Chapter 8: Amor Aeternus
“Have you ever heard Serena sing?”
Prince Oceanus furrows his brow. What does that have to do with anything? But rather than answering her question with another question, Prince Oceanus attempts to come up with a proper answer. He thinks back for a few minutes, searching his mind of every interaction he’s ever had with Serena.
He almost opens his mouth to deny having ever heard her sing, but one memory abruptly comes to mind. It was the day Prince Alankar had arrived in Aquaria. He vaguely recalls being in the gardens when he heard her voice. It had bewitched him to say the least, so enchanting was the beauty of it. He had nearly forgotten, the memory tainted by Prince Alankar’s entry and bothersome flirting.
Queen Electra smiles knowingly. “I gather from your that look in your eyes that it is as I suspected.”
Prince Oceanus simply grumbles. “It was one time. Hardly worth remembering.” Yet remember he did because it isn’t something easily forgotten as much as he claims to not care for it. “But what does this have to do with the song I keep hearing?”
Queen Electra sighs as something of a bittersweet look crosses her eyes. “As you know, every child of Pontus lacks the essential capacity to sing that every mer has. Therefore, it is that much harder to fully express their love and find their Amor Aeternus.”
The prince is confused by the sudden history lesson. He already knows this, so why is she repeating this old story again?
“I can see you are confused but allow me to explain. While children of Pontus may not be able to produce song, it doesn’t mean that they cannot feel the effects of it. From the moment we’re born, there is a song in our souls that only we, ourselves, know.” She pauses as she remembers a time long passed. A time where she still had her own Amor Aeternus. After a minute of silence, she continues, “One need only hear their Amor Aeternus sing once to identify them. Such was the case with your grandfather when he stumbled upon me in the gardens so many years ago.”
The prince frowns. “But what has this to do with me?”
She smiles again. “I have reason to believe that Serena is your Amor Aeternus, Oceanus.”
But the prince scowls and shakes his head softly. “That isn’t possible. She is a human and humans are not capable of having Amor Aeternus.”
“And who decided that?” At this, Prince Oceanus falls silent. Indeed, no one confirmed or denied such a fact, but it has always been assumed that this was the case based off of the frivolous ways in which humans lived. Being bonded to a human is inconceivable.
“Forgive me grandmother, but I refuse to believe that is the case.”
Queen Electra sighs tiredly once again. Such a stubborn grandson she has. “It’s not impossible for this to happen. Rare, yes, but not impossible.” She looks over his face for a moment and continues with some confusion on her face. “But how long ago was it that you heard her sing?”
Again, Prince Oceanus tries to think back to that day. It had to have been some few months ago perhaps. And he says as much, eliciting an even more confused expression upon his grandmother’s youthful visage.
“That is…strange,” she says slowly as she thinks for a minute. “One should know right away, but I suppose since she is human, this may be different.” Then a flash of realization crosses her features. “Ah, but it might not have been the true song from her soul either. I am not certain if humans have this, but mers are usually able to sing their soul songs which allows them to identify their Amor Aeternus. Perhaps that could be what this song you’re hearing is?”
But the fact that she asks this in the form of a question causes Prince Oceanus to sigh tiredly as he shuts his eyes. His grandmother’s knowledge on this is limited it would seem, and now he’s even more confused than he was before. He pinches the bridge of his nose as Queen Electra looks upon him apologetically.
“I have only given you more questions, ones that I don’t believe I have the answers to. Forgive me Oceanus.”
But he shakes his head and opens his eyes to look at her once more. “It is of little consequence. I shall just have to find another way to acquire the answers I seek.” And for now, that is to be his top priority for he simply refuses to believe that his Amor Aeternus is a human. It shouldn’t be possible for such a thing to happen so surely something else must be going on here.
“I shall take my leave then. You have much to think upon.” And with that, Queen Electra leaves the room. Finally, all is silent. Even the song has become little more than a distant hum deep within his mind, allowing him to think a little clearer and focus.
Now how in the world is he to go about getting these answers?
Calder has just finished packing away the last tome in his small sack as Rodion arrives in Serena’s bedroom. He had decided to carry his sister before Calder or Storm could say anything on the matter. The two weren’t going to argue with him either after being on the receiving end of his foul mood one time too many.
Rodion’s foul mood aside, Calder can’t help but gain a sense of slight foreboding. An unexplainable feeling urges him to perhaps reconsider this whole plan of going to Vilmaris. After all, there is much that he doesn’t know and Storm isn’t particularly forthcoming with any answers to necessary questions.
Unfortunately, Calder doesn’t have the luxury of considering any of this. It’s imperative that they awaken Serena as soon as possible, and there could be more answers in Vilmaris. Such as to the whereabouts of his sister, the siblings’ remaining brothers, and the strange occurrences within Vilmarisan territory. There’s far too many reasons to go that outweigh the few reasons to remain where they are.
“Calder, it is time we get moving,” Storm states blankly as Calder jolts awake from his inner thoughts. He gives a silent grunt as he grabs his bag and proceeds with Storm out the door. Rodion shows up only a moment later, enters the room, and reemerges with his sister cradled protectively within his arms. She gives no reaction to being moved and simply remains as still as though she were trapped in death.
“So how are we supposed to get there?” Rodion asks after a moment of following the two down the hall in tense silence.
Calder briefly glances back, then looks forward once more. “The same way I travel to Marina’s home.”
Rodion grimaces. He had sincerely been hoping that they’d at least travel by way of Hippocampi. He’s not overly fond of being sucked into a portal and spat out somewhere else. It was far too jarring to the senses and made him nauseous just thinking about it.
He glances down at Serena, just the slightest bit envious. Serena will be asleep for the majority of the trip, but her predicament is hardly desirable. Rodion can only imagine that being trapped within her own thoughts with no company must surely be maddening. At least that’s his opinion based off of Prince Oceanus’s accounts of what he found when he went into that uncharted territory.
Even Rodion understands how much of a mess his sister’s mind is. Each one of them has some kind of messed up mind in some way or another. They each just have their own ways of dealing with said mind or disregarding it altogether. And it all stems from one place, one event. One moment in time. For a second, without his meaning to, Rodion’s mind wanders back to that day when his mother disappeared beyond the violent waves that had threatened to take his sister.
His heart constricts painfully as he shakes the memory away and follows along behind Calder and Storm.
It only takes a moment for Rodion to recognize the path to the courtyard after having traversed a few times at Princess’s Arcelia’s side.
Servants flit about as usual, either rushing to some part of the palace or busying themselves with their task of cleaning the corridors. Rodion’s never really paid much attention to them since they always seem reluctant to engage him and simply bows as he passes. Which is precisely what they do now as the three mermen pass with Serena tucked in her brother’s arms. The servants don’t seem to bat an eye at the spectacle, simply waiting for them to pass and disappear further down the hall with the utmost patience.
Of course, waiting for them in the courtyard are the members of Aquaria’s royal family alongside Prince Alankar, who has yet to go home for whatever reason. Rodion particularly doesn’t care for the why of it as much as he does for the when. He’s not overly fond of the Mandaran Prince’s habit of hanging around his sister for days on end.
However, Prince Alankar seems strangely subdued today. He doesn’t dissolve into some dramatic monologue over Serena as he is prone to doing. Instead, he looks pensive-an uncharacteristically stoic expression upon his face. An expression that does little for Rodion’s nerves when Prince Oceanus stands there with a similar expression that is expected of him.
Although, Prince Oceanus’s gaze is fixated on Serena with a displeased look in his eyes. No doubt displeased about their trip to Vilmaris. Princess Arcelia had come to see him prior to Calder informing him of these developments. She had relayed the interaction between Queen Electra, Calder, and the stubborn prince. Apparently, he had been dead set against them going to Vilmaris, trying his best to dissuade Calder until the former queen intervened.
Unease sits upon the queen’s features as she stands beside her pensive son who regards them with unreadable eyes. Princess Arcelia is the only one to greet them with a smile as her eyes flit over Serena as if something will change in her condition. Her gaze traces back up to Rodion’s, conveying a reassurance that things will be fine, but he’s not too certain of that. Rodion, normally, would never agree on anything with Prince Oceanus, but he begrudgingly agrees on his opinion of their trip to Vilmaris. The kingdom is shrouded in mystery as Storm seems to be proof of that fact, and they’re all of a sudden going because they seem to have some magical cure all that can cure his sister? Where had these people been the last few months if they conveniently have all the answers to their problems?
King Neptune swims forward whilst clearing his throat. “I shall be sending Pelagios along with you just in case.” His tone leaves no room for argument even as Storm crosses his arms over his chest with a displeased expression upon his face when his brother appears. Siblings are still siblings, even if they annoy the hell out of each other, and from Calder’s description of the events of Serena’s escape from Hallmar’s dungeons; the two annoy each other to hell and back.
Prince Oceanus still appears rather disgruntled as he stares intently upon Serena’s face, his mind seemingly elsewhere other than here.
In the meantime, Prince Alankar swims forward, still appearing uncharacteristically princely. “I advise you to use caution in Vilmaris. Outsiders have not been welcomed into the city for a few millennia and they do not take kindly to any offense.” For some reason, Rodion gets the feeling that that particular statement is being directed at him, but he says nothing of it as he simply tightens his grip on his sister and glares at the Mandaran prince.
“Try not to make your stay there extensive. We still do not know Vilmaris’s intentions and it wouldn’t be wise to test them,” comments Prince Oceanus as he slides his eyes shut and turns his body away from them. No one says anything more as Queen Electra swims forward and places a gentle hand upon Serena’s head, a motherly look in her eyes.
“Take care of them Calder,” she says sagely as Calder, surprisingly, gives her a bow with a soft smile on his face.
He replies, “They shall be safe with me.”
It takes everything in Rodion to not roll his eyes at that as Queen Electra gives him a knowing look before moving away. Calder raises his arms, some incantation upon his lips, as a flurry of green particles surround the area his hands are pointing. From what Rodion can see, apparently getting to Vilmaris isn’t as simple for the mage as transporting them to his sister’s home across the damned sea.
But this isn’t a simple wave of the hand and they’re there. No, an actual portal appears before them, humming and exuding an energy that makes Rodion’s skin prickle. Unconsciously, Rodion pulls Serena closer to his chest as he regards the portal warily. Calder gestures to it with languid movements.
“Watch yourself. Wouldn’t want you ending up in a trench or something.” The grin on the sorcerer’s face is irksome at best as Rodion boldly swims through the portal with an annoyed expression whilst the others follow close behind.
They disappear beyond and the portal disperses into the air.
Storm smiles pleasantly, for once, and says, “Welcome to Vilmaris.” Rodion’s wide eyes stare upon the veiled city in awe. It’s quite large and ridiculously beautiful, but very far. The surrounding area is desolate and the screeches of strange creatures echo across the expanse of the surrounding waters while the bellows of a group of beasts rattle his very core.
Rodion turns to Calder with a glare and barks, “You couldn’t have brought us any closer?”
Calder shrugs. “It took a lot to get us this close, and you forget that I have no power here. It’s limited at best.” Nothing else is said as they all stare across the bleak landscape.
“We’d better get moving. Wouldn’t want to run into the sirens,” murmurs Storm as he begins swimming. Rodion murmurs a quiet prayer as he stares upward with a rueful smile before glancing down at Serena. Only for her… And he quickly follows after the others as they make their way into the danger filled territory.