The Apple Island

THE SEAS WERE crooning to her. Glancing over her shoulder she saw the rocky crags and beyond them the green hills, mist still hovering over them like a delicate half-invisible shroud. She had winded her way down through the narrow nooks and passages that led directly to the sea.

Heaving a tiny sigh, she sat on the cold, dark sand; the sunbeams had yet to reach this portion of the island. She faced the westward side, gaze captured by deep indigo, slowly being swallowed by the soft shades of carnation pink and honey yellow.

Sighing again, she rested her chin on her lily-white hands. Those who saw them, proclaimed them a beautiful, enchanting sight; she was without equal in beauty everyone always said. Not that it mattered much to her.

She waited in silence, listening to the wind beating against the shore and the waves crashing on the sandy shore. A long time passed; the sky was nearly cleaned of its darkness when she finally stood up. With her back straight and her head held high, long chestnut hair dancing behind her, she gave a shrill whistle. It echoed over the nearly empty western shore, startling a flock of sand pipers.

Resisting a smile, she scanned the wild expanse before her. She gave a happy gasp when out of the waters, about a hundred yards or more away, arose a large head. His blue-black skin was covered in barnacles, his deep black eyes peered over in her direction.

Waving wildly, she dashed out into the waves until the water reached her shoulders. Her silk dress was ruined, but she didn’t care.

“Eurig!”

Giving a long low whistle in response, he splashed his giant tail on top of the ocean, sending waves running to the shore.

Once they settled, she grinned and ducked under the water, kicking off from the shallows. In moments she found herself in the deep ocean, battling against the current. Eurig bobbed his behemoth head, and her pale blue eyes lightened up. They glowed like the sky at dawn; nearly colorless but so strikingly bright.

Without any trepidation, she scrambled on to his back, settling herself between his head and his blow-hole. Stroking his damp skin, she chuckled, “How has you been, Eurig? Food’s been plentiful?”

The whale gave a short click in answer, dipping down into the waves then rising again.

“All right, all right, we can get going on. I’ve been looking forward to this all day. All those people in the stone place are being so itchy. They give me the shivers. But you get on with what you want. No worries.”

He needed little more persuasion. Sucking up a good deal of air into his lungs, he drove under the sea, she clinging to his back.

Eurig plunged through the green-blue waters, weaving among a wonderland of abandoned underwater rock formations that looked like the minarets of a palace and a world where the distant sun cast its rays down like spears of light until they vanished in the deeper darkness. After a brief journey for a creature as large as he, the whale finally surfaced.

A crescent bay surrounded them. White sand made a sickle moon, behind which a thick forest arose. Slender birches and beeches were the most prominent, with ripe apple trees woven in, their golden-yellow fruit illuminated by the morning sun. They hung like the apples of youth, ready and waiting for any hand to pluck them.

Laughing for the sheer joy of it, she let Eurig swim around the giant half-bay, white surf trailing behind them like smoke. He drove unexpectedly, before breaching the surface, waves and foam flying everywhere.

She shrieked in delight, red-brown hair now tangled and dark.

“Oh, you’re a thrill, Eurig. I can’t imagine people not liking you. Heck, if it wasn’t for his suspicions of the sea, Glyn never would have let me come. He’s such a nuisance, you know?”

The whale bobbed his head in understanding, giving a curious low murmur.

“Aw, thanks, but I can’t be leaving that fellow yet. I haven’t got a replacement yet. But god, I hope I do. ‘Sides its only because he did some nasty business with his net that he became king in the first place.”

Good mood souring, she was drawn out of it when Eurig’s voice called her back. He was always a comfort to her; his gentleness and his incompressible insight was a refreshing balm to her heavily laden soul.

“I’m so tired. I never thought I’d never been able to choose the king again.” Sighing deeply, she slid off his great back, swimming toward his head. “You go get some fun on your own. I want to explore the island. I’ve never seen this one before. Is it a new one?”

At his strong head bob, she laughed again, grinning. “Well, I’ll see what I discover. See you at first starlight.”

She swam to shore in no time, ringing out her dress. Its green silk clung to body like a second skin, woven belt ruined. It was an expensive piece Glyn had brought her, coming all the way from the southern part of the island that was her home. Dyed with bright yellows and reds, the wool was almost rotted now from its time underwater.

Unconcerned, she began marching through the forest, snatching an apple absently from one of the lower branches.

Soon the sun had breached the clouds, leaving droplet of golden-white light on the forest floor. She wandered through the woods, enjoying the fragrance in the air; it was almost like apple blossoms, but she knew that was impossible. After all, they had clearly already budded. How could she still smell their flowers? All the same, there was a fresh sweetness creeping into every corner around her.

Before long she broke from the forest into an open glade, smiling at the bright sun overhead, then stopped short when she saw what was in the glade.

Short, brilliant green grass lay like a rug on the earth, colorful flowers sprouting up in small patches. White and purple violets basked happily beside dandelions in the sunlight. Joining them was a tall man who was sleeping as if his life depended on it.

His hands were on his chest and he wore ancient armor. It was dented in many places and even the sun could not make the dust and grime reveal any shimmer; it looked as though it might have once been silver. Deep groves covered it, indicating it must have once been a pretty sight, engraved with designs she could only imagine.

His hair was long, a pale blond as though it had been bleached by the sun; his skin was red-toned as though the sun had burned him. A thick beard, the same color as his hair, covered his cheeks, as if he had lain in that spot for a long time.

Coming closer, she leaned over him. He was breathing heavily, like one in a deep slumber.

I wonder if he’s dreaming.

Bending nearer, she tapped his forehead with her fingertip, pressing her skin against his warm flesh. To her surprise, his eyes shot open, a vibrant dark lilac, and directly met her own.

She gave a muffled yelp as she stumbled backwards, watching the man through narrowed eyes as he struggled into a sitting position.

“Ah, hello. Good day, yes?” He wriggled his arm as though to wave, but stopped. “I am stiffer than I was.”

“It’s the armor,” she offered tersely. After her experience with Glyn, she didn’t dare trust strange men that appeared out of nowhere.

“Eh? Why so I do. I had forgotten. Or else perhaps someone bore it to me while I slept.” His bright eyes gazed at her until he coughed. “Ah, is this your land, my lady?”

“Oh, no. My friend found it. My home is east ways of here.”

“Hm, well, that will be a slight problem.” Grabbing the grass, he hauled himself to his knees then grappled with the air until he found his feet. He brushed off a cloud of dust. “Ah, there.”

Turning toward her, he inclined his head. “I am Cadwgan.”

A thick silence followed his words.

“And you are…”

“Why do you want to know?”

“It is proper courtesy, of course.”

Instead of answering, she asked, gliding slowly back to the woods, “Why were you sleeping here? Were you enchanted?”

“I do not believe so. Hey, here now, don’t run away. I am quite befuddled. And let me ask you, if we are asking them: why did you awaken me?”

“That was not my intention.”

The pair stared at one another, the warm morning filled with the fluttering of wings and the songs of birds. A bluejay and his mate landed on a nearby beech, strutting along its arm before they took off in a flurry of blue feathers, cawing happily.

All the while, his eyes trailed from himself to her until he broke into a crooked smile.

“Ah, are we not the sight? We are both a mess between the two of us.”

She chuckled softly as well, stopping in her tracks.

“Then you don’t mean any harm?” As an afterthought she added, “What do you think about the sea?”

Her question seemed to take Cadwgan aback, for he blinked at her, rubbed his eyes and then sighed deeply.

“You know, I believe someone asked me that before. I have always loved it. It was always so limitless, yet I recall very little of it. Perhaps I was often not allowed at sea. Ah, but I do remember I loved sailing – the sway of the ship, the salt of the waves, the burning water in night or day.”

“Burning water?”

“Yes. It is, as you say, the lights of heaven, moonlight and sunlight.”

Smiling, she said, “You can come back ways with Eurig and me, if you like. Only…” She bit her lip. “Only, I will have to ask Eurig not to dive under water.”

“Are you then a water maiden?”

She shook her head, giving no audible answer.

“Will you come?”

“You now trust me enough to allow me?”

She twirled a dry strand of hair around her finger. Against her skin, it looked as fierce and bright as fire.

“You could have done something bad and you didn’t.  You love the sea and…”  Smirking at him, she laughed, “and you talk funny.”

“Do I now? It must be my age, yes?”

“You’ve got to get to explaining that to me when we get back to mainland.”

“Yes, about that…I am not sure that I can leave this…island, is it? Leave this island.”

“Why not?”

A faint twinge of fear colored her good-humor, a trickling shadow that crept up the back of her neck like ice.

“I am not completely sure. It is just an inclination I have.”

Chewing her lip, she declared, “Then I’ll visit you. I don’t like staying near Glyn anyway.”

“And who is Glyn?”

“Oh, that’s not important to us,” she murmured, waving dismissively. Meeting his eyes, she stated with forceful authority, steel ringing in her voice, “It is my choice to visit you. If I have choices left, I’d like to come back here. I would like to help you find what you need.”

A poignant silence throbbed after her words.

“Then I am wholly indebted to your graciousness…”

“I’m called Anwen Blodeuyn.”

Word Count: 1,903

Written: 6 May 2010 / slightly Revised: 2 October 2013

Inspired: Mother’s Day, this, and maybe a bit of visiting Scotland

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