Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Three Sisters
The sea captain sailed out once more on a fruitless fishing run. The nets were almost bare as the sailors hoisted them out of the water. “Captain? How are we going to feed our families?”
The captain stood thoughtfully at the stern, stroking his beard thoughtfully. Luna was rising as predicted and she turned to cast her gaze upon him. “Captain! You seem so weary! How may I ease your thoughts?”
“It’s fish we need, my lady!”
“I can grant you fish, my friend, but I need something in return.”
“Name it, my lady!”
“My daughters were lost to the sea god Neptune. If you can produce them by a one full turn of the moon, you will never want for fish.”
The captain rubbed his brow thoughtfully. “That’s a tall order but my men need to eat now!”
“Have them to cast their nets once more and they will be sustained for one full turn of the moon.”
He gave the command and although they gave him sidelong glances, they followed the orders. What did they have to lose? It wasn’t long before one of the men cried out, “Captain! The nets are near bursting!”
“Gather your men and hoist the nets little by little until they tumble into the ship. Then push them into the hold. Then, we’ll turn to port.”
As they sailed into the port with dawns early light, the captain called the men to him. “We have a contract with Lady Luna for this fish. Return to me in three days time and we will set sail to fulfill her wish.” He released the men and they hauled their seabags off the ship to visit with their families. Turning to his first mate, he stated, “I do not know how we are going to fulfill this wish.” Sharing the request the mate considered the task thoughtfully.
“There is an old net weaver that tells tales about such thing as Luna and Neptune. Apparently they had three daughters. Neptune demanded that the daughters stay with him and cursed them with a fishes tail. They would be forever separated from the sky. It is my understanding that she has not seen them in some time.”
“So it would seem. Perhaps you can find this weaver and see if he can shed more light on this story.”
The first mate combed the streets searching for this old man who was ancient even when seen last. The Captain sold the fish, bought provisions and held onto the payment until his men returned. On the third day, the first man turned up with his wife. The captain paid the wife the wages as the man came on board. This was unusual circumstances but as the wage was generous, he went willingly. One by one, they followed suit until the full crew was on board. Finally, the first mate arrived with the ancient net weaver.
The Captain took the man to his quarters and settled him down with a pint of whiskey. He then began to share his tale about his deal with Luna. After a short silence, the net weaver let out a whistle. “I weave nets because I can do this by touch. I used to sail the seas with the best of them. However, after one false deal, I had to forfeit my eyes. What, pray tell, did you offer in forfeit.”
The Captain remained quiet on this matter but in his heart, he answered, “this ship.” The net weaver sized up his silence and determined that it was of immense measure. Finally, he stated, “Every fourteen years, King Neptune takes his courts to the deep waters. You will have to approach the rift if you have any hope of finding the sisters. Luna did give them a unique gift before he took them away, however. Something that could only come from her.”
The Captain nodded and paid the man for his time. After he was set ashore, the ship hoisted anchor and navigated out of port. “It was of great cost, wasn’t it?” his first mate whispered quietly.
“Aye,” came the response. Then he lifted his voice, “Hoist the sails! We are headed to deep waters!”
Several of the crew stopped for a moment to gape at the captain but were quickly turned on task by the harsh glare of the quartermaster. Soon the wind was felt sure and the sail master was on course.
It took a full two weeks to reach deep waters. Luna watched quietly from her repose until she turned her back upon them. Their time was over half spent. They had one week to complete their task or all would be lost. The captain finished his letters in his quarters and then called in the first mate. “I’m passing the command of the ship to you, my friend. If I fail in my task, perhaps Luna will take me in payment.”
The first mate received the letters startled. “What are you proposing?!”
“Dropping into the courts of Neptune myself!”
He abruptly turned on his heel and walked to the door. Breathing in the sea air upon opening, he glanced about his men. Looking up at the sky, he whispered, “If I fail, have mercy on my men!” Several quick steps took him to the stern of the ship. Turning, he waved at the startled men and stepped backwards off the deck. The men started, several cries of “man overboard followed, but the Captain sank quickly.
Luna must have heard him, however, because she wrapped him up in a sac of air. He touched the ground with his boot and looked about him, his lantern catching a peculiar glow to the left. He turned toward the promise of life. As he approached, the glow began to increase. He knew stepping in Neptune’s court was akin to walking on sacred ground and hoped he could beg license.
The crest of the plane he was walking revealed the vastness of the court and many mermen and women surrounded him as he was quite the oddity. He could tell they were communicating with each other but he had no means of hearing what was said. Then, he found himself scooped up on a large sea shell. He could only hope they were taking him to Neptune himself.
Entering the court, he saw Neptune surrounded by his family. “King Neptune, Lord of the Seas, may I beg audience with you?”
Neptune tilted his ear oddly but out of curiosity waved him forward. The Captain dropped to one knee upon his approach. “I come not for myself, but at the request of your beautiful bride up above, the Lady Luna.”
“What is it that Luna desires that she sends such a lowly human to speak for her?” he boomed, startling several of the sea creatures that scurried and hid in the nooks and crannies of the corral court.
“She only asks this one thing...to see her daughters, all three. Can she be spared a glance?”
Neptune narrowed his eyes for a moment before answering. “Of course I can…” he paused for just a moment before continuing, “if you can pick them out of the crowd.”
The Captain turned to look about the host gathered. He nodded in agreement. After a bit of searching, he spotted one mermaid that stood out from the others. The spines on her forehead formed a crown of stars. “You are the first,” he stated, and she entered the ring in the center of the court.
“She is the easy one. You will not find the others so quickly.”
The captain weaved in and out of the crowd, seeking another with a peculiarity when he spotted a glance. Eyes lit by the stars themselves blinked back towards him. “You, my dear, are the next. One more.”
“And she is the most difficult,” Neptune laughed, undaunted by the two easy finds.
He continued onward. Several were about courtly tasks, but one sat humbly weaving a net. Within the net he saw a star captured in the purest of essence, brighter than any of the others. She looked up, a humble appearance. She lacked the royal demeanor of the first. Nor did she hold the striking beauty of the second. Still, he knew her to be the one of the purest heart. He bowed low, “My lady, would you like to see your mother.” She smiled in agreement. As they approached the center of the court, Neptune tilted his head thoughtfully. “You have fulfilled your contract, Sea Captain. Daughters, you may breach the surface while the moon is full but do not stay too long for the air will encapsulate your soul.
They swam upwards, pulling the sea captain up with them, excited to see their mother after such a long period. As they breached the surface, they waved excitedly. The ship to the west spotted the light and turned towards the commotion. Luna fluttered her fan in greeting and nodded to her daughters with that secret smile of hers. As the ship approached, the Captain cried out to them, “Dive, ladies, so as not to be caught in the ship’s pull!” They turned startled at the sound of the approaching ship.
“Captain! Who is that with ye?” cried out the quartermaster.
“The daughters of our Lady above! Let them be!” The crew nodded but then he heard a cry from one of the sailors. Turning, the Captain saw the full meaning of the warning. The stone slowly began to wrap itself around them and pulling them into the depths. The startled humble daughter reached out in fear and grabbed the Captain’s hand. He waved farewell to his men as he was pulled under to remain with the purest of mermaids for eternity.
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Denise finds herself lost in a field of dandelions. With one blow, her dandelion dreams transform into the words on a page. Some of those dreams have found their way to her website: https://lostinafieldofdandelions.wordpress.com/