Lorelei trembled. She knew what was coming. She had heard the horror stories of what the priests did to young girls. Before now she had felt sorry for them. The entire village was feeling the pain from the curse on the lake. The priests had turned to sacrifice.
Young girls were stolen from their very doorsteps. Lorelei had been warned not to go outside at night. She had listened well and did her best to be home by sunset. But this evening she hadn't made it. Not by a long shot. She had dropped her shoe down the well. It was a silly place to set it anyway. It took her near an hour to fish it out again. As she tried to pull her soggy boot up in the bucket she hadn't noticed the sun sinking behind the mountains.
Now she sat in the back of a wagon. Her only clothing was a white ceremonial tunic. Her hands were bound behind her back and her feet were tied together. There was no need for a gag; she was too terrified to speak. Lorelei knew exactly where they were heading.
She didn't even struggle as she was pulled up to the cliff. The lake was eerily quiet and a light wind chilled her through the thin cotton dress. Lorelei didn't cry. She just stared at the still water in the lake as the moon illuminated it.
"Goddess, we offer you this young virgin…" The priests' prayers faded off as she stared at the water. Something about this place, her fears were gone. "…Have mercy on us." Lorelei let out a scream as she fell down the cliff and plunged into the water.
Her mind and her heart stopped for a moment as the sting of hitting the water struck her. She didn't know how but she freed her hands and feet. Her lungs burned as she swam for the surface as fast as she could. She welcomed the cool night air as it inflated her lungs like a balloon.
Lorelei looked around, the priests were nowhere to been seen. Neither was the shore! Where was she? Could she have really gone out that far? Panic struck her as she remembered the stories of restless spirits and vicious monsters in the lake. She had never known the peaceful lake. The curse began before she was born.
Franticly, Lorelei searched for the shore or any hint of land. Her eyes rested on a red piece of rock jutting out from the water. Without hesitation she headed for it and, as she pulled herself up on to the dry rocks, collapsed with exhaustion and drifted into a troubled sleep. Lorelei's eyes slowly opened. The sun shone from high above and she was completely dry. How long had she slept? Suddenly she remembered where she was and all that had happened. She sprung to her feet and scanned the horizon. She couldn't see the shore. Panic swept over her and her eyes filled with tears.
"Look at her!" Lorelei froze. "Do you see her?" She was sure she had heard a voice. "Come quick and look!"
"Oh my goodness!" Lorelei spun around searching for the source. :"She's standing on the fire rock! And… and… she's not hurt!" Lorelei looked down to her feet. Sure enough she was standing on fire coral. Nearly every part of her had touched it but she felt no pain.
"Could she be? Could she be?" Lorelei looked out to the water to see two small heads popped up through the waves.
Water sprites! She knew those tales. This must be them.
"She must be!" The one cried excitedly and then addressed Lorelei, "Oh maiden! Maiden! What is your name maiden?"
"Lorelei." She answered blankly. She could hardly believe that this was happening.
"Oh it is her! It is!" The other one cried joyfully. "Oh please won't you come with us?" In her bewilderment Lorelei followed the little creatures down into the water. Only after along time did she realize she did not need any air.
Lorelei was caught off guard as a city of crystal suddenly loomed before her. She hadn't seen it there until she was right on top of it. There was nothing to hide it in the water. It just simply appeared. The entire city shone with some inner brilliance and brightly colored schools of fish swam around the towers. Each door and window had a bubble covering the opening, and when Lorelei walked through one she was dry and standing on a marble floor.
"We've found her! We've found her!" The two little sprites that she came with ran around the room and gathered others who joined in their joyful frenzy. "Welcome My Goddess!… We are happy to see you My Goddess!… Will you come to see the king My Goddess?… No silly! Not in the state she's in right now!…"
The voices bombarded her with questions and Lorelei could answer none of them. She could not get a word in edgewise and the only question she immediately wanted to ask was why they were calling her "My Goddess?"
"Come this way My Goddess." A smaller one gently took her by the hand and led her through the twisting corridors until she was sure that if there was a fire she should never find her way out again…could a crystalline, underwater palace catch fire? "Here My Goddess." They had stopped in what appeared to be a bedroom. The little sprite was holding a white robe trimmed with blue ribbon to her. "Please put these on!"
Before she could object the sprite had left her in the strange bedroom with the beautiful tunic. She had no choice but to put in on. She redid her hair and then sat in front of the mirror and inspected herself.
Those two strands of hair that just refused to grow out hung on her forehead. Her sea green hair was pulled back into her two regular buns that rested behind her ears. Two small braids fell from the bottom of each. She tied them with two long satin ribbons that matched the trimming on the dress. A collar of the same pretty blue circled her neck and on other ribbon hung from that which she tied daintily in a bow. The sleeves of the dress flared out as did the bottom of the skirt to where it touched the ground. Both were edged with the beautiful silk ribbon. The v-neck had the same trimming and the front laced up and ended in a bow at the point where her breasts met, the ribbon flowed down past her waist.
Lorelei blinked at her reflection as she realized how pretty she looked. She gazed around the room while she waited for the sprite to come back.
Something on the top of a table by the window caught her eye. A beautiful box cut from pink coral with rose vines and flowers carved all over it. As she ran her fingers over the delicate design a flash of light from the window caught her off guard. She giggled as she watched a glowing jellyfish float through the water outside. She studied the window and remembered the bubbles. With a childish grin she stuck her hand out the window and watched the bubble ripple as she swirled her hand around in the water. When she pulled her arm out it was perfectly dry.
Once again the corral box caught her eye. Gently she lifted the latch and opened it. A delicate tune called to her from within the box. On a small silk pillow in the center rested a dried and whitened red rose. As she touched her finger to it, it began to bloom brilliantly.
"It is you!" Lorelei pulled her hand away from the flower and the bloom quickly shut again. "I knew it was you!" The little sprite smiled as she shut the box and lifted it off the table. "We can all bloom flowers, but only the Goddess can bloom this bud." She beamed as she cradled it gently in her arms. "You look just like they says she did." Her eyes shimmered with pride and excitement.
"Like who?" Lorelei begged for answers. "What is this place? Why am I here?"
The little sprite just smiled and turned to go. "Come this way and you will know."
Another set of winding corridors followed and ended abruptly at large double doors made of deep blue marble. The second she stepped inside Lorelei knew she had been led to a royal throne room. The room was filled with water sprites and they stood in rows and stared at her admiringly. They all hushed as a figure appeared at the front of the room by the throne.
"His majesty." Whispered the little sprite, proud to be leading her Goddess up the aisle by the hand.
Lorelei blushed in amazement when she saw her first glimpse of the Water Sprite King. He was tall, much too tall for the sprite race. And he was handsome. Like all the sprites his hair fell down to the middle of his back. His skin was paler than the others and his hair much darker. His eyes were more mysterious than that of his subjects, whose eyes were always giggling joyfully.
"So long have I waited for the day you would return." Lorelei was shocked as he embraced her. "You must be very confused My Goddess." Lorelei blushed as she looked up into his shimmering eyes. "All will be explained to you shortly." He took her cheeks in his hands and gently kissed her forehead. Lorelei could feel his warm lips stur a power within her brow. A soft green glow came from her forehead and Lorelei could see its shine. "I knew it was you." He smiled. "Look."
Lorelei looked into the golden mirror he held in his hands. Framed by the strands of hair was a sea green mark. She recognized the symbol of Poseidon, the God of the sea. "You are the spirit of the Goddess, my mother, reborn."