As Athena handed the stone over, I knew immediately what it was and how it would help me. This was no ordinary stone. This was a sunstone. I held the stone up and focused my glow into my outstretched hand. Following the beam of light, I turned back to Urania to confirm I was on course. With her nod of affirmation, I continued on the illuminated path. I arrived at a cave and traversed its slippery terrain deep into the caverns. The temperature of the air dropped considerably as I entered the massive underground cavern, sending a violent chill down my spine. No light reached the depths of the cavern, confining my vision to a circle of inky black water. A narrow strip of land with jagged teeth of stone connected the cavern to several interconnected pools of water of varying depths.

I looked around, wondering which of these pools contained the artifacts I sought. It would have helped to know what they were, but then this quest had been a game of cat and mouse since the very beginning. I inhaled deeply, trying to calm my nerves. Looking up, I noticed a thin stream of moonlight through the erosion in the ceiling. The light shone into one particular section of the water. The sunstone directed me to the illuminated waters. I set the stone down and strode over to it, peering into the depths of the pool.

Nothing. I saw nothing but my reflection. I tried to remember the riddle. It said something about the caverns and darkness…what was it? lay beneath the caverns, dim the darkness, shine thy glow…Yes, that’s it! I had to glow to see beneath the darkness of these waters.

 I released my mortal constraints and began to shine, gazing back into the pool. Flickers of a scene played out before me like an ill-wrapped theater film. I leaned in closer to see if they would clarify. Before I knew it, I was in the pool, submerging myself in an attempt to see the full picture. As the dark waters closed in, a tight embrace of dread enveloped me. In a matter of moments, my feet hit the bottom of the pool. I stood up to a series of images floating around me, one after the other. They faded and were replaced by a stage, as though I was in a theater. The actors took their places as the drama unfolded.

A beautiful woman looked over the shoulder of a man in what seemed like a loving embrace. A royal crown studded with precious jewels sat entangled in her long blond hair. A unique tear-drop shaped pearl adorned the center of the crown. Light shimmered off its smooth surface, giving it a flaming appearance that matched the woman’s hazel eyes. The curve of her full lips turned downwards as a single teardrop rolled down her heart-shaped face.

In a sudden movement, the man she embraced staggered back. His eyes were cold and metallic, rivaling the polished suit of armor he wore. Thick red blood dripped from the dagger he gripped in his right hand. 

“Why?” The woman asked, unable to fathom his betrayal. She clutched her abdomen as blood flowed from her wound, staining her smooth white wedding gown.  

“I want to be king, not of your meager island, but of this world,” he said, tearing the crown off her head along with the veil that he carelessly discarded on the floor. “And this pearl is going to help me conquer the world,” he bellowed.

“No, my love. This is not you. We are married, and now you’re king…we’re meant to rule together,” The woman said, stumbling towards him. “Do you not see how much I love you?” she pleaded.

He smirked at her vulnerability. “It’s this very weakness of yours that I despise! You could’ve become the most powerful queen of these lands, yet you chose love over power. Love!” he spat back. 

“There is nothing in this universe that can be more powerful than love. Sadly, you do not realize it now.”

“Sheer force of will is stronger than love. Time in its infinity is stronger than love. Both of which I used against you and won. It doesn’t seem like your love is helping you survive now, is it?”

 “You despise my love? You think my love is not going to protect me? Mark my words, O foolish king. My love shall be the source of your destruction!” the queen said, falling over onto her knees as the blood draining from her body made her weak.  

 The king roared in laughter as she fell, his voice booming. Turning from her, he used the bloodstained dagger to pry the precious pearl from the diadem. He threw her crown, shattering it into a million pieces as jewels scattered across the floor. Without bothering to look at his queen, the man walked out of the room. He held the bloody dagger in one hand and the precious pearl in the other. Reaching out to him, the queen called out to her lover one last time, asking him to stop. Her voice barely a whisper. 

Knowing I could do nothing to help her, I left her behind and followed the king. By now, I knew what the artifact was. I knew what Akti would need to complete her part of the obstacle. I replayed the last part of the riddle I had seen when I had a drink from the potion…the items you seek, is but one you must steal.

 As I retreated from her, I heard her dying breath curse the pearl. That anyone who possessed her precious gem shall perish. The curse would remain until it was returned to her.

 The curse and the scenes I had just witnessed told me that the item I had to steal was the precious pearl. By this point, my lungs were burning, and I knew I had to retrieve it and rise back to the service for air.

 Wait…my riddle said items, not an item? That’s more than one. I wracked my oxygen-starved brain to figure out the other piece that I had to retrieve. I looked at the body of the queen, and her curse played out in my ears again.

 “By the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, I swear whomsoever wishes to possess my Coral Pearl for themselves shall never know peace, may death take them with a dagger in the form of true love’s face until the Pearl is returned to my embrace.”

 Did that mean I had to recover both the Coral Pearl and the dagger from the king for Akti?

But why the dagger?  

Selene (Renee Christian)
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