The creature sat contemplating the sea; under her body, the white sand sent small waves of coldness that rose through her limbs and made her shiver. It had been a few hours since the second sun had hidden behind the horizon, and the night fell on her like a large spiderweb covering, with envy, the colors of the day. The water shone in a silver and violet shade under the moonlight, and the beating of the waves played a melancholic melody.
Behind her, the Blue Forest kept guard, as mighty as it was, with its trees as old as the world itself and its lush vines that formed a living wall. Sometimes, it let out the sound of some nocturnal animal, even if it was only to scare intruders away.
She felt the force of the sea entering her veins, trying to take away that absurd sadness that sometimes caught up with her; that feeling of not belonging to any place, of living while showing others a face that was not true.
Since she was a child, she had known she was different, and as she grew up, her body was becoming less and less like that of the others. Now, at eighteen, she could not find her place among those people, and despite living surrounded by love, there was a strange thirst that corroded her on the inside that nothing could soothe.
She was a mistake of nature, a wild creature hidden between marble walls and silk sheets with a dark essence lurking in her chest, which she did not fully understand and could not tame.
As a child, she didn’t know how she had gotten there; she didn’t know her name. All she remembered was walking into a cave, surrounded by curious glances and with a terrible hunger that made her let out a roar. A beautiful woman handed her a plate with seeds, which she devoured in an instant, noticing, confused, how the others relaxed their shoulders and let out sighs of relief. At that time, they were afraid of her, and they were right to do so.
Since then, she had grown up knowing that she was in the wrong place, that the heat in her soul belonged to a dark force that the others refused to recognize; she showed a smile when, in fact, she wanted to show her claws.
That is why, on moonlit nights, she went down to the beach and sat on the sand, filling her lungs with the smell of the sea, dreaming of a world behind the waves, and telling herself that one day she would go searching for it.
Elsseria was the kingdom of the Blue Forest. It was hidden between Melwhor Mountains and the Violet Sea. A large, invisible shield protected it from those curious navigators who came too close in search of adventure. A peaceful town of legendary warriors inhabited its lands, ruled by a strict code of honor.
Within the crystalline waters that caressed its coasts, life seemed to have come straight out of a fairy tale. Small, golden fishes played quietly around golden corals that lay on a mantle of bright violet stones, which gave the ocean its magical color. The barrier of corals also prevented any ship from approaching the beach so that only those who knew the way could cross the intricate labyrinths formed by its reefs.
In the distance, the Melwhor Mountains stood protectively, surrounding the timid forest like a loving mother and stealing all the fresh rain and leaving a cruel desert abandoned on the other side of the mountain range. Melwhor did not belong to the kingdom of Elsseria or to any other kingdom; it was a no-man-land´s that housed incredible creatures, as deadly as they were beautiful.
It was believed that the Blue Forest was the oldest existing one in the world; huge trees filled its space, covering the light of the two suns with a blanket of peculiar leaves. A few indomitable rays were able to cross the dense, blue canopy and reach the earth in the middle of an atmosphere of magic and fantasy. The soil was fertile and noble; no dangers lurked in that place for those who entered with good intentions.
In the center of the forest, a magnificent white castle raised its ancestral walls, with glass windows and two gigantic towers from which the entire kingdom could be seen. Inside the palace lived a lonely queen.
It had been more than thirty years since Queen Tara had lost her husband, and although she mourned with discretion, the smile on her face had never been complete again. A pain as deep as time appeared in her eyes at every moment.
The journey had been delayed longer than expected. Derek looked at the horizon with apprehension, looking for a signal of his destiny. The crew was made up of experienced sailors who woke up singing and went to bed drunk. No one, besides him, seemed to realize that five days had gone by since the date scheduled for their arrival.
The first week onboard had been the most difficult one: although it was not the first time he had been on a ship, embarrassing nausea seized him, making him look silly and weak in the eyes of the others. Not that it was important. In a few days he would disembark at the magic kingdom of Elsseria, where his real problems would begin.
Every fifty years, a soldier from Palterah was sent to serve in Elsseria for a period of forty years, as part of an ancient agreement between the two kingdoms. In turn, the human kingdom received a representative of Elsseria and thus managed to keep the peoples at peace by sharing their traditions and anecdotes.
Derek himself had visited the kingdom of the Blue Forest when he was still a child, accompanying his father on a diplomatic visit and taking the opportunity to learn everything that could be useful in his future mission, because the next time he landed on Elsseria he would represent the humans in the exchange, once he obtained the Captain degree.
He remembered the Violet Sea and the deserted beach, with immense blue trees filling his little eyes with dreams and joy. He remembered a majestic queen who smiled at him benevolently while trying to frighten away her own sadness. And the food: they had no meat in Elsseria, but for a fourteen-year-old boy, the colorful fruit festival was a party like no other.
The people of the Blue Forest had magic, lived in harmony with nature, and avoided any conflict with other kingdoms whenever possible; but the kingdom subjected its soldiers to strong military training since, not a few times in history, it had had to defend itself from foreign invasions.
His father had explained that beyond Mount Melwhor was the kingdom of Frenvia. It was an infinite desert inhabited by people who built their villages around a single river, whose flowing waters owed its life to the rain that bathed the mountains. Frenvians, who also had their own form of magic, did not have diplomatic relations with Elsseria.
A stream of water on his face brought him back to reality; the sky had closed in a huge, black cloud that covered the stars. The sea, so calm a few minutes ago, suddenly roared like a hungry beast and moved wildly.
The small ship struggled to stay afloat, and the sailors began to run from one place to another while the storm was forming above their heads. The sea and the sky were like two wild animals wrapped in a fight that only they understood, and the poor little ship was trapped in the middle, hindering and struggling so they would not forget about it.
Water gushed over the top deck railing, and Derek’s stomach tried to get rid of his last meal. He wanted to help, but after several failed efforts, he understood that the best thing he could do was not disturb the men at their work. So many years of training on land were not worth a single day on the open sea, so he held as hard as he could to the main mast while trying to understand what was going on around him.
A bright bolt of lightning fell near the bow, causing Derek to really begin to fear for his life. The ship swayed violently on the waves that, each time, were bigger and bigger.
“Sir,” a sailor shouted at him, “get inside where it’s safe!
Derek tried to get to where he was told, but he lost his balance with a jolt. Just a second before falling overboard, he managed to grab a rope that gone by his side.
After a moment, he managed to stand up. The ship continued to sway, and a cold rain began to fall hard on them. At moments, the horizon was illuminated with a strong light that lasted a few seconds, showing the destroying monster in the form of a storm.
Then, a dark and giant wave hit him with such force that he released his hands from the rope, throwing himself mercilessly into an enraged sea. Derek fell with a rumble, his body twisting in contact with the cold water, hands and feet shaking greatly as they tried to reach a surface he didn’t know how to reach.
He opened his eyes and saw a tiny ray of light; he swam hard toward it, feeling the air escaping from his lungs, though the surface seemed farther and farther away.
Some bubbles escaped from his mouth, and when he finally managed to lift his head above the surface in preparation to take a big breath, another wave crashed over him, sinking him again.
He looked up and began to swim; little by little, the calmness of those deep waters flooded his spirit. While outside a struggle between the sea and sky was taking place, everything underwater seemed so far away.
The spell broke when he finally got out; he felt the shouting of men, the threat of thunder, and a ship trying to remain unharmed. He managed to stay afloat long enough for them to see him. Regarding what happened next, he didn’t remember much. He knew that someone had thrown a lifesaver tied to a rope and that everything went dark as they pulled him along the edge of the ship.
The sun found him asleep on the deck of the ship; a clear blue sky looked down on them calmly, as if the night before had not been more than a violent nightmare. The sea was calm and bright, and the singing of seagulls filled the atmosphere with peace.
The sailors worked, happily repairing the damage to the boat, which seemed to be less than Derek expected.
“Are you all right, sir?” asked a strong man of short stature, who was carrying two wooden boards.
“I think so. Was there any loss?”
“Ah! This ship has gone through worse; nothing that a little work does not fix.”
“And the men?”
“Except for the fright we had when you fell into the water,” he replied, laughing, “no, everyone is fine. Last night was a small storm, nothing more.”
He walked away singing in an out-of-tune voice and left Derek standing there with his mouth open. He had on sticky clothes and his throat was dry, so he went into his cabin to try to look like a person again.
After arranging the fallen furniture a little, he took some dry clothes from the trunk he kept under the bed. He had not brought much, for he was not allowed to disembark in Elsseria with more than what he was wearing.
He found a bottle of water and a piece of dried meat in the kitchen, which his stomach received as if it were a banquet, and he was about to leave when he saw the ship’s captain.
“We have arrived,” the captain announced.
“How do you know?”
“The shield that protects them does not allow you to see more than water, but come, I will show you.”
They walked toward the bow. The captain pointed to a spot in the water with his hand, and Derek followed him with his eyes. The detail was almost imperceptible, but there it was, a little difference in color, as if someone had drawn a thin line of white foam.
“From here on you will be on your own,” the captain told him.
He knew about that: he remembered taking a boat with his father and paddling toward the beach. No ship was allowed to enter Elsseria, and a breach in the shield was opened only to the bearers of the royal seal when they approached. If someone else tried to go in, they would simply continue to navigate in circles without realizing it until they were far enough away.
Derek said goodbye to the sailors, filled a bottle with drinking water, and climbed into the boat, paddling in the direction that the captain of the ship was pointing, although, to his eyes, there was nothing but sea.
After a few minutes, a breeze of fresh wind brushed his arms and the ship disappeared as if it had never been there. He was startled, standing up and looking for some guidance in the middle of nowhere. Then, as in a dream, a wonderful, white sandy beach appeared in front of him, surrounded by a majestic forest of trees with blue leaves.
The water had acquired a light violet hue, and as he approached, he was able to distinguish some coral reefs, which decorated the bottom.
He had arrived in Elsseria.
He paddled as fast as he could, taking the boat to shore and then docking not without some difficulty, dragging the hull along the sand. When he was satisfied with his work, he rubbed a little water on his forehead and turned in the direction of the forest.
And then he saw her.
The creature before him was impossible. Immaculately white skin covered a perfect body shown to have a thin, female silhouette. Wild, wet, blue hair surrounded two small horns and fell in waves to a tiny waist, while the most innocent face he had ever seen spied on him through lively black eyes. She was naked and didn’t seem to notice.
Derek struggled in vain to take his eyes off that strange and beautiful figure, feeling that, in a way, he was violating something sacred.
The girl, if he could call her that, raised a nervous hand and adjusted her hair behind her ears, which were thin and pointed, her only resemblance to the forest people. Then she smiled shyly, showing a set of fangs that made Derek stagger back.
She was also looking at him curiously; she circled the boat, examining it, and then said, “Hello, my name is Liah. Who are you?”
He forced himself to answer; it was not right for a renowned captain to be frightened so easily. “Hmm, Derek, at your service.”
“At my service?” She tilted her head, confused, and let out a childish giggle.
From the forest behind them, a delegation approached, headed by the secretary of the queen, who came running and sweaty with the same awkward walk that Derek remembered.
“Sam,” said the joyful girl, “this is Derek.” She giggled again. “He is at my service.”
“Allow me to welcome you, captain,” the secretary bowed, “on behalf of my queen.”
“Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here again.”
A soldier came from one side and hurried to cover the girl with a crimson cloak. She thanked him and murmured, “I’m not cold,” but she allowed herself to be covered.
“Please, come with me,” said Sam, entering the Blue Forest again.