June 22, 2000
A very very long time ago, before kingdoms, clans, wilderness even.. our great continent was nothing more than two islands surrounded by the seas of Infinity. Trellor, then, was nothing more than a poor fishing village accessed from the great City of Medievia by the Mighty Cutter Mystara. In this old Trellor, there lived a poor farmer's son named Sadko , and his legends are still being told to this very day.
Sadko, like his father and his father's father and all of his ancestors before him, very much loved the land. His family, although poor, held prestige in the community because they had been there since the beginning of time. Back in the old days, prestige and honor was bestowed upon people for being hardworking and loyal and not for the riches they carried and the luxuries they could afford.
The gods, too, admired those who worked hard and loved well rather than those who hoarded wealth and tried to be better than those around them. Often, a god or goddess would bestow gifts upon those they deemed worthy. Trell, the patron goddess for which the city was named, bestowed such a gift upon Sadko' s family - every male child born to its lineage would be blessed with the gift of musical talent.
When the merchants of Medievia started coming over, bringing many fine trade goods and new ways of thinking, Sadko's family lost a great deal of rank in their community. Whereas before, when neighbors would help each other and each man was only as rich as the number of friends he had, those who were poor in gold were seen as little better than the servants the merchants had brought over with them.
Though his hands were calloused from hard labour, and his heart often hung heavy in his chest for his family's poverty, Sadko could sing and play the mandolin like no other. It is said, even, that the music that he made was magic.
Sadko, with his sandy blonde hair and soft brown eyes, was also well-known by the ladies..and each wanted to make him her own. There were none, however, that quite met the young man's fancy, for his heart had already been given to another - her name was Anistasie, and she, also, was a poor farmer's child... They were betrothed at birth, and their hearts had grown together through the years as one. As they were both seventeen years of age, it would only be little over a year before they were to be married.
Now, one of Sadko's favourite pasttimes was to just sit on the grassy cliffs overlooking the ocean and play his mandolin, and sing softly the songs of the ocean after the day's work was done. He knew it pleased the Goddess Trell greatly to hear him use his gifts by the way the wind blew warm breezes softly through his hair, and how the trees seemed to sigh in quiet contentment when he finished.
When Sadko played, it seemed as if the entire village also fell silent as he ushered in dusk. Sadko's music was so spellbinding, it was rumoured that his playing could even calm the roughest storm and give the local fishing boats safe passage. It was also rumoured that his music could send a gentle breeze when there was none, to carry the fishermen home.
Before the gradual culture change in Trellor began, the village was happy and prosperous, though lacking in fancy, modern goods such is known in the City of Medievia. As the people began to lose their traditions, however, their prosperity waned. This year in particular, though, had been very slow for the fishing village.
They had had nary a catch and the poor became even poorer. These people had such faith and belief in these magical powers of sadko's music that they begged him to go along on a fishing trip.
Sadko accepted gladly, for he loved his village and its people more than life itself. And so he set out on a boat one fine morning with a group of fisherman, and he played and played while they fished. But even still, though Sadko played and sang with all his heart, the fishermen caught nothing. Very soon in the afternoon the skies became dark, and the ocean became angry. The waves violently rocked the boat, threatening to tip it and drown them all at sea.
Noone, not even the oldest fisherman among them, had ever seen the sea behave so.
"I thought that the sacrifice was supposed to appease the sea-king and stop this from happening!" Sadko called out to one of the fishermen, for it had been a ritual that every fisherman would toss into the sea some of the fruits of the land for Poseidon, King and God of the Oceans in homage and in trade for the bounty he provided them.
"We don't do that anymore - haven't done it for years!" the fisherman called back in horror. They all understood at once that this must be the true reason behind the storm and the village's poverty.
Sadko nodded sadly, understanding that many of the merchants had forbidden such "waste" as was seen in many of their daily rituals. He watched as the fishermen ran this way and that over the boat - some trying to secure the riggings, others just in sheer terror. For his love of his village, of his people, and for their way of life, Sadko decided at once to offer himself up as a sacrifice in order to perhaps save his village.
Grabbing his mandolin at his breast he plunged deep into the cold ocean waters. He sunk further and further down through the water...until finally he reached the ocean floor. He looked around, amazed at what he saw. He stood immediately before the gates to Lattyrna, the underwater city, and home to the Sea King, Poseidon!
Now, by this time Sadko had begun to drown. Instead of struggling, he stood bravely ready to act as the supreme sacrifice to the King of the Sea..
The merman Guardsmen were impressed with the strange creature's courage. They took him swiftly into the palace and set him before their King, Poseidon. Poseidon cast a spell on Sadko, allowing him to breathe water and looked him over carefully.
Sadko, was exhausted, shivering, and scared half to death, but still he stood brave.
'WHY HAVE YOU COME', asked Poseidon, having but little volume control.
"I have come on behalf of my townsmen," Sadko said, kneeling.
"EXPLAIN YOURSELF," Poseidon boomed.
Sadko briefly explained that he understood the reason for why the fishermen hadn't brought anything back, the anger of the sea, and why he had almost drowned on Poseidon's front gates.
Poseidon looked the boy over once again, thoughtfully... he noticed the mandolin that Sadko still clutched in his shivering grasp.
"AHHH.. SO YOU ARE *THAT* SADKO, FAVORED OF THE GODDESS TRELL.. ARE YOU NOT?" Poseidon asked, his mannerisms softening. The goddess Trell had been a close friend of his, and had fought by his side in the conquering of Lattyrna. It was she, also, who had helped to imprison the monster Leviathan in his watery cage beneath Poseidon's castle.
Sadko nodded humbly, blessing to himself again and again his lineage and their patron goddess.
Poseidon bade the guards feed him, dress him, and make him warm that he might play that night at dinner for the King and his Court.
That night at dinner, Sadko was presented before the King and his Court, and very nervously began to play. He looked about the room, wondering to himself is this was what his life was to become. He carefully examined those whom he thought to be his new masters. He saw the King, decked out in all his royal splendor and at his side his queen, Amphritrite. Seated to either side of them were the princes and princesses... one of which, in particular, seemed absolutely fixated on the young minstrel.
Maryna was the King's middle daughter. She was seated, appropriately, directly in the center of her brothers and sisters. Being a woman of the sea, the upper half of Maryna's body was that of a beautiful young woman, her lower half was like a fish's tail, with gleaming sapphire scales. Her hair was the colour of the deepest coral, her eyes the colour of the finest sand. She was dressed elegantly, as were all the ladies of the court, in a beautiful silk dress and adorned with the most precious pearls in all the ocean.
Maryna had fallen in love with Sadko the moment she laid eyes on him and was determined to make him her husband. It had been her parents' hope that she marry the warrior Talesin. She was to marry him the next year, as she too was seventeen years of age, if she could not herself find a more suitable husband.
Maryna's mother, Amphritrite, noticed her daughter's unusual interest in Sadko. She was anxious to have Maryna married, and though she had hoped Maryna would love Talesin she knew that she did not. Amphritrite wanted only her daughter's happiness, and so decided at once that Sadko should stay and be married to her at once - that their court would always be blessed with such beautiful music. She whispered this to the King, who nodded in agreement.
When Sadko finished playing his first song, the King bade him to sit at his own table.
"YOUNG MAN," Poseidon said, "I WILL MAKE YOU THIS PROPOSITION. I WILL MAKE YOUR VILLAGE PROSPEROUS, I WILL GIVE THEM ALL THE FISH THEY DESIRE- WITHOUT TAKING YOUR LIFE AS MY SACRIFICE..."
Sadko beamed, both his village and himself had been spared.
Poseidon continued, "ON THE CONDITION THAT YOU WILL AGREE TO LIVE HERE FOREVERMORE, AS HUSBAND TO MY DAUGHTER, MARYNA, AND PLAY FOR US ALWAYS."
Poseidon looked very pleased with himself as his court cheered and his daughter's eyes were filled with such hope and happiness such as he had never seen!
Sadko thought of his love, Anastiasie, waiting for their marriage back in their village, and his heart grew sad. He wondered if she had even learned of his disappearance...but Sadko also knew, that as much as he loved his betrothed, he could not allow his village to go hungry. He knew he must accept, as did everyone present in that room. But most of all, he had to make this sacrifice, not despite of, but because of his love for Anastasie. She would understand, he told himself...he knew she would have done the same.
Sadko nodded his head in agreement to the King's wishes.
The King and his Court were so happy, but none so much as Maryna, who leaped over the table to embrace her new fiance. Through her happiness, she could not read the sorrow on his face.
King Poseidon asked Sadko to play something merry, for this was now an engagement party! So, a very sad Sadko began to play, and the orchestra joined in.
All the court got up from their table to dance. They swept across the room, dancing with joy. It was such a sight! King Poseidon, stoic and proud, whirling around the dance-floor with his wife just like the younger ones.
But over the music and the laughter, Sadko heard all at once the sound of boats and ships being dashed against the reef.. and into each other. He realized that his playing and their dancing was actually causing the waves to become fast and furious. Looking around to make sure no-one saw, he stretched one of his strings hard, causing it to break. It was not enough to stop the orchestra from playing, though, nor the court from dancing.
Sadko, ever the quick thinker, leaped upon the table and called for their attention, whereupon he declared his undying love for Maryna and requested that they be married right there and then!
Poseidon summoned the priestess to be brought at once and, though Sadko felt as if his heart were going to break into a thousand pieces, the ceremony commenced.
The ceremony was beautiful, if quick, and when it was over Sadko asked the King's leave to retire with his new wife to their wedding-chambers.
Inside their room, Sadko could only sit staring out the window up at the surface above. Maryna now began to sense that somethign was wrong.. and asked Sadko to confide in her. Fearing for his life, Sadko could only tell Maryna that this was a custom of his people.
Now, there are some things that women just .. *know*. Maryna could read the distance in her husband's eyes, and felt a longing in his heart. Her veil of bliss was lifted, and she could see at once that her husband was in mourning for love lost.
"Do you miss your family?" She asked in a voice so silver-sweet and gentle.
"Yes, a little..," he admitted, hoping she would ask no more.
"Do you miss your home?" Maryna inquired further.
"Yes," he said choking back the tears, "I do miss my home."
"A new home and a new family you can get used to," she said thoughtfully, hopefully. "Sadko," she asked, "do you love me?"
Sadko turned and gazed at her. He seemed deep in thought. "I do not know you to love you," he replied.
Maryna sighed, and her tears began to fall. "If you do not now," she said, " then i fear you never will..." She paused. "There is another that you love," Maryna said. Sadko sadly nodded. Both of them wept bitter tears for what each thought could not be- Sadko for his love of Anistasie and Maryna of her love for Sadko.
"But I am here now, and I am your husband. I cannot go back or your father will destroy all that I love," Sadko sighed.
Maryna, though still deeply in love with Sadko, realized the folly in her impetuous wish. "I love you," she said looking deep into his eyes. "I did the moment I saw you. Down here, we believe that means true love forever... but both must feel that love and you do not. I never want you to feel pain, I only want you to be happy. In the morning I will help you back to where you belong."
Maryna was startled by her own words, as was Sadko. It was the first time, probably in her life, that she realized something bigger than herself.
Sadko slept, troubled, but well. The long days' events had exhausted him such that he barely recognized morning when Maryna woke him.
Maryna had packed her things in a small trunk and was dressed in her finest travelling clothes. She took Sadko by the hand and went with him to her father.
"Father," she said timidly. "My husband misses his home on land. I have always wanted to see the world above the ocean, and I wish to go with him to live above in the City of Trell."
Poseidon was dismayed, but he could refuse his daughter nothing. He granted his consent and summoned the Archmage of Lattyrna, Alexander, whom he bade change his daughter to a land-dweller.
It was a sad goodbye for Maryna. She knew not where she would go, or what she would do... She only knew that she had to do what was best for everyone, even if it seemed the worst thing in the world for her.
When all had finished their goodbyes, and bestowing their gifts upon what they thought was a happy, newly
married couple, Poseidon cast a spell which transported Maryna and Sadko to the Middle of Trellor Square, just before the newly-built Temple of Trellor.
Sadko looked about- hardly able to believe his eyes. He was so overcome with joy he fell to his knees and gave praise to the all the gods. Maryna smiled, glad to see her love happy at last. She wrapped her shawl tight about her, not at all used to the cool, dry winds most of us land-dwellers are accustomed to. She sat on the edge of the fountain, her legs new and not yet used to life on land.
Sadko looked over at Maryna. She smiled up at him weakly. "What will we do now?" he asked.
"Go," she nodded and smiled. "You must go and be married. Live your life and be happy.. Have lots of little children and always remember to love your love. Tell her every day that you love her, but you must never, ever tell anyone of what's happened. Tell no-one of me or the world beneath the sea."
Sadko regarded her curiously. "But am I not still your husband?"
Maryna shook her head, removing the precious ring of shells she wore as her wedding band and placing it in the palm of his hand.
"I have always dreamed of life up here," Maryna said thoughtfully. "I don't know where I will go, or what I will do.... but I will always love you and I am glad to do this for you."
Sadko nodded sadly, pitying the beautiful young princess who had given up her life for his happiness. "If you ever need anything..." he started.
"Go. Please go," she said, eyes brimming with tears.
Sadko nodded and turned to leave. What happened to Maryna is another story for another day... for when Sadko turned back for one last look she had disappeared.
Sadko was so happy and relieved he ran to his parents house.
The village of Trellor did remain prosperous, thanks to Maryna, and later that month Sadko and Anastasie were married. True to his word, every day of their life together Sadko told his wife how much he loved her, and he served her well - grateful for their life together.