Chapter 3: Within the Darkness of Her Mind
A number of months have come and gone since the events of that horrendous wedding. Serena remains locked within her body, with her sole visitors being the royal siblings and her own older brother. Calder comes and goes, seeking new ways to reach her, but most of his methods end in failure.
“It has been too long already,” Calder sighs agitatedly as he tosses a bunch of scrolls into the air. They float through the water without a care while Calder runs his hand through his hair whilst staring at Serena with a narrowed gaze. Prince Oceanus stands off to the side with his arms crossed as his gaze runs over Serena’s body. Rodion and Arcelia left some time ago; Arcelia thinking it best to take him elsewhere before he lost his temper again.
Then Prince Oceanus asks, “What do you mean by that?”
Calder growls as he clutches his head. “Several months has passed and I worry for her mental health! This curse was designed to cause torment, and one could only imagine what kind of hell is running through her head. And she’s all alone!” Calder begins to pace. “If only…” He trails off as he looks over at Prince Oceanus with a look of realization.
And this gives the prince a bad feeling. “What?” He asks slowly as his body tenses. Nothing good has ever come from those looks, and Prince Oceanus highly doubts that this time would be any different.
“I could try sending your consciousness into her own…” Calder trails off thoughtfully as Prince Oceanus scowls.
“Absolutely not. Send her brother instead,” he says icily, but this doesn’t deter Calder in the least.
Calder grins. “Unfortunately, dear little Rodion’s mind is much too…tumultuous to insert into anyone’s consciousness really. Yours’ is ideal because you are of a calmer disposition than most of anyone in this palace.”
“And what of me? Am I not qualified to enter the mind of the lovely Siren?” Prince Oceanus releases a silent groan as Prince Alankar of Mandara rushes into the room unannounced. Unfortunately, he has yet to return home, and Prince Oceanus has been counting down the days until he does. His father is still, understandably, skeptical of this alliance proposed by the queen of Mandara. As a result, Prince Alankar’s departure has been delayed until the alliance is assured.
Calder grimaces as he swims a step backwards. “Sorry, Your Highness, but your mind is a little…uh…” Calder scratches the back of his neck as he rushes to find a suitable word. “Too imaginative.” That’ll do, and Prince Alankar doesn’t seem none the wiser for it.
“Surely it could not hurt to try?” But this man is certainly persistent. He gazes longingly over the face of Serena, locked in perpetual slumber.
Calder replies sharply, “It most certainly will! There could be dire consequences for not only her, but you as well! You forget that you are an ambassador from another kingdom, and I will not be held responsible for whatever may befall you within her mind!”
Prince Alankar flinches at Calder’s tone, but sighs immediately after. Obviously he’s less than pleased, but he does not give voice to these complaints.
Calder sighs as he turns back to a silent Prince Oceanus, seething in his own annoyance. “Well, Your Highness?”
Prince Oceanus emits a growl from his throat as he relents. Truth be told, it would’ve bothered him even more if Prince Alankar had been able to go into her mind. Of course this is something he would never dare speak aloud.
Calder breathes a sigh of relief as Prince Alankar merely frowns in displeasure.
“You simply need only close your eyes, and I shall take care of sending you within. We just need to gauge the state of her mind at the moment,” Calder explains rather knowledgeably, considering his personality. “I shall know when you come into contact with her, at which point you shall have five minutes before I pull you out. Any longer and you shall be trapped as well.”
Prince Oceanus nods as he closes his eyes. Calder inhales then exhales before raising his left hand, and muttering a spell. Green mist materializes from his hand, and wraps around Prince Oceanus and Serena as the room takes on a green hue. Prince Alankar, his current mood forgotten, stares in wonder as some kind of ball of light leaves Prince Oceanus’s body to enter into Serena’s head.
Calder’s mutterings cease as he reopens his eyes and observes in silence. He keeps his hand up with a steady flow of magic streaming from him to Prince Oceanus’s body to maintain the link.
Finally, after five minutes, Prince Alankar asks, “Now what?”
Calder doesn’t take his eyes off of the two as he replies, “Now we wait.”
Prince Oceanus opens his eyes and is immediately greeted by light. Amidst this vast, empty space are blurs of images that speed by without cease. Somewhere in the distance he can hear something akin to murmurings, and for a second he finds himself wondering if the spell actually worked. Calder would have hell to pay if something had gone wrong and the prince didn’t end up at the intended destination.
But his thoughts come to a halt. He sits in silence as he listens more closely.
“Make it stop…” He can hear the despairing sobs all around him, quiet but there. Yet all he sees are these strange blurry images.
“Serena!” He calls out loudly, her name almost seeming foreign to his tongue. Now that he thinks of it, he’s never actually called her by her name. It was always ‘human’ this or ‘annoying girl’ that. And he’s surprised by how smoothly her name seems to roll off of his tongue. So he calls her name again, but no response comes.
And yet the quiet sobs persist, but he can’t see anything other than these damned blurry images. One particular image slowly glides before him. It clears just enough for him to make out a beautiful face and long creamy blonde hair with what appears to be blue eyes.
A voice comes from the image. “My Serena…” The voice is soothing, and possesses a lovely musical tone to it. But he’s not allowed a second longer to study the image before it blurs once more and moves away to be replaced by another.
This one, when cleared, depicts a scene featuring five children. One of which he instantly concludes could only be Rodion going by the scowl pulling at his childish visage. The smallest of the five is a little girl, clutching tightly onto the bottom of the eldest boy’s shirt. Prince Oceanus’s eyes run over each of the faces, further concluding that the girl must be a young Serena, and the other three boys her remaining brothers.
Like the image before it, this one blurs and moves along. Prince Oceanus lightly shakes his head, and returns to the task at hand. He’s most likely already been in here for far too long, and he still has yet to locate his objective.
“A trueborn son of Poseidon,” a feminine voice whispers. This one is different from the one he heard coming from the image from a few moments prior.
He narrows his eyes. “Who are you?”
“That matters not at the moment.” As they say this, a mermaid materializes before him. One possessed of white hair and aqua-colored eyes. “What matters right now is that you find young Serena quickly.”
“Unfortunately for us both that is easier said than done,” he says skeptically as he fixes the strange mermaid with an intense glare. Her presence alone raises a few flags in his head, but the fact that she somehow managed to find her way into Serena’s mind is even more disturbing.
The mermaid shakes her head softly. “You will not find her here. You have been brought to the surface of her mind. She is trapped within the deepest area of her subconscious, where forgotten memories should lay dormant.”
Prince Oceanus sighs. Of course Calder would somehow manage to botch the spell. He should’ve made certain of Serena’s location within her mind before sending the prince in. He’s a powerful warlock! It’s within his power to do so after all!
Prince Oceanus glances at the mysterious mermaid with an untrusting eye. She simply gazes back at him with naught but tranquility. She waits, patiently for him to say something in response to her freely given insight into Serena’s whereabouts.
Finally he says, “So how would you propose I get to her then?”
“The mind is a rather complex thing-a puzzle. It contains its own defenses to safeguard its fragility.” He crosses his arms over his chest. A sign of impatience that causes her to smile knowingly. “Luckily for you, I know Serena’s mind well enough to send you straight to her, but I can only get you so far.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I shall get you as close to her as I possibly can, but you must navigate the rest of the way on your own.”
He frowns a bit. “Very well. Do what you must if it will ensure I reach her.”
What other choice did he have? It’s not like he can reach Calder right now, at least not until he finds Serena. So his only options are to wander around her mind and hope to the Sea Goddess that he finds her or trust this mysterious mermaid that has made herself comfortable in Serena’s mind. And he certainly has no desire to spend so much time traversing the obviously broken puzzle that is Serena’s subconscious.
The mermaid closes her eyes as she holds a hand out before her. “Now then, prepare yourself. Where I am about to send you is a place of darkness. All memories her mind deemed unsafe reside there, and she has already been there for far too long.”
Yet something else bothers him about her presence. “If you have been here all this time why is it that you have not approached her yourself?”
The mermaid’s face falls as a helpless expression crosses onto her features. “I cannot reach her. She does not hear me, and I am unable to leave this part of her mind.”
His brows furrow. “What do you mean you are unable to leave?”
“I am bound to this part of her mind, therefore the rest of it is as a barrier to me.” She sighs and refocuses her expression once more. “We must not waste time. I am sending you forth now.” A series of quiet murmurs pour forth from her lips as an amethyst colored mist pour forth from her hand to surround Prince Oceanus. His surroundings begin to warp and fade to a lavender color, and he impulsively closes his eyes as an imaginary current dances through his long dark hair.
Then, all is quiet. The mermaid’s murmurings have ceased, and no longer does he feel the current. Instead he feels unnervingly chilled. He opens his eyes and tenses. This cannot possibly be right can it?
The place is indeed filled with darkness, with naught but the passing of more blurred images to fill the void. He becomes aware of the sobbing he heard earlier, along with a myriad of other voices that act as an irritating whisper in his ears. The sobbing is vastly more audible here than when he had reached the surface of Serena’s mind, and he’s able to determine that it’s her sobbing. He has only ever heard her cry once before when Proteus had invaded her mind for the first time in the dead of night. At the time he had been working in his office and had been returning from said office when he passed by her room. He happened to hear her quiet sobs from within, but thought it best to keep to his original plans.
Now though, he’s heading straight for the source. It’s like an impulse that drives him forward without conscious action. A strange desire to go to her grasps hold of his being in a vice, and he’s unsure of whether or not he’s bothered by this phenomenon or not.
His pace increases, his breathing slightly heavier as his hands unconsciously ball themselves into tight fists. His brows furrow as a scowl settles over his features, gaze flitting back and forth between all of these damned blurry images.
Suddenly it all stops. The images clear a path for a brief moment, but that’s all he needs. He sees a familiar curtain of creamy blonde hair shielding her face from his sight. Her hands are clamped around her ears, and she’s hunched over into a ball. For a moment he finds himself surprised; his gaze landing almost immediately upon her legs. A white dress adorns her body, and for a moment he almost forgets why it is he has come, but he becomes of aware of her sobbing one more.
“Make it stop,” she whispers in something of a broken cry. Her shoulders quake softly, and the whole display pulls at something inside him that makes the scowl on his lip even deeper.
His body relaxes just a little as he calls out, “Serena.” And she looks up, turning her head to meet him.