and green eyes.
“Well you woke her.” The woman sassed quietly.
“I doubt it was me.”
“Your voice is loud.”
“As is yours.”
“Mother was always telling you to lower your voice.” They said together. There was a moment of silence as they stared down at her. She could feel the wheels of their minds churning; almost in a way that she swore she could hear them over the waves.
“Should we say she’s a princess?” He asked quietly. The sister starred into her face for a moment. Clear green eyes considered the idea.
“No, we would have to come up with some fancy story about what country she’s from. How about the daughter of a rich merchant who’s ship was attacked by pirate? More believable I think. We’ll just say she was able to tell us that before the slow acting acid seared her vocal cords.” Lilly’s eyes opened wide and her mouth opened to ask how they knew, but all that she could make was a weird gasp. The woman frowned while the young man’s sympathetic gaze crossed her face.
“We saw the whole thing.” He explained.
“You’re secret is safe with us.”
“I’m Pearl.” The woman said tapping her lips. “Now can you remember that story?” Lilly nodded weakly. “Oh good. Can you read and write? Blink one for yes and two for no.” Lilly blinked twice quickly and starred up at the sky. She was beginning to feel dizzy and the world felt as though it were tilting, threatening to make her ill and fall to the darkness again. “That’s going to make communicating harder, but we’ll figure something out. For now just close your eyes and let us do the worrying for you. You need to heal.” Lilly felt John begin to walk towards the castle so she turned her head to look back at the waves. A pool of blood where she had lain soaked the sand, staining it red. No wonder she was so weak. Pearl patter Lilly’s hand as she walked beside John to the castle crooning soft words of encouragement.
The next few days were only a blurry haze in Lilly’s memory, but she knew she was safe. Besides her aching body, and throbbing head she could tell she was in a soft warm bed with light streaming gently into the room. She found herself having a hard time to look around because the rest of the room was blocked off by cloth walls to give her privacy. The few moments she spent awake she lay listening to the nurses who puttered back and forth behind the cloth walls. She was in the infirmary. She had been informed of the name when Pearl breezed through at one point to deliver more bandages. But other than that brief visit, if you could call it that, she was completely alone in her weak and tired mind so instead of trying to stay awake she allowed herself to drift in and out of sleep. Even hunger pangs were not enough to give her reason enough to move.
After what seemed like forever Lilly found herself starring at the ceiling fully awake. No longer did the feeling of sleep overwhelm her and the pain was only a dull burn, but her muscles were stiff and heavy and rebelled as she moved her arms to position herself to sit up. She pulled off some of the bandages to examine the roadwork of scratches covering her arms. Below that patchwork caused by the claws she noticed her skin had paled to fairness much like Pearl’s and her brother’s instead of the fish like brown so many sea folk took. She touched her own skin and found it to be soft and not covered in a film of almost slime. Then she remembered she had not seen her new legs as of yet.
Lilly braced herself wondering if the assault from her sisters had damaged her feet, or if she could even handle the sight of her new legs. Blood rushed through her ears making it pound in her head as she pulled the blankets away, to take in the new sight. Her legs were fine, beyond fine, lovely even. It was as though the attack on her fins hadn’t happened and it had just been some strange nightmare. She touched her legs feeling how well muscled they were, and then sitting cross legged for the first time, examined her own feet. They were petite, but she noticed with a sad sigh, that they were in fact sliced on the soles. It was disappointing to see, but deep down she had known that she would not escape unscathed. After more careful examination she blushed to find that she also had new parts that she was not sure their uses and made a mental not to ask Pearl later on, but took a guess that this was what was meant to be covered.
Lilly covered herself back up with the blankets remembering what the sea witch had told her about being ‘proper’. She was beginning to feel much better except for the hunger pangs welling up in her stomach. Not knowing what else to do to get the nurses attention she clapped her hands together. A bewildered old woman appeared through the curtains, face worn and lined with age. She starred at Lilly as though she were not sure whether or not she should scold her for making such a racket in the infirmary.
Lilly found herself smiling sheepishly gesturing to her stomach then her mouth. The old nurse scowled.
“Are you trying to be cute young lady?” The nurse sassed. “Now speak up, are you hungry?” Lilly allowed her hands to flop down on the bed, her eyebrows knitting together. No of course I’m just being cute, she thought at the nurse, there’s just so much cute being mute I thought I would just act up a bit.
“I told you her vocal cords have been seared.” Pearls voice said sharply behind the nurse. Oh thank you Pearl, Lilly thought in relief. Pearl stepped into view carrying a small pile of clothes. She dismissed the nurse with orders to bring Lilly some soup while she helped her dress. When the nurse was gone from view Pearl closed the distance between them. “I’ve brought you some simple clothes. I don’t believe you’re in any condition still for me to be trying to put you in a corset, or anything fancy just yet, but that will come with time.” It sounded painful in Lilly’s ears, but underclothes, soft chemise and loose surcote later she was ready for the day. Pearl carefully put some boots onto her feet. They were soft and flexible and she could feel that they had much padding, which Pearl explained that she had made them herself and added the extra padding to ease her pain. Lilly mouthed the words, why are you helping me?
“That is for another day.” Pearl said smiling. “And we are sure of more privacy.”
In time the nurse returned with her soup and Lilly found that for the first time she could remember, she had an insatiable appetite. All consideration of manners were but a brief memory in the cave as she snatched the bowl from the nurse lifting the rim to her lips and drinking down the contents. It was warm and thick, but she could not place the flavor. Unfamiliar, but she drank it down so fast she realized that she had barely tasted it at all. The nurse looked unamused as she stormed off to care for others who lay behind wall of cloth. Pearl smiled throwing one of Lilly’s arms over her shoulder, and her own wrapped around Lilly’s waist.
“We’re going to take this nice and slow.” She informed Lilly as they made their first attempt to walk from the infirmary.
Some point after their third fall, upsetting a vase full of flowers, Pearl decided that walking lessons would have to wait till later on and called for her brother John who seemed to appear out of thin air. Lilly’s eyes opened wide in amazement and the twins smiles wickedly at her. “We know you can’t say anything.” John said grinning. “Maybe we’ll tell you how we do it later.”
“But you’ll have to keep quiet about it.” Pearl said smirking.
“I don’t think that will be too much to ask.” John said scooping Lilly up in his arms. Despite his build being close to his sister’s he was s few inches taller and far stronger.
“We have to bring you for a meeting with the king today, and we do have work to do, but later tonight we will come to your room and help you walk.” Pearl said nodding. “Maybe get you reading.” John frowned.
“We don’t have time for that,” he hissed “I’m already in trouble as is for being here! I need to get back to,”
“Shh!” Pearl glared at him. “She may be mute, but the rest of the castle is neither mute nor deaf so keep your voice down. I’ll take care of it and you get your stuff done.” He sighed. Lilly looked back and forth at them and felt her head begin to throb again.
“So much to learn, so little time.” Pearl and John said together. Together they pushed open the doors to the throne room and walked into a vast room of dark rich wood carved intricately with knots reaching up into the vast ceiling that held murals of mermaids and many other mythical creatures such as dragons and faeries. It was hard for Lilly to take it all in as it took her breath away.
The King and Queen sat quietly waiting for their approach two guards flanking them and the young man she recognized at her Prince stood waiting patiently off to the side. The Prince and his father looked quite similar, except that his black hair had begun to fade into a silvery gray and lines had begun to form on his once chiseled face. The Queen however was very young and strikingly beautiful with her long dark hair and flashing blue eyes.
Pearl curtsied while John did his best to bow while supporting Lilly in his arms. Lilly bowed her head, which was the best she could think of. The king smiled standing up opening his arms wide.
“Look at this lovely young woman that the sea and pirates have sparred! Look how well she has healed. Such a miracle she fell into our hands and our wonderful care.” His voice boomed with excitement as he bounded over to them. “Are her legs damaged?” He asked as he noted that John was carrying her.
“No your Majesty, but her feet are still quite raw. For some reason the pirates cut the soles of her feet.” Pearl explained.
“Oh you poor darling, but of course you will stay with us until your family is located?”
“I think they may have been lost when the pirates sank the ship.” Lilly blinked then nodded furiously in agreement with Pearl.
“Oh my dear, an orphan on top of everything else. We should let her stay, she is quite lovely.” The Queen said smiling. Lilly suddenly felt a cold chill run down her back. “I’m sure keeping her will be no burden at all.” Suddenly she realized that maybe staying here might not be in her best of interests.
Pearl and John got her settled in her new room. It was rather large with a nice mahogany bed, armoire, vanity and sitting table. She was tucked into bed with a bell on the side table and John dashed from the room almost disappearing as soon as he had exited the door.
Pearl laid her hand on Lilly’s knee smiling weakly.
“They will keep you as long as you like as long as you remain beautiful and out of trouble. They like women who are quiet and out of the way here. The bell will summon me if you’re hungry or need anything and I will return tonight as promised. Try not to over call me though, like John I have several things I need to do and take care of before my day shift ends, otherwise I lose my job. But once we get you back on your feet you’ll be allowed to wander the halls. I hope you might take advantage of the library once we are sure you can read.” Lilly nodded and before she could even sigh, Pearl was gone from sight.
Lilly felt lonely sitting in her bed, and terribly bored. Never had she expected something like this to happen. Confined to a bed with a whole world she could explore just beyond her reach. She tried to walk again grabbing hold of the side table for balance. This time her muscles responded and she wobbled like a new born deer, but her feet howled in pain. By the time she reached the vast window walking had almost become natural and the stinging in her feet dulled. Was it the potion she had drank helping her to do this when earlier her body had refused to walk? This she wasn’t sure, but she wasn’t going to allow herself to just stay in bed.
Lilly found the kitchen with great ease. The scent of dinner wafting through the air gave her a path to follow. Of course the curious kitchen staff had all heard the story of the rich merchant’s daughter who had survived the ship wreck and pirate attack only to be left mute and left for dead. They brought her in and handed her dish after dish for her to taste test loving that she smiled as the new rich foods touched her palate.
When Lilly was finally full she waved her arms to show that she was full and the kitchen staff saddened. They wanted her to stay with them longer, maybe it was because she smiled at them in response to the new food, but she finally got up and quietly left.
Evening was about to fall over the castle and her head was swimming again. It was as though she was picking up every dust particle of information that passed by. She even noticed a small symbol carved carefully into almost every door or place where servants would be needed. She sat down on her bed and examined the bell Pearl had given her to see that it too had the strange tiny marking. Curious she thought of ringing the bell to summon Pearl from wherever she may be, but remembered what she had told her and left her to do her work.
As it got dark enough that Lilly could no longer see, Pearl appeared in her room. No door had been opened and nothing had been moved. It was as though she had walked out of the darkness to begin lighting the candles in the room. She crouched down beside Lilly and showed her how to light the matches and where they were kept before finishing her rounds in the room. Then she started a fire in the fireplace quietly and quickly.
“I heard you figured out walking on your own.” Lilly nodded then picked up the bell and pointed at the symbol. Pearl frowned. “Oh, that’s nothing really.” Lilly tapped the symbol with the tip of her finger then moved her hands outward. Pearl rolled her eyes knowing that was not a good enough answer. “It’s a symbol needed for teleportation. I and John have had it etched into many places throughout the castle and other places. It allows us to do our jobs quickly and more efficiently, but we have to be careful where we put them because if the symbol is destroyed we can’t teleport to that position or say someone hangs a painting over one we will appear between the painting and the symbol. Or worse, if someone moves a teleport symbol, like the one on this bell, to underwater or somewhere dangerous we will teleport to that spot. Luckily, we can see those spots before we teleport to them, so as long as we are paying attention there is no danger. It’s when we get to busy that we might end up with a bowl of fruit on our heads.” Lilly blinked in amazement. “Don’t tell anyone.” Pearl said poking her nose. Tell? Who could she tell at this point? The only people who were anything close to friends were these teleporting twins.
Lilly paced the room as Pearl cleaned and dusted. Lilly offered her hands to help and Pearl waved her away. The least she could do is let me help; Lilly thought crossing her arms over her chest as Pearl made the bed and fluffed the pillows. Pearl stood up with a sigh smoothing out her dark blue servant outfit before producing a small booklet from the top of her blouse. Lilly frowned at the location and Pearl laughed.
“No one would think to look for a missing manuscript in my cleavage dear.” Pearl told her before leading her to the table. “We need to come up with a better way of communication with you, so I’m going to teach you to read and write. Besides if you’re going to keep the air that you’re a rich merchant’s daughter then writing is going to be vital. They haven’t been expecting much from you thinking you need rest, but soon they will be curious about the mute girl wandering their halls.” Lilly nodded her silent agreement written on her face. “Oh good we agree. Let begin then.”
With the potion still surging through her blood and Pearl’s strong teaching skills they whittled into the wee hours of the morning with lesson after lesson. Information flooded her mind fast enough that it began to make her sick with how it made her head throb, or was it from fatigue? Lilly was no longer sure anymore, but as the weak rays of dawn began to lighten the sky and the candles had burned themselves out Pearl yawned closing the manuscript. Weakly drawn letters starred back at Lilly from the white page before her. Pearl was satisfied with her progress and smiled brightly at her, black rings under her eyes giving evidence to the young woman’s fatigue.
“I have never seen anyone who could learn to read and write in one night.” Pearl said between yawns. “I just couldn’t help but see how far you could progress before my shift started. I will be exhausted all day, but it was certainly worth witnessing!”
“I had been given a potion that allows information to be stored more easily.” Lilly wrote. Pearl clapped her hands together.
“That’s fantastic! Is there anymore?” Lilly shook her head. Pearl rolled her eyes.
“Of course not, that would be too easy. Can you get ahold of the person who makes it?”
“Mermaid, and doubtful. No idea when it will wear off either.” Pearl sighed patting her on the shoulder.
“Well I must be off to go clean the mess of others. You should go check out the library after you get some rest. John may be in later to check on you.” Lilly nodded her reply. But pearl stopped at the doorway and turned back to her. “I never asked your name, do you have one?”
“Lilly.” Lilly wrote on a piece of paper and lifted it up so that Pearl could see.
“Lilly, huh?” Pearl said thoughtfully. “That’s kind of ironic. You being named Lilly and me, the human named, Pearl.” And with that Pearl disappeared. It made Lilly uneasy to know that there were two people in the world who could appear behind her at any moment.
so currently this is the last chapter that i have thus far and plan on continuing in the near future