This could not possibly be real.
Ponce stood like a statue on the Snow. Cristal had taken so much away from his voyage, and still he had gained so much back. His mind spun in thinking about returning to Spain with aquatic Emeralds, the horn of a Unicorn, a real MerMaid and tales of this lush and fruitful Land flowing with ancient Magic.
But, by far, this was the greatest thing Cristal had. This was what the glass had been protecting. This was the discovery of the millennium!
A glass Castle sat suspended on a glass platform, just in the center of the ring of Waterfalls. The Castle was monolithic and glittered like an Opal in the Sun.
Ponce’s men gawked at it, until Ponce drew his sword and ordered that they approach the Castle.
In his travels, Ponce had been under the impression that Cristal was populated largely by uncivilized and indigenous Creatures. Seeing the glass Castle, ten thousand times as beautiful as the Spanish Castle, Ponce wondered if he had been wrong.
He savored his flight to the Castle and thought about if Their Majesties would think about living in the Castle in Cristal. Ponce thought about the 155 men who had perished in the Ocean just to get here, and the 13 others who had died because of battling with the indigenous.
Then he thought about why he had set off in the first place.
The Fountain of Youth.
Could this be it?
Ponce and his 32 men landed on the platform. One of the men inspected the glass carefully, then struck it with his sword.
The glass did not crack or dent.
“Diamond!” the man uttered, “’Tis made of solid Diamond! But how?”
Ponce thought he knew how. He wondered if Cristal really had a mind of its own and could have sculpted the Diamond Castle itself. But of course, that was preposterous! He brushed the idea off as a mystery.
Ponce de Leon strode up to the elegantly decorated double doors and made to let himself in. But the doors opened inward all on their own.
The sound of running Water filled his ears. Ponce could not hear the thundering of his own heart. His men crowded behind him anxiously.
Before him, in the greatest chamber, stood an embellished Fountain made of Diamond. Water spouted in a cascade all around it, seeming almost to glow in an aura of Magic. A great Pool glimmered at its base, untouched. Flecks and nuggets of multi-colored Jewels swayed in the Pool. On the front of the Pool was etched a giant symbol. It was a sideways number 8 character. Ponce did not know what it was, but he had a shockingly accurate hunch.
“It cannot be!” gasped the men.
“The Fountain of Youth!”
“It’s real! This is it!”
“I’d give my left arm to see the expression on Queen Isabella’s countenance when she hears of this!”
“Should we drink of it?”
Ponce de Leon made the sign of the cross and fell to his knees in a grateful prayer. Several of his men followed, still filing into the chamber.
All their hardships had finally been recompensed with this discovery. Ponce’s men gawped and rejoiced.
Ponce was the first to approach the Fountain and look into the Pool. He saw his reflection from his youth.
“Drink it!” they urged him.
He had no hesitation.
Ponce de Leon bathed his face in the Fountain of Youth and drank deeply of its sweet, Magical Waters.
It was like he was in a deep and transfixing dream. Ponce de Leon’s blood ran hot for a split second, and his men gasped when he looked up at them. Ponce breathed in and immediately felt a renewal of energy in his body and his soul.
“It worked! Look at his face!”
“He must only be 20!”
Ponce rose and scrutinized his body and felt his face. He had only the beginning of a beard, his clothing sagged around his lanky build, and his creaky joints were as much an element of history as Ponce was sure that he himself would be forevermore.
Ponce de Leon had found the Fountain of Youth.
Now, he had to report his findings to Spain.
Finally, Forever had captured him right where it wanted him.
Just as Ponce’s men surged forward to relieve themselves of gray hair with the mythical Spring, the front doors to the chamber swung shut. They would not be reopened.
Forever watched and Ponce and his men ran throughout the Castle on their rejuvenated legs, speculating at the empty chambers and looking out the glassless windows. A Storm gathered overhead and began to Rain and Thunder with intensity on the Diamond Castle. The Wind swirled around the Castle, causing it to begin spinning very slowly.
Ponce de Leon tried to calm his men as they crescendoed into a panic. He gave up at long last and returned again to the Fountain of Youth to scoop up the Jewels at the bottom of the Spring and shove them into his boots and his pockets.
Forever had taken enough of his plundering and murdering. In a blind rage, it produced a jolt of blue Lightning that struck the Castle of Diamond. The Wind graduated to an inescapable WhirlWind of power.
The Lightning branched throughout the Castle and claimed all 32 of the men, who were then sucked forcefully out of the windows into the WhirlWind. Their screams echoed from the walls of the Castle.
Ponce looked up, terrified. He looked like he didn’t have the slightest clue what was happening, and Forever wondered how he could be so daft. After all his pillaging and pilfering, did he really think he would be allowed to stay? He had overstayed his welcome.
For a split second, the Chamber radiated as blue Lightning spouted out of the Fountain of Youth and seized Ponce de Leon around the neck. His hands slipped on the Water. Then, he let go.
It was almost a week after Easter in 1513.
The Santiago creaked and swayed in the Mists of the early morning.
Juan Ponce de Leon, the honored conquistador, awoke to the cry of “Land!”
His head felt heavy as he awoke. He felt like he had been asleep much longer than one night.
His dreams had been deep yet realistic. He woke up still seeing the one dream that did not slip away from him like mist in the sun.
The Fountain of Youth.
He was 53 years old. He had 6 ships and 200 men. And even until the end of time, Ponce de Leon was going to keep trying to find that legendary spring. Even if it killed him.
Forever ascended into the Sky to take its place as the North Star.
It had spared Ponce and his men only out of sheer mercy. Ponce had murdered ruthlessly, yes. But Forever could not bring itself to do the same. So it gave everything back to him that he had come with – including a mind blank of anything about Forever. The only shred of memory that Forever did not yank back was the name of the Fountain that Ponce had rightfully discovered. It was such a shame that he would never remember that it was truly he who found it first.
It would be hundreds of years before Forever could bring itself to trust another human from Earth. And even then, its experience with the human would be much different. Because Forever, someday, would decide to take in a little girl.