PART III: PEARL (Pearl Version)
by The Mana Priestess

"What wonderful blue eyes you have, Ernest. They are quite, quite blue.
I wish you would always look at me this way, especially when other people are around."

-- Gwendolyn, The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

Chapter 5A: Burning Blue: Emotions

    The sky turned a deep azure that spring afternoon, and the weather remained warm, the air perfectly motionless, the heat absorbing voices and sounds. An occasional flash of silent lightening, tearing across the sky in pale, jagged spears, warned of the approaching storm.
    Sure enough, the weather altered quite quickly afterwards, and the hot, musty atmosphere was freshened by a steady, light drizzle that washed across the warm skies of evening. The pale yellow moon hung across the velvet blue, and the effect of the warm, sharp colors of the moon and skies was striking, resembling a theatrical décor that reduced everything below, the slowly-moving cobalt ocean and the little town sleeping besides it, into playthings assembled against the splendid view of the scenery.
    The little seaside inn sleeping upon the dark red rocks had been closed early against the storm, and the guard stood on his nightly watch against intruders. The orange light that illuminated the hall on the first level of the inn streamed faintly from under the main doors, and the figure of the guard appeared like a dark shadow against it.
    Inside the hall, a woman clad in a plain blue cotton dress leant against the innkeeper’s counter. A thick yellow rope of hair, tied with a pale green ribbon, swung down her back. She held a glass of drink in her hand, which, from its dark red color, appeared to be an alcoholic beverage, and she sipped from it occasionally. She was more occupied, however, in the flow of the conversation she maintained with the innkeeper.
    A man with a dark-haired young woman leaning on his arm emerged from within the adjoining coffee-room, and passed the two by the counter. He greeted the woman in blue, and congratulated her on her night’s performance.
    The woman thanked him without much interest and continued her conversation with the innkeeper. The man, not taking the hint, addressed her with another remark. It was apparent that, despite the wishes of his dark-haired companion, who regarded the blond woman with a peevish expression on her pretty little face, he was determined to engage the attractive dancer in blue in a flirtatious banter.
    The dancer had recognized his intention from the beginning, and it became to clear to her that this man required a broader hint to do away with himself, which she did without dispatch.
    The man seemed disconcerted, though keeping a determined hold on his assumed smile. It was apparent that he had thought that dancer an easy prey to extravagant flattery, and had yet to experience the taste of her ironic tongue. But his young companion tugged on his arm.
    "Come on, let’s go," she said with her petulant little voice. "I’m tired."
    He obeyed, and the dancer continued her conversation with the innkeeper as if the brief interlude had never occurred. He regarded her with an amused eye.
    "I tend to think that you are too hard on your admirers, Revanshe," he remarked, instead of replying to the subject of their conversation. "Most of them don’t mean harm, you know."
    Revanshe shrugged, sipping her drink. "I like to play games on my own terms," she said coolly. "I can’t abide it when men think they can coerce me into submitting to theirs."
    "Including a verbal byplays?" remarked the innkeeper. "I must admit, I’ve never seen you lose a verbal exchange."
    She seemed unconcerned. "This means that I’m playing them right," she answered.
    He gave a laugh in reply. "As I was saying."
    The door opened now, and the face of the apologetic young guard peeped in. "I'm sorry, Sir," he said, addressing the innkeeper. "I know that the policy is that the door closes after ten to uninvited guests, but there is a man here who insists on—"
    Before he could finish, another person pushed through. It was a young man, whose green cloak was patched with dark areas where the light rain soaked it through. He pushed the hood of his cloak back, revealing a serious face with regular, clear-cut features, and ran a hand over his wet hair. Another figure followed him silently, like a white shadow; a tall woman, clad in a cream-colored cloak.
    "My apologies for coming in unexpectedly," the young man said curtly, without much ado. "I've been traveling all day and I'm afraid I had no time to make proper arrangements or send a proper notice."
    The innkeeper and Revanshe had been staring at him as he spoke; but the dancer recognized him as soon as he revealed his face.
    "Elazul," she said, laying the glass of wine on the counter-top and gesturing with her hand for him to approach. "What brings you here, and at this hour?"
    Elazul spied her now. "Revanshe," he said quickly. "Is Sapphire awake?"
    "Softly, softly," admonished the dancer. "He is always such an earnest one. Come here. Sit down first. Invite your friend as well." She nodded her head towards the innkeeper, signaling that Elazul was all right. The innkeeper raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He trusted Revanshe implicitly.
    Revanshe rang a bell and ordered hot drinks to be brought to the coffee-room. Elazul walked after Revanshe, signaling the woman behind him to follow suit. They seated themselves at one of the small tables in the darkly-shadowed little hall. The heavy curtains that fringed the coffee room’s large glass windows looked down towards the ocean, that flowed silently below with unremitting darkness.
    "I apologize for coming in so abruptly," he repeated, as he pulled a chair close to the table and indicated to his companion to be seated. "Is Sapphire in her room? I don't wish to wake her up if she's asleep, and I'm afraid that we'll need some arrangements. I can pay for a room, if you have one. If not—"
    "That's all right," Revanshe interrupted. "We'll find you some lodging. Now, what is this about?"
    Elazul didn't reply for a moment; he meditated upon something, and to Revanshe it seemed as if he had not attended her question. Then he said suddenly, in what seemed an abrupt change of subject:
    "That guard of yours isn't very good. If I came through that easily, he would never be able to prevent truly dangerous characters from penetrating this inn."
    "Is this what you came for all this way?" Revanshe inquired, with a lift of her eyebrow. "To criticize our safety measures?"
    The maid came in, carrying a tray with hot drinks. Elazul said curtly, "I am concerned." He took the tea-cup offered by the maid, setting it down on the table without looking at it. "Concerned for Sapphire's safety, Revanshe."
     Revanshe uttered an elaborate sigh. She crossed her hands over her heart. "The ardent lover rushing in from the storm, his hair plastered with rain, eager to ascertain his lady's safety!" she intoned. "How utterly romantic, Elazul!"
    Elazul could perceive that her treatment of him had not altered much since the previous time they had met. "You already know that Sapphire is like a sister to me, Revanshe," he answered with admirable patience. "And I've heard some things... well, it doesn't matter. At any rate, I will talk to Sapphire."
    Revanshe eyed him. "Like a sister, huh?" she echoed. Her gaze shifted to Pearl, who was sitting silently besides Elazul and staring at her tea, as if she couldn't quite comprehend what she ought to do with it. Pearl’s profile appeared very white in the dim room, and her glorious hair tumbled down her back, shining a lustrous gold. "I can see the reason," she remarked.
    Elazul followed her eye, and his countenance altered a little. "Pearl? No, she's… she's also like a sister to me," he finished, a little lamely.
    Revanshe raised an eyebrow. "Indeed. Can I be your sister too?"
    "I'm afraid that after the way you've been speaking to me it wouldn't be really proper to call you my sister," answered Elazul. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I will go ask for that room."
    He rose from his seat and, gesturing to Pearl to follow him, he went into the guest-hall, leaving behind him a very dissatisfied dancer.
    She presently walked to the guest-hall and returned to the counter. "Did you give that young man a room?" she asked the innkeeper.
    The innkeeper nodded. "I recognize him now. Sapphire's young man," he said.
    "Her friend," Revanshe corrected. "Or, apparently, an adopted brother of sorts." She took her drink in one hand again, swiveling the glass gently in an absent manner. She recognized that she had just been defeated in a verbal exchange, and the feeling was rather displeasing.
    "Not proper to call me his sister after the way I've been speaking to him," she said to herself, echoing Elazul's words. "That was a... a CUTE reply. I-do-NOT-like-cute-replies. Especially from men so much younger than I am."

    A warm day, enwrapped by bright skies and a glowing sea, greeted Elazul the next morning as he walked from the harbor to the town a little after dawn. Despite the early hour the tiny seaside hamlet was awake and alive with scents and sounds. He walked in the narrow streets of white stones, between the little red houses, enjoying the fresh breeze gliding towards him from the direction of the sea. The delicious odors of newly-baked bread wafting on its currents caused him to pause in his tracks and purchase some breakfast. He then continued his survey of the town, and despite a weariness that lingered from his two days’ journey he felt invigorated by the warm morning, that smelled of the approaching summer.
    He was eventually found by Sapphire around eight o'clock. She received the story from Revanshe as soon as she awoke and went down to the town to find him. He spied the slender form enveloped by the cloud of long, rippling hair from a distance, and immediately knew it was her. She made a gesture of greeting in acknowledgment and came towards him. After exchanging words of welcome, Sapphire smiled at Elazul, peering upwards into his face. "Revanshe told me you're here," she said.
    "I guessed as much," he answered. "Did she say anything else?" He smiled slightly now. "Something about an extravagantly romantic entry, perhaps?"
    "I don't know," replied Sapphire, looking a little bemused. "I wasn't attending. I left to find you at once."
    He seemed amused; and Sapphire, though she wondered why he came so suddenly, was glad to find him in such a good mood, and smiled at him again. Elazul then expressed a desire to go down to the docks, to which Sapphire complied at once, and they made their exit to the harbor.
    When they reached the wooden docks extending towards the waters, Elazul stood for a few moments, contemplating the bright, fresh vision of the ocean. Sapphire stood silently besides him, herself absorbed in the beautiful view. Elazul, finally turning around, laid his fingers on Sapphire's arm.
    "Come, Sapphire," he said. "Let’s sit on the dock."
    She obeyed, as was her wont, and soon they were seated side-by-side, their legs dangling down from the wooden floorboards, the ocean flowing beneath them in soft blue currents.
    Sapphire looked up into Elazul’s face. "Elazul," she said, "Revanshe told me that you came with Lady Pearl."
    She hesitated, and Elazul scanned her expression. He met an inquiring gaze, and understood that she was expecting an explanation.
    He looked down at his hands, pressing his fingers together, deliberating over how he should tell her about what happened. He decided that the best method would be a direct explanation. "Listen, Sapphire," he said. "Something important came up, and this is why I came so suddenly. A few days ago I was at the town bar, and I heard some news that greatly disquieted me."
    He looked up and finished, rather quickly, "Alex is alive."
    Sapphire eyes widened. After a moment, she said, "But that's... that's wonderful! Did you... did you meet him, Elazul? Or did you merely hear about him?"
    "Her," Elazul corrected. "Alex is Alexandra, you see."
    This news apparently took her completely unaware; for the first time since Elazul met her, he saw Sapphire genuinely astonished. "Oh!" she said. Looking at her, Elazul knew that she was milling over in her mind almost a year of complex events in the Jumi city, so notorious that even she could not but know about them. "Oh," she repeated, after a prolonged silence. "I... I see."
    "But, Elazul," she added almost immediately, "You must have been happy to hear about it."
    He smiled at her plain, rather naive way of stating this. "Yes, I was. Also since if Alex is alive, Florina must be safe too. But that’s not all."
    She looked down. "Yes. You also said that it disquieted you. Why… why did it?"
    Elazul looked up, watching the glowing morning. His smile vanished, the almost carefree expression had had displayed before was displaced by his usual, serious demeanor.
    "I think that I always had a kind of a secret hope to hear this," he said at last, speaking softly. "The strangeness of Alex's body never being found, and of Florina vanishing prepared me for this, somehow. So, you see, the shock wasn't quite as great as it would have been otherwise. I don't even care to know how Florina managed to escape, how Alex managed to survive. Right now I'm simply happy to know that they're alive. But..."
    "With Alex, unfortunately, there is always a 'but'," he finished, with an edge of a tight smile. "Things are never plain and simple with such one as Alex."
    Sapphire, who did not know much about Alexandra, lowered her eyes after discerning Elazul’s change of mood. She sensed that Elazul had been undergoing a mental struggle since the news, and did not wish to add to it; so she said nothing. Elazul’s eyes rested on the burnished horizon without seeming to perceive it. He shook his head.
    "I don’t understand," he said, speaking quietly. "I don’t understand why Alex would not look for me, if she was alive. It gives me a troubling feeling, almost as if she’s trying to hide something from me. What is it, Alex?" he asked, speaking to himself. "What are you planning now, that I should not know of? Ought I try and find out, despite your reluctance to reveal yourself… or because of it?"
    "Elazul," said Sapphire.
    He briefly recollected himself. "I'm sorry, Sapphire," he said quickly. "Things have been happening all at once, and I've been feeling a little distracted by it all."
     "I can imagine," she replied quietly.
     Elazul then related Alexandra's history to Sapphire concisely, to allow her a greater understanding of the situation. He finished his recital with an explanation of his presence in the harbor, his sudden arrival.
    "You see, Sapphire, the rumors about Sandra and her alleged search for Jumi jewels has created a dangerous situation. I begun to ask around the town the last few days, gathering as much information as I could. The rumors about Jumi jewels had fueled the human greed for Jumi cores anew. The bandits had woken, crawled out of their lairs, and they slither about, sniffing, questing, thirsting for these valuable treasures. The situation is much more dangerous than it was a few months ago, when you and Emeralda and Snow embarked on your voyage."
    "So, you are saying..." said Sapphire faintly. She did not complete her sentence.
    "Yes," he answered briefly, guessing her unuttered question. "You have two choices, Sapphire. Either you come back with us to town, or we stay here with you. I can't let you stay alone anymore."
    There was a pause. Elazul examined Sapphire's downturned face. She said nothing, her finger tracing shapes on the boards aimlessly.
    "Staying?" he asked.
    She nodded, a shortish motion with her head.
    "Then this is what we'll do," he said quietly.
    Sapphire made no answer. Her head remained lowered. Then she said in a low voice: "Thank you."
    Elazul did not attend her; he seemed to meditate upon something again, a dark, troubled look stealing into his eyes. "I am only puzzled as to what I should do about Snow and Emeralda," he said shortly. "They are not safe in the university by themselves. But if I know anything about Emeralda, she will refuse to obey me, and Snow will follow whatever she decides. I'll go to check on them, just to ensure that they're all right. I understand that you correspond with them regularly, so I assumed that you'll notify me if anything happened. But now that I know that the situation has changed I am no longer at a liberty to make any assumptions."
     "And if they refuse to leave," he added as an afterthought, "perhaps you should enroll in the university, Sapphire, and we'll all live there."
    He examined her expression. He rather thought that she'll refuse this suggestion as well; to his surprise she suddenly looked up with one of her rare, genuine smiles.
    "After all the effort you put into taking care of us, I think I can take that step," she said. "It will be nice to be with Snow and Emeralda again, after all this time. If necessary, Elazul, I'll do so. But, Elazul, what about your house in town, and your work?"
    He seemed amused at this practical inquiry from Sapphire. "I was thinking of becoming a guard at this inn," he replied. "I'll close the house in the town and notify my employer. Don't worry about all that. What's important is making sure that you're all safe."
    Sapphire gazed at Elazul silently. He returned her look with a slightly raised eyebrow. "What is it?" he asked.
    "It's... it's nothing," she answered. But then she suddenly said, "No, it's... it's because you take so much pains over me, Elazul."
    She took his hand in the same sincere, heartfelt gesture that she did once when she tried to comfort him about the condition in the city. "Nobody ever took so much pains over me before. Only Emeralda, but with her it was... different. But with you, it's more like... I truly feel that you are like a brother to me, Elazul. I never felt that I had a real family after my m-mother d-died." She articulated the words with difficulty. Then, rapidly, she finished: "I'm glad that I met you."
    Elazul was moved by her gratitude, and yet it caused him a sudden pain. Was she really always this lonely? He realized that she was not like him, lonely out of choice, and that instead that she felt her loneliness acutely.
    Sapphire continued in softly-spoken tones. "It's so much more important to me than just having a knight. Indeed, I prefer it to having you as a knight, like the council wished. I much more wish for that permanent kind of bond of a family… because if someone fell in love with me, he may always change his mind and leave me one day. But not someone like you, a brother… the family bond will always exist, will never vanish. It is the permanent kind of bond that keeps you happy and alive."
    Elazul was moved by this stricture, a view of the world and ties between people that was both realistic, pessimistic, and idealizing, naïve. And he reflected, funny how things turned out in a way that Diana did not anticipate, and yet much more than she ever wished them to be. I became equally as important to Sapphire as I would have been had she fell in love with me, or I with her; because I filled the void that she lacked, and before she could love someone she needed that emptiness filled; and in that way, as in many, she was still too much of a child.
    To divert her thoughts, he voiced his own, smiling at her and saying: "I think that we ought to give thanks to the council. Without knowing it, they had done a good thing, even though our acquaintance had not turned out the way they had hoped."
    Sapphire perceived the amusing side of this as well, and she smiled as well. "Yes, I suppose so. But," lapsing again into her earnest mood, "You and Revanshe are my family now, Elazul... yes, and even the Lady Pearl. But especially you."
    Elazul sensed those flowing, intangible bonds, warming him, yet also weighing him down, filling him with unease. He suddenly realized, with disquiet, that he was not used to being this important to anyone, at least not since his mother died.
    Except, he thought, to Alexandra, but she was independent, did not need me, allowed me to keep my own independence despite her attachment to me.
    And also, said another voice, to Pearl, who was not like Alexandra, but more like Sapphire, and yet different, because…
    This thought he pushed away hastily, to the dark corner of his mind, refusing to dwell on it, because it made him feel as troubled as he had felt with Sapphire’s words, or perhaps more.
    He said, quietly, "I think it's unfortunate that you refused to get acquainted with Florina, Sapphire. She would have been the perfect person to adopt you."
    She gazed down again, contemplating the sea beneath, yet also listening, and responded quietly: "When we meet Alex and Florina again, I wish to get acquainted with Florina. Maybe it’ll be easier for all of us, to be together."
    He responded with a rather weary tone. "Of this I must somehow convince Emeralda."
    She sensed the weariness in his tones, and looked up quickly, watching his expression covertly. For a moment she said nothing, then she suddenly said, "Elazul, you are—"
    He looked towards her, sensing her altered tone, his gaze inquiring. She looked down again.
    "You are... waiting for the Jumi, aren't you?" she asked, haltingly. "To come and take us all home."
    He was surprised at this penetrating remark, but admitted the truth at once.
    "I suppose so, yes. There seem to be so many of you to take care of, Sapphire. I'm not quite sure I'm up to it, and I'm afraid of what might happen if I fail."
    He watched the bright azure waves, the sparkle of water in the sun, but he could not longer feel as easy as he did an hour ago, when he waded through the freshness of the morning, feeling warmed and revived.
    "I suppose," he said slowly, "that I'm thinking that perhaps Alexandra could help me. Or I hope that she will."
    But what I'm most afraid of, he reflected privately, is that she wouldn't. He returned to the former subject, to turn his thoughts away from this recurrent, troublesome reflection.
    "But it’s Florina that I particularly wish you to know," he repeated. "She was like my older sister, and I suppose that it’s only appropriate that she will yours as well, Sapphire." With a sudden smile, he added, "Revanshe was right. I seem to be collecting sisters nowadays."
    Sapphire nodded. "She said something like it to me this morning."
    Elazul shrugged. "I always got along better with women than with men," he said. "I just like their company better. I suppose that after living all my life with my father, learning to be nothing but the ideal soldier, I came to loath this ideal I had to strive to, came to loath what men considered important. So I stayed away from them. I did not feel that I needed to strive for their approval; I automatically earned their respect because I excelled at what they most admired and honored." He spoke this with an indifferent voice, an almost contemptuous one. "But because of my father, I felt I've had enough of their company."
    "And… what about Alex?" asked Sapphire. "Did you know she was not a man? Is that why you befriended her?"
    "At first I thought she was a boy," answered Elazul. "I wasn’t very interested in her until I realized that she was a woman, several weeks into our acquaintance. I was curious, I suppose, because she was… a very unusual person, to say the least. Before I realized it, I acquired the first real friend that I ever had. And I discovered how easy it was to talk to women… at least, to women like her, because some might say that she acted a lot like a man. I suppose that she was enough of both a man and a woman to strike the right balance in speaking to me."
    He paused, seeming to contemplate this. "And still, Alex… wasn’t the type of person that is easy to get along with. It wasn’t until Florina that I realized that I like women’s company, as friends. Between them I felt... strangely comfortable. I guess that Florina balanced Alexandra’s shortcomings."
    "Or maybe," Elazul added, after further thought, "I feel comfortable with women because they don't demand much of me, unlike men." He shrugged. "In some ways, they are more ready to accept me as I am."
    He looked towards Sapphire with a somewhat self-conscious smile. "For obvious reasons, some of which you doubtlessly heard about."
    She understood his meaning and flushed faintly, looking guilty. "I... yes, I did. All that... gossip. I... I don't like gossip," she said suddenly, and it was the first time Elazul heard her speak about anything with something like censure. "It's just that Amethyst and Marina... they have nothing in common except their love of talking about other people, and that's what they mostly did when we were all together. So, I, I heard about you, and about..." She paused, and turned almost red.
    Elazul raised an eyebrow. "About me and who? Alex? Black Pearl? Amber?"
    She looked into his eyes. "Were you really in love with Black Pearl, Elazul?"
    He looked down. With Sapphire he was comfortable, felt nothing of the embarrassment that he felt in front of others when speaking of this subject. Perhaps it's because she doesn't censure me for it, he thought to himself, doesn't probe me with that cynical, world-weary gaze of Diana and her like.
    "I don't know," he answered. "I suppose, Sapphire, that I was greatly taken with Black Pearl, because... she had... something in her. She was strong, and unyielding, and did not give her love easily. I doubt she ever gave her love to anyone..."
    He halted. "I suppose that I wanted that love," he finally said, admitting the truth that he had known for a long time." I wanted to be loved by someone as completely, as strongly, as entirely as I knew that the Lady Pearl could love, if she only let herself love anyone. This is what I wanted from her, and was, at the same time, angry at the knowledge that I could not attain it, and ashamed of those feelings because they made me so dependent on her only... and they made me angry with her, perhaps even unreasonably angry. And at the same time, I could not forgo that wish that she so strongly inspired in me. I suppose that I had no one to blame for it but myself."
    "Some say that wishes sometimes come true, and never as you wished them to," said a new voice behind them. Elazul recognized Revanshe's ironic tones at once, but he turned and gazed at her without a sign of perturbation. "I suppose so," he answered.
    Revanshe stepped between Elazul and Sapphire. "Here, child, make me some room," she said briskly. "Move a little to the side— a little more— but not too much, mind you, or you'll fall into the water. There, that's better."
    Elazul, a trifle amused, said: "You treat her as if she was a little girl. She's of age, you know."
    "Indeed?" asked Revanshe dryly. "And what age, might I ask, is 'of age'?"
    She turned her critical eye towards Sapphire. "When I first asked this girl how old she was, I thought I heard her say something like 'thirty', but then she suddenly changed her mind and told me that she was eighteen. I always wondered about that little slip of the tongue."
    Elazul stole a glance at Sapphire, and saw that her cheeks flushed, and that she looked a little frightened. Calmly, he answered, "Sapphire will never lie, of course."
    "Indeed?" asked Revanshe, with a lift of her eyebrow. "And how old, then, might YOU be?"
    "Twice as old as you are, Revanshe," answered Elazul. "And, therefore, you should treat me with more respect."
    "And I suppose," inquired Revanshe, "that your beautiful Pearl is a hundred years old?"
    "More like a thousand, I think," answered Elazul. "I'm not quite sure of the exact count, however."
    Revanshe sighed.
    "I only wish I would be as good-looking as you are now, when I am your age," she remarked.
    "Revanshe," Elazul said with half a smile, "I am twenty-three years old."
    "My point stands," she answered. "Now, what was that talk you gave Sapphire about being loved? Big Sister is here for you, to listen to your tale of woe." She placed her fingers on Elazul's shoulder and gave it a not-quite-sisterly squeeze.
    "Sorry," answered Elazul, very steadily. "I already told you, Revanshe, that you can't be my sister." He placed his hand on hers and removed it from his shoulder. "For obvious reasons."
    "Refusing me?" she asked.
    "In every way you can conceive," he answered. "I'm afraid that you are destined to break your heart over me, Revanshe."
    Revanshe gave one of her disdainful sniffles and rose to her feet without replying.
    "Elazul," she said. "Can you swim?"
    He wasn’t quite sure what she was up to, and regarded her with a lift of his eyebrow. She folded her arms. "Well?"
    Elazul gave up. "Yes," he answered.
    "How about you?" Revanshe asked, turning to Sapphire.
    Sapphire, assured by Elazul’s aid, evidently recovered from her confusion. "I cannot," she answered. "I, I never learned how."
    "That's good," Revanshe remarked.
    Elazul had been gazing at Sapphire as she made her answer, and he did not notice that Revanshe stepped to the side, so she was standing right behind him; and, as upon her last remark, she leant forward and placed her hands on his shoulders.
    Elazul glanced behind him. "What—" he begun; but before he could complete his sentence, Revanshe gave him a sturdy push. Taken off-guard, he lost his balance and fell from the dock and into the water.
    "Because," Revanshe called out, "if Sapphire can’t swim it means that she can't fish you out, Elazul."
    Elazul emerged to the surface of the water, spitting and splattering; he floundered a bit and then clung to the foot of the dock. Flinging his wet hair out of his eyes, he looked up at Revanshe with a half-incensed, half-amused smile. She stood with folded arms and eyed him critically.
    "I think I'm changing my mind about you," she remarked. "Floundering in the water like that, you remind me of a fish. And I really, really hate fish."
    And upon this statement she turned on her heels and walked back towards the inn.
    Sapphire's face appeared over the edge of the dock, her eyes worried. "Are you all right, Elazul?" she called.
    Elazul clung to the foot of the dock ruefully.
    "I'm beginning to think," he remarked, "that going out there and facing the hunters is just as dangerous for me as staying here."

    Pearl stood and watched the blue evening through the window. She did not quite understand why Elazul took her to the sea again, but she did not care. All she cared about is that Elazul did not leave her behind when he went. She did not want Elazul to leave her. The very notion filled her with fear, and made her feel strangely unlike herself, filled with dark, alien, simmering emotions.
    Someone approached her quietly; a girl that Pearl felt to be vaguely familiar but could not place in her mind at that moment. The girl said, with a soft voice, "Lady Pearl, we have dinner ready. Do come."
    Pearl turned towards the girl slowly. "Where is Elazul?" she asked.
    "He’s downstairs," answered the girl. "He’s asking you to come down, Pearl."
    Pearl stared at the girl for a moment. "Is it you we’ll be staying with?" she asked. "Elazul told me that we’ll be coming to stay with someone."
    The girl nodded. "Yes, Lady Pearl. I’m the person you’ll be staying with."
    "Why?" asked Pearl. "I… I do not recall you."
    The girl hesitated, seeming unsure of herself before Pearl’s gaze. Then she answered, haltingly, "Lady Pearl, I’ve known Elazul from a long time ago. Elazul is… he’s like my brother. I care about him very much, and I know that you do, too. I almost feel like you are my family, because he’s like my family… please, Lady Pearl. I know that somewhere, somehow, you can recall me." She approached Pearl and took her hand.
    Pearl looked absently at their laced hands. She withdrew hers slowly, listlessly, and turned towards the window again.
    "Elazul can’t leave me," she said to the dark vision of the ocean. "Not for anyone."
    "I understand," said the girl. "He won’t, Lady Pearl. I promise you that I care about Elazul greatly. But he will not leave you. He is taking care of us both. If something happens to Elazul," she said, very softly now, speaking more to herself, "I… I don’t know what I shall do. If anyone ever hurts him…" she pressed her hands together. "I care about him very much, Lady Pearl."
    Pearl turned and gave the girl a blank expression.
    "If anybody ever hurts Elazul..." she said,
    "...If anybody ever hurts Elazul..."

Comment: Talk about wishes coming true! (This remark was brought to you by The Author is Blatantly Advertising Her Theme ™ foundation)

I couldn't resist inserting the Oscar Wilde quote, especially since Elazul has that 'stunning blue eyes' cliche going for him. The actual quote that inspired the title is ‘A Hero’s dream burning blue/ the people sleep forever’ from "The Wanderer of Time" of Final Fantasy: Pray (to which I incidentally listened as I revised this chapter.) I’ve also listened to FFIV: Celtic Moon, in a desperate quest to find inspiration for better prose for this chapter. Incidentally, both CDs are the best arranged versions of game music I’ve ever heard.

I’ve been having a major writer's block for this chapter. It’s a 'conversation chapter', dry and kind of tedious, and I hate those, maybe because they remind me how much I neglected to explain while lingering over descriptions of glowing seas and summer meadows and chirping birds and all that flowery nothingness that I so love to slow this story with.

I'm actually pleased with the way the prose in Part III turned out. I thought that it would continue the trend of slowly worsening prose (typical of long fanfiction stories, as I know from my own experience.) However, I guess I got inspired for it, and its prose is actually superior to Part II's (in all chapters except this one.)

And innkeepress, bartenders and so on are really helpful in this story, aren't they?

Chapter 5b