Author's Notes:

The source of inspiration for this work came from John Everett Millais 1852 painting of Ophelia. The first time I watched Hamlet I was seven years old, when I read it I was about twelve. Ophelia never took my sympathy -not like Hamlet- until I saw this painting. It did touch a soft spot in me when I looked at the painting, and brought many thoughts. So, I began shaping and creating a concoction of events that I had inspired here and there. It led to shaping what is here now. Hurt and Tragedy is an area which I, for longest of time, tried to avoid, and refused to delve too deep. Mainly because it really does touch a part in us, and brings out more than what we like to reveal. But I like to see if writing one works at all.

This was initially meant to be a one-shot work, but I had to divide it due to the shift in point of view of characters, and the fact that it would be too long for a one-shot story.

Please R&R...

The Lake

Chapter One: The Lady of the Lake

The first time he saw the lake, he was a mere boy of twelve. It stood dark and ghostly in the heart of a forest that was meant to be his new home. A thick layer of fog hung above it in purple and steel white.

There were no sounds when he came there, but the whisper of the ripples, croaking of frogs, and chiming of invisible grasshoppers.

"You'll stay here!" The one-eyed man told him.

He had stared at a dark rickety hut shrouded behind the shrubs, wondering if it was habitable at all.

It almost one with the nature surrounding them, holding the presence of a life so long ago. There was nothing inside to welcome him. Nothing to wash away the sense of loneliness and loss that he felt in his young heart. Nothing but a round hearth at its center, and a small bed sitting on the far right corner, opposite the small window.

His eyes had filled with tears that he thought had long dried. Tears of pain and misery. His knuckles had shot up to wipe them away vehemently.

There was nothing left in the world for him to live for. The life and he knew had all turned into ruin, when they threw the raped and broken body of his mother before his sire and slit him open as he kneeled, wailing over his wife. They'd hung him by his innards on the outer walls of his home. For the world to see the end an acclaimed tyranny. It was a wretched scene for a celebrated lord whose dominion had turned against him.

He had never witnessed so much hatred in his life.

Darkness and abyss became his friends and protectors from that moment on, and took away the youthful and jovial light in his eyes as their ultimate price. He died that night in the eyes of many. Gone for good and never to be remembered. Standing on the end of the moat, dripping wet and shivering in that late winter night, he watched his father's men set his home aflame. A home that stood high atop the mountains, white and ever proud. Night turned as light as day, as all he ever owned turned to ash and dust.

"You can take the bed!" The one eyed man instructed, as he hung his hunting tools beside the door.

He did as he was told, unblinking and unthinking; unheeding of the thick layer of dust and moss that blanketed its surface.

"We can take a look and have it fixed in the morning." The one-eyed man had whispered in the darkness as he sat on the ground by the door, standing his vigil as he had done since the night he became nobody.

He'd stared at the crescent moon from the window on the opposite wall, until the darkness came to claim his eyes. Eyes that saw nothing but death.

The lake always kept its gloom till midday. It was only when the sun was high in the sky that its color changed into bright viridian blue. It stood grand and mysterious between the fringes of the Great Forest and Snowy Mountains in the north. His eyes often fell on the mountain tops, where eagles whirled and soared high at the peaks. He learned he like where his bed was placed, where he could see the mountain and the lake from the window of the hut.

He seldom faced west, it reminded him of home he did not have.

The first thing he learned was how to catch fish and scale it neatly.

The one-eyed man stood behind him as he pulled the very first fish he caught from the net and slayed and scaled it right there on the shores of the Great Lake.

It was the first gift he received from his new mysterious friend. His beautiful green eyes, holding the innocence of a boy his age, stayed all throughout at its shimmering surface as he took the first meal he had in two days.

The task of preparing the meal from that moment on was appointed to him.

The first time he wield the blade, it was at the banks of the great lake, where the forest ended on rocky and pebbled grounds.

The one-eyed man stood before him, turning and turning, swinging his dulled blade as he struggled to gain ground. He was a head shorter and his arms reached far less. His body was sore and bruised when he lay down on bed that night. He promised to do better tomorrow.

But he failed again, and again, and again.

The first time he learned the craft of the lay, he was sitting outside the entry to the hut and facing the lake. The one-eyed men taught him how to repair his boots and sew back the holes that had begun appearing on his clothes. It went on-and-on, until one day that he could no longer fit in them.

The one-eyed man went to the village one morning and returned with new clothes and boots.

The first time he learned how to draw the strings of the bow, he was hunching behind the tall ferns framing the lake. His green eyes, mirroring the Great forest, were glued keenly on a female white-tailed deer taking water by the edge of the lake as his first pray.

"Stop!" The one-eyed man had caustioned.

He'd hissed in irritation, now brave to throw an impatient glare at his protector and keeper. The older man nodded his head in return, asking him with a nod to observe what his eyes had not seen.

A little fawn right behind her hidden within the shrubs.

He learned to pull the arrow justly that day and to care for the weak when they returned home with a young male deer.

The first time he defeated the one-eyed man, he was fourteen. Taller and faster and with much less sympathy. The one eyed-man watched him with great admiration as the young boy with wild green eyes stepped over him and pointed the naked blade over his cheek.

He left the morning after for the first time.

"Alex is your name!" He said to him as the boy stood by the door and watch him leave.

Alex nodded and stood until he disappeared behind the autumn morning fog.

He was left on his own until the next winter.

The first time he learned the pleasure of body, he was sixteen. A creature of confidence and little fear.

She was a girl of his age, wearing the spring blossoms on her hair and the blue of the lake in her eyes.

He met her every morning as he went to town to sell the fish he caught at dawn.

She was an orphan just like him, working in a bakery at the market where he sold his catch.

Meer was her name after the very lake he lived nearby.

But she was nothing like it.

The lake was quiet and serene unlike her.

The lake was graceful unlike her.

The lake was generous and kind unlike her.

And for that he loved the lake.

The lake was his mother. His father. Friends he had lost and had forgotten him. The life that was but a memory.

She was his confident and strength when he was down and succumbed to his loneliness.

The lake had seen his sadness, tears that seldom fell now, and heart that had begun to turn into stone as he spent his hours and days, floating alone in middle of its gleaming surface.

He'd row far into the depths her mist with courage, take off his clothes, and dive deep into her belly to the unknown.

He knew her well by now.

The lake was his lover.

The lake loved him: the beautiful, ageless enchantress. She watched with an eternals clam, the life of the boy by her translucent skirt, loving him everyday as he grew, granting him the blessings he was in need of, never taking what he could not pay.

He would be gone while she endured. The innocent lover of hers. She would stand there for all time, bearing the tragic memories of a young man that were as short as a breath.

So she gave him a little of her light.

The first time he saw her, he was sixteen.

She was sitting by the rocks overlooking the waters. Her dress was the color of forest mints and her hair gold and long beyond anything he'd seen.

He barely saw her there in the early morning fog, rowing like always to get his catch.

She sat there by the rocks, like a nymph that she was not. And her eyes, sweet as honey, was all that he saw in all the white.

She froze in her place, watching him in wonder as he stood tall and rowed to the middle of the lake.

He watched the gold and light that had no place in the world he lived. The shower of gold that splayed about her frail frame on the very rocks she was resting upon.

"Princess!" A voice had called.

She could be no less, he'd thought.

By the time the honeyed eyes went back to seek his sight he was gone behind the mist.

They stood watch, the lake and him. In silence and mist.

One with smile and the other with frown.

He didn't saw her again, but burned her image in his mind, forever.

If the lake was to become one of his kind, it would look like her.

She became the Lady of the Lake.

The next time he saw her it was Spring.

She stood high atop the parapet of the castle-town, dressed in blue and white. Her hair was hidden beneath a net studded with pearls and sapphires, chained and kept like the fire in her eyes.

He laid his basket on the ground, and listened to the herald announcing her union with the man, dressed in lavender and black, standing next to her.

Her eyes were frozen in the space, her face was as white as ash.

She looked just as he remembered her.

The Lady of the Lake.

She looked sad to his eyes.

He looked down at the trampled mudd beneath his foot, and lifted his basket to walk beneath the raised portcullis onto the drawbridge outside the town.

In his heart he lost something that day.

Even the Lake could not ease his qualm.

The next time he saw her, he was eighteen.

He caught her eyes as he stood trusting his catch to old man Bryce.

She was talking to Tiz selling the stones, beads, and little things she seemed to like. A comely creation looking like any other of her kind.

He knew who she was by then. A Master's daughter and wife to the new ruler of the very castle-town he frequented.

To him, she was nobody.

Nothing, but the Lady of the Lake.

The smile in her eyes broke when she caught his eyes. A pair of honeyed jewels hidden beneath a curtain of colorful stones hanging there just as bright.

She asked her aide to pay for her pick, turning about in haste in search of him.

He was gone by the time she came.

"Who you looking for, my lady?" He heard old Tiz ask her.

"The young man…" Her voice was breathless, a flutter of wing in the still air. Throaty and quiet.

"So many of them come 'ere at this hour." The old woman give her a toothless smile.

"…he was selling fish not a moment ago."

"Selling fish, you say? Only one is young among them... comes here every morn'. Gives his catch t' Bryce t' sell." Tiz pointed at the fish stall. "there anything catching your interest? Will tell 'im if ya need fresh catch for the house. He is quick with orders."

The girl shook her head, "No!"

He watched her look about her in disbelief. "He doesn't belong here?" She pushed.

"Lives outside the town by the lake."

"The village?"

"...the forest. Visits the village often though. Lends his strength when he can."

He saw her days later outside the village with her watchmen in tow. She stepped with her fine dress on to the dirt with little care. Her golden hair was covered beneath the thick hood of her cowl.

There was a stir in the air. A change like no other. It took hold of the children as they ran about her like little butterflies, watching her in wonder as she began to gift them with sweet little nothings she'd brought. Her sullen eyes brightened at the sound of them, her smile turning brighter than the sun.

They celebrated her, showering her with words that were as empty as the gloom in her eyes.

They were sun and moon in that muddy village, she chasing after the light she could never gain.

His trips to the little village became less and less.

The first time she saw him in the village, he was flushed and catching his breath, seeing to the need of his flesh.

His eyes and ears were too occupied to notice the gallops approaching the village.

Meer was needier that morning, too passionate for his liking at that hour. But he indulged her, letting his troubled thoughts steer away even for a little while.

She was to arrive that morn.

He knew it.

He kept her hours.

When he was done, he was barely breathing. He heard the melody of his lover's laughter as he covered himself, feeling no better.

It was then that he heard it. The sound of crowd gathering at the center of the village.

She was early that day.

He stepped out of the small alley into the light, feeling a little less like himself, and froze in place when he found her looking at him.

Her hand holding a loaf froze in the air a breathe longer than usual. Being who she was, she schooled her surprise quickly, striding at his directions with the bread in hand.

"Take this!"

He looked at her outstretched hand and up into her honeyed eyes. They were speckled with gold.

He decided he like gold.

"They are more in need of it." He said and walked away.

That morning was the last time he saw Meer.

He never went to her again.

When she came again, he stood in the light, feeling less shunned by the brightness of it.

"Your aim is too high boy! Your draw will but hurt you." He heard one say from the shadows of the alley.

He found the one-eyed man leaning against the wall.

"Her maid-servant is a better choice." He nodded. "seems to have taken a liking in you."

He eyed the princess's young aide.

Mayrin she was called.

She had stolen looks from him.

She was young and too shy.

But, he didn't want any of them, neither the lady nor her aide.

Not for this.

He turned and left.

Winter came and spring followed.

She did not come.

He almost gave up hope of seeing her again.

He saw her again one spring morning, when the light was new and he was collecting his catch.

He had sensed it when he first touched the waters. The disquiet and unease in ripples of the water. The Lake was quiet and heavy, and its fog far too closer to its bosom.

He caught her standing on the very rock he saw her for the first time, as layers over layers of white mist danced about her fluttering dress. There was misery in her eyes. The gold in them barely gleaming in the light.

She did not see him there.

She would never see him, he thought.

He took a turn and began rowing, farther and farther away, until he felt the lake shudder in the light, calling him back with a sigh. Her cry came in a splash, its mist flying away to give him sight. He'd never heard the Lake that loud.

He turned.

She was gone.

And for the first time in many years, he felt the pain of loss once again.

He took a deep breath.

It was as if she never existed. The Lady of the Lake.

He was surrounded by cold when he came to himself again, diving deep and fast into the darkness beneath. When did that happen? He couldn't recall. Only that he answered to the Lakes call. She'd lost her light. Her cry was too loud.

He caught the white of her dress and gold of her hair as she sank deeper without much fight. Like a mermaid returning home after a long journey on land.

Minutes had never been so long in his life. She was lifeless in his arms when he drew her cold body to the land, her dress a trail of white petals on cold stones.

He laid her down on the solid cold rocks, tearing at the dress that was nothing but burden to him and her. Its weigh heavier than her weight. Pained cries was what left his chest as he saw what laid beneath.

Blue, bruised, broken.

His eyes filled with tears, and after so many years he began to cry by the edge of the lake.

For a broken light he'd refused to see in her eyes.

For the misery she'd bear all the time. One that he refuse to see in her eyes.

For it mirrored his.

She mirrored him.

The Lady of the Lake.