I joined the King of Cups under the shady pavilion. The first thing I did was down a sizable quantity of water. I considered pouring some of it over my head to cool off, but realized just in time that it would be more than a bit rude. I took a piece of fruit instead and sat back, looking at the King as I hungrily bit into it.
He was staring at me in an amused manner. He pushed some more food my way and watched me eat for a bit. Then waved his hands again and a small bottle of Aloe Vera appeared. “I think perhaps you could use this – or is your normal color bright pink?” he asked.
“No, not usually.” I smiled ruefully and took the bottle, thanking him. When the worst of the burning was relieved, I sighed with relief and said, “Now that I can think again…”
“Yes,” he broke in. “Now that you can think again, why don’t you tell me what brings you to my kingdom? The Skink,” here he poked a finger at the Skink, who was busily downing a bunch of grapes, “didn’t tell me much more than the fact that he had brought me a visitor. He hasn’t done that for quite a while, so it must be something important.”
“Well, it’s important to me, anyway,” I said. I paused, thinking of how I wanted to say this. “I’m searching for a portal – a portal to Lemuria. I’ve been before, and those times the portals mostly found me, but this time my muse has gone missing, and I can’t seem to find my way there. I’d like to find my muse again, and I think she might have gone to Lemuria. It’s a bit of a problem. I can’t find the portal without her and I can’t find her without the portal.” I sat back in my chair again and picked at a crusty roll filled with a wedge of sharp cheese.
The King of Cups looked at me sharply. “What do you mean, your muse has gone missing?”
“She’s just not there. I can’t seem to write – the ideas are gone. I guess she ran away. I don’t know.” I shrugged, concentrating on tearing apart the bread in my hands. Several sea gulls danced attendance at my feet, waiting for the crumbs.
“Who is your muse? Do you know?” he demanded sharply.
“The She Wolf,” I replied.
His face grew solemn. “That changes things. I have actually seen your muse – she was here not long ago. But I need to tell you that some of the things she said…” he paused a moment, “the allegations she made against you are very, well, unpleasant.” He looked at me again. “In all fairness, I suppose I should hear your side of the story.”
The Skink cleared his throat.
“Yes, Skink,” the King said.
“It might help if Jane knew what the She Wolf had said,” the Skink whispered to him.
“Oh, yes. Well, she said that she tried and tried to get through to you, but that you just plain ignored her. She would come up with ideas and you would act like they weren’t good enough, and then eventually, you wouldn’t even hear them. She said that it was as though you had erected a wall around yourself and nothing she did could get through it. It tore her up,” he continued, to see you there, so miserable, and yet so unwilling to see or hear her. Finally she gave up and went away.” He stopped and sighed. “She was so unhappy herself, at the way she had just been shoved aside and ignored – I felt sorry for her. I don’t know if I’m interested in helping you.” He looked me in the eyes. “Frankly, I feel that ignoring your muse in that way is tantamount to abusing her.”
I could feel tears prickling in my eyes, and I wished the sandy shore would simply open up now and swallow me. But I could see the Skink nodding at me, gesturing that I was to defend myself. I sighed loudly, sniffled, and started. “I didn’t ignore her to hurt her. I have had so much going on, felt so stressed out, that I have been afraid to open up for anything. I felt like if I let go enough to hear her, I would be opening up enough for other things – not-so-nice feelings and fears – to get in, too. I didn’t mean to drive her away. Really I didn’t.” I ended on a wail and sat there, sobbing quietly.
The Skink turned to the King. “It’s true. Things were difficult for a while. I’ve been there all along, watching – me and some of the others. Personally, while I can understand that the She Wolf was hurt and felt neglected, I think she should have stayed around for the long haul. She had to know that things would get better eventually and Jane would be ready to hear her again. She had to know that Jane needed her, even when Jane didn’t know it herself.”
The King looked troubled. “I can see your point, Skink, and you may be right.” He stopped and thought for a few minutes. Finally he looked at me and said, “I won’t tell you where to find the She Wolf, but I’ll give you passage through my kingdom. It’s up to you – your quest is to find her again. And it’s your job to convince her to come back to you. I think that’s the only fair way to deal with this.”
With that, he nodded decisively and said, “I’ll send some of that food with you. You’ll no doubt want it before you’re done.” As he spoke, a bundle of food appeared in front of me, along with a bottle of the crystal clear, icy cold water. “The water bottle will always stay full and cold and fresh for you,” he said. “I’ll not send someone on a quest away from me without some sort of token.”
I gathered up the food and water bottle and he waved his hands yet again. The pavilion disappeared and we stood there on the shore, the breeze tugging at our hair. A few words and gestures and there was a bubble surrounding me – and the Skink, who seemed to know what was coming and had grabbed hold of my pants leg. Moments later, we were traveling through the breakers and out into the sea, dry and in a bubble of air.
“Might as well sit down,” said the Skink, fitting action to his words, “This will take a while.”
He was right. The King of Cups’ domain was wide. It was a lovely trip, though. Various sea life, intrigued by the bubble-full of Skink and person traveling through their midst, came right up to bubble to investigate us. I met whales and dolphins and squids and quite a few creatures that I couldn’t put a name to. I suspected that they might only exist here in this magical sea of the King of Cups.
Finally we bobbed back to the surface and rolled in to the opposite shore, riding on the crest of a breaker. The King rose out of the water with us and dissolved the bubble that had kept us safe and dry.
He nodded inland and said, “She was going that way. I would imagine that she and the portal you seek are in the same direction.” Then he smiled and dove back into the water without another word.
I turned to the Skink. “Well, I guess that’s where we’ll go then. That-a-way.” And I set out towards the dunes that marked the edge of the beach.
-Jane ©March 2010