June 9, 2019

THE QUEEN, THE SEA WITCH, AND THE URN by December Lace

The Sea Witch emerged from the pool
with her fierce inhuman eyes and knew
the girl would agree to anything...
Once upon a time there was a young princess who lived in a sprawling castle by the sea with her father, the king. Her father was a wise man and seemingly in good health, which made it even more shocking and heartbreaking for her when he died suddenly, leaving her no immediate family or advisors to help her with her sudden new duties of reigning over an expanding kingdom as the queen.


Feeling grief-stricken and knowing she was too young to reign on her own, she tried to get him back by praying so that he could visit her and teach her his ways. Many nights passed and though the new queen managed to sleep some nights, her father did not visit, and her heart started to wither out of grief, confusion, and loss. The archbishop seemed of no use, neither did the soothsayer, the herbalist, the medicine man, or the court astrologer.

The young queen fell into a spiral of depression and desperation. Soon, she did the only thing she knew that would produce results. She disguised herself and walked alone from the palace toward the ocean then to the obscure cave on the right, where the Sea Witch lived. Everyone in the kingdom knew about the witch who lived in the sea, but only the truly desperate went to visit her, because she was very powerful and very mysterious.

The queen stepped foot in the chilly foam of the encroaching tide, made her way to the dark cave, and called to the Sea Witch. The Sea Witch emerged from the shallow, cold waters of the pool with her blue-hued skin, silver hair, eel tail, and fierce inhuman eyes, knowing from the sound of the girl’s desperate call that she would agree to whatever was asked of her. Even in the girl’s drab dress and unwashed face, the witch knew who the queen was.

She was trembling as she stood before the Sea Witch, wrists shaking, teeth chattering as she told the Sea Witch of her father, his sudden demise, the overpowering grief she felt, and the added weight of responsibilities as the new queen. He was young when he passed, she explained, and had no signs of illnesses. She had therefore not been trained in matters of the Court. She needed to lead her people but without his advice, she and her people would be doomed.

The queen seemed to age as she waited for a response. The Sea Witch had forgotten how much death impacted mortals, but still her eyes were stone. For she had long been waiting for an opportunity such as this and was very careful of her instructions, because she too wanted something.

The Sea Witch, for all her power, could not raise the dead, she explained to the distraught queen, but she could temporarily awaken them. She told her she would create a vessel that could bring her father back if she agreed to give the Sea Witch her eyes. The queen was startled at this form of payment, but this was the only transaction the Sea Witch would accept.

Eyes were very important to the Sea Witch and her disguises. No matter what the Sea Witch did, her eyes were completely dried out by the harsh saltwater of the ocean. Years of brine and spray had devastated them and as a result they looked and felt like chunks of onyx had been embedded in her sockets. They were the only feature her many potions and spells could not mask when it came to disguises. She could split tails and combine legs, but never transform eyes to deflect the damaging nature of saltwater. There was no masking it, and she couldn’t possibly charm everyone in her surroundings to only see human or mer-eyes when she needed a disguise to walk among the humans. As powerful as she was, even that was implausible. She would need a pair of human eyes to make the transition complete.

The queen was terrified, but she had no choice but to accept the Sea Witch’s terms. As soon as the queen gave her consent and her voice struck the walls of the Sea Witch’s cave, the Sea Witch dove down into the pool and swam out into the ocean.

The queen watched the ripples reflect off the walls, shimmering a ghostly blue off the low water in the cave. The eerie color and pattern were unsettling, but still she stood her ground, waiting for the Sea Witch to return. Her heart still ached for her dead father, and she could feel herself slipping into the deep ocean of internal grief when suddenly, the Sea Witch rose hours later, bearing with her a gray, mysterious urn and gave the magical instructions:

Sprinkle some of his ashes into the base of the urn, the Sea Witch said. Then fill the urn to the brim with water that flows from the fountain into your bedchamber. Place the urn on a bare table in a room lit only by candlelight and through the vapors, your father shall appear.

The queen asked how she could possibly see him when she would have no eyes and the Sea Witch replied that she wouldn’t see her father, but she would hear him and his advice. That, after all, was what she’d come for.

The Sea Witch set the urn off to the side of the cave and guided the queen over to a shallow area of the pool. Using a magical, jeweled knife, she cut out the queen’s eyes and placed them in a small box so that the salt from the water would not dry them out. The queen screamed in the new darkness, flailing her hands from the stinging pain and the crater of grief she still felt from her loss until the Sea Witch guided her back to the sands of the beach, placing the urn in her hands, the queen’s blood running down to the shore.

When the queen was gone, the Sea Witch returned to her cave, and, using the same magical knife, carved out her own eyes and replaced them with those of the queen. She blinked, savoring the moment and letting her eyes slowly adjust to the dark cave before slowly bringing herself out into the sunny surface of the ocean.

She glided, carefully keeping her head above water. As she drew nearer to the shoreline, she changed her bottom half into a pair of sturdy legs and changed her skin into a lovely shade of mahogany. Then she changed her hair to a soft pearl color, took away the deep wrinkles in her face and body, and gave herself a simple white dress to wear. For her last act before she left the water, she summoned the bag of treasure she’d gathered from all her hiding places in the ocean, then she stood on land, completely transformed.

Then she took the small, hard black stones that used to be her eyes in the palms of her hand and using all her strength, flung them into the middle of the ocean where they disappeared under the blue water. She then turned and walked barefoot on the sand, heading to the market of the small village, her sack of accumulated jewels swaying peacefully next to her newly constructed legs.

Meanwhile, a royal fisherman found the queen stumbling about on the warm, bright beach, carrying an unusual urn and blood pouring from empty eyes. He took her back to the palace and after her wounds were dressed by the court physician, the queen would not say a word about how or why her eyes had gone missing, nor would she let go of the urn she clutched in her hands.

She ignored the pain and set about to contact her father right away. She followed the Sea Witch’s instructions, although navigating the rooms newly blinded took her longer than she thought. She also used steady hands and utmost patience to fill the urn to the brim and not go one drop over. The queen didn’t spill anything and carefully made her way into the clumsily prepared room so she could hear her deceased father.

The queen stood still and awaited the misty composition of her father’s face to speak. It felt like hours, but finally the air about her changed and water formed into a vaporous configuration of her father’s face that she could feel with her hands. Tears of joy sprung to her sockets mixing with her blood- it was him. His voice was unchanged by death and his words contained messages that he would have spoken in life.

He told her of upcoming meetings and how to speak- who to address, who should stay in charge of what and who should be promoted or switched. The king also spoke of an impending war that the country needed to prepare for. Such a portent scared the queen, but she remembered to show bravery for the sake of her people- for without her father’s otherworldly knowledge, they would have no chance at fighting at all.

Toward the end, when all the water in the urn was nearly evaporated, she told him how much she loved him and how she would do her best to carry on in their family’s honor. With his last sentence, he said he loved her and was already proud of his loving, clever, strong girl who was sure to lead their people to new heights for the rest of her days.

The queen sat in silence for hours, letting his words wash over her, missing him, and thinking about what she must do for her people. The next day, she approached her council with solid plans on how to carry on with every aspect of the court- who to appoint, who should stay in position, and how to prepare for the upcoming war. The plans were well-received, and the new queen was praised for her grace under the pressure of becoming a new royal so quickly and under the heavy cloud of grief.

But the new queen still had one more thing she wanted to accomplish, and she didn’t care how long the duration. Her sockets had not stopped bleeding from the transition with the Sea Witch and she knew they wouldn’t until she found the Sea Witch’s eyes.

She had her royal fisherman plunge into the deep waters and scour the ocean floor for two black stones as hard as hate and as shiny as onyx. It took a very long time, but they found them, and the queen dropped them into the urn, filled the urn with her blood from the eye wounds that never healed, lifted the urn above her head and with all her might, brought it crashing down on the palace floor, smashing it into shards.

With the destruction of the urn, the queen’s eyes that were now housed in the Sea Witch’s face evaporated into salt, stinging the Sea Witch painfully before the rest of her ancient body turned to dust on the spot, and the queen’s sockets stopped bleeding.

The blood that was smeared on the palace floor from the urn changed into clean water, and the black stones that lay among the shards turned to beautiful opals with the power of foresight. The queen gently picked up the smooth gems and put them into her hollows. With her new abilities to predict the future and the guidance of her father’s words, the queen would now be able to lead her people with strength, grace, and protection in all her days.

December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Molotov Cocktail, Pussy Magic Lit, The Cabinet of Heed, Dark Marrow and Rhythm & Bones YANYR Anthology, among others as well as the forthcomingRiggwelter Press and Coffin Bell. She loves Batman, burlesque, cats, and horror movies.
She can be found on Twitter @TheMissDecember and http://decemberlace.blogspot.com.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

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