|The Legacy of the Last Oracle
Author: Lux Beta PM
Come, follow Her legacy - trust in the power of the Gods. Will you be nought but pawns in the endless game between good and evil? Or will you weave your own destinies into the eternal fabric of fate? Arise, o Chosen Ones, for the time has come - make your marks on history. (Book I in "The Chronicles of the Chosen" series. Rated T to be safe. Chapter 33 is up. Updates every Monday.)Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 33 - Words: 279,106 - Reviews: 70 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 06-17-13 - Published: 10-19-12 - id: 3066900
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Thirteen: The Princess of the Waves
"River running red with blood, make sure that you never flood."
One moment they had been standing in front of Jolone as Embore had called out something along the lines of "enjoy Corolone"; next thing they knew, they had been flung into a world of impossibly bright lights, twinkling like stars before their eyes. They felt as light as mountains and as heavy as feathers, speeding at impossible speeds through the myriad of sparkles and flashes, through swirling spirals of crimson energy that were likes the eyes of Space itself, through matter and existence to get to their eventual destination - which wasn't even where they were supposed to go in the first place, thanks to the Magmoro Hereditary Prince.
Marciel was the first to realise that they hadn't materialised anywhere near Lake Meilene. He awoke slowly, letting out an exhausted groan that transformed into a wince of pain as he tried to move his body - his bones felt stiff and sore, so obviously Jolone wasn't as good at Space magic as he'd insinuated that he was. His battered and beaten form, weathered by the conditions of the Temporal Vortex - or was it Temporal Continuum? - lay on the ground of wherever he was. He had no idea exactly where said place was, but before he could think of any likely locations the tang of salty air invaded his nostrils like long-lost guests. He inhaled the scent deeply, letting out a content sight as he lay there on the ground. His eyes had so far refused to open, glued shut with rheum or some similar mucous substance, so he had to resort to gingerly raising up his arms - letting out small hisses at the grind of his joints - so he could wipe the matter away. Once he had done that, he blinked once or twice, momentarily blinded by a vast whiteness that was like the sensation of awakening. It cleared soon enough, and he was met with a vast sky of nothing but beautiful blue.
"Good Lord, this stench is disgusting…" growled a feminine voice from somewhere off to his left; since the Equilibrial Adept was lying down, and his head was still too sore to move, he couldn't see exactly where. It was still obvious though that Lilienne did not appreciate the smell of salt water, something which he himself had been accustomed to since birth (although he had became a sort of semi-stranger to it since moving to Areth for his studies). "Why in Heaven's name are we near a body of salt water when we should be at Lake Meilene?"
"Jolone obviously messed up his spell," spoke another voice - from the jovial and nonchalant tone, Marciel identified it as Ethan.
"It wasn't his fault," protested Loara from somewhere behind Marciel - he was now getting a tad peeved that none of them seemed to have noticed his incapacitation, so he made his sentiments at that moment clear.
"Ahem," he said quietly, loudly clearing his throat after saying it. "Could someone please use a curative spell on me?" he asked politely. "I appear to have taken the brunt of our journey through the Temporal Vortex; I think all of my bones are broken."
Before he had even finished speaking Sophie - the latest of the group to escape the vice of unconsciousness - had knelt down by his side, placing both of her hands over his chest and closing her eyes in concentration. "Heal," she whispered quietly, a soft glow - as green as emeralds and as bright as a candle on a winter's night - enveloping her hands, spreading from them to his own body. They brought with them a cooling, numbing sensation that he himself was slightly familiar to, being able to cast the spell himself.
"Thank you Sophie," he said to the Aethereal Adept in genuine gratitude. He sat up without any limitations, glad that his joints and bones were back in business. "That's already feeling much better - I apologise for asking you to do so, but naturally, travelling relatively unprotected through a place as tumultuous as the Temporal Vortex runs the risk of injury, serious or otherwise."
Sophie looked somewhat bemused as the complexity of his expression, allowing a light smile to adorn her face. "It's fine Marciel, honestly - I don't mind helping people, especially when they're injured." She let out a little giggle. "No matter the severity of the injury either."
Loara had looked like she was about to transform into a rabid beast throughout their entire exchange. "As I was saying," she announced loudly to her audience (most of whom proceeded to only pretend to listen to her), "I distinctively remember Embore, bless his ignorant soul, telling us to "enjoy Corolone"; his outburst obviously interrupted Jolone's concentration, causing him to visualise said city instead of our intended destination."
"Oh you're so smart, here, have a biscuit," spat Lilienne acidly, staring at the Student and other Chosen Ones in utter disdain. Her hair was slightly frazzled from their journey across Gaia, and she held in her eyes a wild, animalistic look that none of them had ever seen on her before.
"Take that back now," replied the Student angrily, her voice risen to a vicious bark due to her damaged pride.
It was like she was begging the Shadow Sorceress to slap her or something. "Make me," was all she said in reply with her usual scowl - it was enough to push the other girl into submission. Chase decided to intervene on her behalf before Lilienne made a bloodbath of the little deserted alley they had landed in.
"Well, at least we know where we are!" he exclaimed brightly - perhaps just a little bit too much. The beaming grin on his face, which normally just appeared ever so naturally, seemed a little too forced at that moment in time. "We should be grateful for that - Jolone was skilful enough to transport us even when he was interrupted. We could have been sent to the middle of nowhere if he hadn't been concentrating as hard!"
"There would be nothing worse than that," said Tifa dryly. No one could tell if she was being sarcastic or genuine, except for Sophie and April - they knew it was most likely a mixture of both.
"Well actually, all forms of spatial transport, even when you are a hundred percent certain of your destination, carry the risk of leaving you scattered as atoms across numerous dimensions," said Chase brightly. "Just kidding," he added quickly at seeing their subsequently horrified expressions.
Jason sighed. "Can we please just decide what our next move is? We're here in Corolone yet we need to get to the Temple of Water - so, how exactly are we going to get there?"
Marciel stepped forward, quietly surprising the Mentors (who had so far assumed all aspects of leadership in the group). "Fortunately for us, it seems as though Lady Luck Herself is on our side. "This loveliest of pearls lies at the mouth of the cerulean ribbon, the door to riches of both the surface and the sea. It ebbs-and-flows like a citadel upon the waves, and whilst the waters lap greedily at its sides, it always gleams bright above them - the pearl shall never crumble, nor decay. It is as eternal as the rivers and the seas."
"Rivers and seas, along with this planet, shall one day be consumed by the sun, although the water will have dried up before then," stated Lilienne bluntly. Then she smirked. "Still, that you know of Sir Cauley's works is rather impressive, even if that little ditty was nothing more than propaganda for Corolone."
Marciel looked rather embarrassed now, staring down at the ground as crimson blossomed on his face. "I thought it was a good introduction to what I was about to say…" he mumbled, refusing to meet anyone else's eyes.
Sophie peered discreetly at the others. None of them said anything after a few moments of awkward silence, so she volunteered to speak. "If anyone would like to know, I completely understand what Marciel was trying to say."
"You do?" asked Carmysa - she herself, along with the majority of the others, had been utterly baffled as to why he had suddenly started on about pearls and ribbons and whatever else he had mentioned.
"Yes, I do," responded Sophie with a quick bob of her head. "Coralone is the "loveliest of pearls", and pearls are only found at the shore, a sly way to say how beautiful the city is without making it seem any better than Areth - the author obviously didn't want to hurt any jingoistic sentiments. It is obviously an extremely old city, yet it is as prosperous now as it ever has been and, in the author's hopes, ever will be. If it is the main centre of maritime trade for Areth, then it must be at the heart of the main waterway for the Kingdom, which I remember you," and here she pointed to the two Mentors, "mentioned to be the River Meila. The River Meila, and Lake Meilene - the two are obviously connected. I think that Marciel was suggesting we simply take a boat upriver to our destination."
"Good Lords, how intelligent are you?" asked Loara - even she was shocked. She had prior discerned that the extraterrestrial girl was indeed smart, but she had just proven herself to be even more so than what the Student had thought before.
"Thanks, I get that a lot," said Sophie - even though it was a slightly arrogant statement, she said it in such a way that it seemed almost undeservingly modest.
"Is that what you were saying though?" asked Jaruse, turning to his friend. "We can take a boat from here to the lake?"
The Equilibrial Adept had overcome his mortification, so he was able to bring himself to nod in reply. "A lot of riverboats ferry passengers between here and any destinations that lie on the Meilene - the town at the very banks of the lake, Adania, is the final destination if memory serves me correctly."
"Great, we can just get one and go on it!" said April happily, bouncing up and down like a rabbit in her joy. "We can lounge about on deck like rich people do in those tabloid magazines and then we can wait for someone to get murdered and we can all act like we're on one of those murder-mystery dramas from the Eighties where everybody's rich and famous and then Jessica can come and solve the mystery in the five minutes at the end even though the programme lasts for an hour and it takes half of that at the start for someone to even die!"
"…Alright then," said Elle quietly - they then proceeded to completely ignore her.
"I know of a place where we can hire a boat," said Marciel quietly, again capturing their attention. "There is a facility in the Central Docks that I am well-aware of - they have a reputation for having very trustworthy crafts, so I think our wisest move would be to go there."
They began to walk out of the alley, emerging onto a road that seemed just like any other one back in Areth. The street was clean and smooth, drains and gutters at the side in order to remove any rainwater or the like. The buildings were also like those in Areth, made of stone and mortar yet still looking in a typically medieval design. A few carriages or goods-loaded wagons moved up and drown the road, and there were several pedestrians on the pavements at either side of the way - they were just normal people going about their daily business. To the left of the group, the road stretched away, eventually splitting into two opposing ones - it seemed that direction was inland. When they looked to the right this theory was corroborated, as the buildings ended and a sea-side road began; it was really more of a promenade that stretched around a roughly circular bay, packed full of boats. In the distance, at the entrance to the bay, were two islets which held two massive constructions. The southern rock was home to a very tall lighthouse, and its northern counterpart was the site of an equally tall statue of a woman.
"Who on Earth is that supposed to be?" asked Paul incredulously, staring at the statue with an astounded expression. "Good Lord, that statue must be even taller than the Colossus!"
"I've read about those two structures," said Elle wisely. "That is a statue of Aquemis, the Goddess of Water. I think it's forty-five metres high, roughly; so is the lighthouse across from it."
"The Colossus was only about thirty," said Sophie, turning to her best male friend and giving him a smile. "You were right again Paul!"
He blushed somewhat and rubbed the back of his head with his right arm bashfully. Before he could reply, however, Ethan interrupted him - the hotheaded young Assassin was very impatient, and he couldn't stand anymore pointless (as he saw) time-wasting. "Yeah, well we can all talk about how smart and great you and Paulie are later when we're on the boat, 'kay?" he said, standing behind the boy and Sophie and ushering them forwards, one hand on either of their backs.
The others watched in amusement as Sophie, reluctantly walking and being pushed at the same time, turned to look at the boy over her shoulder, staring at him quizzically. "I didn't know that you knew your way around Corolone, Ethan."
He stopped and looked at the air in front of him, a confused frown on his face along with a petty pout. "That's right, I don't..." he said slowly.
"Thought so," said Tifa tiredly, walking over to them with the others following. "Why don't you let Marciel lead the way, seeing as how you have no clue what you're doing?"
"Oh yeah, that makes sense!" he replied cheerfully, clasping Tifa on her right shoulder. "Thanks for reminding me Tifa!" he called casually over his left one as he walked away after the Equilibrial Adept - he had already began moving to their destination with the others following him like penguins.
Tifa, who still stood where she had been moments before (with Sophie and April by her side), looked at the boy she had known for most of her life with an absolutely horrified expression marring her face. "He touched me..." she seethed, like a viper waiting in the dead grass for its prey.
"It's not that bad, he only touched your shoulder," said April brightly; while Sophie looked anxiously at the others (or rather, at where they had been since they had just gone around a corner and onto the promenade), she poked the clothed flesh of Tifa's chest. "He could have accidentally touched here or somewhere."
Tifa made a gagging noise as she pretended to violently expell the contents of her stomach. "Don't even suggest that," she said, before suddenly giving her strawberry-blonde friend a weird stare. "Don't you go touching there either."
"I don't know what you're talking about, either of you, but I'd like to thank you for letting us get left behind!" said Sophie suddenly, crossing her arms over her chest and giving an angry sigh. "That was just on the top of my "to-do" list, especially in a city that I've never been in before."
"Lighten up, the others can't have gotten too far away," replied Tifa, annoyed at her companion's peevishness. "Besides, I'm sure if we ask someone if they've seen a large group of teens walking throughout this place then they'll have to common decency to answer yes or not."
"Nevertheless, we should go ahead and find them now before they get too far off, as you've already said. Come on April." The two girls began to walk away before Sophie noticed the absence of their friend's footsteps. "April?" They turned around to see her skipping off down the other side of the road, towards a shop with beautiful and expensive looking clothes in its window display.
"I want to go and see all of the pretty clothes!" she called back to them, doing a little pirouette on the spot before continuing on her jaunt.
"That girl…" sighed Sophie. Then she just shook her head in familiar resignation. "We better go after her before she gets lost - or worse, causes some sort of inter-dimensional cultural offence." She began to walk after the girl, blood flushing her face at the childishly embarrassing sight of her friend's way of moving.
Tifa just looked at the backs of both of them. "I have to get stuck with the odd ones, don't I?" she asked, looking up at the sky. "Oh well, might as well take a break - if the others are missing us then they can sing for it." She began to walk as well, hissing and scaring the living daylights out of a boy on an errand who had the cheek to look like her like she was the weird one. Arethans - they were such rude folk.
"Calm down Jason, I'm sure the three of them are fine." Jason had - naturally - been the first to notice that his sister and her two best friends had not caught up with them; he had stubbornly went back to where they had been previously, but they had already left. He had been adamant that Faith had kidnapped them or something, but Lilienne was quick to dismiss this theory. It was more likely that April had been distracted by something and the two Adepts had had to follow her lest she wreak havoc across Corolone. This had led to a heated discussion between the two of them, which Chase had tried to diffuse unsuccessfully.
"You can't be certain," replied the Squire huffishly, crossing his arms over his chest in a way identical to how his sister did it.
"I can be fairly sure, however," replied the Mentor, putting his hands on either of the boy's shoulders. "Please, trust me. I promise that as soon as we've booked a boat, we'll go and find them while we're getting our supplies." The boy nodded, seemingly pacified for now. They were all sitting in the waiting room of a boat-renting store near the mouth of the Meila while Lilienne and Marciel were securing them a boat. It was a rectangular room that was quite long yet cramped, with lots of furniture in it (along with their sizeable group). The Adept and Mentor were standing in front of a glass window in the wall, talking through it to a woman behind a desk.
"Are you certain that no boats are available?" asked Marciel in dismay.
The lady nodded apologetically, a sad expression on her face. "I'm afraid so sir. Summer is always a very busy time of year for us, and since this is as such short notice, I'm afraid we don't have any spare boats for you to use. I'm awfully sorry - I would say go to another rental store, only I'm sure you'd encounter the same problem there. Corolone is packed with tourists who all want to come here via the river. Once again, I'm awfully sorry."
Marciel sighed in disappointment but smiled at the woman regardless. "It's fine miss, thank you for your help all the same." There was a great shuffling sound as the others rose from their seats and followed him - and Lilienne - out of the store.
"Well that was a useless waste of time," she hissed angrily, staring up at the sun shining bright in the cloudless sky above. Everyone who was anyone was taking advantage of the weather - the promenade was lined with throngs of people going about their business. "Curse you."
"What are we going to do now?" asked Dallan - while everyone else was getting a little flushed from the sun, he and Lilienne were the only ones who didn't seem to be getting too hot.
"We should go and look for Tifa, April and Sophie, right?" asked Carmysa - she was standing to his left, fanning her face floppily with her hands.
"Some of us should, and the others should go to get supplies," chimed in Jaruse - he had taken off his armour and had put it into a rucksack that he had absconded for himself. He now wore outwardly what he wore underneath it, a form-fitting black shirt along with black pants. He still carried his weapon and shield on his back - he never went without them.
"Exactly!" confirmed Chase - no matter what Lilienne said, most of the Chosen Ones were very good at thinking for themselves. "I think Lilienne should go with most of you to get the supplies - Jason, Marciel and Carmysa can come with me to find the girls. Let's go!" He didn't wait for them to catch up, already turning around and walking back towards their point of arrival. The three youths that he had mentioned ran to catch up with him, while Lilienne - pausing to scowl bitterly at his back - led the others to some shops on the seafront.
"Why did you pick us?" asked Jason of the older boy curiously, as they weaved and wove through the crowds on their search for the trio of lost girls.
"Well, Carmysa's a Ranger, so she must be good at tracking, Marciel knows this city better than any of us, and you would've just freaked out if I hadn't brought you along."
Jason paused to consider the last statement. Then he shrugged in agreement. "True."
"April, seriously, we don't have nearly enough money for these clothes, so let's just leave them, exit the shop slowly, and then find out where the heck the others went to," said Tifa in a slow manner to her friend, as if the Performer was not intelligent enough to understand her normally.
"While I don't think Tifa needs to speak to you in such a way," added in Sophie, frowning like a severe schoolmistress at her friend, "I do somewhat agree with what she's saying. We need to go now, April, and find the others before they get too far away."
"But I don't want to!" whined April like a bratty five-year old, stamping her left foot childishly on the ground. "I want to go and look at all of the pretty clothes, please!" She latched onto Sophie's right arm, dragging her unwilling friend back inside, towards the shop. "We haven't stopped since we got here and I want a holiday! Please?" she begged, giving her best puppy-dog expression; her huge, now-watery eyes were almost powerful enough to compel the Aethereal Adept to listen to her, but Tifa rescued her from making this drastic mistake.
"We're going right now April," she barged in, reverted back to her normal tone of speaking. "End of discussion, now move it." She began to walk away as April stared sulkily at her back; Sophie felt rather awkward at bearing witness to her two friends' prolonged argument. "And don't make faces at my back - it's not very polite, as I'm sure Sophie is just dying to say." The brunette was indeed about to mention that, but she now just joined her other friend in glaring at Tifa's back. When she turned around and arched her eyebrow at them, they didn't stop, which inwardly surprised her. Oh, they're gusty today, she thought, giving a little snigger and a smirk. Before she could outwardly voice this opinion, a scream was heard from a nearby distance - it sounded feminine and scared, and the three girls were instantly on the alert.
"Did you hear that?" asked Sophie of them, her natural empathy for the wellbeing of others evident in her worried tone.
"It was kind of hard not to, considering that it was a fairly loud scream and all," responded Tifa snidely, drawing her own staff as she began to walk slowly towards an alleyway that was a few feet to their left. The noise had come from down there, around the corner at the end of the alley - she motioned for the other two to be silent as they went behind her, walking slowly towards the alley with their weapons drawn. They looked like hunters stalking prey, albeit if they were actually hunters then it would have most likely been their first time trying doing so. "Who's there?" No one replied.
"Well that's us lost the element of surprise," said Sophie glumly.
"Did we have one to begin with?" asked April with naive bluntness.
"Shut up, both of you!" hissed the dark Adept frantically, flapping her hand at them as they did as they were told. They began to move again, being enveloped by the shadows of the lane (the buildings on either side of it were around four storeys tall). A determined Tifa was at the front of their little trio, an excited April directly behind her with a nervously-trembling Sophie bringing up the rear. They were using the shadows to their advantage - crouched down as they were on the ground, no one would have been able to see them (unless they looked at their position for more than two seconds, in which case they would have been instantly detectable). "Are you sure that that scream was real? I mean, I heard it as well, but there's no one hear..."
Before anyone could respond, a thumping noise was heard from around the corner, and the three instantly fell silent, crouching down even lower onto the ground. "What was that?" asked Sophie fearfully, holding onto April's shoulders for dear life (with so much force that the girl was actually wincing slightly).
"Be quiet, you blooming idiot!" barked a rough male voice from around the corner. "That there's rare loot, and a fat lot of good it'll be if you damage it!"
"Sorry boss," replied another man, this one noticeably less nasty-sounding than his brutish companion. There was a pause. "What shall I do with her?"
"Blooming 'ell, how many times have I told you? It ain't a her, it's an it for Lumea's sake."
There was another pause, during which Sophie got the feeling that the other man was confused. "I thought you hated Lumea boss, you're always going on about how much of a cow she must be if she made it bad to take stuff that you wanted from others."
"Shut it before I shut your mouth for you," snarled back the man, and they both emerged from around the corner. The boss, as his companion had called him, was rather shorter than his subordinate, with greasy black hair, a gaunt, rat-like face and sunken brown eyes. The other man was large and tall, although from what could be discerned he wasn't very intelligent - he was bald with bulging muscles in his arms and legs, his face as ugly as a pug's. Both men were dressed in conspicuous black clothes, and over the taller man's right shoulder was a wriggling sack with muffled grunts coming from it.
"Good Lord, they have someone in there!" whispered Sophie so quietly that the others almost didn't hear her. "We need to do something before they get away!"
Tifa nodded her head in agreement - the two men were almost at their position now, and she held her staff at the ready. "Fire!" she called out, jumping out from the shadows and aiming her extended "arm" at them. A jet of flame burst forth from the tip of her stave, miraculously leaving the wood unburned. The two men had just enough time to dive to the side, the blaze sweeping past them and disintegrating in the air. They were now both lying face down on the ground, still momentarily stunned by the fact that they had almost been charred to death. April ran up to them while they were incapacitated.
"Now it's my time to shine!" she squealed excitedly, tambourines in hand. She began to perform a lively dance of spins and kicks, moving so quickly on the cobbled ground that to the others it looked like she was flying. "Jig!" she cried out, doing a final spin on the spot. There was a rumbling sound from the ground, and tiny little vines snaked up from between the cobblestones, snaking their way around the dazed men and effectively binding them. April giggled and gave a little courtesy. "Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and good night!"
"That was actually rather impressive April," admitted Tifa with a smirk; Sophie was much more enthusiastic in her admiration, clapping lightly and beaming at the girl.
"I think what Tifa means to say is that that was simply marvellous!" she exclaimed.
April blushed bashfully, a rare occurrence for someone as outgoing as her. "Well, I've been dancing since before I could walk, so I guess that explains how I can be so good at it." Before Sophie could put a damper on the mood and point out how that fact was impossible, April turned to look at the sack that the taller man had been carrying - it lay on its back, with whatever was inside it wriggling frantically to escape. "Shouldn't we see what's inside?"
"Goodness gracious, I forgot all about that!" exclaimed Sophie in horror, hitching her skirt and moving swiftly over to the sack. She glared at the man beneath it. "How on Earth could you imprison another living creature like this?" she asked of him in irritation - he obviously gave no reply as Sophie untied the rather unimpressive knot at the mouth of the bag. "There there, everything's okay now," she soothed, extending her hand into the sack where she waited for the being to come out. "Out you come." She felt it grab onto her limb and she began to pull - she barely managed to suppress her squeal when she discovered that the hand encasing her own, when she had gotten it out, was a light blue, speckled with spots of darker blue, and decidedly amphibian-looking in appearance.
"Thank you ever so much," spoke the being as it climbed fully out of the sack - it then stood up straight and stretched out its arms about its head, before smiling at its rescuers. They were too surprised at its appearance to respond appropriately, opting instead to stare at it in wide-eyed curiosity. "Those two stupid men thought it worth their time to first abduct me and then abscond with me, and it is my certain belief that they would have succeeded had you not stopped them. Allow me to give you a reward at the most appropriate opportunity."
"It's really no trouble…" said Sophie breathily, still staring at the being in front of her. She was decidedly feminine in voice, mannerisms and appearance, but what really through Sophie and the others was that she had blue skin, fins and gills. She was slim and rather tall, her slender form adorned with wavy fins at the waist, and sides of her elbows and knees. The fins were a gleaming cerulean-blue in colour, sparkling in the light of the sun (she had picked a rather impressive position to stand in); they too, like her arms and hands, and legs and feet, were spotted with circles of a darker blue. Her feet and hands were webbed, the latter appearing somewhat like the feet of a frog. Her face was pretty for her alien appearance - two slits in the centre of her face were her nostrils, and the lines on either side of her long neck showed the location of her gills. She lacked hair in a conventional sense; instead, her head was adorned with nerveless masses of flesh that had been sliced and styled into a rather windswept look. Her outfit was rather simple: a diadem of silver and sapphire was positioned perfectly on the crown of her skull, right above her completely cobalt-blue eyes, and her dress was as white as virgin snow, falling to her feet. Draped over her shoulders was a cloak the same colour of blue as her eyes.
"Nevertheless, it harrows my soul to ponder what those men may have done to me had you not freed me from their clutches, and for that I shall be eternally grateful." She gave a little courtesy in gratitude before staring more closely at the three human girls. "I do beg your most profound pardons, but, may I enquire as to the names of my rescuers?"
"Hi there!" exclaimed Aprils suddenly, bounding forward, grabbing the girl's right hand and shaking it for all she was worth. "I'm April, this is Sophie, and that's Tifa!"
The girl stared back in surprise at the Performer's enthusiastically energetic introduction. "Is that so?" she replied, regarding them with a new level of curiosity. Then she cut right to the chase. "I beg your pardon if I am mistaken, but, are you three of the twelve Chosen Ones?"
Tifa regarded her with suspicion. "Now what would make you think that?" she asked.
"Despite your clothes, you still seem rather out of place here," responded the girl. "Also, the issue of the Arethan Inquirer that was published two weeks ago carried a notice from the Royal Family themselves, informing the general population of your existence and identities." There was a pause as the amphibious female let this information sink in. "Besides, here, we class April as a month and not as a name."
"Alright then, yeah, we're the Chosen Ones," responded Tifa warily, "and since you know who we are, it's only fair that you introduce yourself to us in return, right?"
"Must you be so suspicious of every other being in existence?" asked Sophie in a bored tone.
Their new acquaintance shook her head instead, showing that she agreed with the Nethereal Mage's logic. "Indeed. I do beg your pardon for performing this most calamitous error." She cleared her throat and curtsied again. "I am Aphrea Dardelle, daughter of Hellospond Dardelle, Chief Councilman of the Oligarchy of the Piscellenes."
"Let me guess, the Piscellenes are the species for Water, right?" asked Tifa again, and Aphrea nodded in response.
"That is again correct. It is obvious to me now that your prior surprise at my appearance - which I noticed but did not comment upon - was most likely due to the fact that you have never seen a member of my species before. It was perfectly alright to do."
"Still, at least we saved you from those men," commented April brightly, staring down at the unconscious brutes on the ground. "Y'know, we should probably leave here before they wake up. Maybe we should go and find a soldier or somebody to take them away, and then they can go to court, and then we can be witnesses and pretend to be sad!"
"I agree with only the first two bits," replied Sophie dryly, walking back from the alley and into the main street in search of a civil servant.
"May I ask what brings you here to Corolone?" enquired Aphrea curiously of the other two.
"We're on our way to get the Crystal of Water," said April back to her with a smile. This only drew a confused glance from the Piscellene noble.
"The Crystal is located in the Temple of Water, and that itself is located miles away, at the bottom of Lake Meila. Why on Gaia have you come to this fair city, if I may ask?"
Tifa bit back the urge to reply "no, you may not." Instead, all she said was. "Transportation spell. It went awry." The girl took that as a sufficient answer, just as Sophie walked back into the alley with two soldiers in two.
"There they are gentlemen," she said politely, pointing to the limp forms of the two men.
"Thank you for informing us of this miss," said one of them, giving a little bow of his head to the Chosen One of Water. "We'll take it from here - you best be on your way." The four girls complied, exiting the alley and standing on the main street instead.
Before they could resume their conversation, they heard an extremely worried male voice call out "Sophie!" frantically, and the girl herself turned around to see her brother - along with Chase, Carmysa and Marciel - running towards her, anxiety evident in his eyes. "Why on Earth did you run off like that?" he asked angrily, a scolding tone in his voice.
Sophie arched her pencil-thin brown eyebrows at her. "Jason, please don't take that tone with me." She stared at him as he just blinked in surprise, processing what his twin just said to him.
"Wait, has Sophie gained a backbone while we've been here?" whispered April not-so-very-quietly to Tifa as they stood by the girl.
She smirked happily and nodded in confirmation. "It would seem so Blondie."
"As I was about to say, April got distracted by something, and Tifa and I decided it was our duty to follow her, lest she bring harm upon herself," stated the Aethereal Mage rather eloquently. Then her expression, which has been as hard as diamond since Jason had very-nearly shouted at her, softened to a much more sorrowful one. "I'm very sorry if we caused you any undue worry, Jason - and of course, any of you as well."
"Oh, it's fine, we weren't all that worried," said Carmysa in a happily dismissive voice. "I mean, it's not as if you guys can't take care of yourselves, but then again, we have to remember that Jason's your older brother Sophie!" She said this last part a tad teasingly. "It's in his nature to look after his baby sister!" They both turned and gave her deadpan glares - she merely stuck her tongue out and began to walk away, followed by Marciel, Chase and Tifa.
"For your information I'm only seventeen minutes younger than him…" grumbled Sophie, but no one was paying attention as she, her twin and April began to follow the other three. Aphrea watched them walk away for a bit before eventually shrugging her shoulders; she ran to catch up with them.
"It is lucky that I arrived here from the lake on my own private vessel, is it not?" asked Aphrea of Paul and Ethan. "Otherwise you would all be in need of another vessel to use for your transportation - and, since that delightful young fellow with the hat has already informed me of a substantial lack in the amount of aforementioned crafts available, I do not think it would have been an easy feat to achieve."
Half an hour and several introductions later, the group was all located on the deck of a small yet reasonably-sized leisure craft docked in the Central Docks, not that far a distance from the mouth of the Meilene. When Aphrea had heard that they had been left without a method of getting back to Lake Meila, she had instantly offered them usage of her own private boat to get to their destination. It was, as she said, payment for Sophie, Tifa and April rescuing her earlier, and besides, she had finished her business in Corolone and wanted to return home anyway.
That sentence was so wordy that I barely understood it, thought Ethan, but he had indeed managed to grab the basic gist of it. "So!" he said in an effort to rekindle the dying conversation. "Afro, right? Do you live in the lake or somewhere?"
The noble youth smiled patiently at Ethan's cultural ignorance. "My name is Aphrea," she giggled, and he made an apologetic "o" with his mouth in return. "And yes, I do indeed reside in Lake Meila, or, more specifically, a city on its floor."
"Really?" asked Paul in amazement. "You live in an underwater city?"
She nodded back. "It is called Marmala, and it is the capital of Piscellene society. Do not worry though - the city has been constructed so that both aqueous and non-aqueous beings may safely reside in it. I shall have to speak to my father about it, but as far as I know you and the other Chosen Ones would be welcome to use the city as a base for operations during your quest for the Crystal of Water."
"Thanks," replied the Assassin absentmindedly, his attention yet again drawn away by something else. The others were milling about on various parts of the ship as its maintainers got to work getting it ready for the journey ahead - most of them, about seven or eight, were Piscellenes like Aphrea, but Ethan spotted one or two humans amongst the crowd as well, and he swore that he saw a Floranuss sailor just go beneath deck.
Paul just shook his head at his blond friend. "Why would your father need to talk to you about that, Miss Aphrea?"
"Well, Piscellene society functions a tad differently from others - the Floranei and Magmoro both belong to monarchies, but we are governed by an elected oligarchy of nine. My father is the Chief Councilman, in effect the leader of our republic, and all issues of nation security have to be run by him." She realised instantly what she had just suggested. "Please do not take offence!" she said quickly, waving her hands about worriedly. "I simply mean that, given the current climate of suspicion due to malignant supernatural activity of late, it is better to be prudent than rash."
"I agree wholeheartedly," responded the Templar wisely, before they were interrupted by one of the Piscellene sailors bounding over to speak with Aphrea - Paul got the impression that he was the captain, or at least someone in possession of a high rank within the crew.
"Miss Dardelle, we are ready to depart for Lake Meila as soon as you yourself are ready to depart," he announced as he saluted her.
"Thank you, Captain Meditus," she responded - he saluted again and walked away, barking out orders to the crew as Lilienne and Chase came over to the duo. "May I ask if you are all prepared to leave for the Temple of Water? I would like to not come back - it would be rather tedious and cumbersome to do so."
"We're ready," replied Lilienne with the tiniest inclination of her head. "We have all our supplies beneath deck, so we shouldn't be in need of anything else - and then again, we can always get anything we've forgotten in Marmala."
"Very well then," said Aphrea with a smile before turning to face Meditus. "Captain Meditus! We are now all ready to leave, if you would like to begin!"
"Your orders, miss!" he replied back, clapping his hands together and capturing the attention of all above deck. "Listen up!" he called out to his fellow crewmembers. "It's just left noon right now, so it's a good time to travel. We should be at the lake by sunset tomorrow if we make good time, and I don't think any of us want to keep Miss Dardelle or her companions away from where they need to go any longer than necessary. Do I make myself clear?"
"Aye-aye captain!" roared the sailors.
"Right then!" he roared back even louder. "Anchors away, unfurl the sails! The Princess of the Waves is on the move!" Before they knew it, the ship was slowly sailing past the other boats and up the mouth of the River Meilene - if Zephyrus (or whatever he was called here) kept blowing in their favour, then it seemed as if the captain's prophecy would come true.
Did you like this chapter? I hope you did - I certainly did. I like Aphrea already, so that's a good sign. Remember to review!
Have a nice day, and thank you for reading this!
- Lux Beta