The Pearl of Carlethon Lake
Every night I would go to bed imagining what it would be like if Dad were still here. Would life be easier if he came back? Would mother still look at me with her beautiful blue eyes? Those same eyes that told me everything was going to be OK? I was only eight years old when he marched to war in his shining amour. We waited for new of him, for days. He died, and it was our king's doing. The same king who sat in his keep while hundreds of innocent fathers and brothers died. My father was not a man who would go seeking war, he was one who wanted to stop it. When we found out that Father was not coming back, it felt like a part of Mother died with him.
My name is Brantley. Mother said it means “proud”. It's not easy being the oldest child, the oldest boy. Now I need to be the one to take care of our family. We live in large house next to Carlethon Lake. Every day at sunrise I travel with Douglas, our donkey, through the pine forest to the humble town of Chepstow. Chepstow is right on the border of the Empire. Douglas and I make our way through town, stopping at old man Cadwell's antiques shop first. I enter the shop every day, although I do not usually have anything to sell. It fascinates me what strange things people gather from far and wide.
"Got anything for me today young man?" Cadwell asks.
"I wish I did. Sorry for bothering you, Sir".
I gradually head through the town adding items to Douglas' saddle.
Arnold usually is awake and sitting on our front steps by the time I get back. Being the brother he is, he runs over and starts helping me unload.
"Did you get it?" he asks.
"Sure did," I reply, as I hand him a wrapped-up cloth. His face lights up with joy as the dirty cloth reveals its hidden treasure. Giggling with excitement he takes a bite of the cheese. Delighted, he runs into the house with the rest of the supplies. I tie Douglas to his favourite tree and give him a fresh supply of water. I look up to admire the lake.
"It's beautiful" I say to Arnold, who has just come out of the house with the piece of cheese. "Yeah. Hey! I've got an idea," he replies. "do you want to go swimming?"
My toes are greeted by the water's cold touch. The crystal liquid grasps at my legs and pulls me slowly in. I am used to the cold by the time the water is up to my chest. My legs slide on the gravel below the surface. I dive into the water head first and am greeted by a sudden ripple of cold. The water in Carlethon lake is not like any other you would know: the water in the lake is abnormally clear. Small fish dart past me as I swim through it. Father would teach me how to swim before my brother was born.
He would always say, "don't let the water shape you, you shape the water".
A bright reflection of something silver catches my eye as I dive down to the bottom. It is a pearl. It shines beautifully silver against all the other dull grey pebbles. I gently scoop it up with both hands, making sure to not crush it. I hold it against the light of the sun. Its reflective surface is full of life and chaos.
Emerging from the lake I tell my brother, "Hey! Check this out!"
"What is it?" he asks.
"It's some sort of pearl," I respond. "I'm going back inside to check it out."
"Then I'll get out as well," he insists.
As I make my way inside I start to see the lake darkening. I reassure myself that it is just the shadows of the trees. I quickly walk through the house towards my room. I pass through our living room where I see Mother sitting on her chair in front of the fire. I give her a quick kiss on the cheek and head to my room.
I spend the rest of that day studying the pearl, reading books, cooking dinner and then eventually retiring to my bed. I wake to the absence of birdsong. Confused, I open my window. The sky is empty, like pouring white paint over an extravagant painting. I stagger over to my wardrobe, struggling to get my clothes on. Snapping back to reality, I grab the pearl and head out of my room, wondering if it is worth anything. With our low income, it would be great to get some extra money. Maybe I could sell it to old man Cadwell. I sneak past the living room where Mother lies silently. I get Douglas ready once I am outside. I turn to look at the lake. To my surprise the lake, and all of the grass around it, has turned completely grey. It felt as though all the life from it has vanished. Scared of what had happened I quickly grabbed my donkey and made my way towards town. As I enter the shop I am greeted by the usual question.
"Got anything for me today, young man?" he asks.
"Actually, I was wondering what you could tell me about this.".
I place the pearl onto the table. It still has its beautiful silver smile, gleaming at me.
Quite suddenly he asks, "where did you get this?!"
"I found it down at the bottom of Carlethon Lake," I respond, confused.
"You must return this right away!"
“Why?" I ask.
"This pearl is extremely powerful. It allows any living creature to live for eternity! But if the lake does not have the pearl within it, it will perish and it will spread death to all of the other living things in this land.”
With only a moment's hesitation he says, "Go boy! Now!"
I start to run as fast as I can, wondering if what he has said is true or if I am just being tricked. That thought is quickly erased as I see the lake come into view. It seems to be writhing with black claws and appears to descend to the centre of the earth. Scared and unsure if I am hallucinating, I throw the pearl as hard I can into the middle of the lake. With an awful screech, the black void seems to retract into the spot where I threw the pearl. Not a moment passes before the lake is returned to its normal, everlasting state.