Down and down the mermaid went,
Swimming fast, arms straight, head bent,
Looking away from thrashing body,
Squinting sadly, jerking oddly.
Cringing, cringing, not to see,
Clawing arms or kicking knees,
Of the dying, drowning Poepi,
(Fighting with the strength of three),
Mermaid pushed and pushed and swished,
To darkest depths, where she wished,
Her victim soon came to rest,
Among the bones of all the rest.
But she did not fill her mark,
To perish Poepi in the dark,
For that was when a blast of light,
Exploded into her with might.
Head over tail, mermaid tumbled,
Swirling backward, vision humbled,
By what she saw on pool’s floor,
Where light had never shone before.
Glowing Green in eerie tones,
Lighting layers and layers of bones.
Old skeletons, most without clothes,
Still holding arms and shields and oaths,
Stood standing over others fell,
Uneasy in the ghostly well.
This death they had was not their choice,
When long ago they lost their voice.
And Poepi truly knew how great,
Her fortune was to miss their fate.
Standing in air, breathing amazed,
Up coughing water, mind still dazed,
Poepi stood within a bubble,
Glowing green set on the rubble,
Of bone piles and their armaments.
That was when she over-bent,
And vomited some chunky goo.
If flew with force and went straight through
Green bubble walls, floating down more,
To rest at last on bone crossed floor.
Mermaid tried and tried again,
To capture Poepi, but only pain,
She felt each time she forced attack,
And each time bubble zapped her back.
Poepilandia calmed right down,
Enough to pant and look around,
She found that when she took a step,
Green bubble followed where she went,
And that was when she gave a smile,
Wide and vengeful, full of guile,
To the mermaid who kept trying.
To pierce the bubble undenying.
Then Poepi noticed something slick,
Something shiny in the thick,
Of all the bones and arms and crap.
She walked to it, and with a zap,
Bubble grew out over rocks,
Upon which sat an ornate box.
Mermaid saw the bright box too,
And face alarmed, herself hard threw,
Against the bubble again and again,
Desperately clawing, complexion drained.
Poepi slowly reached the lid,
And touched the top and when she did,
Nothing happened, for the box,
Would not open its hidden locks.
But Poepi remembered another lid,
A box where something precious hid,
And so her fear she took command,
And so she took the box in hand,
And gently blew away the sand,
That within its cracks was jammed.
Within the box, came sounds of clicks,
And then the lid, loud squeaked and squicked,
Rising slowly up in bend,
Until it stopped, with open end.
Polished and round, like the sun,
Another box, of platinum,
Laid within, untouched by water,
Intende for a dead king’s daughter.
Poepi’s fingers caressed the metal,
Hard as diamonds, smooth as petals.
And then there came a rumbling sound,
To her ears from underground,
Until the rock pile sunk and fell
Right through the ground, and bubble as well.
Fast the water swirled and strained,
Rushing down a new made drain.
Poepi stood tall in the bubble,
As all around, whirling double,
Went bones, and dirt, and water greyed,
Battering hard, the mermaid chained,
Who switched and smashed against the current,
And Poepi felt that she deserved it.
Every time debris hard hit her,
Poepi smiled, a little bitter,
Until the waters all rushed out,
And captured mermaid thrashed about,
Battered and bruised and frantic-ish,
Flipping and flopping like a fish.
And when the draining fully stopped,
Poepi’s magic bubble popped.
The last remaining swirling water,
Was in a pool, where the otter,
Floated in its tiny center.
It reminded Poepi of winter,
When she and sister Perlameen,
Ice-fished with the fairy Queen,
While the blacksmith built a fire,
Gutting catches, for the fryer.
Suddenly Mermaid stopped her slinking,
With water gone, she was shrinking,
Like an old prune in the sun,
That had nowhere left to run.
Magic shackle shrunk as well,
Keeping mermaid in her cell.
Tight chained tail pulled straight and taunt,
Eyes holding a desperate haunt,
She stretched one arm toward the hole,
But couldn’t break chain’s magic hold.
Fingers straining, body shaking,
Entire being dehydrating,
Her scales, face and hair went scrunch,
Becoming brittle flaked and crunched.
“Water! Water!” the mermaid rasped,
“I must touch water!” and she gasped,
“or I will shrivel and turn to dust!”
Poepi suddenly felt, unrushed.
She thought again of fishing trips
And how when caught fish flubbled and flipped,
As smith dead stunned them with his fist.
She scooped up water in one hand,
Surveying bones in drying sand.
Then she saw a crested sword,
Sticking up, in boney hoard,
Tilted one way and half buried,
Set with gems in colored flurry.
The crying mermaid Poepi watered,
Who drank and thanked her, bowed and battered.
As if taking her reward,
Poepi took up quick the sword,
And raised it overhead, in air,
Perfect balanced, gleaming fair.
Then with the box still under arm,
Poepi knelt and put sword’s harm,
Against the mermaid’s pleading neck,
Pondering the wretched wreck.
“Tell me your story!” Poepi said.
“Tell me your story, or you’ll be dead!
Why they chained you in the pool,
Why you killed these other fools,
Who were caught against their will,
Who’s deaths were made this pool to fill?”
Then sword handle Poepi clenched,
And pushed the blade till mermaid flinched.
“I am to guard the magic box!”
Rasped the mermaid, seaweed locks,
Shriveled and thinned to crunched up strands.
“Two wizards chained me to these lands,
And made me follow their commands,
Through threats you couldn’t understand.
Through guile and force and violence,
I have extinguished every prince,
Or king or queen or peasant sent.
To all I was ambivalent,
I did not relish dealing death,
By taking lives through loss of breath.
So was my fate’s unhappy bout,
To act the wizards’ wishes out.
I had to put my people first,
Even if I died or worse.
But with your sword’s quick slash and swerve,
Please kill me now as I deserve,
And free me of the vicious shouts,
Of every life I have drowned out.
Then my debt will be undone,
And my people held to none.
Standing out of the mermaid’s reach,
Poepi eased, and put down each,
The box and sword and contemplated,
What to do, while mermaid waited.
She looked again at hapless creature,
And pitied the thing and what had beat her,
Into such a wretched service,
The opposite of any bliss.
Peopi decided, thinking twice,
To inspect the creature’s vice,
Which had feared and caused such death
Of horrible choking absent breath.
She whispered something gritting her teeth,
Then held the round box underneath,
And breathed it open as she did,
With her Pixie’s box blown lid.
Inside she feared was something scary,
And not a beauteous Pixie fairy,
Gently, gently without a click,
The circle box opened quick,
And Poepi saw, sharp rounded angles,
Of a shiny silver bangle.
“The Key!” the mermaid screamed out loud,
And lunged at Poepi, desperate bowed,
In one last gasp for death’s reprieve.
But Poepi stepped back and with ease,
Avoided mermaid’s flailing claws,
And sharp toothed moans and drooling jaws.
“Key?” said Poepi questioning,
Crying sniveling horrid thing.
She pulled the sword and again laid
The blade against the merland maid.
“The key!” she flailed and wailed and moaned.
“The magic key the wizards owned!”
It opens any kind of lock,
And with it on, nothing can stop,
The wearer’s will from opening,
Most absolutely anything!
It cannot be used by me!
Otherwise I would be free!
That is my wicked punishment!
My everlasting long torment!”
If I myself could use the key,
I’d long ago set myself free,
Had not the wizards’ spiteful magic,
Estopped my reach to even touch it.
To them the burden of my yoke,
Was their lasting vicious joke.
“Slay me! Slay me!” the mermaid said.
“They will have my bones for bread,
If it is found gone from my charge,
And my penance will be large,
And worse than dying by your hand. “
But Poepi eyed the bone piled sands,
Ignoring mermaid’s plead redemption,
For something else caught her attention.
She let the begging mermaid be,
And led her curiosity,
Toward sparkling, gleaming shine,
Flashing up from boney spines,
Walking over to the spot,
Stepping slow, amid the rot,
She found a dead full armored elf,
That looked the same size as her self.
The flesh was many long years gone,
And left now was just white wet bone.
She pulled the armor off and on,
And looked a princess from a song.
Something new inside she felt,
A sense of purpose and of self.
Casting down the bangle box,
She put the bangle on and walked,
Back to the mermaid’s chained up tail,
Now too weak to lunge or flail.
Stopping at the shackled lock,
Poepi slow deliberate talked.
“What is your name?” Poepi demanded,
Surprised herself, at how she sounded.
As if this dire experience,
Had given her great confidence.
“What is your name!” she called again,
And fearing mermaid wailed and wained,
“I am couragah!” she shouted in tears,
For now she felt her death was near,
Expecting Poepi’s killing blow,
Wishing it to not be slow.
“Couragah” Poepi called out bree,
“Couragah – I would set you free!
I’ll let you live with your grim guilt,
For all that might have once been built,
By those drowned in your foul waters,
All their sons and all their daughters!
Then Poepi put her bangled hand,
On mermaid’s shackle in the sand.
It broke wide open, with a “POP!”
And turned to dust as it dropped.
Couragah gasped, shocked penitence,
Disbelieving these events.
She slithered to the water hole
Instantly hydrating whole.
“Why?!” she called to Poepi’s ear.
“WHY?!” But Poepi could not hear.
She was falling up through air,
Which stretched her face and raised her hair.
And shouting mermaid disappeared,
As a square shaped light came near.