My attempt at a children's story...
Nerisza and the Pirates
Once upon a time, a young woman named Nerisza lived with her father, mother and older brother in a wooden house by the sea.
Nerisza and her brother spent their days watching the dolphins, swimming, and collecting herbs for their mother. She was a healer, and taught them how to cure various ailments with the native plants. In the evenings, they would sit in the library with their parents, and their father would read from the many books that lined the walls. The books were filled with exotic lands and colorful characters. Nerisza often imagined that she would see these lands herself some day.
But one day, Nerisza’s parents decided it was time to think about her future, and they sent her to the Queen as a lady in waiting, so that she could find a husband.
The King and Queen were kind to her, but Nerisza wasn’t happy at the castle. She missed her family and the ocean. The other ladies in waiting passed their days sewing fancy gowns for themselves and talking about the men at court. When they went to market, they spent all their time at the cloth merchant’s stall, while Nerisza visited the bookseller. They teased Nerisza because she wasn’t good at dancing, or embroidery, or flirting with the sons of dukes and earls that came to visit the castle.
“Don’t you want to make a new gown, Nerisza?” Melantha would ask with pretended concern, a mocking twinkle in her icy blue eyes.
“You’ll never get a husband,” Tanula would pronounce, tucking a wheat-colored lock behind her ear to reveal a flashing emerald earring.
But Nerisza wasn’t sure she wanted a husband. She dreamed of travel and adventure. Some of her suitors were nice, and certainly handsome, but she wasn’t in love with any of them. She spoke politely to them when they met, but never encouraged their affections, and she found that after awhile, they turned their attention to Melantha or Tanula.
One suitor, however, did not give up so easily. Doszitean was smart and kind, and Nerisza did enjoy his company. He loved books as much as she did and they passed many pleasant hours discussing their favorites. She liked Doszitean a lot. But she didn’t love him. So when the Queen told her that Doszitean had requested her hand in marriage, Nerisza was so surpised that she couldn’t think of anything to say.
Mistaking her surprise for modesty, the Queen smiled at Nerisza. “I am glad that you like this Doszitean, for your father has consented to his offer.”
The next few months passed in a blur as everyone got ready for the wedding. One hot summer day, Melantha and Tanula dragged Nerisza to the market, insisting she needed some new jewelry and ribbons to wear in her hair. Nerisza was wandering about the market, pretending to look at the trinkets for sale, when she overheard a man and woman behind her.
“Methinks we’ll head for Lilandelle next, and then on to Yantiko,” said the man, speaking in a strange accent. Sneaking a glance, Nerisza noticed that their clothing was made from rich cloth, but dirty and ragged around the edges. Pirates!
“But first we must find a replacement for Lysandros,” the woman was saying. “We can’t leave port without a healer.”
Nerisza had an idea. She took a deep breath and timidly approached the pair. “Pardon me,” she began, “but I couldn’t help overhearing. Well, I should very much like to see Lilandelle and Yantiko, and I happen to know a thing or two about herbs and medicines.”
The pirates looked surprised, but considered her offer. “The seas can be rough,” cautioned the woman. “It will be dangerous and sometimes frightening. Have you the strength for such a life?”
“I am betrothed to marry a man I do not love,” replied Nerisza. “Nothing frightens me as much as that.”
“Very well then, lass,” said the man. “You may come with us. I am Roque de Çesar, Captain of The Blue Mermaid, and this is my first mate, Celestina. Be aboard the ship at dawn in two days’ time.”
“I shall be there,” said Nerisza.
Back at the castle, Nerisza gathered a few of her things and wrote letters of explanation to Doszitean and her family. The next night, after everyone in the castle had gone to sleep, Nerisza snuck outside, draped in a cloak and carrying a small pack. She took one last look at the castle and set off toward the harbor.
During the months that followed, Nerisza felt like she was visiting all the books in her parents’ library, leaping from story to fascinating story. The ship first landed in Lilandelle’s calm harbor. The shoreline was dotted with small, boats in blues and greens that blended with the sea and the rolling hills that cradled the small village.
When they reached Yantiko, Nerisza went with Celestina to buy food and supplies. The marketplace exploded with tasty fruits, flowers and spices in every imaginable color. The people that filled the square had hair as brightly colored as the clothes they wore, and they carried their purchases home on small horses with shimmering coats as yellow as sunshine.
From time to time, Nerisza thought of Doszitean and hoped he had found another nice girl to marry. She missed her family, but she would have many adventures to tell them about when she went home to visit. She didn’t think they would be too angry that she’d ran away. After all, she earned her keep on the ship as a healer. She had great friends in Captain de Çesar and Celestina and her other crewmates. Maybe she would marry someday, but for now she was very happy with the life she had made for herself, even without fancy dresses, new ribbons or a husband.
copyright Amber Bathke 2009