It was just a glint, a hint, a long-awaited lead. She had been missing for years. A mystery unsolved, a love unrequited. Her betrothed, her friends and family always wondered at being ghosted for reasons unknown. But there was no doubt, it was hers and the mystery was revived.
He had been meandering along the river, downstream of the mating pool below the falls long revered by the Ancient Ones. A place of Sacred Rights, home of the Eel People. At the foot of the great waterfall, the coastal males primped themselves in colours of oche and rust, feathered their hair, laughed, and played in the rock pools as they sang the songs of their vows and dreams to welcome their highland brides. Wearing little but warm fluffy golden skins and feathered capes decorated with intricately woven colour, the women descended the slippery slopes singing their songs and carrying string baskets loaded with succulent food, home baked and wrapped in leaves divine, of gingers and cardamon.
The full-bellied rumble of tons of water cascading down the jagged rockface sent gentle sprays sideways onto the thirsting ferns and maintained its resounding bass right down the valley. Rhythmic ripples over uneven rocks and boulders worn, and the occasional splash as the larger fish sought prey, added to that native orchestra. The rustling sounds of the forest, its grunts and groans and the shrieks and whistles of shrill birds could be heard beyond, and just aside of the water the smaller gentle creatures gave voice. The river had a melody of its own that could only be appreciated after hours of contemplation and days of dreaming.
The man was a wild water devotee of long muscled limb and shoulders of Amazonian breadth. He had surfed the great rivers of the world, hurtled down tiered falls and massaged kayaks through rapids and canyons wild. He had been searching for her on and off over the years and only the call of even wilder places could console his aching heart. He’d cut his teeth here, on this very river as a lad, and as he grew older, he bought her here. It became their place and the only place she could find solstice when he was so far away. Her loneliness sometimes drowned her amid the hassle and bustle of life without him.
This river was tame by comparison to those that have spiked his heart over the years. Its slick and slippery-clean, its depths like looking glass, clear and pristine. The cod, catfish, and eels camouflaged to the rocks, shadows and gentle light, drift soundlessly from boulder pool to rocky outcrop. The crays, plate-sized and svelte, a gourmet meal laced with wild lime and native gingers with a side of spicy fern.
Lazily poking about, just letting the purity of the place seep through his being, the river floor suddenly blinked a tiny fairy rainbow before it was gone. It dropped away as the tired afternoon sunbeams slipped silently beyond the filtering leaves high above. They appeared to be sending a message in forest morse code, flipping about in the treetop breeze, playground of the emerging fireflies.
Falling asleep by the embers of his small fire, serenaded by a multitude of tiny sounds, knocking, cheeping against the occasional unearthly calls of the nightjar, he dreamt of a magical land before time, forest deep, against the resounding stamp and hollow bass of mystical corrobboree, and treasure hidden in rivers deep.
Awake in the gloaming he stepped blithely into the chilled waters and took on the character of native hunters, canting his head this way and that, searching again for that tiny fairy light. Stepping back, he caught it again for an instant as a narrow beam of sunlight danced briefly over the wavelets, distorting the palette below. It wasn’t until the sun fully caressed the treetops and a breeze-favoured beam of dappled light danced once again on the rippled waters, magnifying the facetted stone and threw its beauty outward again towards the searching eye.
He couldn’t see anything that might reflect that flirting light. Semi-blindly he reached down, gently, softly so as not to disturb either the water at its edifying business or the colourful sands and stones below. Slowly he scooped up a handful of hosting pebbles carefully hiding a small white bone. He stepped back, before his eyes got the message to his brain, and looked again. A thin gold band weighed down by a single diamond had dangled from the bone before it plopped gracefully back down onto the river stones again, at rock bottom.