Author Topic: The Love of Proteus - a story about a candle  (Read 720 times)

justatoady

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The Love of Proteus - a story about a candle
« on: January 21, 2019, 07:59:49 PM »
hey : )

here is a fantasy story, which is also my candle story, which never got posted because, i failed to register in time^^

very happy for feedback (i went back to a hopefully more readable format for dialogue)


The Love of Proteus

Beneath the surface, there is a world much like our own. Swarms of fish soar across the skies, the jungles are algae and seaweed, and the people have glistening, silver hair and gleaming, bronze tails. They have caverns and mountain ranges underwater as well, though snowy peaks are a lot less common and hikers seem to prefer swimming to (What's the word?) walking.

One mountain stood higher than all the others, and at the very top, an impossible candle was lit. Two of the merfolk were sat in deep concentration, the current pulling at their hair, long tails coiled around their waists. They opened their eyes to see a circle of runes etched into the stone underneath illuminated by the faint, flickering glow in their midst. The younger was a man named Proteus, his gaze fixed upon the flame, his eyes pale embers in the night sea. Fleeting whispers washed over the pair.
'I can hear them,' Proteus said.
'You think us victorious?' asked the elder, a wrinkled magister by the name of Nerea, and her voice cut through the disembodied chorus.
'The surface is broken,' Proteus told her. 'And the dead may swim beside us.' He closed his eyes again. 'Listen to their cries.'
'Broken? Ha!' Nerea scoffed. 'We have extended but a tendril.'
'All the more reason to seize this opportunity. We must reach out and grasp and pull now before it is too late.'
The old woman sighed.
'I will be doing the reaching and the pulling, young one, and you will listen to me. What I am about to attempt goes far beyond your feeble spells and clever tricks, and you must be wary of the fickle temperament of spirits and specters, lest they lead you astray.'
Proteus studied Nerea's wizened countenance.
'This is your last chance, young one,' she told him. 'Journey onward into dark, unknown waters or turn tail and head for safety.'
The candlelight made her sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks look even more like a skull than usual. 'Magister,' Proteus began, his long hair trailing in the rapidly changing currents. 'My mind is made up, my spirit does not waver, and I shall not be deterred by these affected warnings.'
The smokeless flame flickered.
'Very well.'
Nerea raised her arms. The currents picked up.

'Hear me, Arion, Steed of the Oceans, hear me and reward your faithful servant!' Bubbles rose from the candle and the light grew brighter. The merfolk felt warmth emanating from the flame, then heat, then saw each other's pale flesh redden as the bubbles enveloped the mountaintop, a vortex of foam reflecting back the intense glow. 'Hear me!' Nerea had to shout over water boiling, lightning crackle, and thunder roar. 'Guide us through the darkness!' she shouted. 'Deliver us from our loss!' The flame had turned into a towering inferno. Disembodied voices screamed at them form all sides. Proteus dove into his palms. For a moment, the blaze formed a gigantic, long-faced head. 'Hear me! Arion, Dragon-Horse!' the magister commanded. The fiery apparition let loose a deafening whinny and imploded.

Proteus listened to the suddenly silent sea for a good while, before he dared lower his arms. The waters were calm and cool, and the candle had fallen, its flame extinguished, its wick white and unburnt. Nerea lay still on the naked rock. Proteus moved to her side with a single powerful tail stroke.
'Magister!' He lifted her up by her bony shoulders, felt the leathery skin beneath his fingers, shook her with gentle urgency. She opened her eyes and smiled brightly.
'Proteus!' she exclaimed and embraced the speechless young man.
'M-Magister?' Proteus froze, but the old woman giggled hoarsely.
'No, silly,' she told him and hit him quite lightly on the shoulder. 'Don't you recognise me?'
She stroked his cheek with a wrinkled thumb.
'Asia?' Proteus grabbed her by the waist, spun her around, and planted a kiss on thin, cracked lips. Asia cackled.
'I liked that. How was it for you?'
'S-sorry, I just...' Proteus wiped his mouth.
Asia patted him on the back.
'I missed you too, cuddlefish, but we're not finished here. I'm merely borrowing this body, and to be frank, it's been through enough.'
Proteus saw that both his and Nerea's arms were red, the skin peeling off.
'I don't care about that.'
He took Asia's wrinkly old hand into his own.
'I thought I'd lost you forever.' Asia squeezed his hand. 'I'm here, cuddlefish. I'm really here.'
Tears were difficult to see underwater. Proteus pressed his forehead against Asia's, felt her warmth and her breath and shivered under her touch.
'Oh, Proteus, you old softy.' She brushed silvery strands from his face. 'The Magister's powers are great to return me to you, but we must act quickly or all will be for naught. Will you follow me, Proteus?' She picked up the candle and turned her gaze to ocean floor beneath. 'Follow me to my grave?'
'I'll follow you everywhere.' And they set off into the black sea, two shining comets in the darkness.

The graveyard was deserted. Rows of golden corals marked a thousand watery resting places. Proteus and Asia hovered over one of many.
'It's so small.' Proteus said quietly. Their descent was slow and measured.
'You've never even seen it?' Asia's voice cracked.
'Sorry,' he told her. 'What are we doing here?'
He looked around for signs of the arcane at work but saw none.
'I've told you,' she said. 'We're here to finish the Magister's spell.'
The hand gripping the candle trembled. 'I'm so sorry, my love, but I cannot tell you what to expect. Be strong, Proteus, be strong.'
She took a deep breath and exhaled onto the unburnt wick. The flame returned. 'I must rest now, cuddlefish. Place this on my grave, and pray.'
She sank to the ground, her breathing shallow, her eyes already closing.
Proteus took the candle from limp fingers and half-buried it in the sand atop his beloved Asia. 'Come back to me, my love.' He knew no better prayer. All true gods would listen. 'I beg of you, come back to me.'
The sand stirred, the flame flickered, and Proteus screamed. Asia sat up in a cloud of sand, her skin pale and smooth, her hair white and silky, and her full lips curled into a huge smile. Tears were difficult to see underwater, but Proteus had never looked closer at anything in his life.
'What is it, my love?' She flung the candle carelessly over her shoulder.
Proteus drew her into a tight hug. Her flesh was cold beneath his fingers. He kissed her, the soft lips, the playful tongue, but there was no breath and no smell, only hot tears that burned in the eyes of Proteus. He drew back.
'Thank you, my love.' Asia's voice was a song of the past. 'Thank you for everything and goodbye.' 'No!' Proteus held onto her with all his strength.
'Let go, cuddlefish. Let go.'
He was panting through gritted teeth now, felt his muscles spasm, his guts writhe, his heart shrivel. Proteus released her.
'Goodbye, Proteus. I love you.'
'I love you too.'
One last time, they kissed. Asia turned hard and unyielding under his lips. Proteus returned the skull to the sand and wept.

He felt a wrinkly hand on his shoulder.
'She was never here,' he said.
'Only a shadow,' the old woman told him.
'She never got to say god bye!'
'There are no fires beneath the surface. I'm sorry, Proteus.' He thought of Asia's smile and her tear-filled eyes.
'I'm not.'
A current washed dust over the unlit candle.

Jubal

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Re: The Love of Proteus - a story about a candle
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 10:43:43 PM »
I assume this is a flashback to the life of pre-Magister Proteus? It's definitely an interesting addition to the character if so :)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...