Blood Upon the Sand
“In an age past there was a love between a Tya and a god of the oceans so mighty that, as a gift to her, he created this very island. There is no angry volcano at the heart of this paradise; only pristine beaches, cooling winds and a gentle wood crowning its top. This place served not only as a sanctuary for the woman, but also as a rendezvous, a place where she could call upon him. Now, this god was very powerful and had many duties, but when the longings of her heart grew strongest she could retreat to this island, to this very beach in fact, and call upon her lover with a song.”
As she paused in her story Celeste came to a stop. Moving next to her and looking around, Mnemia could understand how the people of the Neck would come to consider this island divinely blessed. Not only was there no volcano, but the way the nearby islands encircled it, even the most furious storms would do little damage. The solar was reluctant to call it a paradise, but it was still a beautiful island.
“Years later the woman’s greatest rival would learn of this island and the affair it facilitated. One night the rival secretly followed the Tya here, hiding in the tree line as the woman sang the song that would call her lover into her arms. And watching their meeting, the rival was infuriated. Her enemy, in the embrace of the god, awash in the throes of passion, did not deserve such a thing. And as she returned home the rival began planning how she would take this island, and her lover, from the Tya.”
“The next night, while the woman slept in her home, the rival came out to this island, to this beach, and sung the song. And as he had done before, the ocean god rose from the sea. But when he did not see his lover he hesitated. To put him at ease the rival began speaking honeyed words, of a love between the two women, and that the Tya he knew had shared the song freely because she wished to share her lover as well. The god accepted this and took her upon the sands.”
“A few days later the rival learned that the Tya would be returning to the island. Moving with haste, the rival sped to this place herself, easily arriving before the woman who had no reason to feel she herself must hurry. Upon the sand the rival called upon the god once again, and again they made love. But as they did the Tya came upon them. Seeing them like this her heart was broken. And, distraught, she climbed that promontory over there.” Celeste said as she indicated an area where a rocky outcropping rose out of the beach, reaching twenty yards high before ending in a cliff face. “Upon its rise, her voice broken by sobs, she sung the song one last time, hoping it would call her lover to her. When it did not she threw herself to the rocks below. It’s said that if you stand upon the zenith right as the sun drops below the horizon you can hear the Tya singing her song for the last time, calling out to her lover.”
“If she’s up there.” Zis began. “It should be simple enough to catch hold of her and get the ghost blood Mnemia needs.” When a Tya died and became a ghost, the tattoos that once adorned her body would bleed continuously, as if they were true wounds. And to construct the Rage of Kallaberse, it would be necessary to obtain some of that ghost blood. But traveling to the Underworld to do so would not be good enough. The blood had to be made manifest in Creation, brought through the veil between this world and the one beyond by a ghost.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” Celeste responded.
“And why not?” Zis asked, a defensive note in her voice.
“Because she will never let you work your necromancy on a Tya. And neither would I.” Mnemia answered.
“Then what are we supposed to do?” Zis asked, looking between the two women, doing nothing to hide her growing frustration. “Why did we come out here if…”
“There is another way.” Celeste said softly.
The statement was enough to cause Zis to pause for a moment, but the silence didn’t last. “Well?”
In response to the abyssal’s words Celeste seemed to flinch before she sighed deeply and began to sing.
The song that escaped her lips had a mysterious and haunting quality to it. Yet, it evoked none of the negative emotions that one might come to associate with those traits. Instead the melody was more like a window into an existence alien and unknowable.
As the Tya sang the intensity of the surf upon the beach seemed to increase. Though slow to start, soon the crests of the waves were breaking, ocean water spraying into the air as they crashed against the sand. Moments later Mnemia could begin to make out a form in the mist. At first it was just a faint outline, a silhouette of a male form slowly rising out of the ocean. But with each surge the form became more and more distinct until Celeste’s song ended and the god of the legend was standing before them.
“It has been a long time since you last called upon me with that song, Celeste.” the god rumbled. He appeared as a tall, handsome middle-aged man with mid-length black hair and curls, tipped in white, that tumbled about his head. His skin was dark, with blue-green stretches, and he wore nothing. “And this is the first time you were not alone.”
“Twenty nine years, Ocean Father. And given my intentions back then I had little desire to share.” Celeste said in response, her words carrying decades of emotion that was hard to miss.
At this the god only nodded, recognizing that this evening would not end as most did upon hearing that song. “Even after all of these years you are still beautiful and I would not hesitate to… reminisce.” At his words Celeste blushed just a bit, but both Mnemia and Zis were paying them little mind. Twenty nine years was not an insignificant number. The only question was…
“I can see why you stopped coming to my beach to sing to me.” Ocean Father said as he turned his gaze to Mnemia, changing the subject. “Is she mine or do I have another lover to blame for taking you from me?”
Celeste also turned to look at the solar. “She is yours.”
“Holy sh….” Mnemia didn’t catch all of Zis’ response before the revelation sent her mind spinning. Growing up among the Tya had been an odd experience for the young girl. Mnemia had known she had a father, but never knew him and never had any desire to know him. Celeste and her people had been all that she had needed; the progenitor significant only for the genetic gifts he had bestowed. But the last several years had changed that. Having children of her own and being unable to imagine keeping them from Anna, she had started to wonder who her father was. But more pressing matters had kept her from exploring the secret her mother had told her she was better off not knowing. And now, seemingly out of nowhere, he was standing before her.
“And a solar no less.” Ocean Father continued, breaking Mnemia out of her reverie. “A few of my children have become dragon-blooded, but I think this might be my first lawbringer since the Usurpation.” he finished with a smile.
“Father…” Menmia managed to force out.
“I take it this is not why you called me.” Ocean Father said, turning back to Celeste. “The solar exaltation does not choose the weak. You could have spoken the truth to her years ago if you felt it was something she needed to know.”
“You are correct.” Celeste nodded. “She had the strength to know you when accepted the ink of the Tya. No, this revelation has been twenty nine years coming because it would only complicate her life. You have never cared for your brood, why would she be any different? And if you couldn’t care for her, she didn’t need you. It would still be a secret if we didn’t need your assistance in another matter.”
“Beautiful and wise. But I suppose every woman to decipher the song has been. For the nights we have shared I will hear what you desire.”
“The ghost of the Tya, upon the bluff…” Mnemia began, trying to regain control of the situation but finding her words unwieldy and clumsy. “I’m sorry, this was unexpected.”
“No shit.” Zis added.
For the first time since he had arisen from the sea, Ocean Father examined the third woman, and as his face fell Mnemia could tell he was not pleased to learn what she was. But whatever concerns he might have he did not voice them.
“The legends of this island speak of a Tya who cast herself upon the rocks.” Mnemia said, sounding a bit more coherent. “Does her ghost still haunt the promontory?”
“I suppose she does, though I have not pursued the matter.” Ocean Father answered. “Ghosts make poor lovers and the lamentations of a foolish girl are hardly worth my time.”
“Then the legend is true?” Zis asked.
Again the god’s features showed disdain as he considered the abyssal. “After a fashion. I did not create this island for the Tya you speak of. She was not the first to decipher the song nor was she the last. But she grew delusional, feeling there was something more between us than there was. I care deeply for every woman I take as a lover, but I have lived for thousands upon thousands of years, a lifespan that has given me a different take on monogamy than most mortals have. She proved herself an idiot when she cast herself upon the rocks.”
“As a ghost her Tya tattoos now weep blood eternally.” Celeste said, moving the god’s attention away from Zis. “It is our hope that you could approach her, draw her into Creation, and recover some of this blood.”
Ocean Father didn’t have an immediate response to this request, looking around the group as if trying to find a clue that might explain why these three women wanted the blood of the dead. “I cannot fathom what use you could make of Tavina’s blood, and the presence of a necromancer among you makes me wary, but you have earned my trust Celeste. If this is something you desire, it is a favor I will grant.”
“Thank you, Daimyo.” Celeste said as she bowed.
Ocean Father let out a deep guffaw. “Even now you still tease me. Stay here, I will be back shortly.”
As the god began walking away Mnemia turned to her mother. “What was that about?”
Celeste, smiling, answered, “Daimyo is the name I called out when we made love.”
“Really? Because that’s what Mnemia calls me when we…” Zis didn’t have a chance to finish as Mnemia drew the greenwood blade and struck the abyssal with it, hitting her behind the knee and dropping her to the ground a moment before she followed up with a solid blow to the gut.
Seconds later, after recovering from having the wind knocked out of her, Zis began with a grin on her face. “Getting right to it then? It’s kind of kinky doing it where you were conceived. But you know me, I’m up for anything.”
Maybe too late, Mnemia decided the best option would be to ignore the abyssal, so she turned her gaze to follow her father. But instead of climbing up the rise as the solar had expected, he walked out into the ocean. Then, once he was below the promontory, the sea seemed to rise up, lifting him up the cliff face to stand just in front of the earth jutting defiantly into the sky.
For a time he just stood there, but after several minutes the form of a woman materialized before him. Mnemia was tempted to use essence to empower her sight, but the exchange struck her as personal, so she refrained. They seemed to speak for a time before he brought a hand to her face and caressed her. There was another brief exchange, and then she was gone and he was returning to the beach. When he was close enough that they could start to make out details again, Mnemia noticed that his left hand, the one he had used to touch her face, was covered in a red-gray substance. He had recovered the ghost blood.
“That was… unpleasant.” he said as he reached the others. “But, I suppose, necessary. I hope this will be enough,” be said as be brought his hand forward. “Because now that she knows I didn’t share her love her final passion has been resolved. Oblivion claimed her as I watched.”
“Thank you father.” Mnemia said, reaching into Elsewhere. Drawing the Black Depths Foretold from that space between space, she held it towards Ocean Father. “If you could just…”
But the solar never got the chance to finish saying the words. Faster than her eyes could follow, Ocean Father lashed out with his right hand, striking Mnemia across the chest and sending her flying away. Though the soft sand cushioned her fall, her eyes had still gone wide from the force of the attack. The blow would have killed a mortal, and probably most exalts. But Mnemia was not most exalts.
Still, before she could respond, Ocean Father closed the distance between them in a single leap, pinning Mnemia’s body beneath his as he reached back to attack again.
“Deceiver! I can’t believe you would do this to me Celeste! You would see me dead?!”
“Ocean Father!” Celeste called out; fear and panic clear in her voice. “Please! Don’t take Mia from me!”
Zis’ response was more direct, unwrapping her chain and immediately directing an attack against the god. But despite the weapon striking true, the Ocean Father seemed to ignore the blow. A second and third strike fared no better.
“What…” Mnemia managed to force out, the weight of the god making it difficult to breathe. “I don’t…”
“What do you take me for, solar? A fool? Do you think I would not recognize the Black Depths Foretold? Do you think I would not recognize the blade fated to kill me?!”
“No.” Mnemia said, trying to shake her head and remembering Kadon’s words from the Invisible Manse. He had said the weapon was destined to kill a god, but Mnemia had not recognized the name at the time. And now that she did she realized how grave of a mistake she had just made.
“Ocean Father!” Celeste continued to plead as she stumbled through the sand. She didn’t dare risk touching him, but she tired to enter his field of view. “We’re not here to kill you! I don’t know what you are talking about!”
“Then let me spell it out for you Celeste. This dagger that our daughter carries is the Black Depths Foretold. I am fated to die by its edge. But you are a fool solar to think it would be easy.”
“Father… I’m trying… to destroy it.”
Mnemia could see the conflict on his face as Ocean Father processed the words against the reality of his bane still resting on the beach where it had fallen from the solar’s grasp.
“For Celeste and for my blood I will give you one chance to prove your intentions.” And with that he shifted his weight, allowing Mnemia to breathe again, though he still held her down. “But try to deceive me solar and I will end your life.”
Mnemia took a few heavy breaths, trying to stop her head from spinning. As her thoughts started to clear she began talking. She talked about her exaltation, she talked about her children and she talked about Zis. She talked about the trials she had faced and she talked about where they had found the dagger. Finally she talked about her plans for the blade, about how Kadon would combine it with the greenwood blade and the blood still upon his left hand to help forge the Rage of Kallaberse. This thing that was destined to destroy him was to be destroyed for his daughter and his grand daughters.
As she finished Mnemia recovered the essence used to store her weapons Elsewhere. As she did the blades materialized in the air and dropped to the sand, creating a circle of standing armaments around the stand off.
“I am disarmed. My weapons you see around us, the Black Depths Foretold long since knocked from my grasp. I have no desire to see my father dead, not after I just found him; found you. I also have no desire to die this night. But if this is to be how it ends, so be it. All I ask is that you allow Celeste and Zis to depart. I cannot leave my daughters alone in this world.”
Ocean Father let out a low growl, pushing down on Mnemia a moment before returning to his feet in one swift motion. When Mnemia didn’t make any move to follow him to her feet he turned to the Black Depths Foretold and picked up the weapon. He examined it a moment before he wrapped his left hand around the blade, covering it with both the blood of Tavina, as well as his own. Then he held out the weapon to Mnemia, handle first.
“Gaia, preserve me, but I believe you.” There was both a hardness and resignation in his eyes. “If you have mastered all of these weapons then you are more than capable of defending yourself. And I cannot kill Celeste’s daughter, our daughter.”
Mnemia rose to her feet and accepted the blade, her eyes meeting his. She held the weapon for a moment before banishing it to Elsewhere to preserve the blood that now coated it.
“I’m sorry father, I didn’t know. I… I will stay away until the weapon is no more. But…” her steady gaze softening. “I would like to know you if I could.”
Ocean Father smiled at that, though the action didn’t chase the sadness from his eyes. “I think I would like to know my lawbringer daughter as well. You and your kind did many great things for the oceans before the fall. It would bring me no small amount of pride to know that it is my daughter that will bring such prosperity to us again.”
“Thank you, father.” Mnemia whispered.
“Celeste can teach you the song.” Ocean Father said as he turned back to his former lover. “I’m sorry, Celeste. I had to be sure.” For her part Celeste nodded at his words, but feelings of betrayal were still painted upon her face. “I hope one day you can forgive me.”
Then, fully turning away from the three, he stepped out into the ocean once again and was gone.