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An Exchange of Words in Mother-of-Pearl

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An Exchange of Words in Mother-of-Pearl

Post by Celestria on Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:55 am

At first, Leia merely swam, as far and as fast as she could go, and when that wasn't fast enough, she paused long enough to form a tail from her legs and put a large fin on the end of it so that she could go faster through the water.

She didn't care where she was going, just as long as it was away from the chaos on Neorah. It wasn't as though the ocean would mind the salt of her tears added to the depths, and she added quite a few tears as she simply moved through the water trying to find some sort of peace.

She'd been gone for nearly a day before she realized that she was headed towards Mother-of-Pearl. She tried going in another direction, but found herself back on that direct course for the one place, other than Astraea or any of the other Nations, that she didn't want to go.

After a few hours of being pulled on that straight path and trying to break loose, her anger got the better of her and she actually sought this meeting that she'd resisted for so long.

She'd had enough of people presuming to know the path her life was to follow.

It was dark when she arrived in the city, having shaped herself back to her natural form, and she walked silently through the streets, bare feet making little to no noise as she walked. She expected to be challenged at some point, or have someone notice her presence, but she was unnoticed by anyone.

The building that housed Ula-Ronat's crystal had been built around it at some point in the past, and it was a round building, with a roof that resembled the shell of a clam. Looking at it made Leia remember all the days she spent diving down to the depths to coax the clams to give up their pearls so that she could make beads of them to string together for no other reason than the joy of making something with her hands.

Why couldn't her life have stayed that simple?

The Crystal itself was a giant shard that seemed to hover in the air in the middle of the building, with a pedestal built below it and behind to look like the open shells of an oyster and lined in the multi-colored shell pieces that gave the city its name. Crystal-as-Pearl. Leia almost snorted in derision.

She already knew how damned irritating they could be.

She firmed her expression and walked up to the shard of Crystal, splintered from the vessel which had brought her elven ancestors to Artegal. With a regretful shake of her head she pushed her way past the greetings by the souls of those who had gone before, including one little boy who would have been her older brother.

He'd died in one of the late summer storms years before she'd been born.

But she was here for a single purpose, and that purpose was the confrontation that was about to happen. She glared at the crystal before speaking, low.

"Alright, Leviathan, let's get this madness over with."

She wasn't certain what she expected, but it wasn't hearing a thin, aged voice warble out from off to her side. "Well, who has come to see the Crystal at this time of night?"

Surprised, she turned to look at what had to be the oldest woman she had ever seen. The ancient Merrow was almost bent in half, it seemed, and supported herself with a gnarled cane. Strangely, though, there was a glimmer of humor in her eyes that still twinkled from such a wrinkled face. Leia took a step backwards. "Forgive me, Elder. I -" she briefly considered not giving the whole truth about her purpose, not wishing to listen to yet another voice tell her that she was stupid and childish for wanting to reject Bahamut. Then she sighed. She could not lie to one so old. It would not be right. "I came to speak with Leviathan. She can stop a travesty before it proceeds much further."

The old woman chuckled, but the sound turned into a wheeze and then a cough. When she caught her breath again, though, she was smiling gently. "She told me to expect you. I must admit, I rather thought that you'd bring one of those storms in with you when you came. Thank you for being gentle on the city."

Leia blinked for a moment in disbelief before the truth dawned on her. This was Ula-Ronat's Keeper. Leviathan's dying Keeper. She sighed. "I don't want to make things worse on anyone else. I just want this madness to be over so I can go back to just being a pearldiver and bead-stringer."

Again the old woman chuckled softly. "Child, you have never been 'just' anything, not from the moment of your birth." At Leia's look of disbelief, she nodded and continued. "Oh yes, I heard about you even that long ago, the child born in the middle of a late summer storm with all the rage of the wind and waves in her infant voice. I thought, as did many I suppose, that one day you would be called here for a different reason altogether."

The girl sighed. "I don't want Leviathan any more than I want Bahamut."

"Do you think that I did when I was your age?"

Leia paused for a moment and then shook her head. "I do not know how matters were for you when Leviathan called your name."

"No, Child, Leviathan did not call for me. Only Bahamut selects his Keeper each time. I was given Leviathan and I was not consulted on the matter when it happened, either. Her Keeper at the time was my fiancé, and he was a proud man, but kind in his way. It was after one of the storms had come through, wrecking much of the city and he was working to help rebuild when he fell and a block of stone crushed his chest. I ran to him… but could not undo what had been done. Leviathan was his final gift to me." She looked up. "You see, those of us who are not the Great Keeper are able to choose our successors."

Leia looked away. "Why have you not chosen someone to take your place? All the Islands know about…" She paused, uncertain of how to continue.

The old woman, though, finished the thought unflinchingly. "Know that I am dying." She chuckled low at Leia's uncomfortable blush. "Child, I'm not afraid of death. I know what awaits me. I'll rest within the Crystal, beside Leviathan and my Keishen. I've had a long life, difficult at times, sorrowful at times, but I wouldn't trade a day of it." She sighed. "Maybe if you had visited here before this then I would have given Leviathan to you, but she will not take you from Bahamut."

Leia clenched her fists. "I do not wish to be offered up as some maiden sacrifice to a dragon!"

The sound of the old woman's laughter was surprisingly strong for a woman as weak as she was. "Oh my dear child…" she chortled for a moment before she could continue. "If thinking of it that way makes you happy, then have fun with it."

"What are you saying?" She was stunned by the sheer depth of her disbelief. The woman must have lost her mind to even suggest…

But she was serious, it seemed. "Child, Granddaughter, Bahamut is not always a dragon. That is only when he is called into battle by his Keeper." She sobered after a moment, but still smiled. "But in truth, if you are facing a path which you do not choose, you can always choose how you travel that path. If you prefer to garb yourself as one being 'sacrificed', if that makes the path easier to walk, then do as you must. Bahamut needs you and your incredible will, and Leviathan agrees with his choice."

She reached her ancient hand out to the Crystal and for a moment the shard shimmered like light was filtering down through water to shine on it, and Leviathan appeared, glowing within the depths of the Crystal that was her home. The Shokanjuu smiled, though there was the slight shine of what could have been tears in her eyes.

Go, daughter of Ula-Ronat, with my blessing. You, and you alone, can be what Bahamut needs to keep tragedy from forever marring the face of Artegal. There is no one else for him to call to his side.

Then Leviathan vanished back into the depths of the Crystal and Leia could have screamed in sheer frustration. She wanted out of this farce and even Leviathan seemed determined to see it continue.

The aged Keeper reached out to pat her hand sympathetically. "I know that it's not easy, that it's terribly difficult for you to accept, that this is not what you envisioned yourself doing in life. But Granddaughter, if you did not feel this way, you would not be the one that Bahamut needs."

Slowly Leia nodded her understanding. "Go to your rest, Grandmother," it took a moment for her to make herself use the familial term of respect, "you should not be wandering so late. Let me help you back." As they walked, she couldn't help but ask a soft question. "What happens if you do not find a Successor before you are called to the Crystal?"

The old woman sighed and patted her hand again. "Then Leviathan will wait for one who is worthy to approach and earn her trust. I still have some time left, though. I am in no great hurry."

Only once she was certain that the ancient Keeper was safe in her bed and resting was Leia able to creep out of the city again and back into the water to swim back to Neorah.

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