The Coral Sea
There was once a beautiful coral sea, enchanted with the sing-song of its waves. Its coral, warm waters would entice whoever sat on the strand watching its ever-changing hues, listening to its song. Onlookers would get rid of their clothes, dive into its waters and swim for miles, till nothing of them was to be seen. They would never come back.
This strange compulsion was called the call of the coral sea. In time villagers told stories, making up unseen perils and strange creatures at the back of the bewitched coral sea.
One day a stranger came to the village and as he sat in the local inn listening to the natives' tales, he fingered his whiskers. After a while he decided he would find out what it was all about. He would sail the coral sea and know what had been of all the lost villagers. He declared his intention to the gaping folks, who crossed themselves and wished him luck.
The stranger set sail in the early morning, when the sun was rising on the coral sea. The waters shimmered with yellows, greys and bright reds. As the stranger prepared to double a sharp rock emerging from the sea, he saw a wonderful palace slowly taking shape on its tip. The palace glimmered with orange and red and was made entirely of coral.
Now, our man was a very curious and greedy chap. He thought at once how much he would be able to make out of all the coral before his eyes. He threw the anchor, ready to disembark and visit the palace.
At its gate, he asked the guardian to be admitted inside. The guardian asked whether he was ready never to return home. The man hesitated, yet curiosity and longing won him over. He nodded. The guardian stepped aside and the man went in.
Once inside he saw the lost people from the village busy in all sorts of earthly delights: they were plucking golden fruits from the branches of the orchard trees in the yard, smelling forget-me-nots, reclining in the shade of mighty oaks, playing the flute, dancing and making merry.
He approached a woman, enwrapped in a green mantle, and enquired whether she or any of the folks would like to go back to the village. At the very mention of the village the woman shook her head and opened her eyes wide: neither for money nor for love would she come back. And every time the man asked the same question, he received the same answer from all the folks.
Then he saw a child playing all alone with a lamb. Surely he would like to see his mom again, he asked. But the child just ignored him and went on playing with the snow-white lamb. Suddenly it hit him: all these folks had been unhappy and restless in the village, that's why they had been sitting on the strand looking out at the coral sea in the first place.
There was still the coral palace to explore. Maybe, he reasoned, I will manage to get hold of enough coral pieces to sell at the market. For you see, he had no intention to keep his word of never going back.
As he conceived such thoughts, he caught a glimpse of the coral princess, whose red flowing hair and grey eyes stopped his heart at once. He stood still.
She nodded and smiled with lovely dimples on her cheeks. And her teeth shined, her tapering fingers on the coral throne showed an array of golden and coral rings. She had a coral crown.
As the man beheld the enchanted scene, a magpie flew over the princess' head and stole her crown. Great was her atonishment. The court jester's shrill cries resounded in the hall. The whole court was aghast.
The man decided it was time to act. He stepped forward and said:
"Lovely princess, if I bring back your crown, will you marry me?"
The princess, who was a practical woman, thought for a moment and then said yes, although she had no intention to keep her word, for the man was rather haughty, she thought.
So the stranger whistled a tune with his harmonica and all the birds fluttered and fell dead around him. A chilling silence descended on the court and the magpie lay at the stranger's feet, as dead as a slaughtered hen.
He took the crown with a grin and put it back on the princess' head.
"Now you have to keep your word", he said with a bow.
But she quickly called on her guards and had the presuming stranger deprived of his harmonica and thrown in the gaols on grounds of having offended her majesty and killed all the birds in her kingdom.
As he sat in his dark cell, he sighed and moaned, for great was his love of the princess.
"It serves me right," he thought, "for deceit was in my heart. Love is my jailer now and I'd rather be here, knowing that the princess walks the ground above my head, than go back to the village and tell the people that the lost villagers were miserable when they were ashore."
He then lay down and sighed once more, waiting for the princess to change her heart, for love gives hope to a true lover's heart.