Origins of the Order of the Cross
The woman lay upon the rocky shore, her body broken, beaten, and abused for days before she was callously tossed upon the shore to die. But there was strength yet within this woman and as she lay in agony, eyes tearing both from the pain of her wounds and the acrid smoke of the fires that spread throughout the city of St Symeon on the Mediterranean coast, her chest rose steadily from a heart that would not quit. The Crusade of the Christian Church was coming to an end, the victors making ready to set sail with their coveted prize, stolen from its home in Antioch. Stopping long enough to raze yet one more city and pillage its treasures, the Knights had postponed their travel a week to indulge their sins.
Her black hair, streaked with silver splayed across the rocks was now matted with blood. The incoming tide lapped at her semi-naked body, but she was powerless to move with both legs broken beyond repair. Eyes that stared up into the late afternoon sun, on a warm autumn’s day still burned with hatred as she uttered a dying curse upon her abuser.
“Fisher King may your wanton lust for power and carnal pleasures bring you an eternity of pain and unrequited longing,” she whispered with such vengeance that a flock of nearby crows waiting to feast upon her remains fled the shoreline in an atavistic terror, never to return to this spot.
Content that gods or powers beyond her understanding had heard her pleas, the woman slowly closed her eyes and accepted what fate had wrought for her. So it was, that she did not see the almost imperceptible ripples at the sea’s edge or the feminine arms that reached out towards her. Although no visible struggle ensured, Nammu felt resistance as she gently lifted the woman’s body from the rocks as death itself challenged her for the broken woman. While the slightest pulse still beat within this woman’s chest, Nammu would not be denied and even death itself retreated briefly, patient that she would not last the night. Inwardly, Nammu acknowledged this same truth as she gently cradled the woman while riding the currents further out to sea.
As night fell, Nammu floated upon the surface of the Mediterranean Sea watching the fires still rage through the city of St Symeon as she cradled the woman, using what powers she could to keep her comfortable and alive, even if just barely. Beside her, another Mermaid waited, also watching the city, but her attention was on the single masted, flat-bottomed ship bearing the royal banner of the Fisher King himself. The mermaids watched the vessel haul anchor and raise a sail, slowly leaving the harbour, under a meagre wind but assisted by two rows of strong oarsmen. Once the ship had cleared the harbour and began its journey back to England, Nammu nodded once to Sylvella who smiled slightly and dove under the water, rapidly gaining on the ship in the gathering darkness of early evening. Deep beneath the waves, two large shapes broke away from the inky darkness of the depths as the massive sharks moved to flank Sylvella.
The attack on the vessel was as fast as it was brutal. Breached in multiple places with the blood of the crew rapidly staining the waters of the Mediterranean, Sylvella moved silently into the luxurious cabin at the rear of the vessel to the sounds of the crew dying about her. Standing in the centre of the cabin, sword in one hand, the other cradling the treasure that so many thousands had died for; the Santo Cáliz or the Holy Chalice as it has come to be known. A powerful warrior, victorious in countless battles against often staggering odds, the Fisher King was no match for the powers and strength of Sylvella, a mermaid of less than a century of age.
“What manner of demon are you?” The Fisher King spat as he was disarmed and left grasping at his near frozen sword arm in agony.
“The only demon in this room is you,” Sylvella replied with a venomous tone. “But you have nothing to fear from me because my Queen requires you alive. You and your blood prize.”
Hauling him from the room, Sylvella casually dumped a canvass sack holding an agate encrusted golden chalice into the footlocker within the well-appointed cabin.
Standing on the edge of the half-submerged vessel, the Fisher King tried desperately to break free once more, only to lose his footing, one leg dropping through a jagged hole in the deck. Sharp edges of the timber sliced up his inner thigh and lodged within his groin region as he let out a hideous and high-pitched squeal of pain. Smiling grimly, Sylvella lifted him off the broken timber spar, catching him easily in one arm as his unconscious body went limp, before she dove into the red-stained waters and followed the two satiated sharks away from the wreckage.
Meeting up again with the Mermaid Queen and the near dead woman, Sylvella handed over a somewhat plain and battered looking silver goblet while still cradling the unconscious form of the Fisher King.
“Thank you my dear Sylvella,” Nammu stated quietly, “You have done very well indeed, as have you all,” and she gestured to the circling forms of the two great sharks. “Let us take these two to a nearby grotto I have already prepared.”
Sylvella nodded once while the Mermaid Queen worked her magic to ensure both the humans would be able to make the journey deep under the Mediterranean without harm. In short order, they all dipped beneath the surface and were gone, swimming at great speed to a cave hidden in darkness at the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea.
Once inside the cave, Sylvella marveled at the wonders Nammu had casually passed off as preparations. Luminescent algae adorned the walls and formed elaborate scripts in a long-forgotten language. Stone slabs, smooth to the touch and layered with the softest kelp that still grew from the base of the grotto and covered the tables through the guidance of the Mermaid Queen’s magic, waited upon the ill or injured. The softest white sand blanketed most of the cave floor, extending upward on a gentle incline to a small beach. Impossibly, the small group broke the surface of the water again, this time at the very bottom of the sea, as they placed the humans upon stone tables prepared for air breathers only. Just beyond these tables, a small shrine had been fashioned with an ivory plinth at its center. Above the plinth, a crack in the cave wall admitted just the gentlest trickle of cold, pure Mediterranean waters that flowed over the shrine and down onto the white sands. Taking the battered silver goblet, Nammu placed it reverently on the plinth, directly under that flow of water after it passed over the shrine and as she did so, she uttered an abjuration of power in an ancient language not heard or uttered in many centuries. As she spoke, the words of power echoed around the small grotto, imparting a flare of energy and life into the runes adorning the walls of the cave. The magic also slammed into the psyche of the two humans, causing a small groan of discomfort in the woman but snapping the Fisher King from his stupor, causing him to sit bolt upright and spit in anger.
“Blasphemy,” he roared as he gazed at the full majesty and might of Nammu the Mermaid Queen, standing before the alter of an ancient god, the holy grail at its feet and now collecting the waters flowing over the shrine.
Turning her head to gaze contemptuously at the Fisher King, she responded with a sardonic smile, “If you are referring to your own cruel debaucheries being a blasphemy to your faith, then I would concur.”
“Hand me the Grail before the Lord smites you with his holy vengeance,” The Fisher King demanded imperiously, well used to instant obedience. “I am charged by God himself to protect and defend his chalice, even unto death.”
The statement hung in the air between them for several heartbeats before a slow smile spread across the face of the Mermaid Queen.
“And, so you shall fulfill your duty, Fisher King and you shall have all eternity to enjoy it,” as her gaze guided his to the nasty wound in his leg and groin. “But it will not heal you, nor will it sustain you. You will exist to protect it from all that might come to steal it away, but you shall not feel its touch nor its healing properties,” and with that proclamation, she gestured to Sylvella.
Sylvella nodded once and moved to cradle the woman’s near dead body, her skin now a pale blue from the cold as she lay upon the stone table beside the shrine. Nammu turned from the stunned and furious Fisher King and took a small thimble sized cup from a basket next to the shrine. Dipping it into the battered silver goblet now filled to the brim with fresh water, Nammu carried it over to the stone table and carefully poured the fluid into the woman’s mouth.
All in the grotto stood silently on that pristine beach and waited. Even the Fisher King watched on curiously, recognizing the woman with a sneer of contempt.
After several long minutes, the woman’s back suddenly arched up, her eyes flared open and a gasp of exhilaration burst from lips, now flushed and pink again. Both Nammu and Sylvella steadied her as life flared again within her and the body that was broken and torn mended itself before their very eyes. For the briefest of moments, Nammu lifted her gaze from the woman and spoke into the air above her body in a fierce whisper.
“Not today, old friend. Not today.”
Turning her attention back to the woman, Nammu marveled at the now heterochromia of her eyes as they gazed with fierce intensity at the Fisher King standing alone upon the small beach. Placing one hand gently on her arm, Nammu spoke to her in reassuring tones.
“Pay him no heed, for he has already been punished for his sins,” she began in a voice able to be heard by all in the grotto. “His wound will not heal; he will not find relief or release from it nor his duty to protect the grail for eternity. He also cannot harm anyone that does not seek to remove the grail itself,” she intoned formally and all who heard her words felt the magical bindings reverberate throughout the grotto.
Turning back to the woman, she continued, “You my dear, shall join us as my protector and advisor, for it was your strength that brought all of this to bear. Henceforth, you shall be called the Blue Siren and you shall lead a new Order, known as the Cross,” Nammu continued with a wicked smile to the Fisher King.
“Take waters from this chalice and seed the special basins I have installed at Grottos like this one hidden across the seven seas and here we shall heal the injured and wounded from all the marine species and even the worthy few humanoids as well. Sylvella will guide you as you come to your full strength and powers as our newest Mermaid. In time, there will be little that could challenge you within the ocean depths.”
Taking the woman’s head between her hands, while marveling how her skin had retained the blue hue of the cold even since recovering from her mortal wounds, Nammu began the transformation process, stopping only to plant a small kiss on her brow.”
“I feel the rage burning within you towards this maimed King who now guards the Grail, my dear, but do not seek to enact your vengeance upon him. Save this inner fire, harness it, and use it to protect our kind in the battles to come while you deliver unto the sick and injured that great heart of yours that would not quit even when death hovered before you.”
“I shall serve you well my Queen,” The Blue Siren spoke in clear tones once the ritual was complete.
“None shall harm you while a heart still beats within my chest.”
Nammu and Sylvella both embraced her at this proclamation before they all re-entered the water and departed the grotto without another word spoken.
Behind them, the Fisher King stood upon the small beach before the alter, his sword returned to him and blood still oozing from a wound that would never heal.
“And so, begins my purgatory.”