In the icy waters of the southern most sea there lays an enchanted island, hidden amongst the mists. Eifeldor had lived in a singular prosperity and had enjoyed a long peace of one hundred years before the plague had fallen. It spread like a storm and ravaged the people of the isle. The sickness was feared and could not be stopped; no one was safe from it, not even the royal family, whose flesh it dared to touch. The King and Queen were first in the royal court to break out in the dreaded gooseflesh, their skin blooming prickly and red and purple. The Princess Rosalie refused to leave her parent’s beside. She tended to them, wept at their feet while they slept, and cursed her brother for his selfishness. The Prince, Demetri, had set off on a fishing expedition on a bet that he could catch the largest fish in the sea. He had been gone for nearly six days, and even though search parties had been sent out to retrieve him, he had not been found. By this point the king and queen were deteriorating rapidly; their faces had sunken in, the skin hugging tightly to their skulls, their eyes had yellowed, and their lips had grayed and cracked.
On the eighth day the king and queen were lost to the great abyss. On the ninth day Demetri returned, a fish reaching the length of thirty feet in the bottom of his skiff. Upon his arrival Demetri found his sister weeping and he ran to her, forgetting about his bet. Demetri’s soul crumbled with the death of his parents and for three days he wept with his sister. After six days he noticed the small purple bloom upon the princess’ wrist. After two days the princess Rosalie was bedridden and drifting in and out of feverish nightmares. Stricken with the loss of his parents, Demetri could not bear to lose the only family he had left and he vowed to search to the ends of the earth for a cure to the sickness.
As Demetri prepared a boat for his journey he noticed a young boy with a large hat heading toward him. As the boy approach he muttered in a muffled voice, “I’m coming with you.” Recognizing the masked voice, Demetri pulled the hat from the boy’s head and revealed the face of Lien, Princess Rosalie’s maidservant and best friend.
“Lien, such voyages are not meant for young girls to make. You wouldn’t last a journey across the sea.” He puffed at her.
“I refuse to stand by and watch my Princess die, I will come with you.” Lien said as she pushed Demetri aside and seated herself firmly in the middle of the boat. Knowing how stubborn Lien was, Demetri conceded, with a sigh and a grimace, and pushed the boat out to sea. For three days they traveled on the rolling ocean waters. As the sun began to rise on the fourth, Demetri spotted land and by lunchtime they beached the boat on the sands of South Africa. Upon landing they were greeted by a horde of dark people, each wearing masks of bone, and long rings hung from their ears. Demetri and Lien were quickly enclosed in a circle of spears, and Demetri pulled his sword from his side trying futilely to plot an escape. Suddenly the warriors around them kneeled and pointed their spears to the sky. A short woman with cheetah skin draped across her body, red and white paint covering her face, and gold circlets running up and down her arms, walked purposefully toward the pair of intruders.
“Demetri, Prince of Eifeldor, why is it that you have come to the shores of my land?” She demanded in a low, sonorous voice.
“I’ve come looking for a cure, there is a plague in Eifeldor. Who is it that questions my journey and claims to know me?” He demanded of the woman.
“I am known as the Wise One, and I have foreseen your journey, Prince of Eifeldor. The cure you seek is beyond the great desert; you must travel to where the great pyramids touch the very top of the sky. There you will find what you seek.” At the command of the Wise One, the warriors released Demetri and Lien and they began their journey across the great desert. They had traveled in the sun for five days, deprived of water and food, when Lien collapsed from exhaustion. Demetri had just hefted her upon his back when a great gray beast appeared. It towered twenty feet and had two massive horns upon its face. The beast charged and Demetri parried, and they danced in this way for some time before Demetri fooled the beast and by grabbing its long tail, climbed upon the beast’s back and throwing a sturdy rope about its neck, tamed it as his mount. The journey then quickened on the beast’s back and in one day they reached the city of great pyramids. When they arrived astride the beast, the people bowed along the streets and before long, a rank of gold plated soldiers was blockading the main road. A woman, sheathed in white gauze and the mask of an ibis on her head, approached and called them down from their mount.
“Demetri, Prince of Eifeldor, why have you come to my lands?”
“My people are dying from plague and my sister is gravely ill, I have come in search of a cure.” He stated.
“But why would you come here to the land of sun and pyramids, why would you not go across the sea, where the people often grow ill and the practice of medicine is alive?” She inquired.
“I was sent here by the Wise One, beyond the great desert. She told me the cure was here in the land of the great pyramids.”
“At one time your cure may have been here, but it has long since outlived its use. Rest here a night and in the morning continue your journey. I foresee that you will find what you seek just beyond the sea, in the place called Italy.”
In the morning Demetri and Lien boarded a golden boat with four sailors at the helm. Upon their departure Lien grabbed Demetri, “I have a bad feeling about this Demetri, these waters are as gray as the abyss.” She told him, her voice shaky and foreboding. Demetri, thinking of Lien’s worries as that of a child and a frightful woman, took no heed of her words. As they were crossing the small sea that divided them from Italy, a most peculiar thing began to happen. The water beneath them churned into a foamy chaos and from the dark depths there sprang a serpent, twice the length of the boat and covered in spines and glistening scales. As it breached the surface it cried out a most fearsome screech and as it opened its massive jaws Demetri loosed a spear from the ships deck, lodging it quite permanently in the monster’s throat. As the serpent’s head came crashing down into the sea the sailors cried out in rejoice and after a round of drinks continued their voyage.
When Demetri and Lien arrived in Venice they found themselves in the midst of a grand festival. People crowded the street and performers were walking about on tall stilts, juggling, and breathing flames. Demetri was in awe from the festivities around him and found it hard to focus on his task. Lien grabbed him by the elbow and together they found an alchemist who, as some said, could turn lead to gold and cure every disease. Demetri carefully described the plague that was devastating Eifeldor and after many questions and some long deliberation the Alchemist decided that he indeed knew a cure, but he didn’t have the right materials in his lab. He sent Demetri out to find a weed, with three heart shaped leaves that only grew on the rocks by the seashore.
Demetri then set out, while Lien helped the Alchemist prepare the equipment, and after climbing the tallest crags, he began his return, soaked from sea spray, cold, and cursing the thorny plant that tore his fingers as he carried it. He found himself quite hungry after hours of climbing and searching and the smell of the food vendors throughout the street pulled Demetri deep into the heart of Venice. He was in the crowd pushing his way to a vendor when he spied her. A woman, cloaked in crimson silk, stark black hair and the mask of a raven covering the upper-half of her face fixed her gazed on Demetri then turned and disappeared into the masses. Demetri turned and gave chase, following the woman as she ran through throngs of people and as she darted into a small shop door. The place belonged to gypsies and was covered floor to ceiling with fabrics and bric-a-brac. He found the woman, sitting on the floor on a throne of pillows, waiting for him.
“Demetri, Prince of Eifeldor, I’ve been waiting for you. I seen you speak with the Wise One, I was watching when you passed through the land of the great pyramids and now here you are. Finally where you need to be. But you are in danger and that is why I’ve brought you to this place.”
“But what danger do you speak of?”
“The Alchemist has deceived you, he cares not for your cure. That plant you have gathered, he uses it, in combination with human souls to make for himself the elixir of eternal life. He plans to kill you and your comrade.”
“Lien! I have to go back and help her then!” Demetri turned to leave but the woman was behind him holding him back. She whispered in his ear,
“Your friend is already lost, your family is lost. Why go back?”
“Yes, why go back?” Demetri muttered, entranced.
“You can stay here, with me. Forever.” She whispered again.
“Yes, I could,” He said turning toward her, “with you, forever.” Just then Lien burst through the door and called out to Demetri. The sound of Lien’s voice cut through the air and pulled Demetri out of the trance, revealing the monster before him. The witch had gray skin, claws and the beak of a raven. She screeched in anger and grew to the height of the room, her body becoming a long shadow of darkness. Demetri threw his sword at the creature, but it passed through her with no harm. The creature slashed at him with her claws and Demetri parried and tried to cut her hand with his knife, but he watched in horror as the one he severed turned to dust and a new one formed from the smoke that was her soul. In a panic Demetri grabbed a jeweled staff that was amidst the piles of junk and as he held it light began to pour from the ruby on the top. The creature screamed in pain as the light burned holes into it and Demetri thrust the gleaming gem into the creature’s smoke-flesh and watched as it crumbled into dust.
After defeating the witch, Demetri felt remorse for his foolish actions. He apologized to Lien for ignoring her premonitions and for his greed that led him to the witch’s lair. That night Demetri, Lien, and the Alchemist worked to distill a cure for the plague. At daybreak the trio was finished and Demetri and Lien boarded a large ship with thirty casks of medicine in the stores. With the grace of fair winds the return voyage to Eifeldor lasted only three days. They were greeted by droves of thankful people who carried Demetri to the castle upon their shoulders. There he found his sister, struggling for breath, her skin rosy and purple. Carefully he dripped the elixir on her lips and prayed as he waited for it to take effect. Demetri and Lien waited at Princess Rosalie’s bedside for three days before she awoke, her blemishes fading and a glow in her eyes. The medicine was soon spread throughout the island of Eifeldor, and the people were returned to health. From that day on, Prince Demetri was known throughout the land as King Demetri, the Selfless.