CWT - Dark and Stormy (Nikolas)

OOC - Nikolas is Ashoken's son and got to play a part in the Sea Wolf's return to Southern Oceanuus, S'osha as it was affectionately called by the natives. Here is how he applied to/infiltrated the School of Hydromancy.


Keiki e Kala’una was the best guarded non-secret in all of Southern Oceanuus. Everyone knew where the cavernous School of Hydromancy hid. Deep beneath the colors and sounds of rebuilt Xieng Khouang, The Big Island, Keiki e Kala’una contained not only the salt water driven by the moon-tides but also deeper pools. These pools were far older, much deeper than the waters above.

Water and the studious application of a ley-line’s energy upon it was the focus of Keiki e Kala’una. It housed hundreds of people – human, Mer, Half-lo and at least one Gnoll could be counted amongst the20Fathoms. All were devoted to studying, perfecting, researching, loving, hating, living. A city below, the school of Hydromancy, was governed by the Archmagess and her council.

It was said that the current Living Expression of Water, Miri Bayani, was more accessible than most but one couldn’t just walk in and expect an audience. There was protocol to be followed. Steps to take. Palms to grease. The man who came through the waterfall that marked the landward and nearly impossible-to-access entrance of Keiki e Kala’una seemed to know nothing of the protocols. He looked around, gape-mouthed at the back door of rock the waterfall curtain hid to Keiki e Kala’una. Wet with perspiration, rain and waterfall, he marveled at the phosphorescent and muted day-glo of the lichen and the tiny living things that clung to the rock, to the ceiling, to the floor.

He did not seem to know that it was impossible that he should be there. The maze that guarded the landward entrance was filled with pitfalls and snares and creatures. The journey through the maze that led to the back door of Keiki e Kala’una could only be completed by the Elua Ke’ana and its No'ari.

“Andreja,” the girl breathlessly spoke while ringing the chimes next to the opening to the Kapan ali’ako’s chamber. There were no true doors or walls in Keiki e Kala’una, only dividers made of oil paper and beaded curtains. The impermanence of Keiki e Kala’una echoed the ever changing water it revered.


The chimes were more insistent than the girl’s voice, and its harsh music stirred Andreja Orusant from his normal sleep. He had given orders not to be disturbed for reason, and yet it was not his lover’s voice he heard calling his name. He frowned and opened his eyes. Beneath the island, days meant nothing. It was the tide they used to keep time and it was high and stirred by a storm. He could feel the reverberations of savage thunder. These things he could tell as Maru Ke’ana , a No'ari of the Hydromatic Council and Kapan ali’ako of the academy – the seneschal if such equivalents were ever forced to be made.

”Maru’Andreja!” The girl, Marya, a promising student entrusted with the carrying of messages amongst the faculty, became insistent. There was hysteria in her voice. He slowly sat up, allowing the strength of the waters fill him. “What is it Aro’Marya,” he called out to her. If she was to be formal, and she should, so would he.

”A man has just arrived. He asks to see the Archmagess!” Marya would not enter his cordoned-off rooms until he voiced his permission. He did not do so. He reached to touch the bare stomach of the woman who shared his bed to still her restless turnings.
“You can’t just walk in here and expect to see the Archmagess. You must make a formal request and if, “the look that Anreja gave Nikolas Allessair as he waited seemingly calmly, but seething inside with fear and anger and mostly fear, finished the sentence. He wasn’t important enough. Then the man’s expression changed into incredulity. “Wait, you did just walk in here. No, impossible.”

He could not believe what Aro’Marya had told him anymore than he could believe the woman, hopefully still in his bed, was his childhood sweetheart.

The man who sat at the desk that was really a shelf of rock strewn with important looking gewgaws and parchment shook his beaded head and the strange notion that the blue-eyed – Blue eyes! -- island visitor had traversed the maze that guarded the landward entrance to Keiki e Kala’una to stand before him now. “Impossible,” echoed Marya Seamere, no relation. She was the one who’d found the man gazing around stupidly at the cavern entrance.

”I did walk, sar.” The young man said, quietly. The glare had faded to calm, like the storm above would. “It took the day and some of this night. I walked.”

“No,” the Kapan ali’ako said with eyes glittering and beady like a hungry gull. “No one below No’ari may walk through that rock. You must have teleported.”

“No, sar. I could not. I have never been here before.”

”Impossible! Andreja pounded his fist on the desk and rose in a rage. “You are adept or you are lying! And we will find out what you are about!”
“How did you cross the sinking sand?” They had all introduced themselves, but the young man standing weary in the center of the circle had forgotten most of their names. What he knew was every one of the ten seals barking questions at him held positions of authority within Keiki e Kala’una.

“I took the water from the earth. The sand collapsed and created a hole. I put the water back and walked across.” It was one of the first obstacles he’d faced in the Maze, that wasn’t a maze at all. It was thick jungle, juicy with water and perilous for it.

“How did you pass through the rock?” Water dripped from a stalactite above and landed on his bare arm. He carefully rubbed it into his skin. He wondered when the questions would be finished. Perhaps then they could throw him in a cell and he could sleep.

“The rock is not solid. I walked through it.” He closed his eyes to the muttering his answer caused.

“Who is your teacher. Your Na’aua?”

”Na’e’aua kumo Chola Manawale’a, Maru.” The boldest answer of all. Nikolas opened his eyes and looked at each disbelieving face.

“Chola Manawal’a was stripped of his title and forbidden to practice magic!”
-- Flashback --

“I do not take apprentices. And this one is far too small,” One-eyed Chola turned his head and spat out the pulpy remains of a steelmint leaf into the water lapping at the deck. The melody of silver and possibly gold hitting the low table at which he sat returned his attention to the woman standing tall across from him.

“I think you do,” she said with a voice that reminded Chola of his only time inland, when he traveled as a caravan’s source of water. The winds that roared around Wadi Medani sounded like that. He sought the source of sweeter sound, the coins and found them spilling from a drake-fin pouch. He picked up one of the few gold coins and bit down hard.

”A woman so young and well built,” he said as he looked at her appreciatively over the gold, ignoring the leather armor she wore, the sword at her hip, the child clinging to her leg and slapping at a sand flea, “should have a siren’s voice.”

The coins harmonized with the heavy thump of a dagger into the wood between his splayed fingers. The gold coin rolled onto the deck. Chola’s leer turned into a glare. What was this woman doing? He had all the water of S’osha to draw upon and she threatened him with a blade? Water cut through the bones of Hyathis and turned iron to rust.

“Pay attention,” she said, Thermador thick on her tongue. Her eyes blue as a sky over calm seas frosted over. Chola did not have to reach far to find the surging current of power to work his water magic. Chola’s lip curled. One more show of impertinence and she would know her foolishness.

She thrust the boy forward. Chola gauged him at five years and no more. He was small and blue-eyed. Blue eyes. The revulsion was ingrained. The rivalry eternal. The boy, and the woman for that matter, might have an Islander’s skin but the eyes would always mark him as an inlander. He looked up at the woman.

”Show him, Nikolas,” her tone softened but not the grip on his shoulder. The boy mewled. His eyes wide with fear. No, Chola thought as he leaned forward to rest thick forearms on the table. Excitement.

There were too many insects to count and most lived on the island chains that made up the surface of Southern Oceanuus. One-eyed Chola thought they all lived there on his dock. A blue bottle buzzed by and suddenly fell into the pile of coins in a puff of its own dust. Chola gasped and looked sharply at the boy.

”Did you do that?” The boy nodded.

”Do it again.”

Another fly turned to dust before his disbelieving eye. The boy had barely moved, yet channeled a spell only the most adept could master. He stood up and leaned over, both palms flat on the table. He looked deep into the sea that was the boy’s eyes. Maybe he drowned.

”He should be taken to the academy,” One-eyed Chola whispered.

“No, I have taken him to you.”
The sand beneath his wriggling toes covered the cave floor in a thin layer of gray. He stood naked in front of a pool of still water while above him and all around the sounds of the surf crashing into the breakers that surrounded the windward side of the Big Island. The waves sang the demise of those rocks and the ultimate demise of the island itself.

He could hear the water’s song. It carried the lament of the dying still-proud stone. One day it would be just a grain of sand beneath a hydromancer’s feet. Water was life, but it was also death. So Kili Bashar believed. Life without death and rebirth again as water was not Life at all. So Niko Allessair knew.

“Prepare your self,” said a woman, whose voice he did not know. The command’s echo bounced back and forth between the pitted walls and assaulted him from all directions. He dropped to his knees and wished for the staff he once carried. The grain of the wood, the feel of the deep-cut runes beneath his fingers would offer comfort in times when he was most unsure of himself. He had cast it aside, one night in far off Balthazor, at the urging of the Sea Wolf.

He closed his eyes and could see it where it rested cocooned in his own water far beneath cold waves of the Frigin Sea. The vision was far more real than the sand digging into his knees, or the gull-cry of the woman calling out.

The surge of power encapsulated in that one word made him gasp for breath. He choked. Water filled his lungs and drove the air away. He flopped on the cavern floor like newly caught fish. His mouth gaped open and shut, a mimic of breath. One hand grasped at his throat. The other stretched for anything it could grab to keep him from rolling into the pool beside him. His hand splashed the water and his body rolled itself in. The last sight he saw was a woman’s face peering over the pool and then it was gone. He reached out for her but was far to deep for his fingers to grasp.

He panicked.

He drowned.
“I told you, No’ari'Ikapeli, that you pushed him to hard,” Andreja hissed.

Three robed figures bent over the dark pool. Its surface was still and reflected the faces of Andreja Orusant, Kapan and Fifth Fathom in the ranks of the Keiki e Kala’una, Ikapeli Kupakiana, one of Miri Bayani’s Counselors and in charge of the testing of future Fathoms and Marya Seamere, no relation, who stood very quietly gazing into the pool. No one had noticed how she tagged along. The fourth person at the pool stayed back, keeping to flickering shadows.

”The other students have cycles, years to prepare for each test. You’ve given him minutes. No time!” Andreja had alerted the Council of the man’s odd arrival and they had alerted the Archmagess. Keiki e’Kaluna rumbled like waves against a break wall with the news. In a manner of hours the man’s story grew larger and larger. No’ari’Ikapeli had been tasked with finding the limit of the man’s abilities.

”I will not coddle this inlander,” Ikapeli rumbled. He tossed his long, beaded hair over his shoulder. Marya had to duck or be struck by the bits of coral and pearl in his hair. “If he comes seeking the Archmagess as a hydromancer, then he must be tested and placed.”

Andreja frowned and considered Ikapeli’s course of action. This Nikolas Allessair had been given no chance to rest. He was swept along with the tide of unease that moved through the school like a riptide and forced to complete tests that challenged even the greatest of each fathom. He shook his head and his gaze swept over Marya. He wondered why she was here.

“Is he dead?” Marya asked.

“Is he a hydromancer?” The woman who had told Nikolas to prepare himself stepped into lichen fueled light. She carried a long-handled silvery net that she dipped into the pool. The delicate scales, which ringed her eyes and armored her neck that marked her as Half-lo, glittered golden in the dancing light. She whispered in coaxing tones and gently circled the pool with the net.

Marya and Andreja stepped back from the pool with deep and formal bows to the Archmagess. Even Ikapali nodded respectfully though his gaze, hungry and eager, fixed quickly back to the murky depths of the pool. All watched the net as Bayani lifted it from the water. Thrashing within the silver netting was a fish no longer than the Archmagess’ forearm, with alabaster scales and blind eyes.

“An interesting choice,” the Archmagess said as she lifted the net to get a better look at the now drowning fish. “This fish is not native to the oceans. Aro’Marya, where would one find such a creature?”

Marya hesitated, radiating fearful respect. All eyes turned to her when she stepped forward, barefoot in the sand. She peered at the fish whose struggles were turning feeble in the open air. “It is blind, your Grace. It must be a cave dweller. The mouth is upturned and too large to be a bottom feeder. It is slender and looks like it could move with some agility. It would dwell in a river, maybe … In a… cave. It is very large.”

Marya bit her lip, uncertain under the Archmagess’ gaze. Bayani smiled. “Well answered. It is a fresh-water river fairing cave dweller called an Alabaster Pup, something not found anywhere near our waters, but in the deepest caverns beneath Thermador.”

She moved away from the pool and tipped the net so the fish could fall onto the rocky floor. Bayani shielded her eyes against the burst of bright light following the impact. When the light faded, she gazed down calmly at the long, lean and prone figure of Nikolas Allessair coughing water out of his lungs.

"These caverns are not widely known and not easily accessible," she continued her lecture as she watched Nikolas push himself up and then fall face down into the rough sand. His hacking coughs echoed throughout the chamber. "Yes, an interesting choice."
Nikolas Allessair threw himself onto a thin blanket that covered a narrow shelf of rock. It had been three or four days as far as he could figure since his first step into the bowels of Keiki e Kala’una. His hosts kept him sleep deprived and hungry and so busy with their tests he couldn’t follow the tides to be certain. Deep in the caverns beneath Xieng Khouang, time came to a stand still. He wondered in his delirium if the Klocks ever used such a place for their time-bending craft. It would bear some thinking at a time, if ever there would be, when every muscle and bone wasn’t screaming at him for rest.

He couldn’t close his eyes to give it to them. When he did the faces of his mother, of Kili Bashar, even the Shrike invaded the currents that would bring him sleep. He groaned and turned to his side bringing the blanket along with him. It was cold and damp in the depths. The sun had never warmed the cave. Only water and stone and life survived. Water eats stone. Water is life. He chanted it, a mantra to chase away the demon faces demanding he prove himself over and over, to send him sleep.

His eyes drooped. Sleep, blessed sleep was gone, replaced by hands that pulled him onto his back, by a hand that clamped over his mouth to keep him from crying out. Gold flashed in his eyes. He began to struggle but something wet kept his arms tight to his torso and his legs pinned together. Water. He’d been bound with water. The gold flashed again, a disk. The coin! He couldn’t see it clearly but knew what it was. Kili Bashar had given it to him to use if Niko needed to contact the Pirate King. It bore the new symbol of revolution.

”I found this in your things,” the voice of Andreja Orusant hissed in his ear.

Niko had been proud to receive that coin and now, it was a symbol of terror. He renewed his struggle against the water bonds that held him. He grunted a denial that stayed on his tongue. Andreja’s hand was surprisingly strong. Or I am weak, Nikolas thought, and tired. As he slowly gave up to the elder hydro’s strength, in will and magic, he tried to figure once more how long he’d been down in the day-glo caverns. How many times had the sun risen and then fallen again back into the sea? Had he been forgotten?

Andreja removed his hand from Niko’s mouth. There was warning in the No’ari’s eyes. Be still. Be silent. Listen.

”If this had been wood, I would have you killed outright, son, no matter what you can do.” There was awe in the older hydro’s voice. “But this is gold. That means something. Something is going to happen, isn’t it?”

Andreja slowly released Nikolas from the water bonds. It was a show of good faith that Nikolas rewarded by turning over on his side, away from the No’ari. He hid his face with his arm.

”The festival begins tonight!” The No’ari’s voice rose and then fell like a whispered gale. “This is gold! You must know what’s planned. Is the school in danger? Should I evacuate? Should I alert the Archmagess?”

“No,” Nikolas croaked, choking back a tired sob. It was all falling apart, all crashing down on him like the Big Wave to sweep everything away.

”Your reliance on your pretty may get you killed,” the voice of Kili Bashar haunted. The pirate spoke of Nikolas’ now cast off staff but it applied now to the coin. He was found out. He would be killed and the hydromancers would use their water against the pirates. All because he had to bring the coin with him. Foolish, foolish child!

“Leave me alone,” Nikolas groaned and stared at the rock wall inches from his face.

”I can’t do that, son. Tomorrow you will face your final test,” the hydromancer said. He gave Nikolas’s shoulder a squeeze. There was pity in his eyes for how he was treated during the many days of testing, for what he had to endure. Nikolas, with his back turned, flinched and shrugged the hand off. “It is one you should fail. I would, if I were you.”

Andreja stepped back and tucked the coin into his sash. Before he turned away to his duties, he whispered with a voice like water splashing from above into a waiting pool. ”You are not alone.”
Mount Mana’o stabbed a hole in the bright blue sky. Nikolas shielded his eyes with his hand as he studied the beast of rock. He imagined the puffy clouds that surrounded its pinnacle as the scab forming to try and close the wound. The sun beat steady heat upon his bare shoulders. The hiss of steam rising from a rent in the earth to his right drowned out the dull constant roar of the ocean. Water surrounded him at the foot of Mana’o but fire and earth were also strong.

Behind him a small crowd of Hydromancers gathered to witness the mainlander upstart’s final test. His near misses and successes were on every tongue. He strained to hear what they were saying, expecting at any moment to be called a spy or saboteur, but Mana’o was too noisy popping and crackling and drowning out the voices.

Andreja had ruined any chance for sleep the night before. Nikolas could still see the coin in the now missing No’ari’s hand. Was he off alerting the Mer? Had he told the Archmagess? If he had, why were they testing him at all? Why am I not in chains? Fear made him clutch his stomach. No one came to accuse. No one pointed a finger. He turned his gaze to the ever present sea and tried to find solace. Down the slope and on far beach tiny figures skimming the water’s surface on specially made boards distracted him.

It was the first day, or maybe the second day of the Mer's festival highlighting how nice things were in S'osha. There had been more questions from the Archmagess on his training and his background, and added with the anxiety of Andreja’s visit, he once again missed the tides. The hydromancers at the school seemed bent on keeping him disoriented and isolated. He shivered, suddenly cold. His mouth watered. As he raised his hand to wipe his mouth, he heard the Archmagess’ cool voice. A voice that trembled.

”Prepare yourself!” He looked back at the woman whose plain and plump features made her easy to lose in the crowd. She looked like everyone else except her skin was pale around the shimmering scales that masked her slightly bulging eyes. She saw him watching her. The Archmagess lifted her hand to shoo his gaze away.

“Prepare yourself!” She shrieked. She is afraid, Nikolas thought as he turned back to face the angry mountain. Good. Let her stew in her fear like I am. Let every breath tremble, every resolve waver. Let her question everything she knows because of me. Me! He grew dizzy in the sulfurous and stifling air. With his stomach in knots and his head thick with thoughts of fearful Archmagi and angry Pirate Kings and soft down-filled pillows, he took a step toward the steaming tear. He was to venture within the rumbling mountain and survive the whole day.

He called for water to armor himself and none came, not even from within. He frowned and called sharply, silently again. Slowly, slower than it should, water encased him from neck to toes. Annoyed, he took a step toward the great steam-filled fissure and the entire world spiraled till he lost his balance and fell hard to his hands and knees. He stared at the ground in shock. Every thought tattered. Water splashed around him, running into the fissure in a flash flood dangerous to no one but the ants. He tried to call the water back but it would not listen. For the first time in Nikolas Allessair’s life, the water did not listen.
No’ari Ikapeli approached Nikolas warily. Behind him, voices rose in discussion of any number of theories, openly, loudly, on what had just happened. Ikapeli frowned as he nudged the prone hydromancer’s leg with the toe of his sandal. The boy was so still he wondered if Nikolas had simply dropped dead. He wished it so, but water still moved in the boy.

Ikapeli grabbed him by the shoulders and flipped him onto his back. Nikolas groaned and immediately brought his arm up to shield his eyes from the glaring sun. “He is alive!” He told the crowd, turning to leave Nikolas lying in the fresh mud. “He has failed the test!”

A few clapped and more shouted. One voice suggested Nikolas get another chance. For once, the crowd had stopped paying attention to Nikolas and focused on Ikapeli himself. Behind the No’ari, Nikolas flailed like a turtle flipped onto its shell in a fight with tired limbs to sit up.

Ikapeli approached Miri Bayani who stood apart from the rest of the gathered hydromancers. She stood still as a dead calm with hands balled into tight fists. She watched Nikolas’s struggles with pursed lips. “Your grace,” Ikapeli said quietly to the Half-lo woman who was the Living Expression of Water. “Allessair has failed. We must discuss what to do with him.”

Ikapeli looked over the crowd and then back to where Nikolas struggled. The boy had surprised them all with his prowess. Chola Manawal’a had taught him well. Damn the former No’ari to the abyss! Now the questions would begin to be asked aloud instead of in whispers that could be ignored. Now the Council would be forced to consider whether the Water had made a mistake in its choice for its Living Expression. He looked back at Miri Bayani and noted the way she stood rigid, the bulge to her eyes.

The Mer were putting pressure on Keiki e Kala'una daily to give its blessings to the twin Princes’ regime. Everyday of silence from the school tightened the noose. He feared they would all be hanging from gibbets if Bayani did not make a choice. The only choice, he knew, was to join with the Mer despite their displays meant to humble the human natives. Now she would be under deeper scrutiny. He tugged at his braids in frustration.

Killing Nikolas outright would be disastrous. Better the youth had died during the tests. Hadn’t he been given enough opportunity to do the convenient thing? The boy had not given up, had not succumbed to weariness and survived tests of skill Ikapeli thought even the Archmagess might not pass. Blasphemy! The Water had chosen her!

Ikapeli scowled as he waited for any response from the Archmagess. He noticed Marya Seamere, no relation, had drifted from the crowd to help Nikolas stand. She draped a cloak around his bare shoulders and whispered to him. The boy shook his head and motioned toward where he and the Archmagess stood. Bayani flinched. “We must go inside, Ikapeli. Help me inside.” Her voice was a bare whisper.

“Ayoh! Your Grace!” Nikolas called out, hoarse and weary. Ikapeli who had the Archmagess' arm was surprised Nikolas had a voice left. He urged Bayani to turn away from the upstart. But Nikolas’ voice was like a net that tangled Miri Bayani to stillness. “Archmagess Miri Bayani, I ask a boon of you. Please.”

A stricken-faced Marya Seamere became Nikolas' crutch to help him across the short span of rocky scrub that separated them from the Archmagess. “Do not do this, sar. Do not,” Marya whispered to no avail. The hyrdromancers stopped debating. Some prepared to move water against the boy. Every eye rested on Nikolas.

Miri Bayani resisted Ikapeli’s urgings and glared imperiously at Nikolas. Her voice shook but the weight of the ocean was in it. “You have broken every rule coming here and disrupted our study. How should we reward you?”

Nikolas took a step forward and stumbled, taking the gull-crying Marya down with him to the rocks. His breaths came heavily. His body remained bowed by the weight of the Archmagess’ stare and his own fearful exhaustion there at the base of Mount Mana’o. Nikolas looked up then, hands cupped and holding the only water he could command in his weakened state. His own. He raised his hands, offering it to her. “Teach me, Elua’Keana. Teach me to answer the Water's call.”
Hours later...

The quiet drone of water falling from a natural opening in the jagged stone ceiling filled the Elua Keana’s sanctum in the center of Keiki e Kala’una. The water collected in a basin and followed a narrow channel that lined the edges of the natural chamber, finally to drain slowly through another water-cut hole to a lower chamber. At all times, the Archmagess was surrounded by the water that called to her, had chosen her, made her its own. Miri Bayani, Water’s living expression, held her plump fingers in the water’s spray and closed her eyes, seeking solace.

Bayani kept the chamber dark and only allowed one water-filled lantern. Within several tiny fish swam and emitted a soft yellow light. Their glow was enough light to sign her name to parchments or, if she looked very close, to read them. It was enough light to allow her, when she had to breathe air, to pretend the deep water surrounded her.

How many times had she cursed her birth and wished she was a silver-scaled fish sluicing through the waters, only to touch the air because it was risk and not necessity. If only she were a fish or full Mer. She would never surface or have her feet touch the cursed rock or have to deal with those who walked upon it. It was an old wish, a fate hoped for since she became aware she was different – and not just because of the glittering scales she wore as a mask.

The water was cool against her palm and she could feel her twitching fingers melt away and join the water foaming in the pool. She would flow with the water, she decided, and seek a clear path from the source. She had dared to consider that this was how Nikolas Allessair had passed through the rock that guarded the school’s landward entrance. She considered it and threw it over the edge of her thoughts . She had not even known how to become water until it had chosen her. So how? The man was close with his secrets. I have my own secrets, she thought as she stepped into the pool. The waterfall drenched her and continued to wash her away.

”Elua’Miri,” Ikapeli’s soft slur echoed strangely in the chamber and gave her solidity. Ikapeli was a shadow amongst the beads that screened the room from the rest of the school.

”I am busy, Maru’Ikapeli,” Bayani whispered through the shower. For a moment, she was a reflection of a half-lo woman, a shimmer of dark water.

“The Mer, your grace. A messenger has arrived. He says…”

”Enough. Ikapeli, I am in no mood to deal with their demands. If they wanted me and this school so badly they would have done the proper thing.” And put me in charge. Her voice rose, trembling with emotion. “Water moves around and within us.” Her scattered thoughts, rippling away from the stone whose name was Nikolas Allessair, collided with the idea of what she always thought the Archmagess represented. All of Southern Oceanuus. Mage. Mer. Half-lo. Human. It has never been my ambition to rule anything. She had been content with her studies of the deepest deep, the darkest dark. She was as surprised as any that the Water had chosen her. Why? Why? Why? And now, no one would acknowledge her right. To force the issue was unthinkable. How many lives would be lost to the sea’s might if she asserted herself?

Her solitude broken, she stepped out of the pool. She clutched at the folds of her now soaked and heavy robe. Ikapeli bowed with a clacking of beaded braids.

”I am sorry, your grace, but things are happening above. The Mer say it is war.”

“War? What does that mean?” Miri Bayani’s eyes narrowed. She gave Ikapeli a wary study while her hands tugged down her sodden robe.

Ikapeli fiddled with a braid as he straightened. He kept his thoughts as lidded as his dark, S’oshan eyes. “Your Grace, the festival has been disrupted. There has been an attack. The messenger has not been very clear on the details, except to say it is urgent to speak with you. There may be pirates involved.”

She stood straighter and smoothed the wrinkles caused by her tugging fists. “The Mer can wait. We have our own to deal with. Is everything prepared for Allessair’s induction?”

Ikapeli nodded and looked past the Archmagess to the waterfall in the corner. Its music filled the chamber and gave their voices an echo that reminded him of the deep pools below this level of Keiki e kala’una. Bayani followed his gaze and heard his quiet voice splash with the water. She recognized the incantation. He was scrying, but for whom? Panic fluttered like a seabird in a snare in her chest. She clutched at it, her fingers claws that squeezed water from the fabric of her robe. She didn’t want to know the future or even the present. I must focus on the school. What is best for my Fathoms.

“Forewarned, your Grace, is forearmed,” Ikapeli muttered, taking the Elua’Keana by the arm and turning her so she was forced to look into the pool that collected the water from above. She did not remember turning away and once focused on the images in the water, she could not.

In the rippling waters, she saw Nikolas Allessair, under a glittering sea of stars, as he might be during the upcoming induction. Kneeling, head bowed to accept the pendant that would signal him Noni’Keana, a hydromancer of the Sixth Wave, from a shadowy figure that must be her; donning the sea-blue robes with the silver sigils of his rank reflecting the lichen lights; and in the background, dark clouds, storms clouds building and billowing over the scene. Miri Bayani mewed in fright and pressed her hand to her mouth as the clouds took the shape of giant wolf’s head, maw gaping and threatening to swallow the vision whole.
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