When Claudius, my little one, left Athena’s castle in the air, he didn’t know which direction to go. But he knew it was important to keep going, so he turned his back on where he had been and walked deeper and deeper into the forest. The trees changed, the songs of the birds changed, and the plants he saw around him were different, too.
Eventually he emerged from the edge of the forest, onto a rocky shore. The water stretched as far as he could see in every direction before him, bordered only on the horizon by mountain peaks. The lake was dark and smooth, without a ripple. Around him, silence hung heavy, like a fog.
He picked his way down to the shore and knelt beside the water. It had been several days since he had found water and he was thirsty. But when he stretched out a cupped hand toward the lake’s shore, a small voice spoke urgently beside him.
“Don’t!” Claudius “and the voice beside him spoke again. “Don’t touch the water. Don’t speak aloud. Remain silent.”
Claudius looked down and saw a small brown frog perched on a rock beside him.
“Noises carry by the water,” the frog said urgently. “I know where there you can safely drink. Come with me.”
Claudius held out his hand and the frog clambered quickly up his arm, sitting finally on his shoulder where it could whisper into his ear.
The frog guided Claudius from the shore back into the forest and Eastward, parallel to the lake but out of sight of it.
As they began moving in the right direction, the frog shared the tale of the king of the forest waters.
The King of the Forest Waters
After the princess had turned her brothers into a bear and an eagle, the people left her alone. Her father and other brother because they didn’t know what to do with her and the rest of the people because they were afraid of her. Which made sense – I would have been afraid of her, wouldn’t you?
One day, in the depths of summer, the princess made her way from the castle down to the shore. She slipped out of her clothing and swam. When she had dressed again afterwards, she sat for a long time, staring out over the water, trying to think through what had happened and what she could do. But sometimes you don’t have control over the situation. Your actions are the path on which you walk; her path had taken an unexpected turn, and now she must follow it and see where it led.
The sun moved across the sky above her while she sat and thought and sat without thinking, without moving. As it reached the horizon, she heard a step behind her. Her last brother sat beside her.
“How did we come to this place?” He asked. “And why? And where do we go next?”
The princess shook her head. She had spent all day thinking and had gotten no closer to an answer that would satisfy herself, much less her brother.
“What’s past is past,” he told her and her heart broke inside her. “We miss who you were. Come back to us.”
She turned a teary face to his. “I — I don’t want to be who I was,” she said softly, her voice breaking. “I am someone else now. Someone bigger. I need to know — I need to be…” She wasn’t quite sure how to finish the sentence.
“Someone bigger!” Her brother cried out. “Our brothers are gone. Our father’s heart is broken. The people live in fear of you. The castle is a mess, the kitchens are a shamble, the servants move about aimlessly and nothing gets done. We need you.”
The princess’s new and dangerous powers rose again in her. “Stop,” she cried. “Stop! I don’t want –“
“You don’t want! It seems we have seen enough of what you want and don’t want.”
The princess turned her face away, her tears falling into the water like rain. As her brother ranted, she waved a lazy hand. His ranting stopped and then there was a huge splash in the lake beside her, of a great weight falling from shore into the water.
Without looking further, the princess turned her back on the lake and wearily began her climb back up the shore to the path through the village. As she walked, she observed that her father’s kingdom was, indeed, in a shambles.
The cattle lowed mournfully in their fields. She waved a hand and they hung their heads silently, their eyes closed. A dog whined, she moved a finger and, without turning three times, it slept. People she met in the streets, dodging away from her, clutching their children close, slipped down onto benches, onto a curb, their heads lolling. The guards at the great gates sat heavily, their heads knocking together. The aimless servants fell where they stood, arms cradling their heads.
Her father, on his throne, stared at her in horror as she approached silently, and kissed him softly into slumber. Then she climbed wearily up the stone staircase and down the hall to her room, where she scrawled a warning on the slate, hung it above her bed, lay down beneath it and closed her eyes.
The kingdom slept.
“Ah, here we are!” The frog exclaimed, as he and Claudius reached a huge waterfall. “Here you can drink without him feeling the water’s disturbance and speak without his hearing you.”
Claudius drank deeply and washed his face in the waterfall.
“Can you take me to Elena?” he asked.
“I will take you,” the frog promised. “It is not far from here. But you must remember: no noise and do not touch the water. Not until the moon rises.”
Claudius promised, the frog climbed back onto his shoulder to whisper into his ear, and they set off again.
They set off as we must soon set off, little one. Quietly, quietly now, stretch your legs and your arms. They must move swiftly when we start, and you must gently shake off the stiffness. But do not let them hear you move. Do not let them see.