Soteira Haliai

Chapter 1- Coming of Age

Soteira stirred as the sun rose outside her window. Morning, it was morning already. And not just any morning, midsummer morning. She growled and turned so that she was facing away from the large window. She didn't want it to be morning yet, she didn't want it to be morning ever, and she definitely didn't want it to be midsummer. She buried her head under the pillow in a vain attempt to get back to sleep.

"Soteira! Soteira!" The shouting was accompanied by persistent knocking on the bedroom door. "Soteira! It's time to get up". Haliai Macrisa walked into her only daughter's bedroom and rolled her eyes. "Soteira Haliai get up this instant!" receiving only a grunt in response she dried a different tactic. Reaching out she ripped the blankets away from her offspring. "Now! Soteira!" Two silver eyes looked up at her from under a mess of forest green braids. "Why?" emerald lips asked "It's not like I have anything to do before the celebration"

Soteira watched her mother as she rifled through the small chest at the end of the bed. Eventually Haliai found what she was looking for. She threw the linen tunic at her daughter, receiving an expected growl in response. "Don't you growl at me Teira. Staying in bed won't put off the inevitable. You come of age today, you start your formal education tomorrow and I'm retiring. I've been waiting 100yrs for this, so get up, get dressed and come downstairs for your breakfast." With that she left the room to get breakfast ready.

Soteira looked at herself in the mirror. It was worse than she thought. She had to wear clothes! She looked down at the beige tunic in disgust. She hated clothes, they were pointless. As a Nymph she never felt the cold. Her people only ever dressed when they were going to be around outlanders, so as not to embarrass them. Modesty was for the other races. Clothing was uncomfortable and impractical. It made it difficult to change shape. Yuck! Wearing the tunic, the only piece of clothing she owned, meant two things. Firstly she was going to have to be around outlanders, Elves she hoped at least they were unlikely to treat her like some weird novelty creature like the mortals did, and secondly it meant she wouldn't be able to change shape, not without wrecking her only tunic anyway. To be honest she hadn't expected to be able to go swimming today, but having it confirmed made her even less enthused about the celebration. Today was going to be no fun at all.

Like all the houses in Limnaid the main living space comprised of a large round room taking up the entire ground floor with a huge fire place to one side. In the centre of the room hung a rope ladder leading to the upper level that housed the two bedrooms and a large balcony terrace. The whole house had very few pieces of furniture. Downstairs there was a low table next to the fire with knives, bowls and other cooking utensils. A large weapons rack stood on its own on the other side of the room and the floor was scattered with cushions. Upstairs the bedrooms each had a bed, storage chest, dressing table and mirror. It was all they needed. Downstairs Haliai sat on the floor ladling porridge into two bowls from the large cooking pot. Whether Soteira liked it or not today was a big day, she wondered whether either of them would be able to see it through.

Once Soteira climbed downstairs the two women ate in silence watching the flames. When they had finished Haliai set the two bowls aside to be washed outside later, and retrieved a small box from on top of the fireplace. Taking a deep breath she presented it to her daughter. Inside was a silver necklace decorated with emerald beads and a large emerald pendant at the centre. "Soteira. Today is a big day. And I know you don't like it, but today you become an adult. I know I didn't like it at first when I took over from your grandmother." Soteira had never known her grandmother. Macrisa Skylla had gone to the sea not long after her daughter had come of age. Soteira hoped that her mother would be able to resist the call of the ocean a bit longer, unlike her father who had left not long after her birth. Eventually the sea would call them all. Many resisted as long as they could, but once you stayed in your water form for too long it was impossible to turn back.

Haliai secured the necklace around her daughter's neck before continuing. "Tomorrow you start your sorcerer training and learn what it really means to be a Nymph. This necklace is the symbol of our house, wear it proudly Soteira Haliai. It's time you took my place."

An hour later Soteira sat on the banks of the great lake fingering the pendant around her neck while behind her the rest of the village prepared for the midsummer celebrations. At midday the outlanders would arrive. Ruling families from throughout the allied lands had been invited to witness the latest generation of Nymphs come into their inheritance. Like all the others her age she would be presented and acknowledged as the head of her family. She wasn't ready for this. She wasn't ready to take over her mothers responsibilities. She wasn't ready to grow up, to find a mate, to produce the next generation. She would never be as good as her mother.

Her thoughts were broken when she heard a scream behind her. It was the kind of scream she had never heard before. It was a death scream. She made to turn when she felt something pierce her shoulder and then withdraw. Time stood still. There was pain flaring in her shoulder. She was hurt, badly wounded. But that was impossible. She was Nymph. Nymphs couldn't be wounded. She waited for her shoulder to heal, for the flesh to knit together as it should. Instead she felt blood running down the back of her tunic, she felt dizzy. There was cruel laughter behind her, laughter and more screaming, Nymphs screaming. She fell forward into the lake. As she hit the water her body started to change, adapting as it always did. Her legs fused together to form her tail, the skin on her neck split into gills, her fingers fused on her hands, her tunic ripped to accommodate her muscular arms. Scales started to form on her lower body just as everything went black.