The river is hidden deep in the forest, running along the lines of both realm of man and of elves. It was difficult to get to in large groups, but it was wide and wild and beautiful. Many years before, it had been decided that it would be the perfect place to lay the boarder of both lands. A peaceful place not to be tarnished by bad blood.
And that was what it remained. Only peaceful talks took place along the riverbanks, its water not once crossed and sworn to never be stepped into.
To the West of the river, past a three hour walk through the trees was a large clearing and from there, one could clearly see the castle and heart of the human kingdom another swift hours ride away through the sprawling homes of the other humans. They gathered in thickness as one got closer to the castle, inside the walls was a sprawling city that was bustling with life even when the sun began setting. Those walls were tall and blocked the view of the forest and the river and other kingdom that all the people knew were there, but none of the common folk were ever foolish enough to try to venture there. They were content to remain where they were under the watch of their sovereigns and rulers as it had always been for inside the castle, taller still than the walls that surrounded for miles on all sides -- lived the royal family, the king and queen and their son, a man who thought of himself as much simpler than many royals thought of themselves.
As for the king was sick and in constant bed rest, his son, one Leonard of the royal McCoy family, searched for a cure still as all the medicine that he insisted and fought to learn could do nothing for him. He would find a way to save the man at any cost, any at all... and that was what had him setting out on that day towards the forest that shielded the other kingdom from their view and from easy approach, as it always had for centuries and would continue to do so for many to come.
He was no fool, he knew that this would not go well for any of the advisers. His father was dying, he was an only child and he was meant to lead the people and take the throne on the day that the old man fell ill. The last thing any of them wanted him to be doing was going near the boarder of their lands, but he was hardly one to find that he cared where his family was concerned... so, of course, the man snuck did this in secret.
Within his room, he pushes food into a satchel, aware that he will be gone long enough to probably need it along with plenty of water -- well aware that the water of river and lake to be forbidden to drink from. There is a book of myth placed in there with it just as he hears his door open and he has to whip around with a scowl and try to hide the bag before who he sees is there.
Carol is staring back at him with a knowing look in her eyes that he can't rightly shy away from. She's still clad in her armor from duty and the fact that she's got her arms crossed brings out the fact that she could so easily subdue him and would be completely within her rights even if he was the prince and she was often his body guard. It would be to keep him safe from the threat that they all know he very well may face from going near the river when there is no messages to be talked over between the two kingdoms. It could be seen as a possible hinting at a future war.
"Want to tell me where you plan on going or do I have to guess?"
"... I'm going to try and get father some help."
"The royal doctor already looked him over, Len."
Leonard knows that she cares about the king. Most all of those that serve him do, just as the people do for he has done his best to do right by them, it's why he won't just sit by. However, she isn't wrong, the doctor had looked over him and done what could be done with what they had, but ---
"That doesn't mean that there isn't anything that could save him. Maybe it's in the forest or along the river. I have to at least look."
"If they see you and figure out who you are, when there is no call for royals to meet, it might start the war again!" She's stepping forward, scowling as her chainmail rustles underneath the plates of her armor, but Leonard doesn't shy away from her sharp eyes. He can't, not if he wants her to listen to him and wants any hope at convincing her to let him go.
"Carol, you're my friend, you know that I'm not a big fan of the unknown and that forest is a big one --- but I have to try. I won't go in the clothes I'm in now, I'll go in simple clothes and ride bareback and return before the sunrises. You have my word."
For a long moment, the two simply stare at one another and the prince starts to think that his friend and bodyguard won't let him go, won't let him do this and who could really blame her ---
He breathes a sigh of relief, until she continues.
"But I'm coming with you."
"No, I'm coming with you, no arguing. I'll ride with you to the edge of the forest and wait there. If anything goes wrong, run for the tree line and you will at least have someone there to back you up. And, Goddess forbid, something happens and you're not out of there by the time dawn begins to break, I'll be coming in to haul your ass out. Understood?"
For a moment, Leonard pauses and isn't sure that he can agree with that before he takes a breath and realizes that she's right for making this kind of deal and nods.
"Alright. We'll meet by the stables, then we'll go."
There's a nod between the two of them and Carol turns on her heel to head for the barracks where what she plans on bringing with will likely be and it's not like Leonard can go down there at this time of night and grab weapons without being noticed and thought suspicious. He also doesn't think it would be wise to bring them into the forest when the river is meant to be nothing other than a place of peace, as was sworn before the Goddess themselves and on the lips of the royals.
Leonard turns to finishing packing his satchel before he makes his way to stables, well aware that Carol will get there before he does no matter how fast he moves and he's not looking to lose her either way.
Once atop their horses, both Leonard and Carol drape themselves in cloaks that are old and worn to help lend to the fact that they're nothing special for any of them to wonder about. It will keep the questions down, decrease the amount of eyes that follow the two of them as they make their way through those still awake in the hours before sunset bleeds into night and finally through the gates of the outter walls --- from there, it's immediate in which they urge their horses into a break neck pace as soon as it's safe to do so.
They don't have a lot of time to waste, every tick of the clock counting down to the hours vanishing is precious and they both seem well aware of it. Not only for how long the king might have, but for the fact that the longer they are out in the open, doing this, the riskier it becomes.
The two kingdoms have never been friends and should one of the folk learn of their journey into the forest and to the river, it may insight them to push for war or to do the same when it is so clearly not a royal trip that they are making. Lacking the trumpets and large accompaniment as they are. Nobody goes far into the forest without royal approval and it's so rare for that to take place when the current truce is as delicate as it is.
But they make to the ridge of trees without incident and Leonard lets out a breath he feels like he's been holding since they departed.
"I'm going in on foot." He declares as he dismounts and runs hands over his loyal steeds snout as the great creature catches her breath, looking up to Carol as he speaks who has yet to dismount. It's likely that she won't. "You watch over them for me. The ground is too bumpy for either of them to move fast, it'll be better this way."
Carol nods and takes hold of the reigns that he hands her, a look in her eyes that tells him she still doesn't like this much, but trusts him all the same.
"Go quick, my prince. The longer we linger, the more precarious this becomes."
And with that, he runs through the heavy set of trees guarding the entrance to the forest and moves as fast as he can towards the river. With every step, it feels like he's running into another world entirely. As though this place knows that he is not meant to be here. It's only, ancient, and Leonard knows it holds magic that he could not hope to understand, but he can feel it on the back of his neck as surely as he can feel the sweat rolling down his skin.
Then he hears it, the bubbling of water cleaner than anything else he has ever seen in his life or ever will. It makes the air smell clean even with the overbearing sense of magic and otherworldly-ness that covers the place from leaves to roots.
It's a while longer still of him running, hearing little giggles in the branches above his head as he goes, but he dares not to look. Instead, he focuses on the grass beneath his feet, knowing that there are fae watching him, feeling their whispers as much as he hears them. Like little tinkling of bells.
There would be too much time to search all of the forest, so he continues on towards the sound of water while not trusting his eyes in case he comes enthralled by one of the creatures of the forest or insults them somehow. It would be best in general to only go to the river and search along it's edges -- it's the mostly likely place to have something that might be of help.
And to take it, he knows he will have to ask the residents for permission, to plead his case and pray that they answer kindly.
Leonard feels like he's been going for an eternity before, finally, he breaks through a group of trees and comes face to face with the river, but before he can breathe relief from the sight, something else catches his eye.
A tail flicking water out of the river and onto the land as if something just dove before the shimmering surface only to peak out a moment later. It's hair is golden as the sunshine of dawn and eyes of pure liquid sapphire peer at him from beneath bangs still dripping water.
He must be a sight and a funny one at the for the creature suddenly bursts into peels of laughter that sound like angelic bells to the prince's ears and he can hardly bring himself to inch closer by a step before he stops for it --- he? --- speaks and Leonard is lost.
"A human! I haven't seen one of you near my river for a long time."
It's some work of magic that Leonard can understand him, that much he's certain of.
"You're... a mermaid." And of course Leonard's legs choose then to give out, tumbling him into the grass and right next to the edge of the water. When he looks up, the mermaid is right in his face and he almost chokes on his own spit in surprise.
"I would think that's obvious --- aren't humans suppose to have... bones in their legs to keep them from falling like that? I thought you all were meant to be able to traverse land well. Not fall all over."
"I was surprised, kid, what do you want!?"
It's a shout that he doesn't expect and he wonders for a second if maybe he made a mistake, but then the mermaid laughs again.
"Sorry that was probably rude. I don't think your kind can pronounce my name so you can call me Jim, I'm going to call you Bones!"
Oh, Goddess Above, what has Leonard just gotten himself into?