FROM THE WATERS OF THE WEST I COME Chapter 1 Far to the east, Live such ugly beasts, Who dance And prance Alongside their remarkable king. In due time, And perhaps with rhyme, You’ll learn To spurn How the owl grew his wing. ‘Til then the tale I tell, Shall cast upon you a diff’rent spell, A wat’ry crown, Far underground, Will certainly be mine for the taking. A night sky, black as the darkest swamp mud, filled the young female’s view. Each star was a beacon, blinking rhythmically, all to enchant her, to entice her with promises of everlasting glory. She sat in a thin gown of sparkling silver which flowed over the crystal bench beneath her. After the sun had shone for a few hundred days, the time for the coronation would begin. Her long white hair was tied intricately in braids, suggesting Celtic knots on the sides. Her face decorated with the soft white paint of the ruling family, with pale blue eyeshadow inviting one into her pleasant gaze. Upon her coronation, she would receive the jewelled tattoo of a water drop leading from her bottom lip to her chin, a small but powerful design she chose herself. A firm male voice, instantly making one feel the presence of a raging river, interrupted her silent gazing, “Have you been to the aviary?” The female smiled gently and turned. “Father, forgive me, but I find birds to be such unclean things. Shall I litter my gown with feathers instead of stroking the glimmering scales of lily creatures?” Her father smiled and tenderly stroked her hair. “My fairest Mizumi, the next incarnation of the Cup of Moraine, would you deny your father the bonding required of our race?” Mizumi frowned and stood. “Father, there are peacocks in the aviary. They do little else but strut with their overabundant tails, flashing blue and green to any onlooker, as though they should be admired.” She turned her head in disgust. “They are such vain, stupid creatures.” Her father laughed, nodding, sitting beside her on the bench as the moonlight made them both shimmer. “There is something to be said of proper appearances, but there are other kinds of birds in the aviary that might be more to your liking. The Cup of Moraine must choose a glamour fitting the heart of the coming reign.” Mizumi turned to face her father, who had since transformed into a black heron, its wings arched around it, forming a stark umbrella. It was nearly invisible in the night sky save for the shimmering of its feathers in the moonlight. She watched as he transformed back into a tall, lean, wizened old man with frost sprinkled over his short gray hair. He had a jewelled tattoo of a river winding over his face. “From the time of my coronation, I chose the black heron for its penchant of surrounding the prey with its entire body. I search the edges of the Lake of Moraine, protecting it from harm,” he told her. “You, too, must find a bird that captures the heart of your coming rule.” Mizumi smiled softly and stared at the floor, twisting back and forth playfully with her hands clasped behind her back. “And if no bird can contain me?” Her father leaned forward. “Oh? Are you so certain your aspirations can reach so high? Do you desire not a kingdom, but an empire?” Mizumi fell to her father’s feet and clenched his knees pleadingly. “Oh, father, I will not have just Moraine but every lake, every river, every stream … even the oceans shall heed my calls.” Her father sighed and patted her on the head. “My precious Mizumi, take care, great care, that by connecting so many bodies of water you do not poison the lake you call home.” She stood, placing her hands on her heart. “Father, I will make you proud. I will not venture forth until I am aware of my surroundings. I shall not obtain new kingdoms until I have protected this one.” She turned and bowed to him. “I am no fool, father. Under my care no place in the universe shall invite ruin.” Her father stood and smiled, nodding politely. “May your cup overflow with prosperity, my loving daughter.” He chuckled. “Prior to your universal conquest, however, you must learn the strengths of the Kingdom of Moraine. I entreat you to be at my side come dawn.” He bowed slightly, a gesture returned by his daughter, and left the princess to dream of tomorrow’s shore.