In the Heat of the Moment
In the heat of everything, I hadn’t thought about Cyirlie at all- I was only concerned about ‘Tia and how to get her through this without having to sacrifice anything major. I knew it would’ve been a tense standoff given how righteous Cyirlie believed she was, but I thought we could’ve gotten more information than that. I honestly thought we had some margin of control.
I felt like I had failed ‘Tia- I was so sure I could protect her from Cyirlie and prevent all of this from happening, but I didn’t know what I was getting into. Ever since I’d had that near-death vision, I knew that the Elati of back then had had a voice very similar to ‘Tia’s, but I refused to believe it was the same.
It didn’t make sense as to how a human could possess another’s voice- and I couldn’t fathom how one could be born to support it. The vocal cords alone would have to be modified to produce the sound, and even with a goddess’ divine intervention, how exactly would Elati lose her voice when she could make a perfect copy?
The whole idea had been shoved to the back of my mind and was all but forgotten until Cyirlie mentioned ‘father and daughter, mother and son’. Those were the same words Elati used when bargaining with that king. Until then, I had no idea that Tia had a deeper relation to that in that moment in time. I thought that it was simply showing the nature of Erudians, my mate being one of them.
If Elati hadn’t promised immortality to that man, I wouldn’t have been able to fathom how ‘Tia could be related to a deal made around four thousand years ago. …But I thought it was only made to the king, who was likely once her father- so how did she fit into this? I don’t recall Elati offering the daughter eternal life.
Furthermore, Cyirlie admitted that this all took place before she herself was even born. So if ‘Tia was somehow an immortal, then why was Cyirlie tasked with delivering my mate when she was ‘born’? It didn’t fit, because an immortal isn’t born again.
This was why I had such trouble believing a word the dragon had to say- but hearing the connection between ‘Tia and the goddess was enough to throw me for a loop. I was so confused and disoriented that I couldn’t stop Cyirlie from grabbing my girl and forcing her into a bizarre ritual that I’d never heard of before.
I was tossed aside as she quickly transformed- though I should consider myself lucky that she hadn’t poisoned me again in that quick exchange. By the time I recovered, ‘Tia was draped over her back as Cyirlie glided away towards the central pond in the enclave.
Cegil was the first to have been knocked over and landed nearly all the way towards the entrance of the cave, but he was already in pursuit before I was. Just as Cyirlie passed through the stone arch that led to the holy waters, a wall of crystallized water formed and blocked us from following after her.
We both tried to smash it open, though my brother chose to use the stone around us to do the work. Since I had more ability with water, I tried to melt it out of the form it was in, but all I could manage was a few spots. Even then I couldn’t force it out to make a hole or anything to break through. I was working alone against dragon magicks, so the result wasn’t that surprising, but it was still frustrating.
‘Tia was dropped unto the water’s surface, appearing like some otherworldly being to those who were not aware of how the ‘trick’ worked. Like how I kidnapped downtrodden humans to serve the clan, Cyirlie collected sea demons (regardless of their life status) to serve in her holy waters. They only obeyed only her, so I was a little surprised to see them use their ability to keep my mate from sinking.
I tried shouting to her, telling her not to go through with it. Let Cyirlie threaten all she wanted- there was nothing she could do while ‘Tia needed to ‘stay alive’, as she admitted. Cegil also attempted to speak to her through the barrier, but it seemed to be no use- she couldn’t hear us and we couldn’t hear her.
I knew they had to have been talking since mouths were moving. I was relieved to see my mate show a stern face to the white sea dragon, her storm grey eyes showing her defiance and unbending will. She wasn’t the type to be pushed into doing anything- not unless she negotiated a way for it to play into her favor, anyway.
She continued to keep up her feigned apathy of her situation as Cyirlie circled around her, trying to convince her to change her mind. I had a feeling that a threat was issued, because ‘Tia made her ‘tough girl’ gesture by slightly tipping her head up for a brief second- it was a habit she probably wasn’t aware of.
But my pride in her waned as I realized that we were at a stalemate. She could probably refuse Cyirlie for days if it was possible for her, but unless I could somehow break the barrier, Cegil and I had no way of reaching her. I feared something was going to have to give, and my sirsa would realize that soon enough. Cyirlie could likely starve her until she cooperated… and there would be nothing I could do about it.
When ‘Tia glared at Cyirlie and turned to head towards the center, I punched the barrier and cursed the Fates. She was going- I wasn’t sure what made her choose, but I had a feeling it was only made after rational thinking.
If only I had teleported away with her when I had the chance! She shouldn’t have to be going through with something with no guarantee of how it’d turn out. If Cyirlie had been a little more open about what was happening, I’d be much less concerned, but all this secrecy, even to the face of the person involved, only meant that no good was coming toward her.
“…If only she had stalled for a while longer,” Cegil lamented quietly beside me. “The goddess can appear in her nature’s form for only a short time- and it could likely take a few hours before she could form again.”
I glanced up towards the mass of rotating clouds. Soon they were going to form into a wind funnel, it appeared, but I had a feeling ‘Tia was in no danger from that. Since Elati was the goddess of storms, her nature’s form should appear in the clouds, or perhaps even in the funnel itself.
But even if ‘Tia had stalled, Cyirlie could easily keep her there until another storm formed again. Despite that, I could see why she was in such a hurry to get it over with- from the moment we had arrived, I gave her every reason to believe that I wasn’t allowing her to take my mate anywhere. Cyirlie knew how tenacious I could be- I proved it when I had stood up to her weeks ago. Cegil and I could easily ruin her plans, so she had to get my sirsa out of our reach as soon as possible.
But why the rush for both ceremonies? I had a sneaking suspicion that it was because she knew the result of at least one of them. Instead of having to fight ‘Tia later to cooperate for a second one, she was going to ask the goddess to perform both at the same time so she couldn’t refuse.
Cyirlie seemed to be chanting as she circled around ‘Tia. My mate simply stood, staring up at the rotating cloud without fear in her stance. I always admired that about her- even when she was scared, she’d never let it show. She tried to bottle that in so she could remain calm and get out of trouble- but I suppose she also knew when she couldn’t run away. It was hopeless to panic in such conditions, though acting in other ways didn’t really change the outcome.
It wasn’t until the funnel was complete when my sirsa reacted. She appeared to have heard something unexpected from the priestess as she turned her head to face her with a look of shock. But I was unable to see more as her body was obscured by the whirlwind of seawater.
All I could see was a hint of her form as she rose toward the sky. Everyone had their hands clamped over their ears as continuous rolls of loud thunder filled the air and the winds grew in strength. Some of the humans were knocked off their feet and a few structures collapsed in the mayhem.
It didn’t seem to last long- perhaps my mate was suspended for half a minute before the funnel dispersed instantly and the winds died. I felt as if my heart stopped when I saw her. Even from my vantage point, I could see that her normally tanned skin was pale and that she wasn’t moving. She hovered in the air for only a second before her body began to plummet down to the waters below.
It was as if I was perceiving time flowing slowly- her body turned enough for me to see that her eyes were closed and I wasn’t sure if she was still breathing. I felt myself go into a full panic before something just…broke within me. I felt a surge of power rise from my chest and before I knew it, Cyirlie’s barrier had shattered.
In that next instant, I was running towards my mate without thinking twice about what’d happened. The sea creatures Cyirlie had within her waters dispersed at my arrival and missed catching ‘Tia as she landed with a large splash.
“Get out o’ here, Runt! Yer not allowed ta touch the Holy Waters!” Cyirlie snarled at me as I dove into the chilly brine.
Given that ‘warm’ greeting, it was obvious that she had nothing to do with the barrier being destroyed. Had I not been so worried about ‘Tia, I would’ve stopped to ponder if I had really done anything, or if the goddess had managed to weaken the magicks during the ritual.
A moment before the water was unresponsive to me, but now it was completely obedient to my will. It seemed almost as if I had an even stronger grip on the magicks than I’d ever had before.
However, none of that mattered to me as I desperately swam towards ‘Tia. The distorted light from above shown down on her descending form, catching in the long gold-brown strands of her hair as it fanned out around her. In what seemed to be an ironic gesture, her hand was extended out towards me, as if she were reaching out to me.
I used my magicks to propel me closer to her and I tried manipulating the waters around her to help close the distance between us. I soon had her in my arms and I immediately swam up to the surface, wanting to get air into her as soon as possible.
We both crested the surface and I let out a loud gasp as I tried to refill my lungs with the precious air. I didn’t wait long before I began to swim towards solid ground, but then I paused when I heard coughing. I glanced down at the small human in my arms and discovered, to my intense relief, that she had managed to start breathing on her own.
In the end, I might’ve been overreacting- Cyirlie had said over and over again that she was needed alive, so I had no reason to think her life had been in danger. But I couldn’t help it- ‘Tia was still unconscious and no one else seemed concerned to get her out of the water. Even if she hadn’t gotten water in her lungs, she still had the risk of freezing to death.
The contract hath been fulfilled
I release thee from thy obligations
And to thee young falucite, I will allow thee to keep thy powers for as long as thou protects the Hels Meyuun
If thou hast more business with me, seek me out
Hels Meyuun and falucite,
I will hear thee
I hadn’t stopped progressing towards the stone cave even as the otherworldly voice called out, but I did feel my world crashing down within me. As much as I wanted to find even the slightest bit fault in that distinct tone, there was no mistaking it. That was ‘Tia’s voice- Elati got what she wanted.
What did that mean for my ‘Tia-dear? Was her voice gone, just as how the goddess had lost hers? Or did she simply lose the need to sing every night in dedication to her sea god? Oh I hoped it was the latter…
But as soon as I got her lying down on the cold stone of the cave, I realized that she was oddly quiet as she began to recover. She was breathing okay, and her skin was returning to its normal color, but there were no vibrations in her throat to indicate a voice. I was relieved when she opened her eyes, but also horrified upon seeing her move her lips, trying to say something.
I was overcome with guilt and I apologized profusely to her as I gathered her in my arms. After a while, she stiffened in my grasp upon discovering what was wrong with her.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, or what I could do to counter the power of a goddess, but I vowed then and there that I wasn’t going to rest until my beautiful and courageous sirsa could speak once again. Surely there had to be a way to regain her voice- and if I had to fight Elati herself for its’ return, then so be it.