Legend of the Jumi: Part III, Chapter 2 (Pearl V.)
by The Mana Priestess
This chapter is dedicated to Maz and Lurial, for their selfless support. ;)
PART III: PEARL (Pearl Version)
Take my hand
You know I'll be there…
I'll cross the sky for your
U2, Drowning Man
Chapter 2: Drowned Dreams: Pearl
The coral-colored ledge of the cliff curved against
the glittering April sea, shadowing the bright sands beneath it, banishing the
gently diffusing sunlight. The peculiar arch of the coast at that point closed
off the arm of the ocean beneath it into a widely curving, u-shaped body of
water. The coral ledge was a unique little structure, a watch-point rising above
the level white shore, affording a full view on the luminous blue vista
spreading to the horizon. Visitors liked to ascend the steep path leading to its
summit, to take advantage of the beautiful view.
shadowy blue structure of a three-story building, an inn, was constructed upon
the shore on a collection of red rocks, just above the u-shaped pool.
Overshadowed by the inn and the flanking cliff, the color of the surging
currents of the pool was deepened into a profound blue hue. Only in mid-noon of
very bright days, when the sun was balanced high in the sky, did it manage to
lance a luminous ray that penetrated through the dark waters, making them
shimmer with a gentle light like the inside of a beautiful blue jewel. The
waters of the natural pool were very profound, plunging deep beneath the rocks,
and though their glassy surface was constantly disturbed by the streaming sea,
it masked depths that swallowed all light, and were dark and silent like the
inside of a grave.
The figure of a girl walked
along the shore that day, her bare feet washed by the cool surge of the mid-day
tide. Long hair rippled down her slender back, and her large, wistful eyes
surveyed her surrounding scenery somewhat absently. The girl's skin possessed an
unhealthy pallor that seemed natural, but the heat of the day brought out a
pleasant color in her white cheeks, and she seemed to relish in the beauty of
the day and in the warmth of the gentle sun.
coasted the shoreline for some time without much more purpose, it seemed, than
to enjoy her walk; and she rounded the edge of the cliff, her steps leading her
to the carved path that led towards the shadowy inn, when suddenly she paused.
A tall woman was standing near the coral
cliff, in a pool of bright sunlight. She stood with her back to the meandering
girl, and did not seem to notice her silent approach. The girl's attention was
caught by the woman's golden hair that tumbled down her back in thick waves,
over which the sun threw a shimmering, luminous net. The woman was clad in a
cream-colored dress, its full skirt embroided with a crimson border that rippled
through it like a thin thread of blood, and her long legs were encased in white
boots adorned with gold lace. Though the girl could not see her face beyond the
curve of the pale cheeks and slender neck, she guessed that it would be
beautiful as well. The woman stood with her back straight, slim and elegant in
her billowing dress.
The girl approached the young
woman slowly, almost as if she was afraid to disturb her silent repose. She
seemed to hesitate as she gained a clearer view of the woman's face, and halted
again. The woman's eyes were fixed on the horizon with a vague expression, and
she seemed to contemplate the blazing sea without much attention, as if she was
deeply absorbed with her own inner thoughts.
the girl had seen her face and she started suddenly with an almost nervous
gesture. Her thin hand rose to her mouth, covering it, her eyes widening with
Still, the woman did not hear nor see the
girl; she stood as silent as a statue, stillness incarnate.
The girl's hand trembled visibly. She uttered a
small sound; and the woman, catching it, finally stirred and turned.
The girl became very quiet under the woman's gaze.
She found herself looking into eyes of a profound turquoise color, shadowed by
long lashes. She stood with rigid poise that seemed to indicate that she was
waiting for something, a signal of recognition from the woman, and that she was
dreading it at the same time. But the woman said nothing to the girl; and after
surveying her for a moment without much interest she turned her head back
towards the sea.
The girl was astounded at this
gesture, and her shock doubled. For a moment she seemed at a loss, not daring to
do anything, as if afraid of the consequences of speaking. She seemed to undergo
a brief struggle, wrestling to overcome a naturally timid nature, but finally
she garnered her courage and spoke.
said in a quiet, hesitating voice, that still had something in it; an anxious
anticipation of a backlash for her action. "Lady, I—"
The woman seemed to finally take notice of her. She
turned towards her again, this time fully.
come for them?" she asked.
"Them— Lady?" faltered
The woman moved her hand slowly, as if
seeking to encompass the full vision of the sparkling azure sea, of the warm,
golden day. "I dreamt it was raining this morning," she said, the rich notes of
her voice lulling like a slow, beautiful melody. "A bright curtain in the
sunlight. And I…"
Her quiet voice trailed off. The
girl, staring at her with wide eyes, said nothing. The expression in the woman's
dreamy eyes turned soft.
"I could see them through
the curtain of rain."
The turquoise eyes focused on
the girl for a moment, then wandered away from her, and after another pause the
woman turned slowly towards the sea.
"It faded, and
the sun rose high the sky," she said. "But they called to me. So, I…"
Once again, she trailed off at mid-sentence. Her
eyes looked towards the glittering, changeable sea. "I followed them here," she
finally continued, her voice very low. "But then, I…"
She became silent again. The girl said nothing. Her
eyes were fixed on the woman steadily, with a strange expression.
The woman never finished what she was going to say.
After a short silence she suddenly moved restlessly, as if struck by a different
"I must go," she said absently, her voice
regaining its usual tones. "I lingered too long, and…"
She looked towards the girl, noticing her presence
again for a brief moment. "I will be missed," she finished simply.
Without another word she begun to move down the
coast with an elegant, steady gait, and the warm winds played with her long
hair, rippling soft shadows through it in the sunlight.
The girl was finally roused into action at this,
and suddenly begun to ran after the white-clad figure of the tall woman. She
came before her and dropped to her knees onto the bright sand.
"Lady!" she said, her voice quick, full of
emotions. "Lady, I know not what— but— oh, Lady, why do you not recognize me?"
The woman had paused, watching her in slight
puzzlement. But her bewilderment faded presently, and her eyes wandered away
again, towards the calling horizon. She said in a soft, vague voice,
"I… I'm not sure. I often forget."
She was about the turn again, seeming to lose
interest in the girl. The girl, noticing her intention, rose to her feet and
grasped her hand.
"Please," she said. "You must,
must know me! I know not what happened, but you cannot, you cannot have
forgotten me, Lady Pearl! It is I, Sapphire."
Upon his arrival to town, and on the days that
followed, Elazul was thrown into a black fever of restless activity. Impatient,
restless, almost mindless with his need to do, to know, he left the inn and
Pearl sitting in that closed little room and went to the shore of the sea; and
there he quested, embarking upon a long, weary, determined search that lasted
for days and proved futile. He found no body brought ashore with the cold winter
currents; nor did the villagers and fishermen going about their business near
the cliffs find anyone matching the description he provided. Once, a young
sailor who died in a shipwreck several days earlier was washed to the coast with
the grey tides, and Elazul, informed of it, hurried to the scene with a
sickening feeling of anticipation; but he knew it not to be Alex, and turned
away from the decomposing body with a feeling of revulsion, nauseated by the
spectacle of corruption and death.
Of Florina there
was no trace. She vanished as if she never existed.
For a whole week Elazul kept up his search for Alexandra's body, questing with
characteristic tenacity, torn between hope and despair; leaving the inn at dawn,
coming back late at night, weary, dirty, exhausted, throwing himself at the
bedside with barely a taste of food, and immediately falling asleep, never
noticing that Pearl, huddled in the little bed, was always awake, her eyes open
in the darkness, waiting for him. Usually she rose in the bed after Elazul would
fall asleep, watching him; but she would neither say nor do anything, and after
a little while she would simply vanish into the depth of the bed again, like a
white, silent ghost.
Sleep brought no solace to
Elazul, but black, tormenting nightmares. He dreamt that he was drowning inside
a bottomless pool, his breath strangled, his body slowly sinking through the
endless darkness; but though the imminent feeling was that any moment now he
would die for lack of air, death never came, and instead he descended slowly,
persistently, trapped in an endless moment of deep and abiding hopelessness. He
would wake up bathed in cold sweat, his heart wrenching with an elusive,
inexplicable dread, feeling as if he had known this feeling, had been there
before. Death closed him upon him, though he knew not whose death; his own,
Alexandra's, Florina's, or the terrible knowledge that in the city, Jumi were
ill and dying with little solace.
His fruitless search was cut off abruptly. Elazul
soon learned that he was no longer master of his own time. When he returned to
the inn on the evening of the sixth day he was informed by the innkeeper that
Pearl was gone.
Pearl had spent most of her days
closeted inside the little room. She took no interest in anyone or anything, and
Elazul had to leave instructions to Rachel to serve her with food; otherwise, he
feared that she would forget to eat. For the most part she did not speak to
anyone, and Elazul had little time to understand her new persona. He had seen
enough of it to know that she lost her memory, and was no longer the same; but
the over-riding need to hold on to the past, to find Alexandra's body, to find
Florina, overcame everything else, and he forgot Pearl.
He called her, quite simply, Pearl; but he seemed
to feel nothing towards her at this point. She was a strange, different person,
one that, he sensed, required more time to understand than he had to bestow. The
great anger that he had felt towards Black Pearl for killing Alexandra seemed
oddly inappropriate with this new woman, and it melted quietly away after that
first morning; but at the same time, he no longer felt any of the burning
longing that existed in him when she was Black Pearl, exuding power and allure,
challenging his self-worth and strength of will. He felt some pity towards her;
but nothing beyond.
It was doubly strange; because
now that Pearl's hidden persona, the glow that Elazul had sensed from within
her, surfaced and proved him right, it left him feeling listless. Perhaps it was
because Elazul had wished to draw it out while she was still Black Pearl, wished
her to display a weakness that will enable him to overpower her. But it came out
in a way that was unexpected, and transformed her completely. Black Pearl,
possessing the profound power, the fine instinct to discern hidden motivations
within her fellow beings, sensed Elazul's unconscious wish to master her and
resisted it; and her resistance produced the energy that stimulated Elazul's
need. As Black Pearl, she deconstructed the feelings of others, reflecting them
back at the person who projected them, using her understanding of them as an
effective weapon. But now that she was Pearl, receiving and absorbing feelings,
she received Elazul as he was without resistance; and Elazul, left with no
challenge at all, lost interest in the battle of wills that no longer existed.
This did not mean that he understood her better than he did Black Pearl. Indeed,
her effect on him was one of a strange sense of sinking, lost in something that
he did not quite understand, and was, perhaps, a little afraid to.
So Elazul pushed the need to understand Pearl away
from him, and concentrated his energies on his quest; but her actions soon
proved that she would not be quite an easy subject to handle as he thought she
She had stolen out unseen on that evening, as quiet
as a shadow, and no one could tell her whereabouts. Elazul had no rest on that
night. Following upon clues from night-time passers, he walked through the light
rain and the sinking dusk. It took him nearly two hours to trace Pearl to the
far edge of the town, where the village met the wilderness.
He found her sitting at the edge of a vast meadow,
staring into the dark clouds that raced across the pale face of the moon. Eerie
shadows chased each other across the earth, swift and silent, and the winter
night was full of whispers. Sitting in her white gown against the dark
background, the figure of the young woman seemed to Elazul like pale shadow
haunting the lonely wasteland. He was chilled and weary, and a feeling of
loneliness and despair filled him all at once. For at that moment he knew that
his search for Alexandra and Florina was over. The past was slipping away again,
melting from his grasp, as it had always done. Nothing was left to him but
He came behind Pearl and touched her
shoulder, indicating that she should get up. To his surprise, she understood the
silent summon and obeyed, rising to her feet. Unwrapping his green cloak from
his shoulders, he covered the thin gown that clung to the young woman's form
with the cold, listless rain.
"Let's go, Pearl," he
She turned a little, and her large eyes
watched him silently; she made no response. Then, lowering her head, her steps
stumbling a little, she stepped besides him. He wrapped his arm around her, and
she clung to him, shaking.
That's all I have,
thought Elazul; that's all I have now…
of the ghostly moon reeling in the colorless skies blurred before his eyes for a
moment, and a shiver ran through him, a glimpse of his nightmares returning.
"Let's go," he said again; and as he walked slowly
back towards the inn through the narrow, dark streets of the town, he sensed
that he had left something behind him, in the darkness.
When they reached the inn, Pearl was shaking badly,
and it was clear to Elazul that she was not well. He supported her up the
stairs, and she collapsed into the small bed, huddling under the covers. Laying
his hand on her forehead, he discovered that it was burning.
"Damn it," he muttered.
His worst fears were realized as the night wore on.
Pearl tossed in the bed, feverish and restless. Her eyes were open, but Elazul,
who sat in the small chair and watched over her, could tell that she did not see
him. They were fixed, it seemed, on something unseen, and sometimes she
shuddered and muttered words in what Elazul thought might be the Runic language.
He attempted to go downstairs to fetch some cold
bandages to lay on her forehead; but as soon as he moved from his seat she
suddenly rose quickly and her hand caught his arm.
"No!" she said. "Don't leave me!"
He gently tried
to explain to her that he was going to get something to make her better; but her
fingers tightened around the lapel of his sleeve with surprising force.
"You can't!" she repeated. She was breathing
quickly, her eyes fixed on his face, and there was something strange in them.
Elazul said nothing, but slowly sunk to his seat,
obeying her. Pearl, relaxing, sunk back into the bed and drew the blanket over
herself, staring at the wall.
sitting with his hands clasped together, sometimes watching Pearl, sometimes
staring absently at the black night through the small square window. He knew
that, for that one moment, he had been commanded into obedience by Black Pearl.
The night wore on. Elazul had been used to hard
conditions during his travels, but he had recklessly wasted his energy that past
week, and he was paying the toll. As the hours ticked by slowly, the little room
begun to blur before his eyes, and his body seemed melded into that small, hard
chair. Pearl's frantic shuddering subsided a little after some time, and she
eventually closed her eyes. Elazul took advantage of her subdued condition to
slip away and retrieve a bowl of cold water and a cloth, which he applied to her
forehead. After a while he was too exhausted to continue with even that simple
task, and he sunk into a sort of a waking dream, the night hours swimming around
him listlessly, seemingly without end.
jerked into attention by a sudden cry, and realized that he fell asleep, though
he could not tell for how long. The cry repeated; Pearl's voice.
"Stop it! Don't do this to me! Oh please, stop!
Elazul became alert at once, and he
leant over Pearl. "What is it?" he asked, quickly. "Is something hurting you,
Pearl was lying in the bed, her wide-open
eyes fixed on some undetermined point in the opposite wall, breathing quickly
and shaking. Feverish sweat ran down her face, and her fingers clutched
frantically at the white sheets, trembling uncontrollably. She did not answer
Elazul's question, seeming unaware that he had spoken.
Elazul, guessing that she was experiencing a waking
nightmare, felt a little relieved, though he pitied her distress. He applied the
cold, moist cloth to her forehead, smoothing her hair down with his hand, as if
she was a child. After a little while this seemed to have an effect, and the
trembling subsided. But then she held onto his hand again.
"Don't leave," she said. Her voice was different
that her earlier, harsh command. It was low and weak, a piteous entreaty.
"I won't," he answered.
There was silence, and Elazul pondered the
situation. He knew that he had best call a healer, but Pearl's distraught
emotional condition made it impossible for him to leave her.
Inert with indecision, Elazul remained at Pearl's
side for a little while longer. Exhaustion was beginning to overcome him again,
when, all at once, he was roused by a sudden memory that seemed to offer a
solution. He pondered it for a little while, then decided to try this new idea.
"Pearl," he said, very gently, leaning forward.
"Pearl, can you hear me?"
There was no reply, and
for a moment Elazul thought that she finally fell asleep. But then she turned
her face towards him, fixing her eyes on him. She did not say anything, but she
seemed to be listening.
Elazul was relieved to see
that she was receptive to him presence. "Listen, Pearl," he said, quietly, not
sure whether his guess will work. "Do you recall that first day, when you awoke
from your faint, and unbandaged your wounds?"
Silence, then: "Yes," she answered softly.
It was a
meager chance, but Elazul clutched at the hope it offered. "You healed your own
wounds, Pearl. Remember? You told me that you channeled a light from your core
to your wounds, and they healed."
She said nothing,
too dazed, perhaps, to follow his thoughts to their conclusion. Elazul clarified
it for her.
"You are ill, Pearl. But you might have
the power to heal yourself, as you did then. Can you heal your fever, Pearl?"
He fervently hoped that she will reply in the
affirmative; but after a short silence, during which Pearl lay inert, milling
his words over in her mind, she only shook her head.
"I can't," she said. "I… I don't know how I did
"Can't you try?" he asked. "Try to see if you
But this suggestion threw Pearl into a
strange fit of panic. She held tightly to Elazul's hand, and buried her face
"I cannot!" she said, in a stifled,
distressed voice. "I— I don't know what happened!"
Elazul heaved a sigh. He knew that Pearl was not in conscious control of that
new healing power that seemed to be a part of her core, and he had hoped to goad
her into assuming control. But he could now see that it will not be easily
achieved, because Pearl had no memory of how to wield that innate powers.
"I understand," he said, wearily. "But if you only
could, Pearl, you would feel better. You have the power to heal wounds, Pearl."
But Pearl only shook her head frantically, her
"No!" she said. "I have no power!”
Elazul did not know what to make of this answer,
and he gave it up. He was too tired.
"Go to sleep,
Pearl," he said quietly. "It will be for the best."
She said nothing, but edged close to him, her head coming to rest near his knee.
Her fingers retained their grip on his hand. Then, cradling her cheek against
their laced hands, she closed her eyes and became silent.
Elazul was locked into a position that was, if
anything else, even less comfortable than before. He adjusted himself to it the
best that he could manage, trying to ignore his weary, sore muscles.
How ironic, he thought wearily as he carefully
settled himself back into a somewhat less trying position in the chair, how
ironic it is that she, Black Pearl, had reproached me for never taking
responsibility, because I refused to become a guardian's knight. And now, she is
forcing me into it without meaning to.
tell when he fell asleep, but it seemed only a moment later when he jerked awake
at the sound of a soft tapping at the door. A maid entered, bringing them food.
Elazul asked her to summon the doctor.
administrated a herbal remedy, but it did not seem to do Pearl much good, and
the next three nights afforded little rest for Elazul. He took care of the
feverish Pearl, doing his best to assuage her suffering, without much success.
And then, on the third afternoon, Elazul woke up to
see a strange thing. The room was full of gentle sunlight, that slanted upon
Pearl's little bed— which was empty.
Elazul rose at once and looked around. He immediately spied the young woman's
white-clad figure, sitting a little further away, in a corner of the room.
He rose to his feet and approached her. She was
sitting with her back to him, perfectly motionless, seeming to lean over
something that she held in her lap. Her long, wavy hair flowed around her face,
concealing her expression.
"Pearl," Elazul said
quietly. "Are you feeling better?"
She made no
answer. Elazul approached her and stood over her, looking down at the object she
It was the ancient sword. Pearl was
holding it over her knees, and Elazul, seeing it, became very still at the sight
of sunlight rippling across the luminous blade.
It's beautiful, he thought. He had completely forgot the strange sword that had
brought Black Pearl's downfall. Something about it made him uneasy, and now he
found himself suddenly wary of Pearl's interest in it. He wondered whether it
signified something important.
"Why are you holding the
sword, Pearl?" he asked.
She looked up; and to his
astonishment he discovered that she seemed much better. Only yesterday morning
she was still feverish and restless, but now her green eyes regained their
usual, serene depth, and her skin was no longer flushed with fever.
"I had a dream, Elazul," she said, in a strangely
absent tone. "I dreamt of sunlight, and something called to me. And I… I felt
She rose to her feet slowly, her fingers
leaving the sword. It cluttered to the floor, but she did not pay any attention
to it, and went back to the bed. Huddling inside, she drew the blanket over
herself, and closed her eyes. After a few moment she fell asleep, and her
breathing was serene, regular and deep.
remained, looking down at the sunlit splendor of the shining sword. Pearl's
words echoed in his mind.
Sunlight calling to her;
and her fever healed. Just like her wounds have healed with light flowing from
But Pearl's frantic utterance returned to
I have no power, she said.
Elazul knelt and examined the sword. I have no
weapon now, he thought to himself. I might as well use this one.
He had a vague, uneasy sense that he ought not do
this, ought not to try and wield this strange, mysterious weapon…
But the sword's light called to him, and, without
realizing it, he obeyed the call.
That day, a plan formed in Elazul's mind. He knew
that he could not continue this way. He must find a house for Pearl and himself,
and find a temporary occupation to keep them both.
He consulted the innkeeper about this matter. The innkeeper, after a short
meditation, advised him to acquire the help of Rachel's mother, Jennifer. Elazul
agreed, and the two met that afternoon.
mother was a practical-looking little woman with long, thick, light brown hair,
and wide eyes that seemed to stare at people in a disconcerting fashion, as if
she was constantly taking their measure. She took to Elazul at once in an
easygoing, friendly manner that seemed natural to her. She was as voluble
as her daughter was silent, and seemed to know everything about the people of
the town. She conveyed much of her knowledge to Elazul as they quested for a
Elazul did not have much money at
his disposal, and the only dwelling they found that fitted within his budget was
a run-down little cottage at the edge of town. Rachel's mother surveyed the
house's dark, dusty interior with distaste; but she immediately assured Elazul
that this could be remedied with some cleaning. Elazul could see no other
option, and he took the place. He asked Rachel's mother whether her daughter
could help with the initial ordering of the house.
"Of course, dear," said Jennifer briskly. "We'll be glad to help you."
Elazul felt grateful for her generosity; and he
recalled something else. A little embarrassed, he said, "I was also wondering
whether you would aid Pearl to choose some new clothes. It's just that she has
only one suit, and she needs more; she's a little absent-minded, and probably
can't be relied on to choose properly for herself."
Jennifer, who's seen Pearl during the first quarter-hour of meeting Elazul, said
at once, "I would love to select some clothes for your lovely friend! She is as
tall and beautiful as a princess, and some of the gowns we have will look
remarkable on her."
"Thank you," said Elazul. "I
was also wondering about something else, however. I'll be soon getting some
work, and Pearl will… well, she will need taking care of, someone to stay in the
hours with her when I'm gone. I was wondering whether Rachel could come and
watch her for me for a few hours during the afternoon, at least at first. I'll
pay well," he added.
Rachel's mother nodded, as if
he was confirming something she had already understood. "I think Rachel won't
mind doing that. From what I've seen of your friend, she does seem somewhat…
fragile. I hope you don't mind me asking, dear, but did something happen to her,
or was she always like this?"
"No— yes," answered
Elazul, caught off-guard by the question, and unsure of what to say for a
moment. "She experienced a shock recently, and it changed her a little, so I—
I'm taking care of her."
"Is she a relative of
yours, then?" asked Rachel's mother, raising an eyebrow.
"She's— no," answered Elazul, a little quickly; but
he added no further explanation. Rachel's mother stared at him for a moment with
her disconcertingly steady gaze, and Elazul changed color.
"He's a precious one, isn't he?" the little woman
remarked to no one in particular. "Well, don't you worry your head about it,
dear. I'll take care of everything."
And so, the
next afternoon Elazul met a vision of Black Pearl as he had never seen her
before. Rachel's mother certainly selected beautiful clothes for her; their
general array of gold and white seemed to fit Pearl's new persona well. But at
the same time, it was a little unsettling for Elazul to see this tall, majestic
woman decked in somewhat childlike clothes. Pearl made no objections, and her
complete oblivion to the indignity inflicted upon her made him feel strangely
disconcerted, the true realization of his situation pressing upon him again, his
new reality somewhat unsettling and a little sad.
He spent the next day questing for work, and he finally found an afternoon's
work at a smith's workshop. The wages were just enough to keep up the rent for
the house and feed Pearl and himself, and Elazul discovered that he liked his
new work, that taught him much about the process of weapon-forging and
Rachel met him at the door of the
house when he returned in late evening on the first day. Elazul was pleased to
discover that the house had been meticulously cleaned, the dust and cobwebs
swept away, the floors and cupboards washed. The house had been fitted with new
furniture, selected by Jennifer, that appeared both practical and tasteful,
without being too expensive.
He thanked the silent
child that proved so much help for him, and escorted her home. Returning to his
own house, he washed himself and went upstairs to check on Pearl.
Pearl was asleep, and seemed peaceful, almost
childlike. Elazul watched her, and wondered at the change his life had wrought.
He only left the Jumi city some three weeks ago, but it seemed like a space of
months, even years.
And he reflected, my life is
finally going to settle into a quiet and comfortable routine; who knows how long
it will last, but I need this space of silence, a space to live quietly and
forget about everything… for at least a little while.
Sapphire was setting a table in the restaurant of
the blue seaside inn, spreading a white cloth map across it, and carefully
arranging the silverware and china upon it. She continued with her task, moving
from table to table, until the entire hall was arranged for the upcoming dinner.
She glanced outside the large windows, and observed
the rich golden rays of the lowering sun pouring into the hall. Evening is
nearing, she thought. Perhaps I was wrong? Perhaps it was not—
Just then, the door behind her flung open, and the
innkeeper entered. "Sapphire," he said. "There is a man here that wishes to see
the woman you brought today. You told me to ask you first, so here I am."
"Yes, thank you," said Sapphire at once. "Where is
he?" She had already begun to move towards the door, but then a young man
stepped through. "Where is that young woman who found her, then?" he asked; his
voice was terse, brusque.
Sapphire recognized him
at once. Then my guess was right, she thought. "Elazul!" she said softly, moving
towards him, barely disguising the tremor of happiness rippling through her
voice at seeing him again. "I'm so glad you're here. I—"
He seemed astonished to see her, and halted for a
moment; but then he strode quickly towards her. "Sapphire!” he said, his eyes
searching her intently. “What are you doing here?"
She bestowed a faint smile on him, seeming amused at his crestfallen expression.
“I left the city,” she said, quite simply.
looked at her searchingly for a moment; but then, shaking himself out of his
momentary stupor, he said quickly: “Then, of course, you saw—“
Sapphire lowered her eyes. “Yes. I found her on the
Elazul, looking down likewise, said
quietly, “Then you know. Where is she now?”
Sapphire indicated the stairs with her hand, moving towards it, and Elazul
immediately begun to follow her. They ascended the small, narrow staircase, that
led to the third floor, where most of the inn’s rooms were located. Sapphire
pushed open one of the doors. “My room,” she explained.
Pearl was standing with her back to the door,
watching the sea through the open window. The unceasing waves flung against the
rocks several stories below, three floors of the inn and the full height of the
red cliffs. Elazul, approaching her, noticed that her eyes were fixed on the
opaque darkness of the pool flowing below. Perceiving Elazul, she shifted her
gaze to the floor.
“Elazul,” she said, softly. “I—
I tried to go home, but…”
“It’s all right, Pearl,”
Elazul said immediately. “Come here; sit on the bed. You’ve met Sapphire, right?
She is a friend of mine.”
Pearl fixed a vague look
on Sapphire, who returned it mutely; but no flicker of interest or recognition
moved in her eye, and she proceeded to obey Elazul, moving towards bed with
slow, almost weary steps. Elazul seated himself besides her.
“Listen, Pearl,” he said gently. “I need to talk to
Sapphire. Just rest for now.”
She nodded, saying
nothing. After gazing at her for a little while more, Elazul indicated Sapphire
to come sit near him at the window-seal.
softly,” he said, quietly. “I don’t wish her to hear what we are saying.”
Sapphire nodded in understanding. Elazul took her hand,
pressed the thin fingers. “I am truly glad to see you again,” he said. “But tell
me everything that happened, Sapphire. How did you come to live in this place?”
The smile she gave him was warm and genuine. “I am
glad to see you, Elazul… so very glad. And I will tell you the story.”
"I always wanted to leave the city, Elazul,”
Sapphire said, her eyes fixed on the sea outside her window, her soft voice
slow, but clear in tone as she begun her narration.” You know that I did.
Remember that time when we visited the town not far from the city together? It
was my first time outside the city and it was…” she slowed for a moment, and
finished, “it made me realize how much I wished to leave it.”
Elazul made no comment, but waited for her
patiently to continue.
“Snow and Emeralda felt the
same way that I did. You know that Emeralda always wished to leave for the
university city, and Snow was ready to join her. She was very angry at
everything that the council did to you. So… she gathered both of us, and we made
plans for our escape. Which we executed about a month after you left.”
“Sapphire,” Elazul interrupted her now, “please
tell me— how is the city?”
She glanced at him,
noticed his strained expression, and seemed to understand it.
“It’s… not as bad you might think it is, Elazul,”
she said. Almost on impulse, she leant forward and took his hand in hers.
“Please don’t look so worried, Elazul! Diana and Rubens are taking care of
everything. And as for the healers… they managed well, even without Florina. The
number of sick actually dwindled in the weeks after you left. I don’t know what
the situation is like now,” she added. “But, Elazul…” she stammered now, her
white cheeks flushing as she uttered her observation, “Florina was in a bad
shape… I knew that she was. The city would have been in the same way even if she
stayed because… of her condition. Elazul… please don’t trouble yourself over the
city. I think that everything is all right, at least for now.”
Elazul said nothing, but his eyes stayed on
Sapphire. Though she had not known it, her manner affected him as deeply as her
She changed, he thought to himself, not a
little astonished. Sapphire changed. She is actually exerting herself, speaking
to me… trying to comfort me!
maintained his silence, Sapphire, after examining him and feeling reassured at
his expression, continued with her story.
almost two weeks of traveling, for Snow, Emeralda and myself, and it wasn't
easy, but we were together, which made it better. And when we reached this inn,
and this little, beautiful harbor, we decided to stay for a while before
continuing, and I...”
Sapphire became abruptly
silent, a soft look stealing into her eyes. “I simply had to stay here,” she
said, in a low voice. “So… I engaged to work here as a waitress. And I've been
here ever since; for over two months now."
covertly examined Sapphire as the girl narrated her story with a quiet, flowing,
even voice. The rays of the dying sun that streamed through the window of
Sapphire’s bedroom were orange and warm, and the soft evening wind caressed the
young woman's long hair, stirring it around her white face. There was a relaxed
expression in her eyes, an air of serenity about her, and of quiet contentment.
Yes, he thought; Sapphire has changed. It was a
subtle change, but it was there, for anyone who cared to observe. She seemed
happier, much more open, much more... sure of herself. I don't know what brought
this change, Elazul reflected, but it must be this new, quiet life. She seems
happy, as if she found her niche, her calling...
"Why did you stay here, Sapphire?" he asked.
love the sea," she replied, turning her face and watching the slow, steady surf
beyond the red rocks. "I... I fell in love with it, Elazul." She gave him a rare
smile, rare because it was a clear, genuine, warm smile that he had barely ever
seen on her. Or perhaps nowadays it's not so rare, Elazul realized. "I had to
stay. The moment I came here, I knew that I had to stay. Snow and Emeralda
didn't deter me. I think that they understood."
everything was all right?" he inquired, searching her expression intently. He
had to make sure; he couldn’t rely on his instinct alone. "Do you feel
comfortable with the place they give you, Sapphire?"
"I had help," answered Sapphire. "A dancer that
works here was very nice to me. Her name is Revanshe. She worked here for a long
time, performing in the dining hall, and she's on good terms with the owners of
the inn. The innkeeper was very kind as well. Revanshe helped me get the work,
and made sure that they give me a good room. She's like a big sister to me."
"I wish to meet her, then, and thank her for
her kindness," said Elazul. "But, Sapphire, are you sure you don't wish to come
live with Pearl and myself? I have a house in town, not far from here. You can
stay with us."
But she shook her head. "No, Elazul.
I don't wish to live in town. I love the sea. I love it here... I love to be
alone, relying on my own work… and to feel free. I don’t need much. Just a room
to stay, and food. And I have both here."
was silent. He saw enough by now to perceive that Sapphire, despite her
compliant manner, would be adamant about this matter. Perhaps, just perhaps, if
he ordered her, he could influence her to come and live at his side, where it
was safe, where she wouldn’t have to worry about concealing her true nature. His
eyes made an inevitable shift to the young girl’s shirt, closed to her neck. He
knew that Sapphire understood the need to conceal her core. And still, he didn’t
know if she would be safe enough.
But then he
looked up and gazed into the girl's large eyes, perceiving once again their
expression of serene contentment, observing how she changed from the timid,
nervous, sickly child of the city, and he could not find the heart to do it.
Perhaps I myself will come live here soon, he
thought. For a while, just to keep an eye on her. Yes, as soon as I can, I
Perceiving his silence, Sapphire
repeated her previous statement.
“I wish to stay here,
Elazul looked down, refraining from
meeting her gaze. “I understand.”
As if wishing to
change the subject, Sapphire said: “And what about you, Elazul? Please tell me
all that happened.”
He met her gaze with a
mirthless smile. “You must guess some of it by now.” But then he proceeded to
narrate all the events. When he got to Alex’s death he halted, slowing; and then
felt Sapphire’s hand on his own again; a quiet, reassuring touch. And he
recalled that she, too, has once suffered a loss in her life through death.
He concluded his story, and Sapphire remarked
quietly: “I could see that Lady Pearl has changed; now I understand why.”
Elazul looked her intently. “You changed too,
Sapphire,” he observed.
She gave him a somewhat
melancholy smile, but said nothing, and Elazul found himself returning to that
recurring, troublesome reflection. If I leave her here, alone, and people find
that she’s a Jumi…
The apprehension troubled him,
and he shook it off again. I’ll come back as soon as I can, he repeated to
himself. He made a move, as if to rise, but suddenly Sapphire raised her hand to
“Elazul,” she said, speaking in tones
quicker than usual for her. “Please understand why I wish to stay here. I wish
to… to spend the rest of my life here, where I feel happy.”
“It’s everyone’s wish, Sapphire,” he answered. “I
But she shook her head. Her fingers
went to her neck, then touched the place where Elazul knew her core was hidden
below the cloth.
“You don’t understand, Elazul,”
she said softly. “I… I told Snow. And now, I’ll tell you. My core is flawed.
This is part of the reason why my tears aren’t very effective.”
Elazul’s brows came together slightly, but he said,
“Yes, I guessed as much from your aspect. Jumi with flawed cores often look
unhealthy; like Snow.”
She maintained her gaze on
him, her eyes full of a strange emotion. “Then… you know?” she asked.
Elazul begun to feel a little perturbed now. “Is
something wrong, Sapphire?” he asked.
looked down, for a moment not answering. Then she said:
“No, nothing is… not exactly. Elazul, you know that
Jumi with flawed cores… they don’t live as long as regular Jumi. For some, it’s
only a matter of few decades, but for me… Black Pearl told my mother that… that
I shall live less than a quarter of normal Jumi life.”
The knowledge that Sapphire imparted with a quiet,
steady voice seemed to chill Elazul for a moment. He said nothing.
“This is why I wish to stay here,” said Sapphire,
softly. “I don’t have as much time as the other Jumi. We Jumi… we live long.
Life flows around us incessantly, passing us without us noticing it. But I… I
don’t have that leisure, Elazul. I must live my life more like a human. To make
the most of it, as I wish, right now. Even now, I feel that I’ve been a child
for too long. A human my age is a knowledgeable adult in the middle of her
life… while I am barely a child come of age… and I have barely twice the
lifespan of that human.” She looked at Elazul fully now, her large eyes clear,
full of emotions. “This is why I must stay here. Where I am happy… right now.”
Elazul hung his head. He took the girl’s hand in
his own, pressing it tightly.
Sapphire,” he said, quietly; because he did not know what else to say. She had
said it better than he ever could.
Elazul decided to meet the dancer Revanshe, whom
Sapphire said had helped her so much, and judge whether she could take proper
care of Sapphire. He knew he would not force Sapphire to come with him; but it
would ease his task, make him feel less worried if he knew that she was properly
taken care of.
He made the request to Sapphire
again, and soon followed her down the staircase again, into the inn’s second
story, and into the same spacious hall of the inn’s restaurant. He had not
noticed how beautiful it was before, but now he had time to observe it at
The hall was decorated tastefully in soft
shades of blue. Large windows overlooked the gorgeous vista of the sunset over
the sea, and the small mahogany tables, overlaid with white maps and stubby
candles set inside curved copper holders, gave it a pleasing air of
quaintness. There was raised platform in front of the tables, attached to
the wall set with the windows; and a young woman, her back to the splendid view
of the sea, was performing a dance on this stage for the nightly guests.
Elazul seated himself at a table with Sapphire,
watching the show. The young woman was clad in green, and held a long silken
scarf in her hand, which she used to affect a flowing, water-like effect to
accompany her graceful movements. After she finished the dance audience
applauded her. Bowing, she left the stage, and, seeming to spot Sapphire, she
made her way towards their table.
herself on a chair, and, her eyes on Elazul, inquired of Sapphire after his
"He's an old friend," Sapphire answered.
"Elazul, this is Revanshe."
Revanshe had taken off
the veil that had concealed the lower part of her face, and Elazul found himself
looking at a tall, willowy human woman of about twenty-eight. Her delicate face
was attractive if not beautiful, with very white skin and high, strongly marked
cheekbones, and her exotically slanted eyes were sky-blue in color. She had let
down her yellow hair, that had been previous pinned away from her face in a
tightly-coiled braid, and it fell down to the small of her back.
Elazul made a gesture of welcome; but Revanshe did
not take his proffered hand, and instead continued to examine him with her
straight stare. At Sapphire’s answer she raised an arched eyebrow. "Friend?" she
Sapphire nodded, and Revanshe leant back in
her chair. "Hm," she said. "Well, child, if I had a man who looks like THAT
passing off as my friend, and if some hussy inquired after our relationship, the
first thing I personally would do is tell her that he’s mine. THEN I would find
out the details about her precise intentions."
Sapphire said nothing, but she smiled; and Elazul, not at all disconcerted, said
gravely, "I’m afraid that I am more like Sapphire's brother than anything else."
"I’ll take your word for it, then," Revanshe
answered. "So, what's the full story?"
related it, carefully omitting all details relating to the Jumi city, and hoping
that it would sound plausible enough; but Revanshe did not make any embarrassing
inquiries, and she waved off his expressions of gratefulness for helping
"Nothing to it," she said briskly. "I
could immediately tell that this child needs to be taken care of; and so I did."
"Don't belittle your actions," replied Elazul. "I
know of many that would do otherwise."
She arched a
brow. "I can think of several ways in which you could thank me."
Elazul, meeting her gaze, finally changed color. A
smile tilting his mouth, he said, "I thank you deeply from the bottom of my
Revanshe gave a dismissive sniffle and rose
to her feet. "So he says. Well, Sapphire, I can see that you took a little time
off tonight, no doubt to host your re-discovered friend. I would love to chat
more, but I need to change, first." To Elazul's surprise, she leant forward and
grabbed his hand, shaking it briefly; then, turning around, she made her way
through the narrow paths between the tables and vanished through a small
"Please don't mind Revanshe," whispered
Sapphire, leaning forwards towards Elazul, and seeming a little apologetic. "She
acts a little strange sometimes, but she's really very nice and kind to me."
He smiled at her. "I think that you're in good
hands, Sapphire," he observed wryly. “That woman certainly will never be at a
loss for an answer to anyone.”
A little while later, Elazul ascended the stairs
towards Sapphire’s room. Much had happened that day, and he needed to
re-organize his thoughts, be alone for a while. He will soon retire to the
little room downstairs that the innkeeper and Revanshe arranged for him; but
first he had to check on Pearl.
He opened the door
slowly, and could see that Pearl was standing near the window again, as she had
“Pearl,” he said softly, approaching
her. “I’m back. Did you sleep?”
She made no reply,
and Elazul, coming to stand before her, perceived that her eye were fixed on the
“Pearl,” he said again, gently. She was
like this sometimes; lost in her own reveries, oblivious to his presence… he put
a hand on her shoulder and she shuddered a little, as if his abrupt gesture
broke a spell.
“They… are not longer calling me,”
She turned dark, troubled eyes on
Elazul. “I… I must find them again," she said. "I have… I have lost them,
Comment: Revanshe had exactly two lines in Legend of Mana, and her
principle role was to have lewd sexual advances made upon her by a talking fish
with legs (whose role, you must recall, had an obvious relation to Sapphire).
But she was related to the seaside harbor, and she was pretty cool. So I decided
to give her a role in this story, which, while is still small, is better than to
have her be the object of desire for a fish. At least, I would so guess.
What's up with the U2 song, you ask? (What's up with songs in general, you
ask!) I tend to be inspired by music in my writing, and U2 are a great love of
mine. The song 'Drowning Man' is one of my favorites, even though its lyrics are
that of a fairly standard love song that sometimes make no sense ('I'll be there
if you can'?). However, the song has absolutely beautiful music, very
tragic-sounding, and this is why I like it so much. Plus, it has the whole
love-and-drowning thing going on in it, so it's appropriate. Right? Right.
Anyway, prepare to be inflicted by some more songs in the future.