Re-shared for Fandango’s Flashback Friday prompt.
This legend cannot be told without first discussing the incredible tools Queen Rhoda, herself, created – thanks to her deep love for Pytheos, the Greek fisherman. The Amber Web and pearl helmets used by the queen and her Grecian lover are not merely objects of lore. Their existence has been substantiated by the presence of modern-day pearl helmets used by Encantado scouts – veritable copies of the ones spoken of in this ‘myth’. The Amber Web, as well, existed – though its true whereabouts have long since been lost. A powerful, electrically-charged net, this ambergris mesh stands alone as one of the most powerful weapons in Encantado history.
The intricate knots tying the fibers of the Amber Web together are part of a Celtic sailor’s protection spell. It was first used by Queen Rhoda, thousands of years ago, to protect her lover and herself. He was Pytheos, a human sailor, and, on one of her many trips to the surface world, they fell in love. He taught her all he knew of living on the icy seas above, including how to create sophisticated sailor’s knots and how to navigate using the stars. The Queen loved the stars and would spend many nights treading the shoreline, contemplating the cosmos to pass the time until she would again see her love.
Queen Rhoda was not the standard among her kind. Most merfolk preferred to live their lives well below the drama and turbulence of the surface waters. As the only legitimate ruler of the Amphitrite Sea, Queen Rhoda’s disposition was most upsetting to her subjects. They despised her ‘uppings’ and repeatedly urged her to stay beneath the waves. Still, her love prevailed, and she met with Pytheos every chance she had. Her people decided they’d had enough of her topside rendezvous. Eventually, though, they would push her too far and force upon her an ultimatum: Either divest herself of her love and commit to her rightful position as the leader among her cousins, or be deemed incompetent and banished, after which her people would petition the Gods for a new ruler.
Queen Rhoda was outraged! She knew she could not give up her love, and yet who was she without her people? Due to her divine status, she was given three months to decide. In that time, she managed to find Pytheos and tell him of the dire situation. She also told him of the plan she’d been slowly developing as she’d searched for him.
Queen Rhoda told Pytheos of the Grotto La Vita. Being Queen, she’d previously educated in such matters and was well aware of its existence and powers. She was certain it would be strong enough to transform him from his human state. Though she knew the Fons Memor was very deep and the area was surrounded by dangerous foes, this did not stop her from developing a way to make it work. Pytheos had shown her how he liked to collect pearls from oysters. Every so often, he’d even make a piece of jewelry for her using them.
Using her divine intellect and sonar capabilities, Queen Rhoda was able to locate two of the largest giant clams in the Amphitrite Sea and managed to convince them to part with their gems. These, she hollowed out and used to construct the first depressurizer helmets. Once the helmets were crafted, she would be able to finally venture into the inky depths of a volcanic trench. It was there, among the vaporous clouds of sulfidic steam she would find veins of sinewy, molten amber.
Before embarking upon this mission, she met with Pytheos and asked him to teach her his people’s Celtic knot magic. She then made her way far down into the cavernous void. Smothered in Elmnium Salve for protection against the sporadic surges of energy, she fought the currents and finally descended into the super-heated waters below. Her people had developed the sticky, oily substance many years ago; it was mainly used to treat shock wounds but worked well as a preventative, too. Armed with this knowledge, she was to craft the Amber Web out of the firmed funicles of honey-colored resin, meticulously setting each knot with intention. As she worked the gilded, brassy strings into their designated forms, she softly sang the original rendition of our welcoming song:
‘Through the Mother of Love and Peace,
Our souls are bound as one.
Let my royal voice speak,
Bring my lover home.’
These carefully chosen words, sung in perfect pitch, quelled the fierce, rolling torrents fueled by the hot gases. She remained in the vast ditch, knotting and weaving the Amber Web until it was, at long last, completed. She could already feel the electrical charge building up. Resurfacing, she brought the net to Pytheos and, together, they spanned the depths, reaching the cave after an intensely long and grueling swim. Pytheos had never before been at these depths and was astounded at the sight of so many aquatic creatures. Queen Rhoda, though, knew of the deceptive dangers lurking just beneath those alluring facades. The entrance to the cave was close, but between them and their destination was a smack of lion’s mane jellyfish. Well-prepared with the Amber Web, the queen threw it over the entire swarm, encompassing the deadly tendrils and rendering them useless.
With their path now clear, Queen Rhoda led Pytheos inside the blue-hole Grotto La Vita. Once there, she took him to the back end of the cave, passed the Fons Memor, to where the water levels were shallower and the pressure stabilized, allowing for a bit of breathable space. With the illumination of the mineral-rich waters, Pytheos was finally able to remove his helmet and watch patiently as Queen Rhoda hurried to bring him a flagon of the Memor Elixir.
With the first sip of the bitter-sweet potion, Pytheos’ lower half began shifting and distorting. His muscles, fibers, tendons, and bones tensed and morphed as he consumed the entirety of the drink, until, finally, he was equipped with an appendage not too dissimilar from Queen Rhoda’s. Sliding into the water, his skin took on a gentle shimmering appearance as his pores released millions of miniscule bubbles, absorbing the oxygen from the water around him, in the same way Queen Rhoda’s did. He was, in fact, the first Encantado. The only thing which separated him from a natural-born limniad was the shape of his rudder- his being less elliptical and more angular than Queen Rhoda’s.
Once the queen’s people discovered what she’d done, they were livid. Not only had she refused to acquiesce to their demands, but she’d committed the ultimate blasphemy in turning Pytheos- a dirty human- into one who could reside with them. Though they had no choice but to move on and accept Queen Rhoda as their rightful leader, it was with great reluctance. This hesitancy even resulted in the banishment of Pytheos from the inner Argathan realms, where the natural limniads reside. The Amphitrite Sea is more than a desolate and frigid pelagos – many secrets flow within its undulating waves.
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