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Prologue: Royal Treasure

“The ocean. A thin rippling layer above an endless cavern of undiscovered secrets,” he said in a low, soothing voice.

He sat in the bed beside his daughter as he held a thick, worn book in his hand. On the final page, she gawked at the page of artistic beauty. A ship along the waves with fish, coral, and glistening treasure left unfound.

“Riding the currents were generations of explorers who wished to see what laid beyond the foreseen horizons. It was a place of fresh beginnings and unknown futures. The faint of heart need not apply.”

His daughter grabbed the book and turned the pages until she reached near the center. “This one,” she cried. “I want this story.”

He laughed. “We just finished a story. You know the rule, Carina. Tomorrow night.”

“I’m not even tired,” she whined.

Kissing her, he took the book and closed it. “Tomorrow night.”

“But you won’t be here tomorrow night.” Carina glanced to him with teary eyes. “Remember?”

“Yes, I remember. But your brother will be here. So will your handmaid.”

“Wesley and Henriette are terrible storytellers. They don’t do the right voices. One more, Father. Just one. Please,” she begged. “Tell me about the island of treasure again.”

Laughing, he kissed her again. “I said no. I won’t be gone for long. Good night, Carina.”

“…good night,” she mumbled, throwing herself under her covers.

He petted her arm. “A spoiled princess through and through. The trip will be quick, you know this.”

She didn’t answer.

“Tell you what, when I get back, I’ll tell you all the stories you want.”

Carina threw the covers off her body. “Promise?” she cried with a wide smile. Her blonde curls entering her mouth, causing her to gag. “Blgh. Gross.”

Her father took the curls out. Still laughing, he patted her head. “I promise. But you have to go to sleep now. Deal?”

“Ugh, fine. Love you, Father.” Carina kissed him and fell back onto her bed.

He stood up and left the room, smiling at her as he left. Outside the room, his valet waited for him.

“James, the preparations are set. It would be wise for us to leave now.”

“Right now?”

“Yes, sir. We cannot delay this any longer, if it is still your wish.”

James, gulping and cycling through his options, turned back to Carina’s room, looking through the door at his daughter. A light grin teased his lips, but sadness overtook him. James turned back to his valet.

“So…the sailor has not returned?”

“Three years to the day, sir. I venture to assume he will never come back. And even if he did, there is no guarantee he has found anything of saving use.”

James shook his head, disappointment overwhelming him. “And Wesley?”

“Told what he needed to be, sir. He was still quite upset despite the urgency of the circumstance. I am sure he will come to terms with it in time.”

“He is still young in many ways,” James sighed. “Very well. Let’s depart.” James’s eyes flashed with pain yet again. It was clear what was on his mind.

His valet took notice. “Sire, they will be fine.”

Chuckling, James looked to his valet. “You just might have to drag me out, my friend, before I change my mind.

His valet took him by the shoulder and led him down the corridor. “Come, Highness, we have no time to waste.”

*** *** ***

Carina, hearing the muffled voice of her father, waited until he had gone away. She tossed the blankets off her body and grabbed her book. Excited, she went straight to her window. It overlooked the ocean, a gentle and untouched beach just below her feet.

To the right was the rest of her home, an ivory palace with the stables in sight and gardens left behind by her mother. To the left, an endless line of ships along the docks. Just out her sight was the nearest town, the port town she loved to visit with people she cared for.

The baker who knew her favorite sweet. The librarian who had a new book for her birthday each year. The painter who gave her a new image of the world she had yet to see. And the sailors, oh the sailors, who told her stories of the adventures she would never have. Her room was adorned with the artifacts and emblems of the treasures they had found, no matter how mundane.

Book in hand, Carina reached out and took hold of the trellis. She scaled it downward until her feet hit the malleable sand beneath her. Her toes spread to let the gritty feeling permeate her skin and relax her body. When satisfied, she darted for the beach and did not stop until she felt the splash of the ocean hit her legs and soak the hem of her nightgown.

She sighed into the waves, her breath riding the current away into the night. Her irises reflected the color of the stars, more so the one star she was named after. Their image could be seen in her eyes, blending with seamless beauty.

Carina held the book tighter in her arms as she dropped. She crossed her legs, placing the book in her lap, and opening it to the story of the island of treasure. Gold, silver, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, everything her mind could conjure up. And as she gawked at the page, she did not hear the sluggish steps creep up behind her.


Edited: 12.11.2019

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