Ceridwen awoke that morning, still groggy from the experience the night before and feeling heavy in her head. She had the cool wind blowing in her face forcing her to come back to reality and keep going on her way. She could sense she was two or three small islands away from her destination.
When she was a child the locals in these islands would talk about a dragon that was the king of the dwellers of the realm of water. He is one of the last known of his kind and she was told that he didn’t often stir up trouble with humans. She laughed to herself in thought of what she often would say as if shouting at the universe, “What else do you have for me?”. Typically after one hardship occurred, something else just as difficult if not worse, came shortly thereafter.
She thought heavily and memories swirled back and forth of when she was a child.
Going back to her place in her heart and in her mind where her home still existed, she thought about the stories she had heard at bedtime. She always loved the idea of the sea and magical creatures that lived below. Women with fins that sparkled like a rainbow and sang under the depths below. Gigantic, monstrous creatures with several limbs that could capsize an entire fleet of ships with one swing of a tentacle.
Her favorite tales were always of the water dragons. There were once many of them that were the rulers of the seas. They appeared in fables from all lands, and they lived in nearly all of the realms. The amazing thing about them Ceridwen liked the most was that they could live in any climate and everyone she ever met had a story or two to tell about them that they had heard from someone else. Fiction turned into epic legend. She once heard one about the king of the water dwellers who sleeps at the bottom of the depths of the sea. Every living creature, including the spirits and gods called him “The Thief”.
Men shared tales of his ability to take advantage of tired sailors and travelers. His voice is calm in nature but his allure is treacherous. He possesses a malice depicted in the form of crashing tides and unmerciful currents. For years he has been to blame for ships being swallowed by waves several miles tall and wrecking into rocky coastal waters, with no bodies left behind. He allegedly preys on humans and human-like spirits as well as all aquatic creatures the live below the depths of the waters. He can sense their presence in echoes under the waves.
His skin glows in the darkness and one can only know his presence by a glowing riptide before you’re about to reach your demise. When he did leave evidence of his destruction that later was known to have been found washing on shore, the people, animals, or their boats were embedded with his sharp glowing scales and completely strangled if not eaten. When their remains were found it looked as if they were constricted by a behemoth serpent of the sea. The ancients who possessed these scaly and shimmering souvenirs of annihilation at sea would house them as relics in altars at annual summer solstice blessings to give back as offering to the ocean King to pray for calmer tides. They hoped their adoration and devotion to him would bring his mercy to their people.
Ceridwen looked around her to notice everything was slowly starting to lose its color. The sky was starting to get dark as the sun began to set. As the clouds were losing their color once more fading from warm hues to a somber gray, the calm water started to tremble. There was a faint light of the moon and Ceridwen felt her skin get warm.
“It couldn’t be. I’ve been out here too long. My mind is playing tricks on me again.”
Once again, the waves started to pick up speed but only around the ship. It was if something was swirling underneath. Giving an estimate of size it was equivalent to that of a gigantic whale.
For a second there was stillness. Then suddenly, Ceridwen looked down to see a flicker of glittering white and blue luminous scales and a movement that resembled a giant snake.
Slithering yet also floating. It was mesmerizing and frightening dance that was starting to become more clear as the creature came into focus.
As she bent down to get a closer look at the water she could see the face of what could be none other than, “Dorobo”. She whispered his name and heard a muffled roaring laughter start to become louder as he emerged to the surface.
After countless years of solitude once finally given a name, Dorobo was awakened again.
“For decades I’ve been undisturbed and was just shaken by a piercing echo I couldn’t ignore. I know these waters have not seen your kind for some time. What brings you, daughter of the sky all the way out here in my realm?”
“Daughter of the sky? I’m an Earth dweller. I’m just on my way home.” Ceridwen said to the gigantic creature as she could feel his piercing gaze through her entire body.
The Thief slithered to the other side of the hull of the ship behind Ceridwen. A deep, airy laugh escaped him as he came closer inching towards her slowly.
“You are a descendant of the people of the moon am I not correct?” The Thief asked her, breathing close to her and making her hair blow and circle around her and her skin was covered in chills.
She turned around to face Dorobo and looked into his piercing glowing eyes and was overcome with fear but maintained her composure.
“Yes by folklore and tales we are claimed to be.” Ceridwen responded.
“Maybe you should learn the proper manner in which to tell the whole truth of a story. Especially when you’re being given a chance at mercy being allowed to speak by the king of water dwellers when so many like yourself have not been so lucky. You don’t make a good liar so that makes you different than most those I’ve met who live on land. But you were not being completely honest. You have no home. Do you? So now I’m going to ask you again. What brings you to my realm?” He looked at her deeply once again as if he already knew what she would say.
“I’m heading to find answers to that question. Your grace.” Ceridwen said.
“I accept your honorable and humble nature. You remind me of a warrior I met before named Tomoe. She had the same fire in her eyes. You could be of use to me. If you want to get to where you’re going, that is,” said Dorobo with a threatening grin.
“What could someone as simple as myself do for someone, as wise and kind as you?” She said as she was minding her words to make sure she didn’t say the wrong thing to further upset the most beautifully frightening creature she’d ever laid eyes upon.
"I asked a nereid to assist in this task and she was unable to accomplish what I had requested. However, I had not eaten in a week so it was refreshing to end her life in return for her ignorance.” The Thief said with a menacing smile.
Ceridwen laughed hesitantly.
“I am taking that as a yes but I need to hear you say it. Say you’ll assist me in my task and I will grant you safe passing to your mysterious destination.” Dorobo said
“Only if I don’t have to cause harm to anyone. Or myself.” Ceridwen responded, meaning anyone “human”.
“That’s for you to decide. Whatever is deemed necessary.” The Thief replied.
Ceridwen looked away from Dorobo and off into the distance. She thought about justice for her slain family and friends and everyone she held dear that is now no longer living. Thoughts of vengeance started swirling in her mind and she quickly and silenced them. Never before had she taken a life at the hands of her own, and wouldn’t unless it was by all means necessary.
“If I may ask, what is this task you speak of? If I don’t agree to it you can take me away and do with me what you will.
I only seek vengeance for those who have taken everything I’ve ever known or from anyone else. Nothing more.” Ceridwen said.
Dorobo was pleased with this response. He liked vengeance, as it was his only passionate reason for leaving his own comforts alone under the sea keeping to himself, and returning so close to the Earth realm. “Four centuries ago I made a pact with the Earth dwellers. They were granted safe passage through my realm and my currents as long as they didn’t cause harm to those around them. After the agreement was set, they broke their promises and so I fell into darkness and silence. I would wait until they came into my waters. I could hear their heartbeats. I knew they couldn’t be trusted. Once in a while, from the depths below I could see the glow of the Children of the Sky. As I see in you. We can help one another. I won’t ask you to go against your own morality, which although I find deeply concerning that you still hold on to this fickle hope, giving the plight of your circumstances.. This request is simple. I will guide you to your familiar land only if you tell them by who sent you. And to prove it I want you to give me your hand.” Ceridwen closed her eyes not expecting something simple to be handed to her, but instead to be dragged into the sea and plummeting to the depths below to have her lungs filled with water.
The Thief’s tail swirled around deep under the depths of the water to later come back up. His tail was wrapped around an object and clutching it in its grasp. Dorobo extended his tail up from the water to crash onto the boat and drop the item he possessed.
It caught light from the moon above and landed on her palm. It felt cold and foreign at first. As she opened her eyes and studied it closer she saw that she was holding a glittering key that looked as if it was made from stone and shells. It was a myriad of blue, purple, and pink and had an opalesque sheen to its outer layer.
“I’m in. I’ll do it for you. What do I do with this now?” Ceridwen asked, while touching the shimmering new item she didn’t want to let go of.
“I’ll bring you to where you need to go. It’s on the way to wherever it is that you’re heading.” Dorobo said, getting ready to dive back under the sea.
“I thought you didn’t know where I was going?” Ceridwen said while arching an eyebrow and smiling.
“No, I meant that I don’t understand why you were going there to begin with. Do you even know why?” Dorobo asked.
“Because sometimes we have no other choice and life chooses for us, I guess.” Ceridwen said.
Dorobo nodded and sunk back deep under the water.
“Wait! There’s something else I must know!” Ceridwen shouted into the sea below.
Dorobo emerged once more and agreed, “You get one question.”
“If you’re called ‘The Thief’ why are we helping each other?” Ceridwen looked at him straight in the eyes, wanting to get a true and honest answer. They stood there looking at each other intently and he was watching her pupils expand.
“Because one doesn’t waste their time trying to steal from someone who has nothing left to be taken. And we both know time isn’t something we have much of.” Dorobo looked up at the sky almost in desperation before he went back under the glittering blue sea.
Ceridwen felt a push of the boat up and a cool breeze brushing the back of the ship. It turned starboard and started to move swiftly against the wind. Ceridwen felt her heart start to pump faster and faster until it started to a shoreline up ahead. Dorobo’s tail whipped in an S formation underneath as the ship came to an abrupt halt. It then started floating slowly up to shore. The Thief emerged from the water as if to say goodbye.
“It’s almost midnight. This is as far as I can take you without being seen by Earth dwellers. When you get to the shore and walk past the clearing you will find others like yourself and then it’ll be clear what you need to do.”
And with that, Dorobo was gone. As he swam quickly towards the horizon he disappeared into the void of the deep sea.