Selkies' SkinsInstallment 51Chapter 27 (part one)
Pyramids and Problems
Pyramids and Problems
Time and place hath no ken
Upon or below sea’s waves when
Outside of mortal land mariners wend
And sea and sky no longer bend.
Beware sea witch upon the sea
The sirens of the briny deep
Do not all take the form of fin and cheek
For those that homeward wending seek.
Well ye fare and fare ye well
Riding sea and breasting swell
Avast, avast, and mind the cry
From under sea and sundered sky.
Etain arrowed after her quarry through the warm waters and the slippery blades of seaweed. Her whiskers would have quivered with anticipation if her speed would have let them. Once she caught up to the shiny silver fish a snap of her jaws brought half of it into her mouth. Another snap sent the rest of its sweet flesh to join the previous half in her belly, fins and all.
"Kirsten would love this. I hope that I get to be the one to teach her how to fish like this. Just not here."
As she swam in search of more sweet fish the blades slipping past her flippers grew wider but less frequent, until she found herself in a clearing. The light filtered down through the blue water in bars, occasional bubbles rising to the surface like sparkling gems. In confusion she turned around and around, catching a glimpse of Mimir tailing her, before heading to the surface for another gulp of air.
She was having to do that far more often than normal. It had been very long since she had to surface quite as often as this.
The burning in her lungs threatened to make her breathe in the water, which she could not do in this form. The surface drew closer, too slowly for her patience, until finally her head burst free and the breeze cooled her and tickled her now quivering whiskers.
Etain gulped the air lustily, feeling the smoothness of it filling her lungs and stilling the burn and itch. She spread herself out as much as she could to make the work of staying afloat easier, gulping until her panting ceased and her ears stopped ringing.
Filling her lungs a last time, she dove down again, back down to the clearing. She stopped beside Mimir, who looked greenish and far more fishlike in this light. Together they peered deeper, trying to spot the source of the bubbles. It was too far from where they were, and with a brief glance together they gave up their spot and followed them down, he gripping his trident and she... extending her claws slightly, all that she could do in this current form.
Finally they reached the floor of the sea, where the corals sprawled over glowing sands and tiny rainbows of fish darted in and out of the hollows. Etain snapped at one curiously, her hunter’s instinct screaming at her to try one of the fleshier looking ones for sustenance.
She grimaced at Mimir, and he didn’t even bother to hide his chuckle at her grimace, or the way her nose wrinkled. Her cobalt eyes glowered at him in return.
He only grinned wider and showed the pearls of his teeth to her.
Etain turned her nose up at him and swam on.
“Well you could have asked if they were good eating.” Mimir chortled a bit longer, then let it go. “You’re getting grumpier, Brinetreader.”
“I know, and I don’t know why.” She replied.
“I hear human females get grumpy a few days every month for bleeding...”
“Yes, they do. And it’s nae that. Ah, what’s that over at the end of the larger bubbles?” She pointed with her flipper to emphasize.
They swam over the reef and the sand, and as they went the glow seemed to get brighter. The corals faded back the closer they came, leaving only the sand around the polished quartz pyramid that rose up from it.
“This is certainly not one of Mara’s...” Mimir observed, scanning for an opening.
“Might belong to another sea goddess. It seems to be tied in with the matrix though.”
As they circumnavigated the base the quartz projected soft rainbows through its faces, rippling and swirling now and then with untold changes. Finally they found a slight imperfection on the northmost face, as if here another crystal had once grown and since been removed. Here, looking inward, they could see the ghost crystals of smaller pyramids inside, nested like a Russian doll set.
Etain’s eyes clouded and the seal drifted closer to that strange indentation with its healed striations. Gently, her nose bumped against it and rested at the most indented place. A soft smile curled the lips as the eyes drifted shut, and she went limp so that her body laid against the side. Strangely, she did not slide.
The whole pyramid glowed a soft blue, sliding swiftly to indigo and then violet. A few bubbles escaped from the seal’s nose.
Mimir prodded her, thinking that perhaps she had been lulled to sleep by this strange object, much the way that she had gone inward before when he had seen her manipulating energy and working deep magics. On his touch he did not find a dozing selkie, but a stream of information and consciousness.
Murmurs of voices – male and female – filled his head just as Etain’s voice filled his own while she was in this form. The babble was in more languages than he knew, old and new, but there was a definite cadence as if all whispered and sang of the same secrets. They reminded each other of things that had been, plotted over what would be and what was now.
They fell through the crystal into the pyramid, then through the next.
A tendril of energy snaked around them and drew them to the centermost. Here there was no water, yet Mimir did not dry. Here there was no air, yet Etain breathed. More energy swirled and condensed, a large translucent face that morphed between the features of several races materializing before them before shrinking down to their size.
Like Mara, her skirts were the seas, but she was rounder, softer, darker. Suitable to the Americas these skirts were composed of a loincloth, secured with a gold brooch set with pearl and turquoise. Her breast binding was likewise secured and her dark hair spilled long beneath the gold and feather headdress while turquoise eyes measured them. On her chest she bore a heart icon, likely the result of the conceptions of those that currently fed her combining her in their minds with Mary, and great gold bangles dangled from her ears as Calypso peeked through, further mashing together what was once separate. Mama Qoca regarded them quietly.
“Why have you come so far? Neither of you belong here. None have blundered to my home since the days of pirates seeking safe islands for treasure, save for the female aeronaut Amelia that kept me company until her end.”
Etain’s eyes cleared and she fixed them on the goddess.
“I do not know all of it. But I will tell you how we came to be here.” She then related all her tale, as respectfully as if she were speaking to Mara herself.
The goddess was silent and shifted her gaze upward for long moments, then her eyes rolled back in her head. Something about her stillness led both mortals to wonder if she were listening elsewhere. Around them the crystal pyramid continued flashing and rippling the rainbow array of colors, filling swiftly with mist.
“I can help in part... but I need a return gift...” Mama Qoca’s voice and look shifted more toward that of Calypso and Yemaya, and her voice took more of a Jamaican lilt. “Some of his people may come take refuge in my seas, but not all. There is a suitable place a day’s travel within my territorial border. In return, some of the kelps that are in this bed I require to be taken back into the mortal realm.”
“This seems reasonable so far, but I must still help secure homes for those left after...I assume there will be a Choosing for the refugees.” Mimir stroked his beard as he thought. “Something is missing yet though...”
“I can help with the resowing.” Etain nodded emphatically. “And if they are of use for potions and medicines, I know that my daughter is very likely to help protect them and encourage the propagation. But which way is out?”
“Ah herein comes the rest. Getting out of my sanctuary is not so easy since I have had to close the passages. You will have to go the long way and leave by the Rock that Drowns.” The voice had changed yet again, and it was becoming clear that the more they talked with this sea deity, that it was not so much several that had been mashed together by time, disbelief, and forgetfulness of magic, but instead several deities concerned with their overlapping areas that had been attracted and temporarily fused.
“What is with you deities giving the child such impossible tasks?” Mimir grabbed Etain and picked up the seal easily, yanking her back and holding her as if she were a cherished doll that godly children feuded over. “The Rock that Drowns has to ability to even drown water breathers like myself! One sea goddess eats her selkie whole, another offers hope of partial completion of one of her missions... and then sends her off to drown?”
“Mimir Merisson, shhhh! Shhhh! SHH!” Etain shrilled in his mind.
“HOLD YOUR TONGUE MORTAL, LEST I RETRACT MY OFFER OF ASYLUM TO YOUR PEOPLE AND STRIKE YOU BOTH WHERE YOU STAND FOR TRESPASSING!”
The crystal around them flashed red and yellow like molten lava. There was a cracking sound before a low rumble, which then cut off after a moment.
Etain shivered and flailed, trying to get out of Mimir’s well-meaning grip. "Tritons! There was a reason they were so few! She could feel the water answering its area deity, and the seafloor shifting as that deity’s ire stirred the slumbering earth below. "There will be another earthquake sometime soon here at this rate. Tsunami! No, nonono."
Etain had the horrible vision of a great swell rushing outward and crossing between the realms, piling onto itself, rising meters and then meters of meters before crashing over islands and devouring all those on land that it could.
“I accept it, I accept it. Just. Lady... please calm yourself. Please!” Etain could not help the tears that welled and spilled as she thought of all the people that might be hurt, wherever and whenever the tsunami would cross over.
Something in the tears gave the goddess pause, and the swelling reversed until she was once more the size of a mortal. Curiously, Mama Qoca collected the burgeoning drops as they rolled down the seal’s face. They coagulated, almost becoming gems in her hand and refusing to meld together.
“You cry for those you do not even know... You are a strange creature...” The deity placed one of these in her mouth experimentally, savoring the flavor of salt and... Love? Compassion? Sacrifice?
"Ah yes... I remember these... and more... It has been so long... Perhaps this is why that Mara keeps her little experiments." Mama Qoca thought, then continued aloud, “I will accept this... offering... and forgive the insult for now. Go north, and you will find the crossing by a twilight.”
Mama Qoca placed another pearled tear into her mouth, savoring its sweetness and slipping into thought. The colors of the pyramid calmed, returning to the original soft rainbow hues.
Mimir glared at the little seal-woman for caving so quickly and actually shedding tears. To think that he had begun respecting the abominable mix that she was.
“Yes Lady... Thank you.” The seal dipped, as if attempting a curtsy in this form, and ended up in a graceful loop.
Mama Qoca watched, and as she consumed the tears and watched the languid antics of his companion Mimir began to notice a change in the foreign water goddess.
"Perhaps it wasn’t weakness at all that had produced the tears." He mused.
The energy that had pulled them in released its hold and began pushing them back out. Etain rode the energy, slipped through it and played with it like the tendrils were her own Lady’s fingers.
When far enough away that Mimir was certain he would not rouse the deity again he grabbed the seal where her armpits would be and forced her to look at him. “Just what, by Mara’s Fin, do you think you are doing by accepting such a task and then making tears?”
“The tasks I was born for, helping you find refuge for at least some of your people, finding a chance to get my tail home, protecting your scaly tail, and doing a little Healing. When I get back to the Order I will find out who is not doing their job here. Let go! I’ve work to do, and I’m still hungry too.”
Etain wriggled free, wrinkling her nose at him, then once out she followed the energetic prompts that she received, gathering the samples that she had been bidden.
She had, after all, given her word. Was this not also part of her duties, whether it was Mara or not?
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