The Fisherman's Daughter
Image by Magali Reyes
*Editor's Note: Originally published in The Teacup Trail.
Far from woods and towns, Liliwen swept through days bright with sea tops and sky. Her hair tangled with salt. She sat still upon high waves, as the tides drifted her over glinting deeps. There, she walked in the shadows of whales and ships. She stood among flocks of seabirds and fed them crusts from her father’s table. She lingered in sunsets as the waves shone gold. At night, she waited until her father’s snores grazed the silence and then crept to the waves. There, she named seals and wandered with them while the moon lit the white cliffs. As darkness glimmered on the water, she glimpsed fossils in rock corners and guessed at the creatures which had once roamed the seas.
In the cottage, Liliwen looked out the window and saw other children on the shore. But she became stranded in a rock pool when she tried to join their games. All day, she watched them play while crabs scuttered beneath her feet. When the tide gathered the beach, she stepped onto the waves. Sometimes, as she walked upon the shining depths, she saw distant sails sinking. She ran along high waves and hard winds to drowning ships, and sailors clung to her ankles as she walked them to the shore. In alehouses, on chill nights, folk sometimes spoke of a child who floated on mist and saved men from the deeps.
So Liliwen grew up among sea winds and whale song. When the water gleamed still, she tip toed around slow ships and listened for voices beneath the sails. In the storms, she huddled upon steep waves as the sky tangled dark. She ran with seal herds to distant shores and waited on the water while they basked on pale sands. She hid behind flocks of seabirds when fishing boats passed. Sometimes, she fell asleep curled between small waves and woke in oceans far.
Prince Edgar was heir to the realm. He had grown up among portraits and histories, in halls heavy with stories. He had watched processions from tower tops and ridden with the hunt as wolf cries darkened the woods. In the castle, he had walked chill corridors wrapped in shadows, imagining he wore his father’s robes. Now, he journeyed the kingdom corners and saw the villages and forests he would one day rule.
Edgar’s days slowed as he rode by the coast, searching for Liliwen’s footsteps upon the waves. While rains glittered on the sea tops, he roved shores beneath shrouded skies. He followed the tides past rock shadows and sunken sands, and pulled shells from the water’s edge. As dawn lit distant sails, he climbed jagged reaches onto cliff ledges. When dusk hid the horizon, he sat in alehouses listening for myths and tales of sea women.
One bright morning, Edgar strode into the blue cove. He startled as he saw Liliwen standing on a rock pool. Sunlight twisted her hair. From a rusted bucket, she poured water on the sands and tip toed on the puddles. As she stepped onto the sea, Edgar rushed forward and called for her to wait. She turned. Edgar’s words stumbled as he asked how she walked on the waters. He murmured how he had seen her standing far in the sea’s stretch and then wading through the mist. Liliwen paused and looked at Edgar while sea winds cooled the sky. She hung the bucket on a tall rock and smiled that she could not walk on land. Then she laughed and darted across the waves.
The following day, Edgar journeyed to the blue cove as sunrise spilled through the tide. He waited by the tall rock while whale song floated beneath far skies. Soon, he saw Liliwen inching her way upon puddles and rock pools towards the waves. As she hung the bucket on the tall rock, he asked of her days upon the sea tops. Liliwen nodded towards the rowing boat tied by the cottage, and told him to follow. He untied the rowing boat, pushed it into the waters and climbed inside. The oars struggled between his grip and the waves, and the boat trailed behind her steps. Sunlight stained the water. She glanced over her shoulder as he called questions to her under the winds. Her words mingled with bird cries as they slipped from the cove.
Every morning, he met her beside the tall rock. She waited on sea shallows while he pushed the rowing boat into the water. Her footprints glinted on the wave tops as he followed her past cliff corners and flock shadows. As the tide swept them along the coast, she sat cross-legged by the boat side and spoke of the oceans. She led the boat through rock archways into cave lakes and showed Edgar stalactites and secret shores. They floated in dim passageways as spoke of his childhood between the castle walls. In the gloom, he told her the legends he’d learned of ancient kings. When they drifted back to the cove, Liliwen watched him walking past the rock pools. Then, she ran to the seal herds.
Edgar’s evenings dragged within the castle halls. While the King’s guests feasted, Edgar sat hushed between firelight and song. He traipsed dusks upon the wall tops, gazing towards the sea’s edge. As night seeped through the kingdom, he paced torch-lit corridors and imagined waves flowing upon the stone floors. One night, his father summoned him near and asked why he stayed outside the banquets and hunts. Edgar told the King about Liliwen. The room stilled as he said he wished to wed a fisherman’s daughter. Hours dwindled, as the King spoke of tradition and majesty until Edgar’s protest dimmed his words. Then, he gave his son a gold ring and watched him pass.
Edgar rode through villages and woods, with the ring heavy in his pocket. As sunrise faded the night, he reached the cove. He saw Liliwen standing by the tall rock. Dawn billowed on the sea tops behind her. She walked on low waves as he hurried the rowing boat into the water and paddled to her side. Bird calls brightened the winds. Morning shone upon the white cliffs. Liliwen sat by the boat as Edgar set down the oars. His words tumbled as he searched in his pocket for the gold ring. She leaned over the boat side and whispered her answer.
That evening, after Edgar had gone, Liliwen turned to sea corners to say goodbye. She roamed twilit waves with the seal herds. As night sank the sky, she drifted whale paths on far tides. She walked past tall ships as starlight softened the winds. Back in the cottage, she lay awake on the bath of sea water, gazing at her ring. At dawn, she gathered her rusty bucket and waited by the rock. Cloud shadows floated across the sands. Soon, Edgar stepped into the cove and rushed to her side. He lifted her up on a great bowl of water and then carried her over the beach and up the cliff paths.
Inside the castle, royal puddle bearers bowed to Liliwen and poured spring water upon the stone floors. She gripped Edgar’s hand as the high walls cooled the light. They followed the puddle bearers past passageways and portraits. The King greeted them in the great hall. Liliwen curtsied on a puddle and gazed at Edgar’s siblings standing by the throne. The room was weighted with gold and silence. Liliwen held her bucket harder as ladies rushed toward her chattering of bridal gowns and flowers. As day thinned into dusk, she stood amongst velvet and lace while seamstresses sewed flowing shapes. That night, she curled upon a silver bath and tried to listen for Edgar through the castle shadows.
As sunrise grazed the tower tops, she woke and reached for her rusty bucket. While birdsong stirred the skies, she inched to the window and peered over the green views. Seeking blue stretches, she gazed up at cloud wisps swaying in the forest winds. She startled as ladies and servants swamped the room. All morning, she teetered on a puddle while they combed salt from her hair and draped her in silk and emeralds. Then, the royal puddle bearers led her past tapestries and archways to the great hall. Music stiffened the air. She stepped by nobles and choirs to stand on a golden platter at Edgar’s side. Vows and song stretched the day. Under dusk and cheers, they were wed.
They sat close at the wedding feast as laughter and fire-glow crowded the night. He took casks of red wine and poured puddles for her as they crept from the hall. They drifted along the corridors and up the spiral stairways. Liliwen carried a candle to light the spilled wine. They wandered the wall tops, beneath moonlit clouds. They leaned into the darkness and tried to spy distant sights in the candlelight. They heard the banquet murmuring in faraway rooms. They listened for whale song in the cool winds. Clouds muffled the sky and rains cloaked the night. As water pooled upon the stone heights, Edgar clutched Liliwen tight in the rain.
Their days slowed after the wedding. They drifted in secret corners far from ceremonies and parades. Before dawn woke the servants, Edgar sneaked banquet fruits to his room. Liliwen sat cross-legged on her bath as they dined. As shadows dappled the morning, they meandered in hidden gardens, where Liliwen tip toed bare foot on narrow streams. When she climbed fountains to sit upon the flowing tops, Edgar clambered into oaks and whispered from behind the leaves. They huddled together at the tower tops and watched bird paths across twilit skies. As night hushed the kingdom, Liliwen slept on the bath by Edgar’s bedside.
Liliwen’s days sank between the castle walls. She lingered by tapestries, gazing at ocean scenes of ships and beasts. She climbed tower heights, hoping to spy the sea’s edge. But her gaze fell on wooded views. She began to stay curled upon her bath when Edgar wished to wander the gardens. She heard banquets and parades dimly through the walls. At night, she dreamed of roaming blue waves beneath dark rains. Seeing her sorrow, Edgar told her of mountain lakes and summoned a carriage to journey steep roads. They held hands as they travelled hushed hours on winding routes. Liliwen gazed at the looming peaks as she walked the flat waters. She looked for vast shapes under her feet in the still deeps. When dusk darkened the slopes, she tried to feel sea winds in the alpine air.
Liliwen spent days curled on the bath as her eyes dulled among the castle shadows. Edgar sat by her side and stayed far from hunts and feasts. When storms shook the night, she listened through the rains for waves crashing upon ship sides. She stared at the ceiling, but saw only distant seas. Her voice faded from murmuring of ocean sights. When she slept, Edgar watched her thin shape under candlelight. He paced chill hours in dim rooms, picturing Liliwen on the sea tops. In the great hall, he gazed at the throne and remembered his father’s stories of battles and glory. Then he crept back to Liliwen. As dawn tinted the Kingdom edges, Edgar went to the King and told him he could no longer be heir.
Edgar sat on the carriage floor, by Liliwen’s bath, as they journeyed from the castle. Through the windows, he glimpsed the stone walls disappearing behind green hills. Long roads and broad valleys passed under Liliwen’s silence. Edgar held her hand as her eyes stayed closed. When gull calls wafted over their way, she began to murmur and stir. Salt winds widened the plains as blue waters glimmered on the horizon. Liliwen opened her eyes and inched closer to the window. As the carriage halted at the cliff, she gazed down at the warm cove. Sea tops and sun dazzled her sight. Edgar and the coachman carried the bath down the steep pathway and across the sands. They sat the bath in shallow water. Edgar watched as Liliwen stood and stepped over the side. He saw waves sparkling under her feet.
And so they lived in a ship on the sea. She ran with seal herds under deep skies. She stood in salt puddles by his side as they crossed vast oceans. He waited beneath the white sails while she wandered days on whale paths far from view. When dusk swept the waves, they roamed twilit sea tops together, with him in the rowing boat at her side.
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