Back then, the orange-haired young nobleman was barely a nine-year-old boy or perhaps already ten. He had walked from his residence in Enbarr that afternoon instead of taking the carriage as usual protocols dictated. The place he was going to was not so far away, and walking through the polished cobbled streets of the capital city of Adrestian was a little whim he indulged in from time to time.
The young nobleman liked to watch and always greeted the city's people with a friendly smile, and they greeted him back the same way. Very few did not recognize the Prime Minister's eldest son at first sight, especially because of his jovial and eloquent way of expressing himself, despite his young age. He always seemed to have a timely response to any comment and extensive knowledge of political and historical topics of interest. To that, we would have to add his almost innate skills for handling weapons and riding, which only improved as he grew older.
Ferdinand von Aegir is the living image of what an exemplary young Adrestian nobleman should be; some mentioned with pride upon seeing him, and most agreed with a nod to that statement. And although he did not consider himself a pretentious person or one who got too carried away by such flattery, the young nobleman was proud of his achievements and of being able to be an honorable and respectable representative of his family and his nation.
That afternoon, however, for a few moments, he would come to feel for the first time much less like the promising son of a notable noble family and more like what he really was: just a little boy with many things to know and learn.
He was accompanied, as usual, by a servant and two armed guards for his protection, in addition to his father's adviser, who led the way while giving him explicit instructions on what they would have to do that day. Instructions that, by the way, the young nobleman would soon forget. In fact, in time he would completely forget where he was even going or what business he was dealing with there. What would last in the memory of the young nobleman would be that strange and fleeting encounter, although he did not always think about it consciously.
As he and his small entourage passed through the main square, circling the huge decorative fountain in the center and waving to the local merchants who recognized him as they passed, a sound almost wholly overwhelmed the adviser's voice in front of him. It was a beautiful, soft sound; it was music... But not formed by the notes of an instrument but by the delicate singing of a voice.
In a matter of seconds, he stopped listening to the adviser, the clinking of his knights' armor, the bustle of the people in the market, or any other sound that was not that of that sweet voice that seemed to almost caress him with its warm and delicate touch of a mother.
Without stopping his march, the young nobleman looked around, searching almost desperately for the proceeding of that song. What kind of mystical being could be singing such a tune? He couldn't remember ever hearing anything like it.
Where does it come from...?
Suddenly, as he moved forward, his eyes caught the figure looming from behind the central pillar of the fountain. It was a person stuck inside the fountain, with the water covering up to a little below their waist. Their clothes, a dull and gnawed-looking tunic, were drenched and totally attached to their small, thin body. Their hair, long and curly of a dark brown, was also wet and fell over their shoulders and back. They had their hands submerged in the water, carving them with force while, in effect, they sang that melody that captivated the young nobleman's senses.
When they stood up, pulling their hair entirely back, the young nobleman managed to see that they were a girl, perhaps his own age. But she couldn't be real, or at least that was the first thing that crossed his mind. That voice, her appearance, all that unreal presence that surrounded her... Even the midday sun suddenly illuminated her, almost as if the Goddess from the sky had decided to make the clouds part just a little to reach only her.
She couldn't be just a girl. She had to be something else...
"A water nymph," thought the young nobleman, astonished. "As in the legends..."
So engrossed was he with the image before him that he did not realize that his entourage had deviated slightly to one side while he continued on, straight towards a huge puddle left by the earlier rain. He didn't realize this until his boots stepped squarely into the puddle, splattering his underside with water and mud.
"What?! Huh!" he exclaimed excitedly, jumping quickly to the side, only to fall into yet another puddle, further worsening the state of his clothes. "Damn...!" He blurted out, annoyed, and began by mere reflex to try to clean the dirt with his hands.
"Young master," the adviser pronounced, approaching him uneasily. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, yes," the nobleman repeated insistently. "It's just a bit of…"
Raising his gaze again, he inevitably met the figure of the mysterious girl in the fountain again. However, she was now looking back at him intently, with her large, brilliant green eyes like two beautiful and bright emeralds.
Ferdinand von Aegir felt his breath lose, and his heart stop for an instant as he now looked directly into not only her eyes but also the entire shape of her face… a beautiful face; the most beautiful he had ever seen, almost straight out of the angel paintings that graced the halls of her mother's wing.
An angel, a nymph... an ethereal being of flesh and blood, making itself present before his young and fearful mind that had no opportunity to process that, except in one way...
Without consciously commanding his legs, the boy suddenly began to run terrified without a specific direction; whatever would get him away from this place would work out for him.
"Young master, wait!" the counselor exclaimed, beginning to run after him in a hurry, closely followed by the servant and the two guards.
For the first time, Ferdinand ignored the instructions given to him. He wasn't sure if what he felt was fear, euphoria, amazement… or something else. But whatever emotion it was, it was too intense for his young body, and all he could do was move away as fast as his legs would carry him.
He would stop running a few minutes later when his legs, heart, and lungs demanded that he stop or pass out in the street. As he was catching his breath, his entourage caught up with him, and his father's advisor took the freedom to berate him and question what had happened. The young nobleman could not give a coherent answer and was limited to just apologizing.
Once he could walk again, they retraced their steps in the direction of the square and thus continued their original path.
Ferdinand kept his step steady and sure at all times. But when they passed close to the fountain, he couldn't help but look in its direction, trying to catch that girl again, spirit, or whatever it had been. And, maybe, excuse himself for just a second so he could walk up to her, ask her name, and if she was okay or needed any help.
However, the girl was no longer there. There was no trace of her or the beautiful melody that had accompanied her. So much so that the young nobleman came to think, and later to convince himself, that perhaps he had simply imagined it.
But could that really have been…?
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