Domus Exsulis

Alta Exsilii

The Door That Leads to the Sea

by on Apr.12, 2018, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis

Opening this door is unadvised, unless you have mer-blood in you, unless you are willing to brave what comes. Gently, put on this mask that will allow you to breathe underwater. Gently, for the watermaidens do not take kindly to strangers.

Awkwardly, you will bumble into the waters that lie just beyond the Lagoon of Secrets before it breaks into the deep azure blue of Alta Exsilii. Above you, seagulls will sing their unlovely song of food and of the beat of wings against the oft-savage breezes of a faery sea.  The waters here are not deep, and come up to the waist of a human being of average height. If you enter this doorway, you will not be able to return the way you came. Chin up. You may be able to wade back through the Lagoon of Secrets! Or a fishersprite on a coracle might deign to return you to the domus.

 

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An Unloved Harbour, like a Rejected Swain

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis, Mykologosia

(c) Nin Harris 2010–, based on ideas and concepts that have existed or have been in development since 1997. The author asserts both her legal and moral rights. All Rights Reserved.

Yildie frowned at the refuse that slapped against the stones of the ferahian harbour every time the currents swirled the water against its rugged surface. Less than five years since her family’s business was wiped out by a Wild Hunt – and there was no one left to tend to the warehouses, the docks and the cobblestoned walkways. There used to be ferahian pirate ships coming in, day in and day out, but each ship hired their own thugs to look after their docks and warehouses. Now, even the thugs had disappeared, and there was no one left to care for the harbour itself. Now, even those ships were dwindling in number, and it had been almost a fortnight since this had been an active port. Worried by the news,Yildie had ventured down from Domus Exsulis to check on things. She almost wished she hadn’t; she had neither the energy nor the inclination to take on the responsibility of her deceased uncles.

Yildie took after her father, both their proclivities were either for the fluidity of water or the etching of ink upon smooth parchment. And yet, there was something about the ocean that called to her, something about having generations of piracy in her bloodline. Yildie felt sad for the harbour, which once sang with the approach of more than one ship, which was a bustling hive for not just infamy, but commerce and the exchange of information from more than one land, both of their world and of Terra Cognita.

“I keep hiring people to take care of the harbour, but they keep disappearing on the job,” came a new voice, behind her. Yildie turned, surprised and a little wary. It was Maryani, the mother of one of her tenants.

“Why do they disappear?”

Yildie asked this, still wary of the older woman.

Maryani shrugged, and said,”Who knows, this is Mykologosia, after all. You know how it’s become wilder. Who knows what lurks in the water of these harbours? Even as we speak there are less and less ships that dare to visit us. Commerce is down. My business suffers as well.”

Yildie slumped, her webbed fingers gripping the sides of her tunic as she made an effort to contain her conflicting emotions.

“I suppose I should do something about this,” she said slowly, “but it is just too much. I just…I can’t, not after everything else.”

She despised herself for the admission, despised the weakness of it.

“It’s okay,” Maryani said, her voice reassuring, “We’re working on it. Our interests as a city-state are bound to this Harbour. It allowed us independence from the Guardian, after all. We need the goods and profit that the ships bring.”

“What about these waters? They seem so polluted I do not think any of the merfolk would care to descend into it to unearth the mystery of the missing beach-bogeys. What would scare a beach-bogey anyway? They’re pretty scary bastards as it is!”

Yildie’s voice was doubtful as she looked at Maryani. The older woman shrugged.

“We don’t know, but Vita reckons we need something inorganic to work out what’s going on. So, she’s building us a mechanical beach-bogey. You should visit Ohn and Freya to see what they’re up to. They’re beginning to sound a little unhinged over at your place.”

Yildie looked intrigued.

“A mechanical beach-bogey? How would she even begin to make it sentient enough to…?”

“I’m a bit worried about that myself, to be honest. I hear Grisette is involved. You know the company she keeps.”

“Oh. Oh dear.”

“Yes, exactly. Now, let’s get back to my place, I’ve made a lovely bread and butter pudding for tea, and it will do you no good, moping around this harbour all Sunday. The ships will not come today. They did not come yesterday, and they will not come tomorrow.”

Together, they walked out of the unloved harbour. Alone again, the harbour felt the slap of old bottles and discarded newspapers against its sensitive pores. There was an infection in its liquid depths and a sad emptiness in its bereft warehouses. It missed the pirate captains, and the dancing pirate queens, it missed the caw of raucous birds of paradise and the clambering feet of monkeys, reaching for fruit kept in high, overhanging nets along its beams and rafters. An unloved space is like a rejected swain, the harbour’s numen thought to itself, curling inward until a new ship slowly made itself known upon the perimeters of the harbour’s purview. It brightened up, and its waters began to look less murky.

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“Better than Mathematicians”

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Mykologosia

(c) Nin Harris 2010 —

Maryani watched, not without sympathy, as the hapless anthropologist trudged away from her door, his shoulders slumped. He was the third one this week to visit her since the last Ferahian ship arrived on the docks just beyond Mykologosia. He would probably be back again tomorrow. She had no idea how or why the Ferahian vessel had picked them up, but, being dedicated ethnographers, they had lost no time in trying to find out more about the city-state. After all, who could resist a multi-ethnic metropolis that had grown around a colony of oversized mushrooms, turned into houses by both humans and non-humans alike? A mushroom colony! How quaint!

Anthropologists who believed they had discovered Faerie were no different from those explorers who had traversed the continents of Asia or Africa centuries past. Maryani should know, being one of the more senior members of the city-state who had arrived on Yrejveree from Asia, or Africa, or even South America. Somehow, the salient fact of their inherent diversity or their hybrid human population was always overlooked. Somehow, they were always misread as being Continental or even, heaven forbid, medieval!

She remembered a travel-piece she had helped to proof-read by a hippie backpacker, sometime in the late `70s. He had been floundering about Mykologosia, taking instant photographs which were always turning up blank. He wasn’t exactly the smartest human to visit Mykologosia, but he had been rather good-looking in the disheveled, pseudo-intellectual hippie way that turned her on.

The backpacker, who was a medievalist by profession in the real world raved in the pamphlet about a “glimpse into the idyllic market places of faerieland”, using various fantastical superlatives. He did not even acknowledge the fact that the proof-reader that he had been happily coupling with nightly for a week was unequivocally a golden brown business woman from South East Asia with a razor-sharp tongue and business acumen enough to have a tiny empire on an island on the edge of the Known World. Her daughter’s father, an addled mathematician who had somehow discovered Yrejveree through someone’s unattended laboratory, was no different. He had drifted into her life as dreamily as he had drifted out of it and she was quite sure he had never quite registered the corporeal fact of her existence or the fact that if one did not use protection, even in Faerie, there would be by-blows.

Manfred had ranted about these “wankers who think we’re Fantasy bleeding Island with funny midgets” to her more than once, but she had to admit, they did have a full cast of fantastic creatures, enough to cause cynics to snicker at their predicament. Manfred was one of them. A Tomcatting Fae with the ears to match and a seductive smile to lure the more naive of their female visitors. Some days, just watching the street outside her comfortable home was enough to make her see screaming capitol letters on artfully aged pamphlets. Faerie creatures by the gross! Pirates! Mermaids! Why, even drunken poets, as well. You couldn’t avoid them, or the beatnik artists, or the performers who quoted Artaud and Brecht as they copulated in dingy cafes. Mykologosia was no different from any place where sentient creatures congregated, actually. They were as much a part of Yrejveree as were her sunburnt Ferahian pirates and her Nepalese friends who ran the best confectionery syndicate this side of Faerie.

Detailing the actual and exact racial composition of Mykologosia was a delicate thing. It was also a mess that she wouldn’t wish on any anthropologist. Not the one who had rang her doorbell earlier, not the one that she had very efficiently taken care of the week before. She had to admit, ethnographers made for the best fertilizers, better than mathematicians or astrophysicists. Her neighbours would be well-fed on her banquets for months as a result of the garden’s yield.

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The Arbitrator Speaks of Story-Theft

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis, Silva Atra

(c) Nin Harris 2009 —

The Arbitrator is in a fuzzy, deep blue bathrobe today, his close-cropped red hair wet as if he has just come out of a bath. He invites me into his home in the South-Eastern Wing of Domus Exsulis, a sturdy retreat built of wood and set atop tall pillars of timber. If I move out of the leadlight adorned doors which open from ceiling to floor, I will be on the hexagonal deck which looks out across the fens to the south, the Mishgalaveri Mountains towards the west. I watch as his eyes widen at how I have changed. I am no longer the voluptuous, dusky-skinned Ferahian scribe and researcher who visited him on odd evenings.

“Yildie, what a pleasant surprise,” he says, a hint of doubt in his voice as he takes my clammy and webbed hands in his big, warm ones.

“More of a surprise than it is pleasant, I am sure,” I say to him, some bitterness and insecurity entering my voice. He laughs, and runs his fingers through my hair, which has grown silky and wild.

“You look like a watermaiden now, my dear, but still you. This is indeed quite amazing. Quite, quite amazing. I have not seen you since the incident with Conrad. Was that his name?”

“Yes, him.”

I shiver and remove my hands from his warmth, my movements abrupt and jerky. I move towards the leadlight sliding doors and look at the grotesque panel-work on them. They make me feel sick tonight with the scenes of bestial debauchery. I push them apart, the disjointed and rusty protest of the sliding mechanism telling me that I have been too violent.

“Yes, do get some fresh air outside, love. I will be with you shortly. Must get decent for you, mustn’t I?”

Outdoors, the balmy breeze from Alta Exsilii caresses my merling cheeks. It is twilight; I lean my head back against the wood of the wall as I listen to the dragons rumbling overhead. They call still for their queen who is lost in the forest of dreaming. I suppose she would have lost her name as well. Names are a manner in which we lose ourselves, our identities. I say as much to The Arbitrator as he joins me with two full pewter goblets of pinot noir. I accept the proffered goblet, carved with ornate detail and studded with blood-red rubies as he sits down beside me, wearing faded corduroys and a thick black sweater, for it is getting cold. I watch his sharp features and his long, smooth-shaved jaw as his lips move.

“Names are one way in which we can have our selves defined and stolen. But I think what is far more important are the stories behind those names. And this is even more true of storytellers. Why, when you think of it, this entire isle is made up of stories. So, story-theft becomes something so deep, so hurtful that even magic suffers.”

“Story-theft? How is that even possible?”

The Arbitrator taps his nose, carefully and swirls the wine in his goblet.

“I have another ‘name’,” he says, as he lifts the goblet to his lips and drinks. I watch the movement of his throat as he drinks, and still wonder why he fascinates me so, when I know that part of what he does involves being merciless.

“Do I want to know this name?” I ask, not even feigning my apprehension, not even joking about it. He smiles at me a little.

“It is harmless enough. I am the Story Wizard, guardian of a rather arcane cult connected to the craft of storytelling.”

“Since when does storytelling require a Wizard?”

“It does when it is the sacred art of storytelling which goes hand in hand with ritual. There are many storytelling wizards, and then there are Story Wizards, who arbitrate.”

“Go slow, you’re confusing me.”

“One of the things a storyteller learns when he starts is that there are no new stories. And yet, there are new tellings, new variations. But because there are no new stories, proving that there is story-theft can be a difficult thing. This is where magic comes in. This is where I come in.”

The Arbitrator says this slowly as he finishes the last of his wine, I lean towards him, intrigued by what he’s telling me but also by the man himself.

“So a Story Wizard performs a form of magical arbitration?”

I wonder what Regya would think of that, remembering her struggles with both Finora’s and the Orphée’s stories. He smile at me, a questioning expression in his face as he says,

“Precisely.”

I shrug at him, knowing he wants to know what is on my mind, but unwilling to share.

Instead, I ask,

”And this goes back to the cost of arbitration that you’ve told me about?”

He smiles a little; I know he can tell that I am hiding things from him. It is not usually the case between us, but things have changed since I lost my hand. Things have changed in the main Manse as well, between Kieran and me. A particularly loud dragon roars a battle roar. The leadlight panes on The Arbitrator’s doors rattle a little.

“Most storytellers would suffer in silence rather than come to me for arbitration. It involves digging deep into the invisible latticework of stories, appropriation atop of appropriation. It may be that the numen called up to judge the stories may decide that our complainant is a story thief himself or herself. He or she could stand to lose not just their reputation, but their lives. Or worse, sometimes, even the ability to make stories.”

“That sounds rather harsh and unfair.”

He strokes my watermaiden hair and whispers in my ear,

“But nothing is ever fair. Didn’t we already establish this?”

Something about him makes me want to push him away today. And then I realize that this is the first time I’ve seen him since I was maimed by Conrad in the woods. Perhaps, something about him reminds me of Conrad. Or perhaps my watermaiden senses are now rendered nauseous by the warm, meaty smell of human male, even if he is several centuries old and magical to boot. I place the pewter goblet carefully on the polished, hardwood floor, and stand.

“I have to go,” I say. He stands up too, visibly displeased.

“Must you?” He takes my hand, and says,

“I have not told you yet about the storyteller who braved the odds because she felt aggrieved enough.”

I stiffen.

“And what did you do to her?”

My sentence is taut with tension, the implication of power behind his stories had never troubled me before. But today, it does.

“What did I do to her? Why I was quite magnanimous, my dear. I let her go! I did not punish her for being so bold.”

“What do you mean, by that? Was there not a cost of arbitration?”

“There always is a cost. But we found that, like in Hamlet, sometimes there are other ways to trap the conscience of an errant king or storyteller.”

I am riveted, despite myself.

“Will you not say more?”

The Arbitrator smiles at me.

“What, can you not guess already?”

Despite myself I allow him to fill my goblet again with pinot noir.

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A Refugee from the City-State

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis, Mykologosia

(c) Nin Harris 2007

Yildie Speaks:

“So, you’re from Mykologosia, hmm?” Rhees asks.

His stance is belligerent as he takes in my form, slouched outside the ornate front door of the House of Exiles. This Mishgalen loves the people of the city-state not, I suspect.

“Born and bred there, sir.”

“If that be the case, what are you doing here? Don’t you people want independence from Domus Exsulis?”

“Not quite, if by that you mean the Caretaker and the Guardian before him have ever ruled us. But they never have. The Guardian was never like that,” I protest.

The Mishgalen laughs, obviously amused by what he perceives to be my naivete.

“So sure, are you?”

“Very. If she ruled here, the Wild Hunt,” and here I stop, bravado running out; tears choke my voice.

Rhees considers me, “What have they done?”

“Taken them all. My parents, siblings, all of them. Razed our home to the ground.”

He opens the door wider.

“Here now, why’d they do a thing like that? They normally hunt their prey in the woods. Individually.”

“They’ve become bolder. Venturing into the city-state. Some say it’s Jezemiah Irlinus’s doing.”

Rhees raises an eyebrow, saying,

“They’ve been blaming old Jezemiah for anything and everything that goes wrong in the city-state for decades now. Old news. Give the old scarecrow a break.”

I shrug, because I know that Jezemiah’s bad news, no matter how you choose to paint it.

“So? Have you come to report this to the Caretaker? Come in, then.”

I step inside, shivering a little as I pass his immense, purple-hued form. They never had Ogres back home in Ferahia, and my family has not been in Yrejveree for longer than a generation.They used to call it StormLight when I was younger, but now the name has vanished from all the signs, thanks to the Caretaker and his Latin studies. Many resent this, but I remain intrigued. Books and textual obscurities are part of my inherited skills. My father used to be a Librarian in Ferahia, before the sea reclaimed great chunks of the City by the Sea.

The Half-Drowned City is what the Ferahian pirates call it now. And who knows what brought the sea? Perhaps I know, or suspect a little. I have even met her, when I was a child. They’d blame it all on her the way we blame it all on Jezemiah. I have visited with the Sirens of Alta Exsilii often, hoping they would give me hints of what occurred in my homeland. I do not think they like me enough. Perhaps it is because I am not a boy, but a scrawny woman instead.

And so I find myself here, in the House of Exiles. I am here out of a desperate hope that he remembers me, for I have need for a home.

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Maryani and the Faun

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Alta Exsilii

Faun, by Pál Szinyei Merse

 

(c) Nin Harris 1997-

Maryani Speaks:

I push my hands into my windbreaker pockets, and walk against the frisky breeze coming from the sea. The sea is very comforting, even when it angers onto the reefs with crashing momentum because it seems so normal to me, and believe me, normal becomes strange when you’ve been around some of these kooks here on Yrejveree. Now, don’t look at me like that! I’m not talking about the indigenes, you know.

No, it’s the wackos who think they’re on to some kind of Disneyland for adults, who traipse about woodland and dell as though the sight of the indigenes would be enough to spark off some deep epiphany that could cure every kind of hurt conceivable. I don’t know who’s selling them that spiel or how they’re getting here, but they are. I don’t know, maybe I’m a snob or some kind of purist, but this place is special! Or it should be. I think I’m digressing a lot here, but you seem halfway decent, and have this air of being an old-time emigre like me, so you must excuse me.

The Sea of Exiles is how some of these people have found us. Others tripped in here through psychedelic means or through dark magicks. Some never make it back out. But the Sea of Exiles is the main connector.

Sometimes, whole ships disappear out of that other world and make it here. That’s when some of the more enterprising indigenes come in, resettling the new arrivals and dismantling the ships. Some of them get back home, except they don’t remember where they’ve been and don’t remember where they’re from. Poor bastards. Some of them stay here, or take one of the portals to other worlds. Me? I’m a bona fide emigre and you’ll find out more how that happened if I don’t digress from this story. Sorry – I’ve never been much of a storyteller.

*

The waves are crashing and I’m wondering where the sirens are, when I hear the sound of a wood flute being played. I turn around and it’s my friend the faun. I smile at him and walk closer to listen to his song. It sounds vaguely familiar and for some reason that strikes me as a cliche. I listen a little and that I realize why.

“Debussy?” I enquire quizzically.

The faun winks at me, and continues. I lean back against the same rock that he is leaning on, and listen to him play even as I enjoy the sound of the surf and the bite of the breeze. The breeze near the coast is always spunky. It isn’t gentle, even when it isn’t harsh. There always is some kind of bite to it. I think that is part of the reason why I’ve always gravitated towards coastal towns back there.

I used to be quite enterprising as well as inventive. Had patents in everything. You may have even seen me on the home shopping channels a time or two. It got both of my kids through college. Those kids were my achievements too, except they never believed, not like me. Looking at the teenybopper faerie-loving brigades springing up everywhere these days, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Sure I’m cynical but those believers just irk me. Yes, sorry, I’m running away from the tale again. I shan’t confuse you with how many children I have. I know you’ve met Vita, and she’s the only one you need to concern yourself about.

*

As my faun plays, I notice a pair of slender, webbed hands reaching out towards a huge chunk of protruding reef directly before us and one of those sirens pushes herself up, mother-naked, unless you count that gemlike tail she possesses. She looks straight at our friend the faun, as he plays, and seems to sway in time with the music.  We are bonded by the music in companionable silence, although the siren is separated from us by a stretch of feisty waves. My faun finishes his ironic but still beautiful rendition of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and waves at the siren. I’ve known her for awhile. Almost as long as I’ve known him, but he doesn’t know that, doesn’t know how long the thread of history spools between us and beyond us. The siren slides back into the ocean, bringing with her my memories.

*

I shake out a packet of chewing gum I bought off one of the newer emigres and offer him a stick. He takes it and we chew together for awhile.

“Why don’t you react the same way?” he asks me, as he carefully wraps the gum back into its paper casing and places it into the knapsack slung across his back.

“The same way as what? To what?” I ask.

“To me, to the rest of us – like the rest of the humans.”

I snort.

“Do not be so uncharitable, Maryani,” he says, smiling at me.

” I know – but some of these flakes are unbelievable!”

“Even more unbelievable than our existence? I’ve noticed that about you. You’re never surprised. You don’t try to theorise or explain why we exist. Why is that?”

*

“Well, what’s the use in all that? You’re there, and that’s that. Who’s theorising about who, now?”

My faun smiles to himself.

“Cardion the Centaur would laugh himself silly over the irony in that sentence, milady,” he says, and bows in a half-mocking gesture before continuing.

“You know, you’ve always been a puzzle to us. Sort of a mystery. You just stepped off a yacht here as coolly as though we were a new town you decided to visit. You’ve befriended us, but we don’t seem to be magical to you.”

“Oh, but you are,” I say, and my voice softens.

“But no more magical than childbirth, as painful as that was.”
“No more magical than my first kiss or the first time one of my inventions sold.”

“Why are you here then?”

“What, you think this island is only for exiles?” My eyes fix on him and I smile.

“I’ve had a long, and happy life. I just decided this was the best place to retire. I’m not running from anything. Just wanted to come home.”

“Home?”

*

“I grew up here, you know,” I state matter-of-factly even as I watch his eyes. He stares into mine with intent eyes. Recognition flickers. I smile at him and remove the gum I’ve been chewing. Twelve years since my last drag of cigarette and counting.

“When I first saw you I thought I was in Narnia.”

“You thought I was Tumnus the Faun?”

“You’re unusually well-read for a creature of fancy,” I remark, even as I watch his beautiful fingers play with the flute. He smiles at me,

“You’re the little girl the mermaids rescued!”

“That would be me! And you’re much sexier than Tumnus ever was!”

He eyes me.

“How long were you with us?” he asks now, as I breathe in the salt-laced air in content.

“Long enough to call this home – the only true home I’ve ever known”, I tell him, and laugh aloud at the memory of the foolish child I had always been. My memory trails back to the time when I fell out of my father’s boat, enthralled as he was by the singing of the mermaids.

I remember Her, the strange mermaid who cradled me in her arms, floating me upwards as she sang to me. I remember them rescuing my father and me again when we were caught in an angry storm. They had brought us both back here. That was a long time ago, but strangely enough, it seems as though no time has passed at all. Now, I smile and take the Faun’s hand as we stare out at the Sea of Exiles. Life is good here. It is enough, for me to know this.

“So, do you know any Ravel?”

 

My faun smiles, and plays for me.

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The Image from James C. Christensen’s Voyage of the Basset is used with deep love and reverence and no copyright infringement is intended. The author possesses the aforementioned book. The picture of the Faun is by the Hungarian painter  Pál Szinyei Merse.

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The Mer-Kingdom

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Alta Exsilii

Mermaids in the Sea of Exiles

(c) Nin Harris 1997-

The Guardian speaks:

As you barrel deeper into Alta Exsilii, you slowly become aware that it is teeming with all sorts of creatures. The merfolk come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There are those with fins and fishtails. And then there are the confusing ones, who live in the waters of the South China Sea, with fish heads and torso, and human limbs. There are those who completely metamorphose into fishes or sea-serpents. And then there are those who still seem to be in complete human form, but with gills and delicate fins attached to their limbs. A merman riding a chariot drawn by giant eels passes by and waves his trident at me, in customary mer-greeting. He has the shiny grey tail of a dolphin, pointed ears, slanting cat-like eyes of aqua blue and long long blue hair. I wave back and watch as he swims towards the huge coral and ivory coloured gates that marks the entrance to the Mer-City. I glance at the gates consideringly and shrug. I decide instead to swim down, deep down to the wilder regions of the Sea of Exiles.

 

The Depths of the Sea by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

I barrel my way through a clump of seaweeds, feeling it mess with my hair, then shoot upwards, reveling in the sweet freedom of being in the water, surrounded by water, engulfed by water, drinking the water, its nourishing nutrients coursing through my altered bloodstream. I feel its sweet, unpolluted oxygen pass into my gills. Then, I venture deeper. Here the water is much warmer, for there are livid, glowing underwater volcanoes, the sole illumination where it is so deep that all the filtered sunlight has filtered out. In this curious, dark world I glide, where conscious thought becomes meaningless. Here, reality only consists of these sweet powerful strokes, this weaving in and out of currents, and the softly glimmering textured tapestry of half-formed images and memories.

I do aquatic somersaults, enjoying the freedom from the constraints of gravity. This is the great bloodstream, one that connects millions of souls. How many stare out at the line between sea and sky? How many imagine seeing golden dragons swooping out from that distant horizon? How many aching, empty souls have stared into these depths and felt themselves healed? How many ships have sunk within her, carrying how many more people?

What stories the sea could tell, if we only learned how to listen!

Lapping at the shores of ancient civilizations, swallower of Atlantis, Spouse of Venice when she was La Serenissima-she is everywhere, even as she swims within the tunnels and crevices of our mortal form. I spy a glint in the water and smile, thinking of all the golden rings thrown by Venice’s Doges to symbolise the marriage that had given Venice its glory. I will dash after it, crowing in triumph as I grab a ring with my fingers.

*

As I swim, I recollect the losing of Hang Tuah’s legendary blade Taming Sari to the sea and the mysterious and potent white crocodile that bore it away. I picture the elegant keris, with its wavy-sided blade slowly floating down, down downward in the waters, and how it symbolized the downfall of the Malaccan Empire to those Portuguese who sailed the Straits in their ships.

Who holds the keris now? I remember all my failed paintings of a mermaid bedecked in gold, watching gleefully as Hang Tuah struggled with the crocodile, of her holding out her hand for it as it fell from the crocodile’s mouth, and of her sisters eyeing it with covetous eyes as she proudly displays her acquisition.

One day, I promise myself. One day, I will finish those paintings.

*

Deep below in this watery limbo, snatches of tales read and heard come to mind, and I picture sad, mad and profound Ahab as he succumbs to the jaws of the ocean. The sea is not always kind, but she is always beautiful.

*

Finally, I snap out of my reverie, spying my destination in this dark watery world. It is a short hillock of black rock, with a light flickering from its opening. I swim into the opening and greet the ancient mer-woman who sits within, weaving a beautiful, shimmering tapestry out of the light that comes from the tips of her fingers. I hand her the golden ring and stray odds and ends that I have picked on my way to her lair. I will watch as she adds it to the pile behind her, towering up to the high roof of her cavern.

“So,” she will ask as I anticipate the question.

What tale would you like to hear today?”

And with that question, I will grin like either a child or an idiot as I settle down to watch the hypnotic movements of her long, elegant fingers.

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The Image from James C. Christensen’s Voyage of the Basset is used with deep love and reverence and no copyright infringement is intended. The author possesses the aforementioned book. The underwater painting is The Depths of the Sea is by the Pre-Raphaelite Artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

 

 

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Swimming into Alta Exsilii

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis

(From The Guardian’s Journal)

All around this island is Alta Exsilii — at times covered with mist, others reflecting the rays of the sun in lucent ripples, or undulating beneath a restless moon. Infinite in all her tempests and wisdom, she swirls around us.

I have been drawn to these waters all my life. When I stare out at the sea, it washes clear all thoughts, all confusion. Even when I am far from her, during those quiet, predawn hours when I can feel my soul breathe — I can feel the currents beat within me, point and counterpoint. It is a secret language feathering into my ears. It is my bloodstream, bolstering my painful movements through this heavy air with the knowledge that the secret salt waters of my unconscious lap around my ankle, nourishing me with the sustenance every exile needs.

I often view them while walking down from my home of many names and none.

They guard the reef and every so often come up to bask in the lightning that brings both beauty and terror to this hidden world. These sirens with their seaweed-colored hair adorned with sea-shells that glint in the sunlight live in the horror stories and most erotic fantasies of fishermen. Their voice, they say is enough to draw you willingly towards your doom. But to me they are a part of the landscape, no less beautiful, no less deadly. And now I breathe in the soul-nourishing air of the beach, redolent with fishy and salty smells in that peculiar combination you can only find here. Anyone who loves the sea and has been too far away from it will know. That precise moment during your journey when the air carries the first whiff of it and you feel the tingle of excitement that tells you are almost there.

A cresting of the waves a few miles away attracts my attention. A grey hump emerges, then disappears back into the waves. A large tail will beat at the waves, causing a huge splash, before disappearing into Alta Exsilii.

It is now time.

Walking into the waves, I will wade till my feet cannot feel the ground, then I will dive – deep down. I feel satisfaction-profound and as intense as anticipation. My body will change as I develop fins, and gills. Slowly, I explore the world beneath the waters — the Kingdom that lies within Alta Exsilii .

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Domus Exsulis: A Lamia’s Bedchamber

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis

On the third floor of this Manse, you enter what seems to be a bedroom, but is revealed to be a grotto, with a pool covered in mosaic, moss and mould. Coiled up within the murky green waters is a beautiful woman, half covered in serpentine scales. As you approach her, she sinuously transforms herself into a snake with a human face.

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