Reflections

of Master Samuel Gees.

Red Beard

boat

Many years ago I went on a trip to the seaside. It was with my friend Red Beard. Before I start my story I need to tell you a little bit about Red Beard, since this story is really about him. Red Beard is a dwarf. I know what your thinking – short, loves gold, long beard, swings a hammer or axe, hates orcs, can get a little grumpy. Okay, maybe I don’t need to tell you much about him. But seriously, Red Beard is a great guy and has two traits that are important for this story. First, he is a true friend – willing to put other’s needs before his own – there is no one I would rather have covering my back. Second, he hates the water. The only thing he hates more than water is moving water.

So here’s the story. Red Beard and I headed down to the seaside. It took us about a week to get there hiking through the mountains. I’ll never forget when we reached the last pass and saw the ocean stretching out in front of us to the horizon. It was the first time either of us had ever seen the ocean. I was awe struck. I could not have imagined it being so big – the largest body of water that I had seen before was a small lake. I don’t know how to really describe Red Beard’s reaction. It might have been awe. I would say terror, but from what dwarves tell me nothing terrifies them. In any case, Red Beard stopped walking and just stood their motionless.

Red Beard recovered, and with a bit of teasing from me, we made our way down out of the foothills to a lovely little seaport. After a few drinks to steady Red Beard’s nerves, I mean to wash the road dust from our throats, we got down to business. We had come to this port because we had heard that there was a little island off the coast where one might find treasure. We talked with a few of the locals and the local stories fit with what we had heard.

One old lady sat with us for an hour or so and went into great detail about all of the stories. Here are a few the the excerpts that I can remember.

“The island is called Lapping Death by the locals, but it’s real name is The Arches.”

“Many adventurers come here every year looking for it’s treasure. The lucky ones leave with their lives. The unlucky ones are still on the island, or in the island.”

“You can hire a boat to take you to the island, but they won’t step foot on the island, and definitely won’t take you into the sea caves.”

“The stories say that the island is full of caves, most of which can only be walked into at low tide.”

After we finished collecting what little information we could, and spending a wonderful night in a real bed at the inn. We headed out in the morning to find a boat for hire, to take us to Lapping Death, we found a young man who was willing to take us for two pieces of gold, and reluctantly Red Beard paid his half.

The boat was small, much to Red Beard’s discomfort. It had a single sail and a pair of oars. Red Bead climbed into the middle of the boat and hung on for dear life. I could tell by the whiteness of his knuckles. The ride out to Lapping Death was quite pleasant, at least for me. We had found that low tied would be in two hours, which should give us an hour on the island beforehand.

The owner of the boat took us quickly out to the island. As it came into view we could see why it was called The Arches. Along its side were a series of sea caves, cut into the rock of the island over time by the relentless pounding of the waves. Some of the caves went all the way through the island. I looked over at the captain and pointed at one of the larger caves. He shook his head and pointed to the tip of the island. “That is where I will drop you off. That is where I will pick you up, if you are to be picked up. I will come and look for you every evening for a week. After that I will assume you are dead.”

island

With those final words of encouragement, the captain dropped us off on the island. By “dropped us off” I mean he pulled up against the cliff at the tip of the island and let us climb up to the island. He told us it was much easier at high tide, which is when he would be back. In truth the climb wasn’t very hard, and soon Red Beard and I found ourselves sitting under a small tree wondering what to do next.

I have to admit that It was a little hard to concentrate on the island. Huge waves were beating against one side of the island, sometimes sending a fine spray of mist over the island. I was impressed by the power of the waves, I think Red Beard would have used a different word.

We started to explore the island. It wasn’t hard to find evidence of the other explorers that went before us. We found several packs, an old rusty sword, several places where ropes went over the edge of the cliffs. The island was small, and after 45 minutes we had completed our survey and picked the spot where we wanted to start. We picked the cave that was at he thickest part of the island, figuring it would be the most likely to lead to an inner chamber.

We tied off ropes next to several other sets, which should have told us something, and headed down. The tide was almost out and we found that the cave had only a foot of water coving its floor. Reluctantly Red Bead joined me, complaining about what the salt water would do to his boots. We walked into the cave with waves striking the backs of our legs, threatening to knock us over. As we walked it soon grew dark. I cast a light spell and we continued using its pale blue light.

We stopped when up ahead on the cave floor we saw white bones. It was hard to estimate how many bones there were, but I could clearly make out three human skulls. Red Beard and I glanced at each other and then noticed that the little bit of light that had been filtering in from behind us had disappeared. Spinning around, all we saw was darkness.

Watching our rear, we headed back towards the entrance. We proceeded with caution, but didn’t find anything, including the entrance. We reached the end of the cave and found it ended in a wall. Red Beard hit it a few times with his hammer and declared it solid. We spent a few minutes looking for a leaver or some other way to remove the end of the cave, but we found none.

We headed back into the cave and reached the point where we had seen the bones earlier. The water level had dropped a little and even more bones were now visible. In amongst the bones we could now see pieces of gold and silver. Red Beard cautiously walked forward and then started picking up the coins. I hung back, not trusting the situation. When Red Beard finished picking up the coins, we started walking deeper into the island.

We walked a bit farther and the cave started to descend into the water. As we walked the water rose on our legs and when it was waist high on Red Beard we could see at the edge of our light that the cave roof touched the water. To say that Red Beard was agitated at this point would be an understatement. We had two choices. We could wait and see what would happen, or we could swim down the submerged cave.

After a short debate we agreed that he would stay and keep looking for a way to open an exit and I would swim down the cave. I cast a second light spell so Red Beard would have light, and I stripped down. Taking only my dagger, I dove into the water – which was cold – and started to swim. I took a deep breath just before the cave roof touched the water and started to swim down the submerged cave.

As I swam I began to worry as my breath started to fade. I reached a point where I thought I might be able to swim back, and if I went any farther I couldn’t. I don’t know why, but I decided to swim past that point of no return. Maybe it was that belief that young people have that nothing can hurt them. Maybe it was that I didn’t want to go back and face Red Beard and have to admit that I was wrong.

I swam on. As my vision was starting to fade I broke surface and took a deep breath. I tried to clear my head and look around.

“Welcome.” A sweet sounding voice cut through the fog in my head. I turned my heard towards the sound of the voice. A soft yellow glow filled my vision instead of the blue of my spell. I swam forward a few feet and tried to make out the form in the light. I closed my eyes and shook my head trying to clear it. I opened them again and still saw the beautiful young woman sitting in the light. Golden locks cascaded over her shoulders and covered her naked form. Her eyes were piercing blue. Her skin appeared to be golden, but I realized that was probably from the golden light she sat in.

“Welcome,” she said again.

“Hello. My name is Samuel.”

“Welcome, Samuel. My name is Gwyneth. What brings you to my home?”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I figured the truth might not be the best idea – I’m here to take your gold. I was also a bit uncomfortable – treading water, naked, holding only a knife, looking at a beautiful naked woman. I decided to tell her part of the truth. “My friend and I got caught in this cave, and I’m looking for a way out.”

“Well, you can’t get out for another eleven hours, so why don’t you come join me for some tea.”

Again I was at a loss for words.

“Don’t worry, I’ll send you back to your friend before he is in trouble. Come now and join me.”

I didn’t move, but I was growing tired from treading water.

“Do you want my help?” she asked, “If so, you had better not make me think that you are a common thief.”

I began swimming towards her, wondering what I was doing. Soon my feet could reach the cave floor again. I put my feet on the floor and walked forward into the golden light. I was a bit self aware as I came out of the water and I saw her look my body over.

“Sit here,” she said, pointing at a seat cut into the rock beside her. I did as she said.

As I sat I looked at her. From this new vantage point I could now see her whole body. What I had taken for a beautiful young woman, was indeed beautiful but was not a woman. Her lower body was that of a fish – she was a mermaid. I had heard of mermaids, but never thought I would meet one.

“You have questions?” she asked.

“Well, yes.”

“Well then, lets talk.” She handed me a cup of tea, served from a tea pot that appeared to be made of coral.

“Do you live here?”

“Now Samuel, have you not heard what I’ve said? I told you this is my home.”

“But, do you live here alone?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Why, you’re so beautiful, how could you be alone?”

“Well, in truth, I’m trapped here. I swam into this cursed trap thirty years ago.”

“Trap?”

“Yes, someone made this trap to catch merpeople. Who ever made it must have died years ago, because no one as ever come to claim their prize.”

“Trap?”

“Yes the door only opens now when the water level is too low for me to travel out the of the cave.”

“I see,” I said like an idiot.

“I will help you out, but for me there is no way out.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure of what? That I will help you out, or that there is no way for me out?”

“That you can’t get out.”

“The wall is only down when the water is too low and the waves too strong for me to fight against. Believe me I’ve tried.”

We talked for a long time and then Gwyneth told me it was time to go. The water level had risen a couple of feet. She slipped into the water and beckoned me to follow. I did.

“I need to show you how to breathe with me. Come under water and then let me breath into your mouth.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant, but figured that at this point I didn’t have much choice. I took a breath and sunk into the water. I saw her face a few inches in front of mine. She took ahold of my shoulders and placed her lips on mine. I then felt her blowing air into my mouth. I let the air out, and she again blew air into my mouth. We repeated this for several minutes and then she let me go up.

“Do you see how that works?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Good, because we will have to do that for a couple hours – until the tide starts to go out again.”

“Oh. I hope my friend can handle this.”

“It’s time we found out. Come with me and we will swim back to him.”

Together we swam back down the submerged cave, her breathing for me.

Red Beard looked startled when our heads broke the surface. He also looked a little panicked, with the water being at mid-chest. I walked up to him, while Gwyneth waited in the deep water.

“Where have you been!” Red Beard demanded.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been talking with Gwyneth. She is trapped here too, but she has offered to help us get out.”

Red Beard glanced around me to look at the form in the water.

“She’s a mermaid. She’s been trapped here a long time.”

“I thought you were dead. I thought I was going to die. Let’s get out of here.”

“Well,” I said, “It’s going to take a little while longer. We have to wait for the next low tide.”

Red Beard looked at me with a scowl. What do you mean, low tide?”

“The wall that locked us in, it only lowers for a little while, just before low tide.”

“How high is the water going to get?”

“All the way to the top. That’s why we need Gwyneth’s help.”

“How is she going to help?”

“She’s going to breath for us.”

“She’s going to what? Just kill me now.”

“Relax Red Beard, it’ll be fine. She already showed me how it works. It takes a bit to get use to, but it’s not hard. She’ll be doing all the work.”

Red Beard didn’t look at all happy.

“Go on down into the water and she’ll teach you how.”

“You want me to go swimming with some fish-woman.”

“She’s a mermaid, and she…”

“Did you hit your head on something?”

“Listen, you’re already wet, you’re going to get wetter. Wouldn’t you rather do this on your own, rather than waiting for the tide to force you?”

“No!”

At this pint I realized that it was pointless arguing with Red Beard anymore, so we waited. The water slowly rose and soon Red Beard couldn’t touch the ground any longer. He hung onto the side of the cave, treading water. And we waited some more. Soon I couldn’t stand any longer and joined Red Beard hanging onto the wall. Gwyneth joined us and gave Red Beard a hand, helping him rest his weary legs. She offered a couple times to teach him, but he refused.

Eventually the water reached the the roof and Red Beard took the last breath of air that was trapped. Red Beard sank into the water, defeated. Gwyneth swam up to him and took ahold of his shoulders. Red Beard struggled, but Gwyneth was in control. She pressed her lips to his and blew air into his mouth. Surprise filled his eyes as she released him. She turned to me and gave me a lung full of air. When she turned back to Red Beard, this time he welcomed her kiss.

We continued like this for two hours, until the water lowered enough to give us air to breath. As the water continued to lower, Gwyneth retreated back down the cave to the deeper water. We spent the next four hours in awkward silence as the water continued to lower.

The wall that blocked the end of the cave sink into the floor and light flooded into the cave.

I turned to Gwyneth. “Thank you.”

“You’re Welcome,” she called back.

Red Beard started to fight against the waves, moving towards the exit, but then he stopped. He looked back towards Gwyneth. He then started to walk back towards her. Splashing into the water, till he was neck deep, and then swimming to where she was.

While treading water he said, “Thank you.”

“You’re Welcome.” Gwyneth swam the last couple feet to him and gave him a kiss.

“Come with us,” Red Beard said.

“I can’t, I’m not strong enough.”

“I can carry you.”

“No you can’t.”

“You want to bet?” Red Beard reached out and grabbed her hand and started pulling her toward the exit.

When they reached the shallows, where Red Beard could touch the ground and Gwyneth could no longer swim against the waves that were coming down the cave, Red Beard pulled her into his arms and held her. He fought against the waves, struggling to take each step. I saw him falter and ran behind him and pushed on his back. Together we walked down the cave, waves hitting us, but we kept going forward.

It took us fifteen minuets to reach the entrance, but we made it. Red Beard jumped into the ocean with his charge. Gwyneth quickly changed positions with Red Beard and held him up, swimming back to where he could grab ahold of the cliff.

Gwyneth thanked us and stayed talking with us until it got dark. She even caught a couple fish and threw them to us for our dinner. We spent the night on the little island, and the next evening the small sailing boat came back for us. The captain was a bit surprised to see us, but seemed generally happy that we had survived.

The trip back home was long and melancholy. We had found enough treasure to make our trip worthwhile, but it was sad that it was just the lost coins of other adventures who had not come back. Red Beard talked often about Gwyneth on the long walk home. I think, if he could have, he would have stayed with her.


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3 Responses to “Red Beard”

  1. […] The rest is here: Red Beard […]

  2. Shan says:

    Last night in bed I was thinking about this adventure, and how it seemed so dream-like. It’s the type of thing you wake up from and think, “whoa, where’d that come from?” And then thinking about the Mermaid, she is someone you know in real life, except that she doesn’t look like, or act like, or in any way resemble that person; you just know it’s the same person. Then you start to wonder if that person in real life is in some way breathing life into your soul, or is God somehow using you to help that person out of a “trap” of some kind. I recognize the story is really about Red Beard, and (in my perception it seems to be about) how coming to care about a person makes us bold FOR THAT PERSON. That is beautiful. But it is the dream-like quality that really sticks with me. Samuel’s blog is sort of light… I hope to see more of his adventures. Will there be more of this, even though the book is done?

  3. Douglas says:

    I defiantly want to write more of Samuel’s stories. The problem is that the stories that Samuel wants to tell are long. He’s not the kind of person who would just write a few lines. When he is sharing he is sharing something that is important in his life.

    As far as the blogs and the book goes. The blogs are being written about a year before the novel starts. At the beginning of the novel Annay has been on her own for a year. In the blogs Annay has just moved out of Samuel’s tower.

    Also, especially for Samuel, he is not writing about his daily life. He is living in his past, long for his youth. So he has ninety years of stories to draw from. I just have to find the motivation for him to share one of then.