It used to be, when I wanted to visit with my friend, Arian, I'd take the tea party to her. We'd pack up all the goodies in a basket and trip down to this nice secluded rocky point at eventide and call her name across the sea. Most often, she'd already be waiting for us though, being skilled as she is at water scrying.

         Scrying is looking into a smooth pool of clear water and seeing images of what is going on. In this case Arian scryed us preparing her favorite seaweed tea. Anyway we'd lay out our picnic tea things on the rocks, and have a nice visit, gossiping about all the latest goings on.

         Then, wouldn't you know; humans found the very spot, and before long whole groups of them were traipsing about gawking and giggling. Oh, not at us, silly, they didn't see us, but that didn't mean we were exempt from the big feet and the bad manners. One of them would eventually plod right through the middle of my second best tablecloth, knocking over tea cups, squishing jelly rolls. Never so much as noticing what they were doing, of course. You'd think there would be a little more sensitivity now that things are changing.

         Arian would be off, diving into the sea and gone, before the rest of us were up, and cursing the whole lot of clumsy dunderheads. Well, she has her reasons for being a little human shy, and that's the story I'm going to tell you.

         Many years ago Arian lived in small cove with high sheer cliffs overlooking it, and not a way to get in there except by sea or when the neap tides came. She was very young then and had just lost her mother to a storm, so she spent her time in the company of a family of seals. Merchildren are much more self reliant at a young age than humans, so she was perfectly capable of feeding herself from the sea. But I think the seals were a comfort to her for there isn't a child of any kind that doesn't need love, which the seals certainly gave for her, and protection too. She probably would have grown to adulthood very peacefully in her little cove if it hadn't been for Victoria Cornelia Bristlecone.

V. C. Bristecone

         V.C., as she was known to friend and acquaintance alike, was a world-renowned investigator for the Sedgewick Skeptics Society. Now V.C. was one of those Skeptics who relished getting into a good fight with the more sensitive souls who have a brush with what is called, "the paranormal". Well, the word "paranormal" itself implies some experience that isn't scientifically explainable. So we were never quite sure why V.C. bothered trying to expose some wide-eyed tale as a falsehood. It may have been to elevate her reputation and sense of self-importance. But I've had a long-standing suspicion that V.C. had some secret and disquieting imaginings that made her ever diligent in trying to keep the dark shadows away.

         We folk still have disagreements about her heritage. Some of us think the lady is, or was at least part elfin, because of her extremely shrewd mind and the fact that no one has ever proved when and where she died. There was also some gossip that the tips of her ears were pointed and altogether she did have that sharp angular attractiveness, except for a rather large Roman nose.

         V.C. had several degrees in the sciences, which was highly unusual for a woman in the period of time I speaking of. Plus, she was a talented artist, a linguist who spoke several languages, and had lived for a time with the North American Indians, where she became adept in the use of herbs, the knife and the bow and arrow. According to V.C., there wasn't much in the physical world she didn't know about, or discuss without an annoyingly superior attitude. This is one thing all who knew her agreed upon completely. The lady was a snob and deserved what came to pass the day she saw Arian.

         At the time this happened, V.C. was on holiday visiting her cousin Hubert, at the seashore. Being an unusually fine day, she decided to take a stroll along the beach and try out her brand new box camera, photographing the local scenery. The tide was very low, when she spied the small cove off in the distance. She estimated she could make it there and back before the tide came in. Ignoring the danger signs posted along the beach, she strode off over the tidal flats, back straight as a ramrod, nose held high, acting altogether like the queen of the world.

         Her sharp eyes caught a flurry of movement by the family of seals at her approach, and intent on photographing them, she quickly darted behind two large boulders and wedged in between them. So wedged, she had just enough room to set up her camera on a small tripod, and quietly wait for the seals to return.

         Sitting in the warm sun, with the gentle rhythmical lapping of the waves, she was eventually lulled into a deep sleep. The seals and Arian, who were aware of V.C.'s hiding place, decided she was no longer a threat and slithered back onto their prime rock to enjoy the oysters Arian was opening with her teeth. This was the sight V.C. saw, when her eyelids snapped open from the shock of ice cold water surging over her feet and up her legs.

Mermaid with Seals

         V.C. did have the presence of mind to snap one picture before the mermaid and the seals disappeared into the next incoming wave. It was a wave so large it swooped up and washed V.C. right into a tidepool. Trying to protect her camera by holding it over her did cost her though. One ankle was badly twisted, her backside bruised and elbows scraped from a graceless dunking in the rocky pool. Slowly she managed to edge her way up the rocky beach until she was finally able to take off her walking shoes and bind her ankle. By then, of course, the high tide was fully in, and there was nothing to do but crawl up on the highest boulder at the base of the sheer cliffs and wait for the tide to ebb again.

         Now we all know, when things go wrong, especially those things we know we shouldn't be doing in the first place, they always get worse. While V.C. was sitting on this big boulder, tending her poor bruised ankle, she was also watching the sky turn an ugly color indeed! Great black clouds roiled ominously over the horizon, swallowing up rusty red sun and purple sky. It was soon dark as pitch and V.C. was chanting the Skeptics Code in five languages to keep her spirits up.

         All the while an angry sea was dashing and grabbing at her stony perch from below and the heavens were pouring buckets of rain from above. To make matters worse, her choice of a boulder proved to be most unfortunate, as all the night long water cascaded in a thin muddy stream down the sheer cliff, right onto her head and the back of her neck.

         Well, I can tell you, it was one miserable night for V.C. Near morning, when the tide ebbed again, she had to limp out, sodden and shivering, all the while clutching that silly camera under her cloak like it was made of gold.

         At last, V.C. saw lights ahead and fell in fatigue into the frantic arms of her cousin Hubert, who all the long night had lead a party of men and dogs in searching for her. Well, of course she ended up with pneumonia, on top of all the bruises and scrapes, and had to spend the rest of her vacation in bed. But V.C. wasn't one to idle so she spent the time catching up on her correspondence, meanwhile spreading it over two continents that she'd seen a real mermaid.

         Seeing as how most of V.C.'s friends were Skeptics, she soon discovered this was a grave mistake. For when the film in her camera was developed there was nothing but a grainy image of what appeared to be the top half of a young girl. A rather odd young girl draped in sea weed and revealing what seemed to be a set of dagger sharp teeth. But there was not one bit of a fish tail showing. Undaunted, V.C., considering her reputation above reproach, expertly drew in the missing tail. This made matters much worse of course, for she was accused of faking the evidence. Now anything about V.C. was newsworthy, and this so-called exposure was soon all over the papers, including the faked photo.

         Well, you know there's always those wanting to believe anyway, so soon enough there were people flocking to the cove trying to a get look at the mermaid. Some were even repelling down the sides of the cliffs and the authorities had to place guards about to keep the people from endangering themselves and others. Arian and the seals were long gone by then of course; having found their perfect little cove rudely invaded and littered with humans. It was a sad time and they spent many years just traveling around the world, looking for another home, but there was always something to force them to move on again.

         As for V.C., there's only rumor to go on, from here. Some say the last seen of her was disappearing into the ruins of the palace at Knossis to find the ghost of the Minotaur. Oddly enough, she was said to be carrying no more than a canteen of water and a box of communion wafers. Now what do you suppose she'd be doing that for?

         I'm of a mind that V.C. is still alive and into some new and interesting hobby. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see her end up pixilated with the rest of us and wanting to tell us the rest of her story.

         So, now here we are, back to the present. We've made Arian this virtual environment, very much like her little cove, although I have to admit we've added a few inspired improvements. Most of them are from Arian's travels, like the lovely corals found in Flynn Reef, Australia. We've added some brilliant fish life too, so colorful you'd swear they couldn't exist in the physical world. And a lovely water slide for the young ones, while we have our tea on a large comfortable flat rock, with not an unfriendly soul to bother us either.

         Arian is very happy these days and all for making new improvements every time we turn around. Well, she is creative. If you go to Phee's Craft page , you'll find an idea of hers for recycling sea shells.

         Now, I'm going to try a wee drop of this fine ambrosia, a housewarming gift from my old friend, Manannann mac Lir. Of course, I'll be drinking it out of a proper china cup instead of one of those fluted shell numbers. The sharp edges are so hard on the lip, you know. Would you be of a mind to have a drop yourself? Believe me, it's an immortal experience.

Beach Tea Party

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